Christian Science: The Meeting of the Letter and the Spirit

 

Mary C. Holloway, C.S., of Shreveport, Louisiana

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:

Christian Science, in accepting the challenge to prove its faith by its works, challenges you this evening to focus your attention and open your heart to the spirit and the letter of its teaching to the end that you may be healed by the spiritual understanding it imparts.

We hope that your very presence here indicates that you have come to the lecture expecting - yes, even demanding - answers to some of the questions involved in this challenge.

It will be the purpose of the lecture to give answers which all may understand. Such inspired questioning and answering can bring healing and enlightenment to everyone here.

 

The Reasoned Hope

The word "science" refers to scientific or systematic knowledge. Such knowledge is provable and includes factors of cause and effect which, as in logic, establish the premise for reasoning to a right conclusion. A right appreciation of the letter, or logic and reasoning, of Christian Science is important in grasping its spirit; so I shall begin by telling you a story to illustrate a demonstration of its workings. Demonstration in Christian Science is based on a good God as cause, and perfect man, or spiritual image and likeness of God, as effect.

A few years ago a woman whom I know was sent home from a hospital in a dying condition, due to a heart trouble pronounced incurable by several physicians in the two hospitals where she had received treatment. This woman had been an active member of a Christian church and loved the Bible, but found now that prayers for her comfort were confined to reconciling her thought to an expected early death. Then a neighbor came in and put into her hands a copy of the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. She began to read it, filling her sleepless nights with a continued perusal of the book.

Almost immediately she was amazed to find herself healed of what had been an inordinate craving for cigarettes. As she continued to read, she not only lived the three weeks which had been allotted as the maximum time she could live, but found herself sufficiently improved to rise, dress herself, and seek a practitioner.

During her visit her healing was completed. When she returned later with rejoicing and gratitude to thank her helper, the practitioner gently mentioned having discerned a sense of grief in the patient's consciousness and explained something to her of the workings of Christian Science as the Comforter promised by Jesus the Christ. In wonder, the woman then stated that she had not known one well moment since the accidental drowning of two members of her family nine months before, and that her grief had been so keen she could not speak of this tragedy even to the practitioner. Now the grief had flown, and her illness with it. She radiated joy. I might add that today this woman is a registered practitioner of Christian Science, healing others.

Why had her former religion arid faithful study of the Bible not produced the healing result? My friend truly believed in God, and she especially accepted and agreed with that statement from II Corinthians. (3:6), "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life;" and her life motives included the spirit of love and compassion and charity toward her fellowmen, as did those of her pastor and physicians. Why did she not receive her healing through their ministrations? Could she not reasonably and logically hope for such healing?

 

The Inspired Word of Science

Let us turn to Mrs. Eddy's words on pages 476 and 477 of Science and Health, where we find an indicated answer to our questions: "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." We might read these words again and again, so simple yet tremendous is their import, setting forth the underlying law of cause and effect in Christian Science healing, a law that may be understood and used by each one of us.

"Jesus beheld in Science" - discerned spiritually through provable knowledge - a man who was perfect because of his likeness to his Creator, of whom Jesus said to know Him aright was life eternal. The effect of Jesus' realization unveiled the spiritual selfhood of man and revealed it to human understanding. This realization corrected the erroneous condition, and the result was healing. The same law and its application is being utilized in Christian Science today, proving man's spiritual perfection as the image and likeness of God, Spirit, in the destruction of sin, disease, and death on the basis of their unlikeness to the demonstrable facts, or knowledge of God and man as understood in Christian Science.

Mrs. Eddy's inspiration and discovery of this Science came about solely through her study of the Bible; so her teachings are based entirely upon it. Again and again throughout her teachings we find this insistence upon a spiritual understanding of the Scriptures, wherein are found the inspiration and divine logic needed for our work in making the Word flesh, that is, in making it practical as Jesus taught.

