The Word Teaches Nothing but Love to the Lord and Charity Towards the Neighbour


Preached in Parkdale, 26th July, 1891, published in New Church Tidings, no 95, December 1892.

“On these two commandments all the Law and the Prophets depend.”—(Matt. xxii, 40).

“By ‘the Law and the Prophets’ is understood the WORD in all and single things, therefore by those words it is under­stood that all and single things of the WORD depend on the good of love to the LORD, and on the good of charity towards the neighbour.”—(A. E. 597).

It is not uncommon for those professing to be of the New Church to quote these two commandments as all that are essential for the Church, and thus to reason for the exclusion, or unessential nature, of various particular laws. But the importance of these two laws is not of an exclusive nature, their pre-eminent importance altogether de­pends on their being inclusive of all the particulars of the law. It cannot rightly be said that these two laws are essential and others non-essential. For the statement of the text does not mean that all the particulars of the Law and the Prophets depend from them as appendages which may be lopped off or not, at pleasure, without making any essential difference in their quality. On the contrary they are universal laws. They so include all the particulars of the Divine Law from beginning to end that not one of those particulars can be wilfully disobeyed without break­ing these two laws. We can therefore rightly say that these two laws are all that the Church really requires, if we understand them as inclusive of all Divine Law; but not if we regard them as exclusive of any. The whole WORD, as it is revealed to us in the Writings, teaches man nothing else but details of these two commandments. It is not possible to really believe in these two command­ments, and at the same time to disbelieve the particulars which compose them. That would be to profess belief in a whole and at the same time to deny the existence of the parts of that whole; an insane proposition of which we would not be likely to be guilty on the natural plane, but which is only too common on the spiritual plane. Our understanding of these two commands is full, according to the proportion in which the particulars of the WORD enter into and form it, and is necessarily meagre in proportion as knowledge of those particulars is lacking. All nominal Christians profess a full belief in these two command­ments of love to the LORD and the neighbour; and yet most are fully satisfied to remain in states of denial of the particulars which are essential to a true understanding of them. Most sad is it to see similar states manifested even in the professed New Church; for there, it would be impos­sible thus to regard those commandments, namely, as being sufficient, to the exclusion of other commands, unless the teachings which the LORD has revealed specially for the New Church were either ignored, or forgotten, or rejected.

“The true doctrine of the Church is the doctrine of charity and faith.”—(Heavenly Doctrine 257).

To love the LORD is to look to Him for all direction and guidance, to look, not in any vague and mysterious way, but to the Written Revelation of His Will which He has provided for us, for all teaching concerning spiritual life. This is the doctrine of faith.

To love the neighbour, is to seek to have all our rela­tions with men, both in the world and in the church, de­termined by the LORD’S teaching, to desire to act towards them not merely as we or they may consider good and kind, but, as nearly as we can learn, in the way which the LORD in His New Advent teaches to be the true way, which is also sure to be the only really good and kind way, however it may appear to men, or however it may be judged by men, to be the opposite.

Thus it is plain that in order to obey these two com­mandments, it is necessary that we faithfully study what the LORD has revealed, and endeavour to put into practice, in our various relations with each other, whatever we may there learn. So far, then, are these two laws from taking any exclusive prominence above the vast shore of detailed teaching which the LORD has given for the New Church, that they of necessity include it all. If we do not study that teaching diligently, we do not love the LORD, for we cannot love Him without loving to know what He teaches; nor can we in the true sense love the neighbour, except by acting towards him as the LORD teaches. The promi­nence of these two commandments therefore is from their inclusiveness. Thus it is that “the teaching of the Church is the teaching of charity and the teaching of faith.”

“The doctrine of faith does not make the Church but the life of faith which is of charity.”—(Heavenly Doctrine 257).

