Christian Science: Its Accord with the Lordís Prayer
Arthur P. DeCamp, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The following lecture, entitled "Christian Science: Its Accord with the Lord's Prayer,'' was delivered on the evening of October 31, 1929, under the auspices of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Evanston, Illinois, in the church edifice, Chicago Avenue and Grove Street, by the late Arthur P. DeCamp, C.S.B., a member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. The lecture is reprinted from a previous issue of the Leader.
When Jesus of Nazareth, whom we know as Christ Jesus, put into words the wonderful statement of living truth which begins, "Our Father which art in heaven," he gave utterance to the reality of being, and in the same statement gave the instruction which we need to put this real sense of life into daily and hourly use. In other words, the Lord's Prayer teaches us individually how to be Christians. The impression prevails quite widely that one may be humanly born a Christian. But the process is not so simple as that. And who that has felt the joy of the battle, the joy of overcoming material sense and self through spiritual understanding, would care to be born a Christian? A Christian is born not of the flesh but of the Spirit. Christian Science makes it very clear that to be a Christian, and to keep on being a Christian, is in the nature of a stupendous achievement. To be a Christian, - does it not mean continually to seek to know more of the great truth of spiritual being - the Christ, Truth - and continually to strive to live that Christ, Truth? Genuine Christianity is no more at peace with worldly-mindedness today than it was nineteen centuries ago. On page 16 of the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, we read, "Only as we rise above all material sensuousness and sin, can we reach the heaven-born aspiration and spiritual consciousness which is indicated in the Lord's Prayer and which instantaneously heals the sick." On the same page Mrs. Eddy writes. "Here let me give what I understand to be the spiritual sense of the Lord's Prayer." Line by line the prayer is given; each line being followed by the author's interpretation.
Our Heavenly Father
"Our Father which art in
heaven." What is heaven? The word "heaven" can only refer to the
things of the Spirit. It is the "secret place of the Most High,"
secret to material sense, but it is not a secret to spiritual consciousness,
which is heaven. Unselfed love, which knows no fear and no hatred, dwells
in heaven. Heaven is the divine presence Ė omnipresence - all-presence. It is
not a far-off locality in which a comparatively few are destined to spend
eternity. It is the infinity of good, of Life, of Love. The Hebrew and Greek
words translated heavens, and heaven, in our English Bible, never did mean a
locality. According to the scholars the literal translation of the Hebrew is
"heaved up things," and of the Greek, "sky." These
metaphors plainly were intended to convey the sense of exalted thought or
spiritual consciousness. The Founder of Christianity could not have been
thinking of a far-off material place when he declared, "The kingdom of
heaven is at hand;" "the
Eternality of Evil an Impossibility
With many of us, when there was formed in our thought the picture of a vague, far-off locality called heaven, there was also formed a picture, perhaps not so vague, of a hell of eternal torment and many of us have had the fear that we might be condemned to spend eternity there. This picture of an eternity or infinity of good represented by God and heaven, and, side by side with it, an eternity or infinity of evil represented by the devil and hell, Christian Science shows to be an utter impossibility. It teaches the infinity of good, of Spirit. Good alone has entity, substance, Principle, enduring being. Evil has no principle, no entity, no substance. It is never anything but a false belief which must eventually, here or hereafter, yield to the recognition of the allness of God - the one Mind, Spirit, Truth. Infinity must be good in order to be infinite. The remark was once made to a Christian Scientist, "You Christian Scientists believe there is no hell." The individual who replied declared, "I know there is a hell - I've been there." Most of us know something of the hell of self-will, of fear, of envy, of anger, of hatred, of lust. Christian Science teaches everlasting punishment in the sense that sin is punished as long as it lasts. But it also teaches that all sin and all suffering for sin must eventually disappear from human consciousness - it is never any part of divine consciousness - and human consciousness yields to the divine. The belief in a place of eternal torture seems to be disappearing from the teaching of many of the churches. Ordained ministers are declaring that they can no longer accept such a doctrine, finding it inconsistent with their recognition of the unity of God. That phrase can mean nothing less than the allness of God.
Affectionate Remembrance of Older Denominations
Notwithstanding the change which has taken place in my religious convictions through the study of Christian Science, I loved my old church, and still love it, and would not have anyone conclude that I now feel that we did not have any religion in that old church. Notwithstanding some of the theological teachings to which I believe many of the members gave but little attention, we had a great deal of comforting and inspiring religion.† Christian Scientists who have come out from the older churches are grateful for their uplifting influences, and we are glad to note increasing evidences that, since Mrs. Eddy began to teach Christian Science, the leaven of its scientific method of logical deduction from the one infinite spiritual premise is having a marked influence on the theological teachings of many of the older churches.
