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3 The Law Concerning The Sabbath

Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day, and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:8-11

Man is liable to forget. Throughout one's life, this is one of the most persistent of human weaknesses. A thing has to be impressed upon us many times, regularly, repeatedly, and in varied modes, before it becomes so familiar that we are no more in danger of forgetting it. Repetition is therefore one of the modes of education, whereby the child is trained to remember what may be considered to be the essential things of knowledge and life. And ritual aims to do the same for the man's religious life.

Yet it is easy to forget even what has been repeatedly impressed, if there is no living and active affection to assist and prompt the recollection. We are not so much in danger of forgetting that which we love the most, as that which we do not hold so dear or so necessary. And although people's unequal powers of recollecting come very largely as the gifts of heredity or the fruits of an early cultivation, it is true of all men that it is more natural for them to remember what gives them delight and what interests them the most. Unless we are morbidly inclined, we pass over that which is displeasing to us - we like to forget our whiles of tribulation, we seek to flee from our sorrows and from what seems irksome and irritating and difficult and dangerous. And if our situation seems too desperate, or our responsibilities too great, it is quite in the spirit of human nature, and of the times in which we live, to bury our heads in the sands of forgetfulness and think of something else, to dismiss the serious side of life in a whirl of gay abandon.

The farther mankind drifts away from the Lord and from heavenly spheres, the more difficult become repentance and regeneration, and the longer is the road back to the true religious life - the life of spiritual humility and spiritual honesty; and the more irksome seems the road to salvation - the duty of spiritual life. So, also, it becomes easier then to forget the conditions for the Lord's help, and to say, with so many at this day, "If there is a God and an after-life, we will leave Him to look after us there. If not, what then? Let us not worry; let us forget what we may be hereafter, and ensure that we get along well here on earth!"

This prevalent attitude arises from the fact that the natural man from himself does not love anything except corporeal and material things, or - what the Doctrine classes under the two heads - Self and the World. And what one does not love, one wants to forget. If we look back into the past, we see in every nation two opposing tendencies. One is the irrepressible need for religious comfort, the craving of the soul for some spiritual acknowledgment of God, and the after-life, and of human duty; and the other is the desire of men to evade the conditions of salvation, and make the demands of religion easier - a desire which comes from the natural man which does not take any delight in spiritual things, and thus gradually wants to substitute some form of magic for religion! or else wants to do away with religion entirely.

The fact that the natural degree of man (with its evil heredity) is pervert as long as it remains the master of our life and we listen to it like Eve hearkened to the subtle serpent in the Garden, shows that it is not natural for us to remember the duties of religion. We arc liable to forget, and therefore the Lord in His Word and in the Writings of the Church constantly reminds us of them. Therefore it is that the Lord has instituted His Church, furnished, as it is, with a priesthood whose sole duty it is to maintain and administer "what is Divine" among men, and present the requirements of faith and spiritual life. Therefore - lest we forget - the Third Commandment, which looks to a continual and periodical reminder of the means of salvation, begins with the words, "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy."

In a more limited meaning, this precept from the Lord's mouth refers to the observance of that day of the week which in Christian countries is recognized as a day of rest and a religious holy-day. To the Jews it meant the seventh day, now called Saturday. From Friday sunset to Saturday sunset was the Jewish day of rest, called "Sabbath." But when the Jews, who had utterly departed from the spirit of the Sabbath, added to this by crucifying the Lord Himself on the very eve of the Sabbath, they, in the Lord's sight and in the view of Christians, did so profane the Sabbath that the day of the Lord's Resurrection, or Sunday, was assigned instead, and accepted by Christians as the Sabbath Day worthy to be kept holy, in remembrance of Him.

Sunday therefore became, symbolically, at once the first and the seventh day of the week, the Lord being the First and the Last. It became, the Doctrine shows - and should be observed as -- a day of Divine instruction, of rest from ordinary worldly occupations, of meditation upon salvation and eternal life, and of love toward God and the neighbor (TCR 301).

The fact of the change has a deep symbolic meaning, in that the Lord, who is inmostly signified by the Sabbath, was made the last in the Ancient and Jewish Churches, but is the first, and thus the beginning, in the Christian Churches. His final glorification progressed during the Jewish Sabbath, and was completed on the Christian Sabbath. But apart from this, it is inessential whether one day or another be declared to be the Sabbath, as long as the day agreed upon on earth as the Sabbath be set apart as the Lord's day, the day of rest, and thus be kept holy. For the holiness does not pertain -as some Christian literalists still believe - to the weekly calendar, but to the sacred use of such a day to us.

We are not merely commanded to remember that the Sabbath Day, thus sanctified and appointed, is holy. But we are given the responsibility to keep it holy. It is holy, that is, it has a holy use and a holy significance, whether we remember it or forget about it; but we are to see to it that we act and think in accordance with its holiness. "The Sabbath is made for man" - for his use, for the sake of his betterment, his reformation, his regeneration into spiritual life. It is necessary to have a time when we can cut ourselves clean away from this world's compelling worries and from the thoughts of natural life, and give an opportunity for our spiritual minds to be set free - that is, when the spiritual states, that are present as we may hope inmostly in all that we do, may without social embarrassments or social interference - come out freely in the conscious externals of the natural mind, and come to pest there, without disturbance from materialistic thought. Providence has ordained that every seventh day should rightly be used for this purpose, in order that spiritual and celestial things may then be impressed upon the natural mind, and the reformation of man's natural mind be facilitated. And there have to be very grave reasons indeed before we could feel justified in changing this Divine order.

The literal observance of the Sabbath is an ultimate, direct command which must not be made "of none effect" by our prudence or our restless desire for worldly diversions and exhilarations. The Church must unite to defend the dignity of the Sabbath, and its use as a holy, orderly ultimate of spiritual life. The Son of Man, who is the Lord of the Sabbath, has a right to this day. And although exaggerated piety has sometimes made the Sabbath Day a burden - and thereby has defeated its purpose and made it unacceptable both to God and to man, yet its proper use must be zealously maintained as one of the gates and bulwarks of heaven among men.

It is true that the literal sense of the Word must not be taken alone; for the letter killeth and it is the spirit which maketh alive. But the spiritual life of man is built upon ultimates of order, ultimates in time and space. Charity is nothing without civil and domestic uses. Conjugial love perishes without the stable institution of marriage. Education must depend on objects - on books, orderly homes, schools. And so religion rests upon the fulchrum of the Sabbath Day.

If these ultimates are broken down; if, because we know that the Lord looks upon the spirit rather than the literal observance, and permits us to pull our sheep out of the pit even on a Sabbath Day; if, then, we begin - by attrition, by small degrees, on pleas of liberality - to break down the sanctity of the Lord's Day, by making rules out of exceptions; a generation will surely come, with us as in the world, to whom this day will mean no more "a day for instruction in Divine things, and thus also a day of rest from labors and of meditation on such things as are of salvation and eternal life, as also a day of love towards the neighbor" (TCR 301).

In heaven the angels - although they too observe periodic days of rest and Divine instruction - are said to enjoy a perpetual Sabbath (and thus continually to "rest from their labors") because their natural minds are subjected to and correspond with their spiritual minds. In heaven spiritual thoughts and affection are liberated, once and for all, from the restraints - the self-consciousness, the rebellion, the anxieties - of the natural man. This is what gives existence to angelic blessedness. Even on earth - the Writings say - those who are in a life of love and charity also desire to observe the Sabbath holily, for "nothing is sweeter to [such men] than to worship the Lord and to glorify Him every day" (AC 1798:3). Piety thus is a sign of charity (Charity, chapter viii). The inward desire to worship Him is constantly present, and they welcome the opportunity to do so, fully and thus freely, and with both body and mind, when the Sabbath comes. Such truly remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.

When the Lord bids us to Remember, it behooves us to study what this injunction may mean! It is necessary for us to go to the Doctrines given for our spiritual welfare, and see what functions of mind are involved in the process .

First of all, there is no memory without learning. We must study the Word and the Doctrine to learn the things that pertain to our peace. Secondly, while our memory is formed from attentively receiving truths into our minds, these would only be stored there, apparently forgotten, useless and inactive, unless by an effort we take time to recollect them and bring them to mind. Only then can we be said to remember. But the evident purpose of the third precept is to prevent our ever forgetting. We must remember again and again perpetually - always remember. This is difficult - and with many it cannot be achieved except by a life-long process. Children, however well-intentioned as to obeying, have the great weakness of forgetting if not constantly reminded. And the simple good in the "first" or "natural" heaven have also a similar difficulty. They obey - when they remember. Unless they are in the sphere of higher angels they cannot remember! because they are not animated by a spiritual love of their own, they have not a love of good and truth for the sake of good and truth without idea of merit and reward. The third precept aims for a higher state than such a bare salvation - aims to make men masters, not servants - aims to bring men out of the house of bondage and make them free. And thus it prescribes: Remember always.

To "remember" means therefore, to have something perpetually in the thought, so that it rules universally with man even when he is meditating on other things or is engaged in everyday affairs (AC 8885) or in social diversions.

What has become insinuated into man's will, reigns universally in his thought, and makes up the inmost part of man. What man loves is also caught up frequently into manifest perception. Man ponders on what he loves. He brings it under the search-light of his reflections. But what he dislikes gravitates from the center toward the circumference - to the sides, where it lies, as it were forgotten. Only such ideas as are associated with delight, and are tied up with man's affections, are recalled to mind!

Truly, how wonderfully is man made! For even in our ability to forget there is a purpose - a blessing. Things false and evil, with the regenerating man, can thus be put away eventually, through disuse and aversion, even though they still remain indelibly preserved in the substance of his memory. And what is true and good - what is the Lord's with man - can then find room in man's mind, so that his whole spiritual body can thus "become light" with one whose eye is single.

Remember the Sabbath Day! Keep the Sabbath Day, and what it stands for, constantly in the thought; make it one with the love, the will; make it the Inmost of the mind! The Third Commandment goes on to suggest what the Sabbath Day signifies in the sight of heaven, and what it should signify to men. It tells that the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all their contents, in six days, and rested from His labors on the seventh, and thus that the seventh should be a day of rest unto the Lord, in which no labor may be done. It was as if this day was a day for reflective enjoyment, rather than for work; a day for the conjunction of the Lord with His finished creation. For the marriage of heaven and earth as symbolized by that early life of man in the paradise of Eden, the garden of worship and innocence, when creation was completed, and while heaven still dwelt on earth and mankind could still discern the Voice of Jehovah walking in the Garden in the cool of the day.

The Sabbath Day therefore, in the internal sense, signifies the Union of the Divine and the Human in the Lord's glorified Person; for this was the Rest, the End and Purpose, of the New Creation in Him; this was the result of the six days of combat and labor of temptation which He underwent on earth. It also signifies the Conjunction of the Lord's Divine Human with the angelic heaven, which that Redemption brought about, and the constant Presence of the Lord in heaven. And because of this the Sabbath Day also signifies the Marriage of good and truth in man and angel, since good is from the Divine Itself and truth is from the Divine Human revealed to the Church. Wherefore the Lord is present in His Divine Human wherever men suffer good and truth, or charity and faith, to be wedded within them (AC 10356, 8886). Rest and peace come from such conjunction.

To keep the Sabbath Day holy means to think holily and constantly about these three conjunctions; since "they are the very essentials of the Church," and since they would be profaned or violated if there should enter into the will of man (or into the inmosts of his thought) any sphere of idea or intention which is contrary to charity and faith, or contrary to the Lord's Divine Human.

This is what must be remembered, for without this idea there is no real holiness in our Sabbath observance. And it is therefore stated in the Writings, that this commandment and the next, which stand at the center of the Decalogue, do not begin like the rest with a "Thou shalt not...," but are put as a positive requirement of religious life, because, internally, on them all the rest depend! (AE 965:2).

It is not only Sunday observance which is here spoken of, but the positive need of acknowledging the Divinity of the Lord in His Human, and the conjunction of charity and faith; that is, of doing truth as well as believing it. And thus it also emphasizes man's need to ultimate his spiritual thoughts without profaning them or taking the Lord's name in vain. The New Churchman must see to it that the Sabbath Day is not only a time but a state, a state of internal peace and holy faith, which by the Lord's mercy is preserved in the inmosts of the regenerating man's mind. That state must be expressed in the natural mind. It must come forth into reflection, and whenever it does so come forth the labors and anxieties of temptation, doubt, and impatience must be quieted and put aside, our earthly prudence and conceit and disorderly imaginations must yield, and reverence and worship must fill our minds and prepare a place before the Lord.

This is indeed the manner of man's regeneration the way in which the natural and conscious mind is made receptive to the Lord. And such Sabbath-states of worship, instruction, meditation, and charity are sorely necessary, daily and continually, if we shall hope even to maintain the dominance of whatever of celestial love the Lord has implanted in our hearts as remains; and if we are ever to realize the yoke of the Lord as easy and His burden as light.

"Come unto Me," saith the Lord, "and I will give you rest...unto your souls." The six days of labor and temptation must not engender permanent spheres which shall disturb the peace of our love. The intranquil states which rule before regeneration must gradually yield their sceptre. The restlessness and passion of a sensual world, and the prudence of a solicitous proprium, must not govern our souls, lest violence be perpetrated upon the celestial and spiritual states which are to become our eternal heritage - our eternity of Rest. For by unceasing creation the Lord blesses the Sabbath Day and hallows it. He secretly disposes all the interiors of man's new will or conscience into heavenly order, and gifts it with the influx of the good of love, giving it protection from the hells so that its peace can no longer be violated. And the heavenly promise reads, into this internal peace - which is meant in the celestial sense of the commandment - "will those come who are received into the New Church which the Lord is at this day instituting" (TCR 303).


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3 The Law Concerning The Sabbath

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