Christian Science: The Way to Happiness Here and Hereafter (1)
William R. Rathvon, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
A Christian Science lecture, like everything connected with Christian Science, is constructive. It is designed to build up, not only to pull down. It takes nothing away from anyone without giving something better in its place. So I have not come to attack or ridicule any one's religious beliefs, or any one's system of medicine.
Nor is it a part of my mission to point out to you in detail the dangers that lurk in certain mental systems that are sometimes classed with Christian Science but which are no more related to it, than darkness is related to light, such as will-power, hypnotism, mesmerism, auto-suggestion, thought tranference, telepathy, spiritualism, or any of the cults or schools that rely wholly or in part upon the influence of one human mind or human will upon another. Christian Science acknowledges and admits the existence of but one Mind and this Mind is God, the source of all good in man and the universe.
A Christian Science lecture, however, is not to be regarded as a complete exposition of the whole of Christian Science. The limited time assigned prevents consideration of many of the essentials to right living that have made it the greatest protective, restorative and reformative agency of modern times.
But all these things, and more, are fully set forth in its text book "Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, and this book I would commend to every one who would learn for himself at first hand the teachings and practices of Christian Science. A copy may be obtained through any Christian Scientist. How comprehensive and inclusive is that book may be seen when I name to you the headings of some of its chapters, as follows: Prayer; Atonement and Eucharist; Marriage; Christian Science versus Spiritualism; Animal Magnetism Unmasked; Science, Theology, Medicine; Physiology; Footsteps of Truth; Creation; Science of Being; Some Objections Answered; Christian Science Practice; Teaching Christian Science; Recapitulation.
All of Christian Science is contained in that book, and whatever I may here give of some of its teachings is but a small part of what is far better expressed in the book itself.
Since the day it was first offered to a waiting world, it has been quietly ministering to the spiritual and physical needs of those who read it with an open mind.
No one who believes in the truth, inspiration, and authenticity of the Holy Scriptures can consistently oppose the doctrines of Christian Science, for from beginning to end they are founded upon the Bible of our forefathers.
In referring to her authorship of the text book, Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy has said the Bible was her only guide and authority. That she adhered to it closely is shown by the fact that a study of Science and Health leads to a study of the Bible. No other religious denomination comprises so large a proportion of Bible students.
To the Christian Scientist, the Bible is no longer a fetich but a friend; no longer a mere household ornament but a personal necessity. No longer does it speak to him with a voice of reproach but with welcome words of helpfulness.
It is perhaps unnecessary to inform this audience that the discoverer and founder of Christian Science was a woman, Mary Baker Eddy. You may know, too, that for years she labored alone and unassisted — but always undaunted and undismayed — offering to an unwilling and unbelieving world, that which she knew from the first would ultimately bless all mankind, healing the sick, and reforming the sinner.
You may know, too, that at the time of life when women are enjoying the well earned fruitage of earlier years, the blessings of home, family and friends, she was deprived of them. Instead, she endured the jeers of the incredulous, the sting of cheap wit, and the anathemas of the bigoted.
You may know, too, that from the ranks of these same skeptical, scoffing, and intolerant men and women the healing touch of divine Love later drew a great throng of those who today devoutly and gratefully acknowledge fealty to the divine Science which they once rejected, for Christian Science has always lovingly appealed to every phase of sinning and suffering humanity. It knows no distinctions, it makes no exclusions. Mrs. Eddy has written into her book, Science and Health, these comforting words of truth, "Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals." (P. 13:2.)
Few of the world's leaders of great movements, spiritual or material, have lived to see the consummation of their worthy ambitions, their greatness acknowledged, their niche in history assured. Mrs. Eddy was one of the few to whom these things were accorded while she was still visibly with us. It can truly be said that they never were regarded by her as personal triumphs, but rather as "the evidence of divine Mind's healing power and absolute control." (S. & H. 177:5.)
Like most great thinkers, Mrs. Eddy lived in a world all her own, and while she was alertly interested in the more important of the world's daily occurrences, her thought was ever turning from the things about us to the things beyond us, from the things that are seen to the things that are not seen. And although she was always considerate of the comfort and well-being of those around her — no mother could be more loving and thoughtful — yet Mrs. Eddy's closest companions were ever her own thoughts which, when expressed in words, disclosed how steadfastly and continuously she dwelt in "the secret place of the Most High."
Start the Day Aright
Every day in Christian Science is made up of twenty-four hours of immense possibilities for good, and it rests with each individual to determine for himself how much good he gets out of it. The self-willed, self-seeking man works to control events to suit himself. The wise man works to control himself, so that the results of events, whatever they may be, cannot disturb him. The demonstrating Christian Scientist is no longer disturbed by the recurrence of things which formerly made him miserable, for while they now may come and go just as before, they do not leave behind them the results that once made them dreaded. Most of the occurrences that go to make up what men call a "bad day" are harmless when deprived of their power to harass and annoy. A blank cartridge may make as much noise and smoke as a loaded one, but it is stripped of its power to wound. So a right application of Christian Science removes the sting from evil, turns defeat, into victory, and makes adversity the recruiting ground for prosperity.
