Christian Science: The Gospel of Love

 

The Rev. William P. McKenzie

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

At the turning point of the centuries there comes usually a questioning of heart, a deep dissatisfaction with traditional beliefs, and a thirsty hoping for satisfying truth, so that men cry out after God. There comes an answer to the prayer of man at such times, and the initiation of the century is usually accompanied by a revival of interest in religion. Since the world is progressive, we may expect the revival which will mark the opening years of the twentieth century, to excel in liberative force any revival of past times. This we may expect on general principles; but there is also special and exact ground for this high expectation; namely, this: that for thirty preparatory years, during the life of one generation of mankind, there has been a thought-movement operative, the laborers in which are re-establishing primitive Christianity, "God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will."

 

Ending of Prejudice

It requires the long patience of years to overcome human prejudice, that peculiar faculty for making wrong or inadequate decisions, which has proved itself hostile to every good gift God sends to the race. Prejudice, by arousing fear through misrepresentation, and by persecuting earth's benefactors, has endeavored to deprive man of the unfolding good he was becoming ready to receive. But an end approaches for this period of active hostility to Christian Science which comes to man offering the only satisfactory solution for the problem of life, the solution whereby evil is eliminated, and the eternal Goodness is found to be all in all. So many cases of the healing of sickness and Christianizing of character at the same time, are on record, that almost every man knows of some case where a relative or friend has reason to rise up and call Christian Science blessed. So we find the audiences which assemble at our lectures come not so much as critics resolved to find fault, but rather as interested seekers after larger knowledge of a truth which has already proved its beneficence. It is knowledge of Truth which gives entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Those at present oppressed by unhealed sickness, fettered by evil habits and perverted modes of thought, or hypnotized by the attractions of sin, do not understand the Truth that would make them free; and the purpose of this lecture is to present it as given by Christian Science, and offer its illumination so that if any one who hears love the light, he may walk therein.

 

Benevolence Needs a Right Method

There is a general desire in the hearts of men for better conditions. Men try to win the good for themselves individually, but it is not possible to make the good secure except as good is made universal. Distrust must be destroyed and a more genial condition of understanding be gained. It now happens often that when the employer seeks to ease conditions for his men he is rebuffed, and becomes hardened. Also it happens with the employee that his efforts to do kind acts, and his acceptance of unrequired tasks, are misunderstood, and he becomes discouraged. Now the world is full of kindness if the separate acts could be linked together and harmonized by a principle of action. We have seen how even thieves and murderers show sometimes a gleam of conscience, a spark of tenderness. But oftentimes our sympathy with them is crude and unregulated. Asylums set up their signboards over the world's woes, but if to a degree they alleviate, do they heal them? Ruskin speaks of our plastering over the sores of civilization while the gangrene eats deeper.

The method of Christianity is entirely different from the world's ways of indifference or easy-going sympathy. The rebukes of Jesus to the Pharisees represented true kindness; for if understood they would have awakened a true sense of life. His healing of the leper was a better blessing to the sufferer than the whole Levitical code and ceremony regarding leprosy. So, the leader of this movement, Mary Baker Eddy, illustrating the way for others, brought blessing to the world when she showed the way of true beneficence by healing the sick; and after first proving its propositions, she has given a textbook so that others may do likewise. Upon its cover may be found a motto consisting of the instructions given by Jesus to his disciples.

"Heal the sick." Consider for one moment how heartbreaking is the poverty in the world caused by sickness; consider also the numbers who are withdrawn from useful toil because of various maladies; then think of the change in some debt-burdened home when, through the Christ Science, a new life springs up in the invalid, or the bread-winner again has strength for labor.

"Raise the dead." If we interpret this statement in the light of the quotation which says, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light;" and that other one which says of the man who reforms, "In his righteousness that he hath done he shall live," we see that there is a quality of existence which can be properly termed life. If righteousness and the reception of the light of Christ's truth constitute life, then those who dwell in opposite conditions may truly be said to be without life. To be without God in the world is to be dead to all that is immortal, and it is from such living death, as well as from the fear of physical death, that men have to be aroused. Christian Science, in bringing its revelation of the true God, reveals also the true and enduring life.

"Cleanse the lepers." In modern times this word suggests more than a single form of disease, and is used to refer to those hereditary taints of blood which seem to be incurable. Sometimes the word is used to refer to all those diseases as a whole which are the result of sins of impurity. Nothing could be more distressing than the way in which the innocent sometimes become tainted by a leprosy which is due to the sin of others. Little children sometimes exhibit conditions which are supposedly due to the law of heredity visiting upon them the sins of their ancestors. How good it is when the higher law of healing comes in to change these supposedly hopeless conditions, and the love of God is heard by those who long for purity and ask for cleansing, speaking the word of power and saying, "Be thou clean."

