Feeding the 5,000

Sermon: Feeding the 5,000

This is the audio from the sermon I gave yesterday, Sunday, January 30, 2011, at the Olivet New Church in Toronto.  The lessons are Exodus 16:1-5,13-15, 31; Mark 6:31-44; and Arcana Coelestia 5405.  Although if I had to do it again, I think I’d change the Heavenly Doctrine lesson to Divine Providence 133:

The effect, however, of miracles on the good and on the wicked is different. The good do not desire miracles, but they believe those recorded in the Word; and if they hear anything concerning a miracle they give it their attention only as an argument of no great weight that confirms their faith; for their thoughts are derived from the Word, consequently from the Lord, and not from the miracle. It is otherwise with the wicked. They may indeed he driven and compelled to a faith by miracle’, and even to worship and to piety, but only for a short time. For their evils are shut in, and the lusts of their evils and the delights springing from these lusts continually act upon their external of worship and piety; and in order that their evils may emerge from their confinement and break forth, they reflect upon the miracle and at length call it an amusing artifice or a natural phenomenon, and so return to their evils. Now he who after worship returns to his evils profanes the truth and good of worship; and the lot after death of those who commit profanation is the worst of all. These are they who are meant by the Lord’s words in Matt. xii. 43, 44, 45, whose last state is worse than their first. Moreover, if miracles were to be wrought with those who do not believe from the miracles in the Word, they would be performed continually, and in view of all such persons. From these considerations it may be evident why miracles are not wrought at this day.

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REBIRTH

REBIRTH
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, September 27, 1992

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again”‘ (John 3:5-7).

The purpose in creation is a heaven from the human race. We are born into this world in order that we may be prepared for eternal life in heaven. Since the fall of man in the days of the Most Ancient Church, represented in the Word by Adam’s and Eve’s fall from integrity, man is born with a tendency to evils which have been increased in a long line from parents, grandparents, and ancestors. We read: “Everyone who is born is born into all these inherited evils thus increased in succession” and consequently by nature he loves nothing but evil (AC5280:2).

This being the case, how can we be prepared for heavenly life? Heavenly life, by its very nature, can have nothing in common with a life of evil. The Lord, addressing Nicodemus, answered this question directly and simply, saying: “Unless one be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

“‘To be born,”‘ the Writings state, “is to be regenerated, because … spiritual birth is regeneration, which is also called rebirth … It is by one’s being born again, or regenerated, that man becomes man,” that is, truly human (AC 5160). This is the essential teaching of all Divine revelation. It is implied throughout the Old Testament. It is plainly stated in the New Testament, and it is thoroughly explained in the Writings. Our life on earth begins by natural birth. Our spiritual life begins by spiritual birth or regeneration.

It is commonly believed by many that people enter into heaven simply by the Lord’s admitting them. “But,” the Writings say, “he who holds this belief is much mistaken. For no one can be received into heaven who has not received heaven into himself, which is done by means of rebirth, or regeneration” (AC 5342:4). Heaven is not merely a place; it is a state of life. The state is the reality; the place is where those are who are in the state of heaven. Only those enter heaven who are in the state of heaven; these are people who have received heaven into themselves by rebirth, or regeneration.

The Writings declare that a person who is in good is being reborn every moment, from early infancy to the end of life on earth and thereafter to eternity. The processes by which this takes place are said to be both intricate and amazing, and it is these processes which are the subject of the internal, spiritual sense of the Word (see AC 5202:4).

Since the interiors of the Word have now been laid open to the sight of the understanding, we need no longer grope our way through life in obscurity and darkness. If we will regularly and conscientiously read the Word, especially the Writings, and make their light our light, we will be able to cooperate intelligently with the Lord in the process of regeneration. “No one can be regenerated except through the good of life conjoined with the truth of doctrine; from this one has spiritual life.”

Let us consider some of those teachings in the Word which throw light on this subject, so that, by a better understanding of these marvelous processes, we may willingly and intelligently enter into the process of regeneration and progress along the way that leads to heaven.

In infancy and childhood we are, as to our quality, completely sensuous. That is, our ideas and thoughts are formed entirely from impressions entering our minds through the five senses. The innocence of this state is not genuine but external, for true innocence is the product of wisdom. By this innocence, in which infants and children are kept, the Lord disposes into order those impressions which come in through the senses so that they may form a basis, or foundation, upon which the rational mind can be built in later life. The Writings state that without the influx of external innocence in this first age, rationality could never develop (see AC 5126:2).

From childhood to early youth, by instruction from parents and teachers and by individual study, the mind takes on a new quality. Not only are the ideas and thoughts received through the bodily senses, but abstract ideas are also received and partially comprehended. In this state of life, concepts of right and wrong can be appreciated. The obligations placed on us by the civil law are learned and understood. Thus a higher plane of the mind is formed, which is called in the Writings the “natural” to distinguish it from the lower plane, established in infancy and early childhood, called the sensuous (see AC 5126:2).

“From youth to early adulthood communication is opened between the natural and the rational by the learning of truths and goods of civil and moral life, and especially the truths and goods of spiritual life, through the hearing and reading of the Word” (AC 5126:2, emphasis added). When a young person lives according to the civil, moral and spiritual truths which have been learned, he becomes rational, that is, the rational plane is opened and established.

On the other hand, if one does not learn spiritual truths, or if one does not live according to them, the person does not become rational. Such a person merely stands on the threshold of rationality. The knowledges possessed by the person are a matter of memory only, not of insight, perception and life.

If then and in subsequent years the truths and goods of spiritual life are disregarded and denied, and the person lives contrary to them, then the rational is closed and also the natural which had previously been established. The person reverts to the plane of the sensuous. The person’s thoughts proceed from the same plane as that of the infant and child, despite the fact that the person may be of mature age and have a great fund of knowledge. “Nevertheless,” the Writings say, “of the Lord’s Divine providence, so much of communication still remains as to enable the person to understand goods and truths with some degree of understanding, yet not to make them one’s own unless he performs serious repentance and for a long while afterward struggles with falsities and evils” (ibid.).

