True Christian Religion #535

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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535. VIII. Those too repent who do not examine themselves, but still refrain from evil actions because they are sins. This kind of repentance is practised by those who perform charitable deeds for religious reasons.

Real repentance, which is examining oneself, recognising and acknowledging one's sins, praying to the Lord and starting a new life, is very difficult in the part of the world occupied by the Reformed Christian churches, for a number of reasons which will be discussed in the last section of this chapter [564-566]. So I propose to describe an easier kind of repentance. When anyone is turning over in his mind some evil deed, and intending to do it, he should say to himself: 'I am thinking about this and I intend to do it, but I shall not because it is a sin.' This has the effect of blunting the thrust of hell's tempting and preventing it from advancing any further. It is extraordinary how anyone can scold another intending to do evil and say to him: 'Don't do that, because it is a sin;' but he finds it very difficult to say that to himself. The reason is that saying it to oneself involves the will, but saying it to someone else merely comes from a level of thought not far removed from hearing.

[2] In the spiritual world enquiry was made to see who could practise this second form of repentance; and there were as few to be found as there are doves in a broad expanse of desert. Some said that they could do this, but were unable to examine themselves and confess their sins before God. Yet all those who do good for religious reasons avoid committing actual evil, though they very rarely reflect upon interior matters, which are the business of the will, believing that they cannot be doing evil because they are doing good, or rather, that the good actions cover up the evil ones.

But, my friend, the starting-point of charity is to shun evils. This is what is taught by the Word, the Ten Commandments, baptism, the Holy Supper, even by one's reason. For how can anyone escape evils and get rid of them without some self-inspection? How can good become good, unless it is inwardly made pure? I am well aware that all religious people, as well as those with a sound faculty of reason, will nod in assent when they read this, and see it as a genuine truth - yet still there will be few who actually do it.

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