FAITH WITHOUT CHARITY DESTROYS

FAITH WITHOUT CHARITY DESTROYS A Sermon by Rev. David C. Roth Preached in Chicago, Illinois, November 3, 1991

It seems at times impossible to change our lives. We get caught up in an addiction, a fear, or a destructive attitude like prejudice, and no matter what efforts we make to change, we still seem to fall back into our old patterns. What is wrong with us? The Lord promises us we will change if we follow His Word – if we learn His truths. Yes, learning truth is a big part of following the Lord, but you’ll notice He never says, “Just learn the truth and you will be fine.” It is easy to take the quote “The truth shall make you free” and assume that it will do just that. Dead wrong. We are missing the whole teaching which is, “If you abide in My Word, you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” If we abide in the truth then we will know it. It is as if the Lord is saying, “If you don’t live according to My teachings you really will not know what they mean”; they will not be truth to us.

The Lord has taught us in His Word by means of stories, often parables, but many times through historical narratives that teach a hidden message about the Lord’s heavenly kingdom. The story of the ark of the covenant being stolen by the Philistines and finally returned is a most graphic story which shows us what happens when we depend on faith alone or truth and knowledge alone to change our lives.

In the Word, whenever the Philistines are mentioned it is talking about faith alone, or a life devoid of charity and good works. In our story the Philistines were warring with the Children of Israel. In this case the Philistines were winning. In fact, they won a battle against Israel and then the warring parties returned to their respective camps. Israel represents the church, so at this point the church was losing to faith alone. In other words, people were turning their backs on a life of good, and thinking that a life of religion depended only on faith alone, or knowledge of the Word without applying it to their lives. When this happens, the church slowly gets destroyed.

To redeem themselves the Children of Israel brought the ark of the covenant which contained the ten commandments from Shiloh to their camp, thinking that this would make Jehovah’s influence stronger and so defeat the Philistines. Did it work? You would expect that having the Lord present would give the Israelites the power to conquer any enemies. This did actually cause the Philistines to be afraid, but they said among themselves, “Be strong and conduct yourselves like men that you do not becomes servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men and fight!” (I Samuel 4:9) When they did as they said, they defeated Israel and captured the ark.

It is interesting as we look at this as a metaphor for our spiritual lives. Israel, which represents the church in us or the good and truth within us based on how we receive the Lord, is defeated by the Philistines, which is that facade that faith alone or knowledge and intelligence without putting them to use will save us. When we turn from the Lord, as Israel did, then this belief has the ability to defeat us. It is easy to think that faith alone will change our lives. It is a real danger in the New Church to think that simply reading and meditating on the Word of the Lord in both the Sacred Scriptures and the Writings is a life of religion. But as the Writings say, “Religion is of life, and the life of religion is to do good.”

When we find that we are losing control of our lives, as the army of Israel was experiencing in their battles, then we immediately grab the nearest copy of the Writings and start to read, which is like thinking that bringing the ark into the camp will change everything. This means we think the solution is learning some more truth rather than living what we know. By doing this we are not breaking the bonds of faith alone; we lose the battle over our lives anyway, and eventually lose the Word itself, because truth that is not applied is dead and will be taken away from us, either on this earth or after death. This is what is represented by the armies of the Philistines defeating Israel and capturing the ark. We can have all the truth in the world, but unless we live it, it is of no power, just as Israel was powerless over the Philistines.

When the Philistines had possession of the ark, they set it in the house of Dagon, a Philistine idol. When they came to the house the next day the idol of Dagon had fallen on its face before the ark of God. So they set it on its feet again. The next morning when they had come in, Dagon was again fallen on its face before the ark, this time with its head and the palms of its hands broken off. This particular incident is very illustrative of the kind of power that faith alone really has – none. Dagon in this instance represents the religion of the Philistines, or the religion of a person in faith alone, that is, someone who places everything of religion in knowledge and facts.

Their idol Dagon was part man and part fish, kind of like a merman. The part like a man stands for intelligence, and the fish part below stands for knowledge. As is clear from what happens, intelligence and knowledge alone cannot stand up to a religion that is based on a life of good and charity. It is powerless. Before the ark of God the idol falls to its face. The second time it falls is even more significant. The head and the hands break off, which signifies the lack of real intelligence and power with faith alone. The head signifies intelligence and the hands, power. If we think that knowing a lot of things without putting them to use is going to help us, we are sadly mistaken. This illustrates that in reality we have no strength and no intelligence.

These incidents with Dagon make the Philistines realize that something is wrong with their having the ark in Ashdod, so they send it on to another city. Cities in the Word represent doctrine – in this case, false doctrines or false ideas which we possess: like the idea that lying helps our relationships with other people, or that drinking helps us to communicate more openly, so drinking is good. Just like the Philistines not giving the ark back to Israel but sending the ark to another city, we don’t give up on the faith-alone idea; we just try it out on new ideas we have (send the ark to new cities) rather than return the ark to Israel, which in effect would be starting to live a life of charity and good.

This only causes more problems for the Philistines, which to us means that we find ourselves beating our heads against the wall. When we refuse to actually change our lives and instead just try out more false ideas, or even fall back into the same destructive thought patterns, then the results become clear. In the story all the people of the cities which received the ark broke out with hemorrhoids or with the bubonic plague and the land was ravished by mice. When we don’t shun evils as sins, which a belief in faith alone doesn’t allow, then all of our evil inclinations run rampant and take control of our lives because we don’t do anything to stop them. Knowledge or intelligence alone will not do it. What are represented by these hemorrhoids which afflicted the people are the filthy loves, or natural loves which are separate from spiritual loves, which makes them unclean. They become like sores or boils on our spiritual persons. An obvious example would be the love for having sex. This is a beautiful love if it is coupled with a spiritual love that goes with marriage called conjugial love. But if this love is separate from the spiritual origin, then it becomes a filthy love and manifests itself as fornication and adultery instead of pure marriage love.

The mice which ravished the land of the Philistines represent the devastation or destruction of the church by falsification of truth. Fields and land usually represent truth, and mice have the ability to destroy a field of its crop; that is why the mice represent the falsification or wiping away of truth. This is what faith without charity or truth without good does. If truth has no foundation in good, then our false ideas can take it and twist it into what is false, which destroys the essence of truth.

This sounds like a pretty dismal picture for the Philistines. It makes you wonder why they didn’t send the ark back right away if every time they sent it to a city the people there would break out with painful sores and their land and fields would become ravished. But we know how difficult it is to let go of a false idea if it serves our purposes. We are basically stubborn when we latch onto false ideas. Why should we have to actually work on our lives by shunning evils and turning to good? That is hard work. Why not just believe in the Lord and declare our faith in Him and be saved, as so many millions of people in the world around us have done? Because we eventually see that our spiritual lives are not in peace; our bodies are covered with sores spiritually and we are in pain. And what we relied on for strength – the truth we know – is losing its power; it is literally being eaten away. It took the Philistines seven months to realize that they had better send the ark back to Israel. If we are lucky it will take us only seven months, but usually it takes many years of pain and struggle before we realize that a change is in order.

Actually the number seven here is very important. Seven represents what is full or complete. We often hear that an alcoholic, for example, must hit bottom before he or she realizes that there must be change. The signification of seven months is to point out that it does often take a complete or full state of despair or destruction to make us wake up and make an effort to change our lives – in this case, to realize that the only true path of religion is to shun evils as sins and to do good. This is a most important duality.

If we want to stop the pain and devastation in our lives we are going to have to make a change; this is what is represented by the Philistines sending the ark back to Israel. The Word of the Lord must be coupled with a life of good. Faith without charity is an empty, lifeless, and even painful existence. What the Philistines do next represents this change we must make.

The Philistines sent the ark back to Israel, but they did not send it alone. They built a new cart out of wood and placed the ark in it and hitched it up to two milk cows which had never been yoked. In the cart with the ark they placed five golden tumors and five golden mice. These were a trespass offering to the Lord. How did they know to send these articles in the cart? Because the lords of the Philistines knew about correspondences, they knew to send the ark back in order to appease Jehovah. All of the things they did were very significative, as you will see, especially for New Church faith aloners.

The new cart which they built represents the kind of doctrine that must be used to begin our change. It represents doctrinal things of memory-knowledge, which are doctrinal things from the literal sense of the Word. But since it is a new cart it signifies new doctrine that is untainted by our previous false beliefs or our own interpretation of the Word. The reason the ark was to be set in this cart was that “The ark represents heaven, which stands and rests upon the doctrinal things of memory-knowledges” (AC 5945). Genuine truths and stories from the literal sense of the Word must be our foundation for spiritual life, for as said, all of heaven rests upon it. This is a strong message for us in the church: if we do not study the Old and New Testaments but put all of our time into the Writings, we are missing our foundation. The whole of the Word teaches from start to finish that the Lord is to be acknowledged and that man must shun evils and live well. This is what is contained in the ark; this is the doctrine we see represented by the ark in the new cart.

