“One generation passeth away, and another generation
Cometh : but the earth abideth for ever.”—Ecclesiastes i. 4.Image result for the world

THE belief that the material universe is finally to be destroyed has been and still is almost universal in the Christian Church. Some have maintained that matter will be entirely annihilated ; others, that it will only be burnt up and reduced to its simple elements, and that out of these elements new heavens and a new earth will be formed, and that the new earth will be the eternal dwelling-place of the righteous. Their bodies are to be raised up from the earth, and their souls brought back and reinstated in them. The Lord is to come down from heaven and dwell with them and be their King. All traces of sin and imperfection will be destroyed in the general conflagration, and the whole earth will become an Eden, the garden of the Lord, and all those glowing prophecies concerning the peace and happiness of the righteous will be fulfilled.

About the time when this great change is to take place there has been much difference of opinion. There can be no reasonable doubt but the apostles expected it in their day, and Christians have been looking for it and predicting it every century since. Many of us can remember the excitement caused by Millerism. Many persons were so sure that they had discovered the year and the day when the end was to come that they had their ascension robes made, and, clad in them, they assembled on the appointed day, expecting that the Lord would come in the clouds of heaven, and that they would be caught up with Him in the air while the earth and the heavens were being consumed. Learned commentators and diligent students of prophecy postponed the end to 1866. It is quite safe to say now, however, that they were mistaken in the time, if not in the event itself.

There is another important point upon which there is an equally serious conflict of opinion. Some believe that the millennium—that is, a period of a thousand years in which the Lord is to reign personally upon the earth, and righteousness and peace are to prevail universally—will take place before the world is burnt up. Others believe that the world is to be consumed first and that the millennium will take place afterwards, and among those who entertain this opinion are many of the most learned divines in all branches of the church. There is a general assent to the doctrine that the earth, if not the material universe, is to be burnt up, and either annihilated or made over into a new one.

But the doctrines of the New Church teach directly the reverse of this. They declare that this earth and all the earths in the material universe were created to be the birthplace of intelligent spiritual beings, who commence their existence in a material body, and after a time discard it and pass on into the spiritual world, where they are to dwell forever. The earths are the seminaries of the heavens. The material universe was created from the spiritual universe, and bears the same relation to it that the body does to the soul, that the husk does to the corn, or the shell to the fruit. Every human being begins his existence upon some material earth, and sooner or later passes on into the spiritual world. Thus the work of creation is continually going on. New souls are continually being created and passing on to their eternal home. Generation after generation commences existence, passes across the stage of this life and on to eternity, and, as we believe, will continue to do so forever.

I invite your attention to the grounds for this belief. The doctrine is entirely in accordance with Scripture when correctly understood. There are some passages both in the Old and the New Testament which describe remarkable changes as taking place in the earth and the heavens. The sun is said to be darkened, the moon changed into blood, the stars to fall from the heavens, the foundations of the earth to be shaken, the heavens to be rolled together as a scroll, when, in the words of Peter, ” the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat ; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up.” “The earth is utterly broken down,” cries Isaiah, “the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage ; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it.”

Now, it is simply impossible that all these particulars can be literally true. It is impossible that the stars should fall to the earth. The earth is a mere grain of sand compared with the stars. We can see that the sun might be darkened, but how impossible that the moon should be turned into blood ; or, if possible, what use could there be in it? In one place it is said that the earth shall be burned up, in another that it shall be removed like a cottage ; and again that ” every mountain and island shall be moved out of their places.” In one place it is said the nations are to be gathered together in the valley of Jehoshaphat. Sometimes this great consummation is represented as having taken place, and again as about to take place in some future time. The disciples asked the Lord, saying, ” Tell us, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?” And the Lord answered,” This generation shall not pass, till all these things befulfilled.” It is impossible to form any definite conclusion from attempts to interpret the Scripture literally. No human ingenuity, no grasp of intellectual power, can reconcile all this imagery and show its bearing upon one natural event. But, furthermore, the word translated ”world” in the phrase “the end of the world,” does not mean world in the sense of a material earth, and never did. A recent commentator says, “It is very remarkable that the word which means world in Greek is never used where what is supposed to be the end of the world is described.” The Greek word aion means an age or dispensation, or period of the church. In this sense we speak of past ages. We apply it to a special development of life and literature, as when we say the Elizabethan Age. The apostles, without any doubt, used the word aion in this sense.

Our Lord had just foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. He had just told the disciples that there should not be left one stone upon another of the temple that should not be thrown down ; and He had said, “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Then they asked Him, “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age,—of the Jewish Church or Dispensation ?” They supposed He was going to establish a new age or kingdom in the place of the Jewish Church. The question is, therefore, natural and pertinent. . But if they meant the earth there seems to be no reason for such a question. There was nothing in the preceding conversation to lead to such a question. If our Lord’s answer also is carefully considered it will be found to have no special application to such a question, and commentators have had the greatest difficulty in reconciling many things in it with the idea that it refers to the end of the material world. Many things apply with great pertinence to the destruction of Jerusalem, but others do not. The apostles, without doubt, found their questions answered to their satisfaction. They believed that the end would come in their day, and we find them frequently referring to it in their epistles. ” The time is short.” “The day of the Lord is at hand.” They frequently speak of being ” in the last days,” ” in the last times,” “in the ends of the age.” That they did not fully understand what the change would be in all its breadth and detail is evident from their own language.

Before our Lord’s death and resurrection they supposed the Lord came to establish a political kingdom and restore Israel to their former power and splendor. Their views became more elevated after our Lord’s ascension ; they knew that His kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, but still they did not fully comprehend its nature, and probably expected that its establishment would be attended with many signs and portents, with many civil and physical commotions. There are evidences, however, that they did not understand the terms literally which speak of commotions and destruction. At the day of Pentecost, when the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, some, mocking, said, ” These men are full of new wine.” But Peter said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh ; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams : and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit ; and they shall prophesy : and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath ; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke : the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.” (Acts ii. 16-20.) Thus Peter expressly declares that what they saw on the day of Pentecost was the fulfilment of this prophecy, and that it was ” in the last days.” Ought not this to be a key to the interpretation of all such language when used by the apostles, especially by Peter ?

In the interpretation of Scripture, if one part of a state ment is taken literally the whole ought to be. If it is said that the moon shall be turned into blood, we must accept that as a literal fact if we do the other part of the statement. We ought to believe that the stars will fall upon the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind, if we believe the other part of the statement, that the heaven will depart as a scroll when it is rolled together, and that every mountain and island will be moved out of their places. (Rev. vi. 12-14.)

According to the same principle, if we accept a statement of Scripture as referring to a particular event in one part of the Bible, it is reasonable to accept every similar statement in every part of the Bible in the same sense. If this is done I do not hesitate to say that it is impossible to prove from the Bible that the material universe is ever to be destroyed by fire. Some fact will always be found which cannot be brought to harmonize with the others. The doctrine or theory does not explain all the facts, and, consequently, either the facts or the doctrine cannot be true.

Now let us apply the doctrine of the New Church and her method of interpreting the Scriptures to those passages which are supposed to refer to the end of the world. The doctrine is this : By the end of the world is meant the end or consummation of an age, or a complete cycle in the spiritual movements of humanity. The Jewish Church was one age, which came to an end when our Lord was upon the earth. The Christian Church was another age or distinct movement in the spiritual progress of humanity. The Jewish Church was purely natural, and the representative of a spiritual church. The Jews had no hopes or aspirations beyond this world. They believed that the Messiah was to be a temporal ruler, like David and Solomon, who was to exalt them to the pinnacle of earthly power. Jerusalem was not a heavenly but an earthly city, the capital of their own kingdom, which they expected would become the capital of the whole earth. This life and this world bounded all their hopes and fears. There may have been some men who caught glimpses of something beyond, but this pure naturalism was the essential element of the Jewish Dispensation. The Christian Dispensation took a distinct step in advance. It was a spiritual church. God was a spiritual being, and not a merely temporal king. Jerusalem was a church or a heavenly city. Righteousness did not consist in a scrupulous adherence to the ceremonial law, but in a life according to the commandments. The law reached the thoughts and intentions. But these truths the church received upon authority. The church has never had any rational knowledge of spiritual truth. All her doctrines are taught dogmatically, and are to be received by faith, as matters of belief, upon testimony.

