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The Decalogue and Sermon on the Mount
JUDGE SEPTIMUS J. HANNA, CSD


         . . . The Mosaic Decalogue has lost none of its significance by lapse of time. It means as much today as it ever meant. It was written for time and for eternity. There is deep significance in the fact of its having been written on tablets of stone. This symbolizes its permanency and endless duration. It was written for all mankind, not simply for the Children of Israel.

         As commonly interpreted it has been made the basis of human laws. The jurisprudence of civilized nations is based largely upon it. Men have made it the foundation wall upon which the fabric of human affairs has been built. It is an essential part of human history, and will continue to be as long as human history endures. All moral codes are constructed more or less upon it. It is generally regarded as authority for the infliction of corporal punishment for the violation of penal codes. Capital punishment finds its warrant, as is believed, in the Ten Commandments. What is usually considered the Mosaic law is believed to be based upon it.

         It has not found a larger place or attained to a higher dignity in the world's estimate, than that of a moral code. It has been commonly conceived to be a mere interdiction against the commission of those acts which go to make up the calendar of crime and offences against morality. This is well as far as it goes. It unquestionably covers every phase of crime and of immorality. Too much importance cannot be attached to it in this respect. Nor as a general rule can it be too rigidly enforced in its moral aspects. But does it rest here?

         It may be of benefit to consider for a little while the meaning and effect of its first article, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." No one can understandingly read "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker G. Eddy, without seeing that it has its basis in this statement of the Decalogue. In Recapitulation, p. 468, this fact is made most plainly apparent. Indeed, the entire book is but an amplification of this declaration of the Decalogue. So of all her other works.

         The statement we are considering is construed to be a command against idol worship, — that is, against the bowing down before and supplicating gods of wood and stone, as the heathen do. It is admittedly such a command. It comprehends all that has ever been claimed for it in this respect. But does this embrace the totality of its meaning? By no means. As a command it is directed against every form and character of idolatry.

         What is idolatry? Scientifically considered it is the attributing of power to other sources than God, the only Source, the only Power. It matters not what form of conjectural power it may be. The primary idol-worship, that which has clung to mortal man all down the ages, is the mistaken notion that there is a matter-life, a matter-intelligence, a matter-existence, and a matter-reality. This is the false sense of wisdom so startlingly portrayed in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures;" the forbidden fruit, the eating of which leads to all forms of sin. It is the error of errors, the sin of sins. From it springs every false conception which is the spring of every false act. The idol worship of the heathen is but a small part of idolatry. It takes on almost countless forms. One of the most deplorable forms of idolatry is the worship of the mortal body. It is not the "image and likeness" of God, therefore is a false god. To worship it in the sense of giving it any power, authority, or dominion whatever, is having another god than the God of the Decalogue. Well may this sweeping declaration against it constitute the first statement of that mighty Chart of Liberty which came out from amidst the burning bush and the thunderings and lightnings of Sinai! Well may Jesus, the great expounder and exemplifier of the Decalogue, have caught these reverberating thunder tones, and reemphasized them again and again in word and act and demonstration: "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" This was but a verbal reaffirmance of the Mosaic inhibition, for every conception of life in matter and power and intelligence apart from God, is included in this body-worship.

         Let us briefly analyze the meaning of this great, first commandment.

         Thou. Who is this thou? as a command, to whom is it addressed? Alone to the Children of Israel? Only as the Children of Israel stand in type for the whole human race, was it addressed to them. In a large sense it was meant for all mankind.

         What length, breadth, depth, and height of meaning then has it as a command! But is it merely a command? It is infinitely more than that. It is a universal, eternal, divine law. In the fulness of its meaning, it is as boundless as infinity. It is absolutely without limitation or circumscription.

         Let us observe that its language is in the imperative mode. Thou shalt. There is nothing equivocal about these words. They are absolute, peremptory, authoritative. The next word is, Have. Thou shalt have. To have is to possess. Therefore, Thou shalt possess, what? without exception, "no other gods before me." Every word of this divine statute is in the imperative.

