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Doctrine of Life, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1763], tr. by John F. Potts [1904], at

Doctrine of Life


A MAN OUGHT TO SHUN EVILS AS SINS AND FIGHT AGAINST THEM AS OF HIMSELF. It is in accordance with Divine order that man should act in freedom according to reason, because to act in freedom according to reason is to act from himself. And yet these two faculties, Freedom and Reason, are not proper to man, but are the Lord's in him; and in so far as he is a man they must not be taken away from him, because without them he cannot be reformed, for without them he cannot perform repentance, he cannot fight against evils, and afterwards bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. Now as it is from the Lord that man possesses freedom and reason, and as man acts from them, it follows that he does not act from himself, but as from himself. 101-1


The Lord loves man and wills to dwell with him, yet He cannot love him and dwell with him unless He is received and loved in return. From this alone comes conjunction. For this reason the Lord has given man freedom and reason, freedom to think and will as of himself, and reason in accordance with which he may do so. To love and to be conjoined with one in whom there is nothing reciprocal is not possible, nor is it possible to enter in and abide with one in whom there is no reception. As there are in man, from the Lord, reception and reciprocation, the Lord says: Abide in Me, and I in you (John 15:4). He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit (John 15:5). At that day ye shall know that ye are in Me, and I in you (John 14:20). The Lord also teaches that He is in the truths and in the goods that a man receives, and that are in him: If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love (John 15:7, 10). He that hath My commandments, and doeth them, he it is that loveth Me and I will love him, and will make My abode with him (John 14:21, 23). So that the Lord dwells in a man in what is His own, and the man dwells in those things which are from the Lord, and thus dwells in the Lord.


As there is in man, from the Lord, this ability to reciprocate and return, and consequently this mutuality, the Lord says that a man must do the work of repentance, which no one can do except as of himself: Jesus said: Except ye repent ye shall all perish (Luke 13:3, 5). Jesus said: The kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus said: I am come to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). Jesus said to the churches: Repent (Rev. 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3). It is also said: They repented not of their works (Rev. 16:11).


As there is in man, from the Lord, this ability to reciprocate and return, and consequently this mutuality, the Lord says that a man must keep the commandments, and also that he must bring forth fruit: Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46-49). If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them (John 13:17). Ye are My friends, if ye do the things which I command you (John 15:14). Whosoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens (Matt. 5:19). Everyone therefore who heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken to a wise man (Matt. 7:24). Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance (Matt. 3:8). Make the tree good, and its fruit good (Matt. 12:33). The kingdom shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Matt. 21:43). Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (Matt. 7:19). And so in many other places: from all which it is evident that a man must act of himself but from the Lord's power, which he must petition for. For this is to act as from himself.


As there is in man, from the Lord, this ability to reciprocate and return, and consequently this mutuality, a man must render an account of his works, and will be requited according to them. For the Lord says: The Son of man shall come, and shall render to every man according to his deeds (Matt. 16:27). They shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evils unto the resurrection of judgment (John 5:29). Their works do follow with them (Rev. 14:13). They were judged every man according to his works (Rev. 20:13). Behold, I come, and My reward is with Me, to give every man according to his work (Rev. 22:12). If there were in man no reciprocality, there would be no imputation.


As in man there are reception and reciprocality, the church teaches that a man must examine himself, confess his sins before God, desist from them, and lead a new life. It may be seen above (n. 3-8) that every church in the Christian world teaches this.


Unless there were reception by man, and at the same time a taking thought as it were by him, nothing could have been said about faith, for faith is not from man. Without this reception and reciprocality, man would be like chaff in the wind, and would stand as if lifeless, with mouth open, and hands hanging down, awaiting influx, devoid of thought and action in regard to the things that concern his salvation. It is indeed true that he is by no means the agent in regard to these things, but yet he is a reagent as of himself. But these matters will be set forth in still clearer light in the treatises on Angelic Wisdom.


IF ANY ONE SHUNS EVILS FOR ANY OTHER REASON THAN BECAUSE THEY ARE SINS, HE DOES NOT SHUN THEM, BUT MERELY PREVENTS THEM FROM APPEARING BEFORE THE WORLD. There are moral men who keep the commandments of the second table of the Decalogue, not committing fraud, blasphemy, revenge, or adultery; and such of them as confirm themselves in the belief that such things are evils because they are injurious to the public weal, and are therefore contrary to the laws of humane conduct, practice charity, sincerity, justice, chastity. But if they do these goods and shun those evils merely because they are evils, and not at the same time because they are sins, they are still merely natural men, and with the merely natural the root of evil remains imbedded and is not dislodged; for which reason the goods they do are not goods, because they are from themselves.


Before men, a natural moral man may appear exactly like a spiritual moral man, but not before the angels. Before the angels in heaven, if he is in goods he appears like an image of wood, if in truths like an image of marble, lifeless, and very different from a spiritual moral man. For a natural moral man is an outwardly moral man, and a spiritual moral man is an inwardly moral man, and what is outward without what is inward is lifeless. It does indeed live, but not the life that is called life.


The concupiscences of evil that constitute the interiors of man from his birth can be removed by the Lord alone. For the Lord inflows from what is spiritual into what is natural; but man, of himself, from what is natural into what is spiritual; and this influx is contrary to order, and does not operate into the concupiscences and remove them, but shuts them in closer and closer in proportion as it confirms itself. And as the hereditary evil thus lurks there, shut in, after death when the man becomes a spirit it bursts the cover that had hidden it here, and breaks out like the discharge from an ulcer that has been healed only outwardly.


There are various and many causes that make a man moral in the outward form, but unless he is moral in the inward form also, he is nevertheless not moral. For example: if a man abstains from adulteries and whoredom from the fear of the civil law and its penalties; from the fear of losing his good name and esteem; from the fear of the consequent diseases; from the fear of his wife's tongue in his home, and the consequent inquietude of his life; from the fear of the husband's vengeance, or that of some relative; from poverty, or avarice; from disability caused either by disease, abuse, age, or impotence; nay, if he abstains from such things on account of any natural or moral law, and not at the same time on account of the spiritual law, he nevertheless is inwardly an adulterer and whoremonger, for nonetheless does he believe that such things are not sins. As toward God, therefore, he in his spirit makes them not unlawful, and so in spirit he commits them, although not in the body in the sight of the world; and therefore after death, when he becomes a spirit, he speaks openly in favor of them. From all this it is evident that an ungodly man is able to shun evils as injurious, but only a Christian can shun them as sins.


It is the same with thefts and frauds of every kind, with murders and revengeful acts of every kind, and with false witness and lies of every kind. No one can of himself be cleansed and made pure from such things, for within every concupiscence there are infinite things which the man sees only as one simple thing, whereas the Lord sees the smallest details of the whole series. In a word, a man cannot regenerate himself, that is, form in himself a new heart and a new spirit, but the Lord alone can do this, who Himself is the Reformer and the Regenerator. Therefore if a man wills to make himself new by his own sagacity and intelligence, it is merely like painting an ugly face, or smearing a skin detergent over a part that is infected with inward corruption.


Therefore the Lord says in Matthew: Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and the platter, that the outside may be clean also (Matt. 23:26). And in Isaiah: Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your works from before Mine eyes, cease to do evil; and then though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they have been red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isa. 1:16, 18).


To what has already been said shall be added the following: 1. Christian charity, with everyone, consists in faithfully performing what belongs to his calling, for by this, if he shuns evils as sins, he every day is doing goods, and is himself his own use in the general body. In this way also the common good is cared for, and the good of each person in particular. 2. All other things that he does are not the proper works of charity, but are either its signs, its benefactions, or its obligations.


101-1 That man has freedom from the Lord, see above (n. 19, 20); and in the work on Heaven and Hell (n. 589-596, and n. 597-603). What freedom is, see the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, published in London in 1758 (n. 141-149).