Christian Science: Its Letter and Spirit
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
A lecture on Christian Science was given under the auspices of Eighteenth Church of Christ, Scientist, of Chicago, in the church edifice, 7262 Coles Avenue, Tuesday evening, December 3, 1929, 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.
The subject of the lecture was "Christian Science: Its Letter and Spirit." Mr. Graham spoke substantially as follows:
Doubtless there are more happy people in the world today than at any other time, since the appearance of man on the earth. The main cause of this increase of joy is the people's changed thought about God. If God be viewed as a severe judge - a semi-tyrant - then fear reigns among men. If He is regarded as a tender Father-Mother, impartial in His love, the bondage of fear is broken, while freedom and happiness take its place. Like God, like people. For sixty years the leaven of Christian Science has been at work changing man's thought about God. The doctrine of the atonement has been so altered from the theological teaching of it half a century ago that Christians of today stand almost aghast at the memory of previous beliefs. Men's thinking has become broader and deeper; they see a better God and as a consequence they see a better man. This change has brought such beneficence and peace that many who feel its touch are profoundly convinced that the Christian Science message contains that truth to which Christ Jesus alluded when he declared: "Upon this rock I will build my church; and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
That Christ Jesus established no visible organization is a fact abundantly commented on by those who have made an unbiased study of his words and acts. But that his failure to organize a visible society proved his opposition to the idea is without a shadow of substantial evidence to sustain it. The infancy, childhood, youth, and manhood of Jesus were spent as an obedient member of a visible organization, that is, the Jewish theocracy manifested in the temple sacrifices and ritual. His severe arraignment of certain members of that body was not a condemnation of its basic thought. On the human plane, rules, forms, observances are necessary to the cultivation and preservation of religious knowledge, graces, and work; for, as the apostle says, "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." To Jesus, the rules and rites of the religious organization in which he was reared were visible signs of spiritual realities. A discriminating study of the first and second centuries of the Christian church discloses the fact that early Christianity was the Jewish theocracy purified, spiritualized, unfolded, and enlarged. The day had come in which the elder organization was to lay off exclusiveness for inclusiveness, the tribal for the universal, when the divine truth unfolded in the elder dispensation was to be abundantly expended into the fullness and beauty of Christianity, Jesus said, “I am not come to destroy [the law] . . . but to fulfil.” So long as men go wrong in thinking and living, so long as they have lingering beliefs of life in matter, the idea of a visible church will be indispensable. Associations of individuals with a common, religious purpose in view, inevitably accept the church idea; for primal truth is latent in all creeds, among all peoples, and in every century. With some persons the visible church with its dogmas and meticulous ceremonies seems supreme in importance, while to others it is secondary, only valuable as it symbolizes practical spiritualities. This difference thrusts itself upon the present era with such insistence that failure to recognize it is quite impossible. At least in all western civilization the religious tendency is in two directions. One party turns to crystallized forms and hermetically sealed doctrines; the other seeks less of the outward form and more of the spiritual grace. The main purpose of this lecture is an endeavor to make clear the temporary importance of the letter of Christianity and the present and eternal blessedness of its spirit.
In the discovery and unfolding of truth, nothing is ever an isolated incident, but is a step in a process. When the process reaches a very conspicuous stage, human knowledge calls that step the "psychological moment." There is a better name. It is a Bible term. Saint Paul in Galatians and Ephesians styles it, "the fulness" of time. In the fullness of time the man Moses was called to deliver the Hebrew captives from Egyptian bondage. In the fullness of time Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, of the Virgin Mary. "In the fullness of time," the contributions of righteous thinking and loving culminated in the discovery, by Mary Baker Eddy, of the Truth out of which grew the visible church, known as The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, with its visible branches and activities, throughout the world. This discovery was a conspicuous stage in the process of redemption, so much so that it may deservedly be named as one of the great epochs of history. The blessings it has already released to mankind constitute the pledge that it will overflow the world. This church is a teaching church and a healing church, and inasmuch as teaching and healing manifest themselves externally, the manifold activities result in visible organization. The revelation vouchsafed to Mrs. Eddy was not only the discernment and understanding and individual demonstration of the Truth, but also the guidance to the founding and establishing of that Truth among men. The preservation of the Truth is equal in importance to its discovery. God, eternal Principle, infinite Mind, is the starting point for all clear thinking and correct reasoning. With the Holy Bible as her only textbook, Mrs. Eddy spent years in striving for that understanding of God which would enable her to write down, in what may be called the language of human accommodation, such a statement of her discovery and its effects as would certainly lead suffering humanity to freedom from ignorance and sin, and release from sickness.
