Christian Science: The Key to Self-Government (1)
John Sidney Braithwaite, M.A., C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
In seeking for a test to apply to any form of religious teaching one hardly would expect to improve on the words of an eighteenth century writer who says "That is the truest doctrine which hath a tendency to make thee live in the best and wisest manner." Christian Science nevertheless proposes a further test, for it says that if such doctrine is based on the teachings of Christ Jesus, as it surely will be, then it should be found to confer in addition the best health. It is just because Christian Science has helped and is helping so many people to a better and wiser manner of life, besides healing them of physical ailments and keeping them well, that so much interest has been aroused in it.
The essential sanity and health and optimism which permeate Christian Science are helping to leaven human thought, and to supply the moral qualities that are needed to hold it steadfast in the midst of present storms and beating waves.
Christian Science strengthens the weak hands, confirms the feeble knees and says to those that are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, fear not."
Many of us are here, no doubt, in the spirit of enquiry, we want to know in what way this teaching substantiates its claim to be both Christian and Science, we want to know how the healing is done, and perhaps also whether it is applicable to our own case. These points I shall try to explain, and also I shall try to show that in seeking the truth about God's government of His universe, we find the truth about individual self-government. There is no lesson more needed today than that of self-government, for until that is learned one cannot be ready, as all should be, to participate in the government of the people, which means government in obedience to divine Law. Is it not clear that a nation or a movement will be safe when self-government is the first concern of the individuals composing it?
Mary Baker Eddy
When one considers the place that the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, occupies in the unfoldment of Christianity, one finds it to be unique. You cannot compare her to such religious teachers or reformers as Luther, Calvin, Wesley or George Fox for this reason, that while each one of those men had his distinct message to the age in which he lived and each one had a certain genius for organization, not one ever claimed the full measure of the Master's promises. It seems that they did not see far enough to associate his teaching with the word Science, neither did they dare to advocate physical healing as an essential part of the Master's instructions to his disciples throughout all time. They did not know how to do so, and in some instances where healing occurred, they even feared lest it should result in a darkening of their message, through a building up of their own personality, in place of the Christ. And, mind you, they were not very wide of the mark in estimating this danger, but Mrs. Eddy saw it too and faced it. She fearlessly insisted on healing as an essential feature of Christianity, but she also saw that nothing but strict adherence to the truth could qualify for this demonstration. She was a Moses to this age, saying, as Moses said to the children of Israel, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee."
Mrs. Eddy brought to Christianity
that which it had hitherto lacked − the Science of its teaching. Nothing
could be added to the spirit of the Master's teaching, but the age was
demanding its scientific and systematic explanation. Mrs. Eddy supplied both.
Her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" is the
textbook of Christian Science, and her Church Manual provides the rules by
which this healing system becomes an integral feature of the
The story of Mrs. Eddy's own healing which was occasioned by a sudden flash of illumination thrown on a passage of Scripture, has been so often told that I will not repeat it now, but it is perhaps not so generally known that it was a regular physician who urged her to embody her discovery in a book and thus give to the world her curative system of divine metaphysics. He had good reason for doing so, for he had seen her heal pneumonia instantaneously when he himself had declared that the patient could not live.
One might dwell at considerable length on Mrs. Eddy's deeply spiritual nature, her unselfed and statesmanlike leadership of the Christian Science movement, her far-seeing wisdom, her loving warning, her stern rebuke, and her gentle entreaty, but I think that the world today is more willing to concede these things than it formerly was and to give to her her rightful place, and so I will proceed to deal with some aspects of her discovery.
Back to the Bible
Perhaps the most important thing that Christian Science does for the real truth-seeker is that it gives him back his Bible. So many people have let their Bibles go in exchange for the more speculative and uninspired writings of would be leaders of thought. They have wandered far into theories about health, government, human nature, death and the hereafter, in many cases only to return by the same door they went in saying as old Omar said:
"There was the door to which I found no key:
There was the veil through which I might not see."
And just as we may hear nowadays the call of "back to the land," reminding men of the essentials of existence, lost sight of in the anxieties of the war or the rush and speculation of the city, so in Christian Science the cry is "back to the Bible." There you will find the door you seek to open, and here in Christian Science is the key to it. The very first of the tenets of Christian Science is "As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal life."
It may be asked how one is to know which parts of the Bible are "inspired Word" and which are not. What about the talking serpent, Noah and his ark, the whale that swallowed Jonah, and a hundred other things either unintelligible or unbelievable? Well, these things do not have to be regarded as actual material occurrences, but rather as word pictures or illustrations to show what takes place in the human consciousness when the truth begins to enlighten it. Suppose that someone were to take you into a large room filled with furniture, books, pictures and other curios, but so dimly lighted that you could barely distinguish the various objects and certainly could make nothing of them, and then he should begin to tell you of their great interest and priceless value. You might say to him "all that you say about these things may be perfectly true, but it hardly interests me because I can't see them in this dim light."
But if the light were turned up it would all be quite different. You could see the things then, study them and form your own estimate of them.
That is what Christian Science does for the Bible. It turns up the light, so that all can see for themselves.
The key which the Christian Science textbook supplies to the Bible brings a power of discernment hitherto unsuspected, so that one is released from the old fossilized theories that have neither Science nor common sense to support them and learns to think clearly, connectedly and authoritatively, first on the Scriptures themselves, and then on every phase of human experience. In this way one finds self-government, and self-government brings authority with it − the authority which comes from right thinking. It was of this kind of authority, as illustrated in the life of the Master that it was written on one occasion that the spectators were "amazed," and questioned among themselves, saying, "What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits and they do obey him."
Christian Science explains that in the life of Jesus the Mind which created the Universe was become articulate in human experience, so that all false belief and materialism knowing its hour was come, literally quailed before it. The divine Principle, which holds all things in its orderly grasp, was expressing itself in the thoughts and actions of a man.
Christian Science reveals to us
that this same Mind, or Principle, is today omnipresent and is God. Many people
nowadays are using vague terms such as
In Christian Science it becomes apparent that not human attributes, even the best of them, constitute God, but that, on the contrary, the divine Mind is self existent, and the human mind knows nothing truly about life until it begins to discard its own material limitations and to acquaint itself intelligently with this divine Mind or Spirit.
"God is Spirit," said the great Wayshower, "and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." Now, Spirit is one of the seven synonymous terms used to denote God, and Christian Science shows that there is scriptural authority for these seven terms.
In each one we find the pure thought gem, not requiring any setting in which to be exhibited, but revealing itself more and more as a complete idea, satisfying while yet unfathomable, simple, yet profound.
"Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle. Life, Truth, Love." If we take each one of these terms and study it thoughtfully, we find ourselves being lifted into a nearer and truer sense of God. The effort to gain this clearer vision, looking away from the human to the divine, is the prayer of faith in Christian Science, and this prayer is answered in the harmony, health, and peace that it brings. We can see then that we do not need another human being, whether in the guise of priest or doctor, to take care of our spiritual or physical welfare for us. Indeed they cannot do so. We must work out our own salvation.
Source of Human Falsities
Now touching these human theories about man and his origin, all of which are permeated with a great deal of hopelessness and despair, because of their insistence on materialism as the basis of life, and evil as an inescapable law, Mrs. Eddy writes in "Science and Health" (p. 489), "The corporeal senses are the only source of evil or error." This is a very profound statement, and like all really profound statements it simplifies things enormously. It is a hopeless thing to think of evil as some kind of diabolical intelligence with which we can never expect to cope − but if its source is traceable to the corporeal senses, we know we can cope with them if we care to take the trouble. "I keep under my body," said Paul, "and bring it into subjection," and what an example of freedom and self-government we have in him.
