<< GOD AND MAN. >>

“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God created he him.”

— Genesis i. 27.

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THERE are two vital questions which lie at the foundation of every religion and give quality to it. These questions are, first, Who is God, and how shall we think of Him ? Second, What is man, and how are God and man related to each other ? Neither of these questions can be understood without some knowledge of the other. They are reciprocally and intimately related. It is impossible to gain a true idea of God without some true knowledge of man, and it is impossible to gain an adequate conception of man’s nature without some correct knowledge of God. Man was created in the image of God. We must, therefore, look to man to get our first hints of the form and nature of God. I propose to state, as far as I can in limited space, what the New Church teaches upon this subject.

The doctrines of the New Church are Unitarian in the assertion that there is one and only one Supreme Being. They are Trinitarian in teaching the Divinity of Jesus Christ. They differ essentially from both in showing that the whole Trinity is embodied in the one person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that these three essentials of His nature constitute His Divine personality. This is in accordance with all that He says about Himself in the whole of Scripture when rightly understood. The apostle declares it in the plainest manner when he says, ” In him,” that is in Jesus Christ, “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The Lord Jesus Christ affirms it when He says, ” The Father dwelleth in me.” “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. ” ” The Father is in me, and I in him.” By this He means that there is a reciprocal and organic union between them, like that which exists between man’s soul or mind and his body. The Father is the Divine nature as it is in its uncreated and infinite essence ; the Son is the human nature, glorified and made Divine, both united in one person, one being, and making one God, as man’s spiritual nature and his physical are united in one human being and make one man. The Father, called in the Old Testament Jehovah and God, is within the Son, as man’s mind is in his body. The Divine and the human natures are distinct and yet so closely knit together that they form one person, one being. This union is not one of sentiment, or agreement in character or purpose, like that which may exist between two men who desire to accomplish the same purpose and agree in the means of doing it. It is an organic union ; it is of the same nature as that which exists between the mind and the body, between will and act. Such being the intimate, organic, perfect union between the Father and the Son, we do not divide them in thought or affection. When we think of the Son we think of the Father, as we think of the whole man when we think of his body. We think of Him in the human form, and we have a distinct object of thought. When we love the Son we love the Father, and we have a distinct object in our minds for our affections to rest upon. They are not divided between two. They are centred in one. Only one person can be supremely loved.

Having gained a distinct conception of the personal unity of God, we can see that the Divine attributes cannot be divided between two persons. They must all be combined in one person, in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mercy and truth meet together in Him. Righteousness and peace kiss each other in Him. Mercy and justice join hearts and hands in His Divine person. This new doctrine solves the problem of the unity of person and the trinity in the Divine Being. It harmonizes all the Divine attributes, and presents to us one Divine Being in the human form, animated with human love and doing all things for human good. We may no longer pray to one Divine person to grant us favors for the sake of another, for there is only one Divine person. We no longer fear the wrath of an angry God, for there is no angry God. Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh, and He is not angry. His infinite heart is full of love for men. We only fear to sin against such infinite wisdom and unchanging love. Every one must be able to see that such a clear, distinct, harmonious, rational knowledge of God and His Divine attributes must clear the mind of its doubts and conflicting opinions, must quiet its groundless fears, and tend to bring it into harmonious, orderly, and more intimate relations with Him whom to know aright is life everlasting. The New Church gives us new, rational, and satisfactory knowledge concerning man as a spiritual being and his relations to the Lord, who is his Creator, Redeemer, Saviour, and the constant source of all his power and life.

The human spirit has generally been regarded in the Christian world as a force, as an unorganized, unsubstantial, formless essence, as a breath, an influence, bearing somewhat the same relation to the man himself that steam bears to the engine. All conceptions of it have been vague and unsatisfactory. There has been but little advance beyond the mere affirmation of its existence. Consequently all ideas about its nature and modes of operation have been vague, indistinct, and unreal.

