True Christian Religion #484

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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484. Can anyone fail to see the inanity - I would rather not say folly - of the passages quoted in 464 above from the church's book called the Formula of Concord, once he has read them and then a few passages taken at random from the Word? Would he not think to himself: 'Suppose what is taught there were right, that man has no free will in spiritual matters, what would religion, which is doing good, be but a meaningless term? And what would the church be without religion but like the bark around timber, of no use except for burning?' Then he would go on to think, 'If there were no church because there was no religion, what then would heaven and hell be, but stories invented by ministers and prelates of the church to control the common people and secure their own promotion to higher honours?' It is from this there comes that detestable utterance in many mouths: 'Who can do good by himself, and who can acquire faith by himself?' So they give up the effort and live like heathens.

[2] Ah, my friend, shun evil and do good, and believe in the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul, and the Lord will love you, and give you love so that you can act, and faith so that you can believe. Then you will be impelled by love to do good, and by faith, which is trust, to believe. And if you persevere in this, you will be linked with Him and He with you, and this for ever; and this is the essence of salvation and everlasting life. If a person were not to use the strength he has been given to do good, and use his mind to believe in the Lord, what would man be but a wilderness and a desert, and exactly like dried up ground, which does not absorb rain, but makes it bounce off; or like a sandy heath, where sheep can find no pasture. He would also be like a dried up spring; or like the stagnant pool there, when the source is obstructed, or like a dwelling where there is no harvest nor any pool - if he does not flee from such a place at once, and look for a place to live elsewhere, he would die of hunger and thirst.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.