<< GOD AND MAN. >>

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

— Genesis i. 27.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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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.


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



“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.


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.


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.


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.


A Sermon by Rev. J. Clark Echols, Jr.
Preached in Denver, Colorado, on June 26, 1983

“Wait silently for God alone, for hope is from Him … Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him…” (Psalm 62:5, 8).

For what should we hope? In what should we trust? Obviously we should hope for salvation, and trust in God. And notice that we all have this hope now, and that leads us to trust in the Lord, even though hope applies to future things – what we would like later – and trust applies to the present – we want to trust the Lord now. We know this is true because as the Lord fulfills our hopes, we gain trust in Him.

Hope is commonly defined as a desire that we expect to be fulfilled. And trust is commonly said to be a confidence in someone or something. If this is so, why are so many hopeful people disappointed and hurt? And where is the evidence that our faith brings protection if we trust in it? And a final question: The Psalmist says that the Lord is “good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works” (145:9). What kind of mercy is it to let people’s dreams be destroyed by, say, a violent storm? What kind of mercy allows faithful, trusting people to suffer, not to mention allowing the innocent to starve, the young to die needlessly, the old to languish. There are answers to these questions in the Word, where we find that the hopes that are dashed and the trust that fails are not the hope and trust that are God-given. That is what the Word shows us: that genuine hope and trust are given to us by the Lord, not made up or manufactured by us.

What we are to do is to live according to the dictates of the Word at the same time as we are in the hope and trust that the Lord will save us. We are supposed to acknowledge that we do nothing good of ourselves at the same time as we feel assured by the hope that the Lord will grant us an understanding of truth from which we can live a good life. We are supposed to acknowledge that we bear the responsibility of the choice between good and evil at the same time as we trust that the Lord will lead us to do only that which is good and believe only that which is true.

Genuine hope is not simply the desire to have our expectations fulfilled. It is not a vague wish that things will go as we would like them to. That wish could be based on an evil desire; or we could be ignorant of what is best for us; it could go against what the Lord would have us hope for. When this kind of hopefulness is denied, it quickly fades, and we simply replace it with a new wish. It is a weak and temporary kind of hope. Genuine hope looks to what is eternal, so it never fades. It is given to us by the Lord, so it is most powerful. At the foundation of genuine hope for salvation is the promise the Lord has made that He will come to us and that He is in the constant endeavor to save us. That is His work. And we feel His work in us as a perception and assurance that the Lord helps us in our times of deepest despair – during combats of temptation.

We are not always conscious of it, but the Lord is very near us in states of spiritual struggle. If we continue to hope and trust in Him, and turn to Him, He can temper our despair with the hope of deliverance. Without Him there is no deliverer, no hope. He gives us hope in the realization that the purpose of temptation is that we will be saved and will receive heavenly happiness. Therefore, the hope we feel is His power working within us. Genuine hope is the Lord’s answer as He flows into us with the power of His glorified Divine Human. In so casting evil out of our minds, the Lord fulfills our hopes and earns our trust.

The danger in temptation, of course, is that we will lose hope and fail to trust. We do not readily feel the Lord’s help. In fact, we are most aware of the spiritual pain brought about by the hard choice before us. This mental, spiritual pain rules our thought, and anguish is our primary feeling. Yet in all this the Lord still maintains our ability to choose – that is His constant gift. It is His continual presence, in whatever state we are, that makes our freedom possible. We must make the choice – He cannot do that for us. Yet He does give us something of a perception of His presence. This perception is the hope He gives us, the hope He establishes. And it brings us consolation that our salvation is being wrought in us.

Now, the Lord wants to give us His hope, and He wants us to learn to trust Him. His Divine mercy will grant them to us when we have in us the vessels to receive them. These vessels are His truths, confirmed in our daily life. And so it is in His Word that we find the fulfillment of our hopes and the foundation for our trust. This hope continues with us to the farthest limits of despair; it is a hope that is not merely a desire for something we want; rather, it looks to our salvation and eternal welfare. In this hope we have a firm answer to doubt, despair, fear and death, for it is not limited by what we have or what we don’t have, or by the grave, but looks beyond it. It is not man- made, but applied to us by the Divine mercy of the Lord Himself.

