The Doctrine Of Charity And Faith

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

Hell and Its Fire

THE DOCTRINE OF CHARITY AND FAITH

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

That which anyone does from love remains inscribed on his heart, for love is the fire of life, thus is the life of everyone. Consequently such as is the love, such is the life; and such as is the life, thus such as is the love, such is the whole man as to soul and as to body.

As love to the Lord and love toward the neighbor make the life of heaven with man, so when they reign do the love of self and the love of the world make the life of hell with him, for these loves are opposite to the former; and therefore those with whom the loves of self and of the world reign, can receive nothing from heaven; but all that they receive is from hell. For whatever a man thinks, and whatever he wills, or whatever a man believes, and whatever he loves is either from heaven or from hell.

From this it is that those in whom the love of self and the love of the world make the life, desire what is good for themselves alone, and not for others except for the sake of themselves. And as their life is from hell, they despise others in comparison with themselves, they are angry with others if they do not favor them, they hold them in hatred, they burn with revenge against them, and even desire to vent their rage upon them. At last these things become the delights of their life, thus their loves.

These are they who have hell in them, and who after death come into hell, because their life is in agreement with the life of those who are in hell; for all there are of this character; and everyone comes to his own people.

As these persons receive nothing from heaven, in their hearts they deny God and the life after death, and consequently hold in contempt all things of the church. It avails not that they do good to their fellow-citizen, to society, to their country, and to the church; or that they speak well about these; because they do all this for the sake of themselves and the world, in order to save appearances, and to secure reputation, honors, and gains. These are the external bonds by which such persons are brought to do what is good, and are withheld from doing what is evil. As for internal bonds, which are those of conscience, and which dictate that what is evil must not be done because it is sin, and is contrary to the Divine laws, they have none.

And therefore when these persons come into the other life, which takes place immediately after death, and external things are taken away from them, they rush headlong into every wickedness in accordance with their interiors, such as contempt of others in comparison with themselves, enmity, hatred, revenge, rage, cruelty, and also into hypocrisy, fraud, deceit, and many other kinds of wickedness. These are then the delights of their life; and therefore they are separated from the good, and cast into hell.

In the world many such persons are not aware that these thing are the delight of their life, because these things hide themselves in the loves of self and of the world; and at that time such persons call all things goods that favor these loves; and all things that confirm them they call truths. Neither do they know and acknowledge any other goods and truths, because they receive nothing from heaven, which they have closed against themselves.

As love is the fire of life, and everyone’s life is in accordance with his love, it may from this be known what heavenly fire is, and what infernal fire. Heavenly fire is love to the Lord and love toward the neighbor, and infernal fire is the love of self and the love of the world, and the consequent concupiscence of all evils, which spring from these loves as from their fountains.

The nature of the life with those who are in hell can be inferred from what it would be among such persons in the world if external bonds were taken away, and there were no internal bonds to restrain them.

The life of man cannot be changed after death. It then remains such as it had been. Nor can the life of hell be transferred into the life of heaven, because they are opposites. From this it is evident that those who come into hell remain there forever; and that those who come into heaven remain there forever.

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(Arcana Coelestia 10740 – 10749)

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Mike Cates   PO Box 292984   Lewisville, TX  75029

 

The Forgiveness of Sins

 

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

 

The Forgiveness of Sins

Selection from
ARCANA COELESTIA

The Heavenly Arcana
CONTAINED IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURE OR WORD OF THE LORD
UNFOLDED
TOGETHER WITH WONDERFUL THINGS SEEN IN THE WORLD OF
SPIRITS AND IN THE HEAVEN OF ANGELS

Translated from the Latin of
EMANUEL SWEDENBORG

    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.

    That from himself a man cannot do what is good or think what is true; but only from the Lord, is evident in John:

  • A man can do nothing except it be given him from heaven  (John 3:27).
  • He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing  (John 15:5).

    From this it is evident that no one can withdraw anyone from sins, thus forgive them, save the Lord alone.

    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.

    When sins have been forgiven, they are believed to be wiped off, and washed away as dirt is with water. Nevertheless they remain in the man; and their being said to be “wiped off” is from the appearance when the man is withheld from them.

    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. They who believe that sins are forgiven in any other way, are quite mistaken; for it would be the absence of mercy to see a multitude of men in the hells, and not save them, if it could be done in any other way. And yet the Lord is mercy itself, and wills not the death of anyone, but that he may live.

    Consequently those who do not suffer themselves to be regenerated, thus who do not suffer themselves to be withheld from evils and falsities, remove and cast away from themselves these mercies of the Lord. Therefore it is the man who is in fault if he cannot be saved. This is what is meant in John:

  • As many as received Him, to them gave He power to be sons of God, to them that believe in His name; who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God  (John 1:12, 13);

“of bloods” denotes those who are opposed to the goods of faith and of charity; “of the will of the flesh” denotes those who are in evils from the loves of self and of the world; “of the will of man” denotes those who are in falsities thence derived; to be “born of God” denotes to be regenerated. That no one can come into heaven unless he is regenerated, is taught in the same:

  • Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God  (John 3:3, 5);

“to be born of water” denotes through the truth of faith; and “to be born of the spirit” denotes through the good of love. From all this it can now be seen who they are whose sins have been forgiven; and who they are whose sins have not been forgiven.

