Christian Science and the Reparable Past
Rev. Andrew J. Graham, C.S.B., of Boston, Massachusetts
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The following is the full text of a lecture entitled "Christian Science and the Reparable Past," by the Rev. Andrew J. Graham, C.S.B., of Boston, member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts:
In this lecture we are endeavoring, through reasoning and concrete illustrations, to elucidate, somewhat, the general subject of "Christian Science and the Reparable Past." The dominant thought of the lecture throughout shall be this: that man, in Science, can never lose his inherent right to harmony, happiness, and peace. The sayings so often quoted: "He has had his last opportunity," and, "He has had his last chance," are declarations of mortal mind which can have no effect on the real man. His true selfhood, identity, and individuality are as unchangeable as God.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science and the author of its textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," gives on page 595 of that volume a definition of the word "time," as understood in Christian Science. Here it is: "TIME. Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error; that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears."
From this definition we learn the following important facts, namely: It is fundamental to the truth of Christian Science that God knows neither time nor the so-called history of time. He inhabits eternity. His name is I AM. This word or verb or name signifies continued existence, without beginning of years or end of days. Humanly speaking, God knows only the present. He knows nothing of any past, or of any future. He knows all there really is to be known. He always has known it and He always will know it. He dwells in eternity and eternity is the never-beginning and the never-ending now. And because man is made in the image and likeness of God he also is in eternity. Man does not have to pass the portals of that physical episode called death in order to be in eternity. He is in eternity now because his Father is in eternity.
Only mortal man speaks of time, and he divides it into past, present, and future. Through experience, mortal man has learned that nearly all his troubles, of every nature, are brought upon him by the fear of either the past or of the future. One's privilege and duty is to live now, to
"Act, act in the living present:
Heart within and God o'erhead."
But when man considers the matter carefully, he realizes that most of the time he is living, that is, he is thinking, in either the past or the future. There is the fear that the past is irreparable; that it has power to reach forward and blight the present; and that the future is very uncertain, or, like the sword of Damocles, is always threatening disaster. Man's troubles and discords are chiefly in retrospect or prospect; they spring from the field of memory or from the field of anticipation. Mortal man is regretting what has happened in the past; or he is regretting what has not happened in the past. He is fearing what may happen in the future, or he is fearing what may not happen in the future.
In this lecture it is only of the past we are speaking. We are striving to elucidate by reasoning and by concrete illustrations, how it is that Christian Science, through its close thinking and reasoning and through its compassionate and loving ministry of healing, releases the human mind from the fear of the past. In this way it opens the door to health, happiness, and peace. You doubtless see, then, how appropriate is the phrase, "Christian Science and the Reparable Past." Man in Science has never had nor can he ever have his last chance for good and salvation. Man in Science has never had nor can he ever have his last opportunity for good and salvation; for God is opportunity, and God is present everywhere all the time.
The world needs this gospel of "Christian Science and the Reparable Past," for mortals seem to have inherited an oppressive, mental burden from considerable of the thought and teaching of philosophy, poetry, theology, and materia medica.
Philosophy is supposed to have to do with lovers of wisdom. And wisdom is concerned with mind. But much of the teaching of philosophy is concerned more with matter than with mind. When that brilliant young man, Henry Buckle, had completed the first volume of what was to be his "History of Civilization," it was seen that he had in that volume made out man to be entirely the product of matter. Thomas Carlyle, gruff, sometimes rough, but nearly always honest, derided the false teaching of Buckle in a poem beginning thus:
"This is the creed, let no man chuckle, Of the great thinker, Henry Buckle." And then Carlyle proceeded to show how that Buckle's teaching not only made man to be the product of matter, but left him in the tyrannical grasp of matter - a prison from which there was no egress.
Have any of you dear people ever heard this expression, concerning some men or women who were trying to be brave under adversity, "They are bearing up under their trouble very philosophically"? This is another way of saying, "There are some things which can never be cured and therefore they must be endured." This is the teaching of fatalism. It is the declaration of a plaintive philosophy which has not a trace of hope or moral courage in it.
