Refrain from evil


[1 of 1] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Actions, relation to intentions" (search under Inner Life/Teachings)": source "Apocalypse Explained, vol.6": detail "Section 1152"
It was said above, that it is a law of the Divine Providence, that man himself should compel himself, which means that he should compel himself from evil, but not to good; he is permitted to compel himself from evil, but it is not granted to compel himself to good which in itself is good. For if he compels himself to good, and has not compelled himself from evil, he does not do good from the Lord, but from himself, for he compels himself to it for the sake of himself, or of the world, or recompense, or from fear, this good in itself is not good, because the man himself, the world, or recompense, is in it as its end, but not good itself, thus neither the Lord; it is moreover not fear but love that causes good to be good.
 For example, were a man to compel himself to do good to his neighbor, to give to the poor, to endow churches, to do justice, consequently, to perform deeds of charity and truth, before he had compelled himself to abstain from evils, and had by that means removed them, it would be like a palliative mode of treatment, by which a disease or ulcer is healed externally, or it would be like an adulterer compelling himself to chastity, a proud man to humility, and a dishonest man to sincerity, by mere external acts. But when a man compels himself to abstain from evils, he then purifies his internal, and when this is done he does good from freedom, without compelling himself to do it; for so far as a man compels himself to abstain from evil, so far he comes into celestial freedom, and from this freedom is every thing good which is good in itself; he does not therefore compel himself to it. It appears indeed as if there were a close connection between compelling oneself to abstain from evil and compelling oneself to good, but there is no such connection.
 From the evidence of experience I know that many have compelled themselves to do good, but not to abstain from evils; but when they were explored, it was discovered that evils from within were inherent in the good which they did; their good therefore was compared with idols and with images made either of clay or dung. And I was told, that such persons believe that God is gained over by glorification and the offerings, even though they proceed from an impure heart. Nevertheless, before the eyes of the world, a man may compel himself to good, although he does not compel himself to abstain from evils, since in the world he is rewarded on that account; for in the world that which is external is regarded, seldom that which is internal; but in the presence of God it is otherwise.