Conviction or doubt about spiritual ideas?

conviction or doubtGeneral ideas about what is true about life come from all around us — family, the mass media, books. These concepts have often seeped through from current and past thinking for example from politics, philosophy and religion. We respond with either conviction or doubt or somewhere in between.

We absorb such ideas because we tend to be interested in making sense of our lives, why we are here, where we come from, and where we are going, not to mention fathoming the reality of suffering, misfortune, and chaos that we find all around us.

But life goes on and we are obliged to make the best fist of it using what values and principles we have learned about and accept.

The question arises: Is it better to have conviction or doubt about your ideas? Conviction helps you put ideas into practice with commitment. Having doubt about ideas other people believe in can be useful given the complexities of life.

Problems with conviction or doubt

One problem in forming set beliefs is that of believing something for reasons other than to do with the truth. This might be wanting to fit in with the attitudes of friends, unease in going against what your parents told you to think as a child, and even fear of expressing a religious doubt in case this is construed as blasphemy.

Some argue that rushing into belief about something also means your understanding cannot easily be broadened and what you hold to be true cannot be qualified in any way. So they say exposing yourself to opposing ideas obliges you to think and ponder over whether your ideas are indeed true, and to gather reasons in support of them.

Having doubts can be unsettling especially if they challenge previous life choices such as vocation or marriage. The trouble with seeing every side of an issue is you can get stuck. A humorist once commented on someone who belonged to a liberal religion which celebrated doubt. This person arrived at the pearly gates of heaven only to find a signpost pointing in one direction to God, and in the other direction towards a discussion of God. He took the latter path. In other words he preferred to talk the talk rather than walk the walk of his religion.

Conviction or doubt in relation to luck 

When something bad happens we might wonder why. One spiritual idea, is that good-fortune is a reward for acting rightly while bad luck is punishment for being bad. You tend to make this assumption when you find yourself asking ‘Why me, what have I done to deserve this?’

The idea that God punishes or rewards is an example of what I believe is an ‘appearance of truth’.

“Appearances of truth are given, to everyone according to (their) ability to grasp them; and these appearances are acknowledged as truths because they have the capacity to hold Divine things within them.” (Swedenborg, Heavenly Secrets section 3387)

England football manger Glenn Hoddle believed a person’s disability was a punishment for bad actions performed in a past life by that individual. And as a result of public outcry against this belief he was dismissed.

So what might a truer insight be? Clearly, we are all capable of bringing about our own suffering. Just keep drinking beer all day, or gambling away your savings. But often we suffer misfortune through no fault of our own. In the biblical book of Job we find someone who suffers great misfortune despite being innocent. He came to realize that good fortune and misfortune afflict the good and bad alike.

My suggestion is innocent suffering is permitted because it obliges us all to learn how to use our freedom of choice to respond to it e.g. with indifference or compassion. If this is true then it shows how a particular spiritual belief can be a temporary stepping stone to further insight.

Conviction or doubt about sacred myths

Is another example of an appearance of the truth found in sacred myth? I think so. Because they are myths, like parables, can’t they be seen on different levels depending on what people can grasp?

I offer this example. Doubting the idea of three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one God, opens up the mind to (what is to my way of thinking at least) a more rational understanding. A truer idea being these are three symbolic aspects of the one divine God – heart of creative love, head of human wisdom and hands of powerful activity.

Conviction or doubt in relation to enlightenment

For Swedenborg, the search for truth is crucial for deeper insight. Illumination of our ideas to develop conviction or doubt is seen by him as a spiritual gift which can only be received when the individual is in the genuine love of truth for the sake of truth and who humbly tries to live according to his or her lights. This is how we gain faith. In other words conviction is a feeling that can only come from inner enlightenment.

“Those with a genuine affection for truth, that is, those who desire to know truths to put them to good use and for the sake of the life they ought to lead, … when they receive (enlightenment) …their hearts rejoice.” (Swedenborg, Heavenly Secrets section 8993)

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on personal problems

Posted on9th June 2012CategoriesEnlightenment, Meaning of lifeTags, , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lord Jesus Christ and The Divine Trinity

 

The Teachings of Swedenborg

Concerning

The Lord Jesus Christ and The Divine Trinity

by Philip N. Odhner

The One Infinite God.

Swedenborg teaches that there is one Infinite Supreme Being who created the universe and all things in it out of His Divine Love and Wisdom.

The human mind can see that God is infinite. For if God were finite, or limited, there would have to be something that made Him finite and limited. And in that case that thing which made Him finite and limited would be the real source and origin of all things, and thus would be the real God. So also the human mind can see that God is eternal. For if God were not eternal, then He had a beginning in time. And if He had a beginning in time, then there was something previous to Him from which He had origin, and that previously existing thing would be God.

Because God is infinite and eternal He is one. There cannot be two infinite Beings. If there were two or more supposedly infinite Beings, one would limit and finite the other, and thus neither would be infinite. To think or speak of two or more infinite Beings is a contradiction in itself. Such an idea cannot enter the understanding of man.

That the one infinite God is Wisdom can be seen by man from a view of the starry heavens, in which the suns and planets can be seen held in a wonderful order. It can be seen also from a view of anything in nature in its smallest parts. For the microscope reveals the most wonderful order in the least things of creation, even as the telescope reveals such an order in the greatest things.

God is Love. This can be acknowledged by man from the fact that the order existing in the created universe bespeaks a Divine Purpose therein. And especially can it be seen that God is Love in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who showed forth the most perfect love for the eternal salvation of the whole human race.

The Divine Purpose in Creation.

God is Love and Wisdom. In all that He does His Love and His Wisdom are present. Everything that exists is therefore part of His Purpose in creation. But what is the Divine Purpose in creation? Can this be expressed in a way that the human mind can grasp? Swedenborg teaches as follows: “There are two things that make the Essence of God. Love and Wisdom; but there are three things that make the essence of His Love: to others outside of Himself, to will to be one with them, and to bless them from Himself. . . . These things of the Divine Love were the cause of the creation of the universe, and are the cause of its conservation.” (The True Christian Religion, 43, 46.)

It is the nature of love to love others outside of self, to will to be conjoined with them in love, and to make them happy. This is evident in all true human relationships. It is preeminently true of God. In Him is all life, all love and all wisdom. His will therefore is to create others outside of Himself whom He can bless with the gift of His Life, His Love, His Wisdom. His will is to give to others that which is in Him. This is the cause of all creation.

But God, being infinite, cannot create another infinite Being, or another God or gods, to receive His Love and Wisdom. It is impossible for there to be two or more infinite Beings. If there were a God from God, that God from God would either have to be not infinite and not eternal, and thus not a real God, or He would have to be infinite and eternal and thus absolutely one with the first God. For God to create and love another God would thus be God loving Himself in Himself. And this is contrary to the essence of God, which is to love others outside Himself.

God could not create others who have life and love and wisdom in themselves, but He could create finite beings who could be formed into vessels of His Life and Love and Wisdom. For this reason God first created the physical universe. Out of His own Love and Wisdom, which are the origins of all life and motion, He made the physical universe and the dead and inert matters therein. Some idea of how God so created the physical universe out of His Love and Wisdom can be gathered from the discoveries of modern science, in which it is seen that the dead and inert matters of the earth are in fact composed of things in the highest motion.

Out of the dead and fixed things of nature God formed vessels which can receive His Life. These vessels are men, the human race. These vessels God gifts with liberty and rationality, so that they can if they will receive understanding from God in ever increasing measure, and by the perfection of their lives receive the Love of God in ever increasing measure. These vessels can become images and likenesses of God. In such images and likenesses of God the Divine Purpose of creation can find its fulfillment, for such beings can receive God’s love and wisdom freely, can feel them to be their own, and can freely return the love of God. Between the infinite God and such beings there can be eternal conjunction. In this way a true and everlasting relationship can be established between God and those created by Him outside of Himself. But because God’s Love is infinite therefore He looks to an eternal increase of those who can receive His life, and out of them He forms for Himself an eternal Heaven in an eternal world, which is the Spiritual World. In this Heaven those who have become images and likenesses of God advance forever in the understanding and love of God and their neighbours.

