God Omnipotent Makes Man Triumphant
Noel D. Bryan-Jones, C.S., of Worthing, England
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The lecture was given Sunday, January 12th, 1964, at 3:30 p.m. in the State Room, Hotel Fort Des Moines, 10th and Walnut Streets, Des Moines, Iowa.
The speaker was introduced by Mrs. Beryl Lamb of Second Church of Christ, Scientist.
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
If someone came and claimed with an air of great authority and knowledge that the earth is flat, it wouldn't alter the shape of the earth by one inch. But if you and I weren't quite sure about the shape of the earth, we might begin to worry. We might begin to theorize about what was going to happen to the law of gravity, or when or where we would be in danger of being flung off into space. We might even become quite ill with worry about it. We might actually lose weight in the process. But it wouldn't be because the earth was flat. It wouldn't be because someone was saying it was flat. It would be because we were not quite sure about it being round. But if through the study of geology we were able to understand more clearly the truth about the shape of the earth, all our fear and worry would vanish and with it our illness. We might even regain our lost weight. But nothing would have happened to the earth. The change would have happened to our thought about the earth. Ignorance would have been replaced with truth and understanding, and this would have removed our fear.
Now this illustrates in a simplified way the activity of scientific Christianity on human thought. We find that the ills of humanity, the fears and doubts are due to ignorance of God's loving care for the universe and man. But better than that, we find that the right understanding of God, and man's relation to Him, restores the sense of harmony and health. It's the nature of God as omnipotent and of man, His image and likeness, as triumphant, that we are concerned with this evening. We need to reassure ourselves that God is the only power and presence, now and always.
A short time ago I was talking to a group of young people on the subject of Christian Science and one of them told me she was an atheist. I asked her to explain what she meant by being an atheist. She said, "I don't believe in God." I then asked her if she thought there was some power, greater than herself, which controlled the universe. She said, "Oh, yes. But it isn't God."
I said, "Would you agree that it might be Mind, with a capital M; or Life, with a capital L?" She was willing to concede that that could be it. I said, "Then if it is Mind and Life, wouldn't the finding of it, wouldn't the understanding of it, lead to Truth, with a capital T?" She was getting interested. She said, "Yes, I believe so." I said, "Then you believe in God, for that is what God is - Mind, Life, and Truth."
She accepted this and listened to the explanation of Christian Science with interest. She said she was sure it was just what her mother needed! I said, "What about you?" She said, "Oh, I'm certainly going to look into it."
Later I cautioned her, "Don't forget that in considering Mind, Life, and Truth as God, you are considering the perfect Mind, the good Life, and the Truth of goodness, and that all this adds up to divine Love. That's God!" That girl wasn't really an atheist at all. Her only difficulty was that she didn't really understand what God is. Her atheism was based on a misunderstanding, a mistaken concept of Him. She needed to learn, as we all do, the true nature of God as All.
In a certain sense all science is based on principles and rules. In the practice of Christian Science God is divine Principle, and the rules are those of absolute goodness, set forth in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. A most important rule is that we must always begin with God. The Holy Bible, which is one of the two textbooks used by students of this Science, opens with the words, "In the beginning." "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). This phrase, "In the beginning," isn't used to signify the commencement of time so much as the basis upon which a statement is founded. It's used in much the same way as we commence the explanation of something with the words, "To begin with," or "To start with." John uses the same idiom when he opens his wonderful Gospel with the words, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). The phrase, "in the beginning," is foundational to a complete and detailed account of spiritual immensity.
The other great textbook of Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, gives this answer to the question, "What is God?" (p. 465); "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth Love." It tells us, as a basis, or beginning, that "the starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind, - that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle" (p 275). To gain an understanding of God as All is to accept Him as the Principle of our being, the only real power in our lives. God isn't merely the greatest power in the universe: He is the only real power there is. He isn't merely the governing Mind; He is the only Mind there is. He's not just a glorified being; He is the only Life there is, the only Principle of existence.
