The Laws of the Divine Providence
Put away evils in the external man
Whoever looks on the wife of another to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
From Divine Providence
DP 111. III. The internal cannot be purified from the lusts of evil as long as the evils in the external man are not removed, because they stand in the way.…
DP 111:2. …Lusts through their own delights produce evils; but when evils are believed to be allowable, which comes from consent of the will and the understanding, then the delights and the evils make one. It is well known that consent is deed; and this is what the Lord says [in Matthew 5 above]. It is the same with all other evils.
DP 112. …For man to be purified from the lusts of evil, evils must be completely removed from the external man. For until this is done the lusts have no exit; and if there is no exit the lusts remain within and breathe out delights from themselves, and so urge man on to the consent and thus to the deed itself. Lusts enter the body through the external of thought; and therefore when there is consent in the external of thought, the lusts are at once in the body, the delight which is felt being there.…
DP 112:2. …Lusts with their delights may be compared to fire: the more fire is fed the more fiercely it burns, and the freer the course given to it the wider it spreads until, if in a city, it consumes the houses and, if in a forest, the trees. Lusts of evil are compared in the Word to fire, and their evils to the conflagration. The lusts of evil with their delights also appear in the spiritual world as fires, hell fire being nothing else.…
DP 112:3. …It is clearly evident that if evils in the external man are not removed, lusts with their delights grow and multiply. The more a thief steals the more he lusts to steal till at length he cannot refrain.… It is well known that the love of ruling stemming from love of self increases in proportion as restraints are relaxed…. So far as evils in the external man are not removed their lusts multiply, and lusts increase in the degree that restraints are relaxed.
DP 113. A man is not able to perceive the lusts of his own evil. He does indeed perceive their delights, but he reflects little upon them; for delights captivate the thoughts and banish reflection. Therefore unless he knew from some other source that they are evil he would call them good, and from freedom according to the reason of his thought he would commit them; and when he does this he appropriates them to himself. So far as he confirms them as allowable he enlarges the court of his ruling love, which is his life’s love.… Such a state in man cannot be changed except by the removal of evils in the external man, and in this way the lusts that cling to the evils are removed.…
DP 114. IV. Evils in the external man cannot be removed by the Lord except by means of man. In all Christian Churches this tenet of doctrine has been accepted, that before a man approaches the Holy Communion he shall examine himself, see and acknowledge his sins, and do the work of repentance by desisting from them and rejecting them because they are from the devil; and that otherwise his sins are not forgiven, and he is condemned…. [In] the English Church… in the exhortation to the Holy Communion they openly teach self-examination, the acknowledgment and confession of sins, repentance and newness of life, threatening those who do not comply… that “the devil will… fill them with all iniquity and destroy both body and soul.”
Questions and Comments
- One thing this section shows is that it’s not enough for us to pay attention to what we say and do. We also have to watch out for what our intentions are, and what we fantasize about. Internal consent to evil—it’s OK for me to imagine doing this—makes one with the deed itself, even if we don’t dare to actually do it.
- Likewise, if we are habitually doing bad things in some areas of our life, we cannot claim to be good in other areas of life. The Lord cannot pull up the roots unless we are willing to cut down the bad trees.
- The enjoyment of lusts is felt in the body (and also the enjoyment of good affections). The body is the organ of sensation, so it often seems as though the body is the origin of the lusts we feel, when actually lusts come from hell. The body needs to be re-programmed to enjoy good things.
- A thief can get to the point that “he cannot refrain”! How does this fit with the doctrine of repentance? What does it say about addictions?
- “Delights captivate thought and banish reflection.” This shows how important it is to get into a habit of self-examination, before delights get too entrenched. Can we help older children make a good start?
- DP 114 makes the point that all Christians are taught to examine themselves and repent, even those in faith alone. Is this still true today, do you think?