Let us take a few ordinary examples: Suppose that this morning you were told some unkind and unjust things reputed to have been said about you by one whose friendship you valued. You are disturbed, annoyed, and perhaps resentful over the falsity and injustice of it all, and the whole day is clouded. But if, on the other hand, through your understanding of Christian Science, you are able to clear your thought of all sense of hurt, anger and resentment, the lie has been stripped of its power to wound — the sting is pulled out of it and you have won a victory worth while.
The day is brighter and you are better for the overcoming. Your knowledge of Christian Science did not prevent the lie from reaching your ears, but it did prevent the poison of it from polluting your thought. You may recall the old saying that man was given two ears, one to hear everything and the other to let out those things which he should not remember. In Christian Science, we need to learn the art of forgetting as well as the art of remembering — forgetting things that are evil, remembering things that are good.
If you like, let us take another illustration: One day quite unexpectedly you find your position gone and your salary cut off. Others are dependent upon you, and the suggestions of failure, fear, and despondency are clamoring to force their way into your thought. Through your knowledge of Christian Science, you silence them and scatter them. Then you draw closer in thought to Him who is the source of all good, knowing that He never faileth, and you start out anew, not with the spirit of doubt or fear, but of confidence and assurance, remembering these inspiriting words words of Scripture, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Such examples might be multiplied indefinitely and taken from the experience of those who, by knowing something of Christian Science are today confidently facing events and circumstances that formerly were anticipated with dread and apprehension. The occurrences themselves are unchanged, but their evil effects are annulled. The Scriptures abound in instances of this. Daniel's reliance upon God did not keep him out of the lion's den, but it did get him out. Paul's understanding of omnipotent Mind did not prevent the serpent's bite, but it did save him from its deadly venom. Even Jesus himself was tempted to do evil, but he had the strength and understanding to reject and repel the tempter.
Now every man's day is made bright or dull, profitable or empty, good or bad, not alone by what happens, but by how he is affected by what happens.
Christian Science affords to each one the means of bringing into his day just the brightness, progress and abundance of good that he needs and longs for.
Each day, then, is an empire and each man must be either its emperor or its slave. It is for him, and him alone, to determine which he will be, the slave of adverse circumstance, or the master of its results. Mrs. Eddy admonishes us in Science and Health to "meet every adverse circumstance as its master." Not only does she tell us this, but she also shows us how it is to be done. She supplies not only the impulse, but the method as well.
To rule the day wisely, justly, beneficently, we must begin it rightly. Christian Science is showing men and women in every walk of life that there is no better way of beginning each day than to launch it with a prayer. Many of these prayerful people of today who have learned how to pray in Christian Science rarely prayed in former days. Some of them never prayed, many came from the ranks of those who had long since ceased to pray, for their prayers had become as empty words, "vain repetitions," coming from the lips instead of from the heart. But through Christian Science they have learned to pray aright, and now are glad to testify from their own experience that the prayer of the righteous availeth much, the prayer wherein faith is coupled with understanding, power with humility, and love with purity; the prayer which is based upon the absolute knowledge that all good is already given to man.
In Christian Science there are no formal prayers for special occasions. It has no prayer book. The Lord's Prayer is repeated in unison at all Christian Science services, and it is invariably preceded by a few moments of silent prayer by the congregation. Besides this, there is one short prayer recommended for daily use. So simple is it, yet so reverent in its phraseology; so direct, yet so universal in its inclusions, so free from every suggestion of sect or doctrine, that it can be used unreservedly by any sincere man or woman of any church or of no church. Here it is as Mrs. Eddy has given it to us:
"Thy kingdom come;" let the reign of
divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in
me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy
Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and
govern them! (Manual Art. VIII, Sec 4.)
The day that is begun with this prayer, or any other equally unselfish and uplifting, is sure to be a better, happier, healthier, and holier day because of it.
Strictly speaking, there is but one kind of prayer. We are praying aright, or we are praying amiss. The prayers that men classify as Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Christian Science, or what not, are either good prayers or poor ones. The labels they bear cannot make them good if poor, or poor if good. The prayer that ascends to Him who knows our needs before we ask, is not winged by creed, tradition, or personality. The Christian Science prayer results in the healing of sickness and the destruction of sin, not because of its name but because it is based upon a right knowledge of God and His eternal laws.
From the narrow, gloomy aisles of prejudice sometimes come these complaining words: "Why indeed should I ask a Christian Scientist to pray for me when my prayers are just as sincere and earnest as his can be?" Sincerity and earnestness without knowledge are not enough. There is a great need today as there was two thousand years ago for the words of Jesus' disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray."