Consider carefully the Divine Purpose of creation here set forth. It means that God’s Purpose in creating you is to make you an image and likeness of Himself, to make you an angel of heaven, to give you into eternity an increasing understanding of Him and an increasing love of what is good and true from Him. That is His interest and concern with you and with everyone in the human race.

Consider whether there can be any other cause of creation, or any other reason for your existence? Have you heard of any other explanation that is in agreement with the Scriptures and with the dictates of your own reason concerning God?

The Advent of the Lord into the World.

Swedenborg teaches that mankind in their first state of creation were as children, innocent and obedient. From the influx of the Love of God into their minds they were able to perceive the truths concerning God in all things of creation. They loved God and they loved their neighbour. This is the state of mankind that is described in the Bible as the Paradise of Eden.

But as the knowledge and the natural understanding of mankind increased they began to feel and believe that they could lead themselves in all matters of faith and wisdom. They began to believe that they were good and wise, and denied the truth that they were only vessels of good and of wisdom from God. This is represented in the Scriptures by the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of this disorder men fell from their state of love and wisdom. More and more they removed themselves from the influx of God into their souls and minds. Finally the human race came into a state in which the Divine Purpose of creation was threatened and the human race itself was threatened with spiritual destruction.

Because of the removal of man from his first state of reception of the Love of God, it was necessary that a new kind of conjunction between God and man should be established. This was accomplished by the coming of God the Creator into the world.

In the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which were Divinely inspired and given to men by God during man’s gradual decline from his first state, it is foretold and promised many times that He who created the world would come into the world to redeem and save mankind.

We here quote a few such places from the Old Testament:

“For thus saith the Lord (Jehovah) that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain. . . . He formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord (Jehovah) and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:18.)

“Behold the Lord God (Lord Jehovih) will come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him.” (Isaiah 40:10.)

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord (Jehovah). (Zechar. 2:10.)

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord (Jehovah), that I will raise up unto David a just Branch . . . and this is His Name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD (Jehovah) OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5,6.)

“And all flesh shall know that I Jehovah am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:26.)

“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth.” (Job 19:25.)

“Let Israel hope in Jehovah … He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (Ps. 130:7,8.)

“Yet I am Jehovah thy God from the land of Egypt . . . and thou shalt know no other God but me; for there is no Saviour beside me.” (Hosea 13:4.)

From these passages it is clear that the Old Testament teaches that there is one God, who is called Jehovah God, and that this God calls Himself the Saviour and the Redeemer, as well as the Creator. But now consider the following passages from the Old Testament, which foretell the Coming of the Creator into the world, and which clearly refer to the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord (the way of Jehovah), make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3.) It is said in the New Testament that this is a prophecy of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, in the Old Testament, the one for whom John prepared the way is called Jehovah and “our God.”

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14.) This prophecy is quoted in Matthew with reference to the birth of the Lord, and it is there added about the name Immanuel, “which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matt. 1:23.) Here therefore the Lord is called God with us, in both the Old and the New Testaments.

“Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord (this is Jehovah) ; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9.)

“Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6.)

From the above passages from the Old Testament it is clear that the one infinite and eternal God, Jehovah God, the Creator of the universe, promised that He would come into the world, and that this promise refers to the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Swedenborg in his works shows not only that the Old Testament prophesies the coming of the Creator into the world, but also that the New Testament teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is that Creator come into the world. This is taught in John, as follows:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (or, God was the Word.) The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1-3, 14.)

How the Incarnation of God Took Place.

But how did God come into the world, and what did He do here that brings about the Redemption and salvation of the human race and makes possible again the conjunction of mankind with Him in the reception of His Love and Wisdom?

Swedenborg teaches that God came into the world by taking on a human body by means of birth from the virgin Mary. Consider what is said in the New Testament concerning the conception of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35.)

This teaching can mean nothing else than that the one Infinite God was Himself the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord had no human father, as do all other human beings, but the infinite and eternal God was His Father. This means that the Lord had that in Him which was infinite and eternal, that which was life in itself. But because the Infinite cannot be divided as can the finite, this also means that God Himself was in Jesus Christ.

In the Lord Jesus Christ when He was first born into the world there were two distinct natures: that which He derived from Ilis Father, which was infinite and Divine, and that which He derived from Mary, which was merely human and which had within it the heredity of the human race.

Because the Lord had with Him that heredity from Mary He had with Him that which was mortal and vulnerable. In the heredity from Mary was the heriditary evil of the human race. He thus took on Himself the sins and iniquities of us all, and in His life in the world He overcame those evils in Himself. In that maternal heredity, which Swedenborg calls the maternal human of the Lord, the Lord met and conquered the evils which had taken possession of human minds and bodies. Through that maternal human the hells could attack His Divine Love for the salvation of the human race, and in it the Lord from His Divine soul met and conquered that attack.

Swedenborg teaches that two things took place by the incarnation of the Divine in the Lord Jesus Christ. First, the evil of the human race, hell itself, was subjugated by the Lord. The second thing was that the Lord during His life in the world reordered that human mind and body which He assumed through Mary, and conjoined and at length united it to His own Divine soul which He had from conception. This is what is called the Lord’s glorification. Through His glorification the Lord put off what He had derived from Mary and put on a new Human, the Divine Human, from His own Divine soul. Thus He made His Human Divine, and the Divine Human in Himself. Even as to the Human He became Life itself, Love itself and Wisdom itself.

As to His very soul, and also as to those things of His mind and body which the Lord had made one with the Divine, Jesus Christ was altogether one with the Father. As to those things of His human which had not yet been made Divine, He was as another person. This is why the Lord sometimes spoke of Himself as one with His Father, and at other times spoke as if the Father were another than Himself. But at His Resurrection the process of the glorification of His Human was complete, and then He was altogether one with the Father as to person and essence.

This may be illustrated in the following diagrams:

The Lord in His Human made Divine (D) is not another person than the Father, or another infinite and eternal God, but is the Father Himself clothed with the Human made Divine.

The Lord’s soul was Divine from conception. It was the Father in Him. And this is why the Lord taught that the Father was in Him. As the Lord glorified His Human, so that Human also was made Divine, and this is why the Lord says that He is one with the Father.

The one infinite and eternal God, now clothed in His Divine Human, is the Lord Jesus Christ glorified. He is God made Man, and Man made God. And in His Divine Human He has power over all things in heaven and on earth, as the Lord Himself says in Matthew:

“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18.)

In the Divine Human the one infinite and eternal God has so embodied and accommodated His Divine Love and Wisdom that He may be seen and approached by man in man’s fallen state. In His Divine Human He can inflow into our minds and influence us in the love of what is good and true in spite of the heriditary corruption of our nature. And in the Divine Human we can if we are willing come to the idea of God in a truly rational human form. Thus through His incarnation we can see Him and understand Him and love Him in a way that is far superior to anything that ever existed previous to His Advent into the world. For in His Divine Human the Lord is seeable, approachable, able to be understood and loved.

These things God has done out of His infinite Mercy and Love for the human race, to make possible again His Divine Purpose with men, that He might bless them with eternal life and be conjoined with them in Love.

These things are meant by this in John:

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” (John 1:18.)

The Fruit or result of the Advent and Glorification of the Lord may be illustrated in the following diagrams:

1. A represents the Love and Wisdom of the one Infinite God flowing into men.
    B is the interior mind of man, into which the Lord could inflow before the fall.
    C. is the conscious or external mind of man into which the Lord also inflowed through the interior mind with those before the fall.
2. After the fall of man the interior mind was blocked up with evils, and the influx of God into man was obstructed.
3. A here represents the infinite Love and Wisdom clothed in the Divine Human. By means of this accommodation God can inflow directly into the conscious mind of man and enlighten it with truth and affect it with good. Through this man receives from the Lord the ability to fight against and remove the evils obstructing the interiors of his mind.

The Divine Trinity.

The New Testament speaks of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Many have understood this to mean that God is in three Divine Persons, each of whom is infinite and eternal, and each of whom is God and Lord. But the New Testament does not speak of Persons in God at all, much less of three Divine Persons existing from eternity.

It is admitted by many that the question of how three persons make one God is past all human understanding. And because of this mystery many people do not think deeply about God, believing that their minds are not capable of entering into such thought.

What does Swedenborg teach concerning the Divine Trinity?