Such genuine hope establishes real trust. Our hope for salvation, our hope for our future, establishes a trust in the Lord – that He is helping right now on our journey to heaven.

Consider for a moment trusting in the Lord to lead us to everlasting peace, joy and fulfillment. That has to be the greatest trust we can have. It is not simply confidence that our desires will be granted. It isn’t simply faith. if we believe that our faith alone saves us, our trust will be limited, and often too weak to stand up in times of natural or spiritual trial. When faith is not used in life, it is not saving; when it is, it becomes charity, which does save. We all must beware of the false sense of security merely having the faith can give us. If our trust in the Lord consisted merely in having faith in our memory, then all we would have to do is await salvation from the Lord, with our hands hanging down. This inaction does not reflect trust. In fact, such apathetic irresponsibility is what has led to the starvation, death and injustice that happens to the innocent and faithful that we wrongly ascribe to the Lord’s inaction.

Genuine trust in the Lord leads us to act from our faith. We trust that the Lord will guide our steps as we strive consciously to follow His path to heaven. Real trust is a faith that originates from charity in our will, from the sincere desire to do what is good. When we live according to the truths the Lord has shown us, then we are really placing our trust in Him. The ultimate of trust is to stake our eternal happiness on the truthfulness of what He says.

As we hope in the Lord, we uphold our responsibility to flee from evils and do goods, and we are given a lasting trust. This trust stays with us even in the midst of temptation. Like genuine hope, real trust is a force from within whereby we are able to resist evil. And notice the cycle here: as we become aware in ourselves of a willingness to submit ourselves to the Lord, even in temptation, He brings us victory and a perception of the security we have in Him. As we apply this perception of truth to our lives, He then inflows into our will with even more power, increasing our trust in Him. Therefore, every time we actually, with conviction, submit ourselves to our trust in the Lord, He comes with more and more power to cast evil out of our minds, to enlighten us, and to fill us with joy.

This trust endures throughout all the trials and tribulations of life on earth. We are taught that “for those who trust in the Divine, all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and whatever befalls them in time is still conducive” to that eternal state (AC 8478). Such people do not blame the Lord for their temporal woes. They have the greatest confidence that the Lord will, if they let Him, use everything that happens to further their reformation and regeneration. These have genuine trust in the Lord.

Hope and trust in the Lord are not so hard to attain in this life. Actually, mere obedience to the Lord’s laws, the ten commandments, requires trust in the Lord, and implies our hope for salvation through obedience. Beyond this obedience it is our responsibility to come to see that we have hope and trust solely because the Lord’s Divine mercy affects them in us, and because they are the Lord’s to give us (see AC 30). The Divine mercy is applied freely to all, and is always effective for those who abstain from evil. The Lord’s mercy is of His Divine love which is constantly striving to lift us up if we allow Him to. Thus, the Lord grants His mercy not according to the doctrine we know, but according to the doctrine we live, that is, the charity we are practicing.

The Word teaches, then, that all real hope and trust are from the Lord, and are given to us from within. If our hope is in our salvation, then whatever we hope for will be granted. If we have trust in the truth we see working in our lives, we will always feel secure. The Lord has made this promise, and desires to give us these gifts. As we respond to His promise with a life of fleeing from evils and doing goods, out of the pure mercy of His Divine love the Lord will grant us eternal happiness. So hope and trust are gifts greatly to be desired.

As it is written in the 27th Psalm: “Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (v. 3, 4). Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 62, AC 8478

Arcana Coelestia 8478

[2] As in this verse [Exodus 16:191 and the following verses in the internal sense care for the morrow is treated of, and as this care is not only forbidden but is also condemned (that it is forbidden is signified by that they were not to make a residue of the manna till the morning, and that it is condemned is signified by that the worm was bred in the residue, and it stank), he who looks at the subject no more deeply than from the sense of the letter may believe that all care for the morrow is to be cast aside, and thus that the necessaries of life are to be awaited daily from heaven; but he who looks at the subject more deeply than from the letter, as for instance he who looks at it from the internal sense, is able to know what is meant by “care for the morrow.” It does not mean the care of procuring for one’s self food and raiment, and even resources for the time to come; for it is not contrary to order for anyone to be provident for himself and his own. But those have care for the morrow who are not content with their lot; who do not trust in the Divine but in themselves; and who have regard for only worldly and earthly things, and not for heavenly things. With such there universally reigns solicitude about things to come, and a desire to possess all things and to dominate over all, which is kindled and grows according to the additions thus made, and finally does so beyond all measure. They grieve if they do not obtain the objects of their desire, and feel anguish at the loss of them; and they have no consolation because of the anger they feel against the Divine, which they reject together with everything of faith, and curse themselves. Such are they who have care for the morrow.

