Christian, Why Do You Sing A Swedenborgian, Social-Gospel, Hymn Written By A Unitarian Minister?

The Heidelblog | 12/7/2017 | Staff
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“It Came Upon The Midnight Clear” (now typically titled, “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”) was first published in 1834. It was written by Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810–76), an Unitarian minister with Swedenborgian convictions. C. Michael Hawn, who teaches sacred music, describes him thus: “Sears, though an Unitarian, wrote in Sermons and Songs of the Christian Life (1875), “Although I was educated in the Unitarian denomination, I believe and preach the Divinity of Christ.” He authored books quite popular in his day, including Athanasia, or Foregleams of Immortality (1857) and The Fourth Gospel, the Heart of Christ (1872). He defends the hymn on the ground that it was an early example of “the social gospel,” the movement later galvanized by Walter Rauschenbusch in which the gospel was re-defined in terms of this-worldly blessedness in contrast to salvation from sin and wrath by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

For orthodox Christians, however, the assertion that Sears believed in the divinity of Christ (because he was a Swedenborgian) will not do. Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) was a scientist and a child of the Pietist movement, who became convinced that the world is essentially spiritual. The entry in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says, “The basis of Swedenborg’s system was a ‘doctrine of correspondence’ between the physical and spiritual worlds. He envisaged the spiritual world as containing various groupings of deceased human beings which made up a single great human being. He accepted Christ as the greatest manifestation of humanity, but rejected the doctrine of the Atonement.”

Tenets - God - Essence - Divine - Love

One of their doctrinal tenets holds: “There is one God whose essence is Divine Love and Wisdom. Father, Son, and Holy...
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