Christian Science: The Religion of Joy

 

Judge Samuel W. Greene, C.S.B., of Chicago, Illinois

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

EDITOR'S NOTE - The subjoined lecture, entitled "Christian Science: The Religion of Joy," was delivered in several Churches of Christ, Scientist, in Chicago, and immediate vicinity during recent years by Judge Samuel W. Greene, C.S.B., of Chicago, 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.

 

There is a familiar hymn, which begins (Hymnal, No. 47),

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.

Let earth receive her King."

 

Christian Science is that presentation of the truth about God and man which is enabling men and women to find joy in the understanding of God's presence here and now. Many of us have been accustomed to think of religion as being dull, burdensome, and depressing. Christian Science is demonstrating that there is hope, joy, and gladness in religion. When we read the Psalmist's words, and realize what joy he found in the service of God, and in the house of his Maker, it seems strange that religion has not these compensating graces. Surely the difficulty is that religion has largely failed to correctly interpret God.

History does reveal that there have been men and women through the centuries, however, who have caught a vision of this great light and joy that the Psalmist found in walking with God. Surely the mission of Jesus the Christ was to bring light, joy, and healing to the world else the angelic chorus was wrong in singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

 

The Discoverer

The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, is one of those world figures, whose words and works are convincing proofs that she saw the joyful vision. Her system of teaching and her expounded theology may not have been in accord with the accepted orthodoxy of her day, but what would have been the fate of other great leaders had they been rated by the world as by their contemporary theologians? What of Jesus or Paul or Luther? Mrs. Eddy's revelation came to her in an hour of great human need. When all else had failed to bring her health, peace, and joy, she turned to God's Word for comfort and for healing. As she studied the words and works of Jesus of Nazareth, there came to her the understanding that Jesus had come to teach the world anew the great lesson of God's ever-presence and omnipotence. She saw how Jesus' work supplemented and made perfect the great vision of God's allness as it had been interpreted by earlier students, such as Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha. She saw how Paul had been able to reconcile the revelation of the Christ with the teaching and practice of these earlier prophets and wise men. Then there came the conviction of the practical nature of Jesus' teaching, and how little the religionists of her time were so regarding it. Filled with the joy of the knowledge of the ever-present availability of God's power, she turned her thought absolutely to God, and away from all material means, and presently her first healing experience came. It was not a final deliverance from all her ills, nor was it the full understanding of Christian Science as she later learned it. In her improved physical condition there came gradually the consciousness that she had discovered and had put into actual practice the same truth or law which governed Jesus and enabled him to be the healer of sin, disease, and death. As she studied, she saw more clearly the import of Jesus' words, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise;" also, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also."

That Mrs. Eddy did grasp this understanding in its fullest import is proved by her works. Once she satisfied herself that a certain line of work was correct, that is, in accord with God's plan, nothing ever daunted or dismayed her. Neither was success withheld from her in any of her great enterprises. In addition to numbers too numerous to mention that were healed under her treatment, she was enabled, in the face of great and constant opposition, to build The Mother Church, became the author of various books, and teacher of thousands of students, and the founder of three successful periodicals. Stronger than any words of praise of Mrs. Eddy's faith and understanding are these living testimonials that bear witness constantly that her good works do follow her.

 

The Textbook

Perhaps the work of Mrs. Eddy's that is more generally known to the world than any other is the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." This book was her effort to give the vision, or revelation, to the world so that all who would might know the practical value of an understanding of God, as He is revealed in the teachings of Jesus and of the prophets and apostles. The study of the Christian Science textbook instead of lessening one's interest in the Bible increases it. Instead of destroying one's respect for the Bible, it creates a new and genuine love for it. Its spiritual interpretation of the Bible is not a distortion of the text to suit the teachings of Christian Science. It is the discovering and revealing of sacred and usable truths. It is spiritual apprehension, even as indicated by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."

A careful reading of the textbook usually opens one's consciousness to a welcome reception of the revealed truth; and in this improved understanding he frequently finds himself healed. There are many interesting instances of such healing on record in the files of The Christian Science Publishing Society, and dozens of such healings are given in testimonies printed in the back of the Christian Science textbook in the chapter called "Fruitage."

No adequate or comprehensive estimate of the textbook will be attempted in the time allotted here, but it is fair to state that during its circulation of fifty years, it has been widely read and studied, and has undoubtedly been a leavening influence in many lines of human thinking.