On page 241 of Science and Health we find these words: "The Bible teaches transformation of the body by the renewal of Spirit. Take away the spiritual signification of Scripture, and that compilation can do no more for mortals than can moonbeams to melt a river of ice." I remember I was offended when asked, during my first interview with a practitioner, whether I believed in God and in Christ Jesus. I said indignantly that of course I did. Thereupon she asked me how I could be sick, for, said she, "Jesus said, 'He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also' " (John 14:12). She then asked me if I thought Jesus would have permitted such a condition to exist in himself as I was seeing in myself! But she added kindly that Jesus had used the word "believe" in its original meaning, namely, "to understand," and told me that the thing needed to heal me was the spiritual understanding of God and man, including my real selfhood. She proved the truth of her words, and my need was met.

So my friend's experience came about through blind belief in God and faith in material medicine, neither of which partook of spiritual understanding, hence her disappointed hope. When she turned her hope to a higher ideal because of the extremity of her human need, the inspired Word was made flesh in the meeting of her need through spiritual understanding of God and man in His image and likeness. So it is with every instance of what is called healing - whether it be of sin, disease, lack, or any other form of human discord - each healing takes place through a meeting of the law or letter of Science and the grace, mercy, and love of spiritual understanding. Jesus clearly indicated that he came to fulfill the law, not to destroy the law, in bringing the new dispensation of grace and truth to ensure a full, not a partial, salvation for mankind.

 

Inspiration and Understanding

Mrs. Eddy says on page 319 of Science and Health, "The divine Science taught in the original language of the Bible came through inspiration, and needs inspiration to be understood." And on page 598 of the same book she gives the spiritual interpretation of the word "wine" in part as "inspiration; understanding." You will remember that the first miracle performed by Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry was the turning of water into wine at a wedding. Here, at a marriage feast, he met a human need, as was the case with all his mighty works. However, we may assume that there was a spiritual signification underlying his act that made it of far greater importance than a blessing bestowed on a bridal pair and their guests. He came as Way-shower to help humanity to a knowledge of God, to show us how to find our true spiritual selfhood and constant at-one-ment with Him. So we may assume that one meaning of Jesus' act might be that any human occasion or institution is enriched, blessed, elevated, inspired, redeemed, restored, or healed by replacing the cold water of human logic or reasoning with the wine of spiritual inspiration and understanding. The full salvation afforded by the Science of God and His creation, man, and their spiritual relationship must include complete redemption from whatever holds man to be less than perfect, whole, free, happy, well, and affluent, as God's reflection.

Beginning with that hope in your heart at this moment, whether it has to do with a need for physical healing, home, companionship, right occupation, money to meet obligations, or any other desire for that which seems good to you at this instant, there can come a meeting of the letter of your human reason with the spirit of divine inspiration to supply your need. Christian Science will prove this for you if you will let it.

You may feel that your desire at this moment has no connection with spiritual matters; that you do not consciously want to "work the works of God" (John 6:28) or be spiritually transformed. Yet you do want what presently seems good to you. This is humanly logical, and no one denies it. In Christian Science, almost the first thing one learns is that the great word "God," which we so constantly and reverently use, is simply another term for the word "good." But, as the Bible teaches, this great, infinitely good God is Spirit, and what He creates is spiritual; so, to be scientific, we must reject the theories concerning the opposite of God. Evil and its material creation are foreign to, and no part of God and His kingdom. To exchange one's personal desire involving material things for a willingness to be blessed with that which is spiritual and good, thus glorifying the Giver of all good, brings the wine of spiritual inspiration to his consciousness. He not only receives that which he desires but is being fitted to receive those higher bestowals for which he has not asked. A knowledge of God brings with it all the good that man can desire. A knowledge of God is true Science that never fails in working out the human problem. A knowledge of God will introduce you to your true selfhood as His perfect child, wherein all your needs are already met. It will teach you to acknowledge and affirm this fact as stated by Christ Jesus in Mark (11:24), "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."

