THE COST OF REGENERATION.
28″Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31″Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.(LUKE XIV. 28-33)
Self-love is the devil, the great enemy, against which, in its many forms, we have to contend. And, in our warfare against self-love, we have need to count the cost of the conflict, to know whether we are prepared to engage in it, and whether we can carry it to completion, And it is wise to know its requirements and its dangers, that we may not misunderstand what lies before us, and may not lose courage during its progress. The work of regeneration is a complete reorganization of our conscious mental life. It is an abandoning of our cherished affections, thoughts and conduct, and the adoption of new motives, new plans, and new habits.
THE DOUBLE PARABLE.
Although in the literal sense, there is no intimate connection between the two parts of this double parable, yet such a connection clearly appears, in the inward, or spiritual meaning. The first part, about the tower, regards what we have to do, and whether our resources are sufficient for the work. And the second part, about the war, relates to what others are doing against us, and whether we can overcome their opposition.
Thus, at the outset, the man is called seriously to inquire concerning himself; first, whether he has sufficient knowledge of the truth to guide him in seeking regeneration, and sufficient sincerity of heart to persevere in doing the truth; and, secondly, whether he will be able to meet, and to overcome, the continued assaults and opposition on the part of evil influences, both in his own natural and hereditary inclinations, and in the persons of evil spirits. For, the more earnestly we seek regeneration, the more persistently all evil influences combine to break us down, and to destroy us. But the Lord guards and guides us, as far as we are willing to accept His guidance, by learning His truth, and living according to it.
A tower had two uses, observation and protection. The height of the tower gives opportunity for observing the approach of an enemy ; and its strength serves for defence, when attacked. The tower represents interior truth, truth elevated above the surface of things, and giving a higher point of thought, and, hence, greater protection against evil and falsity.
In an elevated state of thought, from the stand-point of interior truth, spiritual truth, the rational mind, as a watchman, sees and comprehends the state of things, and views the approaching dangers of sensuous life. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower : the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” And so, when evil assaults us, we seek safety in our understanding of interior truth, truth raised to a high stand-point, elevated above the outward appearances of things. In such truth we find safety and protection. For, by understanding the inward principles which govern the various things of human life, we are forewarned, and also protected; against superficial and worldly views and thoughts. Any man who understands the spiritual causes of things can readily comprehend the outward embodiments and manifestations of such causes.
The tower, then, represents interior truth. And, as the tower is built of stones, successively placed, one upon another, gradually elevating the structure, so, our mental tower of interior truth is gradually reared above our senses, by placing in it, one after another, the literal truths of the Lord’s holy Word, understood rationally, and in the light of spiritual truth. As we comprehend a literal truth, and see its inward phases, we elevate it above the region of our senses; we build it into our mental tower, And when we have built the essential laws of life into a complete structure, an orderly system of rationally-understood principles of interior life, we have our mental tower complete. From its height we can look down upon the life of the senses, observe the approaching dangers and prepare ourselves to meet and to resist them.
A man “intending to build a tower,” is, then, a mind purposing to elevate its understanding of the truths of the Word of God, so as to form a system of interior truth, for spiritual knowledge, and for protection against evil. Now, when a man purposes to build such a tower, he should first sit down, and count the cost of it, to see whether he is able to finish it; i. e., he is to consider the quality of interior truth, and rationally to see whether his mind is prepared to enter fully into the understanding of interior truth, and to follow that truth to its legitimate results.
For instance: natural scientists, who view everything from an outward stand-point, and who see in the light of the senses, very often imagine that they fully understand human life, when the fact is that they have never elevated their minds above the natural plane of thought; and, in fact, they often deny the existence of anything higher than the natural plane of life. Such minds are not in condition to build a spiritual tower; they have not the mental means to finish it. And their mental action, in attempting to view spiritual truth from the plane of the senses, is, when seen in spiritual light, shown to be as unwise as that of the man who begins to build without estimates of expense, and who is not able to complete his building.
BUILDING THE TOWER.
The spiritual tower, which is to stand through eternity, should be built carefully and strongly, as well as in an elevated position. The tower is begun, when we learn the truth; and it is carried upward, as we understand the truth; and it is completed as we love the truth. And then it is used, as we practise the truth, in its higher and more interior aspects. Interior truths, truths rationally understood and loved, elevate cur minds into conjunction with the Lord.
COUNTING THE COST.
