The Rev. Frederick L. Schnarr
"Live these laws, not only as civil and moral laws, but also as Divine laws, and you will be a spiritual man." Divine Providence 322
PART I The Moral Virtues As Ultimates
Of Spiritual Loves 6
PART II The Moral Virtues As Means Of
Preparing For Spiritual Virtues 11
PART III The Moral Virtues As Means Of
Making Judgments 18
PART IV The Moral Virtues As The Basis
Of External Order 26
PART V The Moral Virtues As Means Of
Performing Self-Examination 35
PART VI Three Moral Virtues Examined: 40
1) Honesty 40
2) Sobriety 43
3) Chastity 46
PART VII Concluding Remarks 51
Key To REFERENCES
to the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg
AC The Arcana Coelestia
AE The Apocalypse Explained
AR The Apocalypse Revealed
Char. The posthumous treatise on CHARITY
CL Conjugial Love
De Conj De Conjugio, a posthumous treatise on Marriage
De Verbo On the Word, a posthumous treatise
Doc Faith The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Concerning Faith
DP Angelic Wisdom Concerning the Divine Providence
DWis On the Divine Wisdom, a posthumous treatise
HD The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine
HH Heaven and Hell
Life The Doctrine of Life for the New Jerusalem
LJ post The Last Judgment (Posthumous)
SD The Spiritual Diary
TCR The True Christian Religion
DLW The Divine Love and Wisdom
Can Canons of the New Church
The General Church was founded and organized on the belief that the Lord has made His Second Coming through the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, that those writings are the Word revealed, and are true, not just in certain selected teachings or doctrines, but in total, and without reservation. What we regard as important or unimportant in all things of life, therefore, including what is of external order and of external life, we measure and judge by the direction and indication of the Writings. If we do not do this, we are not endeavoring to think from the Lord, in His new revelation, or to be guided by His order there expounded:-we will not be part of that spiritual church which the Lord is seeking to establish as the means of bringing His Heavenly Kingdom down to the earth, that His purpose in creation may be nourished and fulfilled.
Perhaps, it seems unnecessary to state this, for we all know in general what the New Church is, and what its purpose and life. And yet, to study and learn the moral laws and moral virtues, we must reflect upon and reconfirm with ourselves the basic and primary truths to which all other things relate. The attitude towards the importance and place of the moral virtues directly relates to the overall knowledge and conviction of man's religious belief. Where there is not much knowledge of truth, and not much desire to obtain it, man's conviction can only be weak, and somewhat vacillating. Much of what he will regard as important, or not important, will be from self-experience and self-intelligence, and not from Divine guidance.
There is something very much wrong with our idea of revelation if we approach it with the idea that all of our natural inclinations, all of our habits, all of our prejudices, all of our thoughts and conclusions, are merely going to be confirmed thereby. Before we become well acquainted with the Writings as mature adults, we form, or have formed in us, from father and mother, from relatives, from friends, from school, from teachers, ministers, and society in general, a whole background of thought and habit. Much of this background may be of true order having been guided by those in our environment who looked to the Lord in the things of their life; but much of it may not be in order. Whether from ignorance of certain teachings, or from wrong intent, many thoughts, attitudes, and habits, may be in complete disorder, and require a whole new instruction and effort to change. When we come upon a teaching of revelation that challenges and calls into question an attitude or way of life that we have become accustomed to, our first inclination is to deny what revelation teaches, or to set it aside with the thought that it must have some other connotation than that which it seems to suggest. Our affections become aroused and we become indignant because revelation would seem to have us make a judgment upon something perhaps inspired and encouraged by father or mother.
We have introduced our study of the uses of the moral virtues with these remarks about our attitude concerning the nature and authority of the Writings, because unless we are affirmative to this authority, we will neither see nor accept the spirit of morality which is to form the character and quality of those who would belong to the New Christian Church.
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When we examine the laws and virtues which are to guide and form the moral life, we find that these teachings are not to be found in any one chapter, nor even in any one work of the Writings. We find them scattered throughout the Writings, under many different doctrines, and indeed, in many passages expounding the internal sense of the Word. Perhaps this is why there is a remarkable sparsity of literature in the Church concerning the moral life and the moral virtues. It is difficult to gather together the teachings relating to the new morality, and to form from them a just understanding of the subject. The Church can indeed be grateful to Dr. Hugo L. Odhner for his work 'The Moral Life' wherein he has assembled, organized and discussed much of this instruction. There are few homes in the Church that have not referred to his book and received much benefit therefrom. Many of the references in this study have also been drawn from his work.
In examining the teachings concerning the many aspects of the moral life, we have been impressed that the moral virtues serve a variety of uses in man's spiritual growth and development. In teaching this subject, especially to young people and young adults, we have sensed that a consideration of the primary uses served by the moral virtues is of great benefit, if not indeed essential to a proper understanding of the subject.
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THE MORAL VIRTUES AS ULTIMATES OF SPIRITUAL LOVES
In His Second Coming the Lord has revealed truths which are to establish new forms of love and wisdom with man on earth. New concepts, new standards, new values, and new attitudes concerning every phase of life, are necessary requirements which the truths of the Second Coming demand. And it is important for us to realize and remember, that the Lord cannot reveal new truths to a world long steeped in a host of various falsities and evils, without these new truths being in conflict with countless false concepts, attitudes, and practices, relating to every aspect of life.
It is a truth, that those who receive the truths of the New Church in their lives, and not merely in their intellects, will be different from those who do not, not only in their beliefs and ideals, but in the quality of the virtues they develop wherein their uses, actions, and habits are formed and expressed. There are some of us who are inclined to question this teaching, and not from any wrong intent, but rather from misplaced modesty, from indications of personal experience, or from a wrong understanding of what is being taught. So let us be careful that we understand this teaching correctly. Truths that are learned, acknowledged, and used to do the good of life, are the means whereby the Lord establishes the loves of heaven with man, and they form in him what the Writings describe as the internal man. As soon as there is the beginning of such a formation of internal heavenly loves, these loves seek orderly, suitable, and corresponding forms in the things of man's natural life--in what is moral, in what is civil, and indeed, even in the most external knowledges and pleasures the world can offer.