 

Spiritualization of Prayer

On the first page of her textbook, Mrs. Eddy says, "Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds." How often it has been proved that "no loss can occur" by drinking that wine of inspiration whereby one trusts God with his desires! Cases of healing of every description have been accomplished through obedience to that one simple precept, for it destroys the sin of human willfulness. Right desires and spiritual motives are never defeated. But Christian Science teaches us to bring our human motives and desires into alignment with God's good will for us, and through this spiritualization comes the inspiration and receptivity whereby we are enabled to receive an abundance of good. We must cease to limit ourselves with human outlining. Jesus said (Luke 12:32), "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

The disciples of Christ Jesus once humbly begged him to teach them to pray. The great cry of the human heart is to know how to approach God. Jesus knew how natural was this yearning. He knew the coldness of the pharisaical practice of prayer, based as it was on the law of the Commandments, honoring the letter only, without use or acceptance of the spirit of love. With tenderness he gave these few meek men that prayer which is called the Lord's Prayer; its words are few and simple, and Jesus explained the importance of understanding it spiritually.

Not until humanity had risen in its degree of spiritual receptiveness to know God as both Father and Mother could Mrs. Eddy have given her exquisitely beautiful interpretation of this prayer in Science and Health - that sublime spiritual summary wherein the Comforter proves God to be the divine Principle which is both Life and Love. Surely here is the meeting of the inspired Word and the spirit of divine Love. No wonder this prayer heals the sick instantaneously.

The Christian Scientist can pray with consecration and inspiration. First with intercession, spiritualizing desire and pleading his case for truth against the arguments and suggestions of error; then with affirmation of God's goodness and allness and man's likeness to God as His reflection; finally with exaltation and gratitude to God, who is Life, Truth, and Love, expressing perfect man, who embodies every spiritual attribute. Prayer in Christian Science denies reality or power to evil, to material mentality or matter, thus obeying the First Commandment, namely to worship one God and one only.

 

God as Reflected in Science

Some of you are questioning our repeated use of the word "God" perhaps, because it is a word with a different meaning to each of us, according to the differing states and stages of our growth and enlightenment. Because Christian Scientists understand that they can know God only to the extent that they prove His presence and power in their lives by reflecting Him, they approach Him through the manifestation of His qualities and attributes, as did the great Way-shower, Christ Jesus, and as did Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

Let me read to you the true and beautiful definition of God given by Mrs. Eddy on page 587 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" as follows: "god. 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."

And, since all here are seeking happiness, let me continue to read, from the same page, Mrs. Eddy's definition of the word "heaven": "heaven. Harmony; the reign of Spirit; government by divine Principle; spirituality; bliss; the atmosphere of Soul."

Is any good thing missing that man could wish for in these two definitions? The second definition seems to me a description of man's consciousness when it reflects God as described in the first definition. That state of mind or consciousness described as heaven is your real consciousness and mine. Humanly, we must realize this fact step by step, lest we seem presumptuous in our statements. Christ Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is within you; not only did he say this, but he helped men to an understanding of themselves by his beautiful parables concerning the kingdom of heaven. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," he would say (Matt. 11:15). In other words, "Realize the truth of the spiritual facts which I give you."

Now, lest you feel it takes great understanding to demonstrate this truth, let me tell you of a simple instance which illustrates that Christian Science meets you just where it finds you and lends omnipotent power to your smallest effort.

In my early days of study I had been timid about trying to work out a problem for myself because I felt my understanding was so small my work would be of little account. There was a small debt that represented a problem only to myself, since it was a well-secured mortgage loan, and the other member of the family laughed at me for finding it burdensome.

I had been trying to familiarize myself with the various aspects of God given in Mrs. Eddy's beautiful definition. Life, Truth, Love, Spirit, I could easily accept because of former Bible study. By deduction and by utilizing the qualities of wisdom and understanding and Paul's use of the word "mind" as a derivative, it was not hard for me to see God as divine Mind. But the other two definitions, Soul and Principle, were aspects of Deity I could not easily understand.

