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A Song of degrees of David.
That essential good is the conjunction of good and truth, verse 1; for the good of love must flow into the truth of the external or natural man, verse 2; that the truth of good is from heaven upon those who are of the church, in which is salvation, verse 3.
Verses l, 2, 3. It is impossible to know what these words signify, unless it be known what is signified by brethren, what by the oil upon the head of Aaron, what by his beard, and the hem (or collar) of his garments, and what by the dew of Hermon, and the mountains of Zion; by brethren are there signified good and truth, for these are called brethren in the Word, wherefore by behold how good and how delightful it is for brethren to dwell together, is signified that all celestial good and delight is in the conjunction of good and truth, because they originate in that conjunction. By the oil upon the head, descending upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, that descends upon the hem of his garments, is signified that thence is derived every good and every delight of heaven, from inmost [principles] to ultimates, for by the head is signified what is inmost, by the beard what is ultimate, and by descending upon the hem of his garments is signified the influx and conjunction of celestial good and spiritual good; that in the Word good and truth are called brethren, may be seen, AC 367, 3160; that the head signifies what is inmost, AC 4838, 4939; that the beard signifies what is ultimate, AC 9960; that the hem (or collar) of his garments signifies the influx and conjunction of celestial and spiritual good, consequently of good and truth, AC 9913; and it is said of Aaron, because by Aaron was represented the lord as to Divine good, for all good, and all conjunction of good and truth is from him, see AC 9806, 9966; by the dew of Harmon is signified Divine truths, and by the mountains of Zion is signified Divine good, hence by these words, as the dew of Herman, which descends upon the mountains of Zion, is signified the conjunction of truth and good which is there treated of; and inasmuch as all the spiritual life of men and angels exists by virtue of that conjunction, it is also said, there jehovah has commanded the blessing, even life for ever more; that dew signifies Divine truth, may be seen, AC 3579, 8455. That mountains signify Divine good, and whence this is, AC 795, 4210; and that Zion signifies the church which is principled in the good of love, AC 2362, 9055; hence it is evident what is the nature and quality of the Word in the spiritual sense. AE 375.
As this Psalm treats of mutual love and charity, or the love of the neighbour, it may be well, in this place, to show who and what the neighbour is, and likewise what it is that constitutes true charity. It shall be first shown who and what our neighbour is, as it is our neighbour who is to be loved, and towards whom charity is to be exercised: for unless it be known what our neighbour is, charity may be exercised in a similar manner, without distinction, towards the evil as well as towards the good, whence charity becomes no charity: for the evil, from the benefactions conferred on them, do evil to their neighbour, but the good do good.
It is a common opinion at this day, that every man is equally our neighbour, and that benefits are to be conferred on every one who needs assistance; but it is the business of Christian prudence, to examine well the quality of a man's life, and to exercise charity to him accordingly. The man of the internal church, exercises his charity with discrimination, consequently with intelligence; but the man of the external church, for as much as he is not so able to discern things, does it indiscriminately.
The distinctions of the relationship of neighbour, which the man of the church ought well to know, depend upon the good which is with every one; and for as much as all goods proceed from the lord, therefore the lord is our neighbour in a supreme sense and in a supereminent degree, and the origin of the relationship is from him. Hence it follows that so much of the lord as is resident with any one, in that degree he is our neighbour; and for as much as no one receives the lord, that is, good from him, in the same manner as another, therefore no one is our neighbour in the same manner as another: for all who are in the heavens, and all the good who are on the earth, differ in good; no two ever receive a good that is altogether one and the same; it must be various that each may subsist by itself. But all these varieties, consequently all the distinctions of the relationship of neighbour, which depend on the reception of the lord, that is, on the reception of good from him, can never be known by any man, nor indeed by any angel, except in a general manner, or with respect to their kinds and the species thereof: neither does the lord require any more of the man of the church, than to live according to what he knows.
For as much as good is different with every one, it follows, that the quality of his good determines in what degree and in what proportion any one is our neighbour. That this is the case is plain from the lord's parable concerning him that fell among robbers, who, when half-dead, the priest passed by, and also the Levite; but the Samaritan, after he had bound up his wounds, and poured in oil and wine, took him up on his own beast, and led him to an inn, and ordered that care should be taken of him; he, for as much as he exercised the good of charity, is called his neighbour, Luke 10:29 to 37; whence it may be known that they are our neighbour who are in good: oil and wine which the Samaritan poured into the wounds, also signify good and its truth.
