June 27, 2016

Concerning God, The Immortality of the Soul, Regeneration, Baptism and Holy Supper

Selection from Apocalypse Revealed ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Memorable Relation
I saw an assembly of spirits, all upon their knees, praying to God to send angels to them, that they might converse with them face to face, and open to them the thoughts of their hearts. And when they arose, there appeared three angels in fine linen, standing before them, and they said, "The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open unto us the thoughts of your hearts."

And they answered, "We have been told by our priests, that in matters of a theological nature the understanding avails nothing, but only faith, and that in such things intellectual faith is of no service to anyone, because it is derived from man. We are Englishmen, and have heard many things from our sacred ministry, which we believed; but when we have conversed with others, who also called themselves the Reformed, and with others who called themselves the Roman Catholics, and likewise with sectaries, they all appeared to us learned, and yet, in many things, one did not agree with another, and still they all said, `Believe us;' and some of them, `We are God's ministers, and know.'  But as we know that the Divine truths, which are called truths of faith, and which appertain to the church, are not derived to anyone from his native soil, nor by inheritance, but out of heaven from God; and as these show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity, and so lead to eternal life, we became anxious, and prayed to God upon our knees."

Then the angels answered, "Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths which should constitute your faith and life; for all in the Christian world draw their doctrinals from the Word as from the only fountain." But two of the company said, "We have read, but did not understand."

And the angels replied, "You did not approach the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in falsities"; and the angels said further, "What is faith without light, and what signifies thinking without understanding? This is not human; even magpies and ravens can learn to speak without understanding. We can affirm to you, that every man whose soul desires it is capable of seeing the truths of the Word in the light; there does not exist an animal that does not know the food proper to its life when it sees it, and man is a rational and spiritual animal, who sees the food of his life, not that of his body, but of his soul, which is the truth of faith, provided indeed he hungers after it, and seeks it from the Lord; whatsoever is not received also in the understanding is not fixed in the memory in reality, but only verbally; therefore, when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything, but have only heard sounds, that are for the most part dissonant.

"But we will enumerate some things which the learned among the clergy have removed from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways to the understanding, one from the world, and the other from heaven, and that the Lord withdraws the understanding from the world when He enlightens it; but if the understanding be closed by religion, the way into it from heaven is closed, and then man sees no more in the Word than a blind person. We have seen many such fall into pits, out of which they have never risen again. Examples must serve for illustration: are you not able to understand what charity is, and what faith is; that charity consists in doing well by your neighbor, and that faith consists in thinking well of God and of the essentials of the church, and therefore that he who does well and thinks well, that is, who lives well and believes well, is saved?" They replied, that they understood these things.

The angels said further, "Do you not understand, that repentance from sins is to be performed, in order that man may be saved, and that, unless a man actually repents, he abides in the sins into which he was born, and that the work of repentance consists in not willing evils because they are against God, and in examining himself once or twice a year, in seeing his evils, in confessing them before the Lord, imploring assistance, desisting from them, and leading a new life, and as far as he does this, and believes in the Lord, so far his sins are remitted?" Then some of the company replied, "This we understand, and thence also what remission of sins is."

And then they solicited the angels to give them further information, and especially concerning God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism. To this the angels replied, "We will not say anything but what you can understand, otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which although watered from heaven, still wither and perish."

  • Concerning God they said, "All who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God, because this idea reigns universally in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to anyone, nor does it terminate in any, therefore it ceases and perishes. The idea of God as Spirit, when a spirit is believed to be like ether or wind, is an empty idea; but the idea of God as Man is a just idea, for God is the Divine love and the Divine wisdom, with every quality belonging thereto, and the subject of these is man, and not ether or wind. The idea of God in heaven is the idea of the Lord. He is the God of heaven and earth, as He Himself taught. Let your idea of God be like unto ours, and we shall be consociated together." On saying these words, their faces became resplendent.
  • Concerning the Immortality of the Soul, they said, "Man lives to eternity, because he can be conjoined with God by love and faith, this indeed is possible with everyone. That this possibility constitutes the immortality of the soul you may understand, if you think of it a little more deeply."
  • Concerning Regeneration; "Who does not see that everyone is at liberty to think of God, or not to think of Him, provided he be instructed that there is a God; so that everyone has liberty in spiritual things, equally as in things civil and moral; the Lord gives this liberty to all continually; for which reason he becomes guilty, if he does not think of God. Man is man from this ability; but a beast is a beast from not having this ability; therefore man can reform and regenerate himself as from himself, provided he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who does the work of repentance, and believes in the Lord, is reformed and regenerated. Man must do both as from himself, but this 'as from himself' is from the Lord. It is true that man cannot contribute anything thereto, no not in the least, nevertheless you were not created statues, but you were created men, that you might do that from the Lord as from yourselves. This is the only reciprocal of love and faith, that it is altogether the Lord's will that it should be done by man unto Him. In a word, do it from yourselves, and believe that you do it from the Lord, thus do it as from yourselves."