 

God

A serious study of the Bible, with its spiritual interpretation as given in the textbook, reveals to the student that there is available for all seekers a concept of God that is understandable, lovable, believable, and usable. Surely, this is the answer to the unfailing prayer of the weary wanderer athrist in the desert of material existence, crying out for rest and drink.

Jesus, the master Christian, must have had this practical knowledge of God in mind when he said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." How shall we seek God? Naturally by turning to a study of God's Word as found in the Bible. One never expects in the search for material knowledge to become proficient except through earnest and constant effort. Children are usually placed in schools at a tender age and continued therein for many years before their education is assumed to be at all ready for the actual work of life. Not so in the world's search for spiritual knowledge.

There has been a pretty generally accepted theory that goodness or a knowledge of God could come only in some mysterious or supernatural way. It might be through some sudden emotion or great enthusiasm. One might even refer to Paul's apparently sudden conversion as an instance. One must bear in mind, however, that Paul was already a student of the Bible. There came to him, as to many, a sudden conviction of his wrong course in life, upon which followed genuine repentance. He was visited by Ananias, and was presumably told spiritual truths, whereupon the scales fell from his eyes. He abode certain days with the disciples, during which time it is fair to assume he was being instructed in the spiritual revelation, after which he was able to preach with great boldness. It frequently happens in the search for Christian Science that when one who has been a Bible student can clearly see that there must be the spiritual interpretation, he makes more rapid progress in understanding and demonstration than the beginner who may be unfamiliar with the Bible. Christian Science teaching is in thorough accord with Jesus' injunction that there must be the seeking before the healing results are accomplished.

In the study of Christian Science one learns that God is Love, Life, Truth, Soul, Mind, Spirit, divine Principle. It teaches that these truths concerning what God is must be discerned spiritually before one can demonstrate them in his daily life. This is, of course, exactly as Jesus taught. "God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." This spiritual elucidation of the terms used for God in Christian Science is revealed and made practical to the student in the constant study of the Bible with the textbook.

A plan of daily Bible study is afforded by the use of the Christian Science Bible Lessons. In addition one can read the various other writings of Mrs. Eddy and the Christian Science periodicals, established by her and published in Boston under the direction of The Mother Church government.               

 

Man

One of the most satisfying results of one's spiritual understanding of God as taught in Christian Science is the equally important knowledge of what man is. In our generally accepted human concept of man, he has been regarded as material, therefore as temporal, and subject to sickness, sin, and death. In the spiritual interpretation of the Bible one learns that man is spiritual and partakes of the spiritual qualities of God, who is Spirit. This teaching, any Bible student will recognize as being based on the first chapter of Genesis where it is said: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them."

The hostile critic of Christian Science may vehemently protest that one cannot so construe the quoted passage of Genesis, while there remains the so-called material creation of man in the second chapter of Genesis. A complete answer to that, one will find in the textbook, in a chapter called Genesis, which is a part of the "Key to the Scriptures." For the purposes of this lecture it can be briefly said that on the undisputed authority of Jesus, God is Spirit. To be logical and sensible in determining what man would resemble if made in God's image it would seem necessary to say he must be like Spirit, or spiritual, and not material. This teaching is fortified by Paul's apparent effort in his writings to bring to man's understanding his spiritual nature, as is instanced in the following quotations: "For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal;" "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."

So, Christian Science teaches that creation is not the molding of forms out of matter, but is the unfolding of spiritual ideas. To consider man as an idea of Mind may seem intangible to the material thinker, as compared with flesh and bones. Immediately one turns, however, to the realm of ideas, and considers their substance, reality, and permanence, he is better able to appreciate and understand the forever truth that man is a spiritual idea. The textbook says, "A spiritual idea has not a single element of error, and this truth removes properly whatever is offensive" (Science and Health, p. 403). This spiritual truth understood is the basis for healing in Christian Science.

 

Healing

Every man is interested in healing, directly or indirectly, because of his own personal need, or because of the need of someone closely related to him. In the earlier years of Christian Science a great majority of its adherents became interested through the desire for healing. Even now it is a subject of large interest to all people.

