The Laws of the Divine Providence
Man Should Act From Freedom According to Reason
Matthew 15:10-11, 18
And calling the crowd, He said to them, Hear and understand. Not that which enters into the mouth defiles the man, but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles the man…. Those things which proceed out from the mouth, come forth from the heart, and they defile the man.
From Divine Providence
DP 79. What a man does from freedom according to his thought is also said to remain with him, since nothing that a man has appropriated to himself can be eradicated; for it has come to be of his love and at the same time of his reason, that is, of his will and at the same time of his understanding, and consequently of his life. This can be removed indeed, but still it cannot be expelled; and when it is removed it is transferred as it were from the center to the circumference, and there it stays. This is what is meant by its remaining.
For instance, if a man in his boyhood and youth has appropriated to himself a certain evil by doing it from the delight of his love, such as fraud, blasphemy, revenge or adultery; and if he has committed those evils from freedom according to thought, he has indeed appropriated them to himself. But if he afterwards repents, shuns them and regards them as sins that are to be abhorred, and so from freedom according to reason desists from them, then there are appropriated to him the good principles to which those evils are opposed. These good principles then constitute the center, and they remove the evils towards the circumference further and further as he abhors and turns away from them. Still, however, they cannot be so expelled that they can be said to be extirpated, although by their removal they may appear to be extirpated. This results from man being withheld from evil and being held in good by the Lord.
DP 80. Nothing that a man merely thinks, nor even that which he thinks to will, is appropriated to him, unless at the same time he so far wills it as to do it if opportunity offers. This is because when man so does anything he does it from the will through the understanding, or from the affection of the will through the thought of the understanding; but so long as it is a matter of thought alone it cannot be appropriated, because the understanding does not then conjoin itself with the will.
DP 81. The evils which a man believes to be allowable, even though he does not commit them, are also appropriated to him; since whatever is allowable in the thought comes from the will, for then there is consent. When, therefore, a man believes any evil to be allowable, he loosens an internal restraint upon it, and he is withheld from doing it only by external restraints, such as fears; and because his spirit favors that evil, when external restraints are removed he does it as allowable; and meanwhile, he continually does it in his spirit.
Questions and Comments
- How do we appropriate good or evil to ourselves? What role does freedom and rationality play in this process?
- Once we have appropriated evil to ourselves, how do we remove it?
- DP 80 and 81 indicate that we can appropriate evil to ourselves just by willing it even if we never have the opportunity to actually commit the evil. It is useful to think about what kinds of things we might do if no one was looking in order to figure out what evils we need to work on that might be harder to identify.
- If we think something is okay for someone else to do, but not ourselves, is that the same as believing it to be allowable as discussed in DP 81?
- All sorts of thoughts come through our heads that we do not deem allowable in our will. As DP 80 says, “As long as it is a matter of thought alone it cannot be appropriated.”