The Law Restored

The Law Restored

A Sermon by James P. Cooper

Toronto, August 31, 2008

 revcooper.ca

Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. …And the king went up to the house of the LORD … and he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. (2KI 22:11, 23:2)

When we were children, everything was so simple. Things were either good or bad, true or not true. Our beliefs were defended not from reason but because that’s what our parents, our teachers, our own friends thought – and therefore they were good and just. Perhaps we look back with affection and longing for those times of simplicity and innocence, but with becoming an adult comes both the freedom and the burden of the rational mind. No longer are things simply good or bad, true or false, but instead there are many degrees of good and shades of truth. As adults we have to worry about the reasons behind our actions, we have to consider far-reaching consequences and the effects we have on other people’s feelings. We have to think before we act! Weeks can go by where the press of business and family concerns prevent us from thinking about anything from the Word, and then suddenly we are drawn to some teaching that brings us up short, as we realize how appropriate that doctrine is to the very situation in which we find ourselves. It’s almost as if the Lord taps you on the shoulder.

With this in mind, let us return to the story of Josiah as it was read in the lessons. Josiah was one of the last kings of Judah, ruling at the end of a long decline as the kingdom drew away from the Lord and became more and more secular. Josiah, however, was unlike most of his predecessors because he was a good, moral man. He saw that the temple was in ruins from generations of neglect and ordered that repairs begin.

The letter of the Word tells us that there were “damages” to the temple, or breaches in the walls, which signify “falsity which comes (from) the separation of good from truth…” and also the “infraction of truth and perversion of it by separation from good…” (AC 4926:2,6)

Josiah, as their leader, represented the Jewish people. The temple, as the centre of worship for the Jewish people, signified the central doctrinal core of the Jewish faith. We can see from this that Josiah can also stand for the adult member of the New Church, and the temple in Jerusalem his core belief structure, a doctrine which has become like a ruin from lack of use. This story is really about a person who has become too busy to live according to the truths of the church learned in childhood and youth from parents and teachers.

We do not have an accurate description of exactly how the temple looked at that time, but we do know that it had not been used in many years. The dust and dirt of years of neglect, the cracks and fissures in the wall, the dark and empty rooms all create a vivid picture of what happens to a person’s faith and doctrine when he does not care for it by bringing it actively into his life. The idealistic faith of our youth crumbles away like an unused, un-repaired building.

Josiah the king represents an adult who is in the midst of establishing home, family, and career, and who finds these concerns take so much time that he just does not have the time for the things of the Church as he did when he was younger, with more energy and fewer responsibilities. There are only so many hours in the day, after all, and they are all filled with the efforts required to establish a secure and comfortable home and place in the world. The temple of doctrine (from historical faith) that was built up in childhood and youth begins to crumble and decay from lack of use and failure to care.

It must be emphasized that Josiah was the first good king that had ruled in Judah in many generations. The kings before him had stripped the wealth from the temple to pay for luxuries for themselves, to bribe the rulers of other countries to betray treaties, or to ransom themselves out of slavery. These kings had even at times worshipped other gods within the walls of the temple – but not Josiah. With Josiah, the neglect had been benign. He simply did not know or understand the significance or the importance of the temple in Jerusalem!

Of all the various attributes of the Jewish faith, that which stands out as most important to that faith is the Mosaic Law, that is, the Ten Commandments and all the other laws regarding every aspect of life and worship in the Jewish Church, laws that were given to Moses by Jehovah Himself. It is incredible to say, but Josiah, a king of Judah ruling in Jerusalem, did not know the Mosaic Law! It was no longer taught or known anywhere in Judah. Again, this is a picture of what can happen when we allow ourselves to get so involved in our natural pursuits.

And even so, the Lord constantly tends to every one’s eternal welfare, seeking to lead each one of us to heaven no matter what our state. He does so gently, imperceptibly, and according to each person’s own loves. So the Lord led Josiah.

Josiah lived in the shadow of the great temple of Solomon, and saw its sad condition. Perhaps he decided to order the renovation of the temple for some personal, selfish reason. Perhaps he wanted to associate his kingdom with that of Solomon. Perhaps he was moved by some undefined feeling of respect for his ancestors. We cannot see how the Lord bends the course of own lives, so we cannot expect to see clearly how He has bent the course of the life of another, but we do know that for whatever reason, Josiah was moved to order the temple repaired. We also know that the direct result of that order was that a copy of the Mosaic Law was found, brought to him, and read to him.

In response to hearing the law for the first time in his life he tore his clothes in agony and humiliation for he was suddenly made aware of the kinds of evils that he and his people had been committing against the Lord all these years. Even though they may have been done from ignorance, he was still distraught at the realization of just how far he and his people had travelled from God.

The hells love to keep our evils hidden from us, for as long as they are hidden, we cannot do anything about them, and unless we see them and reject them as-of-ourselves, the Lord cannot remove them from us. Thus the hells use our natural concerns for the welfare of our homes, families, and careers to direct our attention anywhere but towards self-examination. We may know that we should examine ourselves for evils, but we keep putting it off to some fictional later time when we will “have more time to do something about it.”

If we were left entirely to our own devices, we would happily continue along this course into hell, all the while thinking well of ourselves for being so selfless and concerned for others, when in fact we are concerned only with selfish things: making the home comfortable for the sake of our own pleasure; getting ahead in business for the sake of wealth and the power that it brings and only incidentally for the welfare and comfort of our family; and many other things that are outwardly respectable, but inwardly from hell.

Fortunately we are not left entirely to our own devices. The Lord is continually watching over each one of us, endeavouring to quietly, gently bend us away from our selfish loves and towards Himself. From time to time He may find it appropriate to stir something in our remains, to touch a fond memory, remind us of a friend and something said to us that was important, perhaps a word or gesture that made us feel loved and valued. A little thing like this, seen in the right context at a critical point in our lives, can turn us, turn us as Josiah turned towards repairing the temple, turn us towards the Lord in His Word.

This might express itself in so simple a form as returning to church after a long absence. A long absence from church can be accompanied with feelings of fear, and guilt which make it more difficult to return. To gain control over those feelings is an act of humiliation, as if we were literally tearing our garments.

The Heavenly Doctrines teach that since “garments” represent truths (AC 2576:15), to rend or tear the garments signifies “humiliation because there is nothing pertaining to them that is signified by the adornment of garments” (AC 2576:16). This means that it is recorded that Josiah tore his garments to signify that the truths represented by a king’s garments were not present with him, and that he was humiliated to discover that he did not have those truths that he should have had. Another passage in the Doctrines tells us that Josiah tore his garments to signify “mourning on account of lost truth,” it being lost to him because it was only known, and not lived. (See AC 4736:6)

Josiah represents an adult who has been living without much thought of the Church, except in matters of habit, who is brought up short. A crisis brings some teaching from the Word, so memory from childhood into sharp focus. He suddenly, perhaps for the first time, sees the doctrine of the Church as speaking specifically to him, to his own life, to his own particular situation. It suddenly becomes clear to him that his life is not as orderly as he thought. He cries out in his own mind that he didn’t know, that he simply didn’t understand. He has come from an “accidental” self-examination to a fully developed state of temptation, complete with humiliation, anguish, and despair that he might ever be saved. When this happened to Josiah, he said,

Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us (2KI 22:13).

