True Christian Religion (Chadwick) n. 336

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The wisdom of the ancients was the source of the dogma that the universe and everything in it relate to good and truth; and thus everything to do with the church relates to love or charity and to faith, since everything arising from love or charity is called good, everything arising from faith is called truth. Now because charity and faith are quite clearly separate, but must be combined in anyone who is going to be a member of the church, that is, have the church in him, the ancients disputed and argued about which of the two came first, and so which could properly be called the elder. Some of them said it was truth, and therefore faith; others said it was good, and therefore charity. For they observed that after being born a person at once begins to learn to talk and think; this gradually develops his understanding by the acquisition of knowledge, and he thus learns and understands what truth is; and by these means he later learns and understands what good is. So he grasps first what faith is, and afterwards what charity is. Those who have understood the matter like this have concluded that the truth of faith is the first-born, and the good of charity is born later. For this reason they have assigned to faith the privileged position and right of the first-born. However, these people have so swamped their understanding with a mass of arguments in favour of faith, that they have failed to see that faith is no faith if not combined with charity, and neither is charity charity if not combined with faith, so making up a single whole. If this is not so, then neither has any value to the church. It will be shown in the following pages that they form a complete single whole.

[2] But by way of introduction I shall reveal briefly how or in what way they make up a single whole. This is important as throwing some light on what follows. Faith, which also means truth, is first in time, but charity, which also means good, is first in intention. That which is first in intention is really first, because it is primary and so also the first-born. That which is first in time is not really first, but only seems to be.

To make this comprehensible comparisons will be drawn with the building of a church and a house, the laying-out of a garden and the preparation of a field. The first thing in time in building a church is laying the foundations, building the walls, putting the roof on, and then putting an altar inside and constructing a pulpit; but the first thing in intention is the worship of God in the church, which is the reason why the other things are done. The first thing in time in building a house is making its outer fabric, and equipping it with all the necessities of life; but the first thing in intention is a convenient dwelling for oneself and the others who are to live in the house. The first thing in time in laying out a garden is levelling the ground, preparing the soil, and planting trees and sowing seed to raise useful plants; but the first thing in intention is the profit to be derived from these things. The first thing in time in preparing a field is levelling the ground, ploughing, harrowing, and then sowing; but the first thing in intention is the crop, so also the use it will serve. [3] These comparisons will allow anyone to deduce what is essentially first. Surely everyone who wants to build a church or a house, or to lay out a garden, or till a field, first of all intends its use, and holds this constantly in mind and considers it, while seeking the means to effect it? We deduce then that the truth of faith is first in time, but that the good of charity is first in intention, and since this therefore plays the leading role it is really the first-born in the mind.

But we need to know what both faith and charity are in essence, and this cannot be known unless the subject is divided into propositions, both faith and charity having their own series. Those dealing with faith are as follows:

I Saving faith is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ. II Faith in brief is this, that a person who lives a good life and holds a proper belief is saved by the Lord. III A person acquires faith by approaching the Lord, learning truths from the Word, and living by them. IV The mass of truths, which cohere as it were in a bundle, raises the level of faith and brings it to perfection. V Faith without charity is no faith, and charity without faith is no charity, and both are lifeless unless the Lord gives them life. VI The Lord, charity and faith make one, just as in a person life, will and understanding do; if they are separated, each of them is destroyed, like a pearl collapsing into dust. VII The Lord is charity and faith in the person, and the person is charity and faith in the Lord. VIII Charity and faith are present together in good deeds. IX There is true faith, spurious faith and hypocritical faith. X The wicked have no faith.

These propositions must now be explained one by one.

This page is part of the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

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