Christian Science: The Gospel of Freedom
Willis F. Gross, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Of all the words which have brought hope and courage to the human heart, the sweetest are these of Christ Jesus, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is also the message of Christian Science. There is a remedy for every discordant condition of human experience, and it need not be said that any man is without hope and without God in the world. Christian Science points the way and says to all men, Come, and you will learn from experience that the understanding of Truth and Love will remedy discord, giving "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
In the search for health and happiness the experiences of mortals have been many and varied. The tendency has been to seek a material remedy for discord and to make matter the basis of harmony and prosperity. Even though mortals have accepted the testimony of the material senses concerning man's present existence and the things which tend to make that existence discordant or harmonious, there is, and always has been, an abiding faith in the reality and permanence of spiritual things. It is an essential idea of all religious teaching that spiritual things are more enduring than the things which are cognized by the corporeal senses and considered so necessary to man's present well-being. Human faith in the reality and permanence of that which is unseen, and we may say in a very large degree unknown, is justified by the words of the Master, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
For several decades many religious leaders and teachers have been laboring for and expecting a spiritual awakening such as has not been experienced during recent centuries. Human expectations are not always realized and the manner of Truth's appearing is seldom in accord with pre-conceived opinions, but the effort for good rewarded and man's progress Spiritward is in proportion to his obedience to the unerring law of God.
The long looked-for spiritual awakening is coming, – has already come in a much larger sense than is generally realized; and Christian Science is by no means the least of the influences at work which are bringing about the desired result. Christianity, as taught and demonstrated by its Founder, is effectual; being effectual, it is practical, and because it is practical it is the privilege of every man to find in his own experience the proof of its truth and power. Christian Science appeals to humanity because it presents the practical side of the Christian religion. Christianity is not a matter of faith merely, and it is not rightly apprehended until it becomes practical. The Scriptures declare that "faith without works is dead." Faith is necessary, but faith alone is not sufficient. The correctness, or efficiency, of faith is manifest only in results, or works; hence the apostle declares that the faith which is not demonstrated, or applied, is lacking in saving power.
Christian Science inspires faith and reveals infinite possibilities for good. Men and women are made to rejoice in the conscious possession of a living faith in God which can be applied in all the activities of human experience. The interest in Christian Science was never more widespread or sincere than it is today. Whether considered as a religion or as a healing system, it commands the attention of thinking men and women throughout the civilized world. That Christian Science is a religion which heals the sick is proven by the fact that since its discovery unnumbered cases have been healed. A large percentage of these were persons who had previously exhausted every material means at their command. That Christian Science is a healing system which is, moreover, truly religious in every sense of the word, is evident to all who understand that it relies upon and recognizes no power but God. In every community are to be found adherents of this faith – men and women who understand the fundamental teachings of this Science and who have experienced, in no small degree, its healing and saving benefits.
In every community are to be found other intelligent, God-fearing men and women who recognize the good work Christian Science is doing and who bid it Godspeed. Christian Scientists are agreed with all other Christians that the most potent influence for good the world has ever known is the Christian religion, It is a fact universally accepted that the Founder of the Christian religion comprehended the truth of being as none have comprehended it before or since. The basis of his teaching was Truth. He lived what he taught, and this made possible the many wonderful works which his followers in all ages have accepted as proof positive of the truth of his teaching. Because he understood the truth of being and had faith in the power of Truth to save humanity, he said to his disciples, and through them his utterance has gone forth to all the ends of the earth, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Belief in Truth
Every man believes in the truth. It requires no argument to convince him of the reality and power of truth. Every thinking person knows that truth is not a human invention, neither is it the consensus of mortal opinion. No human belief, opinion, or conviction can either make or unmake the truth. Truth is cause, not effect. Truth is infinite; it belongs to no person, or class of persons, to the exclusion of others. It is the prerogative of every man to know the truth. Owing to environment, education, inclination, and desire, there are honest differences of opinion as to what is truth, and so long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others, each person should have the opportunity to work out in experience his own idea or concept of truth. In each individual consciousness, as well as among mankind in general, the fittest survives until, in the natural order of things, it gives place to that which is more nearly correct. Progress brings into human experience that clearer and fuller realization of the one infinite Truth which is the underlying Principle of all that really exists.