It is a general teaching in the Writings that all love, whether it be good or evil, seeks to find form, expression, and activity, in and through the ultimate or external things of natural life. Love seeks such natural things because through them it finds the means of its delight, pleasure, and use. And it is of Divine order that love should so operate, for it is only by doing so that the Lord can provide the communication and association of loves and uses necessary for the formation and preservation of all human and angelic society. That internal love is in its fullness, and its use, when it enters into and conjoins itself with its orderly external forms, is one of the meanings of the teaching that "in ultimates there is all power." (AE 726:5; AC 9836:2; CL 44:8)
Now then, what are the primary external forms wherein internal heavenly loves find their plane of use and delight: They are given in the Writings as the moral virtues. We would include a partial list of the moral virtues here that are given in the Writings to refresh the memory as to their nature and scope. Temperance, sobriety, integrity, benevolence, friendship, modesty, sincerity, obligingness, civility, diligence, industry, alertness, alacrity (a cheerful readiness), munificence (lavish generosity), earnestness, prudence, courage, justice, equity, uprightness, chastity, and even good manners. (CL 164, 22, 331; DW 5 )
The knowledge of these moral virtues is by no means new; they are externals which both good and evil men have known and used from the beginning.
For various reasons, all of which we would regard as being unregenerate, we incline to regard the moral virtues as somewhat unimportant, as mere external forms; we incline not to make it a matter of conscience when we ignore or abuse these forms. Supported, and sometimes pressured, by the prevailing attitudes of the environment around us, we catch ourselves tending to think of the moral virtues as being the property of society. And such thinking is confirmed by the fact that the moral virtues seem to change from age to age. In one age certain virtues will be emphasized, while in another age those same virtues will be thought to be old-fashioned and out of date. The circumstances of the times seem to set the stage for how the moral virtues will be used; which virtues are acceptable and fashionable and which are not. During the last World War one may remember, for example, the change in attitude of the masculine toward the feminine. With women entering factories, doing masculine jobs, and wearing masculine clothes, much of the masculine virtues of consideration and courtesy toward the feminine almost disappeared. And in that restless period of war, the virtue of chastity, already falling as a star from heaven, continued to plummet into the mire of everyday natural, sensual, earth-life.
We have wandered so far from a correct idea of the moral virtues, their proper place, their use, and importance, that we even find ourselves at times being repelled by them. We see, for example, the apparent form of a moral virtue with someone whose character we neither admire nor respect, and associating that virtue with them, we tend to turn away from it ourselves--perhaps we make light of the virtue, and make it unimportant, or we may even come to deny that it is a virtue.
If we are to be led and guided by what the Writings teach, then, no matter what our attitudes are, or have been, about the moral virtues, and no matter how we have used or abused them in our lives, we must begin by acknowledging this truth--the moral virtues are presented to us by the Lord as the orderly ultimates of life, as the primary receptacles for all spiritual, heavenly loves. They are not the property of society. They do not change from age to age, whatever may be the contrary appearance from man's use of them. Those who would be of the New Church are instructed to live the laws of moral life as Divine laws. We read concerning this in The Divine Providence: "The ability to understand truth is from the Divine wisdom, and the ability to do good is from the Divine love. This ability is the image of God, which remains in every sane man, and is not eradicated. From this comes his ability to become a civil and moral man; and the civil and moral man can also become spiritual, for the civil and moral is a receptacle of the spiritual. He is called a civil man who knows the laws of the kingdom wherein he is a citizen and lives according to them; and he is called a moral man who makes these laws his morals and his virtues, and from reason lives them.
THE MORAL VIRTUES AS MEANS OF PREPARING FOR THE INCEPTION OF SPIRITUAL VIRTUES
In preparing the young mind for the work of regeneration it is clear that the moral virtues are to play a primary and necessary role. They are the soil in which the seeds of spiritual virtues are to be planted. The spiritual virtues, you will recall, are such things as the love of truth, the love of innocence, the love of religion, the love of charity, and the love of conjugial love. Spiritual virtues, because they are spiritual loves, can be formed only in adult life when man is in the process of regeneration. (CL 164) Now, it is true, that moral virtues, in order to be truly virtues, must exist in the final analysis from a true love of the Lord and the neighbor, just as with spiritual virtues. But the point is, the forms of the moral virtues can exist and must exist with the young unregenerate state before regenerate spiritual virtues can possibly be formed. That this is so, we find confirmed in many various teachings concerning the use of what is civil and moral.
First, let us regard the general teaching concerning the preparation and opening of the mind in childhood and youth. We read: "A man from his infancy even to childhood is merely sensuous, for he then receives only earthly, bodily, and worldly things through the senses of the body, and from these things his ideas and thoughts are formed--the communication with the interior man not being as yet open, or only so far that he can comprehend and retain these worldly things. The innocence which he then has is only external, and not internal; for true innocence dwells in wisdom.
From this, and other similar passages, we see that the Divine order is that preparation for regeneration is to take place throughout childhood and youth. It is to take place especially by the learning and doing of what is civil and moral, guided by the knowledge of what is spiritual. The moral virtues, (which term, by the way, includes what is of civil concern) must be known and practiced if there is to be a base upon which the rational mind is opened. And not only that, but their presence in the opening rational mind is the material, the soil, in which and from which the spiritual virtues find their form and expression.
