Lela May Aultman, C.S., of Denver, Colorado
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The following lecture was presented on Monday, November 1, at 8 p.m. at Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, South 31st at West Oklahoma Avenue.
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
How strong is our courage as we face the days ahead of us? Can we say as did David, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him"? (Ps. 62:5.) The degree of confidence we feel that good is in store for us and our fellowman depends upon the source to which we look for our expectation of things to come. Is our view colored by the alarming reports of the speed with which mortals are devising weapons for their own destruction? Or are we obeying God's command recorded in Isaiah, "Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me"? (45:11.) We need to understand the nature of God in order to comprehend what He would outline as "things to come" concerning His beloved sons.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science gives us in her writings many pages elucidating the nature of God. In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she has written this definition of God: "The great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence" (p. 587).
Shall we consider just a few of these descriptive words, and let them tell us what God has foreordained for man's experience?
God is all-knowing Mind, the creator of the universe, including man. This creation, according to the first chapter of Genesis, He declared to be very good, His noblest work being man whom He created in His own likeness. Since Gods infinite intelligence brought forth a wholly good creation, by the very nature of His wisdom He would never create a counter force of evil which could destroy that good work.
The omnipotence of God is acknowledged by many today who believe in the power of prayer to overcome evil. This is illustrated by the statement of the chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy that "the power of prayer is stronger, far stronger than any weapon which will ever be devised by man" (Representative W. Sterling Cole as quoted in The Christian Science Monitor, Central edition, Oct. 13, 1953).
This is not a theory; it has been proved many times, and such proofs are recorded throughout the Bible so that our study of them may strengthen our faith.
May I recall to you two of these records? During the period when Elisha was the prophet who guided the Israelites in their worship of the one God, an enemy came against Israel in great numbers. Elisha's servant was overwhelmed with fear at sight of the large army which had encompassed their city. Elisha assured him that the power which was operating in their defense was far greater than the force of such a display of materiality. He knew their defense to be spiritual, and he prayed, not for more armies and military equipment, but merely that his servant's eyes might be opened. And the young man's eyes were opened, his spiritual vision awakened, and he beheld the evidence that the power of God's love was present to preserve them. The Israelites won the victory, not with material weapons but through the spiritual vision which came to Elisha and his obedience to God's wise direction. It was not even necessary to engage in battle materially. (See II Kings 6)
There is another Scriptural account which tells of the days when Hezekiah was ruler in Jerusalem and led his people in righteous worship of the one God. At a time when the Assyrians typified military power and had a very large army with a record of great victories in their wars against many countries where false gods were worshiped, Jerusalem was chosen as the next target for their mounting conquest. The messages they sent to Hezekiah were filled with ominous threats, insisting that the God whom his people worshiped could not possibly save them, since the gods of all the other defeated peoples had been proved powerless to resist the material force and skill of the Assyrians.
It is interesting to note that both Hezekiah and Isaiah, the prophet to whom he turned for spiritual guidance, interpreted these threats as defiance against God, and their preparation to defend themselves against the attack consisted chiefly in their declaration of God's goodness, love, and power, which strengthened their own love for Him and their complete trust in His ability to preserve them.
The answer to their prayers came as a clear conviction that God would never allow the enemy to enter their city or to use a weapon against its inhabitants. They knew that God, and not material armies, would defend them. And the Assyrian invaders were defeated without even the need of meeting them in battle. The king of Assyria, after this defeat, was killed by his own people, which typified the fact that evil destroys itself but cannot destroy good or those who serve good as their God. (See II Kings 19)
Christian Science teaches us to trust the same God today, and His power is still supreme. We avail ourselves of the protection of this power when we live righteously and obey God's commandments understandingly.
Mrs. Eddy's definition of God, as previously stated, speaks of God as all-loving. When we ask the all-loving Father-Mother God of "things to come" concerning His sons, we know that His tenderness, compassion, and impartial generosity express themselves in man's comfort, safety, health, and joy. There is nothing in the nature of divine Love which could possibly bring forth sickness, sin, or sorrow.
Evil's pretense that it is a god, and that it has destructive forces with which it can control a man's health, destroy his life, or even govern his thinking, is powerless to deceive anyone who knows the nature of our God, His great love for His creation, and His power to preserve its perfection. Whom do we worship as God? Evil or supreme good?
Jesus' teaching re-emphasized Moses' oft-repeated admonition that we must prove our love for God by obeying His commandments. I remember many years ago feeling that the Ten Commandments were very severe, and that their effectiveness lay in the threat of the heavy penalties incurred if they were disobeyed. How gloriously Christian Science elevates our view of the Commandments by revealing to us their expression of God's love, tenderly protecting and guiding His children, not threatening them with penalties but teaching them how to avoid wrongdoing, and thus spare themselves the suffering which always goes hand in hand with evil.
