The Healing of Moral Weakness

 

Geith A. Plimmer, London, England

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

Poignant questions for today

As I watch television, I sometimes see this pathetic question flashed on the screen, "Do you know where your children are tonight?" Perhaps some of you have seen the sadder question, "Do you know where your parents are tonight?" Aren't these poignant ques­tions among the many signs that there's a serious moral crisis in the world today?

Who among us, for example, has heard in recent times of the sad breakup of marriages, of arrange­ments having to be hastily made for the care of illegitimate children - of strange rebellious attitudes, un­healthy moral habits, and even crimi­nal instincts suddenly seizing people whose quiet normality had always been taken for granted?

Wouldn't it be true to say that in this whole area of moral weakness, there's a strange mixture of idealism, escapism, and indiscipline? People seem to like high prizes today, but not the price for them. They know what they want, but then comes a blackout of their obligations to hard work, self-control, and honest patience - and instead comes a groping hope that they'll get what they want by shifting and drifting, ambling and gambling, deceit and drugs - sometimes, indeed, by the calculating stealths of actual criminality.

Now Christian Science, the religion discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy of New England, is frequently defined by its power to heal disease. But surely the break­down of public morality is far more serious than the breakdown of physi­cal health - and an urgent world prob­lem it is today. That's why we're taking a different approach tonight - we're defining Christian Sci­ence by its deeply compassionate power to minister spiritual strength to those afflicted with moral weakness.

As you may know, the Bible con­tains some wonderfully encouraging healings of moral weakness. Tonight we're dealing with one such case - the case known as the man of Gadara. The fact that our Master took a special journey over the Sea of Galilee to minister to this case is surely a sign that he expected no trouble to be spared to enable social outcasts, moral dropouts, and in­tellectual exiles each to make his satisfying contribution to the human family. So let's examine this case together a little tonight. The more I review it, the more I feel Jesus' mission to this case is like a visit of instruction by the Christ, Truth, clear into the permissive moral problems of our own times.

 

Problems not inherent

Perhaps you recall the diagnosis of the man of Gadara's case - he was said to be possessed by a legion of devils or unclean thoughts. I must say, my heart warms to that word "possessed" - it at least indicates that this precious man's problems were imposed rather than inherent. And do you remember where he lived? In the mountains and in the tombs. Just think of the cruelty of that ghastly contrast: mountains and tombs; heights and depths! Who doesn't know them? High hopes from a flashy investment, or invention, a hasty marriage, a business partner­ship - then the awful depths when the bottom falls clean out of the excited hope.

Or maybe it's the mountain peaks of resolution never to smoke or resent or indulge some physical pleasure again: then the dark tomb of self-condemnation when the wretched er­ror repeats itself. Yes, mountains and tombs. Who doesn't know them or hasn't heard of them in this per­missive age?

Could it be that this particular man had fallen so many times from moun­tain to tomb that finally the sad shock of frequent falls had broken the balance of his mind, and now here he was violently insane? The Bible says, "No man could bind him, no, not (even) with chains" (Mark5:3).

And what about his family obliga­tions and social disciplines? He evidently couldn't stand them, possi­bly because he'd never stood up and faced them. Maybe it was just easier to be a social rebel. So the Bible says pathetically of him, "Neither abode (he) in any house" (Luke 8:27).

You see, there was no checkpoint of moral challenge in his mind - no standard of conscience - only the awful imbalance of marvelous ideas and ideals, then a permissive yielding to whatever unclean devil of impa­tience, anger, lust, or frustration might then possess his thought.

Aren't such cases rather like a man living in a two-storied house which has no stair and middle-landing in between the two floors? The occupant excitedly snatches the good things he wants on the upper floor. When he's got them, he falls through the hole in the upper floor where a stair should be. He's got no graded steps for his progress, no hand rail to steady his resolution, no middle landing where he could study the difference between going up and going down, and where he could check and protect what he got from above before he applied it in the place beneath.

 

Awakened to spiritual strength

What, then, does that middle land­ing symbolize? Obviously moral sense, the checkpoint between good and evil. Isn't this moral sense the very sense our own age so much needs?