[3] Very different is the case with those who trust in the Divine. These, notwithstanding they have care for the morrow, still have it not, because they do not think of the morrow with solicitude, still less with anxiety. Unruffled is their spirit whether they obtain the objects of their desire or not; and they do not grieve over the loss of them, being content with their lot. If they become rich, they do not set their hearts on riches; if they are raised to honors, they do not regard themselves as more worthy than others; if they become poor, they are not made sad; if their circumstances are mean, they are not dejected. They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and that whatever befalls them in time is still conducive thereto.

[41 Be it known that the Divine Providence is universal, that is, in things the most minute, and that they who are in the stream of Providence are all the time carried along toward everything that is happy, whatever may be the appearance of the means; and that those are in the stream of Providence who put their trust in the Divine and attribute all things to Him; and that those are not in the stream of Providence who trust in themselves alone and attribute all things to themselves, because they are in the opposite, for they take away providence from the Divine and claim it for themselves. Be it known also that insofar as anyone is in the stream of Providence, so far he is in a state of peace; also that insofar as anyone is in a state of peace from the good of faith, so far he is in the Divine Providence. These alone know and believe that the Divine Providence of the Lord is in everything both in general and in particular, nay, is in the most minute things of all, and that the Divine Providence regards what is eternal (n. 6491).

[5] But they who are in the opposite are scarcely willing to hear Providence mentioned, for they ascribe everything to their own sagacity; and what they do not ascribe to this they ascribe to fortune or chance: some to fate, which they do not educe from the Divine but from nature. They call those simple who do not attribute all things to themselves or to nature. From all this again it can be seen what is the quality of those who have care for the morrow, and what the quality of those who have no care for the morrow.



A Sermon by Rev. Kurt Horigan AsplundhPreached in Bryn Athyn October 23, 1994

The subject of this sermon is the Divine example of forgiveness. The text is the Lord’s well known statement:


“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

These were the Lord’s words as they crucified Him. They are an expression of the Divine love for the human race a love so deep that it never faltered, even in the moment of its supreme rejection. It did not ask, “How often? Seven times?” But forgave “until seventy times seven,” and even to the end.

This moving incident of forgiveness does not stand alone in Scripture. It is prefigured by an incident that took place in the days of Jacob and his sons. We refer to Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers. In their jealousy, the older sons of Jacob had plotted against Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt. Staining his garment with the blood of a goat, the brothers brought it to Jacob as evidence of the fate of Joseph, and Jacob concluded that he was dead.

But Joseph was not dead. By a kind of figurative resurrection he rose to supreme power in the land of Egypt, and when famine struck, Joseph stood as a savior to the people. The brothers by whose hand he was betrayed come to beg bread, and Joseph forgave them.

Two incidents of forgiveness one in the book of Genesis, another in the Gospels both expressing the same eternal truth about the Divine love. The Writings declare that the Lord came to fulfill the Law. This means not only that the prophecies about the Messiah to come were fulfilled by His birth, but more than that, in every respect the Lord lived up to the eternal truths expressed in the Word. So, in the instance of His crucifixion and the Lord’s words of forgiveness which he said then, we have the Lord’s expression of Divine forgiveness prefigured in the Joseph story. The entire Old Testament is a veiled preview of the Lord’s life on earth. The Heavenly Doctrine for the New Church specifically teaches that “how the Lord was received when He came into the world, and how He was tempted and then became Lord of heaven and earth … is described by the story of Joseph” (AE 448:16).