The essential characteristic of the first Christian age has been belief in spiritual truth and obedience to it ; but truth received upon authority and not rationally understood. A church or age comes to an end when the essential principle which distinguishes it from all others ceases to be a living principle. Thus the Jewish world or age came to an end when they made the Word of God of none effect by their tradition, and when their national life and civil polity and ceremonial worship at Jerusalem ceased. The first Christian age came to an end when its love for the truth had grown cold, and its belief in the truth which constituted the church had been destroyed. This, we believe, took place about a century ago. It would not be difficult to show by the testimony of the church herself that all real belief in her doctrines had perished. You can hardly find two men now who think alike upon any of the essential doctrines of the church. Even if they use the same words, they do not attach the same idea to them ; and multitudes repeat the creed without attaching any idea to it. It is not my purpose to prove this truth, but simply to state it for illustrating what we mean in the New Church by the end of the world, or the consummation of the age. You will perceive that it is not the end of an organization, of dogmas and outward forms, but of inward life. A tree may retain its form for many years after it is dead. Wood may preserve its existence for many centuries and be applied to many useful forms after its life has come to an end. So a church may retain its outward organization and teach its dogmas for many years after it is dead. Indeed, it is the distinguishing characteristic of a dead church that it is scrupulous in paying tithes of the mint, anise, and cummin of creeds and ceremonies, while it neglects the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.

Having stated what we understand by the end of the world or age, let us look at the terms in which that event is described in the Bible. The doctrines of the New Church teach us that the whole Bible is written according to the correspondence of natural with spiritual things. The sun represents the Lord ; its heat represents His love received and reciprocated by men. The moon represents the cool light of faith. The stars are bits of knowledge of heavenly things held in memory. The earth represents the church ; all things on the earth represent the truths or principles which constitute the church, and everything that occurs on the earth represents some form or activity of those truths and principles. Now let us apply this method of interpretation to some of the passages in the Word which relate to this subject. The darkening of the sun means the loss from the church of that love for the Lord and of that sense of the Lord’s love which are its very life.The withdrawal of the moon’s light means the gradual loss of all belief or faith in the truths of the church. Its being changed into blood denotes the destruction of all living quality in the faith of the church. It represents the loss of all charity or brotherly love. The falling of the stars from heaven denotes the entire dispersion and loss of all the knowledges of spiritual truth, by giving them a merely natural meaning. The spiritual mind is heaven compared with the natural mind. The kingdom of heaven is within us. When those truths which relate to the spiritual man are brought down and sensualized, when the church begins to lose the spirit and to think lightly of the life, and makes much of mere dogmas and ceremonies, which is the sign of a dying or dead church, then the stars fall from heaven upon the earth, even as a fig-tree, which denotes a development of merely natural good, casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

When the light of Divine truth is darkened in the mind ; when the warmth of spiritual love grows cold, and all belief in spiritual truth is destroyed, and all true knowledge of its facts and doctrines is lost, then the heavens depart as a scroll when it is rolled together ; the spiritual mind becomes closed to all spiritual truth, and the end of the world draws near.

If we look at any particular church and note the changes that have taken place in her when she approached her end, we shall find that the changes which are said to take place in the earth represent them in every particular. Our Lord says that many will come in His name, claiming to be the Christ, and shall deceive many. This prediction means that many will claim to have the only message of Divine truth. How diverse the doctrines are we know, and how sharp the controversies and how bitter the persecutions which have arisen among their adherents. These are the wars and rumors of wars foretold by our Lord. The conflict of evil with evil and of falsity with falsity is described as nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Famines are caused by the lack of the bread of life, which is love to the Lord and the neighbor. The pestilences foretold are the moral and spiritual evils which corrupt the hearts and minds of men, and cause spiritual disease and death. The earthquakes are the commotions in the church, which shake it to its foundations and break it up into sects, as the earth’s crust is shaken and broken into fragments by natural earthquakes.

In this manner we might take every passage in the whole Bible which refers to the end of the world, and show the special meaning of every particular, and its entire harmony with this doctrine and its bearing upon it. All these terms are not given a special meaning to adapt them to this particular doctrine. But they have this meaning everywhere, in the whole Word. The sun, moon, stars, and earth always have essentially the same meaning. The earth always means the church or those principles which constitute it. All the wars, famines, and pestilences mentioned in the Scriptures signify and represent spiritual conflicts, in which evils and falsities contend among themselves or stand opposed to goodness and truth. And we are not compelled to remain in a general application alone. We can descend to the minutest particulars, even to the kind of weapons used in these conflicts, the people who carry on the wars, and the causes of defeat or victory. The farther this correspondence is carried, the clearer it becomes and the more universal its application becomes, so that the argument from the Word comes out in the clearest and fullest manner, satisfying every condition of humanity and every demand of the reason and every statement of Scripture. I have not attempted to do more than to give an outline of the argument and show the manner in which we read the sacred symbols to learn what the Word really teaches concerning the last days. I shall invite your attention now to some of the rational considerations which confirm the belief that the end of the world is a spiritual and not a natural event.

According to the doctrines of the New Church, the material universe was created to be the birthplace of endless generations of intelligent beings, who were to pass on into the spiritual world and make room for those who should come after them. It is the essential nature of love to create, to communicate itself as fully as possible to others. As the Lord’s love is infinite, this essential element of His being can never be exhausted. He must have the same reasons to-day for creating intelligent beings that He had for creating the first man ; and there must be the same reasons millions of years hence for creating new souls to become the recipients of the Divine love and blessedness that there are now. It must, therefore, be contrary to the essential nature of the Lord that He should ever cease to create.

It has been proved by modern astronomers that our sun with its attendant planets and the myriad visible stars are moving in vast orbits around some common centre. This orbit of our solar system is so vast that it could complete only a small part of a revolution in six thousand years. How absurd to suppose that a Being of infinite wisdom would create a universe and set its worlds revolving in their orbits, and then destroy them before they had completed one revolution ! A little child is not guilty of so great a folly who builds a house of cards and throws it down for the pleasure of seeing it fall. But again, the ratio between the smallest grain of sand and our earth is greater than the ratio between our earth and the whole of the material universe ; can any supposition be more absurd than that the Lord would destroy the whole material universe because some beings who dwell upon this grain of sand have broken His laws?

The act of a man who burned his barn to kill a rat was wise compared with such a destruction of the universe. You cannot find anything in the childish ignorance or fitful spite of men so absurd as this. How irrational, then, to call it by no worse a name, to attribute such folly to infinite love and wisdom ! Suppose the Lord has been disappointed and His purpose in some respects defeated by sin, is that any reason why He should complete the defeat of His ends by a universal destruction ? But it cannot be that He has been defeated or disappointed. Omniscience saw the end from the beginning, and infinite wisdom provided the best means. The Lord can make no mistakes. Sin has only served to bring out the manifestations of His love in larger measures and in a greater variety of forms. There is no more cause for the destruction of the universe than there was to prevent its creation in the first instance. There is the same reason for its continuance, and must forever be, that there was for its creation. The Divine nature as it is in itself, the end for which the universe was created, the whole order and method of the creation and human reason, all teach us in unequivocal terms that the material universe will never be destroyed until infinite love grows cold and infinite wisdom fails to provide the ways and means for carrying into effect the purposes of infinite love, and infinite power becomes exhausted ; and when that crisis comes there will be no God and no universe and no human beings. We infer, therefore, that the destruction of the natural universe is contrary to the Divine nature, to the purposes of the Lord as declared in the creation, and to human reason.

The idea held by some, that the earth will be remade, that the Lord will give to man a better body at the resurrection, and that the new earth, if it is a material one, will be a better earth than this, practically accuses the Lord of folly, of not doing the best for His children that He could, and that is to say that His love and wisdom are not perfect. If it is replied that man finds the earth very imperfect and is constantly improving it, the answer is that it is one of the perfections of the earth that man can improve it,—it is one of the conditions of life essential to his intellectual and spiritual development. If he had no occasion to call forth his faculties they would lie dormant. If he saw no room for improvement, or found it impossible to make improvement, he would have no stimulus of hope, and all motives to exertion beyond what was necessary to support life would be taken away. Man’s nature is self-adjusting to all the conditions of life. Infinite wisdom is embodied in the creation, and when men try to improve upon the methods of infinite wisdom they show their ignorance and folly.

But the doctrine that this earth or any part of the material universe is to be made over into a new world and become the future dwelling of man after the resurrection is materialism. This result cannot be avoided. Man’s body is not a spiritual body after all, and instead of going to heaven and dwelling in one of the mansions in His Father’s house according to the promise, he must remain forever in this world. He is not essentially a spiritual being, but an earthly one, and however perfect his condition may be as a material being, he can never hope to attain to the glory and blessedness of a purely spiritual life. But the whole theory that this world is to be the eternal home of the redeemed is contrary to the oftrepeated declarations and promises of the Word. ” My kingdom is not of this world,” the Lord says. ” I go to prepare a place for you ; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” The whole tenor of our Lord’s teachings was directed to prepare men for life in another and spiritual world which is not to be created at some future time, but which was already in existence, and when the Lord spoke was the home of all those who had passed from earth.

