The Temporal and the Eternal
by Frederick L. Schnarr
In the work, Divine Providence, the teaching is given that "the Divine Providence looks to eternal things and to temporal things only as far as they agree with eternal things." (DP 214) In the Apocalypse Explained, we find this teaching given in a somewhat different form and entitled, "The tenth law of the Divine Providence":
These two teachings present the same general truth, but note that in the tenth law of Providence, instead of the phrase, temporal things, the words, eminence and riches, are employed. Thus, by comparing the two teachings, we see that the essential definition of temporal things is eminence and riches.
Temporal things refer to such things as either perish with time or are terminated with the death of the body. They include, therefore, both those things that are proper to nature and those that are proper to man. The things that are proper to nature are especially spaces and time, because both have termination. These
Now besides the temporal things of nature, there are temporal things which relate to the nature and quality of man. These are the temporal things that are particularly involved in the understanding of the teaching we are considering. As we have noted, these temporal things are all said to relate to eminence and riches - eminence referring to the love of glory and honor, and riches referring to the love of money and possessions. (AE 1185) The Writings tell us that these two loves as they now exist from hereditary inclination in the natural man are like blood relations in that he who wishes to rule over all things wishes to possess all things. (DP 215: 5) Or, it could be put in another way, namely, that he who is in the love of self is also in the love of the world. For the natural love of glory and honor is from the love of self, and the natural love of money and possessions is from the love of the world. The love of self and the love of the world are blood relations also, and when by themselves they are the life of hell.
But that we may understand exactly how we are to regard dignities and riches and how the Divine Providence operates in them, we must examine the history of them, and thereby see their intended Divine use.
That man's life on earth should serve its essential use of forming a mind that could exist eternally in the spiritual world, two things were necessary. One had to be provided from within and flow into man from the spiritual world, this was the influx of life and the delights of heavenly beings. The other had to be provided from without from the images and sensations received from the world of nature, the world of space and time fixity. From the life from within, the most ancient man received the inclination to love the Lord and the neighbor. From the life from without, he received the love of the world and the love of self. These loves of the world and of self the Lord had to provide as part of man's nature for they were necessary for the formation of his mind on earth; and without such a formation, the human character and quality could not have existed. From these loves the Lord gave man the instinct and desire to preserve his life, to feed and clothe his body, to protect his offspring, to build a shelter for his family, wherein the natural life of his possessions could be used and maintained.
With the most ancient men, these things were not gathered and used for selfish ends, but only as the means of supporting and making possible the existence of eternal heavenly loves. This was the order because the love of the Lord was in the first place in their minds, the love of the neighbor in second place, the love of the world in third place, and the love of self last. And from this order, how did they then regard dignity and riches? We read:
In thinking of the life of these ancient people, we of a different age find it difficult to imagine wherein lay their delight and happiness. But we forget that they saw clearly the things of heaven in all things of earth, and only delighted in the things of earth because they saw heaven therein. Because of their humble and rustic life, we must not think of them as being in any sense crude or lowly. They were a beautiful people; and they loved the beautiful things of natural life; but because they saw the beautiful things of heaven represented therein. Something of their delight and skill in natural things may be seen in the description of their dwellings, their eating habits, and their singing.
What happened to this concept of dignities, this attitude concerning riches? Again we read;
As men fell from the Divinely created order, so did the love that formed that order change place and become completely reversed. Where loves of the Lord and the neighbor ruled, the loves of the world and self now took their place. The inclinations which flowed forth from each love with the most ancients were all ruled and directed by the love of the Lord; this is how the love of self and its inclinations, and the love of the world and its inclinations were kept in their proper place and use. When the love of self came to stand at the head, and the love of the world next, the inclinations from these loves had nothing higher to guide them. They, therefore, could only serve self and the world. And this became, and now is, the inherited form of man.
Herein then we see the reason why man inclines from his birth to the love of dignities, fame, glory, honor and the like, and the love of riches, wealth, and possessions of all kinds - and his inclination to such things is utterly evil and perverted, because it springs forth in him from the love of self and the world.