Now, when we intend to build this spiritual tower, to elevate our understanding of the truth into spiritual light, do we recognize the cost of such building? Many persons, during church-revivals, think they are converted: but a large majority of such converts back-slide into the world, again. Were they not sincere, at the time ? Yes; but they did not count the cost; and they undertook what they could not sustain and complete, They had an emotional interest in the truths of the Divine Word; but, by and by, when tribulation and persecution of their natural desires arose, because of the new truths from the Lord’s Word, they were offended. Like the seed sown on stony ground, and with no depth of root, their conversion withered away. They were not willing to give up self-love. Regeneration, was too costly for them,
And, in fact, regeneration costs us more and more, the further we rise in it. The reason why one man is regenerated to one degree, and another to a higher degree, is that the latter is willing to endure the greater cost, spiritually; i. e., he is willing to cast out selfishness to a greater degree. It costs more, mentally, to be spiritual-minded, than to be natural-rninded ; and it costs more to be celestial than to be spiritual.
Now, if we begin building our mental tower by thinking of truth, and do not complete it by loving and practising the truth, our evils and falsities will mock us; they will bring truth into contempt, in our natural minds, We shall be sinning against light, and, therefore, more censurable than if ignorant.
Now, if we have a knowledge of the truth, as material for building the mental tower, and a determination to build, in the love and practice of truth, a further question arises: are we able to stand against all the assaults that will be made upon us, from within, by our own inclinations towards evil, and from without, by evil spirits, and by bad men on earth.
THE TWO KINGS.
“What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand. “The first king is the truth, as ruler of the regenerating mind. And the king against which he goes, is falsity, which rules in the unregenerate natural mind.
The “ten thousand” soldiers of the truth are the “remains,” states of good and truth stored up in the man’s interior mind, by the Lord, These are the means by which the man fights against the falsities that assail his thought. For, if a man has no good and truth in his mind, from the Lord, he will not fight for good and truth, nor against evil and falsity.
The “twenty thousand” soldiers of the other king, or falsity, are all the sensuous states of evil and falsity, in the natural mind, which oppose the advance and triumph of the truth, in building up the regenerate life. And these sensuous states appear to be twice as numerous as the good and true things of the spirit. Twenty, as twice ten, represents “remains” of a superior kind. But in the parable, being used in a bad sense, twenty signifies the perversion of such “remains,” the sensuous evils and falses which destroy” remains.” The war that is waged between the two kings, truth and falsity, is the series of temptations, which come upon the regenerating mind; and by means of which our evils are seen and known ; and which thus afford us opportunities to overcome evil, and to confirm ourselves in good. By means of temptations the interior mind is opened.
SITTING DOWN AND COUNTING.
In each part of the parable, the person is said to “sit down,” to count the cost, etc., and to consult, etc. Sitting, as a more fixed position than standing or walking, relates to the state of the man’s will, or heart. We sit down in a principle, when we fix our affection upon it. And to “count
the cost,” and to “ consult,” refer to the intellectual effort, when the thought is fixed upon the principle involved. To distinguish these different mental conditions, the conduct, the thought, and the affection, it is said, in the first Psalm, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
A man sits down and counts, or consults, when both his will and his understanding are engaged in the work. The intellect counts up, for the heart; and the heart, in fixing its affections, consults the intellect. In this consulting, the mind is able to see something of the quality of its own motives, purposes and plans. And we attain conjunction with the Lord, by His Word, in the degree in which we fight against our own tendencies to evil and falsity, as made known in the light of the Lord’s Word.
The religious life is a constant warfare against our lower nature. And we are forewarned of the trials that beset us; and thus we are forearmed, to meet these trials. We have need to understand the system of truth which arms us for the fight, and to look to the Lord for strength to maintain the war.
If we are not in thorough earnest, in the work of regeneration, we shall be alarmed at the power of our evil inclinations, and we shall try to make peace with them, without actually casting them out. Like the king who cannot contend against the advancing enemy, we shall send an ambassage, and make terms with our natural evils, and try to substitute outward piety for inward principle, embodied in outward obedience to the truth. “Whosoever he be, of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple. “He must renounce all his old life of selfishness, and not attempt to make peace with it, under cover of outward piety.
We should ask ourselves the actual cost of regeneration. Spiritual life is the free gift of the Lord. But we must, as of ourselves, work for this gift. We are ignorant, and we need instruction from the Lord. The Lord’s commandments are the outward laws of human conduct; and, when rationally understood, they are also seen to be the inward principles of all life. Truth is free; but it must be learned.
Our regeneration must, then, cost us the labor of learning the truth, and of unlearning the wrong ideas that we have imbibed. And, again, regeneration will cost us self-restraint. And this is a very heavy cost. There is no way to attain a virtue, but by ceasing to indulge the vice which is opposite to that virtue. For instance: honesty is acquired, by starving out our natural tendency to be dishonest. A good temper is acquired, by continued control and resistance to the inclinations of a bad temper.