Christian Science does not, as some have believed, lay greatest stress upon physical healing. It teaches even as Jesus taught, that through the understanding and acceptance of the Christ is salvation - full and perfect. This means not only as the orthodox church teaches salvation from sin, but salvation from sickness, sorrow, and all human discord.

The healing of physical disease, so-called, in Christian Science comes about through spiritual processes. In the many recorded healings done by Jesus, the ultra materialist would scarcely contend that material remedies were used. There is, indeed, the lone case of the blind man on whose eyes clay was placed by Jesus, but even that would hardly encourage the material enthusiast today in the use of clay to heal blind eyes.

Presumably, the religionists of today agree that Jesus' healing work was wholly spiritual. In view of this belief, it should not be difficult for the same religionists to concede that he healed according to some definite or specific plan, that is, according to some system or truth which he taught to his disciples before he sent them forth to heal.  Certainly there are words of his that do plainly indicate such was his method. "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also;" "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." This, then, was Mrs. Eddy's discovery, that Jesus did heal according to the scientific method, which is taught in his words, and which she spiritually discerned in her study of the Bible, and which she has set forth in the Christian Science textbook.

It involves understanding that the Christ, or Truth, was not, and is not, merely Jesus the man, but was and is the Truth which Jesus typified, reflected, and expressed, the Truth of which he spoke in saying, "Before Abraham was, I am." Jesus' ministry was largely one of teaching - he came not primarily to heal sick people, but to teach men through words and through works the true nature of God, and their correct relationship to God. This is indicated in one of Jesus' most remarkable promises, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."

In the study of healing in Christian Science it is well to know from the beginning that healing does not come as a result of pleading with God, and begging His mercy or His favor, according to the accustomed forms of prayer in the orthodox churches. Prayer in Christian Science is correctly stated in the opening sentence of the Christian Science textbook, "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, - a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love" (Science and Health; p. 1). Surely, this is after the manner of Jesus' teaching; for time and again do we find him saying, "According to your faith be it unto you," or, Because of your faith you are healed; or, "To him that believeth," "all things are possible." Finally, he summarized it all in that remarkable verse in the eleventh chapter of Mark, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."

The first step, then, in Christian Science healing is to awaken confidence in the patient that God can and does heal. This confidence is aroused usually by one's gaining a new viewpoint of creation or what man is in his right relation to God.

Jesus said, "God is a Spirit," or another translation is, "God is spirit:" and "they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Since God is Spirit, and man according to the first chapter of Genesis is made in his image and likeness, it would seem only logical and reasonable to believe, as Christian Science teaches, that man is spiritual, or as it is expressed in the textbook, "This creation consists of the unfolding of spiritual ideas and their identities" (Science and Health, p. 502).

Once man begins to understand his spiritual being - his God-likeness - he can more hopefully dispute the claims of matter as evidenced in pain, disease, or physical imperfection.  He can see that healing is largely a process of overcoming false beliefs and becoming imbued with the true knowledge of God's allness, and of man in His likeness - partaking of the spiritual qualities. He begins to see that his concern need not be with the body and its complaints, but rather that his task is with his thought.

In speaking of Jesus' healing of the sick, the textbook says: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" (Science and Health. p. 476). With these words in mind, it is interesting and helpful to consider some of Jesus' healings. Take blind Bartimaeus for an example. One reading of this healing would never get the impression that Jesus asked the man about his physical affliction or that he reasoned within himself concerning the nature of the malady or the cause or progress of it. Indeed, one can readily see that had Jesus for a moment believed in the truth or reality of blindness he would have been limited by that belief and could have done nothing for Bartimaeus. The only question in Jesus' mind was as to Bartimaeus' faith. Satisfied on that point, he quickly enlightened Bartimaeus as to what sight is, and told him that faith had brought him sight, which is spiritual light or understanding. So with the Syrophenician woman's daughter; when the mother pleaded with Jesus for her daughter's healing he delayed to act, presumably because he was not sure of her faith or that she was ready spiritually to understand. But her humility and her earnestness did convince him of her sincerity and her apparent readiness for the revelation of the truth. It is interesting here to note that he made no question about the disease, but his attention seemed to be directed toward ascertaining the woman's state of mind in order that he might determine her readiness for her daughter's healing.

