The Pharisee and the Publican
And He said also this parable to certain who trusted in themselves that they were just, and made the rest as nothing:
Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican.
The Pharisee, standing to himself, prayed these things: God, I thank Thee that I am not as the rest of men—rapacious, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all things, as many as I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, was not willing to lift up even his eyes to heaven, but struck on his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
I say to you, This man came down justified into his house than4 the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
The first state of regeneration
AE 794:4. Here is described the first state of the regeneration of the man of this church after temptation. This state is common to all who are being regenerated, namely, that they suppose they do what is good and think what is true from themselves. And because they are as yet in great obscurity, the Lord also leaves them so to imagine. But still all the good they do and all the truth they think, while in such imagination, is not the good and truth of faith. For whatever man produces of himself cannot be good, because it is from himself, that is, from a fountain which is impure and most unclean. From this impure and unclean fountain no good can ever go forth, for the man is always thinking of his own merit and righteousness; and some go so far as to despise others in comparison with themselves (as the Lord teaches in Luke 18:9–14), and others err in other ways. Man’s own cupidities intermingle themselves, so that while it appears outwardly to be good, it is inwardly filthy. For this reason the good which man does in this state is not the good of faith, and the case is the same with the truth that he thinks. For although that which he thinks may be very true, yet so long as it is from what is his own, it is indeed in itself the truth of faith, but the good of faith is not in it; and all truth, in order to be the truth of faith, must have in it from the Lord the good of faith. Then for the first time there are good and truth.
Goods from self
Doctrine of Life 30:3. That no one is saved by means of goods from self, because they are not good, is evident from the following: Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he who does the will of My Father. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied by Thy name, and by Thy name cast out demons, and in Thy name done many mighty things? But then I will profess to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you that work iniquity (Matt. 7:21–23). Then you shall begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, open to us; and you shall begin to say, We ate and drank in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. But He shall say, I tell you, I do not know you, where you are from; depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity (Luke 13:25–27). For such persons are like the Pharisee, who stood in the temple and prayed, saying that he was not as other men, an extortioner, unjust, an adulterer; that he fasted twice in the week, and gave tithes of all that he possessed (Luke 18:11–14).
AC 6405:3. By “Gad” are also signified those who make all salvation consist in works alone, like the Pharisee... in the parable... thus holding external [deeds] as the veriest truths. Those who are like this are also in the Lord’s kingdom, but on the threshold, and therefore the Lord says, “I say to you, the publican went down to his house justified more than the Pharisee” (Luke 18:14), thus that the Pharisee also went down justified, because he had done works from obedience to command. In a word, by Gad are represented those who call that truth which is not truth, and from this non-truth do works. Hence their works are like their [non] truths, for works are nothing but the will and understanding in act. That which saves these men is the intention to do what is good, and something of innocence in their ignorance.
4 The Greek does not indicate whether this is “more than” or “rather than”; neither does the Latin translation of the Greek in the Heavenly Doctrine. AC 6405:3 says that “the Pharisee also went down justified, because he had done works from obedience to command,” but Life 30:3 and AE 794:2 indicate that he was not justified. For this reason the ambiguity is preserved in this translation.
Questions and Comments
- Is it ever good to compare ourselves to another person like the Pharisee in this parable?
- How do we move from doing good from ourselves to doing good from the Lord?
- AC 6405:3 describes those in a state like the Pharisee as being on the threshold of the Lord’s kingdom because of their “intention to do what is good and something of innocence in their ignorance.” What do you make of this?