L.H.Houghton FRIENDSHIP-WITH-GOD-New-Church-Press-Ltd-London


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L.H.Houghton FRIENDSHIP-WITH-GOD-New-Church-Press-Ltd-London

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  3. 3. "Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you''.. INITIATION Christianity involves many things, but perhaps its most glorious expression is that growing intimacy that begins to manifest itself between the practising Christian and his God-the Lord Jesus Christ. This sense of intimacy, or atonement, which comes from the actual living practice of religion, is called in the New Church "conjunction"- the conjoining of oneself with the Lord. In the New Church we have the most clear teaching as to what this conjunction, or connection, with the Lord means. It constitutes the very essence of "joy'', and is what the Lord meant when He said to His disciples : "These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might 5
  4. 4. remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15: 11). Another name for conjunction might be "friendship", for friendship is indeed a state of conjunction, or connection, or atonement, between two persons. And it varies according to the degree of friendship that has been achieved. There are light, or casual friendships and close ones. In the title above are reproduced some bf the words that the Lord addressed to all who would be His disciples, and those words are these: "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you" (John 15: 14-15). Wonderful and encouraging words, as relevant today as they were at the moment of utterance. They bear the impress of the Lord's personal assurance. They are true. 6
  5. 5. With human friendship there exists a state of equality and familiarity that cannot exist with God. When He is our Friend -as He always is potentially- we can only adore Him in a state of complete selfhumiliation and love. Yet He is our Friend in a most wonderful and interior way. We feel His joy in our hearts, sometimes clearly and more often obscurely. But it is His love coming down to us and remaining with us tangibly. Implied, then, in this term "friend" is a state of warmth and affection. To achieve it we must do what the Lord commands. And then we shall begin to enter into that state of real humanity and life that the Lord intended for us when He created mankind. But how exactly does this process operate? What are its effects upon us and how do they come about? Before anyone can be a friend he must first be known. Something of his quality and personality must be seen and under7
  6. 6. stood. Such knowledge lays the foundation for the later warmer relationship referred to as "friendship". In other words, an introduction must be made. The first step for the initiating Christian, therefore, is to seek an introduction to God, that is, the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And this introduction is provided both in the Word of God-where the Lord has expressed Himself in fundamental and simple terms -and in the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church which reveal the inner meaning of those fundamental terms in rational light. Emanuel Swedenborg, who was the Lord's revelator for the New Church, made known these Heavenly Doctrines in · the works "Arcana Coelestia", "Apocalypse Revealed", "Doctrine of the Lord", "Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture", "Doctrine of Life", "Doctrine of Charity'', "Heaven and Hell", "Divine Providence", "The Divine Love and Wisdom" and "The 8
  7. 7. True Christian Religion"; to mention the main works in which the Heavenly Doctrines are set forth. The last named work, "The True Christian Religion", may be said to summarise the whole complex of New Church Doctrine revealed by the Lord at His Second Advent, and referred to in the Word by the "woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12: 1). And this Doctrine teaches us about the Lord. By reading it and inwardly digesting it in the mind, through reflection, meditation and thought, a real step will have been taken in securing an introduction to the Lord. Certain credentials, as it were, will have been acquired in the form of some specific idea or knowledge concerning the personality and nature of God. However, this is only the beginning. Knowing about God is not the same thing as knowing God, or being friends with 9
  8. 8. Him. Friendship, as already mentioned, implies love, which is far more than mere knowledge about someone. Many men and women knew about the Lord when He lived in Palestine and some may have learned a great deal about His personality; yet they did not love Him. They were not His friends even when He extended the hand of friendship to them. We remember the Pharisee named Simon who invited the Lord to his house out of sheer curiosity; and we remember the Lord's rebuke to him for his lack of courtesy. While Mary bathed His feet He said : "Simon, seest thou this woman? I entered and thou gavest . . . me no kiss : but this woman hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment" (Luke 7: 44). We remember, too, the centurion whose faith was so strong that the Lord was able to heal his servant from a distance, and whose humility was so great that he deemed himself unworthy 10
  9. 9. to receive the Lord under his roof, so that the Lord turned to the Jews about Him and exclaimed: "I say unto you I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (Luke 7: 9). Simon the Pharisee, who was well instructed in Judaic law and who should have welcomed the Messiah with gladness, only spurned Him. While a total stranger, a Roman, humbly received the Lord's hand of friendship, and received in return one of the greatest compliments that the Word records. His behaviour should be the pattern of ours. No 'self-righteousness or complacence; just plain, honest humility and love. But perhaps it is in Mary herself, the sister of Lazarus, that we find the perfect pattern for ourselves. She made no pretence to the Lord and she withheld nothing from Him. All that she h ad was His. In the work "Divine Providence" (No. 323) there' is this proposition: "The end of creation is a heaven from the human race". 11
  10. 10. This continues in No. 325 with the next proposition: "Hence it is from the Divine Providence that every man is able to be saved; and they are saved who acknowledge God and live well". And to match these propositions revealed for the use of the New Church there are these wonderful words of the Lord in Matthew 11 : 29-30: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light". There it is for us to see. Friendship with God means. a lo:vly heart and a life well lived in His service. The road is not an easy one, however, and it would be foolish to believe that the happy state of full friendship is attained simply by wishing it to be so. First, as mentioned earlier, there is the need to understand something concrete about the nature of God. What He is like. What He expects of us. His purpose for Creation, 12