When we understand the term ” world” as meaning not the natural ground but the world of human life ; especially when we give the Greek word which is translated ” world” its strict meaning of ” age” or ” dispensation,” how simple it all is ! Within historic times the world hasmore than once passed away and a new world has been created. The Europe which the Roman conquerors knew is gone. The America which Columbus found is passed away and a new America has come into being. And turning our thought to the spiritual states of men, of which the Bible always directly speaks, the world has been destroyed and a new world created as often as one system of religious truth has lost its vitality and its power over the lives of men and a new system has been raised up by the Lord. Not to go back to remote antiquity, the world was in comparatively recent times made new when the Christian Dispensation displaced the Jewish at the coming of the Lord ; and in our own day is taking place before our very eyes the destruction and new creation of the church which the Lord Himself predicted. And all the while our faithful planet keeps steadily on its way fulfilling the purpose for which the Lord created it, as a nursery of human beings, where they may awaken to consciousness and learn their first lessons of obedience to the Heavenly Father, then to pass on to His eternal home. As saith Ecclesiastes, ” One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh ; but the earth abideth for ever.”

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

Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.

Image result for the world

9 Enthusiastic Spirits

Swedenborg Study.comOnline works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.

Image result for  starting science from god

9 Enthusiastic Spirits

“Believe not every spirit . . .” John’s First Epistle 4: 1

Image result for  starting science from god

Emotional Good without Truth

It is a matter of common observation that even good men are often misled. If we stop to reflect, we find that the impulse which is thus misdirected is usually “good without truth”; and especially natural good, such as pity or generosity or “sentimentality.”

All men are endowed by nature (or heredity) with inclinations toward certain “goods” or virtues. Some are by nature brave, others seem to be born cautious and meek. Some are naturally generous or affectionate, loyal or trusting, apt to be guided by family feeling, friendship, love of ease, social praise or pleasure. Various circumstances may also encourage the development of certain good natural traits. Yet the Writings teach us to distrust our “natural good.” Not only does it hide the evils of selfishness under a pleasant exterior, but it makes self-examination difficult. Man is apt to take a good deal of credit for his “natural good”; when yet he is no more responsible for it than an animal is for its instinctive nature. We are also warned that natural good is like a reed, on which it is dangerous to lean. It is fickle, deceptive, easily bent. It lays a man open to all sorts of influences. It can turn us to defend evil, it weakens the judgment. It is easily swayed and persuaded. It receives the influx of evil spirits, and thus works harm which we may not intend.

Good, when undisciplined by truth and antagonistic to instruction, is not really good, but is a mere emotionalism. It must therefore be tutored, guided, held under control, made to serve under rational principles. The doctrine is, that “those who are not as yet in truths, are not in safety.”225

True faith, faith in true doctrine, gives protection. The general doctrines of the New Church are compared to the four walls of the New Jerusalem, into which there shall not enter anything that defileth or maketh a lie. Doctrine protects against evil spirits and their false persuasions. It is doctrine which leads to salvation, with gentiles and babes as well as with adult members of the Church.

In the world of spirits, those who are not in any doctrine but are led hither and thither by their emotions and fantasies cannot dwell in cities. Cities there impose a certain restrictive order. Evil spirits untutored by the self-restraining influence of doctrines or common principles cannot enter the cities, or, if they do, can only traverse the public streets. But in the less inhabited regions around the towns they feel more free to carry out their impulses. Cities represent doctrines. Yet cities in the other life may represent doctrines that are vitiated by falsities. If so, the protection which they give is only temporary. There is no permanent safety against infesting spirits, no permanent salvation except in true doctrine.225

The statement is made that “non-truths communicate with evil spirits.” This seems to mean that falsities and fallacies are planes into which evil spirits can operate effectively and conveniently. When a man has fallen into a belief in some false principle, he opens himself to be led from this error into a series of other fallacies, and into doubts about truths, and thus into a negative attitude. Fortunately, if a man is well disposed, he will—with the aid of good spirits—resist following the logic of his position if he perceives that it is leading him into absurdities or into evils. The Writings cite instances of such a blessed inconsistency. Many who accept the Lutheran dogma of salvation by faith alone apart from charity, would be horror-stricken at the idea of Predestination and “infant damnation”—which yet flows directly from the premises of their own creed! Luther himself, being a good man at heart, did not confirm the dogma of faith alone in his life, although he preached it and confirmed it intellectually. He had been fascinated by the principle of “Faith Alone,” because he saw in it a weapon against some of the abuses of the Catholic Church. And when it was received with acclaim by his followers, spirits infused a pride of self-intelligence— flattering him on his originality and keenness—and induced him to confirm it. He suffered for centuries in the other life for this weakness, and not until after the last judgment did he see his error, and resume his search for the true doctrine of salvation.226

Misconceptions about the Holy Spirit

Image result for holy spirit

Swedenborg himself confesses that he had formerly entertained—from the universal doctrine of Christendom—the false persuasion that the Holy Spirit was the third person of the Divine Trinity. This laid a plane in his external mind for infestations by spirits who supposed themselves to be the Holy Spirit and who terrified him. “But afterwards”—he writes— “I became persuaded that the Lord alone is holy, and that all, both angels and spirits, are profane in themselves, and are called ‘holy’ only from those true and good things which are from the Lord; so I am no longer infested. …” For spirits are obliged to assume the persuasions of the men with whom they are.227

It is of interest to note that clergymen, on their entrance into the other life, are straightway instructed that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person or separate spirit.228 For if a spirit should hold that idea, he is set upon by so-called “enthusiastic spirits” who are in the insane fantasy that they are the Holy Spirit, and who terrify others if they do not obey them; since many, in the world, were taught that a sin against the Holy Spirit was unpardonable. “Enthusiastic spirits are distinguished from other spirits by this, that they believe themselves to be the Holy Spirit and believe that the things which they say are Divine.”229 The word “enthuse” literally means to “fill with God.” Clergymen are especially vulnerable to these infestations, and also to these fantasies. It is believed by many ministers that while they are preaching from zeal, they are “inspired”; so that some even affirm that they have felt the influx of the Holy Ghost. The fact is—as the True Christian Religion points out—that they have confused the zeal they exhibit while preaching, with the Divine operation in their hearts; when yet zeal is only a violent heating up of the natural man! And this is just as easily excited with preachers who are in extreme falsities, and even more so with enthusiasts, or those who are in the effort to stir up emotions and external affections and play on the feelings of their hearers. Revivalists—under the influence of enthusiastic spirits, the Writings point out—often produce louder shouts and deeper sighs than is usual with those who are in zeal from heavenly love !230

Let us not decry zeal! “If there is within it the love of truth, then it is like the sacred fire which flowed into the apostles”—when, on Pentecost, tongues of fire appeared over their heads.230 But emotional appeals which are not from a love of truth, nor directed to stimulate love of truth, are dangerous. For when a person is under the influence of strong natural emotions, his rational balance can easily be upset, and he may be carried in any direction.

There is that in human nature which makes one love to be stirred by emotion. We enjoy being carried along in mass-emotions—which is an explanation of certain phases of the behavior of a mob, or of a people during war, or at election-time, or at football games. We enjoy being carried off our feet by thrills of various kinds. There is a delight—a sensual pleasure—in casting prudence and responsibility aside, at times, and simply surrendering to the whirl of an emotion.

Some types of people are more than others susceptible to being led by impulse or to being sphered by eloquence and persuasion. Hence religion takes an emotional and fanatical form with such people. It is not as if the emotions were necessarily evil: the main difficulty being, that in states of high-strung natural emotion, the good and the evil cannot be distinguished. Hope and the assurance of faith, high resolve and deep contrition, mingle with guilt and fear and a lust for power or repute. It is a common fact, that at every “camp-meeting” of revivalist sects, there are not only cases of “conversions” but cases of “reversions”—in that some are so moved by the general hysteria that all their moral inhibitions become loosened. If the desire for an emotional outlet does not find a sincere religious form, it may seek a satisfaction in various sensual and sexual excesses.

The pervading idea among the “enthusiastic” sects, is to find salvation by a personal surrender to the Holy Spirit, until its leading is felt, sensibly felt, as a bodily reaction. The “converted soul” is moved by the “Holy Spirit.” The Quakers and the Shakers were so called, because they actually began to tremble, twitch and jerk, or rhythmically dance, under the hypnotic influence of their emotion. The paroxysms, obsessive convulsions, marchings and shoutings which often occur at revival meetings, are reminiscent of the corresponding features of other religions, as that of the whirling dervishes, and of the ritual abandon which marks primitive peoples. In some cases, the religious zealot is apparently acting in a convulsive trance. The Jewish prophets—and Saul was also among them—were thus possessed.