The New Church regards the spirit in an entirely new way. According to its doctrines the spirit is the man himself in the human form, and the seat of all his power and life. It is organized of spiritual substances, as the material body is organized of material substances, and possesses all the organs, external and internal, in general and particular, that compose the material body. It has a head, trunk, and limbs. It has eyes and ears, brain and face and vocal organs, heart and lungs, arteries and veins and nerves. The spiritual organs perform relatively the same functions that the material organs perform. Spiritual lungs breathe a spiritual atmosphere ; the heart propels a spiritual blood through arteries and veins ; the nerves give sensation and power ; the hands can grasp spiritual objects, and the feet can walk upon a spiritual earth ; the eye opens to the light which flows from the spiritual sun, and the ear vibrates in harmony with the modulations of the spiritual atmosphere.

As a whole and in each least part the spirit is in the human form. The common idea has been that the body was first formed and then the spirit was breathed into it, as men make an engine and then set it in motion by steam. The new doctrine teaches that the spirit itself moulds the body into its own form, weaves its fine and delicate textures in its own loom, and clothes itself in every least part with it, making it a medium of communication with the material world, the house in which it dwells, a complicated and miraculous instrument adjusted with infinite precision to all the forms and forces of matter, for the purpose of gaining natural ideas and delights to serve as materials for the development of the affections and the intellectual faculties.

But this is merely a temporary service. The material body renders the same service to the spirit that the husk does to the corn, the chaff to the wheat. The spirit is immortal. It was made, and by its very nature ordained, to dwell in a spiritual world corresponding to its own nature. But it must have a basis to rest upon. It must have vessels to hold its fine and fluent substances while they are being prepared for distinct and permanent existence. According to this idea the spirit is the real, substantial man and the seat of all human power. It is the spiritual eye that sees. The material eye only serves as an optical instrument to bring it into such relations to material light that images of material things can be formed on its delicate canvas. The material ear cannot hear. It is the spiritual ear within that becomes moved by its vibrations and perceives harmonious or discordant sounds. The same is true of all the senses. They are simply the material instruments which the spiritual senses use to gain entrance into the material world and accommodate themselves to its substances and forces.

Men have so long been accustomed to regard the spirit as a formless essence, a merely abstract entity, that it is difficult to disabuse their minds of the error and convince them that the spirit is organic and substantial. It is generally supposed that the way to gain any true conception of spirit is to deny it all the qualities of matter. It seems to be taken for granted that only matter possesses substance and form, and that when we attribute these properties to spirit we materialize it. But this is not so.

There are some attributes that are essential to existence. It is impossible to conceive of the existence of any object that is destitute of substance and form. The essential idea of existence is that of standing forth in substance and form. Every one will acknowledge that God is the most real and substantial being in the universe. He must be substance and form in their origin and essential qualities. There can be no power without some substance that embodies it. It inheres in the nature of things and in the nature of human conceptions, that if there is a Divine Being, there must be Divine substances ; if there are spiritual beings and a spiritual world, there must be spiritual substances and spiritual forms. To deny their existence is denial of God and of everything that is not material.

But we have ocular demonstration that spirit is substance and form and possesses power. This is a kind of testimony that men have often demanded. “Show me a spirit,” they say ; “let me feel it. Let me see spirit exert itself and produce some sensible effect.” The truth is, all that is done by the body is done by the spirit’s power. There is no power in the material substances that compose the. material body to organize themselves into the human form and acquire the faculty of seeing, or hearing, or feeling. Do oxygen and hydrogen and carbon and the insensate, inorganic mould possess any such power in themselves ? The material body is continually wasting away, and if it were not supplied with new substances, it would soon become dissipated. What power and miraculous skill weaves the new substances into the old forms without any mistake, and preserves the body from annihilation ? Can the food we eat do it of itself?

