True Christianity #336

True Christianity (Rose translation)

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336. Chapter 6: Faith

FROM the wisdom of the ancients came the following teaching: the universe, and each and every thing in it, relates to goodness and truth. Therefore all aspects of the church relate to love or goodwill and faith, since everything that is called good flows from love or goodwill and everything called truth flows from faith.

Now, goodwill and faith are two distinct things, yet they become one in us and make us people of the church - they cause the church to exist within us. For this reason, among the ancients it was a matter of contention and dispute which of the two should be primary and rightly be called the firstborn. Some of them said it was truth and therefore faith. Others said it was goodness and therefore goodwill. Some people observed that soon after we are born we learn to talk and think; then talking and thinking lead to the development of our intellect through study, that is, through learning and understanding what is true. Then we use these means to learn and understand what is good. First, therefore, we learn what faith is, and afterward what goodwill is. The people who adopted this point of view considered true faith to be the firstborn and goodwill to be born later. For this reason they accorded faith the rights and privileges of the firstborn.

They overwhelmed their own intellect, however, with an abundance of arguments in favor of faith to the point where they did not see that faith is not truly faith unless it is connected to goodwill, and neither is goodwill truly goodwill unless it is connected to faith. The two unite. If the two do not unite, neither of them amounts to anything in the church. Below I will show that they are completely united.

[2] Now, in this introduction to the chapter I will just take a few words to disclose how the two unite or in what way, since this will help shed light on what follows.

From the standpoint of time, faith (meaning truth as well) is primary, but from the standpoint of purpose, goodwill (meaning goodness as well) is primary. Whatever the primary purpose is, that is the element that is truly primary because it is of prime importance and is the real firstborn. Whatever is primary in time is only apparently primary, not truly primary.

So that this may be clearly understood I will illustrate it with analogous situations that occur in constructing a church building or a house, developing a fruit garden, and preparing a field. Constructing a church building: From the standpoint of time, the primary thing is to lay the foundation, raise the walls, put on the roof, and then put in an altar and build the pulpit. From the standpoint of purpose, however, the primary thing is to worship God in the building, which is why these other steps were taken. Constructing a house: From the standpoint of time, the primary thing is to build the outside of our house and then build inside it the various things that we need. From the standpoint of purpose, however, the primary thing is to have a comfortable place for us and the others in our household to live. Developing a fruit garden: From the standpoint of time, the primary thing is to level the ground, prepare the soil, plant the trees, and sow other plants that will be beneficial. From the standpoint of purpose, however, the primary thing is to use the fruit from the trees. Preparing a field: From the standpoint of time, the primary thing is to level the earth, plow it, harrow it, and then plant the seeds. From the standpoint of purpose, however, the primary thing is the harvest and the use of the crops.

On the basis of these analogies, anyone can conclude what is truly primary. Whether we are building a church or a house or developing a fruit garden or working to prepare a field, our primary intention is always the use of it. This is what we continually keep uppermost in our minds as we acquire the means of achieving our goal. We can conclude therefore that from the standpoint of time the primary thing is true understanding that comes from faith, but from the standpoint of purpose the primary thing is good action that comes from goodwill. Since the latter is truly primary, it is actually the firstborn in our mind.

[3] It is important, however, to know what faith and goodwill are, each in its own essence, and this cannot be known unless each is divided up point by point - into points about faith and points about goodwill.

The points about faith are the following:

1. The faith that saves us is faith in the Lord God our Savior Jesus Christ.

2. Briefly put, faith is believing that people who live good lives and believe the right things are saved by the Lord.

3. The way we receive faith is by turning to the Lord, learning truths from the Word, and living by those truths.

4. Having a quantity of truths that are bound together like strands in a cable elevates and improves our faith.

5. Faith without goodwill is not faith. Goodwill without faith is not goodwill. Neither of them is living unless it comes from the Lord.

6. The Lord, goodwill, and faith form a unity in the same way our life, our will, and our intellect form a unity. If we separate them, each one crumbles like a pearl that is crushed to powder.

7. The Lord is goodwill and faith within us. We are goodwill and faith within the Lord.

8. Goodwill and faith come together in good actions.

9. There is faith that is true, faith that is illegitimate, and faith that is hypocritical.

10. Evil people have no faith.

Now these points need to be explained one by one.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

True Christian Religion 342

Other New Christian Commentary

Ancient Wisdom 1

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