The “Contrition” That Is Nowadays Said to Precede Faith and to Be Followed by the Consolation of the Gospel Is Not Repentance

The Protestant Christian world holds that there is a certain type of anxiety, pain, and terror (which they call “contrition”) that comes over people who are going to be regenerated. It comes on before they have faith and is followed by the consolation of the Gospel.

They claim that this contrition arises in them as the result of fear of the justifiable anger of God, and therefore fear of the eternal damnation that clings to us all because of Adam’s sin and because of our resulting inclination toward evil. They say that the faith that ascribes the merit and justice of the Lord our Savior to us is not granted us if we lack that feeling of contrition. Those who have acquired this faith are said to receive “the consolation of the Gospel,” which means that they are justified, that is, renewed, regenerated, and sanctified, without any cooperation on their part. In this way they are moved from damnation to the eternal blessedness that is everlasting life.

Let us examine this “contrition”:

(1) Is it the same as repentance?

(2) Is it of any value? (3)

Does it in fact exist?

from True Christianity, Section 512

Repentance Is the Beginning of the Church within Us (Continued)

As for the point that the church does not exist within us until the sins inside us have been removed, this is something anyone can conclude through the use of reason.

It can also be illustrated through the following comparisons. No one can pasture flocks of sheep, goats, and lambs in fields or woodlands that are already occupied by all kinds of predatory animals, without first driving away the predators. No one can turn land that is full of thornbushes, brambles, and stinging nettles into a garden without first uprooting those harmful plants. No one can go into a city that is occupied by hostile enemy forces, set up a new administration devoted to justice and judgment, and make it a good place for citizens to live without first expelling the enemy. It is similar with the evils that are inside us. They are like predatory animals, brambles and thornbushes, and enemies.

The church could no more live alongside them than we could live in a cage full of tigers and leopards; or lie down in a bed whose sheets were lined, and pillows stuffed, with poisonous plants; or sleep at night in a church building under whose stone floor there are tombs with dead bodies in them—would we not be harassed there by ghosts that were like the furies?

from True Christianity, Section 511

Repentance Is the Beginning of the Church within You

The extended community that is known as the church consists of all the people who have the church within them. The church takes hold in us when we are regenerated, and we are all regenerated when we abstain from things that are evil and sinful and run away from them as we would run if we saw hordes of hellish spirits pursuing us with flaming torches, intending to attack us and throw us onto a bonfire.

As we go through the early stages of our lives, there are many things that prepare us for the church and introduce us into it; but acts of repentance are the things that actually produce the church within us. Acts of repentance include any and all actions that result in our not willing, and consequently not doing, evil things that are sins against God.

Before repentance, we stand outside regeneration. In that condition, if any thought of eternal salvation somehow makes its way into us, we at first turn toward it but soon turn away. That thought does not penetrate us any farther than the outer areas where we have ideas; it then goes out into our spoken words and perhaps into a few gestures that go along with those words. When the thought of eternal salvation penetrates our will, however, then it is truly inside us. The will is the real self, because it is where our love dwells; our thoughts are outside us, unless they come from our will, in which case our will and our thought act as one, and together make us who we are. From these points it follows that in order for repentance to be genuine and effective within us, it has to be done both by our will and by thinking that comes from our will. It cannot be done by thought alone. Therefore it has to be a matter of actions, and not of words alone.

The Word makes it obvious that repentance is the beginning of the church. John the Baptist was sent out in advance to prepare people for the church that the Lord was about to establish. At the same time as he was baptizing people he was also preaching repentance; his baptism was therefore called a baptism of repentance. Baptism means a spiritual washing, that is, being cleansed from sins. John baptized in the Jordan river because the Jordan means introduction into the church, since it was the first border of the land of Canaan, where the church was. The Lord himself also preached that people should repent so that their sins would be forgiven. He taught, in effect, that repentance is the beginning of the church; that if we repent, the sins within us will be removed; and that if our sins are removed, they are also forgiven. Furthermore, when the Lord sent out his twelve apostles and also the seventy, he commanded them to preach repentance. From all this it is clear that repentance is the beginning of the church.

from True Christianity, Section 510

Repentance

Now that faith [Sections 336–391], goodwill [Sections 392–462], and free choice [Sections 463–508] have been treated, the related topic of repentance comes next, because without repentance there can be no true faith and no genuine goodwill, and no one could repent without free choice. Another reason why there is a treatment of repentance at this point is that the topic that follows is regeneration [Sections 571–625], and none of us can be regenerated before the more serious evils that make us detestable before God have been removed; repentance is what removes them.

