Christian Science: The Way to Happiness Here and Hereafter (2)
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
One thing that all men have in common is their desire for happiness, but they differ widely in their beliefs about what will bring happiness to them.
The rich man who is sick, believes that health will bring him happiness; the poor man who is well believes that if he had riches he would be happy; the discontented man who has both health and wealth believes that if he only had something else he would be happy, and so it goes the world over. What all are seeking, few are finding.
It follows that a universal demand is met when the world is offered that which will bring enduring happiness to all, to the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, the high and the low. And this is just what Christian Science is doing. It is not surprising then, that it is attracting to its ranks all classes of men from every condition of life, for it comes with a message of good tidings of great joy to every one, a message of happiness for the man who is ill and the man who is well; for the man who mourns and for the man who rejoices; for the man who fails and for the man who succeeds. Indeed, there is no condition or circumstance in human affairs but may be bettered by a right application of the teachings of Christian Science.
No lecture, however, is to be regarded as a complete exposition of the whole of Christian Science. It can but deal with some of the essential teachings and leave the listener free to accept or reject them as he likes, while directing him for his further enlightenment to the text book of Christian Science, the book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy.
In that book he will quickly discover that will-power has no place in Christian Science healing, and that no relationship whatever exists between Christian Science and hypnotism, mesmerism, auto-suggestion, spiritualism, thought transference, telepathy, occultism, new thought, mental science, or any of the cults or schools that rely wholly or in part upon the influence of one human mind and 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 in the universe.
Indeed, Christian Science subjugates the human will so that one turns naturally and confidently to God as a little child turns to his father for guidance, protection and help in every time of need. It is no infrequent thing to find that the loving, trustful thought of the little child will heal in Christian Science, where the human will can accomplish nothing. It is often the simplicity of the child thought that is needed after the wisdom of maturity has done all it can.
Founded Upon the Bible
To be healed in Christian Science, one does not have to understand it. Infidels frequently have been healed by it, but if one would understand it or apply it for himself he must believe in the Bible, for from first to last, from beginning to end Christian Science is founded upon the Bible of our forefathers.
Besides the Bible there is but one other text book of Christian Science, the 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 the 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.
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 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.
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 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."
A Religion of Works
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 badly and I want to talk it to them by the hour," he earnestly declares.
The zeal is natural and commendable, but unless it is tempered with wisdom, it may be harmful, rather than helpful, for Christian Science is not a religion of words but of works. To talk Christian Science enthusiastically and indiscriminately without having lived it persistently, is to invite opposition where he had hoped for acceptance. It often produces prejudice instead of support, incredulity instead of belief. More good can be done by ten minutes of right thinking than by hours of talking to those who do not care to hear.
What Is It That Heals?
Answering then the eager question that is uppermost in the mind of the man who is investigating Christian Science, the question, "What is it that heals in Christian Science?" "What is it that does the healing?," let us explain to him that it is the same divine power and influence that healed the sick in the days of Jesus of Nazareth, and for two hundred years afterwards; the same divine power and influence that were used by the prophets of old, and which are as available today to every sincere man and woman as they ever have been, for they are of God and He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
It is not the power of the human mind that heals in Christian Science, but the power of the divine Mind — God Himself.
The word "mind" as used in Christian Science, has a two-fold application. When used in its highest sense it always means God, unchanging good, and when so used in our literature it is always capitalized. This marks it clearly and differentiates it from the word "mind" as ordinarily used, as when one would speak of the mind of man, the human mind and the like.
Christian Science is showing that the human mind, or as it is called in Christian Science, mortal mind, is at the bottom of nearly all of man's troubles. St. Paul called it "the carnal mind," and said it is "enmity against God," that is, opposed to everything good. It is to be held accountable for every discordant condition of the human body. It holds its subjects in a grip of iron, and sickness, pain, sorrow, want and misery are its results. It is misleading, blundering, often malicious and always ignorant of God. It is a dictator, a tyrant, a despot and the human body is its obedient servant.
Yet this mortal mind may be stripped of all its assumed power, and arrogance and aggressiveness and reduced to nothingness.
Christian Science offers release from the dominant and malignant control of man by mortal mind and this release it effects by teaching men to know God. Jesus was the greatest teacher the world has ever known and he was continually teaching men to know God as He is, and not as they had mistakenly believed Him to be.
Today as in Jesus' time a right understanding of God is the supreme need of every man who would for himself work out his own salvation and would for himself master sin, disease, pain, want, harmful habit or any of the things that mortal mind is continually trying to fasten upon humanity. The average Christian man of today thinks less of God and knows less about God than he does about his business, his work or his automobile. Yet there is nothing in the whole range of human experience that is more essential to man's welfare here and hereafter than this same knowledge of God.
