W. Norman Cooper, C.S.B., of Los Angeles, California
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Christian Science brings the joyful news that every obstruction which appears to hide God's goodness from us can be destroyed. This great religion points out that nothing — neither wars nor rumors of wars, atomic explosions, juvenile delinquency, disease, death, nor anything else can obstruct God's goodness. The Apostle Paul wrote (Rom. 8:38,39), "Neither death, nor life, . . . nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God." Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God!
Any obstruction, such as fear, worry, insecurity, grief, or illness, which sometimes appears to separate us from God's presence and love can be destroyed through strict obedience to the first command of the Mosaic Decalogue (Ex. 20:3), "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Referring to this commandment, Mrs. Eddy has stated (Science and Health, p. 467): "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." To believe that there is a power apart from God, Spirit, is disobedience — a violation of the First Commandment. Christian Science shows us how to obey lovingly and joyously this great commandment, because our religion points out the true nature and significance of obedience.
Obedience, as viewed in Christian Science, is submission to the laws of God, good. It permits no desire to deviate in the slightest from these laws. The traffic light at the corner of a busy intersection is installed for one's protection, but only through obedience to it does one gain the protection it affords. Likewise, only through obedience to the laws of God can we gain the protection afforded by these laws. Perhaps one may think that obedience to the traffic light limits him, takes away his freedom; but actually obedience to it brings one freedom — freedom from accident, confusion, lawlessness. So with the laws of God, obedience to these laws does not limit one, rob him of freedom, but brings him freedom — freedom from fear, pain, sin, disease, and death.
Obedience is willingness to follow God's guidance without resistance and never even momentarily questioning the whys and wherefores of His commands. It is not a murmuring, questioning or "well, if I have to," obedience. The poet Lowell expresses the thought of obedience in these beautiful lines:
"Yet to the spirit select there is no choice;
He cannot say, 'This will I do, or that.' . . .
A hand is stretched to him from out the dark,
Which grasping without question, he is led
Where there is work that he must do for God."
Who is the God to whom we should give joyous, loving obedience? He is the infinite, Supreme Being, the creator of all that really exists, He is our patient Father-Mother, ever governing His universe by His wisdom and love. He is Mind; He is not a god of uncertainty, ignorance. He is Spirit; He is not a god of material parts or a physical personality. He is Soul; He is not a god of sorrow, deformity, sin. He is Principle; He is not a god of lawlessness, changeableness. He is Life, He is not a god of inactivity, disease, death. He is Truth; He is not a god of mistakes, human opinions, errors. He is Love; he is not a god of hate, impatience, vindictiveness, punishment.
The Bible teaches that this one and only God has created man in the image and likeness of Himself. Therefore, as God, divine Mind, knows man, so man is Godlike, upright, pure, and whole. His birthright is conscious unity with God. What man understands of God is his life; his understanding of his Maker constitutes his being; or we might say man's consciousness and individuality consist of his understanding of God. Man, the perfect, eternal, spiritual idea of God is ever obedient to Him. He is God's spiritual idea, whole, complete, ever satisfied.
"But," someone been may be saying, "I am not such a man. I sometimes seem to be sick, lonely, frustrated, sorrowful, irritated, and these discords appear as obstructions separating me from good." But, my friend, you are not speaking of the spiritual man, your real selfhood; you are speaking of mortal man, the lie about, or the counterfeit of, spiritual man. You are thinking of the old man which must be put off for the new man.
The Apostle Paul wrote (Eph. 4:22-24): "Put off concerning the former conversation the old man [the mortal, imperfect man], which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man [the spiritual, perfect man], which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." This new man, the real man, "created in righteousness and true holiness," is your only true selfhood. In the measure that you obediently and persistently put off the old man, that is, cleanse your thinking of the false belief that man is mortal and imperfect, and put on the new man, that is, claim your spiritual sonship, the obstruction that tends to separate you from God will be destroyed.
Does it appear that there is an error intrenched in your experience behind an impregnable wall? Does this error appear to separate you from some good? No matter what form error may take, even though it appears as formidable as a wall surrounding the city, it can be completely overthrown by willing and loving obedience to God, as was proved in the experience of the children of Israel at Jericho. They were journeying to the Promised Land when they came to the walled city of Jericho. Since this strongly fortified city stood directly in the way of their entering the Promised Land, commanding, as it did, the valley of the lower Jordan and the passes into the western mountains, its conquest was essential to their advancement. The city stood directly in their way, just as some obstruction, some Jericho, such as fear, lack, sin, sickness, sometimes appears to stand in the way of the attainment of some good God has promised us.