On the day I decided to give myself a treatment for debt, I went to great lengths in order to be alone. I got together my books and a pad and pencil, having a vague notion that working out a problem in Science might be very arduous, since I knew so little of how to go about it! How crude that was, for I had only to remember Jesus' statements, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30), and "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10). Truth knows nothing of a big problem or a little one; it needs only the stillness of reflection to express itself. I remember I did look up and write down two references about debt: "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another" (Rom. 13:8), and, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12), and then something of the meaning of the words must have dawned upon me. Paul and Christ Jesus each had lived to give and bless the whole of mankind with a knowledge of good in accordance with their spiritual understanding of God and man. I began to thank God that I could see His man as reflecting all the attributes of God. There came pouring into my thought more qualities of Principle and Soul than of the other synonyms of God. You can imagine what a joyous occupation was this kind of debt-paying. Several hours slipped away, and then my telephone bell rang.

It was an inquiry about sale of the property which was mortgaged. Since the property was not for sale, I returned immediately to my work. The telephone had been answered several times with the same refusal to sell the property before I awakened to the fact that this might be the answer to my problem and the result of the treatment I had given. It was, and it not only paid the small material debt and left a generous amount besides, but within a few hours it had removed me to a wider sphere of usefulness. Subsequent events proved that this unforeseen move was of great value for many reasons at the time unknown to us.

Do not underestimate the power of your individual work to manifest your true selfhood as the image and likeness of God. You are already His reflection; you do not have to work to make yourself so. But while in a state of human consciousness you do have to work to realize the spiritual reality of your being, and in your approach to God you can go a great way in the strength of even a small demonstration, as did the prophet of old who went in the strength of a little food "forty days and forty nights" and came "unto Horeb the mount of God" (I Kings 19:8). Remember again, Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). It is up to each one of us to lay hold on this fact just where we are, and prove it by knowing the truth concerning man and claiming our spiritual heritage. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear"! Only spiritual understanding is required; our Father that dwelleth in us "he doeth the works." Even the required spiritual understanding is reflected from God, and it is His good pleasure to give it to us without measure whenever we are ready to receive it.

 

An Inspired Life

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, drank so deeply of the inspiration of spiritual love that she became the greatest benefactor of the human race since the time of Christ Jesus. She had those qualities of heart and intellect, even as a child, which prepared her for her great mission. So outstanding were her mental endowments that she was able as a young child to receive instruction in Hebrew and Greek, the original tongues of the Bible, a study which she loved.

Her sensitivity to the needs of humanity caused her to rebel at the stern teachings of the religious schools of her time - teachings which accepted suffering as an agency in man's salvation and other doctrinal points that were harsh enough to cause the young girl to become ill when she could not accept them. When she turned away and prayed to God as Love, she was healed of a burning sense of fever and was never troubled again about the harsh doctrines of scholastic theology. Close study of the Bible continued to strengthen her hope and faith in the concept of God as Love and to develop her early conviction that the spiritual healings of Bible times were a present possibility, natural to anyone possessed of enough spiritual understanding of God to grasp the law underlying these so-called marvels.

It was not, however, until she experienced an accident and appeared to be near death that she gained the final clue to that basic law of spiritual healing. When the real significance of a Scriptural passage dawned on her receptive thought, there came a coincidence of the letter and spirit of the Word in her consciousness which so inspired her that it brought instantaneous healing; but even this was not the most important part of that event to Mrs. Eddy nor to the world. The great discovery of that hour revealed to Mrs. Eddy's waiting thought one momentous fact: namely, that what appears as a physical condition needing correction is simply a state of thought, which can be corrected as man is restored to his original status as the image and likeness of God. Healing thus considered becomes revelation, the revelation to man of his own pure and perfect selfhood, into which nothing has ever entered, or can ever enter, "that defileth, . . or maketh a lie" (Rev. 21:27). How easy it is to see therefore, why such healing includes full salvation from sin as well as sickness.

