Church of the New Jerusalem
The religious organization devoted to the teachings of
Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Shortly
after Swedenborg’s death, Thomas Cookworthy, Rev. John
Cowles, and Rev. Thomas Hartley began to translate Swedenborg’s
writings—all originally written and published in Latin—
into English. Then in 1783 Robert Hindmarsh called together
people interested in Swedenborg’s ideas, and weekly meetings
began. Originally called the Theosophical Society, the group
was reconstituted as the New Jerusalem Church in 1787. Five
years later the church was introduced into the United States.
Followers of Swedenborg believe that the Second Coming of
Christ took place in 1757 in the form of the revelation of Swedenborg’s
esoteric interpretation of the Scriptures. They interpret
the revelation as a fulfillment of St. John’s vision of the
New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, with the
declaration, ‘‘Behold, I make all things new.’’ Salvation is regarded
as deliverance from sin itself, and hell is considered a
free choice on the part of those who prefer an evil life. Jesus is
worshiped directly as Creator, Redeemer, the Word, and the
The beliefs and practices for the New Jerusalem are put
forth in the voluminous religious writings of Swedenborg and
are summarized in the introductory chapters of The True Christian
Religion (1950) and The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine
(1938). A manuscript originally written in 1769 covering
much of the same material as the first three chapters of The
True Christian Religion was finally published in 1914 as The Canons
of the New Church.
In England, the church has taken the name, the New
Church. It has more than forty houses of worship administered
by a general conference. (Address New Church Enquiry Centre,
20 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH.)
During its first quarter-century in the United States the New
Jerusalem founded some 17 societies. These groups met in
1817 and founded the General Convention of the New Jerusalem.
A split occurred in 1840 that led to the formation of the
General Church of the New Jerusalem. This later body is now
the largest of the several American churches (with more than
3,000 members). It has built a large headquarters and cathedral
in the small community of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. The
General Convention with over 2,000 members is headquartered
at 48 Sargent St., Newton, MA 02158.
In the late 1930s a movement began among members of the
New Church in the Netherlands maintaining that, like the
Bible, the writings of Swedenborg had an internal spiritual
meaning. The immediate implication of the notion was twofold.
First, not only is the Bible from the Lord, but the doctrine
of the New Church is also. Second, the discovery of the internal
meaning in Swedenborg’s voluminous writings allows for continuous
growth and change in understanding his revelation.
Out of this movement emerged the Lord’s New Church Which
Is Nova Hierosolyma. It is the smallest of the Swedenborgian
churches with three North American congregations. (Address
1725 Huntingdon Rd., Box 7, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009.)
Swedenborg’s teachings had strong influence on the development
of the nineteenth-century Spiritualist and occult movements
in both Europe and the United States. In America the
church found a significant advocate in Jonathan Chapman,
popularly known as ‘‘Johnny Appleseed,’’ a Swedenborgian
who wandered through nineteenth-century settlements planting
apple trees and leaving Swedenborgian literature at log
Through Spiritualist medium Andrew Jackson Davis
(1826–1910), who claimed that Swedenborg was one of three
spirits who revealed the secrets of the universe to him in 1844,
Swedenborgian ideas flowed into Spiritualism. In fact, a number
of Swedenborgian leaders went on to become leaders in
Spiritualism, Theosophy, and New Thought. Swedenborg’s
ideas concerning correspondence between the spiritual and
material worlds which led him to write a number of biblical
commentaries, also inspired Mary Baker Eddy’s Key to the
Scriptures, which was appended to her primary Christian Science
textbook, Science and Health.
Block, Marguerite Beck. The New Church in the New World.
New York Henry Holt, 1932.
General Church of the New Jerusalem. The General Church
of the New Jerusalem A Handbook of General Information. Bryn
Athyn, Pa. General Church Publication Committee, 1965.
———. Liturgy and Hymnal. Bryn Athyn, Pa. General
Church Publication Committee, 1966.
Lord’s New Church Which Is Nova Hierosalyma. Handbook
of the Lord’s New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma. Bryn Athyn,
Pa. The Author, 1985.
Sigstedt, C. O. The Swedenborg Epic The Life and Works of
Emanuel Swedenborg. New York Bookman Associates, 1952. Reprint,
London Swedenborg Society, 1981.
Church of the Final Judgment Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
Silver, Ednah C. Sketches of the New Church in America. Boston
Massachusetts New Church Union, 1920.
Woofenden, William Ross. Swedenborg Researcher’s Manual.
Bryn Athyn, Pa. Swedenborg Scientific Association, 1988.

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