Josiah’s words indicate that he is in a state of deep despair and anguish for himself and his people. He clearly sees that they have been doing none of the things that the Lord has commanded, and that they have been doing all of the things that He had forbidden. Josiah turns to the only source of help that he can think of – a prophet, or in this particular case, Huldah, the prophetess. Josiah’s purpose was to immediately confess his ignorance and his sin, and then ask for forgiveness and it was traditional to use a prophet to serve as a means of conjunction between man and God, for a prophet represents the truths of the Church in the letter of the Word.

When brought to the depths of a state of temptation, when a person sees nothing but evil and feels nothing but despair, what better source of comfort and hope is there than to turn to the Word, to the simple passages learned in childhood, to the Lord’s prayer itself? To ask the Lord, in the genuine humility of temptation, for Him to lead you in the way of His will, is the most profound prayer of all. It is the most profound because it becomes the turning point from which a person stops despairing of his own ignorance and troubles and begins to see that the Lord has provided the Word for him to follow, to uplift him, to reform and regenerate him. In this state, a person can turn away from himself and towards the Lord, away from the negative and hellish and towards the affirmative and heavenly, to the doctrine of genuine truth from the Word.

Huldah the prophetess tells Josiah that even though he and his people had been doing evils, because his heart was tender and because he humbled himself before the Lord, the Lord has heard him, and has promised that he would be gathered unto his fathers, and into his grave in peace (2KI 22:19,20). While this may not seem like much of a reward for us, we must remember that in those days a king’s peaceful death would be both unusual and welcomed. Since their idea of the afterlife was limited to that shady place known as “Sheol,” the promise that he would be gathered to his fathers must have sounded very appealing. So too with the man who returns to his Church after a long absence. The initial anxiety and fear are replaced with a state of comfort and peace.

However, by Huldah’s promise is represented nothing less than the Covenant, the promise given by the Lord that if we will as of ourselves flee from evils as sins, He will teach us the doctrine of the church and give us the loves to conjoin with the doctrine. We read from the Arcana Coelestia,

“The … Word is a covenant … because it is the Divine from the Lord, thus the Lord Himself. And therefore when the Word is received by man, the Lord Himself is received” (9396:9).

At the beginning of the story from the Word, king Josiah was just another ancient man. He was known to his people as a “good” king. In other words, he treated his subjects fairly and well. He brought all his people into the knowledge of the law of the Lord, so that they could learn to follow the law and love the Lord too. He was led by the Lord to begin the restoration of the temple, which set events in motion that changed him and his whole kingdom for the better, but only after it had taken him to the depths of despair and humiliation, only after he had truly seen what he was in and of himself, and called upon the Lord in His Word for help. As the prophetess said to Josiah,

Thus says the Lord God of Israel. …Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, …and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you, says the Lord. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace….” (2KI 22:18-20) AMEN.

First Lesson: 2KI 22:8-20

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. {9} So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the LORD.” {10} Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. {11} Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. {12} Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, {13} “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” {14} So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her. {15} Then she said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, {16} “Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants; all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read; {17} ‘because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.’” ‘ {18} “But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard; {19} “because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the LORD. {20} “Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.” ‘ “ So they brought back word to the king.

(2KI 23:1-2) Now the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. {2} The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. Amen.

Second Lesson: AC 9396 [9]

The reason why Divine Truth or the Word is a covenant or joining together is that the Word is the Divine from the Lord, thus is the Lord Himself; and this being so, when the Word is received by a person the Lord Himself is received. From this it is evident that it is through the Word that the Lord is joined to a person; and since the Lord is joined to the person, so too is heaven joined to that person. For heaven is called heaven by virtue of the Divine Truth emanating from the Lord and therefore from the Divine. This explains why those in heaven are said to be ‘in the Lord’. Amen.

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Page constructed by James P. Cooper

Page last modified September 27, 2009

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THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST

THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST

A Sermon by Rev Grant R. Schnarr March 3, 1997

Our idea of God is the most important concept we can have. Our spiritual lives are based on this concept. Our spiritual destiny, including our home in the other world, is formed by our view of God. Every aspect of our eternal life revolves around our understanding and our relationship with our Maker.

Developing a true and working concept of God, though, can be a challenge. We bring our own conceptions and misconceptions to this image. Historically, humans have perverted or destroyed the picture of God over and over again, and have used a twisted understanding of God and His will to do many twisted things. The Spanish Inquisition, Hitler, and others claimed to worship the Lord, and performed hurtful deeds in the name of the Lord. People can make up their own God to suit their own bias rather than worship the true God.

Culture and the times can be biased against a true picture of God. For instance, God the judge might be popular at times, or the punisher, the warrior, or a remote and uncaring ruler. Or the opposite kind of God can be held up as an ideal: the ineffective, permissive, enabling, anything-goes God, weak and unable to lead or effect change in the world. The discussion of gender in relation to God is a good example of the struggle between cultural bias on every side of the issue and a struggle to understand revelation.

In the past history of the Christian Church, truth has certainly taken precedence over good. The Writings tell us that a faith-alone world developed, where good did not count for much, if anything. A natural outcome was that the world became perceived as a male’s world, and even as good was suppressed and put down as nothing, so were women treated the same. In a faith-alone culture, male attributes have been held up as an ideal, and it can be argued that even much of the feminist movement in the western world in the past quarter century has made the mistake of joining that illusion rather than dispersing it. This has caused deep wounds in many, and is not to be taken lightly or overlooked as an oddity. When love, perception, gentleness, and nurturing are looked upon as second-rate feelings, many of them to be shunned, those who excel in these areas receive the constant message that they are not good enough, that they do not count. From a truth-dominated culture a false concept of God is created, a static God firmly entrenched in a groundwork of rules seemingly unconnected to life. God becomes a judge whose favor limits the variety of the human race to those few who hold the correct set of ideas, and who punishes those who do not. God can seem to become a distant Father who is never home, or who arrives home on Sundays to lecture and scold, only to disappear again Monday morning. What would it be like to have nothing at all in common with this God and be told that this is the true God and that you must worship Him? Cultural bias affects not only our view of God, but our lives, and the wounds caused by false doctrines presenting false gods are real.

And so it is that the Heavenly Doctrines come into the world to bring back the balance between truth and good, to honor both sexes in their own right, and to offer everyone with an open mind a visible image of God in a Divinely Human form for what is actually the first time in religious history. (Read TCR 787 and following.) The Writings call upon society to rethink the entire picture of religion, the entire concept of God. They present a radically different concept where love and wisdom both reign in the Divine and in life. The Writings say “no” to a truth-alone world, and firmly present the marriage of truth and good in use as the essence of perfection (see DLW 28-33).

However, while acknowledging the wounds created by false doctrines of the past, how do we form a true picture of the Lord which reflects all of humanity without bias from past or present culture? How do we begin to heal the wounds that many have felt by cultural misconceptions of God, and at the same time not create more wounds by creating more misconceptions? We want to see God through our own eyes, but how do we do this without creating God with our own hands, in our own image?

