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born inclinations to evil; and had filled it, down to the very lowest feelings and sense of humanity, with His own love; had expanded as it were His Humanity, thus assumed and filled with His love, throughout the entire bumanity of mankind, - in heaven, in the world of spirits, and with men on earth ; had thus taken the entire human race from the beginning to his own bosom, and into the arms of His Divine love.
The Lord did not do this in such a manner as to affect man's freedom, or do anything for him or to him arbitrarily. The only influence thus extended to man's freedom was to make him more free,- to enable him to look to the Lord and to receive from Him in more freedom, and more as if acting of himself. And the reason of this was, that the Lord was not only human Himself from eternity, not only human before, and flowed into man with all human faculties; but what He assumed was human, altogether human, a perfect organization of all human faculties, and a due proportion of human freedom with the rest.
The Lord thus brought down the sympathies of His own Divine love into the lowest human sympathies which man can feel or experience. Though man had closed his inner man, and shut his heart against receiving these internally from the Lord, the Lord had thus brought them down even into the merely natural and sensual human affections of His Humanity, so that He could not only inspire them into him internally, but into his lowest human feelings, so far as he would receive them in freedom. He could therefore now speak to man endearingly, because He had provided the medium through which man might in freedom receive from Him the corresponding feeling of endearment. He now appealed to his affections, because He had opened the channel through which man could receive from Him the affections appealed to. He spoke to the heart, because man could now have even his natural heart warmed with love, if he would. His Gospel is filled with love, and breathes nothing but love; because He had always wished to fill man's heart with the corresponding affections of love, and had now provided the means by which the very lowest, tender, human sympathies could be received in freedom. The Lord could not, after the fall, speak thus to man, until He came in the Humanity, in the flesh.
This shows us that the Lord's revelations to men are not all alike in their outward, manifested, and apparent form, however full of His love they may all be internally. Within in them all His own love dwells equally; but how much of it He can manifest outwardly, in the literal sense, is always governed by man's capability of reception. The Ten Blessings in Matt. v. are the gospel or Christian form of the Ten Commandments. The latter are prohibitory and forbidding : the former are love in form. The Lord could then speak to men thus differently, because He had assumed the Humanity; though He could not and did not then explain the nature of His assumption of it. And He has now spoken to us in the infinite fulness of His love, and has revealed and manifested openly the nature of His love, in the spiritual sense of His Word, in a fulness heretofore utterly inconceivable, because He has found it possible to make known the nature of His assumption of the Humanity.
The idea of the Israelites and Jews concerning the Lord, was as of a God of great power, who was partial to them provided they would obey Him, but who would take vengeance upon His enemies. The Christian Church has seen Him as He came in the flesh, and has known that "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” ; but who and what the Father was and is, and who and what the Son was and is, though He Himself declared them to be one, has always been an unsolved and unsolvable mystery in that church. In the doctrines of the New Church, all this is clearly, plainly and fully revealed ; and so, too, the nature, quality and extent of His Divine love is fully revealed. There is no reservation, no mystery, no obscurity,
but what still remains in us. The revelation is full and complete.
It may be useful to us to consider and examine how these principles and views affect the doctrine of life, and what they teach us in regard to the nature of spiritual, religious, and Christian life, as made known in the New Jerusalem. The Lord has not only manifested Himself in three different points of view, as Jehovah the Creator in the Old Tesament, as the Lord the Redeemer in the New, and as He dwells in and operates through us by His Holy Spirit flowing from His Divine Humanity as revealed to the New Church in the spiritual sense of all His Scriptures; He has not only given three distinct revelations — the covenant of prohibition addressed to the sense of fear in the Old Testament, the covenant of redemption addressed to a natural religious sense in the New Testament, and now the full revelation of the glories of His own Divine character and operation in the spiritual sense of His Word; but in each of these He has taught distinct and separate principles of life, not inconsistent or at variance with each other, but each a more interior opening of the preceding, until that which now blazes from His throne in the heavens, - the light of life which now shines in its clearness.
The Israelites and Jews knew life only as life in act. They did not comprehend that selfish affections were evil, and that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The Lord had to teach them this in the Gospel. They understood the commandments as prohibiting the act, not the evil affection from which it flowed. The chief practical effect of their law, therefore, was only to bring the selfish principles of life in the natural man under certain limited regulations of justice and kindness towards one another, not to eradicate them.
In the Gospels, on the contrary, man is directly introduced to a sensibility to the principles of spiritual life, or to the first beginnings of spiritual life. He is taught that the natural affections are evil, and must be purified. His sypipathies, his affections, his heart, are directly appealed to; and his own conscience, and his desires in regard to himself, are made the criterion of his life towards others. All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Life was revealed not to consist in act merely, but to be an internal, spiritual thing.
But when the Gospel was given, men were still merely natural, and had not yet begun to be spiritual, and the principles of life set forth in it are such as are adapted to the dawning, the first beginnings of religious life in the natural man.
He was not yet capable of looking at life spiritually, nor even rationally; for men were not then rational in the sense in which rationality is now understood. The end of the Gospel was to make men spiritual, to lead them from self-love to the love of others, and from the life of the love of self to the life of the love of others. But this cannot be done at once. Natural men cannot appreciate this kind of life, and they can only be led to it by degrees, if at all. The only thing that seems to them to be life is in the enjoyment of something that gratifies some of their natural and selfish loves. But they have human feelings, and they know that others have them; and they have human wants, and they know that others have these. They can see that if the Lord came to save them He must be a God of mercy, love, and goodness; and that it would be pleasing to Him to have them perform acts of kindness, mercy and love towards others. But the natural man can see no acts to be those of kindness, love and mercy, except those that are called for by suffering or want. If he is neither in suffering nor want, he can take care of himself, and so can any one else who is in similar circumstances; and in such cases no exercise of kindness is required. His view of doing good and of loving the neighbor is altogether natural, and not at all spiritual; for he himself is natural, and not spiritual, although he may possibly be beginning to become spiritual.
This is the reason why there is so much said in the Gospels about giving alms, relieving the needy, doing good, lending, etc. All the particular precepts of life, of love to the neighbor, and of doing good, that are given in the Gospels, are of this nature; all of them prescribe only natural acts of kindness that are required by want or suffering. This is so because this is the only idea that the natural man can have of doing good ; and hence these are the only kind of precepts that the Lord could then reveal on this subject. To show the extent and fulness of His own love, and to show the natural man that true neighborly love required him to become altogether disinterested, these precepts are made full and complete. Some of them require him to sell all that he has, and give to the poor; and he is taught that a rich man cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. And the primitive Christians, who yielded themselves in sincere obedience to the Lord's teachings, practised these precepts strictly — sold all that they possessed and had all things in common.
But this devotedness lasted but two or three centuries, during what is called the Primitive Church. Men soon became too selfish for this.
The Lord also taught the necessity of regeneration. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Throughout the whole history of the Christian Church, regeneration has been regarded as entirely a thing by itself, and as having no connection of interdependence with a man's life. It has indeed been believed and preached, that a good moral life, and a life of general benevolence, were the legitimate fruit of regeneration ; but the idea that the life a man lives has anything to do in effecting or promoting his regeneration, has been most strenuously denied — honestly, without doubt, on the part of some, lest the idea of self-merit should be encouraged.
But on both of these subjects, regeneration and life, the Lord has given us new light in the revelations He has made for His New Jerusalem. He has taught us that He is love and mercy, and nothing but love and mercy : that He created all from love, and exists only to do them good ; that