The New Ten Commandments

William Sangster was a British pastor who spent most of his ministry as senior minister of London’s Westminster Central Hall, the “cathedral” of Methodism. From 1938 to 1954, he preached to crowds that filled the 3000-seat sanctuary. Five of those years were during the Nazi blitz on London where he spent a great deal of time living and witnessing in bomb shelters.

As you might imagine, life in those days was filled with anxiety, fear and uncertainty. Many people in England were convinced that the Nazi invasion was imminent, so much so that some sold their belongings or transferred their allegiance to the German high command. Though Londoners exhibited great resourcefulness in this difficult time, it was a struggle to maintain a sense of hope, much less joy.

Yet, it is a message of joy that Dr. Sangster preached to his people—not just in the time of war, but every day. He believed that Christians have reason to rejoice because Christ is risen and because Christ is risen, when the cosmic dust settles, Christ wins. It’s not up for debate; it’s settled. After all, the apostle Paul writes Philippians, the book of joy, in Roman chains. He admonishes the Thessalonians: be joyful always! Jesus tells his followers that it is for the purpose of filling them with joy that he says what he says and does what he does.

Recently, I came across something William Sangster wrote to his congregation: he called it The New Ten Commandments. I don’t know the date or occasion of its publication, but that doesn’t matter: its truth and power are universally apropos. The language is a bit out-dated, but the ideas are not. May it inspire you to pray for, think about, and yearn after joy as the fruit of the Spirit in your life.

  1. Thou shalt enjoy this lovely world which God has made: sun, moon, and stars; fields, flowers, and trees; wind, warmth, and rain; earth, sea, and sky.
  2. Thou shalt enjoy the gift of love from parents, sweetheart, wife, the love which goes on loving when you are most unlovely.
  3. Thou shalt enjoy home—where you do not visit but belong; where your absence means a gap which no one else can fill.
  4. Thou shalt enjoy the trustfulness of little children and their adoring belief that there is nothing you do not know and nothing you cannot do.
  5. Thou shalt enjoy friends, their loyalty, and fellowship, their constancy in sorrow, and their unprotesting acceptance of your timely help.
  6. Thou shalt enjoy wholesome laughter, the ludicrous incident, the side-splitting joke.
  7. Thou shalt enjoy art, music, the cinema, literature, eloquence, animals, singing, rhythm, games.
  8. Thou shalt enjoy the privilege of helping others: the poor and sick, the aged and maimed.
  9. Thou shalt enjoy peace. This peace shall not attach only to your circumstances: it shall abide in your heart.
  10.  Thou shalt enjoy God: the knowledge that He is there and that He is love; that He cares for all.