587. V. THE FIRST ACT IN THE NEW BIRTH IS CALLED REFORMATION, WHICH PERTAINS TO THE UNDERSTANDING, AND THE SECOND IS CALLED REGENERATION, WHICH PERTAINS TO THE WILL AND THEREFROM TO THE UNDERSTANDING.
As reformation and regeneration are treated of here and in what follows, and reformation is ascribed to the understanding and regeneration to the will, it is necessary that the distinctions between the understanding and will should be known, which distinctions are described above (n. 397); therefore it is advisable to read first what is there said, and afterwards this section. It has also been shown there that the evils into which man is born are generated in the will of the natural man, and that the will causes the understanding to favor it by thinking in agreement with it. For this reason, that man may be regenerated, it is necessary that his regeneration be effected by means of the understanding as the mediate cause; and this is done by means of the various kinds of instruction that the understanding receives, first from parents and teachers, afterward by reading the Word, by preaching, books, and conversation.
The things which the understanding receives from these sources are called truths; it is the same, therefore, whether reformation is said to be effected by means of the understanding, or by means of the truths which the understanding receives; for truths teach man in whom he ought to believe, and what he ought to believe, also what he ought to do, thus how he ought to will; for whatever one does he does from the will in accordance with his understanding. Since then, man's will itself is evil by birth and the understanding teaches what good and evil are, and man can will either good or evil, it follows that he must be reformed by means of the understanding; and so long as anyone sees and mentally acknowledges that evil is evil, and good is good, and thinks that the good ought to be chosen, he is in what is called the state of reformation; but when his will leads him to shun evil and do good, the state of regeneration begins.