    But then the Englishmen inquired, Whether to act as from oneself, is a faculty implanted in man from creation? The angel answered, "It is not implanted, because to act from Himself is the Lord's alone, but it is communicated continually, that is, adjoined continually, and then so far as man does good and believes what is true, as from himself, so far he is an angel of heaven; but so far as he does evil and thence believes what is false, which is done also as from himself, so far he is an angel of hell. That this also is as from himself surprises you, but still you see that it is so, when you pray that you may be preserved from the devil, lest he should seduce you, and enter into you, as he did into Judas, fill you with all iniquity, and destroy you, soul and body. But everyone incurs guilt who believes that he acts from himself, whether it be good, or whether it be evil; but he does not incur guilt, who believes that he acts as from himself."
  • Concerning Baptism, they said, "That it is spiritual washing, which is reformation and regeneration; and that an infant is reformed and regenerated, when, on becoming an adult, he does the things which his sponsors promised for him, which are two, repentance and faith in God; for they promise first that he shall renounce the devil and all his works; and second, that he shall believe in God. All infants in heaven are initiated into these two, but to them the devil is hell, and God is the Lord. Moreover baptism is a sign before the angels that a man is of the church.

On hearing these things, some of the assembly said, "This we understand." But a voice was heard from one side, exclaiming, "We do not understand;" and another voice, "We will not understand;" and inquiry was made from whence these voices proceeded, and it was found that they came from those who had confirmed themselves in falsities of faith, and who wished to be believed as oracles, and thus to be adored.

The angels said, "Be not surprised: there are very many such at this day; they appear to us from heaven like graven images, made with such art as to be able to move the lips, and utter sounds like organs, but without knowing whether the breath, by means of which they utter these sounds, comes from hell or from heaven, because they do not know whether a thing be false or true. They reason and reason; they confirm and confirm, nor do they ever see whether it is so. But know, that human ingenuity can confirm whatsoever one wishes, even until it appears to be so; therefore heretics and impious persons, yea atheists can confirm that there is no God, but nature only."

Afterwards the assembly of Englishmen, enkindled with the desire of being wise, said to the angels,

  • "So many various opinions are spoken of the Holy Supper, tell us what is the truth." The angels replied, "The truth is that the man who looks to the Lord and performs repentance, is conjoined with the Lord by means of that most holy sacrament, and is introduced into heaven." But some of the company said, "This is a mystery." To which the angels replied, "It is a mystery, but still such that it can be understood. The bread and wine do not produce this effect, for there is nothing holy in them, but material bread and heavenly bread correspond mutually to each other, and so do material wine and heavenly wine; and heavenly bread is the holy of love, and heavenly wine is the holy of faith, both from the Lord, and both the Lord. Thence there is a conjunction of the Lord with man, and of man with the Lord, not with the bread and wine, but with the love and faith of the man who had done the work of repentance; and conjunction with the Lord is also introduction into heaven."

And after the angels had taught them something concerning correspondence and its effect, some of the company said, "Now for the first time we understand." And when they said, "We understand," behold a flame with light descending from heaven, consociated them with the angels, and they loved one another.

(Apocalypse Revealed 224)

June 25, 2016

Fig-Leaves That Wither Away

Excerpt from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came, if haply He might find any thing thereon: and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.  And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.  And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;  And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.  And He taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.  And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy Him: for they feared Him, because all the people was astonished at His doctrine.  And when even was come, He went out of the city.  And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.  Mark 11:13-20

"figs on the fig-tree" denote natural good; "leaf" truth, which in this case is "fallen." Likewise in Isaiah 34:4:  And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.