Wounds heal over time, and there is no quick solution, but there are answers to all of life’s questions that can help heal. The Writings are called the leaves of the Tree of Life for the healing of the nations. Revelation from God is the source of healing if one will approach it and accept it. Revelation was given to guide us to an ever-growing understanding of the Lord. Revelation presents a picture of the Lord, a living picture, and through this window into eternity we can behold the face of our Creator and see our own face reflected therein.

What does revelation teach us? More than we can learn in a lifetime. Truth from the Word is infinite, but we can take a few principles and apply them to begin to build a healthy and genuine concept of God.

First, the Heavenly Doctrines teach us to look to our Maker from essence to person, and not from person to essence. This is an important teaching to help us approach our Maker. “Everyone who thinks of God from person only,” the Writings say, “and not essence is thinking materially. For instance, a person who thinks of the neighbor from the form only and not the quality is thinking materially . . . . Think of God from essence, and from that of His person, and do not think of His person and from that of His essence. For to think of His essence from person is to think materially of the essence also; but to think of His person from essence is to think spiritually of His person” (AR 611:7).

Thinking of God from person to essence is not helpful to us. Looking at the Lord’s material body from a corporeal point of view and translating that into the essence of God is not helpful. In modern terms, getting “hung up” on the physical form of the Lord while He was on earth, and allowing the physical form of the Lord to dictate how we think of the essence, is not helpful. An example of this would be statements that say the essence of God is male or female. That is thinking of God from person to essence. God is the I AM. While He is the origin of gender, God in essence is above gender. To attribute qualities of creation to the Uncreated is like calling the potter “clay.”

But that does not mean that all attributes of what we call humanity are not from the Divine. Of course they are, and that is why every human being, whether white, yellow, black, male, female, disadvantaged, disabled or healthy and whole can approach and be conjoined with the Lord.

But this is accomplished by approaching the Lord from essence to person. Through a recognition of the all-encompassing God, the all-loving, all-wise, ever-creating, ever-nurturing Force from whom all people and things come, we look to the Divine Human. We see these infinite and Divine qualities in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do this, we allow the invisible God to be visible, as the Writings say, in the air or on the sea with His arms opened inviting us into His embrace (see TCR 787). This is how conjunction with God takes place, through the visible, tangible, lovable, approachable Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in His Word.

But we are to worship Him as the Lord Jesus Christ and no other. To worship Divine attributes by any other name is to make God invisible. The Writings tell us: “As to His Divine Human the Lord is the Mediator, and no one can come to the Divine Being itself within the Lord, called the Father, except through the Son, that is, the Divine Human . . . . Thus the Lord as to His Divine Human is the actual joining together. And if people cannot do this in thought, how can they be joined to the Divine itself in love?” (AC 6804:4)

The Writings go on to say, “He was pleased to take upon Himself human form, and thus to allow people to approach Him . . . . It is this Human which is called the Son of God, and this it is which mediates. . . . This is why the Son of God, meaning the Human of God . . . is called the Savior, and on earth Jesus, which means salvation” (TCR 135:4).

And so the Lord said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known the Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6-7).

The invisible soul of God is at once revealed and made manifest in His own Humanity, now revealed in His Word and proclaimed to us in the Heavenly Doctrines as the Lord God Jesus Christ.

Can we see the essence of God within His person? Can we allow God to be both Divine and Human? The image of the Divine Human is a blessing to those who long to understand and be conjoined with the Lord. A newcomer to the church once said, “When I was young I heard about God, the great and powerful Almighty. He clapped His hands, the thunders roared. He batted His eyes, the lightning flashed. Boom! God? God scared me. But when I read in the Writings that this gentle shepherd named Jesus, who called Himself a lamb, who held the children, healed the sick, and taught so many loving things, that this man was God, well, that did it for me.” The question might be asked, “What does it do for you?”

The image of the Lord Jesus Christ as it appears in the Gospels and as it is explained in the Heavenly Doctrines is given to the human race to bring conjunction with the Divine, the true Divine, and with that, healing. Although it is no doubt difficult for some, because of real abuse of false doctrines in the past, approaching this image as presented in the Word will bring healing. This image when viewed from essence to person can be infilled with a variety of descriptions from the Word, which represent every aspect of humanity. Jesus does bless the children, heal the sick, feed thousands of hungry mouths, cry for His people, and call each of us to arms of love and compassion. He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He cries out to a church that has gone astray in faith alone. He says and listen to His words “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, `Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord'” (Matt. 23:37-39).

Can we say these words? Can we see our Lord and Savior as all-encompassing, containing the source of all that is human and Divine? And can we worship Him as He has revealed Himself in His own Word? Then we will truly be able to see Him, and say with full hearts, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

What is the essential message of the New Church? Is it that God is inaccessible to some people for no fault of their own? Is the message that if you have a hard time picturing God that you should give up and go somewhere else? The answer is “No!” Is the message of the New Church that anything goes you can make up your own God here, in any fashion you choose? The answer is “No!”

The message of the New Church is clear in the Writings, preached by the lips of the apostles themselves, and held as a hope for all people everywhere, from whatever background or origin, so that they may be conjoined with their Creator. This message is for everyone, to be infilled by every individual in a way that she or he must, in order to see and feel what it means to them. The message is that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, and His Kingdom shall be forever and ever. Blessed are they who come to the marriage supper of the Lamb (see TCR 791). The Lord promises us: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to everyone according to his work” (Rev. 22:12). May our response be with open hearts and minds, and with joyful lips: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

Lessons: Isaiah 42:1-9; John 14:1-11; AC 8705


Arcana Coelestia

8705. “And bring thou the words unto God.” That this signifies mediation and intercession is evident from the signification of “bringing the words unto God,” when said of the Divine truth, as being to mediate with the Divine Itself and to intercede, for he who mediates and intercedes brings the matters to Him who gives aid. Mediation and intercession are of the Divine truth, because this is nearest with the Divine good, which is the Lord Himself. That the Divine truth is nearest with the Divine good, which is the Lord, is because it proceeds immediately from Him. As the occasion offers, it shall here be told how the case is with the Lord’s mediation and intercession. They who believe that there are three Persons who constitute the Divine and who together are called one God, from the sense of the letter of the Word have no other idea of mediation and intercession than that the Lord sits at the right hand of His Father, and speaks with Him as man with man, and brings the supplications of men to the Father, and entreats that for His sake, because He suffered the cross for the human race, He may pardon them and have mercy. Such is the idea of intercession and mediation which every simple person has from the sense of the letter of the Word.

But be it known that the sense of the letter is according to the apprehension of simple men, in order that they may be introduced into interior truths themselves; for the simple cannot have any other idea of the heavenly kingdom than as of an earthly kingdom, nor any other idea of the Father than as of a king on the earth, and of the Lord than as of the son of a king who is the heir of the kingdom. That the simple have such an idea is plainly evident from the idea of the Lord’s apostles themselves about His kingdom; for at first they believed, like the rest of the Jews, that the Lord as the Messiah would be the greatest king upon the earth, and would raise them to a height of glory above all the nations and peoples on the whole globe. But when they heard from the Lord Himself that His kingdom is not on earth but in heaven, then neither could they think otherwise than that His kingdom in heaven is altogether like a kingdom on the earth. And therefore James and John asked that in His kingdom the one might sit on His right hand and the other on His left; and the rest of the apostles, who also wanted to become great in that kingdom, had indignation, and disputed among themselves which of them should be greatest there. And as such an idea cleaved to them and could not be rooted out, the Lord indeed said unto them that they should “sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (see Mark x. 37, 41; Luke xxii. 24, 30; Matt. xix. 28); but they did not then know what the Lord meant by the “twelve thrones,” and by the “twelve tribes,” and by “judgment.”