Mysticism and other phases of scholastic theology teach that we should accept religion through blind faith, and that we must not expect to understand God; but Mrs. Eddy tells us that "God is understandable, knowable, and applicable to every human need" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 238). She explains the nature of God in terms which are familiar to everyone, helping us to comprehend His infinite goodness, power, and love.
An orderly, systematic plan for including in each day quiet, spiritual study and prayer is essential for everyone's spiritual progress, but this study does not require us to become hermits. Christian Scientists apply the truth they learn to meet the needs of humanity, even as Jesus, after the periods when he left the crowding multitudes for an interval of quiet communion with God, returned to put into practice the spiritual ideas God had revealed to him. His holy renewal blessed everyone who turned to him for help, and every discordant condition they presented to him he healed quickly and perfectly.
Jesus trusted so completely God's direction of his life that he took the necessary steps in his spiritual progress confidently, even when he realized they were leading him to the crucifixion, for he knew the victory over that experience was certain and would prove man's life to be eternal and indestructible. He understood God's love so thoroughly that he was able to face every form of evil which the carnal mind could present, knowing that God was guiding him to full salvation, and thus enabling him to be the Way-shower for mankind, showing them by example how to conquer sin, disease, and death.
Christian Science healing, like the healings accomplished by Jesus, is the operation of the Christ in human consciousness. Mrs. Eddy defines Christ as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 583). The Christ is spiritual light which dispels the darkness of ignorance and fear and awakens mankind to the realization of God's infinite power and love, and the perfection and immutability of His good creation.
There were no defeats in Jesus' life. His understanding of the Christ, Truth, was so great that he was given the title Christ Jesus. The light of the Christ had always been present, for it is the eternal truth concerning God and man. The spiritually inspired leaders all through Bible history caught glimpses of the Christ and were thereby enabled to win victories over enemies in battle, over sickness and famine, and many other discords.
When we turn to the New Testament and study thoughtfully its record of Jesus' life, we appreciate as never before the import of his glorious career, with its unswerving steadfastness, consistent obedience to God, and its expression of completely unselfed love which never lapsed into momentary selfishness. It was the Master's unwavering obedience to the First Commandment which enabled him to be the Way-shower for mankind, showing them the path which leads out of all materiality and into the realization of full salvation. Let us never forget to be thankful that we have been shown the way!
This way was illumined for Mary Baker Eddy by her own remarkable healing when she had been judged by her doctor to be at the point of death. Her great love for the Bible turned her to its pages at this time of critical need, and as she studied the record of one of Jesus' healings, her spiritual vision caught a glimpse of the very law of God which he had applied in his healing work. Her own healing was immediate, and through divine revelation and her continued study of the Scriptures, she was led to the discovery of Christian Science. She realized that Jesus' healings had not been miracles, but that they had been the natural operation of a law of God which Jesus understood. So she continued to search the Scriptures in the light of the inspiration gained from her healing, and what they taught her of this law of God she put into practice and found that it healed the sick, the sinning, and even the dying, as certainly in her day as when Jesus had applied it.
After she had for several years proved the truth of Christian Science, this spiritual revelation which God had given her, she wrote the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health, to make available to everyone the Science of Christianity and to bring to the Bible the light of spiritual interpretation, which makes its teachings inspiring, deeply satisfying, and practical to meet humanity's every need. It is no wonder that Christian Scientists love to spend many hours studying the Bible and their textbook, which illumines its teaching. It is the King James Version of the Bible which is used in Christian Science churches.
Mrs. Eddy urged her followers to obey the Ten Commandments, just as Moses and Jesus had done, and she said, "The First Commandment of the Hebrew Decalogue, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' and the Golden Rule are the all-in-all of Christian Science" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 64).
It is inevitable then, that a sincere student of Christian Science feels he needs to study faithfully the real meaning of this First Commandment and to strive earnestly to live in obedience to its requirements. Many pages of Mrs. Eddy's writings are devoted to the spiritual explanation of the First Commandment. How do we know that her explanation is correct?
Every statement in her writings can be judged by the fact that its truth can be proved. Christian Science is rightly called Science because the divine law it reveals is unchanging, always effective when accurately applied, and impartially operative for everyone.
