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
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.
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.