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CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS Of the American Society for disseminating the Doctrines of the
New Jerusalem Church, established at Philadelphia.
This Society shall be composed of such of the readers of the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, resident in the United States, as shall contribute annually to the funds of the Society the sum of three dollars.
ARTICLE II. The officers of the Society shall consist of a President, VicePresident, Treasurer, Secretary, and Corresponding Secretary, who shall be elected by ballot, annually, on the first day of January, except when that day shall fall on the Lord's day, in which case the election shall be held on the succeeding day.
ARTICLE III. A stated meeting of the Society shall be held on the first Friday of every month, for the transaction of its ordinary business, at which time shall be laid before it by the officers or the individual members, any communications which they may have received in relation to the Church., Special meetings may at any time be called by the President, upon the recommendation of any six members. The books of the Society shall always be open for the inspection of the members.
ARTICLE IV. No member can vote at the annual election for officers, or upon any subject at a meeting of the Society, until he shall have signed these by-laws ; non-resident members may vote by proxy.
ARTICLE V. Donations of religious books for sale or gratuitous distribution, or of money to enable the Society to publish books or tracts, may be received from any member or stranger.
ARTICLE VI. There shall be published for general distribution, an annual, semi-annual, or quarterly report of the state and increase of the Church in general, and of the proceedings of the Society.
• ARTICLE VII. The Secretaries shall preserve copies of all official communications made by them, and shall file all documents which may come into their possession. The books and papers of the Society shall be carefully preserved as documents which may be highly serviceable to the Church at a future period, in investigating its rise and progress in America.
ARTICLE VIII. When the funds of the Society will admit of it, there shall be established a Theological Library for the use of the members, upon such principles as may from time to time be determined.
ARTICLE IX. Any addition or amendment to this Constitution must be proposed at a stated meeting, and decided upon at a subsequent one.
FIRST REPORT Of “ The American Society for disseminating the Doctrines of the
New Jerusalem Church,” established at Philadelphia, December 25th, 1815—59.
Agreeably to the provisions of the Constitution of the Society, the following report of its progress and operations is presented to the readers of the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, in the United States and elsewhere.
The Society having been organized by its election of officers on the first of January, 1816, every exertion was used to give publicity to the act. A notice addressed to “ the Readers of the Theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg" was published in all the daily gazettes of Philadelphia, amounting in number at that period to eight, and was subsequently inserted in many other papers in the Atlantic cities and interior towns. A printed copy of the same, was also transmitted, with a short circular, recommending a general publicity, to almost every individual of the Church with whose name we had been acquainted.
This publication may be considered as the first annunciation of the existence of the New Church in Philadelphia. Although the religious tenets of its members had been previously known to
most of their personal friends and acquaintances, and although the name of Swedenborg had been heard by many, yet the great mass of the community were wholly uninformed as to both. The period at which this publication was made was peculiarly fortunate. The state of the public mind was highly favourable to religious investigation, as is evident from the circumstance, that about this time societies for the distribution of the Holy Scriptures, were formed throughout the city and its vicinity, and in many other parts of the United States. As might reasonably have been expected, a general inquiry was made as to the prin. ciples of this New Church, and whilst some were contented to hear that its leading features were in opposition to the commonly received orthodoxy of the day, others who were not disposed to receive as true all the various doctrines which they had heard advanced, without inquiring for themselves, made further investiga. tion, and the result has been, that if they have not embraced the truths of the New Jerusalem, they have at least divested them, selves of that prejudice, which has influenced some to traduce and condemn writings which they have never read.
From the comparatively short period which had elapsed since the introduction of the doctrines into America, we had no reason to expect that their dissemination had been extensive. But our most sanguine calculations were realized in the result. Numer. ous letters were received from different quarters, informing us of the names of individuals, and of the existence of small societies, professing the holy truths of the New Dispensation, of whom we had never before heard, and even in our own immediate vicinity, we were brought to an acquaintance with some devout receivers, who were previously unknown to us. Even yet we continue to hear occasionally of some heretofore unknown friends, and we feel well persuaded, that in the interior of the country there must be many with whom the channel of communication has not yet been opened.