Again, a general collection of the world's standard poets would reveal the fact that much literary effort has been expended by them, in emphasizing the teaching of fatalism, and most of them now and then express adherence to the creed of an irreparable past. This is notably true as touching thousands of poems collected in hymnbooks and sung in churches. Many of them give forth the doleful teaching of an irreparable past. "More light!" was the glorious prophecy of the poet Goethe, as he was passing on. This is in striking contrast with many poets whose cry would have been: "The darkness deepens!"
Theology and materia medica have added, and they are still adding, to the mental burden of mankind, by teaching that much of the past is irreparable; that an accumulation of mistakes, failures, sicknesses, and sins, held in the embrace of past years, will imprison one with scarce a chance of reprieve in this life. Mankind needs the glad tidings of Christian Science. These tidings proclaim release to the captives. They proclaim a present God - good - a present salvation from failures, mistakes, sicknesses, and sins; they proclaim renewed opportunities for opportunities neglected, wasted, and rejected, if men are willing to accept the law of Christian Science and honestly seek to practice the precepts which that law presents.
Mary Baker Eddy, on page 39 of Science and Health, writes: " 'Now,' cried the apostle, 'is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,' - meaning not that now men must prepare for a future-world salvation or safety, but that now is the time in which to experience that salvation in spirit and in life."
Permit us now to cite an illustration as to the reparable past. There is an almost universal belief, on the part of mankind, that because of this thing called the past, that is, because of the lapse of time, all people must eventually suffer from the disease known as old age; that is, the past years cripple the present. So universal is this belief that the disease called old age can neither be prevented nor destroyed, that men and women do not live very long on this plane before they begin to get ready for that disease. They begin to prepare for it and make a place for it. And soon they begin to look forward with fear and trembling to oncoming years, increasing infirmities, loss of memory, and the gradual weakening of all so-called physical and mental powers.
Soon the conviction takes possession of them that the disease with all its infirmities has arrived, and that the only possible way of escape is to die. Now death is not a therapeutic agent. It is itself error and has no healing power. This cruel creed that the disease of old age can neither be prevented nor overcome is untrue. God never ordained a law that man, in Science, should become infirm and helpless. The carnal, human, mortal mind made this so-called law. So long as men accept it, believe it, look forward to it, and declare it to be true, they will fear it and they will experience the cruel effects of it.
Outside of Christian Science there have been and are some thinkers who have much better beliefs about old age than others. Robert Browning, who without consciously knowing it, yet caught and expressed many glimpses of Christian Science truth, has written these virile and inspiring words for those who are afraid of old age:
"Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, 'A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God:
see all, nor be afraid.' "
This is an encouraging thought, but it is not Christian Science. It is simply a better belief about old age than some other mortal minds express. Mary Baker Eddy states the fundamental fact clearly and boldly, on pages 244 and 245 of the textbook: "Man in Science is neither young nor old. He has neither birth nor death," - "Decrepitude is not according to law, nor is it a necessity of nature, but an illusion." It is good to have an understanding of this wonderful truth in Christian Science that everything which is unlike God is an illusion, and can be destroyed by knowing the truth. This understanding will enable men and women to forestall old age and to renew and reinvigorate themselves. As the alert player on the chessboard sees the enemy approaching an unprotected point, and moves his king or queen or castle before the oncoming foe, and says, "Check," and says it effectively and effectually, even so, men and women may superimpose their understanding of the truth before the approaching disease named old age and say, "Check." They may not only check it, but turn it back. Christian Science is demonstrating the overcoming of this disease in thousands of cases throughout the world.
As Christian Scientists and as aspirants for victory, we must look to nothing less than the perfect model, which means the destruction of inharmony of every nature.
"A man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?"