The five golden tumors which are to go in the ark represent our natural loves purified and made good. Why are they in the cart with the ark? Because the only way to purify these loves is through living the truths of the decalogue, that which is represented by the cart and the ark in it. The same holds true for the golden mice. Also put into the ark, they represent the end of the devastation and destruction of the church with us, or the end of the falsification of truth, which ends only by means of doing good. Gold signifies good. It may seem odd that they made golden tumors and mice rather than something beautiful to appease the Lord. But gold is gold and good is good no matter what form or shape it takes. Externals don’t make the difference; internals do. It is our motive and reason for doing good, not how wonderful the act of good was. We read, “The external is estimated from the internal, and not the reverse” TCR 595).

What is it that is going to get this offering and the ark back to Israel? In other words, where are we going to get the power to move this heavy cart of good intentions on the road to a life of good? By remains, of course. The cows in this story represent good natural affections. They have never been yoked because to be yoked would have meant that they were defiled by falsities. But we know that the Lord stores up within us, free from defilement by our natural heredity, remains which are affections for what is good and true. It is in times like these that the Lord stirs our remains and empowers us to move that cart, or to get going on our new life.

To me the most interesting and true part of this whole picture is the lowing of the cows on the way up the road. The path to regeneration and change is not without pain. It is not easy to leave our old habits and our love for doing what we know is wrong, no matter how well we know what’s right. It is our love, our very life, but if we want to live to eternity, that old life must be given up. The old man must die before the new man can be born. The cows’ lowing on the way up the road represents “the difficult conversion of the lusts of evil of the natural man into good affections” (DP 326). We can imagine ourselves on the path to recovery or change and whining and complaining about giving up our old ways, but the remains which the Lord has given us will pull us through. You will note in the story that the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and once on the road they did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

Once we get on the path of life the Lord will hold us there. We may whine and complain along the way, but we know we have to give up what we used to consider happiness and joy in exchange for the true joy and peace that awaits us when we follow the Lord. As Divine Providence states, “Man is admitted interiorly into the truths of faith only so far as he can be kept in them right up to the end of his life.”

This is a very illustrative and graphic story of the danger of faith alone, but it also paints a beautiful picture giving hope that we can change our lives; we can depart from destructive habits and attitudes, but it will take work. We will have some pain, and probably complain, as illustrated by the lowing of the cows, but the Lord will guide our path until we have made it back to Israel where we can find some peace and happiness from a new life – a life of charity and good will to each other, the life of heaven. Amen.

Lessons: I Samuel 5,6; AE 211


Apocalypse Explained 211 They who are in faith alone and in no charity know not that they are in falsities, because they believe themselves to be in truths, when yet out of the false principle, which is that faith alone saves, falsities flow in a continual series; for a principle draws all things to its own side, since they must be connected with it; and this is the cause of their great ignorance in regard to the things of heaven and the church. That they who are in faith alone are so ignorant is clear from this, that they do not know what celestial love is, which is love to the Lord; what spiritual love is, which is charity toward the neighbor; what the neighbor is, what good is, what the conjunction of good and truth is, what spiritual life is, what spiritual affection is, what conscience is, what freedom of choice is, what regeneration is, what spiritual temptation is, what baptism and the holy supper are, and why they are commanded, what the spiritual sense of the Word is, what heaven and hell are, and that both of them are from the human race; and as to many other things. From this their ignorance, falsities flow whenever these subjects are thought about, since they are unable to think, as was said above, from any illustration or to have any internal sight respecting anything spiritual.

SETTLE IN YOUR HEARTS

SETTLE IN YOUR HEARTS

A Sermon by Rev. Donald L. Rose

Preached in Bryn Athyn June 25, 1995

“Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:14,15).

The Lord said these things to followers who were later persecuted and brought before councils. Their accusers thought by confronting them they could weaken the cause of Christianity. But it turned out differently. Those confrontations became opportunities for the strengthening and growth of Christianity.

The boldness and eloquence of the disciples, although they were just fishermen, was nothing short of astonishing. Of one outspoken disciple it is said, “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6: 10). In the 4th chapter of Acts we read of two disciples who were confronted: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marvelled” (Acts 4:13). (King James Version says “unlearned and ignorant men.”) They had a boldness and assurance, and their answers were powerful.

They were somehow triumphant even when they were beaten and imprisoned, and in some cases put to death (see Luke 21:16). We will mention one example of that in a moment.

The text applies of course to us and, we might say, in a much less dramatic fashion. We will not likely be brought before courts and kings nor openly challenged and assailed by enemies.

But we do stand to be attacked by the enemies of our spiritual life. And the more we learn about the assaults of evil spirits on followers of the Lord, the more do we see that it too is dramatic and momentous. Falsities from hell itself assail the person who is being tempted, and the Writings say that to every falsity the hells inject, there is an answer from the Divine.

What we experience in temptation is anxiety, discouragement even to despair. We do not know that evil spirits from hell are fighting against us, nor do we know that the Lord is fighting for us, and the answers from the Divine to the false accusations and undermining thoughts do not come clearly to our consciousness. Here is what the Writings say: “As regards temptations … the hells fight against man, and the Lord for man; to every falsity the hells inject, there is an answer from the Divine …. The answer from the Divine flows into the internal or spiritual man … and in such a manner that it scarcely comes to the perception otherwise than as hope and consequent consolation, in which there are nevertheless innumerable things of which the man is ignorant” (AC 8159:3). (In that answer which we feel only as hope and comfort there are countless blessings that the person has no knowledge of” – new translation.)

Here is the context of the words of the text: “… they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. … [N]ot a hair of your head shall be lost. In your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:12-19).

The very first Christian to die for his beliefs found that the confrontation was indeed an occasion for testimony. He was falsely accused and brought before a council to answer. His eloquent speech takes up the whole of the 7th chapter of the book of Acts. It is said, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. … [T]hey cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord and they cast them out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7:54,57).

That speech which so affected them had begun thus: “… brethren … listen: the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham” and he told the story through Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Solomon, and when he was finished he gazed up into heaven and saw the glory of God. And as they rained stones on him he said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ and ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this he fell asleep” (Acts 7:2,59,60). It is said that those who looked at him “saw his face as the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).

A radiant peace surrounded him. The Lord had promised that nothing would harm them. They were at peace even in death.

“Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer.” Think deliberately about the future, and think of how not to think of the future. In one of the Lord’s parables a man is called foolish because he did not think ahead intelligently. “Foolish one, tonight your soul will be required of you, and then whose will those things be which you have provided?”

Oh, he had thought and meditated within himself about the future. But what was the level of his thinking? To quote the Gospel: “And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do? … I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater … And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years …” (Luke 12:17-21).

He could look down the road years ahead. He could figure out what he was going to do, and what he was going to say, and God called him a fool. How does our future look to us? How much strength and endurance do you have for what lies in store for you? Can you handle what is yet to come? Do you have the wit? Will you have the wit to respond to what may come to pass?

We live in the illusion that our strength, our intelligence, our very life is from ourselves. How big is our reservoir of energy or endurance or prudence? Since it seems that life is our own, we think in terms of calling on our reserves. Once the disciples set off in a boat on a journey with the Lord. And it had slipped their mind that they should have stored some provision. To quote from the Gospel of Mark, “Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat” (8:14). That was what was on their mind, and the Lord said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? … do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up? How is it that you do not understand?”

He got them to answer the question, and He could ask them on a much later occasion, “When I sent you without money bag, sack and sandals, did you lack anything? So they answered, Nothing” (Luke 22:35). Think of the uncertain times of youth that you have passed through. You made it through your teens. Has the Lord kept you safe thus far? Has He provided?

It is too bad that some people have concluded that it is virtuous not to make provision for the future. It’s understandable. The Lord has given us the message that He will provide. Seek the kingdom of God, and these things will be added to you. But the Writings say this does not mean we should not provide ourselves with food, clothing, “and even resources for the time to come; for it is not contrary to order for anyone to be provident for himself and his own.” The new translation speaks of “resources for the future; for it is not contrary to order to make provision for oneself and one’s dependents” (J. Elliott’s translation).

But there is the matter of putting trust in the Divine. Notice the verb tribuo, something you do. It is translated to “attribute” or to “ascribe.” See how it is used in this teaching about charity in a person engaged in business. “He thinks of the morrow, and yet does not think of it. He thinks of what should be done on the morrow, and how it should be done; and yet does not think of the morrow, because he ascribes the future to the Divine Providence and not to his own prudence.” And then it adds, “Even his prudence he ascribes to the Divine Providence” (Charity 167).

Does that fortunate person who ascribes the future to the Divine just do this at one point in life? Or is it not something to be done deliberately through the progressing stages of life?

Settle it in your hearts. Deliberately ascribe the future to the Lord’s Providence, and do so, if you can, until you can feel a sense of relief as if someone had removed a false burden from you.

Do not think of this merely as “either/or,” as if to say, either you trust in Divine Providence or you do not. It can be a quantitative thing. Some attribute a little bit to the Divine Providence and a lot to themselves (see AC 2694:2). The Writings use the phrase “the more”: the more they ascribe, the stronger or wiser they are (see AC 4932). In our lives we gradually come to ascribe more to the Lord and less to ourselves (see TCR 610 and 105).

