Discover The Inner-Meaning of Sacred Scripture and the Revelation of The New Christianity

Originally posted on A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes (Charles Spurgeon) :

 Discover The Inner-Meaning of Sacred Scripture and the Revelation of The New Christianity

Swedenborg enables us to understand why we were created, why we are alive and what happens to us after out bodies die. Swedenborg enables us to have the best possible understanding of God’s message as it exists in those Bible Books which constitute God’s Word.           

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. (1929-1968)

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THEY LIE IN WAIT FOR MY LIFE

THEY LIE IN WAIT FOR MY LIFE

A Sermon by Rev. Donald L. Rose Preached in Bryn Athyn February 2, 1997

“All their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather together, they hide, they mark my steps, when they lie in wait for my life” (Psalm 56:6).

There was a shepherd boy, strong and handsome. The meaning of his name is “beloved.” The name is David. The shepherd boy was destined to become king, destined to live a life of great adventure.

It was a life repeatedly attended with mortal danger. There were dangers that he was aware of. They were clear enough: danger from a lion and a bear; danger from a giant named Goliath; danger from hosts of Philistines with swords and spears.

But there were other dangers, more subtle but very real. And if he had not been told about those dangers, his life would have been short indeed. What we see happening in the story of David is his being warned of such dangers, particularly being warned about the intentions of King Saul. Saul was his king, his protector, his benefactor, and beneath it all his deadly enemy. Jonathan, David’s dear friend, saved his life by warning him. And David’s wife Michal warned David one night when the house was surrounded, saying, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed” (I Sam. 19:11).

Two of the psalms were composed at a time when David had learned that his life was in peril. Psalm 59 was composed that night when Michal revealed Saul’s plot and when David knew that he was in a house surrounded by those ready to kill him. The psalm begins as follows: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God. Defend me from those who rise up against me … For look, they lie in wait for life … Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord.”

Another psalm was written when David had sought refuge in Gath but there found that people were talking about him and planning to kill him. “Now David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath” (I Sam. 21:12). Because he knew of the danger he was in, he was able to pretend madness and make his escape. The fear he felt before he made that escape is evident in the psalm which he then composed. But infinitely more is contained in the psalm, for it is the Word of God. In it David says, “All day they twist my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather, they hide, they mark my steps when they lie in wait for my life” (Psalm 56:5, 6).

The psalms sometimes portray man as under siege. He is in a predicament, surrounded by dangers and anxieties and fears. The psalms continually speak of “enemies.” Man is portrayed as being the object of threat and hatred. What is the reality? The Writings say that an incredible “intense hatred” prevails in the spiritual world against things relating to love and faith in the Lord. In fact they say that unless the Lord defended a person every moment he would perish as a result of this hatred (see AC 59). Jesus warned His disciples, “You shall be hated” (Matt. 10:27, Mark 13:13).

In our lesson from Divine Providence 211, we read that Divine Providence is like a person “in company with an enemy who intends to kill him which at the time he does not know, and a friend leads him away by unknown paths, and afterward discloses his enemy’s intention.”

When we say that a person is his own worst enemy, we are usually talking about a person who does not know is not aware of his problem. If only the person realized how much he or she is sabotaging his or her own happiness. It is not easy for another person to get the message across. To do it takes patience and tact and real caring. In the Divine Providence in time we learn about the things in our lives which we thought were our friends, which are our enemies. We walk through life with some loves which do a lot for us, just as Saul did a lot for David. There are many examples, such as a pride that has us taking credit and basking in the warmth of self-merit, even thinking that taking credit and bragging can be a source of happiness. If we think that, we have a lot to learn, and we may learn it very slowly through many experiences.

The Lord said, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). Our own evils, as dear to us as the inhabitants of our house, can be the foes of which the Word warns us.

But there is another sense in which we are in danger. The danger is from outside the house; it surrounds the house. We mean those forces from hell which intend us harm. The evil spirits who associate with us can stir up the evils within us.

There is a chapter in the book Heaven and Hell that is entitled “The Malice and Nefarious Arts of Infernal Spirits” (HH 576). In it we learn that evil spirits are subtle and devious, and we learn that they have a malice, that is, that they intend harm. “All their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather, they hide, they mark my steps, when they lie in wait for my life” (Ps. 56:5, 6). The teaching is that “so far as anyone is innocent they burn to do him harm; therefore they cannot bear to see little children, and as soon as they see them they are inflamed with a cruel desire to do them harm” (HH 283).