(Arcana Coelestia 9443 – 9454)


Mike Cates   PO Box 292984   Lewisville, TX  75029  Article Site Map  Writing Site Map

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If God is ONLY Good, How did Evil Come into Existence?

 

A Portion from Conjugial Love ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

How could evil come into existence when from creation nothing but good had existed? That anything may come into existence, it must have its origin. Good could not be the origin of evil, because evil is nothing of good, for it is privative and destructive of good.  And yet as it exists and is felt, it is not nothing but is something. Say, then, whence comes this something after nothing.
… no one is good but God only, and that there is not anything good which in itself is good except from God. He therefore who looks to God, and wills to be led by God, is in good; but he who turns himself away from God and wills to be led of himself is not in good, for the good that he does is either for himself or for the sake of the world; thus it is either meritorious, or is simulated, or hypocritical. Whence it is plain that man himself is the origin of evil. Not that this origin was inherent in man from creation, but that by turning away from God he imposed it upon himself. That origin of evil was not in Adam and his wife, but when the serpent said:-
In the day that ye eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, ye shall be as God

    (Gen. 3: 5)

and because they then turned away from God and turned to themselves as to a god, they made in themselves the origin of evil. To eat of that tree’ signified to believe that he knows good and evil and has wisdom of himself, and not from God.

… How could man turn himself away from God and turn to himself, when yet man can will, think, and therefore do nothing except from God? Why did God permit this?

Man was so created that all that he wills, thinks, and does appears to him just as if in himself and thus of himself. Without this appearance man would not be man, for he could not receive, retain, and as it were appropriate to himself anything of good and truth, or of love and wisdom. Whence it follows that without this, as it were living appearance, man would have no conjunction with God, and therefore no eternal life. But if from this appearance he induces on himself the belief that he does will, think, and therefore do good of himself, and not from the Lord, although it is in all appearance as if of himself, he then turns good into evil within him, and thus makes in himself the origin of evil. This was the sin of Adam.

… love without wisdom is love from man and not from the Lord. And this love, because it conjoins itself with falsities, does not acknowledge God, but itself as a god; and this it tacitly confirms by the faculty of understanding and of becoming wise, as if of himself which is implanted in him from creation. This love therefore is the origin of evil.

(Conjugial Love 444:a)
March 30, 2017

Why Even Great Leaders Can Fall Into Scandal

How is this possible? How can these transgressions happen, especially when many such individuals often expound noble behavior? They clearly have a sense of right and wrong.

The problem is not civility or morality. It is one’s spirituality. Misconduct is not simply a “slip” or a temporary mental state of bad judgment. It is the rejection of the concept of sin.

Many dynamic individuals may understand that certain behavior is immoral and loudly condemn such behavior as going against the public good. But if these things are not seen as sins, they remain soldering in the heart and are merely kept hidden from the world for the sake of reputation.

This is why Scripture warns us to “clean the inside of the cup” (Matthew 23:26). If something is not viewed as a sin, the inside of the cup remains as it is.

What is not usually taken into account is that humans have an inner and an outer reality. Humans are both physical and spiritual beings. But these two realities of our life can be completely separated from each other. We can be outwardly good but inwardly challenged. This leads to hypocrisy.

This inner deceit has led to a faulty reasoning of modernity which has adopted the life-slogan and inner conviction that, “something is wrong only if you get caught.” But how is it that such individuals can do great things for humanity and gain our deepest respect and praise?

Great things can be, and indeed are, accomplished by those who do not inspect their inner reality. In fact, they are often more motivated to accomplish great things which can benefit others than those of a more humble animus. The reason is quite simple. Such individuals are inwardly driven by the powerful principle of self-love and have pride from the glory of their own self-intelligence. So, in order to succeed and gain proper recognition, they push themselves more than others to accomplish great things.

The Lord God often makes wise use of those who are intoxicated by the power of self-love. For instance, various ego-centered individuals have been quite successful in spreading the Holy Word throughout the world by their immoderate passion for quoting scripture and speaking about God from the pulpit.

The problem is that while such individuals can be of real value to others, they shoot themselves in the foot. The spiritual world (heaven and hell) consists of the inner realities of people. That can be either a comforting or scary thought.

It is wrong to think we screw up because “to be human is to err.” We get our humanness from God and increase it through following spiritual tenets and the Commandments. God is always focused on our inner realities.

Do you think the concepts of “sin” and “evil” have relevancy in our post-modern world, or are they simply archaic terms used by the unenlightened?

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Forgiving Trespasses

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

http://www.revcooper.ca/sermons/0015.htm

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (MAT 6:14, 15).