  11. 11. and our part in it. All these things are important elements in our relationship with the Divine Mind. If our friendship is to be a perfect, or nearly perfect, one it is essential that we shall be clear in our minds as to what our Creator desires of us. Otherwise we will be wasting our time and His. Secondly, having understood, even if imperfectly, what is expected of us we must try to act up to that divine expectation- the "living well" part referred to in paragraph No. 325 of "Divine Providence". It is scarcely necessary to say that living well in this sense does not mean just having a good time, in the conventional sense. It means striving to live according to those two great Commands which the Lord enunciated in Matthew chapter 22, verse 37, as follows: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind . . . and . . . thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". This is the sum of the true Christian life, and as the Lord said to the 13
  12. 12. lawyer who questioned Him about this very matter, "This do and thou shalt live" (Luke 10: 28). The Heavenly Doctrines give very precise teaching on this matter and it is as well, therefore, to study them about it. But we will give here only a brief glance at this teaching, since space must forb id more. In paragraph No. 326 of "Divine Providence" there is this statement which is of supreme importance: "The acknowledgement of God causes a conjunction of God with man, and of man with God; and a denial of God causes disjunction". Here we see in operation those subtle forces which guide our destiny without our realisation- the hand of providence at work. It matters very much how we think about God because it is as we think about Him that He is able to be with us in our everyday lives. He is always present with us, even when we deny His reality. Were He not we could not live a second of time. But 14
  13. 13. He is not then conjoined with us because we do not desire it. In other words He cannot be our Friend if we will not allow Him to be so. The choice is ours entirely. It is one of the qualities of the Lord that no matter how much He may yearn for our love He will never force us to give it to Him. He yearned over Jerusalem, you may remember, in the Gospel account of Matthew, in which the Lord exclaimed: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gatherest her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! " Terrible and tragic words. And they are re-enacted in countless human lives which have spurned the Master's friendship and love in every century, and especially so in this. 15
  14. 14. TAKING, UP THE CROSS By studying the Heavenly Doctrines, therefore, we will have made a thorough beginning in our search for the Lord's friendship. Our introduction to Him will have been achieved, so to speak; for that is exactly what has happened. Without our realising it the Lord is leading us to Him, by instilling into us this very desire to know Him better. Yet we have freedom to refuse to listen to this inner voice, if we wish. And so it is from our own desire, too, that we take this first important step towards the Lord's out-stretched hand. Knowledge of the Lord's personality and wishes for us is obviously not enough, however. We must practise· those wishes, 17
  15. 15. as we are commanded to do in the Word itself: "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15: 14); and also, "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me" (John 14, v. 21). So there it is. No compromise with our convenience. If we wish to be really the Lord's friends , instead of mere intellectual acquaintances, we must accept His terms. We must, in so many words, take up our cross and follow Him ; for He said to His disciples : " Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14, v. 27). There is no other way to the Lord's friendship than by the way of discipleship. For the Lord calls us to be His disciples just as He called Peter, James and John and the other nine; just as He has called men and women down the centuries; just as He will call them in the myriad centuries still to come. We must be absolutely clear about this if we really desire the Lord's friendship. It is not easy; yet it is abun1s
  16. 16. dantly worth while in the final happiness, peace and vitality that it brings when in His strength we have triumphed, and have borne our cross after Him. Bearing our cross means self-denial and self-compulsion. No writer on this subject would be honest if he were to pretend that the process is necessarily a pleasant one at first. When we have become well instructed in the Heavenly Doctrines we will know that our hereditary human nature constantly draws us away from the Lord by tempting us to do things that are displeasing to Him. Put differently, this human nature continually persuades us to put ourselves before others in all things, and that includes the Lord. There is no need to give examples here since a little honest reflection will soon provide them. The point is that as soon as we have decided that the Lord's call to us should be obeyed 'then we have also decided that certain other steps have got to be carried 19
  17. 17. out. Self-denial and self-compulsion. We must take as our watchword, shield and buckler those simple and easily remembered truths of the Word in which the Lord's desires of His disciples are simply and clearly stated. Such truths as the following illustrate the point: "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1, v. 31). "Give ear, 0 ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, 0 earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass; Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgement: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he" (Deuteronomy 32, v. 1-4). 20
  18. 18. "The Lord is my shepherd : I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures : he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23, v. 1-3). "Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed . . . The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord : and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand .. . I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright : for the end of that man is 21
  19. 19. peace" (Psalm 37, v. 1-3, 23-24, 35-37). " I waited patiently for the Lord ; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God : many shall see it and fear, and shall trust in the Lord" (Psalm 40, v. 1-3). "O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things; his right hand and his holy arm hath gotten himself the victory" (Psalm 98, v. 1). "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust" (Psalm 103, v. 13-14). "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts : and in the hidden part thou 22
  20. 20. shalt make me to know wisdom ... Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit ... For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51, v. 6, 9-10, 12, 16-17). "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness . . . Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he 23