You see, God is infinite, all-inclusive, leaving no room for anything unlike Himself, either outside of infinity or embraced within all-inclusiveness. That word "All" is very important. Because God is Spirit and God is All, anything which seems to be unlike Spirit, called matter or materiality, becomes nothing more than a mistake about God. Because God is all Love, infinite Love, anything which lacks the nature of Love, such as fear, hate, or anxiety, just testifies that the all-presence of Love is unrecognised. Because God is all Life, infinite Life, perfect, incorporeal Life, anything which seems to be imperfect life, finite organic life, limited life, or dying life, just testifies that the allness of Life, God, is imperfectly understood. Like the error about the shape of the earth. This God we are considering, this Spirit, this Love, this Life, is the God spoken of in the Bible as Almighty God. It is from the word "almighty" that we gain the expression "omnipotence." Almighty God is omnipotent God. If He weren't almighty, if He weren't omnipotent, He wouldn't be God. There would be some other power, some other presence, somewhere, in opposition. But we are told in the Bible: "Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath; there is none else" (Deut. 4:39). Christian Science accepts, insists upon, and teaches this allness, this "none-elseness," of God, of all good, and follows it through to a logical conclusion. One of these conclusions is that there can be no sick physicality in the infinity of perfect Spirit. There can be no sick mentality in the allness of perfect Mind. It is the all-inclusiveness of God which makes Him omnipotent, without an equal.
The Apostle John, in the opening of his Gospel, after emphasizing that "The Word was God," refers to His all-inclusiveness by continuing, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). No other creator; no other creation; no other basis for being than the divine Word, God, and all that it means.
Jesus identified the Word with the Christ, or Truth, when he said (John 17:17), "Thy word is truth." God as revealed by scientific Christianity is the Word and its utterance, Truth and its expression, Mind and its idea, the healing Christ and its manifestation. The expression, the idea, the manifestation of the Christ, Truth, is the image of God - man. It's man's true identity, his spiritual individuality. It was the nature of the Christ as Truth which Jesus embodied and of which he said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).
We can understand the power of Truth when we realize that no misconception could possibly continue when the truth about it is known. Truth is incontestable! Jesus promised: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). That's the power which knowing the truth gives to man - freedom from evil, freedom from ignorance of his God-given dominion.
"There is but one creator and one creation," Science and Health states (p. 502). It continues: "This creation consists of the unfolding of spiritual ideas and their identities, which are embraced in the infinite Mind and forever reflected. These ideas range from the infinitesimal to infinity, and the highest ideas are the sons and daughters of God." "The highest ideas"! The climax of creation, the ultimate of spiritual being, the pinnacle of Principle, MAN! And that means you and me in our true spiritual identity and being. This divine conception of man is the only true man there is. To the extent you and I seem to fall short of this divine pattern, we're not understanding our divine heritage as man. As we begin to understand our real nature, our real power to be the sons of God, we are able to combat all that would tend to lower that divine standard of perfection - illness, poverty, crime, misery, and so on.
Accept fully the omnipotence of God as Spirit, Mind, and we experience the dominion of man as spiritual, under the complete control of divine Mind. For man can't be apart from God; neither is he a part of God. He is the reflection or expression of God. It's so important to gain and maintain this stupendous idea of ourselves in place of the puny mortal idea of man presented by the material senses. We just can't claim too much good, too much perfection, too much freedom and dominion for ourselves. It's all ours, and if we don't claim it we only have ourselves to blame if we don't experience it. Does this seem presumptuous? Is it presumptuous to claim for ourselves all that God gives us, the dominion and grandeur of spiritual being? Wouldn't it rather be presumptuous to accept the belief that on occasions God isn't able to maintain His image man, fully and constantly? God is the loving Father always, tenderly caring for each one of us as a beloved idea, an infinitely valued creation. This is our authority for living, because it is our Father's will; it's our authority for being well and happy and prosperous, because our creator is Life - and Life is good! This is the nature of God, and therefore it must be the nature of man as His beloved son.
Now perhaps we might consider the question of where all this is taking place. Men and women in their search for God so often echo the plaintive words of Job: "Oh that I knew where I might find him" (Job 23:3). The answer, so gloriously and lovingly stated in the Bible, and brought to light in scientific Christianity, is, "Right here!" Where could you look for infinity but right here? Where could we better start our search for Mind than as the source of our right thinking? Or for Life than as the basis of our good living? Or for Love than in the impulsion of our true loving? Man is the divine image, the divine reflection. Then right here, in the reflection, we can see the glory of the original. If you stand in front of a mirror, your image has all the color, form, outline, and activity of the original; it doesn't get it a bit at a time. It's a complete reflection. The image can't be unlike you; it can't do anything you don't do; and it can't refuse or be unable to do everything you do. It's always exactly like you.
Just so, the image of God can never be unlike God. When it seems to be so, there's something wrong somewhere. But it isn't wrong with God; and it isn't wrong with man. It's just that we are looking in the wrong mirror - the twisted mirror of mistaken material sense instead of the pure mirror of Truth, divine Science, which shows only the true likeness in man. A small boy had a good sense of this reflected unity when he finished his prayers by saying, "And please, God, take care of Yourself, for if You get ill we're all sunk!"
Perhaps no one thing has had more to do with asserting man's God-given dominion than the Christian Science concept of prayer. This is the basis of all Christian Science treatment. Prayer occupied a great part in Jesus' life and work, and it's from him we can learn the secret of effective, healing prayer. His prayers were not petitions as much as affirmations of God's goodness and of man's oneness with God, with Truth and Love. As a wonderful pattern for all Christian praying he left with us the Lord's Prayer, the prayer to "Our Father which art in heaven." With his intimate sense of sonship he went into heaven, into the kingdom of God, to pray. He saw the reality of that kingdom, that supreme dominion of God, in the words, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). Even while man seems to be a human personality on earth his spiritual individuality is in heaven, right here and now. The heavenly kingdom isn't a distant place; it's a present consciousness. Jesus said, "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). In true scientific praying we find that we are in the kingdom and the kingdom is in us - within our spiritualized consciousness. And not only the kingdom, but "the power and the glory" -within you! Never do we have to pray to God "up there" but "right here." Never do we have to reach out blindly for the loving Father, but to look confidently within our spiritual consciousness for that Mind, that Life, that Love which is reflected right here because it's infinite, everywhere. As the writer of Deuteronomy said: "The word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it" (Deut. 30:14).
This scientific praying is what St. Paul refers to as the "simplicity" of the Christ. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's easy. It makes great demands upon each one of us. It means giving up, sometimes with a great mental struggle, habits of thought and action which have been cherished for many years, because they don't measure up to the standard of Science, to the absolute ideal of perfect God and perfect man. Sometimes healing calls for great mental purifying, a willingness to love, a willingness to obey what we know in our hearts is the highest standard of thought and behavior. God, good, must be loved. Life, God, must be lived. Principle must be obeyed. Truth must be embodied. But this isn't giving up anything - it is gaining gloriously our Father's kingdom, our spiritually royal sonship.
In the British Navy the slang term for the ship's chaplain is "God-botherer." But in scientific prayer we don't bother God to do something. It isn't, "Father, make me perfect," but "Father, show me how perfect I am in Thy likeness." It isn't so much "Please" as "Thank You." God doesn't need reminding of His fatherhood. But we so often do need to remind ourselves of our divine sonship. The realization of the ever-present loving Father has healed countless cases of hopeless suffering and disease. I'd like to share one with you.
