Christian Science: A Religion of Works
John S. Sammons, C.S., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
John S. Sammons, C.S., of Chicago, lectured on "Christian Science: A Religion of Works" Monday evening in the Murat Theatre, under the auspices of the Sixth Church of Christ, Scientist. The speaker was introduced by Kenneth G. Trees.
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
I know a young man, a student of Christian Science, who was once the focal point in a plan to consolidate two companies. While this plan meant increased responsibility, it also promised increased earnings with stock interests, bonuses, and so forth. The plan was worked out in an atmosphere of great pressure, and the bright promise became an obsession.
At a critical point in the negotiations, the young man awakened one morning to find himself incapacitated with what appeared to be a severe case of influenza. His first reaction was one of hurt and resentment. That such an important man should be unable to carry on his business affairs seemed a terrible thing. There was a distinct feeling that God had let him down.
Christian Science treatment was
asked for and given, and on the third day there was definite response to the
treatment. The appreciation of spiritual values was renewed; the activities of
A Religion of Works
In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, we read (p. 201), "The best sermon ever preached is Truth practised and demonstrated by the destruction of sin, sickness, and death." Christian Science is a religion of progress, a religion of achievement, a religion of works. Its fruitfulness is evidenced in the lives of its students. Where there was sickness, we now have health: where there was lack, we now have provision and abundance; where there was idleness, we now have opportunity and activity; where there was controversy, harmony now prevails.
Mrs. Eddy further states (ibid., p. 233), "Every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power." It is in these higher proofs that Christian Science meets the demands of the age and satisfies the aspirations of mankind.
Christian Science is based upon the Bible, the King James Version, which is the translation accepted and used in all Protestant churches. Mrs. Eddy quotes from the Bible 681 times in Science and Health and in each instance with appropriate explanation and comment. She refers to the Bible as "the chart of life" (p. 24), and states further that "divine Science derives its sanction from the Bible" (p. 146). Science and Health, then, is literally a "key" to the Scriptures, bringing to the sacred pages the spiritual inspiration which is necessary to an understanding of them.
The Master said that "God is a Spirit," and must be worshiped "in spirit and in truth" (John ). And we are indebted to John for the concept of God as Love and the prime necessity for our expression of this basic Christian virtue. John said. "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (I John 4:8) Paul used the term "mind" for Deity where he said, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). In short, Paul admonishes us to express God as Jesus expressed Him. Thus we find scriptural authority for the teaching of Christian Science that Spirit, Love, Mind are terms for God. Likewise, other terms for God which are used in Christian Science are in strict consonance with the inspired Word of the Bible.
God Is Divine Principle
In the first chapter of John we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The original Greek word translated "beginning" might, with equal propriety, be translated principle (Strong's Concordance, Greek Lexicon). In Christian Science we have God revealed as divine Principle, the primal source or origin, the creative and sustaining law of all that actually exists.
It is this concept of God as Principle which first attracted my notice as a beginning student in Christian Science. I had been raised in an atmosphere of orthodox religion and had occasionally heard God mentioned, but always with rather a detached sense. God was definitely something, but the impression could not be escaped that He was something somewhere else. It was difficult to get away from the picture of an elderly gentleman up in the sky, very busy with the impossible task of overseeing the multiple details of mortal existence.
Principle is a term that implies a universal nature, something that can be and is everywhere, consequently always where I am. So I grew in my understanding of Christian Science as I grew in my understanding of God as Principle. Through study and demonstration, I grasped something of the changeless nature of Deity, His omnipotence and omniscience, as well as His omnipresence. I could see that if man was God's image and likeness, as the Bible tells us he is, then this infinite Mind was my Mind, that this infinite intelligence was my intelligence, expressing itself in my affairs as a sense of direction and purpose.
Mrs. Eddy has given us a concise definition of God on page 465 of the textbook. There she answers the question, "What is God?" with the statement, "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love." She then goes on to tell us that these are synonymous terms, and says that "they refer to one absolute God." These synonymous terms all being equal to the same thing are necessarily equal to each other; hence, Mind is characterized by the substance of Spirit and Spirit expresses the conscious intelligence of Mind. Principle takes to Love its exactness and impartiality and finds there the unity of spiritual understanding. The activity which is Life is the verity which is Truth and Truth gives to Life the power of its changelessness. That which is true, is true eternally, possessing inherently the capacity to retain its identity as Truth and successfully resist being anything else. Thus we have one God - infinite in His nature, universal in His being, changeless in His love. An understanding of God is fundamental to your understanding and demonstration of Christian Science. To know God is to be active, to be useful, to dwell in harmony. In the words of Isaiah, "Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live" (Isa. 55:3). In this rather brief statement covering the Christian Science teaching on the subject of God it is hoped that you will be inspired to study that you may learn more of this indestructible Life as your life, this infinite intelligence as your intelligence, this changeless Love as that which motivates and activates all true experience.
