Fighting for Truth

Fighting for Truth

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

revcooper.ca

They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things. (John 19:24)

The 19th chapter of John is generally read on Easter Sunday for it contains the events leading up to, including, and following the crucifixion of the Lord. However, our focus will be on the story within the story of the Lord’s crucifixion, on the soldiers who were gathered around the foot of the cross, and what they did with the Lord’s garments.

The soldiers were under the command of Pilate, thus of the Roman Empire; yet it was a common practice for the Provincial governor to use local people for a portion of his military guard. The soldiers were Roman in their dress and actions, but they may have been Jews by birth and education.

The soldiers had stripped the Lord before crucifying Him, and His garments were their by the right of spoil. As clothes were far more difficult to obtain and thus much more valuable in those days than today, we can imagine that the soldiers began to argue about which of them should have the clothes. They settled the argument by dividing the less valuable outer garment between themselves equally, one part to each of the four. This represents the destruction and dispersion of truth.

The Lord’s inner garment, called the tunic, was altogether different from the outer garment divided by the soldiers. The tunic had been woven from the top throughout from a single thread, thus to divide or cut this tunic in any way would cause the pieces to unravel and fall apart – useless. The soldiers recognized this type of tunic and knew better than to divide it. Instead, they cast lots for it. The Gospel records that they acted in this way so that they would fulfil the prophecies of scripture. Their actions represented the fact that the internal truth of the Word, as it is with the angels in heaven, cannot be dispersed or destroyed. This internal truth, or the spiritual sense, is the single thread from which the Word itself is woven.1

There is a parallel, then, between what the Jews did to the Lord by crucifying Him, and what they did to His inner and outer garments, for the garments represent the Word. As the Jews were permitted to destroy the Lord’s body, His most external things, they were also permitted to divide His external garments, and by this action representing the dispersal or destruction of the external truths of the Word. But, they had not really harmed the Lord, for He rose again on the third day, and in a similar manner, the tunic, representing the internal sense of the Word, was neither divided nor harmed in any way.

The Heavenly Doctrines show is that it was done by the soldiers, because soldiers represent those who should fight for truth. In the good sense, soldiers represent those who seek truth, care for it, and work to bring it into their lives. The soldiers of our text show the opposite representation as they are actively seeking to replace the truth with falsities that fit their own particular loves2 In addition, these soldiers represent the Jewish Church even though they were under Roman command, because it was the Jewish Church that had the Word, and thus had the truths for which the soldiers should be fighting. That they did not fight represents the failure of the Jewish Church to live the truths from the Word, and the fact that they turned the letter of the Word to their own advantage. As we read in the third lesson, the Arcana teaches that

they had the Word, and yet they were not willing to know from it that the Lord was the Messiah and the Son of God who was to come, nor anything internal of the Word, but only what is external; which they also wrested to their loves, which were the loves of self and the world, thus to favour the lusts which spring from these loves3.

Whatever they found in the Word they twisted and turned and changed until it benefited them and aid them in their pursuit of power and dominion over others.

Is it not then clear that every person is capable of becoming what is represented in the Word by a “bad” soldier when they destroy the Word in themselves by denying the testimony of the Word concerning the Lord and the Lord’s Divinity, or when they misuse or twist the truths of the Word to control or manipulate others? Is it not also true that by applications of the truths presented here in the Word that we can obtain for ourselves those spiritual qualities represented by good soldiers?

The soldiers who cast lots for the Lord’s garments should have been fighting to preserve and protect the things of the Word from the kinds of things the leaders of the Jewish Church were doing to it, but instead, they were selfishly doing what they could to dissipate and divide the truth of the Word.

It is ironic that the soldiers were casting lots for the tunic after dividing and thus destroying the outer tunic. The division of the outer garment represented the way that people pick and choose the sentences and verses from the Word which will support their own particular view of things, so that they can use those teachings to convince others to agree with their views. On the other hand, in their selfish desire to dominate the minds and beliefs of others, to replace the truths from the Word with their own particular falsities and half-truths, even evil men recognize the essential value of the Word. And they also know that the Word has to be whole, there has to be the belief that it is God’s Word in order for it to have the authority they need. If they destroy belief in the Divinity of the Word, then they can no longer use it as a tool — so they have to protect the Word. They see that they must have the sphere or appearance of Divine authority to direct people’s thoughts away from the Divine and to themselves. They must be able to convince others that they, and they alone, have the power to save — that they alone have the real truth. The irony is that the very thing which they seek to supplant, the Divine Authority of the Word, is the very thing that they must have, at least in appearance, for their plan to succeed. If people did not believe there was such a thing as Divine Authority, then others could not claim it for themselves and use it.

Compare this to what the Heavenly Doctrines tell us a man should do, how the love of self-intelligence should be replaced with the love of the Lord’s truth:

…Those who live a moral life from religion and from the Word are elevated above their natural man, thus above what is their proprium, and are led by the Lord through heaven; … Many of the heathen live such a moral life, for they think that evil must not be done because it is contrary to their religion; this is why so many of them are saved4.…To live a moral life not from religion, but only from the fear of the law in the world, and of the loss of fame, honour, and gain, is to live a moral life not from a spiritual but from a natural origin; therefore to such there is no communication with heaven. And as they think insincerely and unjustly regarding the neighbour, although they speak and act otherwise, their internal spiritual man is closed, and the internal natural man only is opened; and when this is open they are in the light of the world, but not in the light of heaven5.

In other words, when people seek to know the truth for the sake of reputation, or that they might be thought to be wiser or more learned than others, those truths are defiled in them by the intention to use them for evil, and therefore, even though they may be truths from the Word, they do not communicate with heaven. On the other hand, if a person fights for truths because they are seen to be the way to live a moral life from religion, then the truths do communicate with heaven — even if they are imperfectly understood and poorly implemented. This, then, is the essential message contained in the text: that a person should fight for the truths of the Word, fight to obtain them for oneself, and fight to protect them from the falsities of the world. By so doing, a person brings himself into a life of morality from religion, and this opens the mind upwards, towards the Lord and heaven, and brings conjunction with the angels.

If a person must fight for truth, if each of us must be a soldier on the side of the Lord, what are we to fight with? What are the soldier’s weapons? As the soldiers in the text recognized the value of the tunic so that they did not divide it, so we too should recognize the value of the influx that the tunic also represents: the continual influx of the affection of truth into the will of mankind. If the Lord did not continually flow into a person’s will and provide him with the ability to be affected by truth when he heard it, then each person’s battle to find and acquire truth would be lost. Thus, the most important weapon in a person’s battle to acquire truth is the ability to perceive that a thing is true because we perceive from remains that it is good. This weapon is our to use from birth6.