We may study the writings of Plato, Plotinus, Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Berkeley and others, and we may gain a sense that matter is not the self-existent thing it appears to be, and we shall find that modern, scientific research upholds this position. But we shall not in this way have advanced far along the road which leads to Jesus' statement, "The flesh profiteth nothing," or Mrs. Eddy's definition of matter to be mortal mind, illusion, the opposite of Truth. It is comparatively easy to see that the so-called properties of matter are qualities of thought, but it is quite another thing to gain the spiritual perception that matter thoughts are illusion or nothingness. All sin and disease are traceable to this illusion regarding matter, and Christian Science teaches that disease is not a law of God, neither is it a law of matter, but that it is mortal mind that causes disease, and mortal mind that needs to be corrected. It was Jesus' understanding of this fact that gave his mission on earth such startling significance. With his clear spiritual vision he taught men the simplicity of the truth and healed all kinds of diseases, treating them as the results of false belief. Finally he faced the darkest phase that human experience can offer − a cruel death with every man's hand against him − and triumphed completely over it in the experience known as the resurrection, thereby annulling death − matter's strongest claim. This was his atonement − the proof of man's scientific unity with God − his at-one-ment with divine Mind.
Jesus No Ascetic
What then does bringing the body "into subjection" really mean? Does it mean treating it with asceticism and contempt, and like St. Francis referring to it as "my brother, the ass?" Such a position may, no doubt, be achieved by an effort of will, but is it the scientific way along which Jesus of Nazareth was the first to tread? There is nothing to show that Jesus was an ascetic. On the contrary, he seems to have been a very normal person in all matters to do with eating, drinking, clothing and resting, though no one will deny that he was the most unselfed man that ever lived.
What to the ascetic appeared to be temptations to sin, to Jesus were symbols of the divine providence − the temporary food and clothing which are needed by mortals in the transition stage from the purely material sense of supply to that condition of spiritual understanding which can say in the Master's words, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." He knew that the real health, the real food, and the real clothing of the real man came from Mind alone, and that the understanding of this fact brings now an abundance of blessings.
But while Jesus was tolerant and friendly towards a normal sense of good, so distinct from the abnormal and self-righteous sense of it entertained by the Pharisees, which he again and again rebuked, he was not tolerant towards what mortals are accustomed to consider a normal sense of evil, such as sin, disease, or death are.
These things he saw to be the outcome of a misguided thought, lost in the darkness of materialism, led on by a will-o'-the-wisp − a false sense of good.
When appealed to by a sufferer, he recognized this turning to him to be an awakening out of the mesmerism of sensuality, and in clear terms he encouraged the wrestler with "According to your faith be it unto you." He knew it required faith to turn away from the body, and one can see the sufferer's thought looking away from the evidences of disease and sin and limitation to something higher, caught from him the divine light and found instantly what it sought. Neither health laws, not physical disabilities, nor temptations withstand this demonstration of the Christ, God's presence and omnipotence. For that is what the Christ is − the communicator of good, of health, purity, holiness, to men. Now we do not hear what anyone is saying to us if our thought is busy with something else, neither can we receive the Christ communication if we are wholly preoccupied with self and the body. Therefore bringing the body into subjection really means, not starving and bullying it, but dropping it out of thought − mentally rising superior to the illusive suggestions of pleasure or pain in matter − forgetting self, and listening for God's message to man of Life, Truth and Love.
Best Work of All
Perhaps it is because we have become so absorbed in material occupations of one kind or another that we have come to think of Science, let alone, Christian Science, as outside our scope. There is something very satisfying about having a lot of work to do, and the absence of work seems to create such a void in a man's life, that Stevenson once said of work that it was "God's greatest gift to man."
But listen to this,
"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto
everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him hath God the
Then said they unto him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God?
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
Perhaps you have never thought of your work just in that light. The desk, the shop, the factory, the plough, the pulpit, whatever your particular task may be, have kept you fully occupied. But they, so far from being your real work, may sometimes be no more than your excuse for not doing this work that Jesus outlined. What is it to "believe on him whom he hath sent"? It must mean more than mere acquiescence, as one might say "I believe there is a North Pole." It must surely mean to grasp the spiritual idea of manhood which Jesus presented and to stop thinking of man as a fallen being − a sick and sinning mortal. "Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils," says the Bible.
If some fruit that is good to eat and some that is poisonous is set before you, you eat the good and reject the bad. Your belief expresses itself in action and so it should always do.
The truth about God and man is set before us in Christian Science and we can understand it and demonstrate it. Christian Science reveals to us that we have omnipotence close at hand and all around us giving authority to our every thought and action that is in line with truth. In the textbook of Christian Science we have the scientific rule, which Jesus promised should be given, enabling us to correct our thinking and to put the truth in the place of the lie, as he did centuries ago.
Proofs Not Perfunctory
How is one to know that one is escaping from materialism and really grasping the spiritual idea of manhood which Jesus demonstrated? Here is the answer from the Bible: − "These signs (proofs) shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
These then are to be the proofs that we have a right understanding of Life. Not, you will observe, the occupancy of positions of prominence, not the wearing of fine raiment, not wealth and popularity, but the casting out of devils (where are these devils, or evils, if not in our own thoughts?), speaking with new tongues (not being afraid to voice the truth), handling of serpents (showing up deceit), immunity from poison and healing of the sick.
Most people will say that they were never taught that these things were any part of their duty as a Christian, regular attendance at church being regarded as an adequate sign following Christian belief. Consulting a recent commentary on this passage I find these words: "The gift of miracles was given to assist the diffusion of the gospel at the very first. When Christianity was firmly planted, the gift of miracles was withdrawn. Could any statement be more misleading than this? It surely has not a particle of foundation. To begin with, Jesus never used the word "miracles." He said these "signs" or "proofs" shall follow them that believe. And again, he never hinted that there would be a time limit to these proofs. It is no more correct to say that these proofs have been withdrawn than it is to say that there is a time limit to the fact that 2 x 2 = 4 or to such inventions as the telephone or the electric light. The only difficulty there is about the healing work is the difficulty we have in understanding God. How else can we know that we understand God except we have proofs of His omnipotence and omnipresence? It is not intellectual proficiency that is needed for the making of these proofs, but the unselfing of thought through purity, humility and affection, − the advancing stages of self-government.
Based on Rules
The healing work in Christian Science is not just an exhibition of blind faith in the supernatural, or in some divine interposition. It is based on certain rules derived from the Master himself. This treatment, sometimes unspoken, but more often, according to the narrative, spoken, almost invariably resulted in complete and instantaneous healing. This is the kind of healing that needs to be restored today − not the grouping and experimental methods of materia medica, not the blind reliance on a good person, a good place, or a good thing, which sometimes produces the same kind of faith-healing that drugs produce − but the Christ method, which turns the sufferer's thought to Him "who healeth all thy diseases . . . . who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies," in other words, to his divine Principle, God. What a waste of time it is trying to locate a diabolical intelligence, in a tiny germ, equipped with a body so small that you cannot see it, when the truth is that neither a germ nor any other suppositional manifestation of evil, or disease, can influence in the smallest degree a mind that has gained the secret of self-government. This secret brings detachment from the current fears and alarms, either in regard to health, property or social conditions, and places us mentally where, in the poet's words,
"neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, or all
The dreary intercourse of daily life
Shall e'er prevail against us or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings."
The demonstration we are to make in Christian Science is that sin and disease have no power because they have no mind, and that we, as children of the one Mind, can overcome these false beliefs through Christ, of whom Paul writes that if we look to him, he "Shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body."
Fallacy of Medicine
A fond delusion that seems to be gaining currency nowadays is that the health of the community may be improved through the systematic application of medical methods to the individual citizen. It is as if we were to become so much live stock awaiting the market − to be sold to the highest bidder.
"What is a man," asks Hamlet,
"If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more."
There is something peculiarly abhorrent to most people in the notion that health is an animal property, dependent on matter. Have we not seen over and over again that man, regarded as a healthy animal, will be betrayed by animality. Samson would be a good illustration of this, and Hercules another. Both of them were brought to disaster by animality, the very thing that the doctors would call good health. Christian Science gives us back the right idea of man as the spiritual image and likeness of God, and not merely a healthy animal.
