GOD AND MAN

HR90THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

Banner777

PSK734b

<< GOD AND MAN. >>

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

— Genesis i. 27.

Image result for god created man in his own image and likeness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.scienceofcorrespondences.com/god-and-man.htm

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

Image result for god created man in his own image and likeness

Forgiveness, mercy, and justice

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison, and then waiting around for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott)

Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things you’re faced with.

It could be about forgiving yourself, or about forgiving someone else for some horrible deed. It’s hard, but not impossible. But forgiveness is not about excusing what someone has done. It’s about letting go of it, and moving on with your life.

Forgiveness, mercy, and justice

What do you do when forgiveness is called for?

Some scenarios:

  • Someone recklessly cuts in front of you on the highway, almost forcing you off the road.
  • Your friend still has not paid back the fifty dollars he “borrowed” a year ago.
  • Your family has been criticizing your life-style.
  • You find out that your spouse has been unfaithful.

What do you do in situations like these? Can you forgive them? Should you forgive? Or should you “Give them what’s coming to them”?

We all know that the Bible teaches us to forgive others. But sometimes it seems like it is impossible to forgive, because the wrong that has been done is so great. Sometimes it seems like it just wouldn’t be fair to be merciful.

Mercy

When there seems to be a conflict between mercy and justice, it may be that we do not clearly understand the nature of genuine forgiveness and mercy. The Bible teaches us to show mercy in a way that lets us be both fair and genuinely useful to all involved.

One reason we sometimes get confused about mercy, is that we tend to replace mercy with artificial substitutes. Essentially, mercy is a Divine quality. “To You, O Lord, belongs mercy.” (Psalm 62: 12) Divine Mercy has nothing in common with the petty revenge and “get-even” kind of “fairness” that tends to occupy our thoughts. And it has little in common with the superficial pardon or even condoning of evil that is sometimes passed off as mercy. The Lord’s thoughts are far more merciful than ours. It is in speaking of His mercy that the Lord says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways.” (Isaiah 55: 7-9)

One of the things that distinguishes true mercy from its substitutes is its constancy. Peter came to the Lord asking, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18: 21, 22) A truly forgiving person will not show mercy one moment and malice the next, because the two cannot mix together. For example, to forgive your friends but not your enemies is not true mercy, because it would be done for the sake of some favor you might get in return. “Love your enemies…. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” (Matthew 5: 44-46) We can only be truly merciful by completely rejecting any desire for malice or revenge.

This perfectly reflects the way the Lord shows mercy to us. We tend to think that the Lord is changing His mind when He forgives us, as if He decided not to punish us after all. Of course He does not really change His mind at all. He knows and foresees all things. He does not desire to hurt one day and heal the next. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1: 17) He is always a loving and gentle Father. “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103: 17) “`For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54: 10) Thus forgiveness is not the Lord changing His mind about us. Rather, it is the Lord changing our minds about Him.

Another quality that marks genuine mercy is that it involves helping the person who has wronged us. Sometimes we think that a person should earn our forgiveness. We refuse to give up our bitter feelings unless the other person makes an effort to earn our good will. This gives us an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves and to neglect helping the other person do better. However, the time to help a person is when he needs it. Mercy and forgiveness involve helping a person who has done wrong do better, not waiting until he does better and then helping him. That’s why the Lord said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 44, 45)

Another way we sometimes avoid helping those who have hurt us is by misapplying the phrase “forgive and forget.” It is good to forget your own malice. Is is something else to forget that the other person may need our strength or discipline. We might think that forgiving implies forgetting that evil was ever committed. However, the Bible does not tell us simply to forget about the evil in other people. Rather, we are to actively help others face their faults and overcome them. “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him: and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17: 3) “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, your have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18: 15) “Brethren, if a person is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6: 1)

Helping others over their faults is not inconsistent with mercy. It is part of mercy. In fact that is exactly how the Lord forgives us. He is always willing to help us do better. “I will cleanse you from all your filthiness…. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” (Ezekiel 36: 25, 26) Notice how the Lord showed mercy to the woman taken in adultery: He said, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8: 10, 11) He didn’t forget her sin — He encouraged her to overcome it. In fact, we would never be able to overcome our faults without the Lord’s power. If we had to earn His mercy we would be lost. The Lord says, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.” (Isaiah 1: 16)a And yet this is something that is accomplished only by His mercy and forgiveness, because He is the one who can put away our sin and remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 65: 3; Psalm 103: 12)

The Lord asks for us simply to do for others what He does for us. “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6: 36) Our forgiveness should be constant and unconditional because He forgives us that way. Yet in our mercy we may confront others with their evil in order to help them become better people, just as the Lord in His mercy confronts us with our evil so that we may overcome it and accept the love and mercy He offers.