If we are to wage this battle, and use the weapons provided us by the Lord, we need to know what we are fighting against, who the enemy is. The enemy is the evils that delight us, and the falsities we invent and conjoin to them so as to excuse them, make them seem proper in our own eyes (if not in the sight of the world), to try to make them seem somehow not evil anymore.

Everyone wants to believe in his own mind that he is doing what is proper and good. Even the hardened criminal has some twisted version of the facts that allows him to believe himself to be innocent, or, at worst, the victim of circumstances. Anyone, or even a church, can find a way of looking at things, that is manipulating the truths, so that they feel justified in their actions. Today we call it putting a “spin” on it. How do we make something we did that was bad look good? Or, how do we make something good somebody else did look bad? A classic illustration of this kind of twisting of the truth can be seen in the example of a horse race with just two horses. The owner of the losing horse reports that his own horse came in second, but the other horse came in “next to last.” It was because of the danger of this kind of twisting being applied to genuine, spiritual truths contained in the Word that the Jewish and Christian churches were not permitted to have the internal sense of the Word. It was to protect those churches from twisting and turning the internal sense until they earned for themselves the lot in the other world reserved for profaners7

Every one must fight for the truths of the Word. Our hereditary nature wants to weave falsities into itself that excuse the exercise of our lusts. To fight this, the Lord has give us the ability to be affected by truth, if we want to be affected. Not just any truth will do, though. The truths that we need to amend our lives and begin to enter into the life of heaven must be truths from the Word, acquired with humility and willingness to listen to what the Lord has to say. Too often we go to the Word to seek justification for some plan or action to which we are already committed. This is just what is meant by dividing the Lord’s outer garment: The gathering of scriptural passages and quotes from the Writings so that they can be arranged to defend or prove the love or views that are already held. What must be done, if we are to be good soldiers, is to read the Word first to see what it teaches, and then use what we learn there to guide our lives. We read from the Heavenly Doctrines:

All things that are in the Word are Divine, … for the reason that they have in them a spiritual sense, and by that sense communicate with heaven and the angels there. When, therefore, man has knowledges from the Word and applies them to his life, then through these he has communication with heaven and by the communication becomes spiritual; for man becomes spiritual by his being in like or in corresponding truths with the angels of heaven….
But the knowledges derived from other books, which set forth and by various means establish the doctrines of the church, do not effect communication with heaven except by the knowledge from the Word they contain….Everyone can see that this is so from this, that the Word in itself is Divine, and what is Divine in itself can become Divine with man by his applying it to his life. Becoming Divine with man means that the Lord can have His abode with man, thus dwelling with Him in what is His own when He dwells in those things with man that are from the Word, for the Lord is the Word8.

When a person looks to the letter and spirit of the Word to confirm what he already believes, or wants to believe, or when he is looking for ammunition to defeat those who believe differently from himself, he closes his spiritual mind to heaven and focuses his attention on the things of the world. If, on the other hand, he looks to the Word in its letter and spirit for guidance as he formulates his beliefs, he is opening his mind towards heaven, and then the Lord will have His abode in him, dwelling with him in those things that are His from the Word to eternity.

Let us close today with a passage from the Doctrine of Charity about what it means to be a good soldier. And let us also consider how the battle against evil and falsity never ends while we yet remain in the world, and the Lord calls each of us to prepare ourselves to become good soldiers in His heavenly army, to fight the good fight for the sake of His truth.

Charity in the Common soldier. If he looks to the Lord and shuns evils as sins, and sincerely, justly, and faithfully does his duty, he also becomes charity; for as to this there is no distinction of persons. He is averse to unjust depredation; he abominates the wrongful effusion of blood. In battle it is another thing. There he is not averse to it; for he does not think of it, but of the enemy as an enemy, who desires his blood. When he hears the sound of the drum calling him to desist from the slaughter, his fury ceases. He looks upon his captives after victory as neighbours, according to the quality of their good. Before the battle he raises his mind to the Lord, and commits his life into His hand; and after he has done this, he lets his mind down from its elevation into the body and becomes brave; the thought of the Lord – which he is then unconscious of remaining still in his mind, above his bravery. And then if he dies, he dies in the Lord; if he lives, he lives in the Lord9. Amen.


1 (See AC 9942:13)

2 See AC 9942:14

3 AC 9942:14

4 AE 195:2

5 AE 195:3

6 See AC 9942:2

7 See AC 373:5

8 AE 195:4

9 Charity 166

First Lesson: GEN 37:2-22

{18} Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. {19} Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming! {20} “Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!” {21} But Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, “Let us not kill him.” {22} And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him”; that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father. Amen.

Second Lesson: JOH 19:14-24

{23} Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. {24} They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things. Amen.

Third Lesson: AC 9942:13, 14

[13] Once it is known from all this what ‘a tunic’ means it is evident what ‘the Lord’s tunic’ referred to in John means… Is there anyone, thinking with reason that is to some extent enlightened, who cannot see that in all this Divine things were meant, and that if this had not been so none of it would have been prophesied in David? … From the internal sense it is evident that truths are meant by ‘garments’, and Divine Truths by ‘the Lord’s garments’; ‘casting lots for’ and ‘dividing them’ pulling apart and dispersing them;… The tunic’s not being divided was a sign that Divine Truth on the spiritual level, emanating directly from Divine Truth on the celestial level, could not be dispersed, because this truth is the inner truth of the Word, such as exists with angels in heaven.

[14] When it says that ‘the soldiers did it’ the meaning is that it was done by those who ought to have been fighting for truths, that is, the Jews themselves with whom the Word existed, but whose characters were nevertheless such that they would disperse it. For they had the Word, yet nevertheless did not wish to know from it that the Lord was the Messiah and Son of God who was to come. Nor did they wish to know anything of the inner meaning of the Word, only the outward, which they also drafted to serve their own loves, which were self-love and love of the world, and so to support their desires gushing out of those loves. These things are meant by dividing up the Lord’s garments; for whatever they did to the Lord represented the state of Divine Truth and Good among them then, thus the way they treated God’s truths was similar to that in which they were treating Him; for while in the world the Lord was Divine Truth itself,…. Amen.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/index.htm

Arcana Coelestia

Apocalypse Explained

Charity

BEHOLD, A SOWER WENT FORTH TO SOW

BEHOLD, A SOWER WENT FORTH TO SOW

A Sermon by Candidate David C. Roth Preached in Baltimore, Maryland June 2, 1991

Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside … some fell on stony place … and some fell among thorns … But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt. 13:3-8).