It is not the purpose of this lecture to compare Christian Science with other religious teachings or with other systems or methods of healing disease. The effort will be to present a brief statement of the fundamental teachings of this Science. Even a limited understanding of what Christian Science is will suffice to correct any misconceptions that may be entertained, or any wrong conclusions which may have been reached as to the purpose and scope of this comparatively new teaching.
The genuine Christian Scientist never attacks another's faith; he never speaks lightly of another's good deed. He never seeks to proselyte: he never tries to force his opinions or convictions upon others, but like all men he has a reason for his faith – a reason which is not based upon the sand of human speculation but upon the enduring rock of practical results, and he is "ready always to give an answer to every man" who in the right spirit asks a reason of the hope that is in him.
Man's Concept of God
There is nothing occult or mysterious in Christian Science. When viewed in its true light it is easily understood, and the sense of mysticism gives place to that which is practical and capable of proof. The power for good in Christian Science is due to its spiritual concept of God and man. Every religious teaching is based upon some belief concerning the Supreme Being. Every man who believes in God (and there are few who do not) has a more or less clearly defined idea as to who or what God is. A man's faith, or his lack of faith, in God is the natural result of what he believes God to be. A man's religious views must of necessity accord with his concept of the Supreme Being. What he does, more than what he says, is in harmony with his idea of God, and shows whether he believes God to be directly concerned with the affairs and experiences of everyday life, and to what extent it is man's duty or privilege to rely upon God for the help that is needed to work out harmony in what are termed his material associations and environments.
Few, if any, will deny that mortals could with profit to themselves, and great good to others, exercise a more practical faith in God's ever-presence and all-power. Since a man's faith and reliance upon God cannot be out of proportion to the correctness of his concept of the Supreme Being, it is manifest that the great human need is to gain that idea of God which will make possible the forever unfolding of faith and the constant and consistent application and demonstration of the eternal truth of being.
Healing the Sick
Christian Science is demonstrating that it is possible to heal the sick today in the same manner as the sick were healed by the Master and his immediate followers. Healing the sick is a most important work, but it is by no means the whole of Christian Science. It is but the beginning of the great work which the understanding of Truth is destined to accomplish for humanity. That the sick were healed by the Master, the apostles, and the members of the early church is a matter of history. There is no opposition among Christian people to the declaration that these healing works were accomplished at the time and by the persons mentioned; neither is it denied that these healing works were necessary and that they had no small part in the great work of establishing upon a sure foundation that spiritual teaching which means humanity's ultimate liberation from all forms of evil. It is only when Christian Science declares that such healing works are not only possible today, but just as necessary as they were nineteen hundred years ago, that there arises a sense of doubt, and it may be a feeling of opposition. To the one who stops seriously to consider the matter it must be evident that there is not the slightest occasion for either. Christian Science claims no more than it is admitted was at one time an essential element of the Christian religion. Why then should any one doubt or oppose it. If it be found that these healing works are not possible, the teaching cannot long endure. If, on the other hand, it is seen that the healing works are accomplished, only good has resulted or can result.
Christian Science makes its appeal to all men. It declares that the law of spiritual healing is ever operative, that whoever understands and obeys this law can apply it, and when it is rightly applied the results are sure – just as certain as are the results which follow the right application of any material law, so called. The law of spiritual transformation, whereby the sick are healed and the sinner is reformed, is the unchanging and unerring law of divine Mind, and no one would think of setting aside or rendering null and void the law of God. This law must be understood and obeyed if one would reap the reward of obedience and escape the penalty of disobedience. There is abundant Scriptural authority for this position, and Christian Science teaches no doctrine that is not based upon the spiritual interpretation of the inspired word.
Throughout Christendom at least,
the hillside preacher of
It is sometimes said that the power to heal the sick which was exercised by the members of the early church was a miraculous power, and was bestowed upon a chosen few for the purpose of proving to the world that the long-promised Messiah had come; and since this fact was proven beyond all possibility of doubt, such healing works are no longer necessary, hence no longer possible. With all due respect to the honest conviction of others, we say that we fail to find in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, one single statement in support of such a conclusion.