We must aim at something higher than that to which we have already attained. The elimination of old age from thought is man's God-given right. As one overcomes the old age thought, he is destroying the death thought. If through the understanding of Christian Science we are enabled to add ten or fifteen or twenty years of active, joyous, loving service to mankind, we will have made a large contribution towards overcoming the disease of old age, and we shall not have so much to overcome hereafter.
By way of practical suggestion: We should endeavor to cease malpracticing on ourselves. We malpractice on ourselves through thinking, believing and declaring that old age with its infirmities is inevitable and incurable. We should also cease malpracticing on other people. It is cruel to think and declare that men and women are becoming old and touched with the so-called infirmities of age; it is always somebody's wrong thinking which brings about discordant, unhappy conditions.
It is the universal teaching of materia medica and very largely of mankind, that on account of the past, that is, the lapse of time, certain diseases gain a power almost impossible to overcome. It is said that a sickness which has been in evidence for a long time has gained sufficient power to make disease chronic. Now the word "chronic" comes from the Greek word chronos, meaning time. Therefore, a chronic disease is a time disease, that is, a disease which has lasted a long time. In many a lonely home, and in many public institutions today there are multitudes of men and women suffering from beliefs of chronic troubles. In most cases, these troubles have been brought upon them by the wrong thinking of the members of their own families, by the belief of heredity, by the wrong thoughts of their most intimate and sympathetic friends, and by honest, but ignorant, medical practitioners whose wrong thinking was making disease beliefs.
Has it ever fallen to your lot, after a long, baffling belief of sickness, to be examined by medical experts, and then to wait in terrible suspense, long minutes or hours, to learn the decision of the examiners? I have been there and can testify that the fear sometimes felt by the victim while he waits for the verdict of the experts is almost beyond expression. If the case is pronounced chronic and therefore likely to be incurable, a great fear is implanted in the mental area of the patient, and the disease which should be averted is invited.
Another way in which the seeds of chronic disease are planted in human thought is through public lectures about diseases. In some places these lectures are given before school children, and charts are displayed showing so-called diseased organs of the body. Also tabulated statements of the symptoms of various diseases are supplied. By this means it is taught that any child, by noting the so-called symptoms, can determine at once the nature of the disease by which he is threatened. Fear will always be looking for the symptoms. This is no imagination. Multitudes of cases of sore, chronic beliefs have been induced through this method.
Jesus refused to recognize any disease as incurable. He knew that added years could never give reality to unreality. In these days, and since 1866, Christian Science, discovered, elucidated, and demonstrated by Mary Baker Eddy, has proved itself to be the hope for the hopeless, and the help for the helpless. This truth is demonstrating; and demonstration is argument and proof. There are thousands of men and women throughout the world today, ready to testify that Christian Science has lifted them out of a hell of chronic discord. In view of this evidence no one is justified in doubting or denying the healing power of this wonderful truth. In Christian Science it is God who heals; and God knows nothing about time.
We deduce from the teaching of Mrs. Eddy that disease is a lie. It is not an entity, but a nonentity. It is not plus, but minus. To human sense it is not a presence, but an absence. As darkness is only the absence of light, so sickness is the apparent absence of health. Sickness is a lie. It is nothing claiming to be something. A lie which has been asserting itself daily, for ten years, is no nearer being a reality than is a lie which has been asserting itself only ten minutes. A common illustration, which is helpful toward understanding how chronic trouble may be destroyed through Christian Science, may be here stated. A room which has been in total darkness for ten years is no more difficult to light up than is a room which has been in darkness only ten minutes. A door thrown open will light up both rooms instantaneously. Chronic sickness is the dark room. Christian Science is the open door. I desire to testify, as on the witness stand, to the healing power of Christian Science. It healed me instantly of chronic ills after I had given up all hope of relief.
Perhaps some one may be mentally saying at this point in the lecture, "Well, if Christian Science can accomplish these wonderful things, why is it that all sick people are not healed?''
