The Laws of the Divine Providence
No external compulsion to religion
NO ONE IS REFORMED BY THREATS AND PUNISHMENTS, BECAUSE THEY COMPEL.
O Jehovah, are not Thine eyes upon faithfulness? Thou hast smitten them, but they have not travailed; Thou hast consumed them all, but they have refused to receive discipline; they have made their faces firmer than a rock; they have refused to return. Jeremiah 5:3
DP 136. First: The external cannot compel the internal, but the internal can compel the external. Who can be compelled to believe and to love? ...But the internal may be compelled by the external not to speak ill of the laws of the kingdom, the moralities of life, and the sanctities of the church; thus far the internal may be compelled by threats and punishments; and it is so compelled and ought to be. Secondly: The internal is so averse to compulsion by the external that it turns itself away. This is because the internal wishes to be in freedom.... Consequently when freedom feels itself to be compelled it withdraws as it were within itself and turns itself away, and looks upon compulsion as its enemy.... Thirdly: External enjoyments allure the internal to consent, and also to love.... In the spiritual world all children are led by the Lord into angelic wisdom, and through that into heavenly love, by means of things enjoyable and pleasing; first by means of beautiful things in their homes, and by means of pleasing things in gardens; then by means of representatives of spiritual things, which affect the interiors of their minds with pleasure; and finally by means of truths of wisdom, and so by means of goods of love. Fourthly: A compelled internal and a free internal are possible. A compelled internal is possible in such as are in external worship only and in no internal worship.... Such is the state of those who worship men living and dead, and thus worship idols, and whose faith is based on miracles.... A compelled internal is also possible in such as are in the internal of worship.... It can be compelled by love and by a fear of losing love. In its true sense the fear of God is nothing else....
DP 137. ...Compelled worship is corporeal, lifeless, darkened, and sad; corporeal because it is of the body and not of the mind, lifeless because there is no life in it, darkened because there is no understanding in it, and sad because there is no enjoyment of heaven in it. But worship not compelled, when it is genuine, is spiritual, living, clear, and joyful; spiritual because there is spirit from the Lord in it, living because there is life from the Lord in it, clear because there is wisdom from the Lord in it, and joyful because there is heaven from the Lord in it. DP 139. No one is reformed in a state of fear, because fear takes away freedom and reason, or liberty and rationality; for while love opens the interiors of the mind fear closes them; and when they are closed man thinks but little, and only of what then presents itself to the mind or the senses. The internal of thought is not closed by a fear of civil punishments or of external ecclesiastical punishments, because such laws only prescribe penalties for those who speak and act contrary to the civil interests of the kingdom and the spiritual interests of the church, and not for those who merely think in opposition to them.
A fear of infernal punishments may take possession of the external of thought, but only for a few moments or hours or days; it is soon brought back to its freedom from the internal of thought, which belongs strictly to its spirit and its life’s love, and is called the thought of the heart.
But a fear of the loss of honor and gain takes possession of the external of man’s thought; and when it does this it closes the internal of thought from above against influx from heaven, and makes it impossible for man to be reformed.
DP 140. By "fearing God" is meant fearing to offend Him, "offending God" meaning to sin. This fear is not a matter of fear but of love, for when one loves another does he not fear to do him wrong? And does he not fear this the more, the more he loves? Without such a fear love is insipid and superficial, a mere matter of the thought and not at all of the will.
Questions and Comments
- If the punishments of the Old Testament were so constant, even though they seemed to be so ineffective on their spirit, should we punish children if it only seems to make them more stubborn at times?
- We are taught that man can and should be compelled externally not to speak and act against civil law, moral law and the holy things of the church. Would such compulsion take away spiritual freedom or the freedom of religion? Why is such compulsion basically lacking in western civilization if it “ought to be” there?
- Looking at the harmful effects of compulsion versus the way children are educated in heaven, what lessons can we learn about teaching children and helping others? Why is it different in this world? What is the proper balance we can achieve in this world?
- We are taught in DP 136, “to compel men to Divine worship by threats and punishments is pernicious,” and we are then given a comparison between compelled worship, and free worship. We are also taught in AR 159 that the difference between dead worship and living worship is not in the rituals and external forms. So what does this mean about how we should worship the Lord?
- We are taught, “the fear that takes possession of the external of thought and closes the internal is chiefly a fear of the loss of honor or gain” (DP 139). What does this say about life in New Church congregations? How can this fear not be a leading motivation when morality in all its virtues is so vital for the life of the church?
- What is the difference between fear of hell and holy fear? How are they similar and how are they different? Why does fear of hell not close up the internal mind against the Lord and what is heavenly? How can fear of hell help lead to genuine holy fear? How can we develop holy fear?