True Christian Religion #567

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567. At this point I shall add some accounts of experiences, of which this is the first. 1

I was suddenly struck by a nearly fatal illness. My whole head became heavy. A pestilential fog assailed me from the Jerusalem, the name of which is Sodom and Egypt (Revelation 11:8). I was half-dead with savage pain, and awaited my end. I lay thus in my bed for three and a half days. My spirit underwent these pains, and so consequently did my body. Then I heard voices around me saying: 'Look, here there lies dead in a street in our city the man who preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and Christ the man alone as God.' They asked some of the clergy whether he deserved burial. They said he did not; 'let him lie there for people to see.' They kept going away, coming back and ridiculing me. This truly happened to me, when I was writing the explanation of the eleventh chapter of Revelation.

Then I heard serious charges brought against me by those who ridiculed me, in particular the following. 'How,' they said, 'can one repent without faith? How can Christ the man be reverenced as God? When we are freely given salvation without any merit on our part, what need have we of anything but faith that God the Father sent His Son to take away the condemnation imposed by law, to impute His own merit to us and so to justify us in His sight, to absolve us from our sins by a priest's proclamation, and then to give us the Holy Spirit, who performs all the good we do? Surely all this is in agreement with Scripture, and also with reason? The crowd standing round applauded this speech.

[2] I heard this, but was unable to reply, because I lay almost dead. But after three and a half days my spirit revived, and I went out from the street in the spirit into the city, and said again: 'Repent and believe in Christ, and your sins will be forgiven and you will be saved; if not, you will perish. Did not the Lord Himself preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and that men should believe in Him? Did He not command His disciples to preach the same? Does not the dogma of your faith lead to total lack of concern for how you live?'

'What nonsense!' they said. 'Did not the Son make satisfaction? And does not the Father impute that? He justifies us who have believed this. Thus we are led by the spirit of grace; what sin is there then in us? What has death to do with us? Do you understand this Gospel, you who proclaim sin and repentance?'

Then a voice came out of heaven, saying: 'What is the faith of the impenitent but a dead one? The end has come, the end has come upon you who feel secure and blameless in your own eyes, you satans who think yourselves justified by your faith.' Then suddenly a pit opened up in the middle of the city, gaped wide, and house after house fell into it, and they were swallowed up. A little while later water boiled up out of that broad whirlpool and flooded the devastated city.

[3] When they had been thus seen to be plunged and overwhelmed in a flood, I wanted to know what was their fate in the depths, and I was told from heaven that I should see and hear.

Then before my eyes the waters disappeared which had overwhelmed them, for waters in the spiritual world are correspondences, and therefore appear around those who have false beliefs. Then I saw them on a sandy bottom, where there were heaps of stones, among which they ran about bewailing their expulsion from their great city.

They kept shouting and crying: 'Why has this happened to us? Are we not through our faith clean, pure, righteous and holy? Have we not been by our faith cleansed, purified, justified and sanctified?' Others cried: 'Have we not been made through our faith fit to appear before God the Father, and to be seen, accounted and declared before the angels clean, pure, righteous and holy? Have not reconciliation, propitiation and expiation been accomplished for us, so that we are acquitted, washed and cleansed of sins? Has not Christ taken away our condemnation by the law? Why then have we been cast down here as damned? We heard a daring man denouncing sin in our great city cry "Believe in Christ and repent." Did we not believe in Christ, when we believed in His merit? Did we not repent, when we confessed ourselves to be sinners? Why then has this happened to us?'

[4] Then a voice was heard close by saying to them: 'Do you know any sin that is in you? Have you ever examined yourselves, and therefore shunned any evil as a sin against God? Anyone who does not shun it remains in it. Is not sin the devil? You therefore are those of whom the Lord says:

Then you will begin to say, We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets. But he will say, I tell you, I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all who do iniquity, Luke 13:26-27; also those described in Matthew 7:22-23.

Depart, therefore, each of you to his own place. You see the openings leading to caves. Go in there, and there each of you will be given work to do, and you will receive food in proportion to the work you do. Even if you refuse, hunger will none the less force you to go in.'

[5] Afterwards a voice came from heaven to some people on the earth's surface, who had been outside that great city (and those too are mentioned in Revelation 11:13), saying loudly: 'Beware! Beware of associating with such people. Can you not understand that it is the evils called sins and iniquities that make a person unclean and impure? How can anyone be cleansed and purified from them, except by real repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Real repentance is examining oneself, recognising and acknowledging one's sins, accusing oneself and confessing them before the Lord, asking for help and power to resist them, and so desisting from them, leading a new life, and doing all this as if of oneself. Do this once or twice a year, when you go to Holy Communion, and thereafter, when the sins you accused yourselves of recur, you should say to yourselves, "We do not want to do those things because they are sins against God." This is real repentance.

[6] 'Can anyone fail to understand that a person who does not examine himself and see his sins continues in them? For from birth we find every evil pleasant. It is pleasant to take revenge, commit fornication, cheat, blaspheme, and particularly to control others out of self-love. Does not the pleasure cause them not to be seen as sins? And if perhaps someone says that they are sins, would not the pleasure they give make you excuse them, or even use false arguments to prove that they are not sins? Thus you continue in them and do them afterwards more than before; and this goes on until you do not know what a sin is, or rather, whether there is such a thing as sin. The case is different with anyone who has really repented, He calls his evils, which he has recognised and acknowledged, sins, and therefore begins to shun them and turn away from them; and he ends by feeling the pleasure they give as distasteful. In so far as this happens, he sees and loves what is good, and ends by feeling the pleasure that gives, and this is the pleasure experienced by the angels in heaven. In short, in so far as anyone casts the devil behind his back, he is adopted by the Lord, who teaches and guides him, restrains him from evils and keeps him in good deeds. This and no other is the way from hell to heaven.'

[7] It is extraordinary that the Reformed have some inborn resistance, contrariety and aversion for real repentance. This is so strong that they cannot bring themselves to examine themselves, and to see their sins, and to confess them before God. A kind of horror grips them when they form such an intention. I have questioned very many in the spiritual world on the subject, and they all said that this is beyond their powers. On hearing that the Roman Catholics none the less do this, that is, examine themselves and openly confess their sins before a monk, they were very surprised; and they said too that the Reformed are unable to do this secretly before God, although this duty is imposed equally on them, before coming to the Holy Supper. Some people there enquired why this was, and discovered that it was the dogma of faith alone that had produced such a state of impenitence and made their hearts like this. Then they were allowed to see that those Roman Catholics who worship Christ, and do not invoke the saints, are saved.

[8] After this a clap of thunder was heard and a voice speaking from heaven, saying: 'We are astonished. Tell the gathering of the Reformed: "Believe in Christ, and repent, and you will be saved."' So I told them, and went on: 'Is not baptism a sacrament of repentance and so an introduction into the church? What else do the godparents promise on behalf of the person to be baptised, but to abjure the devil and his works? Is not the Holy Supper a sacrament of repentance and so an introduction to heaven? Are not communicants told that they must at all costs repent before they present themselves? Is not the Catechism the universal doctrine of the Christian church, and does it not teach repentance? Is it not said there in the six commandments of the second table, "You are not to do this or that evil act," not "You are to do this or that good act." From this you may know that in so far as anyone abjures and turns away from evil, so far does he strive after and love good; and that before this he does not know what good is, nor even what evil is.'


1. This passage is repeated from Apocalypse Revealed 531.

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