Christian Science: The Gospel of Salvation

 

Willis F. Gross

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

The basis of Christianity is truth, even the truth of which the Master spake when he said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Truth is one and universal. It belongs to no person, or class of persons, to the exclusion of others. There may be honest differences of opinion as to what is truth but the fact remains that truth is real and powerful, and the understanding of truth delivers humanity from the bondage of error. This understanding is gained slowly and mortals learn many things from experience. There is great need of charity and thoughtful consideration of others in the working out of life's problems. There are many opportunities to lend a helping hand and the sincere follower of Christ 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.

Men are no longer satisfied with that conception of God which gives merely a reasonable assurance of a heaven beyond the grave to those who are found worthy. They desire to know God as a present help in every time of need, if it is possible thus to know Him. They are asking for present proof that they are solving life's problems aright and have not labored in vain.

It is not the purpose of this lecture to compare Christian Science with other religious teachings or other systems of healing disease. Our endeavor shall be to present a brief statement of the fundamental teachings of this Science and incidentally to correct some misconceptions and false presentations of the subject. A misstatement of any teaching or practice can benefit no one. It may deceive the person who is seeking reliable information, and it can in no sense add to the good works of those who honestly hold to contrary opinions. It had been well if in all ages of the world's history, earnest heed had been given to the words of wisdom which fell from the lips of Gamaliel when he said, "And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it."

There is no mystery in Christian Science save the mystery which enshrouds everything which is not understood. Christian Science can be understood, and when it is understood, it brings healing to the sick, comfort to the sorrowing, and strength and courage in the hour of trial and temptation.

The power for good in Christian Science is due to its spiritual conception of God and man. A man's religious belief and practice is the natural result, the logical sequence of his conception of the Supreme Being. If a mortal thinks of God as being in any sense like unto himself, he rises no higher than a man-like God, and he comes to the conclusion that this God has even less to do with the affairs of every day life than have his relatives and friends, or even the stranger with whom he comes in contact.

Christian Science teaches that the seeker for truth must start with the true conception of God. The mortal, material selfhood must be left out of the consideration, for "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." If God, Spirit, is the starting point and reasoning is along scientific lines, no other conclusion can be reached than that of a spiritually perfect universe and a God-like man. If one's ideal is a man-like God, there is little hope of heaven on earth and there is an honest doubt as to what the future has in store, but if one is striving to become a God-like man, not only the future but the present is enriched by the presence and power of divine Love.

There may be those who believe it is presuming too much to say there are people living today who can heal the sick in the same manner as Jesus and the apostles healed. It should be understood that the advocates of Christian healing claim no more for themselves than they affirm is the divine right of all mankind. The law of spiritual healing is ever-operative. Whoever understands and obeys this law can apply it and when it is rightly applied the results are sure. If it were claimed to be the privilege of the few to know God as the healer of sickness, the charge of presumption might not be without foundation, but since it is claimed that all may know the truth which heals physically and morally, this charge is left without any basis.

The early Christians were sincere and devout believers in one God and they worshiped Him in spirit and in truth. Do not all Christians today claim to believe in and worship this same God? Is it considered that they claim too much for themselves when they declare that they worship only the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, even the same God that Jesus and the disciples worshiped?

It is recognized that it is man's privilege and duty to pray. To whom shall he pray and from whom shall he expect the answers to his prayers? Does he claim too much when he declares that he prays to the same God to whom Jesus and the apostles prayed, and that this God hears and answers his prayer? Surely not. In the time of trial and temptation a man realizes the need of something outside of himself. Does he presume too much when he turns to God for help? And when he realizes that he has received the help he needed, does he claim too much for himself when he declares that the same God who delivered Peter from prison and saved Paul from shipwreck, has also delivered him? Surely he does not wrong when he sings with the Psalmist, "Thou are the God of my salvation."

Jesus sent out the twelve and the seventy to preach the gospel and heal the sick. He said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." They were sent out to preach the gospel, even that which was delivered unto them by the Master. The signs that followed all who believed, were proof positive that the gospel was preached and received in its purity. Do not the ministers of today, no matter to what denomination or sect they belong, profess to preach this gospel, even the same gospel that Jesus and the apostles preached for the salvation of the world? They would not be received if they claimed to preach any other gospel.