It is obvious that when emotion is given such free range, the spirits who are with the man are afforded an unusually delightful opportunity to take control. And the spirits who inflow are those who rejoice in the flattery offered by the deluded human who gives them credit for being “the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, these spirits then come solemnly to believe —unless challenged—that they are “the Holy Spirit,” and even that they were from eternity !231

The history of such a type of spirits is interesting. The hells of the Noahtic or Ancient Church consist for the most part—we are informed—of “magicians”; spirits who still practice their arts by the abuse of correspondences, by inducing illusions and fantasies and by persuasive assurances and prophesying. It is from the influx of these hells that the various “enthusiastic” movements have arisen in the Christian world.232

As a matter of record, the early Christian Church was very hardly beset by the contagion of old customs and beliefs from the corrupted religions of the ancient East. The most developed philosophies of antiquity contained the central concept that the real, inmost self of man, was a spark of God’s life. This had sprung from the persuasion of the antediluvians that God had transfused His Divine into men so that they were inwardly gods.233 In time, the Orientals—as for instance the Hindoos—began to feel that the God they must seek, was an “inner God.” Brahm (God) and Atman (the soul) were identical. If they could turn their thoughts inwardly, and know their own souls, they would know God. If they listened to their souls, they would come to hear the voice of God ! The real source of wisdom was not—they felt—outside of them, or from experienced knowledge, but within them, in an inner light Divine. All the Christian gnostics, mystics and “Quietists” also sought for illumination from within themselves ; and when they felt a profound perception, or a vague “elevation,” they were assured that this was the light of “the Holy Ghost.”

The Quaker Movement

The Writings speak of this in connection with the Quakers. But there were many enthusiastic spirits in the other life even before the Quaker movement arose about 1650. Swedenborg wrote, a century later: “Almost the whole world of spirits is wicked and enthusiastic, and is sedulously desirous to obsess man.”234 The belief in the falsity that the Holy Spirit was a separate Divine person laid men particularly open to such infestations. In the spiritual world, such enthusiastic spirits as believe themselves the Holy Spirit are held separated from others, and wander about. When Quakerism commenced, however, there came a powerful call for such spirits, who then came out of the forest districts around the world of spirits and obsessed many men. They infused the persuasion that men were moved by the Holy Spirit. With some men their influx was sensible, and resulted in a convulsive trembling.235 For a time, the Quaker movement went from bad to worse, and the usual effects of religious hysteria were manifested by secret and hushed up excesses, into which their “Holy Spirit” led those who gave no moral resistance.

We know the Quakers as a very peaceful, thrifty people, who suffered much unjust persecution in the early periods. But the Writings give a different side of the picture, a side which was observable in the other life, where the logic of human attitudes is finally displayed. George Fox, the founder of the movement, and William Penn, who settled Pennsylvania, both spoke to Swedenborg in the other world, disavowing such abuses as later occurred.236 But it is inevitable that where a conscious leading by spirits is sought by men as the perfection of life, terrible profanations can arise, in both worlds, among those who are evil. The description of Swedenborg’s encounter — in the other life — with these excesses which destroy the sanctity of marriage and abolish the sacraments and profane them, is such that we cannot even cite it. What can be stressed, however, is this, that because the Quakers have no fixed doctrinals of faith, except what they have confirmed in themselves when the spirits move them, they have no protection against alien falsities. They read the Word, and thus accept the Lord about the same as other Christians. But the Word is subordinated to the interpretation which is given in their “quiet time” by the private revelation of the “Holy Spirit” within them.237

Thus they are bound to no doctrine — for what they rely on finally is “the Inner Light.” This is clear from their history : for by degrees the denial of the full Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ took a hold on many in the sect, and the movement called Hicksite Quakers was organized, in 1827; where the emphasis is laid on Christ only as the chief member — or head — of the spiritual body of the church.

In the spiritual world, no society is formed from Quakers. They are spiritual nomads. Other spirits cannot explore them, for they are secretive, reserved in opinion and actions. They are unwilling to speak of their own doctrinal things, yet desire to hear the doctrines of others, but as it were surreptitiously, and without either being impressed by them or rejecting them. Those not confirmed strongly are brought together in desert places; but those who are confirmed in the reliance upon their “Holy Spirits” habitually wander about in forests in the world of spirits, until judged.

It is the most gross among them who become “enthusiastic spirits” and are persuaded in the fantasy that they are the Holy Spirit. These—having no fixed spiritual locality, because no fixed doctrine—inflow with spirits or with men wherever there is the awaiting of influx from the Spirit—or wherever there is a reliance on an “Inner Light.” For adoption of this chief principle of the enthusiasts connects man with enthusiastic spirits, without violating the law that spirits are attached to man according to his faith.

“Those who are taught by influx what to believe or what to do, are not taught by the Lord or by any angel of heaven.” “All influx from the Lord takes place by an enlightenment of the understanding and by an affection of truth, and through this affection into the understanding.”238 The “Light Within,” about which the Quakers are wont to preach, is not intellectual light, but a mere obscure luminous something which does not enlighten at all.

In illustration of the influence of the Quaker principle of an inner guidance, we may refer to the wide and sudden spread some decades ago of a non-sectarian movement whose devotees sit silent, pencil in hand and minds in a blank, waiting for the Holy Spirit to dictate a Divine message as to what they should do or speak.

Mysticism versus Enlightenment

The New Church man knows that there is Divine guidance, or government, in all things of life; and Swedenborg perceived in a spiritual idea that man “can never be led better than he is led; so that there are necessities every moment of his life, and that it was foreseen from eternity and provided that each and all things tend to our ultimate end, which is to be parts in the Grand Man, that is, in the Lord’s kingdom.”239

In internals the Lord operates without man’s cooperation —as is plain from the secret processes of bodily growth and digestion and from the operations of spirits and angels upon us and the subconscious effects of these in our minds. But “in externals man is led and taught by the Lord, in all appearance as if by himself.” Man is given the rational responsibility of using his best thought and effort to act as of himself, in all the circumstances of his life. If he seeks Divine guidance and Divine light, it is possible for him to find it in the Word of God, and receive it rationally as enlightenment in the understanding. Man “is led and taught immediately by the Lord alone when this is done from the Word.”240

Enthusiastic spirits operate very differently with different men. While clergymen sometimes feel the zeal of their preaching as Divine inspiration, other men often take a general emotional hysteria to be a sign of the stir of the Holy Spirit. Some again—mostly simple recluses—believe that any spirit which may address them in the course of their religious brooding, is the Lord, or the Holy Spirit. To “quietists,” like the Quakers, a bodily trembling and the fancy of an inner lumen, betokens the presence of the Holy Spirit. And this is sometimes varied, as in Buchmanism, into the belief that God indicates to them what to do.

In all these cases, the fact is that spirits operate into man and persuade him that what is human is Divine. In men who —by education—are intellectually mature, indoctrinated and self-disciplined, spirits cannot act so crudely. But if man believes it possible, spirits are given the power to infuse the feeling that what he does is from the Holy Spirit or that some perceptions of his mind are Divine. And Swedenborg records a meeting—in the other life—with some learned English priests, who held that faith alone produces good works, man being devoid of any freedom to do good, except what is meritorious.241 Faith, they held, produces works through the Holy Spirit. They believed that “when man feels that operation, and from a perception of the operation of the Holy Spirit, does good, then it is good.” But if he does not perceive it, and does good, then, they thought, it is only meritorious, because man’s will is in it.242 Such was their claim.

If this were true, the Lord could not do good through man’s cooperating will, unless man were conscious of the Holy Spirit acting through him! Nor could the Lord cause man to think what is true, except while man felt the Holy Spirit thinking in his understanding!

The error of the English priests was disturbing to Swedenborg, who again and again confutes it. He shows that there is no reception of good and truth except when man acts and thinks as of himself; yet “the good which is imparted by the Lord is wrought within him while he does not reflect from himself upon it; that is, while man remains ignorant of it.”243 This does not mean that man acts from himself or meritoriously whenever he acts from the Word. When he obeys the Lord’s commandments he does good from the Lord. And if all that proceeds from man were to be condemned as meritorious, how could the Lord have said that we would be judged according to our works?244

Through reliance on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, many mystically inclined persons have claimed that their words are holy and infallible Divine truths, or that their perceptions constitute a private Divine revelation apart from the Word. The German mystic, Jacob Boehme, defined this state of an inner light which he felt in himself, as “the self-knowledge of God in man.” He called the Divine wisdom perceived in such a state, “theosophy.” It is the Divinity in man, not the mortal intellect, he taught, which is in possession of Divine knowledge.245

But man cannot rely on any inner light, cannot by any self-conscious process reach for illustration. Light from the Lord does not come by making the mind blank or by placing our God-given faculties at the disposal of nomadic spirits who are on the look-out for an empty mind. Light comes from truths —from the Divine truth revealed in the Word.

