(DP) - Angelic Wisdom about Divine Providence

DP 278

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278. II. EVILS CANNOT BE REMOVED UNLESS THEY APPEAR. This does not mean that man is to do evils in order that they may appear, but that he is to examine himself, not his actions only, but also his thoughts, and what he would do if he were not afraid of the laws and disgrace; especially what evils he holds in his spirit to be allowable and does not regard as sins; for these he still commits. In order that man may examine himself an understanding has been given him, and this separate from the will, that he may know, understand and acknowledge what is good and what is evil; and also that he may see the quality of his will, or what it is he loves and desires. In order that he may see this his understanding has been furnished with higher and lower thought, or interior and exterior thought, to enable him to see from higher or interior thought what his will is doing in the lower or exterior thought. This he sees as a man sees his face in a mirror; and when he sees it and knows what sin is, he is able, if he implores the help of the Lord, not to will it, but to shun it and afterwards to act against it; if not wholeheartedly, still he can exercise constraint upon it by combat, and at length turn away from it and hate it. Now, and not before, he first perceives and also feels that evil is evil and that good is good. This then is what is involved in examining oneself, seeing one's evils and recognising them, confessing them and afterwards desisting from them. [2] As, however, there are few who know that this is the Christian religion itself, for only they have charity and faith, and they alone are led by the Lord and do good from Him, therefore something will be said of those who do not do so and yet think they have religion in them. They are:
1. Those who confess themselves guilty of sins of all kinds, and do not search out any one sin in themselves;
2. Those who from religious principles omit such inquiry;
3. Those who on account of worldly matters give no thought to sins, and consequently do not know them;
4. Those who favour sins and therefore cannot know them.
5. In all these persons sins do not appear, and therefore cannot be removed.
6. Lastly, the reason hitherto unknown will be made manifest why evils cannot be removed without this search, appearance, acknowledgment, confession and resistance.

278a.* These points, however, must be examined one by one because they are fundamentals of the Christian religion on man's part.
First: Concerning those who confess themselves guilty of sins of all kind and do not search out any one sin in themselves. Such a one says, "I am a sinner; I was born in sin; there is nothing sound in me from head to foot; I am nothing but evil. Good God, be gracious to me, pardon me, cleanse me, save me, make me to walk in purity and in the way of righteousness"; and so on. Yet he does not examine himself, and consequently is ignorant of any evil; and no one can shun that of which he is ignorant, much less fight against it. After his confession he also believes himself clean and washed, when nevertheless he is unclean and unwashed from the head to the sole of the foot; for the confession of all sins is the lulling to sleep of all, and at length blindness. It is like a universal lacking every individual, and this has no existence.
[2] Second: Concerning those who from religious principles omit such inquiry. They are especially those who separate charity from faith; for such a one says to himself, "Why should I search out whether there is evil or good? Why should I search out whether there is evil when evil does not condemn me; and whether there is good, when good does not save me? It is faith alone, thought of and declared with assurance and confidence, that justifies and purifies from all sin; and when once I am justified I am whole in the sight of God. I am indeed in evil; but God wipes it away as soon as it is committed, and so it appears no more"; besides other things of a like nature. Who does not see, if he but opens his eyes, that such are empty words in which there is no reality, because there is no good in them? Who cannot so think and speak, even with assurance and confidence, when at the same time he is thinking of hell and eternal condemnation? Does such a one desire to know anything further, either what is true or what is good? Of truth he says, "What is truth but that which confirms this faith?" and of good he says, "What is good but that which is in me from this faith? But that it may be in me I will not do it as from myself, because that is meritorious, and meritorious good is not good." Thus he dismisses the whole matter until he does not know what evil is. What then will he search out and see in himself? Does not his state then become such that the pent-up fire of the lusts of evil consumes the interiors of his mind and lays them waste even to the very entrance? This gate only does he guard lest the fire should become manifest; but it is opened after death and then the fire appears to the sight of all.
[3] Third: Concerning those who on account of worldly matters give no thought to sins, and consequently do not know them. These are they who love the world above all things, and admit no truth that would lead them away from any falsity of their religion. They say to themselves, "What have I to do with this? It does not enter into my thought." Thus they reject the truth as soon as they hear it, and if they listen to it they stifle it. They do much the same when they hear preaching: they retain nothing of it save some few phrases, but not any of the substance. As they deal thus with truths they do not know what good is, for truth and good act as one; and from that good which does not spring from truth there is no knowledge of evil unless it is also called good; and this is effected by reasoning from falsities. These are they who are meant by the seed which fell among thorns, of whom the Lord says:
Other seeds fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up and choked them....
These are they who hear the Word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word, so that it becomes unfruitful. Matt. xiii. 7, 22; Mark iv. 7 [18, 19];** Luke viii. 7, 14.
[4] Fourth: Concerning those who favour sins and therefore cannot know them. These are they who acknowledge God and worship Him according to the customary ceremonials, and who convince themselves that any evil which is a sin is not a sin; for they disguise it by fallacies and appearances, and so hide its Enormity. When they have done this they favour it, making it their familiar friend. It is said that those who acknowledge God do this, because others do not regard any evil as a sin, whereas every sin is an offence against God. But examples may illustrate this. A man does not regard evil as a sin who in his desire for wealth makes certain forms of fraud allowable, by reasons which he devises. The same is true of the man who justifies in himself the spirit of revenge against his private enemies, or who in time of war justifies plundering those who are not his country's enemies.
[5] Fifth: In these persons sins do not appear, and therefore cannot be removed. Every evil that does not become manifest nourishes itself being like fire in wood under the ashes, and like matter in a wound that is not opened; for every evil that is denied an outlet increases and does not abate until the whole has been destroyed. Therefore, lest any evil should be shut in, everyone is permitted to think in favour of God or against God, and in favour of the holy things of the Church or against them, and is not punished for it in the world. Concerning this the Lord says in Isaiah:
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; the wound, the bruise, and the fresh stripe: they have not been pressed out, nor bound up, nor mollified with oil (A.V. but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment)....
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil; Learn to do well....
Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.... But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword. Isa. i. 6, 16 [17], 18, 20.
To be devoured with the sword signifies to perish by the falsity of evil.
[6] Sixth: The reason, hitherto unknown, why evils cannot be removed without this search, appearance, acknowledgment, confession and resistance. In the preceding pages it has been mentioned that the universal heaven is arranged in societies according to [the affections of good and the entire hell according to] the lusts of evil opposite to the affections of good. Every man as to his spirit is in some society - in a heavenly society if he is in the affection of good, but in an infernal society if he is in the lust of evil. Man does not know this while he is living in the world, but nevertheless as to his spirit he is in some society; otherwise he cannot live, and because of it he is governed by the Lord. If he is in an infernal society he can only be led out of it by the Lord according to the laws of His Divine Providence, one of which is that he must see that he is there, must desire to go out and must himself endeavour to do this of himself. This he can do while he is in the world, but not after death; for then he remains to eternity in the society in which he has placed himself while in the world. This is the reason why man is to examine himself, see and acknowledge his sins and repent, and afterwards persevere right on to the end of his life. That this is the case I could establish from much experience even to complete belief; but this is not the place to set forth proofs of my experience.
* Original Edition repeats number 278.
** Original Edition has "Mark iv. 7, 14."


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