"Cast out demons." We all know how it is that demoniac thoughts of lust, envy, hate, revenge and so on may control us at times. It may be possible to withhold the hand from the anger-prompted act, but the mental distress and tumult is not allayed. The Science of Being teaches us how to control thoughts, to cast out the evil and learn the good. Then as a consequence we "cease to do evil and learn to do well."

 

 

The Christ Method Demonstrates Truth

The permanence of the truth which produces such results is something worthy of mark. Who that saw the magnificence of a Herod, or the legion-supported power of the Romans, would have supposed that the name of a fisherman of Galilee would be honored at the empire's capital; and yet in that head city of the Latin race the dome of St. Peter's celebrates the fame of the impulsive disciple of Jesus. Also in London town, the central city of Anglo-Saxon power, the name of St. Paul is commemorated in a magnificently domed cathedral. It was not because of personal greatness in these men that they are celebrated, but because they were connected with truth which is permanent. Jesus knew that he spoke the truth of God and that his words would abide. He knew that the heavens might pass, yet truth never could change. But the question, "What is truth?" must find its answer in the same way now as it did then. In the days of the apostles the proof of healing as heretofore discussed was given; that is, the question regarding truth was answered by demonstration. The presence of the permanent truth is revealed when it can be supported by proof rather than by argument.

The centuries past have proved the vanity of opinions set forth as truth. Men have gone to death rather than affirm the dogmas of those who had power to kill the body. Such power of sword or torturing fire, of rack or guillotine, has been impotent before one human being who refused to say that darkness was light, or evil, good. But whenever the true light has appeared with healing and saving power, then no compulsion has been needed, for men with joyful hearts have accepted the truth and glorified God. Today with power irresistible as the light for seeing eyes, the Truth that both heals sickness and cures sin has come to human consciousness in Christian Science. If you want proof of this, look at the many churches in the land formed of those who have been healed. Apart from the proof of healing they would have no ground for existence, for their bond of government is slight, dogma is unknown, and creed wholly secondary to life. When healing introduces men and women into a new sense of God and Christ and true living, they find a natural relationship with each other. This joy of association is expressed by the forming of societies and Churches of Christ, Scientist, at the rate, just now, of two and sometimes three each week. Thus is being revealed what Mrs. Eddy defines as a church, "the chief corner-stone whereof is, that Christian Science, as taught and demonstrated by our Master, casts out error, heals the sick, and restores the lost Israel."

Suppose in a school where children are studying mathematics, that a problem be given out. It has only one answer, and that the correct one. Suppose the teacher to leave the room for a moment; then each loud-voiced, self-assertive scholar declares his way to be the right way. The timid waverers change from one side to another, and get down a list of disconnected figures. Perhaps only one quiet worker gets the answer, and proves thereby the right way. The correct result is the sign of the solved problem. Mrs. Prentiss writes: −

 

Life is the school; and the Master

Is the man Jesus Christ;

We are his charity scholars;

His is the teaching inspired.

 

In this school if we review history, we can see how many clamoring, self-willed scholars there have been, each claiming a following and denouncing those not followers of their thought. Think of the number of sects in Christendom, something like four hundred, and yet none of them able to give the sign of the solved problem, as designated by Jesus the Master, when he said, "These signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in nowise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Of these first disciples it is written, "They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the words by the signs that followed." It is evident from other passages as well that these signs were expected, because when Jesus sent out his disciples finally to "make disciples of all nations'" he added the further instruction, "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." These instructions to his disciples were distinctly given, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons." Another record says, "He sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal."

Now if there were any manner of doubt as to what the instructions of Jesus specifically were, we have his final teaching to cover every doubtful point. He gave to his disciples a new commandment. Once before he had been asked by a lawyer who was tempting him, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" In reply he indicated that the great and first commandment of the Jewish law was to love God supremely; and the second, like unto it, was for man to love his neighbor as himself. It is sometimes said that this golden rule is a summary of Christianity; but while these two commandments sum up the whole of the law and the prophets, they do not yet reach to the deeper meanings of Christianity. Before he left his disciples Jesus gave to them who were ready to receive it what he called "a new commandment," which indicated a higher reach of love than the world had before known. He said, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." Here was another sign which was to indicate discipleship, and an understanding of the Master's teaching for, "By this," he said, "shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." It goes without saying that healing was included in this love which Jesus had manifested, for no one thing is more prominently brought out in the records of his life than this.