Our text for this morning is taken from the Sermon on the Mount; the verses that immediately follow the Lord’s Prayer. These words are extremely familiar to us as the responsive that follows the Lord’s Prayer in our services of worship: The minister says, “O Lord forgive us our trespasses,” and we respond, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiveness is an extremely important topic, because we are all affected by it in so many ways, and in so many different aspects of our lives. We look at the course of our own lives and we pray to the Lord for His forgiveness. We examine our relationships with family and friends and we become painfully aware of things that we have done to anger or hurt the ones we love – and we long for their forgiveness. Perhaps we even look deeply enough to see things that we profoundly regret that we have done to ourselves or to others against our better judgement, things that cause us to grieve, to say, “I’ll never be able to forgive myself for that.” We need to forgive ourselves so that we can be at peace with ourselves and get on with the uses of life.

All these kinds of forgiveness – from the Lord, from others, and from ourselves – have one thing in common: that we have done something that has caused offence to others and for which we need to be forgiven. This is the forgiveness that is given the most attention in the Heavenly Doctrines, for it specifically regards our personal relationship with the Lord.

However, there is another side to forgiveness that is just as important to our spiritual welfare, and that is that we must be forgiving to others.

While the natural world is governed by the Lord, yet He permits evil men to act, so that the evil can be seen, and rejected. If He did not allow men to express their evils, they would forever remain in the will, and would corrupt the spirit from within. Therefore, in order that a person can be saved from his evils, the Lord allows him to act them out. That means that things do not always happen the way we think they should. People try to say one thing, and something else is heard. A friendly jest made in passing strikes deeply into an unsuspected emotional wound and causes extreme pain instead laughter.

We could go on at some length compiling a list of the ways in which we can offend people without intending it, or even knowing that it has happened, but the picture should be clear enough by now. Giving and receiving offences is a fact of life in the natural world. These offences lead us to feelings of anger, enmity and even hatred towards those with whom we live and work. Everyone can immediately see that feelings of anger, enmity, and revenge make it impossible to act in charity toward the neighbour, and since the life of religion is to do good, these angry feelings actually remove us from a life of religion. Forgiveness is the only salve for these painful emotional wounds.

The Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church tell us that in the other world new spirits sometimes do or say what is wrong. Spirits who intend evil to another and then act on it are severely punished. However, good spirits, if they happen to speak something unkind or thoughtless, or do something that has been forbidden, are not punished, but pardoned and excused; for it was not their intention to do evil. The angels know that the evil actions were excited in them by the hells, so it is not judged to be their fault. The nature of their intention can be determined by whether or not the spirit has resisted the act on previous occasions, and, if he has failed in his resistance, by whether he was obviously grieved by his failure. (Remember that in the spiritual world no one is able to be hypocritical, their true nature shines forth from their face for all to read.) These are the signs that the angels use to judge a spirit’s intentions. We can use these same signs (resisting beforehand and grief if there is failure) ourselves in our everyday relationships with other unregenerate human beings (See AC 6559).

It has happened to every one of us that an unkind word, or an evil act has simply popped out before we could do anything about it. If it’s a minor thing, we can sometimes smooth it over with a quick and sincere apology. Since it has happened to all of us, we should then be able to recognize in the abstract that the same thing can, and does, happen to anyone – and when it does, it is no more their fault than it was when you did it.

As long as we are not personally involved we can stand aloof, be objective, and try to calm the angry parties down. We frequently excuse one person’s actions to another by saying, “yes, I heard what he said, but he didn’t mean it that way…”

This is even easier to see when we think of an adult trying to settle an argument between squabbling children. We find it so easy to tell the children to stop being angry at each other because the offences were not intended. We insist that they stop being so silly, that they make-up, and be friends.

It is much more difficult for us to be calm and objective about a situation where we are personally involved, because our built in defences are immediately called into play. Sometimes we think it is more important to find someone to blame than it is to solve the problem. The Lord created us with a strong love of self so that we could defend, care for, and educate ourselves. It was intended to be controlled by the rational adult mind and be fully subservient to the loves of the Lord and the neighbour. However, very few of us can say that our self-love is under our full rational control. Instead, it intrudes into our lives, blinding us to reasonable explanations, turning us away from peaceful solutions, and making us feel angry and vengeful instead.

Our text tells us two essential truths about forgiveness. First it tells us that the Lord wills to forgive us for those things which we have done against His commandments, and secondly, it tells us that in order to receive the Lord’s forgiveness – which every one of us needs – we must first forgive those who have offended us. We may be able to see that we should forgive those who have offended us, but not know how. We might be able to say, “I forgive you” but find that the anger still burns within, the grudge is still carried. How can we forgive in such a way that we feel better for it ourselves? We must look to the Lord’s own example for our answer.

The Lord tells us that He can forgive any sin, except one: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven because it is in effect the denial that the Lord has the power to save. If a person denies that the Lord has the power to save him, or if he believes that he does not need to be saved, he will not ask for forgiveness. Since we know that the Lord preserves and protects our spiritual freedom above all else, it can be seen that the Lord will not forgive a man who does not wish to be forgiven, who does not ask for His help. The Lord can forgive any sin, He can help a person out of any trouble if only that person sincerely asks for His help. This is why blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven: it is not the Lord who refuses to forgive, but the man who refuses to seek the Lord’s help. The Lord will not enter a person’s life without an invitation.

