The Laws of the Divine Providence
No external compulsion to religion
NO ONE IS REFORMED IN STATES THAT DO NOT SPRING FROM RATIONALITY AND LIBERTY.
And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten leprous men, who stood afar off; and they lifted up their voices, saying, Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us! And when He saw them He said to them, Go show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned, and with a great voice glorified God, and fell upon his face at His feet, giving Him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? (Luke 17:12-17)
DP 140. No one is reformed in a state of misfortune, if he thinks of God and implores His aid only in that state, because that is a compelled state; consequently as soon as he comes into a free state he goes back to his former state, in which he had thought little or nothing about God. It is otherwise with those who in their former free state had feared God.... By "states of misfortune" are meant states of despair from danger, as in battles, duels, shipwrecks, falls, fires, threatened or unexpected loss of wealth or of office and thus of honors, and other like things. To think of God only when in such dangers is not from God but from self. For the mind is then as it were imprisoned in the body; thus not at liberty, and therefore not in rationality; and apart from these no reformation is possible.
DP 141. No one is reformed in unhealthy mental states, because these take away rationality, and consequently the freedom to act in accordance with reason. For the mind may be sick and unsound; and while a sound mind is rational a sick mind is not. Such unhealthy mental states are melancholy, a spurious or false conscience, hallucinations of various kinds, grief of mind from misfortunes, and anxieties and mental suffering from a vitiated condition of the body. These are sometimes regarded as temptations, but they are not. For genuine temptations have as their objects things spiritual, and in these the mind is wise; but these states have as their objects natural things, and in these the mind is unhealthy.
DP 142. No one is reformed in a state of bodily disease, because the reason is not then in a free state; for the state of the mind depends upon the state of the body. When the body is sick the mind is also sick, because of its separation from the world if for no other reason. For when the mind is removed from the world it may think about God, but not from God, for it does not possess freedom of reason.... As a consequence, if these persons had not been reformed before their sickness, if they die they afterwards become such as they were before the sickness. It is therefore vain to think that any can repent or receive any faith during sickness, for in such repentance there is nothing of action, and in such faith nothing of charity....
DP 143. No one is reformed in a state of ignorance, because all reformation is effected by means of truths and a life according to them; consequently those who are ignorant of truths cannot be reformed; but if they desire truths from an affection for truths, after death in the spiritual world they are reformed.
DP 144. Neither can anyone be reformed in a state of blindness of the understanding.... The understanding must teach truths, and the will must do them; and when the will does what the understanding teaches its life comes into harmony with the truths.... The understanding is blinded... by a religion that teaches a blind faith, also by false doctrine.... The understanding is also blinded by the lusts of evil.
Questions and Comments
- How does the story of cleansing the ten lepers illustrate the truth about man not being reformed spiritually in states of misfortune and sickness, even if they appeal to the Lord for help? And how does it illustrate that it is different for those who beforehand had feared God?
- We are taught that “as long as man is in the world... he is kept in freedom to turn himself either to heaven or to hell” (Doc. Life 69). So why does “death bed repentance” not save someone from hell? Is there ever a time that it may be too late to “turn and live” (Ezek. 33)? Is this a question we should ask?
- If man cannot be reformed in a state of misfortune or disease why does the Lord permit these things to happen? What good can come out of them? We need to remind ourselves that these things do not come from the Lord, but the Lord does permit them for the sake of man's salvation.
- Given the teaching in today's reading about mental illness, how does this explain why the Lord permits mental illness? How might the fact that mental illness often sets in at the end of childhood, when spiritual responsibility commences, help us understand why?
- If truths are necessary for man's spiritual reformation, why is it that the teachings of the Heavenly Doctrine are so little known in the world today? How much truth is necessary for salvation?
- Since children by nature are not able to fully understand the truth, how much spiritual responsibility should we place on them? How much should we trust them? How much should we excuse them?
- The last reading points out that falsity and evil can also blind the understanding and keep a man from being able to be reformed. How then can someone who is in falsity or evil be saved? The answer to this question is given in tomorrow’s reading.