Christian Science: The Practice of Godís Love for Man

 

John S. Sammons, C.S., of Chicago, Illinois

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). With these timeless words Christ Jesus, the master Christian, extended to all mankind for all time an invitation to share in and partake of the universal activity of the Christ, that spirit of God which he expressed so abundantly and shared so generously. Jesus consistently identified himself as the Son of God. His unity with the Father was an intimate daily and hourly relationship - a communion of deep spiritual understanding and of consecration to the sacredness of his mission. Jesus was the human herald of the Christ - the Truth that is forever operating in the affairs of men, correcting and displacing the misconceptions and inaccuracies of the material senses.

You may gather from the foregoing that Christian Science makes a distinction between Jesus the man and Christ the divine idea, of which Jesus was the highest human expression - and so it does. The same distinction that Jesus himself made in such statements as "Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God" (Luke 18:19), and ". . .but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10).

 

The Christ Antedates History

Jesus expressed the Christ, but Christ did not begin with Jesus but antedated all history, even as he said, referring to this spiritual selfhood, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). The Christ, then, is that precious message of healing and redemption embodying the limitless power for good characteristic of its source, divine Love. It is present and active now even as it was when preached and practiced on the shores of Galilee.

Jesus' place was and is unique as divine Exemplar, great Teacher and Way-shower, but with it all he was the most available of men. He moved about among the people healing and teaching. He was responsive to the common needs of mankind. He tenderly regarded each and every one, in his true being as a child of God, and healed and comforted them in this understanding of man's true relationship to the Father. While Jesus withdrew at times for a brief interlude of spiritual refreshment and prayer, he always returned to the multitudes and the market place - to the elementary and unaffected humility of spirit that may be found there.

Jesus' teaching was simplicity itself, and the instantaneousness of his healing work was characteristic of the Word made flesh, referred to in John's Gospel. At the pool of Bethesda, or in the synagogue, or before the tomb of Lazarus, it was always the same - the recognition and acknowledgment of present good, the silent utterance of a life that was lived in perfect harmony with the Father of us all, the unity of creator and creation wrought out in life practice. His was the sacrament of daily living of God's love for man and the practice of it.

 

Father-Mother a Term for God

"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). In this statement of Jesus we see evident his conscious singleness of purpose with the divine Mind. He was working with the Father - the Father whom he frequently referred to as "your Father" and "our Father"; the Father whom he recognized and acknowledged as God. A common fatherhood implies a common brotherhood. Having this infinite source in common we have a common nature or character, a common intelligence which Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, defines in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," as "the primal and eternal quality of Infinite Mind" (p. 469) - that ability to weigh the evidence and take the right course or action. The use of the word common in this instance should not be misunderstood. I do not refer to the ordinary or vulgar use, but to those qualities of the spiritual Father-Mother which are shared by His creation. While the origin of man is one, the expression is infinitely individual. And this is necessarily so because the divine Principle (and Principle may be defined as God, as source or origin) cannot be limited, restricted, or circumscribed in its being. An infinite creator requires an infinitely individual expression.

In the realm of the human all attempts to measure the universe, to count the stars, to weigh the infinite variety of character and purpose have but pointed to something beyond - to the boundless - yes, to that which is humanly incomprehensible. And there is a growing recognition on the part of investigators that even the boundless nature of the material universe is but type and shadow of the true creation and the infinitely individual nature of its expression.

While both the Bible and Science and Health use many terms to denote Deity, or God, it is this concept of Father-Mother which is especially applicable to the text and title of this lecture, which, may I remind you, is "The Practice of God's Love for Man."

On every hand we have ample evidence of God's originality and creativeness and likewise of God's sweet tenderness and loving care. "The Christian Science God," Mrs. Eddy writes (ibid., p. 140), "is universal, eternal, divine Love, which changeth not and causeth no evil, disease, nor death." And what better term could be devised than Father-Mother to express the grace and compassion, the justice and mercy, the abiding interest and guiding trust of a God that is Love.