Discoverer and Founder
Mary Baker Eddy was an earnest student of the Scriptures from early childhood, and her long human life was one of absolute devotion to God. She loved God, not only with heart and soul, that is to say, with the spiritual affections and intuitions, but also with the mind, according to the injunction of Moses. Mrs. Eddy was one of those who must have a reason for their hope. She loved Truth with intelligence, and because of this was enabled in God's good time to give to humanity the Science of divine Mind. Though misunderstood and misinterpreted, and even vilified, she stood steadfast at her post, knowing she was the chosen messenger of Truth to this age. Her untiring labors for our race will find greater and greater appreciation as time goes on. There is not a paragraph in her great work, the Christian Science textbook, which has not healed someone of some phase of fear, of sin, of sickness, of doubt, of some kind of human woe. It is the healing which follows the study of the Scriptures in the light of Mrs. Eddy's marvelous writings which has established her spiritual leadership in the hearts and minds of an ever-increasing multitude, and which convinces Christian Scientists that the author of their textbook has been taught of God. Only goodness could have founded a movement which is reinstating primitive Christianity.
Founded on the Bible
Mrs. Eddy writes on page 126 of the textbook: "The Bible has been my only authority. I have had no other guide in 'the straight and narrow way' of Truth." Christian Scientists love their Bibles, they read and study them. They study them very much more than they did when they were Baptists or Methodists or Episcopalians or Presbyterians. The Bible to them is a living book; they find in it day by day that which lifts them out of discouragement and fear and heals both sin and sickness.
Hallowing God's Name
"Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name." We learn to hallow the name of God in proportion as we learn to know God aright. To know God as infinite Mind, infinite Spirit, infinite Truth, Life, and Love, divine Principle, the origin and substance of all that exists, hallows the name of God. We learn to know God as Love in proportion as we learn to love. It is wonderful for the individual Christian to accept the statement that our infinite God is Love, but he knows this only as divine Love becomes his God, his "Adorable One" - the phrase used by Mrs. Eddy to give her spiritual sense of the line "Hallowed be thy name."
The proof or demonstration of the right knowledge of Truth is the next progressive thought unfolded in the Lord's Prayer. "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Mrs. Eddy's spiritual sense of this line is, "Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present. Enable us to know, - as in heaven, so on earth, - God is omnipotent, supreme" (Science and Health, p. 16). Demonstration is bringing the harmony of heaven to earth. This is accomplished through prayer, - the prayer that acknowledges God's allness, - through meditation, through right reasoning. It is wholly a mental or spiritual process.† If we thought we understood Truth or reality, and could in no way prove our understanding, we ourselves, and the world generally, would gravely doubt the soundness of our position. If Jesus had in no way bettered human lives, he never would have had a hearing. If his apostles had not done the same, the early Christian church would not have been established. If Christian Science had never reformed the sinner, and healed the sick, if would have made no headway.
Jesus declared that the knowledge of Truth makes free. It was what he knew which enabled him to heal sickness as well as sin, and to overcome the belief called death. The demand on his followers in all time is to emulate his example. The truth about God, and about man, whom the Scriptures declare to be the image and likeness of God, held in human consciousness, destroys human error, and is made manifest in better health and better morals. It is the mission of Christian Science to revive in this age the healing method used by Jesus and his followers in the early centuries of the Christian era. This method is fully explained in the Christian Science textbook.
To illustrate simply: One may have been more or less troubled all his life about traits of character or recognized evil tendencies in himself which he believes have been inherited, or have been fastened on him by past experiences, causing himself and others much unhappiness. Coming to Christian Science he begins to learn that all evil is unreal, because good only is real, and that there is no limit to the possibilities of proving the reality of good and the unreality of evil. He begins to reason from the standpoint of his real, spiritual nature, and learns that in truth man "has not a single quality underived from Deity," as Mrs. Eddy tells us on page 475 of Science and Health. As he assimilates more and more of this truth, recognizing that good is power and that evil is not power, and that he is governed only by the law of God, the law of good, he is greatly strengthened when finding that he can overcome and cast out the traits and tendencies he has believed were part of his nature. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son," saith the Revelator. Likewise, one who feels that he is not so well endowed with intelligence as others, or with the capacity to achieve, and that he has never been much of a success in any undertaking, is able to overcome self-depreciation, when learning to depend upon the source of all wisdom and true Mind-power. He that is fearful, through the recognition of man's unity with divine Love, that perfect Love which casteth out fear, can find relief from that bondage. One who is sorely tempted to hate can overcome that temptation when learning and applying the truth that divine Love is truly man's substance and entity. Sickness is overcome through precisely this same line of reasoning.