It is plain from what has now been said, that in a universal sense, good is our neighbour, for as much as a man is our neighbour according to the quality of the good that is with him from the lord; and for as much as good is our neighbour so is love, for all good is of love; consequently every man is our neighbour according to the quality of the love which he possesses from the lord.
That love is what causes any one to be our neighbour, and that every one is our neighbour according to the quality of his love, appears manifestly from the case of those who are in the love of self, who acknowledge for their neighbour those who love them most, that is, so far as they are their own favourers, they embrace them, they treat them with kindness, they confer benefits on them, and call them brothers; yea, for as much as they are evil, they say, that these are their neighbour more than others: they esteem others as their neighbour in proportion as they love themselves, thus according to the quality and quantity of their love: such persons derive the origin of the relationship of neighbour from self, by reason that love constitutes and determines it. But they who do not love themselves more than others, as is the case with all who belong to the kingdom of the lord, will derive the origin of the relationship of neighbour from him whom they ought to love above all things, consequently, from the lord; and they will esteem every one as their neighbour according to the quality of his love to him and from him. Hence it appears from whence the origin of the relationship of neighbour is to be drawn by the men of the church; and that every one is our neighbour according to the good which he possesses from the lord, consequently that good itself is our neighbour.
That this is the case, the lord also teaches in Matthew, "for he said to those who were in good, - that they had given him to eat, that they had given him to drink, that they had gathered him, had clothed him, had visited him, and had come to him in prison; and afterwards, that so far as they had done it to one of the least of their brethren, they had done it to him," Matt 25:34 to 40; in these six kinds of good, when understood in the spiritual sense, are comprehended all the kinds of the relationship of neighbour. Hence likewise it is evident, that when good is loved, the lord is loved, for it is the lord from whom good proceeds, who is in good, and who is good itself.
But our neighbour is not only man singly, but also man collectively, as a less or greater society, our country, the church, the lord's kingdom, and above all, the lord himself; these are our neighbour to whom good is to be done from love. These are also the ascending degrees of the relationship of neighbour, for a society consisting of many is our neighbour in a superior degree than a single man is; in a still superior degree is our country; in a still superior degree is the church; and in a still superior degree is the lord's kingdom; but in the supreme degree is the lord: these ascending degrees are as the steps of a ladder, at the top of which is the lord.
A society is our neighbour more than a single man, because it consists of many. Charity is to be exercised towards it in a like manner as towards a man singly, that is, according to the quality of the good that is with it; consequently in a manner totally different towards a society of well-disposed persons, than towards a society of ill-disposed persons: the society is loved when its good is provided for from the love of good.
Our country is our neighbour more than a society, because it is like a parent; for a man is born therein, and is thereby nourished and protected from injuries. Good is to be done to our country from a principle of love according to its necessities, which principally regard its sustenance, and the civil and spiritual life of those therein. He who loves his country, and does good to it from good-will, in the other life loves the lord's kingdom, for there the lord's kingdom is his country, and he who loves the lord's kingdom, loves the lord, because the lord is all in all in his kingdom.
The church is our neighbour more than our country, for he who provides for, or consults the good of the church, provides for the souls and eternal life of the men who dwell in his country; wherefore he who provides for the church from love, loves his neighbour in a superior degree, for he wishes and wills heaven and happiness of life to eternity, to be the portion of others.
The lord's kingdom is our neighbour in a still superior degree, for the lord's kingdom consists of all who are in good, as well those on earth as those in the heavens: thus the lord's kingdom is good with all its quality in the complex: when this is loved, the individuals are loved who are in good.
These are the degrees of the relationship of neighbour, and love ascends, with those who are principled in love towards their neighbour, according to these degrees. But these degrees are degrees in successive order, in which what is prior or superior is to be preferred to what is posterior or inferior; and for as much as the lord is in the supreme degree, and he is to be regarded in each degree as the end to which it tends, consequently he is to be loved above all persons and things. Hence now it may appear, in what manner love to the lord conjoins itself with love towards our neighbour.
