Repentance in practice


[1 of 1] Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden): primary subject "Help, from God" (search under Inner Life/Teachings)": source "Divine Providence": detail "Section 183 - 184"
It does not seem likely that if a man saw divine providence and its activity plainly he would deny God; it would seem that he could not but acknowledge it and thus acknowledge God. Yet the contrary is true. Divine providence never acts in keeping with the love of man's will, but constantly against it. For the human being by force of his hereditary evil is ever panting for the lowest hell, but the Lord in his providence is constantly leading him away and withdrawing him from it, first to a milder hell, then away from hell, and finally to himself in heaven.
 This activity of divine providence is perpetual. If, then, man saw or felt this withdrawing and leading away, he would be angered, consider God his enemy, and deny him on account of the evil of his selfhood. In order that man may not know of it, therefore, he is held in freedom and thereby does not know but that he leads himself.
 But let examples serve for illustration. By heredity man wants to become great and also rich. In the measure in which these loves are not checked he wants to become still greater and richer and finally the greatest and richest; even so he would not rest, but would want to become greater than God himself and possess heaven itself. This lust is hidden deep in hereditary evil and consequently in man's life and in the nature of his life. Divine providence does not remove this evil in a moment; if it were removed in a moment man would cease to live; but divine providence removes it quietly and gradually without man's knowing of it. It does this by letting man act according to the thinking which he deems rational; then by various means, rational and also civil and moral, it leads him away and withdraws him so far as he can be withdrawn in freedom. Nor can evil be removed from anyone unless it comes out and is seen and acknowledged; it is like a wound which heals only when opened.
 If, therefore, man knew and saw that the Lord in his divine providence works in this way against his life's love, the source of his highest enjoyment, he could not but go in the opposite direction, be enraged, rebel, say harsh things, and finally, on account of his evil, brush aside the activity of divine providence, denying it and so denying God. He would do this especially if he saw success thwarted or saw himself lowered in standing or deprived of wealth.
 But it is to be known that the Lord in no wise leads man away from seeking position and acquiring wealth, but leads him away from the lust of seeking position solely for the sake of eminence or for his own sake, and also from acquiring wealth for its own sake or just to have it. Leading the man away, he introduces him into the love of uses so that he may regard eminence not for his own sake but for the sake of uses, thus as attached to uses and only so to himself, and not as attached to him and then to the uses; the same applies to wealth. At many places in the Word [Bible] the Lord himself teaches that he continually humbles the proud and exalts the humble; what he teaches in it is also of his divine providence.
 Any other evil in which man is by heredity is dealt with in like manner, such as adultery, fraud, vengeance, blasphemy, and other similar evils, none of which can be removed except as freedom to think and will them is left to man for him to remove them as if of himself. Nevertheless he can do this only as he acknowledges divine providence and prays that it may be done by it. Apart from this freedom and from divine providence at the same time, the evils would be like poison shut in and not driven out, which would spread quickly and consign all parts to death, or would be like disease of the heart itself, from which the whole body soon dies.