Books, articles, sermons and blogs
online, based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Sixth Sermon: Matthew 5:8
"Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." (Matthew 5: 8.)
In the progress of regeneration, as described in the Blessings, we have now reached the stage which is marked by a growth of love and charity, and in consequence, by an increase of light in the understanding, which is the light of illustration. This growth and increase is what is signified by the pure in heart who shall see God. The Lord did not at first speak of the pure in heart, but of the poor in spirit; nor did He say that these should "see God," but simply that "of such is the kingdom of heaven." Those who are poor in spirit, that is, who are ignorant of the spiritual truths of the Word, and acknowledge their ignorance, are considered by the Lord to be of His church as soon as they make such acknowledgment.
But all spiritual development is to follow,—growth in charity and faith, in love and in illustration, which is effected by means of temptations. They that mourn shall be comforted; the meek shall inherit the earth; they that hunger and thirst after justice shall be filled; the merciful shall obtain mercy; the pure in heart shall see God. Love is established in the will, and light in the understanding, by the process of spiritual purification that has been taking place in the interiors of the natural mind, and man is now prepared for the great work of regeneration yet to come,—the conquest of the external man. When this new state of the regenerating man,—this love and this light,—becomes collective as well as individual, then may it be said that the internal church is established, ready to become external also, ready to increase in numbers, in activities and in uses.
Let us not forget that this great work is the result of the universal Redemption effected by the Lord when He was in the world, and which was represented in the healing of the multitudes; and at the same time the result of the Glorification of His Human, represented by His ascent into the mountain, when He taught His disciples. When these two are accomplished,—Redemption and Glorification,—then the Lord is able to conjoin himself with the human race, form a church on earth, and save all who are willing to cooperate with Him in a life of obedience, in a life of repentance.
In order to understand the Divine work of Redemption, it is necessary to have a knowledge of the imaginary or seeming heavens, filled by the evil masquerading as angels of light, and to know that the essential part of Redemption was a Last Judgment performed upon these imaginary heavens; because it is necessary to know that the regenerating man, and the church itself, is infested and assailed by the spirits of these heavens. Such spirits are present, and assault the church in its beginning and throughout its progress, even until its final triumph.
Those who constituted the imaginary heavens, and those who were in the lower earth previous to the judgment, as also the two similar types on earth, are described by the Lord in the following words, "And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were just, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his heart, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18: 9-14.) The Pharisee represents the state of those in the imaginary heavens, and at the same time the state of those in a consummated church on earth; and the publican the state of those in the lower earth, who are to be received into the new heaven, and at the same time the state of the Gentiles on earth, or the state of those with whom a New Church can be formed.
As will be readily seen, the Pharisee represents in particular a state of pride and self-conceit in the things of religion, a pride in the possession of the riches of the Word and of the church, and a conceit of superiority over others on that account; and hence they who are such despise others in comparison with themselves. These, being unregenerate as to the internal man, but possessing the knowledges of truth in their external mind are able to live an outward life of piety; and when they pass into the other world, they form the imaginary heavens and infest those who are of the church, infest those who are undergoing regeneration, those who are humble and sincere, acknowledging that they are ignorant, that they know nothing from themselves, but only from the Lord, and who on that account have no conceit of human intelligence nor pride of superiority over others. They see and acknowledge their own evils, and say with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
The establishment of the church with those who are; represented by the publican is described in the series of the Blessings; and the presence of spirits who are in the opposite, who are hypocrites like the Pharisee, is also described. The presence of these is involved, but not manifestly expressed, in the Blessings at first, but towards the close their presence and their persecution of those who are of the church is openly spoken of. "Blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of justice; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Verses 10-12.)
That the state of the Pharisee, or the state represented by him, is a state of hypocrisy and conceit in the things of religion, is evident from the denunciation of them by the Lord in various passages of the Gospels, especially in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew. In that chapter we find these words, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." (Verses 25, 26.)
It will thus be noted that the Pharisee is clean and pure in his outward conduct, but not clean and pure in heart; hence the injunction by the Lord to them to "cleanse the inside of the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also;" for the "outside," or the external man, is not really clean, even though it appears so, unless the "inside," or the internal man be clean also. But the Pharisee and the hypocrite appear unto men to be clean, because of apparent cleanness of speech and conduct. As to the internal man, however, they are not clean; for the lusts of self-love and the love of the world, together with a conceit of superiority over others, are active there. They are not "pure in heart," and on that account cannot "see God;" for no man has the light of God without the love of God. But the simple, the faithful, the honest, the sincere, the just, the upright, who acknowledge the Lord as the only Teacher of men, and who receive His teaching when He reveals the spiritual doctrine of His Word, who receive this doctrine and apply it to life,—these, by the gradual processes of regeneration, become "pure in heart," and these are they that "see God;" and no others see Him.
