We can see that our outward life consists of our works and deeds, and that the quality of our inner life is manifested through them.
“Works and deeds,” though, does not mean works and deeds solely the way they look in outward form. It also includes their deeper nature. Everyone knows, really, that all our deeds and works come from our intention and thought, for if they did not come from there they would be no more than motions like those of machines or robots. So a deed or work in its own right is simply an effect that derives its soul and life from our volition and thought, even to the point that it is volition and thought in effect, volition and thought in an outward form. It follows, then, that the quality of the volition and thought that cause the deed or work determines the quality of the deed or work. If the thought and intent are good, then the deeds and works are good; but if the thought and intent are evil, then the deeds and works are evil, even though they may look alike in outward form. A thousand people can behave alike—that is, can do the same thing, so much alike that in outward form one can hardly tell the difference. Yet each deed in its own right is unique because it comes from a different intent.
Take for example behaving honestly and fairly with an associate. One person can behave honestly and fairly with someone else in order to seem honest and fair for the sake of self and to gain respect; another person can do the same for the sake of worldly profit; a third for reward and credit; a fourth to curry friendship; a fifth out of fear of the law and loss of reputation and office; a sixth to enlist people in his or her cause, even if it is an evil one; a seventh in order to mislead; and others for still other reasons. But even though all of their deeds look good (for behaving honestly and fairly toward a colleague is good), still they are evil because they are not done for the sake of honesty and fairness, not because these qualities are loved, but for the sake of oneself and the world, because these are loved. The honesty and fairness are servants of this love, like the servants of a household whom their lord demeans and dismisses when they do not serve.
People behave honestly and fairly toward their colleagues in a similar outward form when they are acting from a love of what is honest and fair. Some of them do it because of the truth of faith, or obedience, because it is enjoined in the Word. Some of them do it for the sake of the goodness of faith or conscience, because they are moved by religious feeling. Some of them do it out of the good of thoughtfulness toward their neighbor, because one’s neighbor’s welfare is to be valued. Some of them do it out of the goodness of love for the Lord, because what is good should be done for its own sake; so too what is honest and fair should be done for the sake of honesty and fairness. They love these qualities because they come from the Lord, and because the divine nature that emanates from the Lord is within them. So if we see them in their true essence, they are divine. The deeds or works of these people are inwardly good, so they are outwardly good as well; for as already noted, the nature of deeds and works is entirely determined by the nature of the thought and intent from which they stem, and apart from such thought and intent they are not deeds and works but only lifeless motions.
We may gather from this what is meant by works and deeds in the Word.
Since deeds and works are matters of intention and thought, they are also matters of love and faith to the point that their quality is the quality of their love and faith. That is, it amounts to the same thing whether you talk about our love or about our intentions, whether you talk about our established faith or about our thought, since what we love we also intend, and what we believe we also think. If we love what we believe, we intend it as well and do it to the extent that we can. Anyone can realize that love and faith dwell within our intentions and thought and not outside them, since intent is what is kindled by love and thought is what is enlightened in matters of faith. This means that only people who can think wisely are enlightened; and depending on their enlightenment they think what is true and intend what is true, they believe what is true and love what is true.
We do need to recognize, though, that volition makes us who we are. Thought does so only to the extent that it arises from our volition, while deeds and works come from both. Or in other words, love is what makes us who we are; faith does so only to the extent that it arises from love, and deeds and works come from both. It follows from this that love or intent is the actual person, for the things that come forth belong to the person they come forth from. To come forth is to be produced and presented in a form suited to observation and sight.
We may gather from this what faith is apart from love—no faith at all, only information with no spiritual life in it. The same holds true for deeds apart from love. They are not deeds or works of life at all, only deeds or works of death containing some semblance of life derived from a love of evil and a faith in what is false. This semblance of life is what we call spiritual death.
We should realize as well that we present our whole person in our works and deeds and that our volition and thought, or the love and faith that are our inner constituents, are not complete until they are [embodied] in the deeds and works that are our outer constituents. These latter are in fact the outmost forms in which the former find definition; and without such definitions they are like undifferentiated things that do not yet have any real presence, things that are therefore not yet in us. To think and intend without acting when we can is like a flame sealed in a jar and stifled, or it is like seed sown in the sand that does not grow but dies along with its power to reproduce. Thinking and intending and doing, though, is like a flame that sheds its light and warmth all around, or like seed sown in the soil, that grows into a tree or a flower and becomes something. Anyone can see that intending and not acting when we can is not really intending, and loving and not doing good when we can is not really loving. It is only thinking that we intend and love; so it is a matter of isolated thought that disintegrates and vanishes. Love and intent are the very soul of the deed or work. It forms its own body in the honest and fair things that we do. This is the sole source of our spiritual body, the body of our spirit; that is, our spiritual body is formed entirely from what we have done out of love or intent. In a word, everything of our character and our spirit is [embodied] in our works or deeds.
We may gather from this what is meant by the life that stays with us after death. It is actually our love and our consequent faith, not only in theory but in act as well. So it is our deeds or works because these contain within themselves our whole love and faith.
There is a dominant love that remains with each of us after death and never changes to eternity. We all have many loves, but they all go back to our dominant love and form a single whole with it, or compose it in the aggregate. All the elements of our volition that agree with our dominant love are called loves because they are loved. There are deeper and more superficial loves, loves that are directly united and loves that are indirectly united; there are closer and more distant ones; there are loves that serve in various ways. Taken all together they make a kind of kingdom. They are actually arranged in this way within us even though we are utterly unaware of their arrangement. However, the arrangement becomes visible to some extent in the other life because the outreach of our thoughts and affections there depends on it. The outreach is into heavenly communities if our dominant love is made up of loves of heaven, but it is into hellish communities if our dominant love is made up of loves of hell.