We should try to adopt the Lord’s attitude, to learn from His example. We need to cultivate a forgiving attitude in ourselves, be willing to forgive any offence. This is, of course, extremely difficult to do at first, since our emotions become stirred so quickly – but it might be helpful to remember the arguing children and try to ask ourselves, when offences come, if we really believe that the other person intended to cause harm. And, if we believe that there was no intention of harm, what then were they trying to do? We may find that in most cases where we take offence that there never was any real offence to be forgiven!

In our third lesson, we read about three degrees of hatred. The first, signified by being “angry without cause,” is to have evil thoughts about another person, and could be exemplified by common gossip – telling stories that show people in an unflattering light. The second degree of hatred, signified by saying “Raca” is to intend evil for another, and could be exemplified by slander – telling what we know to be lies to harm the reputation of another. The third degree, signified by saying “Thou Fool” is the evil will, which would lead to harmful action towards another. In forgiveness, each of these three degrees of anger and hatred must be met by the appropriate degree of love and charity. We need to be prepared to counter evil thoughts with good thoughts, evil intentions with good intentions, and evil will with good will.

As we saw in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant in our first lesson, and as can also be seen in many other places in the New Testament, the Lord wants us to forgive others in the same way He will forgive us. And in the same way the Lord fails when a man chooses to refuse His forgiveness and join others like himself in hell, we too will sometimes fail in our relationships with other people. We may be willing to forgive, but they cannot bring themselves to ask for it. It is unfortunately true that there are people who, for one reason or another, act as if they either don’t care about the feelings of others, or else they seem to enjoy hurting their feelings. There is not much we can do about such people, for that is the path which they have freely chosen for themselves, except to hope that they may eventually see the light and change their lives.

There is not one of us who has gone through life without making a mistake, without doing something that causes pain and grief to another, pain that we certainly did not intend. We need to look at the deeds and words of others as we would have them look at ours. We need to try to look at the words and deeds of others in the same way that the angels look at the words and deeds of new spirits in the other life. We need to recognize that the feelings of anger, enmity, and hatred that we feel come from hell specifically so that they can destroy charity while at the same time appealing to our loves of self. We must be as aware of these feelings and shun them as we would adultery, theft, or murder – for they are just as dangerous to our spiritual life.

We must even judge ourselves honestly according to the actual intentions we had at the time, and not according to facts that only came to light after the action had already been taken. The Lord judges us only according to the intentions of our hearts, and forgives all those who ask for mercy, provided that they themselves have during their life in this world, conscientiously practised mercy and forgiveness.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (text). AMEN.

First Lesson: MAT 18:21-35

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” {22} Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. {23} “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. {24} “And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. {25} “But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. {26} “The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ {27} “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. {28} “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ {29} “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ {30} “And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. {31} “So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. {32} “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. {33} ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ {34} “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. {35} “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Second Lesson: LUK 6:20-38

Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God. {21} Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. {22} Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake. {23} Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. {24} “But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation. {25} Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep. {26} Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets. {27} “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} “bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. {29} “To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. {30} “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. {31} “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. {32} “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. {33} “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. {34} “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. {35} “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. {36} “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. {37} “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. {38} “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Third Lesson: AE 746f. [18]

That one who thinks ill of his neighbor without adequate cause, and turns himself away from the good of charity, will be punished lightly as to his soul, is signified by “Whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable to the judgment;” “to be angry,” signifies to think ill, for it is distinguished from “saying Raca,” and “saying Thou fool.” “Brother” means the neighbor, and also the good of charity, and “to be liable to the judgment” means to be examined and to be punished according to circumstances. That one who from wrong thought slanders the neighbor, and thus despises the good of charity as of little value, will be punished grievously, is signified by “whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the council,” for “to say Raca” signifies to slander the neighbor from evil thought, thus to hold the good of charity to be of little value. That one who hates the neighbor, that is, one who is altogether averse to the good of charity, is condemned to hell, is signified by “whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be liable to the hell of fire.” These three describe three degrees of hatred, the first is from evil thought, which is “to be angry,” the second is from consequent evil intention, which is “to say Raca,” and the third is from an evil will, which is “to say Thou fool.” All these are degrees of hatred against the good of charity, for hatred is the opposite of the good of charity. Amen.

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SOWING WILD OATS

SOWING WILD OATS
A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper
Cataloged May 4, 1997

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery. ‘ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27,28).

The question I would like to address today is, Can you learn from the mistakes and experiences of others, or do you actually have to do evil yourself.?

Our parents taught us that there were some things that we must not do. But there were some things that we wanted to do anyhow. We tried not to do them, and for a long time we could resist, but eventually we grew older and became independent. We moved away from home, our parents’ influence grew less and less, the encouragement of our friends grew stronger, and we ended up doing them anyhow.

