4174. Whether stolen by day or stolen by night. That this signifies the evil of self-merit in like manner, is evident from the signification of "stolen" or of "theft," as being the evil of self-merit. There is the evil of self-merit when a man ascribes good to himself, and supposes that it is from himself, and on this account desires to merit salvation. This evil is what is signified in the internal sense by "theft." But in regard to this evil, all who are being reformed at first suppose that good is from themselves, and therefore that by the good which they do they merit salvation; for their supposing that they merit salvation by the good which they do is the result of their supposing that the good is from themselves, for the one idea coheres with the other. But they who suffer themselves to be regenerated do not confirm this in their thought, or persuade themselves that it is so; but the idea is gradually dissipated. For so long as anyone is in the external man, as is the case with all in the beginning of their reformation, he cannot do otherwise than think so, because he thinks solely from his external man. But when the external man together with its concupiscences is being removed, and the internal man is beginning to work; that is, when the Lord flows in through the internal man with the light of intelligence, and thereby enlightens the external man; the man then begins to believe otherwise, and ascribes good not to himself, but to the Lord. From this it is plain what is here meant by that evil of self-merit through which comes good, in like manner as through the evil which is not of fault, concerning which above. But if when he has arrived at adult age a man confirms in his thought, and altogether persuades himself that he merits salvation by the good he does, the evil in question inheres radically, and cannot be amended. For such men claim to themselves that which is the Lord's, and thus do not receive the good which continually flows in from the Lord; but immediately on its flowing in, divert it to themselves, and into their own, and consequently defile it. These are the evils which in the proper sense are signified by "thefts" (see n. 2609).