But this is not all. When the spirit leaves the body, all power and consciousness cease. The eye may be as perfect in its organization as ever, but it cannot see. The ear and the other senses have lost all power of consciousness. Have lost it, do I say ? No, they have not lost it, for they never possessed it. The material eye never saw ; the material ear never heard ; the material hand never felt ; the material heart never beat, of themselves. If you were in a factory where all the wheels were humming with motion, would you not know that some power not in themselves was driving them ? And if they stopped, would you not know that the power had been withdrawn from them? Have we not just as certain evidence that the organs of the material body have no inherent, selfderived power in themselves to act ; that they must be moved by some spiritual force ; and when that force is withdrawn they must return to dust ? It seems strange that rational men will ask for evidence of the existence of spiritual substances and forces when they perceive them in constant operation within and around them.

We have the evidence of our own consciousness also of the substantial and permanent nature of the spirit. It is now a generally-accepted fact that thought and affection are indestructible. No one can divest himself of ideas or truths he has once gained. They may be forgotten, as we say, but they remain in the mind and can be recalled. If the mind or spirit were a mist or a formless essence, it could be dispersed like a vapor, and all the ideas and affections that were embodied in it would be dissipated. But they are not, and never can be. Amputate a limb and it ceases to be a part of the human body. But a thought or an affection cannot be amputated. Destroy the body and the spirit is not injured. The material body is evanescent ; it is constantly passing away like a flowing stream ; but the spirit remains untouched, substantial, immortal.

If the relation of the spirit to the body is such as I have represented it to be, the spirit must be the man himself. It must be in the human form, because the material body is cast into its mould. All the organs are woven into a garment to clothe the organs of the spirit. The spirit must therefore be composed of a series of organic forms or organs, which, combined into one, become the human form. What, then, is the spirit? It is a human being in a human form as a whole and in its least particulars. It is substantial, and the substances of which it is composed are untouched by the dissolution of the material body ; the human spirit endures forever. Having gained a clear and true idea of what the human spirit is, and of the distinction between the spiritual body and the material body, we have gained the point of view from which we can see the trinity and unity in man which are essential to personal beings, and from this we may see more clearly the nature of the Divine trinity in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have good grounds for looking to man to find the trinity in God, because man was created in the image of God and after His likeness. If man was made in the image of God, we must find in him a likeness of God. God must be in the human form. The Divine nature must be composed of attributes corresponding to those which compose man. The Divine faculties must sustain the same relations to one another which human faculties sustain. If there is a trinity in God, there must be a trinity in man. If there is a trinity in man, there must be a trinity in God. If the trinity in man makes one person, one human being, the trinity in God must make one Divine Person, one Divine Being. If this trinity in God makes three persons, each composed of the same substance and possessing the same attributes, the trinity in man must make three persons, each composed of the same substance and possessing the same qualities. An image must have the same form as the original, and so far as it is an image it must be like it.

What are the three essential factors of a human being ? Are they not the soul or spirit, the body, and the power of the man reaching forth to affect objects and beings outside himself? These three are perfectly distinct. The spirit is not the body, and the body is not the spirit, and the influence or operation of the man is not the spirit or the body. But the three make one person, one man. If either were absent the other two would not be a man. We may regard the subject in another way. Man is essentially composed of love, intelligence, and the union of these factors in thought or deed. The love or will is not the intellect, and neither of them is thought or act. Love does not make a man ; action does not make aman. A human being is the product of the three. But the three do not make three persons. There is the same trinity of Divine love, Divine wisdom, and Divine operation in God.

To return to man, the image of God. The spirit or soul is the father of the body. It begat it and formed it and continually creates it. If the material body had consciousness and power of its own, it could truly say, I came out from the spirit. I can do nothing of myself. The spirit does the works. It could say everything that the Saviour says concerning His relations to the Father ; and yet the spirit and the body make one man, as the Father and Son make one God.

Look at, the subject in another way. The soul is in the body. Jesus Christ says, “The Father is in me.” ” No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” There is no way in which we can get access to a man’s mind or spirit but by his body. If the body could speak, it could say in truth. No one can come to the spirit but by me. I am the way, and the only way.

