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secondarily by that of his faith, intelligence, and thoughts. And does not this fact furnish a most edifying practical lesson ? Hereby it is made plain that however much we may know of the glorious lightdispensing doctrines of the New Church, and however able to proclaim them to others, they constitute with us no more than an apparent state until we love them for the Lord's sake, and for the spiritual and orderly uses of Life. We are thus likewise warned, not to abide, as we are but too commonly prone to do, in that which is apparent only, but to press forward to that state which is internal and real. On this subject Swedenborg further informs us, that “ Man is in one state when he thinks and speaks from Doctrine, and in another when he thinks and speaks irrespective of doctrine: whilst he thinks and speaks from doctrine, his thought and speech are from the memory of his natural man; but when he thinks and speaks irrespective of doctrine, his thought and speech are from his spirit—from the interiors of his mind, - wherefore what he thence speaks is his real faith. The state of man after death becomes such as were the thought and speech of his spirit, and not such as were his thought and speech from doctrine, if the latter has not made one with the former. All things which are in the spirit of man remain with him to eternity, but the things which are not in his spirit are dissipated. Man after death remains to eternity in the state of life which he procures to himself in the world; wherefore, he must watch.” (See A. E. 114, 193, A. C. 9,383, 9,386.) Here is additional evidence of the solemn truth, that the state of doctrine alone is of no avail after death, and therefore, that although we may profess to belong to the New Church, attend her ordinances of worship, and be numbered among her ministers and members, yet, if we proceed no further than the state of “ thought and speech from doctrine,” we can have no just claim to membership, nor any title to an inheritance in the Lord's new heavens. And this fact rests not merely on the above testimony, but on the authority of the Most High; for, how forcibly is the same great truth proclaimed by the Lord himself !—"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, who is in heaven," &c. (Matt. vii. 21-23.) That is, though there be “many" who say, Lord,-many who make profession of his name,-such only shall enter as are doers also; and, observe, not doers from self-will, for these were rejected, but doers from the Lord's divine influence. For, in relation to us individually, what is the “Father in heaven,” but the Lord's divine life and presence in the internal man? and what is it to do His will, but to mortify self-will-to subdue the proprium, and thus prepare the external man to admit the Lord, and become his active, faithful, and devoted servant? If, on this point, any doubt exist, it will probably vanish when we have read with attention the following words of the author above quoted :—"The life of God," says he, “is present in all its fulness, not only with the good, but also with the wicked, with the angels of heaven and with the spirits of hell; the difference is, that the wicked obstruct the way and shut the gate, so that God is prevented from entering into the inferior parts of their minds; whereas the good prepare
open the gate, and also supplicate God to enter into the inferior regions of their mind, even as he dwells in its highest regions; and then they form the state of the will to receive the influx of love and charity, and the state of the understanding to receive the influx of wisdom and faith, consequently to receive God.” (T. C. R. 366.) Thus, brethren, are we instructed that the opening or closing the way of the Lord's entrance into the external man, depends upon our own conduct, and therefore, that we not only must work, but also must watch our motives, in order that the Lord may enter, and that the two states above noticed may become a ONE—a real, permanent, saving state ; or, that we may acquire a mental form and quality in harmony with divine order.
But although the state of “ thought and speech from doctrine,” when apart from a corresponding state of the heart, is worthless in the other life, yet, when considered as introductory to further advancement, it is of immense value; for without the knowledge of true doctrine, the Word of God cannot be understood; (A. E. 356.) and without the understanding of the Word, goods and truths, and their opposites, evils and falsities, cannot be known and discriminated, consequently, there cannot be any choice of the one, or rejection of the other; and without such choice and rejection, the spiritual degrees of the mind cannot be opened and perfected ; “for the spiritual man can only be opened by divine truths received in the understanding, and in the will ;" and such reception is in proportion to the removal of opposite principles. (A. E. 543.) Thus, as the age of infancy is essentially introductory to the period of manhood, so is the state of “thought from doctrine" an essential means of the successive opening and maturing of the mind, until we realise a state of spiritual manhood, or of heavenly love, wisdom, and salvation.
Whilst then, dear brethren, we are on the one hand, solemnly reminded of the fatal consequences, if we stop short in a state of doctrine only; we perceive, on the other hand, the absolute necessity of using all diligence to acquire, strengthen, and perfect, this previous state, as essential to the attainment of the subsequent, or full and final state.