The man I'm going to tell you about wasn't a Christian Scientist at the time this story begins. But his wife and son were. He wasn't antagonistic to it, but his view was that he couldn't see how reading a book could ever be as helpful as going to a doctor. But there came a time when he found himself in a hospital, dying of a dreadful skin disease. When the doctors honestly admitted they could do no more for him other than wait for the end, his wife and son asked him if he wouldn't now try Christian Science. He agreed, and a Christian Science practitioner went to see him. He discerned that the patient was too weak to be talked to much, but he was able to explain quietly to him something of the infinite nature of Love's presence, that right where disease seemed to be, there instead was God, active, purifying, and healing. The man had always been what is called religious, but later he said that this was the first time he realized the infinite presence of God meant Love not only all round but all through him, and he accepted this simple basis of Christian Science treatment with a great sense of peace and loss of fear. In a week he was home from the hospital, and in a very short time completely well. He became a Christian Scientist, and served in a branch church for nearly twenty years. I can vouch for the truth of that healing because that man was my father.
He had proved the truth of that wonderful statement in the book of Zephaniah: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17). The presence he felt is a changeless attribute of the infinite God. It is impossible to think of absence in relation to God. The presence of God includes the presence of spiritual joy, beauty, purity, and the like. It denotes the availability of abundant intelligence, perception, health, activity, affluence. The divine Presence doesn't come from anywhere; it is always here. Because it fills all space it doesn’t go anywhere; it can never be lost or move out of reach. This being so, how can we dare to stand before God and say, "Father, I've got something You never made. I have disease, I have worry, I have fear"? Or alternatively, "Father, I've lost something You gave me. I've lost my health, my supply, my dominion"? Yet isn't this, in effect, what we do every time we admit to having some discordant condition? For whatever we do or say, we are always in the presence of infinite God. Then could we possibly imagine God saying, "All right, my son, I'll get right down to work and make you some more health, some more activity, some more dominion"? Of course not! His work is finished; it is all here now, and we don't have to ask for it. But we do have to claim it right here. A little girl had lost her pet puppy and was bravely trying to trust God to restore it to her. One day she wistfully said, "Mummy, God is taking care, of my puppy, isn't He?" "Yes, dear, of course." "Then I wish He'd take care of it here." He did take care of it there, for it was safely returned to her.
What we have been seeing is that what is called healing in Christian Science is not primarily a physical transformation. It is mental or spiritual illumination. It is the destroying in our thought of the sin of believing in a power other than God. Disease is a sinful mistake about perfect God and perfect man, and there isn't a single error or mistake which can't be corrected. Then because there is no incorrectable mistake there is really no incurable disease. But when we say there is no incurable disease let's be quite sure we aren't implying that there is a curable one! In all God's kingdom in which we live and move and have our being there is no disease, curable or incurable, easy or difficult, pleasant or unpleasant, mild or dangerous. Why not? Because right where disease would have us believe it to be, there is the love of our heavenly Father, the divine Love which made all and loves its own perfect creation.
If we accept Christianity as Jesus taught it and as he demonstrated it, we must accept it all, including the fact that he said of the devil, or evil, "There is no truth in him" (John 8:44). The evils which seem to beset us aren't true facts. They are wrong beliefs accepted as facts - like the flat earth. John, in his first Epistle, mentions the necessity of deciding whether what confronts us is true or false. He invites his readers (I John 4:1) to "try the spirits [thoughts] whether they are of God." And he adds (verse 6): "Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." But error isn't a power or entity; it's a term. It's a term for that which counterfeits absolute Truth. It's Truth which is omnipotent, not error; and Truth is God, Spirit, as John stresses when he continues (I John 5:6): "It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." And he identifies Truth as the Christ, as the Word, when he goes on to say (verse 7): "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." So long as we're convinced of Truth's unassailability, purity, and omnipotence we will not fall for error's attempts to counterfeit Truth. There is a story of a young man who went to Cardinal Wolsey and said he heard "divine voices" impelling him to take a certain course of action. Wolsey replied, "Young man, be very careful; the Devil is a wonderful mimic!"
Error is nothing more than evidence of our imperfect understanding of the truth about God, man, and the universe. We're not only engaged in reversing error but also in seeing that error can't reverse Truth. We're not engaged in dealing with error as though it is something, but with Truth, because it is ALL. Because Truth, God, is always true, error is never true. It's as simple as that! Error, understood, is really awfully simple; it's never simply awful. The unreality of evil is exposed in the recognition that God, good, is All. The discovery of Christian Science reveals this great truth.
You will notice I used the word "discovery." Christian Science wasn't invented, any more than the law of gravity was invented. There's never been a time when an apple wouldn't fall to the ground if released. But it's comparatively recently in the world's history that Newton found this was due to a law, which he named gravitational pull. So there's never been a time when God has not been omnipotent, omnipresent good. Nor a time when the law of God has not been available to demonstrate that divine omnipotence and omnipresence in the dominion of man over all the earth, the dominion God gave him. But it wasn't until the late 1860's that the Science of Christianity was discovered by Mary Baker Eddy. Her instantaneous healing from the effects of an accident led her to this discovery.
What an amazing and awe-inspiring experience this must have been! The first proof of an intuition Mrs. Eddy had long held - that the wonderful healing works of Christ Jesus were not accomplished by any supernatural power peculiar to himself, but were the result of exact Science, the Principle of which he knew as God, as his Father. From early girlhood Mrs. Eddy yearned to know God as good only, and she firmly believed that the prayer of faith would save the sick. How this developed into the discovery of the Science of Christianity I would like to relate from her own autobiography, "Retrospection and Introspection" (p. 24): "My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury caused by an accident, an injury that neither medicine nor surgery could reach, was the falling apple that led me to the discovery how to be well myself, and how to make others so. Even to the homoeopathic physician who attended me, and rejoiced in my recovery, I could not then explain the modus of my relief. I could only assure him that the divine Spirit had wrought the miracle - a miracle which later 1 found to be in perfect scientific accord with divine law."
Though deeply religious, reared in the bosom of a devoutly Calvinistic family, Mrs. Eddy had never been able to accept the theology of a God who sent or even permitted suffering. To her He was the loving Father, and man was His beloved. Where orthodox religion accepted the idea of an imperfect man trying to gain a status as a forgiven mortal, she was adhering to the concept of God as Love, and of man as expressing only the spiritual character of God. Through many years of suffering Mrs. Eddy continued her search with a devoted conviction that somewhere, somehow God would reveal the truth to her; and now it came, the first glimmer in her own healing.
This, though, was only the beginning. She had to spend many years in prayer, in searching the Scriptures, to find the exact Science which she now knew was available to man. During this period of unselfish devotion she was gaining, and proving, the fact that God's omnipotent goodness is expressed through the triumph of man over all earthly difficulties. She began to heal others as she had been healed and as Christ Jesus indicated we should when he said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (John 14:12). She wrote what I referred to earlier as the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Just the reading of this book, and the acceptance of the spiritual basis of it, has healed countless cases of hopeless disease. At the end of the book, in a chapter called "Fruitage," there are over one hundred carefully authenticated accounts of such healings.
As if this wasn't a task sufficient for one woman's lifetime she organized the Christian Science church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and continued to watch over its worldwide activities, writing the Church Manual by which it is governed. She instituted, and at first edited, the various periodicals of the Christian Science denomination. Perhaps one of her greatest achievements, from a layman's point of view, was that at the age of 87 she founded a great international daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, which has gained for itself an honored place among the newspapers of the world.
I mention these things in no sense of personal adulation of Mrs. Eddy, but to point the fact that she herself proved the availability of God's omnipotence in exercising man's triumphant dominion. She knew that the basic sin of mankind is to believe in a power other than God, such as evil and disease. But she also knew that mortal man's sins and his diseases are healed by acknowledging and worshipping the one God. She called her discovery Christian Science because she discerned that God, the divine Principle of all real being, operates through unchangeable laws and not through a sort of personal favoritism; and that the law of God, understood and faithfully applied, does heal with scientific certainty.