There are parallels even in the literal accounts. Joseph’s coat of many colors which his brothers stripped from him reminds us of the Lord’s garments divided among those that crucified Him. Garments are said to signify the appearances of truth in the Word, or truth in the natural degree (see AC 4733). As such they can be twisted to confirm any belief. Without the light of the internal sense, natural truths can be used to confirm any idea. So the blood on Joseph’s coat was used to convince his father that Joseph was dead. Again, in Egypt, Joseph had escaped the seductive grasp of the wife of Potiphar only by slipping from his garment the garment later brought as evidence against him. The human heredity the Lord took on from Mary was the outer garment of His life which He had to lay aside to become Divinely Human. Joseph was lowered into a pit to be left for dead. The Lord was put in a tomb. Joseph rose from obscurity in an Egyptian prison to become a ruler in Egypt. The Lord rose from the tomb to become ruler of heaven and earth.

It is by a revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, however, that the full harmony of the Scriptures may be seen. In the account of Joseph’s reconciliation the full implication of the Lord’s words of forgiveness on the cross may be known. Here we learn that the Divine love is the essential and unchanging essence of God. This unfailingly extends forgiveness to all. More clearly expressed in the Joseph story, however, is the requirement of the Divine wisdom. Embodied in this account is the truth about repentance on our part if we are to be forgiven.

“Heaven is not granted from mercy apart from means,” we are taught, “but in accordance with the life” (HH 54, footnote 1). “Sins are not forgiven through repentance of the mouth, but through repentance of the life … Sins adhere to the man however much he may suppose that they have been forgiven,” the doctrine states, “nor are they removed from him except through a life according to the commands of faith. So far as he lives according to these commands, so far his sins are removed; and so far as they are removed, so far they have been forgiven” (AC 8393).

So it was that before Joseph’s reconciliation with the brothers who high-handedly sold him into slavery, we read of their remorse and change of heart. When Joseph, still unknown to them, threatens to keep Benjamin in Egypt while sending the others back, Judah offers his life instead. The same Judah who suggested the selling of Joseph for gain is willing to guarantee Benjamin’s release. This is a remarkable life-change. Think of it. The man who put the blood-soaked coat of Joseph into his father’s hands, allowing him to think his son was dead, now says, “How shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” (Gen. 44:34) There is a new sensitivity and a deep concern for others that has been born in Judah and his brothers. This allows the reconciliation to take place. The love that Joseph has yearned to express now has a place to be received. So Joseph sent away all his Egyptian servants, revealed his identity to his astounded brothers, embraced Benjamin and wept for joy. “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

We find the true theme of forgiveness in many places in the Word, but a false conception of it pervades the minds of many in the Christian world. The doctrine for the New Church has been given to restore an understanding of the true nature of the Divine love.

“The Lord forgives everyone his sins, because He is mercy itself,” the doctrine teaches. “Nevertheless they are not thereby forgiven unless the man performs serious repentance, and desists from evils, and afterward lives a life of faith and charity, and this even to the end of his life. When this is done, the man receives from the Lord spiritual life, which is called new life. When from this new life the man views the evils of his former life and turns away from them and regards them with horror, then for the first time are the evils forgiven, for then the man is held in truths and goods by the Lord, and is withheld from evils. From this it is plain what is the forgiveness of sins, and that it cannot be granted within an hour, nor within a year” (AC 9014:3).

The brothers of Joseph who came to Egypt received harsh treatment at first. They attributed this to their crime against Joseph. “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us” (Gen. 42:21, emphasis added). They were convinced that their distresses were a direct consequence of their sin. This is typical. How often do we feel we are reaping the harvest of our wrongs? A child may believe that his parents do not love him any more because of his mistakes and bad behavior. Their punishments seem to come from anger.

Sometimes it appears to us that the Lord punishes us or causes us to suffer for wrongdoing. In fact, in the days of Israel, it was thought that every sickness, calamity or tragedy was God’s retribution for sin. So when a man born blind was brought to the Lord, the question of the people was about who committed the sin that caused his blindness.

A common belief in the Christian world is that God was angered by Adam’s original sin against Him at the time of the fall, and that as a result we all are condemned and suffer consequences. It is the Lord Jesus, seen as a separate Person, who is able to save us. He is forgiving and merciful, and pleads with the Father. He has given His life as a sacrifice for ours to satisfy His Father’s anger. Was not this the purpose in His words at the time of crucifixion: “Father, forgive them … “? So it would seem. Yet, if this be so, we must assume that there is a Divine being who must be persuaded to forgive humankind, and who remains angry and vengeful against fallen people unless He is satisfied in some way.