If, however, a young person learns the truths of life – especially those of spiritual life – by instruction and study, and if the person lives the truths learned, then the rational mind is successively opened in the person. Since the activity of thought then originates in the rational, the person becomes more and more rational. When this state is reached, the natural degree is made subordinate to the rational, and the sensuous subordinate to the natural. “This takes place,” we read, “especially in youth up to adult age, and progressively to the last years of … life, and afterward in heaven to eternity” (AC 5126).

What is maturity, true maturity? Maturity is reached when the sensuous plane is subordinate to and serves the natural, and when the natural is subordinate to the rational and serves it. Maturity is not a matter of age; it is a matter of state. It is not reached until a person begins regeneration, until a person learns truths from the Word and lives them.

A sad note is sounded in the Writings. They say that few in the world progress to this stage. Many indeed learn truth from the Word and begin to be reformed. “But,” it is stated, “as soon as they come to the age of early adulthood they suffer themselves to be carried away by the world, and thus go over to the side of infernal spirits, by whom they are gradually so estranged from heaven that they scarcely believe any longer that there is a heaven” (AC 5280:4, emphasis added).

We are all born with the tendency to love self and the world more than the Lord and our neighbor. In the course of growing up we have all acted in accord with this natural tendency. Since we have confirmed some of these perverse tendencies by giving in to them and acting from them, we cannot be regenerated without combat and struggle. Why is this so?

When a regenerating person begins to live the truths which have been learned from the Word, and doctrine from it, one begins to recede from the evils of one’s former life. When this happens, the evil spirits who perceived their delight in the activity of this evil arouse and excite the evils one has done in previous states, and the false things one formerly thought. In this way they seek to maintain their influence over the person who is beginning to regenerate.

But the Lord never deserts us. The person is defended from within by the Lord through angels. They flow into the truths of doctrine which the person has acquired, and arouse, or bring to consciousness, those truths which can conquer the evils which have been awakened and stirred.

This combat between the angels and evil spirits with the person produces anxiety. The person does not realize one thousandth part of what is actually involved in the struggle, and yet the battle is being waged for the person’s eternal salvation. It is fought by the angels from the person. The weapons which the angels use to defend one against the attacks of evil are the truths of doctrine which the person possesses. We should, therefore, never underestimate the importance of knowing and understanding truth if we are to survive spiritual trials and combats.

When a person has overcome in these spiritual trials by strenuously resisting as of self the evils which seethed within, the person undergoes a gradual transformation. Little by little the interior organic forms of the mind are changed; they are reordered. As a result of this reorganization of the mind the person ceases to be a slave to natural passions and desires, as formerly was the case. One state has ended and a new one begun. We are told: “A new state begins in the one who is being regenerated when the order is changed, as takes place when interior things obtain dominion over exterior things, and the exterior things begin to serve the interior … With those who are being regenerated, this is observed from the fact that something within dissuades them from allowing sensuous delights and bodily or earthly pleasure to rule, and to draw over to their side the things of intellect to confirm them” (AC 5159).

This passage draws a remarkably clear distinction between a regenerating person and one who is not regenerating. A person who is regenerating is distinguished from one who is not regenerating by the fact that something within – a love for Divine truth – dissuades him from allowing bodily and worldly pleasures to rule, and from using one’s intellect and knowledge to justify and excuse selfish indulgence. Eternal things – the things of the spirit -come first with such a person, and the things of the world and of the body serve.

We might well ask ourselves: Is this the case with us? Whatever the answer, let us resolve that it shall be so! That is why we are here – to make choices: to choose to put the things of heaven above those temporal things of the world and the body! If this is our choice, the things of heaven will descend into the natural and impart their delight to the natural. They will no longer be in conflict but will work in harmony. The joys of heaven will be perceived externally. The delights of the body and of the world, because ordered from within, will enter into and penetrate the interiors of the mind, affecting them with joy and gladness. Thus heaven and the world will be conjoined in us, and from this conjunction will come the peace and blessedness that only those can experience who have been born of water and of the spirit. Amen.

Lessons: Mark 8:27-38, John 3:1-15, AC 1555:2,3

Arcana Coelestia 1555:2,3

Few, if any, know how man is brought to true wisdom. Intelligence is not wisdom, but leads to wisdom; for to understand what is true and good is not to be true and good, but to be wise is to be so. Wisdom is predicated only of the life – that the man is such. A man is introduced to wisdom or to life by means of knowing (scire et nosse), that is, by means of knowledges (scientiae et cognitiones). In every man there are two parts, the will and the understanding; the will is the primary part, the understanding is the secondary one. Man’s life after death is according to his will part, not according to his intellectual part. The will is being formed in man by the Lord from infancy to childhood, which is effected by means of the innocence that is insinuated, and by means of charity toward parents, nurses, and little children of a like age, and by means of many other things that man knows nothing of, and which are celestial. Unless these celestial things were first insinuated into a man while an infant and a child, he could by no means become a man. Thus is formed the first plane.

But as a man is not a man unless he is endowed also with understanding, will alone does not make the man, but understanding together with will; and understanding cannot be acquired except by means of knowledges and therefore he must, from his childhood, be gradually imbued with these. Thus is formed the second plane. When the intellectual part has been instructed in knowledges, especially in the knowledges of truth and good, then first can the man be regenerated; and when he is being regenerated, truths and goods are implanted by the Lord by means of knowledges in the celestial things with which he had been endowed by the Lord from infancy, so that his intellectual things make a one with his celestial things; and when the Lord has thus conjoined these, the man is endowed with charity, from which he begins to act, this charity being of conscience. In this way he for the first time receives new life, and this by degrees. The light of this life is called wisdom, which then takes the first place, and is set over the intelligence. Thus is formed the third plane. When a man has become like this during his bodily life, he is then in the other life being continually perfected. These considerations show what is the light of intelligence, and what the light of wisdom.

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).

SELF-JUSTIFICATION

SELF-JUSTIFICATION
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Lake Helen, Florida, June 7, 1992

“And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them: You are those who justify yourselves before me, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God'” ( Luke 16:14,15).

One of the most common weaknesses of mankind, yet one of the most deadly, is the tendency to justify one’s actions or behavior regardless of their nature. We are all guilty of doing this, and yet, sad to say, if this becomes a habit and becomes deeply entrenched by constant repetition, salvation becomes impossible until we overcome it. If we indulge this instinctive evil without restraint, we cannot even begin to regenerate, for we destroy for ourselves the means provided for our regeneration.