These two commandments are inseparable, that is, one cannot be really obeyed unless the other be obeyed also. We cannot love the LORD unless we love to do what He teaches. But all that He teaches has reference to our relations to each other in the true and orderly performance of uses. Hence it is that no faith regarded merely as faith can make a Church, no mere faith in the Doctrines of the New Advent can make the New Church. However we may profess to admire them, however we put ourselves out of the way to persuade others to accept them—merely so doing will never introduce anything of the New Church into us. It is only the love of life according to faith in the Doctrines of the New Advent that can introduce anything of the New Church into us. Not a love to apply a part of them, for they cannot be deliberately divided without destroying their life, any more than these two commandments, which represent, in their absolute dependence on each other, the relation which exists between all that they include, that is, between all the truths of the WORD. True we can only apply them as to part, but we must love to apply them all, in order that we may be in the endeavour to apply to life all that we can learn of them. If we begin with those of which the application lies near­est to us—those which apply to us as members of the Church, to our daily use and to our homes, we will find that there is an unlimited abundance of teaching belonging to these two commandments. If we begin right in our homes, we will find that married partners must love each other very differently from anything known in the world; we will find that the love which we show to our children is, in spite of our good intention, altogether unwise love, as long as it has no better guide than our own intelligence, a love, therefore, that is spiritually unkind and cruel to­wards them. But it cannot be otherwise if we do not love the LORD in this respect, and seek to learn from Him how we may show our love so that it may promote the eternal welfare of our children—and unless we love the true neigh­bour in them—the remains of Good and Truth, in regard to which it should be the greatest delight of parents to co­operate with the LORD in storing them up, for their future use in regeneration. As the laws of love to the LORD and the neighbour are thus full of particulars applying to our home life—so it is with regard to all life whatsoever—for they include all Revealed Truth

The teaching of faith that is not also the teaching of .charity always becomes the teaching of a false faith. Thus it has been in the former Christian Church. Thus it will be in the New Church when the doctrines are held up merely as worthy of faith, and no prominence is given to the teaching of Charity, that all the truths which the LORD has enabled us to know, have application to our own lives, if we would only seek that application. How is it that in our reading of the Writings, we are able to see so little of the application of what is there taught to our own daily Jives? Just because such application is so little sought. The Writings are too little read by the professed members of the New Church anyway ; but even of those who do read, very few give evidence that in their reading of them they seek for the application of the teaching thereof to their own lives. The LORD only promises spiritual blessings to those who seek them. Those who, in their reading, do not seek bow to apply truth to their own lives, can only receive thereby the mere doctrine of faith ; but those who do so seek, are thereby enabled to receive also the doctrine of charity.

Some, on the other hand, want to have the doctrine of -charity without the doctrine of faith—which is the same as to wish to obey the law of love to the neighbour, with- out obeying the ‘law of love to the LORD. Such people deprecate Theology, and object to doctrinal teaching, on the plea that they want something more practical. But any teaching which is divorced from the doctrine of the true faith can be practical only on the merely natural plane. Teaching, order to be practical on the spiritual plane, must be from a spiritual origin, yea from the LORD’S own Revelation of Himself. The truths of that Revelation are all practical if we only love them enough to seek and learn their application. Every truth which is from the LORD expresses His Love—every truth which we learn from Him will express real love to the neighbour if we only tarry it out into practice.

We are taught that

“The Church would be one if they were acknowledged for men of the Church from life, thus from charity.”—(Heavenly Doctrine 257)

If all, in their study of the Doctrines, had the application of them to their own lives–for that is the Charity meant —primarily in view, it would lead to a true understanding -of them, such as is not possible otherwise. All genuine truths are in harmony with each other, so is all genuine understanding of truth, however various it may be. Hence, if charity were primarily regarded, there would be a harmonious understanding of the doctrines, and therefore one Church. Externally, indeed, it might be divided into many varieties, for the sake of various uses, but internally it would be one, and even externally it would also be one in sympathy and mutual helpfulness. The Charity, however, which brings about this unity, is not a charity divorced from faith, but Charity indissolubly conjoined to the one only true faith.