The same is meant by the fig-tree which Jesus saw and found nothing thereon but leaves, and which therefore withered away (Matt. 21:19, 20; Mark 11:13-14, 20). Specifically, by this fig-tree there was meant the Jewish Church, in which there was no longer anything of natural good; and the religious teaching or truth that was preserved in it, are the "leaves;" for a vastated church is such that it knows truth, but is not willing to understand it. Similar are those who say that they know truth or the things of faith, yet have nothing of the good of charity: they are only fig-leaves, and they wither away.

(Arcana Coelestia 885)

June 24, 2016

When the Idea of God is Wrong

Selection from True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The belief that the passion of the cross was redemption itself is the fundamental error of the church; and this error, together with the error respecting three Divine persons from eternity, has perverted the whole church to such an extent that there is nothing spiritual left in it.

What at the present day more fills and crams the books of the orthodox, or what is more zealously taught and inculcated in the schools, or what is more frequently preached and proclaimed from the pulpit, than that God the Father, being angry with the human race, not only put it away from Himself, but also included it under a universal damnation, and thus excommunicated it; but being gracious, He persuaded or inspired His Son to descend and take upon Himself this determined damnation, and thus appease the anger of His Father; and that under no other conditions could the Father look with favor upon mankind?  And further, that this was actually done by the Son; in that by taking upon Himself the damnation of the human race He suffered Himself to be scourged, to be spit upon, and finally crucified by the Jews as one "accursed of God" (Deut. 21:23); and after this had been done the Father was propitiated, and from love for His Son canceled the damnation, but only on behalf of those for whom the Son might intercede, and that the Son thus became a Mediator perpetually before His Father.

The churches of the present day resound with these and like ideas; they are reverberated from the walls like echoes from the forests, and fill the ears of all there.  But cannot everyone whose reason has been enlightened and made sane by the Word see that God is mercy itself and pity itself, because He is love itself and good itself, and that these are His essence? It is therefore a contradiction to say that essential mercy or good can look upon man with anger and determine upon his damnation, and continue to be its own Divine Essence. Such things can hardly be ascribed to a good man, but only to a bad man, nor can they be ascribed to an angel of heaven, but only to a spirit of hell. It is therefore horrible to ascribe them to God.

But if it is asked why this has been done the answer is, that the passion of the cross has been taken for redemption itself; and from this these ideas have flowed forth, as from one falsity, falsities flow forth in a continuous series, or as from a cask of vinegar nothing but vinegar can flow, or from an insane mind nothing but insanity can flow.  For from a single conclusion kindred principles flow; these lie hidden in the conclusion, and grow out of it one after another; and from the doctrine that the passion of the cross was redemption there may proceed or be drawn many other things that are scandalous and dishonoring to God, until the saying in Isaiah comes to pass:

The priest and the prophet err through strong drink; they stumble in judgment; for all tables are full of the vomit of filthiness (Isa. 28:7-8).

From this idea of God and redemption, all theology from being spiritual has become in the lowest degree natural, and this because merely natural properties have been attributed to God; and yet on the idea of God and the idea of redemption, which makes one with salvation, everything pertaining to the church depends.  For this idea is like the head from which all parts of the body proceed; therefore when this is a spiritual idea everything pertaining to the church becomes spiritual, and when it is a natural idea everything pertaining to the church becomes natural; consequently, as the idea of God and redemption has become purely natural, that is, sensual and corporeal, so all things that have been taught and are taught by the heads and members of the church in their dogmatic theology are purely natural.  And nothing but falsities can be hatched from this theology, for the reason that the natural man acts constantly against the spiritual, and therefore regards what is spiritual as something spectral, or as an airy phantasmAnd in consequence it may be said that owing to this sensual idea of redemption, and thus of God, the ways to heaven, which are the ways to the Lord God the Savior, are beset by thieves and robbers (John 10:1, 8-9); and that the doors of the churches are thrown down, giving entrance to dragons, owls, and the wild beasts of the deserts and the islands, which sing together there in horrible discord.  It is known that this idea of redemption and of God pervades the faith of the present day, which is, that men should beseech God the Father to pardon their offenses for the sake of the cross and blood of His Son, and beseech God the Son to pray and intercede for them, and God the Holy Spirit to justify and sanctify them.  What is this but praying to three Gods in their order?  And wherein does this conception of the Divine government differ from that of an aristocracy or a hierarchy, or such a triumvirate as once existed at Rome, except that instead of a triumvirate it may be called a tri-personate?  And then what is easier than for the devil to "divide and rule," as the saying is, that is, to distract men's minds, and to excite rebellious movements, now against one God and now against another, as has been done from the time of Arius [256AD - 336AD] until now; which is equivalent to hurling from His throne the Lord God the Savior, who has all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18), and seating upon that throne some of the devil's own minions and offering worship to him; or because worship is taken from him, taking it away also from the Lord Himself?

