THE INSTABILITY OF UNPRACTISED TRUTH.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (MATTHEW VII. 24-27)
RELIGION RELATES TO LIFE.
This is one of the plainest of the Lord’s parables. Everyone can see the main features of the lesson. Only the practised truth withstands temptation.. “These sayings,” which the Lord says are His, are the revelations of His Truth, the great life-principles which He lays down for the government of our affections, thoughts, and doings. They are His, because He is the Divine Truth, personified. And yet, as He elsewhere says, ‘I The Word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me;” i. e., Divine Truth is not self-existent, but is from the Divine Good, which is the inmost of all things. Good is the Father, and Truth is the Son: yet they are one, as Good makes one with the Truth, which is its form, and by which it manifests itself; and as the heat of fire makes one with its light, being inseparably united.
In the inward sense, to hear is to hear in the inward man, the spirit; and that is to know and understand. To hear the Lord’s sayings, is to know and understand His truth, and to know it to be His truth, and to receive it as His, Natural men often adopt a principle, merely as a scientific truth, without any reference to the Lord, as the Source of that truth. For instance: the worldly-wise man says,” Honesty is the best policy;” and he adopts an honest policy, because he sees that, on the whole, it gains more than a wavering and dishonest policy. The man is not governed by religious principles, but by worldly policy; he merely uses the prudence of the serpent in choosing his policy.
But the man who seeks to know what the Lord teaches and wills, and who determines to do that which is commanded, without waiting to consider worldly policy, is governed by religious principles. The parable comes to us in warning; and its force lies in its assertion that heaven is not formed in man by knowing and understanding Divine Truth, but by knowing, understanding and doing Divine Truth. For, the difference between the man building on the rock, and the man building on the sand, is that one does the Lord’s sayings, and the other does them not. Both hear His sayings: both know and understand Divine Truths; but one applies them to his life, and is secure against evil, while the other keeps them as intellectual things, but not applied to his daily life; and, as a consequence, the storms of temptation beat upon the latter man, and he falls in spiritual death. The whole reason why men Should hear the Lord’s sayings, is that they may do them: the doing is the end, and the hearing is the means to carry. out the end.
A WISE MAN.
He who does the sayings, or teachings, of the Lord, is likened to a wise man. The world often calls a man wise who knows much; but the Lord calls a man wise, when he makes a good use of his knowledge, by living- according to it. And folly consists not in a lack of knowledge, but in making no good use of what we know; not applying our knowledge to a good life. The wise man gave proof of his wisdom, by building his house upon a rock. In the spiritual sense, the parable refers to spiritual things; to the spiritual house which our spirit is building, in our minds,
THE SPIRITUAL HOUSE.
Each man’s own mind is his spiritual house, that in which he shall abide. The mind consists of the will, with its affections, and the understanding, or intellect, with its thoughts. A man’s spiritual life is in his mind, that is, in his will and understanding. And the kind, or quality, of his life depends upon the state of his mind.
We are all building up our minds, with certain principles; we are all building up the inward houses in which we are to live forever. Day by day, moment by moment, we are adding piece by piece to the structure, after our chosen plan. If we build our house with heavenly materials, good affections and true thoughts, our Lord will enter into it and abide with us. And we so build, when we keep His sayings; for He says, “.If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
With the good man, the Lord, through His ministering angels, really builds the inward house, while the man does his part, by doing the Lord’s teachings. And with the evil man, the evil spirits operate, and use him as their tool. . ~ut the character of the house which we are building within, depends not entirely upon the superstructure; its stability depends principally upon the kind of foundation we give it. Without a secure foundation no house is safe. The most magnificent palace at once loses its value, when its foundation is seen to be sinking. The wise man built his house upon a rock.
In the letter of the Scriptures, “a rock” is the symbol of truth. And, as the Lord, in His Divine Humanity, is the Truth, He is called the Rock. “Jehovah is my Rock, and my Fortress…. who is a Rock, save our God?” The Rock, then, upon which the wise man builds his mental house, is the Lord. In a more particular sense the Rock is the Lord’s Divine Truth. We receive the truth in faith. To build our house upon a rock, is to build our minds upon the Lord’s truth, held in genuine faith. The two parts of man’s mind are like the two parts of a house; the will is the foundation, and the understanding is the superstructure. The house is founded upon a rock, when the will firmly holds the truth of our faith; when we know and understand the truth, and set our hearts firmly upon the truth, upon the Lord, as the Truth, and upon the good life lived according to the truth.