On page 493 of Science and Health we read: "Mind must be found superior to all the beliefs of the five corporeal senses, and able to destroy all ills. Sickness is a belief, which must be annihilated by the divine Mind. Disease is an experience of so-called mortal mind. It is fear made manifest on the body. Christian Science takes away this physical sense of discord, just as it removes any other sense of moral or mental inharmony." And on page 411 Mrs. Eddy writes: "The procuring cause and foundation of all sickness is fear, ignorance, or sin."
Sometimes an inquirer may see how he can improve his own mental and physical condition by acquiring a wider and deeper knowledge of what God is and of what man is, holding to this consciousness as being the truth of his own existence, and denying the reality of that which physical sense asserts is true, but he wonders how one can help another by his true thought. It is because of the unity of all real being, because we all have the same Father-Mother Love as our source, origin, and governing law, that one can aid and heal another by the recognition of Truth in the other's behalf. This explanation may seem to some to be abstruse, but the truth of spiritual healing, as we learn it in Christian Science, is so simple that little children readily absorb its elements and use the truth, not only in helping themselves but others as well.
I recall hearing of a mother who had become somewhat interested in Christian Science, and had sent her little daughter to the Christian Science Sunday School. On one occasion the mother found herself feeling quite ill and said, "One of my sick headaches is coming on." She had for a long time used the possessive pronoun in connection with this sense of illness. She told the little daughter of the condition and asked her to be very quiet. Whereupon the child, who in her Sunday school work had been gaining, in a simple way, a practical sense of the teachings of Christian Science of which the mother was not aware said, "Mother, don't you want me to treat you?" The mother replied, "Yes, dear, Mother would love to have you do so." But the mother did not take the child's thought seriously, and was fully expecting to go through the usual ordeal. She lay down, and, to her great surprise, found the sense of illness fading away, and in a few moments was entirely relieved. She knew nothing in her own mental activity had brought about the change, and knew that the child's thought must be responsible for it. Finding her, she inquired with great earnestness, "Tell me what you said." The child reflected for a moment and replied: "Mother, I didn't say anything. I just listened." Nothing could be more profound than this answer, although the child's thought was probably very simple. To entertain a child-like sense of ever-present divine Love which is always saying, "Fear not, I am with thee," is to enter into the very heart of prayer - the prayer that heals from sin and sickness. Truth is ever declaring itself to be all power, all presence, all true consciousness, to the heart and mind prepared to listen.
"Give us this day our daily bread." He who said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness," could not have been referring primarily to material food. Human knowledge of truth must be constantly fed from the great sources of true knowledge that it may live and grow. Everyone remembers hearing of the time before there were inventions for giving us fire quickly, of a fire-pot being maintained which must be constantly fed with combustibles to keep the precious fire alive.
Likewise to retain the warmth and glow of the spiritual understanding which heals sickness as well as sin, spiritual nourishment is continually needed. Christian Scientists find it necessary daily to read and study the Scriptures and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" and other literature based thereon. This line of the Lord's Prayer is greatly illumined by Mrs. Eddy's spiritual sense of its meaning (Science and Health, p. 17): "Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections." "Give us grace for today." What is grace? "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" is the very last verse, in the last chapter, in the last book of the Bible. It is as if all the yearning love for humanity which, during twenty centuries brought forth the amazing compilation which we know as our Bible, was concentrated in one last loving benediction, one last inspiring word to those who are striving to be Christians. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven," declared Jesus the Christ. The Christian must continually feed upon this bread of heaven. He must absorb and assimilate the Christ-idea - the spiritual idea of life, which Jesus demonstrated in all its fullness. In his human life he epitomized the "fruit of the Spirit." We must learn to partake of his peace, his joy, of his consummate sense of power through unity with the divine Mind. On the night before the crucifixion, face to face with the great responsibility of that hour, he said, "My peace I give unto you," and the anguish of the cross could not quench his love. The one purpose of his career was to reveal God to humanity. "I am among you as he that serveth," he said. His life was a life of continuous spiritual joy.