Christ Jesus the Wayshower
Christ Jesus taught and practiced a religion of being and doing. If we attempt to separate his works from his words we take from the words that which gives them their vitality and substance. Besides the twelve disciples whom Jesus taught, Luke tells us of seventy other disciples whom the Master taught and also of their successful mission. These disciples practiced Christianity as Jesus practiced it - that is, they did the works that he did. These disciples in turn had their disciples, students, and followers, all of whom, together, constituted the great body of the early Christian church which, within three centuries or less of the advent of the Master, spread his teaching to the remotest places of the then known world. One of the historians of the early Christian church, Irenaeus by name, who was likewise a bishop of the church, left the record that he had heard Polycarp preach, who had heard John, who had been with Jesus. Perhaps some of you will recall Mrs. Eddy's reference to the "pious Polycarp," whom she quotes as saying, "I cannot turn at once from good to evil" (Science and Health, p. 77). This important link to the words and works of the Master should serve to give us a sense of nearness to him and to help us appreciate more fully the continuing nature of the ministry of the Christ. The experiences of these early Christians show further and conclusively that there is no proper historical basis, even as there is no proper Scriptural basis, for the widespread belief that Christian healing was limited by the Master to his immediate followers. There are writings extant which tell of the healing work, and even of the raising of the dead, in the first three centuries of the Christian era.
In the light of Christian Science, a study of the actual cases of physical disease which Jesus healed reveals an interesting parallel between the present-day practice of this Science and the work of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels. Jesus, you will remember, healed those who were not personally present; he also recognized the mental nature of disease; he saw disease as the effect of wrong thinking.
For example, he said to the young man sick of the palsy, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee" (Luke ). Evidently, as soon as the man had been healed of his sins, he recovered from palsy, because Jesus instructed him to take up his couch and return to his home. "And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God." In the case of the Syrophenician woman's daughter, and in other cases, Jesus worked with the parent's thought. This is in line with Mrs. Eddy's statement in Science and Health (p. 412). "If the case is that of a young child or an infant, it needs to be met mainly through the parentís thought."
In certain instances Jesus gave the patients something to do. For instance, he said, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam," "Go, and shew thyself to the priest," "Stretch forth thy hand." In one instance Jesus refused to take a case where the man said, "Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me." Jesus said, "Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?" (Luke 12:13, 14.) Perhaps Jesus discerned that the young man was primarily interested in worldly possessions rather than in spiritual healing. Jesus frequently spoke to the error rather than to the person. On one occasion he said, "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him" (Mark ). This is in line with our Leader's statement (Science and Health, p. 395), "Speak to disease as one having authority over it." Faith is an element of healing commended by Jesus on more than one occasion. Receptivity, another factor important to healing, is indicated in many instances. For example, it is written, "They pressed upon him," "They followed him." This indicates more than a casual interest. Those who were healed were not sitting about waiting for Jesus to come to them. They sought him out and availed themselves of the power of the presence of the Christ.
Jesus was the Wayshower. In order to be the Wayshower he had to go all the way. Anything short of a complete demonstration would have negatived his mission and qualified his example. Christian Science accepts without reservation the completeness of his experience, including the immaculate conception, the resurrection and ascension, and all intermediate steps. Jesus was quick to reject any personal credit for the works that he did. He said, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John ). At another time he said, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (Mark ).
The Eternal Christ
Jesus distinguished between his corporeality and the spiritual dominion and power which he expressed. He said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John ), therein voicing the timelessness of the true manifestation of God. Christian Science likewise makes the distinction between Jesus the man and Christ the divine idea. Mrs. Eddy has given us this definition of Jesus (Science and Health, p. 589), "The highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea, rebuking and destroying error and bringing to light man's immortality." The Christ she defines as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (ibid., p. 583).
God, being divine Mind or infinite intelligence, is of necessity manifested as ideas. In the revelation and unfoldment of these ideas in human consciousness, we experience the coming of the Christ and the destruction of all error. Whenever you, as an individual, gain the right idea or spiritual concept of anything, the Christ has come to you at that moment, and the false sense or misconception that you may have entertained is destroyed. The immaculate Jesus knew the spiritual fact concerning everything, hence his right to the title of Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus.