Here is a larger and more important truth than may at first appear. By coming to the Father something more is meant than coming to Him in space, as one man approaches another. It means that we cannot come to Him in thought,—that is, we cannot think of Him truly in any other way than as He is manifested in Jesus Christ. How is He brought forth to view in Him ? In the human form, as a Divine Man. The agnostics are right when they say that God as an infinite and formless spirit, “without body, parts, or passions,”  is unthinkable. There is no image, no idea in the mind, no distinct subject for the thought to rest on. We can only think of things and beings that have substance and form. There are no beings or things destitute of these essentials of existence. If I should ask you to think of a tree or an animal or a man that had no substance and no form, you would say it was absurd, because you know it to be impossible. For the same reason we can only come to Jehovah, the Father, in thought as He appears in Jesus Christ ; and He appears in Him as a man, in the human form. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” For the same reason we can come to Him in our affections in no other way than by Jesus Christ. No one can love a being of whom he can gain no conception. We cannot love a formless essence, an abstract virtue or power. Think of the absurdity of loving an abstract child, a woman or a man without substance or form ! It may be said that we do love an ideal person. There is some truth in that. But our ideal is the image we form in our minds. So, doubtless, every one has some conception in his mind of God. He makes an image of Him, even while denying that He has any form. But here the image is formed for us. The Word is made flesh, and dwells among men. “God manifest in the flesh.” God manifest in the human form. God come down to men, associating with them, teaching them by word of mouth, by precept and example ; the tender, merciful God, healing their diseases, sympathizing with them in their sorrows and sufferings ; a kind, patient, pure, unselfish, noble, wise God.; and yet a man. He has a human heart ; He works in human ways ; He has human sympathies. This is the way He is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. He is revealed not merely by example and formal instruction, but He is embodied in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is His form. His body, His love, His wisdom. His way of working among men and saving them. The love and wisdom of Jesus Christ are the Divine love and wisdom. God reveals Himself in Him even to the human senses, in a form comprehensible to the child. When we think of Jesus Christ we think of the Father ; when we love Jesus Christ we love the Father ; when we pray to Jesus Christ we pray to the Father ; when we worship Jesus Christ we worship the Father. We think of Him in the same way and in the same sense as, in thinking of the bodily form of a friend, we think of his mind ; when we speak to the body we speak to the soul.

According to this doctrine we have the whole Divine trinity in one personal Being, in Jesus Christ, as we have the whole human trinity in every man. We have the whole trinity united in the human form, of which we can gain a distinct idea. The mind is not confused and discouraged by trying to think the unthinkable ; it is not distracted by thinking that there are three Divine persons and saying that there is but one God. We do not pray to a being of whom we say we can form no conception— but to whom we speak and of whom we try to think—to grant us favors for the sake of or in the name of another Divine person. We go to Jesus Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, as a little child goes to his father, in a plain and simple way, without trying to make any metaphysical distinctions, and ask Him to grant the help and blessing we need for His own love and mercy’s sake. We can think of Him ; we can love Him ; we can trust Him. He is the way, the truth and the life. If Jesus Christ was really God Himself manifest in the flesh, and not merely an ambassador from God, or a distinct person standing between men and Him, you can see what an important bearing a true conception of His character and mission will have upon the conditions and means of human salvation. It places it on new grounds. It takes it out of all that is merely formal, legal, technical, and arbitrary, and demonstrates to our senses how the one and only Divine Being loves and pities His children, and what practical work He has done and is doing to save men from sin and misery and raise them up to holiness and eternal life. God has generally been represented as an austere, inexorable embodiment of that natural, mercantile form of justice which demands the full measure of punishment for every offence. But justice has a higher meaning than this. Divine justice is not vengeance ; it is Divine love directed by Divine wisdom to secure the highest good to men. There is an immense difference between sending some one to do a painful work and doing it yourself. If Jesus Christ wasGod Himself, clothed with a human nature and a material body, by means of which He came down to human comprehension, living, laboring, teaching, and dying as to His material body among men and for them, every one can see in what a beautiful and attractive form it presents the Divine character. We can know and love and delight to serve such a Being.

