The Laws of the Divine Providence
No external compulsion to religion
THE EXTERNAL MAN MUST BE REFORMED BY MEANS OF THE INTERNAL, AND NOT THE REVERSE.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside of them may become clean also. Matthew 23:25, 26
DP 150. The reformation of the external by means of the internal means that the internal flows into the external, and not the reverse. It is admitted in the learned world that there is an influx of the spiritual into the natural, and not the reverse; and it is admitted in the church that the internal man must be first cleansed and renewed and thereby the external. This is admitted because it is taught by the Lord and declared by reason. It is taught by the Lord in these words in Matthew [see above]. ... But one who does not receive a general idea of this subject by influx from heaven may be misled when he consults the external of his thought; from that alone no one sees otherwise than that the external works of charity and piety, apart from internal works, are what save. So in other things; as that sight and hearing flow into thought, and that smell and taste flow into perception, thus the external into the internal, when, nevertheless, the contrary is true.
DP 151. But it shall now be told briefly how the internal man is reformed, and the external by means of it. The internal man is not reformed merely by knowing, understanding, and being wise, consequently not by thought alone; but by willing that which knowledge, understanding, and wisdom teach. When a man from his knowledge, understanding, and wisdom sees that there is a heaven and a hell, and that all evil is from hell, and all good is from heaven, if he ceases to will evil because it is from hell, and wills good because it is from heaven, he is in the first stage of reformation, and is at the threshold from hell into heaven. When he goes further and wills to refrain from evils he is in the second stage of reformation, and is outside of hell, but not yet in heaven; he sees heaven above him. Man must have such an internal in order to be reformed; and yet he is not reformed unless the external is reformed as well as the internal. The external is reformed by means of the internal when the external refrains from the evils that the internal does not will because they are infernal, and still more when the external for this reason shuns evils and fights against them. Thus willing is the internal and doing is the external; for unless one does that which he wills there is within a failure to will, and finally the willing ceases.
DP 152. One cannot be reformed unless the evils of the spirit are examined, for after death man lives a spirit, and all the evils that are in the spirit remain. The spirit is examined only by man's attending to his thoughts, especially his purposes, for purposes are thoughts from the will; that is where evils are in their origin and in their root, that is, in their lusts and in their enjoyments; and unless these are seen and acknowledged the man is still in evils, although in externals he has not committed them. That to think from purpose is to will and to do is clear from the Lord’s words: Everyone who looks on another’s woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matt. 5:28).
Questions and Comments
- Is it hypocritical to be polite and pleasant to someone who you don't really like? How is this different from what the Pharisees were doing? When might it be the same?
- Last week, when reading about the second law of Divine providence, we learned that we should put away evils in the external man, and in that way the Lord can put away evils in the internal man. But here we are taught that the internal man must be first cleansed and renewed and thereby the external. How do these two teachings fit together? This is perhaps best explained by the example given in yesterday's reading (DP 146, together with DP 149).
- What does it mean that we will be misled by external thought if we do not receive a general idea of this subject through influx from heaven? But when we reflect on the examples of the five senses we can see how this can be. How can we change our thinking to match the reality?
- How does the reading about the steps by which we leave hell for heaven show us why a proper motive is so important in refraining from doing evils? How does this relate to the Pharisees who made sure they were shining examples to society?
- How can we make it a daily habit to attend to our thoughts, and especially our motives? How much should we do this? Since our motives are the source of our thoughts, how can see or attend to them?