The disciples were to learn that peace, the wonderful prize of peace, is to be found in the Lord Himself. He said, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (Luke 16e). En to cosmo thlipsin exete alla tharsete – In the world you will have affliction, trouble, but take heart. Have courage. I have defeated. I have conquered. I have overcome the world.

Our picture of the future can become less a matter of speculation and worry and more and more a picture of the Lord as one in whom to confide and one who grants peace. Peace has in it confidence in the Lord that He will provide, and that He leads to a good end. “When someone is in this faith, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing and no solicitude about future things disquiets him” (AC 8455).

We sometimes say that the future looks dark. And the unknown is a kind of darkness. But when we ascribe the future to the Lord, we may say at any time in history or at any stage of our life, that the future has light in it, being in the hands of Him who is the light of the world.

Settle it in your hearts anew today. Ascribe the future to the Lord. And He will give you what to think and do, and He will give you peace. Amen.

Lessons: Matt. 10:16-31, DP 179, AC 2493


Divine Providence 179

As a foreknowledge of future events destroys the human itself, which is to act from freedom according to reason, therefore it is not granted to anyone to know the future; but everyone is permitted to form conclusions concerning future events from the reason; hence reason with all that pertains to it enters into man’s life. It is on this account that a man does not know his lot after death, or know of any event before he is involved in it. For if he knew this, he would no longer think from his interior self how he should act or how he should live in order to meet the event, but he would only think from his exterior self that he was meeting it. Now this state closes the interiors of his mind in which the two faculties of his life, liberty and rationality, especially reside. A longing to know the future is innate with most people, but this longing derives its origin from the love of evil. It is therefore taken away from those who believe in the Divine Providence, and there is given them a trust that the Lord is disposing their lot. Consequently they do not desire to know it beforehand lest they should in any way set themselves against the Divine Providence. This the Lord teaches by many passages in Luke (12:14-48).

That this is a law of the Divine Providence may be confirmed by many things from the spiritual world. Most persons when they enter that world after death desire to know their lot. They are told that if they have lived well their lot is in heaven, and if they have lived wickedly it is in hell. But as all, even the wicked, fear hell, they ask what they should do and what they should believe to enter heaven. They are told that they may do and believe as they will, but that they should know that in hell, good is not done and truth is not believed, but only in heaven. To each one the answer is: “Seek out what is good and what is true; then think the truth and do the good, if you are able.” So in the spiritual world as in the natural world all are left to act from freedom according to reason; but as they have acted in this world so do they act in the spiritual world. His own life awaits everyone and consequently his own lot, for the lot pertains to the life.

Arcana Coelestia 2493

1 have spoken with the angels concerning the memory of things past, and the consequent anxiety regarding things to come; and I have been instructed that the more interior and perfect the angels are, the less do they care for past things, and the less do they think of things to come; and also that from this comes their happiness. They say that the Lord gives them every moment what to think, and this with blessedness and happiness; and that they are thus free from cares and anxieties. Also, that this was meant in the internal sense by the manna being received daily from heaven; and by the daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer; and likewise by the instruction not to be solicitous about what they should eat and drink, and wherewithal they should be clothed. But although the angels do not care for past things, and are not solicitous about things to come, they nevertheless have the most perfect recollection of past things, and the most perfect mental view of things to come; because in all their present there are both the past and the future. Thus they have a more perfect memory than can ever be thought of or expressed.

OUR DAILY WORK

A Sermon by Rev Grant H. Odhner

Preached in Rochester,Michigan  January 19, 1992

OUR DAILY WORK

 

It is a common phenomenon that something we begin doing with a sense of higher purpose, in time loses its higher purpose and becomes a rote habit that serves self. For example, we begin giving of our time or money to some “cause” from an unselfish sight of its value, from an idealism and willing sense of duty. But after a while our motives and thoughts subtly drift to our own advantage. First, the thrill of the newness wears off. We do it without much forethought or reflection. Then we find ourselves thinking of our financial contribution (for example) as a tax deduction. Or we find ourselves helping out because we “said we would” or because we want to be thought well of.

This isn’t always the case with noble actions that become habitual. Over a long period of time many of the things we do “on principle” become “internalized” so that we don’t reflect self-consciously about them. We do them spontaneously from unselfish love.

How does this happen? How do our values become internalized in this way? It happens with effort. We need to go through the process of applying principles to our daily lives in a deliberate, self-conscious way. This involves something we might call “pairing”: we deliberately pair with our “working thoughts” higher thoughts about what we are doing and why.

When we’re doing the dishes, for example, we might reflect that washing dishes is a rather low-level job. We reflect on the uses associated with it: it protects us from disease; it enables us to carry on with other uses (viz. tomorrow). We think of the impact that a messy, dish-strewn kitchen has on our attitudes, on the atmosphere of our home, on our own sense of initiative. We think of the uses involved in eating: nourishing the body so that it can work, relaxing and delighting the mind after work, bringing household members together, both physically and spiritually. All these higher uses depend on dishes. And many more things could be mentioned, because all higher uses rest in lower ones: spiritual uses on the natural, domestic, and physical: eternal uses on the daily.

In anything that we are doing any act, any task, any recreation we can do this: we can pair with our present enjoyment or drudgery higher thoughts. This lifts us to a new plane of functioning. And with time and practice it brings a greater sense of delight and purpose to whatever it is we are doing.

The Writings of the New Church provide us with many “higher thoughts” that have the power to elevate the quality of our lives. Among these are some about the neighbor whom we are to love.

All might agree that loving the Lord and loving one’s neighbor as oneself are the essence of religion. These two loves make a Christian. But how do we go about expressing this love? How do we love rightly?

There’s a lot of confusion in our world about what charity (Christian love) is, and about what our primary focus should be in trying to live the religious life. Most Christian churches (other than Fundamentalists) see loving the neighbor primarily as feeling pity for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and for those who are the victims of social inequity or injustice. They suppose that love is best shown by giving money and providing assistance of various kinds. Other aspects of life are evidently viewed as means to the higher end. Having a job, for example, is a means to earning money, and affording leisure time, which we can share with the needy. In any case, this is certainly the order of priority that their clergy would set.

My point here is not to criticize other churches. Rather I want to set a contrast between this common emphasis and that offered in the Writings of the New Church. The Writings teach that the primary way we love the Lord and our neighbor is by doing the work of our particular calling sincerely, justly and faithfully (see AC 4730:3, 4783:5; D. Wis XI:5; Life 114; SE 6105; TCR 422ff). This is “charity” in the proper sense.

Our “calling” is whatever we happen to be doing as our main employment, what we are busy with day-to-day, whether we are retired, whether we are a mother, a professional, a laborer, a student, or whatever. This is what we are spending most of our mental and physical energy on. This is where Providence has placed us. This is the main arena of our usefulness (or our potential usefulness) to others and to society.

To appreciate why our job should be our main focus as a Christian, and how doing it “sincerely, justly, and faithfully” is loving both the Lord and our neighbor, we need to understand the concept of “use” as the Writings teach it.

Everyone’s life and happiness depend on the common good. We owe so much of our well-being to the health of our nation, our society, and to the health of the various groups of which we are a part! (We easily take this for granted.) And what makes for the common good? We are invited to see that it springs chiefly from the jobs that individuals perform in society, and particularly from the integrity, both personal and occupational, which they bring to their work. When everyone is useful in his or her work, the whole benefits. Each person’s use fits into a whole complex of inter-dependent and complementary uses. Together these make up the common good. Contributing to this common good, from love for it and for the people it blesses, is the essential expression of Christian love and charity (see Char 126-157).

It is easy to be misled into thinking that Christian love is expressed most strongly in acts of generosity and kindness toward people. When someone does something kind for us personally, we notice it. We are aware of the delight that it gives us. This kind of action is tangible. Therefore we tend to think that such acts are the primary acts of love.

But this is not the case! Such acts are important (as we will touch on later) and yet they are secondary. For the greatest good that can be given to any person is the good that comes to them from the common good. And this could not exist without each person doing his or her own daily duties faithfully, justly, and sincerely.

Heaven, more perfectly than here, is a “kingdom” of uses that together make a one. Note how the angels of the highest heaven view their main job:

They have no idea that loving the Lord is anything else than doing goods which are uses, and they say that uses are the Lord with them. By “uses” they understand the uses and good works of ministry, administration, and employment, as well with priests and magistrates as with merchants and workmen. The good works that are not connected with their occupation they do not call uses; they call them alms, benefactions, and gratuities” (D. Love XIII).

We find a similar teaching in the Doctrine of Life applies to us here:

Christian charity with everyone consists in faithfully performing what belongs to one’s calling; for by this, if one shuns evils as sins, one is doing goods every day, and is himself his own use in the general body. In this way also the common (or general) good is cared for, and the good of each person in particular. All other things one does are not the proper works of charity, but are either its signs, its benefactions, or its obligations (Life 114, emphasis added).