  21. 21. is near : Let the wicked fors ake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts : and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55, v. 1-2, 6-7). "Thus saith the Lord, keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this . .. " (Isaiah 56, v. 1-2). "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land . . ." (Isaiah 1, v. 18). "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of 24
  22. 22. Judah ... I will put in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord : for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more!" (Jeremiah 31, v. 31, 33-34). "What mean ye that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, ... hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgements, to 25
  23. 23. deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God" (Ezekiel 18, v. 2-5, 9). "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? . . . He hath showed thee, 0 man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? " (Micah 6, v. 7-8). The foregoing are but a few of the passages available in the Old Testament part of the Word, yet they illustrate very well the type of quotation that reveals those , simple but foundation truths upon which the whole of our spiritual life is based. They prepare the way for the more complex development that lies ahead. They are the seeds that grow from life into the beautiful tree of faith with its many fruits 26
  24. 24. SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND THE PRO·BLEM 0 F EVIL 1 So far, we have studied the main elemental basis upon which the state of friendship with God rests. We have examined very briefly what that state implies. We are now in a position to ask how that state is brought about, and what steps mark its progress. In other words, how may we know when this happy relationship with the Lord is beginning to mark our life? There is no quick answer to this question. The Divine Providence has its own secret ways of operating upon us; and the Heavenly Doctrines make it clear that this Providence is everywhere and in every29
  25. 25. thing. Were it not so the Lord could not truly be described as Almighty and Omniscient, two of the many names ascribed to Him in the Word. We read in Psalm 139: "Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue but lo, 0 Lord, thou knowest it altogether. . . . Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? ... " The answer, of course, is that we can never flee the Lord's presence. Wherever we are, there is He; whether we are in Hell or in Heaven. But while this belief is relatively simple to understand, the mind demands a more rational approach to this problem of the Divine Providence because we are made as rational beings with the power of thinking deeply about our environment. We want a well reasoned basis for what we believe. And it is just here 30
  26. 26. that the Heavenly Doctrines revealed by the Lord Himself through Swedenborg can be of assistance to us. In these Doctrines, describing the Laws of the Divine Providence, we are shown exactly how our minds and souls are instructed and guided towards an ever-deepening love of the Lord. And this is as follows. The initial introduction to the life of Faith is made by the acquisition of the basic and governing truths of religion - such truths as are set forth in the Ten Commandments, the essence of which is beautifully summarised in Luke chapter 10: 27. Contrary to the opinion of many nowadays these truths are not obsolete but are fundamental to the Christian life. There is nothing in modern humanist or moral philosophy that is not more thoroughly taught in the Christian faith. And the core of this teaching is found in the Ten Commandments themselves! If we despise the Commandments we despise the 31
  27. 27. whole of religion, because their essential teaching is that we love both God and our neighbour (Luke eh. 10, v. 27). 32
  28. 28. Evil and Sin : The basic teaching of the Ten Commandments concerns the avoidance of Sin. This is another name for Evil and means simply the putting of evil into practice. We often have evil thoughts which come from our evil hereditary human nature, but these do not make us sinners. We only sin if we love these thoughts and foster them, so that they really become a part of us. It is important to note that in the Ten Commandments there are eight negative commands and two positive commandsthe third and fourth. This is because man, at the beginning of his spiritual life, is in a state of potential evil. That is to say, all his basic inclinations are towards evil 33
  29. 29. rather than against it. This state of life is caused by the Adamic state in him, or proprial state derived from countless forbears. The word "proprial" is derived from the Latin word Proprium, meaning Selfhood or what is proper to Self. And Swedenborg uses this word whenever he wishes to describe man's own human nature as distinct from the heavenly nature which he receives from the Lord as a consequence of his regeneration. The significance of the eight negative commands of the Ten Commandments becomes clear in the light of this fact, because it is apparent that as a start to the regenerate life man must first refrain from doing evil. He cannot yet do good. Insofar as he does refrain from doing evil, that is sinning, to that extent does he come into the capacity of doing good. The Lord taught that one cannot put new wine into old bottles, by which He 34
  30. 30. meant that new truth does not generally live happily with old truth which has ceased to have relevance to the new age. It could also mean that a new capacity for doing good cannot come from the old state of life before regeneration. It can only come from a new heart and a new will. In the work for the New Church entitled "The True Christian Religion", paragraph No. 330, we read: "So far as a man shuns evil, he wills good, because evil and good are opposites; for evil is from hell and good from heaven; therefore so far as a man avoids hell or evil he approaches heaven and looks to good. Consider eight of the commandments in this light : (i) So far as anyone avoids worshipping other gods he worships the true God. (ii) So far as anyone avoids taking the name of God in vain he loves what is from God. (iii) So far as anyone shuns murder, hatred and revenge he . wishes well to the neighbour". Refer also 35
  31. 31. to paragraph No. 456. The point of all this is simply that before true good can be done sin must be avoided in all its forms. And these forms are many, for evil resides in all levels of thought and conduct relative to natural life. For the Lord taught that even when a man only desires to do evil but fears to carry it out because of the consequences, he is guilty of it. The fact that he has not dared to commit the act itself merely makes it less grievous to his soul. We may call this type of evil "intended evil", such as covetousness, envy, malicious thoughts about others, and so on. Provided we reject the thoughts as soon as they present themselves no harm is done, but if we nurse them lovingly then we are making them a part of ourselves and they attract other more evil thoughts, until our state of life becomes extremely unhappy, for we shall then bring to our side evil spirits whose delight is to infuse all kinds of insane lusts 36
