THE LOVE OF RULING
A Sermon by Rev. Patrick A. Rose Preached in North Ohio June 21, 1992
“For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev. 19:6).
All the angels of heaven rejoiced when the New Church was founded. The joy of the heavens is described in the book of Revelation: “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as it were the voice of many waters, and as it were the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev. 19:6). The voice of a great multitude is the joy of the angels of the lowest heaven. The voice of many waters is that same joy in the middle or second heaven. The voice of mighty thunders is the rejoicing in the highest or celestial heaven. The angels of all three heavens rejoiced. They rejoiced, it is said, because the Lord God omnipotent would reign. In other words, the Lord would reign more fully in the church which was now to come than He ever had before (see AR 811). In some way our own celebrations of the founding of the New Church should reflect something of this overwhelming joy felt by the angels of heaven. We should rejoice with those angels at the thought that in the New Church the Lord Himself will reign in fullness. We should rejoice, but we should also reflect. We should reflect on what it actually means for the Lord God omnipotent to reign in the New Church.
If the Lord is to reign over His church, one thing it means is this: the men and women of this church are to allow themselves to be governed by the Lord, and not to seek dominion over one another themselves. And so it is said in the Writings that the love of ruling is an evil which will be especially shunned by those who will be of the New Jerusalem (see SD 6053). The love of ruling is an enemy of the New Church, for it opposes and interferes with the government of the Lord over His church. Indeed, if the Lord’s reign over His church is to mean anything to us, we must shun, as the plague that it is, this evil love of ruling.
It is important that we know what this evil love of ruling is and what it is not. We read that “it is not ruling over others in one’s official position, but desiring to rule over others outside of that, not being content with its own domain” (SD 6052). In other words, it is a love of dominating over others not from a love of use but from the love of self. Descriptions of this love given in the Writings leave us no doubt that this love is far more evil than we might suppose. For example, we are told that the love of rule from the love of self is the head of all infernal loves (see DP 146e, DLW 141). It is the reigning love in hell (see DLW 273:2), for it is the love of self in its very highest degree (see SD 6052). We are told that he who is in this love is such that he thinks nothing of defrauding the neighbor, or of adultery, revenge, murder and cruelty (see DP 215:8). It is a love which knows no bounds. The man who is in it never feels content with whatever power he may have. He feels no joy in using his power to serve others. He always wants to extend his command. We are told that with the laity this love grows when opportunity presents itself until they want to be not only kings, but kings of kings, or emperors of emperors (see CL 262, TCR 405); with the clergy this same love grows until they want to become gods (see Ibid.). Such a love is clearly insane, evil and abominable. The Writings give us a solemn warning about it. They say this: “Let all who are in the world and read these lines know that the love of ruling for the sake of self and not for the sake of uses is diabolical love itself and in it are all evils. Let them know this and be on their guard” (LJ Post 237). These are blunt and serious words, but how do they apply to us? What chance do we have to really dominate over others? Does any one of us seriously desire to be a king or a god so that we might dominate over everybody? Surely none of us feels such an insane love burning within a love which wishes to murder, hurt and subjugate.
The point the Writings make, though, is that this is a latent or hidden love. Just because we do not feel this diabolical love inside us does not mean that the seeds of such a love are not there, waiting for the opportunity to grow.
The evil love of ruling is a subtle love, a love not easily noticed. For one thing, where there is little or no opportunity to actually dominate over others, it lurks unseen, expressing itself only in small, almost unnoticeable ways. Also, when it does express itself, it seldom seems that bad. On the contrary, the love of dominating over others from the love of self is felt as delightful. Indeed, the delights of this love, we are told, surpass all other worldly delights (see DP 215:9; AE 1189:4). Its delight possesses the whole mind, and it is even felt in the body as an elation or swelling feeling in the breast (see DP 215:9). It is a love which feels good very good. Indeed, it is precisely because it feels so good that it is so dangerous. It has a terrifying ability to drag a man down into his own proprium.
The reason the Writings speak of this evil love as a very real threat is that we all inherit a tendency toward it. If a man does not resist and shun it, then it will lie concealed within him, and will flare forth and grow as soon as there is an opportunity for it to do so. Whenever somebody in the love of ruling has the opportunity to force his own will on others, whether in a large or a small way, he will do so. And insofar as such a person succeeds in dominating over others, his lust for doing so will grow. He will seek to enlarge his power. The power he exercises may already be significant. He may, for example, be a government official. Or his influence may be limited to domineering over others in social situations. But whatever power he has, if he exercises it from selfish motives he will not be content with this power, but will desire even more.