Nothing could be further from the Divine nature. God’s unchanging purpose in creation is to form a heaven from the human race, an eternal kingdom where He may draw all people to Himself to bless and favor them. The Divine love goes forth constantly, unchanging, always seeking to bring about human happiness. If people, in their freedom, fail to respond to the invitation to open the door and to invite Him in, it is surely a grief to the Lord, but no cause to rouse His anger or elicit punishment.

Evil bears the seeds of inevitable sadness, calamity and tragedy. Human evil is the cause of all suffering and unhappiness. God does not will or cause these results. They are not prescribed or meted out by Him, paying us back for disobedience. Rather, these results are a cause of His grief for us. Far from being a provocation, such circumstances are a stimulus to Him to seek new means for our salvation.

Analogy could be made with the human body and its soul. The soul is like the god of the body, always seeking to keep the body in its healthiest possible condition. If we abuse or strain the body, health problems may result. The problems are our own doing, for the soul’s constant effort is to return the body to a healthy state. Its effort is always positive. So is the Divine effort.

Returning to the account of Joseph in Egypt, we see how he treated his brothers. He “acted a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them” (Gen. 42:7). He called them spies, imprisoned them, kept a hostage; yet he gave them the food they needed, restored their money and sent them home. And when he heard them speaking of their guilt and perceived their repentance, he wept for joy. While there was outward rejection, an inward love longed for reconciliation. It was for the same reason the Lord wept for Jerusalem on the day of His triumphal entry (see Luke 19:41).

Why did Joseph treat the brothers harshly? Not to cause suffering. He wanted no revenge for what they had done to him. He sought only reconciliation. He had forgiven them already.

Joseph’s goal was to be reunited with his father. The separation had come about in the first place by the jealousy of the older brothers. Out of envy they had thought to dispose of him, to send him away never to be seen again. But could forgiveness be extended if their envy remained? If Joseph had tried to reunite with his brothers prematurely, they would have rejected him again. This was the reason he waited to see what was in their minds. He had to wait until they were ready for the reunion which he always had wanted. Therefore, when Judah showed evidence of his change of heart and of his repentance, Joseph could no longer refrain from making himself known and embracing them. What he had willed was, at last, a practical possibility. Without further hesitation or reserve, he frankly forgave them. “Do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5). The evil had been turned to good. The circumstances which had arisen as a result of the evil of the brothers actually had become the means whereby that evil could be broken.

It would not be correct to say that the men had been punished enough and now could be restored to friendship. Rather, we would say that through free repentance and an opportunity to change their lives, they had come into a new and receptive state of mind. As soon as this condition existed, Joseph embraced them.

The same thing is true of our relationship with the Lord. We separate ourselves from Him by our own self-will. In the consequences that follow, brought about by our choices, the Lord works to restore conjunction with us. It may appear that these consequences are punishments by the angry God. They are not. And the most remarkable thing is that the Lord is able to turn them to good. While He does not will that we suffer the consequences of our own folly and indeed weeps for us, it is through these consequences that He provides opportunities for us to change the very state that precipitated them.

We have said that people in ancient times regarded every calamity as a Divine punishment for their sin. While we may now understand that this was superstition on their part, we ourselves are not far from falling into superstitions of a similar kind. Often we falsely blame ourselves for things that happen. But it is not because of our secret sins that tragedy strikes. While it is true that we can harm ourselves and others by failing to carry out our responsibilities or by allowing self-love to blaze out of control, most of the things that happen in our life have no direct relation to our behavior, evil or good. An accident or illness is not God’s punishment for our evil. Nor is an unexpected benefit God’s reward for our good deeds. The punishment for evils is the consequence of disorder, just as the reward for good is the consequence of being in order. The Lord never wills punishment. Yet if we put ourselves outside of the laws of order, we are open to unhappiness, frustration, and harm. When we have thrown aside the protection of Divine order, the hells can attack and afflict us.