Briefly consider what constitutes prayer in Christian Science; let us take a few extracts from its text book Science and Health.
On the fourth page of the remarkable chapter on Prayer, Mrs. Eddy uses these words:
"The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer."
"What we most, need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds."
And again on page 15:
"Self-forgetfulness, purity and affection are constant prayers."
Indeed, this whole chapter is such a complete and comprehensive exposition of true prayer that the few extracts I have read you can only serve as a glimpse of its helpfulness. They will suffice, however, to show that prayer in Christian Science is not an affair of words but of living, not of eloquence but of character. It is not the man who begs the hardest or the loudest, or with the greatest fluency whose prayers are answered. It has been wisely said that:
"The things which men most admire in public prayer are the things that God least regards."
God has given every one of His children all good things, hence we must do more than merely beg and beseech Him to favor us. We must study to know His laws and then do our best to live in accord with them.
So it is with those who follow the teachings of Christian Science about prayer. We do not merely entreat God to do something for us that we would greatly like to have done, but we are striving to learn what He would have us to do, and then to do it joyously.
We can ask no better evidence that a prayer is answered than afterwards to feel so near to the Giver of all good as to have lost sight of what we asked Him to give us. The prayer that brings the child closer to his Father, that brings man closer to his God, the divine Principle of his being, and leaves him there, is not a barren one, whether it was uttered in the silence of one's thoughts, in the sanctuary, in the noisy street, on the rushing train, or on the rolling sea. Neither time nor place can restrict the prayer of unselfed love, for, after all, love for God and man is the essence of prayer. Coleridge has truly said:
"He prayeth best who loveth best
All things, both great and small.
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all."
The prayer that results in no disappointment is the prayer that carries our highest desires to God and contentedly leaves them in his hands. When we bring more of God and less of man into our thinking, we will get more of happiness out of our praying.
The Founder of Christian Science attributes to prayer, combined with vigilance and diligence, the abundant blessings which have accompanied the progress of Christianity wherever it has been manifested in healing the sick and saving the sinner.
The world's progress in civilization, in so far as it embraces "the enduring, the good and the true" (S. & H. 261:4) is due to Christianity, and, without prayer, Christianity is inconceivable. Mankind in general, and even that portion of it which is accounted Christian, has little conception of the part that Christianly scientific prayer has taken in the betterment of humanity, and of what it is yet to accomplish.
Mrs. Eddy is by no means alone in the acknowledgment of the power of prayer.
Tennyson caught the same great truth, and expressed it simply as follows:
"More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of."
which discloses his recognition of a fact we should keep before us in our praying, that although God may not always give us what we wish, He does give us what we need — or, as Mrs. Eddy has so helpfully epitomized it —
"Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need." (S. & H. 494.)
It would save us many a pang of disappointment if we were to test our prayers by the little word "right" and its derivatives, — "Is this prayer a righteous one?" "Am I praying aright?" are questions that should be applied to every prayer. May I give you a few passages worth remembering that bear directly upon the significance of the word "right" in connection with prayer? The first is from the Bible (James 5:16). "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous may availeth much." The second I take from the text book of Christian Science (P. 206:12). "The exercise of the sentiments — hope, faith, love — is the prayer of the righteous. This prayer, governed by Science instead of the senses, heals the sick." And again (S. & H. 2:5) "The desire which goes forth hungering after righteousness is blessed of our Father, and it does not return unto us void." The third is chosen from Scotland's blithesome singer, Robert Burns, who, in his "Cotter's Saturday Night" truly says, —
"They never sought in vain
Who sought the Lord aright."
I might go a step further and quote from Alexander Pope's poem "The Universal Prayer" where the word "right" appears as the basis of expectancy:
"If I am right, Thy grace impart
Still in the right to stay,
If I am wrong, O teach my heart
To find that better way."
So, rather than to wonder if our prayer is to be answered, let us first assure ourselves that it conforms to our highest sense of right and then leave it in the hands of Him who doeth all things well, knowing that then it will not return to us void. Let us know that some one, somewhere, because of it will be blessed in the way that God assigns.
Healing in Christian Science is always by means of prayer. The word generally used is "treatment," but it is always to be understood that a Christian Science treatment is a prayer, and just in the proportion that it is a righteous prayer, does it heal the sick and reform the sinner. It is not the prayer of supplication, but of realization; it is not merely asking God to do something for us, but knowing that He has already done the good thing desired. It is the prayer in which gratitude is supplanting entreaty, confidence is expelling doubt, and perfect love is casting out fear. It is laying at the feet of God the "heart's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed," and then patiently listening for His "Go in peace." It is the prayer of rejoicing, of conquest, of humility, of unselfish love.