Forgiveness of sins

The Lord immediately forgives us of everything thing that we ever do that is wrong because He is love and mercy itself. The premise is that we have to stop doing a questionable behavior in order for the forgiveness to mean anything, because until we stop the Lord’s love and mercy can not enter in and find a place with us. It is never that the Lord is not willing to forgive us, but that we are unwilling to change our behavior and let His forgiveness have effect in our life.

by Rev. John Odhner
Author of A Light Burden

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Love to God and love towards the neighbor are the whole of the Word.”

True Christian Religion 287

Three Steps to Enjoying a Slice of Heaven

Swedenborg Foundation

By Hanna Hyatt

Most of us have ideas about heaven. Whether it is a group of angel babies with big wings and harps, a singing choir of gorgeous voices, a delicious feast, or angels jumping on huge clouds in the sky, many of us find some way to imagine what “heaven” looks like and feels like.

Swedenborg’s descriptions of heaven and hell have fascinated people of all sorts for ages: he presents us with stories of a warm, peaceful heaven and a stricken, foul hell. Swedenborg describes heaven as a place where each angel finds a home according to the things they love the most, a home where they can find a useful purpose and work with other angels who love the same things. Swedenborg describes hell as an option that people choose by living a hellish existence on earth—if people consistently engage in hurtful, selfish, or hate-driven behavior while alive, they will not choose heaven after they die even if they have it right in front of their nose. They will instead choose to love themselves over what is good, and make an eternal life working toward getting more stuff and doing a better job of loving themselves.

pieblogsize

Swedenborg has a lot of helpful hints for living a heavenly life on earth in his many books. However, wading through theology is no small task. If you’re just looking for a quick taste, here are three ways to get a little slice of heaven on earth today:

(Note: Below, we’re using pie as a metaphor for the delicious goodness we want to create within ourselves. To read about it in Swedenborg’s words, look into the resources at the end of this post.)

1. Find a Problem to Fix (AKA: Notice the Bad Stuff in the Batter)

If there is a bit of fluff in the batter, we must notice it and recognize it before it can be removed. This fluff stands for all the bad habits and the negative things in life. When we look at the batter and think to themselves, “That looks like a nasty bit of fluff. Maybe I should take it out . . .” and then consider ways to fix the problem, we’ve already started that process of change on a mental level. In life, this happens whenever we notice a bad habit and get ready to change it. Maybe one person notices that every time their friend has a good story to tell, they find themselves unconsciously racking their brain to think of a slightly better story to tell. When they notice that bad habit, they’re making the first step toward a little bit more happiness (Divine Providence #39). Stare at that fluff, and go on to step two.

2. Start to Fix the Problem (AKA: Remove the Fluff)

Staring at the bit of fluff in the batter won’t solve the problem. The problem will only be solved when we make a change, pick up the spoon, and take the fluff out of the batter. When we take bad things out of our lives, we leave room for good things to flow in and cover that space (Divine Providence #33). This step is a huge part of Swedenborg’s idea of repentance, which is the first step toward regeneration, or becoming a new, better person (True Christianity #510). To become better, people have to stop doing things they know are bad for them. Say goodbye to the fluff—on to step three.

3. Ask for Help (AKA: Fill in the Pie Crust)

In this step, Swedenborg writes that people should turn to the Lord for help. He says that God is able to fill in the cracks and let new good things flow into people’s lives as bad things leave, just as the pie filling flows into the pie crust. The happiness of eternal life begins with this step, and the next secret one, as we are able to love more easily and more wholly in life because we are less filled with bad things, and looking outside of ourselves for help (True Christianity #539).

Secret step #4: Repetition (AKA: Practice Making Pie Again and Again and Again and Agai . . .)

Actually, this process never ends. It starts over at the beginning every time we notice bad things about our lives. It continues as long as people are changing and growing and loving and making mistakes. As long as people continue to repeat this cycle, the bad things get removed and the good things flow in. It’s the never-ending process of life.

Go forth and eat a bite of that heavenly slice.

_____

To read more about regeneration, Swedenborg’s description of the process of spiritual growth, take a look at his work True Christianity (especially chapters 9 and 10) or Secrets of Heaven volume 1 (the first chapter). You can also find a compilation of Swedenborg’s writings on the topic in Regeneration: Spiritual Growth and How It Works. All of these are available as free e-books in our bookstore.