At first it was exciting! It was liberating, wonderful. Then all the wheels fell off and the consequences had to be paid. Then we first began to understand the pain and the hurt that our parents had struggled to protect us from.

Having learned the lesson for ourselves, having lived it, we tried to tell others, perhaps our own children, how they could avoid that pain, but they’re just like us – they don’t listen. Off they go to make the same mistakes that we made, to suffer the same pain that we suffered, and they just won’t listen. But they learn from their errors and want to pass their “new” knowledge on to others who also won’t listen, and so on.

How often does this cycle repeat itself? Doesn’t it begin to seem that the only way people can really learn something is to experience it for themselves, to make the mistakes, and to suffer the consequences? We learn to tolerate all kinds of disorders in our children, our friends and ourselves, because we begin to believe that we can really learn about evil only through personal experience. Such a belief is one of those ideas that come from hell to allow us to justify our own evils to ourselves and to others. So we look away when young people stay out late drinking, carrying on. We hope that they will get into just enough trouble that they will learn from it without permanent harm. After all, everyone has to experience these things for himself or herself – at least that’s what we think. They’re just “sowing their wild oats.” Everyone does it. Unfortunately, such a view flies in the face of what the Word teaches.

If you had to learn everything for yourself by experience, what would be the purpose of having the Word in the first place? The Writings tell us that in heaven, those who have died as children need to be instructed about evil so that they can recognize it. But how can you teach about evil in heaven where there is no evil? The Writings tell us that spirits and angels learn about evil and its dangers through plays.

We read from Conjugial Love n. 17:5 – “Moreover, outside the city there are also theatrical performances by players, representing the varieties of honorableness and virtue characteristic of the moral life; and among them, for the sake of relationship, are also actors. Here one of the ten asked, ‘Why for the sake of relationship?’ They answered: ‘No one of the virtues with its display of honorableness and decorum can be presented in a living way except by things related thereto from the greatest of them to the least. But it is established by law that nothing of the opposite, which is called dishonorable or unseemly, shall be exhibited except figuratively and, as it were, remotely.”‘

This passage is teaching that the only way that good can be taught is by comparison to evil, and so the plays that are conducted in heaven and in the world of spirits are done in such a way as to show the relationship among various moral virtues. There are actors who pretend to be evil for the sake of teaching others the need to avoid evil. It’s not outward evil, it’s not horrible, but it’s clearly enough suggested that the difference is clearly seen. Those people who have grown up in heaven can see the play, can see evil being presented there, be horrified by it, and see that it touches a chord with the evil within themselves. In this way they recognize that there is evil within themselves and they’re horrified by that and they flee from it.

They learn about evil, they flee from it, without ever having to actually do it themselves. They learn simply by perceiving evil’s effect in someone else.

Do we really need to sow wild oats to experience real life for ourselves? The Word seems to say that we can read about it, that we can use our imagination, that there is a use in plays that suggest evil and explore its consequences without glorifying it, such as “Macbeth.”

There may even be a use in the kinds of movies that we see today that depict graphic violence, if the result is that by seeing it we are horrified and turn away from it. It is a problem, of course, that there are those who see these kinds of things, believe them to be good and are fascinated by them and attracted to them.

The text for this sermon is the section where the Lord taught that to lust in your heart after one not your spouse is the same as to actually commit the adultery, and in this way He was showing that it is possible to sin in your mind without sinning as to the body. If we can image a deed in our minds, we don’t have to actually do it. We can create a fantasy in which we’ve enjoyed the delights of evil and then (and this is the important step) look at the probable consequences as well as the delights. By thinking about what we picture ourselves doing in our fantasies we can learn to shun evils by observing them in the abstract within ourselves.

Remember what it said in TCR 535: “It is strange that anyone can find fault with another for his evil intentions, and say, ‘Do not do that because it is a sin,’ and yet find it difficult to say this to himself; but this is because the latter touches the will, but the former only the thought nearest to hearing……….

In each of us there is an aspect which we call the “parent” which treats others as if they are children. When we see someone about to do something wrong we want to warn him against it because we know from our own experience that it will cause hurt, and which one of us can stand silently by and watch someone that we care about be hurt? And yet at the same time we find it difficult to restrain ourselves. We look for ways to excuse our own evils, to make them acceptable and permissible. We change their names to make them sound nicer. We’re not “sinning”; we’re “sowing wild oats.” Now what does the Word say? “All who do good from religion avoid actual evils …” (TCR 535).

We’re also taught in another place that an evil once done by mistake can be removed fairly easily. That’s true, but if you do it a few times from intention it becomes firmly anchored in the will and becomes much more difficult to remove (see DP 112:3). The danger is that if we allow ourselves the right to experiment with evil, it will happen that we end up doing some of those evils many times from intention. In this way the hells lead us to do the very thing that will entrench the love of that particular evil in our lives while leading us to believe that we’re doing it for some good reason, that we are safe, that we are having harmless fun. We really have to avoid doing them at all – ever – to avoid the danger of having them become a permanent part of our character.