The reason such love seeks to extend its power is because it is, in essence, a love that is insane. To believe that we exist to be served by other people is madness. If a man has this attitude, then his deepest thoughts are most certainly not ruled by reason. In the depths of his mind there lies the ludicrous notion that the whole universe has no other purpose than to serve him. Whether or not a selfishly domineering person is aware of it, and normally he is not aware of it, there lies deep within him this insane and irrational thought that he is in some way the king or god of the universe. This is why, whatever his station in life and society may be, he will never be content, but will always strive for greater and greater power.
Where people have such a love active within them, the result is that all happiness, and all that is good and true, are destroyed. If people are inmostly striving to rule over each other from selfish motives, then strife and conflict always lurk in the background. Where such selfishness reigns, the good and truth of the church mean nothing. People who are ruled by selfishness do not love what is good; the only good they know is a feeling that it is good when others do what they want them to do. As for truth, they never really think about the truth, except, perhaps, as a way of getting their own way over others.
It is obvious that where a church is dominated by the love of ruling from the love of self, that church is destroyed spiritually. And this is what happened to the old Christian Church. It must be emphasized that the Writings do not condemn all the people who were in the Christian Church. Indeed, the Writings describe how many of them were received with joy into the new heaven following the last judgment. But still the Writings leave no doubt that over the centuries there were also evil men, men in the love of dominion, who gained enough power and exerted a great enough influence to eventually bring the church to its spiritual end.
Men in the love of dominion had no love for the church itself, but they found in the Lord’s church a way of exercising and extending their power. If the church was to serve their purposes, though, they had to banish good and truth from the church.
First of all, they banished truth the very possibility of truth from the church. The Lord Himself wants our faith to be based upon an understanding of the truth. But the leaders of the Christian Church introduced a totally different type of faith, one based not on an understanding of the truth, but upon a blind submission to official teachings. People were told that they had to believe these mysteries of faith or risk damnation. Once people were in the habit of not expecting to understand the teachings of the church, the leaders of the church then gained great power and dominion over people’s minds. What they taught was accepted without question. In effect, the truth of the church was replaced by a domineering form of mind control.
The good of the church was also destroyed. People were told that they could go to heaven simply by believing the right things. It became easy to get to heaven. Evil was still regarded as undesirable, but what really mattered wasn’t the way a person lived, but what he believed. A person didn’t really have to avoid evil as long as he believed what he was told to believe. There were many people who willingly accepted this easy way out. They were glad to accept whatever they were taught as long as it meant that they didn’t actually have to shun evil. And so it was that men came to rule the church: man-made doctrines were substituted for the Lord’s teachings, and a spiritual lethargy replaced the life of repentance. Indeed the Lord Himself was, in effect, banished from His own church. A clear understanding of the Lord was replaced by the incomprehensible mystery of a Trinity of Persons.
The Lord did, of course, continue to govern mankind. He still reigned over them. But He did so, not so much by means of His church, but in spite of it. In the church, people’s hearts and minds were dominated increasingly by evil spirits and by evil men. This, then, was the state of the church on earth. It is important to realize this, for otherwise we do not fully appreciate the full significance of the Lord’s second coming. We cannot really understand why it was that the Lord’s disciples were sent throughout the universal spiritual world to preach the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns. The word “gospel” means good tidings or good news. Why was it good news? On first reflection it hardly seems like news at all. Of course the Lord reigns. It is obvious. Why did everybody in the spiritual world have to be told this? But if we bear in mind the state of the Christian Church at that time, we can understand how wonderful this news really was. Practically speaking, the Lord had ceased to reign in the Christian Church. There no longer was a Christian Church on earth; what remained was Christian in name only. The fact that now the Lord was to reign for ever and ever was therefore news wonderful news a gospel to be preached to everybody in the spiritual world.
