Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: Infants and Innocence
In connection with this lesson read also the story in Mark 10:13-16. The Lord dearly loved little children, because they are so sweet and innocent.
Do you know what innocence is? Very often people use the word innocence as if it meant ignorance - not knowing anything. Innocence does not consist in this. It is true, that innocent little children do not know much, if anything; but this ignorance is distinct from their innocence. Their innocence consists in the following traits, and it is important that we should have a good knowledge of them:
They do not claim anything as belonging to themselves, but whatever they receive they still believe to belong to their parents.
They are quite content with the few and little presents that are given them, and feel happy with them.
They do not worry about food and clothing, and have no anxiety about the future.
They do not look out upon the world with the wish to own the things they see.
They love their parents, their nurse, their little playmates, and play with them innocently.
They love to be led by their parents, to harken to them and to obey them.
All these traits are traits of innocence.
Now, I want to tell you a very important secret which our heavenly Father has told us of the New Church. You remember, do you not, that one of the largest works which the Lord has given to us through His servant Emanuel Swedenborg, is called "Heavenly Secrets" because it tells us many secrets that the angels in heaven know, but which the Lord told men on earth only at His Second Coming? One of these secrets is the one I am going to tell you now. It is about innocence. It is this:
The reason why the Lord makes babies and little children so innocent, is that innocence is the greatest, the most precious, the loveliest thing in the world and in heaven; and He wishes every single man and woman to become innocent. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to start men and women, when little babies, with this rich present of innocence that He gives them. You know that many people do not remain innocent. Little by little, as children grow older and their own individuality begins to develop, they begin to change. They begin to claim things as their own, as belonging entirely to themselves. They are no longer satisfied with a few things and little things, but they want more and more. They want to become rich. They want to have much property. They want money and jewelry, and fine houses, and large tracts of land, and to have others do as they want them to. And they think, that if they only had more than they have, they would be happy. So they become discontented with what they have. They worry about how they may earn enough to get their food and clothing; and are anxious about the future, worrying lest when they grow old they may perhaps become so poor that they may not live in the style in which they would like to live. They begin to love only those who are kind and nice to them. They forget about the heavenly Father, and feel as if He were far away from them, and as if He did not take care of them, but that they had to take care of themselves. So they no longer hear His voice, and they do not obey Him, but they obey only what, as they imagine, they think out for themselves.
In this way people gradually get away from the state of innocence in which they were when they were little children.
But as people grow up and go away from their state of innocence, the heavenly Father still stays with them, and after a while He sends them little children to remind them of innocence, and they remember what He says, "Unless ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." And then they fight hard against those wishes of their heart that have led them away from innocence. They try hard to be contented; to realize that the heavenly Father is with them and cares for them. They go on doing their work diligently and faithfully and cheerfully, and are satisfied with what the Lord brings out of it. If they become rich, they do not become proud, because they know that the riches belong to their heavenly Father, and are entrusted to them only as His servants. If they remain poor, or become poor, they do not worry, because they know that their heavenly Father is with them, and that whatever happens, He is going to bring good out of it. And so they again become innocent like the little children, but with this great difference, that they are not ignorant like little children, but that they know a great deal, not only about life in the world, but also about heaven and their heavenly Father. They are innocent and wise.
Now, they could not become innocent in their old age if they had not been innocent in their infancy; for the innocence of their babyhood was put away by the Lord in a secret storeroom of His own, inside of them, where it remains, and through which the Lord touches their hearts when He sees that they will pay attention to the touch.
I must tell you a secret which the Lord told in part in the Gospel when He was on earth, and now has told us the rest of it in the heavenly Doctrines. It is this, that the way He keeps little children innocent for several years, so as to have a lot of it to store up in His secret storeroom, is by sending angels of certain kind to be with them.
You know that there are many different kinds of angels. There are some who are more innocent and wise than others. And the kind that He sends to be with little children, are the most innocent of all. They live in the heaven that is nearest to the Lord, which is called "the celestial heaven." In our lesson we read that the Lord said that the angels of the, little children "always behold the face of My Father who is in heaven." This is because they are so good. There is never anything, in their lives that brings a cloud between them and the heavenly Father. He lives in the sun of heaven, and in this they see Him. Angels further down in heaven, in "the spiritual heaven," do not see the Lord as the sun, but because there are mists and clouds in their atmosphere, the sun looks to them like the moon.
When children begin to be less innocent, then these celestial angels leave, and angels of the natural heaven come to them, who help them to learn things at home, in church, in school and at play. Later, other angels come to them. But those people who in the course of their life finally return to the state of innocence, return to the companionship of the celestial angels, and then they feel at home, and very, very happy.
The Lord said that it was not His will that one of these little ones should perish. If a baby dies, it wakes up at once among the celestial angels, who take care of its education. Every baby is assigned there to an angel mother. If you are interested in this, you can read about it in the "Heavenly Secrets" (Arcana Coelestia), or in the work Heaven and Hell, n. 332 to 336.