Christian Science Reveals The Kingdom of Heaven at Hand
Judge Joseph R. Clarkson of Omaha, Nebraska
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me." "I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein." So spake Jesus.
A little child does not, as a rule, assert its superior knowledge when informed of something it has not hitherto known. It accepts, and to its little store adds the proffered information. Rather difficult, you think, for the average human egotist, to accept, as does the little child, what fails to accord with his previously formed opinions as to what is and what is not. Yet Jesus did not scruple to say, and say emphatically, that before entrance into the Kingdom of God could be compassed by men, they would have to receive information concerning it, as would a little child; they would have to deny themselves, their self-complacent, ignorant wisdom, and humbly listen to, and meekly accept, the teachings of him who was the Son of God, and still, "meek and lowly in heart."
Why men should expect to find Heaven, the Kingdom of God, like anything they have ever known, passes comprehension. If it were not different, would it be worth the seeking? Do they not hope to find in it happiness, health, sinlessness, rest, harmony, power, peace and joy?
Have their ceaseless, pitiable, unremunerative battles on earth, battles despairingly waged under rules in the human manual of arms, brought men any such respite from woe as Heaven is supposed to afford?
Why not end their useless, struggling self-assertion, admit their utter inability from their plane of thought, their apprehension of the "Powers that be," to solve the problem of salvation, and, wearily, yet confidingly, hopefully, ask of the Almighty that He come to their aid; make of themselves "little children" and hear the sweet voice of the Christ saying to those who would hinder, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven?"
Why should we not, once for all, as "little children," throw ourselves into the "everlasting arms" and rest in that safe abode? "We want to," — mortals, say — "we want to, but do not know how."
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
God's ways are not men's ways. The Bible says, "There is no iniquity with the Lord our God." That being so, does God create iniquity? Christian Scientists maintain that He does not. They believe the Scriptures in their statement, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity." Scientists regard the acts of Jesus as explanatory of his words, and as corroborative of what he said relating to the all-power of Spirit, and the oneness, the inseparableness of God and man.
To Scientists, Jesus' teachings joined with his demonstrations point to the obvious fact that man, the real man, the man made in the image and likeness of God, has an eternal, harmonious existence in God, is the expression or manifestation of God and can no more actually die, be extinguished, be sick, suffer or sin, than can God. All that is evil or mortal will be destroyed, but the man himself shall be saved.
That there being but one God, and He the only, the supreme Intelligence, the actual man must have God for his intelligence, his consciousness, thus fulfilling Paul's admonition, "Let that mind be in you which was also in Christ," and God being of purer, eyes than to behold evil or iniquity, evil or iniquity cannot be known by God's man, because he has no mind apart from God.
As heat and light are the manifestation of the sun, so man is the expression of God, and as there must be heat and light so long as there is sun, so there must be man as long as there is God.
As God is Life and is All, and man is His expression, man is the expression of Life, and cannot be allied with death, or really know death.
The eternal, universal power and presence of God, who is Spirit, Life, Truth and Love, as Jesus taught and showed, make it impossible for anything unlike God to have an actual, immortal existence.
Everything not God-like must be temporal, mortal, of human conception, having its origin in erroneous, illusive, mortal beliefs founded upon the physical senses, the human, mortal consciousness, which must finally retire before the only real Mind, the only real Power, the only real Love, the only real Being, the only real eternal Substance, the only real Presence-God.
The denial of self is the denial that the physical existence is the real existence; that existence is in anywise dependent upon structure or organization, that is, matter; and the denial that there are any realities except God-Spirit — and His spiritual creations.
It was these mysteries, for mysteries they seem to us until we have proven them to be the Truth, that Jesus labored to explain to the unprepared, unreceptive human intellects which for the most part belonged to his hearers; it is these mysteries to which Paul, in his epistles, repeatedly refers; it is these mysteries which have become known to Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science; and it is these mysteries which she has, in a noble, God-aided, God-hallowed effort, put, as well as she has been able, into words, and tendered to mankind in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the text book of Christian Scientists.
The spiritual cannot be comprehended by the material. God cannot be comprehended by mortal, physical man. There must be a gradual obliteration of corporeal senses before the full glory of God, and Heaven, and man can grow into realization, just as the darkness gradually retires before the oncoming sun, and, with full retreat, day is installed.
