The Belief of the Church Hitherto

Now if we go back a hundred years and inquire into the then prevalent beliefs of Christendom, we shall find that every just conception of the character of God was well-nigh blotted out. We shall find that the generally accepted theology of that day made the supreme Being partial, unjust, selfish and vindictive. And we shall find, too, that this false conception of the Divine character was faithfully reflected in the creeds and in the general character of professed believers. We shall find that the Christian nations and churches of that day were animated by the same partial, unjust, selfish and vindictive spirit which the generally accepted theology imputed to the Divine Being.

All Christendom was immersed in darkness. There was a general and deep eclipse of faith, and the charity for which the primitive Christians were distinguished, had departed from the church. And along with the extinction of true charity and a living faith and a just conception of the Divine character, the knowledge of man’s higher life and the way to its attainment, as well as of the nature and reality of heaven and hell and all things spiritual, had well-nigh perished. And thus was fulfilled, in its spiritual sense, this Divine prediction: “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.”

This was “the consummation of the age” foretold in the Gospels,—the end of the first Christian Dispensation or Church. This was the day which the Lord foresaw and foretold, when “the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” would be seen “standing in the holy place;” the day when “false Christs and false prophets” (fundamental and congenital false religious doctrines) should arise, deceiving, “were it possible, even the elect.” Is it strange that at such a juncture a wise and loving Father should have vouchsafed to men a further revelation of Himself and the things of his kingdom? It would have been far more strange if He had not. Especially as the same inspired prophecy which proclaims the great darkness that was to fall upon the church, foretells also a glorious illumination that was to follow it; another coming of the Lord himself “with power and great glory.” And this second coming of the Son of Man, we observe, was to be “in the clouds of heaven” which, in the symbolic language of Scripture, means a coming or revealing of Himself in the heavenly sense of the Word through the cloud of the letter.

The Heavenly Doctrine of the Lord: from The Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

The Centre of Christian Theology (Continued)

Common observation and universal experience justify these conclusions. We are all naturally inclined to imitate those to whom we look up with feelings of respect and veneration. We fall unconsciously into their habits of thought, feeling, speech and action. We adopt their sentiments; we assume their tones; we imitate their manners; we copy even their follies and weaknesses—sometimes also their vices. The love and veneration we feel for them, blind us to their faults and foibles, or give to these an air of comeliness, and create in us a desire to be like them; and this desire is perpetually stimulating our growth in that direction.

Now since the tendency of all worship is to bring the soul of the worshiper into sympathy and likeness with the Being or his conception of the Being worshiped, therefore it is of primary importance that we have a correct idea of that Being’s character. No other idea exerts so tremendous an influence on our own character as the idea we habitually cherish of the supreme Object of our worship. People do not, as many imagine, worship the same Being merely because they call Him by the same name. In reality each one worships the God that he inwardly looks up to or thinks of. A thousand persons may agree in calling the Object of their worship Jehovah, God or Lord; yet their conceptions of his character may differ so widely that it may with truth be said that each of them worships a different God. The same name may be, to each of these different minds, the sign of widely different qualities; for the kind of God one thinks of, is the kind he worships.

It becomes, then, a matter of supreme moment what idea we form and habitually cherish of the Divine Being or his character. If our thought on this central doctrine is wrong, it can hardly be right on any subordinate ones. As the navigator on the pathless ocean determines his geographical position by an observation of the sun, so does each one’s intellectual apprehension or moral observation of God determine his spiritual status.

The Heavenly Doctrine of the Lord: from the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

The Centre of Christian Theology

By this I mean the centre of the New, which I hold to be the only true, Christian Theology.

To every system there must be a centre. And this is as the soul to the body. It pervades, shapes and governs the system throughout. It qualifies, determines, arranges and controls all the subordinate parts and this to such a degree that the whole system receives its character from the centre. It is just what the centre makes it. If this is right, all is right. If health, order and beauty prevail here, you may expect health, order and beauty throughout the entire system and vice versa.

Take, for illustration, the human body, which is the perfection of all systems. If its central organs are sound, the body is generally sound throughout but if these are diseased or out of order, you need not expect order and health in the subordinate parts. As you find heart, lungs and brain the arterial and nervous systems—so, generally, will you find the whole body.