But who are we to point harsh accusing fingers? Jesus didn't visit this man to condemn his moral weak­ness, but to awaken his spiritual strength. Certainly, let's not forget that this man of Gadara lived in a land where the ten warnings against the ten dangerous disobediences in the Ten Commandments had never been taught or fought. Consequently, he'd never been able to protect his idealistic sensitivity from ghastly moral downfalls. I am telling you about this man in some detail today, because as you can see his problem of undeveloped   moral   sense   has enormous bearing on the crisis of our own times.

Let me illustrate. Recently, a well-trained professional woman suddenly left her post. Instead, she took to a farm where love and let love, drug and let sleep, were the ambling order of day and night.

Her mother was at first deeply shocked by what had occurred, but quickly recovered herself. She began to pray as she had learned to do in Christian Science. She could see that there couldn't possibly by any drop-outs from God's love, any outcasts from Christ. Certainly, she never for one moment let her daughter drop out from her own compassionate love. She saw with deep affection that what God had appointed to this dear girl of life and promise couldn't ever be dis­appointed by evil, for evil isn't really true. She also enjoyed seeing that the grace God gives His ideas can never be disgraced by adverse circum­stances: it is too divine.

For months and months, sometimes never hearing a word, the mother beheld her lost one as God's Christly idea. I'm so glad she had Christian Science to help her. She saw clearly there was no destructive influence to make that girl fall from her moun­tains to a tomb. Despite the anguish, she knew that moral law would reassert its separating distinctions in that girl's heart and save her. She wasn't trying to influence her daugh­ter personally. Of course not. The mother kept seeing that in this testing period the one governing influence was that of divine Spirit.

 

Reinstatement of moral sense

Finally, some three years later, she was able to write: "My heart over­flows with gratitude, for the healing which has come to our daughter. She has given up drugs entirely, her faith in God has returned, her interest in living is renewed, and she is now engaged in making beautiful works of art." That's the part I like - that young woman hadn't returned to dull conformity with tiresome convention. She was fulfilling her ideals of life and beauty. But now she had an added blessing: caretaking moral dis­crimination.

But Christian Science aims to do much more than rescue moral drop-outs. It aims to reinstate the impor­tance of moral sense itself; to stop it from dropping out of application in modern society.

From this standpoint, isn't it signifi­cant that, after Jesus had cast all the unclean animal instincts from that man of Gadara, he was found sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind - obviously being taught and instructed.

I like the fact that he was now clothed. Here was the first sign of moral self-respect, a little return of the dignity of a son of God. It would be impertinent for us to speculate on what Jesus said to this sad alien from society; but there's one guide. The Bible says that the Gadarene sat at the feet of Jesus. Now in her textbook of Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy gives a very in­structive definition of Jesus, one full of alarm bells for parents raising young people today. Here it is: "Jesus. The highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea, rebuking and destroying error and bringing to light man's immortality" (Science and Health, p. 589:16).

How could Jesus possibly teach the Gadarene how to rebuke error, unless he first showed him quite plainly exactly what evil is - primarily an error of thought, a departure from Principle. He was making him recog­nize that error is error, and then showing him how to rebuke and destroy this error - or lie - through the immortal strengths he inherited from God. Yes, destroy it. Jesus never let evil and good sit opposite one another like a mere moralist. His spirituality gave his morality the power to overthrow the error.

In other words, Jesus was building that platform of moral inspection, that stairway of moral application, in the man of Gadara's thought - as a permanent checkpoint for his safety. More explicitly, he was showing this marvelously healed man what he must do in the future - how he must be alert to rebuke and destroy any fear, pride, sensuality, or jealousy which might try to prevent his ideals from being fruitful as he applied them in daily life.

Certainly, it's significant for a time like ours, which has a habit of lightly waltzing off to exciting new ideas with the last job only half done, that Jesus wouldn't allow the man of Gadara to follow him personally in his thrilling mission of healing. That would have been exactly the wrong thing for a man who had already had much too much escapism to his mountains! No - our Master sent the man back to face his own unsolved human prob­lems, and show his friends at home what great things spiritual power had done to strengthen his weakness and what it could do to help others, too; and what marvelous compassion Jesus had had on him in so painstakingly showing him how to discriminate between truth and error.

How sweet those words "home" and "friends" and "neighbors" must have sounded now in the ears of this tragic moral outcast. What a truly wonder­ful redemption for him.