From all this it can now be seen what the idea is, and whence it is, concerning the Lord’s mediation and intercession with the Father. But he who knows the interior things of the Word has a totally different notion about the Lord’s mediation and His intercession, namely, that He does not intercede as a son with a royal father on earth, but as the Lord of the universe with Himself, and as God of Himself, for the Father and He are not two, but are one, as He Himself teaches (John xiv. 811). He is called “Mediator” and “Intercessor,” because by “the Son” is meant the Divine truth, and by “the Father” the Divine good (see n. 2803, 2813, 3704), and mediation is effected through the Divine truth, because by means of it access is given to the Divine good; for the Divine good cannot be approached, because it is like the fire of the sun, but the Divine truth, because it is like the light therefrom, which gives to man’s sight, which is of faith, passage and access (n. 8644) . . . .

When the Lord was in the world, and before He was fully glorified, He was the Divine truth; wherefore at that time there was mediation, and He interceded with the Father, that is, with the Divine good itself (John xiv. 16, 17; xvii. 9, 15, 17). But after He was glorified as to the Human, He is called “Mediator and Intercession” for this reason, that no one can think of the Divine Itself unless he presents to himself the idea of a Divine Man; still less can any one be conjoined through love with the Divine Itself except by means of such an idea. If any one without the idea of a Divine Man thinks of the Divine Itself, he thinks indeterminately, and an indeterminate idea is no idea; or he conceives an idea of the Divine from the visible universe without an end, or with an end in obscurity, which idea conjoins itself with the idea of the worshipers of nature, and also falls into nature, and thus becomes no idea. From this it is evident that there would not be any conjunction with the Divine through faith, nor through love . . . .

Nevertheless, what is remarkable, all who think from themselves or from the flesh about God, think of Him indeterminately, that is without any determinate idea; whereas they who think of God not from themselves, nor from the flesh, but from the spirit, think about Him determinately, that is, they present to themselves an idea of the Divine under a human form. So the angels in heaven think of the Divine, and so the wise ancients thought, to whom also, when the Divine Itself appeared, it appeared as a Divine Man; for the Divine passing though heaven is a Divine Man. The reason is that heaven is a Grand Man, as has been shown at the end of many chapters. From all this it is evident of what sort are the intelligent of the world, and of what sort are the intelligent of heaven; namely, that the intelligent of the world remove from themselves the idea of the human; and consequently between their minds and the Divine there is no mediation, whence they have thick darkness whereas the intelligent of heaven have an idea of the Divine in the Human; thus the Lord is to them mediation, and consequently in their minds there is light.

THE HOUSE BUILT ON THE ROCK

THE HOUSE BUILT ON THE ROCK
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, August 9, 1992

“Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them shall be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house,- and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

In His well known Sermon on the Mount, the Lord proclaimed a new gospel – a new, comprehensive doctrine of life. In this new doctrine which the Lord expounded He emphasized the idea that true religion is not merely the observance of formal rituals and customs, but is rather a way of life according to recognized and acknowledged principles. He began by pronouncing a blessing on the humble, the merciful, the pure, the lovers of peace, and the faithful. He pointed out that anger and hatred are to be shunned because they are the cause of murder. He entreated people not to judge others harshly, but to be compassionate and forgiving. He taught that the evil of adultery is to be shunned in will, thought and intention, not just in act. He warned against vain and useless oaths. He tried to lead people to distinguish between the person and the evil done by the person, urging them to love and promote the person’s welfare, but not the person’s evil. He preached against making a pretentious show of religion, saying that true worship comes from the heart. He exhorted people to strive for eternal riches, and not to be unduly concerned about worldly things, promising the protection, providence and guidance of God for all who place their trust in Him. He warned against profanation and the ridicule of holy things. He pointed out that a tree is known by its fruits. If it bears no fruit, it is to be cut down, thus providing us with a standard of judgment as it relates to the conduct of human beings: we are to judge according to use.

Having clearly and powerfully expounded the fundamental principles of His new doctrine, the Lord concluded His sermon with a vivid description of the two possible responses his hearers could have to His teachings, and the consequences of each. He said: “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matt. 7:24-27, emphasis added).

The basic difference between the wise and the foolish men hinges on one simple verb, the verb to “do.” This is the key word of our text. The purpose of all Divine teaching is that people may do it. Hearing it is a means to this end. What can be clearer than this? And yet there are millions of people in the Christian world today, both clergy and laity, who stoutly maintain that it is not the doing of the law that results in salvation, but faith separated from doing.

But in this parable the Lord separates people into two categories: (a) those who hear the Divine law and do what it teaches; and (b) those who hear and do not do it. The words themselves leave no room for doubt about the matter. But the circumstances in which they were uttered emphasizes this teaching. They are the concluding words of a new and comprehensive doctrine, a doctrine of life for the church which the Lord came on earth to establish. The Lord concluded His discourse with this vivid and dramatic parable to draw attention to the absolute necessity of doing that which He teaches.

This is not the only instance where this teaching occurs in the Scriptures. It does not stand alone! The prophet Jeremiah gave dramatic utterance to the same truth saying: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel … I did not speak to your fathers … concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying: ‘Obey My voice and I will be your God and you shall be My people. And >I>walk in all the ways that I have commanded you that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in the counsels and the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward … So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth. Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath”‘ (Jer. 7:21-29, emphasis added).

This quotation eloquently testifies to the truth that the choice between heaven and hell, life and death, depends on whether we do what the Lord teaches or do not do it, whether we obey Him or do not.

A more detailed consideration of our text will lead us to see the deeper significance of the Lord’s teaching in this parable. The Lord likened those who hear and do His Word to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Everyone, while on earth, builds the house in which he will live to eternity. The materials he uses are truths, or knowledges of truth, from the Word – that is, if he is going to have his home in heaven. But the stability of the house depends on the foundation upon which he builds. A wise man builds on the rock. In the Word a “rock” is the symbol of Divine truth, and, in the highest sense, of the Lord Himself, for He is the Divine truth itself – the stone which the builders rejected, but which, in the New Church, is to become the head of the corner. The “rock” that the wise man builds his house on is the acknowledgment of the Lord’s Divine Humanity – the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is God, the one and only God of heaven and earth. Jesus declared, after His resurrection: “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).

That this acknowledgment is the rock foundation of true Christianity is clear from the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. The Lord asked His disciples: “‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ And they said, ‘Some say that You are John the Baptist; some Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them: ‘But who do you say I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”‘ (Matt. 16:13-16).