All people who would be regarded as Christians believe in God, yet how few understand Him. The text book of Christian Science (page 203) declares truly that "If God were understood instead of being merely believed, this understanding would establish health." Does this seem like an extravagant statement? Compare it then with the words of Jesus on the same subject where in John 17:3, we are told that to know God "is life eternal." Can you conceive of a vital fact put in stronger words?
When the despondent invalid recognizes that God never made a man sick nor a sick man; that on the contrary He has given to man unbroken health; that sickness is an imposition of mortal mind and is illegitimate, abnormal, unrighteous, without divine law, recognition, or sanction, he is then ready to turn to divine Mind, God Himself, "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases." (Ps. 103:3).
Jesus by precept and example was continually lifting men's thoughts above their inherited and impedimentive beliefs about God as a man-like being with form and body, subject to wrath, favoritism, changeableness and other human characteristics. Instead, he revealed God to be infinite good, the same yesterday, today and forever and in no way resembling erring, finite man.
Right Understanding of God
Christian Science, ever following the teachings of Jesus, shows that God is Love; that God is Spirit; that He is Mind; that He is Truth; that He is Life; that God is the infinite Principle of being, operating through unchangeable laws, laws that are always beneficent; that He is omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence.
It might appear presumptuous in me here to attempt an adequate exposition of the full teachings of Christian Science about God as Scripturally defined. I would, instead, refer you to our text book where you will find them all fully set forth and lucidly expounded. But I feel I may with propriety briefly refer to that concept of God, which so universally meets man's direst need in his darkest hours of trial and tribulation, the concept of God as infinite Love, which the Scriptures impart and which Christian Science emphasizes.
If the thought of God as Love, ever blessing, never condemning; ever protecting, and never neglecting; including all mankind in His fatherly care 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.
And can you conceive of anything that is so sorely needed today, in our churches and out of them, than more of that same Love? Anything that will so quickly check man's inhumanity to man, that today is making "countless thousands mourn?"
And with that concept of God as Love divine, which Christian Science imparts, comes also the concept of Him as Father, our Father, your Father and mine. Have you ever considered the debt of gratitude we owe to Jesus for disclosing to us our true relationship to God, as he did on a number of occasions, one of which was when he began his prayer with words, "Our Father"?
Have you ever thought what Jesus intended us to gather from those words "Our Father?" Summon to your thought if you will an instance of perfect human relationship between an ideal child and an ideal father, and what do you find? How does that child regard his father? What does he gain from having such a father? What does "father" stand for to him? Does it mean merely a big man? No, "father" to him stands for things that cannot be measured by material or physical standards.
Among other things it stands to him for wisdom; for he has learned that there is nothing he might need to know that his father cannot explain to him. He goes to his father with everything that puzzles, baffles or annoys him and he never goes in vain, for in a few moments his troubles are all cleared away.
Father stands to him for love. He loves his father devotedly because he has proofs every hour in the day how greatly his father loves him. It stands to him for power. He cannot imagine a thing his father cannot do. His strength and ability are far and away beyond his childish comprehension.
Father also stands to him for protection. He is never afraid of anything when he holds his father's hand, the hand that has lifted him out of danger so often that he always feels secure when he reaches up and finds it waiting his grasp.
He trusts his father wholeheartedly, without doubting or questioning. He learns of self reliance through trying to do for others what he has seen his father do for him. If he had his own way he never would be separated from his father for one moment, for the little one's highest conception of joy is unbroken companionship with his father.
Now my friends if you will take this crude sketch of ideal human relationship between father and child and magnify it a thousand times, aye, multiply it by infinity and divinity, you may comprehend a little of what Jesus would have us know and feel about God as our heavenly Father.
It is said that one of the four great religions of the world, numerically speaking, has ninety-nine different names for God and not one of them is "Our Father." Need we wonder that the Mohammedan is a fatalist? It remained for the religion of Jesus to offer to its four hundred and seventy-seven millions of followers the concept of God as "Father."
Here let it be said, and we say it in all humility, that among all forms of the Christian religion, the Christian Science church is the only one that in its praying associates the mother's tender love and watchful cure, with the Father's infinite wisdom, protection and power. It is the only church that prays, "Our Father-Mother God."
You may ask how am I to know and understand God? How am I to know that God is always loving, always protecting, always guiding and sustaining those who trust him whole-heartedly? There is a simple way, my friends; the same simple way in which you have learned what you know about other things, that is by trial, by the test of personal experience, the test that changes belief into knowledge.
You do not merely believe that fire burns, you know it because you have tested it. Ten thousand men might tell you that fire is cold and dark, but against all their allegations stands out your own experience. You know that fire gives light and heat, because you have proved it.