Teaching and Works
It is indeed true that the healing works accomplished by the Master and his followers did prove that the long looked-for Saviour had appeared among men. But in this connection certain vital questions arise: Whence came this healing power and how was it bestowed upon those who were able to exercise it? What, if any, was the connection between the Master's teachings and his healing works? Is it true that the power to heal the sick existed independently of, and was bestowed independently of, his teachings? If such be the case, then it can be reasonably asked, How did these healing works prove his teachings to be true, if there is no vital connection between the two? If there was any relation between his teachings and his works, that same relation must exist today, for his teachings are none the less true, none the less powerful, than when they were first uttered on the shores of the Galilean sea.
No doubt these questions have arisen in the minds of many sincere seekers for truth. Christian Science answers them in a practical manner, and results prove that they have been answered aright. Christian Science teaches that there was and is a vital connection between the Master's teachings and his works, and that the understanding of what he taught makes possible a repetition of his works.
Disciples of Christ
A disciple is literally a student. The twelve and the seventy were students of the Master. His teachings were not human inventions, theories, or conclusions. They were in no sense the accumulated "wisdom of this world." They were the divinely natural unfolding of infinite eternal Truth to human consciousness, and it was the spiritual understanding of these teachings which enabled the disciples to heal the sick. Wherein they failed, it was due to their unbelief, or lack of spiritual apprehension.
The Master plainly declares that those who believe on him, i.e., understand and put into practice his teachings, will be able to do the works that he did. Christian Science is demonstrating that this saying of the Master applies to the believer in this as well as any other age, and that it is man's divine right today to enjoy all the blessings and benefits of the gospel which was preached for the salvation of the world. The basis of Christianity is more than a confession of faith or a form of worship; it is based upon a vital Principle, which remains forever the same.
The truth about Christianity is the Science of Christianity. Truth is the basis of all science and science can be identified only with that which is true. Christianity is true, and the Science of Christianity, or Christian Science, is necessary to a right apprehension of the inspired word. The word must be understood or it cannot be put into practice. If the results of Christianity are not manifest, either the fundamental teachings have not been rightly interpreted or the student has failed in his application. In either case the present possibilities of Truth as taught and demonstrated by the Master are not recognized and experienced.
Error of Limiting Good
The error of the age is the
tendency to limit the power and willingness of God to help humanity in time of
need. The psalmist declared that the children of
No one who is familiar with the essentials of present-day religious instruction, would ever think of saying that a man failed in his struggle with sin because God was either unable or unwilling to give the needed help. It is understood that the fault is always with mortal man. The time may have been when it was believed to be God's will for certain persons to remain in bondage to sin and pay the penalty therefore, not only for time but throughout eternity, but such a belief is no longer in accord with the generally accepted idea of the Supreme Being. Today there is a clearer realization of God as one "who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." God has not changed, but there has been a decided change in the human estimate of God as pertains to the salvation of men from sin.
There are other errors of belief which limit the power of good and prevent the exercise of that faith which is necessary to salvation. Conspicuous among these is the belief that sickness and suffering are the manifestation of the divine will, and that God either cannot or will not heal the sick as in the days of old. So long as this belief is entertained, it is impossible to gain the freedom from sickness and suffering which was experienced by the members of the early church. But human thought is yielding to the influence of Truth, and the time will come when the belief that it is God's will for man to suffer and die will have no more place in accepted religious teaching than has the doctrine of predestination and foreordination today.
Christianity is less than two thousand years old, but the underlying Principle of the Christian religion is eternal. The teachings of Christ Jesus were but the fuller unfolding in human consciousness of the essential idea of God's oneness and allness which had appeared in some degree in all ages to those who were spiritually minded enough to perceive it. Moses and the prophets recorded the truth as it was revealed to them. The Master declared that he was not come to destroy or set aside the law and the prophets, but to fulfil; i.e., further to unfold the spiritual idea and make plain to men the truth of being which others had seen afar off.