The Word teaches clearly and unequivocally that everything good and true comes from the Lord. He is the source of all spiritual and natural life. We are only vessels who receive these Divine gifts from Him. But we are not passive vessels. We are endowed with the ability to respond, as of ourselves, to the influx which we receive, both directly from the Lord into our souls and mediately through heaven into our minds. We can respond, according to order, by using our life, and the good and truth we receive from the Lord, for use; or we can respond by using these things for our own satisfaction, pleasure and advancement.

When we adopt the latter course we enter into a denial that we receive everything by influx, and we ascribe good and truth to ourselves. That is, we regard ourselves as the source of the truths we understand and speak and the goods that we do. Nevertheless, we are told by the Lord: “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:26).

However, the Lord gives us these gifts of life, love and wisdom in such a way that we feel them to be our own so that we can enjoy their blessings. If we allow ourselves to be deceived by the appearance, we are inevitably led into evil. For since we do not acknowledge them as gifts from the Lord, we feel no responsibility for using the gifts for their intended purpose. Instead, we use them for the gratification of selfish loves, pleasures and ambitions.

The Writings declare: “So long as a person believes that he does all things from self, both goods and evils, so long goods do not affect him and evils adhere to him; but the moment that a person acknowledges and believes that goods flow in from the Lord and not from self, and that evils are from hell, then goods affect him and evils do not adhere to him, and, moreover, insofar as goods affect him, so far evils are removed, thus the person is purified and liberated from them” (AC 10219:3).

The evil of self-justification arises when a person ascribes all things to self. If we truly acknowledged that good and truth flow in from the Lord through heaven and evil and falsity from hell, we would neither claim merit for our goods and truths, nor would we seek to justify our evils. But when we ascribe the things we feel, think, do and say to self, then when evil is revealed in us, we automatically seek to justify ourselves and our actions, for if we acknowledge our evils to be evils then, because we attribute every thing to self, we must condemn ourselves.

We see from this that the tendency to justify one’s faults, errors and evils springs from the false and mistaken idea that we live of ourselves and therefore are not accountable to God for the way we live.

All evil allures and deceives the mind, for all evil arises from, and seeks to satisfy, the loves of self and the world. “These loves,” we read, “like the unseen currents of a river, continually draw the thought and will of man away from the Lord to self, and away from heaven to the world, thus away from … truths and goods to falsities and evils” (AC 9348). Because of this, when a person is in evils of life, he seeks falsities which are in agreement with his evil, and finds truths distasteful, for they are not in harmony with a love of evil. We have this teaching: “Evil of life is attended with its own falsity, which falsity lies hidden in the person who is in evil of life, and sometimes the person is not aware that it is in him; but as soon as he hears or thinks truth, then this falsity comes forth, and if it cannot deny the truth outright, it seeks to explain it in favor of its own evil, and thus falsifies the truth” (AC 8094).

When we love evil, this affection continually inflows into the rational faculty, and a kind of fallacious light pours in from the fire of the affections of evil, and causes us to see falsities as truths. “That every principle whatever,” the Writings say “… when once taken up, can be confirmed by innumerable things, and be presented in the outward form as if it were truth itself, may be known to everyone. Hence come heresies, from which, when once confirmed, the person never recedes. Yet from a false principle nothing but falsities can flow; and even if truths are interlarded among them, they become truths falsified when used to confirm a false principle because they are contaminated by its essence” (AC 2385:3).

“A person who is in evil as to life is in the falsity of that evil, and does not believe the truth however well he knows it. He sometimes supposes that he believes, but he is mistaken. That he does not believe will be granted him to know in the other life when his perceiving is reduced into agreement with his willing. Then the person will disown, hold in aversion, and reject the truth, and will acknowledge as truth that which is contrary, that is, falsity” (AC 7950:3).

This may all seem a bit abstract, and yet it has a very practical bearing on life. The tendency to justify one’s evils exhibits itself very early in life. The little child when caught doing something which he is forbidden to do learns very quickly to make excuses for himself. It does not take a child long to learn that if he can make it appear as though his motives were good, he may be pardoned. Or he tries to make it appear that he was forced against his will, by circumstances, to do it. With children and young people these excuses are usually transparent. But as we grow older, if we habitually justify everything we do, we develop this art to a fine point of subtlety, so that at length we may even begin to deceive ourselves.

Truth exposes evil. It is like a spotlight shining into a dark room. When our eyes are accustomed to the dark we cannot bear the light, so we either close our eyes and turn our backs, or we blot out the light, or perhaps we direct the beam elsewhere so that its light does not shine on us. That is, when one of our faults or evils is exposed by the light of truth, we tend to close our mind to it, refusing to see its application to ourselves, or we may try to extinguish it by denying it, or else we may try to show that it does not apply to us, and direct the light of truth toward others.

The Writings tell us that the difficulty of resisting evils increases so far as we do them from delight. For in the same measure we become accustomed to them until we no longer see them, and at length love them and from the delight of love excuse them and confirm them by every kind of fallacy, and declare them to be allowable and good. “This is the fate,” the Writings state, “of those who in early youth plunge into evils without restraint, and also reject Divine things from the heart” (HH 533).

The tendency to justify our faults, errors and evils is one which we must be watchful for. As we grow up, certain things become habitual and customary, and therefore delight is associated with them. We tend to think that whatever is customary or widely practiced is good. What we often fail to realize is that humanity and society, like ourselves, are unregenerate and therefore motivated by selfish loves and worldly pleasures, and therefore many customary ways of living and acting which we love are actually evil. Whatever springs from evil is evil.

It is not enough to acknowledge that we love evil generally, for such an acknowledgment does not change our life. If we do not acknowledge specific evils we continue to delight in them and confirm ourselves in them (see AC 8390). Of those who do this it is said in Jeremiah: “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods … and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say: We are delivered to do all these abominations’? … Therefore I will do to this house, which is called by My name, in which you trust … as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of My sight … The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger. Do they provoke Me to anger?’ says the Lord. Do they not provoke themselves to the shame of their own faces?'” (Jeremiah 7:8-10,14,15,18,19)

This passage from the Scripture makes it clear that the acknowledgment of the Lord without living according to His Divine truth is not enough. To do this is to stand in the house called by His name, and make cakes to other gods to the shame of our own faces. The Writings say: “He who wills good does good; but he who does not do good, however he may say that he wills good, still does not will it when he does not do it” (AC 3934:7). I want to focus on this statement for a moment on some of its implications.