(True Christian Religion 132 - 133)

June 23, 2016

External and Internal Thought

Selection from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Every man of mature age has an external and an internal of thought, and therefore an external [and an internal] of will and understanding, or an external and an internal of the spirit, which is the same as the external and the internal man; and this is evident to any one who observes carefully another's thoughts and intentions as exhibited in his words or acts, and also his own thoughts when in company and when he is alone. For one can talk with another in a friendly way from external thought, and yet be at enmity with him in internal thought. From external thought together with its affection a man can talk about love towards his neighbor and love to God, when in his internal thought he cares nothing for the neighbor and has no fear of God. From external thought together with its affection a man can talk about the justice of civil laws, the virtues of moral life, and matters of doctrine and spiritual life; and yet when alone by himself he may from internal thought and its affection speak against the civil laws, the virtues of moral life, and matters of doctrine and spiritual life; and this is done by those who are in the lusts of evil, but who wish it to appear before the world that they are not in them.

Moreover, many think to themselves, when they hear others talking, whether these are interiorly in themselves thinking in accord with the thoughts they are expressing, whether or not they are to be believed, and what their intentions are. It is well known that flatterers and hypocrites have a double thought; for they are able to keep things to themselves and to guard against disclosing their interior thought; and some can conceal it more and more deeply, and as it were block up the doors lest it appear. That both exterior and interior thought are possible to man is also clearly evident from his being able from his interior thought to look upon his exterior thought, and also to reflect upon it, and to judge of it whether it is evil or not evil. That the mind of man is such is due to the two faculties that man has from the Lord, called liberty and rationality. Unless man had from these an external and an internal of thought he would not be able to perceive and see any evil in himself and be reformed; in fact, he would not be able to speak, but only to utter sounds like a beast.

(Divine Providence 104)

Faith Alone Does Not Make The Church With Man

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
It is commonly believed that the truth of the doctrine of faith of the church is one and the same thing with the truth of the literal sense of the Word...

The subject may be illustrated by an example: The genuine truth of the doctrine of the church is that charity toward the neighbor and love to the Lord make the church with man, and that these loves are insinuated by the Lord through faith, that is, by means of the truths of faith which are from the Word, consequently that faith alone does not make the church with man. He who is in this truth, and consults the Word, is everywhere confirmed therein. But when he meets with words about faith, and no mention is made at the same time of love, he hesitates, and begins to revolve doubts with respect to the truth of the doctrine of his faith. Consequently this truth is for the time invalidated, and is separated from the other truths which are of undoubted faith.

Let the words of the Lord in Mark about faith serve for illustration:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16).

As faith is here treated of, and not love at the same time, the mind may halt in doubt concerning the truth of its doctrine - that heavenly love insinuated by means of the truths of faith makes the church. But when this memory-truth, that is, truth of the literal sense of the Word, is viewed interiorly, it is plain that it nevertheless does agree with the truth of doctrine; for in the internal sense by "being baptized" is signified to be regenerated, and to be regenerated is to be led into the good of love and charity by means of the truths of faith. From this it is evident that the truth which is the truth of the literal sense of the Word agrees with the truth of doctrine, provided it is understood what is signified by "being baptized."  And the reason why it is said that "he that believeth not shall be condemned," is that such a one cannot be "baptized," that is, regenerated, thus cannot be introduced into the church, still less become a church; for baptism is a symbol of regeneration, and thus of introduction into the church, which is effected by introduction into good by means of truths from the Word.

(Arcana Coelestia 9032:1,2)

June 22, 2016

Charity and Faith with Man

Selection from New Jerusalem Heavenly Doctrine ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
No one can know what faith is in its essence, unless he knows what charity is, because where there is no charity there is no faith, for charity makes one with faith as good does with truth. For what man loves or holds dear, this to him is good, and what man believes, this to him is truth; whence it is plain that there is a like union of charity and faith, as there is of good and truth....

