Christian Science: The True Import of the Word
Willis F. Gross, C.S.B., of Boston Massachusetts
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Willis F. Gross. C.S.B., of Boston Mass., member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Mass., delivered a lecture on Christian Science Thursday evening October 20th, under the auspices of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Wilmette, Ill., in the church edifice Central Avenue and Tenth Street.
The lecturer was introduced by Mr. John W. Panushka, who said:
On behalf of the members of this church I extend you a cordial welcome.
According to the Gospel of Luke Christ Jesus declared to the inquiring Pharisees, "The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say. Lo here! or, Lo, there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you."
To ever increasing multitudes Christian Science is unfolding the freedom and harmony of this heavenly Kingdom, in higher ideals of life, more love to God and our brother man, true happiness, better health and morals, more abundant supply.
Public lectures on Christian Science are provided through The Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ. Scientist. in Boston. Mass., of which this church is a branch, and this. evening we are privileged to have with us a member of this Board, who speaks with authority and from long experience.
It is now my pleasure to introduce to you Mr. Willis F. Gross, C.S.B.. of Boston, Mass., who will now address you.
Many important events in history, stand out as milestones marking the way of human progress out of Egyptian darkness and bondage, through the wilderness of toil and struggle, up to the vision of the promised land. From the beginning of human experience earnest seekers for truth and righteousness have trod the straight and narrow way, lovingly obedient to the law of God as they understood that law, and we of to-day reap the benefits of their labors and sacrifice. We can not be too grateful for the good we have received, neither can we appreciate too highly the faithful endeavors of those noble and illustrious men and women who not only taught God's love for humanity, but who also demonstrated the availability of good as the effectual remedy for all our ills.
Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science and author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, was one of the world's greatest benefactors and we study her life and her works with ever increasing love and gratitude. Her discovery, in 1866, of the divine Principle of Christian healing marked the beginning of a new era in religious teaching and practice. For eighteen hundred years Christ's Christianity had been accepted as the ideal religion and the adherents of this faith considered it the most potent influence for good that had ever enriched human experience. The Sermon on the Mount was the fulfilling of law and prophecy. It was more definite and more practical than the teachings of Moses and the prophets and it was more successful in turning thought into right channels and more effectual in directing human affairs because it was divested of all material theories and practices.
The influence of Christianity is seen in every step of human progress. It has exalted the loftiest ideals and inspires the greatest sacrifices. It has ever been the source of strength and courage to those faithful pioneers of Truth who considered not their own but another's good. This religion was a thing of vital importance to the primitive Christians and they esteemed all else of little value in comparison. The early disciples of Jesus were so divinely imbued with the spirit of his teachings that nothing could turn them from the faith. Many were persecuted even unto death, but these faithful followers of Christ were ever able to say with Paul, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
The advent of Christianity was the greatest spiritual awakening the world has ever known, and the founder of the Christian religion was the highest earthly representative of the divine image and likeness. During the centuries which followed, all Christian people have put their trust in him as the Saviour of men. His teachings were understood only in part and so the significance of his works was not fully recognized.
If we base our conclusions on the Biblical record of the early Christians it must be clear to us that they had a more practical idea of salvation than is generally entertained to-day. They esteemed their faith in God as the effectual remedy for all discordant conditions, and so the words of the apostle, "Behold now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation," meant more to them than they to do the people of this age. So long as faith was manifest by works it was vitally important and its influence was felt, but when speculation took the plate of demonstration and men were taught a theoretical rather than a practical religion, salvation became a future possibility instead of a present reality.
Christianity Is Spiritual
Christianity, as taught and demonstrated by its Founder, Christ Jesus is a purely spiritual religion. It was a radical departure from the forms and ceremonies of Judaic worship. Jesus declared that the time had come when "the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." He taught that true worship is expressed in spiritual living and not in the observance of rites and ceremonies. So long as his followers were able to demonstrate their faith in healing sickness and destroying sin, Christianity was maintained in its purity but when a sense of materialism blinded the eyes of the people these works were no longer in evidence and thus the spiritual import of the gospel was lost.