Thus the teaching of the Writings does not show that opposite interpretations of the Doctrines, derived from diverse understanding thereof, could be made to work together by Charity. It would be simply impossible; and anyone who tried to do anything like it on the business plane would be pronounced insane. For who ever heard of any intelligent business man trying to conduct his business by the help of managers who acted from opposite principles and by opposite methods, thinking that the fact that the work of the one undid or hindered the work of the other would be of no consequence, if only they tried to palliate it with smooth words, and each suppressed that love of his use which otherwise could not but be excited to zeal against that which hindered and opposed it. The effect of true Charity is deeper—it does not cause opposite understandings to work together, but it tends to make opposite understanding of what the LORD teaches impossible. For the real love of doing the truth for the sake of the truth, of doing it because it expresses the LORD’S will, inevitably leads towards understanding of the truth, to various understandings of it, indeed, but, however various, always harmonious. It is thus that Charity would make the Church one—it is thus that we should regard opposing interpretations of Doctrines, not as something to be smoothed over by what the world calls charity, which can-only be at the expense of suppression of our love of truth for the sake of truth, if we have such love, but as evidence that there must be a lack of charity which must be shunned as sin against God, and of which opposite and unharmonious understanding of the Doctrines is only the legitimate result. If this genuine charity is not present therein, then evil is therein, that is, some forum of the love of leading ourselves— the essential root of all discord—which only seeks and finds in the Doctrine confirmation of the self-intelligence which supports and justifies that love.

“For between the LORD and faith, the good which is of charity intercedes, without this interceding spiritual com- munication is not given, influx without an intermediate does not take place. If evil is in the place of good, it drives away the LORD, and rejects or perverts all things which are of the LORD, thus all things which are of faith, for faith is from Him through good.”—(Arcana Coelestia 4672).

Because evil is present wherever charity is absent, and because evil always tends to falsify the truth, whenever charity is not present, whenever there is not the desire to apply to our own lives the truths we learn, then we will surely fall into errors concerning those truths, and will gradually become more and more unable to see truths in their own light, thus unable to see them otherwise than falsified. Formerly, those who thus regarded the doctrine of faith, and not that doctrine of charity which teaches application of the truth to one-self, were called uncircum- cised or Philistines. They were called uncircumsised be- cause they did not put away their natural tvil loves. It is only the truth that can reveal to us the true character of our natural loves and affections ; and moreover the truth only does reveal it to those who are in charity, who are in the desire to use the truths, which the LORD has placed within their reach, for the regeneration of their own lives.

We thus learn the teaching “that the WORD is not understood without Doctrine from the WORD,” in a slightly more particular form, namely, that it is not understood without both the doctrine of faith and the doctrine of charity—unless faith leads us to look to the LORD for all truth, and to act towards the neighbour according to the truth so received. This will enable us to see that all truths of the WORD rest in the two commandments referred to in the text, each and every one of them forming some essential part thereof. There are no unessential truths among those which the LORD has revealed, they all form essential parts of the law of love to the LORD and of love to the neighbour. Many of these truths may appear to the natural man as not at all expressive of love, but let us ever resist being governed by mere external appearances, let us seek to carry out each truth, because it is truth, that is because it is from the LORD, then, however hard or harsh it may have at first appeared, we will gradually come into a perception of the good of love within it, which makes all truths, all commands, one; each of them essential in their place in regard to the whole, and none to be made light of, or put aside as non-essential—for all truths of the law and the prophets, thus all the truths of the WORD, every one that the LORD has revealed, rest in and are essential to the two commandments of love to the LORD and the neighbour. If we are altogether without those particulars, our under­standing of these two commands can be but a merely natural one; only as we begin to understand the particulars thereof, do we begin to spiritually understand those com­mands, the understanding of which can only be grad­ually perfected as we learn from the LORD in His New Advent the innumerable practical particulars which enter into the practice of them. When we enter upon the endeavour to learn to know the LORD as He has now revealed Himself for man’s rational mind, we enter upon the study of the infinite, and however we progress, even to eternity, we will always be infinitely far from exhaust­ively knowing Him—so therefore must it ever be with regard both to our knowledge and practice of the law of love to the LORD; so also is it derivatively in regard to the law of love to the neighbour, for it is only what is of the LORD in him that is truly the neighbour. Not only does our knowledge and practice of these two commands depend upon our knowledge of the LORD who is Infinite, but also upon knowledge of how to rightly love Him and the neighbour. Hence it is that nothing less than the Revel­ation of the Internal Sense of the WORD as given in the Writings can enable us to enter into any rational understanding and practice of them. “On these two commandments all the Law and the Prophets depend.”

About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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