But when the understanding, only, looks to the truth, and we do not fix our heart upon it, the truth is in one part of our mind, only, the superstructure, and is not in the foundation. Then our house may appear to be well built, but it is not secure; for it is not founded upon a rock, but upon the sand.
And “sand” is the symbol of truths lying in the memory and intellect, without being loved in the will. The rock and the sand are made of the same material; they are both stone. But the rock is firm and living, and held together according to natural laws; while the sand is dead rock, the broken and scattered bones of the great rocks of past ages no longer held firmly together. The particles composing the living rock are like the living truths in our minds, conjoined, cemented, firmly held together, by the binding principle of living love. But ·the particles of sand, lying loosely together, and merely adjoined, not conjoined, only placed side by side, but not cemented together by any living principle, and easily scattered apart, are like the truths laid up in our memories and intellects, which give no firm base, or foundation, upon which to build up any spiritual life.
The fact that there is no firm foundation except upon the rock of living faith in the truth, based in the will, appears even more clearly from the parallel passage in Luke, in which it is said, “He that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man, who, without a foundation, built a house,” etc.
THE CHURCH ON THE ROCK.
When Peter said, “Thou art the Christ,” Jesus said to him, “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock will I build My Church.” The word, Peter, or Petra, means a rock. And the rock upon which our Lord builds His Church, is a living faith in the truth, based in the will. And when we build our spiritual house upon a rock, that house is a Church, for our Lord abides in it, and in it we worship Him. The Church is thus planted in man, in the truths of faith, based on love.
If we are not principled in love to our Lord, we are led by self-love. And, as “a man can receive nothing, unless it be given him from heaven,” there is no power, or security, or stability, or happiness, in relying on self. And when a man receives truths superficially, he does not allow them to show him his own evils. And, hence, he does not put away his evils, and does not practise the truth. But the parable shows us why, and how, the sand is an insecure foundation for our house.
THE RAINS, ETC.
The danger comes from the rain, the floods and the winds. And we notice that these come upon both houses; but one stands, while the other falls. The house founded upon a rock does not escape meeting the rain, floods and storms, but it escapes being destroyed by them. The rains, floods and winds, represent the temptations which beset and assault us, in our life-experience. We must all meet them; but while the good stand secure under them, the evil fall.
Our faith is tried in temptations. If it be true, and founded on the Lord, loved in the heart, it will stand the test, and will come out like gold from the fire, purer and better; but if it be false, merely intellectual faith, not based in the ruling-love, it will be undermined and swept away.
By means of our natural tendencies towards evils, evil spirits are able to draw near to us, and to excite our propensities. Yet, by means of the truths taught us from the Lord’s Word, the angels draw near to us, to counteract evil influences, and to lead us to heaven. If our faith is merely in our intellect, the angels will have access to our intellect, only, and they can influence us by thoughts, only; and if our hearts are given up to evils, the evil spirits, having access to our hearts, will lead us by our affections. And we know that our affections will carry us onward, even against our thoughts to the contrary; because the affections gradually control the intellect. But, if the angels can lead us by our affections, as they can when we love the things of faith, then the evil propensities of our natural minds will not gain power over us, in temptation. Temptation comes to all; but, to the good, it does the work of purifying; while, to the evil, it brings confirmation in evil.
The severe trials of temptation are well pictured by the combined attack of the rain, the floods and winds, beating upon a house. “Rain,” as water, is the symbol of natural truth. But, when rain is violent and destructive, it denotes truth perverted, and changed into falsity. The violent rain beating upon the house represents falsity attacking the mind, false suggestions, cunning falsities, coming upon the mind, from evil spirits, exciting the hereditary natural tendencies to evil.
In temptations, these false suggestions flow into the mind, in gradually increasing volume. As in nature, long continued and heavy rains produce a flood, so, in the mind, during temptation, the wicked rain of false suggestions gradually produces a flood, an accumulation of falsities, swelling up, like an angry flood, and rushing on, in a body, to overwhelm every spiritually living thing in their path.
And the winds come, also. These destructive storms of wind, which accompany the violent rains and rising floods, represent the peculiar attitude of falsities in which they engage the thoughts. They come with a more cunning and subtle power than the rain and the flood; like the wind, they penetrate through every nook and corner, and use every weak spot to exert their influence. They come quietly, at first, but increase into tornadoes, and threaten everything before them.
There is a suggestive distinction which does not appear in the common English translation; the words translated beat (” the winds, flood and rain beat’ upon that house,”) are not the same, in the two cases. In speaking of the house founded on a rock, the word used would be better translated .fell>, while, concerning the house on the sand, the word means to dash. against, or beat upon. While, upon, the evil mind, with its false faith, destroying all good and truth in such a mind, yet the same falsities only fall upon the good, coming with much less violence, and carrying away with them the evil propensities which invited them, and leaving the mind in the sweet peace that follows the resisted storm.
THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL STORMS.
The Lord has built His Church, in man, upon the rock of a living, loving faith, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” And this is a suggestion, to us, of the source of these violent temptations j they are furious storms, rushing out from the open” gates of hell,” which are open to us, so far as we have, in us, evils and evil inclinations which tend towards the hells, and which seek to enter there, as a congenial home. By means of these temptations, the evil spirits try to seduce and destroy our spiritual houses. But, in turning these storms of temptations to service, with the good, our Lord” makes the wrath of man to praise Him,” and secures good to the good, by the permission of evil to the evil. The good are secure, in temptations, because their hearts are regenerating, and thus their inward loves are opposed to the evil hereditary inclinations of their natural minds, through which temptations come.
MENTAL HOUSES BUILT IN THE SPIRITUAL WORLD.
As the spirit of man lives always in the spiritual world, where is this inward house-building going on? Certainly in the spiritual world. The parable says that the man who lives by the Lord’s teachings, and who is a wise man, is like one who builds his house on a firm rock. But, spiritually, the wise man is not only like such a man, but he is such a man: he spiritually builds his spiritual house on a spiritual rock and the fool builds his spiritual house on spiritual sand. The text is literally true of spiritual things. The good man’s inward house is actually built in heaven; for heaven is not merely a place, but an inward state. And natural death is the means of bringing him into full and conscious possession of his house.
But the evil fall, in temptation, because their inward minds are closed against heaven, whence, only, help can come; and because the evil, being in real sympathy with the hells are willing that the hells should lead them. They are really building their houses in the hells, from choice.
But the house founded on the rock endured the storm and did not fall; the man whose faith was founded in his will endured, because he sought, and received, life and help from the Lord, who, alone, is able successfully to combat against evil spirits.
But the house built on the sand yielded to the storm, and fell; and “great was the fall of it;” i. e., the mind which knows and understands truth, and yet inwardly cherishes evil, falls, in temptation, and, by its voluntary abuse of its knowledge and understanding, brings upon itself “the greater condemnation.” Its fall is great, entire, complete. A fall into slight falsities, from which one can again become freed, is a slight fall; but a fall under the great and overwhelming torrents of falsities from evil, is truly a great fall, a complete spiritual undermining, a watery grave to the perishing spiritual man.
Only the practised truth builds up the character, The great business of our life is to build a house for our Lord to dwell in, in our hearts and lives. If we do not build for our Lord, we shall build a mere ” den for wild beasts, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” Every good affection is a sound piece of timber, for an inward house; and every true thought is a strong and durable stone. On the other side, every evil affection is a decayed timber, and every false thought is a mouldering brick.
Our Lord gives us, in the holy Word, all the plans, specifications and estimates that are necessary to do our building well. And it should be our great delight to do this work of building. But foolish men try to build with their own plans, while good and wise men build with the Lord’s plans. The wise man selects his materials with great care, and builds with care, But the careless man takes any materials that seems to come to hand. What we need are not mere sentiments, but fixed principles. There is no way of fixing a principle in the manhood, except by doing it. In the doing, the love of the good, and the thought of the truth, are fixed in our conduct,
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887