If Christians today profess to believe in and worship only the true God; if they pray to this God and He answers their prayer; if He forgives their sins and lifts their burdens; if He is their all-sufficient help in time of temptation and trial; if they recognize that He also answers their prayers in behalf of others, if God does all this for those who trust Him, why should it seem unreasonable, or inconsistent, for professed Christians to go a step farther and recognize God as the healer of their diseases? Christian Science does not claim too much when it asserts that God is man's all-sufficient help in every time of need, and the individual is not claiming too much for himself when he trusts God and relies on Him at all times. 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.

The one individual who has contributed most largely to the world's good was the hillside preacher of Galilee. If the teachings of the Master were more generally understood, and humanity could and did emulate his life in a larger degree, this world would be richer and no man would be the loser. Suppose it were possible to heal the sick through faith in God as the sick were healed in the early centuries of the Christian era, would any one suffer on account of this proof of God's presence and power, His willingness and ability to help in the time of need? Is it possible that any man should lose faith in good, or be any the less desirous of doing good, because God was becoming known to him as the Saviour from sickness as well as from sin?

The humble Nazarene was the founder of the Christian religion. His teachings and the many wonderful works which demonstrated the truth of his teachings were the outgrowth of his understanding of God and man. His power to heal the sick, cast out devils and raise the dead was the divinely natural result of this understanding. His mission was to make plain the way of salvation from all evil. There is divine remedy for every discordant condition of human experience and when the Master's teachings are understood, the one effectual remedy will be found available.

It is sometimes said that the immediate disciples of Christ were divinely favored persons whose privilege the Christians of the twentieth century may not enjoy. The failure to see the connection between the Master's teachings and the healing works accomplished by himself and his disciples, has limited man's possibilities and greatly retarded the progress of Christianity.

The strong point urged by Christian Science is that the power to heal sickness and destroy sin which was exercised by the disciples, was the natural result of understanding what they had been taught. If they had not understood, at least in part, the Master's teachings and in some degree attained the spiritual consciousness of being, they could not have demonstrated the power of Truth and Love.

That which made a man a disciple of Christ nineteen centuries ago makes him one today. All the evidences of discipleship should be manifest in the signs which Jesus declared would follow them that believed.

The teachings of the Master were not intended for his day and generation alone. If the understanding of his teachings enabled his students to heal the sick and cast out evils, will not that understanding accomplish like results today? The basis of his teachings and practice was truth, the truth about God, man, and the universe. Christianity means not only right preaching but right practice as well. Christianity is more than a form of worship or confession of faith, it is 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 is necessary to a right apprehension of the inspired Word. Since the Master declared that the believer in all ages would be able to do the works he did, is it not evident that if the works are lacking it must be because his teachings are not correctly interpreted?

One of the essential elements of the Christian religion was early lost sight of and for centuries the healing of sickness through faith in God was considered no longer possible or necessary. To say that the healing works accomplished by Jesus and his disciples were only necessary to prove that the long promised Messiah had appeared among men in fulfilment of prophecy, is to present a view of the question which has no Scriptural authority. Salvation, as Jesus taught and demonstrated it, is a present salvation from all that is unlike God.

Isaiah declared, "The Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save: neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God." This explains why it was that in the early centuries of the Christian era the healing of sickness ceased to be regarded as an essential part of the Christian religion. Faith in, and dependence upon, material means and methods, requires less effort than the exercise of that faith in God which compels the renunciation of, and turning away from, evil. It was the lack of spiritual perception which caused mortals to consider it the very natural and proper thing to turn to drugs and other material remedies for healing. The almost universal experience has been that it is not until these material means have failed, or it was apparent that they would do so, that mortals have turned in their extremity to God. It was the failure of material remedies that led to the discovery of Christian Science.

A little more than a generation ago one of the earth's noblest women went down into "the valley of the shadow of death," and the world is better for her experience, how much better only future generations will be able fully to realize. She lay, as was supposed, on her death bed. The remedies known to medical science had failed and the physician said there was no hope. The end seemed near, but her faith in God did not waver. She turned to the one infinite good for help and her prayer was answered. She called for the Bible which had been her daily study from childhood, and as she read, the healing power of divine Love dawned upon her waiting thought. In that hour she arose from her bed and ever after enjoyed better health than before.