 

Unity of Creator and Creation

Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). He refused to accept any sense of separation from his Father-Mother God. He refused to believe that there is a mist, veil, or barrier between man and his Maker - that there is something to penetrate, pierce, climb over, or crawl under, in order to get to divine Love. Man possesses, reflects, and includes by reflection, the body whose "builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10) to quote from the Scriptures. The true embodiment or the only real body is wholly spiritual, the embodiment of spiritual ideas. This body is painless, diseaseless, and deathless. There is no deterioration, disintegration, or dissolution in divine Love or in its reflection. It is the physical senses that argue for the reality of the physical body and of physical disease. Despite the words and works of Jesus these material senses would try to convince us that we are separated from our Maker - from the harmony and order that mark our unity with God.

It was revealed to Mrs. Eddy more than eighty-five years ago that the whole complex of a matter universe and a matter man is an illusion of material sense, a dream state from which mortals can be awakened. All such phenomena must give place to the spiritual fact by the translation of man and the universe back into Spirit. And it is precisely this that the study of Christian Science enables us to do. In Science we learn to look through matter, to go beyond the testimony of the senses and discern the spiritual fact or truth of all things. It was this spiritual insight, this refusal to be limited by effects and appearances, that enabled Jesus to express man's natural dominion over evil and to restore his brother man to health and well-being.

Mrs. Eddy points to the universal and ageless aspects of Jesus' work in Science and Health, where she writes, "It is not well to imagine that Jesus demonstrated the divine power to heal only for a select number or for a limited period of time, since to all mankind and in every hour, divine Love supplies all good" (p. 494); and in her work "Retrospection and Introspection" she also writes, "I am persuaded that only by the modesty and distinguishing affection illustrated in Jesus' career, can Christian Scientists aid the establishment of Christ's kingdom on the earth" (p. 94).

Many who knew Mary Baker Eddy personally have borne witness, and her biographers have especially emphasized, that the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science possessed and expressed the modesty and distinguishing affection illustrated in Jesus' career - qualities which she commends to her followers as essential to the establishment among men of the harmony and peace of the spiritual order - in short, Christ's kingdom on earth.

 

Mrs. Eddy's Humanity

Despite Mrs. Eddy's unique position as Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science and her voluntary withdrawal from society, she never isolated herself, but held to a friendly and natural relationship with her own household, her neighbors, and townspeople. She was always interested in civic questions, helpfully counseling and supporting such progressive measures as were for the general welfare.

In Concord, New Hampshire, where Mrs. Eddy resided for nearly twenty years, she enjoyed the friendliest of relations with churches of all denominations. Her charities were numerous and substantial. For a number of years she arranged with a local merchant to supply needy children with new shoes. On one occasion she confided to a member of her household that two hundred and five children had been provided for that year, and without regard to race, color, or religion (Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy by Irving C. Tomlinson, pp. 187-189). By such actions as these Mrs. Eddy evidenced a natural interest in and love for her brother man that was consistent with her counsel found in the Christian Science textbook, where she writes, "Students are advised by the author to be charitable and kind, not only towards differing forms of religion and medicine, but to those who hold these differing opinions" (Science and Health, p. 444). This statement agrees with and is supported by another statement to be found in the same work, where we may read, "The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus" (ibid., p. 25).

As a faithful follower of Jesus she too demonstrated the Christ in daily living. Her biographers present an appealing and revealing figure of a woman of deep spiritual insight, of prodigious mental capacity, of unwavering self-discipline. We find her graciously moving about her household, always speaking the word that helped, whether in admiration or admonition. We see her penning a note of encouragement and comfort to a friend at three o'clock in the morning. We are told that she frequently read aloud to members of her household from the Scriptures, and in discussion expounded and developed the spiritual significance of the sacred Word and its application to human problems (Mary Baker Eddy: A Life Size Portrait by Lyman P. Powell, p. 192).

Those who are truly great are those who are truly simple, without affectation, dissimulation, or guile manifesting the spiritual and social integrity that is "independent of doctrines and time-honored systems" - to borrow a phrase from the Preface of our textbook (Science and Health, p. vii). And it is by this standard of simple greatness that Mrs. Eddy may be judged as truly great. So, in the affections of those unnumbered thousands who have seen something of her work in their own lives, her position as Discoverer, Founder, and revelator is secure.