We would note that the Greek word PETROS is used in this passage, both for “Peter” and for “rock.’ This makes the meaning of the Lord’s words clearer. The faith which Peter expressed and represents – a faith in the Lord’s Divine Humanity – is the rock upon which the Lord would build His church, and it is the rock upon which a wise man builds his spiritual house.

We read in Apocalypse Explained: ” The ‘rock’ upon which that house is founded signifies the Lord as to the Divine truth, or Divine truth received by the soul and the heart, that is, by faith and love; in other words, by the understanding and the will” (AE 644:24, emphasis added). The human mind consists of two parts or faculties, the will and the understanding. Neither of these alone makes the person. The character or essence of a person is according to the will or love. The person’s form or quality is according to the understanding. Although these two faculties are closely related and together should make one, nevertheless the will is the dominant of the two – “Love is the life of man” (DLW 1). When these two faculties are founded upon the Divine truth, the foundation of the mind is firm and strong, able to resist and withstand the assaults of evil desires and false thoughts.

These are what are meant by the inundating rains mentioned in our text. Water, in the Word, is usually a symbol of truth, as when the Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria about the life-giving water which He provides; if a person drinks of it, he shall never die. But it also has the opposite correspondence when it is mentioned as to its destructive potential, as in the case of the flood of Noah, and also the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. In such instances water and rain refer to falsities which inundate the mind of a person who loves evil. The floods refer to the temptations that arise as a result of the deluge of falsities – temptations in which the person overcomes or is overcome. The winds refer to subtle but powerful reasonings from falsity in favor of our latent evils.

Everyone, in the course of life, is exposed to the storms of life; that is, we undergo temptations on various planes of life: physical or mental, natural or spiritual, external or internal. If one’s house is founded on the rock; if one’s religion is based on the acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one and only God; if the person knows, understands and believes Divine truths and does them, then that person will survive the storms and tempests of life, and the “gates of hell shall not prevail against” him.

We are told that “‘sand’ signifies Divine truth received only in the memory, and somewhat … in the thought, and this in a scattered and disconnected way, because intermixed with falsities” (AE 644:24). Love, we know, is a bond; it is a strong uniting force that draws and welds together. When the truths of the Word are done, they are implanted in love, and love draws them together and welds them into one – they become firm and strong like rock. But when truths are learned, even understood, but are not done, then they are not implanted in the will or in the love. They are not drawn together and welded into one. They remain fragmentary; they get mixed with false ideas and lose their properties of cohesion. They become loose and shifting like sand.

A house, or a mind, which is built on such a foundation cannot withstand the trials and tempests of life. When false principles and ideas attack it, the loose and disconnected truths begin to separate and move. When strong temptations arise -when floods assail -they are washed away. And when the powerful winds of human reasoning, emanating from self-interest and expediency, beat on the house it falls, for it is founded on sand.

The sole purpose of Divine revelation, or of Divine truth, is that people do it; that they establish their principles, values and their character upon it. Hearing the truth and reflecting on it with a view to understanding it is essential, for we can do only that which we know and understand. But that is only a means to an end. Truth is given to us that we may live according to it – live it day by day in the course of our lives.

There are three things that make one: affection, thought and deed. When the affections of our will are from the Lord and the thoughts of our understanding are from the Word, and these are ultimated or expressed in speech and act, then our spiritual house – our eternal abode – will stand firm and strong, and the fury of the hells will not prevail against it for it is founded upon “the rock” – the rock of Divine truth, known, understood, loved and lived. Amen.

Lessons: Jer. 7:21-29, Matt. 7:15-29, AC 9282

Arcana Coelestia 9282

“And all that I have said unto you ye shall keep.” That this signifies that the commandments, the judgments, and the statutes are to be done is evident from the signification of “all that Jehovah had said unto them” as being all things of the life, of worship, and of the civil state; for the things of life were called “commandments,” those of worship were called “statutes,” and those of the civil state were called “judgments” (n. 8972); and from the signification of “keeping” or serving as being to do, for by doing them they are observed. As the laws of life, of worship, and of the civil state, are not anything with a man so long as they are in his understanding only, but become something with him when they are in the will, therefore it is said in the Word throughout that they must be “done”; for doing is of the will, but knowing, understanding, acknowledging, and believing are of the understanding. These latter, however, have no being with man until they become of the will, nor do they come forth with him until they become of the understanding from the will; for the being of man is to will, and the coming forth is to acknowledge and believe therefrom. The things which have no such being and coming forth with a man are not appropriated to him but stand without, and are not as yet received into the house; and therefore they do not contribute anything to the eternal life of the man; for unless such things have been made of the life, they are dissipated in the other life, those only remaining which are of the heart, that is, of the will and from this of the understanding. This being so, it is said in the Word throughout that the commandments and the statutes must be “done,” as in uses: “Ye shall do My judgments and keep My statutes to walk therein. Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live by them” (Lev. 17:4, 5; Matt. 5:20; 5:24-27; 16:27; John 3:21).

DIVINE ORDER

DIVINE ORDER
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, July 12, 1992

“Order my steps in Your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalm 119:113).

Our text is a prayer, a prayer to the Lord, a prayer that He order our life according to the truth of His Word and thereby free us from the domination of evil loves and wayward thoughts. It is a prayer that the Lord reform and regenerate us. Implicit in this prayer is the acknowledgment that the power to change is from the Lord and not in ourselves.

“Order my steps in Your Word!” In effect, we are asking the Lord to introduce order into our lives. When we speak of order, what do we have in mind? What is order? Order may be defined as the Divine laws which govern the universe. In thinking of the universe, we should beware lest we limit our thought to the material plane the created natural universe of suns and planets, solar systems and galaxies; we should have in mind the created universe on every plane, both spiritual and natural from the inmost heaven right down to the earth we live on.

On every plane, from the inmost to the outmost, the Lord governs all things according to Divine laws of order according to His Word. If we wish to live in the happy state for which the Lord created us, if we yearn to be free from the dominion of evil loves, then we must learn the laws of order from the Word and live according to them. The truth of this becomes very evident if we consider first the realm of the natural universe.

There was a time and not so very long ago when very little was known of the laws which govern the natural environment in which we live. Superstition was rife. The earth was thought to be flat; it was believed that the sun rose above and sank below its edge. Then people began to study the stars and their movements, and the science of astronomy was born. Methodical observations were made and carefully checked. The accumulated data were analyzed and conclusions drawn. Postulates were made and methodically tested. From these studies a new concept of the natural universe opened up which had far-reaching consequences; among other things it led to improved navigation. This in turn led to the systematic exploration of our globe. This resulted in tremendous changes in the way of life for people on our planet.

The quality of natural life has benefitted in innumerable ways from the development of such sciences as chemistry, physics, agronomy, horticulture, and animal husbandry, not to mention mechanics, electronics, and aerodynamics. Through the development of these sciences, a much fuller and more efficient use has been made of the earth’s resources. We may say that through the discovery of the Divine laws of order on the plane of nature, and by ordering our steps according to these laws, tremendous advancement has been made on the natural plane of life.

Admittedly, many erroneous conclusions were drawn as well as mistakes made in application. Many people abused the knowledge derived from these studies and exploited the environment for selfish ends. While this is true, it does not negate the fact that great progress has been made through the discovery of these Divine, natural laws of order.