Christian Science is giving to man a broader comprehension and higher appreciation of prayer, and is restoring it to its rightful place in the divine plan for man's redemption. It is teaching men to pray, and to pray aright. Men pray too little, too seldom. The Scriptures direct us to pray without ceasing.
Saint James tells us the prayer of faith shall save the sick. What may we not expect then of the prayer wherein there is not only the abundance of faith, but also of understanding, wisdom, spiritual power, and, above all, of love? Every Christian Science treatment built up of these elements of righteousness heals the sick and comforts the sorrowing.
The Open Door
In a majority of cases, the man who comes to Christian Science for physical or mental healing does so only after he has exhausted all other promising methods of relief. The lash of pain drives him to it, the fear of death drags him to it. He comes often reluctantly while protesting his unbelief in that which he thinks he will be expected to believe. But he has learned of cases seemingly hopeless as his own that have been healed in this strange way, and he has been urged by his friends to try it. They tell him that it cannot harm him and that it may heal, so, with an air of mingled desperation, resignation, and incredulity, he appears before the practitioner with little hope and less faith, and with a sense of surrender that would be amusing if it were not so nearly tragic.
But when he is assured that he will not immediately have to cast aside the cherished beliefs of a lifetime; that no more faith is required of him than to follow a few simple directions about abstaining from other methods of treatment; when he finds he will not be urged forthwith to throw into the mental scrap heap all his prejudices and convictions, he feels that a great load has been lifted from his shoulders and he awaits what is to follow with more toleration and less of doubt. The bread of life has been offered to him but he may continue to eat husks as long as he prefers them.
The wise practitioner knows, as his patient does not, that the first healing touch of divine Truth will do more towards sweeping away these mental obstructions than hours of admonition or pages of precept. So his patient is silently treated, is silently prayed for. That moment he enters the portals of a new life where there is peace of mind and health of body, a life where there awaits him the spirit of love and of power and of a sound mind.
But not every one has to be so dragged or spurred to the open door of Christian Science. Some find it easy to reach and easy to enter, for they have been releasing themselves for a long time from the mistaken beliefs of earlier years and have been unconsciously accepting many of the doctrines of Christian Science.
The man who feels his own unworthiness, his own unfitness to attain to a higher, better, and more spiritual life, has nothing to apprehend from Christian Science.
It makes no distinctions, it imposes no restrictions, upon one man or class of men more than upon another. The devout churchman, the hardened sinner, the incredulous agnostic, the degraded and depraved, the sick and the well, alike are welcomed to all it offers.
No man ever finds it closed against him because of his past record or early misdeeds. Where there is an earnest desire to know God and to live in accord with this knowledge there is always an open door waiting in Christian Science.
It does not parade a man's past mistakes and present failures before his gaze or hang them like millstones about his neck.
It does not peer into the closets of any man's past, but opens wide the door of present opportunity for doing good.
It does not ask of the beginner how much of wrong have you done in the past, but how much of right are you ready to do now. Not how many mistakes have you made, but how earnest are you in resolving to make no more.
Reformation in Christian Science is re-formation, being formed over. It is not an affair of words. It is not a mere declaration of intent. It is not only an avowed purpose, but a continuous development. It is not only laying down old tools, but taking up new ones. We are reformed only when we are formed anew, retaining all we ever had of the good, and discarding that which is evil. It is a combined process of elimination and growth, which proceeds progressively and continuously. In this true reformation we leave behind things harmful, but take in things beneficial. Many men hold back because they feel that in order to go forward in Christian Science they must sacrifice too much. It is not merely sacrifice that is expected, but growth. The earnest beginner is not torn away from things harmful, he grows away from them, hence desire to return to them is gone forever. He does not give them up, they give him up when he resolutely strives to put them down.
Christian Science destroys harmful habits by destroying the harmful causes that form them. Back of every wrong habit is a wrong desire, and Christian Science heals the wrong habit by destroying the wrong desire. The hard drinker may assure you that he does not like the taste of liquor, but he longs for its effects, and that longing, that desire, is what enslaves him. You may break his bottle into a thousand pieces and spill every drop of the envenomed stuff into the gutter, but that does not break the desire. Christian Science does not break the bottle, the man himself is to do that, but it breaks the desire for the bottle, and this is true reformation.
What It Is That Heals
When the man who is healed in Christian Science recognizes that he has restored to him the blessings of health and happiness, usefulness and ability, those valued things that were so sorely threatened, he is almost overwhelmed by a surge of emotions. Amazement, curiosity, and a desire to understand are uppermost. "What has done this wonderful thing, and how can I get hold of it?" are the insistent questions he propounds; "I want this marvelous power to help others; I know so many people that need it, and I want to talk it to them at once," he earnestly declares.
This zeal is natural and commendable, but unless it is tempered with wisdom it may be harmful rather than helpful. To talk Christian Science enthusiastically and indiscriminately without having lived it persistently, is to invite opposition where we had hoped for acceptance. It produces prejudice instead of support, incredulity instead of belief.
Much needless antagonism to Christian Science has arisen from the indiscreet and intemperate assertions by those exuberant ones whose healing had seemed to them such a wonderful thing that they could not comprehend how any one could regard it differently, and hence they have talked Christian Science to almost any one willing to stand still. We must learn to choose our hearers as well as our words.
Answering, then, the eager question that is uppermost in the mind of the man who is turning to Christian Science, "What is it that does the healing?" let us say to him that it is the power of divine Mind practically applied to beliefs about the human body and to the affairs of men. Let us assure him, too, that it is the influence of divine Love operating in human consciousness. Does this satisfy him? Does he quickly grasp the deep significance of the words "divine Mind?" Does he comprehend, even in a degree, the nature of God's love? Not very often.
Let us see what can be done towards aiding the beginner to a better understanding of the healing power of divine Mind. Let us begin by saying a little to him about the human mind, an entirely different thing.
Mind's Control of Body
All intelligent persons agree that a man's mind influences his body to a greater or less degree, they only differ about how far this mental influence extends. All agree that excessive worry, fear, anger, and other mental extremes, are familiar causes of physical disorders. All will admit, for example, that a man may worry himself sick, that excessive fear may produce weakness, and that a violent outburst of anger may cause physical collapse. But how far other forms of bodily derangement are to be attributed to mental causes, authorities do not agree. Just where the vague line should be drawn which the doctors say exists between mental and material causation is a matter of dispute among the doctors themselves. One school of medicine maintains that only so-called functional diseases are mentally produced, while another more progressive admits that certain forms of elementary organic disorders may have a mental origin.
Here Christian Science enters the arena and boldly declares that the human mind is to be held accountable for every discordant condition of the body; not only in cases where its action is direct and apparent, as in those just named, but where its operations are remote and obscure and are only discernible by those trained in the study of mental causation.
Then arises a throng of questions by the beginner, typical ones being: "How about the sickness of an infant, whose mind is undeveloped"; or, "How can a man's mind be the cause of his pain when he has swallowed something in his food that he did not know was harmful?" It is not the mind of any one individual that causes the mischief, but the minds of all mortals — mortal mind, in other words. It is this mortal mind which has decreed that certain physical effects will follow certain causes. It is this mortal mind that has laid down many of these trouble-making laws about the physical body and the material world where it claims to have complete control. It holds its subjects in a grip of iron, and sickness, pain, distress, sorrow, and misery are the results. It is a dictator, a tyrant, a despot, and the human body is its obedient servant.
Yet it may be stripped of all its assumed power and aggressiveness, and be reduced to nothingness.
Christian Science is revealing that the human mind, this "carnal mind" as Paul calls it, is rendered absolutely powerless to do evil when it is confronted by the divine Mind — God Himself; that its so-called laws of health and sickness are annulled and obliterated when confronted by the laws of God, and that this mortal mind may be controlled, directed, influenced, and ultimately destroyed by immortal Mind, which, in the language of the text book of Christian Science "must be acknowledged as supreme in the physical realm, so-called, as well as in the spiritual." (S. & H. 427.)
If at this stage of his enlightenment it is explained to the beginner that a right knowledge of God, divine Mind, is essential to his progress, he naturally asks, "How am I to learn to know God, divine Mind, that His benign influence may harmonize my troubled life and heal this ailing body that gives me so much distress? How am I to understand the laws under which He operates? Who is to teach me?"
Jesus of Nazareth was not only the greatest physician but also the greatest teacher the world has ever known. He taught men to know God, and now, as then, man's great need is a right understanding of God and His law.
Most men know so little about God as Life, Truth, and Love, supreme on earth as in heaven, that they think they can get along just as well without such knowledge as with it. Yet there is nothing within the range of human consciousness that is more essential to man's happiness, health and true success.
The world today is profoundly wise and learned in all that pertains to materiality, but it is centuries behind in spiritual understanding.
It knows so much about matter that it can move mountains; it knows so little of God that it is afraid of a germ.
The average man of today rarely regards a knowledge of God as at all essential to his health, usefulness, or as affecting his daily affairs. If he thinks of God at all, he generally thinks of him as a far away, mysterious being, hard to approach and harder to understand, whose acquaintance he can put off until some more convenient time when he is not so busy. Few people have any accurate or tangible concept of God. Outside of Christian Science, there are as many erroneous conceptions about God as there are people to conceive them, yet there is only one true idea of God, and it is to be learned through the study of the life and lessons of Jesus the Christ as elucidated in the text book of Christian Science.