_____

References from this post:

Divine Providence #39: “Words cannot describe the varieties of heaven’s bliss, rapture, pleasure, and delight—the joys of heaven. . . . However, these joys enter into us only as we distance ourselves from compulsions to love what is evil and false, which distancing we do apparently with our own strength, but in fact from the Lord’s strength. These joys are actually joys of loving desires for what is good and true, and they are directly opposed to the compulsions to love what is evil and false.” back

Divine Providence #33: “Since the Lord flows into everyone’s life and flows through our life’s desires into our perceptions and thoughts (and not the reverse), as already noted, it follows that the closeness of our union with the Lord depends on the extent to which our love for evil and its desires—its compulsions—is dismissed. Further, since these compulsions have their home in the level of our being that deals with this world, and since anything we do that is rooted in that level feels as though it belongs to us, we need to dismiss the evils of this love with what seems to be our own strength. To the extent that we do this, the Lord draws near and unites us to himself.” back

True Christianity #510: “Before repentance, we stand outside regeneration [or spiritual rebirth]. In that condition, if any thought of eternal salvation somehow makes its way into us, we at first turn toward it but soon turn away. That thought does not penetrate us any farther than the outer areas where we have ideas; it then goes out into our spoken words and perhaps into a few gestures that go along with those words. When the thought of eternal salvation penetrates our will, however, then it is truly inside us. The will is the real self, because it is where our love dwells; our thoughts are outside us, unless they come from our will, in which case our will and our thought act as one, and together make us who we are. From these points it follows that in order for repentance to be genuine and effective within us, it has to be done both by our will and by our thinking that comes from our will. It cannot be done by thought alone. Therefore it has to be a matter of actions, and not of words alone.” back

 

True Christianity #539: “There are two duties that we are obliged to perform after we have examined ourselves: prayer and confession. The prayer is to be a request that [the Lord] have mercy on us, give us the power to resist the evils that we have repented of, and provide us an inclination and desire to do what is good, since ‘without him we cannot do anything’ (John 15:5). The confession is to be that we see, recognize, and admit to our evils and that we are discovering that we are miserable sinners.

There is no need to list our sins before the Lord and no need to beg that he forgive them. The reason we do not need to list our sins before the Lord is that we have searched them out within ourselves and saw them, and therefore they are present before the Lord because they are present before us. The Lord was leading us in our self-examination; he disclosed our sins; he inspired our grief and, along with it, the motivation to stop doing them and to begin a new life.

There are two reasons why we should not beg the Lord to forgive our sins. The first is that sins are not abolished, they are just relocated within us. They are laid aside when after repentance we stop doing them and start a new life. This is because there are countless yearnings that stick to each evil in a kind of cluster; these cannot be set aside in a moment, but they can be dealt with in stages as we allow ourselves to be reformed and regenerated.

The second reason is that the Lord is mercy itself. Therefore he forgives the sins of all people. He blames no one for any sin.” back

Heaven is not just for Christians

The Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of love. Love trumps faith, that is, love trumps Christian knowledge. The reason is that love is the spiritual means by which the Lord God forms an intimate relationship with each of us.

The knowledge of God or belief in God only makes God present with us. But love, which is faith put into action, is how the Lord enters into our very lives – not just nearby.

God seeks a dwelling place in our hearts. Love is how the Lord enters into a covenant with us.

When we love the neighbor as ourselves we apply the Golden Rule, whether we attend a church, a temple, a mosque, or a baseball game. True worship is true love.

The mercy of the Lord is Infinite and cannot be limited to any one country, race, or belief-system. This is contrary to Divine Love and mercy.

People who believe that those who do not share their belief system will perish in hell overlook the fact that religion involves being good – not being right.

Furthermore, how can Christians even claim to be “right” when disdain for others, greed, and adultery is so prevalent among its ranks? This is the horrible outcome of the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, which separates religion from how we actually behave in the world.

It is also the disastrous outcome of interpreting Scripture merely as a literal account of history, which describes God as being “pissed-off,” promoting wars between countries, allowing slavery, polygamy, and depicting women as second class citizens.

God is infinite love. We are made in God’s image not by having ten fingers and ten toes, but by having spiritual love.

It is only through sincere mutual love for each other that the world can be saved. Can the process of saving the world be different from the process of saving our souls?

This spiritual process of exalting love is open to all men and women on earth.