  32. 32. into our hearts-according to the law "like attracts like". It may be asked at this point why the Lord permits Evil to exist at all since it is contrary to His way of life. And the answer must be that Evil exists because man himself desires it to exist. The Lord gave man a precious gift when He created him, namely, the gift of freedom. And freedom is nothing if it cannot be indulged. Were the Lord, therefore, to deny to man the right to sin He would be defaulting on His Own condition that man should be free to choose his own way of life. Obviously such a fault cannot be ascribed to the Lord, and so the fact remains that if man insists upon sinning he has· the right to do so; although it may be apposite to remark that the consequences of a disorderly life are terrible indeed if pursued relentlessly. Though Hell is pleasant to those who inhabit its dark regions it is no paradise in real terms, for its delights are 37
  33. 33. completely illusory, and the "happiness" of its denizens a mere phantasy of delirious minds. The chief enemy that we have to fight, therefore, is the state of Original Sin brought about by the Fall of mankind many thousands of years ago. We have but the scantiest knowledge of man's earliest beginnings mainly contained in myths and legends. But in the light of the Writings for the New Church we know that man began in a state of perfect order, a true image of his Creator. As the millenia passed, however, he began to recede from this perfect order and to desire the things of the world to the exclusion of those of the spirit, until the time came when he was almost destroyed by his own evil. This unhappy story is the true meaning of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden-an allegory enshrining Divine Truth. 38
  34. 34. To combat this new state of things the Lord gave man a divided Will and Understanding, so that he could think evil without automatically willing it. This separation enables the evil will into which man is born to be checked in its effects, through having its intentions dispassionately inspected and analysed by the separated Understanding faculty, which is able to act as from a certain will-power of its own. Thus a man can do four things; he can (i) will what is evil, (ii) understand that what he wills is evil and (iii) desist from what he wills that is evil, and (iv) do good from a regenerate will which is quite separate from the "old" will. Thus he learns gradually to forsake the life of selfishness, to love God and to become the friend of God. 39
  35. 35. Influx fro·m Heoven and from Hell: Inseparable from this study is the phenomenon of Influx. The term "influx" means to inflow, that is, to flow into something-in this case the human mind. Creation comprises two creations, in a sense, the Spiritual creation and the Material creation. Both work in harmony with one another, the spiritual flowing into the material. Without the spiritual world the material world could not exist, for the spiritual is the vital link between the Creator and the physical universe. It is into the spiritual universe that we come after the death of the physical body, to continue in it to all eternity. It is therefore very important that we should know about the existence of the spiritual world, since without this knowledge we can hardly understand the manner in which states of evil in ourselves attract to us spirits who inhabit the spiritual world. The same rule 40
  36. 36. applies to states of good, which attract to us the aid of angels acting as the Lord's ministers. We are spiritual beings, therefore, created to receive the Lord's Life and in "The True Christian Religion", paragraph No. 364, we read the interesting statement that: "God could not create another being like Himself; had this been possible there would have been as many gods as men . .And He could not create life, just as light cannot be created; but He could create man a form receptive of life, as He created the eye a form receptive of light. Also God could not and cannot divide His essence that being one and indivisible. Since, therefore, God alone is life, it follows that it is by His life that a man is vivified . . ." Our physical bodies are necessary for us to live in the universe of matter. But within 41
  37. 37. both is the universe of tne spirit. Thus within our physical body is the indestructible spiritual body, made of real spiritual substances that enable it to exist perpetually in the spiritual universe. Being vessels, then, we receive the Lord's life just as any vessel receives water. But besides receiving influx from the Lord we also receive a different influx from the myriads of spirits who inhabit the spiritual world, according to the type of person we are. If our lives are orderly and characterised by a love of what is good, we shall be in association with good spirits whose general character is like ours; and the converse is also true. Swedenborg describes it as follows, in "The True Christian Religion", paragraph No. 455: "Hell, owing to the nature of its lusts, delights in every kind of evil, that is, in hatred, revenge, murder, depredation, theft, abuse, blasphemy, the denial of God and the profanation of the Word. In man's 42
  38. 38. lusts these lie concealed because he does not reflect upon them .... But the delights of heaven are those of love of the neighbour and of God. Since the delights of hell are the opposite of those of heaven, there is a great gap between them into which the delights of heaven enter by influx from above and those of hell by influx from below. Here, midway between heaven and hell, is man, while he is in the world, in order that he may be in equilibrium and thus at liberty to turn either to heaven or to hell. This gap is what is meant by the 'great gulf fixed between heaven and hell' (Luke 16, v. 26)." Good affections flow into man's higher self, his spiritual self, from the Lord through heaven, and evil affections flow into his corrupt will from the hells. A state of deadly warfare exists between the two. The receptacle of the former lies in the Understanding faculty which is in contact with our spiritual self. In this the Lord 43
  39. 39. stores from our earliest infancy states of innocence which can be called into action whenever the Lord requires them. These good states are essential to our forward progress, because without them we should have nothing in us that was good. These states of good are referred to in the Writings for the New Church as Remains, because they are the remnants of our childhood which we carry forward into our adult life under the Lord's guiding Providence. They are also referred to as the Remains of Innocence, for that is what they are. They are not ours at all, but a kind of safe deposit stored up in us by the Lord against the "rainy day" to come, when we are set upon the road of regeneration and suffer the series of temptations necessary for our ultimate perfecting. In other words, the Lord establishes His Own bridgehead in our minds from which He can then persuade us to fight "from ourselves"-for that is the appearanceagainst the foes of our own household. It 44