Therefore we read: “Illustration is from the Lord. Perception is with man according to the state of his mind, formed by doctrinals; if these are true, the perception becomes clear from the light which illustrates; but if they are false, the perception becomes obscure, which, however, may appear as if clear, from confirmations; but this is from the light of infatuation, which to merely natural sight is like clearness.”246

Illustration is from the Lord alone. Yet it is still effected by the mediation of spirits and angels, and by the introduction of man’s mind—although he is not sensibly aware of it—into association with such spiritual societies as arc in light.247 For spiritual light, which in its essence is the Divine wisdom, enters man’s understanding as far as, from knowledges, he has the faculty of perceiving it. It “does not pass through spaces, like the light of the world, but through the affections and perceptions of truth, thus in an instant to the last limit of the heavens. . . . “248 And we are now assured that “the time is coming when there will be enlightenment.”249

Image result for truth quotes



A Sermon by Rev. Patrick A. Rose Preached in North Ohio June 21, 1992

“For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev. 19:6).

All the angels of heaven rejoiced when the New Church was founded. The joy of the heavens is described in the book of Revelation: “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as it were the voice of many waters, and as it were the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev. 19:6). The voice of a great multitude is the joy of the angels of the lowest heaven. The voice of many waters is that same joy in the middle or second heaven. The voice of mighty thunders is the rejoicing in the highest or celestial heaven. The angels of all three heavens rejoiced. They rejoiced, it is said, because the Lord God omnipotent would reign. In other words, the Lord would reign more fully in the church which was now to come than He ever had before (see AR 811). In some way our own celebrations of the founding of the New Church should reflect something of this overwhelming joy felt by the angels of heaven. We should rejoice with those angels at the thought that in the New Church the Lord Himself will reign in fullness. We should rejoice, but we should also reflect. We should reflect on what it actually means for the Lord God omnipotent to reign in the New Church.

If the Lord is to reign over His church, one thing it means is this: the men and women of this church are to allow themselves to be governed by the Lord, and not to seek dominion over one another themselves. And so it is said in the Writings that the love of ruling is an evil which will be especially shunned by those who will be of the New Jerusalem (see SD 6053). The love of ruling is an enemy of the New Church, for it opposes and interferes with the government of the Lord over His church. Indeed, if the Lord’s reign over His church is to mean anything to us, we must shun, as the plague that it is, this evil love of ruling.

It is important that we know what this evil love of ruling is and what it is not. We read that “it is not ruling over others in one’s official position, but desiring to rule over others outside of that, not being content with its own domain” (SD 6052). In other words, it is a love of dominating over others not from a love of use but from the love of self. Descriptions of this love given in the Writings leave us no doubt that this love is far more evil than we might suppose. For example, we are told that the love of rule from the love of self is the head of all infernal loves (see DP 146e, DLW 141). It is the reigning love in hell (see DLW 273:2), for it is the love of self in its very highest degree (see SD 6052). We are told that he who is in this love is such that he thinks nothing of defrauding the neighbor, or of adultery, revenge, murder and cruelty (see DP 215:8). It is a love which knows no bounds. The man who is in it never feels content with whatever power he may have. He feels no joy in using his power to serve others. He always wants to extend his command. We are told that with the laity this love grows when opportunity presents itself until they want to be not only kings, but kings of kings, or emperors of emperors (see CL 262, TCR 405); with the clergy this same love grows until they want to become gods (see Ibid.). Such a love is clearly insane, evil and abominable. The Writings give us a solemn warning about it. They say this: “Let all who are in the world and read these lines know that the love of ruling for the sake of self and not for the sake of uses is diabolical love itself and in it are all evils. Let them know this and be on their guard” (LJ Post 237). These are blunt and serious words, but how do they apply to us? What chance do we have to really dominate over others? Does any one of us seriously desire to be a king or a god so that we might dominate over everybody? Surely none of us feels such an insane love burning within a love which wishes to murder, hurt and subjugate.

The point the Writings make, though, is that this is a latent or hidden love. Just because we do not feel this diabolical love inside us does not mean that the seeds of such a love are not there, waiting for the opportunity to grow.

The evil love of ruling is a subtle love, a love not easily noticed. For one thing, where there is little or no opportunity to actually dominate over others, it lurks unseen, expressing itself only in small, almost unnoticeable ways. Also, when it does express itself, it seldom seems that bad. On the contrary, the love of dominating over others from the love of self is felt as delightful. Indeed, the delights of this love, we are told, surpass all other worldly delights (see DP 215:9; AE 1189:4). Its delight possesses the whole mind, and it is even felt in the body as an elation or swelling feeling in the breast (see DP 215:9). It is a love which feels good very good. Indeed, it is precisely because it feels so good that it is so dangerous. It has a terrifying ability to drag a man down into his own proprium.

The reason the Writings speak of this evil love as a very real threat is that we all inherit a tendency toward it. If a man does not resist and shun it, then it will lie concealed within him, and will flare forth and grow as soon as there is an opportunity for it to do so. Whenever somebody in the love of ruling has the opportunity to force his own will on others, whether in a large or a small way, he will do so. And insofar as such a person succeeds in dominating over others, his lust for doing so will grow. He will seek to enlarge his power. The power he exercises may already be significant. He may, for example, be a government official. Or his influence may be limited to domineering over others in social situations. But whatever power he has, if he exercises it from selfish motives he will not be content with this power, but will desire even more.

The reason such love seeks to extend its power is because it is, in essence, a love that is insane. To believe that we exist to be served by other people is madness. If a man has this attitude, then his deepest thoughts are most certainly not ruled by reason. In the depths of his mind there lies the ludicrous notion that the whole universe has no other purpose than to serve him. Whether or not a selfishly domineering person is aware of it, and normally he is not aware of it, there lies deep within him this insane and irrational thought that he is in some way the king or god of the universe. This is why, whatever his station in life and society may be, he will never be content, but will always strive for greater and greater power.

Where people have such a love active within them, the result is that all happiness, and all that is good and true, are destroyed. If people are inmostly striving to rule over each other from selfish motives, then strife and conflict always lurk in the background. Where such selfishness reigns, the good and truth of the church mean nothing. People who are ruled by selfishness do not love what is good; the only good they know is a feeling that it is good when others do what they want them to do. As for truth, they never really think about the truth, except, perhaps, as a way of getting their own way over others.

It is obvious that where a church is dominated by the love of ruling from the love of self, that church is destroyed spiritually. And this is what happened to the old Christian Church. It must be emphasized that the Writings do not condemn all the people who were in the Christian Church. Indeed, the Writings describe how many of them were received with joy into the new heaven following the last judgment. But still the Writings leave no doubt that over the centuries there were also evil men, men in the love of dominion, who gained enough power and exerted a great enough influence to eventually bring the church to its spiritual end.

Men in the love of dominion had no love for the church itself, but they found in the Lord’s church a way of exercising and extending their power. If the church was to serve their purposes, though, they had to banish good and truth from the church.

First of all, they banished truth the very possibility of truth from the church. The Lord Himself wants our faith to be based upon an understanding of the truth. But the leaders of the Christian Church introduced a totally different type of faith, one based not on an understanding of the truth, but upon a blind submission to official teachings. People were told that they had to believe these mysteries of faith or risk damnation. Once people were in the habit of not expecting to understand the teachings of the church, the leaders of the church then gained great power and dominion over people’s minds. What they taught was accepted without question. In effect, the truth of the church was replaced by a domineering form of mind control.

The good of the church was also destroyed. People were told that they could go to heaven simply by believing the right things. It became easy to get to heaven. Evil was still regarded as undesirable, but what really mattered wasn’t the way a person lived, but what he believed. A person didn’t really have to avoid evil as long as he believed what he was told to believe. There were many people who willingly accepted this easy way out. They were glad to accept whatever they were taught as long as it meant that they didn’t actually have to shun evil. And so it was that men came to rule the church: man-made doctrines were substituted for the Lord’s teachings, and a spiritual lethargy replaced the life of repentance. Indeed the Lord Himself was, in effect, banished from His own church. A clear understanding of the Lord was replaced by the incomprehensible mystery of a Trinity of Persons.