This woman was the Reverend Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Marvelous as was her restoration to health she did not regard it as a special dispensation of Providence; she believed and afterwards proved that it was the divinely natural result of the operation of law which could be understood and demonstrated.

There was no person to whom she could appeal for an explanation of this wonderful healing. There was no book save the Bible which could throw any light upon her experience. She tells us that this book answered her questions as to how she was healed. As she read the inspired Word in the light of her marvelous experience, it spake to her in a new tongue.

In Science and Health she writes of her discovery as follows: "In following these leadings of scientific revelation, the Bible was my only textbook. The Scriptures were illumined; reason and revelation were reconciled, and afterwards the truth of Christian Science was demonstrated." (p. 110.)

In the spiritual understanding of the Scriptures she discovered the Science of Christianity and learned how its sacred truths can be humanly applied to the healing of sickness and sin. This new-found faith was a living faith and through her loving ministrations scores were healed of diseases pronounced incurable. Being convinced by many infallible proofs that she had discovered the Principle and rule of scientific Mind-healing she then demonstrated that it was possible to impart to students an understanding of this Science which would enable them to heal the sick. Thus was begun the greatest religious movement, the most effectual reform in medical practice, known to recent centuries.

"Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" is the only text book on Christian Science. It was written by Mrs. Eddy and first published in 1875. In this book the author has presented in a clear, logical manner the divine Principle of Christian Science and the rules for the application thereof. It was never intended that this book should take the place of the Bible, and it has never been regarded by Christian Scientists as a substitute for the Bible in any sense of the word. It is, as its title indicates, the key to the Scriptures. It unlocks this treasure house of divine wisdom and makes practical the teachings of the sacred word.

Mrs. Eddy was the only leader of the Christian Science movement. To her untiring efforts and ceaseless devotion is due the wonderful success and prosperity of our Cause. To those who knew her best, her life was the exemplification of what she teaches. No sacrifice was too great and no labor too arduous for her in the performance of her life mission. Nothing less than the assurance that she had a message from God sustained her during the many years she labored so unceasingly for present and future generations. We love her and we are more grateful than words can express for what she has done. We cannot repay her for the great good which has come into our lives as the result of her work, but we are trying to show our appreciation by doing what we can to help others along the way.

The basis of Christian Science is the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." The Master declared that on this word and one other, namely, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," "hang all the law and the prophets." Mortals have served other gods because they entertained false views of the one God. Christian Science imparts the true idea of the Supreme Being and thereby increases one's faith in good and gives him added power over evil.

Science and Health, the text-book on Christian Science, defines God as: "The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence." (p. 587) Many of these terms are frequently employed by the sacred writers to express their thought of God. The mistake has been in thinking that these words are used merely as attributes of the Supreme Being. A more correct concept of God is gained when it is learned that these terms do more than tell what belongs to God, they declare what God is. If one has been accustomed to think of God as a being who has a mind, let him stop and consider that God is Mind and this Mind is infinite. Mind, God, is self-existent and eternal. If God is Mind, there can be but one Mind, for there is but one God. Mind is the only cause and creator. All that really exists is the creation, or effect, of Mind. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast."

When we consider that God is Mind, we begin to realize what the apostle meant when he said, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Jesus the Christ was governed by divine Mind at all times. It was this Mind that healed the sick, cast out devils, and raised the dead. It was this Mind, working through the apostles and the members of the early church, that destroyed sin and sickness. This Mind is the only Savior that humanity has or ever can have.

The Scriptures declare that God is Life. Life is self-existent and eternal. Life was never in nor dependent upon matter, neither is it ever subject to material limitations or conditions. God is Life and Life is infinite, therefore there can be no life apart from God. Death is the last enemy to be destroyed and the only thing that can destroy death is the understanding that God is the only Life. The great desire of humanity is to gain eternal life. Christian Science teaches that the true sense of Life is eternal, and the Master declared that to know God is eternal life.

Outside of Christian Science, the term Principle has never been applied to God. When this word is comprehended in the sense in which it is employed in Christian Science, it conveys a definite and demonstrable idea of the Supreme Being an idea which is correcting many false notions and theories, and making the power of good available at all times.