The people of the land of Canaan around 30 A.D. had a unique teacher in their midsta Divine teacher, Jesus Christ, God incarnate. He was the greatest teacher ever to grace the face of the earth. He alone was able to teach these very external-minded people the truth about life after death, about the kingdom of heaven. He taught them what heaven is like, and He did it in such a way that they could understand it. He accommodated the Divine truth to their modest understandings.

To some who heard, this parable was no more than an illustration of what happens when a farmer sows seed in good or in bad soil. To the others, who later heard the meaning of the parable explained by the Lord, it was seen as it was: an allegorical example of how the people of the church receive the Lord’s doctrinehow they receive His truths.

What they, and many even today, don’t realize is that every detail in the Lord’s teaching, and thus in His Word, is a key to a spiritual vision which can be unlocked and unfolded and so seen in each story. The parable of the sower does teach us about the kingdom of heaven. It teaches us how we must receive the Word of the Lord in order to enter into His heavenly kingdom. It also uncovers for us the kind of barriers we put up in our lives which prevent us from loving and living the truths of the Word which will bring healthy and happy relationships here on earth, and ultimately lead us to heaven.

The sower in our parable is the Lord, and the seed is the Word or truth. The ground in which the seed is sown is the mind and life of the individual, or the church in him or her. We are taught that the church is in each one of us according to how we receive the Lord and His Word. The integrity of the church is said to be according to two things: the soundness and purity of its doctrine, and the degree of charity within it. So it could be said that the four types of ground on which the seed fell in our parable are like various states of the church within us. We can then qualify these various states according to these two requisites.

However, in general these four states could be distinguished as three destructive states and one good state. The first three states, as they are represented in the parable, are not heavenly states; only the fourth state is a heavenly state. However, if we see ourselves in one of these prior three states, we can take heart in the fact that with some hard work on our ground (our attitude), we can break out of our destructive state and move on to a more fruitful one. Symbolically speaking, there is much that can be done to salvage a field which is hard, full of stones, or thorny. We can plow, remove the stones, or weed out the thorns, and then something can grow.

Let’s now consider each one of these kinds of ground to see how they reflect the types of attitudes, and ultimately the life, which we can have toward the Lord’s Word and toward our neighbor.

“And as he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.”

The wayside is ground which is packed down very hard and is dry; it could even be said to be just rock with no soil at all (see AC 5096). There is no way that seed can take root on this type of ground. There is no capacity for the ground to receive the seed in its current state. The obvious result is that the birds of the air come and take the exposed seed away. If we don’t improve the soil, it is like trying to plant grass on a concrete slab. All we are doing is feeding the birds.

The hard rock or ground is said to be our persuasion or our firm, unwavering, or what might be called “bullheaded” set of false ideas. It is a set of confirmed false beliefs, and such falsity that has bound up and imprisoned our ability to think freely and to be open-minded. You can imagine a personmaybe yourself at some pointwho is convinced that his way to do a certain thing is the only way to do it, and that everybody else is wrong. This is an example of a false persuasion.

The Writings describe people living under a false persuasion as follows. “[Such people] are in the persuasion that falsity is truth and truth falsity. This persuasion is such that it takes away all freedom to think anything else, and consequently holds the very thoughts in bonds and as it were in prison” (AC 5096).

A person with this attitude has no time for truth; it is nothing to him. He has no concern for it. The truth of the Word cannot possibly take root in a person who does not care about the truth (see D. Life 90). Is this talking about us when we don’t make the time to worship the Lord or to read His Word? Or when we hear a truth and we reject it because it means having to change our opinion, or admit that we were wrong?

Until the falsity of this state is dispersed, the truth will be destroyed by our own hardened, misguided understanding, an understanding formed by our reasoning from sensory experience alone and so founded upon falsities. This is what is meant by the birds which come and devour the seed which is sown. Falsity will consume the truth in us unless we receive it with a willing heart, a heart which chooses to follow the Lord’s Word and not our own thinking and reasoning faculties. It is what happens to the truth we learn unless we examine ourselves, put away the false ideas, and then begin to live by the truth truth which leads to good.

If we want to depart from this destructive attitude, we must break the bonds of this state by shunning the love we have for our own false ideas and the evil love from which it springs. When this happens, we can then be set free to start thinking openly and honestly and so see clearly the path which leads toward a life of genuine good.

The second destructive state described in this parable is illustrated by the following: “Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up, they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.” This section describes a person who does care for the truth but not for its own sake, which is not to care interiorly, and therefore the truth has no permanence and grants no conviction. This type of person loves truth outwardly, not inwardly. He or she loves truth for the sake of being able to appear intelligent and wise. He gathers in truths and hoards them for the sake of glorifying himself. “Look how smart I am, see how many degrees I hold, and observe how many books are on my shelf.” Truth is not learned for the sake of showing this person how to change his own life to better fit with the Lord’s plan. With him truths can still be called truths, but they are not truths taken for what they really are: ways to show how to live a good life. In this parable “earth” signifies good because it “receives truths as soil does seed,” and allows truth to take root and be of use. When truths have no root in good they are only temporary and superficial. They can look beautiful and make us look pious, but if we receive them for selfish reasons alone they will be of no real use to us when evil spirits rise up and attempt to destroy us and our truths. This is what is meant by the sun rising up and scorching the seedlings. If we remain in this state, then our spiritual life will look like nothing more than a sun-scorched desert rather than the oasis it can become. The Writings tell us that “the love of self lets man down into what is his own, and holds him there, for it looks continually to self, and man’s own is nothing but evil, and from evil comes every falsity” (AE 401:35). It is okay to love to learn truths and to want to be intelligent, so let’s thank the Lord that He has given us intelligence, but then humble ourselves to Him and pray that He show us how to utilize our knowledges to best serve our neighbor and the Lord.

We can never have a new will or desire for following the Lord implanted within us as long as we don’t attempt to put self-love where it belongs, that is, below service to others and below love to the Lord and His Divine uses. When we do this, we can then make the truths we learn our own, truths which the good of the new will would need in order to be born and to survive safely.

Our parable describes a third destructive state which is envisioned in the following: “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.” This verse describes the state of those who have let evils or bad habits take control of their lives. As the Lord’s unfolding of the parable to His followers described, “these are those who hear the word, and the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and they become unfruitful.” When we are in this state, we allow the desires of the flesh and the love for merely sensual and worldly delights to get in the way of truth when we hear it. Basically what we are doing is rejecting the truth because what we are currently doing feels good and we don’t want to give it up. We will allow no truth to lead us away from those things which we love most of all. As the Writings describe those in this state, “They reject the truth as soon as they hear it, and if they listen to it they stifle it . . . . As they deal thus with truths they do not know what good is, for truth and good act as one” (DP 278a:3).