Having founded The Mother Church to reinstate primitive Christian healing in direct obedience to Christ Jesus' command, ;"Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils" (Matt. 10:8), Mrs. Eddy also founded The Christian Science Publishing Society to publish and send her great discovery throughout the world. Thereby the good news is dispensed through weekly and monthly publications, as well as by the daily issue of The Christian Science Monitor. The alert reader of the Monitor finds unmistakable evidence of the leavening of Christian Science at work in all the affairs of mankind, and it brings encouragement and refreshment to those in the watchtowers of world progress, pointing out the real significance of events to those who have eyes to see.

 

Jesus the Christ

"Follow your Leader, only so far as she follows Christ," says Mrs. Eddy on page 4 of her Message to The Mother Church for 1902, and elsewhere in her writings she repeats this command. Her teachings enable one to do this, because Christian Science throws a clear light on the great Way-shower of all time, Christ Jesus, enabling humanity to avail itself of the rich blessings of his example and to put into actual practice the law and gospel he enunciated.

On page 583 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" there appears this definition: "christ. The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error." And on page 482 of the same book Mrs. Eddy writes as follows: "Jesus was the highest human concept of the perfect man. He was inseparable from Christ the Messiah, - the divine idea of God outside the flesh."

Christian Scientists understand the distinction made between the Christ and Jesus, that human being who most completely embodied the Christ, the truth of his being.

Jesus knew, and stated, that the Christ had always been present, and that Moses and the prophets had embodied degrees of the Christ sufficient to provide guidance, protection, and healing for the individuals and nations who turned to the one God, or Spirit. He clearly indicated that he could reveal the Christ only to the receptive hearts, to those who could turn sufficiently from matter and material traditions to realize that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). He insisted that new wine could not be put into old bottles, in other words, that the spiritual inspiration of life and love, and truth could never be bound by the limitations of scholastic theology.

Jesus progressively annulled or set aside every belief in a law apart from God, good. First the traditions observed in Jewish theology. You will remember several cases, such as those of the man with the withered hand, the man with the dropsy, and the woman who was bowed together for eighteen years, all of whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath day, in defiance of the Jewish theology of that period. Jesus rebuked the unmerciful self-righteousness that would care for the natural needs of beasts of burden on the Sabbath day, yet deny a human being the blessing of healing, which he indicated was just as natural an act as feeding and watering the beasts. He destroyed not the law, but fulfilled it.

He broke the material belief of lack; he broke the law of so-called physical science called gravitation and proved spiritual understanding more powerful than the raging material elements. He disproved matter as substance and material mentality as force; he proved his way step by step until he finally set aside the law of death and proved man's immortality.

The spiritual inspiration of the Christ sets aside, finally and completely, the letter or law of matter. Let me illustrate how this may be proved in Christian Science, by relating an incident that happened to a member of my family.

He went unannounced into a house set apart for him at his millsite late one evening, and in reaching for the light switch stepped on a loosened radiator grille in the floor. The resulting fall snapped the bone in his leg halfway between knee and ankle. Still in darkness, he crawled to a bed nearby and managed to lie down, straightening the limb as best he was able.

From the moment the accident occurred, his consciousness was flooded with God-sent ideas about the perfection of God and the man of His creating. Clear conviction came to him that since he was that man of God's creating, he could no more fall than could God, for reflection is always true to its original. His work, therefore, was to disprove this lie of the fallen man or Adam and replace it with the reality of man, the unfallen pure consciousness which is the embodiment of every quality of good.