Now, the Writings emphasize, that while the learning and doing of what is civil and moral is the orderly preparation in childhood and youth for regeneration, there must also be the learning and doing of spiritual knowledges at the same time. The whole use of entering the civil and moral life depends upon the reason for doing so. And it is the spiritual knowledge of the Lord and His kingdom as revealed in the Word, that provides that reason. This is what makes it possible for parents and teachers, and even for children and young people themselves, to look to the uses and purposes of the Lord's love and wisdom in whatever they learn and do. This is what is new to the life of the New Church, and what makes the use and quality of the moral virtues with us something distinct and different from all other religiosities.
Recall the teaching that before man learns to do good he must desist from practicing evil, and shun evil as sin against God. He must bring the external things of his life into something of external order, before the Lord can begin to build any internal order. (LJp 342-7) Herein we see one of the first uses which the knowledge of the moral virtues serves the adolescent mind in preparing it for the life of regeneration. The mind sees a picture of external order which it is able to understand. A young mind is not able to see the subtle and more interior evils that strive to sway and bend it towards the things of hell. These are only seen gradually as the mind matures in the knowledge and understanding of the truths of the Word. Certainly the young mind must be instructed in the spiritual truths of the Word, for as we have noted above, these are the means whereby it is able to know and honor the Lord, and to see His purpose in all things of life.
Before we turn from our consideration of this use of the moral virtues, we would note one final teaching concerning the formation of the rational mind in adult life. At whatever time reformation and regeneration begin with a man, whether in early adult life, or somewhere later on, the opening of the rational mind will follow the same progressive steps. None of these steps can be missed. All reformation, for example, starts at the same place and with the use of the same general kinds of truth.
From this, and other passages on the same subject, it is clear that in the process of reformation and regeneration no plane of truth can be skipped. Civil, moral, and spiritual truths must be used in their order. The life of the first prepares the way for the next, such as the civil for the moral; and unless this order is followed, the higher openings of the rational mind cannot possibly take place. The question that now comes to mind is, how much of the life of each degree of truth is necessary for the opening and confirmation of that degree to become part of man's character? The moral virtues, for example, are the life of moral truths; if one is to obey moral truths one must enter and do the deeds and actions that relate to the moral virtues. Can we keep one-half, or three-quarters, of the moral virtues listed in the Writings from conscience and abuse and disregard the others? This is a most important question, and our answer will indicate much of what our attitude is towards the keeping of the moral virtues. But we will return to this later.
THE MORAL VIRTUES AS MEANS OF MAKING JUST AND WISE JUDGMENTS
Making judgments is sometimes necessary when examining the state of the moral virtues in the Church. The more responsibility one has for the uses of the Church, the more he will be called upon to exercise certain judgments. How do the moral virtues act as a means of forming judgments, and what is the limitation of such judgment?
We live in an age where judgments of any kind, of one person upon another, are extremely unpopular. This is particularly true of the virtues relating to the moral life, and true to an absurdity of judgments relating to religious beliefs. We commonly hear: 'Who am 1 to say what is right and wrong?' 'If so and so believes that, he may be right.' 'Everyone believes in doing good; let's not worry about the other man's religion and morality, but only concentrate our attention on doing good.' A New Churchman might add the well known, and well abused, teaching in the Writings, that "the life of religion is to do good." (Life 1) Certainly good is the life of all religion--but 'the good' is to be defined by 'the truth' of Divine revelation, and not by that which man imagines from his own desires and experiences to be good. And further, it is all too often forgotten or ignored, that the first 'good' which qualifies and determines all other 'good' with him, is the 'good' of shunning evils as sins against the Lord. (DP 326, 83; AE 837)
The social and economic disorders of our environment, combined with the upheaval and decay of religious doctrine and instruction, have fostered an image of good which bears little resemblance to the idea of good which the Writings teach. To know what good is, one must know the nature and quality of the Lord, His purpose in all things of creation, and the laws and order whereby He operates and is present with man. If these things are not known, there is no way for man to make judgments that are both just and wise, for he does not know what is truly good from God. The result is a confusion of indiscriminate, and often blind charity, that is neither just nor wise. Much of this charity parades as 'the good' of our age.
There need be no confusion on our part as to what judgments are orderly and useful, and what are disorderly and harmful, or altogether impossible. We are taught that it is impossible for one man to judge of another man's spiritual state. There is no way that the interior nature of another can be accurately known to us; external deeds and actions are an indication--but no more than that. Only the Lord knows the spiritual state and the eternal home of each man. Concerning this we read: "A general judgment like this is allowable: 'If in internals you are such as you appear in externals you will be saved, or will be condemned.'
The case with man's civil and moral life, however, is utterly different. Here the Writings instruct us that judgment, just judgment, is to be made. "Who does not see, that if one may not judge as to the moral life of those that dwell with him in the world, society would perish? What would society be if there were no public judgments? Or if everyone might not form his judgment of another?" (CL 523; Cf. AE 629:14) "It is allowable for everyone to think about the moral and civil life of another, and also to judge about it." (AE 629:14) Such judgment does not refer to the indiscriminate and unnecessary appraisal of the moral life of another. The busy-body and the gossip are at the opposite end of that just and wise judgment which is concerned with the welfare and protection of society. Use, and use alone, must determine the nature and extent of judgment upon man's civil and moral life.
The making of judgments for the protection of a use is never a pleasant task, especially when it involves those who are close to us--friends, relatives, and children. And yet it is a work of charity which is not to be overlooked or put aside just because we may have a general aversion to it. Such aversions are not to be trusted, and can spring more easily from selfish motives than from a just concern for the welfare of the neighbor.
How hard it is to make just and wise judgments of the moral life of those for whom we have some definite responsibility, is made painfully evident in the following passage from Conjugial Love. "To appearance the love of infants with spiritual married partners is similar to the love of infants with natural married partners, but it is more internal and thence more tender, because that love exists from innocence, and from a nearer reception and thus more present perception of it in themselves; for the spiritual are spiritual in the degree that they partake of innocence. Moreover, fathers and mothers, after they have tasted the sweetness of innocence with their infants, love their children altogether otherwise than natural fathers and mothers. The spiritual love their children according to their spiritual intelligence and moral life; thus they love them according to their fear of God and actual piety, or piety of life, and at the same time according to their affection for and application to uses serviceable to society, that is, according to the virtues and good morals with them. For their love of these things, principally, they provide for and minister to their necessities.