Too many of us have never grown beyond our childhood beliefs about God planted by old theology, fertilized by fear, cultivated by ignorance, which depict God as a fearful and mighty potentate, ruling the affairs of men in a way that is hard to understand and still harder to approve. Too many of us still think of Him as a God of moods and impulses, a magnified man with man's peculiarities and attributes, a man-made, man-like, man-punishing God, the creator of both good and evil, health and sickness, who is believed to operate under mysterious laws that no one can understand or follow.
Until this fearfully wrong conception of God is corrected and a right knowledge of him is established, mortals do not comprehend the modus of true mind-healing in Christian Science.
Right Idea of God
We will then ask the beginner to set aside for the time his inherited and impedimentive beliefs about God and to consider with an open mind a little of the teachings of Christian Science about God, good, the God whom Jesus taught men to know.
Let us explain to him that God is Love; that God is Mind: that He is Spirit; the infinite Principle of being; that He is Truth, that He is Life; that He is omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. Do these definitions of God quickly appeal to the man who has always thought of Him as a finite personage subject to the limitations of time, space, and circumstance? Perhaps not. But let us propose as an aid towards a fuller comprehension, that he choose from among these definitions the one which most nearly approaches his conception of the highest possible good, and let his thought dwell upon that. A man's highest ideas of God can be no higher than his highest conceptions of good, but they should always be that high.
In forming a new idea of God, the beginner is not asked to cast aside his present beliefs only because they are old. Whatsoever is good or true or helpful in his present understanding of God is to be retained, for all good everlastingly belongs to God and proceeds from Him.
But this one thing the beginner will do well ever to keep in thought, that God's infinite goodness and power and love are just as available, applicable, and necessary to man while here on earth as they ever will be anywhere. What a monstrous mistake it is to put off forming a sacred companionship with God until after we are through with this earth. Jesus said (Matthew 22:32), "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
If the thought of God as Love, ever blessing, never condemning; ever healing, never afflicting, including all mankind in His fatherly protection and infinite affection; if this thought of God comes to you with tender appeal, hold fast to it and cherish it. It will unfold and enlarge and develop, and gradually lead you to a yet broader, fuller knowledge of Him as Love, divine.
Or is it the thought of God as Life, "The Life that knows no death, The Life that maketh all things new": the eternal source of all being, of health, of growth, of activity, of development and unfoldment, that touches a responsive chord in the consciousness of the man who is seeking a better knowledge of God. If so, let him sound it deeply and it will swell into a diapason of grandeur and harmony and inspiration.
Or perhaps he may best comprehend the Christian Science idea of God as Principle, the divine First Cause and Creator, the sustaining, actuating, and underlying Principle of the universe who operates through unchanging laws, always beneficent and always comprehensible.
A man can no more work out the problems of living without a knowledge of God, the Principle of being, than he can work out a problem in mathematics without some knowledge of its underlying laws. What would be thought of the man who tries to solve some intricate calculation in mathematics who does not know enough of its essentials to be altogether sure that two and two make four? Yet everywhere men are trying to work out the problems of existence without knowing enough of God, the Principle of all being, to get the right results out of the very simplest problems of everyday life.
Is it to be wondered then that on all sides are to be seen so much of failure and sickness and sin? The text book of Christian Science tells us, "To reach heaven, the harmony of being, we must understand the divine Principle of being." (6:14)
In another of her writings called "Christian Healing," Mrs. Eddy is even more direct and conclusive in pointing out how essential it is to know somewhat of God as Principle. Here she says, "Because God is the Principle of Christian healing we must understand in part this divine Principle, or we cannot demonstrate it in part."
There are many who readily grasp the idea of God as Truth, the Truth which makes men free from every lie of sickness, want, woe, misery, deficiency or tribulation. The men to whom this larger thought of God appears may add to it day by day and thereby grow into a new freedom, growing away from his sense of limitation or lack of confidence, or restricted opportunity. Not only does it bring to him liberty, but ability to do those things that make for individual progress, growth, and true success in commercial, professional, industrial and domestic life.
Perhaps the beginner in Christian Science may more readily comprehend God as omniscient Mind, possessing all knowledge, all science, all intelligence, all understanding, the Creator of man and the universe, of all that really exists. The man of God's creation, the real man, reflecting these qualities of infinite Mind, does not lack wisdom, acumen, perception, tact, judgment, nor perspicacity. He need never be in doubt, nor conjecture nor wonder. He has no occasion to court luck nor chance nor fortuitous circumstance. No problem can be too profound, no situation too complex, no research too vast for the man who habitually turns to infinite Mind, the fountain head of all knowledge, for his guidance and direction.
We are sometimes asked by the man who is considering the claims of Christian Science with an open mind, "Is there any great difference between Christian Science and other Christian denominations? So far as I can see, Christian Scientists believe much the same as we do. We have the same Bible and believe the same truths and I can see no reason why I should go outside my own church to get Christian Science, Tell me one fundamental truth wherein they differ. Are they not identical in all essentials?"