Good in many places in the Writings is defined as use. This means that if we really love a use, we will be willing to perform it when opportunity is granted. If we are not willing to perform it, we do not really love it, no matter how we may seek to justify our refusal. Love is the life of man. What we really love we seek and find the opportunity to do.

The performance of uses, especially those uses for which we receive no monetary reward, seems opposed to our happiness and well-being. It seems to deprive us of the opportunity of enjoying pleasures. So when we are called upon to perform uses which we think will interfere with pleasure, we seek to justify our refusal. We do this in various ways. We may hide behind a facade of humility, or we may turn the spotlight on somebody else whom we claim would be more suitable, or we may belittle the use itself and thus destroy it in an effort to justify our unwillingness to do it.

Use is good. The neglect of uses in favor of self and worldly gain and pleasure is evil. “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” We would recall the teaching that evil which a person has justified by reason and confirmed by life cannot be removed to eternity unless the person repents of it in the world (see AC 4172). For in the process of justifying evils man destroys his rational faculty and thus his essential humanity (see AC 4156e). When a truth is presented which makes us uncomfortable, we must guard lest we close our mind to it, for, the Writings say: “Nothing … is of more importance to man than to know what is true” (AC 794). “To think from the truth is the truly human principle” (DP 321:5; cf. TCR 354:3).

If we would be inhabitants of the Lord’s kingdom, both here and hereafter, we must be willing to acknowledge His truth as our sole guide in life. We must be willing, at all times, to acknowledge our faults, errors and evils, and strenuously resist the temptation to justify them. If we do not, we end up either rejecting or profaning Divine truth. This is the sin against the Holy Spirit which cannot be forgiven in this world or in the world to come. We must keep our minds open to the shining light of truth. We must have the intellectual honesty to recognize evils in ourselves and disorders in our lives and in society. We must have the courage to acknowledge them, and the resolution, strength, fortitude and determination to rectify them. Amen.

Lessons: I Sam. 15:1-23, Jer. 7:1,2,8-28, AC 5096

Arcana Coelestia 5096

“Who were bound in the prison house.” That this signifies which were among falsities is evident from the signification of “being bound in a prison house” as being to be among falsities (n. 4958, 5037, 5038, 5085). They who are in falsities, and still more they who are in evils, are said to be “bound” and in “prison” not that they are in any bond, but for the reason that they are not in freedom, for those who are not in freedom are interiorly bound. For they who have confirmed themselves in falsity are no longer in any freedom to choose and receive truth; and they who have much confirmed themselves therein are not even in freedom to see truth, still less to acknowledge and believe it; for they are in the persuasion that falsity is truth, and truth falsity. This persuasion is such that it takes away all freedom to think anything else, and consequently holds the very thought in bonds and as it were in prison. This has become evident to me from much experience with those in the other life who have been in persuasion of falsity through confirmations in themselves.

They are such as not at all to admit truths, but to reflect or strike them back again, and this with hardness according to the degree of the persuasion, especially when the falsity is from evil, or when evil has persuaded them. These are they who are meant in the Lord’s parable in Matthew: “Some seeds fell upon the hard way, and the birds came and devoured them” (Matthew 13:4);

the “seeds” are Divine truths; the “hard rock” is persuasion; the “birds” are principles of falsity. They who are such do not even know that they are in bonds or in prison, for they are affected with their own falsity, and love it for the sake of the evil from which it springs; hence they suppose that they are in freedom, for whatever is of the affection or love appears free. But they who are not in confirmed falsity that is, in the persuasion of falsity easily admit truths, and see and choose them and are affected with them, and afterward see falsities as it were beneath themselves, and also see how they who are in the persuasion of falsity are bound. These are in so much freedom that in view and thought they can as it were range through the whole heaven to innumerable truths; but no one can be in this freedom unless he is in good; for from good, man is in heaven, and in heaven truths appear from good.

LOVE IS THE LIFE OF MAN

LOVE IS THE LIFE OF MAN
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida April 26, 1992

“Love is the life of man” (DLW 1).

Through the ages philosophers have wrestled in vain with the question, What is life? Scientists reluctantly admit that they do not know what life is, though some are confident that they will create it in the laboratory. The Writings, however, answer this question very simply and directly, saying: “Love is the life of man.” One may wonder, If the answer to this question is truly that simple, why have people not discovered the answer before this? The answer is that man cannot discover this from human intelligence. Life is Divine, and only the author of life can reveal its origin and nature.

There is another reason why this vital truth has not been known. The human mind is first formed from appearances, which can be put off only with great difficulty. For confirmation of this, take as an example the fact that it took untold centuries for mankind to see through the appearance that the world is flat. Until comparatively recent times people regarded the earth as the center of the universe. Also until relatively recent times, matter was believed to be solid. Now we know that it is not, despite the appearance that it is. When we were children we had to be told that the sun does not rise and set, that in fact the earth revolves on its axis. We, as children, unconsciously believed that everything revolved around ourselves. That is the way it appeared to us. In fact, all things we sense are only appearances of realities that are beyond sensual experience.

The appearances by which the mind is formed cannot be dispersed except by the exploration of causes. People did not discover the nature of matter until they began to wonder why matter behaved in certain ways under certain conditions. As they began to search for the causes, they began to learn more about the real nature of matter.

This same principle applies to our knowledge of the nature of life. We cannot discover the nature of life until we rid our minds of the appearances with which they are imbued from infancy, and look to causes. As the cause is on a higher plane than the effect, we must look for our answer in the pages of Divine revelation wherein are revealed the spiritual causes of all things natural.

The Word states that love is the very essence of man’s life. Everyone who reflects on this statement can see that it is true. For it is plain that the inmost vitality of human beings is from love. When love is present we grow warm; when it is absent we grow cold (see HH 14).