He had been previously engaged, he said, in working with the verse in Hebrews (4:12), "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." It had helped him separate from his consciousness many unlovely traits and habits such as irritation, bad temper, impatience, resentment, replacing them with their opposite spiritual qualities and so gaining in harmony and self-control. Now this verse came readily to mind, and he thanked God that here was an opportunity to prove that the Word of God operates effectively in a case of surgery. The first thing he rejoiced to know was that it does not take time for the Word of God to operate, but that it is in ceaseless operation, throughout eternity giving all good to those beloved sons of God who trust in His love. He knew this operation is effortless as well as timeless - as, two times two is four is effortless - and forever present. He knew that this spiritually mental operation can never be interfered with nor set aside by what is called material substance or by laws supposed to govern such substance. He rejoiced and gave thanks that real substance is comprised of just such qualities as he had been striving to embody and express - loving-kindness, honesty, patience, and so forth.

In a short while, all pain had ceased. By two in the morning such peace was his that he fell asleep. Awakening in the daylight, before he remembered what had occurred, he was standing, and a short time later met the company physician on his way to the office. At his request, they stepped into the doctor's office and an X-ray was taken. It gave evidence of a full fracture which had been most beautifully healed, and to this day the good doctor delights to give Christian Science credit for a remarkable piece of mental surgery.

In just such ways does the Christ come to the flesh to destroy error. It reveals the real man, your perfect spiritual selfhood and mine, and destroys the incarnate error of materiality.

 

Not Adam but Inspiration

What, then, is the false creation we read about in the second chapter of Genesis? Perhaps some of you would ask more questions on this subject than any other. We read there concerning a kind of man made of dust with the kind of mind that was liable to know both good and evil - the kind described by James as "double minded" - the kind that certainly bears no resemblance to the Mind that was in Christ. Now a whole system of belief has grown up around this kind of man. You and I are not now accepting as law the beliefs of this Adam-dream or its so-called consequences. All false theological, medical, and scientific laws are based on the belief that the one perfect God, Spirit, created Adam. This belief is a lie because the truth is that God created man in His own likeness and governs man by spiritual laws.

A boy in a Christian Science Sunday School class was asked about Adam. In his own childlike way he said with a grin, "Why, he's the little man who wasn't there!" Would that all our dusty illusions might be so easily dispersed; but the fact remains that we have to prove that the man of dust is not there by finding the man of Spirit, the real man, even where Adam seems sometimes to be.

 

Conclusion       

Now as we come to the conclusion of our discussion, may we return for a moment to its beginning. We have seen that healing in Christian Science is brought about through the inspiration and love that come from a spiritual understanding of God and of what He creates. We have seen that this creation includes man in his perfect, immaculate, upright, spiritual selfhood, well, happy, free, affluent, and beautiful. And this spiritual understanding casts out fear, for it reveals to you the allness of God as Love and His infinite willingness and power to care for us, holding each of us in perfection eternally. Christian Science heals you in the measure of your acceptance of the spiritual understanding it imparts.    

Is it strange that those who have caught a glimpse of the glorious proofs of Christian Science should diligently seek to learn and apply more of it?

All over the globe the daily study of this truth goes on. Whether in the quietness of home, on the battlefield, on the high seas, or within the blessed refuge of public Christian Science Reading Rooms, hundreds of thousands of individuals turn for daily spiritual sustenance, refreshment, and healing to this study. They study, in common with most other Protestants, the King James Version of the Bible. But they have also the joy and profit of spiritually understanding the Scriptures because the Christian Science textbook is the key which opens the Bible's deep meaning. The results of this study are shown in multiple healings, in sinful lives regenerated, homes established in harmony, lack replaced with abundance, pain and bodily discord dispelled, and health and poise restored.

You who have felt tonight the touch of this truth are happier and more peaceful and confident for having learned somewhat of God's allness and man's forever likeness to Him as Christian Science reveals it. May you go forth to greater vistas of understanding, to higher fields of demonstration, in the full assurance of the Bible promise, "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it" (Rev. 3:8).

 

[Published in The Milwaukee County News, Sept. 30, 1954.]

 

 

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