Consider the example used in the first lesson, the story of Joash and Elisha. The prophet, representing the Word and authority, asked Joash to do something. But Joash didn’t fully understand so he didn’t do it with enthusiasm; and after the fact, when he had struck only three times and realized that he was not going to be able to totally defeat Syria, he realized that his lack of enthusiasm was going to cost him.

We all feel that way about rules, because rules challenge our proprium, our love of self, our desire to do things our own way. We follow rules grudgingly, if we follow them at all, and sometimes that leads to painful results: teenage pregnancies, cars that are crashed while the drivers are intoxicated. We always think we know better, that we can beat the odds because we are so clever. But the Lord repeatedly teaches differently. He teaches us by illustrations in the Word so that we can learn about doing things without having to do them ourselves.

Think of the example of the good Samaritan: The story tells that a priest and a Levite passed by an injured man but it was a man from Samaria that showed mercy upon him, took him to an inn and paid for his medical treatment with his own money. The Lord wants us to see that these are both sides of our own characters. He wants us to imagine ourselves as a priest or a Levite walking by, realizing that that is the wrong thing to do, by imagining it and feeling the same thing we would feel if we went walking down the street and saw an injured man and just walked by. And then He wants us to imagine how we would feel if we were Samaritans walking by, picking the injured man up and helping him. By using the imaginative degree of our minds we can feel the same emotions and be enlightened to know what the Lord wants us to do. We don’t have to actually walk past an injured man to feel the selfishness and know that it is right to help.

Think of the story of the prodigal son: when we read this story we like to remember the parts about how the young man went into the city and lived the high life, because we would like to do that, and then when he had learned his lesson, he went home and was received by his father as if nothing had happened. He put a beautiful garment on him. He put gold rings on his fingers and we think to ourselves, “What a marvelous story! We can go off to the big city, we can waste ourselves and then come home and be forgiven and be treated as if nothing had ever happened!” But we forget that before the young man came to his senses he had to hit bottom. We forget the increasing desperation that he felt as his money began to run out and he realized that he had no prospects of getting more, that the friends he had made while he had money were leaving him behind. We forget the humiliation that he felt as his new friends turned away from him; and we forget the hunger, the desperate hunger that drove him to his hands and knees fighting the pigs for their swill.

The Lord wants us to remember both parts of the story. He wants each of us to be the brother who stayed behind, and when the other son came home, he learned from it. The brother who stayed behind suffered none of these things. All he had to deal with were some feelings of jealousy, and yet he learned the same lesson.

The same thing is true with the parable of the lost sheep which we read as part of the second lesson. It is likely that every child has felt lost for a few minutes, enough so that we all have a sense of the panic that is felt when one is well and truly lost.

Do we think that the Lord really wants us to get lost so that we can be found? What kind of shepherd would He be then? He is the Good Shepherd; that’s what He teaches in the Word. It is His job to make sure we do not get lost, but if we suffer from enough stubbornness or stupidity to get lost anyhow, then He will come looking for us. The lost sheep may be found, but then it becomes an example of foolishness that keeps the ninety and nine close to the shepherd where they belong. The Lord doesn’t want us to be lost sheep. He wants us to be one of the ninety and nine living happily and securely and peacefully within the flock.

TCR 535 says, “Since actual repentance, which is examining oneself, recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord and beginning a new life, is in the Reformed Christian world exceedingly difficult, … therefore an easier kind of repentance is here presented, which is that when anyone is giving thought to any evil and intending it, he shall say to himself, ‘Although I am thinking about this and intending it, I will not do it because it is a sin.’ By this means the temptation injected from hell is checked, and its further entrance prevented. ” Amen.

Lessons: 2 Kings 13:14-19, Luke 15: 1-10, TCR 535

True Christian Religion 535

THOSE ALSO REPENT WHO ALTHOUGH THEY DO NOT EXAMINE THEMSELVES, YET REFRAIN FROM EVILS BECAUSE THEY ARE SINS; AND THOSE WHO FROM RELIGION DO THE WORK OF CHARITY EXERCISE SUCH REPENTANCE.

Since actual repentance, which is examining oneself, recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord and beginning a new life, is in the Reformed Christian world exceedingly difficult for many reasons that will be given in the last section of this chapter, therefore an easier kind of repentance is here presented, which is that when anyone is giving thought to any evil and intending it, he shall say to himself, “Although I am thinking about this and intending it, I will not do it because it is a sin.” By this means the temptation injected from hell is checked, and its further entrance prevented. It is strange that anyone can find fault with another for his evil intentions, and say, “Do not do that because it is a sin,” and yet find it difficult to say this to himself, but this is because the latter touches the will, but the former only the thought nearest to hearing. Inquiry was made in the spiritual world as to who were capable of this [actual] repentance, and they were found to be as few as doves in a vast desert. Some said that they could repent in the easier way, but were not able to examine themselves and confess their sins before God. All who do good from religion avoid actual evils, but they very rarely reflect upon the interiors pertaining to the will, for they believe that they are not in evil because they are in good, and even that the good covers the evil. But, my friend, the first thing of charity is to shun evils. This is taught in the Word, the Decalogue, baptism, the holy supper and even by the reason; for how can anyone flee away from evils and banish them without some self- inspection? And how can good become good until it has been interiorly purified? I know that all pious men, and also all men of sound reason, will assent to this when they read it, and will see it as genuine truth, but still, that few will act accordingly.

