The Laws of the Divine Providence
Providence is not evident, but man should acknowledge it.
And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the earth, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow up, he knows not how. For of its own accord the earth bears fruit, first a blade, then an ear, then full wheat in the ear. But when the fruit is ripe, straightway he sends in the sickle, because the harvest stands ready.
AE 1153:5. The fifth law of the Divine providence is, That from sense and perception in himself man cannot know how good and truth flow in from the Lord, and how evil and falsity flow in from hell; nor can he see how the Divine providence operates in favor of good against evil. If he did he could not act from freedom according to reason as if from himself. It is sufficient for him to know and acknowledge this from the Word and from the doctrine of the church. This is what is meant by the Lord’s words in... Mark [above].
AE 1153:6. The reason man does not perceive the operation of the Divine providence within him is because that would take away his freedom, and thus his ability to think as if of himself, and with it every delight of life. Thus man would be like an automaton, in which there is no reciprocal, and by that, conjunction; also he would be a slave and not free.
The Divine providence moves so secretly that scarcely a trace of it is seen, although it acts upon the most minute things of man’s thought and will, which regard his eternal state, chiefly for the reason that the Lord continually wills to impress His love on man, and through it His wisdom, and thus create him into His image. Consequently the operation of the Lord is into man’s love and from that into his understanding, and not the reverse. Love with its affections, which are manifold and innumerable, is perceived by man only by a most general feeling, and thus so slightly that there is scarcely anything of it; and yet that man may be reformed and saved he must be led from one affection of love into another according to their connection from order, a thing that no man and even no angel can at all comprehend.
AE 1153:7. If a man should learn anything of these arcana, he could not be withheld from leading himself; and in this he would be continually led from heaven into hell, while the Lord’s leading is continually from hell towards heaven. For from himself man constantly acts against order, while the Lord acts constantly according to order. For man, from the nature derived from his parents, is in the love of self and the love of the world, and con- sequently perceives from a feeling of delight everything belonging to those loves as good. Nevertheless, those loves as ends must be removed; and this is done by the Lord in infinite ways, that appear like a labyrinth even before the angels of the third heaven.
AE 1153:8. All this makes clear that man would find no help at all in knowing anything about this from sense or perception, but it would do him harm instead, and would destroy him forever. It is sufficient for man to know truths, and by means of truths to know what is good and what is evil, and to acknowledge the Lord and His Divine auspices in every least thing. Then so far as he knows truths, and by means of them what is good and evil, and does what is good as if from himself, so far the Lord leads him from love into wisdom.
Questions and Comments
- Thinking of the parable from Mark: Looking back, can you see an example of when you “slept and rose, night and day,” unaware of how seeds were growing in you, till much later?
- It is a law that we cannot know how good and truth nor evil and falsity flow into us; yet if we only believed that they do, then we would not claim credit for good nor blame for evil. Higher angels perceive this clearly. Why must we not perceive it?
- “The Lord continually wills to impress His love on man.” Think of how little we know about guiding a child’s affections! Freedom is essential to love.
- “From the records and examples of life... we know these two things: that consciences do not suffer themselves to be compelled, and that we strive after what is forbidden. Moreover everyone desires to pass from non-freedom into freedom, for this belongs to man's life” (AC 1947). The Lord too wants us to be free. Should we love our neighbor’s freedom as our own?
- Does it feel insulting and demeaning to be told that from himself, man continually acts against order, and feels the loves of self and the world as good? If not, why not?