This passage raises another reason why our occupation is to be considered our primary focus, namely, that by it a person is doing goods every day. Our work (in most cases) brings us into contact with people daily. Through it we can touch others and find opportunity to affect them for good. What’s more, in our daily work we are led to shun evils. This is where real evils show themselves standing in the way of our doing our work properly and in the right spirit.

The Lord provides continual opportunities to love and serve Him through our life’s work! Doesn’t it make sense that He wants our primary focus to be here?! And isn’t it what we do day to day that molds us into the kind of person we are? Our daily job, and especially our attitude toward it and in it, forms us into a human being. It tests us, matures us, puts before us the most character-determining challenges that we face. True Christian Religion offers the same basic teaching emphasizing this last point:

[Acting justly and faithfully in one’s office, business, and employment] is charity itself, because charity may be defined as doing good to the neighbor daily and continually, not only to the neighbor individually, but also to the neighbor collectively. This can be done only through what is good and just in the office, business, and employment in which a person is engaged, and with those with whom he has any dealings; for this is one’s daily work, and when he is not doing it, it still occupies his mind continually, and he has it in thought and intention. The person who in this way practices charity becomes more and more charity in form; for justice and fidelity form his mind, and the practice of these forms his body (n.423, emphasis added; see also SD 6105; Char 158ff).

Now all of this does not mean that our work is the only area that we should give attention to. Far from it! Living the life of charity involves prayer, worship, reading the Word, thinking and talking about its principles, also instructing one’s children, and like things. These are healthy and proper “signs” or manifestations of our Christian love (see Char. 173-183). There are many duties that good people fulfill that lie outside their proper work (see Char 187ff; TCR 429ff). Charitable people take recreation of mind and body seriously (as well as joyfully). Diversions from their work help them stay “sharp” and actually foster their enthusiasm for their work (see Char. 189ff; TCR 433f). Finally, there is the area of showing good will toward others through deeds of kindness or “benefactions” (see Char. 184ff; TCR 425ff).

Earlier I used this last aspect of the life of charity as a contrast to “doing one’s job.” The reason for this is that the Christian world has largely made charity to consist in benefactions in the first place. This emphasis is wrong, and has led to a lot of confusion, guilt, and even to “charity” that has done more harm than good. But it would be a great mistake to minimize the importance of good deeds to the life of charity! First of all, children and the simple are initiated into a deeper concept of charity through simple, tangible good deeds. In the second place, the common good is greatly served through aid to the needy and poor, through the funding of hospitals, through the voluntary support of educational programs, etc. Finally, on a more personal level, good deeds are vital to fostering unity, good will, and friendship. Where would we be without acts of kindness? Where would society be?

Still, we need to remember that the greatest good depends on the uses which each person performs in society, the chief of which are through one’s daily work. This is a difficult priority to hold as a church among others at our day. Many churches are persuaded that our approach is selfish, a weak excuse and justification for maintaining our comfortable lifestyles.

We need to be firm in our resolve to see a deeper picture of our religious responsibility and hold to it. But see it and hold to it we must! For if we make our job our primary focus for the wrong reasons, if we don’t do it for the sake of our neighbor and the common good, then what others might accuse us of becomes true: we are being selfish and narrow! We are in effect using religion to justify our pursuit of our own well-being. What’s more, our church’s emphases do become mere “intellectualizing” or group narcissism.

What can save us from this is frequent and honest reflection about why we do what we do; also entertaining “higher thoughts” while we work. How we think and what we think day to day determine the spiritual quality of our lives; they determine the depth and scope of our Christian love.

Just think! We can deal with, say, a client or pupil, a co-worker or cashier in so many different spirits! We can do it with only self in mind. We can be trying to gain a service from them. We can be trying to impress them, gain recognition, exert influence, get their business, or simply get it over so that we can get on to what we want to be doing. On the other hand, we can deal with them with their welfare in mind. We can be concerned with furthering them, with their sense of job-satisfaction, with their self-esteem.

More deeply, our thoughts can be lifted above the people to the uses themselves which they are involved in. We can deal with them out of respect for their part in society; we can be trying to further or support those uses (even when we don’t like the people). We can be thinking of the good of our neighborhood, or school system, or company. Or still higher, we can be thinking of the good of our state and country and world! The higher our sights are, the deeper and broader the scope of our acts become inwardly and (perhaps in subtle ways) outwardly.

This is where the pairing of higher and lower thoughts we spoke of earlier comes into play. Higher thoughts about what we are trying to do, whom we are trying to love and serve, and how we are going about it are what lift our minds to function on a deeper plane, and to function more perceptively. And by sincerely lifting our thoughts, over time our love is lifted and ennobled. And all this happens through our daily uses.

May the Lord give us the strength and inspiration to do the work which He has put before us each day sincerely, justly and faithfully. And may we offer up with these “daily sacrifices” sweet thoughts, thoughts from His Word, to guide our hearts and bring eternal meaning to the works of our hands! Amen.

Readings: Deut. 15:1,2,7-11; Matt. 25:14-30; SD 6105.


Spiritual Experiences 6105

CHARITY TOWARD THE NEIGHBOR

Charity toward the neighbor, in a specific sense, is to perform the employment, business, and work which belong to one’s calling faithfully, sincerely and justly. The reason is that this is a person’s daily occupation, the very activity and delight of his life. When, therefore, a person performs this sincerely and justly, his life becomes such, thus becomes a certain charity, in its place and degree. [One’s daily work] may be compared to the germ [of a seed]: . . . from this as the essential, the other aspects of charity, which are called the signs, benevolences and obligations, proceed and derive their essence; for they flow from his life, which in this case is a charity. And without that essence, even though he may have the signs of charity, which are acts of piety and the like, though he may have its benevolences, which are giving to the poor, and similar things, though he may have its obligations, which are such things as are his duties at home and outside his home, then, all these are like a shell without a kernel. It is different when he has the germ and essence already described.

Moreover, such a person does good to the community, and does good to the individuals in the community in their degree. Hence, from the community there flows to him delight of life and every necessary. This obtains in heaven and in the societies there. For everyone is a part in the common body. From performing his work sincerely and justly he becomes a worthy part in the common body. For everyone in a society must be in some work. Works produce the communion, and cause all things to be held in connection; for works contain in them all things human. Wherefore, even in hell they must be in works.

THE PRODIGAL SON

THE PRODIGAL SON
A Sermon by Rev. Thomas L. Kline
Preached in Bryn Athyn November 8, 1992

“This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24).

Jesus said that a man had two sons. The younger son went to his father and demanded his inheritance. It says he went to a far-off country, and there he wasted all that he had with riotous living. A famine arose in the land, and the young man had nothing to eat. And so he hired himself out to go into the fields to feed the swine. He was so hungry that he would have eaten the food of the pigs. But suddenly, he came to himself. He said to himself, “I will go to my father and ask him for forgiveness, and I will become as a hired servant to him.” We can picture the young man coming back after a long journey. Will his father forgive him? Will his father be angry with him?

His father is waiting for him! His father sees him at a distance, runs to him, and embraces him. The father has compassion on his son. And at the end of this story, we hear those words of the father to the older brother: “It is right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”

There is something in each of us that is touched by the power of this parable. This is because it is a story of hope. We might have a friend or relative that seems to turn from the Lord. We might have a friend that for a time seems lost, spiritually wounded, a person in a time of spiritual crisis. And the everlasting message of this parable is that there is a way back. The Lord gives us a path to restore our souls no matter how hopeless the situation.

The father figure in this parable is so important. It is a picture of the Lord Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ as our heavenly Father. And what we see is a picture of the Divine love. When the young man returns, we don’t see the father demanding payment or retribution for the son’s sins. We don’t see anything that suggests the traditional dogmas of Divine atonement or punishment for sin. No, those old-fashioned, traditional ideas of God are not based on Scripture. In this parable we see only forgiveness after the long journey of repentance and reformation. The father celebrates his son’s return. The Lord rejoices when we come back to our spiritual home.

There is a message in this parable for a church congregation. The reason why Jesus even told this parable was that the church leaders of that time came to Him complaining that He was spending too much time with sinners. The scribes and Pharisees were murmuring because Jesus was associating with sinners, drunkards, and tax collectors. And the Lord’s answer was simple: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” This is why He had come to bring sinners to repentance, and to restore their lives.

And so we ask the question of ourselves: What is the purpose of our church? What is the purpose of this congregation? Certainly the church is for the worship of the Lord. Certainly it is for the proclaiming of the Lord’s Word. It is for the life of charity and service. But the church also exists for something else.

In the book of Revelation, the New Church is said to be the “healing of the nations.” The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. It is a vision of the church as a hospital, the church as a place for spiritual healing, the church as a place where the sick and wounded come. There is a battle going on in the world today. It is a great battle between heaven and hell. And, as in any battle, there will be casualties: our sons and daughters, our friends and neighbors, our family. And the church is the place for those who are hurting, those who at times have failed, those who are dying spiritually, to come and receive support in the road that leads back to a restoration. It is a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Divine physician.