Science is absolute knowledge, and the only teaching which is entitled to the name of Science is one which is so right in the first place that experiment and change are never needed. Christian Science is the demonstrable law of God. Mrs. Eddy proved its accuracy before she presented it to the world and established beyond question her right to the titles of Discoverer of Christian Science and Founder of the Christian Science church. She tells us that "Christian Science awakens the sinner, reclaims the infidel, and raises from the couch of pain the helpless invalid. It speaks to the dumb the words of Truth, and they answer with rejoicing. It causes the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the blind to see. Who would be the first to disown the Christliness of good works, when our Master says, 'By their fruits ye shall know them'?" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 342) Everyone who knows the facts about Mrs. Eddy's life of untiring love for humanity and her unwavering fidelity to God is ready to say of her in Solomon's words: "Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates" (Prov. 31:31).
Mrs. Eddy did not ask anyone to accept her textbook through blind faith; she urged us to test its accuracy for ourselves. Christian Science is not a mystical philosophy; it is understandable, demonstrable truth. It is not only Science, or absolute knowledge, but it is Christian, and the word Christian connotes the application of God's law to meet the needs of humanity, even as the first Christian, Christ Jesus, utilized this law.
Christian Science does not ignore the human need; if it did it would not be Christian. It gives to mankind an understanding of God and of man as His likeness, which enables any sincere student of its theology to release himself from being identified with God's opposite sickness, sin, and sorrow.
Do you remember that Jesus' enemies often questioned whether he had the God-given right or power to heal? When he healed a man who had been born blind, some of the Pharisees tried to persuade the man that Jesus could not have healed him because Jesus was a sinner, and they told him they were not at all convinced that Jesus had come from God. It is difficult to see how the simple logic of the man's reply could have failed to convince all his hearers, for he answered: "Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but it any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing" (John 9:30-33).
Christian Science should be judged on the same basis of proof. Study its textbook and begin to apply its teachings to your daily life. Its effectiveness in meeting your own needs will tell you clearly that its doctrine is from God. In her book "Miscellaneous Writings" Mrs. Eddy tells us: "If Christian Science lacked the proof of its goodness and utility, it would destroy itself; for it rests alone on demonstration. Its genius is right thinking and right acting, physical and moral harmony; and the secret of its success lies in supplying the universal need of better health and better men" (p. 365).
Early in Jesus' ministry he linked with the First Commandment a second, which he said was like the first: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:39). We cannot love God understandingly and fail to love man, who, according to the Bible, is created in God's image. Love has light enough to see perfection. The mental darkness which believes it sees evil as a reality declares itself to be devoid of love. If you find it difficult to see the perfection of man in some instance, it would be helpful to take one of the definitions of God found in Science and Health and ponder each word which explains His nature, loving and rejoicing in all the good which you know to be true of God. Then, if you go back over the definition, acknowledging that man possesses by reflection every perfect quality you have seen to be true of God, it will be easy for you to love man.
We are not asked to love imperfection or to call a faulty mortal a perfect mortal. We are commanded to love the only man God ever made, the spiritual likeness of His own perfect being, and to acknowledge that nothing contrary to this has ever been true of man. We can maintain this fact steadfastly no matter how loudly the accuser lies about man or material sense testimony misrepresents his true nature. Jesus found it possible to behold in Science a normal, healthy, innocent man right where the physical senses proclaimed the presence of a mortal who was sick, blind, or sinful, and because the perfection Jesus saw was the truth about man, the false evidence yielded to the light of his spiritual understanding, and even the human evidence of health and wholeness appeared. When we are as faithful as he was in holding firmly to the truth about God and His good creation, the evidence of normal health and joy and freedom will follow our prayers as surely as they resulted from Jesus' holy work.
There is one part of Jesus' second great commandment which we sometimes overlook the words are "as thyself." The commandment does not read, Thou shalt love thy neighbor instead of thyself, though it is often so interpreted. It tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Then, in order to have an intelligent basis for our neighborly love, we must learn first to love ourselves wisely. Many people seem to feel there is Christian virtue in magnifying the good expressed in others' lives, while belittling one's own nature and accomplishments. We no longer feel this is righteous when we realize that all good originates in God, and that discrediting any part of His creation would be to dishonor Him, since He is its source.
Identifying oneself with sickness or sin is egotism a belief that one can originate something God did not make or does not express. Egotism sometimes expresses itself as a delusion that we have a superior human intellect, a mind separate from God, and greater wisdom than our fellowmen. Or it may suggest to us that we are always right and other people always mistaken. Personal egotism has no place in the enlightened consciousness which gives God the full glory for all good, wherever it is expressed.
