A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida (cataloged 8/11/97)
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
In these beautiful and comforting words the Lord invites all people to enter into and partake of the peace and joy of heavenly life. He also tells us how we may attain this happy and much sought-after state. Two important truths are contained in our text. The first is that the Lord alone can bring us into this state of peace and spiritual rest. This is expressed by the words: “Come to Me,” and “I will give you rest.” The second is that the life that leads to heaven is not as difficult as we are apt to suppose. This is expressed by the words: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (quotations’ emphasis added).
If we believe in an infinite and loving God who created the universe and mankind, a God whose infinite wisdom established the laws which operate on all planes of creation, spiritual and natural, then it follows that He is the only one truly qualified to reveal those laws to us. They are the product of His love as formed and expressed by His wisdom. Since He is the one who created us, He alone can tell us what His purpose was in doing so, and how this purpose may be realized.
If we would understand the great issues of life the purpose and order of creation, the relationship between man and his Maker, and between man and man we must first acknowledge God the Creator, approach Him in His Word, and there come to know Him as He reveals Himself and His will to us. In adopting this course lies our only hope of finding real peace and contentment in a world troubled with selfishness, materialistic ambition, and the feverish pursuit of pleasure.
To all who genuinely desire to experience this state of inner peace, the Lord says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
In the Word of the Second Advent, we are told that the purpose of creation is that there may be a heaven from the human race. And we are told that this purpose is fulfilled when we acknowledge the Lord, shun evils as sins against Him, and perform uses for the benefit of our fellow man from the heart, that is, from good will toward him.
But in order that we may shun evils as sins against the Lord, we must learn from the Lord what evils are, and in order to do good we must learn what is good. Simply stated, evil is all that which is contrary to the Divine laws of order. Good is all that which is in accord with these laws, and which promotes the Divine end in creation. It follows from this that spiritual peace is attained through learning the Divine laws of order and living according to them. This is the life of religion.
Many people have a prejudice against religion, believing that being religious involves a withdrawal from the activities of the world, and walking about in pious meditation on ethereal things. We are taught in the Word that this is not living a religious life. In fact, it is said that such a life is not compatible with heavenly joy. By living in this way a person acquires a sorrowful disposition that is not in accord with the happiness and peace of heaven.
We live a twofold life in this world, the life of the spirit and the life of the body. If our life is to be full, the life of the mind or spirit must flow into and express itself in the life of the body. That is, our internal life and our external life should be in harmony and correspondence. The intentions of our will and the thoughts of our understanding should find ultimate expression in bodily actions and deeds. To renounce bodily and worldly life is like living in a house without a foundation. Such a house eventually cracks and falls in ruins.
The life of religion, or spiritual life, is not as opposed to worldly life as is often supposed. Natural life consists in living according to natural laws the laws of nature, physiological laws and the laws of hygiene. Civil life consists in living according to the laws of the country, state or city in which we live. Moral life is living according to the moral laws which exist for the preservation of order on the social plane of life. Spiritual life consists in living a natural, civil and moral life from a sincere desire to be of service to our neighbor.
Willing well to the neighbor pertains to spiritual life, and doing well pertains to moral, civil and natural life. It is clear from this that spiritual life cannot be separated from life in the world, for to separate it would be like removing the soul from the body, or thought from speech. It would become an intangible, abstract something without quality or form. Therefore the Writings state that unless the intentions of the will are expressed by action, they are eventually dissipated and become nothing.
However, this does not necessarily mean that if we are living a civil and moral life we are living a spiritual life as well. We may be doing our civil duty and fulfilling our moral obligations purely for the sake of reward, or to avoid punishment. We may be doing so for the sake of our reputations, or to avoid friction and unpleasantness. If these are the motives which inspire our civil and moral life, we are not living a spiritual life. For if the rewards were absent, or the penalties removed, we would, in all probability, cease to live according to these laws.
In external appearance there may be no difference between living a spiritual life and purely natural life. The difference lies in the will or intention which is within the external acts. To live the life of religion then, all we need do is put a spiritual motive within our civil and moral life, provided, of course, we are living according to civil laws and sound moral principles. Spiritual life, therefore, consists in living a civil and moral life from a spiritual love.