The union of charity and faith is also like that of the will and the understanding with man; for these are the two faculties which receive good and truth, the will receiving good and the understanding truth; thus, also, these two faculties receive charity and faith, since good is of charity and truth is of faith. Everyone knows that charity and faith are with man, and in him, and because they are with man, and in him, they must be in his will and understanding, for all the life of man is therein, and from thence. Man has also memory, but this is only the outer court, where those things are collected together which are to enter into the understanding and the will. Thence it is evident that there is a like union of charity and faith, as there is of the will and the understanding....

Charity conjoins itself with faith with man, when man wills that which he knows and perceives; to will is of charity, and to know and perceive is of faith. Faith enters into man, and becomes his, when he wills and loves that which he knows and perceives; meanwhile it is without him.

Faith does not become faith with man, unless it becomes spiritual, and it does not become spiritual, unless it becomes of the love; and it then becomes of the love, when man loves to live truth and good, that is, to live according to those things which are commanded in the Word.

(New Jerusalem Heavenly Doctrine 108-111)

June 16, 2016

The Word Being Opened to the Churches, and Afterwards Closed

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

(Matthew 22:35-40)
As regards the Word being opened to the churches, and being afterwards closed, the case is this: in the beginning of the setting up of any church, the Word is at first closed to the men of it, and is afterwards opened, the Lord so providing; and thus they learn that all doctrine is founded on the two commandments - that the Lord is to be loved above all things, and the neighbor as themselves.  When these two commandments are regarded as the end, the Word is opened; for all the Law and the Prophets, that is, the whole Word, so depend on these commandments that all things are derived from them and therefore all have reference to them.  And whereas the men of the church are then in the principles of truth and good, they are enlightened in everything they see in the Word; for the Lord is then present with them by means of angels, and teaches them (although they are unaware of this), and also leads them into the life of truth and good.

This may be seen also from the case of all churches, in that they were such in their infancy, and worshiped the Lord from love, and loved the neighbor from the heart.  But in process of time churches withdraw from these two commandments, and turn aside from the good of love and charity to the so-called things of faith, thus from life to doctrine; and insofar as they do this, so far the Word is closed.

(Arcana Coelestia 3773)

June 10, 2016

God Can Only Do Good

Selection from True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
God's Omnipotence in the universe, with each and all things of it, proceeds and operates in accordance with the laws of His order. God is omnipotent because He has from Himself all power; while all others have power only from Him. His power and His will are one; and as He wills only what is good He can do nothing but what is good.

In the spiritual world no one is able to do anything contrary to his will; and this is derived from God, because His power and will are one. Moreover, God is good itself, therefore in His doing good He is in Himself, and to go out of Himself is impossible. Evidently, then, God's omnipotence must go forth and operate within the sphere of extension of the good; and this sphere is infinite.  For this sphere, [going forth] from the inmost, fills the universe and each and all things in it; and from the inmost rules the things which are without so far as they conjoin themselves with it in accordance with the laws of their own order; and if they do not conjoin themselves with it, it still sustains them, and by every endeavor labors to restore them to an order that is harmonious with the universal order, in which God Himself is in His omnipotence, and in accordance with which He acts. And when this is not accomplished they are cast out from Him; but even then He none the less sustains them from the inmost.

From this it is clear that the Divine omnipotence cannot by any means go forth from itself to a contact with any thing evil, or from itself promote any thing evil; for evil turns itself away, and in consequence evil is wholly separated from Him and is cast into hell, between which and heaven, where He is, there is a great gulf.

From these few statements it can be seen how deluded those are who think, and still more those who believe, and still more those who teach, that God can damn anyone, curse anyone, send anyone to hell, predestine any soul to eternal death, avenge wrongs, be angry, or punish. He cannot even turn Himself away from man, nor look upon him with a stern countenance. These and like things are contrary to His essence; and what is contrary to His essence is contrary to His very Self.

(True Christian Religion 56)

June 9, 2016

Conjunction Only Possible When Effected Reciprocally

From True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Eternal life and salvation are impossible without conjunction with the Lord, for the reason that He is both of these. That He is eternal life is clearly evident from certain passages in the Word, as from the following in John:
Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).
He is also salvation, because this and eternal life are one. His name Jesus signifies salvation, and therefore He is called the Savior throughout the Christian world. ...