One who was associated with Mrs. Eddy many years in supervising the printing and production of her books wrote, "If I were to describe her I might say that she was dignified, but not aloof; friendly, but not intimate; kindly, but not demonstrative; determined, but not stubborn" (Mary Baker Eddy and Her Books by William Dana Orcutt, p. 187).

 

The Revelator of Christian Science

Mrs. Eddy, prepared from early girlhood by religious training in the home circle and through years of Scriptural study and deep spiritual meditation, became the revelator to this age of the new-old message of the Christ, Truth. Setting a straight course through the seas of theological confusion current in the middle nineteenth century, and with an inflexible purpose, impelled by the very revelation that she was so unselfishly to share, she discovered and gave to the world the Science of Christianity. She fulfilled her unique destiny as the one to reveal to all mankind, impartially, the Science of the Christ, and become, in fact, its revelator.

The obvious meaning of the word revelator is one who reveals something. When Christian Scientists refer to Mary Baker Eddy as the revelator to this age of the Christ, Truth, they mean that she revealed to the world something of the nature or character of Truth, or God, and the order of His expression. She disclosed something of the divine or spiritual that was hitherto unknown. She did not devise or invent a new God or a different universe. She simply discerned God and His thoughts as the divine Mind and its creation, as it has always existed, wholly spiritual, and therefore wholly immaterial.

 

Christian Science Based upon the Scriptures

This revelation of course supports and is supported by the Scriptures, that carefully selected and time-tried collection of sacred writings, going back to primitive times and culminating in the record of the master Christian, Christ Jesus.

The King James Version of the Bible was not by any means the first attempt to give to the common man an unabridged English translation of the Scriptures. The design of its translators was to preserve the spiritual essence of the original languages in the simplest possible terms. It is this translation, the King James Version, that is used by Christian Scientists for public worship and private study throughout the English-speaking world.

Many historically interesting books have been written about the Scriptures - many analytically penetrating studies of the original texts have been presented to the world. But it remained for Mrs. Eddy in her textbook, Science and Health, to reveal the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures - to sound their spiritual depths and thus make available to all seekers the Truth, preached and practiced by the ancient prophets and revealed in its full glory in the words and works of Jesus.

 

Man's True Value and Indispensability

The importance of the individual to the spiritual order of creation and to the continuing appearing or unfolding of God's plan and purpose cannot be overemphasized. "The whole is the sum of all the parts" is an old copybook maxim. Every expression of God is essential to the perfection of His own being and inseparable from it. And so it is that the words and works of the Master spiritually defined and interpreted by Christian Science give to each one of us an appreciation of his true value and indispensability as a reflection of God. An understanding of our spiritual relationship to God and to each other will truly make us "fishers of men," missionaries of the spirit, whatever our occupation may be, bearing witness by the healing touch that the Christ is present and active today even as it was two thousand years ago.

Several years ago a Christian Scientist was teaching a third-grade class in the public schools of Chicago. One day the door of the schoolroom opened, and the principal presented a boy of about twelve years. She explained to the teacher privately that the boy's record indicated that he was retarded, and he was being given one more chance. She stated that if he didn't respond to the teaching and show some progress, he would have to be placed in a special class for subnormal children. As a Christian Scientist, the teacher had learned something of the power of impersonal love, so she welcomed this further opportunity to prove more of Love's universal presence and impartial nature. The results were somewhat meager at first, and a teacher of lesser faith and understanding might have been discouraged. But what do we read in the Scriptures? "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth" (Isa. 42:4). So the Christian Scientist persisted, and as opportunities presented, she would assure the boy that he was intelligent, that he could have a life of helpfulness and usefulness, that he had talents that he could express, and most important of all, that she and the children loved him.

One day she noticed him doing something very well with his hands, and so she began to give him little tasks to perform - the broken eraser, the stuck window, the pen that needed adjusting. Soon he was known to his classmates as Mr. Fixit. Progress in all ways was now manifest, and at the end of the year he was promoted and went on to complete his schooling creditably. Some years later, circumstances brought the teacher and the boy together again. The boy had grown to manhood and was operating his own automobile service station. He was still exercising his natural talents, supporting himself, and contributing to the support of others - evidencing the substance of the faith that is based upon spiritual understanding.