The Lord did, of course, continue to govern mankind. He still reigned over them. But He did so, not so much by means of His church, but in spite of it. In the church, people’s hearts and minds were dominated increasingly by evil spirits and by evil men. This, then, was the state of the church on earth. It is important to realize this, for otherwise we do not fully appreciate the full significance of the Lord’s second coming. We cannot really understand why it was that the Lord’s disciples were sent throughout the universal spiritual world to preach the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns. The word “gospel” means good tidings or good news. Why was it good news? On first reflection it hardly seems like news at all. Of course the Lord reigns. It is obvious. Why did everybody in the spiritual world have to be told this? But if we bear in mind the state of the Christian Church at that time, we can understand how wonderful this news really was. Practically speaking, the Lord had ceased to reign in the Christian Church. There no longer was a Christian Church on earth; what remained was Christian in name only. The fact that now the Lord was to reign for ever and ever was therefore news wonderful news a gospel to be preached to everybody in the spiritual world.

The Lord had come again. He had cast down into hell those evil spirits who were infesting men on earth, darkening and enslaving their minds. He had formed a new heaven, through which light would flow to the minds of people here on earth. And He had provided new truth, indeed a fullness of truth, within the pages of a new revelation. Now, once again, there could be a church truly Christian upon the earth. But it would be different from the first Christian Church. Now there was something new. Because truth had been revealed in fullness, falsities could now be seen for what they were. In the New Christian Church it would be impossible for anybody to maintain that faith should be blind. It would be impossible for anybody to maintain that repentance is unimportant. It would be impossible for anyone to maintain that the Lord should not be approached directly. The fullness of truth now revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines makes it possible for anybody and everybody in the church to see the error of such falsities. Evil men can no longer use the Lord’s church to gain dominion over innocent men. Now the Lord will reign in His church, not for a time but for ever and ever.

The love of dominion is, of course, still with us. We all have a tendency to dominate. And it is indeed possible for the love of dominion to raise its ugly head in the New Church. But the love of dominion can no longer gain permanent rule over the Lord’s church. The power of truth we have been given is too great. The power of this truth prevents evil men from enslaving the understanding and the conscience of the church. In the end, in the New Church the love of dominion will serve only to separate from the church those who are in such selfish loves. The love of dominion on the one hand, and the doctrines of the New Church on the other, are completely incompatible; they are complete opposites. The Writings teach that it is the Lord who is to dominate or rule the church. It is the Lord who is to rule the lives of men. Indeed, this is why the Lord’s name, in the Latin of the Writings, is Dominus. Dominus the Lord is the one who dominates or rules. Evil men want this role for themselves. They themselves want to dominate over others. Evil men are utterly opposed, interiorly, to the Lord’s dominion. Indeed, the way in which those in the love of dominion are opposed to the Lord’s government is revealed in a telling way in the expression we use for a domineering person. We say that he or she “lords” it over others. There is to be no such “lording” it over others in the New Church. In the New Church there is to be only one Lord: the Lord God Jesus Christ.

There must of course be government in the church. Otherwise uses could not be performed rightly. And so there must be people who serve in this function of government. If they exercise this function with true charity, and with humility before the Lord Himself, then their love is not evil. Indeed, the love of ruling from the love of use is a heavenly love. It is a humble and unselfish love. But if somebody in the New Church should use his office, his position, or his influence, for selfish purposes, caring not for the uses themselves, then his lust for power will grow, and he will enter into active communication with the hells. He will, within himself, become completely and utterly opposed to the New Church and to the government of the Lord.

If we would, then, be true members of the New Church, if we wish to serve the Lord, the one and only ruler of the church, then we must, in all that we think and do, shun especially this selfish love of ruling, the love of domineering over others, the love of getting our own way for selfish reasons.

The Lord God Jesus Christ is to reign. It is a wonderful teaching. But it is a teaching that means nothing unless we live according to it. If the Lord is to reign in His church, then His will is to be done. His Word is to be listened to. His commandments are to be obeyed. We have been called to be of service to the Lord’s New Church. This means that we are here to serve our fellow human beings. And it means, above all, that we are here to serve the Lord. We have been blessed, deeply blessed, with the wonderful knowledge that the Lord has come again to rule over His church. Our greatest happiness lies in forgetting ourselves and in serving Him. This is a wonderful truth. It is joyful news. It is wonderful news. It is the gospel upon which the New Church is to be founded the Gospel that “the Lord God Jesus Christ doth reign” (TCR 791). Amen.

Lessons: Rev. 19:1-10; Rev. 21:10-16, 22-25; TCR 753, 791

True Christian Religion

753. There have been several churches on this earth, and in the course of time they have all been consummated, and after their consummation new churches have arisen, and so on to the present time. The consummation of the church takes place when there is no Divine truth left except what has been falsified or set aside; and when there is no genuine truth, no genuine good is possible, since every quality of good is formed by means of truths; for good is the essence of truth, and truth is the form of good, and without form there can be no quality. Good and truth can no more be separated than will and understanding, or what is the same thing, than love’s affection and the thought therefrom. Consequently when truth is consummated in a church, good is also consummated there, and when this takes place, the church comes to an end, that is, is consummated.

791. Note: After this work was finished, the Lord called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world; and the next day He sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that The Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages, according to the prediction in Daniel (7:13, 14), and in the Apocalypse (11:15). Also that blessed are those that come to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Apoc. 19:9). This took place on the nineteenth day of June, 1770. This is what is meant by these words of the Lord: “He shall send His angels and they shall gather together His elect, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31).


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida September 1992

“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country” (Matthew 21:33).

The Lord, while on earth, customarily presented His teaching in the form of parables. The characters, situations and imagery in the parables were selected to appeal to His audience. They were things with which the people He was addressing were well acquainted. They were able to draw conclusions and make judgments concerning the conduct of the characters in the parables because they were familiar with the situations presented in the parable from living experience. By means of the parable they were led to see that the same judgment which they rendered, in regard to the people in the parable, applied to a situation in which they were personally involved but which they had not recognized, or else refused to acknowledge.

The parables which the Lord spoke during His last week on earth were especially directed against the corrupt leaders of the Jewish Church. By means of His parables, He enabled the simple to see the state of the church and the quality of its leadership. In this way the Lord set free those who had been in simple good but who had been blind to the corruption of the church and its leaders. Having been freed, they could then be formed into the nucleus of the new church which the Lord came on earth to establish the Christian Church. Simultaneously, the leaders of the church were induced to pronounce a judgment on themselves.

The parable of the vineyard and the wicked vinedressers is clearly a case in point. The Jews were thoroughly familiar with the setting which the Lord outlined. The growing of grapes and the making of wine was one of the chief industries of that region. According to the parable, a landowner planted a vineyard. Around it he planted a hedge to protect it from wild animals or anyone bent on destruction. He built a winepress to process the fruit of the vineyard, and a tower for a watchman to warn of approaching danger. When everything was fully established, he hired vinedressers to work it and care for it in his absence.

But, because the owner of the vineyard was not present, the vinedressers began to think of the vineyard as their own. Because they worked it and cared for it, they credited its success to their own endeavors and thought of it as their own. So when the owner sent servants to receive the fruit, they beat some, killed others and stoned yet others. When the son of the owner came to collect, they killed him, confident that now the vineyard would be theirs.

The Lord then showed them that the church which had been established with their forefathers was the vineyard, and they, the leaders of the church, were the vinedressers in the parable. The prophets who had been periodically sent to turn them from their evil ways, ending with John the Baptist, were the servants in the parable who had been beaten, stoned, and killed. In the light of this parable, the righteous among the Jews were able to see the true quality of the church and its leaders, and so were freed from their domination. At the same time the wicked leaders were induced to pronounce a judgment on themselves.

Let us realize that the Lord’s parables, being Divine, are timeless. They are not limited in their application to specific times and circumstances. They are universal. Certainly, the fact that this parable was included in the New Testament the revelation to the Christian Church is a clear indication that it was given to serve as a warning to that church not to fall into the same grievous error.

It is a matter of spiritual history, revealed in the Word of the Second Advent, that despite this warning, that church did, like the one preceding it, fall away from the true worship of the Lord. The love of rule springing from the love of self perverted the leaders; the loves of the world its riches and its pleasures corrupted the people, and the church failed.

First the sole divinity of the Lord was called into question and finally denied. Thus the cornerstone of the Christian Church was rejected. The saving power of God was claimed by fallible men the priesthood of the church. The sole and absolute authority of the Divine Word was denied; the church’s interpretation of the Word called the living Word was acknowledged in its stead. Man-made doctrines superseded the Word as the source of the church’s inspiration, faith and life. They made the commandments of God of no effect through their traditions. Once again the vinedressers tried to seize control of the vineyard. So the Lord had to come again to establish a church which would render to Him the fruits of the vineyard in season.

