Charity and Good Works (pt. 37)
v Doctrinal Series v
AND THE SECOND IS TO DO GOODS THAT ARE OF USE TO THE NEIGHBOR
In the doctrine of charity this holds the first place, that the first thing of charity is not to do evil to the neighbor; and to do good to him holds the second place. This tenet is like a door to the doctrine of charity. It is admitted that evil is firmly seated in every man’s will from his birth; and as all evil has relation to man both nearly and remotely, and also to society and one’s country, it follows that inherited evil is evil against the neighbor in every degree. A man may see from reason itself, that so far as the evil resident in the will is not put away, the good that he does is impregnated with that evil; for evil is then inside the good, like a kernel in its shell or like marrow in a bone; therefore although the good that is done by such a man appears to be good, still intrinsically it is not good; for it is like a healthy-looking shell containing a worm-eaten kernel, or like a white almond rotten within, with streaks of rottenness extending even to the surface.
Willing evil and doing right are two essentially opposite things; for evil belongs to hatred towards the neighbor and good belongs to love towards the neighbor, or evil is the neighbor’s enemy and good is his friend. These two cannot exist in the same mind, that is, evil in the internal man and good in the external; if they do, the good in the external is like a wound superficially healed, within which there is putrid matter. Man is then like a tree with a decayed root, which still produces fruit that outwardly looks like well-flavored and useful fruit, but is inwardly offensive and useless. He is also like rejected scoria, which, being bright on the surface and beautifully colored, may be sold for precious stones; in a word, he is like an owl’s egg, which men are made to believe to be a dove’s egg.
Man ought to know that the good that a man does by means of his body proceeds from his spirit, or out of his internal man, the internal man being the spirit which lives after death. Therefore when the man [above described] casts off the body which formed his external man, all there is of him is in evils and takes delight in them, and is averse to good as something inimical to his life.
That until evil has been put away man cannot do good that is good in itself the Lord teaches in many places:
Men do not gather the grape from thorns or figs from thistles. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit (Matt. 7:16-18).
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside of them may become clean also (Matt. 23:25-26).
And in Isaiah:
Wash you, put away the evil of your doings, cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek judgment. Then although your sins have been as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow; although they have been red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isa. 1:16-18).