Christianity is scientific because it is based on truth, and all its teachings are in harmony with its divine Principle. Christian Science is in no sense an invention, neither is it a system evolved from the best or most spiritual conceptions of other religious teachings. The process of development is not from the human up to the divine. The divine idea has always been the starting-point, and the understanding and progress of Christian Science have come as the result of applying the divine idea to human affairs and conditions.
The Science of Christianity is
coexistent and coeternal with Truth. From the human point of view, Christian
Science is a discovery, and the discovery was made by one who was prepared for
it. It is sometimes said that certain fundamental truths were discovered by
accident. It may be that a particular combination or culmination of
circumstances led up to the discovery, but no doubt similar conditions had
existed many times before, and it was not until there was a person who was able
to comprehend the situation and realize just what and how much was involved,
that the discovery was made. The falling apple meant little until
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was a woman of rare intellectual, moral, and spiritual attainments, and the success of her life-work is evidence of her fitness therefore; but it was her need, as well as her fitness, which led to the discovery of the Christ-method of healing sickness. For many years she was an invalid, and she learned from experience that there is hope even when material means have failed. All methods of healing within her reach had been tried, but no lasting benefit was experienced. There were two potent influences at work in her life. She had studied medicine, and for twenty years she sought to trace physical effects to mental causes. On the other hand she had the abiding conviction that God was able to heal her. It was not, however, until all material means had failed and her physician had said there was no hope, that she was able to turn completely away from matter to Spirit. At this point in her experience she was healed.
Even then she did not understand how her restoration to health had been accomplished. Others before her had been healed through a pure, uplifting faith in God's love and the fulfillment of His promises, but it remained for her to discover the underlying Principle of Christian healing. She entered a hitherto unexplored country. There was no one to mark out the way for her. The Bible was her compass and guide. It pointed the way to the understanding of how she was healed. It was not enough that she had been restored to health. She felt there was revealed in her experience a great power for good which, if understood, would bring blessings without number into the lives of mortals. Her friends called her healing a miracle, an experience contrary to law, but she believed, and she afterward proved, that it was the divinely natural result of the operation of law which could be understood and demonstrated.
For three years thereafter she devoted herself diligently to her work, and she tells us that she won her "way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration" (Science and Health, p. 109). The Bible became a new book. As she read it in the light of her marvelous experience, it spake to her in a new tongue. The deep spiritual meaning of the word, which was formerly hidden, became as clear as the printed page, and she realized as never before the goodness and love and power of God.
Mrs. Eddy's greatest gift to the world is "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." This book was first published in 1875, and has been carefully revised from time to time as the spiritual idea was unfolded in human consciousness. These revisions were not necessary because there were errors in the earlier editions which needed to be corrected, but because it became possible for the author so to clothe the divine idea in human language that it could be more readily understood by the student, and the possibility of its being misunderstood would be reduced to the minimum. Science and Health is the only text-book on Christian Science. It was never intended or expected that this book would take the place of the Bible, and no Christian Scientist has ever regarded it as a substitute for the Bible in any sense of the word; in fact, it needs to be studied in connection with the Bible in order to be understood. The Christian Scientist learns from experience that Science and Health is the key which unlocks for him the treasure-house of divine wisdom and makes practical the teachings of the inspired Word, so that he is able to prove for himself that the teachings of the prophets and the Master and the apostles do not belong to the past, but that they have a present application to all the activities of human experience which tend to purify, uplift, and elevate.
What Mrs. Eddy has accomplished for the world, and how much her writings, her life, and her works are destined to accomplish for present and future generations, we of today can but faintly realize. It is only as Christian Science is understood and lived that mortals are able to comprehend, even in small degree, how great was her undertaking and how truly successful she was. If ever it could be said of any human being, it can be said of Mrs. Eddy that she fought a good fight, she finished her course, she kept the faith.
God the Only Mind
All science demands obedience to law; it makes no concessions to persons or opinions; if it did, it would not be science. Christian Science demands obedience to the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Mortal ignorance of God is responsible for all the discord and suffering of earth. Christian Science is the axe which is laid unto the root of the tree of erroneous belief. It declares God aright, and evil is overcome in proportion as the true idea of God is gained and wrought out in human experience.