There are a number of points of divergence and a fundamental one is the Christian Science belief in the omnipotence of God. The Christian Science church not only teaches that God is the only power, as other churches teach, but it also insists that its followers put that teaching into practice. This means that they are expected to deny by thought and deed that evil, the opposite of God, has any power or actuality. With them this is not a mere doctrinal theory or an empty assertion, but an actuating, animating truth. To declare that God is omnipotent and at the same time admit that evil has power to confer pleasure or to cause pain is to say one thing while believing another. It is in effect saying that God is the only power while believing that He is not.
It is sometimes wrongly alleged that in thus denying the reality of evil, Christian Science confers a license to sin. Never was there a greater mistake. When a man gains an understanding of the unreality of sin, he no longer turns to it for pleasure or flees from it in fear. This understanding of the unreality of evil is attainable only as we gain an understanding of God as the only reality.
Is Sickness Real?
Omnipresent God, if it means anything, means that God is everywhere, that he fills all space, and that there is no place where He is not. It follows inevitably that evil, which from its very nature cannot be a part of God nor partake of His being, can find no lodgement nor foothold anywhere and therefore cannot exist. Yet to most professing Christians outside the ranks of Christian Science, evil, the opposite of good, is as real, actual, powerful, and ever-present as good itself. Naturally they ask, "How are we otherwise to account for the presence of the sickness, pain, and other forms of evil which enter so largely into human experience?"
Now if I were to say to you that these evil things do not actually exist — that they only seem to — there would be some in this audience of intelligent people who would emphatically protest, as many of us have done at one time or another, "That is all nonsense. You needn't tell me that when my head aches I only think it does. I know better for I feel it, and what I feel I know, and no argument of Christian Science will convince me differently."
Right here enters one of the most common misconceptions about the teachings of Christian Science concerning the unreality of disease and the like. Christian Science fully agrees with the sufferer that pain seems to be about the most real and actual thing in all of human experience, but it makes a most decided distinction between what seems to be and what is. Christian Science takes the high ground that if God is omnipresent, if he is everywhere, then there is no place for pain to be, and therefore it is not an eternal reality. Men believe that sickness is as real as health, because they see it and feel it; they believe that evil is as real as good because they see its effects and feel its hold upon them. Now here Christian Science does another remarkable thing.
It says to the beginner you are to look above and beyond what you see and feel if you would know what things are real and what things only seem to be. In other words you are asked to deny much of what the senses tell you about the body.
At first thought this may appear to be a difficult thing to do and an unreasonable thing to ask, for the senses of seeing, feeling and the like are useful servants that at present you would find it difficult to do without. But you do not hesitate to deny much of what they tell you about many other things. For example you may spend an hour or two at the performance of some skilled magician witnessing an exhibition of sleight-of-hand that is very deceiving and come away knowing that the things you saw were not at all what they seemed to be and what your senses told you they were. If you did not know better you would have been deceived by each feat that you witnessed. Other familiar instances of sense deception might be cited, but this perhaps will suffice.
Now then is it to be thought a strange thing if Christian Science calls upon you to challenge the testimony of these same senses when they tell you evil things about your body? If they are capable of misleading you in one instance, may they not be doing it in another?
They may generally serve you well, but they also serve you ill when you believe all they tell you about the vital things of life. Did you ever consider that all you know of pain and sickness and want and misery and suffering and the like, you have learned through what these senses have told you? And that they have never told you a single thing about God, or Spirit, or Mind, or Truth? Why then should you hesitate to challenge their testimony when they are arguing continually against the omnipotence and omnipresence of God, against the very existence of eternal Truth?
Granting then that the beginner may see the reasonableness of this position, we may hear him ask, "How will my rejecting the evidence of the senses about the body aid me in getting well? Suppose I do know that I am being deceived, how is that going to help me?"
A necessary step toward getting free from the influence of any kind of a deception is to know the truth about it. A lie that is believed is as tangible as the truth itself, but when you know it is a lie you are free from its control.
Jesus proved in his ministry on earth, and Christian Science is today substantiating that proof, that just in proportion that a man gains and applies a right understanding of God, the divine Truth which denies the reality of all things evil, in that proportion does he break the hold of sickness and sin.
Or in the language of our text book (p. 178) "We disarm sin of its imaginary power in proportion to our spiritual understanding of the status of immortal being."
Should the fundamental truth of Christian Science impress the beginner as strange, if not incredible, let me say to him, that it is being attested today in the lives of multitudes of people who pattern their thoughts and deeds after the teachings of Christian Science.
The enemies of Truth, even those in high places, would dogmatically deny that this presence of God — good — is today among men, destroying all belief in the power of evil, healing the sick and reforming the sinner, but no man is qualified to deny this who has not tested it persistently, sincerely, reverently; and those who have so tested it know that it is Immanuel or "God with us."