What are some of the things they endeavor to do? They are in a constant endeavor to dissolve marriages (see HH 382). They endeavor to stir up enmities. They lead a person into thoughts about himself (see HH 558a). Indeed, by leading a person into thoughts about himself, they can stir up those enmities. We read, “There is a certain kind of spirits, who … stir up enmities, hatreds, and fights among others. I have seen the consequent fights and wondered at them. I inquired who they were, and was told that they were that kind of spirits who excite such passions because they are bent on being sole rulers, according to the maxim, Divide and rule” (AC 5718). “Wondered” at them. Do you ever wonder at the fights you observe, or have you ever stood back far enough from the fights in which you have been involved to wonder at them?

We will return to that word “divide” in a moment, because the effort of evil spirits is to tear asunder, to dissolve, and to divide so that they can rule.

The effort of evil spirits is to destroy happiness. One way they do this is to accuse. They stir up memories of anything that one has done wrong, and they even take innocent memories and turn them into subjects of accusation. “They call up all the wrong things that from his infancy a man has either done or even thought … and condemn him” (AC 741). “They call forth from a person’s memory whatever he has thought and done from his infancy. Evil spirits do this with a skill and malignity so great as to be indescribable … This a person perceives “only by the recalling of such things to mind and a certain anxiety therefrom” (AC 751).

The word in the New Testament that is related to worry or anxiety is the word merimnao. Its root connotation is dividing. The root word to “divide” is merizo. It is used in the saying, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25, Matt. 12:25, Luke 11:17).

The Writings mention an old maxim, “Divide and rule” (see AC 5718, SD 1793, TCR 133e). There are spheres that can affect us inwardly that can divide things in our minds. We read of spheres which pose blocks in our minds between faith and charity. We read in TCR: “I have felt this sphere, and at such times, when I thought of the conjunction of faith and charity, it interposed itself between them and violently endeavored to separate them” (TCR 619:6).

An experience described in the Arcana Coelestia seems a little closer to what we experience. “The effect of this sphere was to take from me the power of close application, and to make it so irksome for me to act and to think in serious matters, true and good, that at last I scarcely knew what to do. When such as these come among spirits, they induce on them a similar torpor” (AC 1509).

Does this relate to times when we just can’t make decisions of what to do or to times when we simply procrastinate and seem somehow unable to do the thing that most needs doing? Here is the same passage in more recent translation: “Their sphere was such that it took away from me my whole concentration and made it so extremely troublesome for me to carry out and to think about serious things, true and good, that at length I hardly knew what to do. When such individuals as these come among spirits, they bring upon them a similar listlessness” (AC 1509). There is a word used particularly in psychiatry which describes an inability to get started doing something or to decide what to do. The word is “abulia.”

If the core of happiness is in useful activity, then we are not surprised if the enemies of our happiness in various ways cripple our application to use. If they endeavor to harm innocence, to dissolve marriages, and to stir up fights among friends, they will undermine our love of use. Idleness is said to be “the devil’s pillow” (Charity 168). For, “In idleness the mind is spread out to various evils and falsities, but in work it is held to one thing” (SD 6088:4).

In the book Conjugial Love there is a chapter on causes of cold in marriage. One of the causes given is a lack of devotion to any useful pursuit or business. Here we read, “While a man is in some pursuit and business, that is, in some use, his mind is bounded and circumscribed as by a circle, within which it is successively integrated into a form truly human. From this as from a house he sees the various lusts as outside of himself, and from sanity of reason within, banishes them” (CL 249).

Any focus we have on what is useful is like a house, a house in which we can find comfort and from which we can view life with good perspective. If you know that your purpose in life is to promote the happiness of others, you look out upon the world with a sane perspective and with some taste of heaven’s delight.

The text from the psalms seems to picture one looking out from a house threatened with dangers. “They hide, they mark my steps, when they lie in wait for my life.” Does the knowledge that there are dangers make us feel less secure? Do we get a paranoid attitude, a persecution complex, from the knowledge that evil spirits would divide our house, would dissolve our marriages and interfere with our delight in use?