Teaching and practice gradually became more and more material until the true idea of Christianity was almost lost sight of; but God had not left himself without a witness. There were a few spiritually minded persons who had eyes to see and they earnestly protested against the material teaching and practices which had the sanction of the established church. These protestations were received with favor on the part of many earnest seekers for truth and a great awakening came about the middle of the sixteenth century. This revival of spiritual activity was so widespread that it is known in history as the Reformation. This awakening did not wholly succeed in establishing primitive Christianity with its attendant blessings and benefits, but it was of vital importance in that it laid the foundation for the greater work to be accomplished when the world was made ready for it.
Wise spiritual leaders, who revived the waning faith of the people and quickened the desire to know God and to serve Him acceptably, arose at various times. It is noteworthy that in all ages the men and women who were most successful in turning thought away from materialism to the contemplation of spiritual things were those who had been most faithful in the practice of the purest and best religious teaching of their day. These faithful followers of Christ prepared the way for the fuller unfolding of Truth and a clearer realization of God's ever-presence and love.
The greatest spiritual awakening of recent centuries began with the discovery of Christian Science a little more than half a century ago. This awakening has increased in strength and momentum with every passing year. The light has never waned and there has never been a time when there was the slightest evidence of decreasing interest in this new-old teaching of the Christ.
Mary Baker Eddy, the acknowledged Leader of the Christian Science movement, was a woman of exemplary character: a devout Christian from early childhood and a faithful friend of humanity, respected and loved by all who knew her. Like other great reformers, Mrs. Eddy had been carefully instructed according to the highest and best spiritual thought of he age, and she was faithful in her endeavor to put into practice the teachings of Holy Writ. The life of Jesus as it was portrayed in the Scriptures was her ideal and she believed that it is possible for men to follow his example even to the extent of doing the healing works which he declared would be done by all who understand his doctrine.
The search for health during many years of invalidism led to the investigation of nearly every method of healing which promised relief. One thing after another failed her and she pondered the meaning of her mother's oft repeated words of comfort and assurance, "God is able to heal you." An accident resulted in injuries which neither medicine nor surgery could reach and her life was despaired of. In this hour of extremity she turned to the Bible for strength and consolation and as she read the account of the healing of the paralytic recorded in the ninth chapter of Matthew, the healing power of Truth was manifested and she arose from her bed, completely restored.
This marvel of the nineteenth century was the beginning of the Christian Science movement, a movement which encircled the globe more than a score of years ago bringing health and joy to unnumbered thousands. The healing of sickness and sin was the foundation on which Jesus established his work, and the healing of sickness and sin is the very corner stone of Christian Science teaching and practice.
It was evident to Mrs. Eddy that she had regained her health in a manner not to be accounted for by the teachings of the medical schools or by any other teaching based on material hypotheses. Her attending physician earnestly desired to know what had wrought the miracle, but she could only assure him that it was the work of God. There was no human source to which she might turn for an answer to the question as to how her healing had been accomplished. She tells as that she found nothing in ancient or modern writings, save the teachings of the Scriptures, which could enlighten her in the least and thus she was led to study her Bible even more faithfully than before. She learned that she must find a new basis of interpretation, since the generally accepted explanations of Holy Writ had not made it clear to suffering humanity that God is willing to heal the sick as well as to save the sinner. As she searched diligently for the spiritual meaning of the inspired word, the light of Truth gradually dispelled the darkness of material belief and revealed the universe of God's creating perfect, harmonious, and eternal.
In the spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures Mrs. Eddy discovered the divine Principle of Jesus' teachings and works to be God. This statement leads us to the consideration of the fact that Christian Science is the spiritual import of the inspired Word. The material interpretation of Jesus' teachings has rendered them impractical and impossible of demonstration, while the spiritual interpretation makes them readily understood and possible of application to all the affairs and experiences of daily life. When interpreted materially the Scriptures often seem to be contradictory, but when interpreted spiritually it is found that each declaration of Truth is in accord with every other and there are no contradictions in the inspired writings.
It is in the matter of Scriptural interpretation that Christian Science has departed from the generally accepted religious doctrines. If Mrs. Eddy had not forsaken the material interpretation for the spiritual she would not have discovered the divine Science of Jesus' teachings. Having experienced the healing power of Truth, she was persuaded that an intelligent answer to the question how she had been restored to health could be found. The study of the Scriptures in the light of her wonderful experience enabled Mrs. Eddy to grasp the spiritual fact sufficiently to formulate the rules which make possible the practical application of the inspired teachings.