But there is a more interior meaning to this story. It is a level of meaning opened by the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem. This story of the prodigal son is the personal story of our rebirth and regeneration. It is the story of the Lord’s healing our troubled heart. And in this story, we find, step by step, the journey that we take as the Lord leads us on the path to heaven.

Let’s just look at the steps of regeneration outlined in this story.

Number one is permission, what the Writings of the New Church call the “doctrine of permission.” In this story the father allows his son to leave and go to a distant land. It almost seems that the father willingly gives his son all of his inheritance knowing that this will lead to grief and pain for the son. And how can this be? Why would a loving father do this?

The Writings of the New Church say that this permission to leave is a picture of the magnitude of the Lord’s love and wisdom in our lives. The Lord loves us so much that He will even allow us to turn from Him at times if this is what we truly choose. He will allow us to turn from Him and even experience the consequences, the pain and suffering of that turning away. And this is said to be of His permission, not of His will.

He grieves when we turn and suffer the consequences of evil. The pain of evil is not the Lord’s punishment; no, the Lord weeps for us. And still, in His love He allows this because in His infinite wisdom He foresees that sometimes it is only through the process of the journey that we can finally choose what is good, fight for what is good, and make what is good our own. So number one: the Lord permits us to leave.

And step number two: If we do choose to turn from Him, He is not passive. If we do choose to turn from Him, He protects and guides us every step of the way. He is with us on the perilous journey.

We have a beautiful teaching in the Writings of the New Church that during times of temptation and despair it seems as if the Lord has left us, whereas in fact He is closer than ever. The Lord is closest to us in times of temptation.

In this parable it seems that once the son left home and went to the distant land, his father was out of the picture. It seems that his father just stayed home and worried. It is important to realize that this is written from the viewpoint of the son: When we turn from God it seems as if He is distant from us; that’s how it feels to us.

But from the Lord’s perspective, He never leaves us. If we could re-write this parable from the Lord’s viewpoint, the father would be with that son in that distant land, actively protecting, guiding and leading.

How does the Lord protect us when we are in the distant land? First is the famine. The Lord allows us to hunger in the distant land. He allows us to hunger for righteousness. The Lord will never let us be completely satisfied with evil. No, something inside of us will hunger for a life that is higher. And it is this hunger that finally causes us to turn back to the Lord. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

Another thing He does when we are in the distant land: He withholds us from further evils. In the parable, it says the son was almost to the point where he was about to eat the food of the pigs, but he didn’t eat it. A person who has been in a state of disorder will often say, “Yes, I was in terrible disorder, but somehow there was something preventing me from going all the way down to hell. Something was holding me back.” The Lord’s hand is there protecting us from the hells even when we are in active evil.

A third thing He does when we are in the distant land: The Lord causes us to remember our home; He lets us remember our spiritual home. In the story the son remembered his father’s house. We hear the words, “I will arise and go to my father.” It’s a memory of heaven. The Writings of the New church speak about heavenly memories that stay with us always. Memories of heaven that remain with us sometimes we call these “heavenly remains.” No matter where we are in life, we all have a memory of heaven (sometimes from our earliest childhood) stored up in the interior parts of our minds. And that memory of heaven tempers and bends our life back to our spiritual home, when we are in the height of temptation and despair.

But then we come to the climax of the story, the turning point, and it is the turning point in our lives. The story says that the young man was in the field, far from his home, hungry. The young man, when he was at his lowest moment of despair, came to his senses. One translation says, “He came to himself.” It is the beginning of true repentance. For the first time we find him thinking the words, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”

The young man suddenly sees his life in a new way. It is as if his eyes are opened. It is interesting that the Writings of the New Church use the word “inversion” when they talk about this change. When it seems as if things can’t get any worse, suddenly we come to this turning point; we come to this moment of change, and our lives are totally inverted. Everything is changed from top to bottom. The love of self that used to be at the top is now at the bottom, and in its place is a love of the Lord and the neighbor. We hear the words, “I will go and serve my father; I will hire myself to him; I will be as servant to him,” and we begin to lay down our lives. Jesus said, “He that shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

And we find that there is a road back home. That’s the young man journeying back home, retracing every step that He had taken. The Writings of the New Church call this “reformation.” And notice the power of that word: the Lord literally “re-forms” us. He makes us anew.

And then there is a time of rejoicing. Here are some of the internal meanings revealed in the Writings of the New Church: The ring the father put on his son’s finger pictures “internal conjunction.” The robe pictures “truths of our faith and trust in God.” The sandals picture our life changed even to the most “down-to-earth” parts. And the fatted calf pictures our life of charity.

So this entire 15th chapter of the gospel of Luke deals with the subject of lost things and the Lord’s rejoicing over what is lost being found again. Let us take these wonderful teachings and apply them to our lives. Let us reach out with hope and forgiveness to those who are hurting, supporting them on the Divine path of restoration. Let us express this love of the Lord Himself as He comes to restore our own lives toward heaven, realizing that in His sight we are all in need of the Divine healing. This is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Divine physician, and tells His everlasting message of hope: “It is right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 84, Luke 15, TCR 394-5

True Christian Religion 394, 395

THERE ARE THREE UNIVERSAL LOVES THE LOVE OF HEAVEN, THE LOVE OF THE WORLD, AND THE LOVE OF SELF.

These three loves must first be considered for the reason that these three are the universal and fundamental of all loves, and that charity has something in common with each of them. For the love of heaven means both love to the Lord and love toward the neighbor; and as each of these looks to use as its end, the love of heaven may be called the love of uses. The love of the world is not merely a love of wealth and possessions, but is also a love of all that the world affords, and of all that delights the bodily senses, as beauty delights the eye, harmony the ear, fragrance the nostrils, delicacies the tongue, softness the skin; also becoming dress, convenient houses, and society, thus all the enjoyments arising from these and many other objects. The love of self is not merely the love of honor, glory, fame, and eminence, but also the love of meriting and seeking office, and so of ruling over others. Charity has something in common with each of these three loves because viewed in itself charity is the love of uses; for charity wishes to do good to the neighbor, and good and use are the same, and from these loves everyone looks to uses as his end, the love of heaven looking to spiritual uses, the love of the world to natural uses, which may be called civil, and the love of self to corporeal uses, which may also be called domestic uses, that have regard to oneself and one’s own.

… That these three loves are rightly subordinated when the love of heaven forms the head, the love of the world the breast and abdomen, and the love of self the feet and their soles. As repeatedly stated above, the human mind is divided into three regions. From the highest region man looks to God, from the second or middle region to the world, and from the third or lowest to himself. The mind being such, it can be raised and can raise itself upward, because to God and to heaven; it can be extended and can extend itself to the sides in all directions, because into the world and its nature; and it can be let downward and let itself downward, because to earth and to hell. In these respects the bodily vision emulates the mind’s vision; it also can look upward, round about, and downward.

[2] The human mind is like a house of three stories which communicate by stairs, in the highest of which angels from heaven dwell, in the middle men in the world, and in the lowest one, genii. The man in whom these three loves are rightly subordinated can ascend and descend in this house at his pleasure; and when he ascends to the highest story, he is in company with angels as an angel; and when he descends from that to the middle story he is in company with men as an angel man; and when from this he descends still further, he is in company with genii as a man of the world, instructing, reproving, and subduing them.

[3] In the man in whom these three loves are rightly subordinated, they are also coordinated thus: The highest love, which is the love of heaven, is inwardly in the second, which is the love of the world, and through this in the third or lowest, which is the love of self; and the love that is within directs at its will that which is without. So when the love of heaven is inwardly in the love of the world and through this in the love of self, man from the God of heaven performs uses in each. In their operation these three loves are like will, understanding, and action; the will flows into the understanding, and there provides itself with the means whereby it produces action.

NEW BEGINNINGS

NEW BEGINNINGS
A Sermon by Rev. Brian W. Keith
Preached in Glenview, Illinois September 7, 1986

Life can seem terribly dreary. Familiar patterns are repeated over and over again. Ruts appear. Dishes keep getting dirty. Bills keep coming. The house always needs something done to it. And as we grow older, our bodies signal the rapid passing of time. Energy levels decline. Aches and pains come from nowhere. From being unthinkable, one’s own death is seen as a real possibility.

Emotionally we can feel trapped by what has gone before. Previous actions, mistakes, and evils close in on our minds. We can be haunted by what has happened. The depressing patterns of petty frustrations and useless arguments scar and desensitize us. We can become numbed wandering through the day trying not to feel anything.

Ezekiel had a vision addressed to such a lifeless and hopeless frame of mind. He saw a valley full of dried out bones. As he prophesied, the bones came together, flesh was put upon them, and breath entered them. From dry bones came a great army. And the Lord said to Ezekiel, “These bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, `Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ` … Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves'” (37:11-13).

Our bones are dry. Our hope is lost. How pitiful! And how false! Life is repetitive and dreary only if we choose to look at it that way. For all around us there is a renewal of life. New beginnings are taking place constantly.

Consider the natural world. Plants and animals are constantly reproducing, much more than this world could support. Every day the sun comes up anew. Each new year is ushered in with festivity. Even in the fall when the leaves turn and life seems to drain away, there is the promise of rebirth. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24).