Man in Science is never lost, overlooked, or ignored. He cannot be displaced or replaced. He cannot be deprived of his faculties or limited in their expression, and this truth was demonstrated in the schoolboy's experience. The prophet Isaiah writes, "And thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken" (Isa. 62:12). As idea, man is neither isolated nor solitary. He is forever at one with the Love that includes him - he is always in harmony with all that he is related to. He dwells in the kingdom that is undivided, the kingdom of heaven that Jesus said is "within you."

 

 

Peter's Great Discovery

For centuries mortals have been raised up in rigid social concepts of caste and class. There are literally myriads of arbitrary divisions within the human family, including many races and a babel of languages. Christian Science does not seek to reduce all mortals to a common level, but does raise them up to a common understanding of their true relationship to their creator - exalting their real status as children of God - dissipating the ignorance that divides with the intelligence that unites.

Peter was faced with some of these arbitrary beliefs of race and class at the baptism of Cornelius. You may recall the incident as recorded in the book of Acts. Cornelius was an Italian, a devout man, and consistent in his prayers.

On one occasion he was visited by an angel (we learn in Christian Science that angels are "God's thoughts passing to man" - Science and Health, p. 581), and this angel message told him to seek out Peter and receive instruction from him. Up to that time Christianity was considered but a minor phase of Judaism, a rather narrow Jewish sect open only to those of the congregation of Israel. So, according to the custom of the early Church, Cornelius could never be included in the Christian brotherhood. Nevertheless, Cornelius, obedient to his spiritual vision, sent messengers to Peter at Joppa asking him to come to Caesarea. In the meanwhile, Peter also had an angel visitant with a message that he seemed at the time unable to comprehend. The voice had said to him, Call no man "common or unclean."

It was not until Peter's arrival at Cornelius' house that he began to appreciate the great significance of his angel message. Cornelius had called together his kinsmen and friends and, standing amidst this goodly company, he related to Peter his revelatory experience. Peter's response has echoed and re-echoed through the ensuing years. "Of a truth," said he, "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34).

The narrator tells us that as Peter preached to Cornelius and his friends of the Christ and its precious promise, the Holy Ghost fell upon them all. Then those of the circumcision; marveled that upon the Gentiles also the gift of the Spirit was poured out. So Cornelius was baptized into the Christian brotherhood, the first Gentile of record to be so received. This was an event pregnant with promise and prophecy, foreshadowing the Christian ideal of social unity, based upon the teaching and example of the Master, Christ Jesus. We learn in Christian Science that today Jew and Christian can unite in doctrine and denomination on the very basis of Jesus' words and works. The real man cannot be identified by or with physical characteristics or racial background, but only by the elements of divine Principle, Love; and it is thus that we are identified in Christian Science.

 

Practical Application

The message of Christian Science is a message for all men. It is a message of spiritual progress, a message of protection and provision, a message of health and well-being - a message of helpfulness to our brothers, a ministry of redemption and healing. Consider the case of a family in a Midwestern city in the United States, proprietors of a small neighborhood grocery and market. The father, addicted to drink, of very little use to the business, a disagreeable man, was cordially disliked by practically all who knew him. When he became unmanageable one day, the family called the police, and he was taken away and placed under restraint. The mother, discouraged and depressed by the turn of events, unburdened herself to a customer who happened by. The customer was a Christian Scientist, who comforted and reassured her, telling her of Christian Science and offering its message of hope and healing. The mother was interested and telephoned a Christian Science practitioner, who agreed to take the case, and who requested that a copy of a Christian Science textbook be placed in the husband's hands. So a daughter was detailed to procure a copy of the textbook and take it to her father. She found him in a bare cell, hands and feet strapped to an iron cot. The doctor in charge held out no hope and reluctantly consented to give the book to the father, should he recover sufficiently.