         And why is it that "thou shalt have no other gods"? For the overwhelming reason that thou canst have no other. There is no other to have, to possess. Mortal man may flatter himself that he can have other gods, — all sorts of gods. He may set up in his puny imagination his gods of wood and stone, of iron, of brass, of silver and of gold; he may fancy he can make a god of his or another's corporeality, of the almighty dollar, of fame and fortune, — but the Divine law is that after all his puerile efforts, he can possess, as the real fact of his Being, only the God of divine Science, the Principle of all true Being. He cannot accomplish the impossible. And what is the result of his efforts thus to separate himself from God? He brings upon himself those false conditions which make him subject to the law of sin, sickness, and death. These are the bitter fruits of his idol worship; the sole answer to his prayers addressed to false gods.

         Are we to assume that because the Decalogue has been only partially understood God so intended it? We answer, It is no part of divine Love to withhold from man a knowledge of the Kingdom of Heaven. If it be asked how we know this, or how we are able to make so apparently dogmatic an assertion, we say, The sacred Scriptures tell us so. They teach that God is All-in-all. They teach that there is but one God. These declarations include all else. If God is one and He is Truth, it follows that there is but one Truth; if He is Love, there is but one Love. If He is infinite, there is but one Infinite, hence as the Infinite He withholds not Himself from His creatures. Only their limited conception of Him can shut out Truth and Love from their consciousness.

         Among the convincing evidences of God's infiniteness, of the boundlessness of Love, is the fact that after having sounded forth this all-comprehensive Truth from Sinai, amidst such emblems of power and impressiveness as were sufficient to wake the dead, he continued through Moses and all the prophets, in successive ages and generations, to demonstrate, illustrate, amplify, and make plain, by symbol, by metaphor, by figure, by majestic prose and sweetest verse, by admonition, by chastisement, by act upon act and word upon word, by supplication, by every device of divine wisdom and compassion, to impress upon mortals that He is the one and only God, and that they can have no other.

         Not only does He thus labor with infinite patience throughout the successive ages of the Old Covenant, but a New Covenant (to human sense) is ushered in by the birth of Jesus, amidst divine manifestations even more striking and impressive than were those accompanying the Sinaitic utterances. Divine Love, through Jesus, demonstrates its infinity with the perfection of patience, step by step, from the manger to the cross. By speech, by pleading admonition, by rebuke and denunciation, by every act and deed possible to one appearing in the semblance of the flesh, did this demonstrator of infinite Love, seek to arouse mortals from the false dream that they were having gods many, to a knowledge of the grand reality that they could have but one. Nor did infinite Love cease its activity on Calvary. Jesus reappeared and continued, after mortal sense testified to his death and burial, to show forth Love's infinity. And his parting assurance was that he would not leave his followers comfortless, but would send them "another Comforter."

         Have they been left comfortless? Are we who are living in at least the partial apprehension of that divine Science which has come to this age, living without God and without hope in the world? Is not infinite Love still infinite? Is not God yet reaching out His great strong arm and inviting us to conscious communion with Him?

         Are we not living in the Light of a glorious dispensation — a dispensation which has led us indeed to understand that God is Love, and there is none beside him?

         We declare then, from the pages of Holy Writ, from the thunderings and lightnings of Sinai, from the infinite depths of the Decalogue, from the angelic song of Bethlehem, from the sweet cadences of the Sermon on the Mount, from the brightness of the Transfiguration, from the earthquakings of Calvary, from the divine utterances of the resurrected Christ, from the words of Jesus speaking through John on Patmos, from the illuminated pages of our mighty textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," — that wondrous book, each word of which finds its basis in the Decalogue and Sermon on the Mount, — from all the inspired writings of our Leader, that "Thou shalt have no other gods before" the God of the Decalogue, the one and only God.