Because love is the life of man, it can be said that we are what we love. That is, we are what we love above all else. We are our ruling love! People have many loves which appear under many and varied forms, but all loves are subordinate to, and derivations of, the ruling love. The ruling love may be likened to the head of a kingdom who governs and controls his subjects, and through them achieves his ends, both directly and indirectly.

That which one loves above all else is continually in the thought and will. For instance, if a person loves riches above all else, he continually revolves in his mind how he may obtain them. We read: “He inmostly rejoices when he acquires them; he grieves inmostly when he loses them; his heart is in them. He who loves himself above all things regards himself in each thing: he thinks of himself, he speaks of himself, he acts for the sake of himself” (NJHD 55). The ruling love is in the will like the hidden current of a river bearing us on even when we are seemingly engrossed in other things. It is the animating force in all that we do. For we like to think about and do that which we love (see NJHD 56,57; Life 1).

The Word teaches that there are two loves from which all other loves are derived, and to which all loves may be referred. “The love which is the head of all heavenly loves, or to which they all relate, is love to the Lord; and the love which is the head of all infernal loves, or to which they all relate, is the love of rule springing from the love of self. These two loves are diametrically opposed to each other” (DLW 141).

This teaching makes it clear that all of our loves are either heavenly in origin or opposed to heavenly love, and thus to the Lord. This is what the Lord was speaking of when He said to the Pharisees: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matt. 12:30). We would note that these words were addressed to the Pharisees, who are described by the Lord as being those who “say and do not do” (Matt. 23:3). They are also called “hypocrites” (Luke 12:1). This is significant. It means that these words apply especially to all those who are in the habit of living contrary to what they profess with the lips.

It is important for us to be aware of the fact that there is no such thing as a neutral love or affection. All loves and affections spring from the Lord and look to Him, or they spring from hell and look to self. We all tend, when we see an evil in ourselves, to pardon it by saying that it is not really evil; it just isn’t good. Then there are times when we are afraid to examine an affection because we suspect it of being evil in origin. We think if we don’t know its origin it will do us no harm; at least that is our hope. To the extent that we do this, we delude ourselves. The Lord’s words are clear and unmistakable: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matt. 12:30).

Now it is true that we are given freedom of choice, the freedom to choose heavenly loves or infernal loves and make them our own. But this does not make us neutral. Freedom of choice is a God-given faculty; it is not ours. We are what we love. Our ruling love is our life, and our spiritual quality is according to this dominant love. That love our ruling love looks either to the Lord or away from Him toward self.

We see from the doctrine here presented that our text, “Love is the life of man,” is not merely a philosophical abstraction. It is a fundamental truth, with an eminently practical application. In the light of Divine truth we should examine our loves objectively, with a view to determining their origin and quality. To help us in this task we ought to examine our delights. They give us an indication of what we love, for we delight in what we love.

If a person delights in personal praise and the submission of others to self, either in actuality or fantasy, that person loves self more than others. If one delights in obscenity, in thought or deed, or if one delights in reading salacious literature, he is in the lust of adultery; for such things are opposed to conjugial love, which is from the Lord. If we delight in the things of this world, in its luxuries and comforts, in its sports, recreations and entertainments more than we do in spiritual riches, which are goods and truths from the Word applied to uses, or in spiritual recreations which are worship, feasts of charity and discussion of the doctrines of the church looking to use, then we may know that we love the world more than heaven, and ourselves more than the Lord and our neighbor.

Another test that we may apply in determining the quality of our loves is examining the things that we are willing to sacrifice for. We are willing to make sacrifices for things we love sacrifices in time, energy and money. The truth of this is obvious. There is a well known saying that we always find time for the things we love. Another is that if we love a thing enough we will pay any price for it. And again it is said that if a person really loves a thing, no amount of work will keep him from it. The strength of our loves can be measured by the sacrifices we are willing to make on account of the things we love.

This test is easier to make than the former test because it deals primarily with deeds rather than our thoughts and imaginations. Although it is easier to make, it may be more revealing and personally embarrassing, and for this reason we may seek to avoid it. Nevertheless, if we would know what our loves are, indeed what we ourselves are, we must examine ourselves fearlessly and objectively.

We should ask ourselves, Do we set aside time for reading and meditating on the Word of God? Do we make regular provision for attending church in order to worship the Lord, and attend church functions in order to promote our spiritual development? How does this compare with the time we set aside for worldly recreation and entertainment? How much money do we spend on luxuries, and how does it compare with the amount we devote to the maintenance of the Lord’s church and the promotion of its uses? How much of our energy do we expend in serving our family and our church, and how much in doing things that focus on self? I am not suggesting they have to be equal, or even nearly equal, but there should be a rational relationship that represents a solid commitment to the things of eternal life.

The answers to these questions will give us an indication of our spiritual state. As we apply the same principle to our many other loves we will see more clearly the nature of our ruling love. We will be able to see whether the things we love most derive their quality from the loves of self and the world or from love to the Lord and the neighbor.

The spiritual need for self-examination is enjoined on us many times in the Writings. Repentance is said to be the first of the church in man. But repentance must be preceded by self-examination, for we can repent only of evils which we have discovered in ourselves after examining our delights and our loves.

If we do this sincerely, we are bound to find evil, for we are born with tendencies toward evils of every kind. The recognition of evil in ourselves should not surprise us, nor cause us to despair, for while we live in this world we have the possibility of changing our loves. Indeed, we are placed in this world so that we may freely choose those loves which we wish to make our own, and that these loves may become permanent, fixed and enduring in the world of space and time.

When we leave this world, our loves cannot be changed. We lose the ultimate plane, that is, it becomes quiescent and can no longer be active. This is what is meant by the statement, “As the tree falls, so shall it lie” (Ecc. 11:3). Therefore, we are told that after death each person becomes his own love, both as to his interiors and as to his face and body, and that he associates with those who are in similar loves.

Those who have chosen and confirmed good loves appear beautiful and fair, while those who love evil become dark, ugly and misshapen. Those who love what is good are intelligent and wise, while those who delight in evil are stupid and idiotic (see HH 281:2). This takes place for the reason that one’s life is one’s love, and in the spiritual world, where appearances are stripped away, a person’s loves appear in the externals of one’s life.