Consider also those sciences which are more closely related to human beings: the sciences of biology, anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Since the development of these sciences it is now generally recognized that there are definite laws which govern physical and mental growth. From a study of these laws, and by acting in harmony with them, significant advances have been made in the field of education and the detection and treatment of mental disorders. By ordering our steps according to these Divine natural laws, the potential for human development and achievement has been greatly increased, with a corresponding deepening and extension of man’s potential for being of use to his fellow human beings and to society.

The progress we have been speaking of has been the result of people studying, discovering and learning natural laws, and ordering their steps according to those laws. They have been able to make this progress because the operations of these laws are observable. But man is not merely a natural being we are also spiritual, and there are Divine laws which govern the growth and development of our spirits. These laws are above human consciousness. We cannot discover them by natural observation, analysis, and induction. These spiritual laws are revealed by the Lord in what we call Divine revelation, or the Word.

Only when these laws are known and understood, and as man’s steps are ordered in them, can we expect to see a development of man’s full potential. Much that is wrong in the world today results from our failure to recognize, or refusal to acknowledge, this truth. Great efforts have been made in recent years to improve the human condition. The extension of educational opportunities and the improvement in educational facilities have been undertaken on a grand scale. Extensive social welfare schemes have been devised and implemented.

Unfortunately, the philosophical underpinning of most of these efforts has been an erroneous belief and assumption that man is intrinsically good, and that the evils which beset human society are due to ignorance, an imperfect environment, and corrupt human institutions. While certain benefits have resulted from these efforts, they have also created a host of other problems. The real ills of human society have not been cured; nor will they ever be through such efforts alone.

There is a teaching in the Word which reveals the reason for this. The teaching is striking for its directness and simplicity. It states: “In the other life everything is possible that is in conformity with order. The Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord is what makes order and is order itself. Consequently, as everything that is according to Divine truth is according to order, it is possible; and as everything that is contrary to Divine truth is contrary to order, it is impossible” (AC 8700, emphasis added).

It is a Divine truth that man is a spiritual being. It is also a Divine truth that since the fall of the Most Ancient Church, man, by heredity, tends toward evil. It is a Divine truth that we must be reformed and regenerated if we are to experience true, lasting peace and happiness. To ignore these truths, to act apart from them, is to act contrary to order. That which is contrary to order is impossible! It is, therefore, impossible to cure the ills of society without reference to these and other Divine truths. Conversely, when the Divine truth is known and acknowledged, and when man’s steps are ordered in the Word, then such improvement and the perfection of society are possible, for “everything is possible that is in conformity with order” (AC 8700).

The same thing is true of us individually. Presumably we are all desirous of attaining a state of deep happiness, inmost contentment and peace of mind. We also desire the same for the children entrusted to our care. And this is possible. It is possible if our steps are ordered in the Word. It is therefore fitting that we should pray to the Lord: “Order my steps in Your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Text).

As we said in the beginning, implicit in this prayer is the acknowledgment that the power to do this is from the Lord and not in ourselves that we need His help and guidance. But this does not mean that there is nothing we can do to help. The end cannot be achieved without man’s cooperation. Otherwise, we would not appropriate the results to ourselves. And the cooperation required of us is this: that we act as of ourselves to achieve the desired end with the acknowledgment that the Lord alone does it.

To this end the Lord has given the Word to us. In the Word the Lord tells us what is evil and what is good. He tells us what evils are to be shunned, why they are to be shunned, and how they are to be shunned. He tells us what goods are to be done, why they should be done, and how they should be done.

As we order our thoughts, our speech and our deeds in conformity with these teachings, the Lord, from within, orders our inmost loves and affections in a corresponding manner. As we shun evils in the externals of thought, speech and act, the Lord removes the lusts which gave rise to them. As we think, speak, and act with self-compelled consideration and charity for others in accordance with the teaching of the Word, the Lord implants within us a love of doing the same, together with a living perception of how the love should be expressed. As we order our steps in the Lord’s Word, He orders our lives therein.

In the new revelation which the Lord has given us the Word of the Second Advent the Divine laws of order are set forth as fully and completely as is possible in words of human language.

We live in a terribly confused and troubled world. We are not untouched by this trouble and confusion. But let us realize that we can escape from this disordered state. There is a haven of happiness, peace and hope for us. It lies in going to the Word, learning there the Divine laws of order, and ordering our steps therein. As we do this, so will the Lord lead us forth from the dominion of iniquity into the happiness and peace of the heavenly state. Amen.

Lessons: Numbers 9:15-23; Psalm 119:129-144; DP 125, 126

Divine Providence 125, 126

These angelic truths are stated here in order that it may be understood how the Divine Providence of the Lord operates to unite man to Himself and Himself to man. This operation does not act upon any particular of man separately but upon all things at the same time, and is effected from the inmost of man and from his ultimates at the same time. The inmost of man is his life’s love, his ultimates are what reside in the external of his thought, and intermediates are what reside in the internal of his thought. It has been shown in the foregoing numbers what the nature of these is in a wicked man; and from these considerations it is again made clear that the Lord cannot act from inmost things and ultimates at the same time except together with man, for in ultimates, man and the Lord are together. Therefore as man acts in ultimates which are matters of his choice, because they are within the scope of his freedom, so the Lord acts from his inmost things and in the things ranging in series to his ultimates. What the inmost things of man contain and what is present in the series from the inmost things to the ultimates are totally unknown to man; and man is therefore quite unaware of how the Lord operates and what He accomplishes there; but as those things are linked together as one with the ultimates, man need not know more than that he should shun evils as sins and look to the Lord. In this and in no other way can his life’s love, which by birth is infernal, be removed by the Lord and a heavenly life’s love be implanted in its place.

When the Lord has implanted a heavenly life’s love in place of the infernal one, then there are implanted affections of good and truth in place of the lusts of evil and falsity; and in place of the delights of the lusts of evil and falsity there are implanted the delights of the affections of good; and in place of the evils of infernal love there are implanted the goods of heavenly love. Then also instead of cunning there is implanted prudence, and instead of thoughts of malice there are implanted thoughts of wisdom. Thus man is born again and becomes a new man. The kinds of good that take the place of evils may be seen in The Doctrine of Life for the New Jerusalem (nos. 67-73, 74-79, 80-86, 87-91); also, that so far as a man shuns and turns away from evils as sins he loves the truths of wisdom (Life n. 32-41); and so far he has faith and is spiritual (Life n. 42-52).

THE LORD IS MERCY ITSELF

THE LORD IS MERCY ITSELF
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 14, 1991

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:1-4).

“Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?” (Psalm 85:4,5).

What is the true nature and quality of God? Is He a God of infinite love and mercy, as taught in our first text a God who forgives all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, redeems us from destruction and crowns us with lovingkindness? Or is He a God of anger, wrath and vengeance as implied in our second text a God who never forgets our backslidings and punishes us for them? Or is the Lord, like mortal men, subject to both of these feelings and emotions? Is He moved by love and mercy at certain times and by anger and wrath at others? The answer to the latter two questions is an unqualified NO! Our first text presents the Lord as He really is, while our second text presents Him as He appears to the wayward, self-led person.