         The next commandment is, —

         Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow thyself down to them, nor serve them.

         It requires no elucidation to show that this is but a reaffirmance of the first declaration. To have a graven image, or any likeness of anything, anywhere, is to have, or attempt to have, other gods before God. The language could not be broader. It relates to the highest (heaven) as well as the lowest, — not alone the earth, — but as if to make further emphasis impossible, it includes "anything" which may be "under the earth."

         We have above said, "One of the most deplorable forms of idolatry is the worship of the mortal body. It is not made in the image and likeness of God, therefore it is a false god." What is true of body-worship, is true of the worship of any kind of personality, in the sense of embodied personality. If God were worshiped as an embodied personality, or a corporeal being, would not this be worshiping in direct contravention of these commandments? It was possibly to guard against this form of worship that both Romanists and Protestants in their Articles of Faith declared God to be "without body or parts," or "without body, parts, or passions." Whether it were so intended or not, this definition, carried out, would have the effect to prevent such worship. It is clear, however, that any worship of God based upon a wrong conception of him, or which seeks to strip Him of His character as infinite, bodiless Intelligence and universal Love, is an attempt to set Him up as an image graven in personal form, and having personal attributes and limitations. Such a God was the Jehovah of the Hebrews, and in so far as this conception of Him is still adhered to, He is being set up in the human heart as a graven image.

         What is true of the worship of things in heaven, — that is in the higher conceptions of personality, — is, according to the language we are considering, true of every lower form of worship or conception. The only way to avoid the violation of this second commandment, then, is to have no other gods than the God of the Decalogue, the God who is the Divine and only Principle of the universe.

         Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

         This is a command against swearing — profanity. There is no form of profanity not covered by it. It is directed against the vulgar habit of swearing as that word is commonly understood. Any improper use of God's holy name is a violation of this command. But does its meaning stop here? In the higher sense, what is it to take the name of God in vain? Any wrong conception of God is taking His name in vain. The wrong conception leads to wrong teaching and preaching, wrong action and living, and these must needs bring their penalties. To make of God a graven image in the sense above indicated, is taking His name in vain.

         Whatever makes Him less than supreme, less than all-power, all-wisdom, all-love, is taking His name in vain. To attribute any real power, authority, or dominion to anything or any one else, is taking His name in vain. It is living in vain relation to Him, and all attempts at having other gods than God, sooner or later lead every mortal to exclaim as did Job, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit."

         Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

         This is an injunction to keep the Sabbath. It includes all that is generally claimed for it. But in the fullest sense, What is the Sabbath? It is the Lord's day, and the Lord's day is the best day. What makes the best day? Day here may be used both in the sense of time and of eternity. To have a perpetual Sabbath, an eternally enduring best day, is faithfully to obey the commandment to have no other gods than God. This will bring the Sabbath to each human consciousness. This will bring rest, the rest of spiritual activity, — the only true rest.

         Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

         This includes honor to the earthly parents. There cannot be too much honor accorded to our earthly parents, or too much obedience to them so far as they rightly demand obedience. But is this all our divine injunction means? Who are our parents? Whom did Jesus say was our Parent? The Heavenly Parent, and the Heavenly Parent is our Father-Mother God. Then in its highest sense, the commandment is to honor our Heavenly Parent, God. How shall He be honored? By having no other gods, no other Power, Intelligence, Life, Love, or Truth than Him. To honor is to obey. Obedience to God, then, is compliance with this commandment.

         Thou shalt not kill.

         This is a command not to murder in the ordinary sense of the term. It is directed against the killing of one's fellowman. But the taking of human life is not the only killing. While nothing short of this will come within the legal definition of murder, yet there is much more included in this language than the commission of murder as it is defined in the laws of our land. Every wrong and blighting thought, every injurious purpose, held against our neighbor, is a killing thought and purpose. Envy, malice, jealousy, hatred, — every quality of mortal mind which would tend to destroy the birthright of another, is a murderous quality. Not only is this true as to others, but as to ourselves. We as sadly disinherit ourselves of our true birthright by harboring such qualities, as we interfere with others. We are suicides in the degree in which we hold ourselves in other than our true relationship to God.