Man in God's Likeness
Who is there amongst thoughtful people that has not echoed the words of the Psalmist, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Ps. 8:4.) Christian Science offers to all such inquirers a satisfying answer. The Bible tells us that man is the image and likeness of God. Christian Science in its unfoldment and revelation of God's nature brings to its students the revelation and unfoldment of man's nature. Since man is the likeness of God, he is the likeness of Love, for God is Love. That is, man reflects, consciously manifests, the quality of God's love. Man is the likeness of Life, or God, deriving his life from that infinite Life, hence he consciously lives, reflecting and embodying the spiritual vigor, force, and vitality which characterize the divine Life. Man is the likeness of Truth, hence he is wholly true and can be identified only with the indestructible verities which constitute Truth, or God. There is but one God, hence there is but one kind of man, whether individually or collectively expressed - the kind of man, therefore, which you and I in reality are and will forever remain. The man of God's creating is neither sinful nor sick; he is under no condemnation and is never afraid. Man in God's likeness is serene, confident, joyous - a spiritual selfhood which is never absorbed and cannot be lost. This is the man referred to by Mrs. Eddy as "Mind's infinite ideal" (Science and Health, p. 517). This is the son in whom the Father is well pleased, untouched by the turbulence of material sense, untroubled by the enigma of mortal existence, undimmed in his spiritual resplendency. Materiality can never discern nor experience this infinite ideal, but to spiritual understanding which comes to us through the study of Christian Science this man is both known and manifested.
As these spiritual ideas are understood and demonstrated in human experience, mortals begin to lose their belief that life is in matter, and to experience the freedom from sin and sickness - which is salvation. Salvation is not something that is bestowed on one person by another person, nor can it be experienced by a mere belief in a personal sense of Saviour. Jesus must be appreciated and understood as the highest human expression of the birthless and deathless Christ. To experience salvation, you must not only follow Christ Jesus' precepts, but you must also do the works that he assured us we could do and commanded that we should do.
The Unreality of Evil
Scholastic theology has for generations wrestled with what has been called the problem of evil. The difficulty derived from the attempt to reconcile the concept of God as omnipotent, supreme, with the belief, widely held, in a power opposed to Him, called devil or evil. In Habakkuk we read (), "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity." What God cannot behold or know, man cannot express. Jesus answered the question as to the nature of evil scientifically when he said, "He [the devil] is a liar, and the father of it" (John ) A lie is something that is untrue, a falsity, and evil was so seen by the Master. Christian Science likewise teaches the falsity of evil, uncovers its deceptive nature and thus destroys it. Christian Science does not ignore evil, as has been said by some, but handles it courageously and effectively on the basis of God's allness. In Deuteronomy we read (), "Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else." It is both reasonable and logical that, since God is infinite and All, there is no other power or force. There is nothing (in reality) to oppose the divine nature, to limit its infinitude or qualify its allness. Mrs. Eddy says (Science and Health, pp. 287, 288), "The statement that Truth is real necessarily includes the correlated statement, that error, Truth's unlikeness, is unreal." The foregoing statement may assist you in gaining an understanding of the teaching of Christian Science on the subject of evil and the unequivocal position it takes as to evil's unreality.
Even as the gods of ancient mythology have given way before the realization that there is but one supreme and infinite Being, so will the superstitions and fears of these modern times lose their reality to us as God and man are apprehended in their spiritual perfection. The terms for evil - such as devil, error, mortal mind, animal magnetism - may be useful for the purpose of helping us to awaken to its deceptive nature, and thus reject its spurious claims. But let me state again, and unequivocally, that evil is entirely supposititious in whatever form, by whatever name. "The Lord he is God; there is none else."