This is the light in which the doctrines of the New Church present the Divine character. They dispel the cloud of misconceptions which have obscured it. They bring the Lord down to men, and present Him in such simple and clear form that a child can understand something of Him and learn to know and love Him. They take nothing away from His sanctity. They do not destroy the law or the prophets ; they help men to understand them. They do not break the force and sanctity of the least of the commandments, or teach men to break them. On the contrary, they show that they are the immutable laws of the Divine order, and, consequently, that they cannot be broken without loss and suffering. Their whole scope and tendency is to assist men in solving the problems of life ; to make the way to the attainment of the highest good plain and easier to walk in ; to reveal the Lord to men in a clearer and more attractive light ; to give man a truer and nobler conception of himself and of the capacities of his own nature for happiness, and to show the means that lie within his reach to attain the highest good.

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


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

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In the first place, something shall be said about ends. There are three things that follow in order, called first end, middle end, and last end; they are also called end, cause,  and effect. These three must be together in every thing, that it may be anything. For a first end without a middle end, and at the same time a last end, is impossible; or, what is the same, an end alone, without a cause and an effect is impossible. Equally impossible is a cause alone without an end from which and an effect in which it is, or an effect alone, that is, an effect without its cause and end. That this is so may be comprehended if it be observed that an end without an effect, that is, separated from an effect, is a thing without existence, and therefore a mere term. For in order that an end may actually be an end it must be terminated, and it is terminated in its effect, wherein it is first called an end because it is an end. It appears as if the agent or the efficient exists by itself; but this so appears from its being in the effect; but if separated from the effect it would instantly vanish. From all this it is evident that these three, end, cause, and effect, must be in every thing to make it anything. [DLW167]

EndsIt must be known further, that the end is everything in the cause, and also everything in the effect; from this it is that end, cause, and effect, are called first end, middle end, and last end. But that the end may be everything in the cause, there must be something from the end [in the cause] wherein the end shall be; and that the end may be everything in the effect, there must be something from the end through the cause [in the effect] wherein the end shall be. For the end cannot be in itself alone, but it must be in something having existence from it, in which it can dwell as to all that is its own, and by acting, come into effect, until it has permanent existence. That in which it has permanent existence is the last end, which is called effect. [DLW168]

These three, namely, end, cause, and effect, are in the created universe, both in its greatest and least parts. They are in the greatest and least parts of the created universe, because they are in God the Creator, who is the Lord from eternity. But since He is Infinite, and in the Infinite in finite things are one distinctly (as was shown above, n. 17-22), therefore also these three in Him, and in His infinites, are one distinctly. From this it is that the universe which was created from His Esse, and which, regarded as to uses, is His image, possesses these three in each and all of its parts. [DLW169]

The universal end, that is, the end of all things of creation, is that there may be an eternal conjunction of the Creator with the created universe; and this is not possible unless there are subjects wherein His Divine can be as in Itself, thus in which it can dwell and abide. In order that these subjects may be dwelling-places and mansions of Him, they must be recipients of His love and wisdom as of themselves; such, therefore, as will elevate themselves to the Creator as of themselves, and conjoin themselves with Him. Without this ability to reciprocate no conjunction is possible. These subjects are men, who are able as of themselves to elevate and conjoin themselves. That men are such subjects, and that they are recipients of the Divine as of themselves, has been pointed out above many times. By means of this conjunction, the Lord is present in every work created by Him; for everything has been created for man as its end; consequently the uses of all created things ascend by degrees from outmosts to man, and through man to God the Creator from whom [are all things] (as was shown above, n. 65-68). [DLW170]