When we are involved in an evil, because it is something we love and therefore brings us delight, it seems to us that we are in freedom. So when we hear anything that would lead us away from our mirage of freedom we reject it. Take for example an individual caught up in justifying his own behavior to cover his dishonest actions. “Yes, I changed some figures on my tax return, but I needed the money so that I could pay for my child’s orthodontic work. I can’t send the government money now or they will put me in jail. What’s $200 to a billion-dollar operation?” To this person truth seems like a set of handcuffs waiting to be secured firmly around his wrists, severely restricting his freedom. But this is only an illusion. The Lord teaches us very plainly that if we know the truth and abide in it, it will make us free. But as long as we insist on holding onto our own insane ideas of freedom, we do nothing but close ourselves off from the genuine delights and peace which accompany true freedomheavenly freedom. This freedom can come about only when we shun the evils of our life and live the truths of the Word. The means for us to do this is always available to us. Just as the sower casts his seed on all types of ground, so too does the Lord give His truth to all. As the Lord teaches in the gospel of Matthew, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). He does not withhold His truth from us no matter what state or destructive behavior we are involved in. But it is our own individual decision whether or not we will receive His truth and put it to use.

The final state to discuss is one of usefulness. We read, “But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” This verse describes the reason why the sower sowed the seed in the first place: to bear fruit. Why would a farmer spend all the time he does plowing, picking out rocks, adding fertilizer, planting, and weeding in his field if he was not expecting a crop? He wouldn’t. The Lord doesn’t give us truths without a reason, without the possibility of use. He gives us the truths in His Word because He knows that if we prepare our minds to receive them, they can bear fruits of good in our lives, and this will bring us real happiness, not some self-created illusion of joy based solely on what our nervous system feeds our brain.

The seed which fell on good ground is illustrative of what happens when we love the truths that are in the Lord’s Word and do them from Him. When we do this we are said to bear fruit (see D.Life 90). In this case “fruits” signify the doing of good from love or charity (see AR 934, AC 3310). The state represented by the good ground which bore fruit is distinguished into three states itself: a hundredfold, sixty, or thirty. This means that we can receive enough of the Lord’s Word to allow us to bear either a lot of fruit or just some. The important thing is that we are doing good, that we are bearing some fruit, any fruit, which can be of use. When this happens, we will be brought into closer contact with the angels of heaven, and they will give us more and more help and strength to work and to till the field of our mind. If we stop and think on which of the following would be easier to prepare, plant, and maintain an acre of ground by ourselves or do the same with as many willing helpers as were needed or desiredthe answer is quite clear. When we shun evils as sins and look to the Lord for help, He will most certainly send it in abundance.

But we will never reach this state unless we believe that the Lord’s Word is Divine truth and holds the answers for life change within it. Beginning with this belief and then gradually responding to the truth in the Word is what will break up the rocky crust of our minds and allow moisture to seep in to soften the soil, making our rational minds ready, ready to receive the seeds of truth which will soon sprout into the tiny seedlings which are the beginnings of a life of good. And in time, with more continued work on the ground of our mind, by pulling out the suffocatory evils and keeping the ground workable, we can enable these little seedlings of good to grow and become good for food, that is, genuine spiritual goods.

The truths of the Lord’s Word are of utmost importance to us. They will do so much for us if we let them. The Lord is the greatest teacher and has the best lessons ready for us, accommodated for each and every one of us no matter what state we are in. His parables teach us as well today as they did when He spoke them to His followers. So the question is, how are we going to choose to receive them? Will we reject them? Will we gather them in for mere appearance? Will we let our hereditary evils choke any good that may come from them?all ways which lead to spiritual starvation. Or will we open up our hearts and minds to them and feed on the produce of the spiritual goods which they can bear? The choice is ours. It is the Lord’s good pleasure that we inherit the kingdom, that is, that we go to heaven. As the Lord said to those who followed His Word in their lives, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34). Amen.

Lessons: Matt. 13:10-13, 31-35, 44-52; Luke 8:4-15; AC 5096


Arcana Coelestia 5096

“Who were bound in the prison house.” That this signifies which were among falsities is evident from the signification of “being bound in a prison house” as being to be among falsities (see n. 4958, 5037, 5038, 5085). They who are in falsities, and still more they who are in evils, are said to be “bound” and in “prison”not that they are in any bond, but for the reason that they are not in freedom, for those who are not in freedom are interiorly bound. For they who have confirmed themselves in falsity are no longer in any freedom to choose and receive truth, and they who have much confirmed themselves therein are not even in freedom to see truth, still less to acknowledge and believe it; for they are in the persuasion that falsity is truth and truth falsity. This persuasion is such that it takes away all freedom to think anything else, and consequently holds the very thought in bonds and as it were in prison. This has become evident to me from much experience with those in the other life who have been in persuasion of falsity through confirmations in themselves.

They are such as not at all to admit truths but to reflect or strike them back again, and this with hardness according to the degree of the persuasion, especially when the falsity is from evil, or when evil has persuaded them. These are they who are meant in the Lord’s parable in Matthew: “Some seeds fell upon the hard way, and the birds came and devoured them” (13:4); the “seeds” are Divine truths; the “hard rock” is persuasion; the “birds” are principles of falsity. They who are such do not even know that they are in bonds or in prison, for they are affected with their own falsity, and love it for the sake of the evil from which it springs; hence they suppose that they are in freedom, for whatever is of the affection or love appears free. But they who are not in confirmed falsitythat is, in the persuasion of falsityeasily admit truths, and see and choose them, and are affected with them, and afterward see falsities as it were beneath themselves, and also see how they who are in the persuasion of falsity are bound. These are in so much freedom that in view and thought they can as it were range through the whole heaven to innumerable truths; but no one can be in this freedom unless he is in good, for from good, man is in heaven, and in heaven truths appear from good.

REUBEN

REUBEN

A Sermon by Rev. Patrick A. Rose Preached in North Ohio May 3, 1992

“And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my man will love me” (Gen. 29:32).