Consider also some events in the life cycle. A child leaves home for school. A person leaves school for a job. Single life is given up for marriage. Children grow up and establish their own homes. Retirement comes. Each of these changes involves loss and gain a new beginning. Even death itself is growth. The Heavenly Doctrines show that when a person awakens in the other world, “at this point his life begins” (AC 186), and his entrance into his eternal heavenly home “marks a new beginning” in his life (AC 1273).

Even as natural life has changes new beginnings so spiritually there can be a constant renewal of life. Above our consciousness the Lord is gently guiding our thoughts and feelings. While we are unaware of it, He is inspiring new ways of looking at life, stimulating new feelings of warmth and concern (see AC 6645e). The Lord is working with our spirits so that we are renewed every moment of every day. The fact is, there are new beginnings in our lives all the time. The Lord is raising up our apparently dry bones, putting flesh upon them, and breathing life into them.

We can choose to feel trapped by the past or dulled by routines. Or we can look at what is happening as the opportunity for one of the many new beginnings in life. For the Lord does not control what happens to us. Yes, His Providence is overseeing all that happens, but that does not mean He is causing specific events to occur good or bad. In one sense He is not concerned for what happens; rather He is concerned with how we respond, for that determines what good He can then bring about. Retirement, for example, is not important, but how a person then uses his or her time is. The response can be gloomy, for the loss of co-workers, status, or income; or it can be of renewal more time for friends, family, church work, or others. A newness of life can be born in any situation any time, anywhere.

Our participation in renewal is critical. The Lord never forces us to grow. He never forces us to change our minds or actions. While He is always working, urging and pressing to influence us in heavenly ways, He will not change our outlook if we do not want Him to. We can remain in the trenches. We can look upon life as a deterioration of our physical and mental abilities. We can see the dark side of every event, pessimistically awaiting the next cruel blow of fate. We can cry about dry bones and hopelessness. But those dry bones can have flesh on them, breath in them.

Regardless of what has occurred in the past, new beginnings are possible if we are willing. They do not start outside of ourselves. They start with our thoughts and intentions (see AC 1317). We have the freedom to think about life in any way we wish. We can think negatively or positively. We can desire, intend, anything we wish. We can want what is good. We can want what is evil. We are not trapped by previous choices or patterns of behavior. We are trapped only by our fears and refusals to think and try.

Our attitude makes all the difference in how we view the world and how easy we make it for the Lord to renew us. From a negative, doubting viewpoint we see the world and ourselves through a warped lens. We reject or give up on the ideals the Lord has shown us in His Word. But if we attempt to trust in what He has said, if we will be positive, affirmative to Him, then wonders can be worked (see AC 3913:5). “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

Our basic assumptions can never be proven. And if we assume, have faith, that the Lord speaks to us in His Word, and our lives will be improved if we listen, then a new beginning can occur. For regeneration is the new creation of life spiritual life. It begins when a person affirms the truth and intends to live according to it. This is the start of regeneration. It does not occur at any set time in life, nor does it happen only once. Each and every time we positively turn our minds to the Lord’s way, a new beginning occurs.

Such beginnings are like seedlings. They are planted in the soil of our lives. With watering, with light and warmth, they take root. As they grow, as we walk in the Lord’s way, the earth of our life is made more secure. The interlocking root systems stop the erosion of false ideas, evil desires. The more that take root the better, for the roots hinder the washing away of good by selfishness.

But for seedlings to grow strong they need weathering. The storms and bitter cold which could harm the trees actually serve to strengthen them. So in regeneration. Each new beginning of spiritual life will be challenged. Where honesty is growing, the harsh wind of theft will blow and try to destroy it. Where compassion is developing, cold disregard for others and apathy will also be present.

Spiritual struggles ensue. These raging storms are painful, as the new beginnings of spiritual life are threatened and buffeted. Yet, as we endure, as we resist the forces of hell, a greater strength is acquired. More spiritual life grows perhaps a clearer idea of His ways, a deeper appreciation of our need for the Lord’s presence, or a greater intensity of affection for His good (see AC 2272). Whatever is gained, our spirits are growing flesh upon dry bones, breath giving life. As the Lord promised: “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight” (Isaiah 42:16).

The Lord leads us through all the many byways of life, through the valleys up to the peaks. He would have each day be a new beginning for us, not in a dramatic sense, for we are not meant to have radical changes often. The new birth, or regeneration, is not a series of sudden changes in direction. Yes, it can begin with that when a person first realizes the importance of spiritual values, when a person experiences the grief of repentance. But rebirth is an evolving process. It is made up of many small beginnings.

The small beginnings of regeneration are a series of purifications the regular washing away of evils in the spirit, of saying, “No, I won’t do that because it is wrong.” And as the Heavenly Doctrines note, ” … such purification ought to go on all the time and so always to be taking place as if from a new beginning” (AC 2044).

“As if from a new beginning.” In one sense, each time we resist an evil, each time we intend on doing something good, it is a new beginning. Something new has started in our lives. But in another sense, every positive step is a continuation of what was begun before. It is a resurfacing of the seeds planted years before from parents, from teachers, from whatever good we had willingly done. The Lord keeps working with the good He has established in everyone’s life. While it may not be seen for a time, it is carefully preserved, awaiting the occasion to be seen again. Hellish choices and life styles shut it up, but it is still there. The Lord is very patient, always leading us so that the good we have might be protected, develop, and eventually blossom in the fruit of an angelic life.

What this means is that life is never pointless. While we will certainly go through times when we feel our life is dry or our lot hopeless, the Lord can put flesh on our bones, breath in our lungs. All our patterns which seem so fixed and limiting, all the painful baggage we carry from the past, need not defeat us. For every day the Lord is providing us with new beginnings small, almost imperceptible opportunities to renew our lives. If we are not utterly downcast, if we have not given up if we will be open and affirmative to what He has said then new life may grow. Seedlings are planted which, though they may not bear visible fruit until the next life, will give us strength, will renew our spirits. And the prophecy of Isaiah will come true for us: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint” (40:31). Amen.

Lessons: Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 3:1-8; NJHD 173-182 (portions)

New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 173-182 (portions)

173. He who does not receive spiritual life, that is, who is not begotten anew by the Lord, cannot come into heaven, which the Lord teaches in John: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except anyone be begotten again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3).

174. A person is not born of his parents into spiritual life, but into natural life. Spiritual life consists in loving God above all things, and in loving his neighbor as himself, and this according to the precepts of faith, which the Lord has taught in the Word. But natural life consists in loving ourselves and the world more than the neighbor, yea, more than God Himself.

175. Everyone is born of his parents into the evils of the love of self and of the world.

176. [So] everyone continually inclines to, and lapses into, what he derives from heredity: hence he confirms with himself that evil, and also superadds more from himself. These evils are altogether contrary to spiritual life; they destroy it; wherefore, unless a person receives new life, which is spiritual life, from the Lord, thus unless he is conceived anew, is born anew, is educated anew, that is, is created anew, he is damned; for he wills nothing else, and thence thinks nothing else but what is of self and the world, in like manner as they do in hell.

179. Everyone has an internal man and an external man; the internal is what is called the spiritual man, and the external is what is called the natural man, and each is to be regenerated so that one may be regenerated. With one who is not regenerated, the external or natural rules, and the internal serves; but with one who is regenerated, the internal or spiritual rules, and the external serves. Whence it is manifest that the order of life is inverted with one from his birth, namely, that serves which ought to rule, and that rules which ought to serve. In order that a person may be saved, this order must be inverted; and this inversion can by no means exist except by regeneration from the Lord.

180. What it is for the internal man to rule and the external to serve, and vice versa, may be illustrated by this: If a person places all his good in pleasure, in gain, and in pride, and has delight in hatred and revenge, and inwardly in himself seeks for reasons which confirm them, then the external man rules and the internal serves. But when a person perceives good and delight in thinking and willing well, sincerely and justly, and in outwardly speaking and doing in like manner, then the internal man rules and the external serves.

181. The internal man is first regenerated by the Lord, and afterwards the external, and the latter by means of the former. For the internal man is regenerated by thinking those things which are of faith and charity, but the external by a life according to them. This is meant by the words of the Lord: “Unless anyone be begotten of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “Water,” in the spiritual sense, is the truth of faith, and “the spirit” is a life according to it.

182. The person who is regenerated is, as to his internal, in heaven, and is an angel there with the angels, among whom he also comes after death; he is then able to live the life of heaven, to love the Lord, to love the neighbor, to understand truth, to relish good, and to perceive the happiness thence derived.

MERCY

MERCY
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida May 18, 1991

“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145: 8, 9).

These are beautiful and comforting words. Furthermore, they express a fundamental truth of all genuine religion, namely, that the Lord is a God of infinite love and mercy. He is love itself infinite and all-embracing love. And because love, by its very nature, wills to make others happy from itself, therefore the Lord created people with the object of bestowing upon them the blessings of eternal happiness. The Lord, who is love itself, is also pure mercy toward the whole human race, the Writings teach; for He wills to save all and make them happy to eternity, and to bestow on them all that He has, thus, by the strong force of love to draw to heaven all who are willing to follow (AC 1735). Note that last sentence: He seeks by the strong force of love to draw to heaven all who are willing to follow Him.