What else are unregenerate people but impenitent? And what else are impenitent people but those who are in a drowsy state of apathy? They know nothing about sin and therefore cherish it deep within themselves and make love to it every day the way an adulterous man makes love to a promiscuous woman who shares his bed.

To make known what repentance is and what effect it has, this treatment of it will be divided into separate headings.

from True Christianity, Section 509

Notes:

Sections 336-384: Published 12/01/2020-01/22/2021

Sections 392-416: Published 01/23/2021-02/19/2021

Sections 417-421: Published 02/24/2021-02/28/2021

Sections 422-458: Published 03/03/2021-04/12/2021

Loves of Self and the World

The reason why the love of self and the love of the world are infernal loves, and yet man has been able to come into them, and thus ruin will and understanding in him, is as follows: By creation the love of self and the love of the world are heavenly loves; for they are loves of the natural man serving his spiritul loves, as a foundation does a house. From the love of self and the world, a man wishes well by his body, desires food, clothing and habitation, takes thought for his household, seeks occupation to be useful, wishes also for obedience’s sake to be hobored according to the dignity of the things he does, and to be delighted and recreated by the pleasures of the world;–yet all this for the sake of the end, which must be use.

By this a man is in position to serve the Lord and to serve the neighbor. But when there is no love of serving the Lord and the neighbor, but only a love of serving oneself at the world’s hands, then from being heavenly that love becomes infernal, for it causes a man to sink mind and character in his _proprium_ or what is his own, which in itself it the whole of evil. — Divine Love and Wisdom, Section 396

from The Gist of Swedenborg, The Light of Love and Truth

Inalienable Powers

There are in man from the Lord two capacities by which the human being is distinguished from the beasts. One capacity is the ability to understand what is true and what is good. It is called ratuinality, and is a capacity of his understanding. The other capacity is the ability to do the true and the good. It is called freedom, and is a power of the will. By virtue of his rationality, man can think what he pleases, as well against God as with Him, and with his neighbor or against his neighbor. He can also will and do what he thinks; and when he sees evil and fears punishment, by virtue of freedom he can refrain from doing. By this two capacities man is man and is distinguished from the beasts.

Man has these twin powers from the Lord, and they are from Him every moment; norare they ever taken away, for if theywere, man’s humanity would perish. The Lord is in these two powers with every man, with the evil as well as the good. THey are HIs abiding-place in the race. Thence it is that every human being, evil as well as good, lives to eternity. — Divine Love and Wisdom, Section 240

from The Gist of Swedenborg, the Light of Love and Truth

The Church

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. — Revelation 21:3

from The Gist of Swedenborg, The Light of Love and Truth

The Divine Is the Same in the Greatest Things and the Least

  1. This follows from the two articles which precede — that the Divine is in all space without space, and in all time without time; and spaces are greater and greatest, and lesser and least. And because spaces and times make one, as was said above, it is the same with times. The Divine in them is the same, because the Divine is not variable and changeable — as everything is which is of space and time, or everything which is of nature — but is invariable and unchangeable; and therefore is everywhere and always the same.
  2. It appears as if the Divine were not the same in one man as in another — as if it were different in a wise man and a simple man, and in an old man and a little child. But this is a fallacy from appearance; the man is different, but the Divine in him is not different. A man is a recipient, and the recipient or receptacle is various. A wise man is more adequately, and therefore more fully, a recipient of the Divine Love and Divine Wisdom than a simple man; and an old man who is also wise, than a child or youth; but still the Divine is the same in the one as in the other. Similarly it is a fallacy from appearance, that the Divine is different with the angels of heaven and with men on the earth, because the angels of heaven are in wisdom ineffable, and men not so; but the apparent difference is in the subjects, according to the quality of their reception of the Divine, and not in the Lord.
  3. That the Divine is the same in the greatest things and the least, may be illustrated by heaven and by an angel there. The Divine in the whole heaven and the Divine in an angel is the same; wherefore also the whole heaven can appear as one angel. It is the same with the church, and with a man of the church. The greatest form in which the Divine is, is the whole heaven together with the whole church; the least is an angel of heaven and a man of the church. Sometimes an entire society of heaven has appeared to me as one man-angel; and I was told that it could appear like a man big as a giant, or small as an infant; and this, because the Divine is the same in the greatest things and the least.
  4. The Divine is also the same in the greatest and in the least of all the things which are created, and do not live; for it is in all the good of their use. The reason, however, why they do not live is, that they are not forms of life, but forms of uses; and the form is various according to the excellence of the use. But how the Divine is in these things will be told in what follows, where creation is treated of.
  5. Abstract space and utterly deny a vacuum, and then think of Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, that they are Essence itself when space has been abstracted and a vacuum denied. Then think from space, and you will perceive that the Divine in the greatest and in the least things of space is the same; for in essence abstracted from space there is no great and small, but identity.
  6. Something shall be said here concerning vacuum. I once heard angels talking with Newton about vacuum, and saying that they could not bear the idea of vacuum as nothing; because in their world which is spiritual, and within or above the spaces and times of the natural world, they equally feel, think, are affected, love, will, breathe, yea speak and act; which things are utterly impossible in vacuum as nothing; because nothing is nothing, and of nothing nothing can be predicated. Newton said that he knew that the Divine which is, fills all things, and that he himself shuddered at the idea of nothing respecting vacuum, because that idea is destructive of all things; and he exhorted those who talked with him about vacuum, to beware of the idea of nothing, calling it a swoon, because in nothing no real existence of mind is possible.

from Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, Part I

The Divine Is in All Time without Time

  1. As the Divine is in all space without space, so It is in all time without time. For nothing which is proper to nature can be predicated of the Divine, and space and time are proper to nature. Space in nature is measurable, and so is time. Time is measured by days, weeks, months, years, and centuries; and days, by hours; weeks and months, by days; years, by the four seasons; and centuries, by years. Nature derives this measurement from the apparent daily and annual motions of the sun of the world. But it is otherwise in the spiritual world. There the progressions of life likewise appear in time; for there they live with one another, as men in the world live with one another, which is not possible without an appearance of time. But time there is not marked off into stated periods as in the world; for their sun is always in its east, never moved away, since it is the Divine Love of the Lord which appears to them as a sun. Therefore they have no days, weeks, months, years, centuries, but instead of these there are states of life — by which a distinction is made, which cannot be called a distinction into times, but into states. The angels therefore do not know what time is, and when it is mentioned they perceive state instead; and when state determines time, time is only an appearance. For happiness of state causes time to appear short, and unhappiness of state causes time to appear long. From which it is plain that time there is nothing else than quality of state. From this it is that by hours, days, weeks, months, and years in the Word are signified states, and their progressions successively and taken together; and that when times are predicated of the church, by its morning is meant its first state, by mid-day its fullness, by evening its decline, and by night its end; and the same by the four seasons of the year, spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
  2. From these things it may be manifest that time makes one with thought from affection; for the quality of a man’s state is from this. That in progressions through spaces in the spiritual world, distances make one with progressions of time, may be illustrated by many things. For ways there are actually shortened or lengthened according to the desires of thought from affection. From this it is that spaces of time are also spoken of. In such cases, however, when thought does not conjoin itself with the man’s proper affection, time does not appear, as in sleep.
  3. Now as times which are proper to nature in its world, are pure states in the spiritual world — which there appear progressive, because angels and spirits are finite — it may be evident that in God they are not progressive, because He is Infinite, and infinite things in Him are one, according to what has been shown above (Section 17-22). From which it follows that the Divine is in all time without time.
  4. He who does not know and cannot from some perception think of God apart from time, is utterly unable to perceive eternity otherwise than as eternity of time; and then he cannot help falling into error in thinking of God from eternity; for he thinks from a beginning, and a beginning is only of time. His error in this case is that God has existed from Himself, from which he falls readily into the origin of nature from itself. From this idea he cannot be set free excepting by the spiritual or angelic idea of eternity, which idea is apart from time; and when it is apart from time, the Eternal and the Divine are the same; the Divine is Divine in itself, and not from itself. The angels say that they can indeed perceive God from eternity, but by no means nature from eternity, and still less nature from itself, and not at all nature as nature in itself. For that which is in itself is Esse itself, from which all things are; and Esse in itself is life itself, which is the Divine Love of the Divine Wisdom, and the Divine Wisdom of the Divine Love. To the angels this is the Eternal — abstracted from time, just as the Uncreated is from the created, or the Infinite from the finite, between which there is no ratio.

from Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, Part I

Divine Fills All Spaces of the Universe without Space

  1. There are two things proper to nature, space and time. From these man in the natural world forms the ideas of his thought, and thence his understanding. If he remains in these ideas, and does not elevate his mind above them, he can never perceive anything spiritual and Divine; for he involves the spiritual and Divine in ideas which come from space and time; and so far as he does this, the light of his understanding becomes merely natural. To think from this light in reasoning about spiritual and Divine things, is like thinking from the thick darkness of night concerning those things which appear only in the light of day. From this comes naturalism. But he who knows how to elevate his mind above the ideas of thought which come from space and time, passes from thick darkness into light, and understands spiritual and Divine things, and at length sees those things which are in them and from them; and then from that light he dispels the thick darkness of the natural lumen, and relegates its fallacies from the middle to the sides. Every man who has understanding is able to think above these things that are proper to nature, and also actually does so think; and then he affirms and sees that the Divine, because It is omnipresent, is not in space; and he is also able to affirm and to see those things which have been presented above. But if he denies the Divine Omnipresence, and ascribes all things to nature, then he does not wish to be elevated, even though he can be.
  2. All who die and become angels put off those two things proper to nature, which, as said above, are space and time; for they enter then into spiritual light, in which the objects of thought are truths, and the objects of sight are similar to the objects in the natural world, but correspondent to their thoughts. The objects of their thought which, as was said, are truths, derive nothing at all from space and time; and though the objects of their sight appear as in space and in time, still they do not think from them. The reason is that spaces and times there are not rigid as in the natural world, but changeable according to the states of their life. Hence in the ideas of their thought there are instead states of life — instead of spaces such things as have relation to states of love, and instead of times such things as have relation to states of wisdom. From this it is that spiritual thought, and thence also spiritual speech, differ so much from natural thought and speech, that they have nothing in common except as to the interiors of things, all of which are spiritual — concerning which difference more will be said elsewhere. Now, since the thoughts of the angels derive nothing from space and time, but every thing from states of life, it is plain that angels do not comprehend when it is said that the Divine fills spaces — for they do not know what spaces are — but that they clearly comprehend when, without the idea of any space, it is said that the Divine fills all things.
  3. That it may be plain that the merely natural man thinks of spiritual and Divine things from space, and the spiritual man without space, let this serve as an illustration. The merely natural man thinks through ideas which he has got from the objects of sight, in all of which there is figure partaking of length, breadth, and height, and form terminated by these, either angular or circular. These notions are manifestly in the ideas of his thought concerning the things visible on earth, and they are also in the ideas of his thought concerning things not visible, as civil and moral things. Here, indeed, he does not see them, but still they are there, by continuity. It is otherwise with a spiritual man, especially with an angel of heaven. His thought has nothing in common with figure and form partaking at all of the length, breadth, and height of space, but is derived from the state of the thing from the state of life. Hence instead of length of space he thinks of the good of a thing from the good of life; instead of breadth of space, of the truth of a thing from the truth of life; and instead of height, of the degrees of these. Thus he thinks from the correspondence which there is between spiritual and natural things; from which correspondence it is that length in the Word signifies the good of a thing, breadth the truth of a thing, and height the degrees of these. From this it is plain that an angel of heaven, when he thinks of the Divine Omnipresence, can by no means think otherwise than that the Divine fills all things without space. What an angel thinks, is the truth, because the light which illumines his understanding is the Divine Wisdom.
  4. This thought concerning God is fundamental; for without it what will be said concerning the creation of the universe by God-Man, concerning His Providence, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience, can indeed be understood, but still not retained; since the merely natural man, while he understands these things, still relapses into his life’s love, which is that of his will; and this love dissipates these things, and sinks the thought in space, in which is his light which he calls rational — not knowing that so far as he denies these things, he is irrational. That it is so may be confirmed by the idea concerning this truth, that God is a Man. Read, I pray you, with attention what has been said above (Sections 11-13, and what follows) and then you will understand that this is so. But let your thought down into the natural light which comes from space, and then will you not regard these things as paradoxes? and if you let it down far, will you not reject them? This is why it is said that the Divine fills all the spaces of the universe, and why it is not said that God-Man fills them. For if this were said, the merely natural light would not assent; but to the statement that the Divine fills them, it assents, because this agrees with the formula of speech of the theologians, that God is omnipresent, and hears and knows all things. More on this subject may be seen above (Sections 7-10).

from Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, Part I