With natural fathers and mothers the love of infants is indeed also from innocence, but this, received by them, is wrapped about with their own love, and hence they love infants from this and at the same time from that, kissing, embracing, carrying, taking them to their bosom, and fondling them beyond all measure, and look upon them as of one heart and one soul with themselves. And then, after their state of infancy, up to adolescence and beyond, when innocence no longer operates, they love them, not on account of any fear of God and actual piety, or piety of life, nor for any rational and moral intelligence in them, and little, indeed scarcely at all, do they consider their internal affections and thence virtues and good morals, but only the things external for which they have regard. To these they adjoin, affix, and attach their love, and consequently close the eyes to their faults, excusing and favoring them. The reason is that the love of their progeny with them is also the love of themselves, and this love clings to the subject outwardly, but does not enter into it as it does not into themselves." (CL 405)
Most parents when they raise their children are in something of natural life, that is, the thought and love, the inclination and desire, of what is external and sensual. Certainly all young couples are in much of such a life, for it only changes with the life of regeneration. It is therefore extremely important that we are aware of the tendencies which arise from the love of self and the disorderly love of the world which incline us to think and act unwisely concerning the moral life of our children; and we will so think and act from inclination if we do not pay attention to the instruction of the revelation the Lord has given us.
Let us remember when we are required to judge the moral and civil life of another, be he adult or child, that we are not condemning the person, but the act. And we are condemning the act for two reasons; one, that society, the family, or the church, may be protected from the influences of open disorders; and two, that in judging the disorder through the use of instruction and help, the disorder may be changed or stopped, that in the pause the person may have the freedom of making a new beginning to promote his spiritual welfare. This latter is particularly true with children and young people.
The Writings leave no room for doubt as to the use of the knowledge of the moral virtues in evaluating and judging concerning the character of another; and again, this is particularly true of young people who are not yet prepared to observe the good of another in terms of spiritual virtues. In making just and wise judgments in responsibilities relating to the home and the school, in forming friendships, and in looking to the friendship of conjugial love, the moral virtues play an important role. As a specific example, the Writings speak of the moral virtues in reference to courtship and marriage. Often a young man and woman entering marriage have scarcely begun to reform or regenerate. At best their internal loves have only begun to be formed. What do they then look for in each other besides physical attractions, common interests and abilities? They are first to look for a general agreement in the essentials of religious belief: the acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and earth, the willingness to shun evils as sins against Him, and the belief that marriages are eternal--at least, that the conjugial itself is eternal. But besides this, they are to look for the presence of the moral virtues in each other, and insofar as possible, the spiritual virtues. (CL 163) Because, if there is a sincere respect and honor in the love, which there must be if it is a real love, every effort will be made to enter into the moral virtues--particularly those virtues in which the conjugial finds form and expression. For while it is true that the moral virtues can be entered into from evil and purely selfish intent, and often are, and can then appear honorable and sincere, it is also true that where the moral virtues do not appear there can be little honorable respect and love.
We could find many more examples in the Writings of the use that moral virtues are to play in making just and wise judgments. We can see that they are not always a reliable means of making judgments, but they are a necessary part
of the means of making judgments. And this should be particularly true in the New Church, when we know exactly what purpose the moral virtues are to serve in the Divine order of creation, and can see clearly what place they are to hold in the thoughts and actions of our daily life.
THE MORAL VIRTUES AS MEANS OF PRESERVING EXTERNAL ORDER
For the Lord to implant and nourish the things of heaven in the hearts of men on earth, human society must be maintained in some semblance of external order. Where external order fails, society becomes a prey to men's evil lusts and ambitions. The hells pour forth their venom into the wounds of chaos and confusion--and open evil, unmasked and naked, parades before society in all its brutality, destruction, and disorder. Natural freedom, in any degree cannot be preserved, unless there is something of external order in society. The Lord has provided the civil and moral virtues that they may provide the means of their being something of external order in society, that in turn, there might be the existence of natural freedom, and that in such natural freedom there may in turn be the growth of the heavenly freedom of the regenerate life. For man to be introduced to the knowledge of spiritual things, and into the spiritual loves of heavenly life, he must have the exercise of certain natural freedoms. Even to acquire the knowledges of revelation it is clear that man must have certain civil freedoms. But he needs, not only civil freedom. He needs the freedom provided by moral order as well, so that he can be protected from the open abuses and disorders of hell that well up within himself, to say nothing of the influences of society around him.
So important are the forms of the moral virtues in preserving something of external order in a degenerate society, that the Lord has foreseen and provided that they should be used by the good and the evil alike. The first unregenerate inclinations of self love will seek to be fulfilled by hiding behind the skirts of morality. Concern for reputation, honor, gain, and power, all of which inclinations begin with selfish motives, will try to achieve satisfaction through the employment of the forms of morality. It is true, that with those who do not curb the inclinations of the love of self by the acknowledgment of the Lord and the guidance of His instruction, the use of moral forms to achieve selfish ends will only last as long as there seems to be something of success therein. With the confirmation of evil, and the gradual approach towards the state of a devil in hell, a greater and greater impatience will arise with the use of the forms of morality--and finally, either here, or in the world of spirits, these forms are completely overthrown in man's haste to rush into the cravings of his selfish lusts. But in the early process of man's formation, the forms of the moral virtues, even when used from evil intent, provide the external order and external freedom that are vitally necessary to his spiritual development.
If we reflect upon the number of disorderly immoralities that dance through our imaginations every day, we can easily see what a chaos, what an image of hell, life on earth would become if all of these imaginations poured forth into expressions and actions observable to others.