The prior state is to some extent acquired with every man, through the medium of education, or youthful training, up to the period when he has arrived at adult age; varying with each according to the amount and quality of doctrinal instruction ; but it is afterwards to be strengthened and perfected, or, to express it otherwise, new states of “thought from doctrine" are to be added by the voluntary studious application of man himself, that is, by availing himself of the best means and opportunities afforded by a merciful Providence, to acquire a fuller knowledge and clearer understanding of the Word of God and its divine doctrines. When we speak of the best means, it plainly implies that the means are various, and therefore, that they should be thought of, and discriminated. And to avail ourselves of the best means, involves also the avoidance of whatever tends to retard and arrest our progress. In the honest exercise of such thought concerning the means, we shall probably be led to ask, mentally, “What books should we read? What associates should we choose ? For both reason and experience lead to the conclusion, that whatever we read with affection, and whatever, among our associates, we hearken to with delight, have a powerful influence upon the mind, and must, consequently, tend to induee states, and changes of states, for good or for evil, which, be it remembered, are actual progressions of the spirit towards heaven or hell; and therefore, a wise discrimination as to what we rend and hear, appears to be of the greatest moment. Many have experienced what they call, the "fascinations” of reading, and of company, the rationale of which cannot be perceived in a full degree, except by a knowledge of the relation in which we stand to societies of good of evil spirits in the invisible world. This relation, we are informed, results from the law of correspondences, according to which a man, as to his spirit, communicates with, and is influenced by, his like in that world, even during his earthly probation; that is, he is influenced by those whose delights correspond with his
And since, as is obvious, the reading and the associates which are the objects of our free choice, feed and strengthen the predominant delight, they thereby bring us more and more under the influence of corresponding societies of spirits. On this, as on other spiritual subjects, Swedenborg gives ample information, from which we cite the following :--"Such as the good is appertaining to man, such is the society of angels with which he is associated : and such as the evil is appertaining to man, such is the society of evil spirits with which he is associated: man invites such societies, or places himself in the society of such, inasmuch as like associates with like. The state of man is altogether according to the societies of spirits and angels in the midst of whom he is; such is his will, and such is his thought. But with respect to the changes of his state, there is a difference according as showever unconsciously] he invites those societies to himself, and according as those societies are adjoined to him by the Lord; when he himself adjoins them to bimself, he is then in evil, but when they are adjoined to him of the Lord he is then in good, and then there flows in such good as is serviceable for the reformation of his life. The changes of his state are nothing else but changes of society.” (A. C. 4,067, 4,073.) Admitting the facts here stated, it becomes self-evident that the spirit of what we read, and the spirit of the company we keep, must have a strong tendency to adjoin us to societies of a similar quality; and that, as states and changes of state depend on such adjunction, our choice of reading and associates is a momentous subject of consideration. And, happily, in this respect we are not left without a guide, for the same author observes,—“ Man becomes spiritual by the knowledge of good and truth from the Word, and not by any other, because all things in the Word are divine, and contain a spiritual sense, and by that sense communicate with heaven and with the angels there. When man has knowledges from the Word, and applies them to life, he communicates with heaven and becomes spiritual, &c. But the knowledges which are derived from other books, which teach and confirm the doctrinals of the church, do not effect communication except by the knowledges which are therein from the Word; these knowledges communicate, if they are truly understood, and not applied to faith alone, but to life." (See A. E. 195.) Here we learn, first, that the Word is the Book, which, in preference to all others, we should delight to read and hear; it is accordingly declared therein—" Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein ; (Rev. i. 4.) secondly, that other books which contain the greatest amount of knowledges from the Word, should in the next place engage our attention. And what books can we anywhere find which, in this respect, will bear comparison with the writings of Swedenborg? Doubtless you will answer, there are none such to be found. Let us then, dear brethren, seriously ask ourselves, Do we read and hear the Word,- do we read those writings,---with that diligence, constancy, and delight, which becomes our profession? Are not these books too much neglected? Are not our reading exercises and delights too often carried away into more or less remote channels,--to books and reading which, at least, deserve only a small share of regard, or even to such as are trifling and useless ? The answer will probably be our self-condemnation; for there appears reason to fear that the present members of the New Church read not only much less than they ought of these precious writings, but also less than those of the last generation, and have, consequently, a more limited knowledge of the glorious light and purity of the Lord's new dispensation. Brethren, Is this true ? Do we thus pass by the “corn of heaven" which nourished our fathers, to feed upon inferior grain, or even upon chaff? If so, is it not high time to retrace our steps by a more faithful attention to the means--the best means-of advancing towards the heavenly state? If we have any "hunger and thirst,” let us call to mind that “the Word fills the man who reads it under the Lord's influence, and not under the influence of proprium, with the good of love and the truths of wisdom. Hence man has life by and through the Word." (S. S. 3.) Again, “It is of importance to know how man may be in illustration, so as to learn the truth which must constitute his faith, and be in the affection to do the goods which must constitute his love. Let him read the Word every day, either one or two chapters, and learn from a master (or teacher), and from preachings, the doctrines of his religion," &c. And to this we would earnestly add, read a portion of the writings of E. S., however small it may be, every day; for as time advances, the accumulation of knowledge will prove surprisingly great. In the next place, “it must be a first and primary principle with him to desist from doing evils, because they are sins against the Word, and thus against God, and that if he does them, he cannot go into life eternal but into hell; and afterwards, as he advances in years, to shun them as accursed, and turn away from them even in thought and intention. But in order to desist from them, and shun and become averse to them, he must supplicate the Lord for his aid,” &c. (See A. E. 803.)
Herein we are specially recommended to practice the daily reading of the Word, to learn from a master, and from preachings, to desist from doing evil, and to pray to the Lord, in order that we may be in illustration to understand truth, and in the affection to do good. Thus we have not only a reading guide, but, by implication at least, an instructor also, as to the choice of associates ; for these words appear to involve what the common reason of the church has sanctioned and adopted for similar purposes, namely, public worship, private devotion, and meetings for instruction in the doctrines of the Word of God, consequently association with others who have these objects in view. But the mutual dependence and relation between outward duties and inward principles, and the duty and advantages of external worship when derived from internal, and thus of association with those who sincerely desire communion with