Although when compared with other denominations of christians, the New Church must acknowledge its numbers to be few, yet it is a source of infinite gratification to reflect, that those numbers are increasing. Still more is it matter of rejoicing to know, that a zeal for the propagation of truth continues unabated amongst its members, and when we consider that every receiver of the doctrines of the New Jerusalem, is, in his particular sphere of life, an additional labourer in the vineyard of the Lord, we cannot but be impressed with the idea, that the day is near at hand, when the Lord will no more speak to his people in parables, but 66 will shew them plainly of the Father." .- Under the date of March 1st, a circular was addressed by the Society to the members of the church, inviting them, for reasons therein stated, to form themselves into societies, and to appoint each a secretary upon whom should devolve the correspondence. This request has been complied with in part, and in order that our friends who reside at a distance, may be enabled to correspond with each other, we shall insert in a future report, a list of the names of the corresponding secretaries, which shall have been transmitted to us.
The Society further reportsThat since its establishment seve- ' ral letters have been received from Europe of a very interesting nature, some of which will be found inserted wholly or in part below
That within the lasttwo years Mr. William Schlatter, a member of the Church, has published at his individual expense, for gratui. tous distribution, 1000 copies of the Doctrine concerning the Lord; 500 copies of the Doctrine of Life, with the biography of Swedenborg annexed ; 750 copies of the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture ; 250 copies of Proud's sermon on the Second Advent, with Dr. Beyer's memorial to the king of Sweden ; and 250 copies of Sibley's sermon on the resurrection, with two letters by Mr. Clowes
That Mr. Johnson Taylor, another member, within the same period, also published, at his own expense, for gratuitous distribution, 1000 copies of a Seal upon the Lips," written by Robert Hindmarsh
That the Society has itself published 500 copies of a new Liturgy, and 500 copies of a new collection of hymns, which have been adopted by the churches of Philadelphia and New Yorkand has undertaken to conduct a quarterly magazine, under the title of “ The New Jerusalem Church Repository," the first number of which will appear during the present month. :
The Society has also, within a few months, imported from London a considerable supply of the works of Swedenborg, and other publications in agreement therewith, one half of which have already been sold, and the demand for others, (particularly the Arcana Cælestia and Apocalypse Explained) has been so great,
ntain a catalogue happiness to anble, the corner
that they have transmitted an additional order, the execution of which they look for early in the Spring. The first number of the Repository, that will be published after the receipt of the books, will contain a catalogue, with the list of prices. · The Society has the happiness to announce to their distant brethren, that the New Jerusalem Temple, the corner-stone of which was laid on the sixth of June last, is now nearly completed, and will be ready for consecration, during the present month. This edifice, the first in Philadelphia, and the second in the United States, devoted to the sole and exclusive worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only God of heaven and earth, is situate at the south-east corner of Twelfth and George streets, and though small in its structure, is, for neatness and tasteful architecture, universally admired. :;?. .
With this exposition of its proceedings, and of the state of the Church, the Society closes its report, referring for further information, to the following documents.
Philadelphia, January 1, 1817.
Letter from a distinguished member of the Society Pro Fide et
Charitate, in Sweden, addressed to the corresponding secretary of “ The American Society for disseminating the Doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church."
- Stockholm, July 31, 1816. 6 Dear Sir,
6 According to the directions of Mr. T- , I take the liberty to open with you a correspondence, which perhaps may be on both sides animating and agreeable; but I am obliged to beg you to excuse my disability in the English language.
“ Restrictions upon the liberty of the press, and thinking, as in relation to the constitution of this country, have hindered, since the death of the inestimable Swedenborg, a common embracing of the new holy truths, given him to communicate to the world ; only in privacy, some few friends of truth, partly during his life, and partly thereafter, could operate in spreading the light. Persecutions arose, even in 1769, against two reverend gentlemen of his friends, the doctors in theology Beyer and Rosen, in regard to their way of thinking. Under the reign of King Gustavus III, arose a greater liberty of religion, and there was established, in