From what has gone before in this lecture it can be seen that the Father, the one infinite and eternal God, is not one Divine Person and the Son another Divine Person. but that they are one. as soul and body are one. The Son. the Divine Human, is the Divine Body, and the Father is the Divine Soul in that Divine Bodv. Even as the soul and body of a man are not two people, but one person, so the Father and the Son, the Divine and the Divine Human of the Lord are one Divine Person.

But what then of the Holy Spirit?

Swedenborg teaches that the Holy Spirit is the Lord’s own Divine Spirit going forth from Him to men and angels. It is the Divine Love and Wisdom proceeding out of the Divine Human of the Lord to work the regeneration and salvation of mankind. This can be seen perfectly represented in the Gospel of .John:

“And when He had said this. He breathed on them and said. Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)

This was said after the Lord’s Resurrection. The Holy Spirit is there represented as the Breath of the Lord. His Breath is His Divine Truth going forth from Himself to men. Swedenborg calls this the Divine Proceeding, or, the Divine Operation.

That the Holy Spirit is the Divine proceeding from the glorified Human of the Lord is also taught in these passages from the New Testament: “But this He spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39.) The original Greek reads “The Holy Spirit was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”

“It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” (John 16:7.)

After the Lord was glorified, that is, after His Human was made Divine, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which leads men into all truth, could come to men, because through the Divine Human the Divine Good and Truth can inflow into our minds.

The conclusion therefore is that the Divine Trinity is not a Trinity of Persons, but that it is a Trinity of essentials in the one Divine Person, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father is the Divine itself, present in Him as the Soul. The Son is the Divine Human, which is the Body of that Divine Soul, and the Holy Spirit is the Divine Operation, the Divine Good and Truth proceeding from God to men.

This is taught also by Paul, in these words concerning the Lord:

“For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9.)

If you see God as one Divine Person, one Divine Man, and the Trinity in Him as Soul, Body and Proceeding, you will have an understandable idea of God and of the Divine Trinity in Him. This teaching is that which is given in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. It is the Supreme Truth concerning the Lord.

This truth may be summarized thus: That the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth, that He is Jehovah, the Lord from eternity, that He is the Creator from eternity, that He is the Redeemer in time, that He is the regenerator into eternity, and thus that He is at the same time the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus Christ is our God. There is no other. To Him we owe all that is good and all that is true. All power in heaven and on earth is His. To Him alone should we pray. To Him alone should be our worship, our love, and the service of our lives.

Pentecost: Receiving the Holy Spirit

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. (ACT 2:6)

We are all familiar with the events of Easter morning, how Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, and the others discovered to their joy and astonishment that Jesus was alive, that He had raised Himself from the dead. In the days and weeks that followed, the Lord appeared to the disciples often to comfort them, to reassure them, and to tell them what they must do with what they had learned from Him.

Each of the Gospels gives us a slightly different view of these post resurrection appearances.

In the gospel of Luke we read how the Lord joined with two disciples who were walking to Emmaus, how He walked with them and “opened the scriptures” to them (LUK 24:32). It is also in Luke where we hear how He then appeared to the disciples, invited them to inspect the wounds in His hands and feet, and then ate a broiled fish and a honeycomb with them. After eating, he “opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures” (Ibid. v. 45), and then walked with them to Bethany where as He blessed them, “He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Ibid. v. 51).

The gospel of John records different events: how on the evening of the day of the Lord’s resurrection, He appeared to the disciples “when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled” (JOH 20:19). It is John who records the details of the scene between the Lord and Thomas, the disciple who doubted. John also tells us that the Lord gave them “many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book” (Ibid. v. 30). Finally, we read that the disciples had given up their discipleship and gone back to fishing. By the sea of Tiberias the Lord appeared again to five of the disciples who had been fishing all night without catching any thing. At His command, they threw their nets over the other side of the boat, and the net was so full they could not pull it in. He invited them ashore for breakfast and gave them bread and broiled fish. John tells us that this was the third and last time that they saw the Lord.

We can see from these few references in the gospels what must have happened in the weeks after the betrayal. First there was the shock of the crucifixion, followed by the joy and astonishment of Easter morning. Through repeated meetings and demonstrations of His well-being, the disciples eventually became convinced of the Lord’s resurrection, they could believe that He was still alive.

But they did not know what to do next. For three years they had been expecting to become the governors of the new Jewish kingdom established by the Messiah. Now that they knew that His kingdom was not of this world, they could not any longer see their part in it. Leaderless, without a sense of purpose or direction, they drifted back to the former occupations.

But the Lord kept appearing to them in groups, opening the scripture, explaining, encouraging them to open their minds to a whole new plane of thought.

He told them that they had a mission in life now: to minister unto the nations, to preach the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to teach all men to be obedient to God’s law, and to heal the sick.

And slowly the message began to sink in. The disciples, no doubt with all these things on their minds, came together in Jerusalem some fifty days after the Passover to celebrate the “Feast of weeks” or “Pentecost.”

The feast of Pentecost was the second of the three annual festivals which all Jewish males were required to attend. The others are the Passover and the feast of Tabernacles. It was called Pentecost because “pente” has to do with the number fifty, and this feast was celebrated fifty days after Passover, and it was also known as the “feast of weeks” because it was kept a “week of weeks” or seven weeks after Passover. Its original purpose was to serve as a festival of thanksgiving at the conclusion of the wheat harvest.

It is interesting that this timing also coincides with Moses coming down off Mount Sinai to deliver the Ten Commandments fifty days after the first Passover in Egypt. Because of this linkage, the feast of Pentecost also became a festival commemorating the giving of the Law, celebrated by gathering together to study the scriptures. It was regarded as the culmination and focus of the Passover season, thus forming a one with Passover itself and tying this feast to the celebration of the day when Jehovah Himself freed the children of Israel from their Egyptian slavery.

This then explains why the disciples, who were all brought up in Jewish tradition, were drawn to Jerusalem in spite of the possible risk to their own lives and had gathered at Pentecost to study the Word.

Briefly, what happened to them next was this.

There was the sound of a mighty wind, and a vision of tongues of fire resting on each disciple.

They each began to speak, moved by the Holy Spirit.

Luke writes in the book of Acts that there were many devout men from all over the world who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, and when they heard the sound of the wind, they were drawn to it to see what was happening. And when they the found the source of the sound, they found the disciples preaching as they were moved by the Holy Spirit – and everyone who was there, no matter where in the world he was from, heard them preaching in his own birth language, which astounded and confused them.

There is a phenomenon known as “speaking in tongues” in some modern Christian churches, which they associate with the miracle at the feast of Pentecost, and take as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit with them.

The phenomenon typically takes the form of a person being overcome by religious fervor and speaking in words unknown to any human ear. This is taken to be a sign of great holiness, and is called “speaking in tongues,” although there is a major difference between this and the miracle that gives it its name.

At the original miracle of Pentecost, everyone had perfect understanding of everything the disciples said. The modern phenomenon is considered very holy because no one can understand anything that is said, for they are said to be moved by the Holy Spirit.

If the modern phenomenon is not “speaking in tongues,” then what is it?

What it most closely resembles is a form of Old Testament prophecy. For example, once when king Saul threw himself down and rolled in the mud like someone who had gone insane, it became a proverb that Saul was one of the prophets (1SA 10:11). The reason for this was that in those days many people were overcome with a spirit of prophecy, and they would act in bizarre ways, much as those who are overcome with an emotional response act today. These people were known as prophets in those days, and respected.

However, it is quite clear that there was a distinction between those who prophesied by rolling in the mud and those like Moses, Elijah and Daniel who had visions of God, and that distinction was clearly kept in the Word. While the people considered those who acted strangely to be among the prophets, the Word never refers to them as such.

It appears that our enthusiastic friends are not “speaking in tongues” at all, but instead they are experiencing an ancient form of prophecy. The difference is no more than the difference between complete confusion and perfect understanding.

The Heavenly Doctrines use the example of what happened to the disciples at the feast of Pentecost to make the comparison between ordinary religious zeal and the Divine operating in men, for the two are very similar and there are many who have been deceived, thinking that enthusiasm and forceful speech are the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are told that the way to distinguish between zeal and the Divine operation of the Holy spirit is to see if there is the love of truth from the Word within it. The disciples had this. (See TCR 146)

The other important feature about the miracle of Pentecost is that when the disciples preached, everyone who was present heard and understood perfectly what was said in their own birth language.