As we have said, the truth of the Lord’s Word is timeless. This parable is also intended to serve as a warning to the New Church which the Lord is now establishing. The selfish, worldly loves and ambitions which caused the two former churches to betray their trust are the common heredity of all mankind. It would be a grievous error for us to look on this parable merely as a matter of history. Rather we must, periodically, examine the New Church in its light both the organized church and the church as it exists in each one of us individually. Because the Lord has revealed the internal sense of the Word given us new light from heaven this is now possible as it never was before.

We have seen that the vineyard is the church: historically, the Jewish Church, but in the spiritual sense, apart from time, it means the church where the Word is, by which the Lord is known (see AE 992:7; AR 650). Thus, at the present day, the New Church is the Lord’s vineyard. The hedge around the vineyard is the exterior truths which are easily apparent in the literal sense of the Word, which serves to protect the church from false ideas, philosophies, ideologies and disorders, which come from outside the church (see AE 922:7); for example: humanism, situation ethics and the social gospel.

By the tower in the vineyard is meant the interior truths of the Word which serve for the conservation and protection of the things of the church interior truths which look to heavenly life (see AC 4599:2, 1306:3; AE 922:7).

The hedge has reference to exterior truths because it was round about the outside of the vineyard, and its purpose was to prevent invasion of the vineyard from those without who would do it harm. The tower refers to interior truths looking to heavenly life and the conservation and protection of the church because the tower was within the vineyard and it ascended upward. Thus it directs the eyes upward toward heaven. But it was a watchtower. From its height anything amiss, either within or outside the vineyard could be observed and the alarm sounded. In this connection I would commend to your attention the series of articles in New Church Life on common misconceptions, in the New Church, concerning conjugial love.

The winepress stands for the things that belong to worship (see AC 1306:3), those pertaining to formal worship and also to internal worship, which is of the life the goods of charity and spiritual good (see AR 651; AE 922:7). When one is in spiritual good, that person is in genuine worship the worship of life. Such a person is given a perception of truth from the good in which he is. This truth serves to sustain and refresh the human spirit, just as the product of the winepress refreshes and restores the spirits and bodies of people.

The landowner who planted the vineyard is, of course, the Lord. It is he who establishes the church and provides it with all that is necessary for its growth, protection and maintenance. But the vineyard must have workers vinedressers to care for it, in order that what has been established may bear fruit: the good of life which comes from love to the Lord and charity to the neighbor, expressed in a life of use (see AR 934).

When a church is first established, the presence of the Lord is keenly felt by those with whom the church is being established. This is true with individuals as well and with organizations of the church. They are vitally aware that the church is the Lord’s. They have been outside the church where the goods and truths of the church were lacking, along with the protection it affords against what is false and evil. But, as time passes, it is as if the Lord has withdrawn from the church the owner goes to a far country. The Lord is as it were withdrawn into heaven and the church is left with the vinedressers.

There is a tendency, with those born within the church, to think of the church as “their” church. Instead of laboring for the Lord the owner of the vineyard they labor for the church as “their” church. The goods which they do the fruits which they produce they tend to think of as theirs, not the Lord’s. The Lord is aware of this human tendency, so he sends his servants to remind them that the vineyard and the fruits thereof are the Lord’s. By the servants are meant those who teach truths, and, in a sense abstract from person, the truths of doctrine taught in the church (see AE 122:3).

We are the vinedressers of the Lord’s vineyard! The Writings teach that the “wicked” vinedressers of the parable are those within the church who have destroyed interior goods and truths, although outwardly they appear to have them (AC 4314: 2-5). They are those who acknowledge the church as being important; they serve it, but as theirs. They do not interiorly assent to those truths from the Word which conflict with their life or their ideas.

When truths are taught which conflict with their loves or the ideas which they hold, they reason against them, twisting them so as to make them appear false, or they reject them some they beat, some they stone, and others they kill. They develop hostile feelings toward teachings from the Word as well as toward those who do the teaching (AC 9256). They want to prevent from being taught those truths which make them uncomfortable. It’s their church and they have a right to control and influence what is being taught in the church.

This attitude inevitably arises when people think of the church as “theirs” and not the Lord’s. They do not interiorly acknowledge that the truths of the Word are the sole authority as to what is to be believed and thought, and as to what should be done, and how one conducts one’s life. If this rejection is carried to the point where the Word itself is repudiated – not just specific teachings one doesn’t like – then the Son Himself is killed, and the church perishes in that individual.

Reluctant as we may be to admit it, all of us have been guilty, at one time or another, of trying to explain away a teaching of the Word or interpret it in such a way that we do not have to give up some pre-conceived idea or opinion which we hold, or make a change in the way we are living. We have rejected truths which would convict us of false thinking or evil doing.

For example, last week we preached a sermon on the importance, yea necessity, of regularly reading the Lord’s Word in order to be directly led and taught by the Lord. What was your reaction? “That’s an overstatement of the case.” Or, “The Lord leaves us in freedom to do what we want.” Or, “Reading the Word is, of course, good, who can deny it, but we can get to heaven without it.” Or, “That is the truth!” And if the latter was your reaction, has it changed anything in your life, that is, if a change was indicated? Examples could be multiplied, but every one of us, if we examine our hearts, knows of specific instances in our own lives when we have either not accepted a truth or have not acted upon it. But this is true: if the church is to survive in us individually and survive as an organization; if we are to remain vinedressers of the vineyard, true to our trust then we must interiorly acknowledge that the church is the Lord’s, and that we do not have the right to formulate its doctrines, policies and practices on the basis of human intelligence and worldly experience. These must come from the Lord of the vineyard directly from the teaching of His Word.

There should be, in the church as a whole and in each one of us individually, an unconditional acceptance of the Word as the only authority as to what we believe, how we are to live, and how the church is to be governed. The Writings make the powerful statement that the people of the church “should acknowledge the Word, and found the church upon it” (AR 749). The Lord has established His vineyard and called us to dress it and keep it. Let us fulfill the responsibility given us and live up to the trust placed in us. Amen.

Lessons: Deut. 8:1-3, 10-20; Matt. 2:33-46; AE 922:7

Apocalypse Explained 922:7

In Matthew: “A man, a householder, planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husband-men, who slew the servants sent to them, and finally the son” (21:33). The “vineyard” which the householder planted signifies the church that was instituted with the sons of Jacob; the “hedge” which he set about it signifies protection from the falsities of evil, which are from hell; “and digged a wine-press in it” signifies that it had spiritual good; “and built a tower” signifies interior truths from that good which looked to heaven; “and let it out to husbandmen” signifies to that people; “they slew the servants that were sent to them” signifies that they slew the prophets; “and finally the son” signifies the Lord.



A Sermon by Rev. Ragnar BoyesenPreached in Freeport, Pennsylvania, in November 1985


“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants”‘” (Luke 15:17-19).

The parable of the lost son is summarized in the simple spiritual fact of the loss of spiritual life through egotism. The parable shows us how we can return from being spiritually lost.

The love of pleasures and luxuries is here weighed against the love of parental authority. In itself there is no wrong in seeking pleasures and possessions because these are necessary and enriching as long as they are subjected to our will to serve the Lord. But as goals in themselves, the love of pleasures and possessions is destructive.

The man in the parable has two sons. In the internal sense of the Word the Lord is Himself Father for both the internal and the external churches, for the Christian Church and for the heathen church. The Christian Church is represented by the young son who deceives his father, while the heathen church is represented by the elder son who remains with his father. The parable of the lost son is the internal story of how the Lord lost the Christian Church, His internal church.

The two brothers in the parable are types for the external and internal in each of us. The spiritual man is supposed to affect and subject the external man to itself. But most often the external man is lost in self-service and in the world, trying to appear just in the eyes of others. The external man will do good, but from moral and ethical norms which do not have spiritual motives. This is the elder brother who continues his service in the house of his father, but who nevertheless is distant from him, because his father’s love and mercy are not received in his envy of the younger brother. The older son perceives himself as an unfree servant. The younger son does not feel unfree. He asks his father for his inheritance and travels to far countries, where his riches are squandered. This is the old story of the riches of charity which are lost when man believes that life belongs to himself, and desires to do good from himself.

The lost son has often, in Protestant tradition, been pictured as the poor wayward and misguided son who in actual fact is good but to be pitied. This sentimental interpretation has its counterpart in the view that the young man was the wasteful son. The parable could therefore be called the “wasteful son.” It is this meaning which is taken up in the Writings when they explain that the youngest son represents one who squanders his spiritual riches to no purpose (see AE 279). The waste consists in the individual knowing the spiritual norms the Lord has put on morals and ethics, and yet refusing to live according to these norms. The wastefulness consists in the existence of a knowledge which never is used because the will is lacking.

The older brother, who also represents the simple and obedient man of the Christian Church who in sincerity reads the Word in its literal meaning and lives according to it, cannot in the same way be charged with wastefulness because he does not know the internal meaning of the Word, and for that reason he cannot be expected to use that meaning in his life.