And what redemption for the moral law! How can we ever doubt the ability of spiritual power to heal moral weakness in any case of any kind, when we think of this man of Gadara who used to cut himself with stones in the desert, whom no home life could possibly cope with, sitting now like a teachable child at the feet of Jesus.

 

Commandments bring freedom

With such a wonderful healing in front of us, who can help asking, "But exactly what is the moral law which Jesus was applying here through his spiritual understanding?" The Ten Commandments embody it. Christian Science maintains that the Ten Com­mandments are not merely human. They are of God. Have you ever noticed, for instance, that when Moses was receiving the Ten Com­mandments, no animal or human being was allowed upon Mount Horeb (Ex. 34:3). Surely, this was a sign that a form of government was being received from God, because Mrs. Eddy says of God, "His power is neither animal nor human" (Science and Health, p. 102:3). So we see that the Ten Commandments have a spiri­tual source, and therefore a deper­sonalizing and a de-animalizing pur­pose. This, of course, is one reason many people fear them - they think they'll lose by obeying them. So instead of expecting protection, they fear punishment and penalty.

Maybe such people have never appreciated just why God, divine Love, instructed Moses in the Ten Commandments in the first place.

Do you remember the Biblical ex­planation? "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out from the house of bondage." Then comes that wonder­ful First Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:2,3).

Now is it conceivable that the divine Mind which had freed the Israelites from physical slavery was now going to make them moral slaves? Of course not! On the contrary, wasn't the divine Love that gave the Israel­ites physical freedom, now showing them how to attain moral freedom? Of course! So the purpose of the Ten Commandments is not to take away our freedom. It's to show us how to keep it. The Commandments don't imprison us, then; they keep us out of prison, yes, and out of hospital and law courts, too! So they're not really ten restrictions on liberty, but ten sound means of keeping us all at liberty. And greatly are these ten warnings of social danger needed in a permissive society like ours today.

So let's give them some more thought.

The first four Commandments regulate our duty to God: no God save the one God, no bowing to material images in conscious thought, also no serving images in the waters under the earth - that is, so-called subcon­scious thought. Jesus made these duties absolutely natural by revealing God as our only real Father - the divine Spirit, the only presence and substance to whom we owe any loyalty.

 

The work of divine intelligence

The other six Commandments in­volve our duty to men and women in the light of our duty to God. They rule out disrespect for parents, stealing and killing, adultery, covetousness, and false witnessing. Hasn't Jesus made obedience to these six last Commandments much more attrac­tive by revealing men and women as the sons and daughters of God, divine Spirit?

So, far from ignoring the Ten Commandments, or regarding them as an irksome relic of the estab­lishment, Jesus developed marvelous love for God and man in their favor, to encourage us all to obey them. As to his own life, every thought and out­look he ever had praised God upon this wonderful instrument of ten strings, both day and night. So the position is abundantly clear - Moses was a keen sharpener of moral sense; Jesus, a lively devel­oper of spiritual sense! Through spiri­tual sense! Through spiritual truth, he shows us exactly what we should do to be spiritually free, even as Moses shows us what not to do, to be morally free.

But how? This had always been the agonizing question of the ages: how to get the strength, then how to apply the strength, not to do what Moses said we shouldn't do, and to really do what our Lord said we should do. Isn't it clear then that the same divine intelligence which trained Moses and sent Jesus would one day finalize its work of love by showing mankind where to get the strength from to obey both Moses and Jesus and exactly how to apply that strength?

Actually, Jesus had an even clearer vision that another dispensation of Truth would definitely follow him than Moses had of the Saviour to follow him. But what form would the precious new dispensation take? Isn't that today's all-important question?

The Bible supplies a fascinating forecast. It says, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

 

New perception of the Christ-idea

This raises an important point. Precisely how was Jesus seen going into heaven? Do you remember? Wasn't it by the surrender of his physical personality in what we call the Ascension?

Then how could the Second Coming possibly be in a personal physical form? Wouldn't it have to be marked by a new perception of the Christ-idea, by the discovery of the divine law, the total Spirit, which Jesus practiced, rather than by the earthly return of Jesus himself?