Now, while many would agree that this is so, the particular understanding of how it is so, and why it is so, should cause the New Churchman to regard the importance of civil and moral order with even greater concern and conscience. If we learn from the Writings, as we should, there is no reason to be confused about the use of the moral virtues as ultimates of external order. We can see why the Lord both provides and permits that they be used by the evil as well as the good. We can see the importance of entering into them, even though we have to do so from self compulsion, and in opposition to many strong natural sentiments that we may have at the time. When we support the moral virtues as externals of Divine order, we express our real concern and thought for the happiness and welfare of the neighbor. And he is greatly mistaken, who thinks he is considerate of the neighbor and concerned for his happiness and welfare, and still feels free to abuse the order of the moral virtues.
Before we begin to regenerate, the Lord as it were loans us the use of the moral virtues. He allows us to enter into them, indeed, He commands us to enter into them, for the uses which they serve to ourselves and to others.
Obviously, before regeneration, a man's will cannot be said to be good. The state of the native will is certainly in the love of self and the world. But this does not mean, that before regeneration, a man is a hypocrite who does the good of civil and moral life, even though he knows full well that he does not yet love the moral virtues internally. If such were the case, the second universal law of the Divine providence concerning the mode of man's regeneration, would make no sense whatever. That law states "that man should as if from himself put away evils as sins in the external man; and the Lord is able in this way and in no other to put away evils in the internal man, and simultaneously in the external." (DP 100) The Writings make it clear beyond question that in man's effort to order his external man, which is his prime work, the shunning of evil which he performs must involve the use of what is of civil and moral law, and the virtues relating thereto. (See the whole explanation of the 2nd law of providence, DP 100-128) This we will see further confirmed in the teachings concerning the use of the moral virtues in self examination which we will shortly regard. But let us be clear as to what hypocrisy really is, so that we can think straight about this subject.
The Writings tell us that a "Man becomes a hypocrite when he thinks much about himself and places himself before others, for thereby he directs his mind's thoughts and affections to his body, immerses them in it, and unites them with its senses. He thus becomes a natural, sensual, and corporeal man, and then his mind cannot be withdrawn from the flesh to which it adheres, and be raised to God, and cannot see anything of God in the light of heaven, that is, anything spiritual. And because he is a carnal man, the spiritual things that enter (that is, through his hearing into his understanding), seem to him only like something spectral, or like down floating in the air, or like flies about the head of a running and sweating horse; therefore in heart he ridicules them." (TCR 381)
From these and many other similar passages it is clear that hypocrisy not only involves a deliberate concentration upon self and the fulfillment of one's selfish ambitions, but it includes the belief in nothing--not in God--nor in the truths of Divine revelation. It is not the native will, bursting with inclinations to the evils of self and the world, that makes man a hypocrite in the good moral and civil works that he does. If this were true there could be nothing but hypocrisy with all men. But it is the other part of man, not his native will, but his understanding, that determines the quality and nature of his actions. Does the understanding give consent to the inclinations and desires of the will, or does it, from the knowledge and acknowledgment of truth, overrule the will, and shun evil and do the works of civil and moral order, because the Lord has so instructed: This latter is what the Writings mean by doing the truth for the sake of the truth, that is, for the sake of the Lord.
We believe it is essential to the whole consideration of this subject that we see clearly how the forms of the moral virtues are to serve as the ultimates of external order with men. Evil must be contained in the framework of civil and moral order to assure the freedom of man's spiritual growth.
This is something that intimately involves all of our daily activities. It concerns our business and social contacts with others; it concerns our uses together in society, in the country, and in the church. And strange as it may seem, its first and most important application is in the life of the home. All the states of our life are fed by the conjugial and return to the conjugial as their center. In the home, with our partner, with our children, with relatives and guests, we find the neighbor whose life and welfare is to be our first concern. Here is where the more secret and intimate states of our life will affect others most acutely, either for good or for evil.
Such abuses are not going to become non-existent with any of us until perhaps we reach the life of heaven; and even with the natural angels there are signs of some mild abuses. But my friends, it is the attitude we take about them that makes the difference between a basic state of external order in which there is the thought and effort of conscience, and a state of disorder in which there is a careless and ignorant disregard for the happiness and welfare of the neighbor. When we abuse the framework of external order, the moral virtues, we affect and destroy the freedom of others, evidencing no thought or regard for anybody but ourselves and the things that are of selfish love. There are countless ways of interfering with the freedom of others, whether in society or in the home.
We cannot always control the externals of our life that relate to the moral virtues, but we can always be in the thought and effort to control them, from the knowledge and acknowledgment that they are the proper forms of Divine order among men.
(Ref. AC 911, 3632, 3993, 4302, 7297; TCR 52, 56, 68, 70-73, 502, 443-5; HH 531; DP 322; AE 195, 918, 948; Char. 23; DW 9:5)
THE MORAL VIRTUES AS MEANS OF SELF-EXAMINATION
In what we have considered so far of the uses of the moral virtues, it will be evident that they are to play an important role in self-examination. We spoke in the beginning of the moral virtues as ultimates of heavenly loves. We could have noted at the same time that the abuses of the moral virtues are also the ultimates of the evil loves of hell. If we were to take different spiritual loves, such as the love of innocence, the love of use, or the love of conjugial love, and try to see if certain particular moral virtues seemed to fit, or to be associated with the love, we would find that they are. We would find with the love of conjugial love, for example, that we associate chastity, friendship, courtesy, modesty, obligingness, and good manners. With other spiritual loves we would find virtues that also were more closely associated with the love than some other virtues. As we have noted, with every major evil love, just the reverse is true. Every major evil love will seek its ultimate expression in the abuse or destruction of certain of the forms of the moral virtues. The love of adultery, for example, will seek to enter what is unchaste, discourteous, immodest, ill-mannered, and so on.