On this beneficent truth the organization of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, was founded and organized.
Mrs. Eddy has formulated a definition of church which in its significance is eternal. She defines church as, "The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle" (Science and Health, p. 583). This church is no tyro, having its beginning among men and limited by time and space. We are taught in Christian Science that Mind and Mind's manifestation constitute the only reality in the universe. And because truth and love are mental, spiritual, it follows that Church is the pure consciousness of the truth and love forever resident in the divine Mind. Though one should belong to a dozen different churches and have not "the structure of Truth and Love" in consciousness, his church membership would be but "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
This accords with Mrs. Eddy's statement on page 468 of Science and Health that "all is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation." The eternal church changes not. We have already cited its definition, "The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle." This church is coterminous with God. Its scope is unlimited; it is all-inclusive. The human desire to apply divine Principle to mundane affairs, thus elevating and purifying human activities, results in the temporal or visible church. This church is pictured in Mrs. Eddy's second definition, given on the same page of the textbook, "The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick." This church is limited; it has a beginning; it is the child of time. Abel was reaching after it when he made his visible offering to God of the fruits of the earth. Abraham's quest of it is seen in his great mental sacrifice of his son. The gradual development of the whole system of Hebrew and Jewish worship was an effort to apply the idea of the eternal church to human affairs. The aspirations of earnest men in all ages and in all countries have sought to apply eternal truth to temporal needs. Under Christian civilization, these endeavors objectify themselves in what is called the visible church. This church is resultant, not causative; it does not create inspiration, but is the result of aspiration. It is an organization, not an organism. It is human, not divine. Jesus outlined no organization. The church he spoke of building was the house not made with hands, eternal in harmony, "the structure of Truth and Love" aroused in the consciousness, against which time can never prevail. Mrs. Eddy, being fully convinced through reason, revelation, and demonstration, of the present presence of Truth and Love, was led to seek in a way in which she could humanly express, in some measure, the church of eternity, in a church of time, that is to say, a visible church. The first step thereto as told in the Church Manual, page 17, is thus recorded: "At a meeting of the Christian Scientist Association, April 19, 1879, on motion of Mrs. Eddy, it was voted, - To organize a church designed to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." From time to time changes were effected in the organization, until September 1, 1892, when it reached its permanent form, in which it will remain for all time. (See pages 128-135 and 17-19 of the Church Manual.) No higher privilege is open to men than to become active, intelligent members of this church and on that account such membership involves tremendous responsibilities. On page 14 of "The People's Idea of God" Mrs. Eddy makes this appeal: "O Christian Scientist, thou of the church of the newborn; awake to a higher and holier love for God and man; put on the whole armor of Truth; rejoice in hope; be patient in tribulation, - that ye may go to the bed of anguish, and look upon this dream of life in matter, girt with a higher sense of omnipotence; and behold once again the power of divine Life and Love to heal and reinstate man in God's own image and likeness."