The man of the New Church, however, who knows what the Writings teach but who turns away from using his knowledges is in the highest degree to be likened to the lost son. The one who from an egotistical will tries to live within the New Church, and at the same time only concedes to fill his or her memory with truths, is counted as one of the rebels who have demanded their spiritual inheritance paid out in advance, and who are using it in spiritually luxurious living.

The spiritual inheritance is our knowledges of heaven, the love of the neighbor and love for the Lord. These are spiritual riches which we must guard with care and love, to be used wisely so that they will multiply. But he who keeps his truths to himself as his private property which he can do with as he pleases has that same lack of spiritual responsibility which characterized the wasteful son. Without our conscious struggle to search out the will of the Lord, we waste His riches in self- aggrandizement and illusory joys which are but false pleasures. How often have the tendencies of the world quietly sneaked into our minds while we uncritically have watched the so-called “other people” around us? Are we not often lacking self-critique? Are we not selfish and pleasure-seeking? How often do we not speak from our memory alone, from what we know, and not from what we actually feel and have reflected upon? We are afraid of the proprial feelings in others because we instinctively will want to guard our own proprium.

As long as the impulses of our egocentric will has its way with us, so long do we live in a foreign country.

Like the lost son, we have taken out our inheritance ahead of time when we know about the conditions of eternal life without doing anything about changing. We are wasteful as long as we believe that we have our thoughts and our feelings as our very own possession. As long as they are with us they are selfish thoughts and worldly expressions of will which draw our spiritual gifts down into the dust where they become foreign to us because they have become soiled. We are figuratively reduced to the pitiful status of a swine herdsman every time the needs of the body are allowed to claim all our attention at the expense of our spiritual needs. When the natural in us no longer serves us, but drives us as a taskmaster, we live from “the pods that the swine ate,” subjected in foreign service while our spirit goes hungry.

And here we reach the paradox in the parable. Just this spiritual hunger makes the natural life in us pale. Our natural life appears no longer to have any lasting attraction for us. We are instead apt to discover how meaningless life has become in this foreign service. When the natural man in us will accept the presence of disillusion and despair, we can be reached by a flow of reflection which can wake the conscience in us. Through temptations we are reminded of the blessings of our father’s house, those tender remains from childhood instruction which always will remind us to return to our true spiritual home. Through temptation we feel at first a general sense of bad conscience, the result of evil spirits flowing in to harm us. This is like the famine in the land which forces us to think, to reflect. If we “come to” ourselves, we shall remember that we cannot do anything that is truly good from ourselves, but that we will continue to stick fast in our tendencies to evil. If we could but come so far that we acknowledge that we are not good, that we have no spiritual rights whatsoever, then the Lord can save us from our feeling of evil. One who knows that he or she is not good at heart, but who desires to do good not from self but from the Lord, can be likened to the lost son who comes to himself in that foreign country.

The awakening consists of our realization that we are not only generally sinful, but that we have specific sins. When we gain a new knowledge of our states which convinces us that we have one arch weakness, we can be said to wake up spiritually. With a specific realization of a sin we can pray to the Lord to ask Him for that specific power which we will need to overcome our weakness. Through reflection and temptation we can wake up from our spiritual exile. Like the son we must also wish to return to our spiritual home.

Because only the Lord can remove evils, we have to demonstrate that we want Him to help us. We have to stand up and walk home. This is the same as removing those evils that keep us down. We have to take away those evil habits and thoughts that dominate our natural life. All cooperation with the Lord is initiated by man; otherwise he would not be a free spiritual being. When you and I break one of the commandments, we break all of them, because we deny that such a breach is a sin against God. Without the acknowledgment that an evil action is a sin, we will remain in that sin. The Lord cannot take away our sin without our cooperation (see TCR 523).

When knowledge changes from a joyless confirmation to true repentance, the spiritual life in man embarks on renewal. It is through the gift of freedom that man can discover that specific evil which has forced him into spiritual exile. Through reflection we can conclude and affirm: this evil is a sin. Like the lost son, we awaken from the dry desert states of egotism when we open up to remember those states of charity and joy from childhood. These memories light a new longing within our minds: “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants'” (Luke 15:17- 19).

Humility and that genuine acknowledgment of our own spiritual poverty can make us determine to reform, with the Lord’s help. Through self-examination we can find those weaknesses which protect our egotistical side of life. Through prayer for help, we turn our thoughts to our heavenly Father, which will motivate us to return to His house. If we dare to confess that we actually have that very specific weakness, that very one which hinders us from being conjoined with the Lord, then we will receive courage through our prayers. By confessing freely, we can be given the will to submission by the Lord. This is the will to start from the beginning, like a servant who is not worthy to be called a son. By a willing submission we are motivated to return to our Father’s house, to that new contact with heaven that will. inspire us and bring us onward in life. By a willing return to the Lord in the Word, we will find that the Lord can reveal to us our inmost intentions, our most secret thoughts. When we go to the Lord with the willingness to be led, to learn to obey, then a new life begins.

“But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Joyfully the father of the lost son brings him into the house where he asks the servants to slaughter the fatted calf while he puts new clothes on his son — the best robe, a ring and shoes. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24).

The Lord sees us like a father even when we are far away from Him. The vigil of His Providence never leaves us. When we make that first confession: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and against You, and am no more worthy to be called Your son,” then the Lord inflows with a new strength and hope in our mind.

Through the repentance of action are we capable of returning to our Father’s house, to the Lord as He is revealed in the Word. The new robe He clothes us with are new perceptions and new realizations from a love of truth which longs to see it work in our lives. The new ring, which is love in the internal man, is that love of conjunction which gladly accepts submission to the Lord. The new shoes are the new affections in the external man that make the external man serve the internal man because of our willingness to exercise self-compulsion (see AE 279).

The Lord will give us this new and heavenly love when we resist evil for the explicit reason that we wronged the Lord. No other motive is capable of bringing us back to the house of our spiritual Parent. “… a man who is in good not only acts aright from the will but also thinks aright from the understanding, and this not only before the world but also before himself when he is alone. Not so a man who is in evil …. For whatever anyone wills from love, he wills to do, he wills to think, he wills to understand, and he wills to speak …. To this is also to be added that when a man shuns what is evil as a sin, he is in the Lord, and the Lord then works everything” (Life 47, 48).

The first resistance to our states of egotistical life is the beginning of our heavenly life. First we lose our egotistical nature before we are given a heavenly willingness to serve. Having been a spiritual squanderer by letting the knowledges from the Lord remain inactive, we are turned through self-compulsion to serve Him and our fellow man. By this willing service we are given that new heavenly freedom which makes us part of that heavenly family of helpers who love nothing better than obeying the will of their Father while attending to the needs of their brothers and sisters. In joy the Lord comes to meet us: “For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” Amen.

Lessons: Luke 15:11-32, TCR 510


True Christian Religion

510 The communion called the church consists of all men in whom the church is, and the church enters into man when he is becoming regenerate, and everyone becomes regenerate by abstaining from the evils of sin and shunning them as one would an infernal horde with torches in hand, endeavoring to overtake him and throw him upon a burning pile. There are many means by which man, as he progresses in his early years, is prepared for the church and introduced into it; but the means whereby the church is established in man are acts of repentance. Acts of repentance are all such things as cause man not to will and consequently not to commit evils, which are sins against God; for until this takes place, man stands outside of regeneration, and if any thought respecting eternal salvation should then creep into his mind, he turns toward it, but immediately turns away from it, for it enters the man no further than into the ideas of his thought, and from that goes forth into the words of his speech, and also, it may be, into some gestures conformable to speech. But when such thought enters the will, it is in the man, for the will is the man himself, because in it his love resides, while thought is outside of the man, except when it proceeds from his will, and then will and thought act as one, and both together constitute the man. From this it follows that for repentance to be repentance, and to be effective in man, it must be a repentance of the will and from that of the thought, and not of the thought only; therefore that it should be actual repentance, and not merely verbal. That repentance is the first thing of the church is very evident from the Word. John the Baptist, who was sent beforehand to prepare men for the church which the Lord was about to establish, when he baptized, preached at the same time repentance; and therefore his baptism was called the baptism of repentance, for the reason that baptism signified spiritual washing, which is a cleansing from sin. This John did in Jordan because Jordan signified introduction into the church, for it was the first boundary of the land of Canaan where the church was. The Lord Himself also preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins, teaching thereby that repentance is the first thing of the church, and so far as man repents, his sins are put away, and so far as they are put away, they are forgiven. And still further, the Lord commanded His twelve apostles, and also the seventy whom He sent forth, to preach repentance. From all this it is clear that the first thing of the church is repentance.