  40. 40. is a fundamental truth of heaven that throughout all our temptation-combats the Lord alone fights for us and succours us, yet it always appears as if we did all the fighting. Nevertheless it is necessary that we should co-operate to the full with the Lord and play our part by shunning evils of all kinds as sins against Him. It should be emphasized once again that we are not condemned for evils over which we have no responsibility, but only for those which we make our own by desiring them and acting from them. We are not to blame for the fact that we are born with an evil will-faculty from our forbears, any more than they were for theirs. But we are to blame for acts which we do knowing that they are wrong. While upon earth, then, we are in equilibrium between Heaven and Hell, and it is in our power to move nearer the one or the other, as we choose. Although the Lord 45
  41. 41. strives to persuade us by every lawful means to choose the life of Heaven, He never compromises our basic freedom of choice. As already explained, this freedom is the sacred right with which He endowed us at our creation and which makes us men as distinct from animals. We are predestined by our very birthright to Heaven, but we are not compelled to go there if, by our own preference we choose Hell. As we make our bed so must we lie upon it. Reformation (and Swedenborg's role) : Since our theme is Friendship with God we shall concern ourselves only with the steps which follow logically upon a choice made in favour of Heaven and the Lord, namely, the path of regeneration. Reformation is the name given by Swedenborg to the first stage of the journey, in which 4(j
  42. 42. we acquaint ourselves with a thorough knowledge of the way we wish to go. It concerns, at this first stage, the Understanding alone, since the Will is corrupt and utterly useless to us for regenerative purposes. Our first task, as already intimated, is to find out by reading and study what sort of life it is that the Lord expects of us; that is, to discover just what is meant by the injunction "to take up our cross and follow Him". We come to religion with all kinds of false ideas and the initial duty must be to discard them and substitute them with true concepts of the Deity. This is the stage of reforming our beliefs, since if we do not do this at the very outset we are improperly equipped for the journey. It is as if we got a map of a country that we were about to visit. The path of reformation and regeneration is exactly the same. There is only one way to God and in order to find it we must follow His instructions about the road very carefully. And this is not really difficult if we take 47
  43. 43. the trouble to read them properly and act accordingly. The first task, therefore, is to read the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures, in the light of the Heavenly Doctrines revealed through Swedenborg by the Lord, so that we may be well informed as to what is expected of us. A blind trust is always necessary when treading a way that is foreign to us, but we need not be completely blind. In the Heavenly Doctrines much is revealed concerning the nature of God and of His Divine Providence. We are informed about the nature of the spiritual world, in the work "Heaven and Hell", both of which Swedenborg describes in great detail. In the work "Divine Providence" the laws which govern man's spiritual development are set forth; and in the work "Divine Love and Wisdom" the nature of God and of His creation is described in detail. Many other works could be cited, but the student who is keen 4~
  44. 44. will find them out for himself. The crowning work, however, is "The True Christian Religion", which is one of the chief works comprising the revelation for the New Church. It will have been noticed that the quotations given in this study are taken from this particular work. The newcomer to the New Church may well ask what are Swedenborg's bona fides. One of the best ways of testing any revelation is to read it for oneself. Does it fit the facts that it describes? If it does, then it is most probably true. Most of those who have come into the New Church from "outside" believe this to be the case, but a few have turned away again to other beliefs. That is their right, and no New Churchman-that is, member of the New Christian Church or Church of the New Jerusalem-would dispute this right. It is sacred to each individual. But Swedenborg had several things to 49
  45. 45. say about the revelation which he was instrumental in providing. One of the most important statements that he made is as follows: "The Lord cannot manifest Himself in person, and yet He has foretold that He will come and found a new church, which is the New Jerusalem. It follows that He will do this by means of a man who can not only understand the doctrines of this church but can also have them printed and published. I solemnly declare that the Lord has manifested Himself to me His servant, and sent me on this duty. He has opened the sight of my spirit and thus introduced me into the spiritual world; He has permitted me to see the heavens and the .hells, and to converse with angels and spirits, and this now continually for many years. Moreover, from the first day of that call I have not receivecf instruction in the doctrines of the new church from any angel, but from the Lord alone while I 50
  46. 46. have been reading the Word" (T.C.R. para. No. 779). Another statement explaining the whole context of the new revelation is as follows : "Jehovah God descended and assumed human nature for the purpose reducing to order all things in heaven and in the church; for at that time (First Advent) the power of the devil, that is of hell, prevailed over the power of heaven, and on earth the power of evil prevailed over the power of good; consequently a total destruction was at hand, and threatened every creature. This impending destruction Jehovah God removed by means of His humanity and thus redeemed both angels and men. It is evident from this that unless the Lord had come into the world no one could have been saved. The same is true today; unless the Lord had come again (Second Advent, 1757 A.D.) into the world no -flesh could have been saved". (T.C.R. para. No. 121interpolations and italics the writer's). 51
  47. 47. With the culminating temptation-combat on the cross the Lord both glorified Himself and reduced the hells to order so that man could be preserved from total destruction. At His Second Advent, marked by the Last Judgement in the spiritual world in the year 1757, the Lord again restored the conjunction of Heaven with the Church on earth through the Word, or Sacred Scriptures. This connection with Heaven through the Word had been broken by two false doctrinals invented by men in the Church on earth. The first declared that the Godhead consists of three Persons, each one of which is God. This is the Trinity dogma held by most Christian churches today. And the second doctrinal, held by the Reformed Church, taught that salvation is by :faith only and not also by works of Charity. This doctrinal in effect denied the Word and reduced man to a state of complete spiritual impotence. Swedenborg mentions other false ideas such as that of Predestination 52