In conclusion, we would recall a story recorded in the gospels. When a woman who was a sinner was being accused in the Lord’s presence, the Lord said: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47). Evils are forgiven when we repent of them, and we repent of evils only in the measure that we love what is good and true.

If we would regenerate, we must begin by examining our delights and our deeds in the light of the Lord’s exhortation: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-22). Amen.

Lessons: Deut. 29:10-21, 30:15-20; Luke 7:36-48; HH 480

Heaven and Hell 480

Man after death continues to eternity such as his will or ruling love is. This, too, has been confirmed by abundant experience. I have been permitted to talk with some who lived two thousand years ago, and whose lives are described in history and thus known, and I found that they continued to be just the same as they were described, that is, in respect to the love out of which and according to which their lives were formed. There were others known to history that had lived seventeen centuries ago, others that had lived four centuries ago, and three, and so on, with whom I was permitted to talk, and I found that the same affection still ruled in them, with no other difference than that the delights of their love were turned into such things as correspond. The angels declare that the life of the ruling love is never changed in anyone even to eternity, since everyone is his love; consequently, to change that love in a spirit is to take away or extinguish his life; and for the reason that man after death is no longer capable of being reformed by instruction, as in the world, because the outmost plane, which consists of natural knowledges and affections, is then quiescent and not being spiritual cannot be opened (see above, n. 464); and upon that plane the interiors pertaining to the mind and disposition rest as a house rests on its foundation; and on this account such as the life of one’s love had been in the world, such he continues to be to eternity. The angels are greatly surprised that man does not know that everyone is such as his ruling love is, and that many believe that they may be saved by mercy apart from means, or by faith alone, whatever their life may be; also that they do not know that Divine mercy works by means, and that it consists in man’s being led by the Lord, both in the world and afterwards to eternity, and that those who do not live in evils are led by the Divine mercy; and finally that faith is affection for truth going forth from heavenly love, which is from the Lord.

ESTABLISHING A MATURE, RATIONAL FAITH

ESTABLISHING A MATURE, RATIONAL FAITH
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida March 8, 1992

“And Jacob awoke out of his sleep, and he said: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it … This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:16,17).

Jacob’s awakening from sleep describes man’s emergence from a state of obscurity into a state of spiritual light. It is the dawn of a new spiritual day wherein the person clearly perceives, for the first time, the Lord’s living presence in His Word. “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” These words express the wonder of a person who has been reading the Word, either from habit or self-compulsion, and suddenly awakens to a realization of its inmost Divine quality: “This is none other than the house of God.” These words express the person’s realization that the Lord is fully present in the Word – it is His dwelling place. In the Word a person may come to know God, and through its truths be conjoined with Him. Therefore the words follow “this is the gate of heaven.” The Divine truths of revelation truly are the gateway to heaven.

People, unlike animals, are born entirely without knowledge. Animals. when born, know instinctively what is good for them. They are born with the knowledge required to satisfy their desires. Human beings, on the other hand, are completely ignorant at birth. People have innate loves or desires, but they do not have the knowledge necessary to satisfy them. The state of man’s mind at birth is described in the book of Genesis as being “without form, and void” (Gen. 1:2).

At first glance this may seem strange. Why should man – the highest order of creation – begin life lower than a brute animal? On the surface there may even appear to be something of unfairness in this circumstance. However, when we consider the purpose for which we were created, then the reason for this becomes more clear. We are created to live to eternity as angels of heaven. As angels we can be continually perfected in love and wisdom to all eternity.

The life of animals is circumscribed. They are born with certain desires and the requisite knowledge to satisfy them. They need and desire nothing more. We, on the other hand, are born without knowledge. But we are born with an innate love of knowledge and the capacity to receive and assimilate knowledge indefinitely. We are created with such a nature that we may be continually perfected in love and wisdom to all eternity. In this way the delight of living may also increase to eternity.

Due to the fact that we are not born into the order of our lives, nor into any knowledge, we need to be instructed. On the physical plane we must be taught what is good for us and what is harmful. By example and precept we must be taught to distinguish between good and evil. We have to be introduced into a knowledge of the Lord and a belief in Him as our Heavenly Father – our God.

But, as we well know, there is a great diversity of opinion on these matters. On the physical plane, for example, there are those who think that certain foods are good and healthful, while others believe them to be harmful. Many people have their own pet theories on how to cure a particular illness; and although many of the theories are contradictory, each person believes that the one he believes in is right.

As to what is good and what is evil, there is even greater diversity of opinion. Physical pleasures such as sports or dancing and recreations such as card playing are regarded by some people to be immoral. Others believe that these are useful recreations when properly controlled and subordinated. Some people regard profanity as a legitimate form of expression while others regard it as evil. Many people accept the Ten Commandments as being a reliable, God-given standard as to what is good and what is evil. Others regard them as irrelevant – an outmoded standard of a bygone age.

In regard to God, there are those who categorically deny His existence. Others say that there is a God but that God is a creative force – He is not a Man. Others, again, believe in a God who is one as to substance but tri-personal in form.

These examples serve to illustrate the fact that the faith of every child is, to a great extent, the product of the opinions of parents, teachers, and friends, and of one’s own experience. During infancy and childhood a person’s belief, or faith, is the faith of one’s parents entirely. As one advances to youth, the person’s faith is affected by, and combined with, the faith of one’s teachers and friends and those whom one idolizes. We see from this that there are different kinds of faith.

The Writings speak of the following: “(1) Infantile faith, adolescent faith, adult faith. (2) Faith in genuine truth and faith in appearances of truth. (3) Faith of the memory, faith of reason, faith of light. (4) Natural faith, spiritual faith, celestial faith. (5) Living faith and faith founded on miracle. (6) Free faith and forced faith” (TCR 344).

The faith of infancy is a blind, unquestioning faith. The infant believes everything it is told. Because its mind is only beginning to be formed, the young child cannot distinguish between reality and appearance. The child’s faith, of necessity, is a faith in appearances of truth. In infancy and childhood there is no real choice as to what will be believed; faith is therefore, at this stage, to a degree a forced faith.

