All freedom is a matter of love, because what we love we do freely. That is also why all freedom is a matter of will, because whatever we love we also will to do; and since love and will constitute our life, freedom also constitutes it. This can show us what freedom is, namely, that it is whatever belongs to our love and will and therefore to our life. That is why anything we do freely seems to us to have come from ourselves.
Doing evil freely seems to be freedom but it is slavery, since this freedom comes from our love for ourselves and our love for the world, and these loves come from hell. This kind of freedom actually turns into slavery after we die, too, since anyone who had this kind of freedom becomes a worthless slave in hell afterwards.
In contrast, freely doing what is good is freedom itself because it comes from a love for the Lord and from a love for our neighbor, and these loves come from heaven. This freedom too stays with us after death and then becomes true freedom because anyone who has this kind of freedom is like one of the family in heaven. The Lord says it like this: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not stay in the house forever. A son or daughter does stay forever. If the Son has made you free, you will be truly free” (John 8:34–36).
Since everything good comes from the Lord and everything evil from hell, then it follows that freedom is being led by the Lord and slavery is being led by hell.
The purpose of our having a freedom to think and do what is evil or false (to the extent that the law does not prevent it) is that we can be reformed. That is, what is good and what is true need to be planted in our love and will if they are to become part of our life, and there is no way this can happen unless we have the freedom to contemplate what is evil and false as well as what is good and true. This freedom is given to each one of us by the Lord; and when we are contemplating something that is good and true, then to the extent that we do not at the same time love what is evil and false the Lord plants goodness and truth in our love and will and therefore in our life, and in this way reforms us.
Anything that is sown in freedom also lasts, while anything sown in compulsion does not last. This is because anything we are compelled to do does not come from our own will but rather from the will of the one who is compelling us.
That is also why worship from freedom is pleasing to the Lord but compulsory worship is not. That is, worship from freedom is worship from love, while compulsory worship is not.
No matter how similar they look on the surface, freedom to do good and freedom to do evil are as different and as remote from each other as heaven and hell. Then too, the freedom to do good comes from heaven and is called “heavenly freedom,” while the freedom to do evil comes from hell and is called “hellish freedom.” To the extent that we have the one freedom we do not have the other—no one, that is, can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We can also see from this that people who have hellish freedom think that it is slavery and compulsion if they are not allowed to will what is evil and think what is false whenever they feel like it, while people who have heavenly freedom loathe to will anything evil and to think anything false, and if they are forced to do so, it torments them.
Since acting from freedom seems to us to come from ourselves, heavenly freedom can also be called “heavenly selfhood” and hellish freedom can be called “hellish selfhood.” Hellish selfhood is the sense of self into which we are born, and it is evil. Heavenly selfhood, though, is the selfhood into which we are reformed, and it is good.
This shows us what freedom of choice is—namely, that it is doing what is good by choice or intentionally, and that we have this freedom when we are being led by the Lord. We are led by the Lord when we love what is good and true because it is good and true.
We can tell what kind of freedom we have from the pleasure we feel when we think, speak, act, hear, and see, because all pleasure is an effect of love.
from Regeneration, Pages 20-22