Take, again, our planetary system, or man’s conception of it. Place the sun at the centre and set the earths revolving around him, and straightway each orb swings into place, and moves in harmony with all the rest. The centre being right, the subordinate parts adjust themselves with ease and precision, and move along in an order demonstrably perfect; and there is music in their rhythmic dance. But make the earth the centre, and your system is chaotic. Your misconception in regard to the central orb and force, throws everything into confusion and produces disorder everywhere. Mistaking the centre, you derange the whole system; and the parts can never adjust themselves to your erroneous conception.

And as with the physical, precisely so is it with all other systems—political, social, moral and religious. In each of these there will ever be found some comprehensive principle or leading thought which constitutes the central idea. This central idea pervades the whole system and gives it its character, or imparts to it whatever is peculiar and distinctive. All the subordinate parts adjust themselves to this, and are shaped and colored by it. If this is wrong, all is wrong; but if right, a corresponding rectitude pervades the whole.

The same is true of Theology. In every theological system the central doctrine must needs be that concerning the Object of religious worship. This doctrine whatever its nature, will determine the character of the whole system. All subordinate doctrines are the offspring of or outbirths from this, and are modified, shaped and colored by it, as surely as the earths in our solar system are warmed, enlightened, electrified and held in their orbits by the central luminary which gave them birth and around which they all revolve.

When, therefore, we have learned what any system of theology teaches concerning the supreme Object of worship, we have mastered the central idea or doctrine of that system; and from this we may draw a pretty just conclusion in regard to all the rest. For when the central doctrine is wrong, the others growing out of it, adjusted to it, modified and colored by it, cannot be right; and when this is right, the others cannot be very far wrong.

Then the doctrine concerning the Object of our worship is intensely practical. It exerts a mightier influence on the character of the believer than any other doctrine. We cannot escape its plastic power. We cannot help becoming conformed, in some measure at least, to the character of Him whom we worship, or rather to our conception and cherished idea of his character. Our souls are gradually and unconsciously moulded into his likeness. If partiality, self-seeking, arbitrariness or vindictiveness enters into our conception of the Divine character, our own character will inevitably be affected by such conception. If we think of God as stern, haughty, selfish and tyrannical, we cannot fail to make these characteristics our own. If we think of Him as acting from a selfish love of glory, we shall feel that we most closely resemble Him when we are acting from a similar love; and so the love of glory will become the ruling principle in us. But if, on the contrary, we conceive the Object of our supreme adoration to be noble, generous and unselfish in his nature, then shall we, through the plastic power of such conception, grow to be noble, generous and unselfish in ours. If we conceive Him to be supremely tender, compassionate, wise and good—supremely patient, loving and forgiving—then will these same graces become more and more our own.

The Heavenly Doctrine of the Lord: from the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

Introduction by the Editor

THE highest and heavenliest of all doctrines, is that announced in the title-page of the present volume. It is the most pervasive in its nature, the most comprehensive in its scope, the most potent in its sway, and the most elevating, enlarging, quickening and humanizing in it influence. It includes, of course, that sublimest fact in all history, which is also the pivotal doctrine of the Christian religion—the fact of the incarnation of the Divine Being.

To quote the last sentence in a recent work of extraordinary insight, breadth and power: “The incarnation of Jehovah in the person of Jesus Christ is the central fact of the universe, the pivot about which all things revolve, the mystery which holds in its unfathomable depths the secret of the beginning and the end of the world.” The doctrine herein presented, therefore, may be appropriately termed.

The Heavenly Doctrine of the Lord: from the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

To the Extent That We Turn Our Backs on Evils Because They Are Sins, We Have Faith and Are Spiritual (Continued)

The conclusion follows from this that there is not the slightest bit more of truth in us than there is of what is good, so there is not the slightest bit more of faith than there is of life. The knowledge that something is so may exist in our understanding, but unless our will agrees, that knowledge is not the acknowledgement that constitutes faith. So faith and life walk side by side.

This now allows us to see that to the extent we turn our backs on evils because they are sins, we have faith and are spiritual.

from Life/Faith (New Century Edition), Section 52

To the Extent That We Turn Our Backs on Evils Because They Are Sins, We Have Faith and Are Spiritual (Continued)

The following passages support what has beed said thus far:

Good people out of good treasure of their hearts bring forth what is good; evil people out of the evil treasure of their hearts bring forth what is evil. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45; Matthew 12:35)

In the Word, the heart means our will, and since this is the source of our thinking and speaking, it says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

It is not what goes into the mouth that makes people unclean but what comes out of the heart; This is what makes people unclean. (Matthew 15:11)

Again, the heart means our will. And Jesus said of the woman who had washed his feet with anointing oil that her sins were forgiven because she loved greatly; and later added, “Your faith is saving you” (Luke 7:46-50).

We can see from these words that when our sins are forgiven–that is, when they are no longer there– our faith saves us.

In John 1:12-13 the Lord tells us that people are called “children of God” and “born of God” when their will is not full of a sense of self-importance and their understanding is therefore not clouded by that same sense of self-importance– that is, when they are not focused on what is evil and therefore on what is false. He also teaches us there that such people are the ones who believe in the Lord. For an explanation of these verses see the end of Section 17 above.

from Lafe/Faith (New Century Edition), Section 51

Notes:

Section 17: Published 5/7/2018

To the Extent That We Turn Our Backs on Evils Because They Are Sins, We Have Faith and Are Spiritual (Continued)

This shows us what a spiritual faith is and what a nonspiritual faith is. Spiritual faith is characteristic of people who do not commit sins, bacause the good actions of people who do not commit sins come from the Lord and not from themselves (see Sections 18-31 above); and through their faith they become spiritual. For them, faith is truth.

This is how the Lord says it in John:

This is the codemnation that light has come into the world, but people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. All who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, or else their deeds would be exposed; but those who do the truth come to the light so that their deeds may be clearly seen, because their deeds were done in God. (John 3:19-21)

from Life/Faith (New Century Edition), Section 50

To the Extent That We Turn Our Backs on Evils Because They Are Sins, We Have Faith and Are Spiritual (Continued)

People are caught up in evil do not have any faith even though they believe that they do, as I have been shown by seeing some people of this sort in the spiritual world. They were brought into a heavenly community, which caused the spiritual side of the angels’ faith to enter into the deeper levels of the faith of the visitors.

This made the visitors aware of the fact that all they had was an earthly or outward faith and not its spiritual or inner side. So they themselves admitted that they had no faith whatever and that in the world they had convinced thyemselves that if they thought something was true for any reason at all, that was “believing” or “having faith.”

The faith of people who have not been devoted to evil, though, looks very different.

from Life/Faith (New Century Edition), Section 49

To the Extent That We Turn Our Backs on Evils Because They Are Sins, We Have Faith and Are Spiritual (Continued)

As just mentioned, these beliefs seem to require faith only. But the thinking in our understandingis a manifestation of the love tht belongs to our will; that love is the underlying reality of the thinking in our understanding (see Section 43 above). That is, if we will to do something because of love, we want to do it–we want to think it, we want to understand it, and we want to say it. Or in other owrds, whatever we love because of intent we love to do, we love to think, we love to understand, and we love to say.

Then too, when we turn our backs on evils because they sins we are in the Lord, as explained above [Sections 18-31], and the Lord is doing everything. That is why the Lord said to those who were asking him what they should do in order to work the works of God, “This is th work of God, that you believe in the one whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Believing in the Lord is not simply thinking that he exists but is also doing what he says, as he tells us elsewhere [Matthew 7:24].

from Life/Faith (New Cdentury Edition), Section 48

To the Extent That We Turn Our Backs on Evils Because They Are Sins, We Have Faith and Are Spiritual (Continued)

There are many things that seem to require faith only, such as the existence of God, the Lord who is God being our Redeemer and Savior, the reality of heaven abd hell, life after death, and any number of other issues. We describe them not as things to be done but as things to be beilved. Yet even these matters of faith are dead if we are focused on what is evil, but alive if we are focused on what is good.

This is because when we are focused on what is good we not only behave well because of our will but also think well because of our understanding; this not only in front of others, in public, but also in our own sight, when we are alone. It is different when we are focused on what is evil.

from Life/Faith (New Century Edition), Section 47