Now apply this same test of experience to what Christian Science teaches about God's impartial and universal goodness, and power and love. But you must not do it in a half hearted way if you want to get results. You must first lay aside your own ideas of what God should do and should not do. You must get yourself out of God's way. You will do well to start with these words of Scripture in your thought. "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." (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
Christian Science places in the hands of every one the means of gathering the fruits of trusting in God and thereby proving the words of the prophet Isaiah, when he spoke to God as a son might speak to his father whose goodness he had proved, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." (Isaiah 26:3).
Have you ever considered, my friends, how different might have been the darkened and troubled passages of your lives if they had been illumined by that perfect peace that comes from trusting God, perfect Love?
There is a sentence in the text book of Christian Science, which tells us "that all causation is Mind." (Science and Health 417:13). This being true it follows that a thought of some kind is the foundation, the starting point of every action and that right habits of thinking lead to right habits of living.
Christian Science being a religion of right thinking, is necessarily a religion of right living. It is a religion of results, of achievement, of construction. In spiritual upbuilding, right motive as well as right action is essential.
It is a fact, which any Bible student may verify for himself that Jesus formed his estimates from motives. (Christian Healing page 7). So in Christian Science it is not only the good we succeed in doing but also the good we persistently try to do that brings growth.
Every worthy endeavor is the outcome of a worthy thought. And conversely the same may be said of evil thoughts and evil deeds, for a thought of some kind underlies every action, good, bad or indifferent. Hence, the need for alertly guarding our thoughts, allowing only those to remain with us that will work for the enduring, the good and the true.
Every word that a man has ever said, idle word or pregnant word, every deed he has ever done, shameful deed or worthy deed, has sprung from the little seed of a thought.
The world is slowly awakening to the large part that thought has in determining the effect of occurrences. The self-willed man still tries to control events and circumstances to suit himself, but the wise man is learning to control himself, through right thinking, so that men's actions or adverse circumstances cannot affect him.
The man who is miserable or disheartened generally thinks he is so because of something that has taken place in his life when in reality his condition is due not so much to the thing that has occurred as to how he as handled it, what his thought is about it. Just as in a ball game, a hard drive may send the ball flying into the outfield but if the man there handles it rightly the hit may mount to very little. But if it is fumbled it may result in the loss of the game. The hit is the same in both cases, but its results are determined by the way it is handled.
So it is in the things that occur in everyday life. A man is made miserable not merely by what comes to him, but by how he handles it in his thought, what he thinks about it in other words.
Much of the trouble that weighs men down, that makes them old before their time, that invites disease, is due to their carrying along in their recollection some regrettable thing, some deplorable circumstance long after the thing itself has passed and should be buried in forgetfulness. Christian Science teaches the art of forgetting the things that are evil and remembering the things that are good. And it is an art to forget evil, for you know how it reaches out and clutches at your thought and forces itself upon you at every opportunity. Yet, nothing but evil can come from thinking of evil and there is no surer way of expelling evil from our lives than to follow the words of the Founder of Christian Science, "Keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them." (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, P. 210).
Christian Science through the right thinking that leads to right doing, 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.
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 start it with a prayer.
"And what is prayer in Christian Science?" it may be asked. "Is it anything more than beseeching God earnestly and sincerely to do that thing for us that we would greatly like to have done?" It is vastly more. 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 in public begs the loudest or the longest or with the greatest fluency, whose prayers are answered. Years ago, long before Christian Science was given to the world, a devout Christian man, well known and beloved on both continents, in speaking of public prayer, said, "The things which men most admire in public prayer are the things that God least regards."
Prayer in Christian Science is based upon Scriptural assurance that God has given all good to every one of His children, 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. Can you not see what a small part a multiplicity of words or "vain repetitions" has to do with such knowledge? What a small part begging has to do with it?
Briefly to 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 and 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 repeated can only serve as a glimpse of its helpfulness.
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 is it, 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.
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.
Gratitude versus Discouragement
There is one other prayer that should ever be in the heart of man, the prayer of thankfulness, the prayer of gratitude. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing and in everything to give thanks. Christian Science is showing that true gratitude, the gratitude that is expressed in deed as well as in thought and word is more than a mere Christian grace, it is a Christian necessity. Not that God needs our gratitude, but we need to give it to Him. Gratitude takes our thought from getting to giving, and he who gives good gets good.