Undoubtedly there were many afflicted ones in Jesus' time who desired healing, but who did not receive it because they were not ready. They were not ready to forsake material remedies and not ready to trust God absolutely. So today the seeker for help in Christian Science should be fully persuaded in his own mind that he is willing to trust God absolutely. This much accomplished, the healing should be certain. The process, then, is to tear down the beliefs in the reality of the material. One can show how there is no spiritual source whence the material could have come; consequently it is not true, John says, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." It is not difficult to believe that God, who is Love, never made pain, poverty, disease, or death. It is indeed natural to believe that God, who is Love, is the author of only those things which are like love, such as health, strength, joy, abundance, life. The New Testament writer puts it thus: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

Treatment or healing in Christian Science is realizing or understanding man's "at-one-ment with God," as Mrs. Eddy expresses it (Science and Health, p. 19).  It also affords an opportunity to obey Paul's injunction "to pray always." The Christian Scientist's constant prayer is to keep his mind at-one with the consciousness of God's goodness and allness, and of man's likeness to God.

Christian Science teaches that man is the reflection of God, and of His qualities. As one looks into a mirror and sees his own countenance reflected, so he may look into the mirror, Christian Science, and see man as reflecting and possessing all the Godlike qualities. One thinks of God as Love; then man, His reflection, expresses love, not hate, goodness, not evil, charity, not selfishness. God is omnipotent; then man, His refection, possesses strength, power, dominion over all. God is Life; then man, His reflection, possesses health, freedom, life. This process of reasoning is in conformity with Jesus' injunction to cast "out the beam out of thine own eye." It is easy to see, that if men generally were to think and understand after this fashion, disease would quickly cease to trouble the world.

There is a well-authenticated incident known to Christian Scientists in a western city of the United States to the effect that an experienced Christian Scientist, a passenger upon a trolley car, one day observed a fellow-passenger apparently afflicted with some malignant growth upon her face. The Scientist, true to her understanding of man's real reflection, denied the reality of the affliction and claimed man's reflection of purity,


peace, health, strength. For three successive days the Scientist saw the afflicted passenger on the car, neither speaking to the other, but the Scientist each day clearing her consciousness of any wrong belief, saw clearly the reflection of the Godlike. After nearly a year the two again rode on the same car, and the one who had been afflicted spoke to the Scientist and told her how in the three successive days the year before she had felt herself being healed, and how there remained no trace of the former diseased condition. This incident is an indication of what results will be accomplished when correct thinking is more general.

The Christian Science practitioner, or healer, is not concerned with the various kinds of so-called diseases. To him, all disease is the result of wrong thinking, and his remedy is to correct the thinking. In the healing or correcting of mistakes in mathematical problems the teacher does not drill his student in the various errors possible, but rather points out the specific error that is causing the trouble, and when that is corrected, the correct result follows. It is quite the same in spiritual healing: there is a perfect law of life - God's law. When we depart in thinking from this perfect law, there is trouble. Sin, suffering, or death results unless correction is made in thought. When this correction is made his life resumes its normal course, in harmony with God's law.

There is no mystery about Christian Science healing. It is not hypnotism, mesmerism, suggestion, or imagination. It is honest and rational deduction from the premises laid down in the words of Jesus and the prophets. It is ascribing all power to God and His creation. It accords all goodness to God and His likeness. It turns us again to the First Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." It refuses to give power to any other than God. It is therefore to deny the reality of all that is not of God. The textbook says: "Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good. God has made man capable of this, and nothing can vitiate the ability and power divinely bestowed on man" (Science and Health, p. 393).

 

Healing of Sin and Business

Misinformed or uninformed people have erroneously believed that Christian Science has no concern with salvation from sin. When one grasps the spiritual understanding of man as taught in Christian Science, one will perceive that the most effectual and certain salvation from sin is the destruction of sin and sinful thoughts in one's consciousness. Immediately one beholds his fellow man as spiritual, as reflecting the Godlike, he no longer hates him, cheats him, or wrongs him. At once he loves him because he is Godlike.