But the human intellect, if there is back of it an honest, contrite heart, is able in a time remarkably short, to somewhat acquaint itself with God, and, if the talent given it is improved, not buried in the ground, to broaden such acquaintanceship into a constantly increasing knowledge which enables its possessor, in a humble, hopeful way, to follow in Jesus' steps, after a comparatively feeble fashion, do the works that he did.
The key to the mystery of the Bible is the understanding that all reality is to be found in God and His creation; that God is infinite Spirit, infinite Intelligence, infinite Love, infinite Power, infinite Presence, infinite Life, infinite Harmony; and that man, God's man, the man described in the first chapter of Genesis, the man who is given dominion as his birthright, the man who is made in the image and likeness of God, reflects infinite Spirit infinite Intelligence, infinite Love, infinite Power, infinite Presence, infinite Life, infinite Harmony-God, and reflects nothing else.
Nothing really is except Spirit and what Spirit has made. All of us are existences expressed of God as light is expressed of the sun, intelligent, conscious existences, having their identities in God, Life, and necessarily independent, for their Being, of the physical body pertaining to the mortal man.
We are spiritual, eternal, harmonious, because we are co-existent with God. We, spiritual identities of the creative, living Principle-God; we, manifestations of Life; we, the eternal sons and daughters of God, are all born of Him, not of the flesh, are all brothers and sisters, children of the one parent, as absolutely indestructible as is the parent Himself and, as the different rays of light, combined, constitute light, so, we, God's various beautiful, spiritual children, as a whole constitute man, God's universe, God's creation, His infinite expression.
Perhaps to some of you, what you have heard may have sounded strange and unreasonable, but it is true that any unusual statement relative to even a well worn subject often sounds strange and unreasonable to unprepared ears.
If you will, for a little while, patiently refrain from passing judgment upon what has been said, I am inclined to think that opinions which you now may hold will undergo something, at least, of a change.
Utterances from the pulpits, and the religious press indicate a recognition by the religious world that a religious revolution is impending. The cry from all quarters seems to be for a more spiritual religion; one that is more satisfying; one that does not seem so tainted with the world; one that is not so devoted to the material — to pomp, pageantry, display, ceremonial, formal, perfunctory observances; one that is not so unhappily by, and of, and for, the flesh; one that approaches nearer to the Christianity formulated and practised by Jesus; one that brings us nearer to God.
Think for a moment and you will candidly concede that such a religion is the demand, the inexorable demand, of the times. If there is to be any diversion of the "princes of the world" from apparent abandonment to uncurbed selfishness, greed, rapacity, impurity, dishonesty, cruelty, general worldliness, and sacrifice of about all that is elevating on the altars of Mammon. A religion which will alter this state of affairs you cannot reasonably expect to be identical with any religion which has not seemed to work any radical change for the better in the average man.
If a more spiritual religion seems to be the need, and a religion on spiritual lines is delineated, you will not take offense because such religion clashes with more materialistic, worldly views. Consider, too why there is a demand for a different religion. Is it not because it is hoped that a different religion will prove of daily, practical help to men, and not a will-o'-the-wisp which always evades one's grasp and from which nothing out of the ordinary can be expected until one has entered into an uncertain "beyond" where are located promises innumerable, it is true, but which nothing one can now experience signifies are at all likely to be fulfilled?
A religion that does some appreciable good to us now, is what is wanted, is it not? A religion that helps us while we are here and points the way to something better. A religion that proves itself an aid that is recognizable, and proving itself such an aid now, leads us to trust its promises for the future.
To Christian Scientists, who, with you, are alive to the needs of the hour, it seems strange that men should not, more than they do, recognize in Christian Science the kind of religion which people of all denominations, and infidels, agnostics and skeptics as well, feel must come, but which, knocking at their very doors, they refuse to admit.
Christian Science makes stronger, healthier, more unselfish, more honest, more contented, holier, purer, happier people, and with perfect certitude proclaims a state of eternal harmony when this mud encrustation, — this physical, fleshly, mortal, material, temporal existence, this "dust thou art, unto dust shalt thou return," — shall be cleaned away from consciousness, and man come, into the full, glorious appreciation of what he is, always has been and always will be — the image and likeness of God-Spirit.
