EXPLORING THE MEANING OF THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
IN THE LIGHT OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
On February 25, 1889, Mary Baker Eddy addressed a Primary Class of sixty-five students at her Massachusetts Metaphysical College. She opened her remarks with the following: “My students, three picture-stories from the Bible present themselves to my thought; three of those pictures from which we learn without study. The first is that of Joshua and his band before the walls of Jericho. They went seven times around these walls, the seven times corresponding to the seven days of creation: the six days are to find out the nothingness of matter; the seventh is the day of rest, when it is found that evil is naught and good is all.” (Miscellaneous Writings 279)
Elsewhere in “Miscellaneous Writings,” we find: “There ‘remaineth,’ it is true, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; but we must first have done our work, and entered into our rest, as the Scriptures give example.” (Mis. 216)
These statements of Mrs. Eddy provide us with a foundation from which to explore what the Fourth Commandment might mean for Christian Scientists today. There is “work” to be done. There is a “rest” to be earned. But, what exactly is the nature of this work, and what kind of rest can we expect?
As indicated in the citation above, one area of our Christian Science work is to establish in our consciousness the “nothingness of matter.” [For those of you visiting this site who are not “CS,” this concept of the “nothingness of matter” is fully explained in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.] We must realize that so-called matter is merely a misconception of our true spiritual being — it is the “mist” of mortal mind that would hide the man created in God’s “image and likeness.” It is supported only by what is termed the “Adam dream,” that mesmeric sleep that mankind seems to be in. Our goal is to wake up from that dream, and to de-mesmerize ourselves as to the reality of matter, evil, error, and the physical senses. When that work is done, we will have our “Sabbath rest.”
When our spiritual “work and rest” are properly balanced in our lives, we are reaching the essence of the Fourth Commandment. There are many citations in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy that we can use in researching and teaching the idea of “work and rest” as they might relate to the meaning of the Fourth Commandment. A few of them are:
“God rests in action. Imparting has not impoverished, can never impoverish, the divine Mind. No exhaustion follows the action of this Mind, according to the apprehension of divine Science. The highest and sweetest rest, even from a human standpoint, is in holy work.” (S&H 519)
“Science reveals the possibility of achieving all good, and sets mortals at work to discover what God has already done.” (S&H 260)
“Good demands of man every hour, in which to work out the problem of being.” (S&H 261)
“There is no excellence without labor; and the time to work, is NOW. Only by persistent, unremitting, straightforward toil; by turning neither to the right nor to the left, seeking no other pursuit or pleasure than that which cometh from God, can you win and wear the crown of the faithful.”
“Men must approach God reverently, doing their own work in obedience to divine law, if they would fulfil the intended harmony of being.” (Unity of Good 13)
“The song of Christian Science is, ‘Work — work — work — watch and pray.’ (’00 2)
Now we know why there are so few Christian Scientists at the present time — it seems to require so much work! It is true that it is not always easy to be a Christian Scientist, but along the way we do get some precious “Sabbath moments.” Those are the times when we have done our prayerful work, and reach that realization that God is in control. We then release the problem, hand it over to God, and let His will be done. After all, if we believe that on the “seventh day” of creation, God was finished with His work, and what He had made was “very good,” then our own seventh day should bear witness to that perfection of God and His creation. We can rest in the knowledge of His perfection. We “reflect” that perfection and harmony of being. That brings peace and rest. That is how we experience a Sabbath — a breaking away from material beliefs — and we are obedient to the Fourth Commandment. We remember that God is Supreme.
Does this mean that Christian Scientists do not need to attend church on Sundays? That is a question left up to each individual. No one is required to join the Christian Science church to identify themselves as a “Christian Scientist,” and to practice the teachings found in the textbook, Science and Health. As we saw in the history of the early Christian church, as time went on, it was felt that having church services was helpful to the newer members, but when someone did not need that weekly reminder to worship God, because he or she was “remembering” God on a moment-to-moment basis, then perhaps that Christian did not need to attend. But, certainly, giving back to the newer members would be a worthy contribution to the Cause, as it would be today, if that is how we feel “guided” to spend our time.