The Writings declare: “The Lord is love itself, to which no other attributes are fitting than those of pure love, thus of pure mercy toward the whole human race, which [love] is such that it wills to save all and make them happy to eternity, and to bestow on them all that it has, thus out of pure mercy to draw to heaven all who are willing to follow … by the strong force of love” (AC 1735). They further state that “the Lord never curses anyone. He is never angry with anyone, never leads anyone into temptation, never punishes anyone … for such things can never proceed from the Fountain of mercy, peace, and goodness” (AC 245).

The Lord, who is mercy and goodness itself, regards all people from mercy and never turns away His face from anyone. It is we, when in evil and disorder, who turn our faces away from the Lord. This is what the Lord was speaking of in Isaiah, when He said: “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you” (59:2).

Even though we may turn away from the Lord and reject His love, still the Lord does not desert us. He is ever present waiting to be received. He continually breathes into us His own life. And even though we may not respond to it according to order, it nevertheless gives us the ability to think and reflect, and to discern whether a thing is good or evil, true or false (AC 714). Thus the Lord provides that, even though we may reject Him and close the door of our minds to Him, yet we retain the ability to distinguish between good and evil, truth and falsity, so that we may, at any time, change our ways and admit the Lord into our life. The Lord spoke of this saying: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).

The mercy of the Lord is perpetual with everyone, for the Lord wills to save all people, whoever they are; but His mercy cannot be received until evils are removed, for it is evils which oppose and prevent the reception of the Lord’s mercy (see AC 8307). While the Lord’s love and mercy go out to everyone, a person must have that in himself which is receptive to love and mercy; and that which receives love and mercy is truth. Where there is no truth, there can be no good, mercy or peace because there is nothing to receive them (see AC 10579:8).

Divine love and Divine wisdom are inseparable, for in the Lord these two are one. And since mercy is of love and justice is of wisdom, therefore these two are also inseparable. Therefore, when a person rejects the Lord as to truth, that is, when a person rejects Divine truth or the Word, he rejects the Divine mercy also, for, as said before, he has nothing to receive it. And since Divine truth is the Divine order according to which all creation operates, therefore those who reject Divine truth are judged from the laws of justice and truth separated from love, not because the Lord withdraws His love, for it is always joined with Divine truth, but because man has rejected His love and mercy along with the Divine truth. On the other hand, those who willingly receive Divine truth are judged from justice tempered with mercy because they have the vessels in themselves which receive it (see AC 5585:6).

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

Looking at this question of Divine mercy from another point of view, we should bear in mind that it is of mercy to the good that the evil are separated from them. For if they were not, the evil would do harm to the good, and would be continually attempting to destroy order, for this endeavor is inherent in all evil. The same thing is true on earth. If breaches of civil and moral order were not punished, and the offenders removed from society, society would soon be infected with evils and disorders, and would eventually perish. For this reason, we are told, a judge shows greater love and mercy by punishing evils and those guilty of them than by exercising inappropriate clemency on their behalf (ibid.).

These teachings make it clear that the Lord’s mercy is with everyone according to the person’s state. With those who are receptive to good and truth, the Lord’s mercy bestows peace and heavenly joy. With the evil, who undergo punishment as a result of their breaches of Divine order, the Lord’s mercy bends the penalty of evil to the person’s eternal welfare. Thus, even with the evil the Lord’s mercy is operative, but it takes another form with them than with the good (see AC 587:2). The Lord says: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19). “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).

The truth of these teachings concerning the Lord’s mercy is evident when we reflect upon the relationship of wise and loving parents with their children. When the children act according to order, they perceive and feel the love which their parents have for them, and they experience states of happiness, confidence, peace and security. However, when they depart from orderly behavior, they are no longer receptive to their parents’ love, but come under the rule of truth. If the parents are wise they do not punish in and from anger but from love, which expresses itself as zeal, but the child does not perceive the love. Temporarily the child is estranged from his parents and therefore mistakes the zeal for anger. It is because of this appearance that the Lord is alternately pictured as a God of love and mercy, and a God of wrath and anger, particularly in the Word of the Old Testament.

While we recognize the truth of the matter from doctrine and the application of logic, we too are inclined to be deceived by the appearance. There are occasions when we are apt to regard the Lord as a hard taskmaster. When we read something in the Word, or hear teaching from the Word, which makes us aware of our evils and shortcomings, we are often inclined to think that the Lord requires more of us than can be reasonably expected. It even appears that He has put stumbling blocks in our way. The truth then seems hard and cold it seems to rebuke us, and we unconsciously attribute something of harshness, or even of anger, to the Lord.

To many people the life of religion seems to be a stern, restrictive discipline instead of a source of inspiration and delight. And for this reason they are inclined to absent themselves from the church and from participating in its functions. They do not want discipline. Furthermore, they do not wish to be made aware of their shortcomings, for it destroys their equanimity and enjoyment of life.

The fact is, however, that the Lord, from infinite love, reveals Himself in the Word and established His church to teach the Word for the sake of human happiness. The Lord seeks to lead mankind to true and lasting happiness through the teaching of the Word in the church. In its essence, the church is not a human institution; it is a product of Divine love. In the family of man the Lord is our Father and the church our spiritual mother. The Lord’s love, directly and through the church, reaches out to us and, like children, we should respond affirmatively to that love. If we do not feel the love which goes forth from our spiritual parents, if we do not experience the states of happiness, peace and security which attend that love, it is because of a state of disorder within ourselves. The love is there, but we may not receive it; we may be aware only of the truth, which seems hard, cold and stern.

We know that this need not be. We are rational beings, and we can see, if we are willing, that this is merely an appearance an appearance caused by our own lack of receptivity. Recognizing this, we should not regard the Lord’s commandments as hard laws which seek to deprive us of the delight of living. Nor should we regard the church as a demanding institution which seeks to confine and restrict us. The Lord seeks our real happiness, and through His church seeks to promote our real, eternal welfare. We are able to see, if we elevate our thought above the senses, that if we will freely walk in the way of truth the path of life we will feel the warmth and reassurance of Divine love.

In this state of elevation we will look upon the Lord and His church as “the source of all our blessings.” We will acknowledge that “before His gifts earth’s richest boons grow dim,” that “resting in Him, His peace and joy possessing, all things are ours, for we have all in Him” (Hymn 30, Liturgy). Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 103:1-13, Luke 15:11-32, HH 522, 523

Heaven and Hell

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

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

He did come to make an atonement

 

Time would fail me to quote the passages in which he plainly declares that He came to reveal the Divine truth to men, to bring the Divine life down to them, and to open their eyes to see it. He says nothing about satisfaction, about the payment of debt. He is the good Shepherd, the great Physician, the perfect Teacher, the faithful Exemplar in every work. He did come to make an atonement, to make us at one with Him and the Father who dwells within Him. He assumed a human Nature because He could not come to man in any other way. He did what a just, wise, and loving father would do. If one of your children had wandered from home, had spent all his living, was sick and dying, would you not do all in your power to save him? Would you not spend time, money, labor; would you not provide yourself with all the instrumentalities in your power that were necessary to reach him? And do you suppose that infinite love, compared with which your love is not so much as a drop of water to ,the ocean, would refuse to be reconciled to His lost and dying children until he had received full compensation for their sin; until there had been measured to Him, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe,” or an exact equivalent? It cannot be. Reason, Scripture, the perceptions of justice and mercy which the Lord has given us, and the deep, spontaneous yearnings of our own hearts, declare it to be impossible. No, the Lord did not come into the world to satisfy the demands of an inflexible and arbitrary justice. He came rather to satisfy the demands of infinite love; not to pay a debt, but to reach the dying soul, to cleanse it from its impurities; to heal its diseases; to mould it into His own image and likeness, and fill it with His own peace and blessedness.