  48. 48. taught by Calvin; and the concept of papal infallibility with the right of the Roman Catholic Church to open or close Heaven to whom it will. Such ideas as these had reduced the whole Christian church to spiritual bankruptcy by the middle of the 18th century so that it was then that the Lord made His Second Advent, foretold at His First Advent in Matthew chapter 24, verse 30. This verse speaks of the Coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory. The "clouds" are the simple, natural truths of the plain literal sense of the Word, while the "glory" is the true inner meaning of that literal sense interpreted according to the Law of Correspondence, which governs the writing of the Word throughout. In order, therefore, that the living truth within the Word should be restored to mankind, the Lord raised up a man, Swedenborg, to reveal it afresh. This he did, in a manner that has evoked both the 53
  49. 49. astonishment and the wonder of scholars and of thinkers ever since. And with the restoration of the Sacred Scriptures to their former beauty through the new revelation the New Jerusalem has begun to descend to mankind as promised in the Book of the Word, Revelation. In the New Jerusalem the Lord is known as He truly is-the Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Creator, Former of all, the One God. There is no need for us to become deeply immersed in the technicalities of this new revelation beyond being clear that it is from the Lord, being His Heavenly Doctrine revealed from the Word for the purpose of restoring the Word to mankind in all its purity, power and glory. Had this new revelation not been provided, and the Lord not made His Second Advent, the Word of God would have lost all its power to unite men with God, and so the spiritual life of the Church on earth would have completely perished. 54
  50. 50. Our first duty, then, is to study the Heavenly Doctrines carefully together with the Word, in order to find out what we must do to be saved. This process equips our minds for the task of putting the doctrine into practice. It is not necessary to attempt to absorb too much to begin with, since this will only lead to confusion. But we should read conscientiously a little at a time and ask those better informed than we are about any points that arise which puzzle us. We will never know all the answers and this is why we should not hesitate to ask questions of those, such as ministers or well-informed laymen, who may be able to help us. Besides our reading we will learn much from attendance at worship and at doctrinal classes where the Heavenly Doctrines from the Word are expounded. And as we learn the new truth we will also try to put it into practice by living it. It is basically simple enough, and as pointed out earlier it is found in many parts of the 55
  51. 51. simple literal sense of the Word itself, such as the famous passage from Micah : "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" These are the foundations upon which the regenerate life is based, and when we begin to build upon them we find that they are rock and proof against the worst that can happen to us, for they are maintained by the Lord Himself. Regeneration: When we have discovered the basic, essential facts about the Lord and the Way which He intends us to follow, we are in a state of Reformation, such as we have just been discussing. This concerns our 56
  52. 52. faculty of Understanding. But now we will try to see what is happening in the other part of us, the Will faculty. This, therefore, concerns the state of Regeneration which proceeds in the spirit hand in hand with the other state described above. Man is a rational being, which means that he must think before he acts. Therefore, in the life ,of regeneration it is vitally important that his mind should be well equipped with truth so that good may be conjoined with it. All things in creation comprise a marriage of good with truth in some form or other. Truth is the form of good, and good is the essence of truth. This is because the Lord Himself has these qualities. His essence is Love which expresses itself in the form of Wisdom, and these two qualities again express themselves in Power or Use. The same applies to man, except that he is not divine in himself but is a vessel of life only. However, the general principle applies. His mind 57
  53. 53. comprises both good and truth as well as, before regeneration, evil and falsity. In the process of Reformation he learns truth and in the process of Regeneration he acquires good, which is adjoined to the truth that he practises, though not to that which he only keeps in his memory. The distinction is most important. Only that truth which is brought into the actual life can acquire good and so become living in man. As already stated, this latter process concerns the Will-faculty which governs action. But at once we are up against a great difficulty because our own Will is defiled with hereditary corruption from the Fall. We simply cannot of ourselves do any good at all. Any good that we think we can do contains within it the same corruption because our motives are invariably suspect in some particular or other. In other words, self-love comes into the picture at some point or other. This corrupss
  54. 54. tion, as mentioned before, is not our own fault but it is a factor that has got to be reckoned with. Nor is it our parents' fault. It is the collective fault of the human race upon this planet. Yet each generation adds something of its own to the collective store of evil so that it grows and grows with time. That is why the two Advents of the Lord were so necessary, since by means of them the Lord established once and for all the superiority of His Divine Power over the worst that the Hells could do. The Lord shackled them, as one would shackle a mad bull or a maniac, yet without preventing them from expressing themselves to some extent in the affairs of the world, namely, to the extent necessary for the continued development of man's spiritual nature. Another way of regarding the process of regeneration would be to compare it with gardening. To begin with the ground to be cultivated is covered with briars, 59
  55. 55. bushes of all kinds and weeds. It is without any order, unkempt and thoroughly useless as a garden, as it stands. So the gardener begins by cutting down the vegetation that he does not want and by generally clearing the ground of weeds. The same thing happens within the human mind. First, wrong ideas are rejected before correct ideas can be planted, although instead of calling it weeding it is called "temptation". By temptation an old unregenerate state is removed, like a weed, and is replaced by a fresh new state, or beautiful flower, beginning with those states which are natural and external and proceeding in due order to states which are more interior, though still natural, for it is only the natural part of man that has been defiled by the Fall. It is one of those sad things that at the very beginning the path to good seems dark and forbidding, while the path of evil seems delightful and free. Our way along 60