To this last end creation progresses continually, through these three, namely, end, cause, and effect, because these three are in the Lord the Creator (as was said just above); and the Divine apart from space is in all space (n. 69-72); and is the same in things greatest and least (77 – 82); from which it is evident that the created universe, in its general progression to its last end, is relatively the middle end.  For out of the earth forms of uses are continually raised by the Lord the Creator, in their order up to man, who as to his body is also from the earth. Thereafter, man is elevated by the reception of love and wisdom from the Lord; and for this reception of love and wisdom, all means are provided; and he has been so made as to be able to receive, if he will.  From what has now been said it can be seen, though as yet only in a general manner, that the end of creation takes form [existat] in outmost things; which end is, that all things may return to the Creator, and that there may be conjunction. [DLW171]

That these three, end, cause, and effect, are in each and every thing created, can also be seen from this, that all effects, which are called last ends, become anew first ends in uninterrupted succession from the First, who is the Lord the Creator, even to the last end, which is the conjunction of man with Him. That all last ends become anew first ends is plain from this, that there can be nothing so inert and dead as to have no efficient power in it. Even out of sand there is such an exhalation as gives aid in producing, and therefore in effecting something. [DLW172]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)



God is Creator and Sustainer

God is Love

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
[Genesis 1:1 ESV]

It was a common idea in the past that God created the heavens and the earth at the beginning and then, as it were, sat back and watched his creation evolve. In such a view of creation God was likened to a watchmaker, who having made a beautifully engineered watch simply wound it up and set it going. But such a view of God and creation places God outside his creation and not involved within in it – can this be true?

To attempt to tackle this question we need to consider what it is that creates in God and indeed in ourselves because we often talk about people as being creative. What really drives us in life to do things, to make things, to change things, whether it is the simplest everyday task or a major activity? Surely it is our determination, our drive, our desire our love!

We may not think about it this way but it is love that creates in our lives just as God creates from Love. Over the centuries many people have put forward the idea that God created the world out of nothing. But Emanuel Swedenborg saw it differently, commenting that God created the universe, not out of nothing, but out of Himself [Divine Love and Wisdom 285] and he summarised the concept that love creates in God with these words:

The universe as a whole and in every detail was created out of Divine Love,
by means of Divine Wisdom.
[DivineProvidence 3]

Now reflect for a moment on some activity or project in your life that you wanted to achieve. Did it start well? How did it continue? Did it achieve what you had hoped for in the beginning?

Sometimes we start something new with a real desire or love to see it through. But as time progresses we start to lose interest in it and finally we stop our involvement with it because our heart isn’t in it anymore.

Such experiences may show us that not only do we need love to create some new activity in our lives we also need love to sustain that activity. Love is needed to create but love is also needed to sustain.

When we turn to the Bible to see how God sustains his creation we can find many examples, although the word sustain is not frequently used by translators except notably in the New International Version as in these quotations:

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
[Psalm 55:22 NIV]

My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.
[Psalm 89:21 NIV]

Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
[Psalm 119:116  NIV]

But the idea of God continually sustaining his creation can also be found expressed in similar words like uphold, preserve, support, carry and bear.

And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.
[Deuteronomy 6:24 ESV]

Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to grey hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
[Isaiah 46:3-4 ESV]

In our modern day world we have begun to get used to the idea of sustainability, the concept that the resources we regularly use should have the capacity to endure and not become exhausted. This concept implies the long term stewardship, management and maintenance of these resources by mankind so that they can continue to be used without damaging environmental and ecological side effects. A very good example is the use of wood from sustainably managed forests – a process promoted by the international Forest Stewardship Council which ensures that wood sources are preserved despite ever increasing demand.

Sustainable forests are first created by planting and then as the trees mature and are felled new ones are planted to take their place in such a way that the forest is preserved and trees for logging are perpetually available.

A similar process can be seen to take place in our bodies where human cells continually die but are replaced by new ones to maintain and preserve the person. Some cells apparently die in as few as 5 days, others last 100 days or more and some for years. It is also thought that the human skeleton is replaced every 10 years or so.