On page 495 of Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy propounds a question and supplies the answer: "How can I progress most rapidly in the understanding of Christian Science? Study thoroughly the letter and imbibe the spirit." The letter and the spirit stand for the visible and the invisible. By the letter of Christian Science one might take its first meaning to refer to the textual contents of Mrs. Eddy's published writings and one's ready familiarity therewith. This would be a somewhat limited interpretation and would not fully cover the phrase, "the things which are seen are temporal." A more extended meaning would include also, as a part of the letter, all the departments and legitimate activities of Christian Science work throughout the world. We may therefore affirm that to make rapid progress in the understanding of Christian Science it is necessary, increasingly, to be well informed about all the literature and the outward, visible signs, and channels of work in The Mother Church, its institutional activities and its branch churches. To be loving is not sufficient. On this plane one must be alert and informed, manifesting intelligence about the letter while imbibing the spirit. "The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus" (Science and Health, p. 25).
It may be helpful or of interest to those not familiar with the Christian Science movement to make a brief statement as to the main manifestations of the letter in this religious body; in other words, to mention the salient points in the Christian Science organization. There is The Mother Church with its branches throughout the world and its eleemosynary institutions - The Christian Science Benevolent Association in Boston and the Pleasant View Home at Concord, New Hampshire, and the Christian Science Benevolent Association at San Francisco, California. Second, is The Christian Science Board of Directors of The Mother Church, appointed originally by Mrs. Eddy, and through her directions is a self-perpetuating body. This Board has general initiatory and supervising functions in enlarging and protecting the work of the movement. Third, is The Christian Science Publishing Society, which prints, publishes, and distributes all authorized Christian Science literature. Fourth, are the Committees on Publication, whose duties are to correct wrong statements about Christian Science appearing in the public press. Fifth, there follow The Christian Science Board of Lectureship and the public Reading Rooms. These channels of activity, simple in organization and administration, are the chief marks of the letter, that is, of the visible church, as known to Christian Scientists. Grateful as one is for the temporary letter of Christian Science which serves as vehicles for truth and waymarks of progress, yet more grateful is he for the eternal spirit of Christian Science which is the palpitating, healing power of the Christ.
The spirit or power of Christian Science received in consciousness and applied in daily life results in regeneration, or the new birth, or consciousness of health, joy, and peace. In the words of Saint Paul, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Mrs. Eddy writes on page 195 of "Miscellaneous Writings": "Whosoever learns the letter of Christian Science but possesses not the spirit, is unable to demonstrate this Science; or whosoever hath the spirit without the letter, is held back by reason of lack of understanding. Both the spirit and the letter are requisite; and having these, every one can prove, in some degree, the validity of those words of the great Master, 'For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.' "
The activity of the letter and the vitalizing power of Christian Science have influenced multitudes of men and women throughout the world who have heard and read of the regeneration and healing of the sick and sinful through Christian Science. They know that some of their friends and acquaintances, and even members of their families, have taken a new lease of life, and are manifesting health and happiness, activity and success, through Christian Science. These results are leading an ever-increasing number of persons to ponder over the subject and to wonder whether they may not find relief from their burdens through the same means. Deep down in their hearts, all men desire peace, harmony, wholeness. In the language of the Scriptures, "the whole creation groaneth." Very often do people say mentally, in their own language, "O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles." Gladly would I say something to enhearten such persons, in their turning to Christian Science. I would encourage them to look the evidence for Christian Science healing squarely in the face, and to judge it by its fruits. One is compelled to respect the restraint of those who refuse to rush precipitately into any course of action. The Bible commands us to be ready to give a reason for our faith. Christian Science asks no recognition save on the basis of demonstration. There is nothing mysterious, mystical, or elusive about its tenets. The sum total of its teaching is love, and in Science, this word "love" means the reflection of the divine Mind in individual man. Therefore is there no ground for anyone to be afraid or ashamed to approach and to appeal to Christian Science for help to overcome sickness, sin, lack, sorrow, and even death. Even though one may have no faith that Christian Science can relieve him of his burdens, nevertheless, the fact that he knows it has relieved others and that he himself needs help, is sufficient ground for his action in approaching Christian Science.