In Christian Science, prayer is inseparable from practice. Because the divine Mind is omnipresent, everywhere, there is no necessity for anything to be transmitted or conveyed. When we are at one with that Mind "which was also in Christ Jesus," we are at one with its spiritual faculties, at one with that which discerns, consciously understands, at one with its purity and integrity. This is the Christ-consciousness which Mrs. Eddy sees as a present possibility and which she describes in her chapter on Prayer in the Christian Science textbook. Hear her words (p. 16), "Only as we rise above all material sensuousness and sin, can we reach the heaven-born aspiration and spiritual consciousness which is indicated in the Lord's Prayer and which instantaneously heals the sick." Such prayer is Christian Science treatment, which comforts those that mourn, satisfies the hunger of the heart, dispels the illusions of indulgence, appetite, and sin, and heals the sick. St. James tells us that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
An interesting example of this effectual prayer of righteous men may be found in the book of Acts, where it tells how Paul and Silas were apprehended and thrown into prison. According to that stirring account, it was and "Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake . . . and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." The next day the magistrate sent word to the keepers of the prison, "Let those men go." This experience of Paul and Silas is in no sense unusual, for spiritually-minded men and women through the ages have prayed and sung praises to God when they found themselves going through trying experiences or involved in difficult situations, and always that liberating message has come, "Let those men go." The power of the word is present to heal, and when this presence is sought with childlike trust and simplicity it becomes a vital force for good in our experience. Mrs. Eddy says (Science and Health, p. 326, "Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way."
An example of the effectiveness of prayer, as it in understood in Christian Science, may be found in the following incidents. A man who had worked in the home of Christian Scientists for ten years was inducted into the Army. Feeling ill and finding it difficult to keep going, he reported on "sick call." His case was diagnosed as pleurisy and pneumonia and he was ordered to report to the hospital. Before reporting to the hospital he sent for the Christian Science Wartime Minister, who called immediately. The truths of Christian Science which the Minister voiced and realized, brought a quick healing. The next day the young man reported that when he arrived at the hospital he felt entirely free, and the doctors, after careful examination, found nothing wrong and returned him to duty.
On another occasion a telegram was received to visit a soldier who had been confined to the hospital for some time with what had been diagnosed as stomach ulcers. Again the healing and liberating Christ was manifest, and this young man was healed and returned to duty in a few days. Due to the widely held beliefs of race and color, these men had been holding to a sense of under-privilege, but in the sight of God, who is no respecter of persons, man is always the perfect man.
Christian Science Heals Disease
Mrs. Eddy was not only the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science but she was also its outstanding practitioner. In her writings she tells of many healings effected through her work. One was the healing of cancer that had eaten its way to the jugular vein. This example is in no sense untypical of her practice, in which she continued active for many years. That the healing work is being carried on by her followers is evidenced by the testimonies in a recent issue of the Christian Science Sentinel (February 3, 1945), wherein are published experiences of a number of Christian Scientists, who tell, in simple language of benefits received through their study and practice.
Specifically named are the instantaneous healing of tuberculosis, the healing of rheumatism, pleurisy, goiter, carbuncles, a broken wrist, a dislocated shoulder, astigmatism, and diseases and discord by twenty other names. Now these are the experiences related in but one issue of the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly publication founded in 1898, some forty-seven years ago.
Multiply these healings by fifty-two issues a year, and you will have an estimated total for the forty-seven years. Add to these the healings published in The Christian Science Journal and those heard at the Wednesday meetings and you have a swelling chorus of public acknowledgment not to be denied. In the early days of Christian Science there was great doubt expressed as to its capacity for physical healing. However, in the face of the cumulative evidence of three quarters of a century, its healing power is now quite generally conceded. Christian Science has never claimed that it originated spiritual healing, but it does submit, on the authority of its works, that it is in truth the reinstatement of the Christianity of the Master. Mrs. Eddy gives us the radical, if not startling, statement in her textbook, "There is no disease" (Science and Health, p. 421). The words "no disease" are italicized for emphasis. Every instance of recovery from disease such as those given, proves the truth of Mrs. Eddy's statement, because reality cannot be overcome, and if disease actually existed as condition, there would be nothing that could be done about it.
In referring to disease, Christian
Scientists use the word "claim" advisedly, because disease is a claim
to something, a presumption, nothing claiming to be something. It is not
without logic that people who are troubled with physical impairments are
referred to as invalids, for disease is indeed in-valid, a usurpation without validity or legitimacy. An interesting
case in point is the healing of an officer of the United States Marine Corps.
For several months he had been under observation treatment in a naval hospital
for an organic difficulty. At the time he turned to Christian Science a report
had been forwarded to
If we accept the premise of Mrs. Eddy's plain statement of fact, namely, "There is no disease," we must in all reason accept the conclusion that it has no chain of circumstances leading up to its development or result. Disease knows no course or action. Being nothing, it cannot grow into something. It does not go into a crisis or pass through one. It does not eventuate or culminate. Hence the truth of the statement that "there is no disease" has its corollary in the statement that "there is no death" (ibid.. p. 427). Life is self-renewing, self-sustaining, and this life is your life. It is not subject to deterioration or wear, lapse or loss; it coexists with God, who is the sum of all life or being, and there it forever remains. Man lives because God lives. Jesus said, "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself" (John ).
