Page images
PDF
EPUB

relation to motive and choice rather than to action ; it does not consist in the simply relinquishing of wickedness, but in the suppression of evil. Evil is the object which is to be attended to; sin or evil actions are only effects resulting therefrom; and if the evil be shunned, sin will have no existence; the cessation of all sin and wickedness naturally follows the suppression of evil. From which it may be seen that ceasing from the commission of sin does not constitute the shunning of evil; for the wicked can do that as well as the good, and evil may be indulged in during the very external shunning of evils and the doing

of good.

Man cannot sincerely compel himself to shun evils, unless he at the same time purposes doing good; yea, the sincerity of the act consists in his shunning evil, and not simply in his ceasing from sin. The very ground of man's ability to shun evil is his ground of ability to do good; and the ground being present in man, if he has the ability to do one he has the ability to do the other also. Again, what idea can we form of shunning evils but that of doing good in a certain degree? To shun evil does not imply that a man should assume a passive condition, but an active one ; for shunning is acting, and to shun evil is to act against it. It does not mean that a man must hang down his hands and altogether cease from action; but that he must act; he must do something : he must shun evil. Man cannot be wholly passive ; he can no more cease to be active than he can cease to exist; his existence is activity, and if he exist at all he must be active. But his activity does not mean simply the action of the body, any more than the shunning of evil means the ceasing of bodily action ; but it means the action of the mind, which is will and thought; these constitute man's life, and he cannot cease to will and to think, any more than he can cease to exist; for, as has been said, these constitute his existence. Evil is the perverse action of the mind; if a man consent to it it becomes voluntary ; it is then his evil, and he is responsible for it. When evil descends into the body it becomes sin, and in its complex constitutes all wickedness.

It appears to mån that he can shun evils without doing good ; but this is a fallacy, which may be seen from the fact that man is an active subject, and that his existence consists of activity or changes. Hence, as man cannot exist in a state of passivity, his very attempt to shun evil must imply the doing of good. To shun is to strive against; and if man shuns evil from a pure motive, he, at the same time that he ceases from the commission of evil (supposing that he has previously indulged in it), commences doing good. He is an active being, and his exercise of free-will does not consist in choosing whether he will be active or not, but in choosing in what way he will act; for act he must. But his choice consists in this, whether he will act in this way or in thatwhether he will do good or evil. The shunning of evil is the commencement of doing good ; it is a continuous work, which is manifested to man's perception as he progresses in the work; and it appears to him in agreement with the love by which he is actuated. Though it is the good which is stored up in him by the Lord by which he is impelled, still it presents different appearances according to his reception of it in his voluntary principle; when he is in externals he is said to be led by truth, when in internals by good. Still good is the active principle from first to last.

Man's actions will always partake of the quality of the love in which they originate; and he being by nature evil, cannot of himself do good; and when he has arrived at a state of moral maturity, by the implantation of good, he cannot, at first, act from the love of heaven, but rather from the fear of hell; the love of heaven must be acquired by the shunning of evil; and though he cannot at first oppose evil from acquired good, as a ground, still he can oppose it from the fear of hell. As man's actions are in agreement with the love from which they spring, they are also properly denominated according to that love; and as he cannot do good which is really good but from the love of God, or the love of heaven,and at first he does not possess these loves,--he cannot then perform those actions which properly merit the name of good. At the commencement of man's religious life, the good from which he acts is manifested as fear; and the actions which proceed from that degree of good are distinguished from those which spring from love by the term, shunning evil, but those which spring from love are called doing good. This applies to each particular state into which man enters during regeneration, as well as to the general commencement of a religious life.

When a man commences the work of religion, his object is not to do good, neither can it be his object in such a state as that in which he commences; such a man can only compel himself to shun evils, and when he shuns them it is not from the love of heaven, but from the fear of hell; he cannot compel himself from the love of heaven, because he does not possess such love ; that love must be acquired by him through temptation. The love of heaven must be grounded in the good of heaven in the human soul; which good, being of a spiritual nature, cannot be obtained but by a sincere strife against man's natural loves, and a subjugation of them; for this love is opposite to man's natural loves, and cannot reside with them, any more than lions can reside with lambs, or leopards with kids. “No man can serve two masters," for they being opposite to each other render it impossible.

Before man can compel himself to do good he must have good in himself as a ground from which to act; 'without that good as a ground, he has neither the will nor the ability to compel himself to do good; and this good is not the good as it is implanted by the Lord, as “ remains,” but it is acquired good; it is good in the voluntary principle, and it is what he has made his own by choice and appropriation.

From what has been stated it may be seen that man, in his natural state, cannot compel himself to do good, but only to do truth, which consists in shunning evils. He may do the truth from fear, but good can be done only from love; for love is the ground out of which good springs, and though the actions which spring from fear may appear the same as those which proceed from love, still they are very different as to their essence, and it is the essence that gives them quality. The actions which have their origin in fear being similar in external appearance to those that originate in love, may be devoted to external uses, and may be made to promote the external interests of mankind, as though they had originated in love, and were really what they appear to be,-and, in general, by such actions the affairs of societies, and the governments of communities and of kingdoms, is effected by the Divine Providence,--still the quality of actions is from their essence, and not from the purposes to which they are applied.

With respect to man's compelling himself to do good, it is to be observed that this applies to him only in his progress in the attainment of good, and not to the life of the good when it is attained by him. In his advancement upwards, towards interior states, man is gifted with light from the Lord, by which evils of a more interior nature are manifested, and against which he has to strive, and which he has to oppose with all his might. In this case truth precedes good, for the truth by which illustration and exploration is effected, is the truth of a good which he has not yet made his own; it is the truth of that good by virtue of which he has the ability to strive against evil, and which is of the “ remains” which have been implanted by the Lord. All that man can do when evil is manifested is to strive against it, and in thus striving against evil he does virtually, in his degree, compel himself to

do good.

But the distinction between man's compelling himself against evil, and compelling himself to do good, is an internal difference, which depends on the state of mind alone; and though it may be described, it cannot be seen or felt, except by him who is the subject of it. The good from which a man compels himself, is an interior good which has not yet come into his possession; it operates upon the good which he does possess by influx, from which it appears to him that it is his own good from which he acts, for communication by influx is not felt. Evil in man must be removed before its opposite good can come into him and be possessed by him as his own ; for good and evil mutually repel each other, being opposites. Besides, each degree of evil that is manifested to man, is more interior than any that has been previously manifested ; and it requires a more interior degree of light to explore it than what he yet possesses as his own. If it were possible for man to discover still more interior evils than what have been made known to him by the light of his already acquired good, why have they not been explored previously?

It is a truth that every form is an object which may be made manifest; and also that no form can be manifested and seen but by light, and that the light by which any form can be manifested must be of the degree, or it must be on the plane, of the object which is seen ; for every degree in the created universe has heat and light, and objects peculiar to it, which substantially constitute it. From which it follows that every new evil that is explored and made manifest in man, is a more interior one than any that has been previously brought to view; and that its ex ploration has been effected by an interior and superior light, which has entered by influx, and that this light is peculiar to a good which is not yet manifested ; it is a good which man has not yet made his own by allowing it to flow in and take possession of him. It is an involuntary good which is seeking to become voluntary ; which sheds forth its light before it, and manifests the things which are opposed to it and serve as obstacles to obstruct and prevent its entrance into the voluntary principle. It also issues forth its heat, so far as its presence can be endured, and by man's coöperation it is received; and by his continued practice and perseverance he is inured into its life, and thus it gradually spreads forth its influences and possesses the man. From which it would appear that man's compelling himself to shun evil, is at the same time a compelling himself to do good ; but the difference between the two is in one respect this—that the evil which he shuns he sees, but the good to which he compels himself is not seen. Both the good and the evil are the same in this respect; they are both out of man's voluntary part: the evil is explored that it may be removed, and the good is present that it may be received. The evil is manifested and the good is not, because the evil is in man's natural principle where he is; it has been with him from

[Enl. Series.— No. 65, vol. vi.]

[ocr errors]

birth, and it is in his very constitution; it has previously been latent, because there has not been light capable of exploring it, and an object or form cannot be explored and manifested without adequate light. But it is quite different with the good to which man must compel himself; this is not in his natural principle, or where he is, neither is it innate; but it is good which is stored up after birth, by the Lord Himself, and is remitted into the natural principle by the Lord, and is offered to man as a free gift. It is only offered for his free reception; it is not imposed upon him, nor forced into him, for in that case it would not be received by him; it could not be received by him, for the compulsion would destroy the man. Man's compelling himself to shun evil is the means of his attaining a new and superior good; therefore if he compel himself to shun evil, he compels himself to do good ; for shunning evil is doing good, and it is the only good that man can do, externally considered. But, as has been previously stated, the quality of every external good depends upon its essence; if its essence be mere truth, it is only shunning evil; but if its essence be love, it is doing good.

Man does not compel himself because he likes to be compelled; by no means; there is nothing that he is more averse to than compulsion ; but in his compulsion he has an end in view, the obtaining of which is to be the result of his compulsion, and which cannot be obtained without it; and he chooses and suffers the means for the sake of the end. But there is a wide difference between self-compulsion and compulsion by another; the latter is slavery, but the former is liberty. Man compels bimself because he wills it as a means to an end; but when he is compelled by another, he is made to act contrary to his own will in compliance with the will of another; therefore, in reality, he acts from the will of the other, and not from his own will. Self-compulsion is perfect freedom, but compulsion by another is abject slavery. Self-compulsion is practised in the attainment of good, and not in the possession or retaining of it. When a man is about to change his state for a better, he is to give up that particular quality which characterized himself; and as that is the life which has afforded him all his delights and pleasures, he cannot leave it, and give it up, without considerable reluctance; he must feel great anxiety and distress of mind, and self-compulsion is indispensable ; he has, as it were, to force him. self from himself; he has to give up what he possesses for what is offered to him for his reception ; and as that which he has to give up is that which yields him all his gratifications and enjoyments, which is, in fact, his life, he cannot give it up without compelling himself to do so; therefore it is necessary in order that he may change his state,

« EelmineJätka »