The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
By the Rev. Eric H. Carswell

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“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen”
(Revelation 22:21).
At the end of many New Church services the minister’s final
words are the benediction, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be
with you all. Amen.” Other than this you would probably hear only
rare reference to the word “grace” within the New Church.
The terms, grace, mercy, and forgiveness are interconnected,
but not the same. One of the appealing ideas associated with the
Lord’s message in the New Testament is the concept of Divine
forgiveness. We don’t have to live a perfect life to make it to heaven,
and indeed we are incapable of being perfect. We all fall far short of
perfection. Even the most loving and wise angel doesn’t remotely
approach perfection. We are not perfect because our understanding
is always limited and our motivations are never completely pure.
Sometimes these qualities have only faint effects on our actions and
sometimes we, as human beings, knowingly, and with intention
choose to think, say, and do evil things. In the words of Revelation, all
that we do is written in our book of life. By the measure of perfect
truth, then each of our book of life would keep us from heaven. But
the Lord isn’t just perfect truth. He is perfect love and this love lifts all
to heaven, as it were overcoming the evil loves and false ideas that
we have attached to our lives.

The Lord as King governs each and all things in the universe
from Divine truth; and as Priest, from Divine good. Divine truth is the
very order of His universal kingdom, all the laws of which are truths,
or eternal verities Divine good is the very essential of order, all things
of which are of mercy. Both of these are predicated of the Lord. If
Divine truth alone were His, no mortal could be saved, for truths
condemn every one to hell; but Divine good, which is of mercy, uplifts
from hell to heaven (Arcana Caelestia 1728).

It is very important that each of us thinks of ourselves as being
capable of learning what is true and good and becoming better and
better able to do what is truly useful. Sometimes a person’s thoughts
can so focus on his flaws and ignorance that he feels incapable of
being useful or is encouraged into feeling irresponsible about even
trying to become a better person. But if we overcome these false
ideas, and become better and better at living a truly useful life, it is
important for us to know and acknowledge that we will always need
the Lord’s help.

Every one believes at the present day that the evil loves and
false ideas in a person are entirely separated and abolished during
regeneration, so that when he becomes regenerate, nothing of this
evil or falsity remains, but he is clean and righteous, like one washed
and purified with water. This notion is, however, utterly false; for not a
single evil love or false idea can be so shaken off as to be abolished;
but whatever has been hereditarily derived from infancy, and
acquired by act and deed, remains; so that a person, notwithstanding
his being regenerate, is nothing but evil and falsity, as is shown in a
living way to souls after death. The truth of this may be sufficiently
manifest from the consideration, that there is nothing of good and
nothing of truth in a person except from the Lord, and that all evil and
falsity are the person’s from those things that are his own; and that a
person, spirit, and even angel, if left in the least to himself, would rush
of himself into hell; wherefore also it is said in the Word that heaven
is not pure. This is acknowledged by angels, and he who does not
acknowledge it cannot be among angels. It is the Lord’s mercy alone
that frees them, and even draws them out of hell and keeps them
from rushing thither of themselves.

That they are kept by the Lord from rushing into hell, is clearly
perceived by the angels, and even in a measure by good spirits. Evil
spirits however, like people, do not believe this; but it has often been
shown them (Arcana Caelestia 868:1).

This passage states that it is the Lord’s mercy that frees us.
There are actually three distinct concepts of how the Lord’s
forgiveness is received by a person. The first is a dangerous falsity
that has led people away from following the Lord and trying to live a
good life. This is the belief that a person is forgiven and receives the
benefits of the Lord’s mercy purely by means of faith or an
acknowledgment of Christ’s death on the cross. This idea of
forgiveness and mercy, together with other supporting ideas, has led
some to assert that how a person lives his life makes no difference,
as is spoken of in the following passages:

“From this one error [that truth is the essential of the church, and so
essential that truth, which people call faith, has power to save without
the good which is of charity], very many other errors have been
derived, which have infected not only doctrine, but also life; as for
instance that no matter how a person lives, provided he has faith he
is saved; that even the most wicked are received into heaven if in the
hour of death they make profession of such things as are of faith; and
that every one can be received into heaven merely from grace,
whatever his life has been. In consequence of holding this doctrine
they at last do not know what charity is, nor do they care for it; and
finally they do not believe there is such a thing, nor consequently that
there is a heaven or a hell (Arcana Caelestia 4925:2).

“[A false principle of religion] is the doctrinal idea of a church
which acknowledges faith alone as a principle, as that a person is
justified by faith alone, that then all sins are wiped away from him,
that he may be saved by faith alone even in the last hour of his life,
that salvation is merely admission into heaven through grace, …
These and the like are the special things belonging to the principle of
faith alone. But if the church would acknowledge as its principle the
life of faith, it would acknowledge charity toward the neighbor and
love to the Lord, consequently the works of charity and of love, and
then all these special things would fall to pieces; and instead of
justification it would acknowledge regeneration” (Arcana Caelestia
4721).

Both of these passages mention the word “grace” and it might
be concluded from its association with a clearly false idea, that it
perhaps makes one with a false idea of forgiveness and salvation, but
this is not the case.

The Writings of the New Church distinguish a fundamental
difference between grace and mercy that has to do with the
recognition a person has of his or her need for the Lord’s help. Those
people whose approach to the Lord is more dominated by what they
know and acknowledge to be true are called spiritual. Those people
approach to the Lord is more dominated by what they love and
acknowledge to good are called are called heavenly, or “celestial.”
Those who, at the core of their life, are led by their understanding (or
I believe by simple obedience) acknowledge in their thoughts that
they are not perfect and that they need the Lord’s help. They
nevertheless are not so aware of their faults and flaws other than
intellectually. Consequently their humility is affected by the fact that
they sense that they see their faults and flaws with their own
intellectual ability.

A person can acknowledge, from his own reflection that he has
trouble telling the truth and the whole truth about a situation, can
acknowledge that this evil, feel remorse for this fault, and still have it
all be significantly a matter of thought. Such a person may have a
genuine humility in his approach to the Lord, but it is limited. Such a
person knows that he needs the Lord’s help in fighting this evil
tendency, knows that he needs the Lord’s forgiveness for the times
that he has lied to himself and others, and knows that as he fights this
tendency he will receive the Lord’s help and forgiveness. This state of
mind seeks what the Writings would call the Lord’s grace.

But if a person, at the core of his life, is led by a love of what is
good, he will sense the presence of evil loves and false ideas in his
life with a horrifying and saddening clarity. He will sense at a very
deep level of his life that he is absolutely dependent on the Lord’s
help. His humility before the Lord will be from his heart and far, far
surpass that of the person who is led more by his understanding.
Such people are the ones that the Writings state really understand
the Lord’s mercy.