FORGIVENESS

FORGIVENESS

A Sermon by Rev. Frederick M. ChapinPreached in Phoenix, Arizona July 29, 1990

 

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).

The words of our text are familiar to nearly every member of the New Church. For the Lord’s Prayer is recited in nearly all formal gatherings, and the words “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” is a plea central to the Lord’s Prayer. Now in order to appreciate this prayer and every plea that it contains, it is important to note that it is contained in the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount sets the tone for the rest of the New Testament; it is providentially set at the beginning of it, which provides for us the basis to read and study the Word in the New Testament. This famous sermon is full of wonderful teachings concerning what a life of charity is and how we may receive it.

One of the essentials of charity that we are to practice, that is taught in both the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer, is forgiveness. Indeed, our text showed that as we pray to the Lord to forgive our sins or debts, we at the same time must be willing to forgive others who may have hurt us in some way. Now the word “debts” in the Greek has the idea to be under obligation, or to be bound. It is our evils which we choose to delight in that bind us or make us spiritual slaves. Therefore, as we pray to the Lord to release us from our debts or bonds, we should at the same time be willing to release others from their bonds toward us. We should never seek retribution on another who has offended us with the idea of revenge or to get even. Rather, we should try to help the wrongdoer to enter into a higher state of love and wisdom. For after the Lord’s Prayer the Lord said, “If you forgive men their trespasses [which means errors or transgressions], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14,15). Therefore, the Lord teaches us that we are forgiven by the Lord only to the degree that we are willing to forgive others.

We can see the vital importance of forgiving others in the powerful parable of the unforgiving servant (see Matt. 18:21-35). Peter asked the Lord how often he should forgive his brother (expecting a definite number). In answer the Lord told a parable of a servant who owed his master ten thousand talents. A talent weighed about ninety-four pounds. From this we can see the enormous debt this servant owed his master. In fact, he probably could not pay it off within his lifetime. Nevertheless, the master was prepared to mercifully wipe the debt clean so that the servant would owe him nothing. But when the servant departed, he immediately demanded that another servant pay his debt of one hundred denarii, which probably could have been paid in three months’ time. But the servant wanted the money immediately, and he threw his fellow servant into prison. Of course, when the master heard of this, he was very angry and demanded payment of the original debt of ten thousand talents from the unforgiving servant. From this we can see the powerful lesson for us that the Lord is ever willing to forgive far more in us than what we are called to forgive in others. However, it is only by our forgiving others that the Lord can forgive our myriads of evils.

The Writings certainly confirm this teaching that we must seek to forgive if we are to have genuine charity in us. For they beautifully define forgiveness as “not to regard anyone from evil but from good” (AC 7697). Thus the Writings urge us not to concentrate on the bad things or the weaknesses of others, but to look for their good points. Even if it seems as if we can see no good in the person, we are still reminded that the Lord is with everyone, striving for his salvation. Therefore, we can still be of help to him by doing what we can to put him in situations where the Lord can stir up his remains. If we look at others in this way, then it will be a great deal easier to tolerate their flaws and forgive their errors or wrongdoings.

But can we really look for the good in others while we remain in our hereditary or actual evils? Can we look beyond the disorders of another and look at him as one who is infinitely loved by the Lord and might be saved, while we have hatred, contempt, and selfishness in our hearts? Can we truly love our enemies while we seek to do good only to those who honor us? The Writings emphatically say no! For they clearly teach that we can truly forgive only when our internals are opened to the Lord (see AC 6561). The only way we can have a spirit of forgiveness is from the Lord. For what is from ourselves is entirely incapable of genuine forgiveness. It can come only when we are willing to allow the Lord’s love and wisdom to enter into our internals and therefrom into our externals. Only if we shun evils as sins against God can the Lord replace our evil and selfish loves with the genuine love of charity and forgiveness. Let us always be careful not to believe that the ability to look for the good in others is from ourselves. It is only from the Lord’s inflowing into us, and is received only in the measure that its hellish opposite is shunned by us.

However, when we seek to apply the spirit of forgiveness in our everyday lives, must we ignore or excuse the evils of others? Should we pretend the evils are not there as we look for the person’s good? Certainly not! We must fight the evils that are both within and outside of us, but we should approach the person with a spirit of reconciliation. We should urge and help our brother to put away his evil practices, yet without interfering with his internal freedom. The Lord certainly did not ignore the deceit and hypocrisy of the Pharisees while He was on the earth, yet He loved them and desired that they would change their ways so that they could find eternal happiness and peace. So too must we be willing to stand up firmly against the evils of others. But let us judge the evils, not the person. Let us desire that the evils will be put away, but not the man with them. If we have this love and attitude in our hearts and minds, then we can have sympathy toward evil men and not hate them. For angels have sympathy even toward those who are in hell (see CL 415).