It can now be clearly seen that to be "pure in heart" is to be regenerated as to the internal man. But that the external man is not yet regenerated, is evident from what follows in the Blessings, where the persecutions of the church are described, or the temptation combats of the man of the church; for if the external man were regenerated as well as the internal, there would be no further conflict, and man would be wholly clean, safe from all persecution.
At this point, let us consider what the internal man is, which is signified by "heart" in the text.
The Heavenly Doctrine teaches that the internal man is regenerated first, and that when the internal is regenerated, by means of it the external also is regenerated; and that the external is not regenerated before this, whatsoever the appearance may be. This is what is meant by the Lord's teaching, which we have quoted, that the inside of the cup and platter must first be cleaned, that the outside may also be made clean. By the internal man which is regenerated first, or before the external man, is not meant the internal spiritual man proper, or that degree of the mind which is on the plane of the heavens, and into which evil does not enter, which is man's heaven while he lives in the natural world, and the heaven that he enters openly and actively after death; but the internal of the natural mind is meant; and the external of the same. For the natural mind is twofold, internal and external; and both are evil, both in need of regeneration.
Before regeneration, and with all the unregenerate, the internal of the natural mind is nothing but evil, since it is nothing but the love of self and the love of the world and the evil affections of those two loves, and also the thoughts of those affections, which are falsities. The internal of the natural man, therefore, by birth and inheritance, and by acquired life, is nothing but evil and falsity, and unless it be regenerated, unless its evils and falsities be removed, and goods and truths from heaven take their place, there can be no salvation. Hence the first thing of regeneration is the formation of a new will and a new understanding in the internal man, before the same can be done in the external. This internal of the natural is, as was said, the "inside of the cup and platter," which must first be cleansed before man can be made clean. Those who are regenerated as to this internal are they who are called the "pure in heart." The external man is also nothing but evil; but it does not so appear to the outward view, because of the assumption of the appearance of piety and uprightness in speech and conduct.
The real life of every man while he is in the world, both the life of the evil and the life of the good, is in his internal natural; but so long as he lives in the body, he puts on an external or apparent life. The unregenerate and the wicked man assumes it as a cloak or covering for the evils that are within, that are in the internal natural; and even the good man is sometimes under the necessity of putting on an appearance not in agreement with a genuine internal. This covering is put on in order that accommodation may be made to the company in which one is, and in order that one may yield, or appear to yield, to the ruling public opinion, against which he does not wish to go, on account of various causes looking to a good end with the good, or to mere selfish or worldly advantage with the evil. But he lays this covering or cloak aside when he is left to himself, when he is alone or by himself, as when he is in his room at home, or at other times when he thinks freely from his ruling love, uninfluenced by his surroundings or the opinions of others. When thus situated, he thinks from his own will, and his thoughts then are according to his will or love; and if this will or love be evil, the thoughts will of consequence be false thoughts, or falsities of his evil. It is the formation by regeneration of this internal man that is the subject of the text, and of the preceding verses; and the purity of heart spoken of takes place when, by regeneration, the evil lusts of the internal man have been removed, and a new will or a new love takes the place of the old, and at the same time a new light in the understanding. So that when such a man thinks or meditates alone, his thoughts are even more sane, more true, more wise, than when he is in the company of others; for he is thinking in greater freedom, since he is then thinking as a good spirit, or as an angel of heaven, the restraints of the outer world upon him being removed.
In the series of the internal sense of the Blessings, the subject is the descent of good into the natural by the process of regeneration,—the way having been prepared by truth of doctrine from the Word. When the truth is received into the understanding as taught by the Lord in His Word, received humbly, affirmatively, and with affection; when one is affected by it from within, believes it, wills it, loves it, lives it, then the combat begins; resistance is made to all that which opposes the truth, all false doctrine and all evil lust; and in the degree that the combat is successful, in the degree that falsity and evil are removed, heaven is opened,—the internal spiritual man is opened,—and heaven descends out of the spiritual into the natural; first into the interior of the natural, forming there a new will and a new understanding; the conjunction of good and truth takes place, man is introduced into consociation with the angels and is conjoined with God; and it is of such that it is said, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God."
Heaven is now in the interior of the natural, and this heaven in the natural is what is called the church; and the state and process by which this is brought about in the individual is what is called regeneration; for regeneration takes place in the natural, and the church is where regeneration is, namely, in the natural. It is for this reason that the church is called in the Writings the Lord's heaven on the earth—on the earth, that is in the natural. Strictly speaking the church is where a number of such are associated together, and where the state of heaven in the interior of the natural is the dominant state of life with those who are so associated. When spiritual good is present in the interior of the natural, conjoined with truth of doctrine there, and when this state is dominant in an organized or consociated body called the church, then heaven is come down to earth, and the tabernacle of God is with men.