This distinction is indicated in the following passages: “The
mercy of the Lord involves and looks to the salvation of the human
race; and so does His grace. In the Word however a distinction is
made between mercy and grace, a distinction which depends in fact
on the difference in those who are their recipients. Mercy applies to
those who are heavenly, but grace to those who are spiritual, for
heavenly people acknowledge nothing other than mercy, while
spiritual people acknowledge hardly anything other than grace.
Heavenly people do not know that grace is, while the spiritual
scarcely know what mercy is, for they make mercy and grace to be
one and the same. The reason for the difference springs from each
one’s humility. People in whom there is humility of heart plead for the
Lord’s mercy, but those in whom there is humility of mind seek His
grace. Or if the latter do plead for mercy they do so in a state of
temptation or with the lips only and not with the heart”
(Arcana Caelestia 598:2).

“People governed by an affection for truth are not able to
humble themselves sufficiently so as to acknowledge from the heart
that all things are attributable to mercy; and this being so, instead of
mercy they speak of grace. Indeed the less affection for truth is in
them, the less humility there is within their speaking of grace. On the
other hand the more affection for good exists with someone the more
humility there is within his speaking of mercy” (Arcana Caelestia
2423).

The Holy Supper is the act of worship that most clearly reflects
our need for the Lord’s help. In it we turn to the Lord, seeking to
receive more of His life within our own. The bread represents the
Lord’s love that we need within our own hearts, fundamentally
changing what we care about and make most important. The wine
represents the Lord’s wisdom that we need in our thoughts,
fundamentally changing how we see ourselves, others, and the life
we are to lead. Each of us, if we are to approach the Holy Supper
worthily, need to be actively acknowledging that we have specific
faults and flaws that harm us, others, and the uses we seek to
achieve. We need to acknowledge these evil loves and false
ideas to ourselves and to the Lord. We are to pray for His help in
fighting their influence and we are to be doing the best we can to
change the quality of the thoughts, words, and deeds that have been
tainted by them in the past.

To begin with this effort will be more a matter of intellectual
acknowledgment and we will in reality be seeking the Lord’s grace.
As the miracle of regeneration occurs we will come more and more to
recognize and acknowledge on a progressively deeper level that we
can not be the person we want to be or accomplish the things we
hope to without the Lord’s constant presence and help. From an ever
greater humility we will turn to the Lord for this help. More and more
we will truly know what His mercy is.

We cannot instantly change who we are. In fact, by ourselves,
we cannot change at all. With the Lord’s help we can gradually
become better and better human beings. Where ever we are in
spiritual growth, may we turn to the Lord, acknowledging as best we
can our need for His help. May we do our part to receive His life, His
love and wisdom more and more within our lives. And from this we
will become more and more useful human beings, all who our lives
touch will be blessed by this growing ability, and we ourselves will
grow in fulfillment and blessedness.
AMEN.
Lessons: Revelation 22:12-21, Arcana Caelestia 598:2, Arcana
Caelestia 242

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“To acquire a heavenly selfhood a person needs to do good from themself and to think truth from themself, but still must know that all the good and all the truth are from the Lord. ”

Arcana Coelestia 2883

Will we meet in heaven – my partner and I?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Poets sometimes voice a feeling that even death cannot break the bonds of love. That even after their demise a  loving couple meet in heaven.

meet in heaven
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! And, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

(Sonnets from the Portugese XLIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

But does love really transcend bodily death and do you and your loved one ever meet in heaven or in another form of afterlife for that matter?

We do meet in heaven according to Leslie Flint

The psychic Leslie Flint held seances in which voices could be heard speaking. A recording includes an account by a man named George Wilmot purportedly from beyond the grave. According to this communication, we do meet in heaven again. This man awoke in an afterlife and said he met there a young woman he  was sweet on during the war in France before she died together with her family.

Through Flint’s mediumship Queen Victoria was also heard speaking. Of Albert, she said
“We are still very, very concerned and interested in all the things that transpire in your world.”

Flint was involved in thousands of experiences in which people spoke to deceased loved ones and the deceased responded in normal conversations. Their voices did not come through the medium’s mouth or from any one else present. Flint was tested hundreds of times using all manner of controls and never once was found to have produced the voices or had any collaborator produce the voices.

For example he was bound to a chair, his mouth sealed with tape. In other experiments he wore a throat microphone to detect possible vibrations in his vocal organs. He was observed through an infra-red viewer. At no time did sounds come from his mouth. In no tests by qualified, skeptical scientists, was anything found to be fake or deceptive.

Does the Bible say we meet in heaven again?

Christians have traditionally thought that angels and the spirits of the departed are
sexless beings — neither male nor female. They point to the words of Christ who said

“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matt 22:30)

However another interpretation of this passage is that Jesus was referring to the kind of superficial impure marriages the scoffing Sadducees had in mind which are not going to be made in heaven.

Do couples do meet in heaven according to Swedenborg?

Emanuel Swedenborg lived over a century before testing of psychics started. However, he did write about his extraordinary communication with spirits in meticulous and comprehensive detail. His books report on both his own experiences of the spirit world and what spirit communicators had told him about it. He addresses the issue of whether husband and wife meet in heaven.

He reports that people after death are male or female not only as to their
psychological makeup but also as to every detail of their spirit bodies. We are told that all of what one loves and desires stays with one in the next life. This is said to be because what one deeply feels is the inner being of one’s life. And this includes one’s sexual inclination and the person one loves.

Swedenborg claims that most couples meet after death, in a `world of spirits’ before they are ready for heaven, recognize each other, associate, and live together at least for a while. So they do not meet in heaven but meet outside heaven. To the extent they are familiar to each other and have things in common, they remain together and mutually explore each other’s true feelings. They start to see more clearly to what extent they had any real affection for each other.

According to this account those, whose minds are inwardly in a state of agreement and unity, progress and stay together for all time in heaven and are said to experience a deep conviction that they had been born for each other, and have a sense of tender love and joy such as they had never known before.

However, those whose relationship is discovered to consist of an inner disharmony, then sooner or later the individual partners have a growing unease. If there is pleasure in having a partner to blame or at least to foil and outwit, this may break out into open enmity, quarrelling, and even combat.

Other partners unsuited to each other realise it is not good for them to stay living together and so separate no matter how long they have lived together in their former life.

We are told those individuals with a heavenly character who are in unhappy relationships separate and  find a new partner with whom union is possible to the point that the new pair do not wish to lead two lives but one.  They are indeed kindred spirits.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problem

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on17th January 2012CategoriesConsciousness, Spirit awarenessTags, , , , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

Heaven and Hell

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life after death

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Heaven and Hell

You must be joking! ‘Heaven and Hell,’ what images do they conjure up in today’s world. Heaven- cute little cherubs with wings, sitting on fluffy clouds, playing harps or feasting in paradise without ‘Weight watchers’; Hell- mediaeval tortures, spooky red devils with horns and tails, furnaces, fire and brimstone (whatever that is.) Either way count me out!