Who may seek, and under what conditions may he expectantly seek, the spirit of Christian Science to relieve him of sickness or sin or any other discord? The invitation extended by the Saviour is, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is the invitation also of Christian Science, and it is inclusive of all who are weary and heavy laden - weary of the world's promises with their penalties and disappointments. He who is discouraged on account of the failure of material, worldly methods for relief, may turn to Christian Science and find that surcease from sorrow and suffering which can come only from God. Even though one may not be able to secure the help of a Christian Science practitioner, yet an earnest study of the Christian Science textbook in connection with the Bible will lead to relief.
It is good to hear the notice read in The Mother Church at each service. It extends a loving invitation to all to visit our church, attend our services, and use our Reading Rooms. The invitation is sincere, not inviting people to a feast and then refusing them the opportunity of partaking. But says one: does not our Church Manual debar certain people from the privileges of Christian Science? Not really. It requires preparation. The branch church, the teacher of Christian Science, and the practitioner may say to such people, we cannot at once receive you as a member, a pupil, or a patient, but as Christian Science is the absolute truth about God and man, it belongs to you as truly as to any one. Therefore take the textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, study it with an open thought and you will find healing. And when you have demonstrated the spirit of Christian Science, the "Structure of Truth and Love," - the "Invisible Church," it will be time enough to consider outward, visible membership with all its privileges. This is not a declaration that the doors are thrown wide open to receive unprepared material. That indeed is prohibited. The greatest menace today to religious and civil liberty is a material concept of God inevitably linked with ecclesiastical tyranny. When individuals dominated by that tyranny are seeking release, certainly the function of Christian Science and the privilege of Christian Scientists is to aid in that release in so far as may be without interference or undue influence.
Physical healing is the aspect of Christian Science which appeals most strongly to the outsider, and this was true also of Jesus' work. Mrs. Eddy demonstrated her own healing through the Truth she had discovered, before she applied it to the healing of others. After years of sore need and earnest striving there began to dawn upon her consciousness the understanding of the ever-present activity of God - good - which through her teaching and our demonstration we know as the Christ, Truth. The deeper spiritual understanding of the truth disclosed to Mrs. Eddy the perfect God and His image and likeness, perfect man. This illumination in consciousness relieved her of physical distress. God gave her a healing which physicians had said was impossible. The good news spread rapidly, and now there is printed each month in The Christian Science Journal a list of names of men and women who are devoting all their time to Christian Science practice. In June, 1929, this list, always increasing contained about ten thousand names. This number is a fraction of the great company of men and women engaged in so-called secular work or professions, who also are devoting a portion of their time to healing work. This healing is accomplished by the love and power of God reflected through the pure, loving thought of compassionate practitioners. This healing power may be utilized by all who need and have a desire to know God - good. Many sincere persons who have not had the help of a practitioner have found their healing through an honest, earnest, loving study of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (the textbook of Christian Science) and the Bible. In addition to the registered practitioners, one can find in The Christian Science Journal the names and addresses of over four hundred Christian Science nurses, whose quiet, tender ministrations constitute a part of the healing feature of the visible church. Nor must we fail to note that The Christian Science Benevolent Association in Boston, and The Christian Science Pleasant View Home in Concord, New Hampshire, are institutions which have grown out of the healing thought, and themselves are abundant witnesses to the healing benediction of consecrated work.
The genuine Christian Scientist is compassionate, for with what measure one loves God, with that measure also loves he his fellowmen. He deals tenderly with those who need and seek God - good. Compassion is not synonymous with the generally accepted idea of sympathy. It does not coddle error. It knows that all suffering is the experience of material sense. God's real man can no more be the object of popular sympathy than can God Himself. Members of this church are often accused of being cold and unsympathetic because they refuse to sit down and visit with trouble and disease. Thinking about trouble, one courts and nurses trouble. A man is known by the company he keeps. Christian Scientists have something better to think about and talk about than disease. The true healing for such troubles is reached by looking away from matter, instead of into it. Christian Science penetrates the veil of material sense and awakens the sufferer to some realization of man's eternal identity as the child of God. Awakening to a correct view of himself, suffering sense begins to disappear. This is real compassion and is a genuine Christian Science treatment. "Nothing ails you" is not the response a loving Christian Science practitioner makes to one who is suffering, for to mortal sense it is more than imagination. Real compassion is kindred to the experiences of God's man.