The only way this could have happened was if this was a Divine miracle, where everyone present was brought into the sphere of heaven, so that they could use their spiritual ears and hear speech such as is used by the angels themselves in the heavens. The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that:

Among the wonderful things in the other life is the fact that the speech of spirits with a man is in his native tongue, which they speak as readily and skillfully as if they had been born in the same land, and had been brought up with the same language; and this whether they are from Europe, from Asia, or from any other part of the globe. …The reason is that the language with which spirits are familiar is not a language of words, but is a language of ideas of thought; and this language is the universal of all languages (AC 1637).

In the entire heaven all have one language, and . . . they all understand one another. Language there is not learned but is implanted by nature with every one, for it flows from their very affection and thought (HH 236).

There was perfect understanding among everyone present because the disciples were not preaching in the language of the world, but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and were preaching the truth from the Lord in the spiritual language of ideas.

It was like the speech of angels, a direct communication of ideas. We could say that the spiritual ears of everyone present were opened.

We can see a microcosm of our own lives in the experiences of the disciples.

As the disciples followed the Lord for three years, we follow our parents and teachers for many years during our childhood and youth, depending on them to keep us safe and protect us from our own ignorance.

This first state is the state of our historical faith.

What follows is a state of trial and temptation. Jesus was suddenly no longer there to lead the disciples, which is like what happens when we become adults and face life for the first time by our selves.

Usually, due to inexperience, young adults make some unfortunate decisions at first. Their troubles weigh them down and they feel lost and alone. During this time the Lord visited the disciples three times. Young adults will find that their state will rise and fall with contacts they have with those whose judgment and experience they trust and admire.

But what made the change into the final, adult state for the disciples? What finally brought them out of their wandering and self-pity and turned them into dynamic leaders that founded the Christian church in the face of the might of Rome?

The simple fact that they each returned to Jerusalem to study the Word in celebration of the feast of Pentecost. They realized that the Word of God was the true source of wisdom and guidance, and when they put their trust in it alone, they received the Holy Spirit.

When each of us finally accepts the Word as the true source of wisdom and turns away from self-intelligence we will finally be in a state of faith that is truly our own, the kind of faith that will sustain us in the temptations and difficulties of life, the kind of faith that built the Christian church, the kind of faith that turns the human mind into a church, an angelic mind that can live to eternity in heaven.

This is what it means to receive the Holy Spirit: to feel the confidence within yourself to go forth and live your life according to your conscience formed from the Word because the Lord is always present with you, and to feel the power and joy of life that comes from the Lord alone as you go forth.

I foresaw the LORD always before my face,

For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken;

Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;

Moreover my flesh will also rest in hope,

Because You will not leave my soul in Hell,

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

You have made known to me the ways of life;

You will make me full of joy in Your presence.

(Psalm 16:8-11)

AMEN.

Lessons: Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:1-13, TCR 146

1st Lesson: (Joel 2:28-32)

“And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. {29} And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. {30} “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. {31} The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. {32} And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. Amen.

2nd Lesson: (Acts 2:1-13)

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. {2} And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. {4} And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. {5} And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. {6} And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. {7} Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? {8} “And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? {9} “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, {10} “Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, {11} “Cretans and Arabs; we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” {12} So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” {13} Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” Amen.

3rd Lesson: True Christian Religion 146

The operations of the Lord … flow in from the Lord both with the clergy and the laity, and are received by those who are in the Lord, and in whom the Lord is. But enlightenment and instruction are communicated especially to the clergy, because these belong to their office, and inauguration into the ministry carries these along with it. Moreover, when preaching from zeal they believe themselves to be inspired, like the Lord’s disciples upon whom He breathed, saying:-

Receive ye the Holy Spirit (John xx. 22 see also Mark xiii. 11).

Some affirm even that they have felt the influx. But they should be very careful not to persuade themselves that the zealby which many are carried away while preaching is the Divine operation in their hearts; for a like and even warmer zeal prevails with enthusiasts, as also with those who are in the utmost falsities of doctrine; and even with those who despise the Word and worship nature instead of God, and fling faith and charity, as it were, into a bag on the back; but when preaching or teaching they hang it before them like a sort of ruminatory stomach, from which they draw out and disgorge such things as they know will serve as food for their hearers. For zeal, in itself considered, is a glow of the natural man. If it has within it a love of truth it is like the sacred fire that descended upon the apostles, as described in the Acts:-

There appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (ii. 3, 4).

But if within that zeal or glow a love of falsity is concealed, it is like a fire imprisoned in wood, which bursts forth and consumes the house. You who deny the holiness of the Word and the Divinity of the Lord, take, I pray, the bag from your back and open it, as you freely do in your privacy, and you will see. Amen.

The Purpose of Baptism

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THE PURPOSE OF BAPTISM
A Sermon by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn
March 25, 2012
Dawson Creek, BC

Readings: Isaiah 1:9-20; Matthew 3:1-17; True Christian Religion 685

We just heard the story of John the Baptist, who called all of Judah to himself to be baptized in the Jordan River. In that story, we heard John say that one would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He later told his followers that the one he had spoken about was the Lord, Jesus. And when Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to His disciples and told them to go forth and baptize all nations into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the very beginning, baptism has been a key part of Christianity.

In the New Church, we tend not to focus much on ritual.  We put a lot of emphasis on life – the way we live by our religion.  And that’s as it should be – internal worship involves loving the Lord and loving our neighbour.  But there is a value and strength in the external rituals of worship, because they represent those internal things, and actually serve to strengthen those internal things.  And the two most important rituals – the two sacraments in the New Church – are baptism and the Holy Supper.

Without a knowledge of correspondences, it’s hard to understand how there could be a value in the external ritual of baptism.  But the Writings for the New Church describe a deeper meaning within this ritual that show how something as seemingly mundane as dipping someone under water can have profound spiritual influences.  And the Writings for the New Church reveal a purpose in baptism that is unknown to many in the world.

True Christian Religion describes the three primary uses of baptism: introduction into the church, getting to know the Lord, and being regenerated.  Baptism alone does not accomplish these things, but it serves as an external sign of them, and helps bring them about. These three all involve each other and are tied together – each one is an integral part of what it means to be baptized.

The first use of baptism is that it is an introduction into the church – a sign and a symbol that a person is a Christian.  This morning we read the story of John the Baptist baptizing people in the River Jordan.  The Jordan River marked the boundary and the entrance to the land of Canaan.  The reason that John baptized there was that it represented an entrance into the church.

What does it mean to be introduced to the church?  It means that a person is first beginning to learn the truths of the Lord’s words.  These are the simple, basic teachings – that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, that evils are to be shunned as sins against Him, that His Word is truth.  When a person first begins to learn these truths – and to live by them – it is as if he is being washed in the Jordan River.

Now again, this may seem like it wouldn’t have much power.  Doesn’t everyone know that it’s wrong to lie, to steal, to commit adultery, and so on?  They’re such simple teachings, it seems, that a person might scoff at the idea that they have to be bathed by these things. But until we actually try to shun evils because they are sins, we don’t know how strong or weak a hold they have on us. We might think, “OK, yes, I tell lies, but it’s not that big a deal – I don’t think there would be some profound spiritual change in me if I stopped.” But it’s not until we do try to stop because it is a sin against God that we realize how deeply that deceit may or may not be ingrained in us. When we try to stop, and pray for the Lord’s help, we do notice a change.

Being introduced into the church does not just mean introduction into the truth, though.  It also means introduction to the people of the church, and introduction among angelic spirits who make up the church.  That’s why we can perform infant baptisms – because even though the baby is not yet able to learn the truth of the church, there is a promise that they will, and there is also a sign made that they will be raised as Christians.  And it actually changes the spirits who are around that child.

Now, again, this might seem abstract and like it has nothing to do with real life – but that’s only because we don’t realize how huge an influence the spirits around us have.  Every single thought we have flows into us from the spirits around us, as hard as that is to believe.  And so changing our spirits changes the way we are even able to think.  Now, a person’s decisions throughout their lives also affect what spirits are around, and so baptism or non-baptism doesn’t determine a person’s spiritual home, the spirits he will live with forever.  But it does make a difference, because the washing of baptism and the sign of the cross is a physical manifestation and sign that actually brings the person among Christian spirits and angels.