"Proofs, give us proofs," mortals insist. Our proofs are actual personal experiences, than which no proofs are more cogent. Through Christian Science, there have been, as well as can be estimated, nearly two million cases of healing from sickness. In the majority of these cases relief by other means had failed. In a large portion of the cases, perhaps the majority, physicians had abandoned, or classed the sufferers as incurables.
In thousands upon thousands of cases, bad habits, depraved tastes, sins of thought and deed, have been eradicated; worry and anxiety have been banished; poverty has been overcome; the dying and the bereaved have lost their terrors and sorrow, and to a great number of the vast army who march after the Christian Science banners, there has been born a keener consciousness of the joys of spiritual existence, a positive certainty of "God with us" and to stay with us, and the resultant peace "which passeth all understanding."
The question naturally presents itself — "Where can it be learned that Christian Science has done such remarkable healing, worked such wonderful amelioration of the hard human lot?" The answer is, — "From the men, women and children in your midst." You will learn if you talk with them, if you venture to attend their Wednesday evening meetings, if you read such literature as they are only too glad to give you, that, in the opinions of those best qualified to judge, who have themselves received undeniable benefits, there is no disease in the long, horrific, and most elastic list of human ailments, which Christian Science cannot heal, not a disease, which adds to the pages of the mortuary calendar, not a known disease, that Christian Science cannot meet, arrest and destroy.
The next self-suggesting question is, — "Admitting that there are many people who say they have been healed, how do they know that Christian Science has healed them?" Just as men can, ordinarily, discern a personal experience that has come home to them.
Even where two persons have passed through much the same experience, in an attempt by either one to explain to the other what the narrator felt or learned, for a proper conveyance of meaning will not a direct appeal be made to what is known by the person addressed?
Few who are in this audience but that are familiar with the taste of oat meal. Suppose I had never eaten oat meal or anything resembling it in flavor, what one of you could make me understand how oat meal tasted?
Would your failure be because you were not familiar with the taste? No; but because I was not, and because it is virtually impracticable to depict a sensation.
What mother can acquaint the childless woman with a hundreth part of the rapturous mother-love? If no adequate word picture of her love's ecstasy can be drawn, must the inference be that the mother does not know the bliss of loving? Is she to be ridiculed and charged with ignorance of what she claims to be within her knowledge, because, forsooth, her tongue or pen cannot put into appreciable language what only her inner heart can tell and tell only to herself? Alone by, sacrificial devotion to that love's object can even the faintest portrayal of the mother-love be given.
Only by him to whom his God has come can God be known. The surety of His presence cannot by words be told.
However unintelligible and incredible may seem to you some of the experiences Christian Scientists have had, such experiences are no more unintelligible and incredible than are scores of Biblical accounts, which you, or most of you, avowedly believe, of works, wonderful works, done among men by the power of the eternal, ever-present God.
Christian Scientists are very happy and very strong in their faith. They feel that they have found the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, the "strait gate," the "narrow way," which leadeth unto life.
Our Board of Lectureship has been established mainly for the purpose of giving to those who are not with us an outline of our religious belief, and, if we can, to disabuse the public of false conceptions regarding us, which have their root in imagination only, because certainly, none but the densely ignorant and malevolently disposed could disseminate such wildly untrue reports of what we believe and what we do, as come to our ears.
We do not, want to be misunderstood, and cannot be misunderstood except by those who have drawn hasty conclusions from imperfect information.
We want to give every one, who is anhungered, bread; every one, who is athirst, drink; such bread and such drink as we fortunate mortals who have embraced the Christian Science faith, never had, until we learned what that faith was, and in the learning of it, learned more of God.
Why was Jesus on earth?
Why did he do as he did?
Why did he live the life he lived?
Why did he suffer as he suffered?
Why was he crucified?
Why did he rise from the dead, and show to his disciples the identical body which had been taken from the cross?
Why did he give them specific parting directions and shortly afterwards, to their material senses, disappear?
