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Emanuel Swedenborg
Doctrine of Charity spiritual wisdom logo

Charity or the Doctrine of Charity was not published until after Emanuel Swedenborg's death. For many of us today the word 'charity' conjures up a picture of giving to a worthy cause, either with our money or our time. But for Swedenborg "true charity is the desire to be useful to others without thought of recompense" and it involves a heartfelt delight in doing unconditional good.

In the Doctrine of Charity Swedenborg teaches that charity consists essentially in doing good for the neighbour. But for charity to be genuine it must also involve the recognition of one's evils and the shunning of them as sins against God. The book deals with the practical bearing of this teaching on the problems of social order, government, and our daily occupations. It is a practical and inspiring handbook for compassionate living, providing the tools of responsible service.

Here is an extract from paragraph 40:

Hence it follows that the 'first' of charity is to look to the Lord and shun evils because they are sins; and that the 'second' of charity is to do good. An evil man, as well as a good one, can do good. He can help someone in need, can do him many good offices, from goodwill, kindness, friendship, or compassion. But nevertheless these things are not of charity with the one who does them, but with the one to whom the charity is exercised.

And another from paragraph 72:

The object of charity is a person, also a community, also one's country, also the human race; and all are a neighbour in a narrow and in a wide sense.

That a person is the neighbour is well known. A community is the neighbour because a community is a composite person; one's country is the neighbour because it consists of many communities, and so is a more composite person; and the human race is the neighbour because it is composed of large communities, each one of which is a person in composite form, hence it is a person in the widest sense.