Science And Health
Mrs. Eddy gave to the world the results of her study and research, not, however, until she had demonstrated the correctness of her conclusions by healing the sick and reforming the sinner. These conclusions are clearly set forth in the Christian Science text-book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Faithful study of this book in connection with the Bible imparts the understanding which enables the earnest seeker for Truth to demonstrate Christian Science by healing sickness and destroying the false sense of pleasure in wrong doing.
The author of Science and Health and other works on Christian Science was a most successful writer, teacher, and leader. In all that she did she evidenced her fitness for the great work to which she was called. Mrs. Eddy was ever faithful over the things of Spirit; she constantly turned to divine Love for wisdom and guidance and this was the secret of her remarkable achievements. For many years she stood with staff in hand, ready to move on where God pointed the way, and it is to her untiring efforts, her unceasing vigilance, her supreme devotion to that which purifies and elevates character, her countless heroic sacrifices, little known even to her nearest friends, — it is to these that we and all the world are indebted for the unprecedented prosperity of the cause of Christian Science.
Mrs. Eddy The Discoverer
Repeated attempts have been made to show that some one other than Mrs. Eddy discovered Christian Science, or that Mrs. Eddy simply revived an old teaching and gave it a new setting. One thing of greatest importance seems to have been overlooked by these critics, namely, that no one who sought to show that Christian Science was discovered by some one else has ever demonstrated that the understanding gained from the study of other writings enabled him to heal the sick. Christian Science is demonstrable and this fact reveals the great difference between a theoretical and a practical teaching.
Mrs. Eddy's writings are distinctively original. No religious teacher since the days of the apostles has taken such a broad, comprehensive view of Scriptural teachings, neither has there been any one who arrived at the same definite conclusions concerning the universal application of these teachings to the activities of human experience. Early critics admitted that Mrs. Eddy's writings were original, but they said they would never be read, much less would they have any pronounced effect on the thought of the age. Forty years have passed since these opponents of Christian Science thought they had effectually disposed of this new teaching; what is the result? Never was there so great a demand for her writings as there is to-day. The time has come when it is difficult to find a person of intelligence and influence who had not read her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This shows that what Mrs. Eddy wrote concerning God, man, and human experience commands more than a passing consideration by all thinking people.
Let us take one instance of the originality of her writings. The first sentence of her answer to the question, "What is the scientific statement of being?" reads as follows "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter." (Science and Health. p. 468.) Where in the literature of recent centuries is to be found a statement anywise similar to this? The belief of substance, life, and intelligence in matter is the very basis of mortal existence: it is the prolific source of all earthly woes as well as of the fleeting joys of human experience. Mrs. Eddy's statement is indeed original and it strikes at the very foundation of evil in all its phases. No statement since the Master's declaration. "The flesh profiteth nothing," has aroused so much opposition on the part of materialistic thinking. No one sentence has revealed greater possibilities or required greater sacrifices of mortal man finding satisfaction in the indulgence of material illusions. It shows that if one would find the kingdom of harmony within he must forsake all material beliefs and put into practice the purely spiritual teachings of the Nazarene.
Jesus of Nazareth was the Founder of the Christian religion and a careful study of his works as well as of his teachings is indispensable to a right apprehension of his mission on earth. He made plain the way of salvation from all evil, disease and suffering as well as sin. It is a fatal mistake to conclude that the mission of Jesus was merely to teach men how to prepare for happiness in a future life. "I am come," said he, "that they (men) might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." The demonstration of his teachings met the human need and those who were blest thereby did have life more abundantly, even on this plane of existence.
The prophet Isaiah foresaw the coming of this healing religion and he wrote. "Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing." This prophecy was fulfilled literally in the first century of the Christian era, but because men are unable to demonstrate God's power to heal the sick, they have said that these words of the prophet are to be interpreted spiritually; that they refer to the healing of spiritual blindness, deafness and other moral infirmities. It does mean just such healing as this, but it also has a direct reference to the power of Truth to heal all ills of the flesh. The blind, the deaf, the dumb, and the lame were healed by Jesus and his disciples. When man's spiritual healing is accomplished the physical healing follows as a necessary consequence. Is it not spiritual blindness which causes one to question God's willingness to restore harmony to one who has lost the sense of sight? What but spiritual deafness prevents humanity from hearing the voice of Truth saying to the afflicted one, "Thy faith hath made thee whole"? What but spiritual dumbness prevents the Christian from saying to the lame man. "Take up thy bed and walk"? Spiritual understanding casts out all errors of mortal belief, lifts thought above the discords of bodily existence and makes man every whit whole.
Witness Of Good Works
When John sent his disciples to Jesus and asked whether his coming into the world was in fulfillment of prophecy the great Teacher pointed to his works instead of referring to his doctrine. His works established the truth of what he taught and his works convinced his followers that he was sent of God to deliver suffering humanity from the physical and moral evils which held them in bondage. He said, "The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." Nicodemus realized that the argument of good works was unanswerable and he came to Jesus saying, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
Jesus declared that such healing works as he did would ever be the proof that his teachings were understood. In every age a living faith is manifest in works; "Faith without works is dead," declared the apostle. Jesus was opposed by the religionists of his day, not because he taught the law and the prophets, but because he demonstrated that the Truth revealed in law and prophecy could heal the sick and reform the sinner. To those materially minded persons who were satisfied with the observance of forms and ceremonies, it seemed impossible that the healing of sickness could result from the exercise of a reasonable faith in God, and they declared the Jesus cast out devils through Beelzebub.
Christian Science Not Mesmerism
It is sometimes said by ignorant or malicious opponents of a practical Christianity that the healing works accomplished in Christian Science are merely the result of mesmerism. The accusations of the Pharisees against the Master were false, and the assertion that Christian Science healing is the work of hypnotism or suggestion is utterly void of intelligence or truth. It may be that the belief in mesmerism has seemed to accomplish results similar to the healing works of Christian Science, just as the necromancers of Egypt claimed to emulate the wonderful works of Moses, but spiritual understanding reveals the great difference between Christian Science and hypnotic control. The latter claims to work from a material basis, even the belief of mind in matter and intelligence apart from God, while Christian Science heals through the understanding of the oneness of Mind, God, and the nothingness of everything which opposes itself to good. The first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," is the basis of Christian Science teaching and demonstration. Obedience to this commandment robs the belief in mesmerism of any seeming power. Christian Science is the only protection against this so-called influence which claims to work evil as well as good. Nothing but good can result from the scientific application of scriptural teachings. Christianity, understood, is capable of demonstration. It disarms evil, breaks the shackles of sin and disease, and causes men to rejoice in the liberty of the children of God.
Mrs. Eddy has spoken of the exercise of will-power, which is the basis of mesmerism, as the prayer of unrighteousness which can never really benefit humanity. True prayer can bring only good into human experience and it is indispensable to Christian activity. The possible results of prayer should be understood, otherwise mortals may fancy that prayer can be used to advance their own personal interests, possibly to the detriment of others. It may be difficult to eliminate the thought of self-interest from human purpose and desire, but only as this is done is it possible to offer that prayer which avails with God. The prevailing opinion that prayer is simply asking for that which is desired is based on the belief that it is possible for mortals to influence God, perchance causing Him to do that which He might not have done, or to bestow when He would have withheld. A prominent English theologian wrote. "Prayer to God doth not change Him, but fits us to receive the thing prayed for." This definition of prayer is in accord with the teachings of Jesus which clearly show that man is blest according to his fitness to receive. The purpose of prayer is to benefit humanity, and the only right motive is to prepare human thought for the reception of spiritual good.
Jesus taught the necessity of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness that all things needful to harmonious growth and activity might be added. He said to his disciples, "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things before ye ask him." Knowing the need, is it reasonable to suppose that God would withhold or render it impossible for men to attain that which is for their good? Is it not more reasonable to conclude that if men do not receive it is because they have not prayed aright? When Jesus said, "If ye abide in me. and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." He taught that the sincere desire of the heart, inspired with love for God and man, can not lead one astray and it is blest of the Father.
In true prayer there can be no opposing interests. The conflicting hopes, desires, and aspirations of human thought, resulting from a diversity of opinions and beliefs, are the prayers of unrighteousness which can avail nothing for humanity. To suppose that God would bless one person in a manner which would cause to suffer loss, is to lose sight of the definite teaching of Holy Writ that God is Love and Love is no respecter of persons. True prayer is unselfish and universal, as will be seen from a careful study of the Lord's prayer which Jesus left as a model for all men, since it covers all human needs. Would the answer to this prayer deprive one individual of anything necessary to his present harmony and progress? By no means. True prayer can never work injury to any one. God's law is the law of eternal justice and nothing can render it null and void.
The mere repetition of words, audibly or mentally, is not prayer. The Master said to his followers, "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking." This perverted thought of prayer may be more general than is supposed. It may be that it obtains even where it is unrecognized because human thought does not perceive the danger and knows not the means of defense. Mortals are so intent in achieving what they think is for their good that they do not stop to consider what may have prompted their course of action; they are not as careful as they should be to discriminate between the desire inspired by good and that suggested by evil.
Suggestion is the counterfeit of prayer and in no instance does it bring into human experience anything of real worth. "A corrupt tree can not bring forth good fruit." True prayer demonstrates obedience to the law of God and thereby man partakes of that good which is eternal. That which is gained as the result of much speaking, the mental and audible voicing of selfish desire, is of no real benefit to him who receives and it may work injury to others. Christian Science has so clearly demonstrated the great difference between prayer and suggestion that no person need be deprived of the benefits of the one or be injured by the other. Prayer is a sure refuge from the contending mental forces which seem to increase as the years pass by. Mental manipulation is one of the most subtle phases of evil and Christianity offers the only possible means of defense.
Only Effect Of Christian Science
We have observed that before prayer can become effectual it must be altogether unselfish, honest, and sincere. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God," were the words of him who came declaring the way of salvation from all evil. Selfish desire, whether inspired by ignorance or evil intent, can avail nothing. Human thought must become reconciled to the divine will before it can apprehend the unseen verities of harmonious being and realize that what blesses one becomes a blessing to all the world.
The only effect of Christian Science is to purify thought and render it submissive to the will of God. If the effect seems otherwise it is either because Christian Science is not understood or the student knowingly turns from its teachings. If one is living in the consciousness that God is Love, the desire of the heart can not possibly injure another. His every thought, word, and deed will be a blessing, and the fundamental teaching of Christian Science, that man is the reflection of God — the reflection of Love, Life, and Truth — will be demonstrated.
Forgiveness Of Sin
One of the beneficial effects of prayer is the overcoming of sinful desires. It is held by all believers in the Christian religion that the forgiveness of sin is essential to salvation and that prayer is the only means by which this desired end can be attained. We are sometimes asked, What does Christian Science teach concerning the forgiveness of sin? The overcoming of sin is the greatest work to be accomplished for humanity and in this work Christian Science is most successful. It succeeds where other teachings have failed.
It is believed by many that the forgiveness of sin means the remission of the penalty due to wrong doing, but this is not in accord with the teachings of Holy Writ. The law of God is clearly set forth in these words of Paul, "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." This law can not be set aside or rendered of none effect. The inevitable result of sin is suffering and there is no way of escape. What, then, constitutes the forgiveness of sin according to the teachings of Christian Science? Even the destruction of the desire to sin; there can be no other forgiveness. The desire to sin is an erroneous belief of the carnal mind, even the belief that it is possible to gain something or to find pleasure in wrong doing. Mortals must be saved from delusion or they will never escape the suffering which sin produces. So long as the sinful desire remains it must bring suffering, for mortals are punished by their sins. The effectual forgiveness of sin, the forgiveness which the truly repentant sinner desires, is the destruction of sinful thoughts. If the sinner wishes merely to escape the suffering he has brought upon himself he is not truly repentant. The desire to escape the consequences of sin accomplishes nothing, but the longing to be delivered from the inclination to do wrong is true repentance. The wise man is willing to suffer if this is necessary to his deliverance. Sin is forgiven when the desire to sin is destroyed and not before, The destruction of sin is present salvation from sin.
The question of baptism is closely associated with the forgiveness of sin in the teachings of the various religious denominations and because it is a religious ceremony it has occasioned not a little controversy. The conclusion that baptism is essential to salvation is based on these words of Jesus, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." It seems to be the generally accepted conclusion that Jesus here referred to water baptism, inasmuch as he was baptized by John, and the controversy has been occasioned by a difference of opinion upon what mode of water baptism meets the divine requirements.
