Good Works. Daily practice
“What are the good works that I must do, or what good must I do to receive eternal life?”
“… what is meant in the Word by good works can now be seen, namely, that they are all works done by man when evils have been removed as sins. For the works done after this are done from man only as if from him; for they are done from the Lord, and all works done from the Lord are good, and are called the goods of life, the goods of charity, and good works; as for instance, all the judgments of a judge who has justice as his end, and who venerates and loves it as Divine, and who detests as infamous decisions made for the sake of rewards or friendship, or from favor. Thus he consults the good of his country by causing justice and judgment to reign therein as in heaven; and thus he consults the peace of every innocent citizen and protects him from the violence of evildoers. All these are good works. So all services of managers and dealings of merchants are good works when they shun unlawful gains as sins against the Divine laws. When a man shuns evils as sins he daily learns what a good work is, and the affection of doing good grows with him, and the affection of knowing truths for the sake of good; for so far as he knows truths he can perform works more fully and more wisely, and thus his works become more truly good. Cease, therefore, from asking in thyself, “What are the good works that I must do, or what good must I do to receive eternal life?” Only cease from evils as sins and look to the Lord, and the Lord will teach and lead you.” (Apocalypse Explained 979)
Read on the Ten Commandments in the book True Christian Religion, beginning from n. 282
From the Doctrine of Charity for the New Jerusalem:
2. (I.) As far as anyone does not look to the Lord and shun evils because they are sins, so far he remains in them. Man is born into evils of every kind. His will, which is his proprium, is nothing but evil. Unless, therefore, a man is reformed and regenerated, he not only remains as he was born, but becomes even worse; because to the evils received hereditarily he adds actual evils of himself. Such does a man remain if he does not shun evils as sins. To shun them as sins is to shun them as diabolical and infernal, and therefore deadly, and hence, because there is eternal damnation in them. If a man so regards them, then he believes that there is a hell, and that there is a heaven; and also that the Lord can remove them if the man also endeavors to remove them as of himself. But see what has been set forth on this subject in The Doctrine of Life for the New Jerusalem (n. 108-113). To which I will add this: All evils are born delightful; because man is born into the love of himself, and that love makes all things delightful that are of his proprium, thus whatever he wills and whatever he thinks; and everyone remains till death in the delights that are inrooted by birth, unless they are subdued; and they are not subdued unless they are regarded as sweet drugs that kill, or as flowers apparently beautiful that carry poison in them; thus unless the delights of evil are regarded as deadly, and this until at length they become undelightful.
3. (II.) As far as anyone does not take cognizance of sins and know what they are, so far he does not see but that he is without sins. That he knows he is a sinner, in evils from head to foot, is from the Word; and yet he does not know because he does not see any one sin in himself. He therefore prays, as a tinkling sound, confesses as a tinkling sound, and yet inmostly in himself he believes that he is not a sinner; which belief in the other life is manifested. For there he says, “I am pure, I am clean, I am guiltless,” and yet when examined he is impure, unclean, yea even carrion. It is as if the skin were fair and soft outwardly, but within diseased from the very heart; or as a liquid, like water upon the surface, but within putrid from stagnation.
4. (III.) So far as anyone takes cognizance of sins and knows what they are, he can see them in himself, confess them before the Lord, and repent of them. It is said, he can if he will; and he who believes in eternal life will. But still he must not think of the things he does, but of those that he wills to do, which, if he believes them allowable he then also does; or if he does not do them, it is on account of the world. There is an internal and an external effect, or an internal and an external work. The external effect or work comes forth and exists from the internal effect or work, as action from endeavor. Endeavor, in a man, is will. Therefore, though he does not do a thing in the body, if he holds it to be allowable, then the effort or will remains; and this is the act itself in the spirit. Therefore to take cognizance of his sins and know what they are, is to take cognizance of and know his thoughts, and to know from them what he holds to be allowable, as well as what he desires, and what things of his thought he favors. For example, if he thinks whether whoredom is a sin, and how grave a sin; whether hatred and revenge are sins; whether thefts, and the like, whether haughtiness and pride, contempt of others, and avarice are sins; and then the man must remove disguises, if he had cast any over them, that is, the things by which he had confirmed them, and must consult the Word and see.
5. Anyone may see that he who acknowledges that a sin is a sin [can see the sins within him]; but he who makes them allowable in thought, and not allowable in the body on account of the world, cannot see them. It is as if one should turn the mirror away that he may see his face; or as if one who would see his face should put a veil before it.
(1) If it is only as to the actions, it discovers little; and this not enough: [Give] the reason. (2) But if it is as to the thoughts and intentions, it discovers more. (3) And if it searches out what the man regards or does not regard as sins, then it discovers [all]. For whatever a man within himself regards as allowable, that he does. To regard as allowable is of the will, is endeavor, and in spirit is done; and it will be done in the body when obstacles are removed.
6. (IV.) Good before repentance is spurious good; and also charity, for good is of charity. For evil is within the man inwardly; because it is not opened, and therefore is not healed; and genuine good cannot issue forth from evil. The fountain is impure. Good that flows forth from evil may appear good in the outward form, but the quality of the man is within it, as he is inwardly. Everything that a man does is therefore an image of him. Before the angels he himself appears in his image, yea, out of himself, which I have seen a thousand times. The good, therefore, that anyone does with the body may appear good before those who see only the external; but within, the will and intention lie concealed, which can be, because he wishes to be thought sincere and good in order that he may captivate souls for the sake of honor and gain. In a word, the good is either meritorious, or hypocritical, or diabolical; and is done to deceive, to revenge, to kill, etc. But at death, when a man is let into his interiors, this good is taken away, and becomes open evil.
7. Every good that a man does to the neighbor is of charity, or is charity.
What quality of charity it is may be known by the three preceding [tests], namely,
(1) How far he shuns evils as sins.
(2) How far he knows and takes cognizance of what things are sins.
(3) And how far he has seen them in himself, confessed them, and repented of them.
These are the indications to everyone of the quality of his charity.
8. (V.) Consequently, the first of charity is to look to the Lord and shun evils because they are sins. Every good that a man does to the neighbor for the sake of the neighbor, or for the sake of truth and good and thus for the reason that it is according to the Word, or for the sake of religion and thus for the sake of God, which is therefore from a spiritual love or affection, is called a good of charity, or a good work. So far as this is derived from the man it is not good, but so far as it is from the Lord through the man. The Lord does good to everyone chiefly through others, but yet in such a manner that a man scarcely knows but that it is from himself. He therefore frequently moves the wicked to do good to others; but it is from an affection of the love of self and the world. This good, indeed, is of the Lord, or from the Lord; but the man is not rewarded for it. But if a man does good not from a merely natural, but from a spiritual love or affection, he is rewarded. His reward is the heavenly delight of that love and affection, in that it endures to eternity; and this is in proportion as he does not do it from himself, that is, in proportion as he believes that all good is from the Lord, and does not place merit in it…“
“… the quality of man’s heart is according to his life of love and charity (Apocalypse Exlained 325)
“The quality of the good which is of charity is according to the cognizance and hence removal of evil by repentance.” (Doctrine of Charity 13)
“…He who leads a life of faith does repentance daily; for he reflects upon the evils that are in him, acknowledges them, guards himself against them, and supplicates the Lord for aid. For from himself man is continually falling, but is continually being raised up by the Lord. He falls from himself when he thinks what is evil with desire; and he is raised up by the Lord when he resists evil, and consequently does not do it. Such is the state with all who are in good; but they who are in evil are continually falling, and also are continually being uplifted by the Lord; but this to prevent them from falling into the most grievous hell of all, whither from themselves they incline with all their might: thus in truth uplifting them into a milder hell.” (AC 8391)
On self-examination from sermons, doctrinals classes
“It is important that in our external natural we have good loves which we have in common with good animals, as a basis. We must act in the external natural like good animals, and not like vicious or mean animals, and if we do not have an ultimate in common with good animals, we are far worse than animals and have nothing really human. But if we do not come to a distinctive human love of the neighbour we are lost; and we do not come to a distinctive human love of the neighbour unless, in us, the things of Heaven rule over the things of the world, and unless our love of the neighbour is from the Lord and not from self. How can we tell what rules in us? How can we examine our loves? We can discover what our loves are, if we consider what makes us most happy and what makes us sorrow and grieve the most; for our happiness and sorrow are according to our loves. If we reflect, are we not apt to find that what grieves us most are things which affect ourselves, or those who are ours, such as our family or our intimate friends. If we are harmed in any way, are we not grieved and do we not tend to become angry and desire retribution on those that have harmed us? If we attain success in our endeavour, does this not bring us the greatest joy? In a word, does not the love of self often rule in us.” (TP, Sermon on Mark 12:29-31)
“The following are some of the general things in which men and women place their pride, vanity and conceit. Namely:
One: In an externally orderly life, which lacks a true internal.
Two: In a brilliant mind.
Three: In the ability to distinguish between what is common sense and what is fake or fanciful, or to have good judgment.
Four: In a keen observance in relation to things of human relationship, and hence an ability to influence others and ingratiate oneself.
Five: In the ability to be charming, attractive, entertaining, or to be generally liked by others, or to be popular.
Six: In success in ones occupation.
Seven: If one has not had external success, in a feeling of not being appreciated as to one’b qualities, which is often accompanied by a delight in feeling oneself as a kind of martyr.
Eight: In a pride in being more deeply religious, in having a greater love into the Lord, or having more faith than others, or in having a greater knowledge and understanding of the Word.
Nine: In having an understanding of Doctrine.
Ten: In being more kind and charitable and sympathetic than others.
Eleven: In being more just than others.
Twelve: In being more humble than others.
Thirteen: Some are proud of being among the simple good or of being among the innocent, although because they are proud they are neither simple nor innocent.
Fourteen: In being more moral than others.
Fifteen: In being more open, frank and outspoken, and thus less hypocritical than others.
Sixteen: In having been persecuted, suffered or gone through more temptation than others.
If ones feelings are too easily hurt, or if one is overly jealous, or if one is resentful of reasonable criticism, this has its origin in vanity. All in so far as they have not fought against their pride and conceit, are in several of the above vanities, but there is one which is dominant, and it is important by self-examination to find which one that is. To overcome pride, vanity and conceit is a strenuous life-time work. There can never be a let up in the combat to overcome these evils or one is lost. We can easily see these vanities in others, but it is more difficult to recognize them clearly in ourselves.
At times everyone is humiliated by circumstances. One has failed in опе’s accomplishment, one has done something stupid which is generally known or one has done something which is shameful, and brings on one disgrace. Such things may be useful for us, but the result is not lasting, if it is only from without. There is no lasting benefit in being so humiliated unless we practice self-examination and fight against the interior vanities which may not appear to others. Others may also point out our vanities and put, us to shame, but this also does not help unless there is an interior repentance. Still it is important that we should help each other to overcome our vanities.” (TP, Sermon on Psalm 51,17)