The love which the Christian should be able to manifest ought certainly to include healing the sick, and more. Another thing to note is the universality of these commands;

they do not apply to a certain few set apart for special work, but indicate the attitude, the occupation, and the necessary ability of every follower.

The position of Mrs. Eddy has been that of the quiet worker in the midst of the clamor of many minds arguing for sectarian theories. She initiated Christian healing for this age, which is not even imitated by what is termed mental or hypnotic healing which fails to reveal God to man. Christian Science healing reveals to man the way of atonement with God, and the relinquishment of faith in disease is one step on the way. Recalling what was said before, that "the correct result is the sign of the solved problem," and remembering the designated "signs" which were to follow intelligent understanding of Christ's life and doctrine, we cannot help finding in the Christian Science movement satisfactory evidence that the problem of life has been solved.

 

Truth Demonstrated Reverses Misconceptions

Men are ready for a truer conception of God than any given by the theologies which have grown out from the minds of thinkers since Christ-like healing became a lost art. The Divine Being has been represented as an enormously powerful Ruler over all and Punisher of men, expressing the extreme of human justice, before whom mercy appears timid, pleading, and disregarded. But in Christian Science mercy, the divine quality, healing, comforting, regenerating, purifying, is found rejoicing over judgment; and before enthroned mercy justice appears as the obedient handmaid. The human pictures of God have presented a king great in power. The thunder was his voice, and the roar of the storm the sound of his chariot. It is therefore not an unexpected thing that the Old Testament writings as we have them should end up with a threat, − "lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." But how did Jesus begin his teaching? The people are gathered about him on the hillside, his disciples beside him, and the first word they hear is, "Blessed!"

The characteristic of Jesus' teaching was that he avoided mere argument, but dealt in proof and elucidation of truth. First came his works of healing, the proof of great love to mankind, and then his statement that they revealed the true character of God, − "the Father which is in me, He doeth the works." Of all men who have been known on earth, Christ Jesus was the kindest, and when he said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," he recalled men to a purer conception of God than the teachers of his day knew. The God then believed in could hate, could originate disease and disaster, and maintain sin and suffering. Forgotten then was that vision of the Psalmist, who saw the true God, and to his own self said, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases." By his whole life's work Jesus proved how God heals and not hates men. Let healing be lost by Christians, and the old, crude views regarding God will reappear in their theologies. The sick will turn to false gods for relief and men will dwell on earth in hopelessness and fear. But whenever truth is demonstrated, as was done by Jesus and his immediate followers, that proof brings to the recipient of the blessing absolute assurance that God is Love, and reverses his former misconceptions. The criticism is made that Christian Scientists are too steadfast in their views, − much too certain that God is wholly Good; but it is the nature of the proof which makes them certain. As the proof of healing through Mind reaches more widely it will come to pass that from the least to the greatest all shall rightly know God "whom to know is life and peace."

The understanding of God which Christ Jesus revealed enabled him to see how wrong were ordinary conceptions of life. Blessed is wealth, said the world; blessed is power. These beliefs were being acted out in both state and church. The Romans by force and the priests by scheming were trying to maintain dominion.

Filled with the spirit of Isaiah's teaching, inspired by the God of the prophets, Jesus began to reverse the world's theories. (Vide, Isaiah, 61:1-3) He picked out the destitute and the mourner, and called them blessed. He referred to his own mission at a later date as that of the minister, or servant of others. The game of the world was by war, oppression, and enslavement, − through debt, if in no other way, to compel others to minister. The ideal of men was to be able to lord it over others; the ideal of Jesus was to serve the world; thus in principle, and practice, he reversed the world's belief.

Think of the hate aroused by the Roman oppression, and of the expectation of the people. How gladly and madly they would have welcomed a man who with the fiery eloquence of a Kossuth would have denounced their oppressors. But his first word was "Blessed." And all through the beatitudes the reversal of old beliefs goes on. "Them of old time," he referred to as authority for certain traditional beliefs that had been as law to the people; but these crude traditions he reversed by declarations of the gospel of love.

"The problem of the age is to negate the negative," is a saying attributed to Mr. Harris, the great educationalist. Paul speaks to Titus about "denying ungodliness." The error of the age is its belief that the negation of God is true. Evil, sin, sickness, hatred, falsity, death, are the supposed opposites of God as Life, Truth, and Love. The opposite of that which is real exists only as a lie does, by virtue of belief; but a lie has no eternal principle behind it, − it is darkness that the light of truth dispels. In Science we believe that the true conception of God as perfect, as Love, has dawned upon the consciousness of the race, and will grow brighter until it is perfect day.

