The Fifth Commandment

[This is taken from Emanuel Swedenborg's Spiritual Life and the Word of God.]

The fifth commandment is, “Thou shalt not steal.”  By “thefts” both open thefts and those not open are meant, such as unlawful usury and gains, which are effected by fraud and craft under various pretenses to make them appear lawful, or so done clandestinely as not to appear at all.  Such gains are commonly made by higher and lower managers of the goods of others, by merchants, also by judges who sell judgments and thus make justice purchasable.  These and many other things are thefts that must be abstained from and shunned, and finally renounced as sins against God, because they are against the Divine laws that are in the Word and against this law, which is one among the fundamental laws of all religions in the whole globe.  For these ten commandments are universals, given to the end that in living from these a man may live from religion, since by a life from religion man is conjoined with heaven, while a life according to these from obedience to civil and moral law conjoins man with the world and not with heaven, and to be conjoined with the world and not with heaven is to conjoined with hell.  (A.E., n. 967.)

Man is so created as to be an image of heaven and an image of the world, for he is a microcosm.  He is born of his parents an image of the world, and he is born again to be an image of heaven.  To be born again is to be regenerated; and man is regenerated by the Lord by means of truths from the Word and a life according to them.  Man is an image of the world in respect to his natural mind, and he is an image of heaven in respect to his spiritual mind.  The natural mind, which is the world, is beneath; and the spiritual mind, which is heaven, is above.  The natural mind is full of all kinds of evil, such as thefts, adulteries, murders, false witnesses, covetousnesses, and even blasphemies and profanations respecting God.  These evils and many others have their seat in that mind, for the loves of them are there, and thus the delights of thinking, willing, and doing them.

These things are inborn in that mind from parents, for man is born and grows up into the things that are in that mind, and is restrained only by the bonds of civil law and by the bonds of moral life from doing them, and from thus manifesting the tendencies of his depraved will.  Who cannot see that the Lord cannot flow in out of heaven into man and teach him and lead him until these evils have been removed? For they obstruct, repel, pervert, and suffocate the truths and goods of heaven, which present themselves from above, press down, and strive to flow in.  For evils are infernal and goods are heavenly, and everything infernal burns with hatred against everything heavenly.

This makes clear that before the Lord can flow in with heaven out of heaven and form man to the image of heaven, those evils that lie heaped up in the natural mind must needs be removed.  Moreover, as the removal of evils must come first before man can be taught and led by the Lord, the reason is evident why in eight commandments of the Decalogue the evil works that must not be done are recounted, but not the good works that must be done.  Good does not exist together with evil, nor does it exist until evils have been removed; for until then there is no way possible from heaven into man.  Man is like a dark sea, the waters of which must be removed on either side before the Lord in a cloud and in fire can give a passage to the sons of Israel.  The “dark sea” signifies hell, “Pharaoh with the Egyptians” the natural man, and “the sons of Israel” the spiritual man. (A.E., n. 969.)

Communication with heaven is not possible until the evils and the falsities therefrom with which the natural mind is stopped up have been removed; for these are like black clouds between the sun and the eye, or like a wall between the light of heaven and the lumen of a candle in a chamber. For so long as a man is in the lumen of the natural man only he is like one shut up in a chamber where he sees by a candle.  But as soon as the natural man has been purified from evils and falsities therefrom he is as if he saw through windows in the wall the things of heaven from the light of heaven.  For as soon as evils have been removed, the higher mind, which is called the spiritual mind, is opened, and this, viewed in itself, is a type or image of heaven.  Through this mind the Lord flows in and enables man to see from the light of heaven, and through this He also reforms and at length regenerates the natural man, and implants in it truths in the place of falsities and goods in the place of evils.  This the Lord does through spiritual love, which is a love for truth and good.  Man is then placed in the midst between two loves, between the love of evil and the love of good; and when the love of evil recedes the love of good takes its place.  The love of evil recedes solely through a life according to the commandments of the Decalogue, that is, through refraining from evils there enumerated because they are sins, and finally shunning them as infernal.

In a word, so long as man does not refrain from evils because they are sins the spiritual mind is shut; but as soon as he refrains from evils because they are sins the spiritual mind is opened, and with that mind heaven also. And when heaven is opened man comes into another light in respect to all things of the church, heaven, and eternal life; although so long as man lives in this world the difference between this and the former light is scarcely noticeable, and for the reason that in the world man thinks naturally even about spiritual things, and until he passes from the natural into the spiritual world spiritual things are enclosed in natural ideas; but in the spiritual world spiritual things are disclosed, perceived, and made evident. (A.E., n. 970.)