But as the child advances into adolescence, the quality of one’s faith changes. Because the adolescent is dependent on parents and is compelled, for example, to go to school, faith is, to that degree, still forced. But because the youth has acquired a background of individual experience from which judgments are made, faith, in this state of life, also partakes of freedom.

The faith of the adolescent is a faith of the memory. By this time a person has acquired much knowledge. The adolescent is a veritable storehouse of information. The rational faculty is just beginning to open, and so there is very little of the element of reason in one’s faith at this stage of development. Because the rational faculty is as yet largely undeveloped, appearances of truth are accepted for genuine truths. For until the rational faculty is more fully developed, the sight of the understanding cannot penetrate appearances. The faith of the adolescent is best characterized as traditional or historical faith. Although one may question parents and teachers and dispute their judgment, nevertheless the things the person calls into question are relatively few compared to those which one accepts unquestioningly. There is also an element of the miraculous in the faith of adolescence. The youth is given to hero worship; at this stage one is easily impressed by the unusual and spectacular, and this also colors one’s faith. Because regeneration does not begin until maturity, adolescent faith is purely natural in character.

When a person passes from adolescence into adult life, one’s faith should take on a new quality. As an adult, the person is no longer subject to parents. The young adult decides what will be believed and what will not. The person’s faith becomes a free faith. Since the rational faculty is more fully developed, the person is capable, if he makes the effort, of penetrating appearances and seeing genuine truths. The young adult’s faith should no longer be traditional, but should be a faith of reason and insight. As an adult, one should accept responsibility for one’s own loves, thoughts, and actions. A person should, therefore, begin to examine one’s life – one’s thoughts, intentions, and deeds – and shun those things which he sees to be evil as sins against God. As one does this, faith, from being faith of memory, becomes a living faith; from natural it becomes spiritual. And if the person advances in the life of regeneration until one is motivated in all one does by a genuine love for the Lord and the neighbor, then faith becomes celestial.

Every thinking person comes eventually to the point where he recognizes that two things which are mutually contradictory cannot both be true. If the person is given at all to reflection, he sees that in one’s traditional beliefs there are many such contradictions, and the person is faced with the problem of what to reject as false and what to accept as true. In view of the fact that there is such a diversity of opinion of a contrary nature in regard to the things of faith, one may wonder if it is possible to acquire a genuine, rational, adult faith.

The Lord assures us in the Writings of the New Church that such a faith is possible for all who sincerely seek. Such a faith is not inborn, nor is it transferred from one person to another. It can be acquired only by a person who is searching for truth – a person who is not content to found one’s life on the shifting sands of human opinion but who is looking for a rock upon which to build spiritual faith – one’s spiritual home.

It is of such a person that our text treats in the internal sense. Jacob was on his way to Padan-aram. When the sun set, he stopped at a certain place to spend the night. While there he had the remarkable vision of a staircase ascending toward heaven, its base on earth and the Lord at the top, with angels ascending and descending on it. It was then that the Lord renewed the promise which He had made to Abraham and Isaac, to give them the land of Canaan for an inheritance.

The Writings tell us that Jacob represents the person who is instructed in natural truths (see AC 3305). When he had this vision, he was on his way to Padan-aram. Padan-aram signifies knowledges of truth. We see from these teachings that the person who is instructed in natural knowledges, represented by Jacob, who is on his way to Padan-aram (searching for truths of faith) is given the Divine promise of an indefinite increase in the truths of faith. The Lord said to Jacob: “Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all of the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14).

When the Lord had made this promise, then Jacob awoke and said: “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it … This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” These words express the wonder and conviction of a person who has found the truth after a diligent search – the truth that the Lord is livingly present in His Word as Divine truth.

We cannot come to this conviction unless we go directly to the Word for ourselves seeking instruction directly from the mouth of the Lord. We may have been raised with the stories of the Word and taught about God. We may hear preachings regularly, but we cannot come to this state of conviction until we go directly to the source of truth itself. When we read the Word with a genuine desire to learn the truth; when we realize the inadequacy of our borrowed and traditional faith; when we are no longer satisfied with appearances of truth but seek genuine truth, then the Lord will enlighten our understanding and we will see, with clarity and conviction, the truths for which we have been searching. This rational, adult faith is said to exist in a person when one has spiritual sight, or when one’s understanding has been enlightened, when there is in the mind a harmony of truths, when there is interior conviction, and when an acknowledgment of the Lord’s Divinity is inscribed on one’s mind (see TCR 344). These are the signs of a genuine, rational, adult faith.

Such a faith is the characteristic of all who are truly of the Lord’s New Church. This enlightenment and this clear conviction are the reward promised to all who humbly and sincerely approach the Lord directly in His Word, and read it under His auspices (see TCR 165). Amen.

Lessons: Genesis 28:1-5, 10-19; AR 224

Apocalypse Revealed 224

To this I will add this relation. I saw an assembly of spirits, all upon their knees, praying to God to send angels to them that they might converse with them face to face and open to them the thoughts of their hearts. And when they arose, there appeared three angels in fine linen standing before them, and they said, “The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open unto us the thoughts of your hearts.” And they answered, “We have been told by our priests that in matters of a theological nature the understanding avails nothing, but only faith, and that in such things intellectual faith is of no service to anyone because it is derived from man. We are Englishmen, and have heard many things from our sacred ministry which we believed; but when we have conversed with others, who also called themselves the Reformed, and with others who called themselves the Roman Catholics, and likewise with sectaries, they all appeared to us learned, and yet in many things one did not agree with another, and still they all said, ‘Believe us’; and some of them, ‘We are God’s ministers, and know.’ But as we know that the Divine truths, which are called truths of faith and which appertain to the church, are not derived to anyone from his native soil, nor by inheritance, but out of heaven from God; and as these show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity, and so lead to eternal life, we became anxious, and prayed to God upon our knees.”