But, if this is so, people ask, how then can we account for all the misery and suffering we see all around us? If God is pure love and mercy, and if He has infinite wisdom and power, why then does He allow people to suffer in misery? Indeed, they argue, if the Lord is all-powerful He must be responsible for this suffering and misery Himself.

There is a strong appearance that this must be so. And, to add to the difficulty, there is a strong appearance in the letter of the Word to support this appearance. For in many places the Lord is said to punish, to tempt, to be angry, and to curse. In commenting on this appearance the Writings state: “The Lord never curses anyone. He is never angry with anyone, never leads anyone into temptation, never punishes anyone … for such things can never proceed from the fountain of mercy, peace and goodness” (AC 245).

The Lord, who is mercy and goodness itself, regards all people from mercy and never averts His face from anyone. It is man, when in evil, who turns away from the Lord. The Lord spoke of this, saying: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity” (Isaiah 59:2,3).

Even though we may turn away from the Lord and reject His love, still the Lord does not desert us. He is ever present, waiting to be received. He continually breathes into us His own life. And even though we may not respond, it nevertheless gives us the ability to think and reflect, and to discern whether a thing is good or evil, true of false (AC 714). In this way the Lord provides that even though a person rejects Him and closes the door of his mind upon Him, yet because he has the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and between what is true and false, he may at any time change his ways and admit the Lord into his life. This is what the Lord was speaking of when He said: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him and he with Me” (Rev. 3: 20).

The mercy of the Lord is perpetual with everyone, for the Lord wills to save all, whoever they are; but His mercy cannot be received until evils have been removed, for evils oppose and prevent the reception of the Lord’s mercy (see AC 8307). It is the truth in our minds which receives good, thus also mercy and peace. Where there is no truth in the mind because a person has rejected it, there can be no good, mercy or peace, because there is nothing there to receive it (AC 10579:8).

It is important that we realize that Divine mercy and Divine justice are inseparable, for justice is of truth and mercy is of love, and in the Lord these two are united. When a person rejects the Lord as to truth, that is, when he rejects the Divine truth of the Word, he simultaneously rejects the Divine mercy. Such are judged from the laws of justice and truth separated from love, not because the Lord withdraws His love, but because the person has rejected the Divine truth and with it His love and mercy. On the other hand, those who willingly receive Divine truth are judged from justice tempered with mercy because they have the vessels in themselves which receive it (see AC 5585:6).

The Lord wills that all people should enter into the happiness of heaven. This, in fact, is His Divine purpose in creation. But since heaven is within man according to the reception of good and truth from the Lord, therefore only those are received into heaven who have heaven within themselves. When those who are evil are punished, it is not because the Lord wills it, but because they have separated themselves from His Divine love. So the Writings say: “The Lord in no case sends anyone down into hell, but the person sends himself” (AC 2258).

The passage goes on to say that it is of mercy to those who are good that the evil are separated from them. If it were not so, those who are evil would do harm to the good, and would be continually attempting to destroy order. It is the same on earth. If breaches of civil and moral order were not punished, society would soon be infested with evils and disorder, and would eventually perish. For this reason, we are told, a judge shows greater love and mercy by punishing evils and those guilty of them than by exercising inappropriate clemency on their behalf (see AC 2258).

These teachings make it apparent that the Lord’s mercy is with everyone according to the person’s state. With those who are receptive to good and truth, the Lord’s mercy bestows peace and heavenly joy. With those who are evil, the Lord’s mercy bends the penalty of evil to the person’s eternal welfare. Thus, even with those who are evil, the Lord’s mercy is operative, but it takes a different form with them than with those who are good (see AC 587:2). Therefore the Lord says: “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent” (Rev. 3:19). “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55: 7). In this passage we see the Lord reaching out to the evil with mercy, not condemnation, seeking their reformation and happiness.

Mercy, in its essence, is love. It is turned into mercy, or becomes mercy, when anyone in need of help or aid is regarded from love or charity. Mercy, therefore, is the effect of love toward those who are in need of aid or encouragement (AC 3063). We read: “All mercy is of love; for he who is in love or charity is also in mercy, and the love and charity in him become mercy when the neighbor is in need or misery, and he affords him help in that state” (AC 6180).

“All who are in charity are in mercy, or, in other words, all who love the neighbor are merciful to him … The good of charity has this within it because it descends from the Lord’s love toward the whole human race, which love is mercy because all the human race is settled in miseries” (AC 5132).

The subject of mercy is of vital importance to us. Firstly, a right understanding of the subject is essential for understanding the Lord and our relationship to Him. Secondly, it is essential to our dealings with the neighbor. For, as the Writings point out, all who are in misery are in need of mercy, and the whole human race is in misery to a greater or lesser extent.

All people, therefore, are in need of mercy. The following teaching shows clearly that this subject has very practical implications in regard to how we live our lives. We read: “Those who are in no charity think nothing but evil of the neighbor, and say nothing but evil; if they say anything good it is for their own sake … whereas those who are in charity think nothing but good of their neighbor and speak only well of him, and this not for their own sake but from the Lord … The former are like the evil spirits, the latter like the angels … The evil spirits excite nothing but what is evil and false in the person and condemn … but the angels excite nothing but what is good and true, and excuse what is evil and false” (AC 1088, emphasis added).

This is a teaching we would do well to reflect on. “Those who are in charity think nothing but good of their neighbor and speak only well of him” (ibid.). How do we measure up to this standard? We do not have to examine ourselves very deeply or extensively to realize that we fall far short of this mark. But we need not despair.

In our daily lives we are continually in contact with people who are in need of help and encouragement. The angels who are with us will enable us to see the good in these people. They will arouse within us a desire to think well of them and speak well of them. On the other hand, the evil spirits who are also with us will cause us to see their faults, and will arouse in us the inclination to think evil of them and to speak ill of them in the presence of others.

It is not difficult to be merciful. We need only choose between the inclination aroused in us by the angels, or that aroused in us by the evil spirits. The choice is ours. True, the choice is somewhat complicated by the fact that by the time we have reached adult age, we have more than likely chosen the latter course so often that it has become, in some measure, habitual. Another complicating factor is the prevalence of malicious gossip. It is so common in the world today that we become inured to it to the point that we are often not consciously aware that we are engaging in it.

We need to realize that we have some effect on every one that we come in contact with. The impact that we have on them is for good or for ill. There is no such thing as neutrality in human relations. In our contacts with others we promote their happiness, well-being and usefulness or detract from them.

When a person’s reputation is destroyed through willful gossip, those who engage in it are guilty of spiritual murder. By the same token, if they do it through negligence they are guilty of spiritual manslaughter; for in either case the victim is deprived of his or her good name, and of opportunities of performing those uses wherein their spiritual life consists. Surely such behavior is devoid of mercy!

Let us keep clearly in mind the teaching that “with those in whom good reigns, there is nothing which they do not turn into good and excuse … Whoever is led by the Lord, with such everything is turned into good” (SD 1705). Angels, and people who are interiorly of the church, excuse those in whom they see evil (AC 6655).

We must learn to distinguish between evil and the person. We must strive against evil and condemn it. But we must not condemn people. If a person is interiorly evil, the truth will condemn him. Our duty is to give aid and encouragement to those who are in need of our help. This may, occasionally, take the form of reprimand and punishment; but with the punishment there should be mercy and forgiveness, and a desire for the person’s repentance and reformation.

The Writings teach that “when a person feels or perceives that he has good thoughts concerning the Lord, and that he has good thoughts concerning the neighbor, and desires to perform kind offices for another, not for the sake of gain or honor for self, and when he feels that he has pity for any one who is in trouble, and still more for one who is in error … then that person may know … that he has internal things in him through which the Lord is working” (AC 1102: 3).

Those who have lived mercifully on earth from the heart live in the greatest happiness in the other life (SD 2420). This is according to an unerring spiritual law that influx is according to efflux. That is, we receive as much of mercy, peace and love from the Lord, as we give, as of ourselves, to others. “Be merciful therefore, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6: 36). Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 103; Luke 18:9-14, 35-43; HH 522, 523

Heaven and Hell 522, 523

But first let us consider what the Divine mercy is. The Divine mercy is pure mercy toward the whole human race, to save it; and it is also unceasing toward every man, and is never withdrawn from anyone, so that everyone is saved who can be saved. And yet no one can be saved except by Divine means, which means the Lord reveals in the Word. The Divine means are what are called Divine truths, which teach how man must live in order to be saved. By these truths the Lord leads man to heaven, and by them He implants in man the life of heaven. This the Lord does for all. But the life of heaven can be implanted in no one unless he abstains from evil, for evil obstructs. So far, therefore, as man abstains from evil he is led by the Lord out of pure mercy by His Divine means, and this from infancy to the end of his life in the world and afterwards to eternity. This is what is meant by the Divine mercy. And from this it is evident that the mercy of the Lord is pure mercy, but not apart from means, that is, it does not look to saving all out of mere good pleasure, however they may have lived.

