<< IT IS THE PROVINCE OF FREE WILL TO PURIFY THE EXTERNAL; >>
OF THE LORD TO CLEANSE THE INTERNAL
The external man is to be brought into obedience to the internal man. In our natural state the external or lower principles of our nature rule, and the internal or higher obey. This is an inversion of the true order of our being. When man is restored to the true order of his being, which is accomplished by regeneration, the external man perfectly obeys the internal. But how is this accomplished ?
It is one of the doctrines of Swedenborg, relating to the regeneration of man, " That it is a law of the Divine Providence that man should, as of himself, remove evils as sins in the external man, and that thus, and not otherwise, the Lord can remove evils in the internal man, and then at the same time in the external." (Divine Providence, 91—106.) This is a principle of great practical value, and is emphatically a doctrine of life—an idea that illustrates the way of life and salvation. Evil is both internal and external. So far as it comes forth, or is ultimated in the outward act, it is in the external man; so far as it is an inward affection or desire, it is in the internal man. It may exist as a hereditary bias or pro-pension. It comes within the sphere of free will, in which every man is upheld by the Lord, to prevent the outward manifestation or ultimatum of it, and then it is weakened, by having no basis on which it may rest. By looking to the Lord with an affectionate trust, He takes away its interior root, or removes those affections and lusts from which the outward act springs, We are to do this as of ourselves, or in the use of that freedom of will with which we have been created. Also, it is ever to be borne in mind, that we are to put away evil in the external man, or prevent its outward manisfestation in word or deed, because it is a sin against God. Nothing else goes to its vital root, or touches that selfishness from which it proceeds. But when we remove evils as sins from the external man, the Lord purifies us from the concupiscences of evil, or the unclean desires which sustain to the outward act the relation of cause to an effect. Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed, and it is as far as free agency or human power can go, to prevent its ultimation; and then, if we look to the Lord, He purifies the soul from the inward spring of evil. It is well to know what belongs to free will to do in the regenerative work, and what belongs to the Divine power, lest we unwisely attempt to do the peculiar work of God, or guiltily neglect our own. The Lord will not do our work, and we cannot do His.
The Divine order of salvation is revealed by our Saviour in the highly symbolic act of washing the disciples' feet, and in the strange declaration that he that washes need wash only his feet, and in so doing is clean every whit (Jno. xiii. 4—10)—an assertion that is not fully true only in its spiritual significance. The feet represent or correspond to the lowest principles of our mental nature—the mere outward and animal nature. To wash the feet, is to put away evils as sins in the external man, and then the Lord's redeeming power delivers us from the corresponding interior evils, and we are clean every whit, or saved in fulness, externally and internally, body and soul.
He who anxiously inquires, what he must do to be saved, is directed to a principle that can never fail. We should say to such a man, from the light of the New Age, Break off from all your sins in outward act, simply and solely because it is sin against God, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ as the one only God, and He will wash the heart from its evil affections and desires. Such a plan of salvation invests the precept of the Decalogue with infinite importance as commandments of life. When one came to our Blessed Saviour, and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, He who is the Way and the Truth and the Life, and who could not lead a soul wrong, replied, " Keep the Commandments;" referring to the Decalogue. He did not say, " Believe, and thou shalt live." He had not come into such a moral position as to render it possible for him to have confidence that the Lord saved him. He must first avoid the evils as sins which are forbidden in the Commandments; and so far as any one does this, the Lord removes the corresponding inward evils, and the opposite goods flow in from Him. Then only may a soul assuredly believe that the Lord saves. It is one of those far-reaching principles we so often find in the works of Swedenborg that so far as we shun evils as sins, we have faith,—a faith Divinely imparted. By so doing, we come into a moral attitude in which a genuine faith inflows from God, and to us it is spontaneous. We must beware that we do not invert this Divine order, and teach men so. We are not to believe that we are saved until it is an accomplished fact, for that is to believe a lie; and such, according to Paul, are lost rather than saved. It was the work of Swedenborg, through the Divine mercy, to restore to the Church the knowledge of the Divine order of human salvation.
The commandments of the Decalogue were entirely neglected as the way of eternal life. And there lingers yet, in all the older churches, the hurtful impression that we are to be saved some way by the imputed merits and righteousness of Christ, and that internal holiness is not necessary. The anxious inquirer after the path of life, is never pointed to the Ten Commandments, as the only way, but to something else. The steps a soul must take in order to be saved, are as invariable as the principles of the mathematics by which we measure the orbit of a planet. Ignorance here, is a calamity indeed. The commandments of the Decalogue are not a condition of salvation, in the sense of something that must be done before we are saved, but they are a state of salvation. He who fails to come into that Divine and eternal order which they unfold, cannot be saved in this world or the next, In the writings of Swedenborg, they occupy the same place, as a way of life, that they occupy in the Gospel of Christ. If you ask the Lord what you must do to be saved, He puts into your hands the law of the Decalogue, and says, " If thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments." He who makes any other reply, is a blind leader of the blind.
Author: Warren Felt Evans (1817-1889)