Then the angels answered, “Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths which should constitute your faith and life; for all in the Christian world draw their doctrinals from the Word as from the only fountain.” But two of the company said, “We have read but did not understand.” And the angels replied, “You did not approach the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in falsities”; and the angels said further, “What is faith without light, and what signifies thinking without understanding? this is not human; even magpies and ravens can learn to speak without understanding. We can affirm to you that every man whose soul desires it is capable of seeing the truths of the Word in the light; there does not exist an animal that does not know the food proper to its life when it sees it, and man is a rational and spiritual animal who sees the food of his life, not that of his body but of his soul, which is the truth of faith, provided indeed he hungers after it and seeks it from the Lord; whatsoever is not received also in the understanding is not fixed in the memory in reality, but only verbally; therefore, when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything but have only heard sounds, that are for the most part dissonant. But we will enumerate some things which the learned among the clergy have removed from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways to the understanding, one from the world and the other from heaven, and that the Lord withdraws the understanding from the world when He enlightens it; but if the understanding be closed by religion, the way into it from heaven is closed, and then man sees no more in the Word than a blind person. We have seen many such fall into pits, out of which they have never risen again.

Examples must serve for illustration: Are you not able to understand what charity is and what faith is; that charity consists in doing well by your neighbor, and that faith consists in thinking well of God and of the essentials of the church, and therefore that he who does well and thinks well, that is, who lives well and believes well, is saved?” They replied that they understood these things. The angels said further, “Do you not understand that repentance from sins is to be performed in order that man may be saved, and that, unless a man actually repents, he abides in the sins into which he was born, and that the work of repentance consists in not willing evils because they are against God, and in examining himself once or twice a year, in seeing his evils, in confessing them before the Lord, imploring assistance, desisting from them, and leading a new life, and as far as he does this and believes in the Lord, so far his sins are remitted?”

Then some of the company replied, “This we understand, and thence also what remission of sins is.” And then they solicited the angels to give them further information, and especially concerning God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism. To this the angels replied, “We will not say anything but what you can understand; otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which although watered from heaven, still wither and perish.” Concerning God they said, “All who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God, because this idea reigns universally in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to anyone, nor does it terminate in any, therefore it ceases and perishes. The idea of God as Spirit, when a spirit is believed to be like ether or wind, is an empty idea; but the idea of God as Man is a just idea, for God is the Divine love and the Divine wisdom, with every quality belonging thereto, and the subject of these is man and not ether or wind. The idea of God in heaven is the idea of the Lord. He is the God of heaven and earth, as He Himself taught. Let your idea of God be like unto ours, and we shall be consociated together.” On saying these words, their faces became resplendent. Concerning the immortality of the soul, they said, “Man lives to eternity, because he can be conjoined with God by love and faith, this indeed is possible with every one. That this possibility constitutes the immortality of the soul you may understand if you think of it a little more deeply.” Concerning regeneration: “Who does not see that everyone is at liberty to think of God or not to think of Him, provided he be instructed that there is a God; so that every one has liberty in spiritual things, equally as in things civil and moral; the Lord gives this liberty to all continually; for which reason he becomes guilty if he does not think of God. Man is man from this ability but a beast is a beast from not having this ability; therefore man can reform and regenerate himself as from himself provided he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who does the work of repentance and believes in the Lord is reformed and regenerated. Man must do both as from himself, but this as from himself is from the Lord. It is true that man cannot contribute anything thereto, no not in the least, nevertheless you were not created statues, but you were created men, that you might do that from the Lord as from yourselves. This is the only reciprocal of love and faith, that it is altogether the Lord’s will that it should be done by man unto Him. In a word, do it from yourselves and believe that you do it from the Lord, thus do it as from yourselves.”

But then the Englishmen inquired whether to act as from oneself is a faculty implanted in man from creation. The angel answered, “It is not implanted, because to act from Himself is the Lord’s alone, but it is communicated continually, that is, adjoined continually, and then so far as man does good and believes what is true as from himself, so far he is an angel of heaven; but so far as he does evil and thence believes what is false, which is done also as from himself, so far he is an angel of hell. That this also is as from himself surprises you, but still you see that it is so when you pray that you may be preserved from the devil lest he should seduce you and enter into you as he did into Judas, fill you with all iniquity, and destroy you, soul and body. But everyone incurs guilt who believes that he acts from himself, whether it be good or whether it be evil; but he does not incur guilt who believes that he acts as from himself …”

What the Heavenly Proprium is

What the Heavenly Proprium is

As regards the heavenly proprium, it arises out of the new will which is given by the Lord, and differs from the proprium of man in this; that men no longer regard themselves in all and every thing that they do, and in all and every thing that they learn and teach; but they then regard the neighbour, the public, the church, the kingdom of the Lord, and so the Lord Himself. The ends of life are what are changed; the ends regarding lower things, namely, the world, and self, are removed, and ends regarding higher things are substituted in their place. The ends of life are nothing else than the very life of man; for his ends are the very will of a man, and his very loves; for what a man loves that he wills and has for an end. He who is gifted with a heavenly proprium is also in tranquillity, and in peace; for he trusts in the Lord, and believes that nothing of evil befalls him, and is conscious that concupiscences do not infest him. And moreover they who are in a heavenly proprium are in very freedom; for to be led of the Lord is freedom, because it is to be led in good, from good to good. It is therefore evident that they are in blessedness and happiness, for there is nothing that disturbs,—nothing of self-love, consequently nothing of enmity, of hatred, of revenge; nor anything of the love of the world, and therefore nothing of fraud, of fear, of restlessness. (AC n. 5660)

All that is good which comes of genuine charity towards the neighbour. But no one of himself can be in this good; for it is the very celestial which flows in from the Lord. This celestial continually flows in, but evils and falsities oppose its reception; that it may be received therefore it is necessary that man should remove evils, and as far as he is able falsities also, and so dispose himself to receive the influx. When, evils being removed, man receives the influx, he then receives a new voluntary and a new intellectual [faculty]; and from the new voluntary he feels delight in doing good to his neighbour for no selfish end, and from the new intellectual he apperceives delight in learning what is good and true for the sake of good and truth, and for the sake of life. Since this new intellectual and new voluntary exists by influx from the Lord, therefore he who is regenerated acknowledges and believes that the good and the truth with which he is affected are not from himself, but from the Lord; and that whatever is from himself, or from his proprium, is nothing but evil. From this it is evident what it is to be born again; and what the new voluntary and the new intellectual are. (ibid. n. 5354)

Goodness of disposition manifests itself by gentleness and sweetness; by gentleness, in that it is afraid to do harm, and by sweetness, in that it loves to do good. (EU n. 50)