Every day many babies are born into this world. It is a fairly common thing for all of us to hear that some couple we know has had a baby. Because birth is a common enough occurrence, there is a tendency to take the Lord’s creation of new human beings for granted. When we stop and think, though, we realize that the conception, formation and birth of an infant is an amazing miracle. And when the hand of God reaches down to create a human soul, and, from the substances of this world forms a living human body, it is indeed a miracle, a miracle that brings joy to the mother and father, “joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21). Such is the coming of a man into the world. Such is the miracle of birth. The miracle of birth, though, is to be followed by another miracle. After a baby is born, and after his mind has grown to the maturity of adulthood, there is to be another act of creation, another wonderful miracle, another birth. The man is to be reborn, or regenerated. The fact of the matter is that man, from birth, has a tendency, when left to himself, to fall into evils and falsities of every kind. This would seem to be a bitter and depressing truth, yet it is not, for we are taught in the Word that man is not left to himself. The Lord is with him, closer to him than he can ever know, and with his cooperation the Lord creates out of him a new person. He is given a new will and a new understanding, created for him by the Lord within his mind. He may have the same physical body as he did before, but within himself he is miraculously born again. He is regenerated.

This regeneration of man is the subject of the internal sense of what is recorded in the Old Testament concerning the life of Reuben. In general the twelve sons of Jacob represent twelve distinct stages in the rebirth of man, and Reuben, the first-born, represents the beginning of this miracle. “Reuben,” we are taught, “signifies faith, or, more specifically, faith in the understanding” (AC 3863:3, 3869:2). To put it another way, he represents the truth of doctrine which a man has learned (AC 3866). And the truth of doctrine, the Writings teach, is the first, the beginning, of regeneration (see AC 3866). This is because by himself a man does not even know what good is. If he is eventually to come to love and will what is good, he must first learn doctrine from the Word, doctrine which teaches him what is good (see AC 3863:1).

Now doctrine by itself does not, of course, make a man love what is good. A person is never regenerated simply by learning truths. Nevertheless, if the Lord is to regenerate man, man must cooperate with the Lord; and if man is to cooperate, he must see, that is, he must understand, how to cooperate. In other words, man is to have some mental vision of heaven before he can begin to walk the path that leads there. This sight or vision, this faith, is represented by Reuben, whose name is indeed derived from a Hebrew word which means “to see.”

It is in recognition of the importance of this faith in the understanding that we teach our children the truths of the New Church. Whereas it is true that those born with no knowledge of the Word can be saved, their spiritual obscurity is such that most of them must complete their preparation for heaven, complete their regeneration, in the other world. Our hope is that our children, in being given a clear and comprehensive vision of the truth, may later cooperate with the Lord and be regenerated while they still live here on earth. Only in this way can they come to constitute part of the Lord’s church specific, that part of the Lord’s universal church which provides a specific basis, a specific dwelling place, for what is of heaven upon this earth. It is our prayer that our children may come to perform this high use, and it is our solemn responsibility to provide them with the truths they need, the truths of the Lord’s Word.

A person who has been taught truths from the Word has been given a most precious gift. He has been provided the means by which the Lord can lead Him toward what is good. This is what is meant by the words of Leah at the time of Reuben’s birth. After Leah had given birth, she said: “Now, therefore, my man will love me.” “My man” refers to the truth, whereas “will love” refers to the good from that truth. For Leah the birth of Reuben was a way of winning Jacob’s love. So, too, faith in the understanding that knowledge of the truth which the man of the church is to have as he enters adult life is the means by which he can come into the good of truth, that is, into the good which results from living the truth (see AC 6427:1). So it is that faith in the understanding is that which initiates a man into doing what is good.

To begin with, his understanding of the truth is obscure. A person who is only just beginning his regeneration does not have a deep insight into the truth. His will or desire to do what is good is also feeble, for he finds little delight in doing the will of the Lord. Nevertheless, by means of those truths he has learned, and by means of the truths he continues to learn, he can in time come to really love and take delight in what is good. At the same time, he can begin to acquire a deep and clear understanding of the truth, an understanding which is possible only for those who live a good life.

This is what is represented by Reuben’s finding dudaim in the field (see AE 434:8). We are not told what the dudaim were. The word “dudaim” is generally translated simply as “mandrakes.” Whatever these dudaim were, though, we are told that they signify the heavenly marriage, that is, the conjunction between good and truth (see AC 3942, 3952).

To begin with, there is no conjunction between good and that understanding of truth which is represented by Reuben. Indeed, far from there being a conjunction, there seems to be a conflict. A man who only knows truth has no particular desire to do what is good. What he knows and what he does are often in conflict. And yet it is still through his knowledge of the truth that he can eventually come into what the Writings call the heavenly marriage: a state in which the truth he knows makes one with what he loves and lives.

But how can there be a connection between Reuben and the dudaim? That is, how can a mere understanding of truth lead a man to love what is good? Doesn’t a man, in the final analysis, do that which he loves rather than that which he knows?

Faith in the understanding, though, is not an empty, useless vision, with no influence over a man. Consider for a moment two incidents in the life of Reuben. When Joseph’s brethren were about to kill him, it was Reuben who told his brothers not to do so. “Let us not kill him,” Reuben said. “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him” (Gen. 37:21,22). Reuben’s plan was to later retrieve Joseph from the pit and return him to Jacob. When he later returned to the pit and found that Joseph had disappeared, Reuben rent his clothes in grief. Reuben was, as it were, the conscience of his brothers. Later on, when an Egyptian official, who, unknown to them, happens to be Joseph, accuses them of being spies, Jacob’s sons think that their misfortune was some kind of punishment for mistreating their younger brother. Again Reuben speaks up: “Spoke I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and you would not hear?” (Gen. 42:22).

It was Reuben who attempted to stop his brethren from sinning against Joseph in the first place, and it was Reuben who later reminded them of their sin when they were accused of being spies in Egypt. In these incidents is represented the function of the truths a man has learned. The truths a man knows make him aware that he should not commit evil. And if he does commit evil, these same truths then make him aware of why he is unhappy. In short, the truths which a man knows discourage him from doing evil, and cause him anxiety if he has committed evil (see AC 5472). This is something we have all experienced. Have not all of us at times wanted to do something we knew to be wrong? And yet, have we not nevertheless refrained from committing that evil because we know it is wrong? Again, have we not at other times actually gone ahead and committed an evil, only to feel miserable later because we know we have done wrong?

This is the use, this is the power, of faith in the understanding. How, though, can mere understanding, mere knowledge, have power against hereditary tendencies toward evil? It cannot. The fact of the matter is that faith in the understanding is not merely an intellectual thing. If it were, it would have no power. Faith in the understanding, which a person brought up in the church should have as he enters adult life, is by no means merely intellectual. The truths we learn in childhood and in youth are learned with affection. The adult has remains remnants of these affectional states: states of innocence, of charity, of mutual love. These things remain from childhood, and they are protected by the Lord. By themselves they will not save a man. And yet it is this affectional element which gives power to the truth he knows, a power which encourages him to live according to the truth, to obey the truth.

