True Christian Religion #421

By Emanuel Swedenborg

Studere hoc loco

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421. These points can show how we must understand the assertion that charity and good deeds are as different as willing well and doing good; that is to say, they are formally distinct as is the mind which thinks and wills from the body which the mind uses to speak and act. But there is also an essential distinction, because the mind itself is distinguished into an interior zone which is spiritual, and an exterior which is natural, as was said previously. If therefore deeds come from the spiritual mind, they come from its good will, which is charity; but if they come from the natural mind, they come from good will which is not charity. Even though it may seem in external appearance like charity, it is not charity in its interior appearance. Charity merely in external appearance may indeed look like charity, but it does not possess the essence of charity.

This can be illustrated by a comparison with seeds in the earth. Each separate seed grows into a plant, either useful or useless, depending on what the seed is. The same happens with spiritual seed, which is the truth the church learns from the Word. Doctrine is formed from this, useful doctrine if formed from genuine truths, useless if from falsified truths. It is exactly the same with the formation of charity from willing well, depending whether this is for selfish or worldly reasons, or for the sake of the neighbour, whether this is narrowly or broadly interpreted. If it is for selfish or worldly reasons, it is spurious charity, but if for the sake of the neighbour, it is genuine charity. However, more on this subject may be found in the chapter on faith, in particular in the section where it was shown that charity is having a good will, and that good deeds are doing good from having a good will (374); and that charity and faith are merely unstable mental concepts unless, when possible, they are realised in deeds and come into existence together in them (375-376).

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