As the young adult mind plunges into the activities of worldly life, dignities and riches in their many forms are close to the desire of the heart. In the thought of the imagination how often does one see himself arrayed in the robes of kings or conquering heroes, his name whispered in awe from lip to lip? How often does he accomplish feats of daring and his cunning brain or great strength perform the impossible? How much does he dream of the pleasure of life in terms of great wealth and treasure. Of use, of responsibility - of these he is aware only when they are brutally forced upon him, and more pointedly from the instruction of Divine revelation. But, as the young man progresses and matures, other loves and thoughts steal in to raise questions. He has at first seen only the outer symbol of dignity, only the gaudy pleasure of wealth; he has lived in that which is neither good nor evil in itself. And yet contained in these, he gradually awakens to note the lurking of other forms, which he had not associated with dignity and honor, with riches and possessions - the love of dominion, the selfish grasping of all things to self, the desire to possess and hoard, and to crush and destroy that which would prevent. Love of self and love of the world in their disordered forms begin to manifest and identify themselves.
Because the desire to have eminence and riches is so much a part of man's unregenerate life, it therefore is also a part of his prayer to the Lord. It is there in the background of each prayer even though he never forms it into distinct requests from the Divine. This being so, how can the Lord in His Providence give ear to the desires of man's heart? For the Lord sees what each man can become, and He knows exactly wherein the greatest happiness for each man can be provided; and these are the Lord's concern for they involve the eternal state of the man. What will benefit man's eternal state Providence will strive to bring to pass; what will not benefit his eternal state Providence will strive to lead away from. The Lord's purpose is that man should become an angel of the highest heaven; and if man will not permit this, then a lower angel, and if not this, then Providence will lead to as mild a hell as man will permit. In providing those things which are temporal, Providence cannot work against its primary purpose, and therefore temporal things are only provided or permitted when they can at the same time serve, or at least not harm, eternal things. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8: 36)
Now let us be clear, that dignities and riches in themselves are not evil. They were created by the Lord to serve specific good uses both in heaven and on earth. In heaven, because man there has come to love the Lord first, he regards dignities and riches with delight, but only because of the uses that he sees are served through them. The thought of the use is what is uppermost; and the thought of use is the thought of the neighbor above self. When, through regeneration, the love of self and the love of the world are re-ordered, so that the love of the Lord and the neighbor rule over them, then is when the Lord can provide for the angel-man dignities and riches beyond measure, and these will never in the least turn his thought away from the Lord to self. So it is the will of Providence to provide dignities and riches for man, but only at a time when this will not interfere with this eternal state. (AE 1190) That we may be assured that such is the Lord's will, we are presented with many descriptions concerning the eminence and wealth of angelic life in the Writings; (we would here quote a portion of but one such passage).
There are many reasons why some men on earth achieve dignities and riches, and others remain poor; as far as their own states are concerned, Providence knows what will be either a blessing or a curse to a man. Providence strives to give dignities and riches to men who are sincerely looking to the Lord and placing use above mere delight, when this will not harm the eternal state of the man, or his family, or associates. Certainly it will be through such men that the Lord provides the means of establishing the uses of His church on earth.
Providence sometimes permits evil men to come temporarily into fame and fortune, either to keep them from worse things, or to cause them to perform certain needed uses which Providence brings forth even though the man intends nothing but evil. In any given case there can be no sure sight of how Providence is operating, except to know the general laws by which it does operate.
What is clear in all of this, is that we are not to set our eyes on dignities and riches, we are not to let our thought dwell in the achieving of them. This does not mean that we are not to desire them, and to obtain them through business transaction and works when these are done justly and honestly. (DP 220) It does not mean that we are not to seek them as the means of bringing into being a needed use. But it means that our thought should be focused on use and the performance of use, and on dignities and riches only as far as we can see some use therein that looks to the order of the Lord's kingdom. This is the meaning of the instruction in Matthew: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, your heart will be also." (Matthew 6: 19-21)
If a man understands how Providence operates, and if he applies himself to the uses of life with sincerity and justice, he will not become angry when he is not raised to dignities and honors - for he will know that there is a very good reason in the eyes of the Lord. He will know that Providence will bring him these things when they will best serve his eternal happiness. When man looks to use and learns of the Lord, the Lord can bring a great patience and sense of peace, which comes from the fact that man in his freedom, desires that his life should be led and guided by the love and wisdom of the Lord.
-New Church Life 1972;92:199-205