Well, the context of statements about this is not a fearful one, but rather one that has a special sense of security. We are reminded of the Lord’s saying, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Lord said, “Blessed are you when men hate you” (Luke 6:22). “Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you, and say all kind of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad” (Matt. 5:11).

Let us conclude with one example from the Writings and one from the Psalms. In the Arcana Coelestia we read: “I have sometimes been surrounded by thousands to whom it was permitted to spit forth their venom, and infest me by all possible methods, yet without their being able to hurt a single hair of my head, so secure was I under the Lord’s protection” (AC 59).

And in the Psalms it is said, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Ps. 3:6).

There are indeed dangers and threats that surround us. Let the knowledge of this make us value all the more what we have. And let us, if we know there is a danger, always know at the same time that we have a Divine Protector. This is the reality of our lives. The passages about our enemies shows them turned backward, confounded, defeated and subjugated.

We have a shield, a rock, a fortress, a shepherd who prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies, the Lord Jesus Christ who says, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you … If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:19, 20). “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Amen.


Lessons: I Samuel 19:1-18, 21:10-15, Matt. 10:22-39, AC 5718, 1509, DP 211

Arcana Coelestia 1509

For several days such spirits were with me as during their life in this world had cared nothing for the good of society, but only for themselves, being useless members of the commonwealth, and who had had no end but to live sumptuously, to be clothed splendidly, and to grow rich; being well practiced in simulation, and in ways of insinuating themselves by various forms of flattering assent and a display of services, but only that they might seem devoted, and be intrusted with their master’s goods, while they looked down with contempt upon all who were earnestly employed. It was perceived that they had been courtiers. The effect of their sphere was to take from me the power of close application, and to make it so irksome for me to act and to think in serious matters, true and good, that at last I scarcely knew what to do. When such as these come among spirits, they induce on them a similar torpor. In the other life they are useless members, and are rejected wherever they come.

Divine Providence 211

The reason why the Divine Providence operates so secretly that scarcely anyone knows of its existence is that man may not perish. For man’s proprium, that is, his will, in no wise acts as one with the Divine Providence, against which man’s proprium has an inborn enmity; for it is the serpent that seduced our first parents of which it is said, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head” (Gen. 3:55). The serpent is evil of every kind, its head is self-love; the seed of the woman is the Lord; the enmity that is put is between the love of man’s proprium and the Lord, and thus between man’s own prudence and the Divine Providence of the Lord. For man’s own prudence is continually raising that head, and the Divine Providence is continually putting it down.

If man felt this he would be enraged and exasperated against God, and would perish; but while he does not feel this he may be enraged and exasperated against men and against himself and also against fortune, without perishing. Hence it is that the Lord by His Divine Providence continually leads man in freedom, and the freedom appears to him to be none other than his own; and to lead man in freedom in opposition to himself is like lifting up a heavy and resisting weight from the ground by means of screws, through the power of which the weight and the resistance are not felt; or it is like what happens to a man in the company of an enemy who intends to kill him, an intention he is not aware of; and a friend leads him away by unknown paths and afterwards discloses to him his enemy’s intention.

Arcana Coelestia 5718.

There is a certain kind of spirits who, because they wish to have dominion, and to be sole rulers over all others, to this end stir up enmities, hatreds, and fights among others. I have seen the consequent fights, and wondered at them. I inquired who they were, and was told that they were that kind of spirits who excite such passions because they are bent on being sole rulers, according to the maxim, Divide and rule. It was also granted me to talk with them, and they immediately said that they rule all. But it was given to answer that they were insanity personified if they sought to establish their rule by such means …

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COUNTING HIS BLESSINGS

COUNTING HIS BLESSINGS

A Sermon by Rev Donald L. Rose

Preached in Bryn Athyn September 29, 1996

“How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand” (Psalm 139:17).

The Word speaks to us about counting. In promising blessings to Abram the Lord said, “Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them” (Gen. 15:5). Psalm number forty speaks of the Lord’s thoughts and says, ” . . . they are more than can be numbered” (40:5).

Our text is from Psalm 139: “If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand.”