When by means of Christian Science treatment the individual is conscious of coming freedom, he must himself begin and continue mental activity; he must be a worker with God. Christian Science healing puts one in the ranks of the first-born; a great blessing has brought with it a great responsibility. Freely he has received, and no great progress toward final peace is possible unless one's gratitude manifests itself in sincere endeavor to live the truth he has seen. Christian Science does not relieve one from the stern necessity of observing the Ten Commandments, and conforming one's life to the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount. The Christian Scientist must grow in grace, and this growth comes through the channels of mental activity supplied by the Bible, the Christian Science textbook, Mrs. Eddy's other writings, and the opportunities for work in The Mother Church and in branch churches.
Consciously working with God, one need never be afraid. The Christian Scientist does not claim that he is immune from all sin and sickness; he still wrestles with error, but "not as one that beateth the air." What he claims is, that whereas he used to struggle in the dark, he now works in the dawn. He has aspired to freedom and has attained such a measure of it, and he sees some of the truth about God with such absolute clearness, that many of his troubles are gone forever, and he rests in calm conviction that victory over all discord is reachable. He does not demand that the seed he planted yesterday shall be in full blossom or fruitage today. He knows that if he attends to his part the process of spiritual unfoldment will bring to him increased good day by day. A man awakening to the truth of Christian Science is somewhat like to a sailor cast upon an angry ocean with fog so heavy he can see but a few feet away. In reaching out his hand he lays hold on a rope, which must be firmly fastened somewhere, for it keeps him from sinking. The waters are still surging around him, and the fog is so dense that he can discern but five feet of rope. He does not cast it away because he cannot see the remaining ninety-five feet. He knows that the portion of the rope which is hidden from view is as real as the part which is already in his hand. The Christian Scientist knows that when failure stared at him on every hand, and all other so-called remedies brought no relief, Christian Science saved him. He has learned the universal applicability and absolute reliability of spiritual truth. Divine Love offers no variety of remedies. The same Principle which heals a headache also purifies the leper and raises the dead. Through understanding of this Principle the Christian Scientist helps to realize today the works of Christ Jesus in destroying sickness and sin. He begins to see with some clearness that because God is good and has all power, therefore evil has no power; that sin, sickness, and death have only a pretense of power, which is accorded to them by the spiritually uneducated state, the frightened, human mind. He learns that this human mind, with its fears and fear-full imaginations, passes to nothingness as the Mind "which was . . . in Christ Jesus" gains the ascendancy. He knows that each step toward health and peace taken by one man or by the race, has to start in the individual consciousness, and that madness, whether the madness of a selfish man in this audience or the world's madness of a world's wicked war, must give place to Him of whom it is written: "He must reign, till He hath put all his enemies under his feet" (Revised Version).
Standing fast in the right, light must prevail. We shall be safe under His feathers: the warmth and gentleness and protection of divine Love will save with an everlasting salvation. Therefore he who has learned even a little of Christian Science is able to look with a measure of confident calmness not only upon the disease of the individual who asks healing for himself, but also upon the unutterable woes of a sick world. He knows that Jesus wept at Lazarus' tomb, not because he had any doubt as to Lazarus' safety, but because of the unawakened thought of those who stood around. Christian Science teaches us to have pitiful patience and loving compassion for all who are suffering either through ignorance or sin. It calls today to all who are imprisoned by material thought, "Come forth." And they are coming, out of great tribulations, in vast numbers, into the land of Christian Science, wherein and whereby are appearing those works of healing and regeneration which constitute the realization again on earth of the words and works of Christ Jesus. Friends: I want you all to be comforted with the same comfort wherewith I myself have been comforted. To that end and with no desire but loving-kindness, I ask you to "think on these things."