If your day begins with contemplation of God's love, His omnipresence and wise government of man's life, this gives you a basis for knowing your own real nature in His likeness, and you can with conviction acknowledge: I am wise, for my Father-Mother God is infinite intelligence; I am safe, for His great love encompasses my path and safeguards my steps and my relationships; I have clear, strong, spiritual vision, the ability to see good as the only reality, because my creator is all-seeing and beholds His own good creation as the only fact of existence; I am rich in blessings, because it is God's will that His children should have every good and perfect gift. With this true concept of yourself as your basis, you can, indeed, love your neighbor as yourself, knowing that he, too, is created in God's image, and that God's fatherhood is supporting and strengthening him, and God's motherhood comforting and guiding him; realizing that every gift and every ability you have, God's impartial love has provided for all His children. It is our understanding of the First Commandment which enables us to obey Jesus' second commandment.
Enlightened observance of the First Commandment frees men from idolatry. But do you say, I am not a worshiper of idols? There are many false gods enthroned in people's hearts, and some of them are tyrants. We need to be on guard lest they creep in to dominate our lives. We read in Science and Health (p. 19), "Jesus urged the commandment, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' which may be rendered: Thou shalt have no belief of Life as mortal; thou shalt not know evil, for there is one Life, even God, good."
Have you an idol called a material body? That false god has more worshipers than any other. The material body has actually no power, but if we have come under the spell of this false worship, we may spend a great proportion of our time catering to what we believe to be the whims of this despot exercising the body carefully, not too much and not too little, feeding it on a diet which we have decided will benefit it in some way. One believes perhaps that health is a condition of this body, so he swallows drugs, has operations, or travels to various climates trying to bolster up its wavering health. He asks permission of this false god to carry on his normal activities. He says, "Please, do you feel well enough to let me go to the office today; or are you rested and strong so I may enjoy an evening with my friends?" And the body has actually no power to think or act or feel, or to control one's life in any way. Is this idolatry very different from the attitude of the idol worshipers in ancient history who bowed down to an image of gold or stone to ask its powerless, unthinking godlessness to decide all their important actions? A pound of flesh is just as unintelligent as a pound of stone, and neither one is any part of the great reality which is God's spiritual creation, governed, controlled, preserved by its divine creator.
The idol which most easily deceives you may have another name. Perhaps you believe that popularity, material wealth and acclaim, or a whirlwind of social pleasure is the god which determines your security and your happiness. Or is your idol a material personality a child to whom you make yourself a slave, a friend or relative that you believe controls your happiness and peace of mind by his every word and action? Sometimes the idol is the person we call by our own name. Self-indulgence is the offering this idol exacts. There are many facets to his nature self-consciousness, self-depreciation, self-aggrandizement, self-justification all of them phases of idolatry, belief in the reality of a mortal selfhood separate from God and unlike Him.
The important "Rule for Motives and Acts" which Mrs. Eddy has given us in the Manual of The Mother Church begins with these words: "Neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church" (p. 40). Have you ever thought of the fact that animosity is idolatry, for it builds up in your thought a belief in an evil power, and thus denies God's omnipotence. You may even believe that someone's antagonism toward you can deprive you of your peace of mind, your business opportunities, or an elective office in your government or church. This is certainly forgetting that God is supreme in earth as in heaven, and that His love controls your life and your relationships.
A student of Christian Science who had come home from work suffering from influenza went to bed feeling extremely ill. For some time she lay still, asking God to show her what to do. She recalled that her dictionary stated that astrologers had attributed influenza to the influence of the heavenly bodies. Immediately she began to reverse the error and to affirm that she was influenced only by good. As Mrs. Eddy says, "Man is the expression of God's being" (Science and Health, p. 470), she declared, "As the expression of God's being, I am purely spiritual, not material, and am governed by Spirit, God, alone."
The word "influence" then brought to mind this part of the "Rule for Motives and Acts": "The members of this Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously." In obedience thereto she again affirmed her oneness with God and insisted that she could not be influenced erroneously.
It then occurred to her to start at the beginning of the "Rule for Motives and Acts" to see if anything mentioned therein could be inducing a false influence upon her, so she began, "Neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church." She asked herself, "Is animosity impelling me?" The conscientious reply was "No." Again she questioned, "Is, mere personal attachment impelling me?" And again she was prepared to say "No." But suddenly the arresting thought came, "If you don't believe that you are personally attached to a mortal body or think of yourself as identified with a material corporeality, what are you doing lying here believing you are in pain in that body?" This was such a revolutionary and challenging question that she was startled into sitting straight up in bed and declaring with great joy: "Why, of course I'm not living in a mortal body! I live in Mind and am the embodiment of right ideas only. I, the expression of Mind, God's spiritual idea, can't have any pain, for God hasn't any." She realized that she was under the loving government of God, her Father-Mother, and that she was free! The next morning she went to work without a trace of the erroneous condition which the evening before had seemed so real.