So far as man refrains from evils and shuns and turns away from them as sins, good flows in from the Lord.  The good that flows in is an affection for knowing and understanding truths, and an affection for willing and doing goods.  But man cannot refrain from evils by shunning and turning away from them of himself, for he himself is in evils from his birth, and thus from nature; and evils cannot of themselves shun evils, for this would be like a man’s shunning his own nature, which is impossible; consequently it must be the Lord, who is Divine good and Divine truth, who causes man to shun them.

Nevertheless, man ought to shun evils as if of himself, for what a man does as if of himself becomes his and is appropriated to him as his own; while what he does not as if of himself in no wise becomes his or is appropriated to him. What comes from the Lord to man must be received by man; and it cannot be received unless he is conscious of it that is, as if of himself.  This reciprocation is a necessity to reformation.

This is why the ten commandments were given, and why it is commanded in them that man shall not worship other gods, shall not profane the name of God, shall not steal, shall not commit adultery, shall not kill, shall not covet the house, wife, or servants of another, thus that man shall refrain from doing these things by thinking, when the love of evil allures and incites, that they must not be done because they are sins against God, and in themselves are infernal.  So far, therefore, as a man shuns these evils so far the love of truth and good enters from the Lord; and this love causes man to shun these evils, and at length to turn away from them as sins.  And as the love of truth and good puts these evils to flight it follows that man shuns them not from himself but from the Lord, since the love of truth and good is from the Lord.  If a man shuns evils merely from a fear of hell they are withdrawn; but goods do not take their place; for as soon as the fear departs the evils return.

To man alone is it granted to think as if of himself about good and evil, that is, that good must be loved and done because it is Divine and remains to eternity, and that evil must be hated and not done because it is devilish and remains to eternity.  To think thus is not granted to any beast.  A beast can do good and shun evil, yet not of itself, but either from instinct or habit or fear, and never from the thought that such a thing is a good or an evil, thus not of itself.  Consequently, one who would have it believed that man shuns evils or does goods not as if of himself but from an imperceptible influx, or from the imputation of the Lord’s merit, would also have it believed that man lives like a beast, without thought of, or perception of, or affection for, truth and good.

That this is so has been made clear to me from manifold experience in the spiritual world.  Every man after death is there prepared either for heaven or for hell.  From the man who is prepared for heaven evils are removed, and from the man who is prepared for hell goods are removed; and all such removals are effected as if by them.  Likewise those who do evils are driven by punishments to reject them as if of themselves; but if they do not reject them as if of themselves the punishments are of no avail.  By this it was made clear that those who hang down their hands, waiting for influx or for the imputation of the Lord’s merit, continue in the state of their evil and hang down their hands forever.

To shun evils as sins is to shun the infernal societies that are in them, and man cannot shun these unless he repels them and turns away from them; and a man cannot turn away from them with repulsion unless he loves good and from that love does not will evil.  For a man must either will evil or will good; and so far as he wills good he does not will evil; and it is granted him to will good when he makes the commandments of the Decalogue to be of his religion, and lives according to them.

Since man must refrain from evils as sins as if of himself, these ten commandments were inscribed by the Lord on two tables, and these were called a covenant; and this covenant was entered into in the same way as it is usual to enter into covenants between two, that is, one proposes and the other accepts, and the one who accepts consents.  If he does not consent the covenant is not established.  To consent to this covenant is to think, will, and do as if of oneself.  Man’s thinking to shun evil and to do good as if of himself is done not by man, but by the Lord.

This is done by the Lord for the sake of reciprocation and consequent conjunction; for the Lord’s Divine love is such that it wills that what is its own shall be man’s, and as these things cannot be man’s, because they are Divine, it makes them to be as if they were man’s.  In this way reciprocal conjunction is effected, that is, that man is in the Lord and the Lord in man, according to the words of the Lord Himself in John (xiv. 20); for this would not be possible if there were not in the conjunction something belonging as it were to man.  What man does as if of himself he does as if of his will, of his affection, of his freedom, consequently of his life.  Unless these were present on man’s part as if they were his there could be no receptivity, because nothing reactive, thus no covenant and no conjunction; in fact, no ground whatever for the imputation that man had done evil or good or had believed truth or falsity, thus that there is from merit a hell for anyone because of evil works, or from grace a heaven for anyone because of good works.  (A.E., n. 971.)

He who refrains from thefts, understood in a broad sense, and even shuns them from any other cause than religion and for the sake of eternal life, is not cleansed of them; for only by such refraining is heaven opened.  For it is through heaven that the Lord removes evils in man, as through heaven He removes the hells.  For example, there are higher and lower managers of property, merchants, judges, officers of every kind, and workmen, who refrain from thefts, that is, from unlawful modes of gain and usury, and who shun these, but only to secure reputation and thus honor and gain, and because of civil and moral laws, in a word, from some natural love or natural fear, thus from merely external constraints, and not from religion; but the interiors of such are full of thefts and robberies, and these burst forth when external constraints are removed from them, as takes place with everyone after death.  Their sincerity and rectitude is nothing but a mask, a disguise, and a deceit.  (A.E., n. 972.)

So far then as the various kinds and species of theft are removed, and

the more they are removed, the kinds and species of goods to which they

by opposition correspond enter and occupy their place; and these have

reference in general to what is sincere, right and just.  For when a man

shuns and turns away from unlawful gains through fraud and craft he so far wills what is sincere, right, and just, and at length begins to love what is sincere because it is sincere, what is right because it is right, and what is just because it is just.  He begins to love these things because they are from the Lord, and the love of the Lord is in them. For to love the Lord is not to love the person, but to love the things that go forth from the Lord, for these are the Lord in man; thus it is to love sincerity itself, right itself, and justice itself.  And as these are the Lord, so far as a man loves these, and thus acts from them, so far he acts from the Lord and so far the Lord removes insincerity and injustice in respect to the very intentions and volitions in which they have their roots, and always with less resistance and struggle, and therefore with less effort than in the first attempts.  Thus it is that man thinks from conscience and acts from integrity,--not the man of himself but as if of himself; for he then acknowledges from faith and also from perception that it seems as if he thought and did these things from himself, and yet he does them not from himself but from the Lord.  (A.E., n. 973.)

When a man begins to shun and turn away from evils because they are sins all things that he does are good, and may be called good works; with a difference according to the excellence of the use.  For what a man does before he shuns and turns away from evils as sins are works done by the man himself; and as the man’s own (proprium), which is nothing but evil, is in these, and they are done for the sake of the world, so they are evil works.  But the works that a man does after he shuns and turns away from evils as sins are works from the Lord, and because the Lord is in these and heaven with Him they are good works.

The difference between works done by man and works done by the Lord in man is not apparent to man’s vision, but is clearly evident to the vision of angels.  Works done by man are like sepulchers outwardly whitened, which within are full of dead men’s bones.  They are like platters and cups outwardly clean, but containing unclean things of every kind.  They are like fruits inwardly rotten, but with the outer skin still shining; or like nuts and almonds eaten by worms within, while the shell remains untouched; or like a foul harlot with a fair face.  Such are the good works done by man himself, since however good they appear on the outside, within they are full of impurities of every kind; for their interiors are infernal, while their exteriors appear heavenly.

But as soon as man shuns and turns away from evils as sins his works are good not only outwardly but inwardly also; and the more interior they are the more they are good, for the more interior they are the nearer they are to the Lord. Then they are like fruits that have a fine-flavored pulp, in the center of which are depositories with many seeds, from which new trees, even to whole gardens, may be produced; but everything and all things in his natural man are like eggs from which swarms of flying creatures may be produced, and gradually fill a great part of heaven.  In a word, when man shuns and turns away from evils as sins the works that he does are living works, while those that he did before were dead works; for what is from the Lord is living but what is from man is dead.  (A.E., n. 974.)

It has been said that so far as a man shuns and turns away from evils as sins he does goods, and that the goods that he does are such good works as are described in the Word, for the reason that they are done in the Lord; also that these works are good so far as man turns away from the evils opposed to them, because so far they are done by the Lord and not by man.  Nevertheless, works are more or less good according to the excellence of the use; for works must be uses.  The best are those that are done for the sake of uses to the church.  Next in point of goodness come those that are done as uses to one’s country; and so on, the uses determining the goodness of the works.

The goodness of works increases in man according to the fullness of truths from affection for which they are done; since the man who turns away from evils as sins wishes to know truths because truths teach uses and the quality of their good.  This is why good loves truth and truth loves good, and they wish to be conjoined.  So far, therefore, as such a man learns truths from an affection for them so far he does goods more wisely and more fully, more wisely because he knows how to distinguish uses and to do them with judgment and justice, and more fully because all truths are present in the performance of uses, and form the spiritual sphere that the affection for them produces. (A.E., n. 975.)

Take judges for an example: All who make justice venal [purchasable] by loving the office of judging for the sake of gain from judgments, and not for the sake of uses to their country, are thieves, and their judgments are thefts. It is the same if judgments are given according to friendship or favor, for friendships and favors are also profits and gains.  When these are the end and judgments are the means, all things that are done are evil, and are what are meant in the Word by “evil works” and “not doing judgment and justice, perverting the right of the poor, of the needy, of the fatherless, of the widow, and of the innocent.”  And when such do justice, and yet regard profit as the end while they do a good work, to them it is not good; for justice, which is Divine, is to them a means, and such gain is the end; and that which is made the end is everything, while that which is made the means is nothing except so far as it is serviceable to the end. Consequently, after death such judges continued to love what is unjust as well as what is just, and are condemned to hell as thieves.  I say this from what I have seen.  These are such as do not abstain from evils because they are sins, but only because they fear punishments of the civil law and the loss of reputation, honor, and office, and thus of gain.