Nevertheless, the spirit of forgiveness is not fully ultimated until there is a reciprocal (see AC 9014:2,3). This applies both in our relationship with the Lord and with others. It applies in our relationship with the Lord in that the Lord is willing to forgive all of our evils. He never desires that we suffer because of our evils. However, His mercy and forgiveness are not manifested or perceived in us until we repent. Until we shun evils as sins against the Lord and obey His Word in our daily lives, the Lord will always appear to be a God of wrath and judgment. But in reality He punishes no one; we punish ourselves by choosing to turn away from the Lord. We refuse to allow His forgiveness to be effective in us.

It is the same in our relationship with others. We may have the spirit of forgiveness toward another and truly desire that he genuinely be happy. But if he does not affirmatively respond to our love from the Lord, then we may appear to him to be angry and harsh. For example, a child may do something wrong for which the parent will punish him. Hopefully the parent has already forgiven him in his heart, but outwardly he may appear to be angry toward the child. It is similar with the Lord’s love and forgiveness. It will not be made effective and made known to us until we affirmatively respond to His Word. And it is the same with our dealings with others in that we may not be regarded as a forgiving person until they provide the reciprocal by turning away from evil and turning toward the Lord.

However, must we be constantly in the company of the evil to demonstrate a forgiving spirit? The answer is no! For the Lord taught in the New Testament that if one refuses to be reconciled with us, then we may externally regard him as an adversary (see Matt. 18:17). As long as the man continues in his evil ways, we must disassociate ourselves from his evil acts. This does not mean that we are to be unconcerned about his spiritual welfare, but it does mean that we are not able to be as close to him as if he had changed his ways. This is both for his sake (by not encouraging or excusing his evils) and for our sake (by not being influenced to indulge his evils). Nevertheless, the Lord also taught that we are to agree with our adversary quickly (see Matt. 5:24). We should always be ready to forgive so that once our adversary does mend his ways, we will be able to receive him with open arms.

Not only should we want reconciliation, we should also strive to be reconciled to our brother. For we cannot be in a true state of charity until we take some action to try to clear up the ill feelings we may have toward another. If this means that we must go through the difficult process of apologizing to another, or accepting his apology, we should still pursue it, so that the obstacles to a genuine state of charity and friendship are removed. For the act of forgiving is really an act of purifying (see AC 8393, 10042:5). When we repent and so accept the Lord’s forgiveness in our hearts, He mercifully removes our evils to the outermost regions of our spirit and replaces them with good loves. Likewise, when we forgive another for an evil act and he repents, our relationship is also purified by removing or forgetting that evil and no longer making our brother responsible for it. And just as the Lord forgives us and forgets our shortcomings and disorders over and over again without number, so too must we be willing to forgive our brother’s shortcomings over and over again, without number (see Matt. 18:22). Once again, this does not mean that we need to be naive toward evil, but we should never reach a state where we are unwilling to take another back if there is sincere repentance. Instead, we should be continually ready, when there is repentance, to receive back into the fold a brother who has gone astray.

Therefore, if we do not strive to develop a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness, how can we find delight in being of use to others? Will we not despise them if they stand in the way of what we want? How can we be willing to forgive another and take him back if we inwardly hold him in contempt? It is only by allowing the Lord to change our lives that we are able to forgive. It is only by the Lord that we can look for the good in another and not concentrate or delight in his evils. Unless we are first willing to love our neighbor and forgive his faults, and be willing to take him back after genuine repentance, the Lord cannot make known His love toward us and forgive us our sins.

Instead, let us follow the wonderful examples of forgiveness that the Lord gave us while He was on the earth. Let us respond to a brother who has done wrong but who desires to return to us as the Lord said to a woman taken in adultery. “I do not condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Let us always look to the Lord to implant in us a love for the eternal welfare of those who do not wish to come back. Let us pray for them as the Lord prayed for those who crucified Him when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). And when the Lord removes our hatred and our delight in revenge and gives us a genuine love of forgiving others, and the wisdom to recognize when we should forgive and in what manner, then we can have the confidence and joy that the Lord is forgiving our sins and preparing us for His kingdom. It is while we are in this state that we can pray with sincerity, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Amen.

 


Lessons: Genesis 50:15-21; Matt. 18:21-35; AC 9014:3

Arcana Coelestia 9014:3

It is believed by many within the church that the forgiveness of sins is the wiping out and washing away thereof, as of filth by water; and that after forgiveness they go on their way clean and pure. Such an opinion prevails especially with those who ascribe everything of salvation to faith alone. But be it known that the case with the forgiveness of sins is quite different. The Lord forgives everyone his sins, because He is mercy itself. 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. That this is so the church knows, for it is said to those who come to the Holy Supper that their sins are forgiven if they begin a new life by abstaining from evils and abhorring them.