Single-minded allegiance to God requires that we trust Him completely to maintain our health. We have many warnings in the Bible that it is impossible for us to serve two masters; that the double-minded man expresses instability in everything he does; and that our whole body, or consciousness, is full of light when our eye is single. Everyone who has experienced the peace of mind which comes when he trusts his health and his life completely to his creator, and to the beneficial operation of God's spiritual law, knows that it brings an incomparable feeling of security and of resting on dependable support. Anyone who has tried to mix his trust in God with an opposite trust in matter as the supposed source of health has experienced the instability which the Bible associates with double-mindedness. When we obey God's command, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," we know we are upheld by the sustaining power of omnipotence. We feel the sure support of the divine law we obey. Mrs. Eddy tells us: "Divine Mind rightly demands man's entire obedience, affection, and strength. No reservation is made for any lesser loyalty. Obedience to Truth gives man power and strength. Submission to error superinduces loss of power" (Science and Health, p. 183).
The beneficial results of turning to God as the source of health were illustrated in the following experience. A young man had been gassed during the First World War. After he had returned to this country he was so ill that he had to be taken off the train in a city on his route. He was taken to a hotel and examined by doctors who said that the lining of his stomach was completely gone and there was no hope for his life. His mental condition was even more painful to him than the physical problem, for he constantly relived the whole war experience and had no control over his body or emotions. Because the doctors could offer him no help, he turned to Christian Science for healing, and a practitioner went to him and talked with him about God's goodness and love for His creation, and of God's power to take care of him, and the fact that it was God's will that he have life and health. The practitioner knew that in reality the fumes of hatred had never touched man, since the omnipresence of God's love had always been his only abiding place. The boy was actually frightened the next day because he had slept peacefully for the first time in so very long a period. He was able in two weeks to take on the work of night clerk in the hotel where he was staying and was completely healed in about three weeks. This meant not only freedom from the physical torture he had been suffering, but from the mental nightmare he had so long experienced. He had seen a glorious proof of the promise written in Science and Health, "The eternal Truth destroys what mortals seem to have learned from error, and man's real existence as a child of God comes to light" (p. 288).
How is the healing and redemptive work of Christian Science accomplished? Through prayer. Prayer as taught in Christian Science is not pleading with God, for His work is already done. Our prayer acknowledges God's ever-present love; beholds man in His likeness, whole, and safe, and blest. It thanks God for the good which is already true, and knows His power and willingness to sustain it. Our prayer acknowledges one supreme God and denies the existence of any force or condition opposite to His infinite perfection. This prayer stills the fears which produce sickness; exchanges for the belief of chance and danger a calm trust in God and confidence in the effectual operation of His just and merciful law. The countless healings effected by Christian Science have proved that disturbed, fearful thinking produces illness, and that spiritual awakening which uplifts thought does at the same time heal sickness. Because every type of disease, both organic and functional, has been healed spiritually, one who understands the teaching of Christian Science confidently relies on God for help in every need.
May I recall to you some of the points considered in this lecture? God demands of us that we ask Him of things to come. He determines our life experience; the carnal mind does not. When we understand God's nature as Love, and as infinite good, we are assured that He has ordained only blessings for His beloved sons.
Christian Science reveals to us the spiritual meaning of the Ten Commandments and shows them to be, not threats of penalties, but assurances of the safety, comfort, and joy which accompany obedience to right. Alert obedience to the First Commandment frees us from idolatry the worship of the false gods of materiality.
If discordant problems have come to your door in rapid succession, have you found yourself believing that there is a real force of evil, and that it is operating against you with mounting power? If you are led to believe that there are two powers, and one of them is evil and that actually the evil is more powerful because it can annul the influence of good in your life you are being tempted to break the First Commandment. Mrs. Eddy tells us that "The first demand of this Science is, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' This me is Spirit. Therefore the command means this: Thou shalt have no intelligence, no life, no substance, no truth, no love, but that which is spiritual" (Science and Health, p. 467). There is one God, and this means one power. God's allness permits of no opposite; therefore good and this includes the individual expression of good in your own life has no opposition. Your health is a state of harmonious spiritual consciousness; it is given to you by God and is sustained by God, without interruption. Your security rests on the sure foundation of God's unchanging love, with its abundant, generous giving. Man can never lack, because he has all the good which God gives. Man's happiness is not in the hands of persons or material circumstances. He has perpetual joy, because God is Soul and man reflects the inspiration, satisfaction, harmony, and blessedness which result from a wholehearted worship of our good God!
[Delivered Nov. 1, 1954, at Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and published in The Milwaukee County News, Nov. 4, 1954.]