So that first use of baptism is being introduced into the truth of the church, and also coming into the company of Christian people, spirits and angels. But in itself, being brought among Christians is meaningless – being influenced by Christians is not actually what makes a person Christian.  True Christianity – the kind of Christianity described in the book The True Christian Religion – means getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ.  And this is the second purpose of baptism – that a person may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and to follow Him.

There would be no point in introducing someone into the church without introducing them to the source of all the good and truth in the church.  And we can’t really get to know who He is except by following His commandments. That source is the Lord.  True Christian Religion asks, What would be the use of being called a Christian without this second use, the acknowledgment of Christ, and especially of following His commandments?  We read, “Is it not really like a subject who attaches himself to a king, and yet repudiates the king’s laws or those of the country, and yields allegiance to a foreign king and serves him?” (True Christian Religion 681).  To be called a Christian and yet not to follow the Lord would be an empty thing, and worthless.

This second purpose of baptism – coming to know the Lord – comes from the first – being introduced to the church.  A person learns to follow the Lord by being brought up, supported, and encouraged by Christians.  And here’s another area where baptism becomes relevant for our daily lives.  When we attend a child’s baptism, we attend a ceremony that introduces the child to the church – and we here help make up that church.  In that ceremony, the parents specifically promise to raise the child to follow the Lord – but we all share that responsibility, to support everyone who comes to the church and who is baptized in their path of following the Lord.  It is our responsibility to encourage each other to do what is right and good, and to look to the Lord together.

The second use of baptism is that we may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow Him.  It might seem like this purpose would be the final use and goal of baptism.  But from the Lord’s perspective, the one remaining use is actually the most important.  That final use of baptism is that a person be regenerated.

The Lord spoke of the importance of a person being born again.  He said, “Unless someone be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”   When we talk about regeneration, we are talking about re-birth.  But we use the word regeneration because it is not referring to one moment in time, as “birth” implies, but a process and progression over time.  The Lord’s purpose in baptism – and even the reason that He wants us to know Him and follow Him – is so that he can create us anew, and give us the blessedness of heaven.

Think about that.  The Lord did not create humanity was for the sake of His own glory, so that He could be worshipped.  The Lord created the world for the sake of blessing the world, not being blessed Himself

And so this final use of baptism – that a person be regenerated – follows from the prior two uses, and it could be said to be its primary end in view.  And it is the use that is most clearly seen in the representation of baptism itself as a washing.  Because the way that a person is regenerated is by spiritual washing, that is, by removing the evil lusts and desires that cling to him.

The way a person does this is by repentance.  And repentance is the common thread that runs through all the different uses of baptism.  A person is truly introduced into Christianity by repenting; he learns to acknowledge the Lord and follow Him by repenting; and he is regenerated by means of repentance.

This is not always an easy process. And in some ways, baptism is presented as a painful thing. It is used as an image of death. Speaking of His crucifixion, Jesus said, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” The image of baptism is one of washing, but it is also an image of being buried – the apostle Paul would later compare Jesus burial and resurrection to the experience of being submerged under the water in baptism and then rising up out of it. In our reading this morning, John the Baptist warned the Sadducees and Pharisees, the religious leaders at the time, that the Lord’s baptism would be like a consuming fire. And when we repent, there are parts of ourselves – the merely natural parts – where we feel like we are dying. Baptism is a symbol of putting to death the parts of us that rebel against the Lord’s love, so that we can be purified. The prophet Malachi compared it to a refiner’s fire: “But who may sustain the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He is seen? For He is as a refiner’s fire, and as washer’s soap.” That refiner’s fire burned away all the impurities in a precious metal. For us to be purified, we have to endure the pain of fighting against the evil cravings that give us pleasure.

But that fire that burns away impurities is also a warming fire of love. The purpose of baptism and of washing is not simply so that evil can be taken away, but so that something new from the Lord can come in and take its place. It is so that the Holy Spirit can flow into a person, giving them a new spirit.  It is so that the fire of the Lord’s love can flow into a person, giving them a new heart. There is a progression there. That progression is described in John the Baptist’s words: “I indeed baptize you with water, but one comes after me Who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with Fire.”

That first kind of baptism is a baptism of water.  The Lord did not only baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire; He also baptized in the waters of the Jordan river, just as John had. The water of Jordan is a picture of the simple, straightforward truths in the letter of the Word.  We start out by following them, by repenting on the very basic, literal level – stopping our stealing, stopping lying, shunning adultery.

As we progress, though, the Lord gives us the opportunity to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit represents the Lord’s Divine Truth.  This is contained within the teachings of the Lord’s Word, but cannot really be expressed in words.  It’s a sight we have of the truth.  We learn to see things in ourselves that are sins against the Lord, even if we can’t describe exactly what they are – attitudes or intentions that on a deeper level steal from the Lord.  There’s the love of self, and the raising up of ourselves above others; and when we realize this, and shun these deeper evils because we know they are sins, we are being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Being baptized by the Holy Spirit means being regenerated by truth.  We come to love the truth, and to love treating our neighbours well because we know it is right.  There is love in the Holy Spirit – but it’s primarily a love for acting by the truth, not simply a love for goodness itself.  That is the next level, the celestial level; and to be regenerated by this love is what it means to be baptized by fire.

A person first becomes spiritual before becoming celestial.  But a person can become celestial.  The way this happens is that gradually the Lord transforms their love for acting by what is true into a genuine love for the Love that comes from Him.  It is love for love’s sake, and when a person reaches this state, they act primarily from love to the Lord.  This washes a person on an even deeper level than that love for truth does.  Those who reach this level are said to be baptized with fire. These are the people who come into a genuine love for the Lord and love for their neighbour, who love to love others.

The external act of baptism does not accomplish any of these things. But when a person has these internal elements – a desire to learn truth, to fight against evil with it, to come to know the Lord and be regenerated – then the external ritual actually makes these things happen more fully and more completely. Through the internal washing of repentance and regeneration, a person is made clean, and made ready for heaven, which is the Lord’s greatest desire. By the first use of baptism, a person is introduced among Christians; by the second use, he comes to know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as God, and follow Him; and by the third use, He is regenerated and born again, in accordance with the Lord’s words in the gospel of John: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12,13)  Amen.

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VISIONS AND DREAMS

VISIONS AND DREAMS

A Sermon by Rev. Lawson M. Smith Preached in Mitchellville, Maryland, January 4, 1987

“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29).

It is the beginning of a new year. We seek a vision from the Lord, to show us where we are to go in the days and months ahead. In many areas of life, people speak of “visions” and “dreams”: a vision for a business, financial vision; to have a dream for one’s life; dreams for our marriages, and for our children; a vision for the church. To be a man of vision is a wonderful thing. What is it that we seek when we wish for “vision”? How can we receive it? Let us look at what the Heavenly Doctrine teaches about visions and dreams, and then see what the prophecy of Joel can teach us today.

The Lord taught the people of the Most Ancient Church by dreams and visions. These were their primary means of Divine revelation. Angels came to them in their dreams and showed them delightful paradisal gardens and many other things, and at the same time taught them what these dreams meant. Through such visions and dreams, the Most Ancient people learned the most fundamental truths, such as that all life and all goodness and truth are from the Lord alone and none from man. Having been given to understand these fundamentals, from their love to the Lord they perceived countless applications to their lives.

Later, men turned away from the Lord and closed their open communication with heaven. Then the Lord sent an angel to certain people to teach them about Himself and the life after death. The Lord filled an angel with His presence, so that the angel could represent Him to men and speak from the Divine, not from himself. The angel of the Lord came to men in visions during the day, in dreams at night, or sometimes simply spoke to them without being seen. The men to whom the Lord granted visions and dreams then taught others what the Lord had taught them. They were prophets, spokesmen for the Lord. Through them the Lord wrote the Ancient Word and then the Old Testament. The written Word began to be an important means of Divine revelation, though as yet few could read, and the Word was still transmitted mainly by oral tradition.

In Old Testament times the Lord appeared by means of angels to Abraham, Joshua, Gideon and others. The Writings point out that such visions took place by the opening of people’s spiritual eyes, not by their natural eyesight, for the subjects of the visions were in the spiritual world.

