True Christian Religion #71

True Christian Religion (Chadwick translation)      

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71. At this point I shall insert accounts of three experiences, of which this is the first.

Once I heard beneath me a roaring as of the sea, and asked what it was. Someone told me that it was a disturbance among the spirits gathered on the lower earth, which lies closest above hell. In a little while the ground which formed a roof over them split open, and through the gap birds of the night came pouring forth in hordes and spreading out to the left. They were immediately followed by a wave of locusts, which leapt upon the grass covering the ground, and turned it all into a desert. A little later I began to hear by turns a kind of wailing coming from those birds of the night, and to the side an inarticulate cry as if from ghosts in the woods. Later still I saw beautiful birds coming from heaven and spreading out towards the right. These birds were marked with what looked like wings of gold broken up by stripes and spots of silver; some had on their heads crown-shaped crests.

While I was gazing in wonder at all this, there suddenly emerged from the lower earth, where the disturbance was, a spirit who could take upon himself the appearance of an angel of light. 'Where is the man,' he shouted, 'who talks and writes about an order, to which almighty God has restricted Himself in His dealings with man? News of this has penetrated the roof and reached us down below.'

When he came to the ground level, he hurried along a paved road; and eventually he came up to me and at once pretended to be an angel from heaven. Then, speaking in an assumed tone of voice, 'Are you,' he said, 'the man who thinks and speaks about order? Give me a brief account of order and some examples of it.'

[2] 'I will give you,' I replied, 'a summary, but not the details, because these would be beyond your grasp.' I told him: (i) God is Order itself. (ii) He created man from order according to order and to be subject to order. (iii) He created his rational mind in accordance with the order of the whole spiritual world and his body in accordance with the order of the whole natural world, which is why the ancients called man a micro-heaven and a microcosm. (iv) It is therefore a law of order that man from his micro-heaven or little spiritual world should control his microcosm or little natural world, just as God from His macro-heaven or spiritual world controls the macrocosm or natural world in all its parts. (v) A consequential law of order is therefore that a person ought to enter into faith by means of truths from the Word, and into charity by means of good deeds, and so reform and regenerate himself. (vi) It is a law of order that a person should by his own efforts and ability cleanse himself from sins, and not stand idly confident of his inability to act, waiting for God to wipe away his sins in an instant. (vii) It is also a law of order that a person should love God with all his soul and all his heart, and his neighbour as himself, and not hang back waiting for God instantaneously to place either love in his mind and heart, like bread from the baker's in the mouth. I told him much more besides.

[3] When he heard this, the Satan replied in a polite tone which concealed his deceit: 'What is this you say? That a person by his own ability should enter into order by obeying its laws? Don't you know that man is not subject to the law, but to grace; and that everything is given freely and a person can take nothing for himself unless it is given him from heaven? Don't you know that in spiritual matters he can no more act of himself than Lot's wife when she was turned into a pillar, or Dagon, the idol worshipped by the Philistines in Ekron? So it is impossible for a person to justify himself, since this must be accomplished by means of faith and charity.'

To this I made only this reply: 'It is a law of order too that a person should by his efforts and ability acquire for himself faith by means of truths from the Word, while believing that not a grain of faith comes from himself, but from God; and that a person should by his efforts and ability aim to justify himself, but he is to believe that not a jot of justification comes from himself, but from God. Is it not commanded that a man should believe in God, and love God with all his strength, and his neighbour as himself? Reflect and tell me how God could have given these commandments, if man had not the ability to obey and perform them.'

[4] On hearing this the Satan's face underwent a change; from being white it first turned a lurid colour, and then pitch black. He spoke with his black mouth and said: 'All you have said is paradoxes to counter paradoxes.' Then at once he sank down to his own kind and vanished. The birds on the left together with the ghosts made an unusual noise, and threw themselves into the sea, which is there called the Sea of Suph 1 , and the locusts came hopping after them. Both air and land were thus cleared of those animals, the disturbance down below ceased, and all became peaceful and calm.

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Footnotes:

1. The Hebrew name for the Red Sea.

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(References: 1 Samuel 5:2)

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