Mrs. Eddy puts it this way: "Our Master healed the sick, practiced Christian healing, and taught the generalities of its divine Principle to his students; but he left no definite rule for demonstrating this Principle of healing and preventing disease. This rule remained to be discovered in Christian Science" (Science and Health, p. 147:24-29).

But who was to be its discoverer? Here again the Bible provided good preparation for the seeking heart.

Jesus often used women in his parables, as the source of important truths. In fact, many of the most important inflows of spirituality into human affairs have come through women.

Certainly one of the most engaging of Jesus' parables concerns a wom­an—a woman who, having ten pieces of silver, by lighting a candle and sweeping her house thoroughly, final­ly found the one piece she had lost (Luke 15:8).

Two points are always especially interesting about this brief and beau­tiful parable. The first is this: the parable doesn't say "What woman having had ten pieces of silver." It says "What woman having," thus leaving her with ten pieces all through the period of belief of loss. All she needed was to regain sight of what was there all along. No matter what the sad disobedience, spiritual recov­erability is always possible.

The second point is more precious still. Why did Jesus give the woman ten pieces of silver? The recovery would have been just as clear with one. That number ten always takes me to the Ten Commandments. Now since Mind's ideas are always obedient to God, have you ever con­sidered that those ten pieces of silver, always in the house, could well typify the ten special strengths by which each of us is endowed by God with the power to obey each of the Ten Commandments?

From this wonderful idea, we can readily see now why Jesus dealt with the man of Gadara, for instance, with such total confidence in his complete recoverability. His spiritual strength couldn't be lost. It was a piece of silver always in his house. It had merely been lost sight of through lack of use.

Be these as they may, one thing is absolutely certain. The first of the Ten Commandments was Mrs. Eddy's favorite text; but for centuries its spiritual meaning had been so lost that few indeed had sought to heal the sick or raise the dead through obedience to it.

But Mrs. Eddy's love for God and man and the Bible was an in­extinguishable candle in her thought. Through her years of suffering and searching, the Christ gradually used this brightening light to sweep her house - her consciousness - clean of medical theories and of trust in a merely personal divinity.

She eventually found the answer to be none other than the spiritual meaning of that great First Com­mandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). Here was the finding of the lost piece of silver. See how brightly she has now polished it!

 

Mistaken concepts eradicated

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). "This me is Spirit," she now declares with author­ity. "Therefore the command means this: Thou shalt have no intelligence, no life, no substance, no truth, no love, but that which is spiritual" (Science and Health, p. 467: 4-7).

This spiritual meaning of the First Commandment is the absolute basis for Christian Science and all its healing of moral weakness. Spirit and its spiritual ideas are accepted as the only reality. On this basis, matter and its material conditions, its enticements and pornographic images are classed as mistaken concepts of spiritual reality.   Consequently, they're always classed as "unreal" in Christian Science. Indeed, they’re the false images men must not bow down to or worship. It follows in Christian Science that as God is Spirit and there is nothing else beside Him, then in reality man must be spiritual, neither material or physical, chemical or biological. He's a compound of divine ideas and of nothing else.

A famous Italian painting shows the Virgin Mary training the child Jesus to put his foot on her foot which is already on the head of the serpent, the symbol of evil. What a model for modern mothers! Mrs. Eddy showed the same protective love for the young in all generations when she made the Ten Commandments among the first Bible lessons for all the Sunday School pupils in her church.

Is it conceivable that if the Children of Israel needed ten vigorous "Nos" in their mild day, to keep them morally sound and socially whole­some, that we can raise ourselves and teen-agers in these days of evil pres­sures, fascinating sins, and criminal influences without the vigorous use of the word "No"? Of course not! The rebuke of error is an essential of love.

And unlike psychology, Christian Science allows no excuse for induced dreams, involuntary actions, and sub­conscious animal instincts. The Sec­ond Commandment requires domi­nion over all latent errors of sensa­tion.

 

Proof of God’s all-power

Here's an example: I once saw a man beautifully healed of an ugly outgrowth on his body. One day it was gratefully recognized that the spiritu­ality this man reflected from God had the power to melt all assertions of self-will or animal instinct that might be lying in his so-called subconscious thought, just as the warmth of the tropics has power to melt all the ice of an iceberg, below the water as well as above. In a short time the growth disappeared, though it had resisted all other treatment for over 14 years. It was one of the holiest healings I have witnessed, and a marvelous proof that even the images "In the water under the earth," as the Bible puts it, must yield to the all-power of God.