Then the Lord seeks but one thing our return to order. That is when His mercy burns with a desire, appealing to us in our fallen state, hopeful that we may be raised up again. No state of our life is beyond the reach of the Divine forgiveness. Nothing we can do as a sin against God will turn Him against us. If we make our bed in hell, He is even there.

What worse injustice and repudiation could there be than the Lord’s crucifixion? Yet at that very moment the Lord reaffirmed His inmost love: “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” He did not strike them dead with fire or lightning. He did not cause them to suffer disease or to go childless. He did not curse them with eternal damnation. Instead, He held out a hope for them all. And by His resurrection from the tomb on the third day, He used the death by which He had died to turn the hearts of many through the centuries to acknowledge and worship Him, our savior, Jesus Christ.

This supreme example of forgiveness should be the model for our life. Our love for others should be constant. Love for the neighbor is not to be withheld when the neighbor sins against us. The Lord taught, “Love your enemies.” We should not bear grudges or subtly punish those who offend us. We may not harbor hatred or desire revenge against those who wrong us. Again, the Lord has taught to forgive not just seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

But our mercy and love is to be exercised with wisdom and prudence, not indiscriminately. The doctrine of the church teaches that ” … genuine charity consists in acting prudently, and to the end that good may come thereby” (NJHD 100).

The Lord has given the example that we should live according to the spirit of the Divine law.

The beauty of forgiveness is to be found in many accounts of Scripture. We remember the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), the Lord’s forgiveness of the woman who washed His feet with her tears (Luke 7:44), and His admonition to forgive our brothers up to seventy times seven. This is the true spirit of the Divine love. It is the spirit of love we should seek to cultivate that we may become the image and likeness of our God. Amen.


Lessons: Gen. 45:1-8, 12-15; Luke 7:36-47, 50; AC 9443-9452

Arcana Coelestia 9443-9452

The forgiveness of sins shall now be spoken of. The sins done by a man are rooted in his very life, and make it; and therefore no one is liberated from them unless he receives new life from the Lord, which is effected by means of regeneration.

The Lord continually flows into man with the good of love and the truths of faith; but these are variously received, being received in one way by one person and in a different way by another; by those who have been regenerated they are received well, but by those who do not suffer themselves to be regenerated they are received ill.

Those who have been regenerated are continually kept by the Lord in the good of faith and of love, and are then withheld from evils and falsities. And those who do not suffer themselves to be regenerated by the Lord are also withheld from evil and kept in good, for good and truth continually flow in from the Lord with every man; but the infernal loves in which they are, namely, the loves of self and of the world, stand in the way, and turn the influx of good into evil, and that of truth into falsity.

From all this it is evident what the forgiveness of sins is. To be able to be kept by the Lord in the good of love and the truths of faith, and to be withheld from evils and falsities, is the forgiveness of sins. And to shun evil and falsity, and to feel aversion for them, is then repentance. But these are possible only with those who, through regeneration, have received new life from the Lord, because these things belong to the new life.

The signs that sins have been forgiven are the following: Delight is felt in worshiping God for the sake of God, in being of service to the neighbor for the sake of the neighbor, thus in doing good for the sake of good, and in believing truth for the sake of truth. There is an unwillingness to merit by anything that belongs to charity and faith. Evils, such as enmities, hatreds, revenges, unmercifulness, adulteries in a word, all things that are against God and against the neighbor are shunned and are held in aversion.

But the signs that sins have not been forgiven are the following: God is not worshiped for the sake of God, and the neighbor is not served for the sake of the neighbor; thus good is not done and truth is not spoken for the sake of good and truth, but for the sake of self and the world. There is a desire to merit by our deeds; others are despised in comparison with ourselves; delight is felt in evils, such as enmities, hatred, revenge, cruelty, adulteries; and the holy things of the church are held in contempt, and are at heart denied.

The Lord regenerates a man from Divine mercy. This is done from his infancy down to the last of his life in the world, and afterward to eternity. Thus it is from Divine mercy that the Lord withdraws a man from evils and falsities, and leads him to the truths of faith and goods of love, and afterward keeps him in these. And after this, in Divine mercy He raises him to Himself in heaven and makes him happy. All this is what is meant by the forgiveness of sins from mercy.