This teaching is clearly expounded in Heaven and Hell. There we read: “It is not so difficult as some believe to live the life that leads to heaven … Who cannot live a civil and moral life? … Everyone from childhood is initiated into that life, and learns what it is by living in the world. Moreover, everyone, whether evil or good, lives that life; for who does not wish to be called honest, and who does not wish to be called just? Almost everyone practices honesty and justice outwardly, so far as to seem to be honest and just at heart … The spiritual person ought to live in like manner, and can do so as easily as the natural person can, with this difference only, that the spiritual person believes in the Divine, and acts honestly and justly not solely because to so act is in accord with civil and moral laws, but also because it is in accord with Divine laws” (HH 530, emphasis added).
As the spiritual person in whatever he is doing looks to spiritual ends, “he has communication with the angels of heaven; and so far as this takes place he is conjoined with them; and thereby his internal man, which regarded in itself is the spiritual man, is opened. When man comes into this state he is adopted and led by the Lord, although … unconscious of it, and then whatever the person does … pertaining to moral and civil life is done from a spiritual motive” (HH 530). And acting according to civil and moral law from a spiritual motive is doing it from the heart, or willing well to the neighbor from the heart.
This passage from the Heavenly Doctrines makes it clear that the life of religion is not as difficult as is commonly believed. Externally, our lives do not need to be changed as radically as some people would have us believe. For do not most of us live according to civil and moral laws? What we need to do is make sure that our reason for so living is spiritual. Instead of acting from the love of self, from fear of punishment or dishonor, from sheer necessity, or for the sake of reputation, let us act in all things from a love of being of service to our fellow men, from a desire to promote their eternal welfare, from a desire to do the Lord’s will. If we do this, we will be living the life that leads to heaven. This is why the Lord says: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
If we would have inner peace, then, we must free our minds from the grip of selfish ambitions and purely natural ends. We must lift them up to the Lord the mountain from whence comes our help. We need to realize that everything in the Lord’s sight has a spiritual purpose. When we thus elevate our minds above merely natural considerations, when we have spiritual ends in view and as we seek to promote these ends, then our spirits are elevated into the light and heat of heaven into the sphere of angelic love and wisdom. We come into association with angels, and the sphere of peace, which is theirs, is communicated to us. Amen.
Lessons: Psalm 34, Matt 5:1-12, AC 8480:1,3
Arcana Coelestia 8480:1,3
“And men made a residue of it until the morning.” That this signifies the abuse of good Divine, in that they desired to acquire it from themselves, is evident from the signification of “making a residue of it until the morning” as being to be solicitous about the acquisition of good of themselves (n. 8478), and consequently the abuse of good Divine. It is termed “abuse” when there arises what is alike in ultimates but from a contrary origin. Good arises from contrary origin when it does so from man and not from the Lord; for the Lord is good itself, consequently He is the source of all good. The good which is from Him has in it what is Divine; thus it is good from its inmost and first being; whereas the good which is from man is not good, because from himself man is nothing but evil; consequently the good which is from him is in its first essence evil, although in the outward form it may appear like good. The case herein is like that of flowers painted upon a tablet, as compared with the flowers that grow in a garden. These flowers are beautiful from their inmosts; for the more interiorly they are opened, the more beautiful they are; whereas the flowers painted on a tablet are beautiful only in the outward form, and as to the inward one are nothing but mud and a mixture of earthy particles lying in confusion, as the Lord also teaches when He says of the lilies of the field that “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:29).
Good from the Lord is with those who love the Lord above all things and the neighbor as themselves; but good from man is with those who love themselves above all things and despise the neighbor in comparison with themselves. These are they who have care for the morrow, because they trust in themselves; but the former are they who have no care for the morrow, because they trust in the Lord (n. 8478). They who trust in the Lord continually receive good from Him; for whatsoever happens to them, whether it appears to be prosperous or not prosperous, is still good, because it conduces as a means to their eternal happiness. But they who trust in themselves are continually drawing evil upon themselves; for whatever happens to them, even if it appears to be prosperous and happy, is nevertheless evil, and consequently conduces as a means to their eternal unhappiness. These are the things which are signified by the command that they should make no residue of the manna till the morning, and that what was left bred worms and stank.