It is when a man obeys the truth that he is beginning to move along the path of regeneration represented by Jacob’s twelve sons. He comes into that state represented by Simeon. Simeon is said to represent a state of obedience, a state when faith enters the will.

And so Reuben is followed by Simeon. Faith in the understanding can lead to obedience, to faith within the will of man. This is the power of a knowledge of the truth, that power mentioned in the blessing which Jacob would later pronounce upon Reuben: “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power” (Gen. 49:3). Those who have an understanding of the truth have a most precious gift from the Lord. In itself it is only the first stage of regeneration. By itself it will not save us. But since it is by means of this that the Lord can create within us a new man, the truth we know is therefore holy. Just as marriage, which can lead to the birth of an infant, is holy, so too faith in the understanding, because it can lead to the rebirth of man, is also holy. We therefore must take care lest we profane the truth we have been given. Reuben, in one shameful episode, went in to his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22). This represents profanation. It represents the profanation we commit when we believe the truths of the church but refuse to live according to them (see AC 4601:2). When this happens, both truth and evil become part of our minds. Truth and evil are mixed together to some extent, and this mixing is profane. It is not as severe as the profanation which occurs when good and evil are mixed, which is when we have actually started to love good and then revert to what is evil. But still it is profane. It is profane not to live the truth we know and believe. This is why Reuben was not only blessed by Jacob, but also cursed: “Unstable as water, you shall not excel because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it: he went up to my couch” (Gen. 49:4). Those who have and who believe the truths of the church must be careful. What they have is precious something that should not be misused or ignored. To reject the truth we have come to believe to reject it by failing to live it leads us into a state of degeneration. But if we live according to the truth, if we live according to it to the best of our ability, then a miracle can begin to happen. As we compel ourselves to live according to the Lord’s truth, a new character arises within our minds. The Lord, who created us, now re-creates us. He gives us a new will, and a new understanding a will or desire to do what is good, and a new understanding or insight into the meaning of truth. We are reborn. We are regenerated.

This is why we are given the truths of the church. These truths have power. They are the beginning of our strength. They are the means of salvation. Amen.


Lessons: Genesis 29:30-32; 30:14-17; 35:19-22; 37:17-22; 37:29-30; 49:1-4; AC 3863:1,3

Arcana Coelestia 3863:1,3

For she said, Because Jehovah hath seen. That in the supreme sense this signifies foresight, in the internal sense faith, in the interior sense understanding, and in the external sense sight, in the present case faith from the Lord, is evident from the signification of “seeing,” concerning which in what follows. From what has been said above, it may be seen that the twelve tribes, named from the twelve sons of Jacob, signified all things of truth and good, or of faith and love, thus all things of the church, and that each tribe signified some universal; thus the twelve tribes signified the twelve universals which comprehend and include within them all things whatsoever that belong to the church, and in the universal sense, all things that belong to the Lord’s kingdom. The universal which “Reuben” signifies is faith. The reason why faith is the first universal is that when man is being regenerated or becoming a church, he must first learn and become imbued with the things of faith, that is, of spiritual truth; for he is introduced by means of the doctrine of faith, or of truth. For man is of such a nature that of himself he does not know what heavenly good is but must learn it from doctrine, which is called the doctrine of faith. Every doctrine of faith regards life as the end, and therefore good, for good is life.

As the subject treated of in this chapter, and in those which precede, is the regeneration of the natural, and here its first state, which is that of introduction by means of truth to good, therefore the first son of Jacob, or Reuben, was named from “Jehovah seeing,” which in the internal sense signifies faith from the Lord. Regarded in itself, faith is a faith in the understanding and a faith in the will; to know and understand the truth which is of faith is called faith in the understanding; but to will the truth which is of faith is called faith in the will. Faith in the understanding is that which is signified by “Reuben”; but faith in the will is what is signified by “Simeon.” That faith in the understanding, or the understanding of truth, precedes faith in the will, or the willing of truth, must be evident to everyone; for when anything is unknown to man (such as heavenly good), he must first know that it exists, and understand what it is, before he can will it.

john 16 the spirit of truth

Chapter 16                                                                                                      internal sence          

  1. But I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you.
  2. And when he is come, he will reprove the world about sin, and about justice, and about judgement.
For truth, in its external manifestation, must apparently be taken away, to the intent that it may be received again internally, and by such internal manifestation may remove from man the powers of evil and error, and establish in him the heavenly powers of good and truth, vs 7, 8.
  1. About sin indeed, because they believe not in me.
  2. But about justice, because I go away to my father, and you see me no more.
  3. But about judgement, because the prince of this world is judged.
All which evil and error result from the non-acknowledgement of the lord’s divine humanity, whilst the glorification of this humanity, together with the subjugation of the powers of darkness, constitute the all of good and of truth, vs 9, 10, 11.
  1. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
  2. But when he shall come, the Spirit of Truth, he will lead you into all truth; for he will not speak of himself, but whatever things he shall hear, [those] he will speak; and he will announce to you things to come.
Therefore a limit is set to the instruction of truth externally, but not to the reception of truth internally, because internal truth is in connection with divine good and truth, and thus leads man to depend on the lord in all states of life, vs 12, 13.
  1. He will glorify me for he shall receive of mine, and shall announce it to you.
  2. All things whatever the father has, are mine; therefore said I that he shall receive of mine, and shall announce to you.
  3. A little while, and you shall not see me; and again a little while, and you shall behold me, because I go away to the father.

26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the    father, the Spirit ofTruth, which proceeds from the father, he will testify of me.
27 And you also shall testify, because you are with me from the beginning.

For internal truth is the operation of the lord’s divine humanity, and thus the medium of communication with the divine truth in its union with the divine good, and therefore it succeeds the external manifestation of truth, vs 14, 15, 16.
Nevertheless the operation of the lord’s humanity, when fully united with the divinity, will prove to every believer that he is the only god by virtue of that union, and every true believer will also confirm this testimony, because he will perceive that all of regeneration from the first insemination of truth, is from that divine source, vs 26, 27.

SWEET DRUGS THAT KILL

SWEET DRUGS THAT KILL

A Sermon by Rev. Grant H. Odhner

Preached in Rochester, Michigan June 7, 1992

Samson – what a puzzling picture he presents! Are we to respect him? Are we to regard him as a good servant of the Lord and of Israel? His behavior, viewed literally, is completely reprehensible by any moral standards we would recognize today. His causes and conquests are all a product of his whims, his folly, or his vengefulness (read Judges 14-16). Yet as a Nazarite, judge and hero, he clearly represents something good. And the Word never says anything that would harm this representation.