But as you see, in none of these areas does Christian Science work from the physical to the moral, and the moral to the spiritual. No, quite the other way. It begins compassionately with the divine fact of man's spiritual dominion, and uses this dominion to give men the moral power by which they can gradually control the physical.

"Here," says the author of Science and Health, in one of the most encouraging passages she ever wrote, "Christian Science is the sovereign panacea, giving strength to the weak­ness of mortal mind – strength from the immortal and omnipotent Mind – and lifting humanity above itself into purer desires, even into spiritual power and goodwill to man" (Science and Health, p. 407:11).

Let me illustrate.

One day a daughter calmly in­formed her parents she proposed living with her fiancé. Everyone was doing it, she said, and anyway they were going to be married one day. The parents met this permissiveness immediately with truth. They real­ized that the girl was the child of God, divine Principle, not an emotional weathervane; and they told her that she inherited from God the strength to say No to what wouldn't bless all mankind if practiced universally.

 

Moral idiocy diagnosed

These truths brought the girl sharp­ly to her senses - to her spiritual senses, those wonderful senses which include no inclination toward evil. Therefore, instead of resenting her parents' uncompromising counsel, she was grateful for it; and that was the end of the proposed error.

But today spiritual healing has to stretch out its hands to far more serious evils than infidelity in person­al relationships. There's a mental disease rampant today which is a stage of crime.

Humanity owes a debt to the Dis­coverer of Christian Science for ex­posing and diagnosing this disease long before it took possession of today's assassins, hijackers and sky­jackers, kidnappers, and urban guer­rillas.

The name of this menacing disease is moral idiocy. Mrs. Eddy's descrip­tion of its symptoms shows the sharp rebukes needed in its cure. "This mental disease," she writes, "at first shows itself in extreme sensitive­ness; then, in a loss of self-knowledge and of self-condemnation,- a shock­ing inability to see one's own faults, but an exaggerating sense of other people's" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 112:24-27).

Mrs. Eddy says, "Christian Science shows that there is a way of escape from the latter-day ultimatum of evil, through scientific truth; so that all are without excuse" (Misc. p. 113:17). Doesn't this mean that we are all responsible for praying that God can open the eyes of those who practice violence in public and hide bombs in secret, so that they can see the wickedness of their ways, and turn from them.

And now, a final illustration to show there's no better healer, not only of moral weakness and lawlessness, but also of disease, than the First Com­mandment: "Thou shall have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3).

For years a woman had been taught to fear, instead of love, God. As she grew, a tumor grew with her. She carried it for years. Then one day, Christian Science showed her that she was disloyal to God in bowing to images about Him which were quite untrue. The night that her thought changed unreservedly from fear of God to deep love of Him, the tumor disappeared, and she weighed 17 pounds less. Nothing passed from her body, but the weight of false belief was lifted from her mind. That men­tal weight was all there ever really was to the tumor. Love simply melted the belief into utter unbelievable ness.

 

Truth ready for instant use

The First and Second Command­ments admit only perfect God, and man filled with spiritual images of love. That's why they can heal all our diseases and strengthen all our weak­nesses.

Yes, there's no condition, weak or violent, moral or physical, which can't be healed by a spiritual under­standing of the Ten Commandments. And how comforting to realize that the strength to obey each of the Ten Commandments is symbolized by those ten pieces of silver always in your house. God put them there, polished and bright, ready for instant use.

So, it's absolutely true - the spiritu­ality which gives your morality do­minion over materiality is your eter­nal birthright.

And so, as I think of mankind today, so precious, so promising, I always feel fresh hope for it, despite all its moral problems when I remember this wonderful prophecy in Science and Health, "The thunder of Sinai and the Sermon on the Mount are pursuing and will overtake the ages, rebuking in their course all error and proclaim­ing the kingdom of heaven on earth" (p. 174:17-20). Meanwhile, just look at the strength provided for each of you by the Christ, and the love which supports it: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scor­pions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19).

 

[1971.]

 

 

HOME PAGE                INDEX OF LECTURES