Perhaps you may find it difficult to be grateful to God. Many people do. Let me tell you how to make it easy. Whatever of good comes to you, be it little or great, think of it as coming to you direct from God. For everything that brings to you quiet joy, or peace, or true delight, be it merely the smile on the face of a child, or the fragrance of a flower, or the daily opening of the welcoming door of your home, or the nightly closing of your eyes in sleep; be it some worthy action well done, or the timely lift of a friendly hand; be it song or sermon; beauty, art or science; for every good that comes to you, let some thought of gratitude to God ring through the innermost chambers of your heart of hearts. Do this faithfully and soon you will find yourself so frequently in the sweet company of happiness that life would seem to be beginning anew. And it will be the beginning of new things, for gratitude is one of the gate-ways through which God's blessings enter men's lives. If we keep it shut, need we wonder why more of good does not come to us?
The man who is ill, the man who is unfortunate, the man who is afflicted, the man who has not that which he needs, if he wonders why, will do well to ask himself often, "Am I grateful enough for what I already have?" And the man who is discouraged! Ah, my friends, the discouraged man has but to invite gratitude into his consciousness to see discouragement vanish like darkness before the undimmed sun. And here let it be said that there is not one man on this green earth today, but who can find something for which to be grateful to God, if he will but hunt for it honestly and earnestly.
Christian Science is tearing the mask from the gloomy face of discouragement and is exposing it in its true colors. 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 a mental intruder, a moral nuisance that should never be tolerated but always shunned as one would shun infectious disease.
It is bad because it is full of deceit. It tricks a man into believing that 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 invites and develops those evil thoughts that later may be manifested in evil things, the most common of which is disease in its varied forms.
Perhaps I may bring this more forcefully before you by relating a little fable, a bit of folk lore, so simple that a child may understand it, but which illustrates the point I would bring to your notice, that discouragement is an active agency of evil, but which could accomplish nothing if gratitude were given its rightful place in your thought.
It is a story told of that mythical, unreal character, commonly known as the devil, that notorious figment of the imagination, invented ages ago by men who mistakenly believed that to personalize evil was the only way to make it feared and shunned.
The other party in the story is an old farmer, who, traveling in a strange land, came across an odd-looking building unlike anything he had ever seen. He entered and found it was a warehouse in which were the seeds of those evil thoughts that spring up in a man's heart whenever Satan gets busy planting. There he saw great piles of bags, each filled with the seeds of some evil thought. One pile was marked malice, another envy, another jealousy, another hatred, another deceit, another sensuousness, another hypocrisy, another cruelty, another revenge — vice in every form. Apart, from the rest was a pile very much larger than all the others and strange to say it was marked "discouragement."
While the farmer was wondering about this, as the story goes, the devil himself came along, and so the farmer questioned him and said "How is it that you have so much of discouragement here? I did not know that belonged to you." The devil grinned, "Not many people do know that it belongs to me," he said, "and I do not propose that they shall. But I use more of that than of any other seeds you see here. Most people when they discover these other seeds springing up in their mental gardens know that I have done the sowing and they pull them up for that reason. In such cases I only need to plant a little bit of discouragement and that changes things considerably. For discouragement will grow everywhere, it springs up quickly and hides and conceals and keeps out of sight these other things until they are strong enough to stand alone. And it is such a harmless looking weed that very few people suspect that I have anything to do with it, so they take no pains to pull it up."
After this long speech of the devil's the farmer thought a moment and then he said, "You say discouragement will grow everywhere. Will it grow everywhere?" The devil frowned. "Well, no," he said, "there is one place where I never could get discouragement to grow." "Where is that?" asked the farmer. "Why that," said the devil, "is in the heart of a grateful man!"
So, my friends, whenever you see the dark and heavy leaves of discouragement growing in your mental garden, just remember that underneath them, out of your sight and unsuspected by you may be reaching out the roots of those evil thoughts that grip and dwarf and sap a man's very character. Pull them up! Uproot them! Or, better yet, let your heart be so filled with gratitude to God that discouragement can find no foothold.
Do you remember what an inspiring example was set for us in that direction by Jesus, when he began his prayer with the words, "Father, I thank thee." And if ever the sower of evil seeds tempts you to believe that you have little to be thankful for, consider the many things you have this very day that you would not want to do without and then note how few of them were possessed by him who in speaking of himself said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." And yet he prayed, "Father I thank thee."
The Bible tells us that the prayer of faith shall save the sick. What may we not expect then of the prayer in which there is not only the abundance of faith but also of understanding, of that essential knowledge of God, of wisdom, of gratitude, of unselfish love? And every Christian Science treatment that is made up of these elements of righteousness heals the sick and the sinning and comforts the sorrowing, and with it comes a consciousness of God's protecting care and infinite affection, a consciousness that leads to higher aspirations and purer desires, that makes men and women want to be better and want to know how to be better, that they may share in God's infinite mercy and justice and love.
[Delivered April 30, 1916, at the Smith Opera House in Geneva, New York, and published in The Geneva Daily Times, May 1, 1916. The title has been supplied from another copy of the lecture.]