(GAP) GOD ANSWERS PRAYER.ONE’S HEART SPEAK’S LOUDER THEN ONE’S INTELLECT,WITHOUT THE RICH HEART WEALTH IS AN UGLY BEGGER,Father Son and Holy Spirit,Are the three essentials of the one God,Like body soul and operation in man.

THE LORD AS A BRANCH

THE LORD AS A BRANCH

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinDecember 4, 1994

 

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, “We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach.” In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped. (Isaiah 4:1 & 2)

The world was about to be destroyed, when the Lord was born upon the earth. This critical situation was not externally apparent. True, corruption and abuses were daily occurrences. But evil did not appear to be so prevalent that the entire human race was on the verge of becoming extinct.

However, internally or spiritually, the human race was in peril. The Writings for the New Church explain that our ability to understand and affirmatively respond to genuine truths from the Lord was on the verge of being destroyed. We came dangerously close to becoming alienated from Divine truth, without any hope of recognizing it in our lives.

However, when the Lord came to the earth, He came as Divine truth itself. By so coming, the Lord can directly effect our lives. Before the Lord’s coming, falsities had arisen to such an extent that the communication between heaven and the earth was severely threatened. When falsities were prevalent, it became impossible to understand truth. And when truth was not recognized, it became impossible to conceive of what was genuinely good.

There are four things that falsities do that make it impossible for us to recognize Divine truths. First, they make an evil life allowable. They justify our delights which hurt other people. They excuse our affections preventing Divine order from becoming established upon the earth. Second, falsities exclusively focus upon external things. If we examine falsities closely, we can see that they entice us to concentrate only upon external things with no consideration about spiritual things. The less we have spiritual things influence our lives, the more we are prone to live a life that just pleases our physical senses. Third, when falsities are believed to be truths, we will have a misconception about what is good. So long as we believe a falsity to be the truth, our image of good will be tainted and impure. And fourth, we will not be able to recognize the Lord fully. Falsities put limitations upon our belief in the Lord. This will prevent us from sincerely acknowledging the Lord’s infinity.

This is the reason the Lord came to the earth, namely, to restore our ability to know and to even apply genuine truths in our lives. This means that it is now possible to worship the Lord as He really is, and to live a life that fully manifests the Lord’s love and goodness.

This is why our text from Isaiah begins with “seven women holding unto one man.” This pictures the desperation of genuine good finding the truths so it could fully express itself. “Seven” represents what is holy, while women represents the affections that desire to do what is truly useful for others. That there was only one man shows that when the Lord was on the earth, what was generally regarded as good and true at the time had very little ability to express the Lord’s love.

However, the church that was set up by the Lord was pure and good. This is referred to by the fruit being described as “excellent and appealing”. Despite the spiritual depravity that surrounded the Lord’s coming, the church that He established was a beacon of light to anyone who sincerely desired to live a good life. The Church the Lord established on earth allows us to fulfill this prophecy in Isaiah:

 

For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Is 61:11)

The prophecy continues by describing the Lord’s coming as a Branch. Actually, the Hebrew word for Branch has the idea of being a shoot or a sprout. The Lord came as a branch or as genuine truth itself which gives a true teaching of the Lord and the life we are to lead. This branch of truth became more and more rooted in the earth as the Lord was overcoming temptations.

It is important that somewhere on the earth, some form of genuine worship is maintained. When we are given the means of knowing that the Lord is the one God of heaven and earth, and what a true life of charity entails, we have the highest form of spiritual nourishment. We are spiritually nourished when our external daily lives are directly influenced by spiritual principles. We are then living in the highest form of charity that we can possibly be in. This can only happen when we have an accurate understanding of what the Word is teaching us. And the Lord’s coming to the earth, which we are celebrating at this time of year, made it possible to genuinely understand what the Word is teaching.

Also when we know and live according to genuine truths, they activate the affections of good and truth that the Lord carefully preserves in all of us. These states of affections are referred to as remains. These wonderful states, which are formed especially during infancy, are the part in us that can respond to genuine truths without doing violence to them. In our text from Isaiah, these states of affection are referred to by those left in Israel.

When the Lord came to earth, the truths He revealed could activate these states of affection in us. The prevailing doctrine of life, that existed at the time of the Lord’s birth, was becoming more and more inadequate to activate these remains. It finally became necessary for the Lord Himself to come and reveal the truths that could stimulate our affection towards what is Divinely good. The truths that the Lord revealed are the Branch which the Lord was said to come as.

However, we must have good soil before we can accept genuine truths from the Lord without perverting them. This good soil is especially cultivated when we desire what is good and true not for our own sakes, but to be conjoined with the Lord. Our highest priority in life is that goods and truths are more firmly established upon the earth. When this happens, the Law is said to be written upon our hearts. We are affected with what is good for the sake of good, not just for the sake of self-interest. This can only transpire when iniquity is removed from our lives. Then our selfish conception of truth becomes a rationality that is open towards the Lord’s guidance and direction. (AC 2657)

As the Lord is the Branch, we can be an offshoot of this Branch. As we read in our second lesson from the Gospel of John, the Lord said,

 

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (Jn 15:5)

Every individual has a unique way of displaying the Lord’s truth in their lives. We are all equally dependant upon the Lord for knowing the truth and living according to it. We all draw from the same source. This is the Branch that was referred to in Isaiah. However, all the varieties of expression and manifestation of that Branch is referred to in the New Testament. When we conform to the truth, which the Lord has revealed in His Word, we are bearing our unique fruit. And this fruit will also be “excellent and appealing”.

Each one of us has a unique way of responding to the Lord’s revelation of truth. All of us can read the same passage from the Word, yet, each one of us can draw different insights from that passage. What is amazing, all of us could be right. The Lord can bring our unique perspectives together whereby the church is formed. Unfortunately, the Church is weakened when individuals try to force others to interpret everything of doctrine as he or she does. Instead of respecting the different ways the Lord’s revelation of truth can be responded to, such people try to impose their personal belief upon others. However, if we express our uniqueness, without infringing upon other people’s uniqueness, the Lord can form His church more effectively. The Church is formed when many branches are springing from the Lord’s branch or vine.

Everyone of us has the capabilities to affirmatively respond to the Lord’s Advent. The Lord has carefully preserved within all of us the ability to know His truth and act from His love. However, each one of us has a unique and different way of responding to the Lord’s coming. But this unique way is our branch from the Lord’s vine. If we are faithful in performing our tasks and responsibilities, our branch will be vibrate and alive. We will be engrafted in the Lord, Who is life itself. As we spiritually grow in the Lord, the more these words will become real in our lives, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)