Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 9224

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9224. 'The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me' means also all the matters of faith that [are acquired] through them - that they are to be ascribed to the Lord and not to self. This is clear from the meaning of 'the firstborn of sons' as all matters of faith the Church possesses, dealt with in 2435, 6344, 7035, 7039, 7778, 8042; and from the meaning of 'giving to Me' as ascribing to the Lord, 'Jehovah' being used in the Word to mean the Lord. All matters of faith, meant by 'the firstborn of sons', are beliefs which spring from the good of charity; for faith comes into being from this good. Whether truths are acquired from the Word or from the teachings of the Church, they cannot by any means become matters of faith without the presence of good in which they can be implanted. The reason for this is that the understanding part of the mind is that which receives truths first, for it sees them and introduces them into the will; and when those truths are in the will they are in the person, the will being the person's true self. Anyone therefore who supposes that faith is faith with a person before the person wills it, and does it because he wills it, is very much mistaken. Nor before this do the truths of faith themselves have life in them. All that which belongs to the will is called good, because it is loved; thus truth becomes good, or faith becomes charity, when it is in the will.

[2] There are two controversies which have bothered the Church since earliest times. The first is whether faith is the firstborn of the Church or whether charity is; and the second is whether faith separated from charity brings salvation. The reason why these two controversies arose was that before a person has been regenerated he discerns the truths that are to become matters of faith but not the good that is the good of charity. For the truths of faith enter by the external route, that is to say, through hearing; they deposit themselves in the memory, and from there they appear in the understanding. But the good of charity flows in by the internal route - through the internal man from heaven, that is, from the Lord by way of heaven. Therefore it does not come to be discerned until the truths called matters of faith start to be loved for the sake of performing good and useful service and leading a good life, which happens when they come to belong to the will. This now explains why faith was declared to be the firstborn of the Church, and also why people attributed to it the rights of the firstborn, that is, the rights of priority and superiority over the good of charity, when in actual fact the good of charity is prior and higher, and the truth of faith only apparently so, see 3325, 3494, 3539, 3548, 3556, 3563, 3570, 3576, 3603, 3701, 4925, 4926, 4928, 4930, 4977, 5351, 6256, 6269, 6272, 6273.

[3] The reason why those who belong to the Church have been in the dark in regard to these matters is that they have failed to perceive that all things in the universe have connection with truth and good, and to be anything must have connection with both. They have also failed to perceive that in the human being there are two mental powers, the understanding and the will, and that truth has connection with the understanding and good with the will, and that without the connection with both nothing is made a person's own. Because these considerations have lain in the dark, and yet the ideas composing a person's thought are based on such considerations, the error could not be made plain to the natural man. Yet if it had at some time been made plain, members of the Church would have seen from the Word as in broad daylight that the Lord Himself had countless things to say about the good of charity, that this good ranks first in the Church, and that faith does not exist anywhere else than within that good. The good of charity consists in doing good because one wills it. They would also have seen the errors that teachings upholding faith separated from charity bring in with them. One such error is the idea that a person is able to will evil and believe truth, consequently that truth is in agreement with evil. Another is the idea that faith can cause the life of heaven to exist with a person who has the life of hell in him, therefore that one life can be transformed into the other, so that those in hell can be raised to heaven and lead among angels a life contrary to their former life. People entertaining such errors do not take into consideration the fact that if anyone leads a life contrary to the life already acquired in the world he is deprived of his life. Anyone who tries to do so is like those who are in the throes of death and end their life in dreadful torment. Errors like these and very many others are what the teachings upholding faith separated from charity bring in with them.

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