 

Love Is Universal in its Reach

Let us analyze the meaning of love as spoken about by Jesus. John is his best interpreter and he speaks of love being the opposite of fear. We all know that it is the opposite of hate as well. Fear may have a variety of results. It sometimes leads people to sacrifice to various false gods in the endeavor to placate them. The first command of the Decalogue forbade this, because it means lack of trust in and love for the one true God. In the early writings it is plainly brought out that departure from God would bring diseases upon the people, and while that seemed arbitrary, we now know that fear is the prolific cause of disease. The second part of the Decalogue, dealing with the duty of man to man, is infringed by any form of hatred, shown by envy, false witness, theft, impurity or murder; but love fulfils this law as well as the other. The elder law was specific and imperative, setting forth its negations, saying, "Thou shalt not." But in the newer revelation the statements of truth are positive, and a new motive force is made operative which "fulfils the law." Consequently love, when directed Godward, is the antithesis of fear, and so ends disease, anxiety, sorrow, distress; and when directed manwards being the antithesis of hate, it ends wars, strifes, contentions, cruelty, dishonesty, and all the antagonisms which bring suffering upon men. This love is "impersonal, impartial, pure, and free." We may have some glimpse of its quality and manifestation if we remember the Johannean revelation of God wherein he uses two terms, love and light. In our experience we know that in darkness nothing is visible. When we see one another in the brightness of daylight it is by virtue of reflection. The face of our friend reflects the light and we thereby know him. This reflection of light is a parable illustrating that reflection of love which the senses cannot appreciate. We know one another spiritually because of the reflection of love. It is easy to see how impersonal and impartial light is. When the candle is lighted and set upon its candlestick it gives light unto all that are in the room. It is impossible for light to make distinctions. In the same way it is not possible for love to lose its universally beneficent character and make distinctions of person or condition. Love that is manifested only in view of some return is not love at all but a form of selfishness. Jesus said, "If ye love them that love you what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?" Love which is real must manifest itself like the light; and therefore the truly loving man, the Christian, by virtue of his God-derived nature, shows love even to his enemies, and to all mankind, even as light shines for all who are within the reach of its beams.

Jesus is ever our example in showing how love liberates man. Thou shalt love thy countryman and hate the Gentile, was the teaching of them of old time; illustrated by intense hatred of the Jews to the Romans, their political oppressors, and to the Samaritans, their religious rivals. Jesus proclaimed the true God to a Samaritan woman.

He taught the lesson of the all-reaching love by the parable of the good Samaritan. He blessed the Syro-Phoenician woman when his own disciples counted her a dog. He healed ten lepers, and when one of them turned back and glorified God, and fell down at the feet of his healer, giving him thanks, Jesus called attention to the fact that only the Samaritan, the stranger, had returned to give glory to God. Thus by his acts did he illustrate his teaching, which was "love your enemies." He showed that he had no enemies and recognized no caste. Even the servant of the centurion of Capernaum he was ready to heal; and he gave testimony to his master's faith, as he had done to the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman. Roman or Samaritan, Greek or Jew, Jesus made no distinctions; learned scribe and illiterate fisherman, sanctimonious Pharisee and repentant harlot, honorable rich man or despised tax-gatherer were looked upon not corporeally, but with that insight of love which sees the real.

Hate not at all; why? Look at the teaching of Jesus metaphysically, as Christian Science teaches us to do. Viewing it mentally, if hate be in consciousness at all, we hate all to a degree. Whereas if we love our enemy, the one least easy to love, we have love to all. The philosophy of this is that only by so loving can we gain a sense of that quality of love, by means of which we are able to recognize that "God is Love."

 

Love Revealed in Character

Love is the activity of perfect Intelligence, that is, the activity of Mind which is wholly Good. How in practical life may we learn to manifest and evidence such love as will be the reflection or manifestation of this divine activity? Here are some of the footsteps.

1. Humility. This quality of mind is an assured evidence of greatness as well as of unselfishness. The great man is humble because his view-point enables him to see how vast is the store of knowledge still unexplored by him. The unselfish man is humble because he sees how far away still from him is that ideal set by the one whom men have agreed to call the Master. Humility may be gained by learning truth from Christ who was "meek and lowly in heart." It appears in proportion as cruel pride and senseless vainglory disappear. It does not degrade a man but brings him in thought where God dwells − into the high and holy place where He dwells "with him also that is of a humble and contrite heart." It never fails of good and blessing; "blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth."