Dreams are an important part of the stories of Joseph and Daniel. The Lord used dreams to show them what He was going to do. The Lord also spoke to Solomon twice in dreams, and Solomon also answered the Lord in his dreams.

Later on in Israel’s history, the Lord gave some of the prophets remarkable visions, especially Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah, and later the apostle John, who wrote the Apocalypse. But these visions, along with many other things revealed through the prophets, can scarcely be understood, even in our day, without the help of the Writings. Relatively few people were given visions, and the Lord sent prophets infrequently. Compared to the days of the Most Ancient Church, few people were in a suitable state to accept revelation from the Lord. In Samuel’s day it is said, “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no open vision” (I Samuel 3:1).

Having a vision of what we should do with our lives is very important. But sometimes the word of the Lord seems to come to us rarely, if at all. Then some people will seek visions by other ways than from the Lord.

For example, when the Lord refused to speak to King Saul, Saul turned to a witch or medium to contact Samuel, then deceased. But the law of Moses strictly forbids necromancy and witchcraft: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” a law which even in our day, the Writings say, is altogether to be observed and done (see Exodus 22:18; AC 9349). So Isaiah warned the people, “And when they say to you, `Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? [Go] to the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:19,20). This is good advice for us too. It is always unprofitable in the long run to seek guidance by a means which is not according to the Lord’s law, because there is no other source of light and vision than the Lord.

So the Old Testament warns the people to be on guard against false prophets, and to test their words by seeing whether they come true (see Deut.13:1-5). In the days when Jerusalem was under the Babylonian siege, the Lord through Jeremiah commanded the people to surrender, and then they would be well treated in Babylon. But false prophets arose claiming to have been told that there would be peace in the land again soon. Jeremiah urged the people, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: `Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. … They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. … I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, “I have dreamed; I have dreamed!” … Indeed, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal'” (23:16, 25-27). The people, sadly, followed the advice of the false prophets, but the word given through Jeremiah came true.

The Lord Himself came into the world when almost all spiritual light and vision had been cut off. He came to bring light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, so that we could see a true vision of our God. He did away with the need for representations of Himself through the angel of the Lord. In the Lord’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus, now an angel, to warn his brothers; but in Jesus’ words, Abraham says, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The Writings cite this parable in explaining the law of the Divine Providence that men must not be compelled in the things of religion. “No one is reformed by visions and dreams,” we read, “because they compel” (DP 134). That is, they compel an outward, temporary, grudging acknowledgment that fades away with time, and leaves a man no better than before. Therefore the Lord does not make use of conversations with the dead to teach us today. This is not the kind of vision we should seek.

Speech with spirits is still possible, and it would not be harmful with those who are regenerate and established in a true faith based in a life of charity. But spirits do not try to teach people anything, but only speak a few words. In general, spirits speak only out of the things in the person’s own memory, and tend to reflect our own states of mind, or what a part of us wants to hear them say, whereas the written Word is an objective standard.

Some people have criticized Swedenborg as violating the Lord’s warning against conversations with the dead. Many others have been attracted to him merely as, in their eyes, a successful spiritist. But several things set Swedenborg apart from spiritists. First, he never sought contact with the other world. The Lord opened his spiritual eyes in order to reveal things to mankind which could not be made known in any other way, as He opened the eyes of the apostle John and other prophets. Second, all of the Writings rest firmly in the Old and New Testaments. Third, Swedenborg never tried to draw attention to himself. Even the Writings themselves were published anonymously until the last two works, when their authorship was already generally known. Instead, the Heavenly Doctrine always leads us to the Lord.

The Writings say there are several false kinds of visions. There are delusions induced by spirits, affecting our natural sight of things in this world. People who are not strong-minded are prone to this kind of vision. Another kind of vision is inspired by fanatical spirits who believe themselves filled with the Holy Spirit. They insist that what they teach must be believed.

All evil spirits see in a false light. An evil spirit is nothing but a collection of lusts and the fantasies of his lusts. He imagines that what is good is bad, and that what is bad is good; he takes delight in filthy and wicked things, and believes these will make him happy. In hell, one spirit miserably torments another by delusions. They also torment us on earth, inspiring similar fantasies in us, such as the feeling that “only if” I can have or do some selfish thing will I be happy.

On the other hand, when a person has a genuine vision, he actually sees things that really exist in the other life. He sees in the light of heaven from the Lord. The things of the heavens all represent the one and only reality in the Lord (see AC 1966ff). Even though today the Lord does not give us visions and dreams involving the opening of our spiritual eyes, He still does give us spiritual light to distinguish what is real and eternal from what is delusive and fleeting, if we sincerely look to Him for enlightenment.

The prophecy of Joel really looks forward to the New Church. In its spiritual sense, it shows us how we can receive vision from the Lord. The prophecy begins with the devastation of the land of Israel by locusts and invading armies. The Lord through Joel explains the reason these disasters have occurred: Israel has been unfaithful. Then comes a beautiful, clear call to repentance: “`Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, `turn to Me with all your heart … Rend your heart and not your garments'” (2:12,13). The beginning of every true state of the church, or the way to prepare for every gift from the Lord, is to repent of evils that we aware of.

But then the Lord promises to drive Israel’s enemies away, and to bless her with the former and latter rain, so that the crops bring forth abundantly. Then comes the text: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29).

This describes a state in which we are being regenerated. The Lord pours out His Spirit or breath upon us, the breath of life, when we are ready to receive His Holy Spirit. “Upon all flesh” means upon all mankind. In the spiritual sense, “flesh” means all human states, particularly states oriented to bodily and worldly things, which need to be reformed and regenerated by the Spirit of the Lord. The individual groups sons and daughters, old and young, and servants stand for each of the levels of our minds and hearts in which we need to receive the Lord, in order to see Him clearly. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5; AC 574).

The Lord pours out His spirit upon us by teaching and enlightening us in truths. A man who is being regenerated then “prophesies,” that is, he understands so clearly that he could teach these truths to others. We prophesy to ourselves when from the rational level of our minds we form an idea of what the Lord is saying to us and how we should act, and then tell ourselves that this is how we are going to act.

Sons and daughters are both mentioned, standing for the understanding and the will. The Writings say that our state of enlightenment depends on the state of our minds as formed by doctrinal teachings from the Word, signified by the sons. The more clearly we have the teachings of the Word in our minds, from current, regular reading of the Word, the more clearly the Lord can enlighten us. Faith is perfected by the number and coherence of truths. We can picture a chandelier: the more lights and prisms, the more bright and beautiful a light it will give. There is no substitute for a clear knowledge and understanding of the facts of Divine revelation.

Enlightenment and vision also depend on the disposition of our will, represented by the daughters. For example, we need to be willing to face a vision that calls us to repentance, not just cries of “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.

Each person is different from every other, both in his knowledge of the Word and experience, and in his love’s interests. Accordingly there is a variety of vision as to the uses of life. This variety perfects society as a whole, as long as each man’s vision comes from the Lord.

The old men, who will dream dreams, stand for the gentle, peaceful wisdom of old age, the interior sight that comes from a lifetime of following the Lord. The most ancients received their instruction in dreams. The young men’s visions represent intelligence and an interest in understanding the Word rightly. The men of the Ancient Church received revelation through visions. It is good for us to recognize and value the contributions that each state of life can bring to the church.

The male and female servants stand for rational and natural truths, with their affections. Natural truths are facts, and rational truths are concepts formed from them. Such facts and concepts are servants to visions of spiritual things and dreams of celestial wisdom. When we set our knowledge and our interest in information in subordination to the uses of life rather than making it an end in itself, then the spirit of the Lord is poured out even upon the menservants and maidservants with us.

From this prophecy through Joel the Lord is showing us how we can receive His spirit of regeneration in our lives, and so be blessed with dreams and visions of the goals to which the Lord is leading us. What we really want is a vision of the Lord so that we can cooperate with Him in His purposes. The Lord is always offering us such a vision, as light is always streaming from the sun, but we receive it according to our state. Our vision is always very limited. We don’t see where Divine Providence is leading us; we only glimpse a little of what the Lord hopes and intends for us. But what we can see is enough for us to advance into clearer and clearer light. Our source of vision is the Lord in His Word. If we read the Word, and think about its application to life in whatever uses we seek guidance whether our careers, our marriages, our families, or our church and if we act on what we see with courage and zeal, then the Lord will be able to guide us into the right paths, and into greater light. The prophecy of Joel will be fulfilled: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29). Amen.