The Lord had come again. He had cast down into hell those evil spirits who were infesting men on earth, darkening and enslaving their minds. He had formed a new heaven, through which light would flow to the minds of people here on earth. And He had provided new truth, indeed a fullness of truth, within the pages of a new revelation. Now, once again, there could be a church truly Christian upon the earth. But it would be different from the first Christian Church. Now there was something new. Because truth had been revealed in fullness, falsities could now be seen for what they were. In the New Christian Church it would be impossible for anybody to maintain that faith should be blind. It would be impossible for anybody to maintain that repentance is unimportant. It would be impossible for anyone to maintain that the Lord should not be approached directly. The fullness of truth now revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines makes it possible for anybody and everybody in the church to see the error of such falsities. Evil men can no longer use the Lord’s church to gain dominion over innocent men. Now the Lord will reign in His church, not for a time but for ever and ever.
The love of dominion is, of course, still with us. We all have a tendency to dominate. And it is indeed possible for the love of dominion to raise its ugly head in the New Church. But the love of dominion can no longer gain permanent rule over the Lord’s church. The power of truth we have been given is too great. The power of this truth prevents evil men from enslaving the understanding and the conscience of the church. In the end, in the New Church the love of dominion will serve only to separate from the church those who are in such selfish loves. The love of dominion on the one hand, and the doctrines of the New Church on the other, are completely incompatible; they are complete opposites. The Writings teach that it is the Lord who is to dominate or rule the church. It is the Lord who is to rule the lives of men. Indeed, this is why the Lord’s name, in the Latin of the Writings, is Dominus. Dominus the Lord is the one who dominates or rules. Evil men want this role for themselves. They themselves want to dominate over others. Evil men are utterly opposed, interiorly, to the Lord’s dominion. Indeed, the way in which those in the love of dominion are opposed to the Lord’s government is revealed in a telling way in the expression we use for a domineering person. We say that he or she “lords” it over others. There is to be no such “lording” it over others in the New Church. In the New Church there is to be only one Lord: the Lord God Jesus Christ.
There must of course be government in the church. Otherwise uses could not be performed rightly. And so there must be people who serve in this function of government. If they exercise this function with true charity, and with humility before the Lord Himself, then their love is not evil. Indeed, the love of ruling from the love of use is a heavenly love. It is a humble and unselfish love. But if somebody in the New Church should use his office, his position, or his influence, for selfish purposes, caring not for the uses themselves, then his lust for power will grow, and he will enter into active communication with the hells. He will, within himself, become completely and utterly opposed to the New Church and to the government of the Lord.
If we would, then, be true members of the New Church, if we wish to serve the Lord, the one and only ruler of the church, then we must, in all that we think and do, shun especially this selfish love of ruling, the love of domineering over others, the love of getting our own way for selfish reasons.
The Lord God Jesus Christ is to reign. It is a wonderful teaching. But it is a teaching that means nothing unless we live according to it. If the Lord is to reign in His church, then His will is to be done. His Word is to be listened to. His commandments are to be obeyed. We have been called to be of service to the Lord’s New Church. This means that we are here to serve our fellow human beings. And it means, above all, that we are here to serve the Lord. We have been blessed, deeply blessed, with the wonderful knowledge that the Lord has come again to rule over His church. Our greatest happiness lies in forgetting ourselves and in serving Him. This is a wonderful truth. It is joyful news. It is wonderful news. It is the gospel upon which the New Church is to be founded the Gospel that “the Lord God Jesus Christ doth reign” (TCR 791). Amen.
Lessons: Rev. 19:1-10; Rev. 21:10-16, 22-25; TCR 753, 791
True Christian Religion
753. There have been several churches on this earth, and in the course of time they have all been consummated, and after their consummation new churches have arisen, and so on to the present time. The consummation of the church takes place when there is no Divine truth left except what has been falsified or set aside; and when there is no genuine truth, no genuine good is possible, since every quality of good is formed by means of truths; for good is the essence of truth, and truth is the form of good, and without form there can be no quality. Good and truth can no more be separated than will and understanding, or what is the same thing, than love’s affection and the thought therefrom. Consequently when truth is consummated in a church, good is also consummated there, and when this takes place, the church comes to an end, that is, is consummated.
791. Note: After this work was finished, the Lord called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world; and the next day He sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that The Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages, according to the prediction in Daniel (7:13, 14), and in the Apocalypse (11:15). Also that blessed are those that come to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Apoc. 19:9). This took place on the nineteenth day of June, 1770. This is what is meant by these words of the Lord: “He shall send His angels and they shall gather together His elect, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31).