I pause long enough to give some reasons why all sickness is not yet destroyed. In doing this let it be understood that Christian Science itself never fails. It is equal to the destruction of all error. It is the absolute truth about God and man. It is the human mind that fails. This so-called mind obstinately refuses to take itself away and let that mind which was in Christ Jesus have full dominion. The chief causes of delayed healing are:
First, Christian Science practitioners have not yet reached the measure of perfect practice. They do not claim that they can realize healing at once, for all who come to them. They are able to heal some cases instantaneously, some are healed slowly, while there are others they do not seem to be able to reach. As practitioners learn more about God and are more faithful to what they do know, they will do better work and more of it. In order to make this progress in better healing it is necessary to bear in mind what Mrs. Eddy writes on pages 141 and 452 of Science and Health: "For this Principle there is no dynasty, no ecclesiastical monopoly. Its only crowned head is immortal sovereignty. Its only priest is the spiritualized man;" and, "Expect to heal simply by repeating the author's words, by right talking and wrong acting, and you will be disappointed." The second reason we assign why the multitude is not yet healed is this: Probably more than nine-tenths of all the people on earth who call themselves Christians are mildly or bitterly opposed to Christian Science. This great wall of ignorance and antagonism must be reckoned with in Christian Science healing. On one occasion even Jesus could do no mighty works in a certain locality because of prevalent unbelief. It is also recorded in the gospel that before he could raise a little girl to life he had to put his doubting disciples and the parents of the maiden out of the room. Each Christian Science practitioner knows that a patient responds to treatment much more readily if all the members of his family have a loving thought toward Christian Science. The wall of opposition and antagonism must be broken down! It is being broken down. Each case healed in Christian Science weakens that wall. Christian Science is the grain of mustard seed, steadily growing, whose branches are spreading over the earth. Let me illustrate: It has been reckoned that if the human heart, with its faint beating, were laid against Cleopatra's Needle on the Thames Embankment, and should continue to beat against it unceasingly for seventy years, it would crumble that resisting shaft into dust. That is what Christian Science is doing to the wall of indifference and antagonism. Each child being healed through truth and crossing over to Christian Science leaves an additional breach in the wall. Two members of a family, a dozen in a community, a hundred in a district, a thousand in a city, hundreds of thousands throughout the world, represent great breaches in the wall. The wall is crumbling, and every case of genuine healing through Christian Science ushers in the day of better healing and more of it.
Those desiring to be healed in Christian Science should be willing to help toward that healing. Yet many expect the Christian Science practitioner to do it all. They are unwilling to read, unwilling to study, unwilling even to think about the truth. Such people are seldom healed. The reason they are not healed is this: A Christian Science healing is not a hospital operation; it is not merely a physical change. It is the religion Jesus taught and demonstrated. Christian Science healing is moral as well as physical. It opens the understanding so that one begins to know God - here and now. Christian Science healing is salvation, and salvation is not something to be tacked onto the outside of a man. It is a wellspring of life flowing up from within. Should there be in this audience some weary one who longs for healing from chronic suffering, let this be suggested: If he can gain a greater longing for some other man's healing than for his own, he has made great advance toward his own healing. This is the power of unselfed love.
And now, to proceed with the main thought, that is, the supposed power of the past and the destruction of that power through Christian Science. As an example, we cite the case of the Prodigal Son, as it is recorded in St. Luke's gospel. This is a type of the prodigal sons of all ages. The truth revealed in Christian Science follows the prodigal into the far country. There is no place, no condition, where it is not present. It is the Good Shepherd going into the wilderness after the sheep that was lost. The prodigal's disease is a belief of wasted opportunity; he has left the home of love, separated himself from family and friends, squandered his means, and wasted his years. When want and hunger and homesickness attack him, he looks back over a dissipated past and sees no promise of redemption in the present life. The religious teaching to which he has been accustomed promised him forgiveness in this life, but not renewed opportunity. He sees the past as irreparable. So general is the belief that opportunity rejected is never succeeded by fresh opportunity, that even the most loving friends of the prodigal keep fearing and thinking and saying: "He has lost his opportunity." This grievous burden of discouraging thought, to which the prodigal himself contributes, fetters him as with iron chains.