A time-honored saying or piece of advice is “Count your blessings.” We might rather say, “Count the Lord’s blessings.” Even on the very external plane, there are more than enough blessings to count. We have so much, and the poor farmer or the farmer’s servant has measurably fewer things than the king and paradoxically has more as he counts his blessings (see DP 250). We can surprise ourselves if we put a little effort into counting blessings as we start including in the list the people who are dear to us, the loves and virtues the Lord grants to us.

Sometimes a new appreciation of our blessings comes when we see other people less fortunate than ourselves, perhaps due to health or personal difficulty. And it can be occasioned by our own adversities. A sickness that deprives us for a while occasions gratitude for simple well-being to be able to function.

The experience of temptation can result in a new way of looking at our lives. And the Writings say that there is an actual inflow of thoughts from heaven that changes our perspective about blessings. We read, “Life in the world, which is only for some years, is as nothing compared with life in heaven, which is eternal life; yea, there is no ratio between the time of man’s life in the world and the life in heaven that will continue to eternity. Think if you can (and here we are invited to do some counting) whether there can be any ratio between a hundred thousand years and eternity, and you will find there is none. These with many other thoughts flow in from heaven with those who endure spiritual temptations” (AE 750).

Counting. A miser counts his money. But we sense that the miser is missing out. Does the person who glories in his talents really count his blessings? The prophet said, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the mighty man glory in his might. Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord exercising loving kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord” (Jer. 9:23-24).

Imagine making a list of the best blessings of your life and leaving out the Lord’s promises about heaven. “Human life from infancy to old age is nothing else than a progression from the world to heaven, and the last age, which is death, is the transition it- self” (AC 3016). What kind of a list of blessings is a list that leaves out the prospect, the goal, to which the Lord is inviting us?

There is in the Writings a passage with a dramatic ending urging us to think of something and to keep it in mind. It is probably the most emphatic such urging in the Writings. “Let him who wishes to be eternally happy know and believe that he will live after death. Let him think of this and keep it in mind, for it is the truth”(AC 8939). Notice that it does not say to bear in mind that you are going to die. It says keep in mind that you are going to live.

This striking passage is actually a passage about blessings, unfolding the words in Exodus 20, “I will bless you.” It starts out by saying that when people think about blessings, they immediately start to think of things like money and honors. It says they think about things which are relatively nothing. They call them the blessings.

The passage continues, “That worldly blessing is nothing in comparison with heavenly blessing, which is eternal, the Lord thus teaches in Matthew, `What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul?'(16:26) But the man who is in worldly and earthly things does not apprehend this saying, for worldly and earthly things suffocate it, and cause him not even to believe that there is an eternal life. And yet I can affirm that as soon as a man dies he is in the other life, . . . that death itself is a continuation of life but in another world . . . . As I know this from the living experience of so many years . . . I solemnly declare it. I still speak and I have spoken with almost all whom I had known in the world and who are dead, with some after two or three days from their decease. Very many of them were exceedingly indignant that they had not believed at all in a life which was to continue after death . . . . Wherefore let him who wishes to be eternally happy know and believe that he will live after death. Let him think of this and keep it in mind, for it is the truth” (AC 8939).

When we are thinking with this reality in mind, a numbering or counting takes place in our values. To count things in the internal sense is to “give thought to their quality” (AE 453:10). Counting means setting in perspective (see AC 10217). When you count you evaluate, and take some things that were at the center of your attention and move them out to the circumference. And you see things which were at the peripheries and bring them to the center. We ask the Lord to “number our days” that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

The text is about the Lord’s thoughts. The Lord’s thoughts are related in this way to blessings: The essence of love is to love others outside of oneself, to desire to be one with them and to render them blessed from oneself. “These same three things constitute the essence of His wisdom; and love desires these three things and wisdom brings them forth” (TCR 43).

The working of the Divine Wisdom the Lord’s thoughts is Providence. We know Providence as a word as if it were one single thing, and as we are natural we tend to underestimate it. The Writings refer to Providence in quantity, vast quantity. Thinking merely naturally we “cannot possibly know the innumerable arcana of Providence, which are as many in number as the contingencies of everyone’s life” (AC 3833).

Does Providence bear on your own personal life? Listen to what the Writings say: “With every person there is a concurrence every moment of more things of providence than can be comprised in any number. This I know from heaven” (AC 5894).

To count is to think of quality. And the quality in the myriad workings of Providence is a love that is toward us. And so it is said, in the Psalm, “Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works, which you have done; And Your thoughts which are toward us cannot be recounted to You in order. If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Ps. 40:5). Amen.

Lessons: Matthew 5:1-12. NJHD 267-269, DP 250, 217 (portions)


Divine Providence

250. . . . what is greater and lesser dignity, and what is greater and lesser wealth? In itself is it anything but something imaginary? Is one person more blessed and happy than another? In the case of a great man in the state, even a king or an emperor, after a single year, is the dignity regarded as anything more than something common which no longer exalts his heart with joy but may become worthless in his sight? All men by virtue of their high position any happier than those in a lower position, even the lowest of all, as farm- workers and their servants? It is possible that these may even enjoy a greater measure of happiness when things go well with them and they are content with their lot. Who is more restless at heart, more frequently provoked and more violently enraged than the lover of self and this as often as he is not honoured according to the pride of his heart, and when anything does not succeed according to his wish and pleasure? What then is dignity, if it does not pertain to some office or use, but an idea? And this idea can only exist in thought concerning self and the world, and in itself it is the idea that the world is everything and eternity nothing . . . .

217. Honors and possessions are blessings and they are curses . . . . anyone may know why they are blessings and why they are curses if only he will give a little rational consideration to the matter; that is, he may know that they are blessings with those who do not set their heart on them, and curses with those who do set their heart on them. To set the heart on them is to love oneself in them; and not to set the heart on them is to love uses and not self in them. It has been stated above (n. 215) what the difference is between those two loves, and what the nature of that difference is. To this it must be added that some are led astray by dignities and wealth but some are not. They lead astray when they excite the loves of a man’s proprium, which is the love of self; and it has also been stated that this is an infernal love, which is called the devil; but they do not lead astray when they do not excite this love.

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ASCRIBE STRENGTH TO GOD

ASCRIBE STRENGTH TO GOD

A Sermon by Rev. Donald L. RosePreached in Bryn Athyn August 25, 1996

“Ascribe ye strength to God” (Psalm 68:34).

By our life’s experience we know something about the limitations of human strength. We have learned something about our own personal strengths. We are aware of power in nature. It can be in overwhelming facts we learn about forces on the earth and in the universe. It can be in our personal experience of the power of lightning and the crash of thunder, the shaking of the earth and the quaking of mountains. We cannot but be aware of strength and power. And the Word invites us, with whatever limited knowledge or experience we have, to ascribe strength to God.

Our text is a very short phrase which harmonizes with a theme in so many of the Psalms – the theme of strength.

Psalm 27, verse 1: “The Lord is the strength of my life.” We can say those words, and as we say them in sincerity we are responding to the text, ascribing strength to God. Psalm 46 begins with these words: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ Another psalm says: “Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” (96:6). Another says, “God is the strength of my heart” (73:26).

Let us consider for a moment the 29th Psalm. It ends with the words, “The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace” (29: 1 1). (This is familiar in the Holy Supper service, p. 57 of the Liturgy.) But notice the way this 29th Psalm begins: “Give unto the Lord, 0 you mighty ones; give unto the Lord glory and strength’ (29: 1). Can we give anything to the Lord? Can we give strength to the Lord? Can we give glory to the Lord? We can in the same sense of the text: “Ascribe ye strength to God” (Psalm 68:34).

Because this is something we can do, it is something we can also neglect to do or do too seldom. One could say that we came to church today to give glory and strength to God. In most of our services of worship we sing what is called the gloria. It comes from the first chapter of the book of Revelation beginning: “Glory and might be unto Him,” and ending with “the Almighty” (Liturgy, p. 17). And it is also rendered “Glory and power be to Him, for ever and ever. Amen.”

And when we kneel in prayer we say in keeping with the text, “Thine is the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

In some of the psalms we are made aware of the writer David. We are aware that the psalm was composed at a time of one of David’s experiences. In one of the psalms we picture David as a man growing old. In Psalm 71 we see David thinking of the span of his long life: “You are my trust from my youth. By You I have been upheld from my birth. You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb …. You are my strong refuge …. Do not cast me off in the time of old age. Do not forsake me when my strength fails” (v. 9). “I will go in the strength of the Lord God …. You have taught me from my youth …. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, 0 God, do not forsake me until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (v. 18). “I have been young and now am old” (37:25).