Clearly Samson’s good representation does not lie in his sense of judgment, motives or behavior per se. It lies in his special status as a Nazarite, in his role as judge, and (especially) in his role as a great champion of his people. To appreciate this we have to assume the mind-set of the time: the Philistines were the enemy; the more of them dead the better. In this light his conquests picture, symbolically, the triumph of good and truth over evil and falsity. Samson’s great strength and prowess become a symbol of the Lord’s power working for us.

Samson’s power lay in his hair. The Nazarite, one “set apart” to God by a vow, was not allowed to eat or drink anything from the vine, nor cut his hair during the period of his vow. We’re not told anywhere else that Nazarites had strength from their hair as Samson did. Perhaps this was because Samson was a different kind of Nazarite. He didn’t just take a vow for a time; he was a permanent Nazarite, chosen by the Lord and set apart “from [his mother’s] womb to the day of his death.” In any case, Samson’s hair holds the key to his strength and the key to his spiritual meaning.

What does “hair” stand for in the Word? Hair is a relatively external and lifeless part of our body. It is the body’s outermost covering, a covering that presents us to view, protects, insulates, and extends our sense of touch. Hair stands for something in our spirit, something relatively lifeless and external, namely, natural truth. Natural truth is truth in its outermost form, truth as it appears and works outwardly in the world. For instance, hair stands for truth as we read it in the Word, truth as knowledge seen and grasped literally. Hair also stands for that same truth when we let it affect our actions.

Truth as knowledge, and truth as it governs our outer behavior, is in itself a relatively lifeless thing. We don’t have to be a spiritual person to know truth and to act in certain ways. Our outer life has all its spiritual vitality from our inner loves, motives, intentions. On the other hand, what we know and do is the hair that clothes our spiritual lives. Our spirit presents itself to view in our behavior. Our actions are “the bottom line.”

Hair consists of strands or threads. These bring to mind rope that can be used to tie one thing to another. The word “religion” means a binding. We speak of the “bond” of conscience. The spiritual life is a life of living within certain bonds. These bonds contain our outermost life.

If we have spiritual love in our hearts, we restrain our lips and tongue from saying certain things that are unkind, things that are untrue, things that are self-serving. We restrain our eyes from looking at certain things, from wandering where they should not. We turn our ears away from certain kinds of music or conversation. We discipline our hands to tasks that must be done. We force our bodies to go where they ought to goto seek out useful tasks, to seek out people, to go to church. We allow ourselves to be bound by virtues such as promptness, industriousness, temperance.

Our lives become bounded by and bound to certain physical actions. These are what express our spirituality, in the measure that they are from the Word. It is these outer things that are symbolized by hair.

There is tremendous power in the bonds of our outer lives. When we establish good habits of speaking and acting, good routines, we are protected from untold evils!

The story of Samson and Delilah is about bonds or ties. The tension is between Samson’s remaining a Nazarite (retaining his hair) and his giving in to Delilah. Delilah wants to tie him to herself and destroy his power. It is telling that she presses him to find out “what he may be bound with.”

The force behind Delilah is the Philistine lords. In general they picture the power of evil, or what is the same, the power of spirits from hell. The “Delilah” that evil spirits use to seduce us and gain the mastery over us is selfish delight.

The Writings of the New Church observe that delight is something we often don’t notice. Delights tend to “banish reflection” (DP 113). We are “led by delight as something that is borne along by the current of a river” (DP 73:2). It leads us silently and strongly, without our noticing where it’s taking us. As a result, unless we’re trained to know what is good and what is not, and unless we’re aware, we don’t experience evil as something evil but as something delightful, which we don’t analyze as such (see DP 296:9). Delight blinds us to evil. The Writings note that: “People who are immersed in self-love and love of the world are quite incapable of believing that they are under the influence of such filthy and unclean loves as in fact they are. Indeed, a certain pleasure and delight exists which coaxes, encourages, and allures, and causes them to love that life, to prefer it to all other kinds of life, and so to imagine that there is nothing bad about it at all. For whatever encourages anyone’s love and resulting life is considered to be good. For this reason also the rational agrees to it and produces confirmatory falsities, which lead to blindness so great that people see nothing at all of what heavenly love is” (AC 2045).

Samson’s flirting with Delilah led to blindness. Spiritually viewed this is a story about how, when we give in to delights of evil, they can subtly lull our minds to sleep, and take from us an important source of our power and protection, namely our outer life of truth: our good behavior and good routines based on the Word’s truth.

Delilah was attractive. Samson kept going back. Did he know she was dangerous? Did he suppose he could tread the line just “this side” of losing his life and freedom? He thought he could withhold his secret and still sport with her. But we can see that his clues got closer to the mark. The first three times she bound him he did escape, but the escape was only a physical one. Spiritually viewed, those three times she bound him with the bowstrings, the rope, and the loompicture the successive and complete binding of his mind. (“Three” means “complete” and “to the full” in the Word.) Each time he was, inwardly, surrendering more and more. We can see this pictured in the fact that on the third occasion he even alluded to his hair in his false clue. What’s more, for the first time it is mentioned that she “lulled him to sleep.” Here, as in the final incident when Delilah shaved his hair off, Samson’s “sleep” symbolizes our utter surrender to selfish delights and our unconscious slavery to them.

Evil’s delights are what seduce us. We are all vulnerable to them. But, tragically, the delights themselves often aren’t that attractive to usnot at first; they actually “grow” on us. We see evils all around us; they are occasioned in our thoughts from many sources. But these evils don’t stick to us at once. They wheedle their way in. Curiosity gets them started. We wonder about them; we let our thoughts wander; we take an almost indifferent “nibble” to see what they “taste” like. But only by inner consent does our sense of delight begin to grow.

Hell’s delights press for consent and especially action. They can press usas Delilah pressed Samson daily with her words but they cannot compel us to consent. This is important. They beckon to us from our “external person,” that is, from our body and senses and outer mind; they try to allure the inner “us” “to consent and to love” (DP 136:5). But our inner person has the freedom and power to evaluate and choose between the many thoughts and suggestions that are proposed to us. Nothing becomes our own except what becomes part of our will and its love. Hell infuses things into our stream of consciousness all the time, but these things are only in the “outer hallway.” Even when they seem alluring and attractive to us, they are still not ours unless we dwell on them at length and consent to them.