The next day the daughter called again and this time found her father in a private room, sitting on the edge of the bed reading Science and Health - the truth of Peter's great discovery, that God is no respecter of persons, had again been demonstrated. Through the consecrated prayer of the Christian Science practitioner, the Christ had once more come to the flesh to destroy incarnate error. This man was completely restored despite all prophecies to the contrary, and he became a good husband, a good father, a respected and useful member of society.

Now it became the daughter's turn to experience the blessings of Christian Science healing. When she became ill her mother urged her to have Christian Science help, but she refused it. The situation became serious, and she was rushed to a hospital. The physicians, after some observation, pronounced the case acute peritonitis and held out no hope for recovery. Again the mother presented Christian Science, and this time the daughter was ready. A Christian Science practitioner was called. (It is not customary for a practitioner to take the case of anyone who is under medical treatment either in a home or a hospital. However, in cases of emergency or last resort a practitioner may take a case if it has been given up by the medical doctors.) In this emergency the practitioner took over. The following morning things had taken a turn for the better. A Christian Science friend called, and Christian Science was more fully discussed and accepted. On the following Sunday, four days from the time that her life was despaired of, the daughter returned home completely restored to normal health. After eating a hearty dinner, she felt so good that, to use her own words, she "went to the basement and did the week's washing." Through all the years that have followed she has continued her interest in and study of Christian Science, enjoying the health and progress that are inseparable from its practice.

Could it be a material coincidence that blessed this little family so bountifully and brought a rich harvest of good to their acquaintances and friends through all the years that have followed? All good comes from God, who is the source of all good. The effect of His presence is to bless, enhance, enlarge, and enrich, for in Him we live and move and have our being, as the Scripture says. Christian Science reveals this presence as the presence of law, not mere material coincidence, and acknowledges its healing effects as divinely natural. What could be more natural than Love's tender care and infinite provision for its ideas?

 

Love's Inclusiveness

A committee of writers was commissioned to select the most obnoxious word in the English language. After some thought and discussion they selected the word "exclusive": that which shuts out; that which would debar from possession or participation. In Christian Science, which is the understanding and practice of God's love for man, there is no place for an attitude of exclusiveness of good. God's love is all-pervading, all-comprehending, unrestricted, hence, universally known, and impersonal and impartial in its operation. Man is the reflection of all-inclusive Love, and it was this spiritual fact of Love's impartiality and inclusiveness that was revealed to Peter at the baptism of Cornelius; it was this spiritual fact that was evident in the experience of the schoolteacher with the backward boy, and in the spontaneous response of the casual customer to the difficulties of the woman in the little grocery.

Mrs. Eddy asks the question in Science and Health, "Does Deity interpose in behalf of one worshipper, and not help another who offers the same measure of prayer?" She then goes on to say, "In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as 'a very present help in trouble' " (p. 12). All means everyone - it means everyone who turns humbly to God; it means you and me; it means the woman who cleans the apartment and the man who delivers the mail; it means the men and women who direct the extensive commercial and industrial empires of the world; it means those who strive to establish and maintain friendly relationships in the family of nations; it means those upon whose shoulders the responsibility of government rests; it means those who serve quietly and humbly in the thousand and one occupations so essential to the economic structure of our modern living. Yes, everyone is included, and no one is excluded.

 

All May Pray Effectively

We are all included in that which includes all, and there is nothing to fear from, and no loss can occur through, time and effort on our part devoted to the blessing of others. The most effective instrument for translating this good into human experience is prayer - the affirmation and realization of the spiritual truth revealed in Christian Science, as it relates to particular situations. Prayer might be said to be the recognition of spiritual ideas in action. It is understanding, sincerity, and conviction that gives prayer substance. Jesus' prayers, Mrs. Eddy writes, "were deep and conscientious protests of Truth, - of man's likeness to God and of man's unity with Truth and Love" (Science and Health, p. 12). Jesus' words were with power because he knew they voiced the truth, and he demonstrated that fact. He commended the humble petition of the publican, the admitted sinner, and rebuked the self-righteousness of the Pharisee. It is only as our words evidence our understanding, sincerity, and conviction that they become effective instruments for redemption and healing. As we discern, appreciate, and strive to understand the ideas of Spirit, or spiritual ideas, they become active in our thought, and thus serve to direct or guide us in our day-to-day experience.

