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Hemmingsen on Worshiping God with Mind and Body: The First Four Commandments

In the “Demonstration of the First Table [of the Decalogue]” in his De lege naturae (“On the Law of Nature”), Niels Hemmingsen gives the following explanation of the ordering of the first four of the Ten Commandments (the first three according to the Lutheran numbering).

First, the commandments:

“You shall have no other gods before1 me.

d“You shall not make for yourself a carved 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. 5 eYou shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am fa jealous God, gvisiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands2 of those who love me and keep my commandments.

h“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for theLord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

i“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 jSix days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the kseventh day is a Sabbath to theLord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the lsojourner who is within your gates. 11 For min six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Now, Hemmingsen:

GOD must be worshiped by the whole man, as has been demonstrated above. Man, moreover, consists of soul [anima] and body. Therefore GOD must be worshiped with mind [animo] and body, that is, with the heart [corde], according to the first commandment, with the mouth and tongue, according to the second, with life and external morals, according to the third.

The manner of the worship of God is here disclosed in the most beautiful order. For it takes its beginning from the heart, next makes itself known in the mouth and tongue, [and] afterwards declares itself in life and external morals. By the word “heart,” all the interior powers of the soul should be understood, to wit, that the illuminated mind correctly understand the things that belong to God, that the affections burn with the love of God, that the will be so consecrated to God of its own accord that it wishes for nothing except what accrues to the glory of God. This worship of the heart, which the worship of the mouth and the external life follows by nature, the Gentiles also [p. 131] understood by the light of nature [naturali luce], although afterwards they wandered away from the true God in their endeavor [to perform it].1

The worship of the heart is the starting-place; this then is manifested in speech and the outward life.

 

  1. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.