How great these sufferings were

How great these sufferings were, we can never know. They surpassed all human comprehension, and all finite power to endure. They did not consist in His humiliation, or in the indignities offered to His person, and the pain inflicted upon him by the Jews. Thousands of men have been treated with more physical cruelty than He was. They have been put upon the rack, and when every fibre had been stretched, every joint wrenched, every nerve tortured to the extreme limit of physical power to bear, medical science has been taxed to keep up the failing powers that the agony might be prolonged as much as possible. Multitudes have endured poverty and privation; have been deserted by every friend; have been mocked, scourged, and crucified, and yet their suffering bore no comparison to the Lord’s.

What the Jews did to his body typified and represented what the whole infernal host strove to do to the Divine itself. He was assaulted with the same fierceness and malignity by all the infernal powers, that the Jews heaped upon His innocent head, and with inconceivably greater strength and fury. Every avenue to the Divine within was thronged with evil forces; every evil desire in the assumed humanity was aroused and excited to the most intense activity, as the Divine flowed down into the infirm human, and sought to put it off and substitute itself in its place.

There is but little said in the gospels concerning our Lord from His infancy until His entrance upon His public ministry. Do you suppose He was idle all this time? That cannot be. Our doctrines teach us that He “was about His Father’s business.” He was subduing all things unto Himself; He was undergoing the most cruel temptations. Every false principle and every evil affection that ever existed in a fallen humanity was awakened and passed through all its stages of progress from its rise to its entire subjection and expulsion. As Jehovah, He was infinite, and He must, therefore, have experienced every state that is possible to all finite beings. He saw every evil and every false principle in all its naked and hideous deformity and fearful consequences, and every evil left its sting. His human nature was subject to all the illusions of a fallacious good; to all the weariness, the doubt, the darkness, the disappointment, the despair that the whole body of humanity has suffered. You never suffered a pang which He did not. All generations, past and future, never did, and never will taste a sorrow which was not concentrated in the bitter cup He drained to the dregs. “He tasted death, for every man.”

GIVING SIGHT TO THE BLIND

GIVING SIGHT TO THE BLIND
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 28, 1991

“Then they reviled him, and said: `You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes'” (John 9:28-30).

Walking along with His disciples on the Sabbath day, the Lord noticed a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked the Lord whose fault it was that he was blind the man’s or his parents’. The Lord replied that it was neither. He then announced that He must do the works which He was sent to do, and proclaimed Himself the `light of the world.’ “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay, and He said to him: `Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ … So He went and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6,7).

When the neighbors and acquaintances of the man saw him, they questioned whether it was indeed the same man, for a miracle such as this was unknown at that time. But the man did not leave them in any doubt. He told them that he was the one who had been born blind. They then wanted to know how he had received sight. He told them how a Man named Jesus had made clay with His saliva, anointed his eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

They then brought the man to the Pharisees, and he was again questioned concerning this amazing miracle. Upon hearing his recital of what had taken place, the Pharisees concluded that the Man who did the miracle must be a sinner since He had done it on the Sabbath day. They therefore asked the man, “`What do you say about Him because he opened your eyes?’ He said, `He is a prophet'” (John 9:17).

But the Pharisees doubted whether he had indeed been born blind. They therefore called the parents of the man and began to interrogate them. The parents claimed him as their son and affirmed that he had been blind from birth; but, knowing the hostility of the Pharisees toward Jesus, they refused to say how he had been cured, saying that he was of age and could answer for himself. The Jews therefore called the man again, telling him that Jesus was a sinner, and that he should give the praise to God. They then began to question him again, pressing him to make some statement of which they could accuse him. When he asked them whether they also wanted to become Jesus’ disciples, they reviled him, saying that they were Moses’ disciples, for they knew that Moses spoke with God but they did not know where Jesus was from.

Then “the man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes … Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing'” (John 9:30,32,33).

Then the Pharisees, in anger, expelled him from the synagogue saying, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (John 9:34) When the Lord heard that the man had been expelled, He came to him and asked him if he believed in the “Son of God.” The man inquired who He was, expressing a desire to believe in Him. Then the Lord told him that it was He who was speaking to him. Upon hearing this the man declared his belief in the Lord and fell down and worshipped Him. The Lord then declared that He had come into the world to give sight to the blind, and make blind those who could see. The Pharisees then inquired whether they were among the blind. To this the Lord replied, “If you were the blind, you would have no sin, but now you say `We see'; therefore your sin remains” (John 9:41).

This story of the Lord’s miracle of giving sight to the man born blind is dramatic and deeply touching. We sense in it the joy and wonder of the man who received sight after so many years of utter darkness. We are warmed by the compassion and mercy which the Lord showed toward the blind man. We are amazed, astonished and dumfounded by the hostility and antagonism which the Pharisees exhibited toward the man who had been blind and his benefactor, and by their fanatical desire to discredit Him. Instead of rejoicing at this man’s good fortune, and marvelling at this wonderful miracle, they rebuked and persecuted the man and his family, and finally expelled him from the synagogue.

Dramatic as this story may be, and wonderful as the miracle was in itself, this story is not mere history. It is not an event done and finished. The miracle of giving sight to the blind is one which the Lord is continually effecting with all people who genuinely desire it. Remarkable as all the Lord’s miracles were in themselves, they were not the fulfillment of His mission on earth. Because the Lord is infinite, everything He did while on earth looked to spiritual and eternal ends. The Lord did not come on earth to heal people’s bodies. The body lives for only a few short years and then it is discarded, like clothing that has served its use. He came to heal the spirits of people their minds, which live on in the spiritual world when the body has been put off. All the miracles which the Lord performed were ultimate representations of spiritual things things that pertain to the hearts and minds of people (see AE 475:19).

All the diseases which the Lord healed while on earth have their spiritual correspondents (see AE 815:5). The man born blind whom the Lord healed represents all those people who are ignorant of Divine truth, and who, through a genuine desire to know the truth, are enlightened by the Lord at His coming.

We would recall here our lesson from Isaiah. We read there of a closed book that none could understand, neither the learned nor the simple. This book was the Word. The Jews, through their refusal to obey the Lord’s precepts, closed their understanding to the truth revealed by the Lord in His Word. Thus the book was closed to them; and because it was closed to the leaders and teachers of the Jews the learned they closed it to the simple who depended on them for instruction from the Word. Instead of teaching genuine truths from the Word they taught man-made precepts: “their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). They “make a man an offender by a word … and turn aside the just for a thing of naught” (Isaiah 29:21).

Because of this situation the Lord prophesied that He would do a marvelous work when He came on earth. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the Book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness … Those also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmured will learn doctrine” (Isaiah 29:18, 24).

Here we see described one of the purposes of the Lord’s coming: to open the understanding of people their spiritual sight so that they could see Divine truths in the Word. He came to open the closed “Book” so that people could learn doctrine from it doctrine applicable to life Divine doctrine, not man-made doctrine, the precepts of men which turn aside a person for a thing of naught. This is the interior meaning of the miracle which the Lord performed for the man born blind. And the means by which He healed the man describe the means by which He may open the interior understanding of each individual, and impart to him a genuine rational faith.

The clay which the Lord used to anoint the man’s eyes represents good the good affections which a person has acquired by a life according to truth (see AC 6669:6). After anointing the man’s eyes, He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This represents a cleansing by repentance from what is evil and false, for all the ceremonial washings of the Jews represented repentance, as did the baptism of John in the fords of the river Jordan.

The Lord healed the blind man on the Sabbath day a thing which caused the Pharisees to condemn Him. When the Lord came on earth the Sabbath day took on a new meaning. The representatives of the Jewish Church were abolished, and the Sabbath became a day for instruction and meditation on spiritual things and for the worship of God. The Lord, in this and many other instances, healed people on the Sabbath because people are cured of their spiritual diseases by instruction from the Word, meditation upon its teachings, and the resulting internal worship of the Lord (see TCR 301). All this is represented by the Sabbath day.

We would also note the fact that when the Pharisees asked the man what he thought of the Man who healed him, he said he thought Him a prophet. By prophets in the Word are meant those who teach truths which lead to the good of life, thus, in an abstract sense, the truths of doctrine themselves. The Lord was therefore frequently called a “prophet” because He was the Divine truth itself. In this particular instance He is called a “prophet” to signify that spiritual blindness ignorance of spiritual truth is healed by genuine truths of doctrine from the Word (see AE 624:18, 23). We read in the Apocalypse Explained: “The faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them” (AE 815:5).

We would draw your attention to the fact that the man first acknowledged the Lord as a prophet. Later, after he had been expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees, the Lord asked if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked: “Who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him?” The Lord replied, “It is He who is talking with you.” The man then said, “`Lord I believe,’ and he worshipped Him” (John 9:35-38).

We see here the natural progression of the faith of a person whose understanding has been opened who was been given spiritual sight. When the understanding is first opened, the person acknowledges that it is truth which has given sight to the understanding. But after the person has lived the new truth which he sees, when he becomes a disciple of the truth the prophet’s disciple a judgment is produced. He cannot remain any longer in the former church; he is expelled from the synagogue, for he no longer adheres to their man-made precepts. Then it is that he is asked if he acknowledges the Son of God the Lord in His Divine Human revealed anew to mankind. And by further questioning and study of the newly revealed truth the person is led to make the final acknowledgment, that this same truth which opened the understanding is the Lord Himself in His advent (see AC 2628).

This miracle represents the fulfillment of one of the Lord’s purposes in coming on earth. He prophesied in Isaiah that He would come to open the human understanding so that people could see the inner contents of the “Book” which was closed by their spiritual blindness. He was going to teach them doctrine so that they would cease to err. He proclaimed again this purpose immediately before and after He had healed the blind man, saying, “I am the light of the world … For judgment I have come into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see may be blind” (John 9:5,39). Those who think they see are blinded, because they see from self-intellegence rather than from the Lord who is the “light of the world” their self-illumined understanding in an illusory light. They see what is false as the truth, and what is true they see as false. They close their eyes against the genuine light of Divine truth.

The purpose of the Lord’s Second Coming is the same as that of the First Coming. In the book of Revelation we read of a “Book” sealed with seven seals, which nobody was worthy to open except the Lord Himself. This was a prophecy of how, in the Christian Church, the Word would again become a closed Book a book no longer understood by the learned or the simple, a book which only the Lord Himself could open in His Second Advent. And it is opened! The spiritual meaning of the Word is now revealed! It gives spiritual understanding spiritual sight to those who receive and acknowledge it.

We see in this story of the healing of the blind man that the Word is not just an historical record of the Israelites, of the Lord’s life on earth and the wonders He performed during the three short years of His ministry. We see that the Word contains within it living truth which can heal our spiritual blindness and cleanse our minds and hearts from what is false and evil. In the revelation of His Second Advent the Lord has opened the Book that was closed. He has revealed Himself anew so that those who err in spirit may come to understanding, and those who murmur may learn true doctrine.

May the Lord, through His open Word, heal us who have been born in ignorance. As we apply these revealed truths to our lives, and repent of our sins, may our understandings be opened so that we come seeing. And when the Pharisee within us raises doubts as to the origin of our new light, may we be led to acknowledge, as did the man born blind, that only the Lord Himself can open the interior sight of our minds and illumine their darkness, so that we may say of the truth when it is presented to our minds, “Lord, I believe.” Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 29:9-24, John 9

THE LORD IS MERCY ITSELF

THE LORD IS MERCY ITSELF
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 14, 1991

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:1-4).

“Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?” (Psalm 85:4,5).

What is the true nature and quality of God? Is He a God of infinite love and mercy, as taught in our first text a God who forgives all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, redeems us from destruction and crowns us with lovingkindness? Or is He a God of anger, wrath and vengeance as implied in our second text a God who never forgets our backslidings and punishes us for them? Or is the Lord, like mortal men, subject to both of these feelings and emotions? Is He moved by love and mercy at certain times and by anger and wrath at others? The answer to the latter two questions is an unqualified NO! Our first text presents the Lord as He really is, while our second text presents Him as He appears to the wayward, self-led person.

The Writings declare: “The Lord is love itself, to which no other attributes are fitting than those of pure love, thus of pure mercy toward the whole human race, which [love] is such that it wills to save all and make them happy to eternity, and to bestow on them all that it has, thus out of pure mercy to draw to heaven all who are willing to follow … by the strong force of love” (AC 1735). They further state that “the Lord never curses anyone. He is never angry with anyone, never leads anyone into temptation, never punishes anyone … for such things can never proceed from the Fountain of mercy, peace, and goodness” (AC 245).

The Lord, who is mercy and goodness itself, regards all people from mercy and never turns away His face from anyone. It is we, when in evil and disorder, who turn our faces away from the Lord. This is what the Lord was speaking of in Isaiah, when He said: “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you” (59:2).

Even though we may turn away from the Lord and reject His love, still the Lord does not desert us. He is ever present waiting to be received. He continually breathes into us His own life. And even though we may not respond to it according to order, it nevertheless gives us the ability to think and reflect, and to discern whether a thing is good or evil, true or false (AC 714). Thus the Lord provides that, even though we may reject Him and close the door of our minds to Him, yet we retain the ability to distinguish between good and evil, truth and falsity, so that we may, at any time, change our ways and admit the Lord into our life. The Lord spoke of this saying: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).

The mercy of the Lord is perpetual with everyone, for the Lord wills to save all people, whoever they are; but His mercy cannot be received until evils are removed, for it is evils which oppose and prevent the reception of the Lord’s mercy (see AC 8307). While the Lord’s love and mercy go out to everyone, a person must have that in himself which is receptive to love and mercy; and that which receives love and mercy is truth. Where there is no truth, there can be no good, mercy or peace because there is nothing to receive them (see AC 10579:8).

Divine love and Divine wisdom are inseparable, for in the Lord these two are one. And since mercy is of love and justice is of wisdom, therefore these two are also inseparable. Therefore, when a person rejects the Lord as to truth, that is, when a person rejects Divine truth or the Word, he rejects the Divine mercy also, for, as said before, he has nothing to receive it. And since Divine truth is the Divine order according to which all creation operates, therefore those who reject Divine truth are judged from the laws of justice and truth separated from love, not because the Lord withdraws His love, for it is always joined with Divine truth, but because man has rejected His love and mercy along with the Divine truth. On the other hand, those who willingly receive Divine truth are judged from justice tempered with mercy because they have the vessels in themselves which receive it (see AC 5585:6).

The Lord wills that everyone should enter into the happiness of heaven. This, in fact, is His purpose in creation. But since heaven is within man according to one’s reception of good and truth from the Lord, therefore only those are received into heaven who have heaven within themselves. When the evil are punished, it is not because the Lord wills it, but because such people have separated themselves from the Divine love. So we are told in the Writings: “The Lord in no case sends anyone down into hell, but man sends himself” (AC 2258).

Looking at this question of Divine mercy from another point of view, we should bear in mind that it is of mercy to the good that the evil are separated from them. For if they were not, the evil would do harm to the good, and would be continually attempting to destroy order, for this endeavor is inherent in all evil. The same thing is true on earth. If breaches of civil and moral order were not punished, and the offenders removed from society, society would soon be infected with evils and disorders, and would eventually perish. For this reason, we are told, a judge shows greater love and mercy by punishing evils and those guilty of them than by exercising inappropriate clemency on their behalf (ibid.).

These teachings make it clear that the Lord’s mercy is with everyone according to the person’s state. With those who are receptive to good and truth, the Lord’s mercy bestows peace and heavenly joy. With the evil, who undergo punishment as a result of their breaches of Divine order, the Lord’s mercy bends the penalty of evil to the person’s eternal welfare. Thus, even with the evil the Lord’s mercy is operative, but it takes another form with them than with the good (see AC 587:2). The Lord says: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19). “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).

The truth of these teachings concerning the Lord’s mercy is evident when we reflect upon the relationship of wise and loving parents with their children. When the children act according to order, they perceive and feel the love which their parents have for them, and they experience states of happiness, confidence, peace and security. However, when they depart from orderly behavior, they are no longer receptive to their parents’ love, but come under the rule of truth. If the parents are wise they do not punish in and from anger but from love, which expresses itself as zeal, but the child does not perceive the love. Temporarily the child is estranged from his parents and therefore mistakes the zeal for anger. It is because of this appearance that the Lord is alternately pictured as a God of love and mercy, and a God of wrath and anger, particularly in the Word of the Old Testament.

While we recognize the truth of the matter from doctrine and the application of logic, we too are inclined to be deceived by the appearance. There are occasions when we are apt to regard the Lord as a hard taskmaster. When we read something in the Word, or hear teaching from the Word, which makes us aware of our evils and shortcomings, we are often inclined to think that the Lord requires more of us than can be reasonably expected. It even appears that He has put stumbling blocks in our way. The truth then seems hard and cold it seems to rebuke us, and we unconsciously attribute something of harshness, or even of anger, to the Lord.

To many people the life of religion seems to be a stern, restrictive discipline instead of a source of inspiration and delight. And for this reason they are inclined to absent themselves from the church and from participating in its functions. They do not want discipline. Furthermore, they do not wish to be made aware of their shortcomings, for it destroys their equanimity and enjoyment of life.

The fact is, however, that the Lord, from infinite love, reveals Himself in the Word and established His church to teach the Word for the sake of human happiness. The Lord seeks to lead mankind to true and lasting happiness through the teaching of the Word in the church. In its essence, the church is not a human institution; it is a product of Divine love. In the family of man the Lord is our Father and the church our spiritual mother. The Lord’s love, directly and through the church, reaches out to us and, like children, we should respond affirmatively to that love. If we do not feel the love which goes forth from our spiritual parents, if we do not experience the states of happiness, peace and security which attend that love, it is because of a state of disorder within ourselves. The love is there, but we may not receive it; we may be aware only of the truth, which seems hard, cold and stern.

We know that this need not be. We are rational beings, and we can see, if we are willing, that this is merely an appearance an appearance caused by our own lack of receptivity. Recognizing this, we should not regard the Lord’s commandments as hard laws which seek to deprive us of the delight of living. Nor should we regard the church as a demanding institution which seeks to confine and restrict us. The Lord seeks our real happiness, and through His church seeks to promote our real, eternal welfare. We are able to see, if we elevate our thought above the senses, that if we will freely walk in the way of truth the path of life we will feel the warmth and reassurance of Divine love.

In this state of elevation we will look upon the Lord and His church as “the source of all our blessings.” We will acknowledge that “before His gifts earth’s richest boons grow dim,” that “resting in Him, His peace and joy possessing, all things are ours, for we have all in Him” (Hymn 30, Liturgy). Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 103:1-13, Luke 15:11-32, HH 522, 523

Heaven and Hell

522. But first let us consider what the Divine mercy is. The Divine mercy is pure mercy toward the whole human race, to save it; and it is also unceasing toward every man, and is never withdrawn from anyone, so that every one is saved who can he saved. And yet no one can be saved except by Divine means, which means the Lord reveals in the Word. The Divine means are what are called Divine truths, which teach how man must live in order to be saved. By these truths the Lord leads man to heaven, and by them He implants in man the life of heaven. This the Lord does for all. But the life of heaven can be implanted in no one unless he abstains from evil, for evil obstructs. So far, therefore, as man abstains from evil he is led by the Lord out of pure mercy by His Divine means, and this from infancy to the end of his life in the world and afterwards to eternity. This is what is meant by the Divine mercy. And from this it is evident that the mercy of the Lord is pure mercy but not apart from means, that is, it does not look to saving all out of mere good pleasure however they may have lived.