Provision for Progress
Mrs. Eddy, in founding the Christian
Science movement, has made rich provisions for the spiritual progress of her
followers. For the more advanced students there is the privilege of church
membership and class instruction, the study of the periodicals and the weekly
Lesson-Sermons. For the younger students there is the Sunday school where the
truth of God and man is learned and where the application regarding this truth
to human problems is taught. That this teaching is practical is attested by the
reports from former Sunday school pupils who are now serving in the armed
forces. Both at home and abroad, in training and in battle, on the land, on the
sea, and in the air, they are proving the truth of Mrs. Eddy's statement that
the preventive and curative arts "belong emphatically to Christian Science"
(Science and Health, p. 369). A not untypical case is that of a boy who writes
"I had the recent opportunity
of putting my precious years of study in Christian Science into practice. While
on duty in the swamped jungles of this
"Through knowing the truth and putting to work this great knowledge, while in the hospital, I was able in a few short months to cure this error, which normally would take medical treatment a year or more, thus proving once again the truth, and the power of God in our thinking."
He then goes on to say, "If this is at all possible I would like to have this demonstration known to other members of our church . . ." Here we have a truly remarkable thing, a teen-age boy, thousands of miles from home, in a land notorious for its health hazards, healing himself of a virulent disease through an understanding of God, gained while a student in the Christian Science Sunday School.
But how can we with words evaluate the consciousness of protection when danger threatens, courage when fear would hold sway, the coming of strength in times of weakness, health when sickness would lay low? Yet such is the story retold in hundreds of letters being received by Sunday school teachers, parents, and friends from these young students of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy has written in her work "Pulpit and Press" (p. 8): "The children are destined to witness results which will eclipse Oriental dreams. They belong to the twentieth century."
In her autobiography, "Retrospection and Introspection," Mrs. Eddy, writing of the experience which led to her discovery, says (p. 24), "My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury caused by an accident, an injury that neither medicine nor surgery could reach, was the falling apple that led me to the discovery how to be well myself, and how to make others so."
Those of you who are familiar with
her autobiography, or one or more of the three authorized biographies of Mrs.
Eddy, are familiar with the steps taken by our Leader subsequent to her
discovery: her thorough testing of what, through healing had been revealed to
her, her teaching of students, her publication in 1875 of the Christian Science
textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." In 1879,
she organized the first Christian Science church, The First Church of Christ,
Mary Baker Eddy is rightly known as the Discoverer of Christian Science, because she discovered the timeless laws of Life, Truth, and Love, reduced this discovery to writing and practice, and made it available to all mankind as a mighty force for regeneration and healing. Mrs. Eddy's quietude enabled her to hear the answer to her prayers. In humility she heard the voice of God, translated the new tongue, and established it in this age as demonstrable Science. Mrs. Eddy is justly acknowledged the Founder of Christian Science, because she founded the Christian Science church, wrote its Church Manual, ordered its services, and provided for its continuity and progress. She is properly called Leader of the Christian Science movement, because she was always spiritually guiding and directing her followers. Even today, in the depth and breadth of her writings, Christian Scientists find that continuing inspiration, that active counsel, that divine impulsion to spiritual progress that moves them ever onward and upward. Mrs. Eddy was a leader of thought, a spiritual seer, whose example finds no parallel in human history. In a Message to The Mother Church in 1901 Mrs. Eddy says (p. 34), "Follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ."
In her obedience to the demands of the sacred trust that was hers, Mrs. Eddy proved her capacity for her high office. Her power was in a great measure the consequence of this obedience. She supported all she said with what she did. Mrs. Eddy's leadership must be made a vital part of the present experience of every Christian Scientist. As we listen to and heed the call of this truly spiritual leadership, we tread the path of our greatest usefulness, finding in our service to others the satisfaction and peace which has been the quest of mankind since the beginning of time.
In conclusion may I repeat the lines from one of our hymns (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 297):
"Science, the angel with the flaming sword,
God's gift, the glory of the risen Lord;
Light of the world, in whose light we shall see
Father and perfect Son, blest unity."
[Published in The Marion County Mail of Indianapolis, Indiana, Oct. 19, 1945.]