Lessons: Joel 2:12-32; Matthew 2:1-12; AR 224:1-4e

Apocalypse Revealed 224:1-4e

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?” … 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 …

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 everyone 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 …

Concerning baptism, they said that it is spiritual washing, which is reformation and regeneration; and that an infant is reformed and regenerated when, on becoming an adult, he does the things which his sponsors promised for him, which are two, repentance and faith in God; for they promise first that he shall renounce the devil and all his works; and second, that he shall believe in God. All infants in heaven are initiated into these two, but to them the devil is hell, and God is the Lord. Moreover, baptism is a sign before the angels that a man is of the church.” On hearing these things, some of the assembly said, “This we understand.” But a voice was heard from one side, exclaiming, “We do not understand”; and another voice, “We will not understand”; and inquiry was made from whence these voices proceeded, and it was found that they came from those who had confirmed themselves in falsities of faith, and who wished to be believed as oracles, and thus to be adored. The angels said, “Be not surprised: there are very many such at this day; they appear to us from heaven like graven images, made with such art as to be able to move the lips and utter sounds like organs, but without knowing whether the breath, by means of which they utter these sounds, comes from hell or from heaven, because they do not know whether a thing be false or true. They reason and reason; they confirm and confirm, nor do they ever see whether it is so. But know that human ingenuity can confirm whatsoever one wishes, even until it appears to be so; therefore heretics and impious persons, yea atheists, can confirm that there is no God, but nature only” …

And after the angels had taught them something concerning correspondence and its effect, some of the company said, “Now for the first time we understand.” And when they said, “We understand,” behold a flame with light descending from heaven consociated them with the angels, and they loved one another.

Spiritual Frontier – Emanuel Swedenborg

FIGHTING SPIRITUAL BATTLES

FIGHTING SPIRITUAL BATTLES
A Sermon by Rev. Thomas L. Kline
Preached in Bryn Athyn July 7, 1994

“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil” (Luke 4:1,2).

Why do bad things happen? Why do bad things happen in our lives? One person recently made the comment that when he looked at the lives of all his friends, it seemed as if every person was dealing with some big problem or issue in his or her life, now or in the recent past. The problem could have been disease, a death in the family, marital difficulties, or emotional distress. But it seemed to him as if everyone had some big issue to deal with.

Another person made a rather cynical comment. That person worried, not about the people who had big problems in their lives, but about those who hadn’t yet faced a major crisis. The concern was that those who still believed that life was peaceful and free of problems would soon have that innocence taken away.

Not all of us face a crisis. And for some of us, the issues that we deal with in life are open and public; for others, the issues we deal with are more private and personal.

But back to the question: Why do bad things happen? One recent best seller was titled, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? And another best seller began with the sentence, “Life is difficult.”

Sometimes when a bad thing happens, we can explain it by reasoning that bad things are a necessary part of our spiritual journey. When bad things happen, it is part of that “refiner’s fire” that makes us into a stronger person. When a bad thing happens, there is a lesson to be learned, a victory to be won. And this is why the life that leads to heaven not only involves joy and comfort, but also involves pain and the anxiety of spiritual temptation. Spiritual temptation is part of our spiritual growth.

But sometimes things happen in people’s lives that are so bad that this explanation doesn’t seem to work. One person said over the tragic death of a loved one, “If there is some lesson that I am supposed to learn by something as tragic as this, I’d rather not learn it.” There are events of true tragic proportion: the untimely death of a loved one, terrible and painful disease, emotional disturbance and depression, the dissolving of a marriage, abuse, hunger and famine. If we come to believe that somehow the Lord allows or even causes these to happen so that we can learn some important lesson about life, we end up with a pretty terrible idea about God. One person made the comment about such an idea: “God is a bad teacher if He uses tragedy as His lesson plan.”

And so there is one other very important truth given to us in the doctrines of the New Church that helps us to understand tragedy: Bad things, terrible tragedies, are permitted by the Lord, not just so we can learn something new about life; they often happen simply because we are in the midst of a great war between heaven and hell. We happen to live on the battleground of a great war, and that war is taking place right now. It is a spiritual war between heaven and hell. It is the very war the Lord came on earth to fight. And sometimes we, or our friends and loved ones, are innocent victims of that terrible battle.

Imagine a physical war where a bombshell goes off near us, and we suffer pain and anguish, not because of anything we did, but because there is a battle going on and a bombshell went off. The same happens on a spiritual level. The hells do inflict pain and disorder upon us, and we suffer.

Think of a little child who has a painful disease. The disease itself, the pain and suffering, come from hell. That suffering is a physical manifestation of the hatred, anger, and vengeance of hell. And that little child has a painful and disabling disease not because the child was sinful, not because his parents sinned, not because there is some lesson to be learned (although there might be a lesson that is learned), but that child has a terrible disease because the hells are indeed powerful and they wish nothing more than to cause pain and disease and suffering. All bad things physical, mental and spiritual are a result of this great battle between heaven and hell.

We said that we are often innocent victims residing on this great spiritual battleground. This thought can make us feel kind of helpless. And this is why, rather than saying that we are “innocent victims” living on a great spiritual battleground, it is more accurate to say that we are actually “soldiers” who are called by the Lord to be part of the battle. We are soldiers who live on a large battleground, and we are called to fight in the name of the Lord. And this is one of the most important concepts we need to know about our lives, because it gives us a vision of hope and purpose.

We are in the middle of a great war. (Just look around you and within you.) We are soldiers who are part of this great battle between heaven and hell. Even that little child is a soldier, called into the army of the Lord.

When a bad thing happens terrible disease, a terrible death are we just to remain passive? Are we helpless? How can we fight if the terrible thing has already happened? If a little child dies, how can we be victorious over the hells that caused that death?

And here is another key : We fight the spiritual battle as an individual, but the consequences of our victory, no matter how slight, are global. When we, as individuals, fight a spiritual battle against the hells, we help countless millions throughout this world and the spiritual world who are affected by those same hells. When we are spiritually victorious over a particular hell, we lessen the power of that hell, not just for ourselves but for everyone. When tragedy happens take for example, the untimely death of a loved one we can still fight against those very hells that caused the death. And we do this by continuing on our personal spiritual journey of shunning evils as sins against God, by living the Word of God, by not giving up hope. In this battle we fight for all. And when we fight, we fight for all in the Lord’s kingdom now and in future generations.

Why can’t our life be free from pain, suffering, and the anguish of temptation? Why can’t life just be easy and enjoyable?

It is interesting to ask these questions about the Lord’s life. Why couldn’t the Lord’s life, when He was on the earth, just be peaceful? Why did He have to suffer continual temptations, as the Writings say, temptations from the beginning of His life to the very end? Why did He have to begin His ministry by being tempted by the devil for forty days in the wilderness? Why did He have to suffer the awful pain and anguish of the passion on the cross? Why couldn’t His life have been one of simple peace and joy?

When we ask these questions about the Lord’s life, the answer is obvious: He didn’t come here to have a life of peace and joy; He came here with a mission to be accomplished. He came here to fight against the hells. He came to fight for generations of men, women and children, generations yet unborn. He came to fight for all of us. There was a purpose to His life, a purpose greater than Himself.

And the same is true for us. We are here for our own regeneration, and we are here for a cause (a battle, if you will) greater than ourselves. And sometimes this battle will involve pain, hardship and temptation.

What one of us would not willingly go forth in the face of danger if it meant that we could spiritually benefit the global sphere of the whole earth? (It is interesting that some passages in the Writings suggest that just one person is all that is needed to effect the conjunction between this earth and all the heavens.)

Now this doesn’t mean that our lives are going to be plagued with tragedy every moment. No, there is a lot of joy, happiness, and peace in life. Jesus says that our yoke is easy and our burden is light. But we do need to keep in mind why we are here. We need to have more of a “war-time” mentality than a “peace-time” mentality on the spiritual level. And if we see why we are here, we can know why there is often a lot of pain and suffering in our lives and with those around us. A spiritual battleground is not a very peaceful place. If anything, the Lord gives us an oasis from the battle from time to time, time off from the battle, but the battle is our main purpose in life. In this context, it is useful to think of some of the teachings in the Writings about spiritual temptation.