But, when material organization or hypocrisy creeps in, and we are attending church services out of habit, or merely to be seen as observant, or because we are being forced to go, then it perhaps does no one any good. One Bible commentator noted that when Christianity became a “state religion” under Constantine, the church suddenly became infiltrated with people who were not truly devout, but came for the wrong reasons, such as to “be seen of men.” This adultery of the congregation led to the demise of true Christianity and healing. As Mrs. Eddy writes: “Hypocrisy is fatal to religion.”
If those who attend these meetings come voluntarily and with a grateful heart, with no fear that they will be asked to do or give more time or money than they can manage, as it appears the early Christians did, it is possible that the focus can once again be shined on healing the sick and sinner, and bringing comfort and encouragement to seekers for Truth, rather than piling on church management and maintenance issues.
For those who would dearly love and appreciate regular church attendance, but have no church in their region to attend, it is good to know that there are individual ways to be obedient to the Fourth Commandment, as explained above. And thanks to modern technology, The Mother Church in Boston makes available their services online for those with internet connection.
THE COINCIDENCE OF THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT AND “PRINCIPLE”
Although it is easy to conclude that the Fourth Commandment coincides with the seventh day of creation (as described in Genesis) because they are both about work and rest, and the verses in Exodus point to God’s day of rest, there are those who also see a connection between the Fourth Commandment and the fourth Day of Creation.
In Genesis 1:14-19 we read: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”
What the fourth Day seems to be illustrating is the relationship between God and His reflection, man, as symbolized by the sun and moon, as well as the rhythm of life symbolized by the stars and planets which are for “signs and seasons.” Mrs. Eddy tells us: “Suns and planets teach grand lessons.” (S&H 240) We also see that the two “lights” are to “rule,” or govern.
This fourth Day of Creation can be said to symbolize the aspect of God that is termed in Christian Science “divine Principle” — that foundational Law which governs the universe, operates impersonally, and finds expression in man’s ability to demonstrate and prove this law of God in healing sin and sickness, and maintaining harmony on earth. Principle governs and rules, and man is His “reflection” — just as the light of the moon is a reflection of the light of the Sun.
When we struggle with some temptation, and then reach the point where we remember we must yield to God, and say, as Jesus did, “not my will, but thine, be done” — and then we yield — we have “remembered” the Sabbath day.
In the writings of Mrs. Eddy, you can find “rest” and “Principle” combined. The definition of “Church” in the textbook begins: “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.” When we rest upon Principle, it becomes a platform, or springboard, for our next “week” of inspired work.
Spiritual man (our true identity) is the idea, the image and likeness, of God, our divine Principle, and man is governed by Principle. This concept of Principle is seen not only on the fourth Day of Creation, and the Fourth Commandment, but in the fourth statement of the Lord’s Prayer (“thy will be done”), and the fourth Beatitude (“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”). They all seem to correspond, while at the same time
operating in our lives in unique ways — a blending in harmony.
Specifically, how does Principle operate with regard to our obeying the Fourth Commandment? As it seems to me at this time, when we have been working and praying to the best of our ability, faithfully following the light as far as we see it, and then we let go, and hand our problems over to God, our divine Principle who governs all — not outlining what He should do, but “resting” in our trust of His disposal of events — this is a Sabbath day. When we have done our work denying sin, disease, or discord, and then let our affirmations of Truth guide us to a moment of pure realization of the Allness and supremacy of God — we receive a Sabbath day
or “moment.” Thus, our oneness with Principle, Love is demonstrated and proven in human life.
Sabbath day finds its place, purpose, and activity within consciousness — not within a particular building on a certain day of the week. It is a place of peace and serenity, free from fear, worry, anxiety, sick or sinful beliefs. It is “the secret place of the most High.” And, this is a “holy” place, separate from the material world and the testimony of the physical senses.