There must have been some reason for it all. Such self-sacrifice, such humbleness, such mightiness, such meekness, such courageousness, such indifference to what the world thought of him, such utter devotion to his purpose, such utter forgetfulness of himself, such consecration to the Father's will, such stress as he laid upon "works," "fruits," such contempt as he displayed for the hypocritical Pharisee and his mode of worship, ought, Christian Scientists believe, to be regarded as an object lesson to accentuate what Jesus had to say, and to point irresistibly, in connection with his teaching, to the fact that Christianity, as he announced it, was intended to be a religion of deeds, not words, of obeying, not disobeying, of self-abnegation, not self-assertion, of simplicity, not ceremoniousness, and of unfaltering acknowledgment that the God whom he served, his dear Father whom he so revered, was the Spirit, the Life, the Truth, the Love, the Power, the constant Presence that made men capable, if they would keep His commandments, reiterated by Jesus, of triumphing over sin, sickness, suffering and death, in other words, of subjecting the physical body, the human will, the human, mortal mind to the guidance and domination of all-mighty, all-present God. Christian Scientists further believe that what Jesus said and did proved beyond all cavil that the God power was and is spiritual, and was and is the one and only all-powerful, all-present Intelligence before which everything that men deem material and real, whether as substance, or conditions, or laws, must eventually disappear.
Jesus not only healed the sick, cast out evils, cleansed the lepers, but he raised the dead.
He characterized death as sleep only, and bade that the supposed dead manifest life, "arise," "come forth." He was obeyed.
Men thought that five loaves and two fishes could not feed thousands of people.
Jesus proved not only that so small an amount of food was sufficient, but that after all the hungry had been satisfied, more food remained than had, originally, existed.
Men stood aghast before the powerful wind and the mighty waves and were helpless to avert the storm resultant from material elements and material laws.
Jesus proved that wind and waves obey God, because there are no elements to the God-crowned man except spiritual realities, no real laws except God's laws, — spiritual laws.
"Those," you say, "were miracles, they cannot be performed to-day." Christian Scientists say that there never has been and never will be a miracle, in the ordinary acceptation of the term; that whatever appears to override all so-called material laws, — laws of the corporeal, physical senses, — is a law of God, and that God's laws are the only real laws, and conditions created and maintained by God, the only real conditions.
Christian Scientists further say that Jesus consistently and continually taught and demonstrated, that if men would submit their wills to God's will, their views and opinions to God's all-mighty, all-wise Intelligence, obey God's commands and honestly strive to lead such lives as God required of them, that they could perform miracles as Jesus and his immediate followers did, and that the ultimate of a uniform, obedient Christian life would be the supreme, apparent miracle of entire subordination of sin, sickness and death, — the mortal body and its discords, — to the reality of spiritual existence, — God and God's man, — of which existence the material senses, — the physical intelligence, — never have taken and never can take cognizance.
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me." "I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."
No Christian will contend that the healing and other miracles, which Jesus, the disciples and the early Christians performed, were not the works of God, or that God has ceased to be, or has in any way lost power, or has otherwise changed since the days of Jesus, or that God is today any less than All-Power and All-Presence. Why, then, cannot God, today, do what He could nineteen hundred years ago?
Christian Scientists say that God is, today, performing so-called miracles of much the same character as those which, some nineteen hundred years ago, startled the world and roused its opposition, and that the only limitation on the ability to reveal God as He was revealed in those days is the limitation which men place on their willingness to implicitly believe in and intelligently understand God as universal. eternal, spiritual Intelligence, Power, and Presence, and to obey His commandments as they have come to us through the sacred Word.
On earth, today, there are hundreds of thousands of people who, through the power of God, the application of Christian Science, have been healed of sickness and suffering, of sin and sorrow, of worry, discontent, settled unhappiness, and put on the right road to work out the eternal problem of their salvation. The healings have been accomplished by acknowledgment of, and resort to, the sole Principle of true Being, Existence, Harmony, Action and Power — God, "the same yesterday, and today and forever." Many of these healings approach in their marvelous character the healings wrought by Jesus and the disciples, though there may be some failures.