The Lord never does anything contrary to order, because He Himself is order. The Divine truth that goes forth from the Lord is what constitutes order; and Divine truths are the laws of order. It is in accord with these laws that the Lord leads man. Consequently to save man by mercy apart from means would be contrary to Divine order, and what is contrary to Divine order is contrary to the Divine. Divine order is heaven in man, and man has perverted this in himself by a life contrary to the laws of order, which are Divine truths. Into this order man is brought back by the Lord out of pure mercy by means of the laws of order; and so far as he is brought back into this order he receives heaven in himself; and he that receives heaven in himself enters heaven. This again makes evident that the Lord’s Divine mercy is pure mercy, and not mercy apart from means.

ALL POWER HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME

ALL POWER HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida March 31, 1991

“And Jesus came and spoke to them saying: `All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matthew 28:18).

The message of Easter is one of victory and new life. It is fitting, on this occasion, that we give thanks to the Lord for His glorification and redemption. In the Lord’s resurrection we also have His assurance of our own resurrection into the spiritual world, and the heartening assurance of His Divine power over the hells. By His resurrection we are also assured that good can, and always will, prevail over evil. If we are willing to receive power from the Lord evil will have no power over us. He freely imparts His power to all who look to Him, love Him and keep His commandments.

“All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Not only had the Lord risen victorious from the death imposed by the corrupt leaders of the Jewish Church, not only had He conquered natural death, but in doing so He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth. The concentrated forces of all the hells, through the agency of evil and selfish men, had sought to destroy Him; and in the moment of their apparent success, their utter failure was revealed.

Here we see clearly the impotence of evil against good dramatically demonstrated. Because the apostles had to perceive this truth, the Lord, in commissioning them to establish a new church, said:”All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations … ” Secure in the knowledge of this truth, that the Lord had all power in heaven and on earth, they could fearlessly preach the Gospel, confident that nothing could defeat their mission. For, working with them and through them was the Lord Who, after His resurrection, had confidently proclaimed:”All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth … And, lo, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

In the revelation of His Second Advent, the Lord has fully revealed the nature, quality and operation of His Divine power to bring mankind into the happiness of eternal life. He has revealed the glory, beauty and wonder of His eternal kingdom. His power in is the laws of His Divine providence, all of which operate to draw all people to heaven as many as do not will fully refuse.

His kingdom is one of love and wisdom conjoined in use a kingdom where all are brought into such a harmony that the joy of one is communicated to and shared by all, and the joy of all is felt in each one individually; a kingdom where the delight of living increases and deepens to eternity a kingdom where the mutual love of husband and wife grows deeper and stronger to all eternity.

But, like the disciples of old, we live in an age which is, for the most part, far removed from the reception of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom. On every side, in the place of love and charity, we see hatred and envy; in the place of wisdom we see bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and empty sentimentality; in the place of use we see the lust for pleasure and reward; in the place of conjugial love we see the lust of self-gratification.

The message of Easter is that in the midst of this hostile environment, and in spite of it, we can, nevertheless, receive the spiritual things of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom within ourselves. We can receive genuine love for the neighbor, true wisdom from the Word, the good of use from the Lord, and love truly conjugial, and manifest them in our lives and the life of the church.

In the midst of a sphere of hatred and contempt for others we can receive the Divine love of humanity into our hearts. In the midst of a sphere of intellectual pride and an overwhelming trust in scientific achievement, and contempt for spiritual values, we can nurture, by devotion to duty, a spiritual love of use and a deep and joyful love for our marriage partners. All this is possible because the Lord has established His kingdom a kingdom not of this world, and revealed its nature to us because after His resurrection He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth.

While in the world, the Lord preached a doctrine of love and charity toward the neighbor, a doctrine of mercy and human compassion. He taught a doctrine of spiritual and moral values. He revealed, and His life was an example of, devotion to others. But the hells, through their human agents, the Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees, tried to destroy these spiritual values. They were not interested in spiritual things nor were they interested in a spiritual kingdom. They wanted a Messiah Who would establish for them a natural kingdom a kingdom where they would enjoy power over their neighbors, a kingdom in which they would be able to satisfy all their natural longings and sensual appetites. But because the Lord’s kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), they sought to destroy Him and all that He stood for.

Let us realize that there is a similar struggle and conflict within each one of us. The hells, entering in through the loves of self and the world, and inflaming them, seek to destroy in us, the love of the Lord and His spiritual kingdom of charity, spiritual intelligence, devotion to use and conjugial love. They seek to persuade us that if God indeed exists, He would satisfy our every ambition and desire; He would provide for us every worldly comfort and pleasure; He would do away with famine, pestilence, disease and natural suffering; for, are not these the enemies of human happiness? They seek to persuade us that if there is a Kingdom of God it should be here and now, and not hereafter; that we should experience its joy and satisfaction without effort on our part. By the insinuation of these ideas, our belief in the Lord and our love for Him and the things of His Kingdom is undermined and threatened with destruction by the malice of hell acting through their agents the love of self and the love of the world.

For the regeneration person these are the trials of temptation. But unlike the Lord in temptation, we are not alone in ours. He is inmostly present with His infinite power to uphold us and sustain us if we will but turn to Him for help and guidance. And with His help we cannot fail, for by His resurrection He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth.

We are told in the Heavenly Doctrine, that the Lord’s rising again on the third day, in reference to man, means that the Lord, working in love and faith, can rise, in the regenerating person, every day and every moment (AC 2405:7). In the same way He may also be present continuously in His church. When we are brought, through temptation, to the acknowledgment of our own helplessness, and at the same time realize that we may receive all power from the Lord, then we grasp the real significance of the Lord’s resurrection, for it is then being re-enacted in our own lives.

We would note that the sacrament of the Holy supper is intimately related to this festival. For the Lord instituted and partook of this supper with His disciples just prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. It is this acknowledgment the acknowledgment that we are entirely dependent on the Lord that is represented in that sacrament. For it is because we see that we can do nothing that is really good, nor think what is true of ourselves, that we approach the Lord to receive His Divine good and Divine truth, represented by the bread and wine.

In taking the bread we acknowledge that all good, every spiritual love is from the Lord alone, and we seek to receive it from Him. In taking the wine we acknowledge that all wisdom, truth and spiritual intelligence is from Him alone, and we seek to receive it.

Jesus said:”I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever … The words that I speak to you they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:51,63). If we truly acknowledge this in our hearts, then, as we partake of the Holy Supper, the Lord’s power will descend into our lives to uplift and sustain us to all eternity. Amen.

Lessons: Matthew 28; AE 806:2,5,6

Apocalypse Explained 806:2,5,6

It has been shown in the preceding article what the faith is that has been accepted by the general body in the church, namely, a belief that God the Father sent the Son, that through Him there might be propitiation, mercy, redemption, and salvation; likewise that the Son of God bore our iniquities, that He intercedes for us, and that His merit is attributed to those who pray for it from trust and confidence; and it has been shown in a former article that these are all vain expressions, in which as interpreted by the learned there is nothing of truth and thus nothing of salvation. That these are vain expressions in which there is nothing of truth is evident from the teachings of the Word respecting the reason of the Lord’s coming and why He suffered, namely, that the Lord came into the world to save the human race, who otherwise would have perished in eternal death, and that He saved them by subjugating the hells, which infested every man coming into the world and going out of the world, and at the same time by glorifying His Human, since thus He is able to keep the hells subjugated to eternity. The subjugation of the hells, together with the glorification of His Human, was accomplished by means of temptations admitted into the human that He had from the mother, and by continual victories therein. His passion in Gethsemane and on the cross was the last temptation and complete victory.

That the Lord subjugated the hells He taught when the passion of the cross was at hand, in John: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:27, 28, 31). In the same: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In Luke: “Jesus said, I beheld Satan as lightning falling from heaven” (Luke 10:18). In Isaiah: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, walking in the multitude of his power? great to save; Mine arm brought salvation for Me; so He became their Savior” (Isa. 63:1, 5, 8; 59:16-21). Because the Lord subjugated the hells He gave the seventy disciples: “Authority over demons” (Luke 10:17, 19).

That the Lord glorified His Human, and that the passion of the cross was the last temptation and complete victory by which He glorified it, He teaches in John: “When Judas was gone out Jesus said, `Now is the Son of man glorified, and God shall glorify Him in Himself, and straightway shall He glorify Him'” (John 13:31, 32). In the same: “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee” (John 17:1, 5). In the same: “`Now is my soul troubled; Father, glorify Thy name.’ And there came a voice out of heaven, `I have both glorified it and will glorify it again'” (John 12:27, 28). And in Luke: “Ought not the Christ to suffer this and to enter into glory?” (Luke 24:26).

This was said of His passion. “To glorify” is to make Divine. From this it can be seen that unless the Lord had come into the world and had become Man, and by this means had liberated from hell all those who believe in Him and love Him, no mortal could have been saved. Thus it is understood that without the Lord there is no salvation. This, now, is the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation.