The Bible


John 21:15-25 : Feed my lambs, Feed my sheep


Study the Inner Meaning

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 1017, 2371, 2788, 2921, 3934, 3994, 4169, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 17, 23, 383, 505, 879

Divine Love and Wisdom 19

Sacred Scripture 29

The Last Judgment 39

True Christian Religion 211, 764

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 122

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 9, 10, 195, 228, 229, 250, 295, ...

On the Athanasian Creed 208

Divine Love 19

Divine Wisdom 11

An Invitation to the New Church 33

Scriptural Confirmations 4, 6, 36, 68

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Joshua 22:22

Psalms 116:1, 139:1

Word/Phrase Explanations

As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

'Simon, son of Jonah,' as in John 21:15, signifies faith from charity. 'Simon' signifies worship and obedience, and 'Jonah,' a dove, which also signifies charity.

Key of David,' as in Revelation 3:7, signifies the Lord's omnipotence over heaven and hell. 'The keys of Peter,' in Matthew 18:18, signify the same...

Marriages in the Bible represent the union we all can have between the desire for good and the understanding of truth (or an understanding of...

When the Bible talks about "feeding" it is generally referring to instruction in spiritual things – teaching people the true concepts that can lead them...

The number "two" has two different meanings in the Bible. In most cases "two" indicates a joining together or unification. This is easy to see...

Time is an aspect of the physical world, but according to Swedenborg is not an aspect of the spiritual world. The same is true of...

It’s pretty easy for most people to read the Bible and get a sense for what “sheep” means without any help. They are simple, peaceful,...

'Three' denotes fullness, and 'a third,' not full.

'The son of a cow' signifies the celestial natural level and natural exterior good.

To gird one’s self, as in John. 21:18, signifies to know and perceive truths in the light from good.

'Old waste places' signify the celestial aspects of faith.

'Washing of the hands' was an ancient declaration of innocence, and signifies purification from evils and falsities, as in Psalms 73:13 and Matthew 27:24.

'To glorify' signifies acknowledgment and confession.

The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

Swedenborg says that the Lord is the sun of heaven, and like the natural sun of our world shines on everyone, good or evil. What...

When we read the Gospels and see Jesus addressing the disciples, we assume His words are meant for us as well. And indeed they are!...

To some degree, there really is no spiritual meaning to the word “love” in the Bible. Why? Because if you truly love another, that is...

The basic meaning of "follow" in the Bible is pretty obvious if we consider what it means to "follow the Lord." That obviously doesn't mean...

The breast (Ezek. 16:7), signifies natural good.

The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

The relationship between men and women is deep and nuanced, and one entire book of the Writings – Conjugial Love or Love in Marriage –...

'To tarry,' as in Genesis 27:44, signifies almost the same thing as 'to dwell,' except that 'to tarry' relates to the life of truth with...

As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “come” in the Bible is highly dependent on context – its meaning is determined largely by...

Brethren (Gen. 27:29) signify the affections of good.

'To perish,' or 'die,' relates to damnation, or the state in hell.

In John 8:2-11, the Lord wrote twice on the ground, when the woman taken in adultery was brought to him, which signifies the condemnation of...

Like so many common verbs, the meaning of "know" in the Bible is varied and dependent on context. And in some cases – when it...

Intellectual things – ideas, knowledge, facts, even insight and understanding – are more separate and free-standing than emotional things, and it’s easier to imagine numbering...

If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

Every one
The phrase “Every one,” where it occurs in Genesis 20:7, signifies every thing or all things.

A company might have executives setting policy and strategy, engineers designing products, line workers building them, managers handling personnel and others handling various functions. They...

Amen signifies divine confirmation from truth, consequently from the Lord himself.Amen signifies truth, because the Lord was truth itself, therefore he so often said Amen...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

 Breakfast with the Risen Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Genuine Faith in Marriage
The pathway to conjugial love in marriage involves looking to the Lord for enlightenment by reading His Word and applying it to our lives. We must be willing to work together in marriage and use the truths of the Word to serve others.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus Appears
The Lord was not like you and me. When we die we lay aside our earthy body for ever. The Lord did not lay aside His earthly body—He made it Divine.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Quotes: Having Faith in the Risen Lord
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Seeing the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Charge to Peter
This sermon describes the meaning of the Lord's charge to Peter to feed and tend His flocks. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Disciples See the Lord After His Resurrection
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Drawing Power Of Love
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Lord and His Disciple, Simon Peter
Activity | Ages 11 - 14

 The Lord's Breakfast by the Sea
This is a re-telling of John 21:1-14 for young children with beautiful color pictures. 
Story | Ages 4 - 10

 The Miraculous Catch of Fish
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Miraculous Catch of Fishes
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 To Love Is To Do
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18



An After-Breakfast Conversation      

By Joe David

This inscription is on a stone at the church hall in South Ronaldsey, in the Orkneys, northeast of Scotland.

An After-Breakfast Conversation
(A commentary on John 21:15-25)

In the first part of this chapter, seven disciples had come home to Galilee. They had gone fishing, seen Jesus on the shore, followed his instructions to fish on the right side of the boat, dragged a net loaded with 153 fish to shore, and... as the second half of the chapter begins, they have just finished breaking their fast with Him. Now they are relaxing.

Jesus says to Peter,"Do you love me?" and Peter, perhaps a little startled at the question, thinking that the answer is obvious, answers "yes", and Jesus responds, "Feed my lambs". Twice more this sequence is repeated, but with some changes. Then, after this unusual conversation, the Lord tells them all a little parable about being young and later being old. Then the Lord tells Peter to follow him, and Peter, apparently jealous, asks what John is supposed to do. The Lord mildly rebukes Peter’s jealousy by saying, "If this man tarry until I come what is that to you?", but then He tells John also to follow him.

Finally, the gospel of John, and indeed the collection of all four gospels, closes with an explanation by John that he is the writer of this gospel.

So now, let’s look more closely at the conversation, the parable, and the outbreak of jealousy.

Only two of the seven disciples, Peter and John, are mentioned in this part of the story. Peter represents faith, or truth, but truth about spiritual things that we really believe are from God. John represents good, or love to the neighbor. The former resides in the understanding part of the mind and the latter in the will part of the mind.

In telling Peter to feed His sheep, the Lord is saying that to follow Him means to preach the truths that all the disciples now know about the Lord, His coming, and about how a life should be led, in order to be a follower of the Lord in a new church. In the conversation the Lord is direct and probing. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" I think Peter is being asked whether he loves the Lord, Jesus, more than he loves his fellow Galilean friends, though it’s ambiguous, it could mean "do you love me more than these other six do?’ When Peter answers the first time he says "Lord thou knowest that I love thee."

With this first of the three probing questions, the Lord answers "Feed my lambs," while after that the response is "Feed my sheep." Sheep and lambs both represent people who are in a love of doing good, but while sheep means those who love to do good for the sake of the neighbor, lambs mean those who do good for the sake of the Lord. The first is spiritual good, and the second is higher, and is called celestial good. But people who wish to do good at first don’t know what is good; they need to learn that from the Word and be taught. This is why Peter is told to "feed them", which is to say that truth must indicate how good is to be done. In order to do things that are good, the will's wanting to, and the understanding's knowing how to go about it, must be conjoined. For a successful Christian life, or on a larger scale, a Christian church, 'Peter' and 'John' must work in harmony.

Then comes the parable. "When you were young you got yourself ready and did what you wanted on your own. But when you become old, you have to reach out for help and another shall carry you where you don’t want to go."

This doesn’t seem to fit in here, but of course it does, and in two ways. The first way is given in the Biblical text; it is about the Lord’s death, that all the prophecies were leading Him to His crucifixion, as is mentioned. The second way is a lesson for all of us. When we are young, confident, and strong, we feel that we can do what we want and don’t need any help. Temptations to do evil we ourselves can deal with. But when we grow wiser we realize that all our strength comes from the lord, and if we continue to depend only on ourselves, the temptations from the hells will be too strong and we will be led into doing what the hells want for us, not what we want. We must learn at the start to follow the Lord and depend on Him. This he says at the end of the parable, where it seems not to fit until we understand the parable. "And when He had spoken this He saith unto (them), follow Me." That’s what we need to do also.

Peter is happy to do this preaching of the truth and maybe feels that he has been singled out, but he also realizes that John also loves the Lord and is loved in return. So he asks "And what is this man supposed to do?" It seems that the needed harmony is not yet present, and that Peter is jealous of the bond, and probably hopes to be assured that he is number one... but that doesn’t happen. Peter is simply told that it doesn’t matter; he needs to do the job he has been given.

I’m reminded of the story of Jacob and Esau, in Genesis 25, where Esau is the firstborn and will inherit the birthright and blessing from Isaac, as his due. Jacob by craft devised by his mother deceives Isaac and steals what is Esau’s. Then he runs off to Padan-Aram and stays there with his uncle and becomes rich. It is only on his return journey that he wrestles with the angel and has his name changed to Israel, that he again meets Esau. The change of name means that now that Jacob is rich with truth from the Word, now with the friendly meeting with Esau, also rich, that the two twins can in parable, be merged into one personage, called Israel, meaning the joining of good and truth in the mind.

Esau means something similar to John, they both represent goodness or true charity. Jacob means something similar to Peter, they both represent truth learned from the Word. Any seeming enmity between them as to which is more important can make them both useless, and in a person who is becoming angelic (as everyone should be aiming for), there is no enmity. Truth enables good, and good inspires truth in order to get something done. Although we can think and speak of them separately, they are (perfectly in the Lord and less so in angels) conjoined into a oneness so as to be seen as married. The marriage of the Lord's Divine good and Divine truth is the origin of all creation. Yes, all creation.

This marriage of good and truth, and the need for both to work in our lives, in balance and harmony, is a core New Christian concept.

In the Gospels, there is just one more story that takes place after this one. In it, the rest of the disciples join the seven mentioned here to hear the Lord’s last commands.

From Swedenborg's Works


Divine Wisdom #11

Divine Wisdom (Mongredien translation)      

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Those who think about love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbour in a natural manner only and not at the same time in a spiritual manner, do not, because they cannot, think otherwise than that the Lord is to be loved as to His Person, and a neighbour also as to his person; whereas those who think in both a natural manner and a spiritual manner, perceive, and from perceiving it think, that it is possible for a wicked man, equally as well as a good man, to love the Lord as to His Person, and to love the neighbour in the same way, and that if the wicked man does love, he may not be loved in return, whereas if the good man does, he may. Consequently the spiritual natural man concludes that loving the Lord is loving that which is from Him, which in itself is the Divine, the Lord being in this: and that this is what doing good to the neighbour consists in: and that in this way and no other can a man be loved by the Lord, and be conjoined to Him by love. A natural man, however, is unable to think about this subject spiritually, unless it is put before him distinguished into its separate sections: this will therefore be done as follows:


(1) The love of uses is charity.

(2) The Lord is the source of charity, and the neighbour is the object of it.

(3) Love to the Lord has existence in charity, because in use.

(4) Use is fulfilling one's duty and doing one's work, rightly, faithfully, honestly and justly.

(5) There are general uses which also are uses of charity.

(6) Uses become uses of charity with those only who fight against evils that are from hell.

(7) Inasmuch as they (uses that are not uses of charity) are contrary to love to the Lord and contrary to charity towards the neighbour.

(8) Uses having, as their first and last end, benefit to oneself are not uses of charity.


(1) Faith is nothing else than the truth.

(2) The truth becomes truth when it is perceived and loved: it is spoken of as faith when it is known and thought.

(3) Truths of faith have regard on the one hand to the Lord, and on the other to the neighbour.

(4) In the main [they regard] how the Lord is to be approached by a man so that conjunction may be effected; and how thereafter the Lord does uses by means of him.

(5) Both of these things are what spiritual, moral and civil truths teach.

(6) Faith is knowing and thinking those truths: charity is willing and doing them.

(7) When therefore the Lord's Divine Love has existence with any one in charity, which is willing and doing truths, then the Lord's Divine Wisdom has existence with him in faith, which is knowing and thinking truths.

(8) The conjunction between charity and faith is a reciprocal conjunction


[2] (1) The love of uses is charity. In each and all things there are these three: an end, a cause, and an effect. The end is that "from which it originates" ("a quo"): the cause is that "by means of which it comes into existence" ("per quod"): and the effect is that "in which it has existence" ("in quo"). When an end, by means of a cause, is in its effect, it then has existence. In every love and in every affection from it, there is an end, and this end purposes or desires to do what it loves, and the thing done is its effect. The Lord is the End "from which": man is the cause "by means of which'': and use is the effect "in which" the end has existence. The Lord is the End "from which," because out of His Divine Love He unceasingly purposes or wills to do uses, that is, goods to mankind: man is ':he cause "by means of which," because a man is, or can be, in the love of uses, and when in that love, he purposes or wills to do uses: and uses are the effects "in which" the end has existence; uses are the things that are also called "goods". This shows clearly that the love of uses is the charity a man ought to have towards his neighbour.

[130.] That there is an end, a cause, and an effect in each and all things can be tested by anything whatever: as, for instance, when a man is doing something, he will say either to himself or to some one else, or some one else will say to him, Why are you doing that? that is, what is your "end" (or "purpose"): How do you do that? that is, by what "cause" (or "means"): and, What are you doing? that is, what is the "effect." The end, the cause and the effect are also termed "the end-cause" (causa finalis), "the middle cause" and "the thing caused"; and it is by reason of a law in regard to causes that "the end" is the all in the cause, and thereby the all in the effect, the "end" being the very essence of them both. Similarly the Lord, because He is "the End," is the All in the love of uses, or charity, with a man, and thereby He is the All in the uses done by him, that is, in the uses done by means of him. From this is the belief in the Church that all good is from God and none from man; and that God is Good Itself. It follows as a consequence, therefore, that exercising charity is doing uses, or the goods that are uses; and so, that the love of uses is charity.

[2] [131.] (2) The Lord is the source of charity, and the neighbour is the object of it. It is clear from what was said above, that the Lord is the source "from which" the love of uses, or charity, is and comes forth. The reason the neighbour is the object of it, is because it is towards the neighbour that one ought to have charity, and to him that charity is to be performed. As the neighbour is said to be the object of charity, it should be stated, too, what and who the neighbour is. The neighbour in a broad sense is the "general body of people or mankind" (commune seu Publicum): in a less broad sense it is the Church, one's country, a society, larger or smaller: and in a narrow sense it is a fellow-citizen, a companion and a brother. Performing uses to these from love is exercising charity towards the neighbour, for he who from love performs uses to them, is loving them. The reason he is loving them is because the love of uses and the love of the neighbour cannot be separated. Indeed, from a love of uses, or from charity, a man can do good to an enemy or to a wicked person, but the uses he performs to them are uses to bring about their repentance or their reconciliation, these uses varying in character, and being effected in various ways: see Matthew 5:25, 43-44 ff; Luke 6:27-28, 35.

[3] [132.] (3) Love to the Lord has existence in charity, because in use. This the Lord Himself teaches, as in John:

He that hath My precepts and doeth them, he it is that loveth Me .... If any man love Me, he will keep My word.... He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My words (14:21, 23-24).

In the same:

If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love (15:10).

"Keeping His precepts, words and commandments" is doing the goods of charity, which are uses to the neighbour. And again:

Jesus said three times to Peter, Lovest thou Me? And three times Peter replied that he does love Him. Jesus said three times, Feed My lambs and My sheep. (21:15-17).

"Feeding the lambs and the sheep" are uses, or the goods of charity, with those who preach the Gospel and love the Lord. It is clear, then, that love to the Lord has existence in charity, because in use: and also that the conjunction of love to the Lord with charity towards the neighbour, thus the conjunction of the Lord with man, is in use, this conjunction being of such a nature and degree as the nature and degree of the love of use; for the Lord is in the use as in good that is from Himself; and a man who is in the love of use, is in the use as from himself, though acknowledging that it is not from himself but from the Lord. For a man cannot from himself love the Lord, nor can he do so from a love of uses; the truth is that the Lord loves him and causes His love in him to be reciprocal, at the same time making it seem to the man as though he were loving the Lord from himself; this, then, is what "love to the Lord, from the Lord," is. Hence it is clear, too, how love to the Lord has existence in charity, or the love of uses.

[4] [133.] (4) Use is fulfilling one's duty and doing one's work, rightly, faithfully, honestly and justly. What the proper meaning is of "goods of charity" in the Word, also called "works" and "fruits," and here called "uses," is not known except in a vague way and by some people only. On the basis of the literal sense of the Word, uses are believed to consist in "giving to the poor," "assisting those in need," "doing kindnesses to widows and orphans," and things of that kind. These uses, however, are not what is meant in the Word by "fruits," "works" and the "goods of charity". What is meant is carrying out one's duty, whether in the public service, or in business, or in employment, rightly, faithfully, honestly and justly; when this is being done, then the welfare of the "general body of people or mankind" is being cared for, and thus, the welfare of one's country, too, as well as that of societies larger or smaller, and of one's fellow-citizen, companion and brother; these, as said above, are the neighbour in its broad and narrow senses. For every one, whether priest, ruler, or official, merchant, or workman, is then doing uses every day: the priest by his preaching: the ruler and the official by their administering: the merchant by his trading: the workman by his labour. Take, for example, a judge who passes judgment rightly, faithfully, honestly and justly: he is performing a use to the neighbour every time he passes judgment; similarly a minister every time he teaches: and so with all the others.

[134.] That such uses are meant by "goods of charity" and by "works" is clear from the Lord's government in the heavens. There, just as in the world, everyone must be in some function and service, that is, in some office or in some work; and proportionate to the faithfulness, honesty and justice they exercise in it, are the distinction, splendour and happiness they enjoy. Sluggards and idlers are not admitted into heaven, but are cast out, either into hell or into a desert place, where they live in want of everything and in misery.

Such are the things that in the heavens are called goods of charity, works and uses. Furthermore, everyone who is faithful, honest and just in his occupation or employment in the world is also faithful, honest and just after departing from the world, and is welcomed in heaven by angels; moreover, everyone's heavenly joy is in accordance with the quality of his faithfulness, honesty and justice. The reason for this is that the mind, when devoted to its occupation or employment from a love of use, is kept knit together, and so, kept in spiritual delight, which is a delight in faithfulness, honesty and justice, and is withheld from delight in fraud and dishonesty, as well as from delight in mere gossiping and feasting, which is, moreover, delight in idleness, and idleness is the devil's couch. Everyone can see that the Lord cannot dwell in a love for these latter things, whereas in a love for the former He can.

[5] [135.] (5) There are general uses which also are uses of charity. As said above, the proper and genuine uses of charity are the uses connected with any one's function or administration; when any one carries them out from spiritual faithfulness and honesty-and all do this who love their uses because they are uses and who believe that all good is from the Lord-then their uses become goods of charity in which love to the Lord has existence, or with which that love is conjoined.

But in addition to these uses, there are other general uses as well, namely, faithfully loving one's married partner, duly bringing up one's children, managing one's domestic affairs with prudence, dealing equitably with domestic servants. These works become works of charity when they are done from a love of use, and in respect of a married partner, when they are done from mutual and chaste love. These uses are uses that are of charity, in connection with the household.

There are other general uses, too; such as making suitable and due contributions towards the functioning of the Church, which good works become uses of charity in so far as the Church is loved as neighbour in a higher degree. Amongst general uses, too, is the expenditure of money and labour on the building and maintaining of orphanages, hospitable lodges, educational establishments and other institutions of the kind; not all of these are obligatory.

Rendering assistance to the needy, to widows and to orphans, merely because they are needy, are widows or are orphans, and giving to beggars, merely because they are beggars, are uses of external charity, which charity is termed "piety"; but they are not uses of internal charity except in so far as they are actuated by the use itself and by a love of it, external charity without internal charity not being charity: it is made so by internal charity being present as well; for external charity proceeding from internal charity acts with judgment, but external charity without internal acts without judgment, and frequently with injustice.

[6] [136.] (6) Uses become uses of charity with those only who fight against evils that are from hell. For, as long as a man is in hell, that is, as long as the love that makes his life, is in hell and from hell, so long the uses he does are not uses of charity, for they have nothing in common with heaven, nor is the Lord in them. A man's life's love is in hell and from hell, so long as he has not fought against evils that are in hell and from hell. Those evils stand written down in the Decalogue, and will be seen in its explanation.

Uses that are done, either under an appearance of charity or under an appearance of piety, are both portrayed in the Word, and indeed, those done under an appearance of charity in Matthew:

Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied through Thy Name, and through Thy Name cast out devils and in Thy Name done many mighty works? And then will I confess unto them, I know you not: depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity (7:22-23).

And those done under the appearance of piety, in Luke:

Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are: depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity 13:26-27).

They are also meant by the five foolish virgins who had no oil in their lamps, to whom, when they came, the Bridegroom said:

I know you not (Matthew 25:1-12).

So long, in fact, as infernal and diabolical evils have not been removed through combat, a man may perform uses, but in them there is not anything of charity nor consequently anything of piety; for they are interiorly polluted.

[7] [137.] (7) Inasmuch as they (uses that are not uses of charity) are contrary to love to the Lord and contrary to charity towards the neighbour. This is because all uses that are in their essence uses of charity, are from the Lord and are done by Him through the instrumentality of men; and when a use is thus from the Lord, then, in the use, the Lord conjoins Himself with the man, or love to the Lord conjoins itself with charity towards the neighbour. That no one can perform any use except from the Lord, He Himself teaches in John:

He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without Me ye can do nothing (15:5).

"Fruit" is use. The reason that uses done by one who neither has fought nor is fighting against evils from hell, are contrary to love to the Lord and contrary to charity towards the neighbour, is because the evils that lie inwardly concealed within those uses are contrary to the Lord, thus contrary to love to Him, and therefore contrary to the love of use which is charity; for heaven and hell cannot be together, being opposites, or the one being against the other; on this account, those who do such uses are not loving the neighbour, that is, the "general body of people or mankind," the Church, their country, a society, their fellow-citizen, companion or brother, which are the neighbour in the broad and narrow senses. The truth of this has been made manifest to me by very much experience. Such is the quality of those uses within the man who does them: outside the man, however, they are uses all the same: indeed they have been called forth in him by the Lord for the sake of the general good, or the good of some part: they have not been done by the Lord, however, and consequently are not recompensed in heaven, but are, and should be, recompensed in the world.

[8] [138.] (8) Uses having, as their first and last end, benefit to oneself, are not uses of charity. It was established earlier in this section that the End is the All of the effect, or the All of the use, and that the Lord is that End, and that it is in virtue of its end that a use is a use of charity. When therefore a man is the end, that is, when benefit to a man himself is, then he is the all of the effect, or the all of the use; the consequence is that his use turns out not a use in essence, but a use in outward appearance, the life in which is from the body, and none from the spirit.


[9] (1) Faith is nothing else than the truth. Christendom, after charity ceased, began not to know that charity and faith are one, and accordingly not to know that there cannot be any faith where there is not charity, nor any charity where there is not faith. Out of that ignorance there developed such blindness that people did not know what charity is or what faith is. And so, they began making a separation between them, not only in their thinking, but in their doctrine as well, and, by so doing, to split the Christian Church, which in itself is one Church, into several Churches, and to distinguish them according to the dogmas of "separated faith" (i.e. faith separated from charity). When charity and faith have been separated with men, they then do not know what charity is or what faith is. For charity should impart "being" to faith, and faith should teach this: moreover, charity should give enlightenment, and faith should see; consequently, if charity and faith are separated, neither the one nor the other exists among men, just as when you remove a candle you remove the light as well, and darkness results. This is why men understand "faith" to mean what people believe in without seeing; and so they say that such and such a thing ought to be believed, and scarcely any one says "I don't see it," he says "I believe it". The consequence is that no one knows whether it is true, or whether it is false, thus "the blind leads the blind, and both fall into the ditch". 1 Faith is indeed admitted to be nothing else but the truth, when it is declared that truth is a matter of faith, or that faith is a matter of truth; and yet if any one asks whether such and such a thing is the truth, the reply is "It is a matter of faith," and he inquires no further. In this way, to believe, with eyes shut and Understanding closed, all into which one is born, is taken as being the very truth of faith. It was never such blindness as this, that the ancients called faith; what they called faith was whatever they were able, by means of some enlightenment in their thought, to acknowledge as being true. Hence in Hebrew truth and faith are expressed by a single word, namely AM(e)N and AM(u)N(a).