The Standard Dictionary defines principle as, "A source or cause from which a thing proceeds; a power that acts continuously or uniformly; a permanent or fundamental cause that naturally or necessarily produces certain results." God is the cause from which all things proceed; He is the power that acts continuously and uniformly; He is the permanent or fundamental cause that naturally and necessarily produces all good, therefore we say God is divine Principle. Principle is Mind and Mind is Life and Love.

The term principle suggests that which is unchanging. The Scriptures declare that God is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Principle can be known or understood. The Master said, "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Here we have two essentials of a right idea of God; that which is unchanging, and can be understood and demonstrated.

The belief that God is a respecter of persons is doing much to hinder human progress and to make men content with the bondage of materialism. When it is declared that it is not God's will for the sick to be healed without the aid of material remedies, must not the sick conclude that God is a respecter of persons? There is as great need of healing now as ever in the history of the world. All will admit that it is good to be well, and is there one who would dare question another's right to regain his health if he can find some way of doing so? If the Scriptural record of the healing work accomplished by Jesus and the apostles is true, there is no method of healing known that can begin to compare with that which was an essential element of primitive Christianity.

Christian Science teaches that if the sick are not healed, it is not because God is unable to restore them to health, but because mortals believe He is unwilling to do so. All that is necessary is to correct the errors of belief which have enslaved mortals and robbed them of the priceless blessings of health and happiness which they might otherwise have enjoyed.

Christian Science imparts the idea of God which is at once demonstrable and in harmony with humanity's highest and purest conception of being. God is no less the loving Father than He was in the days of old. His love for humanity and His tender care for all, no longer seem "too good to be true," because God is becoming understood, and His ever-presence is a demonstrable fact. To those who have approached God in fear and trembling, not knowing in whom they have believed, Christian Science says, as did Paul to the Athenians, "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you."

Christian Science not only corrects the false beliefs or misconceptions of the nature and character of God, but it also shows that mortals have a very wrong conception of God's creation. This Science teaches that God is the one infinite good and that which He creates could not be less than good, neither could it possibly have any inclination or tendency toward evil. God is Spirit, that which He creates is spiritual. The Scriptural teaching is very definite that God created man in His own image and likeness. The mortal concept of man is no more correct than the mortal concept of God.

God does not change. From eternity to eternity He remains forever the same. The true sense or spiritual understanding of God is real. The personal and material concept of the Creator of man and the universe is a false sense and does not comprehend the reality of being. This material sense of existence is constantly changing. Every day brings experiences which in some degree fashion anew the human sense of God and man. God and what He creates are not in the least affected by the changes which take place in human consciousness. When creation is seen as it is, it will be found to be perfect, harmonious and eternal. That which God has made never becomes discordant, never ceases to be.

The man that was made in God's image and likeness has no existence apart from his Creator. God is his Mind, his Life, and the very substance of his being. Sin, sickness and death are mortal experiences. They are the outgrowth of the false belief that man has intelligence and life apart from God. The one unfailing remedy for all ills is to understand that there is but one Cause and Creator, and that man cannot be separated from the divine Principle of his being.

No one doubts that the world's greatest teacher understood man's relation to God. It was this understanding which enabled him to speak with authority and prove the truth of his words by the might of his deeds. The clear discernment of the fact that the harmonious relationship existing between God and man remains forever the same, enabled the Master to cast out devils, heal all manner of diseases, and even raise the dead.

The apostle Paul declares that the old man with his deeds must be put off, and he exhorts his followers to "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." The new man which is to be put on, is the image and likeness of God. The mortal concept of God's man is the old man which must be put off. The line of demarcation between man, God's image and likeness, and the mortal, material sense of man is sharply drawn in Christian Science, and this is why Christian Science is found so effective in destroying sin and healing sickness. When it is declared that man is neither a sinner, nor an invalid, it is God's image and likeness that is referred to. Sin and sickness belong not to man, but to the false concept of man. In proportion as the true sense of man's being is gained, the false sense, and all that belongs thereto, is put off.

This brings us to the consideration of a phase of Christian Science which is oftentimes misunderstood and not infrequently misrepresented. We refer to the nature and character of evil. From a human point of view, evil is manifest on every hand. The sin, sickness, discord and suffering of mortal existence cannot be ignored. These evils must be destroyed for so long as they seem to exist mortals will be in bondage thereto. The question arises, Shall evil be dealt with as reality, or shall it be overcome on the basis of its unreality? The material sense of evil is the only evidence of the reality of evil and this evidence is a contradiction of the oneness and allness of good. What have mortals ever gained? What can they ever hope to gain by acknowledging evil's claim to reality and power?

