(TCR) - True Christian Religion: Containing the Whole Theology of the New Church Predicted by the Lord in Daniel 7:13-14 and Revelation 21:1-2

TCR 459

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459. To this the following Memorable Relations shall be added. First:
I saw at a distance five gymnasia, each encompassed by a different kind of light; the first by a flame colored light, the second by a yellow light, the third by a white light, the fourth by a light intermediate between that of noon and evening, the fifth was hardly visible, standing as if shrouded by the shades of evening. And on the roads I saw some on horseback, some in carriages, some walking, and some running and hurrying towards the first gymnasium, which was enveloped in the flamy light.
Seeing this, I was seized and impelled by a strong desire to go there and to hear what was under discussion. Therefore I quickly got ready and joined company with those hastening to the first gymnasium, and entered with them; and behold! there was a large assembly, part of which moved off to the right and part to the left, to seat themselves on benches near the walls. Before me I saw a low pulpit, in which stood one who filled the office of president, having a staff in his hand, a cap on his head, and a robe tinted with the flame-colored light of the gymnasium.
[2] When the people had assembled, he spoke aloud and said, "Brethren, you will today discuss the question, What is charity? Each one of you can understand that charity is spiritual in its essence, and natural in its practices."
Immediately one of those on the first bench on the left, on which those who were reputed wise were sitting, arose and beginning to speak, said, "It is my opinion that charity is morality inspired by faith." This he corroborated thus: "Who does not know that charity follows faith, as a waiting-maid follows her mistress, and that the man who has faith obeys the law, and thus practises charity so spontaneously that he is unaware that it is the law and charity according to which he is living? For if he did this knowingly, and at the same time thought of salvation as his end, he would pollute holy faith with his selfhood [proprium] and thus impair its efficacy. Is not this in accordance with the dogma of our church?" And he looked towards those sitting beside him, among whom were some of the regular clergy, and they nodded assent. [3] "But what," he said, "is spontaneous charity but morality into which everyone is initiated from infancy, and which is therefore in itself natural, but becomes spiritual when inspired by faith? Who, from the moral life of men, can distinguish whether they have faith or not, for every man lives morally? But God alone, who implants and seals faith, recognizes and distinguishes. I therefore assert that charity is morality inspired by faith; and that such morality, owing to the faith in its bosom, is saving, while all other morality brings no salvation, because it claims merit. Thus all those who mix together charity and faith, that is, all who conjoin them inwardly instead of connecting them outwardly, lose their oil; for to mix and join these together would be like putting into the carriage with a primate the servant who stands behind, or like introducing the porter into the dining-hall, and seating him at the table with a nobleman."
[4] After this another rose up from the first bench on the right, and said, "It is my opinion that charity is piety inspired by commiseration. This opinion I corroborate as follows: That nothing has such effect in propitiating God as piety arising from a humble heart; and piety prays unceasingly for God to bestow faith and charity; and the Lord says:
Ask, and it shall be given you (Matt. 7:7);and because both are given, they are both in that piety. I say that charity is piety inspired by commiseration; for all devout piety commiserates, for piety so moves the heart of man that he groans, and what is that but commiseration? This indeed recedes after we have prayed, but it comes back when we pray again; and when it returns there is piety in it, and thus there is piety in charity. Our priests ascribe all things that promote salvation to faith, and nothing to charity. What then remains but piety praying fervently for both? When I have read the Word I have been able to see nothing else than that faith and charity are the two means of salvation. But when I have consulted the ministers of the church I have heard that faith is the only means, and that charity is nothing. And then it has seemed to me that I was on the sea, in a ship that was drifting between two rocks; and when I feared that the ship would be broken to pieces, I betook myself to a boat and sailed away. My boat is piety; and piety, moreover, is profitable for all things."
[5] After him another, from the second bench on the right, arose and said, "It is my opinion that charity is doing good to everyone, virtuous and vicious alike; and this opinion I corroborate as follows: What is charity but goodness of heart? And a good heart wishes good to everyone, to the virtuous and the vicious alike. And the Lord has said, that good ought to be done even to our enemies. Therefore, when you withhold charity from anyone, does not charity on that side become null, and thus like a man who has lost one foot, and goes hopping on the other? A vicious man is a man equally with a virtuous one, and charity regards a man as a man; if he is vicious, what is that to me? It is with charity as with the heat of the sun, which vivifies beasts, both fierce and gentle, wolves as well as sheep, and causes trees to grow, both good and bad, and the thorns as well as the vine." So saying he took in his hand a fresh grape, and said, "It is with charity as it is with this grape; divide it, and all its contents run out." He divided it, and out they ran.
[6] After this speech another from the second bench on the left, arose and said, "It is my opinion that charity is to serve by every means one's relatives and friends, which I corroborate thus: Who does not know that charity begins with oneself, since everyone is neighbor to himself? Therefore charity goes forth from oneself through grades of nearness first to brother and sister, and from these to kinsmen and relatives; and thus the progression of charity is self-limited. Those who are beyond its limits are strangers, and strangers are not interiorly recognized, and thus are as aliens to the internal man. But those related by blood and birth are joined together by nature, and friends by custom, which is a second nature, and these become the neighbor in that way. Charity unites also another to itself from within, and so from without, and those not united from within may be called companions merely. Do not all birds recognize their own kindred, not by their plumage but by the sound they make, and when they are near, by the sphere of life exhaled from their bodies? This affection for kindred and consequent conjunction is called in birds instinct; while the same affection in men, when it is for those nearest to them, is truly an instinct of human nature. What except blood causes homogeneity? This a man's mind, which is also his spirit, feels, and, as it were, smells. In this homogeneity and consequent sympathy the essence of charity consists. But heterogeneity, on the contrary, from which antipathy springs, is, as it were, not blood, and therefore not charity. And as habit is second nature, and this also causes homogeneity, it follows that charity is also doing good to one's friends. When one comes from the sea into some port and finds that it is a foreign country, the language and customs of whose inhabitants he is unacquainted with, is he not, as it were, out of himself, feeling none of the joy of love toward them? But if he finds himself in his own country with whose language and customs he is familiar, he is, as it were, within himself, and then feels a joy arising from love, which is the joy of charity."
[7] Then from the third bench on the right another arose, and speaking with a loud voice, said: "It is my opinion that charity is giving alms to the poor, and assisting the needy. This surely is charity, for the Divine Word so teaches, the statements of which admit of no contradiction. What is giving to the rich and the possessors of abundance but vain glory, in which there is no charity but only a looking for return? And in this there can be no genuine affection of love towards the neighbor, but only spurious affection, which is effective on earth but not in heaven. Therefore want and poverty ought to be relieved, because into this no idea of recompense enters. In the city where I lived, and where I knew who were virtuous and who were not, I observed that all of the virtuous, when they saw a beggar in the street, would stop and give him alms; while the non-virtuous, seeing a beggar beside them, would pass him by as if blind to his presence and deaf to his voice. And who does not know that the virtuous have charity, and the non-virtuous have not? He who gives to the poor and relieves the needy, is like a shepherd who leads hungry and thirsty sheep to pasture and water; while he who gives only to those who are rich and possess abundance, is like one who devotes himself to the prosperous or presses food and drink upon those who are intoxicated."
[8] After him arose another, from the third bench on the left, and said: "It is my opinion that charity is building hospitals, infirmaries, orphans' homes, and asylums, and supporting them by contributions. This I corroborate by the fact that such beneficences and aids are public, and are many leagues beyond private benefactions; consequently charity becomes richer and more replete with good, as the good is multiplied by the number aided, and the reward hoped for from the promises of the Word become more abundant, for as one ploughs and sows, so he reaps. Is not this giving to the poor and relieving the needy in an eminent degree? Does not one thereby secure worldly fame and praises in the humble voice of gratitude from those helped? Does not this exalt the heart, and with it the affection that is called charity, even to the highest point? The rich, who do not walk the streets, but ride, cannot notice and hand pennies to those sitting at the sides of the streets by the wall of the houses; but they make their contributions of such a kind as to serve many at once. But lesser persons who walk the streets and have not stores of wealth, may do otherwise."
[9] Hearing this, another from the same bench quickly drowned the voice of the first with his louder voice, saying: "Let not the rich, however, exalt the munificence and excellence of their charity over the pittance that one poor man gives to another; for we know that everyone in what he does acts according to what is suitable to his person, whether he is a king or a magistrate, a commander or an attendant. For charity, viewed in itself, is not estimated by the excellence of the person, and consequently of the gift, but by the amplitude of the affection that prompts it; so that a menial giving one penny may do so from a larger charity than the great man who gives or bequeaths an immense sum. This is in accordance with these words:
Jesus saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury; He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites and He said, of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all (Luke 21:1-3).
[10] After these one arose from the fourth bench on the left, and said: "It is my opinion that charity is to endow churches, and to do good to their ministers; which I confirm by this, that he who does so meditates upon what is holy and acts from what is holy in his own mind, and moreover, that this sanctifies his gifts. Charity demands this, because it is in itself holy. Is not all worship in churches holy? For the Lord says,
Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20);
and the priests His servants conduct the worship. From this I conclude that the gifts which are bestowed upon ministers and churches are superior to those bestowed upon other persons and for other objects. Moreover, there is given to a minister the power to bless, whereby he also sanctifies those gifts; and after that there is nothing that expands and rejoices the mind more than to look upon one's gifts as so many holy shrines."
[11] Then one from the fourth bench on the right arose and spoke as follows: "It is my opinion that the old Christian brotherhood is charity. This I confirm by the fact that every church that worships the true God begins in charity the same as the early Christian church did. Because charity unites minds and makes one out of many, the members of that church called themselves brethren-but brethren in Jesus Christ their God. But because they were then surrounded by barbarous nations whom they feared, they established a community of property, which enabled them to enjoy themselves together in harmony, and at the same time conversed together daily at their meetings about the Lord God their Savior Jesus Christ, and at their dinners and suppers about charity; hence their brotherhood. But after those times, when schisms began to spring up, and finally the abominable Arian heresy arose, which with many swept away the idea of the Divinity of the Lord's Human, charity decayed and their brotherhood was dissolved. It is true that all who worship the Lord in truth and keep His commandments are brethren (Matt. 23:8), but brethren in spirit; and as it is unknown at this day what any man is in spirit, for men to call each other brethren is of no account. A brotherhood of faith alone, and still less a brotherhood of faith in any other God than the Lord God the Savior, is not a brotherhood, because in that faith there is no charity, which is what makes brotherhood. I therefore conclude that the old Christian brotherhood was charity. But that was, and now is not; yet I prophesy that it will return."
When he had said this, a flame-colored light appeared through the eastern window, and tinged his cheeks, at the sight of which the assembly were amazed.
[12] Finally one arose from the fifth bench on the left, and asked permission to add his contribution to the remarks of the last speaker. When this had been granted, he said, "It is my opinion that charity is to forgive everyone his trespasses. This opinion I have drawn from the customary saying of those who approach the Holy Supper; for some then say to their friends, 'Forgive me what I have done amiss;' thinking that they have thus discharged all the duties of charity. But I have thought in my own mind that this is nothing but a painted picture of charity, not the real form of its essence; for this is said both by those who do not forgive, and by those who make no effort to follow charity; and such are not included in the Prayer which the Lord Himself taught, Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. For trespasses are like ulcers, within which, if they are not opened and healed, diseased matter collects, which infects the neighboring parts, and creeping about like a serpent, turns the blood everywhere into such matter. It is the same with trespasses against the neighbor, which, unless removed by repentance and by a life according to the Lord's commandments, remain and devour; while those who, without repentance, merely pray to God to forgive their sins, are like the inhabitants of a city, who, being infected with a contagious disease, go to the chief magistrate and say, Sir, heal us; and he would answer, How can I heal you? Go to a physician, find out what medicines you need, get them for yourselves from an apothecary and take them, and your health will be restored. So the Lord will say to those who pray for the forgiveness of their sins without actual repentance. Open the Word, and read what I have spoken in Isaiah:
Ah, sinful nation, laden with iniquity. When ye spread forth your hands, I hide Mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I do not hear. Wash you, put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes cease to do evil; learn to do well, and then shall your sins be removed and forgiven (Isa. 1:4, 15-18)."
[13] When all this had taken place, I raised my hand, and asked them to permit me, although a stranger, to offer my opinion also. The president proposed this, and consent being given, I spoke as follows: "It is my opinion that charity is to act with judgment from a love of justice in every employment and office, but from a love derived from no other source than the Lord God the Savior. All that I have heard from those sitting upon the benches, both on the right and on the left, are eminent examples of charity; but, as the president of this assembly stated, at first, charity in its origin is spiritual, but in its flowing forth is natural; and natural charity, if it is inwardly spiritual, appears to the angels transparent like a diamond; but if not inwardly spiritual, and therefore purely natural, it appears to the angels like a pearl that resembles the eye of a cooked fish.
[14] "It is not for me to say, whether the eminent examples of charity which you have presented in order, are inspired by spiritual charity or not; but I can say what the spiritual that ought to be in them, must be, that they may be natural forms of spiritual charity. The spiritual itself of these is this, that they be done with judgment from a love of justice; that is, that in the exercise of charity man should see clearly whether he is acting from justice, and this he sees from judgment. For a man may do evil by deeds of beneficence; and by what appear to be evil deeds he may do good. For example: One who gives to a needy robber the means wherewith to buy a sword, by a beneficent act is doing evil; although the robber in begging the money did not tell what he would do with it. So again, if one rescues a robber from prison and shows him the way to a forest, saying to himself, It is not my fault that he commits robbery; I have given succor to the man. Take as another example, one who feeds an idler, and prevents his being compelled to work, saying to him, Go into a chamber in my house, and lie in bed; why should you weary yourself? Such a one favors idleness. Or again, take one who promotes relatives and friends with dishonest inclinations to offices of honor, wherein they can plot many kinds of mischief. Who cannot see that such works of charity do not proceed from any love of justice combined with judgment?
[15] On the other hand, a man may do good through what appear to be evil deeds. Take as an example a judge who acquits an evil-doer because he sheds tears, pours out words of piety, and begs the judge to pardon him because he is his neighbor. But in fact a judge performs a work of charity when he decrees the man's punishment according to the law; for he thus guards against the man's doing further evil and being a pest to society, which is the neighbor in a higher degree, and he prevents also the scandal of an unjust judgment. Who does not know also, that it is good for servants to be chastised by their masters, or children by their parents, when they do wrong? The same is true of those in hell, all of whom are in the love of doing evil. They are kept shut up in prisons, and when they do evil are punished, which the Lord permits for the sake of their amendment. This is so because the Lord is justice itself, and does whatever He does from judgment itself.
[16] From all this it can be seen clearly, why, as just said, spiritual charity is done with judgment from a love of justice, and yet from a love derived from no other source than the Lord God the Savior. This is because all good of charity is from the Lord; for He says,
He that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for apart from Me ye can do nothing (John 15:5).
Also that He has all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18);
and all love of justice with judgment is from no other source than the God of heaven, who is justice itself, and the source of all man's judgment (Jer. 23:5; 33:15).
[17] From all this we may conclude that all that has been said about charity from the benches on the right and left, namely, That charity is morality inspired by faith; That it is piety inspired by commiseration; That it is doing good alike to the virtuous and the vicious; That it is to serve by every means one's relatives and friends; That it is giving to the poor and assisting the needy; That it is building infirmaries and supporting them by contributions; That it is endowing churches and doing good to their ministers; That it is the old Christian brotherhood; That it is to forgive everyone his trespasses; all these are eminent examples of charity when they are done with judgment from a love of justice. Otherwise they are not charity, but are merely like brooks separated from their fountains, or like branches torn from their tree; because genuine charity is to believe in the Lord and to act justly and rightly in every employment and office. Therefore he who from the Lord loves justice and practises it with judgment, is charity in its image and likeness."
[18] When this had been said there was silence, such as comes to those who from their internal man, but not as yet in the external, see and acknowledge that something is true. This I perceived from their faces. But I was then suddenly removed out of their sight, returning from the spirit into my material body; for the natural man, because of his being clothed with a material body, is not visible to any spiritual man, that is, to a spirit or angel, nor they to him.


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