1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/New Jerusalem Church

NEW JERUSALEM CHURCH, or New Church, the community founded by the followers of Emmanuel Swedenborg (q.v.). Swedenborg himself took no steps to found a church, but having given a new interpretation of Scripture, it was inevitable that those who accepted his doctrine should separate themselves and organize a society in accordance therewith. Those who received them fully during Swedenborg’s lifetime were few and scattered, but courageously undertook the task of dissemination, and gave themselves to translating and distributing their master’s writings. Two Anglican clergymen were conspicuous in this work: Thomas Hartley (d. 1784), rector of Winwick, and John Clowes (1743–1831), vicar of St John’s, Manchester. Hartley translated Heaven and Hell (1778) and True Christian Religion (1781); Clowes, who taught New Church doctrine in the existing churches and was opposed to the forming of new organizations, translated 17 volumes, including the Arcana Coelestia, and published over 50 volumes of exposition and defence. Through his influence Lancashire became the stronghold of the Swedenborgians, and to-day includes a third of the congregations and more than half the members of the New Church in the United Kingdom.

In 1782 a society for publishing Swedenborg’s writings was formed in Manchester, and in December 1783 a little company of sympathizers with similar aims met in London and founded “The Theosophical Society,” among the members of which were John Flaxman the sculptor, William Sharpe the engraver, and F. H. Barthélemon the composer. In the early days most of them worshipped at the Female Orphan Asylum, St George’s, whose chaplain, Rev. Jacob Duche, like Clowes at Manchester, preached the doctrines from his own pulpit. In 1785 and 1787 J. W. Salmon and R. Mather conducted an open-air missionary tour in the Midlands and the North with some success. Five prominent Wesleyan preachers adopted the new teaching and were cut off from their connexion, a step which led, in spite of remonstrance from Clowes and others, to the formal organization of the New Jerusalem Church on the 7th of May 1787. For some months the members met in private houses, but in January 1788 began worship in a church in Great Eastcheap with a liturgy specially prepared by the Rev. James Hindmarsh and Isaac Hawkins. “The Theosophical Society” was now dissolved. In April 1789 a General Conference of British Swedenborgians was held in Great Eastcheap Church, followed by another and by the publication of a journal, the New Jerusalem Magazine, in 1790. Since 1815 conferences have been held every year. A weekly paper, the Morning Light, is published, as well as monthly magazines for adults (the New Church Magazine) and young folk. The liturgy (containing five services for Morning and Evening, together with the order of Baptism, Holy Supper, Marriage, &c.) was prepared in 1828, revised and extended in 1875; the hymn book of 1823 was revised and enlarged in 1880.

In the provinces the first church was at Birmingham (1791), followed by one at Manchester and another at Liverpool (1793). The Accrington church, the largest in Great Britain, was founded in 1802. Many of the early converts to the New Church were among the most fervent advocates of the abolition of slavery, one was the medical officer of the first batch of convicts sent to Botany Bay; from the house of another, William Cookworthy of Plymouth, Captain Cook sailed on his last voyage. Others were pioneers of elementary education, establishing free day schools long before they were thought of by the state.

In 1815 the conference took up the question of home missionary work, and its agents were able to found many branches of the church. In 1813 the Manchester and Salford (now the North of England) Missionary Society was founded, chiefly to provide preachers for the smaller churches in its area; in 1857 a National Missionary Institution was founded and endowed, to which most of the local ones have been affiliated. Other denominational agencies have been concerned with the printing and circulation of Swedenborgian literature, a training college for the ministry (founded in 1852), and a Ministers' Aid Fund (1854), andan Orphanage (1881). The centenary of the New Church as a spiritual system was celebrated in 1857, as an external organization in 1883. A few Swedenborgians still hold to the non separating policy, but more from force of circumstances than from deliberate principle. The constitution of the New Church is of the Independent {Congregational type; the conference may advise and counsel, but cannot compel the obedience of the societies. The returns for 1909 showed 45 ministers, 8 recognized leaders, 10 recognized missionaries, 70 societies, 6665 registered members, 7907 Sunday scholars. There are also ive or six small societies not connected with the conference.

The New Church in Europe.—In Sweden the Philanthropic Exegetic Society was formed by C. F. Nordenskiold in 1786 to collect documents about Swedenborg and to publish his writings. The introduction of alchemy and mesmerism led to its dissolution in 1789, but its work was continued by the society “ Pro fide et charitate, " which existed from 1796 to 1820. For many years the works of Swedenborg and his followers were proscribed, and receivers of his writings fined or deprived of office, but in 1866, when religious liberty had made progress, the cause was again taken up; in 1875 the society of “Confessors of the New Church” was formed in Stockholm, and since 1877 services have been regularly held. There is also a church in Gothenburg, and lectures are given from time to time in most of the towns of Sweden. In Norway there is no New Church organization; in Denmark a church was founded in Copenhagen in 1871. In Germany Prelate Oetinger of Württemberg translated many of Swedenborg's writings between 1765 and 1786, but the great name is that of Immanuel Tafel (d. 1863), librarian of Tübingen, who not only edited, translated and published, but in 1848 founded a “Union of the New Church in Germany and Switzerland” which held quarterly meetings. There is a church in Berlin, but otherwise activity in Germany has taken shape in the German Swcdenborg Society with headquarters at Stuttgart. In Switzerland, on the contrary, there is an organized body of the New Church; divine service being held in the Society at Zurich and by circles at Berne, Herisau and Nesslau. The Zürich pastor is a member of the American Convention, and has oversight also of the Austrian societies at Vienna and Trieste. In Hungary there are societies at Buda Pesth and Gyorkony. In France there were early Swedenborgians of rank and learning, and much translation was accomplished before 1800. About 1838 J. F. E. Le Boys de Guays began his masterly translation of all Swedenborg's theological works and instituted public New Church worship, which was carried on at his house for thirty years. Sunday worship is now held in the New Church Temple on the Rue Thouin. In Italy (Rome), Holland (The Hague), Belgium (Antwerp and Bruges), there are small societies, and nearly every European country has some known adherents.

In America.—About 1784 James Glen, a London Scot, delivered lectures “ For the Sentimentalists ” on the new doctrine in Philadelphia and Boston and circulated some of Swedenborg's works. Francis Bailey, state printer of Pennsylvania, was attracted by them and became active in their promulgation. During the next ten years a number of prominent men gave their support to the teaching, which gradually spread inland and southward. The first society for worship was formed in Baltimore in 1792 (reorganized 1798), though a short-lived one had preceded it at Halifax, N.S., in 1791. Other churches grew up in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Boston and New York, and the General Convention, which meets annually, was formed at Philadelphia in 1817. In 1907 there were 102 ministers and 103 societies with a membership of 6560. Of these, 4 societies and 140 members are in Canada, while the German Synod counts for 11 societies and 325 members.

In Australia, &c.—The formation of societies in Australia began at Adelaide in 1844. Melbourne and Sydney followed in 1854, Brisbane in 1865, Rodborough, Vict., in 1878. There is a circle at Perth. New Zealand has a church at Auckland (1883) and scattered members in the south island. An Australasian conference met at Melbourne in 1881 and has continued to meet in alternate years. There is a society at Mauritius, and correspondents in various parts of South and West Africa, India, japan, the West Indies and South America.

See L. P. Mercer, The New Jerusalem in the World's Religious Congresses of 1893; Minutes of the General Conference 4; the New Church (annual); Journal of the Annual Session of the General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the United States of America. (A. J. G.)