First of all, we are told that a spiritual temptation is said to be an attack by the hells on some good love that we have. If you have some new, good love in your life, expect it to be attacked by the hells. And if you say to yourself, “Why, every time I have some new love in my heart, it is challenged,” you are not seeing the purpose of why you are here. There is a battle going; expect spiritual temptations.

Another teaching of the Writings: Are our temptations going to get easier or more difficult as we get older? The answer: they are probably going to get more severe. And if your reasoning is, “You mean I am going to have to fight greater battles as I get older? How can this be fair? Why fight now?” If that is your response, then you have missed the point of why you are here. There is a battle going on. You are called to be a spiritual soldier. As you grow stronger, more experienced, the Lord will give you greater challenges, greater battles to fight, because strong experienced soldiers are needed in some of the battles. The Lord is preparing you for great things.

Still another teaching: Spiritual temptations cause utmost despair and anguish. There is no such thing as an easy spiritual temptation. Sometimes you feel that you are going to “lose it” during a spiritual temptation. And again, if the response of your mind is, “Why do I have to have really bad temptations? Why can’t they be easy?” then you have missed the point of why you are here.

When Jesus began His ministry, He was baptized of John in the Jordan River. And then He went into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil for forty days. He hungered. He hungered so much that He was tempted by the devil to make bread out of the stones. And His hunger was deep within Him. He hungered for the salvation of the whole human race.

The devil took Him up to the pinnacle of the temple, and asked Him to throw Himself down. He was tempted to doubt His own power to save the human race.

And finally, the devil took Him up to a great and high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. All this would be given to Him if He would just bow down and worship the devil.

And after all these temptations, it says that the devil left Him “for a time.” The temptations were to continue. They were to continue even to the passion of the cross. And by His victory over temptation, our redemption was effected.

Let us use His victory as strength in our lives so that we may face the challenges that lie before us with courage and strength. Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 91; Luke 4:1-15; AC 6829, 1690

Arcana Coelestia 6829

When a person is in temptation, he is beset round about by falsities and evils which impede the influx of light from the Divine, that is, the influx of truth and good, and then the person is as it were in darkness. Darkness in the other life is nothing else than this besetment by falsities, for these take away the light from the man who is in temptation, and thus the perception of consolation by truths. But when the person emerges from temptation, then the light appears with its spiritual heat, that is, truth with its good, and from this he has gladness after anxiety. This is the morning which in the other life follows the night.

Arcana Coelestia 1690:3

All temptation is an assault upon the love in which the person is, and the temptation is in the same degree as is the love. If the love is not assaulted, there is no temptation. To destroy anyone’s love is to destroy his very life; for the love is the life. The Lord’s life was love toward the whole human race, and was indeed so great, and of such a quality, as to be nothing but pure love. Against this, His life, continual temptations were admitted, as before said, from His earliest childhood to His last hour in the world. The love which was the Lord’s veriest life is signified by His “hungering,” and by the devil’s saying, “If Thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread,” and by Jesus answering that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:5-8; Matt. 4:2-4).

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

It is said in John, that the Lord “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and in Luke, that He baptized “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” In the internal sense, to baptize signifies to regenerate; to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, is to regenerate by the good of love,—fire, is the good of love.. (AC n. 9229)

THE HOLY SUPPER

General Doctrine

In order that every one who repents should look to the Lord alone, the Holy Supper was instituted by Him, which to those who repent confirms the remission of sins. It confirms; because in that supper or communion every one is kept looking to the Lord only. (DP n. 122)

Baptism is introduction into the church; but the Holy Supper is an introduction into heaven. These two Sacraments, Baptism and the Holy Supper, are as two gates to eternal life. By baptism, which is the first gate, every Christian man is intromitted and introduced into those things which the church teaches from the Word concerning another life; all which are means whereby a man may be prepared for and led to heaven. The second gate is the Holy Supper; through this every man who has suffered himself to be prepared and led by the Lord, is intromitted and introduced into heaven. (TCR n. 721)

The Holy Supper was instituted by the Lord that by means of it there may be a conjunction of the church with heaven, and so with the Lord; it is therefore the most holy thing of worship.

But how conjunction is effected by it, is not apprehended by those who do not know anything of the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; for they do not think beyond the external sense, which is the sense of the letter. From the internal or spiritual sense of the Word it is known what is signified by the body, and blood, and what by the bread and wine, also what is signified by eating.

In that sense, the body or flesh of the Lord is the good of love, as is the bread likewise; and the blood of the Lord is the good of faith, as also is the wine; and eating is appropriation, and conjunction. The angels who are attendant on man when he receives the Sacrament of the Supper understand these things no otherwise; for they perceive all things spiritually. Hence it is that with man the holiness of love and the holiness of faith then flow in from the Lord. From this is conjunction.

From these considerations it is evident that when a man takes the bread, which is the body, he is conjoined to the Lord by means of the good of love to Him from Him; and when he takes the wine, which is the blood, he is conjoined to the Lord by means of the good of faith in Him from Him. But it should be known that conjunction with the Lord by means of the Sacrament of the Supper is effected only with those who are in the good of love and faith in the Lord from the Lord. With these there is conjunction by means of the Holy Supper; with others there is presence, but not conjunction.

Moreover, the Holy Supper includes and comprehends all the Divine worship instituted in the Israelitish church; for the burnt-offerings and sacrifices, in which the worship of that church principally consisted, were called in one word bread; hence also the Holy Supper is its complement. (HD n. 210-214)

They come to the Holy Supper worthily who are in faith in the Lord, and in charity towards the neighbour, thus who are regenerate. (TCR n. 722)

[Every one is regenerated by abstaining from the evils of sin. TCR n. 510. The state of regeneration begins when a man determines to shun evil and do good. ibid. n. 587.]

To those who come to it worthily the Holy Supper is as a signing and sealing that they are children of God; because the Lord is then present, and introduces those who are born of Him, that is who are regenerate, into heaven. The Holy Supper effects this because the Lord is then present even as to His Human; for it was shown above that in the Holy Supper the Lord is wholly present, and also the whole of His redemption; for He says of the bread “This is My body,” and of the wine, “This is My blood.” Consequently He then admits them into His body; and the church and heaven constitute His body. The Lord is indeed present whenever man is being regenerated, and by His Divine operation prepares him for heaven; but that He may actually enter, a man must actually present himself to the Lord. And because the Lord actually presents Himself to man, a man must actually receive Him,—and not as He hung upon the cross, but as He is, in His glorified Human in which He is present. The body of this is Divine Good, and the blood is Divine Truth. These are given to man, and by them man is regenerated, and is in the Lord and the Lord in him; for, as was shown above, the eating which takes place in the Holy Supper is spiritual eating. From all this, rightly apprehended, it is plain that the Holy Supper is as a signing and sealing that they who worthily approach it are children of God. (ibid. n. 728)

Conjunction with the Lord by means of the Holy Supper may be illustrated by the conjunction of the families descended from one father. From him descend brethren, and relations in succession by marriage and by blood; and they all derive something from the first stock. They do not, however, thus derive flesh and blood; but from flesh and blood they thus derive the soul and hence inclination to similar things, whereby they are conjoined. The very conjunction indeed commonly appears in their faces, and also in their manners; and they are therefore called one flesh (Gen. xxix. 14; xxxvii. 27; 2 Sam. v. 1; xix. 12, 13; et al). It is similar in respect to conjunction with the Lord, who is the Father of all the faithful and blessed. Conjunction with Him is effected by love and faith, on account of which two they are called one flesh. Hence it is that He said:—”He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him” (John vi. 56). Who does not see that the bread and wine do not effect this, but the good of love which is meant by bread, and the truth of faith which is meant by wine, which are the Lord’s own, and proceed and are communicated from Him alone? In truth all conjunction is effected by love; and love is not love without confidence. Those who believe that the bread is flesh and the wine blood, and are not able farther to elevate their thought, may remain in this belief; but ought not to think otherwise than that there is a something most holy [in the Sacrament], that is conjunctive with the Lord, which is attributed and appropriated to man as his although it continually remains the Lord’s. (ibid. n. 727)