523. The Lord never does anything contrary to order, because He Himself is Order. The Divine truth that goes forth from the Lord is what constitutes order, and Divine truths are the laws of order. It is in accord with these laws that the Lord leads man. Consequently, to save man by mercy apart from means would be contrary to Divine order, and what is contrary to Divine order is contrary to the Divine. Divine order is heaven in man, and man has perverted this in himself by a life contrary to the laws of order, which are Divine truths. Into this order man is brought back by the Lord out of pure mercy by means of the laws of order; and so far as he is brought back into this order he receives heaven in himself; and he that receives heaven in himself enters heaven. This again makes evident that the Lord’s Divine mercy is pure mercy and not mercy apart from means.

ALL POWER HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME

ALL POWER HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida March 31, 1991

“And Jesus came and spoke to them saying: `All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matthew 28:18).

The message of Easter is one of victory and new life. It is fitting, on this occasion, that we give thanks to the Lord for His glorification and redemption. In the Lord’s resurrection we also have His assurance of our own resurrection into the spiritual world, and the heartening assurance of His Divine power over the hells. By His resurrection we are also assured that good can, and always will, prevail over evil. If we are willing to receive power from the Lord evil will have no power over us. He freely imparts His power to all who look to Him, love Him and keep His commandments.

“All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Not only had the Lord risen victorious from the death imposed by the corrupt leaders of the Jewish Church, not only had He conquered natural death, but in doing so He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth. The concentrated forces of all the hells, through the agency of evil and selfish men, had sought to destroy Him; and in the moment of their apparent success, their utter failure was revealed.

Here we see clearly the impotence of evil against good dramatically demonstrated. Because the apostles had to perceive this truth, the Lord, in commissioning them to establish a new church, said:”All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations … ” Secure in the knowledge of this truth, that the Lord had all power in heaven and on earth, they could fearlessly preach the Gospel, confident that nothing could defeat their mission. For, working with them and through them was the Lord Who, after His resurrection, had confidently proclaimed:”All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth … And, lo, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

In the revelation of His Second Advent, the Lord has fully revealed the nature, quality and operation of His Divine power to bring mankind into the happiness of eternal life. He has revealed the glory, beauty and wonder of His eternal kingdom. His power in is the laws of His Divine providence, all of which operate to draw all people to heaven as many as do not will fully refuse.

His kingdom is one of love and wisdom conjoined in use a kingdom where all are brought into such a harmony that the joy of one is communicated to and shared by all, and the joy of all is felt in each one individually; a kingdom where the delight of living increases and deepens to eternity a kingdom where the mutual love of husband and wife grows deeper and stronger to all eternity.

But, like the disciples of old, we live in an age which is, for the most part, far removed from the reception of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom. On every side, in the place of love and charity, we see hatred and envy; in the place of wisdom we see bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and empty sentimentality; in the place of use we see the lust for pleasure and reward; in the place of conjugial love we see the lust of self-gratification.

The message of Easter is that in the midst of this hostile environment, and in spite of it, we can, nevertheless, receive the spiritual things of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom within ourselves. We can receive genuine love for the neighbor, true wisdom from the Word, the good of use from the Lord, and love truly conjugial, and manifest them in our lives and the life of the church.

In the midst of a sphere of hatred and contempt for others we can receive the Divine love of humanity into our hearts. In the midst of a sphere of intellectual pride and an overwhelming trust in scientific achievement, and contempt for spiritual values, we can nurture, by devotion to duty, a spiritual love of use and a deep and joyful love for our marriage partners. All this is possible because the Lord has established His kingdom a kingdom not of this world, and revealed its nature to us because after His resurrection He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth.

While in the world, the Lord preached a doctrine of love and charity toward the neighbor, a doctrine of mercy and human compassion. He taught a doctrine of spiritual and moral values. He revealed, and His life was an example of, devotion to others. But the hells, through their human agents, the Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees, tried to destroy these spiritual values. They were not interested in spiritual things nor were they interested in a spiritual kingdom. They wanted a Messiah Who would establish for them a natural kingdom a kingdom where they would enjoy power over their neighbors, a kingdom in which they would be able to satisfy all their natural longings and sensual appetites. But because the Lord’s kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), they sought to destroy Him and all that He stood for.

Let us realize that there is a similar struggle and conflict within each one of us. The hells, entering in through the loves of self and the world, and inflaming them, seek to destroy in us, the love of the Lord and His spiritual kingdom of charity, spiritual intelligence, devotion to use and conjugial love. They seek to persuade us that if God indeed exists, He would satisfy our every ambition and desire; He would provide for us every worldly comfort and pleasure; He would do away with famine, pestilence, disease and natural suffering; for, are not these the enemies of human happiness? They seek to persuade us that if there is a Kingdom of God it should be here and now, and not hereafter; that we should experience its joy and satisfaction without effort on our part. By the insinuation of these ideas, our belief in the Lord and our love for Him and the things of His Kingdom is undermined and threatened with destruction by the malice of hell acting through their agents the love of self and the love of the world.

For the regeneration person these are the trials of temptation. But unlike the Lord in temptation, we are not alone in ours. He is inmostly present with His infinite power to uphold us and sustain us if we will but turn to Him for help and guidance. And with His help we cannot fail, for by His resurrection He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth.

We are told in the Heavenly Doctrine, that the Lord’s rising again on the third day, in reference to man, means that the Lord, working in love and faith, can rise, in the regenerating person, every day and every moment (AC 2405:7). In the same way He may also be present continuously in His church. When we are brought, through temptation, to the acknowledgment of our own helplessness, and at the same time realize that we may receive all power from the Lord, then we grasp the real significance of the Lord’s resurrection, for it is then being re-enacted in our own lives.

We would note that the sacrament of the Holy supper is intimately related to this festival. For the Lord instituted and partook of this supper with His disciples just prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. It is this acknowledgment the acknowledgment that we are entirely dependent on the Lord that is represented in that sacrament. For it is because we see that we can do nothing that is really good, nor think what is true of ourselves, that we approach the Lord to receive His Divine good and Divine truth, represented by the bread and wine.

In taking the bread we acknowledge that all good, every spiritual love is from the Lord alone, and we seek to receive it from Him. In taking the wine we acknowledge that all wisdom, truth and spiritual intelligence is from Him alone, and we seek to receive it.

Jesus said:”I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever … The words that I speak to you they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:51,63). If we truly acknowledge this in our hearts, then, as we partake of the Holy Supper, the Lord’s power will descend into our lives to uplift and sustain us to all eternity. Amen.

Lessons: Matthew 28; AE 806:2,5,6

Apocalypse Explained 806:2,5,6

It has been shown in the preceding article what the faith is that has been accepted by the general body in the church, namely, a belief that God the Father sent the Son, that through Him there might be propitiation, mercy, redemption, and salvation; likewise that the Son of God bore our iniquities, that He intercedes for us, and that His merit is attributed to those who pray for it from trust and confidence; and it has been shown in a former article that these are all vain expressions, in which as interpreted by the learned there is nothing of truth and thus nothing of salvation. That these are vain expressions in which there is nothing of truth is evident from the teachings of the Word respecting the reason of the Lord’s coming and why He suffered, namely, that the Lord came into the world to save the human race, who otherwise would have perished in eternal death, and that He saved them by subjugating the hells, which infested every man coming into the world and going out of the world, and at the same time by glorifying His Human, since thus He is able to keep the hells subjugated to eternity. The subjugation of the hells, together with the glorification of His Human, was accomplished by means of temptations admitted into the human that He had from the mother, and by continual victories therein. His passion in Gethsemane and on the cross was the last temptation and complete victory.

That the Lord subjugated the hells He taught when the passion of the cross was at hand, in John: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:27, 28, 31). In the same: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In Luke: “Jesus said, I beheld Satan as lightning falling from heaven” (Luke 10:18). In Isaiah: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, walking in the multitude of his power? great to save; Mine arm brought salvation for Me; so He became their Savior” (Isa. 63:1, 5, 8; 59:16-21). Because the Lord subjugated the hells He gave the seventy disciples: “Authority over demons” (Luke 10:17, 19).

That the Lord glorified His Human, and that the passion of the cross was the last temptation and complete victory by which He glorified it, He teaches in John: “When Judas was gone out Jesus said, `Now is the Son of man glorified, and God shall glorify Him in Himself, and straightway shall He glorify Him'” (John 13:31, 32). In the same: “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee” (John 17:1, 5). In the same: “`Now is my soul troubled; Father, glorify Thy name.’ And there came a voice out of heaven, `I have both glorified it and will glorify it again'” (John 12:27, 28). And in Luke: “Ought not the Christ to suffer this and to enter into glory?” (Luke 24:26).

This was said of His passion. “To glorify” is to make Divine. From this it can be seen that unless the Lord had come into the world and had become Man, and by this means had liberated from hell all those who believe in Him and love Him, no mortal could have been saved. Thus it is understood that without the Lord there is no salvation. This, now, is the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation.

THE GLORIFICATION OF THE LORD’S NATURAL AND RATIONAL

THE GLORIFICATION OF THE LORD’S NATURAL AND RATIONAL
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, March 24, 1991

“And the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (Matthew 21:6- 8).

Throughout the Christian world the celebration of Palm Sunday is properly regarded as a Christian festival. For it was on this day that the Lord was recognized and proclaimed by a great multitude to be the long-awaited Messiah. This is obvious from the welcome they accorded Him as He made His way toward Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Spreading their garments and palm branches in His path, they cried: “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matt. 21:9). “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!’ (Luke 19:3 8).

For centuries the Jews had awaited this glorious day. They, the chosen people of the Lord, had suffered humiliation and defeat at the hands of each of the neighboring nations in succession. First the Assyrians subjugated them, then the Babylonians, next the Persians, then the Greeks, and finally the Romans. They waited and prayed for the day when the Messiah would come and conquer their enemies and release them from their chafing bondage.

Many of those present on this occasion knew who it was who was declaring Himself King — that this was Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher from Galilee. They knew of the many miracles which He had done, especially the raising of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. They had wondered whether or not He was the Messiah. Some said He was Elijah or Jeremiah returned to earth, or one of the prophets (see Matt. 16:14).

Now, by riding into Jerusalem on a “donkey, and a colt, the foal of a donkey” – traditional symbols of royalty – He was proclaiming Himself the promised Messiah, the Savior of Israel. Great throngs, therefore, came to greet Him. Shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and paving the road with their garments and palm branches, they ushered Him into Jerusalem. Now, at last, their dreams would become a reality. Their nation would be restored to its former glory, the glory it enjoyed under Kings David and Solomon. They would become the rulers instead of the ruled. This was what was in their minds as the Lord made His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. But their great expectations were short-lived. For Jesus made His way to the temple instead of the palace. They had not yet realized that the kingdom He came to establish was not of this world. But when He went daily to the temple to teach instead of seizing the reins of power, their hopes of national supremacy were shattered, and with bitterness and scorn they rejected Him.

As He hung from the cross, less than a week after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, those who passed by railed at Him “wagging their heads, and saying: ‘Ah, you who destroys the temple, and builds it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross.’ Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ And they who were crucified with Him reviled Him” (Mark 15:29-32).

The events which led up to the culmination of the Lord’s life on earth had profound historical significance. Had these things not transpired, it is safe to say that the course of history would have been greatly altered. But, although this is true, it should be born in mind that the acts and events of the Lord’s life have more than historical significance.

Everything that the Lord did, every word that He spoke, every event related to His life had eternal significance. The Writings teach that whatever the Lord did, and whatever He spoke, while He was in the world represented and signified Divine and heavenly things (see AE 405:24). In considering these events, therefore, we should try to see their spiritual meaning and import – their internal and eternal significance.

The Lord came on earth to redeem and save mankind. This was necessary because the human race had completely alienated itself from God. They had closed the way to heaven by rejecting the means which God had provided for their salvation and eternal happiness. In former times the Lord had instructed and led mankind through the prophets whom He had inspired with His Word. But the prophets had been stoned and their message rejected.

If the human race was to be saved from complete and eternal destruction, a new means of approach had to be established – a more direct approach. To accomplish this end, God Himself descended to earth, clothing His Divine soul in a human body derived from the virgin Mary. In this assumed human were all the hereditary characteristics of the human race. The devils of hell were able to approach the Lord through these hereditary tendencies and tempt Him. As He overcame in these temptations, the Lord successively subjugated the hells, and so restored spiritual freedom to people on earth (see AC 1676:3, 1690:6).

But the Lord did more than assume a human body by birth into the world. He put on the human mind, and this in the same way as any other person. Not only did He acquire from Mary hereditary tendencies to evil through which the hells could assault Him, but He also acquired the human affection of truth. And by means of this affection, He acquired knowledges of truth.

In the Arcana Coelestia we read: “In His childhood the Lord was instructed as are other men …. The external mind is corporeal and sensuous, nor does it receive anything celestial and spiritual unless knowledges are implanted in it, as in ground” (AC 1461). “Knowledges are the things that open the way for seeing celestial and spiritual things; by means of knowledge the way is opened for the internal mind to advance toward the external, in which latter are the receiving vessels, which are as many as are the knowledges of good and truth; into these knowledges, as into their vessels, do celestial things inflow” (AC 1458:5).

Thus it was that the Lord, while in the world, acquired knowledges by the ordinary way. In this way He successively put on the human mind. His nature, therefore, was composite or twofold. From within, or as to His soul, He was Divine, infinite, perfect. But from without, through birth, and by means of instruction, He put on a human mind which was finite and imperfect.

Throughout His life in this world this assumed human – the mind put on through instruction – had to be successively purified and freed from its finite, human limitations and imperfections. The human had to be glorified or made perfect and one with the indwelling Divine. The human had to be made Divine. This is what the Lord meant when He said: “O Father, glorify Me with Your Own Self, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). His prayer was that the human which He assumed by birth into the world and through instruction from without would be fully subordinated to, and made correspondent with, His indwelling Divine soul.

The subject of the subordination of the exterior rational to the interior and Divine degrees of the Lord is contained interiorly in the story of Ishmael’s conception and birth, and Hagar’s humbling herself under the hand of her mistress Sarai. Abram and Sarai represent the two interior and Divine degrees of life in the Lord – the Divine celestial and the Divine spiritual. But they were barren. These two degrees cannot produce the rational degree of the mind (that degree which distinguishes man from beast, and is therefore truly human), which the Lord came on earth to acquire and make Divine. But Sarai had an Egyptian handmaid named Hagar -who represents the affection of exterior truth, or the affection of knowledges. By the Divine life flowing into this natural affection -represented by the conjunction of Abram with Hagar – knowledges were acquired, and the rational degree, represented by Ishmael, was conceived and born.

But Hagar then despised her mistress – the affection of exterior truth wanted to exalt itself. Therefore the angel told Hagar that she was to return to her mistress Sarai, and humble herself under her hand. The human rational which the Lord acquired had to be made submissive and subordinate to the Divine life within (see AC 1895-1904).

This subordination of the natural to the Divine is what was represented by the Lord’s riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey and a colt, the foal of a donkey. The Writings tell us that whenever female donkeys are mentioned in the Word, the natural affection of truth is signified (see AC 2781:5, 5741:2). We are also told that a donkey’s colt represents rational truth, because rational truth is as a son to the affection of natural truth, because that affection conceives and brings it forth (ibid.). We read: “… to ‘ride upon a donkey’ was a sign that the natural was made subordinate; and to ‘ride upon a colt the son of a donkey’ was a sign that the rational was made subordinate” (AC 2781:8, emphasis added).

We see from this that the Lord’s riding into Jerusalem upon a donkey and a colt, the foal of a donkey, was representative of the state of His glorification. Both the natural and the rational, which He had put on while in the world, had been made subordinate to and one with the Divine. The two lower degrees were now glorified. This was the interior reason why there was rejoicing and singing. The glorification of the Lord’s human was almost complete; all that remained was the glorification of the sensuous and corporeal degrees, represented by the cleansing of the temple and the final temptation on the cross. There was, therefore, rejoicing in the heavens on this account, as the Lord made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

This heavenly rejoicing is conveyed by the words: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38). This is also why the Lord said to those Pharisees who told Him to rebuke the multitude for their joy and praise: “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40).

As we approach the Easter festival, let us bear in mind the fact that within all the events recorded in the literal story of the Lord’s last days on earth, there is an internal, spiritual meaning, a meaning which, when seen, elevates our minds to the contemplation of the Lord’s Divine Humanity.

While we may be deeply affected by the literal story, we will realize that the things there related were representative, ultimate acts through which the greatest of all miracles was effected. God was made man, and man was made God. Thus it became Him “to fulfill all righteousness” (see AE lesson). Amen.

Lessons: Genesis 16:1-12,15,16; Matt. 21:1-17; AE 31:7

Apocalypse Explained

31:7. As it is known from these things what is meant by a “king” in the Word, I will add to the above: Why the Lord, when He entered Jerusalem, sat upon the foal of an ass, and the people then proclaimed Him king, and also strewed their garments in the way (see Matt. 21:1-8, Mark 11: 1-11, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:14- 16).

This is predicted in Zechariah: “Exult, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee, just and having salvation, riding upon an ass, and upon the foal of an ass” (9:9; Matt. 21:5; John 12:15). The reason was that to sit upon an ass and the foal of an ass was the distinctive mark of the highest judge and of a king, as can be seen from the following passages: ‘My heart is toward the lawgivers of Israel, you who ride upon white asses” (Judges 5:9,10). “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till Shiloh come, who shall bind his ass’s foal to the vine, and the son of his she-ass to the noble vine” (Gen. 49:10,11).

As sitting on an ass and the foal of an ass was such a distinctive mark, judges rode upon white she-asses (Judges 5:9, 10); and their sons upon asses’ colts (Judges 10:4, 12:14); and the king himself when crowned, upon a she-mule (I Kings 1:33); and his sons upon mules (II Samuel 13:29).

One who does not know the signification of “horse,’ “mule,” and “the foal of an ass” in a representative sense will suppose that the Lord’s riding upon the foal of an ass was significative of misery and humiliation. But it signified royal magnificence; for this reason the people then proclaimed the Lord king, and strewed their garments upon the way. This was done when He went to Jerusalem because by “Jerusalem” is signified the church.

HAPPINESS

HAPPINESS
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, March 10, 1991

“Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146: 5).

Happiness! What is happiness? People throughout the world are searching for it, yet few find it. Why? The answer is that few people know what it is, and still fewer know how it can be attained. Usually, when we desire something we know what it is that we want, and if we have a strong enough desire for it we discover the means of acquiring it. But happiness that which people desire above all else they find the greatest difficulty in achieving. They pursue it in a thousand ways, and the more furious their pursuit, the more it eludes them.

The truth is that as long as people set happiness before them as a goal, whether in the guise of wealth, fame or security, they will not attain it. Happiness has nothing to do with objects or places, space or time. People often think: “If I only had a house of my own I would be happy.” Or, “If only I earned double my salary I would be happy.” Or again, “If I could live in such and such a place I would be happy.” The attainment of such objectives cannot bring happiness. It may bring momentary pleasure or delight, but they do not lead to lasting satisfaction and happiness. It is not the place nor the condition but the state of mind alone that can make anyone happy or miserable. And it is in this that so many people err, and it is on this account that there is so much dissatisfaction and unhappiness in the world.

The end of creation, we are told, is that people may live in happiness to eternity. This is the end of the Divine love (see Canons, Lord VII, 10a). The nature of love is that it desires to give of its own to others and thus make them happy. God therefore created mankind as the object of His love, that is, He created mankind so that He could communicate His love to them and make them happy to eternity. Since this is the Divine end and purpose in creation, it follows that happiness can be attained only by the reception of the Divine love. The angels, who enjoy happiness so great that it cannot be described, perceive that all happiness comes from the Lord (see AC 32:2).

Happiness, therefore, flows in from the Lord into the human soul. But the delights of the soul are imperceptible, for the soul that inmost receptacle of life from the Lord is above man’s consciousness. As the love descends, it becomes more and more perceptible. The delight of the soul is felt in the mind as happiness, in the sensual degree of the mind as delight, and in the body itself as pleasure. Internal happiness the happiness of heaven consists of all of these, but not from the last alone, for it is transitory, and when sought as an end in itself, inevitably leads to unhappiness (see CL 16:2).

The fact is, while people live in this world, they cannot experience heavenly happiness in its fullness, not even if they are regenerating. But they can experience a general delight which we call happiness. The reason for this is that while we live in the world we are greatly concerned with worldly cares and anxieties, and these prevent heavenly happiness, which is deep within us, from fully manifesting itself. For when this happiness descends, it becomes mingled with natural cares and anxieties which reside in the lowest planes of our mind, and thus it becomes a relatively obscure delight, but still it is a delight within which there is real happiness (see AC 3938:7).

It is a law of order, inherent in creation, that perfection increases toward interiors and decreases toward exteriors. For confirmation of this principle, consider, if you will, the structure of the brain and the nervous system relative to the structure of the skeletal system of the body and the muscles, or the structure of the atom as compared to that of a molecule. It is because of the operation of this law that we cannot experience heavenly happiness fully while we live in this world, for we live on a lower or more external plane of consciousness.

Nevertheless, there are three successive planes or degrees of the natural mind: the rational, imaginative, and sensual; and as we advance from the sensual through the imaginative to the rational, our perception of happiness may increase. Therefore the Writings say that intelligence, wisdom, love, and the resulting happiness are what constitute angelic perfection (see HH 34). It is from this principle also that the delights and pleasures that arise from worldly possessions, or the indulgence of sensual appetites, give only momentary satisfaction (see AC 7007:2, 6481).

In self-love and the indulgence of the bodily appetites there is something delightful and exhilarating which so affects man’s mind that one supposes such pleasures and delights are happiness itself. But happiness that depends on self-satisfaction cannot last, for concealed within self-love is hatred against all who do not contribute toward one’s own supposed happiness. Such hatred may not be consciously perceived as such, but it ultimates itself as bitterness, envy, jealousy, discontent and cynicism, which are diametrically opposed to happiness. Also, hatred, when manifested in its extreme forms, leads to revenge, deceit and cruelty, which are destructive of all happiness (see AC 1594).

We would also note the teaching that true and lasting happiness is not spontaneously received, for happiness cannot be exquisitely perceived unless one has experienced unhappiness, and one’s perception of happiness is according to the degree in which he has been in the opposite state. The perception of the contrast between happiness and unhappiness extends one’s limit or capacity for experiencing happiness (see AC 2694:2). Here is eloquent testimony to the mercy of the Lord. He turns what is negative in life to our eternal advantage if we permit Him to.

It is a fact that the Divine Providence of the Lord directs all things. All who are in the stream of Providence, who are those who trust in the Lord and attribute all good to Him, are carried at all times toward happiness whatever may be the temporary appearance; and because they inwardly trust in the Lord they have peace.

Those who do not trust in the Lord ascribe everything to human intelligence and ingenuity, and what they do not ascribe to these, they ascribe to chance, fate or fortune. Those who trust in chance, fate or fortune, or in their own cleverness, can never be sure of anything; hence they have no peace, contentment or happiness, but are restless, discontented and unhappy (see AC 8478:4).

The Lord loves all people, and from love wills good to them. As the Lord does goods, which are uses, mediately through angels and people on earth, therefore, to those who perform uses faithfully He gives a love of use and its reward, which is happiness (see CL 7:5). The Writings state that “angelic happiness is in use, from use, and according to use” (AC 548). Happiness is the fruit of love and service. It never comes and never can come by making it an end. It is because so many people fail to understand this reality that there are so many frustrated and unhappy people in the world.

There can be no happiness in idleness, nor in social interaction only, nor even in being loved, if these are indulged in for the sake of one’s own enjoyment. Such a life does not have use as an end, and is therefore not receptive of love and happiness (see SD 3617). Happiness comes from use. It consists in activity. It is a running stream and not a stagnant pond. There is a certain latent vein within the human heart which draws the mind on to do something. By activity the mind tranquilizes and satisfies itself. This satisfaction and tranquility produce a state of mind receptive of a love of use from the Lord. With the reception of this love comes heavenly happiness (see CL 6e).

Use, in the most ultimate form, is the faithful, sincere and diligent performance of the work of one’s employment. When a person loves use and expresses that love in earnest activity, the mind is kept from dissipating its energies and powers by wandering about drinking in lusts that flow in through the body. A preoccupation with sensual pleasures and purely natural delights scatters the truths of religion and principles of morality. On the other hand, earnest activity of the mind in the performance of the uses of one’s employment binds truths together, and thrusts aside illusions, falsities, and vain imaginations (see CL 16:3).

The happiness of angels arises from the fact that they earnestly desire and delight in the happiness of others. The happiness of heaven consists in the fact that all the angels communicate their happiness to others, for they desire the happiness of others more than their own. Those who seek only their own happiness, since they communicate no happiness from themselves to others, automatically exclude themselves from heaven because their sphere is contrary to the sphere of heaven (see SD 4593). Happiness comes as a twin; all who would enjoy it must share it with others.

The perfection of heaven consists in the fact that every angel is different from all others, and the happiness which flows in from the Lord is received by each according to his or her form; thus it is changed according to the quality of the angel who receives it. Since all angels desire above all things to communicate their happiness to others, the happiness of heaven increases as the number of angels increases.

Happiness may be compared to an electric current. In the case of electricity, the current proceeds from a generator as its source, and is conveyed through wires to ground. When the current is broken by turning off a switch, the electric current does not produce any effect. The fact that it does not produce any effect does not mean it is not present in the wire; it merely means it has ceased to flow. When we turn on the switch, we complete the circuit and then the desired effect is produced.

Happiness, like a current, proceeds from the Lord and is received in the interiors of every person. When a person performs uses for others from a desire to make them happy, then the current flows down from the interiors of the mind into the realm of consciousness, and then it is communicated to others. As the current of happiness passes through the plane of man’s consciousness, it is perceived variously as joy, delight, contentment, peace and happiness.

However, if one does not perform uses for others from a sincere desire to make them happy, but instead seeks one’s own happiness, then the current is stopped up in the interior and subconscious realms of the mind. The current is switched off and cannot be consciously perceived.

If we seek happiness for its own sake, we will not find it. But if we seek to be of use, if we love duty and faithfully perform it for the benefit of others, then happiness will follow as the shadow comes with sunshine.

If we would be truly happy in this world, and lastingly happy in the world to come this is what the Lord wills for us and created us for we must first of all acknowledge the Lord as the source of life, love and all happiness. Secondly, we must trust in His merciful providence, which ever bears us toward eternal happiness; and thirdly, we must perform uses for our fellow human beings from a genuine desire for their happiness. “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 146, John 13:1-17, AC 454 and 549

Arcana Coelestia

454. Some think that heaven consists in a life of ease in which they are served by others; but they are told that there is no possible happiness in being at rest as a means of happiness, for so everyone would wish to have the happiness of others made tributory to his own happiness; and when everyone wished this, no one would have happiness. Such a life would not be an active life, but an idle one in which they would grow torpid, and yet they might know that there is no happiness except in an active life. Angelic life consists in use and in the goods of charity; for the angels know no greater happiness than in teaching and instructing the spirits that arrive from the world; in being of service to men, controlling the evil spirits about them lest they pass the proper bounds, and inspiring the men with good; and in raising up the dead to the life of eternity, and then, if the souls are such as to render it possible, introducing them into heaven. From all this they perceive more happiness than can possibly be described. Thus are they images of the Lord; thus do they love the neighbor more than themselves; and for this reason heaven is heaven. So that angelic happiness is in use, from use, and according to use, that is, it is according to the goods of love and of charity. When those who have the idea that heavenly joy consists in living at ease, idly breathing in eternal joy, have heard these things, they are given to perceive, in order to shame them, what such a life really is, and they perceive that it is a most sad one, that it is destructive of all joy, and that after a short time they would loathe and nauseate it.

549. The angelic state is such that everyone communicates his own bliss and happiness to others. For in the other life there is a most exquisite communication and perception of all the affections and thoughts, so that each person communicates his joy to all, and all to each, so that each one is as it were the center of all. This is the heavenly form. And therefore the more there are who constitute the Lord’s kingdom, the greater is the happiness, for it increases in proportion to the numbers, and this is why heavenly happiness is unutterable. There is this communication of all with each and of each with all when everyone loves others more than himself. But if anyone wishes better for himself than for others, the love of self reigns, which communicates nothing to others from itself except the idea of self, which is very foul, and when this is perceived, the person is at once banished and rejected.

THE AFFIRMATIVE AND THE NEGATIVE

THE AFFIRMATIVE AND THE NEGATIVE
A Sermon by A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida October 21, 1990

“And the people contended with Moses, and spoke, saying: `If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Why have you brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness that we and our animals should die here?” (Numbers 20:3,4).

Our text records one of the many instances of the Israelites’ adopting a negative attitude toward the leading of the Lord through His appointed leaders during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. In spite of the fact that they had frequently witnessed great miracles done by the Lord through them, such as the plagues in Egypt, and the dividing of the Red Sea, and had daily proof of His loving care in the manna given them from heaven each morning, they still persisted in doubting the power of the Lord and the wisdom of those chosen by Him to lead them.

As each hardship and inconvenience arose, they complained against the Lord and argued with Moses and Aaron. They were willing to accept these men as their leaders only as long as things were going well with them and were in accord with their wishes, but they had no steadfast confidence in the Lord’s promise of guidance and protection, nor in the judgment of Moses and Aaron the men appointed by the Lord to lead them out of bondage, to the land promised them by the Lord.

Their resentment at every hardship they suffered was so great that they forgot the cruelty of their slavery in Egypt, and mistakenly supposed that they would have been happier if they had remained there. Their attitude toward the leadership which the Lord had provided for them through Moses and Aaron was so negative that the Lord literally had to lead them with a “strong hand.” He had to perform open miracles continually in order that they might be persuaded to continue on their journey and not return to their former state of bondage.

It is obvious, if one stops to reflect, that no worthwhile achievement can ever be realized as long as a group of people adopts such a negative and distrustful attitude toward their leaders. If every apparent shortcoming or action or policy is called into question and criticized, then that unity which can lead to progress and achievement is lacking.

In the eyes of Israel everything that did not please them every hardship was the fault of Moses and Aaron. They kept asking themselves when things were not to their liking: “Why did we choose to follow them? Why did we accept their leadership? Things were better with us before they came into our lives.” “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? … Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, `Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11,12).

As one reads the record of Israel in the wilderness, as recorded in the Scriptures, it becomes obvious that the difficulties that they encountered and the hardships they suffered were not the result of Moses’ and Aaron’s poor leadership, but rather their failure to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and to accept the leadership which the Lord provided. The history of Israel in the wilderness testifies to the fact that the success of any worthwhile endeavor can be achieved only where there is an affirmative attitude on the part of all toward the goal itself, and confidence in those whose responsibility it is to lead to that goal.

This is true spiritually as well as naturally. Our spiritual goal is heavenly life a life of charity and use. The Lord’s Divine Providence ever leads us toward this goal through the Word (Moses) and the teaching and leading of the priesthood (Aaron). If we wish to attain the goal of heavenly life, then we must trust in the Lord’s Divine Providence. We must believe in His Word and be obedient to its teachings. We must have confidence in the teaching and preaching from the Word, for these are the Divinely provided means leading to that goal. If we approach the means with a negative doubt, calling into question every teaching that does not agree with and harmonize with our preconceived ideas and proprial inclinations, we cannot reasonably expect to achieve the end in view a life of charity in the kingdom of the Lord.

It is important, therefore, that we approach the things pertaining to spiritual life with an affirmative attitude, with confidence that the Lord is actively guiding us along the way, and providing for us those circumstances and situations which will promote our happiness and success. If we approach our spiritual journey toward the heavenly Canaan in this spirit, then we are assured of reaching our destination, and we will experience ever-increasing delight in the way that leads to it.

The Writing tell us that there are two principles, one of which leads to all folly and insanity, and the other to all intelligence and wisdom. The former principle is to deny all things, or to say in one’s heart that we cannot believe before we are convinced by what we can grasp and feel. This principle leads to all folly and insanity, and is called the negative principle. The other principle is to affirm those things which are of doctrine from the Word, or to think and believe within oneself that they are true because the Lord has said them. This principle leads to all intelligence and wisdom and is called the affirmative principle (see AC 2568).

This teaching makes it clear that our whole life, both here and hereafter, depends upon the principle from which we begin, and on our attitude toward life and its various problems. It is pertinent that we inquire into these things with ourselves. What is our basic attitude toward life? Do we tend to approach things with a negative, doubting attitude? Or do we approach things positively, with trust in the Divine Providence? As we focus our minds on these things, we should bear in mind the great importance of formative childhood states when the tender vessels of the mind are soft and pliable. The attitude which a child gradually develops toward parents, teachers, the Word and the church are the formative force in later attitudes in adult life.

From angelic remains every infant and small child begins with a completely affirmative attitude toward parents, and it is the responsibility of parents and later, teachers to foster and preserve this innocent trust and confidence of the child. As the child grows older and develops a greater independence of thought, his affirmative should be gradually bent away from the person of his parents and teachers to the office or use of the person, and ultimately to the Lord and the truth of His Word, which are the origin of all uses and the source of all authority.

This formative period has a profound effect upon a person’s development. We read: “Man is in a varying state, and thus in the world of spirits up to adult age; afterward, he is, as to his soul, either in heaven or hell, since his mind is then constant and rarely changed, although this does occur with some” (SD 5167).

The force of this passage is that when a person reaches adulthood, his basic character and attitude toward life has been established and is unlikely to be radically changed in later life, although it is admitted that this is possible. This surely indicates that we must make a serious effort during a child’s formative years to instill and establish an affirmative attitude toward the Lord, His Word and the church, an attitude which, if properly established, we can reasonably hope will remain throughout life.

The principles and attitudes that we as individuals have are essentially those which have been instilled in us by our parents and teachers, but they have yet to be made our own. Upon reaching adulthood a person either develops and enters interiorly into the good attitudes of childhood, so that they become part of his character, or rejects them and allows a spirit of self-centeredness and self-confidence to determine his general attitude and approach to life.

In early adult life there is a strong appearance that a person’s deepest thoughts and principles are the result of his own study, investigation and experience. A person regards them as rational conclusions based upon his experience and reflections upon it. Actually, however, within and guiding the person’s reasoning are the affections of his life’s love. And these affections, unknown to the person, turn his thoughts to favor that which is in agreement with them. Thus it is the affections of man’s love which are gradually developing within him an affirmative or negative attitude toward the authority of Divine truth.

We read: “Those who are in doubt before they deny are they who incline to a life of evil; and when this life carries them away, then insofar as they think of the matters in question, they deny them. But those who are in doubt before they affirm are they who incline to a life of good; and when they allow themselves to be bent to this by the Lord, then insofar as they think about these things, they affirm” (AC 2568, emphasis added).

A person whose affections are centered in self becomes, in time, interiorly arrogant. Such a person tends to think, in whatever situation, that his perceptions and views of things are right, and he is intolerant of those who see things differently. In this state it is very difficult for the person to see what is true, either in the Word or as manifested in life’s situations; for this requires humility and a willingness to be taught and led, which, in such a state, the person does not possess. This is especially the case in regard to those truths which disclose the person’s evils.

But when there is an effort in the will to place the neighbor’s good on the same plane as one’s own, that is, when there is an inclination to a life of charity and good will toward the neighbor, then there is a ready disposition to see and understand truth, even when it is contrary to one’s previous conception of things. It is this affection the affection of charity which makes it possible for one to confirm with oneself an affirmative attitude toward all that the Lord reveals, and which enables a person to see the truth in ever-increasing light, and to be willing to follow it into a life of charity toward his fellow men.

Let us hope that such a sound foundation has been laid during the early years of our lives. And let us always strive to adopt an affirmative attitude toward the truth of the Word and the leading of the Lord through His church Moses and Aaron for these are the Divinely provided means by which the Lord leads us away from slavery to our selfish loves, and the fallacious appearances engendered by them, represented by Israel’s slavery in Egypt. It is through persistent effort throughout life that the Lord can instill such an affirmation of truth that we willingly follow the Lord even when the way is difficult and things are not as we conceived that they should be in our former states of ignorance and self-centeredness.

When life does not unfold as we would have it, when our perceptions of truth differ from the way in which the Lord is apparently leading us, the spirit of negative doubt tends to raise its head. Like the Children of Israel in the wilderness, we are apt to chide with the Lord (Moses and Aaron), query the teaching of the Word and the leading of the church, and ask why following the truth should lead us into states of conflict and deprivation of joy. Confidence in the Lord’s leading is weak at such times, because our loves have not been made firm by a life of obedience to Divine law. When life’s situations confront us that are not to our liking, we are apt to rebel; we are tempted to depart from a spirit of affirmation to one of negative doubt.

We need to renew continually our hope and trust in the Lord’s Providence and leading. If we do not, then we, like the Children of Israel, are in danger of losing our spiritual heritage the happiness that comes from a life of charity toward the neighbor. We read: “The evil spirits who are with people during temptation and induce it, strongly inspire negation, but the good spirits and angels from the Lord in every possible way dispel this state of doubt, and keep the person in a state of hope, and at last confirm him in what is affirmative” (AC 2338).

If our hope is fixed in the Lord with confidence that He can and will lead us, then our faith in Him is so confirmed and interiorly implanted in our lives that the attacks of the hells, seeking to inspire negative doubt, cannot shake it. Just as the Lord miraculously gave His people water out of the rock, so may we have confidence that He will ever give us understanding and strength from the rock of Divine truth, that we may enter into the security and blessings of heavenly life.

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation” (Psalm 25:4,5). Amen.

Lessons: Numbers 20:1-11, Matt. 8:1-13, AC 2689:3,4

Arcana Coelestia 2689:3,4

That it may be known who those are that can be kept by the Lord in the affection of good and truth, and thus be reformed and become spiritual, and who those are that cannot, we will briefly state that during childhood, while being for the first time imbued with goods and truths, everyone is kept by the Lord in the affirmative idea that what he is told and taught by his parents and masters is true. With those who can become spiritual, this affirmative is confirmed by means of knowledges (scientifica et cognitiones); for whatever they afterwards learn that has an affinity with it insinuates itself into this affirmative and corroborates it, and this more and more, even to affection. These are they who become spiritual in accordance with the essence of the truth in which they have faith, and who conquer in temptations. But it is otherwise with those who cannot become spiritual. Although during their childhood these are in the affirmative, yet in the age that follows they admit doubts, and thus trench upon the affirmative of good and truth; and when they come to adult age, they admit negatives, even to the affection of falsity. If these should be brought into temptations, they would wholly yield; and on this account they are exempted from them.

But the real cause of their admitting doubts, and afterwards negatives, is to be found in their life of evil. They who are in a life of evil cannot possibly do otherwise; for as before said, the life of everyone is his affection or love; and such as is the affection or love, such is the thought. The affection of evil and the thought of truth never conjoin themselves together. With those in whom there is an appearance of this conjunction, there is really no such conjunction, but only the thought of truth without the affection of it; and therefore with such persons truth is not truth but only something of sound, or of the mouth, from which the heart is absent. Such truth even the worst can know, and sometimes better than others. With some also there is found a persuasion of truth, of such a nature that no one can know but that it is genuine; and yet it is not so if there is no life of good: it is an affection of the love of self or of the world, which induces such a persuasion that they defend it even with the vehemence of apparent zeal; nay, they will even go so far as to condemn those who do not receive it or believe in the same way. But this truth is of such a quality as is the principle with each person from which it starts, being strong in proportion as the love of self or of the world is strong. It indeed attaches itself to evil, but does not conjoin itself with it, and is therefore extirpated in the other life. Very different is it with those who are in the life of good. With these, truth itself has its own ground and heart, and has its life from the Lord.

NUMBERING THE PEOPLE

NUMBERING THE PEOPLE
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida August 5, 1990

“And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacles of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: ‘Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male individually, from twenty years old and above, all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies ” (Numbers 1: 1 – 3).

Numbers is the fourth of the books commonly known as the “Five Books of Moses.” It recounts a variety of things which befell the Children of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness. The second book of Moses, called Exodus, takes the Israelites as far as Mount Sinai and includes the giving of the Ten Commandments and many other laws and statutes which were given from Mount Sinai, concluding with the building of the Tabernacle. The third book, Leviticus, follows. It contains a collection of ritualistic and other laws, especially as they relate to the Levites and priests. It contains no historical events. The fourth book, Numbers, again takes up the history of Israel when they were about to leave the plains of Sinai.

Since the first thing mentioned in the book of Numbers, in preparation for their journeying in the wilderness, is a census of the people, and since a second census is recorded at the end of the book when they were encamped on the plains of Moab in preparation for entering the promised land, we have, in English translations, followed the Greek translations in calling the book “Numbers.”

The Hebrews, on the other hand, following their custom of designating the name of each book by the first word or words occurring in it, or by some distinguishing word in the first verse, call it Bemidhbar, meaning “in the wilderness.” This, too, is an appropriate name, since it is an account of the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness. In the internal sense it is an account of the obscure groping of the human mind in its search for heaven.

The immediate purpose of this census was to determine the military strength of the Israelites – counting the males from twenty years old and above, all that were able to go to war. It was natural that they should do this before undertaking the hazardous journey in the wilderness, where they were likely to meet many enemies far more powerful than themselves. In addition, it would help them to determine the order of their marching, and the organization of their encampment around the tabernacle.

The number of men, not counting women and children, was 603,550. We would recall here the Lord’s promise to Abraham over 400 years earlier that his seed would be as the stars of the heaven for multitude. If the women and children were included in this census there would have been over a million people.

This census was permitted in the law given through Moses with the stipulation that each one numbered should give “an offering to the Lord. The rich shall not give more, and poor shall not give less, than half a shekel, when they give an offering to the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls” (Exodus 30:15).

In numbering the people who could go to war the Israelites were thinking of physical warfare and of their military power. In the spiritual sense it relates to spiritual combats, and the conquering of evil desires and false ideas which occupy the natural mind of man. The beginning of this long difficult journey in the wilderness represents the state of an adult beginning the spiritual journey along the pathway of regeneration.

The person knows, in a general way, the Lord’s commandments – the law had already been given from Mount Sinai – but many evil desires arising from selfish loves and many false ideas arising from proprial conceits must be removed before the person can be prepared to dwell in the heavenly Canaan. The particular states of good and truth which alone can conquer these evils and falsities are represented by the numbers of the various tribes recorded in this chapter.

The people were counted by their tribes before setting out on this journey. This means that the Lord, at the beginning of every person’s regeneration, orders the interiors of the mind – arranges it in heavenly order in preparation for the combats that the person will inevitably face along the way. The Lord foresees all the spiritual trials which will beset a person in the course of regeneration, and so disposes the interiors of the mind from earliest infancy that the person may have the ability to withstand every trial that he may encounter; and He provides that the person will not undergo any trial greater than he can bear. For to number is to bring into order – here to bring into heavenly order -the interior things of a person’s spirit.

By ordering the spiritual mind of man the Lord also provides that He may have a dwelling place within the person, so that by His presence He may sustain the person and overcome the evil spirits who attack. No one can conquer the forces of hell by and of himself; their malignant power is so great and their secret operation so subtle that a person has nothing of his own to withstand them. Left to himself, the person would be completely overwhelmed. But we can cooperate. We can order our external minds and lives according to Divine laws of order so that the Lord can form the interiors of our minds into a heavenly order, and then the presence of heaven within us can repel the attacks of the hells.

The acknowledgment that the order and arrangement of the goods and truths which a person receives are from the Lord alone is represented by the half shekel which every individual man, rich and poor alike, had to offer to the Lord at the time of the census. This acknowledgment is a prerequisite to regeneration, for the denial of it involves a person’s claiming for oneself the power to overcome the hells and to merit heaven from one’s own strength and goodness. Such an attitude obstructs the influx from heaven and leaves a person at the mercy of the hells.

This is what was involved in the sin of David. He numbered the people without the payment of the half shekel. He did this at the end of his reign when he had conquered all the surrounding nations and Israel occupied a prominent place among the nations. The implication in the literal sense is that in counting his valiant warriors and in wishing to enumerate the great strength of his army, he was taking credit for his victories rather than humbly acknowledging that it was the Lord’s presence with Israel which had made them a mighty nation. This is the sin into which we all may fall if we do not acknowledge in our worship and in our lives that we receive power from the Lord alone to overcome the hidden evils of our inheritance.

Such an acknowledgment, however, means nothing unless we, as of ourselves, use the power which the Lord freely gives us. That is, we must make a constant and continuing effort to live according to the Lord’s commandments so that our minds may be brought into harmony with Divine order. If we do this we will repel, reject and overcome those natural desires and thoughts which are contrary to Divine order.

We see an illustration of this in the story of Gideon. He was not permitted to go against the Midianites with the 32,000 men who had been counted, lest Israel claim the victory for itself instead of attributing it to the Lord, saying: “My own hand has saved me” (Judges 7:2). Gideon finally had to reduce his force to 300 men, for the Lord said: “By the 300 men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand” (Judges 7:7, emphasis added). The Lord chose this spectacular way to conquer the far superior force of Midian in order to show the Israelites, and indeed us, that it was solely by His presence with them, and His power, that they were able to exist among the far more powerful nations surrounding them.

The spiritual lesson here is that if from our trust in the Lord we intelligently cooperate with Him by observing His laws of order, His church will prevail against all foes, both in the world and in the life of every individual member.

This Divine forming and ordering of the mind from within begins in infancy and continues throughout life. The heavenly states which the angels impress upon the infantile mind remain to mitigate and soften the hardness of selfish loves; it is these remains which are meant by census of those 20 years old and upward.

The fact that the first census took place in the wilderness means that this Divine work is done before we can have any consciousness of it. It is on a plane above our consciousness. This is a wonderful provision of the Divine Providence. It is the way in which the Lord provides that every person, prior to reaching adulthood, may be prepared for regeneration. Furthermore, because of this Divine work, the stubbornness and persistence of our selfish loves, which later become so active, are finally able to be overcome.

While acknowledging that regeneration is the Lord’s work, we must always bear in mind that He can accomplish it with us only by our complete willingness and active cooperation. We must as of ourselves bring our external minds and lives into a state harmonious with, and corresponding to, that inner order which the Lord has established within our spirit, for only then can this Divine operation descend to the plane of consciousness and be effective in our lives.

In this spirit we should humbly pray to the Lord that He will “number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Amen.

Lessons: Numbers 1: 1 – 3, 17 – 19, 44 – 46; 2 Samuel 24:1 – 17; AC 10219:5

Arcana Coelestia

10219:5 For by “famine’ is signified a lack and scarcity of the goods and truths of faith and love, because these are signified by bread, food, wheat, barley, oil, and wine, which are lacking while the famine lasts. By “fleeing before enemies” in the internal sense is meant to be pursued by evils and falsities, for those who attribute goods and truths to themselves cannot fight against the evils and falsities which are from hell (n. 9978), and which in the spiritual sense are the enemies before whom is the fleeing, and by whom they are pursued. But by “pestilence” is signified the vastation and consumption of the goods and truths which have been received from infancy (n. 7505). That David chose the pestilence, and that seventy thousand died of it, signified that every truth and good of faith and love would perish with the Israelitish and Jewish nation, which also came to pass, for they did not acknowledge the Lord, from whom nevertheless are all goods and truths. “Three days’ signified to the full, and the same was also signified by the “seventy thousand” men who died.

OBEDIENCE

OBEDIENCE
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida May 13, 1990

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).

Our text occurs seven times in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. It is the concluding exhortation of each of the messages to the seven churches. Indeed, the Lord frequently ended His instruction to the Jews by saying: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear … ” (Matt. 11:15, et alia). The fact that this phrase and similar admonitions occur frequently throughout both the Old and the New Testaments warrants our consideration of its purpose and meaning.

In the Arcana Coelestia we are told that “to hear” in the Word does not mean simply the physical act of hearing, but rather the reception of that which is heard, first in the memory, next in the understanding, then in the will, and finally in the life (AC 9311).

Two of the five senses, we are told, especially serve man in perfecting the mind: the sense of sight and the sense of hearing. These are also the primary senses involved in man’s reformation and regeneration, for they are formed to receive those things which contribute to this end. The things which enter the mind through the sense of sight enter the understanding and enlighten it. For this reason when “seeing” is mentioned in the Word and it is frequently mentioned it refers to the enlightenment of the understanding. However, the things which enter through the sense of hearing enter both the understanding and the will, and for this reason when “hearing” is mentioned in the Word it refers to perception and obedience (see AE 14).

That “seeing” refers to understanding and enlightenment, and “hearing” to perception and obedience, is evident from ordinary speech. When we want to know if something is understood we ask: “So you see what I mean?” And if it is understood the answer is given: “Yes, I see.” Also we say of a person endowed with an unusual intelligence that he or she is bright or brilliant. Or if a person is low in intelligence we say he or she is dull. “Dull,” “bright,” and “brilliant” are attributes of light, and thus of sight.

That “hearing” refers to perception and obedience is also clear from ordinary speech. When somebody has been explaining something to us which he considers important, and we get the message, we say: “I hear.” Or, when we are trying to exact obedience from a child in a certain matter, we end by saying: “Do you hear me?” And if the answer is “Yes,” we expect obedience from that child.