In Christian Science it is learned that that which is the highest manifestation, or expression of being, from a human standpoint, is but a counterfeit of the one cause and source of all reality. By this we do not mean that that which mortals have designated as mind is God. This so-called mind is but a finite, material conception of divine Mind. Paul speaks of the carnal mind, which he declared "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." This carnal mind, or mind of the flesh, is the mortal mind referred to in Christian Science.
Mind is not merely an attribute of Deity. Mind is God and God is Mind. The oneness and infinitude of God includes the oneness and infinitude of Mind. There is one infinite, eternal, ever-present Mind. This scientific declaration is the basis of Christian Science teaching and practice. In proportion as it becomes understood that God is Mind, the power of Mind to heal the discord and suffering of earth will be demonstrated and there will be no desire to resort to any lesser or lower power.
The fundamental teaching that God is the one and only Mind, opens the way for a complete victory over evil. The power of Mind is all the power there is, hence the teaching of Christian Science that God is omnipotence. The intelligence of Mind is all the intelligence there is, hence the declaration that God is the all-wise, the all-seeing, and the all-knowing. The activity of Mind is all the activity there is, hence the conclusion that God is the all-acting.
The evils which constitute mortal mind's supposed selfhood have no place in divine Mind. There can be no strife or contention, no opposition or differences of opinion, no envy, jealousy, or hatred in the consciousness of the one Mind, in which all reality is included. Christian Science demonstrates this oneness and allness of Mind. On this basis the sick are healed, the sinning are reformed, and men acquaint themselves intelligently with God and are at peace.
The statement that God is Mind conveys a definite idea of the Supreme Being, and to declare that God is divine Principle, Life, Love, and Truth, unfolds the spiritual idea and increases faith in the eternal reality and power of good.
Cause to Effect
In reasoning from effect to cause one is apt to err, especially if the effect is not understood or is viewed from a wrong standpoint. Mortals have accepted the material sense of creation as the truth of being, and this has been the starting-point in the effort to gain the understanding of what God is. Since the cause must be capable of producing the effect, it is evident the effect must to some extent reveal the character of the cause. Thus when the material sense of things is believed to be the true, it is assumed that the material sense of cause must be correct.
Christian Science starts with cause. It imparts the true idea of God, and reasons from cause to effect. The mortal concept of man and the universe is no more correct than the mortal concept of God. The seeker for Truth must become as a little child, and learn to behold creation aright because he has gained the true idea of God. As he gains the true thought of God, he begins to understand the Scriptural teaching that man was made in God's image and likeness, and that nothing less than the image and likeness of God can be man.
Man has no existence apart from his creator. God is his Mind, his Life, the very substance of his being. All that man is, or is capable of becoming, is the work of Mind. The evils which are an important part of mortal man's present existence, have nothing to do with man's spiritual identity, which is the sole reality of his being. The evils of mortal existence belong to the carnal man, or material sense of man, which Paul tells us must be put off.
It is universally believed that
there is an effectual remedy for sin. Christian Science demonstrates that that
which destroys sin is just as powerful to heal sickness as when the gospel was
first preached in
The problem of evil is the one great problem of human experience, and the best and most intelligent thought of all ages has been directed toward its solution. Christian Science presents a view of evil which is not in accord with that which is generally entertained, but it does not teach mortals to ignore evil, as is sometimes supposed. One who has the true idea of this Science sees more clearly than ever before the great necessity there is for recognizing evil as evil, and gaining the victory over it. His concept of evil is not what it was formerly, and he realizes that his greater ability to master evil is due to the more correct concept of good which he has gained.
In Christian Science the term error is used as a synonym for evil, i.e., evil is error and error is evil. An error is never what it claims to be. The only power any evil has, or ever can have, is due to the fact that it is not seen as it really is, but is accepted for what it seems to be. To agree with error is not the way to gain the victory over it. Evil is overcome only as one disagrees with it.
Christian Science teaches that God, the one infinite good, is omnipotence – all the power there is. This infinite all-power is the only cause and creator. If this be true, the only conclusion concerning evil which can possibly be reached, is that evil is not what it seems to be and that it does not in reality possess the power which mortals, through ignorance, have attributed to it. Mortal belief constitutes the sole reality and power of evil, and this belief in evil must give place to the understanding of the allness of good.