It is a common saying, that every one is his own neighbour, that is, that every one should first consider himself; [or, that charity begins at home;] but the doctrine of charity teaches how this is to be understood. Every one should provide for himself the necessaries of life, such as food, clothing, habitation, and other things which the state of civil life, in which he is, necessarily requires, and this not only for himself, but also for his family and dependents, and not only for the present time, but also for the future; for unless a man procures for himself the necessaries of life, he cannot be in a state to exercise charity, for he is in want of all things.
But in what manner every one ought to be his own neighbour may appear from this comparison: every one ought to provide food and clothing for his body; this must be the first object of his attention; but it should be done to the end that he may have a sound mind in a sound body: and every one ought to provide food for his mind, namely such things as are of intelligence and wisdom, to the end that it may thence be in a state to serve his fellow-citizens, human society, his country, and the church, thus the lord. He who does this, provides for his own good to eternity; whence it is plain, that the end, whatever it be, for the sake of which such intermediate things are provided, is the first object of attention, for all other things look thereto. The case herewith is like that of a man who builds a house: he first lays the foundation, but the foundation is for the house, and the house is for habitation: he who believes that he is his own neighbour in the first place, is like him who regards the foundation as the end, not the house and habitation, when yet the habitation is the very first and ultimate end, and the house with the foundation is only the medium to it.
The end declares in what manner every one should be his own neighbour, and provide for himself first. If the end be to grow richer than others only for the sake of riches, or for the sake of pleasure, or for the sake of eminence, and the like, it is an evil end, and that man does not love his neighbour, but himself: but if the end be to procure himself riches that he may be in a state of providing for the good of his fellow-citizens, of human society, of his country, and of the church, in like manner if he procure himself offices for the same end, he loves his neighbour. The end itself, for the sake of which he acts, constitutes the man; for the end is his love, for as much as every one has for a first and ultimate end, that which he loves above all things.
What has hitherto been said is concerning the relationship of neighbour; love towards him, or charity, shall now be treated of.
It is believed by many, that charity consists in giving to the poor, in assisting the in need, and in doing good to every one; but charity consists in acting prudently, and to the end that good may result. He who assists a poor or in need villain, does evil to his neighbour through him, he confirms him in evil, and supplies him with the means of doing evil to others: it is otherwise with him who gives support to the good.
But charity extends itself much more widely than to the poor and in need; for charity consists in doing what is right in every work, and our duty in every office. If a judge does justice for the sake of justice, he exercises charity; if he punishes the guilty, and absolves the innocent, he exercises charity, for thus he consults the welfare of his fellow-citizens, and of his country. The priest who teaches truth, and leads to good, for the sake of truth and good, exercises charity. But he who does such things for the sake of self and the world, does not exercise charity, because he does not love his neighbour, but himself.
The case is the same in all other instances, whether a man be in any office or not; as with children towards their parents, and with parents towards their children; with servants towards their masters, and with masters towards their servants; with subjects towards their king, and with a king towards his subjects; whoever of these does his duty from a principle of duty, and what is just from a principle of justice, exercises charity.
The reason why such things belong to the love towards our neighbour, or charity, is because, as was said above, every man is our neighbour, but in a different manner. A less and greater society is more our neighbour than a single man; our country is still more our neighbour; the lord's kingdom still more; and the lord above all; and in a universal sense, good, which proceeds from the lord, is our neighbour; consequently, sincerity and justice are so too; wherefore he who does any good for the sake of good, and he who acts sincerely and justly for the sake of sincerity and justice, loves his neighbour and exercises charity; for he does so from the love of what is good, sincere, and just, and consequently from the love of those in whom good, sincerity, and justice are.
Charity therefore is an internal affection, from which man wills to do good, and this without remuneration; the delight of his life consists in doing it. With them who do good from internal affection, there is charity in every thing which they think and speak, and which they will and do; it may be said that a man or angel, as to his interiors, is charity, when good is his neighbour. So widely does charity extend itself.
They who have the love of self and of the world for an end, cannot in any way be in charity; they do not even know what charity is, and cannot at all comprehend that to will and do good to his neighbour without reward as an end is heaven in man, and that there is in that affection a happiness as great as that of the angels of heaven, which is ineffable; for they believe, if they are deprived of the joy proceeding from the glory of honours and riches, that nothing of joy can be experienced any longer; when yet it is then that heavenly joy first begins, which infinitely transcends the other. Heav. Doc. 84—105.PSALMS 133 Other translations - previous - next - meaning - Psalms - BM Home - Full Page