Otherwise, the Creator would be extremely inefficient in perfecting the heavenly kingdom and sharing eternal blessings.

Posted on September 8, 2008by thegodguy

Posted in god, Inner growth, Life after death, love, Reality, religion, spirituality, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

He did come to make an atonement

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

By Chauncey Giles

Father Son and Holy Spirit, Are the three essentials, of the one  God, Like body soul, and operation in man.

MERCY

MERCY
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida May 18, 1991

“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145: 8, 9).

These are beautiful and comforting words. Furthermore, they express a fundamental truth of all genuine religion, namely, that the Lord is a God of infinite love and mercy. He is love itself infinite and all-embracing love. And because love, by its very nature, wills to make others happy from itself, therefore the Lord created people with the object of bestowing upon them the blessings of eternal happiness. The Lord, who is love itself, is also pure mercy toward the whole human race, the Writings teach; for He wills to save all and make them happy to eternity, and to bestow on them all that He has, thus, by the strong force of love to draw to heaven all who are willing to follow (AC 1735). Note that last sentence: He seeks by the strong force of love to draw to heaven all who are willing to follow Him.

But, if this is so, people ask, how then can we account for all the misery and suffering we see all around us? If God is pure love and mercy, and if He has infinite wisdom and power, why then does He allow people to suffer in misery? Indeed, they argue, if the Lord is all-powerful He must be responsible for this suffering and misery Himself.

There is a strong appearance that this must be so. And, to add to the difficulty, there is a strong appearance in the letter of the Word to support this appearance. For in many places the Lord is said to punish, to tempt, to be angry, and to curse. In commenting on this appearance the Writings state: “The Lord never curses anyone. He is never angry with anyone, never leads anyone into temptation, never punishes anyone … for such things can never proceed from the fountain of mercy, peace and goodness” (AC 245).

The Lord, who is mercy and goodness itself, regards all people from mercy and never averts His face from anyone. It is man, when in evil, who turns away from the Lord. The Lord spoke of this, saying: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity” (Isaiah 59:2,3).

Even though we may turn away from the Lord and reject His love, still the Lord does not desert us. He is ever present, waiting to be received. He continually breathes into us His own life. And even though we may not respond, it nevertheless gives us the ability to think and reflect, and to discern whether a thing is good or evil, true of false (AC 714). In this way the Lord provides that even though a person rejects Him and closes the door of his mind upon Him, yet because he has the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and between what is true and false, he may at any time change his ways and admit the Lord into his life. This is what the Lord was speaking of when He said: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him and he with Me” (Rev. 3: 20).

The mercy of the Lord is perpetual with everyone, for the Lord wills to save all, whoever they are; but His mercy cannot be received until evils have been removed, for evils oppose and prevent the reception of the Lord’s mercy (see AC 8307). It is the truth in our minds which receives good, thus also mercy and peace. Where there is no truth in the mind because a person has rejected it, there can be no good, mercy or peace, because there is nothing there to receive it (AC 10579:8).

It is important that we realize that Divine mercy and Divine justice are inseparable, for justice is of truth and mercy is of love, and in the Lord these two are united. When a person rejects the Lord as to truth, that is, when he rejects the Divine truth of the Word, he simultaneously rejects the Divine mercy. Such are judged from the laws of justice and truth separated from love, not because the Lord withdraws His love, but because the person has rejected the Divine truth and with it His love and mercy. On the other hand, those who willingly receive Divine truth are judged from justice tempered with mercy because they have the vessels in themselves which receive it (see AC 5585:6).

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

The passage goes on to say that it is of mercy to those who are good that the evil are separated from them. If it were not so, those who are evil would do harm to the good, and would be continually attempting to destroy order. It is the same on earth. If breaches of civil and moral order were not punished, society would soon be infested with evils and disorder, and would eventually perish. For this reason, we are told, a judge shows greater love and mercy by punishing evils and those guilty of them than by exercising inappropriate clemency on their behalf (see AC 2258).

These teachings make it apparent that the Lord’s mercy is with everyone according to the person’s state. With those who are receptive to good and truth, the Lord’s mercy bestows peace and heavenly joy. With those who are evil, the Lord’s mercy bends the penalty of evil to the person’s eternal welfare. Thus, even with those who are evil, the Lord’s mercy is operative, but it takes a different form with them than with those who are good (see AC 587:2). Therefore the Lord says: “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent” (Rev. 3:19). “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55: 7). In this passage we see the Lord reaching out to the evil with mercy, not condemnation, seeking their reformation and happiness.

