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V. What Religion Consists In
Religion with man consists in a life according to the Divine
commandments, which are contained in a summary in the Decalogue. He
that does not live according to these can have no religion, since he
does not fear God, still less does he love God; nor does he fear man,
still less does he love him. Can one who steals, commits adultery,
kills, bears false witness fear God or man? Nevertheless everyone is
able to live according to these commandments; and he who is wise does so
live as a civil man, as a moral man, and as a natural man. And yet he
who does not live according to them as a spiritual man cannot be saved;
since to live according to them as a spiritual man means to live so for
the sake of the Divine that is in them, while to live according to them
as a civil man means for the sake of justice and to escape punishments
in the world; and to live according to them as a moral man means for the
sake of honesty, and to escape the loss of reputation and honor; while
to live according to them as a natural man means for the sake of what is
human, and to escape the repute of having an unsound mind.
All laws, civil, moral, and natural, prescribe that one must not steal,
must not commit adultery, must not kill, must not bear false witness;
and yet a man is saved not by shunning these evils from these laws
alone, but by shunning them also from spiritual law, thus shunning them
as sins. For with such a man there is religion, and a belief that there
is a God, a heaven and a hell, and a life after death; with such a man
there is a civil life, a moral life, and a natural life; a civil life
because there is justice, a moral life because there is honesty, and a
natural life because there is manhood.
But he who does not live according to these commandments as a spiritual
man is neither a civil man, nor a moral man, nor a natural man; for he
is destitute of justice, of honesty, and even of manhood, since the
Divine is not in these. For there can be nothing good in and from
itself, but only from God; so there can be nothing just, nothing truly
honest or truly human in itself and from itself, but only from God, and
only when the Divine is in it. Consider whether anyone who has hell in
him, or who is a devil, can do what is just from justice or for the sake
of justice; in like manner what is honest, or what is truly human. The
truly human is what is from order and according to order, and what is
from sound reason; and God is order, and sound reason is from God. In a
word, he who does not shun evils as sins is not a man. Everyone who
makes these commandments to belong to his religion becomes a citizen and
an inhabitant of heaven; but he who does not make them to belong to his
religion, although in externals he may live according to them from
natural, moral, and civil law, becomes a citizen and an inhabitant of
the world, but not of heaven.
Most nations possess a knowledge of these commandments, and make them
the commandments of their religion, and live according to them because
God so wills and has commanded; and through this they have communication
with heaven and conjunction with God, consequently they are saved. But
most in the Christian world at this day do not make them the
commandments of their religion, but only of their civil and moral life;
and they do this that they may not appear in external form to act
fraudulently and make unlawful gains, commit adulteries, manifestly
pursue others from deadly hatred and revenge, and bear false witness,
and do not refrain from these things because they are sins and against
God, but because they have fears for their life, their reputation, their
office, their business, their possessions, their honor and gain, and
their pleasure; consequently if they were not restrained by these bonds
they would do these things. Because, therefore, such form for
themselves no communication with heaven or conjunction with the Lord,
but only with the world and with self, they cannot be saved.
Consider is respect to yourself, when these external bonds have been
taken away, as is done with every man after death, if there are no
internal bonds, which are from fear and love of God, thus from religion,
to restrain and hold you back, whether you would not rush like a devil
into thefts, adulteries, murders, false witnesses, and lusts of every
kind, from a love of these and a delight in them. That this is the case
I have both seen and heard. (A.E., n. 948.)
So far as evils are set aside as sins so far goods flow in, and so far
does man afterward do goods, not from self, but from the Lord.
- As, first, so far as one does not worship other gods, and thus does not
love self and the world above all things, so far acknowledgment of God
flows in from the Lord, and then he worships God, not from self but from
- Secondly, so far as one does not profane the name of God, that is, so
far as he shuns the lusts arising from the loves of self and of the
world, so far he loves the holy things of the Word and of the church;
for these are the name of God, and are profaned by the lusts arising
from the loves of self and of the world.
- Thirdly, so far as one shuns thefts, and thus shuns frauds and unlawful
gains, so far sincerity and justice enter, and he loves what is sincere
and just from sincerity and justice, and thus does what is sincere and
just not from self but from the Lord.
- Fourthly, so far as one shuns adulteries and thus shuns unchaste and
filthy thoughts, so far marriage love enters, which is the inmost love
of heaven, and in which chastity itself has its seat.
- Fifthly, so far as one shuns murders, and thus shuns deadly hatreds and
revenges that breathe murder, so far the Lord enters with mercy and
- Sixthly, so far as one shuns false testimonies, and thus shuns lies and
blasphemies, so far truth from the Lord enters.
- Seventhly, so far as one shuns a covetousness for the house of others,
and thus shuns the love and consequent lusts for possessing the goods of
others, so far charity toward the neighbor enters from the Lord.
- Eighthly, so far as one shuns a covetousness for the wives of others,
their servants, etc., and thus shuns the love and consequent lusts of
ruling over others (for the things enumerated in this commandment are
what belong to man), so far love to the Lord enters.
These eight commandments include the evils that must be shunned, but the
two others, namely, the third and fourth, include certain things that
must be done, namely, that the Sabbath must be kept holy, and that
parents must be honored. But how these two commandments should be
understood, not by men of the Jewish church but by men of the Christian
church, will be told elsewhere. (A.E., n. 949).
Links to Additional Media for Spiritual Life and the Word of God by Emanuel Swedenborg such as audio and ebooks are located at the bottom of this web page.