And yet do you, like me, have a sneaky suspicion that there must be something more to this life. Do you ever wonder whether life carries on in another dimension and if so what it could be like? Do you ever think that there just might be some grain of truth in these out dated concepts of heaven and hell?

We often use words like heaven and hell to describe our own inner feelings. If everything goes wrong at work and the things that we attempt are thwarted and leave us frustrated we might feel that we have had a ‘hell of a day.’  If things go right and we feel pleased and happy we talk about ‘being in heaven.’ We can see from this that there is a relationship between how we feel and heaven and hell. Heaven and hell essentially are states of our mind or inner being and not physical places of either bliss or torment. Our actions and reactions, our thoughts and deeds, our loves and desires build heaven or hell within us.

Emanuel Swedenborg tells us that when our physical body dies the essential person, the spirit or soul passes into the spiritual world. Although the spiritual world may appear insubstantial to us on earth it is ultimate reality.

In the spiritual world there are communities where groups of people live and work together as in this natural world. We ultimately find ourselves living with communities with whom we feel at ‘home’ and who have similar natures to our own. If, whilst on earth, we have tried to think of others before ourselves, have had a belief in an entity greater than ourselves and tried to live according to principles then we should find ourselves living in a heavenly society. We really should be ‘in heaven.’

If, on the other hand, we have spent our lives being awkward, miserable, intolerant, selfish and dare we say plain ‘evil,’ then it is easy to see that being in a community of ‘angelic’ people would be anathema to us. We would be happier being in a company of like- minded people where we could continue to ‘make life hell.’

The choice is ours.

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Enlightenment comes from Goodness!

The title for this blog site is “Love is the Ultimate Science.” This may seem anti-intuitive to a culture that believes enlightenment is an intellectual pursuit whereby an individual seeks out and fills his or her memory banks with increasing bits of knowledge and data.

But let us explore this pursuit more deeply.

The search for knowledge starts as basic human curiosity in childhood. But this inborn curiosity is driven by one’s affection (love) to know things. According to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, it is affection that draws information from the external world and into the mind.

Humans do this better than any other species on earth. In fact, this is the evolutionary niche that the human species has carved out for itself. Whereas other animal species graze or hunt for food, humans graze and hunt for knowledge. Humans even metabolize information.

This metabolism of information becomes operative when the love of knowing is dialed up into a love of understanding what we know. Information just doesn’t sit in our memory like undigested food in our stomachs—it can be broken down and reconstituted into more abstract and creative ideas.

If we seek further enlightenment, this will be activated by a love of reasoning about what we understand. This cognitive process is no longer satisfied with mere information or even imaginative creativity, but with the discernment of truth.

The discernment of truth and reasoning can then be upgraded to the cognitive function of wisdom when we use truth to reveal the essence of goodness. Wisdom is the love of doing what is good.

The cognitive functions of memory information (knowing), understanding what we know, reasoning about what we understand, and wisdom or the cognition of goodness from the things we hold as truth, are all activated by a distinct quality of love. Love focuses our attention and organizes the information in our minds into real coherent structure. This mental structure is our worldview and belief system (including our faith).

That is why the Lord God’s two greatest commandments deal with the issue of love and goodness. True religion takes account of the lawful steps, science and process of the human mind acquiring true enlightenment—a process that seeks goodness and empathy as its ultimate goal.

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Proving God

The Transfiguration Of The Lord

The Transfiguration Of The Lord
A Sermon by Rev Kurt H. Asplundh

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“A bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice
came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased. Hear Him!'” (Matt. 17:5)
Our subject is the Transfiguration of the Lord, that amazing
event recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, when the
Lord was transformed before the eyes of Peter, James and John. We
will consider this in four parts, each answering a question: First, what
took place and how did it actually happen? Second, what did it teach
about Jesus? Third, what is its representative meaning? And fourth,
What does it mean for us? What did happen?

The Lord, with His disciples, had come into the region of
Caesarea Philippi, a city north of the land of Israel situated at the
headwaters of the Jordan River. Nearby were the slopes of Mount
Hermon rising to snowcapped peaks. We can remember this
mountain from the 133rd Psalm which speaks of the delightful “dew of
Hermon” descending on the mountains of Zion. Choosing Peter,
James and John who accompanied Him on other intimate occasions,
the Lord went up onto this mountain to pray. The disciples, seemingly
dozing off after their climb, suddenly became fully awake to observe
that their Lord’s face was altered as He prayed, now shining like the
sun; and His clothing glistened with whiteness, like the snow, beyond
any imaginable whiteness of clean linen. Also, the disciples saw two
men whom they recognized as Moses, their ancient lawgiver, and
Elijah the prophet, who appeared in glory and spoke with the Lord of
His forthcoming death in Jerusalem.

Peter, overwhelmed at this wondrous sight, said, “Lord, … let us
make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one
for Elijah.” (Matt. 17:4) As he said this, a bright cloud overshadowed
them, and from the cloud a voice saying, “This is My beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5). All three disciples
heard this and fell on their faces, greatly afraid. When the Lord came
to touch them and raise them up, the vision had ended. He was
alone, no longer surrounded by flaming glory and glistening light.
What happened on this occasion was a real experience, not a
dream or hallucination. The three disciples were introduced briefly
into conscious life in the spiritual world. Their spiritual eyes were
opened and, for a few moments, they saw as the angels see:
beholding the deeper spiritual qualities of their Lord that are visible in
that superior realm. Indeed, the disciples saw the face of the Lord like
the sun because His Divine love shines forth in the spiritual world as
a sun. The doctrine of the New Church teaches that He is seen by the
angels above the heavens, encompassed by the flaming brilliance of
His own Divine love.

Spiritual visions are common in Scripture, especially with the
prophets, and these took place through an opening of spiritual senses
latent in us all but now opened only rarely. For example, John
experienced visions when banished to the Isle of Patmos. Again, “in
the spirit,” as at the time of the transfiguration, having his spiritual
eyes opened, He saw the Lord as a Divine Man, “His eyes like a
flame of fire,” His hair “as white as snow.”

Having considered so far what actually happened at the
transfiguration, let us now ask what it teaches about Jesus. The voice
from the cloud which put the disciples into a state of such profound
humility and fear identified him as the “Son of God.” “This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5)
Who is this “beloved Son”? The doctrine of the New Church
describes Him as the “Divine Human,” God in Human form. “Before
the Lord came into the world He was present with men of the church
but only medially through angels who represented Him; but since His
coming He is present with men of the church immediately, and this
because in the world He put on also a Divine Natural [form] in which
He is present with men.” (TCR 109) Jehovah God put on a degree of
life called the Natural, “thereby becoming Man, like a man in the
world,” we are told, “but with the difference that in the Lord this
degree … is infinite and uncreated … ” (DLW 233, emphasis added)
He made His Natural Divine.

We are told that while the Lord “was indeed born as is another
man, … this human the Lord entirely cast out, so that He was no
longer the son of Mary, and made the Human in Himself Divine …
and He also showed to Peter, James, and John, when He was
transfigured, that He was a Divine Man.” (AC 4692:5) “It was plainly
the Divine Human of the Lord that was thus seen” and identified by
the voice heard from the cloud as the “beloved Son” (AE 64:3). Many
gospel teachings show the importance of this recognition of the
Divinity of Jesus; from John, for example, where it says that “No one
has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son … He has declared
Him.” (John 1:18) Again, “Jesus said … I am the way, the truth, and
the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
In another instance, when the disciple Philip said to Jesus: “Lord,
show us the Father … ” He answered: “He who has seen Me has
seen the Father… ” (John 14:9) “I and My Father are one,” He said.
(John 10:30)

“They who are truly men of the church … are acquainted with
and acknowledge a Trine” we are told in the Writings of the New
Church. “But still they humble themselves before the Lord and adore
Him alone, for the reason that they know that there is no access to
the Divine Itself which is called the Father’ except through the Son,
and that all the holy which is of the Holy Spirit proceeds from Him.
When they are in this idea they adore no other than Him through
whom and from whom all things are, thus One.” (Arcana Coelestia
2329:4)

We turn now to the third question of our consideration. What
was the representative meaning of the transfiguration? We must
preface this by pointing out that every account in Scripture has a
representative or parable-like sense. This is illustrated by the Lord’s
parables which contained a deeper meaning. In some places, the
prophets “acted out” a style of life that demonstrated the state of the
nation. What they did had symbolic meaning.

In a similar way, the transfiguration of the Lord represents the
transformation of the Word. In fact, everything that is said in this
account about the Lord can be understood as referring to the Word
and our reception of it.

Consider these parallels. Jesus was present in an external
body. So, too, the Word of Scripture is an external body of history,
laws and prophecy. Jesus revealed a Divine spirit within His body.
So, too, the Word of Scripture has a spirit of truth. When the disciples
went up onto the mountain, their vision was opened to see Jesus in a
new way. When we climb above mundane thoughts and concerns,
we elevate our mind to a state in which we can be given a new vision
of the meaning of the Word.

“The Word in its glory was represented in the Lord when He
was transfigured” (True Christian Religion 222; Doctrine Concerning
the Sacred Scripture 48). We are told in different words that “when
the Lord was transfigured, He presented Himself in the form in which
the Divine truth is in heaven” (Apocalypse Explained 624e). In other
words, He caused Himself “to be seen as the Word” (Apocalypse
Revealed 24).

It is significant that the two men seen talking with Jesus were
Moses and Elijah, both closely linked with the Word of Scripture.
Moses obviously represents that part of the Old Testament we call
“the Law,” while Elijah represents the Prophets (see also Apocalypse
Explained 624e).

Moses and Elijah, when talking to Jesus “spoke of His
decease.” (Luke 9:31) The parallel representation is that the Law and
the Prophets of Scripture treat of the Messiah, some prophecies
specifically foretelling His death.

An important representation or parallel is to be found in the fact
that a cloud overshadowed the disciples during the transfiguration.
Matthew’s gospel describes this as a “bright cloud.” We think of a puff
of cloud momentarily enveloping a group of climbers on a mountain
slope, a cloud penetrated by the sun’s rays, bright but obscuring the
sight of nearby objects. It was from such a passing cloud that the
voice was heard saying: “This is My beloved Son.” (Mark 9:7; Luke
9:35)

We are reminded here of other instances in Scripture where
clouds are mentioned: how Mount Sinai was covered by clouds when
Moses went up to receive the Commandments; the promise that the
second coming of the Lord would be “in the clouds of heaven” (Matt.
24), as it is said:

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him
… ” (Revelations 1:7)

While the transfiguration of the Lord represents the Word in its
glory, the overshadowing cloud represents a particular aspect of the
Word called in New Church doctrine the “sense of the letter”
(Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 48), or Divine truth in its
outmost or literal meaning. (Apocalypse Revealed 24)

When we read of anything in Scripture, as we read here of
clouds, we can interpret the meaning on different levels literal or
symbolic. For example, to believe that Christ will return to earth
surrounded by clouds when the Last Judgment is at hand is to think
literally. We can also think of the same statement symbolically.
The Writings of the New Church have much to say about the
symbolic or representative meaning of clouds. This comes from the
fact that clouds appear in the spiritual world as well as in the natural
world, “but the clouds in the spiritual world appear beneath the
heavens, with those who are in the sense of the letter of the Word,
darker or brighter according to their understanding and reception of
the Word …consequently bright clouds’ are the Divine truth veiled in
appearances of truth … and dark clouds’ are the Divine truths
covered with fallacies and confirmed appearances … ” (Apocalypse
Revealed 24)

When the Word is read according to this spiritual
representation, we can see new meaning in the account of the
overshadowing cloud. It refers to an obscure understanding of Divine
teachings. It represents truth veiled over with appearances drawn
from a literalistic understanding of the Word. Here is an illustration:
When the Lord spoke to Nicodemus about being “born again,”
Nicodemus wondered how it would be possible to enter again into his
mother’s womb (John 3:4). He took the statement literally. The Lord
intended it symbolically.

Consider another example: The Lord once said He would raise
up the temple in three days if it were destroyed. Many took His words
literally, wondering how He could do this when the temple had taken
46 years to build. But He spoke of the temple of His body and His
resurrection in three days. (see John 2:19-21)

Now when the bright cloud overshadowed the disciples, the
symbolic meaning is that the church at that time (which the disciples
represented) “was only in truths from the sense of the letter” of the
Word (Apocalypse Explained 594a).

The remarkable thing to note, however, is that the voice which
identified Jesus as the “beloved Son” came from the cloud. This
revelation, so crucial to Christian belief, is powerfully given in the
sense of the letter of the Word rightly understood. The Writings give
this explanation: “The bright cloud’ which overshadowed the disciples’
represented the Word in the sense of the letter; so from it a voice was
heard, saying, This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him,’ for no
announcements or responses are ever made from heaven except
through outmosts such as are in the sense of the letter of the Word,
for they are made by the Lord in fullness.” (Doctrine Concerning the
Sacred Scripture 48, emphasis added; see Arcana Coelestia 9905)

This teaching that Divine revelations must be made in the
statements of Scripture is illustrated in the parable of Lazarus and the
beggar. Lazarus, the rich man who went to hell, pleaded with Father
Abraham to send someone to his brothers on earth to warn them of
this fate. The answer was: “They have Moses and the Prophets …. If
they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be
persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:29-31). Unless
revelations are stated in and confirmed by truths in external form,
they have no power. When presented in that form they have
awesome power and effect. Thus, it was that Peter, James and John
humbled themselves profoundly when the voice came out of the
cloud. It was not only the voice that affected them, but the message:
that their Lord was Divine Man God in Human form!