Mercy, in its essence, is love. It is turned into mercy, or becomes mercy, when anyone in need of help or aid is regarded from love or charity. Mercy, therefore, is the effect of love toward those who are in need of aid or encouragement (AC 3063). We read: “All mercy is of love; for he who is in love or charity is also in mercy, and the love and charity in him become mercy when the neighbor is in need or misery, and he affords him help in that state” (AC 6180).

“All who are in charity are in mercy, or, in other words, all who love the neighbor are merciful to him … The good of charity has this within it because it descends from the Lord’s love toward the whole human race, which love is mercy because all the human race is settled in miseries” (AC 5132).

The subject of mercy is of vital importance to us. Firstly, a right understanding of the subject is essential for understanding the Lord and our relationship to Him. Secondly, it is essential to our dealings with the neighbor. For, as the Writings point out, all who are in misery are in need of mercy, and the whole human race is in misery to a greater or lesser extent.

All people, therefore, are in need of mercy. The following teaching shows clearly that this subject has very practical implications in regard to how we live our lives. We read: “Those who are in no charity think nothing but evil of the neighbor, and say nothing but evil; if they say anything good it is for their own sake … whereas those who are in charity think nothing but good of their neighbor and speak only well of him, and this not for their own sake but from the Lord … The former are like the evil spirits, the latter like the angels … The evil spirits excite nothing but what is evil and false in the person and condemn … but the angels excite nothing but what is good and true, and excuse what is evil and false” (AC 1088, emphasis added).

This is a teaching we would do well to reflect on. “Those who are in charity think nothing but good of their neighbor and speak only well of him” (ibid.). How do we measure up to this standard? We do not have to examine ourselves very deeply or extensively to realize that we fall far short of this mark. But we need not despair.

In our daily lives we are continually in contact with people who are in need of help and encouragement. The angels who are with us will enable us to see the good in these people. They will arouse within us a desire to think well of them and speak well of them. On the other hand, the evil spirits who are also with us will cause us to see their faults, and will arouse in us the inclination to think evil of them and to speak ill of them in the presence of others.

It is not difficult to be merciful. We need only choose between the inclination aroused in us by the angels, or that aroused in us by the evil spirits. The choice is ours. True, the choice is somewhat complicated by the fact that by the time we have reached adult age, we have more than likely chosen the latter course so often that it has become, in some measure, habitual. Another complicating factor is the prevalence of malicious gossip. It is so common in the world today that we become inured to it to the point that we are often not consciously aware that we are engaging in it.

We need to realize that we have some effect on every one that we come in contact with. The impact that we have on them is for good or for ill. There is no such thing as neutrality in human relations. In our contacts with others we promote their happiness, well-being and usefulness or detract from them.

When a person’s reputation is destroyed through willful gossip, those who engage in it are guilty of spiritual murder. By the same token, if they do it through negligence they are guilty of spiritual manslaughter; for in either case the victim is deprived of his or her good name, and of opportunities of performing those uses wherein their spiritual life consists. Surely such behavior is devoid of mercy!

Let us keep clearly in mind the teaching that “with those in whom good reigns, there is nothing which they do not turn into good and excuse … Whoever is led by the Lord, with such everything is turned into good” (SD 1705). Angels, and people who are interiorly of the church, excuse those in whom they see evil (AC 6655).

We must learn to distinguish between evil and the person. We must strive against evil and condemn it. But we must not condemn people. If a person is interiorly evil, the truth will condemn him. Our duty is to give aid and encouragement to those who are in need of our help. This may, occasionally, take the form of reprimand and punishment; but with the punishment there should be mercy and forgiveness, and a desire for the person’s repentance and reformation.

The Writings teach that “when a person feels or perceives that he has good thoughts concerning the Lord, and that he has good thoughts concerning the neighbor, and desires to perform kind offices for another, not for the sake of gain or honor for self, and when he feels that he has pity for any one who is in trouble, and still more for one who is in error … then that person may know … that he has internal things in him through which the Lord is working” (AC 1102: 3).

Those who have lived mercifully on earth from the heart live in the greatest happiness in the other life (SD 2420). This is according to an unerring spiritual law that influx is according to efflux. That is, we receive as much of mercy, peace and love from the Lord, as we give, as of ourselves, to others. “Be merciful therefore, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6: 36). Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 103; Luke 18:9-14, 35-43; HH 522, 523

Heaven and Hell 522, 523

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

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

THE LORD IS MERCY ITSELF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heaven and Hell

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

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