We have discerned the nature of God and man, what He is and how He manifests Himself. We've also seen where He is - right here in the heart of each one of us. Now let's see when all this is taking place. The simple answer, of course, is right now. In the eternity of God's infinite goodness and love there is only now. Eternity isn't a long, long time. It is the endless, glorious now, and now, and now, of God's omnipotence and man's dominion It is the infinite being of I AM. Inasmuch as we can only think of the past or the future now, now is the only real moment. God's beloved and cared for idea has no past to regret or wish for, no future to fear or long for. For this reason man's spiritual individuality is ageless, not subject to the passage of time. Because God is eternal, man is immortal. The acceptance of time or age as a governing factor in man's life is pernicious. But how naturally mankind discusses so-and-so's age! The newspapers seem largely incapable of mentioning anybody's name without including his age. The only time they don't do this is when they announce the birth of a baby; and then they put its weight! And don't we sometimes hear, in a well-meaning attempt to be complimentary, how wonderful so-and-so is "for his age"? Man is wonderful, not because of his age but because of his infinite agelessness. The immaturity of youth or the helplessness of old age is no part of God's idea, man. One of the things we can rejoice about regarding error is that it has no past history; it is always too late! No matter how long ago an erroneous condition seemed to start, it was too late, because Truth was already established. No matter when mortal mind tried to make a law it was too late, because the law of man's perfection was already set up by divine Principle. No matter when evil tries to "creep in," it is too late because all space is already filled with divine Love - there is nowhere for it to creep. When the mist went up from the earth, as we read in the second chapter of Genesis, it was too late - all creation was already finished and pronounced "very good."
The Christ healing takes only as long as it takes to yield up, conscientiously and prayerfully, all belief in any possible power opposed to God, good. A beautiful illustration of this kind of instantaneous healing is shown in the experience of a teen-age girl. Her mother had a telephone call from her daughter's school to say that Sally had fallen in the gymnasium and had broken both her wrists, and that surgery would be necessary. Before going over to the school, she telephoned to a Christian Science practitioner. Together they discussed two simple metaphysical points.
First, that the law of God is never accidental. It is expressed in positive terms such as are used in the book of Isaiah (14:24), "The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand." Therefore not only is the law of God not accidental, it isn't subject to accidental happenings. The second point was that Sally, in her real being, was made of the substance of God, Spirit. This substance is as pliable as thought, but as solid as conviction. It can be bent to the will of divine Mind, but never broken at the whim of mortal mind. The mother was comforted by this assurance. She was grateful that her daughter, an earnest student in the Christian Science Sunday School, would also be looking confidently to God for the solution of her problem.
On arrival at the school she met the school doctor, who said that Sally had a compound fracture of the right wrist and a badly sprained left one. To save time he had sent her to the hospital in the care of a teacher. The mother followed her to the hospital, where she met the house surgeon, who confirmed that there was a fracture and a sprain. He had sent the girl to have the wrist X-rayed so that he could more easily set it. The surgeon, after examining the X-ray plates, asked to see the radiologist, and explained to him that there was a compound fracture of that wrist but it didn't show up clearly enough for him to set it. The radiologist said it didn't show up because there was no fracture there. He pointed to a thin line on the plate, across the outline of the wrist, and said there had been a fracture there at some time, but there was no fracture now. At the end of a week the girl demonstrated her complete freedom in both wrists by picking up a small chair and waving it round her head!
Friends, let me assure you it makes no difference whether you have studied Christian Science for many years or whether you are just beginning, you don't have to wait for healing. In the famous parable of the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) Jesus made the point that whether the laborers came in at the beginning or the eleventh hour their reward was to be the same for faithful work. The time to accept God's loving omnipotence and your dominion is now; not tomorrow, not next week, not even in an hour's time, but now. If you came to this lecture suffering, you can go home rejoicing, for God's healing love is right here, in your heart, in your thought, in your body. Take it home and use it; it's all yours!