2. Kindness. The kind man acts to others as if they were his own kin. When caste is gone kinship is recognized, hence humility precedes true kindness. The ideal for character set forth in the prophets was "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God." Christian Science shows us that the end of justice is not punishment, nor the ideal of mercy, weakly sentiment; but that mercy, and justice which is the handmaid of mercy, together work out the results of divine good-will to men. Jesus said to his followers: "Become compassionate, even as your heavenly Father is compassionate." If we are thus kind to one another there will be no injustice, either from direct cruelty, or from favoritism, which may mean cruelty to the disfavored. There are many who have to be so situated that their hearts cry out for intelligent mercy from others, before they are willing to show mercy; for this proverb is true in human experience, "they shall have judgment without mercy who have shown no mercy." But far better than the empirical way of learning from experience that "sorrowful are the unmerciful" is the scientific way of working out life from the Christly standpoint, which is "blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."

3. Fidelity. As kindness grows in a man's heart he finds that he gains more confidence in good. This is faith in God; let it become practical as fealty to Truth, and fidelity to Love, and the results in life show that this faith is justified. A man who is in this way "sure of God" may be by other men absolutely trusted. He will do faithful service whether as overseer or servant. Being a firm believer in Good, he will not be satisfied till Good is made manifest in work rightly or righteously done. He is a man of integrity for whom dishonesty is impossible; a man loyal to truth and uprightness who could not be treacherous or false. His longing is for conformity to the standard of right he knows and trusts; and "blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."

4. Patience. Patience has been defined as "keeping kindliness of heart under vexatious conduct." It thus means the long-suffering which is one of "the fruits of the Spirit;" and it is more than forbearance, because while it "endureth all things" it nevertheless "hopeth all things." The patient man is composed and calm, steadily persevering, but uncomplaining if the end be delayed. His faith tells him why the Good must be realized, and his hope sustains him by foresight of the Good. Such an one is tolerant in dealing with the vagaries of men and their insults, and untiring in helping them, because his faith and hope are in God.

5. Joy. The cordial acceptance of spiritual law and guidance yields a joy deeper than gladness and more intense than happiness. It is found where self-will and its irregular motions have yielded to "that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." The true man through Christian Science comes to the place where he can say, "I delight to do thy will, O God;" because he has become scientifically certain that God is good and never the author of evil. Jesus, who taught his disciples the truth about the divine will and came not to do his own will but the will of Love, assured them that they would not find their satisfaction transient. "Your joy no man taketh away from you," he said.

6. Peace. Peace is the stillness of heart when fear is gone. Technically it means the absence or cessation of war; but there is also the thought of reconciliation between foes suggested. Enmity and strife have given place to friendship and concord when peace is established.

When there is peace in the heart, "the peace of God which passeth all understanding," the man can no more be agitated by fear, disturbed by doubt, inflamed by passion, or aroused to anger. He is master of the disturbing elements. He is able to receive the word "be still, and know that I am God." More than that, he is actively engaged in establishing the concord of love. "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." It is indeed a royal privilege to be a peacemaker, − to work out reconciliations between men, to prove them to be at one with Love, and so establish the atonement between God and man. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

7. Purity. The pure in heart are wholly governed by Good. Their understanding of the Allness of Spirit is unclouded. Here we reach the highest heights. At first the word was "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth;" now, the word is: Blessed are the pure: for they inherit heaven, − what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, − "they shall see God." Belief, expectation, faith, hope, are needless now regarding divine Love. Knowledge has vanished away and love in its purity abides, for "love never faileth." Of such the revelator has said "they shall walk with him in white, for they are worthy."

 

All May Study

In order that men everywhere may learn of God and of their privileges as the children of Love, there is a textbook for the study of Christian Science.

From the very first those who have studied "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," along with the Bible, have found themselves able to heal the sick, and to cast evils out of themselves and others. Any reasonable mind will see that if by study of a textbook they become able to heal the sick as the early disciples and followers of Jesus did, it is an understood Principle that is being proved; and that Christian Scientists are not merely following a person. This, however, but emphasizes their recognition of the self-sacrifice and wonderful love of humanity shown by Mary Baker Eddy in bearing all manner of persecution and misrepresentation in order to give to the world the revelation.

The singular purity and consecration of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science made the revelation of the omnipotence of Good come to her naturally. There was no catastrophe as in Paul's case. Since the meaning of her mission has dawned upon her she has labored with a devotion unceasing, and a zeal untiring for the good of humanity, in accord with Christian Science whereby the whole world is to be regenerated. The singleness of her purpose, the continuity of her sense of God's presence, the simplicity of her obedience to God's will follow the example of Christ Jesus, and furnish an illustration of the unity of good in character which is to bless all mankind.

 

[Published in The Christian Science Sentinel, Jan. 30, 1902.]

 

 

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