Again, regeneration will cost us the giving up our self-will, and of our self-intelligence. We must learn to rely, not on our own will, nor on our supposed intelligence, but upon the good which the Lord gives us, in our practice of His truth, and upon His revelation of truth. Regeneration will cost us our self-righteousness. We need to learn that we are not perfect, but inclined to evil. Again, it will cost us our bad habits, which must be given up. They must go, with the old life that formed them. Their giving up must be full and unconditional, without any attempt to save our favorite sins, or our little sins. Again, regeneration will cost us our love of the world’s praise. We must work for character, not for reputation. As we rise above the world’s standards, we forfeit its sympathy; for the world never forgives those who condemn its evils, and disturb its sensuous pleasures. We must be ready to hear the world turn against us, and call us enthusiasts, cranks, or hypocrites. The man who builds his mental tower above the surface of the world’s life, must expect to be misunderstood and disliked. Again, regeneration will cost us many of our worldly plans, which, being based on self-love, must be abandoned.
Now, does this cost seem too great? Do we doubt whether the gain balances the cost? If we are not in earnest, we shall not accomplish anything. If the Lord is not superintending our building, it will amount to nothing. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain, that build it.” In our unregenerate states, we are animals, with undeveloped human capacities. By regeneration, we become angels; but, without it, we become satans or devils. Is not regeneration, then, worth all it will cost us? Regeneration is the practical work of putting away the infernal tendencies of our character. In an unregenerate state, we imagine it to be a great loss, to part with our evils. But, after we part with them, we see that we are happier without them; and that parting with evil is like parting with physical disease, a thing to be eagerly desired and sought.
Our physical body seems to be an essential part of us, and necessary to our happiness; but, in the spiritual world, being in a full spiritual body, we shall never miss our natural body; and we shall be vastly freer without it, So, without our natural unregenerate life, we shall be far freer and happier. Thus, the costs of regeneration are apparent, rather than real; regeneration is costly to our selfishness, but the things that we part with are worse than useless. The cost of the work reveals the nature of it, and the means of doing it.
Sometimes, a superficial person says, “I wish I had not made any attempt at regeneration; for, the more I try, the more trouble I have. Just as I think I am doing well, spiritually, some evil comes up, in me, that I never knew of, before. I had more rest, before I began to try to do right.” Of course he had; but what kind of rest was it? It was a false security, which was not aware of the existing danger. It was the fancied security of the blind man,. walking into a pit which he did not see. And now he knows the danger; and of course, he cannot rest, until he escapes it.
Spiritual temptations come to regenerating men, only. Others have worldly anxieties; but no one has spiritual temptations, until he is fighting for his spiritual life, and against his own evils. If the tree can be made to bear good fruit, the Lord “purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” It is said of evil men, “ Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.” But a regenerating man is changing, in character ; and trials are the means by which he changes,
The sick man is told that restored health can come to him, only with reformed habits of life. Of course, it is a trial, to him, to break off his old habits. But it is worth while. Gradually his blood is improved, and his health restored. So is it, spiritually ; as the man reforms his life, gradually his old affections, thoughts and conduct, give way to new ones; and he becomes a new man, Good can come to us only as we resist evil. There is no other way to secure spiritual good. A man cannot serve both God and mammon, at the same time. We cannot take into heaven anything that partakes of evil; for evil is hell. If we go to heaven, we must leave all the hells behind us. And to go to heaven means to go into the understanding, love and practice of heavenly principles of life. And practically, this means that we are to put away our faults, and to acquire the opposite virtues.
Now, in the light of these truths, we can see that it should be encouraging to a man, to find himself in spiritual temptations; for it indicates that he has an earnest interest in spiritual principles, and that he is regenerating. If not, he would yield to evil, and not resist it. The greater the trial, the greater the spiritual gain, when we resist the evil.
And, if we only stand steadfast, there is no danger in temptation. ” As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” It is the Lord who really fights, for us, and in us, against evil: and nothing can conquer Him. And nothing can conquer us, if we stand on His commandments, In His merciful providence, our Lord permits no man to enter ” interiorly into the truths of faith, and the goods of love, except so far as he canr be Jcept in them, to the end of his life” (D. P., 232).
And there is compensation in all trials. If it were not for the darkness, we should know nothing of the stars. All things tend to the spiritual good of Him who works for good.,” All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.” As soon as the man learns to hate evil, it ceases to be hard to give up evil. The parable shows us that the life of regeneration is no light matter, to be accomplished in a moment of enthusiasm. It is a life-work : and” he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887