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AR Chapter 15
AR 675. To this I will add this Relation.
There was seen a certain paper sent down from the Lord through heaven to a society of the English, but that society was one of the smallest of them, where also there were two bishops. The paper contained an exhortation that they should acknowledge the Lord as the God of heaven and earth, as He taught (Matt. 28:18); and that they should recede from the doctrine of justifying faith without the works of the law, because it is erroneous. This paper was read and copied by many; and respecting the things that were in it they thought and spoke soundly from interior judgment, and were enlightened by the Lord; and the enlightenment was received in the light, which is implanted with the English more than with others. Yet after they had received those things, they said among themselves, "Let us hear the bishops." And they were heard; but they contradicted and disapproved. For those bishops who were there, were of those who had become in the world hard of heart as to the spiritual things of faith and charity, from the love of dominion over the holy things of the church, and of super-eminence by means of them even in political affairs. Wherefore, after a short consultation among themselves, they sent the paper back to heaven, whence it came. This being done, after some murmuring, most of the laity receded from their former assent; and then their light in spiritual things, which before shone brightly, was suddenly extinguished; and they were afterwards admonished again, but in vain. I saw that society sinking down, but how deeply I did not see, thus it was withdrawn from the sight of the angels, who worship the Lord alone, and are averse to faith alone. But after some days, I saw as many as a hundred of them ascending from the lower earth, whither that small society sank down; who approached me, and a wise man from among them spoke and said, "Hear a wonder: when we sank down, the place at first appeared to us like a lake, but soon like dry land; and afterwards like a small city, in which everyone had his house, but a poor one. After a day we consulted among ourselves what was to be done. Many said that we must go to the two bishops, and mildly argue with them, because they sent back the paper into heaven, whence it was let down; on account of which this had happened to us. They chose some, who went to the bishops," and he that was speaking with me said that he was one of them. "And then a certain one among us who excelled in wisdom, addressed the bishops thus. `Hear, ye fathers; we believed that with us above others was the church which deserved to be called the first in the Christian world, and a religion which deserves to be called the greatest. But there has been given to us enlightenment from heaven, and in the enlightenment a perception that at this day there is no longer any church in the Christian world, nor any religion.’ The bishops said `What are you saying? Is not the church where the Word is, where Christ the Saviour is known, and where are the sacraments?` To this our spokesman replied, `Those things are the church, and they make the church; but they do not make it outside of man, but within man.‘ And he said farther, `As to the church: Can the church be where three Gods are worshiped? Can the church be where the whole of its doctrine is founded upon a single saying of Paul falsely understood, and hence not upon the Word? Can the church be where the Saviour of the world is not approached, and where He is divided into two? As to religion: who can deny that religion is to shun evil and to do good? Is there any religion where it is taught that faith alone saves, and not charity? Is there religion where it is taught that charity proceeding from a man is nothing but moral and civil charity? Who does not see that in that charity there is not anything of religion? Is there in faith alone anything of deed or of work? And yet religion consists in doing. Is there given in the entire world a nation with any religion, which excludes everything saving from the goods of charity, which are good works, when yet the all of religion consists in good, and the all of the church in doctrine, which must teach truths, and good by truth? See, fathers, what glory we should have, if the church, which is not, and religion, which is not, should begin and arise with us.’ Then those bishops replied, `You speak too loftily. Is not faith in act, which is faith fully justifying and saving, the church? and is not faith in state, which is faith proceeding and perfecting religion? Apprehend this, O sons.‘ But the wise Englishman then said, `Hear, O fathers; does not a man conceive faith in act like a stock? Is the church, according to your idea, in a stock that is then vivified? Is not faith in state the continuation and progression of faith in act? And since according to your idea everything saving is in faith, and not anything in the good of charity from man, where then is religion?` The bishops then said, `Friend, you speak thus, because you do not know the mysteries of justification by faith alone; and he who does not know them, does not know the way of salvation from within. Your way is an external and plebeian way. Go that way if you will; but know only that all good is from God, and nothing from man; and that thus in spiritual things a man can do nothing at all of himself. How then can a man do good, which is spiritual good, from himself?` The Englishman that was speaking with them, being indignant at this, said, `I know your mysteries of justification better than you do yourselves; and I tell you plainly, that in these interior mysteries of yours I have seen nothing but spectres. Is not religion to acknowledge and love God, and to shun and hate the devil? Is not God good itself, and the devil evil itself? Who in the whole world, who has any religion, does not know this? Is not acknowledging and loving God the doing of good because this is of God and from God? and is not shunning and hating the devil, to do no evil, because it is of the devil and from the devil? Your faith in act, which you called faith fully justifying and saving, or, what is the same, your act of justification by faith alone, does it teach the doing of any good which is of God and from God? and does it teach the shunning of any evil which is of the devil and from the devil? Nothing at all, because you have decided that there is nothing of salvation in either. What is your faith in state, which you have called faith proceeding and perfecting, but the same with faith in act? How can this be perfected, when you exclude all good done by man as of himself? saying: "How can a man be saved by any good from himself, when salvation is gratuitous?" Also, "What good is from man but meritorious good? and yet Christ’s merit is all; and therefore to do good for the sake of salvation would be to attribute to one‘s self what is Christ’s alone; and thus it would be also to will to justify and save one‘s self." Also "How can anyone operate good, when the Holy Spirit operates all things without any help from man? What need is there then of any accessory good from man, when all the good from man is in itself not good? " and more besides. Are not these your mysteries? But in my eyes they are mere subtleties and artifices contrived for the end that you may remove good works, which are the goods of charity, to establish your faith alone. And because you do this, you regard man as to these things, and in general as to all spiritual things which are of the church and religion, as a stock, or as a lifeless image, and not as a man created in the image of God, to whom was given, and is continually given, the faculty of understanding and willing, of believing and loving, and of speaking and doing, altogether as of himself; especially in spiritual things, because man is man from them. If man did not think and operate as of himself in spiritual things, what then would faith be? and charity? and worship? yea, what then would the church and religion be? You know that charity is to do good to the neighbor from love. Yet you do not know what charity is; when yet charity is the soul, the life, and the essence of faith. And because charity is all that, what then is faith when charity is removed, but dead faith? and dead faith is nothing but a spectre. I call it a spectre, because the apostle James calls faith without good works not only dead, but also diabolical.’ Then one of those two bishops, when he heard his faith called dead, diabolical, and a spectre, became so enraged, that he snatched the mitre from his head, and threw it upon a table, saying `I will not resume it until I have been avenged on the enemies of the faith of our church.‘ And he shook his head, murmuring and saying, 'The James, that James!' Upon the mitre was a plate, on which was engraved Faith Alone. And then there suddenly appeared a monster rising out of the earth with seven heads, whose feet were like a bear's, and his mouth like a lion’s, altogether like the beast which is described (Apoc. 13:1, 2); whose image was made and adored (Apoc 13:14, 15). This spectre took the mitre from the table, and stretched it out beneath, and put it upon his seven heads: after which, the earth opened under his feet, and he sank down into hell. Seeing this, that bishop cried out, `Violence! violence!‘ We then departed from them; and behold, there were steps before our eyes, by which we ascended, and returned upon the earth, and into the sight of heaven, where we were before." These things the wise Englishman related to me.