With children and young people, who are not able to examine themselves in any depth as to their evils and falsities, and who are not capable of seeing or feeling the real presence of such things, all they have to guide them in making self-examination is how they have acted towards the externals of order, whether they have upheld them, or overthrown them. Such examination, prodded and guided by parents and teachers, is not going to change their spiritual life at that age--this is impossible.
With an adult the use of the moral virtues is somewhat different in performing self-examination. In adult self-examination, we are to look at our intentions, and the delights of the imagination, and not so much at the deeds and actions we do. We read in the Doctrine of Charity concerning self-examination: "If it is only as to the actions, it discovers little; and this not enough. But if it is as to the thoughts and intentions, it discovers more. And if it searches out what the man regards or does not regard as sins, then it discovers all.
To perform self-examination properly requires that man have the essential knowledges of the Lord and of His Kingdom, the knowledges which make it possible for him to see beyond the evils of the body to the evils of the spirit. It is not enough we are instructed, to examine the actions of the body which we have or have not done, such as murder, theft, adultery, false witness, and so on. We are to examine as well the lust for possessions, the lust for power, and the many other lusts which spring from these two monsters. "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." (DP 152) (Cf. AC 1909, 2982; HD 164; TCR 532)
We are to make a detailed examination of the thoughts of our understanding wherein we see our purposes and intentions, only once or twice a year. (CL 529) The Writings warn us about trying to perform such an examination too often; for if not done according to Divine instruction, it can turn into a morbid and useless concentration on self. This does not mean that we are to pay no attention to our thoughts the rest of the time; we are to perform some self-examination every day. Deliberate evils intended or performed do not take much time to recognize; and it is from these that we are to make our daily repentance.
There is another use the moral virtues perform in reference to self-examination, and that is their use when we are in states of temptation. When we are in serious temptation, and the spiritually insane lusts and desires of hell are present with us, the mind becomes enmeshed in feelings of depression, discouragement, anxiety, despair, and the like. More often than not, when such states are severe, we may have little idea of the various things that have led into such a period of temptation. Self-examination does not show us the cause. Indeed, in temptations we cannot properly conduct such examination. Even the delights of the imagination, which usually give us some fairly accurate idea of the presence of an evil thought or love, are smothered and clouded over by the sphere of depression and the confusion of despair. So obscured is our state from our sight, that we cannot put our finger on the source of our trouble; in desperation we blame all kinds of natural and external circumstances which we know have aggravated or displeased us. What are we to do in such miserable states? We are to look to the Lord for help, we are to go about our daily work as best we can; and we are to seek more contact with others through social and recreational activities. But there is something else which we are to do also, something wherein we confirm that we really are looking to the Lord for help. We must work consciously and with great effort to uphold the external order of the moral virtues.
THREE MORAL VIRTUES EXAMINED:
We have noted that the Writings list many moral virtues. With careful examination the nature and use of each virtue can be seen. Dr. Odhner reviews and discusses many of these virtues in 'The Moral Life.'
There are three virtues, however, which stand out as of primary concern--honesty, sobriety, and chastity. The Writings provide a considerable instruction relating to each of these virtues, and because of this emphasis we have deemed it important to review them while we are considering the major uses of the moral virtues.
The Writings tell us that honesty is the complex of all the moral virtues, and decorum is the form. (AC 2915; SD 4040) The keeping of all the moral virtues, if done from conscience, requires that we be honest with ourselves as to our basic reason for keeping them. If we keep them for selfish reasons, as a mere cloak to hide our evil intentions, then we cheat and rob the Lord of the use He intends that the forms of the moral virtues serve. Obviously when we put on a moral virtue to cover over a selfish ambition or act, we are being dishonest with the neighbor, appearing as something we have no intention of being. When we abuse any one of the moral virtues, we steal, cheat, and rob the neighbor of something of his happiness, his reputation, his work, his peace of mind, or perhaps even his possessions. How we are to think of what is honest, or honorable, in civil and moral life is made evident in the following passage from the Arcana:
When we think of honesty, or honor, perhaps we think of this as a virtue that is not generally abused except with children and young people. With children and young people it is expected that they will incline to abuse the virtue of honesty, for from the native will the inclination to lie, cheat, steal, and be deceitful in many different ways, pours forth with great urging. Through instruction, through the example of adults, through discipline and punishment, and through an appeal to things that are called 'mediate goods' such as reputation, reward, and ambition, we try to teach our children to prepare for entrance into the virtue of honesty through conscience and self-discipline.
We believe the attitude towards the virtue of honesty with our children is not all what is should or could be. And in turning our attention to the apparent state of this virtue perhaps we find something of the reason. How often have you heard, or participated in discussions where theories and practices that are essentially dishonest are supported? They are not supported as an end in view, but as necessary means to an end. The argument runs something like this: 'I will be dishonest for a while, so that in succeeding and achieving my end, I can then promote with some influence a greater honesty, or a greater good to society. Besides, in this day and age, a strictly honest business cannot succeed.' Often this is not said in so many words, but is implied, or perhaps indicated through actions. Are we to believe this? Are we to support a general theory that the end justifies the means? There are instances where the Writings support the idea of the end justifying the means; such as the use of a charitable hypocrisy in dealing kindly with the neighbor. We could find many other examples; the just use of killing in war in defense of one's country is another. But let us tread very carefully with this teaching of the end justifying the means, for it is not a general and all-inclusive teaching to be applied to anything and everything. It is a teaching with specific limitations, and the Writings make clear what those limitations are. What is of order in a situation where disorder is imposed upon us, such as when our country is attacked, is entirely different from what is of order when disorder is not so imposed.