John the Baptist said concerning his baptism, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." It is impossible to interpret these words of John literally, or materially, and so it is conceded that they must have a spiritual signification. Is it unreasonable to conclude that it was this baptism, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire, to which Jesus referred in the words just quoted? Spiritual baptism is the one thing needful. If water baptism is accepted as a religious sacrament it must be admitted that it is but the outward symbol of that spiritual baptism which is essential to salvation. Paul declared there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," and a careful study of the apostle's writings shows that he refers to spiritual baptism. Christian Science departs so far as possible from all material observances, and so the baptism recognized in the Church of Christ, Scientist, is spiritual baptism. When we have this understanding of the word "baptism," the observance of a material rite is no longer necessary.
The doctrine of atonement, as well as the question of baptism and the forgiveness of sin, has ever been a perplexing theological problem. It is generally considered that the atonement means a reconciliation between man and God who had become estranged by reason of man's disobedience. The Scriptures declare that Jesus is the mediator between God and men. Human philosophy has interpreted this to mean that Jesus' life of labor and sacrifice effected a reconciliation between God and man and thereby it became possible for all who accept him to be their Saviour to escape the consequences of sin. It is believed by some persons that because of Jesus' sacrifice God is willing to pardon repentant mortals and receive them again into His presence. This seems to imply that because of man's offense God had become less than infinite, eternal, and unchanging Love and it required the sufferings of the cross before He was willing for men to be delivered from the consequences of sin.
According to Christian Science God is divine Principle and changes not. Nothing that mortal man can say or do can change God. Principle is perfect and nothing can add to perfection. It follows, then, that if man is separated from God by reason of his own wrong doing, the only possible remedy is for him to forsake his evil ways and unrighteous thoughts. To enable mortals to do this was the purpose of Jesus' mission. Instead of seeking to appease the wrath of God, he labored to teach mortals the utter falsity of evil which had blinded them to the fact that God is Love.
The second chapter of the Christian Science text-book is devoted principally to the consideration of the atonement. On pages 18 and 19 we read: "Atonement is the exemplification of man's unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love. Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man's oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage. His mission was both individual and collective. He did life's work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals, — to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility. . . .
"The atonement of Christ reconciles man to God, not God to man; for the divine Principle of Christ is God, and how can God propitiate Himself? . . .
"Every pang of repentance and suffering, every effort for reform, every good thought and deed, will help us to understand Jesus' atonement for sin and aid its efficacy; but if the sinner continues to pray and repent, sin and be sorry, he has little part in the atonement, — in the at-one-ment with God, — for he lacks the practical repentance, which reforms the heart and enables man to do the will of wisdom."
Christian Science is based on a fixed Principle — which is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever," and the whole work of reformation is to establish man's unity with God and his absolute freedom from all evil. Man made in the divine image and likeness has never been separated from his heavenly Father. It is mortal man which is separated from the harmony of real being and pays the penalty for sin. Mortals must forsake the false sense of existence if they would escape from evil and gain the harmony and perfection of spiritual being.
We have considered briefly the subjects of prayer, the forgiveness of sin, baptism, and the atonement. The inevitable result of these, as understood in Christian Science, is healing, physical and moral. We have observed that prayer is the means by which man avails himself of that good which God has already bestowed. True prayer results in the destruction of sinful desires and this constitutes the forgiveness of sin. When the desire to sin is destroyed, thought is purified — purged of mortal and material beliefs, — and this is the true baptism. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Purity of thought enables man to realize his oneness with God and this is the significance of the atonement. The atonement means physical and moral healing. In the destruction of sin and the healing of sickness, man's inseparable unity with God is exemplified. Thus the errors of mortal existence are atoned for and humanity escapes the suffering which sin produces; not because the penalty due to wrong doing has been remitted, but because the love of sin no longer remains to bring suffering.
Christian Science can heal the sick only by removing that which causes sickness. It can save from suffering only by destroying the false sense which produces suffering. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," is the law of eternal mercy and justice. The destruction of the soul, or sense, which sins is not the destruction of man: rather is it the resurrection of man to the true sense of life and being. Man loses nothing through this destruction, on the contrary he gains the consciousness of existence which is forever harmonious and eternal. When the science of being is understood it will be seen that disease and sin are no part of man's real being. They are the dark clouds of materialism which shut out the light of Truth and Love. The dawning of the light reveals the day of salvation here and now, wherein man is saved from all that is unlike God.