The prodigal's troubles have been the result of a two-fold thought. He believed that following his own will would bring satisfaction, and, that expectation disappointed, he fell into the Slough of Despond and experienced despair. Christian Science shows both these conditions to be false, and because false, unreal and subject to destruction. When self-will is cast out and the Christ-thought enters, the prodigal son disappears, and the child of God appears. Mary Baker Eddy, on page 497 of the textbook, writes: "We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts."
There is no past that is irreparable, but let no one think that he can lie supinely down in the far country, and without any hunger or striving of his own be brought back to the land of renewed opportunity and peace. He must himself arise.
The prodigal in the far country may begin to long for a return to the Father's house, and may honestly say: "I will arise and go to my father," but he will find it hard to do so without aid. Here the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Christian Science reading rooms, Christian Science practitioners, Christian Science lectures, and the Christian Science periodicals are lovingly provided for his help. Through these avenues, many men, happy and blessed today, have come up out of a bitter past into their Father's house.
In that fascinating and edifying allegory, beginning on page 323 of "Miscellaneous Writing's," Mrs. Eddy tells how the divine Stranger came down to earth, and meeting a penitent one, said to him: " 'Wherefore comest thou hither?' " The penitent replied: " 'I came hither, hoping that I might follow thee whithersoever thou goest;' " and the Stranger said, " 'Make thine own way; and if thou strayest listen for the mountain-horn, and it will call thee back to the path that goeth upward.' " That is the only way whereby one who has strayed from obedience may be led back to peace and renewed opportunity. "Listen for the mountain-horn," or, as Mrs. Eddy puts it in another way (Poems, P. 14): -
"Shepherd, show me how to go
O'er the hillside steep,
How to gather, how to sow, -
How to feed Thy sheep;
I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice
All the rugged way."
He who is obedient to our Leader is obedient also to our Way-shower, Jesus the Christ. In stern and unremitting watch over himself, yielding loving service to others, one grows into the image of Him who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The old past loosens its grip; the future ceases to threaten; the heart leaps up with gratitude, and in the practical performance of everyday duties it becomes true that -
"Earth breaks up, time drops away,
In flows heaven with its new day of endless life."
Time, mortal mind and its history, the past with its mistakes, rejected opportunities, sins, and sicknesses should all go - and go now, for they are unreal. All that is good, true, and beautiful is imperishable. It has always belonged to us. Only discord can be destroyed.
It is our priceless privilege to return to our Father's home, here and now. No belief of old age, chronic diseases, sin, sickness, or even death, no sense of discord in the so-called past, should be permitted to grow in thought. They have no place in eternity. And we are in eternity now, because we are where God is.
And now, dear people, permit me to gather up the thoughts of this lecture. I will tell you a little story. A dear man, who did not have the light which Christian Science has brought to some of us, struggled nobly for years against the belief of an insidious disease. The disease lasted so long that the past had many bitter memories. The sad experience of years tried to crush him. The past kept mocking him. One day when discouragement lay heavy on him he wrote a little poem of fourteen lines and named it "Barnacles." You know what barnacles claim to do? Little by little they thicken and multiply on keels of ocean vessels, and unless the accumulations are destroyed, they not only impede the speed of the ship, but may destroy it. Now our poet believed that the barnacles, which fasten themselves on human lives and impede progress in good, are the mistakes and failures and sicknesses and sins which are in that thing called the past. Evidently in a day of great depression he began his poem as follows: -
"My soul is sailing through the sea,
But the past is heavy and hindereth me,
The past hath crusted, cumbrous shells,
That hold the flesh of cold sea smells about my soul,
The huge waves wash, the high waves roll,
Each barnacle clingeth and worketh dole,
And hindereth me from sailing,"
When he had written so much, it seems as though an inspiration came to him. It seems as though he caught a glimpse of the eternal right of man to be free from the tyranny of the past, and he finished the poem in a higher and more glorious strain, like this: -
"Old past let go, and drop i' the sea,
Till fathomless waters cover thee!