Children and young people can only be confused, and have their sense of order dulled and blunted, when those adults that guide their thinking do not act in accord with the basic perception of what is right and wrong; do not pay attention to the instruction of the teachings to which they have proclaimed assent. How often have all of us, parents, teachers, and ministers, seen the idealism of youth upset and blighted by the adult abuse of this and other virtues, and even worse, by an unjust or careless attitude towards the keeping of the virtues.
The abuse of the virtue of sobriety tends to become more obvious to society than the abuse of any of the other moral virtues. Because of this, we have some clear indication as to how greatly the virtue of sobriety has been abused among us; for who cannot think of many groups, families, or individuals that have not been plagued and sorrowed by the abuse of sobriety.
Alcoholism seems to become a disease in its final stages, a disease which man cannot shake without considerable medical assistance. However, this may be, it is clear that man is responsible for all of those things that lead to such a condition, and it is of this that the Writings speak in no uncertain terms.
We find in the Writings a great deal of instruction concerning the use and the abuse of drinking. We find very clear and definite teachings about the state of drunkenness, such as: that it is contrary to civil law, moral law, and spiritual law; that it is a sin, that it makes man a brute, that it destroys man's uses to society, damages his body, and is wasteful; we find that in the eyes of the angels drunkenness appears as something filthy. (AC 1072, 2597; AE 235:4; SD 2422)
These are strong teachings indeed, and from them alone one might well conclude that he had better hasten to become a teetotaler. One might even try to restrict the freedom of others, and make the drinking of alcoholic spirits something to be entirely shunned because related to sin. Such a thing did indeed occur in the Prohibition Movement in our country. Such thought and effort, however, especially by a New Churchman, is abusing revelation. For revelation also teaches that wine, beer, strong drink, and other such alcoholic beverages have their just and useful place in social life, when used from orderly purpose and with good judgment. (AC 5077:5, 5165; AE 329:3; LJp 269; CL 145:2) The moral virtue of sobriety, therefore, does not mean total abstinence from alcoholic beverages, but the proper and orderly use of such beverages.
What makes the abuse of alcohol a sin (or any similar stimulant, including drugs) is when a man overindulges to the point of obscuring and destroying the function of the mind to think rationally. Man's rational faculty is the means the Lord has given whereby there is formed the truly human quality. Without the function of the rational, man's life sinks back to his inherited instincts, and he then becomes as an animal ruled by all his bestial passions. (DLW 240, 264, 267, 413; SD 372)
The rational faculty provides the means for man to feel life as his own, 'the as of self' so often spoken of in the Writings. Without this, man would neither feel nor accept responsibility for his thoughts and acts. The rational faculty is that wherein man deliberates and concludes concerning the truths of the Lord's Word, this is the only way the Lord can lead man. Since the function of the rational, therefore, is absolutely essential to all of the Lord's provisions for the formation of heavenly states and qualities with man, the Lord has guarded it, together with man's freedom, with infinite care.
Because of its eminent uses we can see why any careless or intentional destruction of the rational faculty, even temporarily, is so serious an offense against the Lord, and is indeed a sin.
Before we examine the moral virtue of chastity, it is necessary that we review certain teachings in the Writings concerning what is meant by chastity, for the term is used in the Writings with different connotations. First let us note how the term chaste and unchaste are generally to be understood; we read: "That chaste and non-chaste are predicated of marriages, and of such things as pertain to marriages." This is, "because love truly conjugial is chastity itself ...and the love opposite to it, which is called scortatory, is unchastity itself. Insofar, therefore, as the former is purified from the latter it is chaste, for in so far its destructive opposite is taken away. From which it is plain that the purity of conjugial love is what is called chastity. But there is a conjugial love that is not chaste and yet is not unchastity, as between married partners, who for various external reasons, abstain from the effects of lasciviousness so far as not to think of them.
Because what is chaste and what is unchaste refer only to marriage and the things of marriage, chastity cannot be predicated of little children, boys and girls, nor youths and maidens, before they feel in themselves the love of the sex. (CL 150) When chastity is referred to in the heavens, the angels mean a true marriage love in which the husband and wife have rejected all things that are scortatious, from a belief in the Lord and the willingness to shun scortatious loves as sins against the Lord. (De Conj. 5; CL 147, 149) The Writings describe the good works of chastity which come forth from a chaste marriage, works that relate to the marriage itself, works that relate to their children, and works that relate to society in general. (AE 1002:2)
Under this reference to the term chastity, the Writings also instruct us, that mere abstinence from scortatious and adulterous acts of the body does not make a man chaste unless he, at the same time, strives to reject such things from his affections and thoughts. (CL 153; TCR 316)
Now, all of this is what constitutes the internal or spiritual idea of true chastity. But, as we have noted before, the moral virtues are external forms of order, and under this reference chastity has a somewhat different meaning. It refers more to the order and life of those things that relate to the ultimates of the relationship of the sexes.
It is not our purpose here to review what the externals of the moral virtue of chastity are in different states of life. The Writings give these in much detail. What we are concerned with is one of the fundamentals of the first state of chastity with all young people and adults, and that is the preservation of virginity. Virginity is the first element of moral chastity as that is to exist in its state of order from the Lord. We would note here a number of passages concerning this in the Writings. We read: that, "with women conjugial love makes one with their virginity. Hence the chastity, the purity, and the sanctity of that love. Wherefore, to pledge and give up her virginity to any man, is to give a token that she will love him to eternity. For that reason a virgin can by no rational consent bargain it away, unless with the promise of the conjugial covenant. It is also the crown of her honor." (CL 460) "Virginity is called the crown of chastity because it crowns the chastity of marriage, and is also the sign of chastity. For that reason the bride at the nuptials bears upon her head a crown (In heaven). It is also a sign of the holiness of marriage; for the bride after the virgin flower) gives and consecrates her whole self to the bridegroom, then her husband; and on the other hand the husband gives and consecrates his whole self to the bride, now his wife.