We can perhaps use both of these examples to get some idea as to how God is Creator and Sustainer not a God who just creates and walks away but one who, from Love, is continually creating, re-creating and sustaining all he creates.

Here are two further quotations from Emanuel Swedenborg:

These properties of the divine love were the reason the universe was created, and are the reason it is preserved in existence.
A thorough scrutiny and examination of these three essentials of the Divine Love can lead us to see that they were the reason for creation. The first essential, loving others outside of himself, was a cause.
The second essential, wishing to be one with them, was also a cause.
The third essential, devoting oneself to their happiness, was also a cause, as is clear from the heaven of angels, which has been provided for every human being who receives the love of God; all there are made happy by God alone. These three essentials of God’s love are also the reason why the universe is preserved, because preservation is perpetual creation, just as remaining in existence is a perpetual coming into existence; and the Divine Love is from eternity to eternity the same. So as it was in the creation of the world, such too it remains in the created world.
[True Christian Religion 46:3 extracts]

The Divine from itself and through that which proceeds from itself created all things, so it sustains all things; also sustaining is perpetual creation, as subsistence is perpetual existence. 
[Apocalypse Explained 1215:4 Extract]


Divine Image in Creation

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The whole of God’s creation supports the development of spirituality and so brings forth angels of heavenThe purpose of creation is for individual people to be linked with God; that is, for individual people to become angelic beings eternally experiencing peace, love and active usefulness in a state of heaven.

Here is a series of quotations from the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg through which a person may find it possible to contemplate experiencing the Divine in creation in every step he or she takes.

For example, with the system revealed to Swedenborg, pure water can be experienced as cleansing, thirst-quenching, a medium for preparing food and, through harnessing its power, a means of energy. Subsequently, it is possible to appreciate a link or correspondence between a physical manifestation and concepts to do with a person’s spiritual nature. That is, a person can experience the flow of genuine enlightenment as refreshing the spirit, as correcting or altering attitudes towards life – the result of which may feed into a more wholesome appreciation of inner energy and fulfilment.

Now because every single thing remains in being from the Divine, that is, is constantly coming into being from Him, and every single thing from that source is inevitably a representative of the real thing by means of which it has come into being, the whole visible universe is therefore nothing else than a theatre that is representative of the Lord’s kingdom. And this in turn is a theatre representative of the Lord Himself.   Emanuel Swedenborg in Arcana Caelestia 3483


This mighty system which is called the universe is a single unit coherently organised from beginning to end, because God had one end in view in creating it, to create from the human race a heaven of angels. The means to this end are all the things of which the world is composed; for he who wills the end, wills also the means. The man therefore who contemplates the world as a piece of work containing the means to that end can contemplate the created universe as a single coherent unit, and he can see that the world is an assemblage of services structured for the benefit of the human race, to form a heaven of angels.   Emanuel Swedenborg in True Christian Religion 13:1-2

The following quotations offer a concept of usefulness, rather than forms, showing images of the Divine in creation. A visit to the countryside can bring a person into touch with the created universe in a way quite different from exposure to a man-made environment of a large town or city. For example, a person could reflect on:

– Various herbs being for the use of healing the body.

– Timber serving various uses from relaxation (willow for cricket bats) to building material (oak).

– Leaves of trees being a means of purifying the air people breathe.

– Grasses as staple foods.

– A chemist or botanist could delve deeper into the forms and penetrate into the wonders of uses revealed through the


From these examples and your own experience reflect on the uses provided in the world of nature. How far a step is it to contemplate that what the Creator can provide as necessary for the physical body can also be provided on a level of spirit? Further, in what way may you then be able to make links between uses in the natural world and parallels mirrored within the needs of your spirit?