Mortal man is in bondage to evil because he entertains a wrong sense of evil; he accepts it for what it claims to be and do, instead of stripping it of its disguise and beholding it in its true light. Evil is error, and error never results from understanding. Ignorance, or lack of understanding, is all that makes error possible. How does one get into error? Only through believing it to be real; there is no other way. The way out of error is the reverse of the way into error. When mortal man thinks and talks of evil as an entity, when he contends for its reality and power, he is not accomplishing his own deliverance, neither is he breaking the shackles of any one else.
The mental process which leads one into error must be reversed. The claims of error must be recognized as false claims and their falsity must be demonstrated. Error is not a quality or condition of divine Mind; it is mortal mind, and it has no more power or reality than one gives it. It is only in proportion as one gains the understanding that God is the one and only Mind, that he is able to deny error, or evil, intelligently, and gain the victory over it.
Christian Science classifies both sin and sickness as error. They are no part of God's creation and they have no place in the true consciousness of being. Truth is the remedy for all error, sickness as well as sin. The belief of pleasure or gain in wrong-doing is error, and this error is the basis of sin. The belief in the reality of disease and suffering is also error, and this belief begets the fear of disease, and false belief and fear are the cause of physical inharmony.
It is a generally accepted theory that sickness and pain are the results of broken law. It is also believed that there are material laws of health which, if understood and obeyed, would remove the liability to these evils. Christian Science teaches that there are spiritual laws which heal the sick and prevent disease and suffering. These laws can be understood, and it is not impossible to obey them. Spiritual law expresses Mind, God, and nothing else. That which presupposes a mind, power, cause, or creator apart from God is not the law of divine Mind. Neither sin nor sickness is a manifestation of the unchanging law of Spirit. Obedience to the law of God will improve a man's health as well as his morals.
There are not two laws, one to be obeyed by the sick man and the other to be obeyed by the sinner. There is but one law, and obedience to this law is required of both the sick and the sinful. Whatever the human need, obedience to the law of God will supply that need, for God is infinite good and "no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" – are obedient to divine law. The law of God cannot be made of none effect. It must be understood and obeyed. Disobedience brings unto itself discord and suffering; the eternal reward of obedience is life and harmony. Paul declared, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
Christian Science teaches absolute reliance on God and increases man's faith in the power and efficacy of prayer. God's law is ever operative, and there is no power that can render it null and void. The prayer of spiritual understanding brings man into harmony, with the divine laws that be, and in the degree that the law of God reigns in human consciousness the sense of sickness and suffering, as well as the sense of sin, disappears. Christian Science demonstrates that man is made every whit whole through obedience to the law of God.
The law of God is the law of divine Mind, not a supposed law of matter which limits good and serves the purpose of evil. It is through spiritual discernment that the law of God is understood and obedience thereto becomes possible. True prayer is of the heart; the lips cannot give it utterance. When a man's actions attest the sincerity of his desire for good, prayer becomes unceasing and he has the assurance of God with him at all times. He begins to realize, even though it may be but faintly, that God is never less than infinite good and that evil has in reality neither place nor power. This gives him the victory over evil, and he learns from experience that the same power which saves him from sin heals also his bodily infirmities.
The belief that in some way mortals are to be saved by the works of him who has justly been called "the Saviour of the world," has prevented mankind from realizing the necessity there is for doing the works that he did. The Master said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." How is it possible for one to continue in the word unless he puts into practice what he has learned? Truth is demonstrable, and the understanding of Truth can be gained in no way except by demonstration. The Master sent out his disciples to preach and to heal, and his parting word was that they should make disciples of all nations and teach them to observe, or do, all things he had commanded them. The disciples were able to understand their great Teacher only as they put into practice what they had been taught, and it was evidently the intention of the Master that his disciples should teach the multitudes to prove their faith by their works, as he had taught them to give the proof of their own understanding.
The student of Christian Science has the opportunity to demonstrate what he understands, and it is required of him that he do so. In no other way can he gain a practical knowledge of this Science and learn from experience that the truth, as taught and demonstrated by the Master, makes men free indeed.