In this same thought is likewise offered the solution of so-called business problems - lack, unemployment, dullness, failure, and such like. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave what the world has called the Golden Rule, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." An abbreviated statement of this rule of conduct has been formulated by a right-thinking business man as the rule of giving rather than getting, which is in harmony with another statement of the Master's, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Christian Science shows the possibility of conducting one's business successfully along this line. The textbook says, "Divine Science, rising above physical theories, excludes matter, resolves things into thoughts, and replaces the objects of material sense with spiritual ideas" (Science and Health, p. 123). The average workman, clerk, or business man has probably never made an effort to so spiritualize his thought concerning business or human activities. The common thought of business has been strife, competition, gain; whereas one to be really successful and joyful in his work must see it from the spiritual viewpoint. Consider for an instance the steel business resolved into thoughts. Replace these material objects with spiritual ideas - what is the mental result? Not just steel rails for trains to run over, but safety, endurance, honesty. Not just steel trains, but freedom, dominion, overcoming of time and space, love, joy, gladness, and satisfaction. Not just steel utensils, but beauty, utility, harmony, and safety. Put these thoughts into the minds of steel manufacturers, laborers, or salesmen, and you have then revolutionized the business for the individual and for the public. With such thoughts of his business the manufacturer would not be concerned with how much profit he could make, but with how much of these wonderful things he could give. The more rails, trains, and automobiles, the more freedom, joy, love, overcoming, and dominion. He would thus consider profit only from the standpoint of being enabled to continue producing.

An interesting incident came to me in a steel manufacturing city in England. One of the laborers in a steel mill found Christian Science, and with his quickened consciousness he began to question his own giving in his relation to the business and to the public. He saw that his chief concern had been to begin work as near the prescribed time as possible and always to quit exactly on the stroke of the hour. The work had meant to him wage and nothing else. Presently he began to resolve things into thought, that he might see his opportunity to give. There opened to his vision the possibility of an honest effort and a better quality of workmanship, which enabled him to have some joy and satisfaction in his work. In a few weeks he was rewarded by a more responsible position, with larger wages. In this new work he found larger opportunities to make his effort count in giving something useful and good to the business and to the public through the improved workmanship. After several months he was again promoted to a better position with larger pay, being made a department manager. Here he soon found an opportunity to apply this improved method of working in a practical way. As he made an inspection of his department one night, he found a furnace stoker away from his work. Looking about he saw the workman, apparently asleep, not far away. Going over to arouse him, he soon discovered that the man was intoxicated and could not be aroused. The first temptation was to drag the workman to the entrance and discharge him. Upon reconsideration, though, he saw that such a course would not be giving any good to anyone. It would send a man out without a job, and with a bad record to refer to which wouldn't help the man or his family. It wouldn't help any other business to send out into the labor world a disgraced, and maybe resentful, man. It wouldn't help his own business, for it needed this man's experience. The loss of him would necessitate training another man. As he attempted to reason out the situation by resolving things into thoughts it came clearly that he had seen this offending brother wrongly. Instead of seeing an idea of God reflecting intelligence, fidelity, industry, power, he had been seeing sensuality, materiality, imperfection. As his thoughts became clearer he realized that there was nothing but good to see, nothing but good to work with, nothing but good to come out of the situation; for the whole situation must be put in God's care, who is infinite good. After an hour or more of this uplifted and encouraged thought he made the rounds again, and, to his great satisfaction, found the offending workman back at his work as though nothing had been wrong. As he passed, nothing was said except a friendly salutation. More than a week passed, and then one day the workman came to his office, and said, "Did you find me drunk and off of my work one night recently?" Upon an affirmative response being given he said, "Well, why wasn't I discharged?" Then the manager told him how briefly he had tried to do that which would benefit everyone and harm no one, whereupon the workman volunteered the information that he hadn't taken or wanted a drink of intoxicants since the evening of the incident. Here was not only healing of weakness in the business organization through the better workmanship of the right thinking workman, but the overcoming of an immoral sensual thought.

Many instances could be cited, from my own acquaintance, of where men and women, through their spiritualized thinking, have become successful in business where before they had failed - instances that marked not only business success and prosperity for the individual, but which have meant greater opportunity for usefulness for those with whom they were associated. As more men understand that their human activities, called business, are to be conducted, and can be successfully conducted, in harmony with God's plan and in accord with God's law, more men will be happy, joyful, and satisfied in their business. They will see that all human endeavor, rightly understood and made, is holy and sacred, and deserves man's best and highest thought. This is surely what Paul meant by enjoining upon all men the effort to have that mind which was in Christ Jesus. This thought has been summarized in the Christian Science textbook in the sixth tenet, "And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others what we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure" (Science and Health, p. 497).

 

[Published in The Chicago Leader, Feb. 14, 1941.]

 

 

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