  56. 56. the former seems hemmed in by restrictions of every kind-which is true-while the other way is broad and apparently devoid of any kind of prohibition. Our Lord said: "Enter ye in at the strait (narrow) gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7). These words should make us think very hard, for they are true. Swedenborg himself confirmed this fact and observed that far more chose the way to Hell than to Heaven. And the reason is possibly to be found in the fact already alluded to, namely, that the going at first is rather hard and many prefer not to risk it Yet there is no risk at all. All that is needed is a firm trust in the Lord's saving power, in 61
  57. 57. His strong arm. Having determined to set out on this narrow path we can be fully assured that the Lord will sustain us and help us to continue on our journey to Him. Temptation: Earlier the process of removing old evil states and replacing them with fresh new spiritual states was described as "temptation'', a process analogous to that of weeding and planting. And this is how the human soul is regenerated. The Lord Himself progressed in exactly the same way when He came upon the earth as a man. By His temptations He changed His states progressively from merely human states to Divine-human states, until with the final temptation of the Cross He made His human nature completely Divine-human and thus part of His Godhead. 62
  58. 58. In our case we do not exchange a human state for a divine-human one, but we exchange an imperfect human state for a perfect human one. This is the main mechanism of regeneration which proceeds as follows. In the first instance the sphere of Hell flows into our unregenerate self and induces unhealthy states of mind. When the Lord considers that we are ready to enter into a higher, better state He breathes His Spirit into us more fully and arouses our evil state to a condition of wakefulness. This is to say we actually, and perhaps for the first time, become fully aware of this particular evil state. It comes upon us very strongly and induces a sense of unhappiness and restlessness. It seems at the time that there is no good in us at all and we feel ourselves to be spiritually in a desert -hot, dry and dusty, like the bones seen by the prophet Ezekiel in vision (chapter 37). There is a sense of abandonment, as 63
  59. 59. if God had deserted us completely. That is why the Lord cried out on the cross: "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It is the same cry that is uttered with varying intensity by everyone deemed worthy to be tried in the fire of temptation. All this time, however, the Lord is adjoining good states to the truth already in our mind, and the garden is being planted afresh in our hearts. And so, when our discomfort has reached a stage when we feel we can bear it no more, the clouds suddenly lift, the sun shines upon us again and we feel deeply consoled for the suffering that we have endured. The temptation has thus come to an end for the time being and the Lord has fought victoriously for us. Any battle must be accompanied by violence and suffering, and the battle of temptation is no exception. The only difference is this, that whereas ordinary battles are unpredictable in human affairs, 64
  60. 60. the spiritual battle is bound to be in our favour because it is the Lord Himself Who fights for us, though only with our permission. We give Him our permission through our very desire to be better men and women than we already are. It is a spiritual axiom that the Lord never allows a man to be tempted beyond his power to resist. The Lord's purpose is not to break us but to make us. This He does through a series of temptation-combats which may last all our life, or may considerably lessen about middle life, depending upon the Lord's purpose for us in the cosmic scheme of things and upon our initial state of life. Our consolation lies in the fact that our journey through these battles is marked by an increasing delight in living the life that God would have us live-in His service. At the beginning of our journey we felt more pleasure in indulging our every whim 65 .
  61. 61. and fancy. But at the end of it, if we have remained faithful to our trust, we feel exactly the reverse. For the implanted Goods, the Remains of Innocence which the Lord gave to us from Himself when we were very small and feeble-and therefore pliable to His Will-are now a part of us through the conjunctive effect of the temptation - combats themselves. With every victory won over ourselves a new state of good is born. And with every birth of good in our wills a new capacity for service to the Lord begins to take effect. Thus our Will-faculty becomes regenerated and clothed with the truths of the Church which we have learned either from the Word or by teaching from it. So our soul will have gained a new, heavenly Will-faculty in place of the original, defiled one. We shall have become entirely new people. And our Understanding-faculty will have become equipped wi.tth ttew rnatching truths entirely conson66
  62. 62. ant with the goods which the Lord has given to us through temptation-combat, as already mentioned. Other true concepts of . life which we have come to love for the sake of the Lord will attract still more; until our whole character becomes completely transformed by love. We shall still have imperfections which must be fought, but they will no longer bulk so large and will be seen as minor blemishes in an otherwise beautiful whole. Of ourselves, however, we would never have had the strength to change our way of life. But the Lord in His mercy and love has redeemed mankind by His Own Power and enabled man to choose freely and fearlessly the true path to follow. 67
  63. 63. FRIENDSHIP Assuming that we have come thus far in regeneration and in the faithful application of the teaching of the Lord's Church, it can confidently be predicted that we shall enter into the wonderful and intimate state of "friendship" with the Lord. The full implication of this state was discussed at some length at the beginning. It was then clearly understood that this state does not mean, and can never mean, a state of equality. It does mean a state of intimacy such as existed, for example, between the Lord and His disciples. This intimacy carries with it a kind of deeply reverent familiarity such as should always exist between friends. The Lord would not ·< 69