Primarily the belief that there is pleasure in evil is the sole reason for its indulgence, and this belief not the evil itself, but the belief in evil constitutes the only power evil seems to have over anyone. Where can you find a person in bondage to a particular form of sin, who never believed that sin could be the source of pleasure, satisfaction, or benefit to him? If you admit that the belief of pleasure in sin is an illusion, how much reality remains in sin? What would become of sin if all mankind were to lose their belief of pleasure or advantage in sin? When the sinner's belief of pleasure in sin is destroyed, sin loses its power over him.

Christian Science teaches that sickness is no more the reality of man's being than sin is and that the same power that destroys sin, heals sickness as well. Sin is no part of divine Mind, neither does it belong to the true consciousness of being. Sin is the manifestation of mortal mind, or the carnal mind, as Paul terms it. Mortal mind is not mind, for in reality there is but one Mind and this Mind is infinite. Mortal mind signifies the belief of a mind apart from God. Sickness is no more supported by the divine Mind than sin is. When the thought of sin is destroyed in mortal mind, sin does not find expression in word or in deed; likewise when the image and fear of disease is destroyed in human consciousness, disease will not appear in the body.

It is a generally accepted theory that disease and suffering are the results of broken law. It is also believed that there are material laws of health which, if understood and obeyed, would remove all liability to physical inharmony of any kind or character. Christian Science teaches there are spiritual laws which, when understood and obeyed, heal the sick and prevent disease and suffering. These laws can be understood and it is not impossible to obey them. That which presupposes a mind, power, cause, or creator apart from God is not the law of divine Mind. Spiritual law expresses Mind, God, and nothing else. Both sin and sickness are in violation of the unchanging and unerring law of Spirit, hence it must be apparent that 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 another 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 be withheld 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."

The healing work of Christian Science is accomplished through prayer the prayer of spiritual understanding. Mesmerism, hypnotism, suggestion, etc., are but different phases of the belief that one mortal mind can, consciously or unconsciously, exert an influence over another mortal mind. These errors have no place in Christian Science. The basis of Christian Science practise is one Mind and that God; one power and that good; one influence and that the influence of divine Love.

The apostle James recorded an eternal truth when he wrote: "The prayer of faith shall save the sick." The prayer of faith is the prayer of spiritual understanding, and this prayer is the most effectual, in fact the only truly effectual remedy. This prayer is not an importunity; it is not beseeching God to do something He has not done, or might not do, if He were not influenced by human desire; rather is it the knowing, or realization of, what God is, and what He has already done for all mankind. 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. Man is made very whit whole through obedience to divine law.

Christian Science imparts a more correct thought of God and consequently a truer sense of the purpose and motive of prayer. It increases man's faith in good and it is found that prayer becomes more effectual. The purpose of prayer is not to inform or influence God, but to bring humanity into accord with the divine Principle of all that really exists. What God knows is true, what God does is good, and what He wills is inevitable. What then is mortal man that he should seek to change or influence God? "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" because it is in harmony with the unchanging law of God.

The Master said, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you," showing that prayer to be effectual must be born of pure, uplifting desire. It must rise above the material sense of existence and lay hold on the spiritual fact of being. On another occasion he said, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." How would it be possible for a man to understand that he receives the thing he desires unless that thing has already been bestowed? If good is already bestowed, the purpose of prayer is to bring to human consciousness the realization of that which is already accomplished in the truth of being.

Christianity as Jesus taught it 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 and supplies a long felt need. Christianity is not rightly apprehended until it becomes practical. Christianity is not a matter of faith merely, for the Scriptures declare that "faith without works is dead."

The Master said in defense of his teachings and his healing works which demonstrated the truth of what he taught, "If any man will do his will (i. e., God's will) he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." And so we say of Christian Science. The earnest student can gain, from the study of the Christian Science text-book, an understanding of the fundamental teachings of this Science that will enable him to prove, in his own experience, the truth and practical worth of this new-old idea which is commanding the respect and consideration of thinking men and women throughout the world.

 

[1911.]

 

 

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