Perhaps we picture David with muscular arms as depicted by Michelangelo’s sculpture, as when he says, “He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (18:34). Swedenborg beheld a strong arm in heaven emanating power.

There was once a scene on a battlefield. David encountered a giant Philistine armed with a bronze spear and wielding a formidable new sword. No, it is not the familiar story of the shepherd boy with sling and stones. For David in this scene is old and frail. As he encountered this giant, Ishbi-Benob, could he possibly look back to his triumph over Goliath? He had spoken the truth on that day so long before. “You come to me with a sword, with a spear and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts …. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand …. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands” (1 Sam. 17:4547). Did he look back on his fight with Goliath that day when as an old man he faced another giant? As he approached the battle with Goliath he had looked back to earlier experiences of God’s strength. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37).

This battle as an old man is also a victory but of a different nature. The truth was the same in both battles, that all strength is from the Lord. But whereas in fighting Goliath he knew the exhilaration and flush of triumph, in the confrontation with Ishbi-Benob he probably left the battlefield gasping for breath and trembling from exertion. Perhaps he was half carried by his men from that encounter. Abishai had killed the giant, and David knew the emotions of someone who faced death but was saved by another (see 2 Samuel 21:15-17).

The Writings say that of ourselves we yield, but from the Lord we conquer. And although we come to a sense of our own powerlessness, there is an uplifting sense of the Lord’s power. This comes out vividly in the chapter near the end of the books of Samuel, the chapter in which David has to be rescued from the giant. It is the most extensive example of a psalm actually being incorporated within a story of David. (2 Samuel 22 is virtually the same as Psalm 18.) “Then David spoke to the Lord the words of this song … ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, the God of my strength; in Him will I trust'” (2 Sam 22:1-3). We will continue this as a conclusion to this sermon, but let us first note some teachings of the Writings.

There is a chapter in Heaven and Hell about the great power of the angels. Swedenborg witnessed the power of angels that goes beyond belief. They can chase away thousands of evil spirits. “Numbers are of no avail against the angels; neither are devices, cunning or combinations; for they see through them all and shatter them in a moment.” We are told that what we read in the Psalms is so true. “Bless the Lord, you His angels, most powerful in strength” (HH 229).

But following this emphatic paragraph about great power we have the following: “It must be known, however, that the angels have no power whatever of themselves, but that all their power is from the Lord; and that they are powers only so far as they acknowledge this. Whoever among them believes that he has power of himself instantly becomes so weak as not to be able to resist even a single evil spirit. For this reason angels ascribe no merit whatever to themselves, and are averse to all praise and glory on account of anything they do, ascribing it to the Lord” (HH 230).

It is an angelic truth repeated in the Writings that strength is to be ascribed to God, and that we are strong or weak depending on our doing that ascribing, according to the text, “Ascribe ye strength to God.”

This angelic truth has found its way into human affairs and has been the way of uplifting for countless thousands who seemed hopeless. We refer to the 12-step programs. It began with alcoholics anonymous. The twelve steps actually mention alcohol only very little. There is an emphasis on power, an acknowledgment that one does not have power. There is a turning to a higher power. It is an ascribing of strength to God. This has led to several successful 12-step programs.

The Writings give the striking teaching that if we come through temptation with a sense of our own credit, the feeling that we merit the victory because of our own strength, we are going to have to endure similar or worse temptations until we are reduced to the sanity of mind in believing we have merited nothing (see AC 2273).

People who have a close experience with their own lack of power are testimonials to a fundamental truth. The same is true of people who have known paralyzing illness or those whose bodies have grown old and feeble and yet who have found a higher strength. This is in accord with the words of Scripture: “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31).

There is a saying in the Writings about what one may think of in beholding the sky. “When he sees the immensity of the heavens, he does not think of their immensity but of the immeasurable and infinite power of the Lord” (AC 1807). Sometimes we behold the sky and see the grandeur of great clouds. Sometimes either with telescope or naked eye we look at the stars and try to take in the vastness of it all.

We behold the power of the Lord in His Word, as in the Psalm: “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You …. They go from strength to strength’ (84:5,7). And we take strength in the words of David when he has been delivered from the giant. “Then David spoke to the Lord the words of this song….. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, the God of my strength; in Him will I trust …. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity'” (v. 18).

“He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God except the Lord? And who is a rock except our God? God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on high places. He teaches my hands to war so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your gentleness has made me great” (v. 32-36).

‘You have armed me with strength for the battle” (v. 40). “You have delivered me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks to You, 0 Lord, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name” (v. 50).

And sing praises to His name. Can each of us say with conviction, “I am weak but Thou art mighty”? Can each of us sing with sure belief, “I am weak but Thou art mighty; hold me with Thy powerful hand …. Strong deliverer, strong deliverer, be Thou still my strength and shield”? Amen.

Lessons: 2 Samuel 21,22; John 10: 14-30, AC 4932, 6344:4,5


Arcana Coelestia 4932, 6344:4,5

4932. They in the Grand Man who correspond to the hands and arms, and also to the shoulders, are those who have power by the truth of faith from good. For those who are in the truth of faith from good are in the power of the Lord because they attribute all power to Him and none to themselves; and the more they attribute none to themselves – not with the lips but with the heart – the more they are in power. From this the angels are called potencies and powers.

6344. Scarcely anyone in this world can know what is the nature of the power that is in truth from good; but it is known to those who are in the other life, thus by revelation thence. They who are in truth from good, that is, in faith from charity, are in power through truth from good. In this power are all the angels, and from this the angels are called in the Word “powers”; for they are in the power of restraining evil spirits, one angel being able to restrain a thousand all at once. They exercise their power chiefly when with man, in defending him at times against many hells, and this in a thousand and a thousand ways.

They have this power by means of the truth that is of faith from the good that is of charity; but as they have their faith from the Lord, it is the Lord alone who is the power in them.

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“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” (Horace Mann)

havau22:

Good post,totally agree,the title of my site,did not know who said that, until someone pointed it out to me just recently.found your post while searching for horace man. so i thought id reblog it,im not here to win a popularity contest,i will give credit were credit is due,glad i found your post.

Originally posted on Grhgraph's Blog:

After 13 straight days on the road, I thought I would sleep well last night but for some strange reason this quote popped into my head and it’s been stuck there ever since. This is a question I have asked myself a hundred times and I never had a good answer. It troubles me because it’s very specific and shame is a powerful emotion. The older I get, the more this question haunts me and forces me to examine my life on this exact basis, “What victory have I won for humanity?”

The world we live in has so many problems and the opportunities to make a difference are unlimited so there really isn’t a good excuse for not doing more. I  can’t plead ignorance because my father and grandfather reminded me frequently to, “Leave the world better than you found it.” That seems pretty clear too but in my 58 years of life…

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The Trinity: Aspects of One Divine Essence

In the New Church we whole-heartedly believe in the Holy Trinity. In fact, we are very interested in the “trinity” concept. But to us, a trinity does not consist of three similar things on the same level (which might be regarded as a “trio”), but a trinity consists of one thing on three different levels. For example, three houses in a terrace do not form a trinity, but one house with three stories is a trinity. (Noah’s Ark was like that; it had “lower, second and third stories.” [Genesis 6:16]) Three oranges do not make a trinity; but one orange does, if you consider its skin, its flesh, and its pips or seeds. Three people do not make a trinity; but one person does, if you consider his soul, his body, and his influence or outflowing life.

The Holy Trinity—False View

The old, false idea of God was that he was, is, and ever has been, a trinity of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, all existing side by side since before the creation of the universe. The theory is that at a certain point in time, one of these three persons, the Son, came into the world as a baby, grew up here to adult status, was crucified, was buried, and then ascended back to Heaven, to rejoin the Father and the Holy Ghost; after which everything was as it had been.

No “Son from Eternity”

The main error here is the supposition that the Son of God existed as a second person of the Holy Trinity since the beginning. We have already discussed this in Chapter 11, but let us recapitulate some reasons for disbelieving it.

(1) A son must have a mother, and there were no women available before the creation. Mary of Nazareth was the mother of Jesus, and she came comparatively late in the story.

(2) If the Son had been there from the beginning, surely he would have been mentioned in the Old Testament, which he isn’t! On the contrary, Jehovah declares in Isaiah: “I am God, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:21)

N.B.—The “Son of God” mentioned in Daniel 3:25 (A.V.) is a mistranslation that should read: “a son of the gods”— Nebuchadnezzar’s idea of a glorious spiritual being. It was, of course, an angel. (See Psalm 34:7)

(3) If the Son of God had been in existence from eternity, presumably an adult, how was it that he came into Mary’s womb as an embryo, then a fetus, and finally a sucking baby? Surely he would have arrived a full-grown man, knowing everything!

It is true that Jesus claimed to have been in existence since “before Abraham was.” (John 8:58.) He was not a created being, like other men. His soul was Jehovah himself, the great “I am.” That is why, when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am!” the Jews tried to stone him for blasphemy. He did not say, however, that he had been the Son of God prior to his birth in Bethlehem.

Let us make this point perfectly clear. In so far as Jesus was divine, he was God. Not the Son of God (which he was when mixed with Mary’s heredity) but simply God.

Three Essentials in One Person

We have seen that everyone is a trinity, consisting of three essentials in one person. You have a soul or spirit, a physical body, and an “influence” or sphere or outgoing personality by which others know you. There is also another kind of trinity involved in every project you undertake: love, wisdom, and power (or, in the terms of the old philosophers: end, cause, and effect.) Suppose you set out to mend an electric fuse. (1) There must be the love—the desire to have the fuse mended, which is in your heart, or will. This is the end in view. (2) You must have the wisdom—the know-how, which is in your head, or understanding. This is what causes the project to be undertaken. (3) Lastly, you must have the power, which resides in your hands. This produces the effect.

In the beginning, God was a trinity like this. At heart, he was just love. But love cannot exist alone, it needs others outside itself whom it can love and make happy. So love produced wisdom, which set to work to plan the creation of a finite universe full of creatures, including people. His wisdom was (as it were) the architect, the builder. “In the beginning was the Word; all things were made by him.” (John 1:1, 3)  Finally, the divine wisdom sent out energy from the divine love to accomplish its plans, rather as an architect employs construction workers. This energy was the divine power. In Old Testament times, then, the holy trinity consisted of love, wisdom, and power, three essentials in one person, that person being Jehovah God.

The Word Became Flesh

When, later on, God wished to enter his universe as a man, he naturally came as the divine wisdom or Word, which had created the universe in the first place. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Now, in Bethlehem, for the first time, we have the Father-Son relationship within the Godhead. The divine love was the Father, and the divine wisdom was (as it were) the Son. And their outpouring energy was the Holy Spirit.

This Father-Son relationship lasted for only only 33 years, from the birth of Jesus until his resurrection from death. After the ascension, the Holy Trinity consisted of (1) the divine Inmost, (2) the divine Human, and (3) the outflowing divine life. These three essentials correspond to the heat, light, and radiation of the spiritual Sun in Heaven, which is the Lord as seen by the angels.

We will now place these trinities together, side by side, and we think you will see how similar they are. In fact, they are really the same, under different names! God’s nature has not essentially changed, and we are in his image and likeness.

Before While Jesus After
Creation was on Earth the Spiritual
Old Testament New Testament Ascension Sun
1 Love Father (Soul) Divine Inmost Heat
2 Wisdom (Word) Son (Body) Divine Human Light
3 Power Holy Spirit (Life) Divine Life Radiation

The Holy Ghost

Nobody seems to know why the Holy Ghost should be addressed as “him,” and called a “person.” The word “ghost” simply means spirit, breath or wind, and suggests “outflowing life or activity.” At the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:2) the holy spirit entered him from Jehovah and was seen as a dove; only after receiving it was he enabled to do his redemptive work. He later promised his disciples that, when he was glorified, or united completed with his Father, this same holy spirit would overflow from him into them, as the comforter. (John 14:26 and 7:39) Thus, immediately after the resurrection, Jesus “breathed” on them in the upper room, and said: “Receive ye the holy ghost.” (John 20:22) A few weeks later, at Pentecost, the same holy spirit came down in full force upon all who believed in him—”as tongues of fire and a rushing mighty wind.” (Acts 2:2-4) Since then, the holy spirit was, and still is, the powerful stream of life that flows into men’s hearts and minds from the glorified Lord Jesus Christ; i.e., from the Divine-Human. Those who receive it are said to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit.”