But the real thing that secures hell’s hold on us is when we go beyond consent and act on their suggestion, either outwardly or by deliberate thoughts and fantasies. When we act in these ways, they can inflow with a greater sense of freedom and delight. This kind of inflow creates a bond that isn’t easily broken.

The inner reality here is that by deliberate acts of will we become organically connected with communities of devils from hell. It is from these communities that evils and their delights come. About our spiritual situation we read from the Apocalypse Explained:

“A person’s affections, from which his thoughts spring, have extension into communities in the spiritual world on every side, into more or fewer of them according to the amount and quality of the affection. A person as to his spirit is within these communities and to them he is attached as it were with extended cords. These cords determine the space where he can walk . . . . Through these communities the person, that is, his mind, although bound walks free” (1174:2).

The work Divine Providence (n. 296:3) explains what happens when we become confirmed in evil:

“As [a person] wills and commits evil, he advances into infernal communities more and more interiorly and also more and more deeply. Hence also the delight of evil increases and occupies his thoughts so much that at last he feels nothing more pleasant. He who has advanced more interiorly and deeply into infernal societies becomes as though he were bound with chains. So long as he lives in the world, however, he does not feel his chains, for they are as if made from soft wool or from fine silk threads, and he loves them since they give him pleasure; but after death, instead of being soft they become hard, and instead of being pleasant they become galling.”

The problem with acting on evil is that our mind enters these communities, and we give them permission to inflow. The result is that once we have indulged some evil delight once or twice, it quickly becomes difficult to stop. This explains the power of habits and addictions. This is why the Writings warn: “Let people beware of actual evils” (SE 4479, emphasis added). All this suggests what was happening, in the spiritual sense, to Samson.

Samson was blinded and imprisoned when they cut his hair off. His ruin began when he flirted with Delilah and then consented to her nagging, and “told her all his heart.” But his ruin was complete when she removed the outward bond of his covenant with the Lord. That’s when “the Lord left him” (v. 19).

We spoke earlier of the outward bonds of our life: our daily routines and rituals, our practical moral standards and boundaries. We barely reflect on these low-level matters; they are habitual. Often we don’t appear to adhere to them from much conviction or from lofty principle. But they are so important. They hold us in good, and they are our last protection against falling to the wiles of evil. It is relatively hard for hell to break these outer bonds.

It is hard for us to be carried away by prolonged fantasies when we are in the habit of daily prayer and reading the Word. It is difficult for this to happen when we stick to routines of usefulness and personal responsibility and hygiene. If married people have good habits of communication and set times for interaction with their spouse, it’s not easy for them to become entangled with lust for other friendships. Our standard of good manners and propriety can protect us from all sorts of dangerous situations.

It’s only when hell removes these outermost bonds and get us to act on their suggestions that we fall into trouble.

Our emphasis in this sermon has been on the interplay between “Delilah” and “Samson’s hair,” that is, between the delights that attract and assail us, and the bonds that natural truth can bring to our life. In these bonds lie our final power of resistance to evil and our final power of dwelling securely and peacefully in a heaven-centered life.

But let it be noted that the story doesn’t end merely with blindness, imprisonment, and the enemies’ derision. There is always a way out of bondage to evil. That path is repentance. Repentance is basically struggling against evil with the Lord’s help, and beginning a new life. This new life is pictured in Samson’s grinding wheat in the prison, and his hair gradually growing back.

A wonderful thing is that through repentance we learn to become wary of delights that allure and attract us. We learn to shun them despite their appeal. Indeed, we are told, “[evils and their delights] are not subdued unless [we come to regard them] as sweet drugs that kill, or as flowers apparently beautiful that carry poison in them” (Charity 2). The encouraging thing is that over time, evil delights do gradually lose their appeal and allure. First they become no longer delightful, then distasteful, and finally we feel an actual loathing and aversion for them (ibid.; see also DP 146; AC 3938:4; TCR 532, 567:6). We can imagine that Samson developed such feelings for Delilah as he ground in the prison day by day.

Samson, after much pain, contempt, and hard work in captivity, regains his power and is liberated to glory. He gains the final mastery over his enemies. So too can we, with effort and prayer and continual looking to our Lord, the source of Samson’s strength. Amen.

Lessons: Judges 16; AC 6203-6206:1

Arcana Coelestia 6203-6206

In regard to the origin of the influx of evil from hell, the case is this. When a person first from consent, then from purpose, and at last from the delight of affection, casts himself into evil, then a hell is opened which is in such evil (for the hells are distinct from one another according to evils and all their varieties), and there afterward takes place an influx from that hell. When a person comes into evil in this way, it clings to him, for the hell in the sphere of which he then is is in its very delight when in its evil; and therefore it does not desist but obstinately presses in and causes the man to think about that evil, at first occasionally, and afterward as often as anything presents itself which is related to it, and at last it becomes with him that which reigns universally. And when this takes place, he then seeks for such things as confirm that it is not an evil, and this until he wholly persuades himself; and then, insofar as he can, he studies to remove external bonds, and makes evils allowable and clever, and at last even becoming and honorable, such as adulteries, thefts effected by art and deceit, various kinds of arrogance and boasting, contempt for others, vituperations, persecutions under an appearance of justice, and the like. The case with these evils is like that with downright thefts, which when committed of set purpose two or three times cannot be desisted from; for they continually cling to the person’s thought.

Be it known further that the evil which enters into the thought does no harm to the person, because evil is continually infused by spirits from hell, and is continually repelled by angels. But when evil enters into the will, then it does harm, for then it also goes forth into act whenever external bonds do not restrain. Evil enters into the will by being kept in the thought, by consent, especially by act and the consequent delight.

I have often noticed that evil spirits put on especially a person’s persuasions and cupidities, and that when they put them on, they rule the person despotically; for he who introduces himself into a person’s cupidities and into his persuasions subjects the person to himself and makes him his servant. Whereas influx through angels takes place in accordance with a person’s affections, which they gently lead and bend to good, and do not break, the very influx being tacit and scarcely perceptible, for it flows into the interiors and continually acts by means of freedom.

Be it further known that all evil flows in from hell, and all good through heaven from the Lord. But the reason why evil is appropriated to a person is that he believes and persuades himself that he thinks and does it from himself, and in this way makes it his own. If he believed as is really the case, then evil would not be appropriated to him, but good from the Lord would be appropriated to him; for the moment that evil flowed in, he would reflect that it was from the evil spirits with him, and as soon as he thought this, the angels would avert and reject it. For the influx of the angels is into what a person knows and believes, but not into what a person does not know and does not believe; for their influx is not fixed anywhere except where there is something pertaining to the person.