These expressions, we are told, flow down into human speech out of the spiritual world, where man’s spirit is, by correspondence. Furthermore, in the Grand Man of heaven, those who are in the province of the ear are in obedience from perception. This province is said to be the axis of heaven, that is, the whole of the heavens have direct relation to those who are in obedience from perception because the ruling perception of heaven is that if a thing is true it must be done (see AE 14; AR 87).

In communication between people the function of the ear is to receive the speech of another and convey it to the mind so that we can perceive what is in the mind of the other person. Thus “to hear” is to perceive. The function of hearing is to transfer what a person is speaking from his thought, into the thought of another, and from his thought to his will and from the will into deed. Therefore to hear also involves obedience. The circle of communication, then, is from the will into thought, and so into speech, and from speech through the ear into another’s thought and will (see AC 5017).

The most important of all communication is that which exists between the Lord and mankind. And the medium of this communication is the Word. The Lord’s ardent love for the eternal happiness of mankind descended into His thought and from His thought into words, which were communicated to those who were prepared by the Lord for the office of revelator, who wrote them down. For the circle of communication to be completed these words must be conveyed to the understanding of man and from the understanding to the will, and from the will into life. When the Lord’s love is received in a person’s will, conjunction between the Lord and that person takes place. It is not enough that the Lord’s wisdom contained in the Word be communicated to our understanding; this merely produces presence but not conjunction. This is the reason the Lord has established a church and instituted worship so that His Word may be heard, that there may be an appeal to the very will itself.

Thus in the church we have the written Word and the spoken Word. To develop our understanding we should read the Word and presentations on its Divine doctrine and reflect calmly and deeply on their meaning. In this way we will grow in spiritual intelligence. But if we wish to grow in wisdom also, we should hear the Word read and preached. In hearing there will be, or should be, an added appeal to the affection. Thus it should enter into our will and from that into our life where the will is terminated and made permanent.

In His wisdom the Lord has provided that the mind of man may be reached through both of these senses through “seeing” and “hearing.” The written Word is almost devoid of emotion except for the emotion which the words themselves convey. Thus the intellect is appealed to so that the mind can come to know, understand, and believe the truth which the Lord teaches, simply because it is true. The spoken Word is then added to appeal to both the intellect and the will. The ideas expressed by the words are received in the understanding but the tone of voice and the inflection affect the will, so that what is said may be received in the will and cause a person to do that which is heard. From this we may see that there is a use and a need for both kinds of communication, and we can see what our response to both should be.

We are taught in the Word that to hear the voice of the Lord means to obey what is proclaimed from the Word; and that they who do so become rational and spiritual, but that they who do not become sensual and corporeal. “Those become … sensual and corporeal,” we read, “who have … known the things of the spiritual world and have afterward rejected them, and have imbued themselves with principles of falsity contrary to truths; and as to life, have looked solely to worldly, bodily, and earthly things, and from this have believed that life ought to be enjoyed with every pleasure, saying: `What has man more while he lives? When we die we die!’ … If anyone by rational arguments sets them thinking at all about eternal life, they think that they shall fare no worse than others, and immediately relapse into the state of their former life.

“With such there is a closing of the passage for the light of heaven and its influx, and light of heaven in their natural becomes thick darkness, but the light of the world … becomes brightness, and the brightness is so much the more brilliant as the light of heaven is more darkened; hence it is that such see no otherwise than that the evils of their life are goods, and that consequently the falsities are truths. It is from this then that a person becomes sensuous and corporeal” (AC 6971).

In other words, if we do not obey what we hear from the Word, we degenerate. Instead of becoming rational and spiritual, we become sensual and corporeal our minds are darkened and our will vitiated.

Compare this state with that of the angels of the celestial heaven. The wisdom of the angels of the inmost heaven consists in wishing to be led by the Lord and not by themselves, in loving what is good and delighting in what is true. Because they love nothing so much as being led by the Lord, whatever they hear from the Lord, whether through the Word or by means of preaching, they do not store in the memory but instantly obey it, that is, will it and do it (see HH 278). “In that heaven, love to the Lord is willing and doing Divine truth” (HH 271).

In the teachings which have been presented, we see sharply contrasted the final lot of those who hear only with their ears and those who really hear with the ears, with their understanding and with their will. We should need little convincing as to which state is preferable. But we may well ask ourselves: “Where do we fit in this picture?”

To find the answer to this question we should ask ourselves more particular questions. To what extent have we allowed the truths we have heard to enter into and change our lives? What is our usual reaction to the truths we hear preached? Do they enter only as far as the external ear and then vanish beyond recall? Are we momentarily stirred but cannot remember several days later what it was that moved us? Or do we see and perceive an important truth a truth which, if lived, can change our lives and make us better men and women? Do we will that truth and determine within ourselves to obey it?

Speaking generally, the purpose of a sermon is to draw a particular truth from the Word, to put it into perspective by showing its relationship to other truths, to examine it from several different aspects so that its nature and quality may be perceived, and to indicate the application of that truth to life. A sermon is not preached merely to uplift and soothe, nor is it intended to upset or depress the congregation, and certainly it is not to weary them. The Word is studied and its truth presented with the hope that it may be received, perceived and obeyed.

In the Arcana Coelestia where it treats of the reading of the covenant by Moses to the Children of Israel, we are told that to “read in the ears of the people” signifies hearkening and obedience. For when anything is read, it is that it may be heard, perceived and obeyed (AC 9397).

In the passage from the Apocalypse Revealed which we read for a third lesson, we are assured that if we read the doctrine of the New Jerusalem with a desire to know that doctrine, if we hear the things which are taught from it, and if we live according to it, then we will be blessed. We will be, as to our spirits, in communion with the angels of heaven even while we live on earth (see AR 8).

What, then, should be our attitude and response to the reading of the Word and the preaching from it that we regularly hear in Sunday worship? The nature of our response is clearly indicated in the Word itself. We should say in our hearts with conviction and determination: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and hear” (Exodus 24:7). Amen.

Lessons: Exodus 24:1-13; Rev. 1:1-3; 2:1-11; AR 8

Apocalypse Revealed 8

Verse 3. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein” signifies the communion of those with the angels of heaven, who live according to the doctrine of the New Jerusalem. By “blessed” is here meant one who as to his spirit is in heaven; thus, one who, while he lives in the world, is in communion with the angels of heaven; for as to his spirit he is in heaven. By “the words of the prophecy” nothing else is meant than the doctrine of the New Jerusalem, for by “prophet” in the abstract sense is signified the doctrine of the church derived from the Word, thus here the doctrine of the New Church, which is the New Jerusalem; the same is signified by “prophecy.” By “reading, hearing, and keeping the things which are written therein” is signified to desire to know that doctrine, to attend to the things which are in it, and to do the things which are therein; in short, to live according to it. That they are not blessed who only read, hear and keep or retain in the memory the things which were seen by John is evident (n. 944). The reason why “a prophet” signifies the doctrine of the church from the Word, and “prophecy” the same, is that the Word was written through prophets, and in heaven a person is regarded according to that which belongs to his function and office. From this also is every man, spirit, and angel named there. Therefore, when a prophet is mentioned, because his function was to write and teach the Word, the Word is meant as to doctrine, or doctrine from the Word. Hence it is that the Lord, because He is the Word itself, was called the Prophet (Deut. 18:15-20; Matt. 13:57; 21:11; Luke 13:33). To show that by “prophet” is meant the doctrine of the church from the Word, some passages shall be adduced, from which this may be collected. In Matthew: “In the consummation of the age many false prophets shall rise up and shall seduce many. There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and, if it were possible, they shall lead into error the elect” (Matthew 24:11,24).

“The consummation of the age” is the last time of the church, which is now, when there are not false prophets but falsities of doctrine. In the same: “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man shall receive a just man’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).

“To receive a prophet in the name of a prophet” is to receive the truth of doctrine because it is true; and “to receive a just man in the name of a just man” is to receive good for the sake of good; and “to receive a reward” is to be saved according to reception. It is evident that no one receives a reward, or is saved, because he receives a prophet and a just man in the name of such. Those words cannot be understood by anyone without a knowledge of what “a prophet” and “a just man” signify; nor can those which follow: “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward.” By a “disciple” is meant charity, and at the same time faith from the Lord. In Joel: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, so that your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28). This is concerning the church which was to be established by the Lord, in which they would not prophesy but receive doctrine, which is to “prophesy.” In Matthew: “Jesus said, Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? but then will I confess unto them, I have not known you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22, 23).

Who does not see that they will not say that they have prophesied, but that they knew the doctrine of the church, and taught it? In the Apocalypse: “The time is come for judging the dead and for giving reward to the prophets” (Rev. 11:18); and in another place: “Exult, O heaven, and holy apostles and prophets, for God hath judged your judgment” (Rev. 18:20).

It is evident that a reward would not be given to the prophets alone, and that the apostles and prophets would not alone exult at the Last Judgment, but all who have received the truths of doctrine and have lived according to them. These, therefore, are meant by “apostles” and “prophets.” In Moses: “Jehovah said unto Moses, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet” (Exod. 7:1); “a god” here means the Divine truth as to reception from the Lord, in which sense the angels are also called gods, and by “prophet” is meant one who teaches and speaks it, therefore Aaron is there called a prophet. The same is signified by “prophet” in other places, as in Jer. 18:18; 23:15,16; 5:13; Isaiah 28:7; Micah 3:6; Jer. 8:10. In these passages, by “prophets” and “priests,” in the spiritual sense, are not meant prophets and priests, but the entire church, by “prophets,” the church as to the truth of doctrine, and by “priests” the church as to the good of life, both of which were destroyed; these things are so understood by the angels in heaven, while by men in the world they are understood according to the sense of the letter. That the prophets represented the state of the church as to doctrine, and that the Lord represented it as to the Word itself, may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord (n. 15-17).