That love and wisdom are the origin of all things of nature cannot be seen unless nature is regarded in terms of the uses it serves in their series and succession, and not in terms of some of its forms, which are objects only of the eye. For useful endeavours spring only from life, and their series and succession from wisdom and love, while forms are the vessels serving those uses. Consequently if one regards only the forms, it is impossible to see anything of life in nature, still less anything of love and wisdom, and so neither anything of God.   Emanuel Swedenborg in Divine Love & Wisdom 46

timber yard

… even though the Divine is present in each and every constituent of the created universe, still there is nothing of the Divine in their being. For the created universe is not God, but from God. And because it is from God, it has in it His image, like the image of a person in a mirror, in which the person indeed appears, but which nevertheless has nothing of the person in it.   Emanuel Swedenborg in Divine Love & Wisdom 59

The universal end of creation, or the end in all its constituents, is for an eternal conjunction of the Creator with the created universe to take place, and this is not possible without vessels in which His Divinity can exist as though in itself, thus in which it can dwell and abide. For these vessels to be His dwellings or abodes, they must be recipients of His love and wisdom as though of themselves, thus recipients which will as though of themselves elevate themselves to the Creator and conjoin themselves with Him. Without this reciprocity, conjunction is not possible. These vessels are human beings, who are able as though of themselves to elevate and conjoin themselves. … By that conjunction the Lord is present in every work created by Him. For everything was created ultimately for the sake of mankind. Consequently the uses of all that He created ascend by degrees from the lowest created forms to mankind, and through mankind to God the Creator from whom they originate, … Emanuel Swedenborg in Divine Love & Wisdom 170

wildflower meadow


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Seeking answers: Life is full of questions

Am I going to hell?

aLife-is-full-of-questions Your Creator does not want you in hell, but in heaven. Some people think they are going to hell because they have been told that the Lord sends evil people to hell. In reality the Lord, our loving and merciful God, does not send anybody to hell because doing so is contrary to His Divine nature (Heaven and Hell 545). However, hell does exist, and the Lord will not prevent you from going there if you choose it. He has given you the freedom to choose good or evil, heaven or hell. If you continually choose to do evil, you will cast yourself into hell after death (Heaven and Hell 547). Thousands of years ago, the Lord said to the Israelites, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). I believe the same message is addressed to us today. The Lord is asking us to choose heaven over hell.

I have done some bad things in my life. Can the Lord forgive me?

There is nothing the Lord is unable to forgive. Remember, when Peter asked the Lord how many times he should forgive his sinful brother, the Lord said to him: “up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). The Lord taught Peter always to forgive. Why wouldn’t He do the same thing? So, yes, the Lord can and will forgive every bad thing you have done in your life if you repent—that is, if you ask for forgiveness of your sins and you amend your ways and your doings.

There are so many religions that claim a path to salvation. Which religion is saved?

The Lord does not discriminate between Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Voodoo people, etc. All are His creatures and as a loving and merciful God, He wants to save every human being (Heaven and Hell 522). The New Church teaches that all human beings born into any religion can be saved, provided they acknowledge God and live according to the Ten Commandments (Divine Providence 253). Those who worship the Lord Jesus Christ and live according to His commandments are saved. Still the Lord leads not only Christians but also people from other religions according to their own precepts. He has provided that in every religion there should be precepts similar to those in the Ten Commandments (Divine Providence 254:2). So it is how people live their religious life which saves them, not their religion itself.

How do my works affect my salvation?

Our works affect our salvation in many ways. Secrets of Heaven 3934 states that works are what save a person and what condemn him, for the will of a person is in his work. Good works save us, while evil works condemn us. The Lord requires good works from us so that we can be saved: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).

Which is more important: faith or good works?

Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotton Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” From the words in John 3:16, some people may conclude that faith is more important than good works. This is not true. Faith and good works are equally important because they are the two essentials of salvation. A person’s faith can be seen in his work. And “good works are the fruit of faith” (Secrets of Heaven 1873).

The Rev. Guillaume Anato is the pastor of the New Church group in Cotonou, Benin. For more information, contact him at anatokgui@hotmail.com.


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