January 14, 2015

To What Purpose is the Doctrine of Faith?

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The church is called spiritual when it acts from charity, or from the good of charity-never when it says that it has faith without charity, for then it is not even a church. For what is the doctrine of faith but the doctrine of charity? And to what purpose is the doctrine of faith, but that men should do what it teaches? It cannot be merely to know and think what it teaches, but only that what it teaches should be done. The spiritual church is therefore first called a church when it acts from charity, which is the very doctrine of faith. Or, what is the same thing, the man of the church is then first a church. Just in the same way, what is a commandment for? not that a man may know, but that he may live according to the commandment. For then he has in himself the kingdom of the Lord, since the kingdom of the Lord consists solely in mutual love and its happiness.

Those who separate faith from charity, and make salvation consist in faith without the good works of charity, are Cainites who slay the brother Abel, that is, charity. And they are like birds which hover about a carcass; for such faith is a bird, and a man without charity is a carcass. Thus they also form for themselves a spurious conscience, so that they may live like devils, hold the neighbor in hatred and persecute him, pass their whole life in adulteries, and yet be saved, as is well known in the Christian world. What can be more agreeable to a man than to hear and be persuaded that he may be saved, even if he live like a wild beast? The very Gentiles perceive that this is false, many of whom abhor the doctrine of Christians because they see their life. The real quality of such a faith is evident also from the fact that nowhere is there found a life more detestable than in the Christian world.

(Arcana Coelestia 916)