A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida (cataloged 8/11/97)

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

In these beautiful and comforting words the Lord invites all people to enter into and partake of the peace and joy of heavenly life. He also tells us how we may attain this happy and much sought-after state. Two important truths are contained in our text. The first is that the Lord alone can bring us into this state of peace and spiritual rest. This is expressed by the words: “Come to Me,” and “I will give you rest.” The second is that the life that leads to heaven is not as difficult as we are apt to suppose. This is expressed by the words: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (quotations’ emphasis added).

If we believe in an infinite and loving God who created the universe and mankind, a God whose infinite wisdom established the laws which operate on all planes of creation, spiritual and natural, then it follows that He is the only one truly qualified to reveal those laws to us. They are the product of His love as formed and expressed by His wisdom. Since He is the one who created us, He alone can tell us what His purpose was in doing so, and how this purpose may be realized.

If we would understand the great issues of life the purpose and order of creation, the relationship between man and his Maker, and between man and man we must first acknowledge God the Creator, approach Him in His Word, and there come to know Him as He reveals Himself and His will to us. In adopting this course lies our only hope of finding real peace and contentment in a world troubled with selfishness, materialistic ambition, and the feverish pursuit of pleasure.

To all who genuinely desire to experience this state of inner peace, the Lord says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

In the Word of the Second Advent, we are told that the purpose of creation is that there may be a heaven from the human race. And we are told that this purpose is fulfilled when we acknowledge the Lord, shun evils as sins against Him, and perform uses for the benefit of our fellow man from the heart, that is, from good will toward him.

But in order that we may shun evils as sins against the Lord, we must learn from the Lord what evils are, and in order to do good we must learn what is good. Simply stated, evil is all that which is contrary to the Divine laws of order. Good is all that which is in accord with these laws, and which promotes the Divine end in creation. It follows from this that spiritual peace is attained through learning the Divine laws of order and living according to them. This is the life of religion.

Many people have a prejudice against religion, believing that being religious involves a withdrawal from the activities of the world, and walking about in pious meditation on ethereal things. We are taught in the Word that this is not living a religious life. In fact, it is said that such a life is not compatible with heavenly joy. By living in this way a person acquires a sorrowful disposition that is not in accord with the happiness and peace of heaven.

We live a twofold life in this world, the life of the spirit and the life of the body. If our life is to be full, the life of the mind or spirit must flow into and express itself in the life of the body. That is, our internal life and our external life should be in harmony and correspondence. The intentions of our will and the thoughts of our understanding should find ultimate expression in bodily actions and deeds. To renounce bodily and worldly life is like living in a house without a foundation. Such a house eventually cracks and falls in ruins.

The life of religion, or spiritual life, is not as opposed to worldly life as is often supposed. Natural life consists in living according to natural laws the laws of nature, physiological laws and the laws of hygiene. Civil life consists in living according to the laws of the country, state or city in which we live. Moral life is living according to the moral laws which exist for the preservation of order on the social plane of life. Spiritual life consists in living a natural, civil and moral life from a sincere desire to be of service to our neighbor.

Willing well to the neighbor pertains to spiritual life, and doing well pertains to moral, civil and natural life. It is clear from this that spiritual life cannot be separated from life in the world, for to separate it would be like removing the soul from the body, or thought from speech. It would become an intangible, abstract something without quality or form. Therefore the Writings state that unless the intentions of the will are expressed by action, they are eventually dissipated and become nothing.

However, this does not necessarily mean that if we are living a civil and moral life we are living a spiritual life as well. We may be doing our civil duty and fulfilling our moral obligations purely for the sake of reward, or to avoid punishment. We may be doing so for the sake of our reputations, or to avoid friction and unpleasantness. If these are the motives which inspire our civil and moral life, we are not living a spiritual life. For if the rewards were absent, or the penalties removed, we would, in all probability, cease to live according to these laws.

In external appearance there may be no difference between living a spiritual life and purely natural life. The difference lies in the will or intention which is within the external acts. To live the life of religion then, all we need do is put a spiritual motive within our civil and moral life, provided, of course, we are living according to civil laws and sound moral principles. Spiritual life, therefore, consists in living a civil and moral life from a spiritual love.

This teaching is clearly expounded in Heaven and Hell. There we read: “It is not so difficult as some believe to live the life that leads to heaven … Who cannot live a civil and moral life? … Everyone from childhood is initiated into that life, and learns what it is by living in the world. Moreover, everyone, whether evil or good, lives that life; for who does not wish to be called honest, and who does not wish to be called just? Almost everyone practices honesty and justice outwardly, so far as to seem to be honest and just at heart … The spiritual person ought to live in like manner, and can do so as easily as the natural person can, with this difference only, that the spiritual person believes in the Divine, and acts honestly and justly not solely because to so act is in accord with civil and moral laws, but also because it is in accord with Divine laws” (HH 530, emphasis added).

As the spiritual person in whatever he is doing looks to spiritual ends, “he has communication with the angels of heaven; and so far as this takes place he is conjoined with them; and thereby his internal man, which regarded in itself is the spiritual man, is opened. When man comes into this state he is adopted and led by the Lord, although … unconscious of it, and then whatever the person does … pertaining to moral and civil life is done from a spiritual motive” (HH 530). And acting according to civil and moral law from a spiritual motive is doing it from the heart, or willing well to the neighbor from the heart.

This passage from the Heavenly Doctrines makes it clear that the life of religion is not as difficult as is commonly believed. Externally, our lives do not need to be changed as radically as some people would have us believe. For do not most of us live according to civil and moral laws? What we need to do is make sure that our reason for so living is spiritual. Instead of acting from the love of self, from fear of punishment or dishonor, from sheer necessity, or for the sake of reputation, let us act in all things from a love of being of service to our fellow men, from a desire to promote their eternal welfare, from a desire to do the Lord’s will. If we do this, we will be living the life that leads to heaven. This is why the Lord says: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

If we would have inner peace, then, we must free our minds from the grip of selfish ambitions and purely natural ends. We must lift them up to the Lord the mountain from whence comes our help. We need to realize that everything in the Lord’s sight has a spiritual purpose. When we thus elevate our minds above merely natural considerations, when we have spiritual ends in view and as we seek to promote these ends, then our spirits are elevated into the light and heat of heaven into the sphere of angelic love and wisdom. We come into association with angels, and the sphere of peace, which is theirs, is communicated to us. Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 34, Matt 5:1-12, AC 8480:1,3

Arcana Coelestia 8480:1,3

“And men made a residue of it until the morning.” That this signifies the abuse of good Divine, in that they desired to acquire it from themselves, is evident from the signification of “making a residue of it until the morning” as being to be solicitous about the acquisition of good of themselves (n. 8478), and consequently the abuse of good Divine. It is termed “abuse” when there arises what is alike in ultimates but from a contrary origin. Good arises from contrary origin when it does so from man and not from the Lord; for the Lord is good itself, consequently He is the source of all good. The good which is from Him has in it what is Divine; thus it is good from its inmost and first being; whereas the good which is from man is not good, because from himself man is nothing but evil; consequently the good which is from him is in its first essence evil, although in the outward form it may appear like good. The case herein is like that of flowers painted upon a tablet, as compared with the flowers that grow in a garden. These flowers are beautiful from their inmosts; for the more interiorly they are opened, the more beautiful they are; whereas the flowers painted on a tablet are beautiful only in the outward form, and as to the inward one are nothing but mud and a mixture of earthy particles lying in confusion, as the Lord also teaches when He says of the lilies of the field that “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:29).

Good from the Lord is with those who love the Lord above all things and the neighbor as themselves; but good from man is with those who love themselves above all things and despise the neighbor in comparison with themselves. These are they who have care for the morrow, because they trust in themselves; but the former are they who have no care for the morrow, because they trust in the Lord (n. 8478). They who trust in the Lord continually receive good from Him; for whatsoever happens to them, whether it appears to be prosperous or not prosperous, is still good, because it conduces as a means to their eternal happiness. But they who trust in themselves are continually drawing evil upon themselves; for whatever happens to them, even if it appears to be prosperous and happy, is nevertheless evil, and consequently conduces as a means to their eternal unhappiness. These are the things which are signified by the command that they should make no residue of the manna till the morning, and that what was left bred worms and stank.


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida (cataloged 8/11/97)

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: `Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place'” (Jeremiah 7:3).

The Word teaches that repentance is the first thing of the church in man. We read: “The communion called the church consists of all people in whom the church is, and the church enters into man when one is becoming regenerated, and everyone becomes regenerate by abstaining from the evils of sin, and shunning them as one would an infernal horde with torches in hand, endeavoring to overtake him and throw him upon a burning pile. There are many means by which man, as he progresses in his early years, is prepared for the church and introduced into it; but the means whereby the church is established in man are acts of repentance” (TCR 510, emphasis added).

The truth of the statement just quoted is amply illustrated by the story of Israel as it unfolds in the Old Testament. The Word was given to that nation a revelation of the Lord Himself, given to them through the prophets. In it He taught them how they ought to live in order to fulfill the covenant made with their forefathers. He gave them commandments of life containing things they were required to do, and things they were forbidden to do.

To all appearances they accepted this revelation. They regarded it as holy and were at great pains to protect it and preserve it. They were very strict in observing the rituals of worship which were laid down. Through their zealous adherence to their God, Jehovah, they made an impact on their neighbors far beyond their numerical size and strength, and their political importance. According to historians, it was their fanatical devotion to the worship of Jehovah that brought this numerically insignificant nation into prominence among their neighbors.

Despite their reputation for devotion and zeal, the Jewish Church never became a church in the true sense of the word. The Writings refer to it as a “representative of a church” (AC 2910:3). The reason given for this designation is that there was no internal charity within its worship. Therefore the Lord spoke to them through the prophet Jeremiah, saying: “Do not trust in these lying words, saying: `The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these’… Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other Gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say: `We are delivered to do all these abominations’? `Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? `Behold I, even I, have seen it,’ says the Lord” (Jer. 7:9-11).

It is charity that makes a church to be a church. The quality of a church is according to the quality of the charity among those who constitute the church, just as it is the quality of a person’s loves which determines one’s character. Worship and instruction are means leading to the church and introducing man into it. But it is repentance, or amendment of life, which establishes it. Therefore the Lord said to Israel: “If you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever” (Jer. 7:5-7). In the Word the land of Canaan represents the church. To dwell in the land of Canaan means to have the church established within oneself.

While the doctrine of repentance is well known in the Christian Church both in the Old and New yet it is not a particularly appealing doctrine. People would rather focus their attention on the more positive aspects of religion: the acknowledgment of God, participation in public worship and the doing of good works. Repentance, or the shunning of evil, involves combat against our natural and instinctive loves; it is seemingly a battle against ourselves. We are naturally disinclined to resist our natural tendencies, for this calls for self-examination, a condemnation of self, and a struggle requiring self-control and self-discipline. Our inclination is to avoid this struggle is we can or, possibly, to postpone it to a later stage in life when we imagine spiritual trials will be less severe.

We may resort to rationalization in our attempts to avoid coming to grips with spiritual reality by asserting that religion is essentially a positive thing while repentance is negative. We may persuade ourselves that if we acknowledge the Lord, worship Him, and do good to the neighbor, then the Lord will forgive us for the evils we do. He will see that we are basically good.

To illustrate the prevalence of the tendency to rationalize on this issue, it is a matter of record that some prominent church leaders have advocated dropping the Ten Commandments from the church liturgy on the grounds that they are negative rather than positive, Judaic and not Christian. They are blamed for making religion unpopular with young people because they consist mainly of prohibitions. Some have even gone so far as to claim that some of the commandments of the Decalogue are no longer relevant, that they are a reflection of the moral standards of a bygone age.

In connection with this view of the Ten Commandments, we would note that the Lord was once approached and asked: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” The Lord replied: “Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, and that is God; but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:16, 17, emphasis added).

In saying this the Lord Himself established the Ten Commandments as the basis of a spiritual and moral life for the Christian Church. It is interesting to observe that the man asked: “What good thing shall I do?” rather than: “What evils should I shun?” The young man’s saying this is confirmation of the fact that we are inherently disposed to believe that we merit salvation by the doing of good rather than by the shunning of evil. The Lord’s answer, however, dispels this illusion and establishes the fact that heavenly life is imparted to a person as a result of keeping the Lord’s commandments, for He went on to enumerate, in answer to a further question, what evils must be shunned. Jesus said: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness” (Matt. 19:18).

In certain states of life and at certain times, the doctrine of repentance may discourage and depress us and dampen our enthusiasm for the life of religion. But let us realize that it is nevertheless a rational necessity. Perhaps if we better understand why it is so necessary we may adopt an affirmative response to this doctrine, and thus embark willingly and wholeheartedly upon the road to eternal life through the gateway of repentance.

The key to understanding the necessity for repentance is contained in the Lord’s answer to the man who asked Him what good thing he could do to have eternal life. The Lord prefaced His answer with a remark which at first appears to be irrelevant, but which, in fact, is basic to a correct understanding of the matter. He said: “Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is God.”

The man believed that man, of himself, can do good. He did not know that the person he was speaking to was God incarnate. He addressed him as “teacher.” The Lord, perceiving the man’s opinion of Him, pointed out that God alone is good. Goodness cannot rightly be predicated of man.

This is a fundamental truth: The Lord alone is good! We, of ourselves, can do nothing that is good. We can do good only from the Lord. In fact, since the fall of the Most Ancient Church, man of himself apart from the Lord can do nothing but evil. The fall of the human race from its original state of integrity came about as a result of man’s attributing to himself what he receives from God. That is, he ascribed wisdom, intelligence and goodness to himself instead of acknowledging that he receives these from the Lord. Thus the interiors of his mind were turned away from the Lord toward self. Human nature became perverted.

The Word teaches that man, by inheritance, tends toward evils of every kind. Every evil which is indulged in by a person is passed on to the next generation as a tendency, and so on successively generation after generation. The rampant moral disorders and violence that pervade modern society are stark confirmation of this truth.

As noted in our opening quotation, during childhood and youth we are prepared for entering into the church or for regeneration. Through instruction and worship we learn what is good and true, and what is evil and false. We learn to distinguish between them. But though we know what is good, that does not mean that we will it. Intellectually we may prefer good to evil because we see the consequences of each. But instinctively we desire evil because it appeals to our hereditary nature.

Good and evil are opposites. They cannot be together. They mutually repel each other. Evils must, therefore, be put away or shunned in order that good, which we from reason prefer, may be received. In establishing this point we would quote this vivid and picturesque passage from the True Christian Religion. The question is asked: “Who can introduce sheep and kids and lambs into fields or woods where there are all kinds of wild beasts? Who can make a garden out of a piece of ground that is overgrown with thorns, briars and nettles before he has rooted out those noxious weeds? Who can establish a mode of administering justice according to judicial practices in a city held by hostile forces … before he has expelled those forces? It is the same with evils in man. They are like wild beasts, like thorns and briars, and like hostile forces; and the church can no more have a common abode with evils than a man can dwell in a cage where there are tigers and leopards, or sleep in a bed with poisonous herbs strewed upon it and stuffed into the pillows” (TCR 511).

The life which leads to heaven begins with repentance, or amendment of life. There is no other way. As long as we refuse to shun evils as sins, or avoid doing so, we cannot do good that is really good. No matter how active we are in performing uses to others, no matter how diligently we worship the Lord, we are not doing good, for this apparent good is tainted by evils at the source. The Lord said that a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit (see Matt. 7:17,18). Pure water cannot be drawn from a polluted river.

Let us take to heart these words of the Lord, uttered from Divine mercy, for our benefit: “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil; learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the oppressor! Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:16-18). Amen.

Lessons: Luke 15:1,11-32, Jeremiah 7:1-11, AC 8387-8391

Arcana Coelestia 8387-8391

He who wishes to be saved must confess his sins and do repentance.

To confess sins is to become thoroughly acquainted with evils, to see them in oneself, to acknowledge them, to regard oneself as guilty, and to condemn oneself on account of them. When this is done before God, it is to confess sins.

To do repentance is, after one has thus confessed his sins and from a humble heart has made supplication for their forgiveness, to desist from them and to lead a new life according to the commands of faith.

He who merely acknowledges that he is a sinner like all others, and who regards himself as guilty of all evils, and does not examine himself that is, see his sins does indeed make confession, but not the confession of repentance, for he lives afterward as he had done before.

He who leads a life of faith does repentance daily; for he reflects upon the evils that are in him, acknowledges them, guards himself against them, and supplicates the Lord for aid. For from himself man is continually falling, but is continually being raised up by the Lord. He falls from himself when he thinks what is evil with desire; and he is raised up by the Lord when he resists evil, and consequently does not do it. Such is the state with all who are in good; but they who are in evil are continually falling, and also are continually being uplifted by the Lord; but this to prevent them from falling into the most grievous hell of all, whither from themselves they incline with all their might: thus uplifting them into a milder hell.