SIX DOCTRINAL CLASSES ON THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN VARIOUS RELATIONS AND FOUR SERMONS ON THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS
THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN RELATION TO LIFE IN GENERAL
Bryn Athyn, Friday, November 20th 1936
In this series of classes we will treat of:
1. The Divine Providence in relation to life in general.
2. The Divine Providence in relation to a man’s occupation:
a. In relation to a minister,
b. To a teacher,
c. To a man whose occupation is in the world.
3. The Divine Providence in relation to other duties:
a. To the Church,
b. To the country,
c. To a man’s family.
4. The Divine Providence in relation to recreation.
5. The Divine Providence in relation to marriage.
In the Prologue of the Canons of the New Church we read: “In so much as the true things of life become of life, for so much the true things of faith become of faith, and not the least more or less. Some are of science and not of faith”. How easy it is to imagine that we are in the true things of faith when there is so little spiritually living in our daily life; in which case what we believe to be the true things of faith are with us but dead scientifics of faith.
A man must walk with equal step, the true things of life becoming of life and the true things of faith becoming of faith: what is more or less is of evil, for true things of faith, apart from the spiritual good of life, are dead, and the good of life not formed by true things is but a false appearance.
The following are examples of truths of faith and truths of life:
1. The Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, the first three of which are truths of faith and the remaining seven truths of life.
2. The Two Great Commandments in the New Testament, the first of which looks to love and faith in the Lord, and the second to charity towards the neighbor.
3. The faith of the New Heaven and the New Church in the Newest Testament, as found in the opening numbers of the True Christian Religion, where it speaks of:
a. The universals of faith relating to the Lord.
b. The universal principles of faith on man’s part.
4. Also in the Principles of the Academy, the Doctrine upon which the General Church* is founded, we find a similar division:
a. The first two principles are truths of faith.
b. The remaining ten are truths of life.
The internal advance of the Church depends on the increase of the good and the true, called in the Word fructification, or bearing fruit, and multiplication, or on the birth of spiritual sons and daughters. Where there are no births of spiritual sons and daughters, the Church will die just as surely as where there are no births of natural sons and daughters.
The question is this; Is the General Church having an increase of true things of life which become of life, and hence of true things of faith which become of faith? If there is not an increase in the true things of life which become of life, then all intellectual advancement is mere theological speculation, theological scientifics, which are of the memory and not of faith.
Since the coming into existence of the Principles of the Academy, what truths of life have been born in the Church? What new perceptions as to how a man should live? What are the signs of the times? Is the Church becoming more distinctive in its life? More like a heavenly society and less like the world about us? Does the sphere of the world affect us less? On the other hand, is it difficult for us not only to advance in distinctive true things of life which become of life, or even to maintain those set down in the Principles of the Academy?
If the latter is true it is indeed a serious situation, for a Church cannot stand still. If the Church does not go forward it goes backward and this at an accelerating speed; and when the Church starts to go backward it is indeed in a desperate state. While the New Church will endure for ever, history testifies that societies of the Church have a tendency to degenerate. How quickly the early dawn of the Church in England and America passed through noon into evening, until it died, save for the renewal in the Academy.
The great question is, How much do we believe in the Lord and in the Word? To believe is far more than merely to know and acknowledge; to believe is primarily of the life, for we read: “To believe in the Lord is not merely to acknowledge Him, but also to do His commandments; for only to acknowledge Him is solely of the thought out of some understanding, but to do His commandments is also of the acknowledgment out of the will”, T.C.R. 151.
Another great question is, Do we believe in the Divine Providence, not only in generals, but also in particulars and singulars? To acknowledge only the Divine Providence in generals, particulars, and singulars, is not enough; it must also be believed, that is, it must be of the life.
If a man in states of distress or despair, or in states of victory, raises his mind to the Lord and His Providence, and during the matters of his daily life fails to do this, he only believes in Providence in generals and disbelieves it in particulars and singulars, and this is true no matter how much he may think that he acknowledges it. Such a belief in the Divine Providence in generals is similar to deathbed repentance and is not saving. The Divine Providence must be believed in momentarily, or the belief is nothing.
Again, to put the question in a different form: A heading in Divine Providence reads: “That one’s proper prudence is nothing; and that it only appears to be something, and that it also should appear as if it were; but that the Divine Providence out of most singular things is universal”, n. 191. Let every one ask himself, does he merely acknowledge this or does he actually believe this? That is, is this a matter of his understanding only, or is it a matter of daily life? Does he meditate daily that he must act as if from himself, according to what appears like prudence, that his so acting is internally seen to be an appearance, and that in reality man’s prudence is nothing, it merely appears to be something, and should so appear? Is this belief continually ruling, inmostly ruling subconsciously in all the acts of his life, even when his mind is engaged on other things? Such a belief cannot exist without daily prayer and meditation, accompanied by daily repentance.
We are taught that the Lord does more things for every man every moment of his life than can be comprehended in any number. Again we must ask, do we believe this or do we only acknowledge it? If we believe this then every moment of our life our belief gives some little return to the Lord for the infinite things which He is doing for us every moment of our life, and this return from the will is ever present like the beating of the heart, even when the understanding is engaged in other things; this is the constant beating of the heart that is meant by loving the Lord with all the heart. The understanding must also continually give a return to the Lord like the constant breathing of the lungs; this is loving the Lord with all the soul, but of this man is not always aware. A sound heart, a heart of flesh new from the Lord, beats steadily with love to the Lord, and a man in such a state only notices when the heart stops or flutters.
We are told that in Heaven the Angels constantly face the Lord in the east, and this no matter in what direction they turn. So also it must be with the man of the New Church if he is to be truly a man of the Church. He must constantly face the Lord in the east, and this no matter in what direction he turns his mind, whether to the Church, to his business, to his family, to his country, or even to his recreation; he must constantly face the Lord in the east; otherwise the New Church is but a name we have stolen. If there is not a daily turning away from the sphere of the world, in our uses, our duties, and in our recreation, by means of repentance, we cannot believe in the Divine Providence.
We are told in the Word that if a man were to see his proprium he would flee from it as from a monster. Again, the proprium may be compared to a decaying corpse, the stench of which a man’s nostrils must be opened to perceive, if he is to rid himself of its dominion. Do we daily scent something of this?
The celestial Angels are in the greatest humility, and can pray for mercy, for the reason that a thousand times more clearly than others they perceive the disgusting horribleness of their proprium, and therefore they can be held by the Lord a thousand times more free from its influence, than can other Angels.
Concerning those who thus believe it is written: In the first state God seems to be absent; but after this state comes another, which is the state of conjunction with God; in this man acts similarly, but then out of God; nor does he then need, similarly as before, to ascribe to God every good thing that he wills and does, and every true thing that he thinks and speaks, because this is written upon his heart, and thence is inwardly in every action and speech of him. Similarly the Lord united Himself to His Father, and the Father Himself to Him”, T.C.R. 105.
* By the General Church in this work is meant the General Church of 1937 (wed editor, 2014).