The successes already achieved foretell the possibilities of this faith, even as the pupil in music, who artistically and harmoniously renders a musical composition, proves the beauties and possibilities of music, or the astronomer who accurately predicts the arrival of a comet, illustrates the possibilities of mathematics, or the electrician who introduces successful wireless telegraphy sheds light on the capabilities of electricity. Today the healing of the sick, in spite of the failures to heal, exemplify the power that comes through the understanding and practice of God's Word.
Jesus, the Master, did perfect healing. No failures mocked any of his attempts.
What did he say of those who in subsequent years should follow in his footsteps? What did he say of those who should be Christians after the pattern he had set? What did he enjoin upon his disciples? What did he promise to the faithful?
"If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him," — was the Master's assurance. To all of the burdened he said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
When he sent forth the twelve, this was his command, — "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils."
When he sent out the seventy, after other instruction he gave them this, — "And heal the sick that are therein and, say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you."
After the resurrection in his last talks with the disciples, these were his statements and injunctions: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world." Again, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and these signs 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."
At another time when addressing the disciples he said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do."
Once as he prayed for them he included in his prayer all that should believe in him through their word. This was his language — "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
It is stated by St. John, referring to those who accepted and understood Jesus' teachings, — "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
Coupled with Jesus' acts and life, coupled with the lives and acts of the disciples, coupled with the lives and acts of the Christians of the first three centuries after Jesus, there is, to the Christian Scientist, weighty significance in what Jesus promised to his disciples and to all those who should believe on him.
St. John comprehended what Jesus required that men should be and do before they could be invested with God's power, for St. John wrote in strict agreement with Jesus' teachings, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Is it not reasonable to conclude that it has been the shortcomings of men which have deprived them of the ability to avail themselves, while on earth, of God's help, rather than to maintain that God has withdrawn from men, while they are here, His practical, loving aid, and reserves all the joys He has for them for some future, uncertain time, and some fanciful locality? God is here. Heaven is here. The Holy Comforter is here. Not, though, to be had, not to be experienced, not to be enjoyed, not to be understood and demonstrated, until we are willing to become as "little children," deny ourselves, and take up the cross of renunciation of what we have erroneously believed to be true; — namely that we are dependent for our lives, health and happiness on our material surroundings.
In 1866 Mary Baker Eddy, a cultured woman of middle age, who all her life had been a close student of the Scriptures and a devoted churchwoman, lay, helpless, wounded and pain-racked, on a bed from which it was thought she would never rise. She was the victim of a supposedly fatal accident. She was believed to be so near to the end of her earthly life, that her pastor, on his way to church, stopped to bid her good bye, thinking that by the time the Sunday services were concluded she would be in the "valley of the shadow of death."
Left, for a few moments alone she, as had been her habit, lifted her thought to God. The Bible was always by her. She took it, expecting to find in it her last earthly solace, and it opened at the ninth chapter of Matthew where case after case of healing is described. She read of what Jesus did. As she read she felt the power of God and rose from the bed a perfectly well woman and walked into the presence of her relatives, who were as astounded as though the bed itself had come before them. She knew that God had healed her, and, eager to know the Principle according to which her physical transformation had been so instantaneously brought about, she, for years, indefatigably applied herself to intensified study of the Scriptures, in search of some rule, some definite standard of action, through the formulation and announcement of which she might acquaint mortals with a line of conduct, which, in turn, if followed, would acquaint them with God.
Accompanying the progress of her studies were whisperings from God; successful and unsuccessful applications of what seemed to be a developing method; hopeful essayals to prove that the spiritual was all, the material unprofitable; close observation and nice reasoning given to and based on what she had learned and was learning. During this period she was withdrawn from the world. Her only text book was the Scriptures. Her only thoughts were God-ward, because her only aim was to learn in what way it was that God had come to her and healed her, how it was that Jesus healed the sick and cleansed the sinner.
At the end of three years she had satisfied herself that she had discovered the Principle of Christian, spiritual healing and regeneration, and was prepared to put to exacting test, before the world, the conclusions she had reached. She at once begun healing the sick and from that moment was persecuted.
Persecution did not stay her merciful work and the spread of the Christian Science belief, any more than hundreds of years before persecution had palsied Jesus' healing hand or stopped the growth of Christianity.
Would he have made such promises; would he have given such assurances, unless he had well known that to him was accorded the power of perfect prophecy, and that "the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" forever and ever and ever?