 

Thinking In Terms of Spirit

To think in terms of Spirit is to think in terms of opportunity and privilege, and thus to rule out a sense of lost opportunity and under privilege. To think in terms of Spirit is to think in terms of God's provision and care, and thus to rule out a sense of lack and neglect. To think in terms of Spirit is to think in terms of sound health and well-being, and thus to rule out discord and disease. To think in terms of Spirit is to think in terms of the good that knows no evil, of the joy that masters sorrow, of the Life that knows no death. This is the prayer of spiritual power, of the deep and conscientious protests of Truth attributed to Christ Jesus. This is the prayer which redeems the sinner and heals the sick. This is the prayer which awakens to the spiritual reality of life in God, which is salvation. To this awakened spiritual sense mankind not only will be saved but is saved - coexisting with God in the grandeur and bliss of Life's eternal, incorporeal existence.

All true prayer is inclusive of good only and exclusive of all that is erroneous or evil. Mrs. Eddy has asked that the members of The Mother Church pray daily not only for themselves but that the affections of all mankind be enriched (Manual of The Mother Church, Art. VIII, Sect. 4), and she further points to the universal need and the universal remedy where she also asks that the prayers in the Christian Science churches be for the congregations collectively and exclusively. In working out our problems let us neither forget nor neglect our brother's needs. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, and as we subordinate self-will and pray, "Thy will be done. Thy kingdom come in earth as it is in heaven," we not only become better men and women but dwell in a better world.

 

"No mere theory, doctrine, or belief"

A Christian Scientist, a commander in the British Navy, was aboard his ship on the Atlantic one thousand miles from land when at half-past three in the morning a torpedo struck without warning, damaging the ship and putting the radio out of action. In disciplined order the crew of two hundred and eighty men took to the rafts and boats. Successive torpedoes quickly sank their ship, and there they were in that very lonely Atlantic one thousand miles from land and no help in sight. An auxiliary radio with a range of less than two hundred miles was brought into use and repeated signals sent out, but with little hope, as the range was so limited. Was the Christian Scientist afraid? Very much so, and he was likewise conscious of the fear of those around him. But he had his Science and Health with him, and as soon as he was able he opened the book, and this is what he read: "Our Master taught no mere theory, doctrine, or belief. It was the divine Principle of all real being which he taught and practised. His proof of Christianity was no form or system of religion and worship, but Christian Science, working out the harmony of Life and Love" (Science and Health, p. 26). Our friend accepted the challenge of the first sentence. He realized that Christian Science was "no mere theory, doctrine, or belief," but an exposition of divine law that could be applied to and would redeem the situation in which circumstances appeared to have placed him; and so he was comforted, and he lost his fear. When on the second day a destroyer hove in sight and rescued him, he greeted it not so much with a sense of relief as of gratitude that God's care for His children had once more been demonstrated.

So he was saved and two hundred and eighty of the ship's company along with him. Then the whole story came out. The signal sent out from the auxiliary radio with a range of but two hundred miles or less had been picked up by the Admiralty in London, more than one thousand miles away and relayed to Iceland, and the destroyer had been sent to their rescue. What was it that gave this radio signal its sudden surge of power? Was it physical elements - an atmospheric circumstance - a freak of nature? No! It was the infinite range of spiritual ideas in action; it was the prayer of understanding and conviction: it was the realization of the presence and power of divine Love; it was the Christ manifest in the affairs of men as Redeemer and Saviour.

"Our Master taught no mere theory, doctrine, or belief. It was the divine Principle of all real being which he taught and practised," and it is the divine Principle of all real being which Christian Science presents in its understanding and proof of God's love for man.

In conclusion may I commend to your consideration these lines from Mrs. Eddy's poem "Love";

"Pray that his spirit you partake,

Who loved and healed mankind:

Seek holy thoughts and heavenly strain,

That make men one in love remain."

 

[Published in The Milwaukee County (Wisconsin) News, December 13, 1956.]

 

 

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