Jesus said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up;" in other words, every thought which proceeds not from God, good, shall be destroyed through spiritual understanding. Did the thought of sin, disease, or suffering originate with God? Surely no one believes that it did. Here we have scriptural authority for saying that it is God's will that disease, and all bodily infirmities, be utterly destroyed. According to the teachings of Jesus it is possible to overcome all evil with the understanding of God's omnipotence.
If one doubts the power of Truth to heal the sick, he will not expect his prayers to avail in the time of physical distress. However much faith he may have in God in other directions, his lack of faith in this respect is the error which deprives him of the good he might otherwise experience. Isaiah said, "The Lord's hand is not shortened that it can not save, nor his ear heavy that it can not hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God." Errors of thought, ignorantly entertained, prevent the recognition of God's ever-presence. Jesus demonstrated the power of Truth and Love to destroy all the works of evil, and thus he proved God's willingness to help humanity in every time of need.
If it be God's will for men to he saved from sin, and this is the firm conviction of every believer in the Christian religion, it must be His will for men to be delivered from the effects of sin. The term sin means more than is included in the generally accepted meaning of the word. Paul declared that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." This is another way of saying that faith, or spiritual understanding, includes all that is real. It follows that all wrong thinking and all wrong doing, whether ignorant or intentional, is included in the term sin in its broader signification. Taking, then, this broader view of sin, and it must have been in this sense that Isaiah said, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God," we see that sin, or wrong thinking, is the cause of all discord and suffering. When this conclusion is reached it is readily apparent that the only effectual remedy for discordant conditions is right thinking.
What constitutes right thinking? This is the all important question. The understanding of the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," is the answer. Only as one gains the true idea of God is be able to distinguish between right thinking and wrong thinking. To believe in more than one God is sin. Mortal man is an idolater even though he may not have set up in his house an image of wood or stone. He believes in a power apart from God; he believes in the reality of that which cannot have proceeded from God, and so he has more than one creator. Whatever prevents the recognition of God to be the only power, cause, and creator is sin and constitutes wrong thinking.
Jesus drew the line very sharply between Truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong. When his words are comprehended aright, i. e., when their spiritual import is discerned, it is understood that he taught how to overcome all evil and how to gain all good. He showed very clearly that mere profession counts for naught. It is what a man does that reveals what he really believes. It is impossible to separate right thinking from right doing.
The Wise Builder
Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount by illustrating the great difference between those who hear and obey and those who hear but fail to obey. The former he likened to a man who built his house on a rock, and it stood even though the fury of the elements was turned against it. Those who hear and yet fail to put into practice what they hear, he compared to the foolish man who builds on the sand. Because it has no foundation his house falls when the rain descends and the winds blow. All that is built on the belief of a power, cause, or creator apart from God, is built on the sand and it will fall. It may stand for a time but its ultimate destruction is inevitable. A house built on the sand may be as attractive as one built on a rock and for a while it may answer the purpose fully as well, but there comes a time when the great difference between the two is manifest. In the same manner the difference between Truth and error is ultimately revealed.
The conclusion reached by Mrs. Eddy and expressed in these words, "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter," (Science and Health, p. 468), shows how mortals do build on the sand though they know it not. Previous to Mrs. Eddy's discovery of Christian Science even Christian people had not thought it unchristian or unscientific to believe there is life, intelligence, substance, and truth in matter; on the contrary they thought they had scriptural authority for accepting material sense testimony in this connection. Take away this fundamental error of mortal belief and what would occasion the indulgence of sinful thoughts, or what would be the foundation of disease and suffering?
The words of Mrs. Eddy just quoted agree with that remarkable utterance of the Master so little understood, "The flesh profiteth nothing." Every conclusion reached by Mrs. Eddy is supported by the words and works of Jesus. His words have been read for centuries and his works have been accepted as demonstrations of divine power, but the universal application of his teachings has been impossible because the vital importance of his works was not realized. Christian Science has given the correct interpretation of the Master's teachings and all who understand his doctrine are able to demonstrate the power of Truth to heal the sick, comfort the sorrowing, reform the sinner, and set at liberty them that are bound by the illusion of a power apart from God. Christian Science helps men to understand what the great Teacher meant when he said, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; . . . the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
[Delivered Oct. 20, 1921, at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Central Avenue and Tenth Street, Wilmette, Illinois, and published in The Lake Shore News of Wilmette, Oct. 21, 1921.]