Because Christians, after a time, ceased to exercise the powers which never had been theirs, but God's, does it follow that those powers had ceased to be?
It is absurd for the Christian to suppose, or to act as if he supposed, that God is not all-powerful and all-present at this very hour. Why should He not in this hour, in every hour, manifest himself through men?
Jesus' promises of God's benign grace, God's Divine favor, were conditional upon the observance of God's commandments, faith in Him, not in men, clean, pure, honest, self-sacrificing, consecrated lives. "Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven," Jesus said.
Persecution never has killed, and never will kill, the Truth. As a follower of Christ Jesus, Mrs. Eddy has taught and is teaching what she believes to be a renewal of the Christianity Jesus gave to men, and as the case always has been, and as the case always will be, until the world is greatly changed, the world is up and in arms against the true and the good. As the case always has been, and as the case always will be, until the world is greatly changed, the world cannot tolerate an exposure of its hollowness, its nothingness, its powerlessness, its wickedness, and its satisfaction and complacency under conditions which Jesus in no equivocal terms condemned as wholly destructive of any knowledge of God, as entirely incompatible with an entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
As the apostle Paul wrote, — "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."
So long as men think that their lives depend upon their physical bodies; so long as men believe that the body has power to determine what, and when, and for how long a time they shall be, men will be sick, sinful, unhappy, dissatisified, restless, and filled with an inexplicable longing for that which they cannot describe, but which they feel is their birthright and must some time be theirs in realization.
This is the instinctive reaching out for God, the silent cry of humanity for its Savior, the dumb appeal to the Almighty for the Truth, which is eternal harmony; and the appeal will be answered by an all-loving God the moment men awaken to the consciousness that they are making of material things, material conditions, material laws, their god — whereas their real God, their true God, their God before whom they must have no other gods, is Spirit — and are willing to, and genuinely and fervently endeavor to, change their beliefs and opinions regarding themselves, deny themselves, and instead of serving Mammon, serve, love and worship the God whom Jesus, by his life, revealed and preached.
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me" is the first, great, the all-inclusive commandment. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon," we believe means that choice must be made between God's methods and men's methods, God's ways and men's ways. According as choice is made men will be spiritually stagnant or flowing, wantonly drifting with the worldly current or determinedly breasting its noxious flood.
Most of us have been more or less educated to believe that an all-wise, an all-merciful, an all-loving and an all-powerful God makes men sick and sinful, then visits upon them death that they may be relieved of their miseries.
Jesus never taught or hinted at any such hope-annihilating, peace-shattering, heart-embittering doctrine as that. No such grewsome conception of God's ways could have had its birth in any but the mortal, temporal, human mind, — that maker of images horrible, that trafficker in all that is repulsive.
Jesus said to men, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Did Jesus regard a sick man as a perfect man? Did Jesus regard a sinning man as a perfect man? Did Jesus regard a dead man as a perfect man? If he did why did he heal the sick, cleanse the sinner, and raise the dead? Surely, not simply to show his power? He must have intended to convey a lesson. He was God's son, God's representative, God manifest among men. Would he, as soon as his actual work commenced, have set about doing away with what God had done, correcting God's mistakes, (?) explaining wherein God had erred (?)?
Such questions seem monstrous, and yet if God was the creator of sin, sickness and death, then Jesus was by his notions, undoing what God had done, putting out of the way God's creations, and assiduously instructing men to regard them as naught.
If Mrs Eddy's interpretation of Jesus' actions be taken as true, how apparent it becomes that men have brought upon themselves their afflictions, never to be free from them until what he so patiently taught and demonstrated is recognized, and until their lives are shaped accordingly, — that God, Spirit, so far from being the cause of men's suffering, is the only power that can make them free.
Though Jesus was assailed with all temptations that beset men, he never sinned. God kept him from yielding. God's son could not sin. He was of God. We never read or learn that Jesus suffered from sickness. God's son could not be sick. We know that men thought they could kill God's son. We know that they ignominiously failed, that death for him had no reality. He revealed the perfect man. Would he have told men to be perfect as their Father in heaven was perfect, had he not known that with God's help men could become perfect?
St. John writes, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." The apostle Paul wrote, "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
Is a sinner a son of God — a perfect man? Is a sick man a son of God — a perfect man? Is a dead man a son of God — a perfect man? Everything that Jesus said and did was prophetic of men's attainment to perfection through the overcoming of sin, sickness and death, and the mode of accomplishing the subjugation of those three sad mortalities, was, as he taught and his deeds explained, through exercise of Spirit's mastery over all that is material.
To obtain this mastery, he said that men must be born anew, must worship the Father in spirit and in truth; must do His will; must love their neighbors; must love their enemies; must walk in Jesus' steps; must deny themselves, take up the cross and follow him. Now, in most brief form, you have what Christian Science is as it is proffered to the world by Mrs. Eddy in her wondrous book — an acknowledgment and observance of Jesus' teachings as a whole; an exception to the interpretation placed upon the Bible for hundreds of years past, in that that interpretation has limited the power of God to the reformation of sinners, and made of Him the author, the creator of sinning, sickly, dying men; an application, through, at first, a faint and imperfect, but an eventually expanding into a-knowledge-of-the Son-of-God understanding, of God's all-power, all-presence and all-love, to the healing, the destruction, of humanity's woes, sin, disease and death; a choice, deliberately made and resolutely adhered to, whereby as between God and the world, God is chosen; a selection of God as the healing power in preference to anything that the ingenuity of men may invest with remedial properties; an observance, so far as mortals by strenuous effort can, of God's commandments in their entirety and rigor; an assimilation and practice of the precepts embodied in the "Sermon on the Mount;" a knowledge of God and man, of real existence, of real being — in two words, self denial; in four words, Crucifixion of the Flesh. Do not suppose that for such self-denial no return is had. "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" for you. "The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you," who are willing to give up self for God.
As one who has little more than embarked for the Christian Science voyage, I can speak with the knowledge of personal experience, as far as I have gone, and I declare from a heart that goes out to God and to Mrs. Eddy, His servant, who gave me the Key that opens the doors of Heaven, that never till I learned what Christian Science was, and began under its practice, the task of self-denial, of self-immolation, of surrender of the world for God, did I know what it mount to be a really happy man, or to have any expectation of happiness; that I, just a beginner, have had moments of such ineffable joy — through a faint understanding of God, or real Life — as would, any one of them, dwarf into absolute nothingness all the worldly pleasures that could by any possibility be extracted from the earthly grab-bag, though the bag were a thousand times as large and a thousand times as full as it is of alluring, deceiving, disappointing illusions; that I have been made healthier, happier, more honest, more pure, more contented; have been lifted from a state of thorough indifference towards God, or anything pertaining to His kingdom, into an ardent desire for more and more knowledge of God as the only knowledge worth the acquiring; have learned that God loves us, cares for us, serves us, answers our prayers, and answering our prayers comes closer and closer to us until we recognize in Him our eternal refuge, the healer of all our miseries immeasurable and innumerable; until we recognize that Christian Science practice, in its perfection, is a never ending prayer to God that the human nature may be supplanted by the Divine, that evil may give place to Good-God; until we recognize that practice to be an application to men's daily needs of the saving, sustaining, healing, regenerating, spiritualizing Principle — the Father in Heaven, the Life, the Spirit, the Truth, — of whom Jesus discoursed and whose power, presence and love he manifested.
Everything that the world could do to oppose the expansion of the Christian Science faith the world has done. Ridicule, malignment, falsehood, threats of violence, arrests of practitioners, cruel contempt expressed towards its followers, adverse legislation, have all been marshaled against its advance, but to no purpose.
It cannot be stayed so long as it is what it is, — the Truth and the practice of the Truth. Under Mrs Eddy's God-directed guidance the Christian Science movement, step by step, has gained ground until its host includes some of the most enlightened of this era's thinkers, and that host, trusting in God with all its heart, leaning not unto its own understanding, acknowledging Him in all its ways, is panoplied, lovingly and prayerfully to do its part towards forwarding the redemption of its opponent, its enemy, — the world.
[Delivered Oct. 9, 1900, in Tremont Temple as the semiannual public lecture on Christian Science under the auspices of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston Massachusetts.]