Christian Scientists have no quarrel with the doctors but they do believe that the notion that in order to understand health you must be a student of disease, has proved fallacious and very costly to the community, You might as well expect a gardener to spend his time studying weeds. Investigation of disease has enormously increased the number of diseases. The study of health means the contemplation of that which is governed by law, and law is spiritual. The raising of the standard of living has improved health conditions and will continue to do so, but this is due to common sense and a higher morality, not to drugs or inoculation.
We are told in the Bible of one king, who "sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians," indicating that it was a matter of reproach that he did not seek his health from God. If that were the general thought today, we should not have such an enormous and costly system in our midst as that known as "materia medica," and undoubtedly great numbers of those unselfish workers whose motive is to alleviate the sufferings of humanity would not be seeking to cure material belief with drugs and hypnotism, but would be Christian Scientists enlisted to lessen sin, disease, and death, in the Christ way, the way that Jesus taught on the shores of Galilee.
Only One Authority
We should never let ourselves be lulled into a false sense of security by statistics, or the statement that all the authorities are agreed. A recent writer in dealing with this latter contention humorously remarks: − "When I am told that all authorities agree, I feel certain that one of them has blundered, and the rest have followed him without enquiry."
Again, the argument that things
have always been so is no argument in their favor. Antiquity does not add
venerability to false belief. The fact that they found loaded dice in
Therefore they must be scientific and they must be the only test which can safely be applied to all the modern so-called sciences. If the latter do not stand that test, then they become as Paul said, "oppositions of science falsely so called."
You see how inevitably we are thrown back on to Christ Jesus for our authority in all matters. His kingship stands because it is impossible that any human authority can ever supersede it. We are safe if we hold to him, and Christian Science does not ask us to swerve one hair's breath from his teaching. Instead it confirms it and reinforces it at every point. We should ask ourselves whether, like the captain of a ship, we are steering our course according to the chart that he mapped out, or whether we are mere pleasure sailors going anywhere that the caprice of the moment suggests.
Self-government does not, of course, mean just having you own way in everything. "Man is properly self-governed," writes Mrs. Eddy ("Science and Health," p. 106), "only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love."
To the degree that a man finds the truth in Christian Science, the law of God enters into his heart, and he becomes a representative of Principle. Basing his life on the first commandment and the Golden Rule he finds himself naturally impelled to uphold law and order and to aid in the ejection of disorder or lawlessness. He becomes more compassionate and willing to share his new found freedom with those who are suffering from a false sense of law, that is, from disease, or sin, or limitation. He knows that what has healed him can heal others and he gladly brings to their notice the fact that the Christ method of healing is here on earth today, and that it is to be found embodied in the textbook "Science and Health," to which all may have access. It would probably be correct to say that more healing of disease and sin has resulted from the study of this book than from any other known method.
Let us never lose sight of the fact that it is our absolute right to worship God in the way that seems best to us, our right to seek health in any direction that we please, provided that we do not trespass on the equal rights of others in so doing. Any attempted infringement on this right, whether mental or physical, compulsory religion or compulsory medicine, will not be tolerated in this age.
In conclusion, let me recite to you the short prayer given by Mrs. Eddy to Christian Scientists for their daily use (Manual, p. 41):
" 'Thy kingdom come;' let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin: and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them."
True self-government first, and then the government of all mankind through "Thy Word."
May not each of us, however feeble and inadequate our footsteps have been hitherto, take up from today this vital question of self-government, and find the true method in Christian Science.
To quote the words of John Robinson, original pastor to the Pilgrim Fathers, "When Christ reigns, and not till then, will the world have peace."
[This lecture has been on the site for years without a source indicated. Since this lecture was added to the site, it has been found that every paragraph of this lecture, with perhaps minor variations within the paragraphs, was published in The Niagra Falls Gazette, June 15, 1921. This at least provides a rough dating of the delivery of the lecture as reported above.]