All actions from self are sin


[1 of 1] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Sin" (search under Outer Life/Doctrine, Rites, Scriptures)": source "Spiritual Experiences, vol.2": detail "Section 1559 - 1561"
A spiritual mental image is one that a person thinks when living as a spirit and thus acting as if separately from the body. These are richer mental images, more perceptible of the matters being thought about.
 This can be made clear, for example, from the fact that in a spiritual mental image, one can vividly realize and understand how it is that we cannot ever think or do anything at all on our own power, that is not a sin. Even when we intend goodness on our own, thus our own conversion, and repentance, from self, it is still sin, and in fact, not only in general, but in every least detail.
 All this can be presented in a spiritual mental image, and actually shown; and it has been shown to me at times when I have considered, I should think in this way, because it is not allowed to think in that. Thus I was thinking what I considered the good thing, in fact, the best thing. Nevertheless, I realized that it was sin, because it was from myself. For example, even when I was trying to turn myself to the Lord, and thus attach something good to myself, such as the goodness of belief, the goodness of obedience, the goodness of doing what is commanded in the Word [Bible], I still understood that it was sin, down to the least, even the very least details. So there is nothing in man but what is filthy and contaminated.
 Being thus upset, even to a point of indignation, that I had therefore been unable to do anything whatever of good, the spirits also were upset even to a point of indignation, saying that now they do not know what good they can do—because it is commanded to do good.
 From all this it obviously follows that in us there can be nothing good, but that all good is of the Lord, and that we may not ascribe to ourself any goodness, still less any faith. This is part and parcel of faith, and because it is, it also comes as a gift. For when I think, also from my own power, that this is a gift of the Lord, and that it therefore must be left to the Lord to work goodness in me, even this is sin, because from my own effort.
 Therefore, whichever way one turns, on one's own power, it is sin; so all good is of the Lord. But because this cannot be seen without a spiritual mental image apart from the body, I can understand that it is something incredible to people on earth, but I can nevertheless testify that it is the case.
 So whenever upon self-reflection we consider we are thinking good, or doing good, this comes from our ego, from some love, desire, craving. And whenever one attributes this to oneself, it is sin in every particular. So the good that is given by the Lord is done when we are not reflecting from our own effort, that is, when we are unaware of it, according to the Lord's Word, that man is reborn while he is unaware of it.