         But in a still higher sense, every attempt to prevent the full operation of divine Love in human consciousness, is an attempt to kill. Killing is not necessarily or always the result of an intention to kill. Much of it is done unintentionally. How vitally important, then, that mankind should so live in the understanding of Good, of Divine law, that they do not attempt to kill either intentionally or otherwise! God is Love. Any attempt, therefore, to shut out from mankind the fullest sense of Love, is either an ignorant or malicious attempt to kill.

         The most wicked thing is the attempt to kill Truth; on human planes the next to it is the attempt to kill character. When Cain killed Abel he sought to destroy Abel's character, which was a constant reproach to Cain. When the Jews crucified Jesus, they sought thereby to destroy the Truth he taught and demonstrated. But they neither killed him nor the Truth he taught and demonstrated. Every thought, purpose, and act apart from God as divine Principle and Love, therefore, is in this sense a killing thought, purpose, and act. There is but one way to avoid violating the command not to kill, and that is to have no other gods than God.

         Thou shalt not commit adultery.

         This prohibits the violation of the moral law of chastity in the broadest possible sense. There is no form of unchastity against which it is not directed. Every lustful or impure thought and act, is a violation of this command. The impure thought, even though not expressed in act, is the commission of adultery. So the Master expressly said. He also said: "That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Every one of these qualities is an adulterous quality. Webster defines adultery thus: "Adulteration; corruption; lewdness; unchastity of thought or action; faithlessness in religion; injury; degradation; ruin." Thus we see that even according to the ordinary definition of the word, adultery is much more than the violation of chastity, as that term is commonly understood. Any form of dishonesty is adultery. We hear much of the adulteration of food in the commercial world; this is a form of adultery. But in the higher sense, any departure from the law of righteousness is adultery.

         Any violation of the first commandment is therefore adulterous. Hence the only way to avoid committing adultery is to have no other gods than Him who is wholly pure.

         Thou shalt not steal.

         A sweeping interdiction against every kind of theft. To steal in the strict sense is to take away from any one their just rights, whether those rights be vested in property of a material kind or otherwise. It is theft unjustly to deprive one of a single right vouchsafed him by the laws of the land, although it is not technically so defined in our criminal codes. It is crime to trespass in any manner upon the rights and privileges of another. It is not less stealing, however, to trespass upon one's own rights. Although we may not become amenable to the civil law by stealing from ourselves, we nevertheless become so to the divine law, and we must suffer the punishment resulting from such theft. In the mental realm, any thought or purpose which in any manner interferes, or tends to interfere, with the mental rights and duties of another, is a violation of this commandment. So also as to ourselves. Any abridgment of our own rights, duties, or heritage, is likewise a violation.

         Let us think of this seriously. When we hold aught against our neighbor than love, are we not stealing from him? When we hold ourselves in aught but our true selfhood, and act accordingly, are we not stealing from ourselves? When we do an unjust act or think an unjust thought, we are stealing at once from our birthright and our neighbor's.

         Any form of dishonesty is in conflict with this mighty commandment. When we plagiarize from the writings of another, what are we doing but stealing? Ah! the word "steal" is a word of wide significance, and must we not indeed pursue a strait and narrow course to avoid violating this divine law?

         Whoever falsely teaches, whoever in any manner misleads his fellows from this strait and narrow way, whoever points to any other way than the Christ-way, is, consciously or unconsciously, stealing from his neighbor and from himself.

         How shall this theft be avoided? Only by having no other gods than God, only by being governed wholly by divine Principle.

         Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

         This is a declaration against false swearing. It covers every form of false testifying, either upon the witness stand under the solemnity of an oath or otherwise. But is this all? Everything that has been said above as to injury to the neighbor and self, is equally true here.

         To do an injurious act, or hold any injurious thought, against the neighbor, is bearing false testimony against him. So also as to ourselves. Our best neighbor is our own true self. If we live on right terms with this neighbor, there will be no difficulty about our neighbor across the way. If we live in constantly neighborly terms with the Christ-Truth, we shall avoid bearing false testimony against our neighbor and against ourselves. To avoid bearing such false testimony, we must forsake all selfish motives, abandon the idols of the false senses, and have no other gods than God.

         The next and last of the Ten Commandments, declares against covetousness. Covetousness is the outgrowth of selfishness, and selfishness is the basic sin. Every form of sin springs from self, — the false self.

         When this false element is rooted out, there will be nothing left which could violate the other commandments. There is but one way to root it out, and that is to have no other gods before God.

         If we were to look upon these commandments and this enunciation of divine law only through the lens of material sense, we might well say as did the Children of Israel to whom God spake through Moses, "Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." But from the Mount of Divine Science we can fearlessly approach the altar of Truth and Love and hear with glad ears the reassuring words of Moses: "Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not."

         A moment's thought will show us how intimate is the relationship between the Mosaic Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount. A mere glance at the two will prove that the former has its basis in the latter.

         Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

         Poorness of spirit, as here meant, is the wealth of divine understanding which brings such a consecration of purpose to the things of God that all else becomes poverty, — nothingness. This consecration drives out from consciousness all other gods than the God of the Decalogue.

         Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

         How shall God be seen and known? Only by having no other gods than the one Pure Good, — that omnipotent Intelligence who is too pure to behold iniquity. God, unclouded with gods of human construction and conception, Good unmixed with evil, — this is the God of the Decalogue, and before Him shall no others be had.

         And so with every one of the Master's sayings; they may be traced back to this one great primal Truth. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is but an amplification of this primal Truth. All that the prophets said and did was in illustration and corroboration of it.

         So with Jesus' words and acts from the manger to the cross. So with the words and acts of the apostles. They were to show to blind mortals the folly, and the ultimate impossibility, of having any other than the God who is almighty, all-wise, all-powerful.

         If it needs but a glance to see the indissoluble link between the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount, so is it with the Decalogue and Sermon on the Mount, and our textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."

         We see that it is based absolutely on this first great declaration. And its every word and phrase is in emphasis and elaboration of it. The primary statement of our textbook, upon which depends every other of its statements, that there is "no life, substance, or intelligence in matter," but that "all is Mind," is but a restatement of the declaration, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

         Until this conception of the Decalogue is grasped and applied as the fact of existence, men will go on in the delusive attempt to have gods of their own. We do not scruple for an instant, therefore, to affirm that our textbook is born of that same God who spoke through Moses on Sinai; that it is but the continued reverberation of the Sinaitic thunderings; that its echoes can no more be hushed in human history or shut out from human consciousness than can the facts of the Decalogue and Sermon on the Mount, or the verity of the historical Moses and the historical Jesus.

         Many thousands of persons in this land and in other lands, will bear testimony to this statement: that until they understandingly read Science and Health they had not the remotest conception of the meaning of the Decalogue in its deep interior sense; it was to them but a moral code, intended only to warn against the commission of wrongful and criminal acts in the material or external sense. They do not in their higher understanding of its meaning, detract one iota from its worth as a moral code, in the ordinary sense. On the contrary, its significance in this respect has become mightily intensified. But now, in the light which has been thrown upon it by the revelation of divine Science in this age, they clearly see in it the very essence of existence, — the reality of all true Being.

         It stands as the Principle of Life expressed in words, to be worked out in the actuality of demonstration in the absolute, as truly as the principle of mathematics, in the relative sense, must be worked out in practical detail in order to make it available.

 

"The Decalogue and Sermon on the Mount"
by Judge Septimus J. Hanna, CSD
The Christian Science Journal, November 1899
 

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