What, then, does all of this mean for us? What spiritual benefits
come from reading about and understanding the transfiguration of the
Lord? There is a sense in which we can put ourselves in the place of
Peter, James and John and be witness to, and profoundly moved as
they were by, a miraculous transformation of our understanding of the
Word. The transformation for us is in the mind. First it is seeing the
glory flaming in the cloud seeing the spiritual sense of the Word
within the letter which gives it Divine life; for as the apostle Paul said
to the Corinthians, “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” (2
Corinthians 3:6)

There is a wonder here a miraculous transformation of
Scriptural teachings that have meant little or nothing to us now
suddenly glowing with Divine love and enlightening our minds with
Divine wisdom. Second, it is sensing a holy fear at the presence of
the Lord in His Word. It is humbling ourselves before Him, being
willing to serve and obey Him. It is saying to the Lord and really
meaning it, “Not my will but Thine be done!”

Lastly, it is being touched by Him and lifted in spirit by His
presence and His words. For He said, “Arise, and do not be afraid”
(Matthew 17:7). When we consider the entire sweep of the Lord’s
ministry and its impending conclusion, do we see a reason He
brought these disciples to the mountain for His transfiguration? Would
the experience strengthen them for the days ahead, for their lives as
apostles? Do not we need such strength for the days ahead? Do not
we need the same encouragement to learn and live our faith? We do!
What a comfort it must have been to Peter, James and John,
being greatly afraid during the transfiguration, to have Jesus
afterward touch them and say, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” They
lifted their eyes and saw no one but Jesus only. (Matthew 17:7, 8)
Here is a representative parallel for us. He is all we need. In our times
of fear and need the Lord Jesus Christ can touch and comfort us. He
extends His Divine mercy and love to us wherever we are spiritually
because He has drawn near by assuming our nature.
This is what the transfiguration can mean to us. It can mean a
renewal of our religious resolve and a rededication to the worship of
the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified Human.
Amen.
Lessons: Exodus 19:9-11, 16-20; Matthew 17:1-9; Apocalypse
Revealed 24

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“Nobody can be joined to the Lord except by means of love and charity. Love is spiritual conjunction itself.”

Arcana Coelestia 2349

16 Spiritual Sources of Health

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16 Spiritual Sources of Health

“Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2

The causes of emotionally induced diseases may be traced from the autonomic nerves to their cortical origins and from the secretions of the endocrine glands to their source in the inmost organic structures which Swedenborg called the “simple cortex.” But here nature gives way to spirit. For the brain-cells absorb their subtle material aliments from earth and atmosphere and produce their complex chemical carriers of life according to the states of a man’s affections.441 And man’s affections are derived from the spirits who are with him.

The only real health is from the Lord. A wicked man may seemingly have a strong and healthy body. But inwardly there is no soundness in him. His “purer blood” or animal spirit is not being purged from those malign substances which attract the influx from the hells. He carries with him the poison of deceit, the seeds of insanity, and the latent causes of disease.

Just as anger and cankering emotions make for illness, love and faith are the fountainhead of health and an important element in cures. It is well known that a patient must have an incentive to recover and a faith in its possibility. But to avert illness a man must at all times keep his mind free from morbid states of self-pity, anger, pessimism, suspicion, impatience and intemperance, and from all other moods or emotions which seem to brood below the level of his thoughts but which actually inflow from evil spirits. He should be courageous in facing adversities, reasonable and prudent in his relation with other men. He should keep busy in some useful work and lead an orderly life. He should defend his own freedom and his own use while respecting the same rights in others. In short, he should be rational and moral. He should cultivate the moral virtues, learn to appreciate them in others, patiently try to see the point of view of those who criticize him, and see himself objectively, as others see him. An inoffensive sense of humor which allows him to smile at irritations and laugh at his own errors, can often prevent a nervous breakdown. Modern doctors prescribe a happy mood as the best medicine.

Moral virtues do not suffice to combat evil spirits. Evils must be shunned as sins against God if the angels are to banish the unclean spirit that would return with seven others to the house of the garnished mind. The protection of heaven comes to the just man who loves mercy and walks humbly before his God. And the promise is, “Unto you who fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.”442

Interior happiness comes from a heart made humble by knowing its own weaknesses and strong by putting trust in the Divine providence. The hectic pursuit of worldly fame or personal power or luxury is responsible for much illness. Uses are provided us as a means to forget ourselves, not as a path to selfish pleasures or personal vanity. The true way to happiness and health is to find our place of use in society, to employ our talents with a cheerful heart to mitigate the misfortunes of others, to sustain their good efforts, to contribute of our best illustration to their spiritual welfare. A man who can attract good spirits is of more value to his fellowmen than the inventor of atomic engines or the most brilliant of secular thinkers—if the latter do not first seek the kingdom of God.

Protection in Uses

A most powerful protection against evil and disease is to be found in the love of being useful—the zeal for work from an interest in the needs of others. This love conquers many illnesses and delays the inroads of old age. Indeed even an evil man or spirit is to a certain point protected by society and by heaven so long as he performs a use. The people of Israel were under a Divine protection from pestilences and disasters so long as they were faithful to their covenant, even though their function was one of merely “representing” a church. Muscles never used would weaken and talents not exercised tend to disappear. The Writings urge us to temper our uses with a due amount of rest and proper recreation. But “they who love idleness more than use gather evils into their spirit,” for they turn to things filthy and evil, vain and frivolous, until their mind grows stupid and their body torpid. On the other hand, “while a man is in some study and business or is in a use, his mind is limited and circumscribed as by a circle within which it is coordinated by stages into a form truly human.”443

“Use is to discharge the works of our employment sincerely and industriously.” The love of use and the derivative application prevent the mind from wandering in idle daydreams and from drinking in the allurements of sensual lusts which scatter all thoughts of religion and morality to the winds.444 Hence it is that the delight of heavenly life, as well as its wisdom, revolves about uses to be done. The angels know that to love the Lord as a person and not to love uses, is to love Him from self; but use in itself is Divine, and to do uses is to love the Lord and to be in Him—in the very current of His sustaining life, or in that kingdom of uses which is described as the Grand Man of heaven. And through the ordered uses of the home, society, and the church, this kingdom extends its protection over men on earth also.

