Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33)

Category — The internal cause of cunning and deceit

“Such as hatreds, revenges, cunnings, deceits, as a serpent breathes in poisons.” [A sermon on AE 1148]

Hatreds, revenges, cunnings, deceits, describe the internal and external evils in relation to the will and the understanding.

Hatred, is of the will, and revenges are the acts which proceed from the will. Cunning is of the understanding and deceits, are the acts which come forth from this cunning.

To view these evils we must see them as the opposites of goods. Hatreds are the opposite of loves; revenges are the opposite of showing mercies, and doing good; cunning is the opposite of innocence; and deceit is the opposite of acting sincerely.

Every one has a natural idea of these goods and their opposite evils. But such goods and such evils in the natural man do not differ much from such loves and acts with animals. What such evils are in the internal sense is hidden in the internal sense of the Word.

While the evils spoken of in the external sense of the Word are natural evils, this does not mean that this sense is not important to us. In the early states of reformation these are the only evils we see, and if in such states we do not combat and overcome them, we can never come to more interior states in which we must see and combat against more interior evils.

One who does not combat against natural hatred, can never be brought to see what interior hatred is; one who does not combat against natural revenge, can never come to see what interior revenge is; one who does not combat against natural cunnings and deceits, can never come to recognize interior cunnings and deceits. We must first come to recognize these natural evils in ourselves, and come to have a horror of them; and thus be brought to the goods of the natural to which these evils are opposed.

Any one who reflects can easily observe how, when one opposes him, or resists him, particularly in relation to his ruling loves, or ignores him, or fails to respect or honor him, or even pays insufficient attention to him; how he tends to become angry with such a one, and tends to take revenge, by hurting him or by speaking ill of him.

One can also easily observe, if he reflects, how he cunningly strives to accomplish his own ends, how he puts on appearances to persuade others, how he says things which are not exactly true, or gives a twist to things to take advantage of others.

There is nothing more important to begin with, than by shunning cunning and deceits to come to a natural innocence, and sincerity in all things of our natural life. This first natural innocence and sincerity is not however, natural innocence and sincerity itself. It is only after shunning interior cunning and deceit, and thereby coming to an interior innocence and sincerity, that a new nat¬ural can come into existence in which there is natural innocence and sincerity itself out of the Divine Human of the Lord, who is innocence itself.

Read the full sermon on AE 1148 by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn (year 1959)


“Knowing that while they are not led by the Lord, the devil will lead and breathe in evils of all kinds such as hatreds, revenges, cunnings and deceits” (A.E. 1148)

The general teaching of the text is that man is, at all times, led either by the Lord, or by hell. This is a well known teaching of the Lord, but one which few believe in the life. Man’s nature is to seek for his own life, which appears to be neither of Heaven or of hell, but such a life is not possible. While we are not led by the Lord we are led by the devil. If we seek a life that is not continually from the Lord, the devil leads. The devil specifically signifies the love of self. A man who loves his own life is necessarily led by the love of self which inflows from hell.

When man permits himself to be so led, the devil inspires or breathes in evils of all kinds, such as hatreds and revenges, cunnings and deceits. It should be noted that hatreds and revenges are the evils of the will. Hatred is of the internal evil of the will, revenge, the external. Cunnings and deceits are the evils of the understanding, cunning, the internal evil, and deceit, the external.

We belong to a nation which is characterized by good-naturedness, tolerance and friendliness, and the whole of education in this land looks to the fostering of these virtues. When we therefore read that anger and revenge are the characteristic evils that the devil inspires, this seems foreign to our very nature.

To many it may appear that they have no enemies, and that they have a friendly feeling towards all. If generally recognized evils are condemned, no one is angry, and yet this apparent friendliness and tolerance is deceptive. What church appeared more tolerant and more in the desire to preserve freedom for the individual than the church in which we were brought up, – and yet how angry and intolerant it became at the manifestation of the internal sense of the Word. From this we can learn a lesson that applies to all.

For the most part, anger and revenge are not aroused by condemnation of what is generally recognized as evil, but by a judgment on what is believed to be good. Particularly is anger aroused when an external good or truth which was originally from the Lord, but in which the Lord no longer dwells, is soon in the light of an interior truth; for such a truth touches the apparent goods and truths which are dearest to a man, and cause him to react with what appears to him as righteous indignation, and appropriate punishment. So does the anger and revenge inspired by the devil appear to the man.

All evil and falsity arise from the separation of a good and truth of a lower degree from the good and truth of a higher degree, while regeneration consists in reducing the apparent goods and truths of a lower degree into subservience to the goods and truths of a higher degree, until they become genuine and servo the higher degree. This process continues in its ascent from one degree to another.

Consider the following illustration. If a man, living in a town near a well-loved and awe-inspiring mountain, beyond which lay a great range of mountains, were to rise on wings to a great height, then the near-by mountain would appear to sink until it appeared like an insignificant hill, while the great range of mountains in the distance would look greater, higher, and more magnificent than from below. If, on his return, he told the people of the town how insignificant and small their beloved mountain looked from on high, compared to the great range of mountains beyond, they would become angry. Hills and mountains represent loves and when from an elevation it is seen that the loves which are near and dear to a man are little and insignificant, compared to the loves that a man has only seen at a distance, his anger is aroused, and this tends to carry over into revenge.

Read the full sermon on AE 1148 by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn (year 1947)