The Lord promised Joshua, their leader, that He would give the city into their hands if they followed His directions. The Bible narrative indicates that they were obedient. They were not to attempt to take the city by the use of conventional means. Joshua must have seen that their weapons were "mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" (II Cor. 10:4). Their weapons were not material, but spiritual. They were told to compass the city in a definite order once each day for six consecutive days, and on the seventh day they were to compass it seven times. They were not to shout or to make any noise until they were told to do so.
In strict obedience they did all that had been commanded of them — they compassed the city, going about it once, then they returned to their camp and lodged there. This they did six days, On the seventh day, they arose up early and compassed the city seven times. Then Joshua said (Josh. 6:16), "Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city." So the people shouted, and the "wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city" (6:20). They destroyed all the things that were in the city except the silver, the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, which were put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. The city fell according to God's promise, because the children of Israel had been obedient. They had proved the value of listening to and obeying God. As one reads this narrative, he is impressed with the relative ease with which the city was captured. The story seems to say that the way to destroy one's obstructions is not difficult when one is obedient to God.
Speaking of Joshua and his band before the walls of Jericho, Mrs. Eddy writes (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 279), "They went seven times around these walls, the seven times corresponding to the seven days of creation: the six days are to find out the nothingness of matter; the seventh is the day of rest, when it is found that evil is naught and good is all." These days cannot be thought of as mortals measure time. They are simply stages through which human consciousness passes when awakening to the things of God. The first six stages of this mental awakening are to learn the nothingness of matter. The seventh stage is the day of rest — the day, the illumination of spiritual understanding, when it is completely seen "that evil is naught and good is all."
Christian Science shows that this day of heavenly harmony is a present possibility. Right at this moment, we can became conscious of this day of perpetual harmony, completeness, perfection, and peace, in which there is no death, no sorrow, no crying, no pain, "for," as the Revelator foresaw, "the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4). Think of it! — the day of rest in which "evil is naught and good is all"!
Five-year-old Belinda, a pupil in the Christian Science Sunday School, proved that this seventh-day victory over evil is a present possibility. One Sunday, her teacher told the class the story of Jericho and how the people rose up early and claimed their seventh-day victory. To illustrate the wall, the teacher likened it to a small strip of paper, folded like an accordion, which, when opened in an upright position, stood like a wall. In the days that followed, Belinda built many paper walls. With her forefinger she would "point" her way around the little wall, carefully counting six times, and then on the seventh time she would blow on the wall, and of course it fell down flat, as the walls of Jericho had fallen.
Sometime later, Belinda became very ill and feverish. During the evening she and her mother talked of God and prayed diligently. In the morning, the fever had left, yet the child still lay in bed, not wanting to get up, complaining that her throat hurt. There seemed to be something which prevented Belinda from accepting her complete freedom. The mother said that a wall seemed to stand between the child and her healing. Belinda asked if she might telephone her Sunday School teacher, who was also a Christian Science practitioner, to pray for her.
The teacher asked the child to think of the story of the walls of Jericho. She reminded her that the people rose up early the seventh morning; they rose to the recognition of the "day of rest, when it is found that evil is naught and good is all." She urged the child to do likewise — to rise to the recognition of the day of rest. After the conversation, she and her mother talked about the little paper walls which Belinda had been blowing over on so many previous days. The mother assured the child that the seventh day of victory had arrived. It was time for her wall to fall down flat. Within a half hour the child asked to get up, and that was the end of the problem.
If, like Belinda, we would destroy the Jerichoes, the great obstructions which seem to stand in the way of our victory, we must realize that they are but false beliefs entertained in our own thinking. We must realize that God creates all that is real and He creates only that which is good. Therefore any obstruction to infinite good which appears in our thoughts or lives is actually unreal even though we might admit that it appears to be both real and formidable. It is but an illusion, and it is obvious that an illusion is neither real nor formidable. It is nothing, no thing. It is like the hole in a doughnut. The hole is nothing; it is merely the absence of dough. It would be absurd to be afraid of the hole in a doughnut, whether the hole be small or large. Likewise, we do not need to be afraid of any obstruction — no matter how small or large it appears.
Can the hole in a doughnut be explained? All that can be said about it is that it is nothing, because it is the absence of something — of dough. It cannot be explained beyond this point. If an error or an illusion of any nature whatsoever could be logically explained, it would become truth, or erroneous truth, and this is impossible. All that can be said of discord is that it is the absence of concord; sin, the absence of purity; disease, the absence of health; death, the absence of life.
All inharmony is but a lie about God's harmonious creation. The only truth about a lie is that it is untrue. Jesus' admonition is (Matt. 5:25), "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him." Agree that thine adversary is a lie and agree quickly. Don't waste time arguing about a lie or wondering where it came from. Just agree quickly that it is a lie, nothing, no thing, just the hole in the doughnut.
The basic weapons which made it possible for the children of Israel to destroy obstructions in the way of their progress were not material, or carnal (as Paul uses this word). Their true weapons were God-bestowed and spiritual — weapons such as obedience, faith, patience, joy, and trust in God. Paul writes (II Cor. 10:4,5), "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
Through the spiritual weapons of our warfare, understood and put to proper use in Christian Science, every stronghold can be pulled down, every imagined power opposed to God and everything that exalteth itself against the knowledge of the allness of God can be cast down; and thus every thought is brought into captivity "to the obedience of Christ."
Perhaps the greatest of all weapons is prayer based upon the spiritual understanding of God and of man's perfect relationship to Him as reflection. Through such prayer we can destroy any obstruction, any stronghold, which may appear to stand in the way of our promised good. Today, while mankind is engaged in a frantic scramble to build bigger weapons — weapons that will travel faster, go greater distances, do more harm — they should be engaged in a search to understand prayer, the weapon which is not limited by time or space and can do only good.
We should all be soldiers — soldiers marching against walled cities such as fear, lack, pain, age, insecurity, failure.
Prayer is not pleading with God or begging for His goodness. It is approaching Him, not as a sinner, a beggar, an outcast, or an orphan, but as in reality His perfect heir reflecting all spiritual good. Prayer is the active recognition that we are are spiritual heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.
Jesus defined prayer when he said, "Ye shall know the truth." Knowing the truth regarding the perfection of God and His spiritual universe, including man, is prayer; and the Master pointed out the certain result of prayer when he said "the truth shall make you free" — shall, not maybe, or perhaps, or at some future time, but right now shall make you free — free from every discord.
We must not only know the truth, for in the complete statement the Master indicated the mark of true discipleship. He said (John 8:31,32), "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." We must, then, continue to lodge in conscious recognition of God's allness as we perform our daily tasks in the classroom, in our businesses, in our homes. There is no indication that while the Israelites were lodging in the camp that they spent their time talking about Jericho, how formidable it was, or why so many days were needed to destroy it. We must not leave our consciousness of God's allness to examine, worry about, conjecture, ruminate, or discuss our difficulty. Continuing to lodge in the certainty of our inseparability from God is true obedience.
During the waiting periods between each day's march, the thought of impatience may have presented itself to the Israelites. However, they undoubtedly learned the value of waiting patiently. Mrs. Eddy declares (Science and Health, p. 454): "Wait patiently for divine Love to move upon the waters of mortal mind, and form the perfect concept. Patience must 'have her perfect work.'" It is helpful to note that she says to "wait patiently," not just wait. It requires moral courage to be a patient waiter. In these moments of patient waiting we should plead God's allness. During this fruitful waiting there should be no anxiety for the future and no regrets for past mistakes which have been corrected.
Jesus must have been practical in his waiting during the thirty years he was preparing for his three years' ministry. His years of waiting were not wasted years. Patient waiting is not doing nothing, for patience includes mental, spiritual motion or activity.
The textbook states (Science and Health, p. 515), "Patience is symbolized by the tireless worm, creeping over lofty summits, persevering in its intent." Even the tireless worm advances as fast as possible; it creeps and perseveres. Patience then includes active expectancy and calmness. It is the ability to be undisturbed in the midst of what appears to be little or no progress. It is not bowing submissively to the necessity or expectation of a slow healing or being grateful for a slow healing. Healing always comes quickly in Christian Science when we become fully aware of the truth that man is God's perfect likeness.
However, if we find that we are not experiencing quick solutions to our difficulties, we should not yield to discouragement. The people had to go around the city seven days. Suppose they had become discouraged on the fifth or sixth day, or even when they were marching on the seventh day. Would the city have fallen? No! Our Leader makes it clear that mortals do not change from error to truth at a single bound. She says (ibid., p. 254), "Individuals are consistent who, watching and praying, can 'run, and not be weary; . . . walk, and not faint,' who gain good rapidly and hold their position, or attain slowly and yield not to discouragement."
If you are gaining even a little good each day, you will eventually see the obstruction fall. Gain a little spiritual understanding each day, and no matter how little it is, use it. The good gained, if used, will expand like yeast. Apply what you know of Christian Science, and it will heal. As you listen to this lecture, accept what you can; do not be concerned if you do not understand all of it. The important thing is to use what you do understand.
The greatest example of obedience was the man Christ Jesus. Mrs. Eddy says of him (ibid., p. 25), "By his obedience to God, he demonstrated more spiritually than all others the Principle of being." He proved that through obedience every Jericho, every false condition or belief, could be destroyed. He had but one purpose, to do not his own but his Father's will. He expressed the Christ, the spiritual nature of God, which blesses all mankind. The Christ presents the things of Mind to human consciousness.
The Bible indicates that the Christ was not Jesus' exclusive possession. Paul refers to the "Christ in you" (Col. 1:27), and he also writes (Phil. 2:5), "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." From these passages, it is obvious that the Mind which was in Christ did not belong to Jesus alone. In proportion to your allowing this Mind to be in you, or to put it another way, in proportion to your willingness to think Christly thoughts — thoughts imbued with obedience, meekness, strength, wisdom, and love — and your endeavor to manifest these thoughts in daily deeds, you too express the Mind of Christ.
The Christ is the ever-present truth of God. In the textbook (Science and Health, p. 583), Mrs. Eddy defines "Christ" as, "The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error." The mission of the Christ is to come — to come to destroy any obstruction which would appear to separate us from God. As the sunshine is a manifestation of the sun, so Christ is the manifestation of God. As the sunshine warms and brightens the physical world, so the Christ warms and brightens human experience, destroying doubts and fears, saving the sinner, and healing the sick.
Mrs. Eddy's life is also an example of obedience to God. She wrote the Reverend Irving C. Tomlinson when he was a Christian Science lecturer (Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, p. 133): ". . . do not I beg ever again speak so much in my praise. I feel so unworthy to be spoken of only as a humble servant of our God." To be a humble servant of God, not to seek or gain personal praise or aggrandizement, was her life-purpose. She instructed her followers (Message to The Mother Church for 1901, p. 34): "Study the Bible and the textbook of our denomination; obey strictly the laws that be, and follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ." Christian Scientists follow their Leader because they know that she first followed Christ. Out of her own experience of faithful following of the true Shepherd, she could write (Poems, p. 14):
"I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice
All the rugged way."
Because she listened to and obeyed God's voice, her footsteps did not stray from the pathway of faithful service to God. She followed and rejoiced, even though this pathway was often rugged. It was her willingness to follow God's guidance which enabled her to become the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
Before her discovery, Mrs. Eddy was in ill-health. She sought many means to break down the obstruction that prevented her from living a normal and useful life. One after another of these means failed. Then, at last, in her extremity, when she was expected to die as the result of an accident, she turned to the Bible which she had dearly loved from childhood, and her consciousness was enlightened by spiritual inspiration. This enlightenment healed her and convinced her that there is a Science of healing — a Science which Jesus had taught and demonstrated. She had discovered the Science of Christianity or Christian Science! Then it was her desire to share her great discovery with others, to help them to destroy their Jerichoes as hers had been destroyed.
Young people should be taught that whereas obedience to the spiritual and moral law brings joy, health, and freedom, disobedience, which is the prime cause of juvenile delinquency, brings unhappiness, disease, bondage. The word "juvenile" implies that one has not yet reached maturity; but Christian Science teaches that man, God's image and likeness, is ever mature, ever at the very zenith of perfection, satisfaction, and completeness. "Delinquent" implies something or someone not yet complete, but man is in reality the complete, satisfied, joyous idea of God. Christian Science shows that the problem of juvenile delinquency can be met through an understanding that the real man is the obedient, lawful, joyous, intelligent, perfect, complete, loving child of God, and that this truth is a law of correction and guidance in human affairs.
Remember Belinda and her little paper walls? When she blew the paper wall down, she marched her little finger right through where the wall had stood and then remarked, "See, they just walked right through." Since our walls are in reality illusions, we, too, can walk right through them. The Bible states that when the wall fell down flat, "the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city" (Josh. 6:20). They went through — every man straight before him into the city.
Suppose you were walking down the street and a shadow fell across your path. You would not have to be afraid of it. You could just walk straight through it. It could not stick to you, hold you, or scar you. It could do nothing to you unless you feared it. Likewise, obstructions of mortal error, since they are but beliefs harbored in human consciousness, can have no power over us unless we fear them. We have every right to walk through them. We should not dwell in them, or with them, or upon them. The Psalmist sang (23:4). "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." Any obstruction, any discord or evil belief, is but a shadow which we can walk straight through without its really touching us.