Let us remember, however, that the establishment of the church in the interior of the natural is not its complete establishment; as applied to the individual, the regeneration of the interior natural is not regeneration as a complete state. There is much work yet to be done; there is much of combat yet to take place; for the external opposes, and the external must be subdued and brought into order. As soon as the church has established itself in the interior of the natural, it is assailed by the powers of hell in both worlds, and the external is excited to oppose its further descent. Hence arises the combat of temptation, a combat more grievous than before. It is the combat of Michael and the dragon. The powers of hell assail. This assault is what is called in the letter of the Word persecution, and it is so called in the latter part of the Blessings, as we have seen.
The word rendered "pure" in the text may be literally translated clean. In the original tongue, it signifies to be cleansed, and thus to be freed from dirt or filth, as is done by washing with water. Water, in the spiritual sense, is the truth from the Word; and the evil lusts of the will in the interior of the natural are the filth from which men are to be cleansed. The cleansing of the internal of the natural by the truth of faith is what is meant by the words of the Lord to Peter, when He said, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. ... He that is washed hath no need save to wash his feet, but is wholly clean." (John 13: 8, 10.) By the "feet" is signified the external man which is still to be purified after the internal has been made clean. The same is signified in the Psalms, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a firm spirit within me." (51: 7, 10.) A "clean heart" and a "firm spirit" (or a true spirit) are the new will and the new understanding in the internal of the natural, concerning which we have been treating. We find the same in another Psalm, "Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul to vanity, nor sworn to deceit. He shall receive the blessing of the Lord, and justice from the God of his salvation." (24: 3-5.) As in the text it is said that the "pure in heart shall see God," so in this Psalm it is said that "he that hath clean hands and a pure heart shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord, and stand in His holy place."
We thus have before us the doctrine, and this doctrine illustrated in the letter of the Word, that the internal man,—the internal of the natural man,—must be regenerated first, and when this is regenerated, that by means of it the external is also to be regenerated. All regeneration of the external before this, before the internal is regenerated, is spurious and a sham; and it is of this the Lord spoke in His denunciation of the Pharisees; that is, of the external and its state before the internal is regenerated, before the lusts of evil have been removed from the internal man; for He said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear just unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matt. 23: 27, 28.)
A man may be outwardly sincere, outwardly just and true, outwardly faithful and upright; he may outwardly speak the truth, he may outwardly confess the Lord, he may outwardly do good, outwardly keep the commandments; yet, if he be not inwardly sincere, inwardly just and true, inwardly faithful and upright, if he speaketh not the truth in his heart, nor confessed the Lord in his silent meditations, if he does not inwardly do good, if he does not inwardly keep the commandments, all those things which he does outwardly are of no avail in the sight of heaven. He is still unregenerate; the lusts of evil still dominate his internal thought, which is to dominate the man—for the internal will and thought make the man—he is a whited sepulchre, that is, within full of the bones of the dead and all uncleanness, full of hypocrisy and iniquity; and a church in which this state dominates its thought and life is a dead church, making the establishment of a new church a necessity in order that men may be saved. In the establishment of a new church there is hope for the human race; for since the Last Judgment has been accomplished, man may become pure in heart and see God, may shun the lusts of evil as sins against God; and in the state established by the removal of lusts, he will come into the light of heaven, or the light of heaven will descend into his interior thought, and in that light he will see the light of God, he will see God in His own Divine light; and be conjoined with Him.
The spiritual end in view in the series of the Blessings is conjunction with God, and the stages of the process by which conjunction with God is reached is presented to view in the internal sense. The continual repetition of the word blessed shows that this is the end throughout the series. Blessing, in its universal sense, is nothing else than conjunction; for conjunction with God is heaven itself, and the source of all its happiness and delight. This is the reward, which we are told will be "great" in heaven, for which the angels rejoice, and are exceeding glad to all eternity.
There are two distinct steps or stages in the process of being conjoined with God. The first is by the regeneration of the internal man, and the second is by the regeneration of the external man through the internal. By the regeneration of the internal man, the state is reached in which the church or the man of the church is said to see God, a state that is essential before conjunction is made final and complete—made final and complete by the regeneration of the external man.
Illustration or spiritual enlightenment is the subject of the latter clause of the text, "For they shall see God." We learn from the Heavenly Doctrine that the meaning of these words is that the genuine truth of doctrine appears to those only who are in illustration from the Lord, and they only come into that illustration, into that heavenly light, so as to be able to remain in it, in whom evils have been dislodged in their internal man, in whom spiritual good or spiritual love has descended from heaven into their interior natural, and who consequently love truth because it is truth, and because truths are for the uses of life.
These are they who are in illustration when they read the Word; these are they who are in illustration when they read the Writings; these are they that see the Lord in His Word; these are they that see the Lord in His spiritual Word, as He comes a second time among men; and this state is the New Jerusalem descended from heaven to earth, the city which "has no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there." Amen.
Lessons: Joshua 7: 1-15. Matthew 23: