Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine.” – Exodus 19:5
We are all familiar with the commandments. They are laws that the Lord has given us to teach us how to live. There are laws of nature also which we have to learn. We have to learn that fire is hot and will burn, that there are things that we should not eat, that if we fall we shall get hurt. There are many things that we have to learn if we are to have healthy bodies.
But there are also laws of spirit, which have to do with our souls, and these are more important to us than the laws for the care of our bodies, for our souls we take with us into the other life.
Recall the story of Saul. He was goodly to look upon, but he was not faithful to the Lord. All people would like to be beautiful, but our external beauty depends originally upon what we have inherited from our forefathers. There are some real advantages in inheriting a beautiful body. It invites friendship and wins for its possessor many little benefits. But physical beauty may also carry many disadvantages. If it begets vanity and conceit, if it results in pride, it becomes a curse rather than a blessing, because it results in an ugly soul.
One of the wisest of the Greeks, Socrates, had thick lips, large ears, and was ugly in appearance, but many people loved him for the beauty of his soul. Even if we are born homely, we may become beautiful. While we live here, we are all modeling our own faces, and these are the tools that we use: love, honesty, purity. We read, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” People who love the Lord are forming angel faces for themselves. No face is lastingly beautiful unless it is stamped with “the beauty of the Lord our God.” Virtue brings with it a loveliness that can come by no other means. To learn the laws of the spirit and to live according to them is our task. It is given us by the Lord as the one means to present and to eternal happiness.
The laws for the spirit are summed up in the ten commandments. Most of them tell us about things that we should not do. And they are given in this way to warn us and to help us. When we drive on our roads, we find signs telling us of the character of the road and how we should drive. And frequently we come to signs which tell us to stop. Some do not always obey these signs and if they persist in disobeying them, they are likely to be injured and sometimes even killed. The signs are put up for our safety – to protect us and others.
It is so with the commandments. They are given to make life easier and safer for us, not to make it hard. The Lord does not compel us to keep the commandments because, in order that we may be human beings and not mere animals, He has given us the power to choose. He wants to form us into His own image and likeness, and He could not do this if our freedom of choice were taken away.
Some object to the commandments just because they are commands. They don’t like to be told that they must not do this or that. We are so prone to think that what we like is good for us and that what we do not like is bad. That is because we are not wise of ourselves. The Lord alone is wise and knows what is best. The commandments are the laws of happiness given, as the Lord says, “for our good always.” There could be no happiness on earth and no heaven without them. Happiness can never come from wrong doing; so the Lord has given us the commandments that we may know on Divine authority the things that will inevitably bring disaster upon us.
Some people think, “I will get all that I can while I am in this world, and when I get to the next world – if there is one – I will do what is necessary to get what I can out of it.” But let us remember that the Lord in His Word, in the parables of the talents, of the ten virgins, of the tares, of the sheep and the goats, and in many others, teaches us that we cannot change our lives after we leave this world. There are those who do not believe this, but we cannot blame the Lord for our ignorance. He has left nothing undone that He can do for us. Remember that the one thing He cannot do is to force us to act against our desires. He has given His Word. It is written in such a way as not to force our belief. Yet if one cannot see that he should love the Lord and that he should not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, and covet, it is only because he does not want to see.
And the Lord has done more than give His Word. He came on earth and lived it out before the eyes of men. He said that He came that men might have life and have it more abundantly, and that His joy might be in them. So the prophet writes of Him: “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” And we read: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
There is distress in the world because the commandments are not kept. In the parable of the Sower, the Sower is the Lord. The seeds are the truths of His Word. Those who hear His Word and do it are the good ground. Our minds are like a garden. We can plant in them what we wish. The law according to which things grow there is a spiritual law. And this spiritual law is so like the natural law that the natural is a parable of the spiritual.
The point in knowing this is that we can plant in our gardens just what we want to gather. Along the country roads we sometimes see grand estates with beautiful lawns, beautiful flowers, and stately trees. We may wish that such estates were ours to own. This may not be possible for us while we are in this world, but each one of us may have similar surroundings of the spirit even here. We can own similar things in the spirit and be making our eternal home in their midst. The pleasant homes and gardens of nature must be left behind some day. The Lord sees further than things of time. He does not want us to make the gaining of the things of this world our aim. And if we are wise, we will not. But He provides that each one of us may have the beautiful things that can be taken with us, that are never left behind, that will delight us to eternity. This is the “good part, which shall not be taken away.”
We should seek to attain those things which will endure. The kingdom of the Lord is a very real kingdom, and we need to learn more and more about it every day and to live according to its laws. Much of the turning away from the Lord today is due to ignorance concerning spiritual things and concerning eternal life. It is written that the Lord gave to every seed the power to produce its kind. But the seed must be planted in ground, not kept stored in bins. Seed stored in bins will not bring forth fruit. Truths stored in the memory will not bring forth good. As in nature, so in the realm of the spirit, each truth and precept, if planted in the life, has power within itself to yield its kind. But it must be planted in the good ground of a willing heart.
Learn the truths of the Word and plant them in the life. This will bring happiness even here. Yet however great the blessings we receive in this world, they will be immensely increased when we come into the other life.
In the world people are continually striving after more just and settled conditions, but no schemes of men can accomplish this. Only as the Lord’s commandments are kept can men find the solution for their problems. And there is nothing really difficult in these fundamental precepts of the Word. They are not hard to understand. They are within the scope of every one of us. Through keeping them we do our duty in this world and also enable the Lord to bless us more abundantly in the life to come.