[10] [140.] (2) The truth becomes truth when it is perceived and loved; it is spoken of as faith when it is known and thought. Those who defend a "separated faith" would ensure belief, by declaring that spiritual things are beyond the comprehension of the human Understanding, because they transcend it, yet they do not deny that there is enlightenment. The enlightenment they do not deny is what is meant here by perception, that is, by the statement that "the truth becomes truth when it is perceived and loved". Nevertheless it is love of truth that causes a truth that is perceived to become truth, for the love gives life to it. The reason enlightenment is the perception spoken of above is that all truth is in light, and into that light a man's Understanding can be elevated. The reason all truth is in light, is that the light proceeding from the Lord as a Sun is Truth Itself, hence every truth in heaven shines, and the Word, which is Divine Truth, gives to angels there a common light; on this account too, the Lord is called "the Word" and also "Light" (John 1:1-2, 3)

[141.] That the human Understanding can be raised into that light, it has been granted me to learn from much experience; even the Understanding of those who are not in the love of truth can be, let them but be in the passion for knowing, or in the affection for renown on account of possessing knowledge. There is this difference, though: those in the love of truth are actually in the light of heaven and accordingly in enlightenment and in perception of truth when reading the Word; whereas the others are not in enlightenment, nor in perception of truth, but only in the confirmation of their own tenets, without any comprehension of whether they are true or false. There is also this difference: those in the love of truth, when they are reading the Word and reflecting upon something out of it, keep the sight of their Understanding intent all the time upon the principle itself, examining in this way whether it is true, before it becomes confirmed. Whereas the others adopt a principle from their memory knowledge, without any desire to comprehend whether it is true, and, if they covet a reputation for being learned, they confirm it by the use of the Word and of reasonings; and the natural genius of learning, which is pride in its own powers, is such that it is able to confirm any falsity, even to the point of making it appear, both to itself and to others, to be true. This is the origin of the heretical ideas, and the schisms, and the defenses on behalf of opposing dogmas, in the Church. Accordingly, this difference also results: those in the love of truth are wise and become spiritual, whereas the others remain natural, and are devoid of all sound reason in spiritual things.

The reason truth is called faith, when it is known and thought, is that a truth when perceived becomes then a thing in the memory that is believed. Clearly, then, faith is nothing else than the truth.

[11] [142.] (3) Truths of faith have regard on the one hand to the Lord, and on the other to the neighbour. All truths have regard to these three things as the universal objects of truth: above oneself, the Lord and heaven: round about oneself, the world and the neighbour: beneath oneself, the devil and hell; and it is truths that will teach a man how he can be separated from the devil and hell, and be conjoined to the Lord and heaven: and this by means of a life in the world where he is, and a life in association with the neighbour with whom he is; it is by means of these two that all separation and all conjunction is effected. In order that a man may be separated from the devil and hell and be conjoined to the Lord and heaven, he must know what are evils, and from them what are falsities, because these are the devil and hell: he must know also what are goods and from them what are truths, because these are the Lord and heaven. The reason evils and falsities are the devil and hell, is because they are from the devil and hell, and the reason goods and truths are the Lord and heaven, is because they are from the Lord and heaven. Unless a man knows what are evils and falsities and what are goods and truths, he does not see any way of escape out of hell, nor any way of entrance into heaven. These are the things truths will teach, and the truths that teach them have been given to men in the Word and from the Word; and because the way to heaven and the way to hell is from the world, and because it is in the world and in association with the neighbour there that a man's life is lived, therefore that life is the way which the truths teach. Accordingly, if a man's life is in conformity with the truths of the Word the way is closed to and from hell, and the way is opened to and from the Lord, and the man's life becomes the Lord's life with him. This is what is meant by the Lord's words in John:

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6).

And conversely, if a man's life is contrary to the truths of the Word, then the way to and from heaven is closed, and the way to and from hell opened, and the man's life does not become life, it becomes death.

Above, where charity was being spoken of, it was said that the Lord's life with a man is a life of charity towards the neighbour, and that conjunction is in the love of uses; and because it is truths that teach this life, it is clear that they have regard on the one hand to the Lord, and on the other to the neighbour.

[12] [143.] (4) Truths teach how the Lord is to be approached by a man, and how thereafter the Lord does uses by means of him. How the Lord is approached has already been described, and will be amplified when the Decalogue is being explained. But how thereafter the Lord with the man does uses must be now described. It is well known that no man is able of himself to do good which is in itself good, but is able to do so from the Lord; nor accordingly is he able of himself to do any use which is in itself a use, for a use is a good; from this it follows that the Lord does every use that is a good, by means of the man. It has been shown elsewhere that the Lord wills that a man should do what is good as from himself; but how a man is to do what is good as from himself, this, too, the truths of the Word teach; and because truths teach it, it is clear that truths are matters of knowledge and thought, while goods are matters of will and deed, and that thus truths become goods by willing them and doing them; for what a man wills and does, this he calls good, whereas what he knows and thinks he calls true. Moreover, it is obvious that in the deed, thus in the good, is the willing and the thinking and the knowing; and so the complex of these in an ultimate is a good; this in itself has an external form derived from truths in the thought, and an internal form derived from the Will's love.