  64. 64. have it otherwise in His Own case. The state of friendship over-rides all else because, as pointed out in the beginning, it is the expression of Love. Love is the heart of all true friendship; and Love is not a mere abstraction of thought, it is very real. One is accustomed in these days of materialism to hearing the view that anything which is inexplicable by common or scientific experience is unworthy of further investigation or even belief. Such views are often implied, if not actually expressed, by writers of stature and by one or two modern philosophers. But, fortunately, there are many other people of standing in modern life who do not bow the knee to Baal, and who do not accept the sophistry of clever ideas which have little to recommend them apart from their sheer novelty. In other words, although many deny the reality of Love except as a sentimental cliche in modern speech, there are many 70
  65. 65. others who know positively from their own experience that Love is a reality basic to all life and experience. Denial of a reality does not make it any the less real; and Love exists no matter how hard many attempt to shut it out from their lives. God is Love. And friendship with Him involves Love to Him. We become His friends because we love Him. "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you". We can only do this if we have love for the Lord, either potentially or actually. Those men and women whom the Church (not the New Church) refers to as "saints" are souls which have particularly demonstrated in their lives-so far as one can judge-these qualities of love which have resulted in this state of friendship. The outstanding quality of this relationship has been a deep and powerful convic11
  66. 66. tion of the Lord's love for them as individuals, coupled with a complete trust in His Providence for them. This trust, in its turn, brings about a sense of calm and wonderment at the beauty of the Divine Plan for all mankind. This is the "peace" to which the Lord refers when He says, "My peace I leave with you", to His disciples at the Last Supper. This "peace" is the state of utter confidence that no matter what happens to us in our outer, natural lives we are completely under the Lord's Personal care; that we are not too little to be of account to Him; that He loves us individually as separate persons. Friendship, fortunately, is not the sole prerogative of the "saints" but is the birthright of every soul. We can, and should, all be the Lord's friends. If we are not, then obviously we are not yet true disciples, in the sense that we have not fully committed ourselves to Him. There are, nevertheless, differing degrees of 72
  67. 67. friendship, just as there are different Heavens in the Spiritual World. Some of us may attain to a deeper union with the Lord than others, but that is not for us to worry about so long as we do our best in the way that we know and understand. That is what the Lord requires of us, namely, our trust first of all, and secondly our best endeavour to serve Him and our fellow man. 73
  68. 68. CONCLUSION We have attempted to discuss, in this short study, the true implication of our Christian Faith in its definition of the pr~er spiritual relationship between us, as Lpractisingj Christians, and our Lord Jesus Christ, GoCl arid Creator. We have seen that a promise is held out of a close and permanent union between us and the Lord which carries with it a great blessing of strength and happiness in the Lord's Being, depicted so perfectly by the disciple John laying his head upon the Lord's breast at the Last Supper. On the other hand we may confine ourselves to a more formal outward acknow75
  69. 69. ledgement of the Christian Faith consisting of a conscientious attendance at worship each Sunday and of other duties consequent upon our association with the Church. This represents the Martha stage of our Christian fellowship, when we are " much cumbered " with our various duties. This attention to our obligations is essential to the expression of Love which characterizes the higher state of friendship to the Lord, since it represents the obedience to His Commands. But our obedience to these divine commands should not engender a state of mind which becomes frustrated, like Martha's. Her sister, Mary, it may be remembered, sat at the Lord's feet and drank in His words as if her very life depended upon it-and in a sense her life did depend upon hearing all that the Lord could tell her about the spiritual laws. It may have appeared from the New Testament story recounted in Luke chapter 10 that Mary evaded her duties, but this is clearly not meant. She took time off 76
  70. 70. to devote to worship, to getting nearer to God. She put the world away for the time being in order to pray and meditate in her heart upon what her life as a disciple meant to her. The Martha and Mary states are both very necessary but we should never allow Martha to dominate Mary. To achieve complete union with the Lord, as our Friend, we should concentrate upon the higher level of use which grows easily and naturally out of the lower state of being serviceable. We begin by being serviceable, that is, we obey conscientiously and literally the divine commands contained in the Word, and we pay strict attention to our duties as a member of the Church. This is good and indeed vital to any meaningful Christian life. But it is not in itself enough. We must go further, by understanding our true relationship with the Lord and His 77.
  71. 71. desire for us. That is, we must, like Mary, become His friend, adoring Him as our Saviour and worshipping Him as our God. And this means, in its turn, that our service to Him becomes a joy, the very expression of our love for Him, and no longer a rather tedious devotion to duty. It is like the seed that was sown in good ground and which grew and flourished and became of use to mankind. Like the animals we were created to be of use, but unlike them we were also created to be His friends and His companions in the Heavens. That is our glorious destiny, to which the Lord invites us in His Own words : "I have called you friends ... for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you". 78
  72. 72. INDEX Acknowledgement of God: 12. l4. Afjectioris: 43, 44. Bearing our Cross: 18, 19. Commandments, The: 13, 31, 33-36. Conjunction: 5, l4, 54. Correspondence, Law of : 53. Discipleship : 18, 72, 76. Disjunction: 14, 52. Divine Providence: 12, 29, 30. Equilibrium and the Gulf fixed: 43, 45. Evil and Sin: 33-37. False dogmas: 52, 53. Foundation truths of Word: 20-25, 31, 56. Freedom of choice: 15, 37, 46, 67. Friendship: 5-1, 13, 69-72, 78. God: 42, 51, 54. Heaven and Hell: 43, 45, 59, 61. Infiux: 39--43. Joy: 5. Living well: 13. Lord's Divine-Human: 62. Lord's Peace: 72. Lord's Temptatioris: 52. Meditation, reading and study: 9, 47, 55, 76. Natural and spiritual worlds: 40, 41. New Jerusalem and the new revelation: 8, 54. Obedience: 16. 79
  73. 73. Original Sin: 38. Proprium: 34. Purpose of Creation: 11, 12. Reformation and regeneration: 46, 48, 58, 59. Remains of Innocence: 44. Second Advent: 9, 51-54, 59 . Self-denial and self-compulsion: 19, 20. Spirits: 40, 42. Swedenborg: 48-51, 53. Temptations: 60, 62-67. Will and Understanding faculties: 39, 43, 47, 56, 57, 66. Writings of the New Church: 8, 9. ' fJ . 80
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