The Ten Commandments

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto - May 11, 2008

Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Mat 22:37-39)

  1. Although the topic for the 7th week of the Journey is the "Ten" Commandments, there really are just two commandments.
    1. Love the Lord, and love your neighbour as yourself.
      1. … the two essentials of the New Church … are that the Lord alone is the God of heaven and earth, and that His Human is Divine; and that men ought to live according to the precepts of the Decalogue. (AR 485)
    2. These two make up the essential core of all religion, the life of heaven, the life of charity on earth, and the doctrine of the New Church.
      1. One might even say that this is the Lord's own "mission statement" for people on earth. The church should draw its mission statement from it, providing assistance to those people who wish to be a part of the Lord's programs. The organized church's first goal should be to help people know who the Lord is because you cannot love someone you do not know. This is done by providing places and forms of worship, and by instruction from the Lord's own Word.
      2. But, like most things, once you have established the principles, the most general teachings, you need to go on to flesh it out a bit and clarify what you mean.
        1. That's why there are additional commandments.
        2. That's why the Word is full of stories showing what happens to people when they break the commandments; and what happens when people put themselves into the Lord's order.
    3. One other issue related to the number of Commandments.
      1. They have always been called the "Ten Commandments" but sometimes people were a little confused as to why there were 2 commandments about coveting. So, they have frequently been combined, and the first commandment divided into two.
        1. One God,
        2. No idols
        3. Name in Vain
        4. Keep the Sabbath
        5. Honour Father and mother,
        6. No Murder
        7. No Adultery
        8. No Theft
        9. No False Witness
        10. No Coveting of spouse or property.
      2. In the New Church we have the luxury of knowing through Divine Revelation how the Lord numbered them, and why. There are 2 tables, one is for God, one is for His people. As there is a Trinity in God, there are three commandments that relate to Him.
        1. One God - and therefore no idols.
        2. Keep His Name
        3. Keep the Sabbath.
      3. On the other table are 6 commandments that tell people how they are to live in communities with one another.
        1. No murder
        2. No adultery
        3. No theft
        4. No false witness
        5. No Coveting of the house
        6. No Coveting of the things within the house
      4. And the 4th Commandment, "Honour your father and mother" tie the two tables together.
        1. The Lord is your father, and the church is your mother - so it belongs on the Lord's table; and nothing is so important to community peace and well being than the proper respect towards one's parents, so it runs over onto the second table.
        2. That also means that the 9th and 10th Commandments are both about coveting, but different kinds.
          1. If you happen to hear that someone broke the "sixth" commandment, you need to find out which numbering system is being used or you might get the wrong idea.
    4. Reflecting on the image of the Ten Commandments being given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, no reasonable person suggests that this was the first time that people heard the idea that society should be based on laws, and that those laws would include prohibitions on murder, stealing, lying, and adultery.
      1. But, but giving them from Mt. Sinai in the midst of thunderings and lightnings He put the stamp of Divine Authority on them.
        1. TCR 282 as read in the Children's talk: But listen: they were promulgated in so miraculous a way to make known that these laws are not only civil and moral laws, but also Divine laws; and that acting contrary to them is not only doing evil to the neighbour, that is, to a fellow citizen and society, but is also sinning against God. Wherefore these laws, by their promulgation by Jehovah from Mount Sinai, were made also laws of religion.
        2. Evidently whatever Jehovah commands, He commands in order that it may be a matter of religion, and thus some thing to be done for the sake of salvation.
          1. We need to be careful when thinking about ways of presenting the New Church to others. The process of marketing a product of some sort seeks to find out what you want, and then provide it to you for a price. If Jehovah thought this was a good way to run the church He would have soon seen that the children of Israel did not want rituals, nor did they want to give up their best livestock for sacrifice! They wanted to drink and sing and dance in the "high places". If Jesus wanted to grow the church among the people of His day, He would have done lots more miracles of healing, driven out the Romans, and given them an explosive economy.
      2. But He didn't give any of them what they wanted. He gave them - and us - the burden of the cross instead.
        1. The whole point of church/revelation/religion is that there are things that we need for the sake of our spiritual lives that are not immediately obvious to us.
          1. Which would your child prefer for dinner, Ice cream or broccoli? Or if our child ask for bread, will we give them a stone?