If any of the foregoing Christianly scientific concepts of God find a welcome in the secret places of your thought, dwell upon them, that you may abide under the shelter of a higher, holier life. Each one of them is more precious than pearls or rubies. If you will invite them all into your consciousness, you will have for your own that which you will soon prize above wealth or position or power or any of the things the world can give you and for which you have worked and hoped and planned all the days of your life.
I have been able to present them to you but crudely and incompletely. In the Bible and in the text book of Christian Science you will find them clearly and admirably set forth in their completeness. These two books will aid the investigator in search of a knowledge of God as no other auxiliary can do. The wise man will not only read them, but will study them, ponder over their teachings, compare one with the other, and above all will put their precepts into daily use.
If a man sincerely and honestly desires to progress in the understanding of Christian Science, there is nothing that can stop him. God's kingdom is come on earth and in his kingdom progress is law, a law which expects of us all we can do but nothing we cannot.
The beginner is not expected to gorge himself by reading page after page without mentally digesting or assimilating it. Reading a given number of pages each day without applying knowledge thus gained will never make a Christian Scientist. Science and Health places powerful tools in our hands and shows us how to use them, but after that if we would have God help us, we must help ourselves. Mental laziness may not interfere with our reading, but it uses every trick and artifice to prevent our working.
There are times in the experience of every student of Christian Science when he seems to be gaining but little understanding of what he reads, and frequently he wonders why. Mental indolence is a common cause. The remedy is named on Page 323 of Science and Health which says: "In order to apprehend more, we must put into practice what we already know," an admonition that should be hung on the walls of the consciousness of every student in the school of scientific Mind-healing.
Industry is essential to advancement in the spiritual world as well as in the material. We must not only know what to do, but do what we know. Nor is it enough to merely refrain from doing evil, we must also be active in doing good. It is not enough that we no longer hate, we must learn to love. Christian Science is not a negative religion. It is forceful, positive, progressive. It is to be judged not only by what it prevents but also by what it produces. It not only destroys weeds, but produces crops.
The pages of Science and Health are bright with simple statements of Truth that any intelligent man may practically apply if he will. Let us take by way of example that simple admonition on page 261: "Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thought."
Let us assume that the beginner in Christian Science is starting the day with this resolve uppermost, and is determined to allow nothing but helpful, salutary thoughts to enter his consciousness from morning to night. Let us further assume that before the day has advanced very far he is taken with a severe headache. This, he concludes, would not have appeared if he had been mentally holding to "the enduring, the good, and the true." To correct it he examines his thoughts to discover just wherein he has been remiss in scientific, steadfast thinking. He recalls that he was greatly aggravated over the action of one seemingly determined to take advantage of him and that he himself was planning to retaliate in kind and give back just what he got, blow for blow, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Such thoughts he knows are neither enduring, nor good, nor true, so he starts to do a little mental house-cleaning. He sweeps out of his mentality everything he finds that is revengeful, malicious or obstructive. Then he turns his thought towards the things of God and before long he forgets about his headache for it has vanished with the harmful thoughts that introduced it.
Or instead of a headache let us suppose that our friend becomes loaded down as the day wears on with a sense of discouragement. It may be truly said that nine people out of ten submit to discouragement without resistance because they do not know any better. They do not know that it is not only bad but dangerous. They do not know that it is a mental intruder, a moral nuisance that should never be tolerated but always shunned as one would infectious disease.
It is bad because it is full of deceit. It is a great big fraud. It tricks a man into believing he is a failure, when success may be waiting for him just around the corner. It deludes him until he sees things crooked and believes things about himself and others that he knows are not true. It robs him of his courage, strips him of his ability and mumbles into his ears the awful lie that God has forgotten him.
Discouragement is dangerous because it is the entering wedge for the evil thoughts that produce evil deeds. It is the devil's favorite tool unrecognized as such by so many, and resisted by so few. It is a noteworthy fact that outside of Christian Science there are very few who shun discouragement as they would sickness, adversity or failure, yet it opens the way for all of these and worse.
Now the man who is holding his thought steadfastly to the things that are enduring and good and true is discovering that Christian Science is offering to every one an antidote for the poison of discouragement that is swift in its operation, and positive in its effects. It is something that cannot be bought with money yet is as free as the sunshine and as blessed as the summer's rain. It is called gratitude.
Do you know, my friends, that gratitude quenches the smoking fires of discouragement as the ocean does a spark? And here let me say to you that there is not a man on this green earth today but who can find something for which to be grateful to God, for if he will hunt for it honestly and earnestly, and when found give it a place in his heart, he will see discouragement vanish like a bat into the night.
The man who is learning to know God has gratitude with him always, hence discouragement makes no long visits to his mental household.
[October 1914. The title of the lecture, which was not provided, is surmised based upon its similarity to another lecture of the same title from the same time period.]