For I am living, but thou art dead,
Thou drawest back, I strive ahead the Day to find;
Thy shells unbind; night comes behind,
I needs must hurry with the wind
And trim me best for sailing."
Yes, that is our privilege, namely, to trim off the barnacles of the past. To repudiate the tyranny of the past is the privilege of every child of God. “Forgetting those things which are behind,” says the apostle.
It seems to me it will be helpful if I call your attention to the meaning of the word "forget." It is composed of two other words, "for" and "get" - a preposition and a verb. The preposition "for" means in place of, or instead of. "Get" means to procure or to obtain.
To forget, therefore, means to get something else in the place of, or instead of, that which one is now holding in thought. Forgetting is a mental operation entirely. Ignoring something is not forgetting it. To forget is positive, not negative. It is substituting a different thought for the thought one is now holding onto. Let us see how this applies.
Has one a belief of and fear of old age? Forget it. Get something else in the place of it. Crowd it out of thought by getting the growing conviction in Science, that because one is God's child and like Him he cannot be infirm and helpless. God never made a law that in Science man should become infirm and helpless. Therefore, there is no such law.
Is one weighed down by a belief of chronic trouble of any kind? Forget it. Get something else in the place of it. Wake up to the fact that God's image and likeness can no more be controlled by lapse of time than can God Himself.
Is one distressed by thought of wasted opportunity and deliberate desertion from the Father's love? Is one burdened with this direful possession? Forget it. Accept something else in its place. Learn in Science that man in reality can never be separated from the kind, seeking, saving, protecting, loving, Father-Mother God.
Is one inwardly sorrowing, over betrayal of the trust and confidence reposed in him by the great Master and our beloved Leader? Forget it. Let us all forget it. Put something else in the place of it. What shall that be? What better than that which our Leader recommends on page 326 of the textbook: "The purpose and motive to live aright can be gained now. This point won, you have started as you should. You have begun at the numeration-table of Christian Science, and nothing but wrong intention can hinder your advancement. Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way." Loyalty to all the writings of Mary Baker Eddy is the only consistent path for anyone who calls himself a Christian Scientist to pursue.
Friends, you have listened to a lecture on Christian Science. Some of you are wishing you might be healed through Science. Some of you have already been healed. Some are being healed now; and all are going to be healed. We know this is true because the Christ must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet and God is All-in-all.
For all you dear people, who think you are bound in a prison of trouble, there is an open door to freedom, here and now.
In one of the Christian Science periodicals there appeared a few years ago this beautiful story: There was a man whose business took him away from home much of the time. This traveling man was a good Christian Scientist. Being in a hotel in a distant town, he rose early in the morning, and taking his Bible, textbook, and Quarterly, read the Bible Lesson. He then went down and stood at the door of the hotel. It being very early, he said to himself, "What is there for me to do while waiting for breakfast to be ready?" Just then he looked across the street and there he saw a vacant store building. Inside the building he saw a dear little bird beating its life out against the closed window, seeking freedom. A little to one side there was another window sash with all the glass removed, but the little bird was so busy beating out its life against the closed door, that it could not see the road to freedom.
What did the traveling man do? Like a good Christian Science practitioner, he crossed the street, and because the bird was too weak to resist his approach he took it lovingly in his hands and carried it to the open window. When the little helpless creature saw the open door and felt the air of freedom, it did what I and many of you did when we first saw the open door of Christian Science; it was filled with health and strength and went on its journey rejoicing.
Dear friends, the open door to God is yours.
The Scripture which says, "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it" is a pledge to every man, woman, and child on earth that the past is reparable and the open door invites to freedom.
[From a newspaper clipping (location unknown), Dec. 5, 1930.]