Joy and Gratitude
It is of great advantage to the Christian to cultivate a sense of spiritual joy, and to learn to rejoice always, and to be always grateful. Some of us who are striving to live the Christian life do not quite understand about rejoicing and gratitude. We hear much of gratitude for blessings received - perhaps if a demonstration has been made over some sense of sickness, or sin, or anguish, or lack, and that is good as far as it goes, but to learn to rejoice and be grateful when material sense says there is nothing to rejoice over or to be grateful for, is of far greater importance. The apostle Paul enjoins us to rejoice in tribulation, and he gave us a wonderful example of how this rule may be followed, and of the wonderful results to be obtained by following it, when he and his companion Silas, in the Philippian dungeon, feet in the stocks, backs cut up by the lash of the rod, awakened the other prisoners at midnight by singing hymns of praise to God. Paul knew too much to repine, to be sorry for himself, or to doubt for a moment that divine Love would deliver him. You know the story of the deliverance. It afforded just another opportunity to Paul to preach Christ and to prove that "Love never faileth."
Here is another illustration of the necessity of gratitude. Two young men who were students of Christian Science were talking together. The younger of them had returned from his vacation with what seemed to be a badly infected arm. He had been having help in Christian Science, and was himself an earnest student, but the condition of the arm did not seem to improve. The older brother earnestly inquired, "Are you grateful for this problem?" The younger replied that he knew one could make no progress in Christian Science without gratitude, and enumerated various blessings for which he was grateful, such as our church services and our literature. The older brother, with greater emphasis, repeated his question, "Are you grateful for this problem?" "Do you mean," inquired the younger, "that I should be grateful for this sore arm?" The older brother then illustrated his point. "Let us suppose that you were still in school, in a geometry class, let us say, and that the teacher had put upon the blackboard a problem which to you seemed quite intricate. The teacher then stated that the problem was one which possibly went a little further than the work the class had had, but felt sure that, considering the ground which had been covered, some in the class would be able to solve the problem, and, looking around, would ask you to come forward and demonstrate it. Would you feel proud at being so selected?" "I certainly should feel proud," said the younger. "Oh," he continued, "I begin to see the point. Grateful for the problem! Grateful for the opportunity to prove that I really know something of the law of God - the law of good which is ever 'active.' " A complete healing very shortly followed this change of thought. Gratitude for our problems, no matter how intricate or how difficult they may seem to be, looking upon them only as opportunities to prove our absolute confidence in Love's protection and guidance, opens the door to demonstration, which fear, self-pity, and inertia have closed.
Unselfed Love Needed
"Feed the famished
affections." Did anyone, since the time of Jesus, ever say so much in four
words? When human thought, desiring spiritual nutriment, recognizes itself as a
starveling for spiritual
love, it is in a position to gain more of that love. People sometimes speak of
themselves as being "just starved for love,'' meaning that they desire
more love to be shown them on the part of others. The phrase "famished
affections" does not refer to that sort of starvation. Human lives are
famished by the want of loving, the lack of manifesting unselfed love toward
others. What is it that stands in the way of our getting more love into our
hearts and lives? Is it anything other than a sense of self? And what is this
condition of thought which is called self? The origin of the word as given in
the dictionaries is most interesting. It seems that in its origin it was a word
of three syllables, a combination of the Latin se and the Gothic
word laiba, and the word was originally seliba. And what does the
word laiba mean? A remnant! So the whole word was myself a remnant, a
sense of being cut off from the whole piece, all that remains. Since "Our
Father" is the origin and source of all that is created and all creation
rejects Him, that which is outside of that infinity must be nothing. No matter
how much so-called psychology would exalt self, a false sense of self always
remains nothing. The most successful individual the world has ever known said,
"I can of mine own self do nothing."
Thirty centuries ago the Psalmist
sang, "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in
unity!" These words, coming down to us from the peaceful Syrian hills,
find human life much more complex than when they were uttered. We need more and
more to learn that all men are our brethren, and that in reality we all have
the one Mind, one Father-Mother, to instruct and guide us. A line from
"Pilgrim's Progress" may be helpfully recalled, "He that is
humble ever shall have God to be his guide." To learn how to work and
serve together in unity in every walk of life is one of humanity's great
problems. A line of nine words from the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our
debts, as we forgive our debtors," in the light of Mrs. Eddy's still more
brief interpretation, "Love is reflected in love," furnishes the
solution of the problem of happy and useful living with our fellows. When we
keep constantly in mind what we ourselves owe, according to the ancient rule,
"Love thy neighbor as thyself," and devote ourselves to the work of
paying this great debt, we not only will have little or no time to consider
what others may seem to owe us in the way of loving consideration, but we
completely lose sight of such alleged indebtedness. But if, on the other hand,
one lets the thought possess him that another, possibly one near and most dear
- husband, wife, child, or it may be a neighbor or business associate or an
entire stranger, or even a fellow church member - is greatly in his debt
because of something done or left undone, and has taken offence at the act, or
the slight, or the word, or the look, he now feels that the offending one is in
his debt; that he owes something in the way of contrition or explanation and is
not paying what he owes. When and how shall a debtor be forgiven? The
impression prevails quite widely that, when the one who seems to be so much at
fault realizes that he has been at fault, and comes and confesses and asks for
forgiveness, that then is the proper time to say, "I forgive you."
This pardoning statement is sometimes accompanied by the word or thought,
"I will forgive but I cannot forget. Such is not forgiveness. In the first
place the offending one may not be at all conscious of having given offence, or
the one who has taken offence may have listened to the voice of gossip, or the
voice of prejudice or of pride or of his own self-will, or may have imagined
himself to have been slighted. But even if the attitude of the alleged debtor
is one of distinct animosity, when and how shall I forgive my brother? If I wait for him to see his fault and
apologize or ask for forgiveness, the time may never come when I can forgive
him. I have in the meantime made a debtor of him, and do not feel kindly toward
him. If I carry around with me a sense of offishness, it is likely to grow into
resentment. If that is the course I have pursued, I have put myself in debt to
him and it is I who need forgiveness. I owe him love and am not paying my debt.
To refuse to take offence is the first step in forgiving. What does it mean to
forgive? The primary meaning of the word "give" is to "impart or
transfer to another something good;'' rarely do we think of giving that which
is not good, and no one ever thinks of an evil gift. To forgive is to give
notwithstanding or without regard to the apparent attitude of another. What
shall I give to my brother who seems to be offending? First of all, I must give
him the benefit of the doubt. I may have misjudged his attitude. I must refuse
to take offence no matter what may appear to be his attitude toward me. I must
not for one moment part with love in my thought of him. That is forgiveness.
Truly, "Love is reflected in love." "Forgive that ye may be
forgiven." An illuminating incident is related of Abraham Lincoln. He was
writing at his desk when an orderly by whom he had sent a letter to the
Secretary of War returned, and stood at attention. Barely looking up the
President inquired, "What did
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" is the closing sentence of the Lord's Prayer according to the† Gospel† of Luke. Mrs. Eddy's interpretation of this line is, "And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death." The word "temptation" here is used in the sense of proving, trying, or testing. Mrs. Eddy, in Science and Health (p. 22), declared, "Love is not hasty to deliver us from temptation, for Love means that we shall be tried and. purified." The child, working out his problems in multiplication is being tested moment by moment by the principle of mathematics.† Likewise our understanding of Christianity, or of Christian Science, is being tested. We are continually face to face with the Principle of being, divine Love, to determine whether our knowledge of Christianity, or of Christian Science, will stand the test. There are those who believe that Christian Science has come into the world as a temptation to lure earnest Christian people away from God, from Christ Jesus, and from the Bible. Nothing could be farther from the real fact. Christian Science is true evangelical Christianity. It is making the practical truths or the Holy Scriptures better known, leading men, women, and children to a "closer walk with God." This preaching and practice of redemption through Christ, the truth of spiritual being, has brought deliverance from all the ills of the flesh to a great multitude in every part of the globe. It is enabling Christians to obey the commands and follow the example of Christ Jesus faithfully and humbly. Its Discoverer and Founder is the evangelist of this period, whose teaching will live. To the apprehension of the Christian world it grows steadily in authority and power. Many years ago Mrs. Eddy wrote, "I love the orthodox church; and, in time, that church will love Christian Science" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 111). Christian Scientists are grateful for the signs which indicate that the time of the fulfillment of that prophecy is drawing nearer.
Christian Science reiterates the promises of the Bible with great confidence, because of the daily proofs that the power of Christianity to deliver mankind from discoid of every kind, from sin, disease and death, has in no way diminished during the centuries. It offers comfort and joy to the sorrowing and distressed; it saith to the weary and heavy laden, Come and find rest; to those in the bondage of fear, "Nothing shall by any means hurt you;'' to the sick, Truth heals today as in olden time.
In the words of John Bowring's hymn (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 15):
Upon the Gospel's sacred page
The gathered beams of ages shine,
And, as it hastens, every age
But makes its brightness more divine.
Oh mightier wing, in loftier flight,
From year to year does knowledge soar;
And, as it soars, the Gospel light
Becomes effulgent more and more.
More glorious still, as centuries roll,
New regions blest, new powers unfurled,
So Truth reveals the perfect whole,
Its radiance shall o'erflow the world.
[Published in The Chicago Leader, May 12, 1939.]