The children of Israel were instructed that after they had entered the city they were to destroy all that was in it except the objects for the treasury of the Lord. Our spiritual understanding must so completely destroy our Jericho-obstructions that there is no morbid looking back at them; no resentment that we had to go through them; no fear that they might rise again. After we have destroyed an obstruction, we must also destroy even the memory of it. Even the remembrance of our seven days' march should not remain. Many a new Jericho raises its walls on the memory of an old Jericho not completely destroyed. All that should remain is our gifts for the treasury of the Lord — our thanksgiving, gratitude, and praise to God for His victory.
Have you gained your seventh-day victory? If not, perhaps there is one thing more you need to do: When the children of Israel had marched around the wall, maintaining their silent recognition of God's might, and had kept order in the march and in the camp, the wall did not fall. In all this they had been obedient, but there was one thing more they needed to do. They needed to shout — shout praise to God for their victory even though the victory had not yet been seen. Even before the walls had fallen, Joshua instructed his followers to "Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city." They obediently shouted. Then, and only then, did the walls fall.
Praise is of paramount importance in the healing work of Christian Science. The part praise plays in healing is illustrated in an experience I heard given at a Wednesday testimony meeting in a Christian Science church in New York City and which I have since had verified by a letter from the testifier herself. She is a woman from South America. She told of the healing of a severe condition of poisoning. It was not diagnosed medically, but many fearful medical names presented themselves.
She and her husband prayed. They had had many quick healings during their nearly thirty years in Christian Science, but this time they, like the Israelites, had to compass the obstruction to health many times before they saw it fall. In fact, for two weeks she and her husband prayed devotedly, not only daily but often hourly. There seemed to be no result. Finally she was confined to bed with weakness. Then one evening her husband said: "What more can we do? We have covered every aspect of this work with seemingly no result." Then he was divinely guided to say, "I know; we'll sing." He took his copy of the Christian Science Hymnal, and beginning with the first hymn, he sang their favorites. At first she could not make the effort to sing with him, but eventually she began to sing mentally. Later, she began to hum audibly, and finally she was singing quietly with him. The singing went on far into the night.
She fell asleep. During the night mental surgery took place. In the morning she felt well and knew that she was healed, whereas the night before she had been almost totally incapacitated. There was a small incision on her breast — no sign of blood and not a suggestion of pain. The poison poured out and continued to do so for several days. During this time there was no trace of sickness or weakness of any kind. Then the incision closed, leaving no scar. These Christian Scientists had proved that the words (Josh. 6:16), "Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city" are as practical today in destroying obstructions as they were centuries ago. Thanksgiving, gratitude, joy — not alone audible praise, but also silent praise, expressed in better daily thoughts and deeds — aid in the healing of any disease. But healing the sick is not the whole of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy has written (Rudimental Divine Science, p. 2), "Healing physical sickness is the smallest part of Christian Science. It is only the bugle-call to thought and action, in the higher range of infinite goodness. The emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin; and this task, sometimes, may be harder than the cure of disease; because, while mortals love to sin, they do not love to be sick."
When the seventy disciples whom Jesus had sent out to do healing work returned with joy, they told the Master (Luke 10:17), "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name." Then Jesus said (Luke 10:19,20): "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." Like the disciples, your reason for rejoicing is not alone that all obstructions are subject to your spiritual understanding; but your greater reason for rejoicing is that your name, your real spiritual nature, is written in heaven.
What greater reason for rejoicing could there be than to know the true nature of God and your relationship to Him, as His beloved heir, whose name is forever written in heavenly harmony. We can rejoice because we know that since God is Mind, the real man, your true selfhood, knows; he expresses intelligence, understanding, perception. Because God is Spirit, man is spiritual; he expresses substance. Because God is Soul, man expresses beauty, individuality, joy, peace, harmony. Because God is Principle, man is obedient; he expresses order, law. Because God is Life, man lives; he expresses perpetual and purposeful activity. Because God is Truth, man expresses Christliness, integrity, reality. Because God is Love, man loves, he expresses selflessness, constancy, purity.
Because man, your real selfhood, reflects God, he is ever conscious of but one God, good. Man is ever the humble, joyous, patient, obedient servant of God, ever submissive to God's great laws, and he is ever manifesting the abundant blessings of this obedience. He is ever an heir — an heir of God and joint heir with Christ. He is ever conscious of the seventh day, the day of rest, in which good is all. Man, your spiritual identity, is ever lodging in the certainty of his inseparability from God; and nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate your true and only real selfhood from the love of God.
[Delivered June 12, 1960, at the Sycamore Community Center in Sycamore, Illinois, under the auspices of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Sycamore, and published in The True Republican of Sycamore, June 14, 1960. The verses quoted at the outset of the lecture are from the poem "Columbus" by James Russell Lowell.]