It is otherwise with judges who abstain from evils as sins and shun them because they are contrary to the Divine laws, and thus contrary to God.  Such make justice their end, and they venerate, cherish, and love it as Divine.  In justice they see God, as it were, because everything just, like everything good and true, is from God.  They always join justice with equity and equity with justice, knowing that justice must be of equity in order to be justice, and that equity must be of justice in order to be equity, the same as truth is of good and good is of truth.

As such make justice their end, their giving judgments is doing good works; yet these works, which are judgments, are to them more or less good as there is in their judgments more or less of regard for friendship, favor, or gain; also as there is more or less in them of a love of what is just for the sake of the public good, which is that justice may prevail among their fellow citizens, and that those who live according to the laws may have security.  Such judges have eternal life in a degree that accords with their works; for they are judged as they themselves have judged. (A.E., n. 976.)

Take as an example managers of the goods of others, higher or lower.  If these secretly by arts or under some pretext by fraud deprive their kings, their country, or their masters of their goods, they have no religion and thus no conscience, for they hold the Divine law respecting theft in contempt and make it of no account.  And although they frequent churches, devoutly listen to preachings, observe the sacrament of the Supper, pray morning and evening, and talk piously from the Word, yet nothing from heaven flows in and is present in their worship, piety, or discourse, since their interiors are full of theft, plundering, robbery, and injustice; and so long as these are within, the way into them from heaven is closed; consequently all the works they do are evil works.

But the managers of property who shun unlawful gains and fraudulent profits because they are contrary to the Divine law respecting theft, have religion, and thus also conscience; and all the works they do are good, for they act from sincerity for the sake of sincerity, and from justice for the sake of justice, and furthermore are content with their own, and are cheerful in mind and glad in heart whenever it happens that they have refrained from fraud; and after death they are welcomed by the angels and received by them as brothers, and are presented with good things even to abundance.  But the opposite is true of evil managers; these after death are cast out of societies, and afterward seek wages and finally are sent into the caverns of robbers to labor there.  (A.E., n. 977.)

Take merchants as an example: All their works are evil works so long as they do not regard as sins, and thus shun as sins, unlawful gains and wrongful usury, also fraud and craft; for such works cannot be done from the Lord, but must be done from man himself.  And the more expert they are in skillfully and artfully contriving devices from within for overreaching their companions the more evil are their works. And the more expert they are in bringing such devices into effect under the pretense of sincerity, justice, and piety, the more evil still are their works.  The more delight a merchant feels in such things the more do his works have their origin in hell.

But if he acts sincerely and justly in order to acquire reputation, and wealth through reputation, even so as to seem to act from a love of sincerity and justice, and yet does not act sincerely and justly from affection for the Divine law or from obedience to it, he is still inwardly insincere and unjust, and his works are thefts, for through a pretense of sincerity and justice he seeks to steal.

That this is so becomes evident after death, when man acts from his inner will and love, and not from the outer; for then he thinks about and devises nothing but sharp practices and robberies, and withdraws himself from those who are sincere, and betakes himself either to forests or deserts, where he devotes himself to stratagems.  In a word, all such become robbers.

But it is otherwise with merchants who shun as sins thefts of every kind, especially the more interior and hidden, which are effected by craft and deceit.  All the works of such are good, because they are from the Lord; for the influx from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord, for accomplishing such works is not intercepted by the evils just mentioned.  To such riches do no harm, because to them riches are means for uses.  Their tradings are the uses by which they serve their country and their fellow citizens; and through their riches they are in a condition to perform those uses to which affection for good leads them.  (A.E., n. 978.)

From what has been said above, what is meant in the Word by good works can now be seen, namely, that they are all works done by man when evils have been set aside as sins. For the works done after this are done by man only as if by him; for they are done by the Lord; and all works done by the Lord are good, and are called goods of life, goods of charity, and good works; as for instance, all judgments of a judge who has justice as his end, all who venerates and loves it as Divine, and who detests as infamous decisions made for the sake of rewards or friendship, or from favor. Thus he consults the good of his country by causing justice and judgment to reign therein as in heaven; and thus he consults the peace of every innocent citizen and protects him from the violence of evildoers.  All these are good works.  So all services of managers and dealings of merchants are good works when they shun unlawful gains as sins against the Divine laws.  When a man shuns evils as sins he daily learns what a good work is, and an affection for doing good grows in him, and an affection for knowing truths for the sake of good; for so far as he knows truths he can perform works more fully and more wisely, and thus his works become more truly good.  Refrain, therefore, from asking in thyself, “What are the good works that I must do, or what good must I do to receive eternal life?”  Only refrain from evils as sins and look to the Lord, and the Lord will teach and lead you.  (A.E., n. 979.)





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