But how the Lord does uses, which are goods, with man was described and shown also in explaining the laws of His Divine Providence. 2

[13] [144.] (5) Both of these things are what spiritual, moral and civil truths teach. It must be shown in the first place what spiritual truths are, what moral truths are, and what civil truths are: in the second place, that a spiritual man is also a moral and civil man: in the third place, that the spiritual is in what is moral and civil: in the fourth place, that if these are separated, there is no conjunction with the Lord.

A. What spiritual truths are, what moral truths are and what civil truths are. Spiritual truths are the truths the Word teaches about God, that He is the One Creator of the Universe: that He is Infinite, Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Provider: that the Lord in respect of His Human is His Son: that God the Creator and the Lord are one: that He is Redeemer, Reformer, Regenerator and Saviour: that He is the Lord of heaven and of earth: that He is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom: that He is Good Itself and Truth Itself: that He is Life Itself: that everything of love, of charity and of good, as well as everything of wisdom, of faith and of truth, is from Him, and nothing of them from man: and accordingly that no merit belongs to any human being on account of love, charity or good, or on account of any wisdom, faith or truth: that therefore He alone is to be worshipped: then too, that the Holy Word is Divine, that there is a life after death, that there is a heaven and a hell, heaven for those who live well, and hell for those [who live ill]: besides many other things that are doctrines from the Word, as in regard to Baptism and the Holy Supper. These and the like are, properly speaking, spiritual truths.

Moral truths, however, are the truths the Word teaches about a man's life in association with the neighbour, which life is termed charity: its goods, which are uses, may be summed up as having relation to justice and equity, to honesty and rectitude, to chastity, to being temperate, to truthfulness, to prudence and to good will. To the truths of moral life belong also the opposites of these, which are destructive of charity: they may be summed up as having relation to injustice and inequity, to dishonesty and fraud, to lasciviousness, to being intemperate, to untruthfulness, to cunning, to enmity, hatred and revenge, and to ill will. The reason these also are termed truths of moral life is that everything about which a man thinks, That is so! whether it is evil, or whether it is good, he places in the category of "truths"; for he says, It is true that this is evil, or, It is true that this is good. The above are moral truths. Whereas civil truths are the civil laws of kingdoms and states, which can be summed up as having reference to the several principles of justice that ought to be observed, and conversely, to the different violations of them that men commit.

[145.] B. [2] A spiritual man is also a moral and civil man.

Many people suppose that the spiritual are those who know the above-mentioned spiritual truths, all the more, those who converse about them, and still more, those who have some intelligent understanding of them. Such people, however, are not spiritual: it is a case merely of knowing, and from their knowledge of thinking and speaking, and, by reason of the Understanding bestowed upon every one, of comprehending: and these things by themselves do not make a man spiritual; love derived from the Lord is lacking, and love from the Lord is the love of uses, called charity; it is in this love that the Lord conjoins Himself to a man and makes him spiritual, for the man then performs uses, not from himself, but from the Lord. This the Lord teaches in many places in the Word, as thus in John:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without Me ye can do nothing (15:4-5).

Uses, or goods of charity, are "fruit," and goods of charity are nothing else but moral goods. Obviously, then, a spiritual man is also a moral man. A moral man is a civil man as well, for the reason that civil laws are those very uses in practice, which are called actions, works and deeds.

[146.] Take, for example, the seventh precept in the Decalogue, Thou shalt not steal. The spiritual injunction in this precept is, Not to take away anything from the Lord, and attribute it to oneself, speaking of it as one's own; it is, also, Not to deprive another person of the truths of his faith by means of falsities. The moral injunction in it is, Not to treat one's neighbour dishonestly, unjustly or deceitfully, nor to defraud him of what he possesses. Whereas the civil injunction is, Not to steal. Who cannot see that any one who is led by the Lord, and who is on that account a spiritual man, is also a moral and civil man!

[147.] Again take the fifth precept as an example, Thou shalt not commit murder. The spiritual injunction in this precept is, Thou shalt not deny God, thus, Thou shalt not deny the Lord for denying Him is murdering and crucifying Him in oneself; it is, also, Thou shalt not destroy any one's spiritual life: for thus you will murder his soul. The moral injunction is, Thou shalt not bear hatred against thy neighbour, nor desire to be revenged on him: for hatred and revenge have destruction of the neighbour within them. And the civil injunction is, Thou shalt not murder his body. From this, then, it is seen that a spiritual man, being one who is led by the Lord, is also a moral and civil man. It is otherwise with one who is led by himself: he will be treated of later.

[148.] C. [3] The spiritual is in what is moral and civil.

This follows from what was said above to the effect that it is in the love of uses, or charity towards the neighbour, that the Lord conjoins Himself with man. The spiritual exists from the Lord conjoining Himself: what is moral exists from the charity: and what is civil exists from its being practiced. For a man to be saved, there must be in him what is spiritual, and this is from the Lord, not above him, nor outside of him, but within him. That cannot exist merely in his knowledge, and thence in his thought and speech; it must be in his life, and his life consists in willing and doing. Consequently, it is when knowing and thinking are also willing and doing, that the spiritual is in what is moral and civil. If any one says, How can I will and do? the reply is, Fight against evils that are from hell, and you will both will and do, not from yourself but from the Lord, for upon evils being removed, the Lord does everything.

[149.] D. [4] If these are separated, there is no conjunction with the Lord.

This can be seen both from reason and from experience. From reason: if any one's memory and understanding is such that he can learn and comprehend all the truths of heaven and the Church, yet has no desire to do any of them, do not people say of him, He is an intelligent man, but he is wicked? Indeed, do they not add, He is all the more deserving of punishment? This shows that any one who separates the spiritual from what is moral and civil, is not a spiritual man, nor a moral man, nor a civil man. From experience: there are such people in the world; and I have talked with some of them after their decease, and found that they knew everything in the Word, and accordingly knew many truths, and believed that on this account they would shine in heaven as the stars; however, when their life was examined, it was found to be merely corporeal and worldly, and, because of the wicked and disgraceful things they had thought and willed within themselves, infernal; and therefore everything they had learnt out of the Word was taken away from them, and each one became his own Will, and they were driven into hell to their like, where they talked like madmen, conformably to their thoughts in the world, and perpetrated shameful deeds conformably to their loves in the world.

[14] [150.] (6) Faith is knowing and thinking those truths; charity is willing and doing them. It was shown above that the truth is called faith when a man knows it and thinks it; it is now to be shown that the truth becomes charity when a man wills it and does it. The truth is like seed; when one looks at a seed before it is sown, it is only a seed: but when it is put into the ground it becomes a plant, or a tree, thus assuming its proper form, and consequently acquiring another name. The truth is also like a garment; when not being worn, it is merely pieces of material adapted for a body, but when it is put on, it becomes clothing with a human being inside it. It is similar in the case of the truth and charity. While a man knows and thinks the truth, it is no more than the truth, and goes by the name of "faith": but when he wills it and does it, it becomes "charity," just as the seed becomes plant or tree, and as the piece of material becomes clothing with a human being inside.

[151.] Moreover, knowing and thence thinking are two faculties distinct from willing and doing, and, furthermore, can be separated from the latter; for a man can know and think many things that he does not will and thence do. When separated, however, they do not make life in a human being: when conjoined they do. It is similar with faith and charity.

Let the matter be illustrated further by comparisons. The light and heat in the world are two distinct things, and they can be either conjoined or separated, and they actually are separated in winter and conjoined in summer. When separated, however, they do not make life in the vegetable kingdom, that is, they do not bring forth anything, but when conjoined they do. Again, the lungs and heart in man are two distinct things, the motions of which can be either separated or conjoined; they are separated in fainting and in suffocation; but when separated, they do not make life in a man's body; when conjoined they do. It is similar in regard to man's knowledge and thence thought, in which faith consists, and his will and deed, in which charity consists. The lungs, moreover, correspond to his thought and consequently to faith: so, too, does light; and the heart corresponds to his Will and consequently to charity: so, too, does heat.

From these things it can be seen that in faith separated from charity there is not more of life than there is in knowing and thinking separated from willing and doing; and the life in that, is only that the man "wills" the thinking, and "does" the speaking of what he thinks, thus it is only a believing.

[15] [152.] (7) When therefore the Lord's Divine Love has existence with a man in charity, which is willing and doing truths, then the Lord's Divine Wisdom has existence with him in faith, which is knowing and thinking truths. What the Lord's Divine Love is, and what His Divine Wisdom is, has been stated above; charity and faith have also been treated of, as well as the Lord's conjunction in the love of uses, which is charity, with a man; now something must also be said about the Lord's conjunction with the faith that is with a man. The Lord conjoins Himself with a man in his charity, and from this, in his faith, but not in his faith and from this in his charity; this is because the Lord's conjunction with a man is in his Will's love which makes his life, and so in his charity which makes his spiritual life. From the charity the Lord makes the truths in his thought, called truths of faith, living, and conjoins them to his life. The first truths with a man, called faith, are not yet living, for they are things of memory only and, from the memory, of thinking and speaking, adjoined to his natural love which, from its desire to know, imbibes them readily, and, from its desire to boast itself on account of its knowledge or its erudition, summons them from the memory to think over them or to give utterance to them. Those truths are first made living when the man is being regenerated, which is brought about by a life in conformity with them, which life is charity. When this takes place, a man's spiritual mind is opened, and in this there is effected the Lord's conjunction with the man, whereby the truths acquired by him in infancy, childhood and youth are made living. Then also there is effected conjunction of the Divine Love and Wisdom with the charity that is with the man, and conjunction of the Divine Wisdom and Love in the faith that is with him, causing the charity and faith with the man to be a one, just as the Divine Love and Wisdom in the Lord are a one. More will be said on this subject, however, when the Decalogue comes to be explained.

[16] [153.] (8) The conjunction between charity and faith is a reciprocal conjunction. This was explained above, where it treated of the reciprocal conjunction between love and wisdom, and where this was illustrated by its correspondence with the reciprocal conjunction between the heart and the lungs.


1Matthew 15:14: Luke 6:39.



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