Love, the Key to Health

Love is the key to health as well as to happiness. Even the food we eat has a different effect when it is eaten with thankfulness and delight, than when it is gulped in a state of anxiety. Delight aids the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes and “opens the chyle-ducts” so that the nourishment can be rightly absorbed.445 Food and drink nourish the body better and more suitably when a man, at dinner or supper, is cheerful in spirit and is at the same time “in the delight of conversing with others about the things he loves, than when he sits at table alone.”446 Indeed, man shall not live by bread only. Among the proper “diversions of charity” are dinners, suppers, or parties “with those who are in mutual love from a similar faith”; where the conversation turns on various civic and domestic topics, but the chief interest centers on the church. The sphere of love and charity on such occasions exhilarates every mind, softens every voice, and brings festive feelings into all the senses.447 All of which confirms the proverb, “Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”448

It is really love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor which invite the wholesome spheres of heaven. And no love can give a more complete protection against the hells or offer more support to heaven than a love truly conjugial such as exists with two married partners who together look to the Lord in their common uses.449 For marriage was instituted by the Lord to be the norm of human life in which all the needs of soul and mind and body find their fulfilment and through which the Divine uses of creation are to be accomplished. It is to the state of marriage that every human individual must look for the final balance of life’s many uses and delights. And if a true marriage is not achieved on earth, a man or a woman can still live in the sphere of the conjugial union of charity and faith which fosters all the spiritual and natural uses of society and begets the wisdom of life.

The love of propagating and the love of protecting the offspring comes to all men as a sphere out of heaven and as a general influx. In the natural man, as in animals, it is received as a love of the sex. This is a natural instinct, and if it is not tempered by reason or conscience, it becomes the main source of mental stresses and social problems. But it is intended as the womb of conjugial love. And conjugial love can be received only according to the states of the church with man, or according as man, as of himself, orders his life by revealed Doctrine to recognize the purposes of creation. It is given to those who shun their evils as sins, approaching the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and of earth, and who thus can sustain the particular influx of the angelic guardians which come from the celestial heavens with innocence and peace. Under such angelic auspices the conflicts of one’s natural affections are easily resolved and the disturbing undercurrents of fretting emotions are frankly analyzed and their stress weakened.

The states of a truly conjugial life are described as “innocence, tranquillity, inmost friendship, full confidence, a mutual desire of mind and heart to do the other every good; and from all these, blessedness, happiness, delight, pleasure; and from the eternal fruition of these, heavenly felicity.”450 This is not a cloudy ideal impossible of fulfilment in our day and age. It is possible wherever men thirst for the water of life and the New Jerusalem can be planted in their hearts.

Heaven comes to earth as a gift from the Lord—bringing the first conditions for happiness and for health—just so far as men shun evils as sins and thus invite good spirits to attend them. It comes “when a man, with his wife whom he loves most tenderly and with his children, lives contented in the Lord. From this he has in the world interior delight, and in the other life heavenly joy.”451

The Heavenly Doctrine was not given in order to restore to men the means of procuring physical health. It extends no hope for miraculous cures by prayer or by faith alone. Yet beside the pure river of water of life which flows crystal clear from the throne of God, there grows the tree of life whose fruits shall be for meat and whose leaves are for medicine—for the healing of the nations.452 These curative leaves signify the rational truths now revealed in the Writings, which can restore sound judgment to those who have been infested by evils and falsities, and may lead them to live becomingly and eventually to receive spiritual truths.453

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Human Beauty: Its Origin And Nature

HR90THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

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 << HUMAN BEAUTY : ITS ORIGIN AND NATURE >>
AND THE MEANS OF ACQUIRING
 IT.

“Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.”—Psalm xcvi. 6.

STRENGTH and beauty are the two essential elements of a noble manhood and of a beautiful womanhood. They are combined in man and woman in different proportions. Man has more of strength, woman more of beauty. But all true manhood has its beauty, and all genuine womanhood its strength. Rough, naked strength has no comeliness, and weakness no beauty. But combined in due proportion and modified by each other, they become the charm of character and the cause of that attraction which draws human beings together and makes them a delight to each other.

These two primary qualities of all human excellence, strength and beauty, are in the Lord’s sanctuary. His sanctuary is in man’s will and understanding, and derivatively in his affections and thoughts. The will and the understanding are the grand temple in which the Lord dwells ; the affections and thoughts the chapels of various form and use in which the precious gifts of strength and beauty are received from Him and appropriated by man. When the sanctuary is pure, free from evil lusts and false principles, life from the Lord is received in its own perfect forms, in all its purity, sweetness, and harmony, and then it becomes ”the beauty of holiness,” in which we are to praise and worship the Lord. This beauty of holiness becomes “the dew of youth,” an influence which gives the freshness, the innocence, and the beauty of youth to all the faculties of the mind, and to the forms of that body which we are to inhabit forever. Zion, which is called by the Lord Himself ” the perfection of beauty, ” represents in general the same principles in man as “sanctuary.” Zion is man’s heart, Jerusalem his understanding ; and it is this Zion, the perfection of beauty, which the Lord exhorts to awake, to shake herself from the dust, and to put on her beautiful garments. Here, then, we have the source of human beauty revealed to us, and the way of access to it pointed out. Its well-spring is in the heart, in the affections. It takes on its forms and colors in the understanding, and comes out in substantial reality in bodily forms and actions. Beauty in its highest qualities is represented as attainable, and we are exhorted to make it our own, to put it on as a garment, to pray that ” the beauty of the Lord our God” may be upon us.

The beauty of the Lord, the supreme and infinite type of all beauty, has its origin in His Divine love, and its form and qualities in the Divine wisdom. Man was created in the image and likeness of God. He was made to be a sharer of the supreme beauty. The Lord is in the constant effort to endow us with this beauty, and we are clothed with it in the degree that we become partakers of those Divine qualities which are the essence and cause of beauty.

Regard beauty, of which we propose to speak at the present time, in any sense you please, in its lowest and most sensuous, or its highest and most interior qualities ; beauty of form, or color, or motion,—in all cases it is the expression of some affection or interior grace. All beauty is spiritual in its origin. The beauty of a material object consists in its meaning, in what it says to us of something more excellent than itself. The beauty of a flower, of a tree, of a winding stream, or of a landscape consists in what it suggests to us of something higher than itself, because it is the form of that higher quality. The beauty of the material world is an effect which expresses the excellence of its spiritual cause.

This must be so from the very nature of the relation between cause and effect. Every cause seeks to reproduce and express itself, in all its qualities, in lower forms. Innocence, purity, and loveliness of character must tend to express themselves in lovely forms. When we reflect that the material universe is the embodiment of the Divine love and wisdom in material substances, we can see why it is that there is so much beauty in the world. Every material object and living thing has a beauty of some kind. Even the weeds that cumber the fields, the thorn and the thistle, which men regard as a curse for sin, the insect which stings and poisons us, the degraded reptile, and the wild beast which tears and devours, have some beauty of form or structure or color or motion. Perverted forms as they are of the Divine loveliness, they still bear some trace of its impress.

If we find traces of the beauty of the Lord in the lowest things, we may expect to find it more fully embodied in the highest, and our expectations will not be disappointed. We shall find it in its perfection in the human face and form. Here also we can see how the outward beauty is the effect and expression of inward and spiritual beauty. This would follow as a necessary result from the fact that the material body is cast into the mould of the spirit. The spirit has fashioned it. The spirit is the potter, and the body is clay in its hands, which it is constantly acting upon to mould into its own likeness. This is true of the material body in the first years of our existence, and of the spiritual body in every stage of our being. There are, in general, two kinds of human beauty : beauty in its essence or cause, and beauty in its expression. All beauty has its origin in love and its expression in truth. A pure and innocent affection in the will, united with genuine truth in the understanding, cannot fail of producing beautiful effects.

We must not forget that love and truth are not abstractions. They are the most potent forces that act upon the spiritual or the material body. We are penetrated by them ; we live and move and have our being in them. The material body is constantly subject to their action, has its life from them. There is a force constantly present in water, and in all matter, which forms it into spheres when the matter assumes a fluid state and is left free to move. So there is in the very nature and activities of the Divine love and the Divine truth, from which we receive all our life, a tendency to the human form and an active influence to make that form as noble and beautiful as possible. Thus those very forces and principles which are the essence and cause of all beauty are constantly acting upon us to make our faces and forms and motions the complete correspondents and embodiments of their nature. Thus the Divine forces which give us life tend to mould us into every form of beauty, in thesame way and according to the same immutable law by which the Divine forces in nature tend to make material forms beautiful. All that we have to do to become more and more beautiful is to co-operate with these forces, to let them have free play through us, and to supply them with the right kind of materials for their workmanship. The first thing we are to do is to exercise pure, innocent, heavenly affections. Without this it is impossible to become more beautiful than we are, or to retain what we may have received from hereditary influences. The beauty of youth, of mere surface and complexion, will fade like a flower. There must be some inherent, vital, and unfailing source which supplies natural wastes with finer and more substantial substances, and replenishes them with perennial freshness and moulds them into a lovelier beauty. The quality and degree of our beauty and nobleness of form will be determined by the quality and degree of our spiritual affections. There is no possibility of failure in this respect. They are orderly results of normal causes. Every affection you cherish leaves its impress upon you. It tends to fashion the external form into its likeness, and there is no escape from its effect. This is a truth of common observation and experience. We see it in its accumulated and large results, in the faces and forms of every man and woman we meet.

Every disposition habitually indulged forms its image in the features of the face, in the motions of the body, and in every fibre and muscle of its form. Its first effect is upon the brain, and through that upon every part of the whole organization. The face is the index of the mind, because the mind forms it and makes it the theatre on which it enacts all its passions. Every face is a history, and in its small compass are recorded the sins and sorrows, the joys and fears, the malignities, the lusts, the cunning, the ferocity, the hope and trust, the struggles with evil passions, the integrity, the innocence and peace of many generations. We can only read some of the most prominent and boldest characters. But the history, of all the influences, large and small, which have combined to form the character of your ancestry from its beginning is embodied in your own person. We talk of fleeting influences. There are no fleeting influences.

Every influence is eternal. The Lord does not write human history in fading colors and on perishable leaves. You think you can be false or cunning, that you can indulge in malignities and lusts, and no one will know it, and that you can escape all lasting eflects of it. How much, how terribly much, you are mistaken ! You cannot sulk in the corner ; you cannot indulge in an unkind thought ; you cannot say a sharp word ; you cannot indulge in a revengeful feeling ; no, you cannot think a false thought, or do an evil deed, and escape the record of its shame in the book of your own life. The Lord has made the mind self-registering. Every falsity leaves a shadow upon it, every evil a stain. I know the influence of one evil once indulged may be small ; its consequences may seem as fleeting as the act itself. But it is not so. The brutality and ferocity and stolidity and meanness, the low cunning and worldly shrewdness, the stony selfishness and cruel malignities, the pride and vanities and contempt which we see in the forms and faces of men and women are the recorded results of the indulgence of evils which were momentary and casual in their inception.

My young friends, will you not remember this when you are tempted to think falsely, to feel wickedly, or to act sinfully ? The wicked feeling has its sharp graver in its cunning hands, and while you indulge the feeling it is etching its ugly lines in your face and twisting your features into its own form. The impure thought is photographing itself upon the delicate but tenacious forms of your whole nature, and leaving its foul stains indelibly impressed upon you. If every time you told or looked a falsehood, or indulged a hate, the name of the evil should come out in distinct and black lines upon your forehead and repeat itself in ugly characters in your whole face, with what horror you would shun it ! It is so written, in very faint lines at first, it may be, but every repetition of the evil increases their distinctness. The angels can read the whole history in the hand ; they can tell the quality of the mind by the tone of the voice. According to the same law, every good affection and true thought registers itself in its own proper characters. Every heavenly affection leaves its impress upon you and, to the extent of its influence, moulds you into its own image. Every element of the noblest and purest beauty is contained in the principles of goodness and truth. As these principles are brought into act and become substantiated in the form and features, they change them into their own likeness. And they do it by imperceptible but constantly acting influences. When you think kindly of others and your heart goes out to them in desires for their good, the beauty of kindness is winning its way through the labyrinth of many organic forms, leaving its smile and its impress upon them all as it passes, until it comes out in open expression upon the face.

Some faces are like landscapes in a day of broken clouds. Sometimes the shadows lie dark and heavy upon them. When the features are in repose you can see the history of former generations which has been stereotyped upon them ; the weariness of protracted labor, shadows of disappointed hopes, and the sadness of many sorrows. But when the light of an awakened heavenly affection breaks through their parting folds the face becomes illuminated, transfigured with the glory of the inward light. You can look away into its serene deeps and see in every feature a beauty born of heavenly influences.

Patience in duty and trust in the Lord contain important elements of beauty, which they impart to the face and to the whole form. They give quietness and composure to the features and to the actions. Through the face, as through a transparent veil, you can look down into the serene depths of being, where no storms can reach, where all is stable and in repose, and see the foundations on which the natural life rests and the perennial springs from which its thoughts and affections flow. Every time you repress an impatient desire, every time you restrain an impatient word or act, every time you take up the burden of duty cheerfully, every time you meet the conflicts and the vicissitudes of life in patient confidence in the infinite goodness which makes all things work together for good for those who trust in the Lord, you make some progress in bringing your whole form into the image of that repose and quietude which impart a charm to every feature and every action.

But the supreme beauty which charms all hearts is innocence, purity. This is the charm of the beauty of infancy and childhood. It is not beauty of form ; it is not grace of motion. It is the purity and sweetness of heaven which shine through a little child. The material body is, as it were, transparent. It is like the charm of flowers, which is not so much in their forms as in their delicacy of texture and purity of color and sweetness of fragrance. They awaken the perception that they are offering up themselves for our delight.

Innocence combines all the Christian graces,—unselfishness, trust, repose, unconscious action, which is always beautiful, gentleness, devotion to others, and devout adoration of the Lord ; that worship of the heart which surrenders itself to the Divine will, to be guided by its wisdom and to be moulded into its likeness. Innocence is not weakness or ignorance. It is wisdom and power itself It is power without noise. It is the power which makes the grass grow, and planets fly through the silent spaces with ceaseless motion. It is the wisdom which uses the mightiest forces for human help and culture. It is supreme order, which is always beautiful. Feebleness is not beauty. Strength and beauty must go hand in hand, as they always do when the strength is used for beneficent purposes.

While you are in the effort to keep the great commandment of love to the Lord, and just to the extent that you keep it, you will be gaining the heavenly beauty. You open your heart to the Lord, and to the living springs of all grace and comeliness. You put yourself into His hands who has the perfect ideal of nobleness and beauty, and perfect skill to fashion every feature and form according to it. The Divine truth, which is the Holy Spirit, contains in its substance and in all its forces and forms and influence a tendency to ultimate itself in the perfection of beauty. As you open your affections to the influence of these Divine forces they will flow in and do their work. They will efface the lines of deformity which sin has engraved ; they will harmonize discordant proportions ; they will round into fulness imperfect forms ; they will reduce to order conflicting motions, and bring the whole person into unity.

Every effort you make to learn the truths which constitute the Divine wisdom, and to incorporate them into your nature, will have its effect. While you are reflecting upon them they are imbuing your understanding with their sweet and lovely spirit, softening its hardness, quickening its perceptions, harmonizing its activities. The soft and lambent light of truth is flowing down with more fulness and clearness into the eyes, and a power which attracts and makes the heart glad begins to beam forth from them. As you go on with the work and receive more largely of this informing life and beautifying spirit, it softens the hardness and smooths the roughness of the voice, and imbues it with those qualities which touch the sympathies and win the heart ; it penetrates every feature, remoulds the face after the heavenly pattern, rounds the limbs, gives nobleness and comely dignity to the whole form, and sways every motion to harmony born of an inward grace, and expressing it. As the life of the Divine love becomes fuller and purer the whole person will become the very form of heavenly love ; it will become the embodiment of Zion, the perfection of beauty.- This is no fancy. Your own observation can teach you that it is not. You know how fierce passions inflame and distort the face, and how heavenly affections fill it with a serene light and a most winning loveliness. You have seen faces that were not regular and cleanly cut in particular features, but which had an inward beauty that charmed every beholder. All that is necessary to render any form of the face fixed and permanent is to cherish the affections which express themselves in that form.

It may be replied that, if this principle is true, the good must be the most beautiful. Yet some of the worst men and women have been famous for their beauty. There is a kind of external beauty, regularity of features, symmetry of form, delicacy of complexion, which is due to inheritance and to causes not within one’s self; but if the soul is deformed with evil this superficial beauty is but a veil which ill conceals the ugliness within. Without the beauty of expression which shines forth from the soul the most that the body can attain is the lifeless beauty of the statue or the painted mask.

Again, while it is true that the material body is so intimately allied to the spiritual that it becomes changed by it, making the face the index of the mind, the physical form may respond but slowly to the changes of the spirit; so much so that a face that is outwardly fair may conceal an infernal character ; and again a plain and unattractive face may clothe a heavenly spirit. Our spiritual bodies, the bodies in which we are to live and by which we are to be identified forever, are the exact forms of our affections. They change easily, and become the perfect exponent and image of the affections we habitually cherish. The purer and more interior the affection, and the more fully it becomes united with genuine truths, the more beautiful we shall become. It is, therefore, in the power of every one to become as beautiful and noble in form as he chooses ; and the way to do it is to cultivate those heavenly affections which mould the face and limbs and every part of the body into forms corresponding to their quality. Such is the nature of the affections that there is no assignable limit to their strength and excellence, beyond which they cannot pass. You see what a prospect this holds out for our attainment in personal beauty and nobleness of form. You can see that what Swedenborg says of the beauty of the angels must be true, because it follows from causes which we see in operation here. He says their beauty surpasses the power of words to describe or of any human art to portray. Their faces are so glorious and lovely, and shine with such a heavenly light, that they penetrate the hearts of those who behold them, with enchanting power. They are the very forms of loveliness. They are purity and innocence itself. The eyes of the angels are aflame with heavenly love ; their faces are all aglow with its warmth ; their features are moulded into its nobleness and rounded into its harmonies ; its dignity is enthroned in their foreheads ; its sweetness is folded in their lips, and its gracefulness sways every motion. The voice is so modulated by heavenly affections that it is felt to be the sweetness and power of love itself speaking. The whole form is the embodiment of a benign power, and radiant with the very life of heaven.

All the faculties are in the freshness and vigor and resplendent comeliness of their spring-time ; they grow as the lily and blossom as the rose. All these elements of loveliness continue to unfold into more excellent forms. It is not the glorious beauty of a fading flower. It continues to increase ; it glows with a serener light ; it becomes the more complete and varied embodiment of a holier joy, a purer love, and a sweeter peace. Its perfections must continue to increase to eternity.

All the qualities and forms of beauty are in heavenly love, as all germs are in their seed. You have only to cherish and cultivate them, which is to exercise them in love towards the Lord and towards man. You have only to live the life of them, and you will grow into their appropriate forms, with more certainty than the seed grows into the loveliness of the lily, or the acorn into the grandeur of the oak.

Why is not this an excellence and a glory worthy of our thought and effort ? If physical beauty, which fades and perishes so soon, lay within as easy reach as heavenly beauty, which is fresh, perennial, and which will continue to increase in perfection forever, we should all strive for it ; multitudes would think no price too great to pay for it.

We are becoming forms of heavenly beauty or of infernal deformity every day. Whether we seek it or not, every affection we exercise has its influence in moulding our form ; every truth we learn enters into its composition ; every thought we think and every good deed we do is the graver’s tool which gives a new line of beauty, or the painter’s brush which adds a lovelier tint. Yes, every gentle act leaves its gentleness in the hand that performs it ; every noble deed leaves the imprint of its nobility ; every heavenly purpose carried into effect communicates its fragrance and beauty as a Divine benediction to the soul. Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895

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