There are many who confess the Lord, and who do good to the neighbor; but unless this is done from love to the neighbor and from faith in the Lord, they are not regenerated, for such do good to the neighbor solely for reasons that look to the world and themselves, and not to the neighbor as the neighbor. The works of such are merely natural, and do not have concealed within them anything spiritual; for they confess the Lord with the mouth and lips only, from which their heart is far away.

True love to the neighbor, and true faith, are from the Lord alone, and both are given to man when he from his freedom of choice does good to the neighbor naturally, and believes truths rationally, and looks to the Lord, doing these three things because they are commanded in the Word. The Lord then implants charity and faith in the midst of him, and makes both of these spiritual. Thus the Lord conjoins Himself to man, and man conjoins himself to the Lord, for no conjunction is possible unless it is effected reciprocally.

(True Christian Religion 726)

June 6, 2016

A Blinder Stupidity Respecting Regeneration

Selection from True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Without Freedom of Choice in Spiritual Things, Regeneration is Impossible
Who, except a stupid person, cannot see that without freedom of choice in spiritual things man cannot be regenerated? Can he without this approach the Lord, acknowledge Him as the Redeemer and Savior and the God of heaven and earth, as He himself teaches: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matt. 28:18)? Without that freedom of choice who can believe in the Lord, that is, from faith look to Him and worship Him, and adapt himself to receiving the means and benefits of salvation from Him, and from Him cooperate in the reception of them? Who without freedom of choice can do any good to the neighbor, can practice charity, or take into his thought and will other things pertaining to faith and charity, bring them forth, and put them into acts? Otherwise, what is regeneration but a mere word dropped from the lips of the Lord (John 3), which either remains in the ear, or having dropped upon the lips from the thought nearest to speech, becomes merely an articulated sound of twelve letters, which sound cannot by any meaning be raised into any higher region of the mind, but falls upon the air and is dissipated?

Tell me, if you can, whether a blinder stupidity respecting regeneration is possible than that which prevails with those who have confirmed themselves in the faith of the present day, which is, that faith is infused into man while he is like a stock or a stone, and that when it has been infused, it is followed by justification, which is forgiveness of sins, and regeneration, and other gifts besides; and also that man's effort must be wholly excluded, that it may not do violence to the merit of Christ. In order that this dogma might be still more firmly established, they have deprived man of all freedom of choice in spiritual things, by asserting his complete impotence therein. It is, then, as if God alone were to operate on His part, and no power were given to man to operate on his part, and thus conjoin himself with God. In that case what is man in respect to regeneration, but like one bound hand and foot, like the prisoners on ships called galley-slaves?  And like these, if he were to free himself from those manacles and fetters, he would be punished or condemned to death, that is, if, from freedom of choice he were to do good to the neighbor, and of himself were to believe in God for the sake of salvation. If a man were confirmed in such opinions, and yet had a pious desire for heaven, what would he be like but a specter standing and speculating as to whether that faith with its benefits has been infused into him; or if not, whether it will be infused, therefore whether God the Father has taken pity on him, or whether His Son has interceded for him, or whether the Holy Spirit is inoperative because employed elsewhere? And yet, because of his complete ignorance of the matter, he might go away and console himself by saying, "Perhaps that grace is in the morality of my life, which I have and which I retain as formerly, and in me therefore it may be holy, while in those who have not attained to that faith it is profane. Therefore, in order that this holiness may remain in my morality, I will be careful hereafter not to exercise either charity or faith of myself;" with much more. Such a specter, or if you prefer, such a statue of salt, does everyone become who thinks of regeneration separated from freedom of choice in spiritual things.

(True Christian Religion 615. 616)

June 1, 2016

Living Exhibits Belief

Excerpt from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Man, like the earth, can produce nothing of good unless the knowledges of faith are first sown in him, whereby he may know what is to be believed and done. It is the office of the understanding to hear the Word, and of the will to do it. To hear the Word and not to do it, is like saying that we believe when we do not live according to our belief; in which case we separate hearing and doing, and thus have a divided mind, and become of those whom the Lord calls "foolish" in the following passage:
    Whosoever heareth My words, and doeth them, I will liken unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock: but everyone that heareth My words, and doeth them not, I liken to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand (Matt. 7:24, 26).
(Arcana Coelestia 44)