The virtue of chastity perhaps fares better with us than any of the other virtues, and this undoubtedly because many of our children grow up with teachings concerning the conjugial. The home, the school, and society, seek to preserve this virtue by offering a protective social environment; and there is no question that this is a great help. But even with this virtue we would do well to heed the signs of the times, and the signs all indicate an increasing laxity and nonchalance concerning the relationship of the sexes. This is an area where the attitudes of the world are, for the most part, inclined to condone, and now even suggest, various forms of moral disorders--a type of sexual promiscuity. The 'trial and error' approach to marriage would make the moral virtue of chastity a rare thing indeed.
With some adults, and with many young people, there is a liberal attitude towards sexual disorders which borders on the denial of the importance of the moral virtue of chastity as an essential of external order among men. It is an attitude that is not in accord with what the Writings teach. On its surface it seems to be a paragon of mercy, charity, and good will to the neighbor.
In the practice of the moral virtues, there is no limit to the area in which they are to be employed: the home, the school, the church, one's employment and recreation. The moral virtues are not to be employed in one area and ignored in another. If they are believed in as forms of Divine order, and acted upon from the conscience of that belief, there must be the effort to uphold them and practice them wherever one is, or whatever one is doing.
We live in a busy world where the pressures and activities of natural life tend to fill our day. The thought and activity of religious concern are easily set aside, not from deliberate and negative intent, but because religious things do not seem to be of pressing concern; they are more easily postponed and put off to another day when the pace of worldly life has quieted down. However, we find that the pace of worldly activity seldom settles down. Daily reading from the Word, family worship, prayers at meals, and the saying of the Lord's prayer, if not insisted upon as habit, soon lose their place. And when this happens, the basis for active thought and reflection upon the truths of the Word is removed from the home. So also is removed the open sphere and affection for the things of the Church which should constitute the interior life, the interior purpose, and the interior happiness of every home. (AE 803:2; Char. 174)
Instruction in the things of religion cannot be left to the school and the church. The school and the church have their part, and it is a most important part, but it cannot replace the instruction given by fathers and mothers in the home-sphere. If we suppose that it can, we would do well to review from the Writings the essential uses and duties of fathers and mothers towards their children. We would do well to remember the covenant we made with the Lord when we presented our children before Him for baptism.
The first idea of morality that a child has, the first affections that are associated with the forms of moral order, and even the first habits that are established upon which a just moral order must rest, all come from the instruction, the attitude, and the example of parents in the home. This is the order of development the Lord wills; it is that which will best promote the spiritual welfare and happiness of the child; it is that which will offer him the greatest protection from the disorders of evil and falsity in whatever form they may be. That such an order is not always possible, because of the many disorders that exist in the world, has nothing to do with our effort and responsibility to enter into it, if we see and acknowledge that this is the order the Lord wills.
Children and young people, no matter what the attitude and nature of their background will honor and respect, and be affected by, morality in others--especially in those they look to for leadership. If their affections are bound in with moral disorders from the home or social environment, then there is a need that those affections begin to be transferred; transferred to other adults, relatives, teachers, or ministers.
When we speak of immorality, do we find ourselves thinking of immorality in the limited terms of sexual disorder or dishonesty? If we do, we should be aware that this is not the definition of the Writings. Dishonesty and sexual disorder, as we noted previously, are a main part of immorality, but they are by no means the whole story. When was the last time we thought of diligence as being a moral virtue of Divine command; or patience, or civility, or alacrity? (a cheerful readiness of mind) The man who is idle from laziness, whether in what is physical or what is mental, is an immoral man. The man who speaks carelessly and thoughtlessly to or about the neighbor without concern for his feelings and usefulness, without concern for what is civil and courteous, is an immoral man. The man who enters a worthy use grudgingly, with feelings of self pity and self sacrifice, is an immoral man; and this is particularly true of the uses of the Church because of their primary importance in the formation of our spiritual life. Immorality has many forms;
To enter the life of a true and spiritual morality, it is not sufficient to practice the moral virtues as they are defined by society. Take for example the virtue of diligence. Society defines this virtue as an attentive, persevering, and industrious application to one's work (Webster Dictionary). This definition is not wrong; but it by no means includes what the Lord teaches about this virtue. It is not sufficient to form the spiritual morality that is to make the external life of the New Church. The Writings show us that the primary diligence a man is to have, is to obey the instruction of Divine Revelation. He is to be diligent in whatever work he performs--but more than that--he is to be diligent in doing regular reading from the Word; in saying his prayers every day; in attending and supporting the uses of the church, particularly the uses of worship and instruction. With each of the virtues, we will find upon comparison, that the definitions of society and the definitions of the Word, agree only in part. The virtues, as defined by society, are broad, and general, and yielding to the changes and pressures of the age. The virtues, as defined by the Word, are specific, detailed, and unchanging; they establish and demand an order of external forms wherein the whole order of the spiritual life of heaven rests and finds expression.
In reflecting on the attitudes concerning the moral virtues in the church, we find a tendency to fall in with the theories and practices in the world about us.
Now, there are some who feel that if the moral virtues are to be considered as Divine law, and made a matter of conscience, the freedom of the church will tend to be lost, and puritanical, narrow-minded and bigoted attitudes will develop.
If we do not think of the moral virtues as being spiritual-moral virtues of Divine order, we are not thinking from the Writings. It is not enough for us to be moral in the eyes of the world. Being in the knowledge of a new morality requires the effort to enter that morality from one purpose alone, and that is the belief that the moral virtues are of Divine order and essential to the spiritual growth of man.
The New Church should not develop a moral theology--the world is filled with moral theologies, Christian and non-Christian alike. Indeed, the Writings tell us that moral theology is all that remains of the former Christian Church. (AC 2417; HD 257) The Lord calls the New Church to a spiritual moral theology--a theology that brings together spiritual order and life with natural order and life, and of the two, forms a new man of Divine order.
General Church Publication Committee
Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania