The Affection for Truth

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.  (LUK 16:13)

All of us here are engaged in a great struggle:  the struggle between the immediate delights that come from the things of self and the world, and the much greater delights that are promised in heaven if we turn away from the loves of self and the world during our natural life.

This is further complicated by the fact that many worldly things are in fact worthy of our attention, because when approached correctly, they are expressions of spiritual things, and are thus, in essence, spiritual.  Examples of such things are acts of charity and benevolence where we do things of genuine benefit to others less fortunate than ourselves by assisting with education or employment.

It seems almost too obvious to say that the main difference between the natural and spiritual person is manifested by the kinds of things that they think about and do, and even more importantly, by the reason why they do the things they do.  Those who love the pleasures of the world more than anything else, and to the exclusion of all else, are those who, in our text, are said to worship “Mammon” while those who turn away from self and the world to the Lord and the neighbor are those who look to God as their master.

Our purpose today is to hear how the doctrines of the New Church define the difference between the natural and the spiritual man for the sake of learning how from being natural by birth, we may, through our own efforts and with the Lord’s help, be reborn as spiritual beings.

We are all interested in truth — or at least truth in the form of information.  If that were not true, there would be no market for books, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and we would spend far less time in conversation with each other.  The doctrines tell us that the reason that we are so hungry for information all the time is that there are spirits with us at all times.  Those spirits serve the important use of routing spiritual influx into our minds, both from heaven and from hell, and thus providing us with a great variety of ideas for us to examine and to choose between.  At the same time, because they are spiritual beings, they hunger and thirst not for food and drink, but for good and truth.  Therefore, the hunger that they feel for truth and its application is what we feel as curiosity and the desire to learn new skills and disciplines.[1]

The hunger for truth is then a faculty in all men, although obviously it is more developed in some than in others.  This hunger can be equally developed in the good and the evil, so the presence of the hunger for truth is not in itself an adequate test of a man’s spiritual quality.  We have to look farther.  We are taught that the natural, external man seeks truth for the sake of self and the world, rather than for the sake of truth itself.  Because they are primarily interested in what truth can do for their own pleasures of life, they do not see the good that it can do.  Such people do not know what good or charity is, nor do they know or care about heaven or hell.  In fact, those who attend church (and many do for any number or external reasons) do not understand the doctrines of their own church, nor do they care whether they are true of false.  They learn them for the sake of their reputation among others in the world, not for the good that they might do through them.  Such people, because they are, as to their spirits always looking down, will deny that there is an internal sense to the Word because since they do not seek truth for the sake of doing good, they have no enlightenment about the Word from the Lord.[2]  But even more serious than the fact that such natural people are not enlightened when they read the Word is the fact that those people who have no affection for truth for the sake of truth, but only for the sake of fame, honor and gain, do not live the life of charity and therefore they make one with hell.  Such people are those who are signified in the Word by “the dragon.”[3]

On the other hand, we are told that the spiritual man, or the person who truly desires to become spiritual, seeks truth for the sake of truth itself, not for personal gain or immediate pleasure.  Those who love to do truth for the sake of truth from an internal or spiritual affection rejoice when they hear the truth, and they immediately begin to think about ways that these truths can be incorporated into their lives.[4]  Such people also love the Lord, because they know that the truth that gives them such pleasure is from the Lord, and that He causes it to become good through their willing it and doing it, thus bringing them into harmony with the uses of heaven and the resulting delights which they then feel.[5]

Those who are in the love of truth for the sake of truth, rather than for the sake of personal gain, also serve the church in an important way, although they may not even be aware of it.  We read from Arcana Caelestia[6]

[2] But be it known that all the doctrine of the church must be from the Word, and that the doctrine from any other source than the Word is not doctrine in which there is anything of the church, still less anything of heaven.  But the doctrine must be collected from the Word, and while it is being collected, the man must be in enlightenment from the Lord; and he is in enlightenment when he is in the love of truth for the sake of truth, and not for the sake of self and the world.  These are they who are enlightened in the Word when they read it, and who see truth, and from it make doctrine for themselves.  The reason of this is that such communicate with heaven, thus with the Lord; and being enlightened by the Lord in this way they are led to see the truths of the Word such as they are in heaven; for the Lord inflows through heaven into their understandings, because it is the man’s interior understanding that is enlightened.  And at the same time the Lord flows in with faith, by means of the cooperation of the new will, a feature of which is to be affected with truth for the sake of truth.

Enlightenment becomes a key issue to those in the church, because it is through enlightenment that the cold truths of the Word begin to live and to bring conjunction with the angels of heaven and the associated delights.

Enlightenment is not a gift to the lucky few, but something that the Lord seeks to give to everyone who prepares themselves to receive it.  One prepares himself for enlightenment by searching the Word for its internal, spiritual sense as a means of improving his life.  Then, because such a person is in externals (the literal story) and at the same time in internals (the spiritual meaning of the literal story), and because the intention is to use such knowledge to do good to others, the person has put himself in the sphere and life of heaven itself.  The angels draw near and add their encouragement, and light from heaven is allowed to shine, ever so briefly, on the subject being studied, and that heavenly light is what “enlightens” the mind, leading it to see truth in its proper spiritual environment.[7]

The church takes a risk in teaching such an idea, however.  Those who are in the love of truth for the sake of truth may have faith in the doctrine of the church, but still they will search the Word for the sake of understanding what God had provided for man to know, and so form their faith and their conscience from the truths which they find there — not from the things dictated by church leaders.  This means that they believe some things that are in variance with the official doctrinal position of the church.  If any one then tells them that they ought to remain in the doctrine of their church, they may reflect that if they had been born in any church, the same thing would have been told them.  After all, almost every church declares itself to the be only right one, the only church that has the truth straight from God Himself!  One could take the cynical view and say that therefore no church was worth the effort — or one could take the approach that the although the Lord did not Himself form any church, He did provide us with the Word, and this being the case, it is the Word that should be searched with devout prayer to the Lord for enlightenment as to its meaning and application.  Such people, who are seeking truth for the sake of truth, do not disturb the church, but strengthen it when they share their ideas and discoveries with others.  They never condemn others for their beliefs, for they know that every one who is a church lives from his own faith derived from study of the Word and understood according to his own circumstances and needs.[8]

While it is true that we were born for heaven, it is also true that the attractions of the natural, the pleasures that affect our body and the lower parts of our minds, tend to pull us down.  On the other hand, our spirit is being continually lifted up and lead towards heaven, because the natural tendency of our spirit is to grow in wisdom and usefulness.

Both these tendencies are ours from birth, and it is our challenge in this world to avoid the one and encourage the other.  The Lord has given us the means to do so in the Word.  We study the Word to learn what is right, and we compel ourselves to do it, even though we don’t want to.  But the key concept that is stated so many times in the Word, is that we have to continually refer back to the Word as our source, our touchstone, and compare out thoughts and actions against it, rather than against the standard set by people in the world.

As mentioned a moment ago, the Lord never established a church:  He came into the world to teach the truth, and then men established the church for the twofold purpose of worship and instruction, because it was recognized that worship is essential to the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as God and not just a man, while instruction is essential for everyone to live a life in this world that will be in accord with spiritual principles, and which will therefore prepare one for heaven.[9]  This is why the this church provides for both worship and instruction, and it should be a matter of conscience for each member to avail himself of both as often as possible.

To come around full circle, just as a person can wish to learn truth, and even love it, for the sake of personal profit and self-satisfaction, so a person can be a member of the church for purely selfish and external reasons.  Such people, who are not in the love of truth for the sake of truth, are said to be “in” the church, but not “of” it.

Those alone are of the church in whom the church is; and the church is in those who are in the affection of truth for the sake of truth, and in the affection of good for the sake of good, thus who are in love toward the neighbor and in love to God.… They who are not of this character are not of the church, no matter how much they may be in the church.[10]

Truth, even genuine truth from the Word, does not reform a person, because by his nature, man is able to learn truth, then talk about, and even teach them through his ability to elevate his understanding above the loves of his will.  But he can be reformed, and is, if he develops an affection for truth for the sake of truth; for this affection for truth apart from the pleasures of self and the world conjoins itself with the will, then further conjoins the will to the understanding; and this process is the beginning of  the Lord’s regeneration of the man.[11]

So, the Word tells us what we must do, and throughout our life we struggle to do it in spite of what our natural inclinations lead us to desire.  Eventually we find that it is not so difficult to refrain from our evils as it once was, and it actually becomes pleasant for us to do what is right.  But still, we wonder if we are progressing fast enough, and far enough, to be ready for heaven when our time comes.  The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that there are signs that we can perceive that give us an indication that we are getting ready for heaven.  We read from the Arcana Caelestia:—

The signs that sins have been forgiven are the following.  Delight is felt in worshipping God for the sake of God; in being of service to the neighbor for the sake of the neighbor; thus in doing good for the sake of good, and in believing truth for the sake of truth.  There is an unwillingness to merit by anything that belongs to charity and faith.  Evils, such as enmities, hatreds, revenges, unmercifulness, and adulteries, in a word, all things that are against God and against the neighbor, are shunned and are held in aversion.[12]

Even when we learn truth from the Word, we are engaged in the great struggle between heaven and hell.  Are we learning them for the sake of truth and of life?  Or are we learning them for the sake of personal gain?  We need to examine ourselves as to our intentions and our actions from the knowledge that the love of gain is an earthly affection, while the affection of truth is a spiritual affection and that one or the other must have the dominion in our minds, for we cannot serve two masters.[13]

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.  (LUK 16:13) AMEN.

1st Lesson:

(Luke 16:1-13)  He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. {2} “So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ {3} “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. {4} ‘I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ {5} “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ {6} “And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ {7} “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ {8} “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. {9} “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. {10} “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. {11} “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? {12} “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? {13} “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Amen.

2nd Lesson:  AC 5432

[2] They who have arrived at maturity, and still more they who have arrived at old age, and have not viewed with their own eyes the truths of the church, which are called doctrinal things, and seen whether they are true, and then been willing to live according to them, retain them merely as they do all other memory-knowledges; they are in their natural memory only, and thence on their lips; and when they utter them, they utter them not from their interior man or from the heart, but only from the exterior man and from the mouth.  Then a man is in this state he cannot possibly believe that the truths of the church are true, although it seems to him that he so believes.  The reason why it seems to him that he believes them to he true, is that he relies on others, and has confirmed in himself the teachings of others.  It is very easy to confirm things taken from others, whether true or false; for this needs nothing but ingenuity.

[4] …such persons seek nothing but faults in those who are in truths from good, in order that they may accuse and condemn them.… They ridicule and condemn the veriest truths, if any such are to he found; for they do not comprehend that truths are true.  The reason of this is that they have no affection of truth for its own sake, still less for the sake of life, but only for the sake of gain.  Moreover when such men read the Word they search it with the sole end of confirming doctrinal memory- knowledges for the sake of gain; and many of them search the Word that they may that the truths of the church are not truths, but only serviceable for persuading others that they are truths, for the sake of gain.

[5] But they who are in the affection of truth for the sake of truth and of life, consequently for the sake of the Lord’s kingdom, have indeed faith in the doctrinal things of the church; but still they search the Word for no other end than the truth, from which their faith and their conscience are formed.  If any one tells them that they ought to stay in the doctrine things of the church in which they were born, they reflect that if they had been born in Judaism, Socinianism, Quakerism, Christian Gentilism, or even out of the church, the same would have been told them; and that it is everywhere said, Here is the church! here is the church! here are truths and nowhere else!  And this being the case the Word should be searched with devout prayer to the Lord for enlightenment.  Such do not disturb any one within the church, nor do they ever condemn others, knowing that every one who is a church lives from his faith.  Amen.

[1]See AE 117

[2]See AC 9409:5

[3]See AC 757

[4]See AC 10683:3

[5]See AC 10683:4

[6]AC 9424:2

[7]See AC 7012, NJHD 35, AC 10105:2

[8]See AC 5432:5, TCR 231

[9]See White Horse 8

[10]AC 10310

[11]See TCR 589

[12]AC 9449 See NJHD 167

[13]See AC 5433:2

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