Christian Science: The Gospel of the Kingdom (1)
Judge Clifford P. Smith, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The better part of the human race seeks a greater dominion over adverse conditions, in order to gain and enjoy a more abundant life. The actual need of mankind, and its highest aspiration, is that freedom of thought and action which constitutes full and perfect manhood. Accordingly, the use of true religion is to expel evil from human experience, to the end that each individual may reflect the Life that is God, divine good.
It is also true that whatever progress is being made toward this goal ought to be, and will be, manifest in present experience. Progress, truly considered, implies that human conditions and conduct are being made to conform to an ideal; and the only worthy ideal is that which is furnished by the absolute truth of being. The majority of believers, however, do not expect to realize full salvation without dying. They depict heaven as a situation on the other side of death. In the mean time they look for more discord than harmony, for more subjection than dominion; even though bondage to evil is often not recognized as such.
The Founder of the Christian religion referred to his message as "the gospel of the kingdom;" and of this kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God he said much in parables but several things explicitly. He said it is "at hand" (that is to say, it is present and within reach); he said it is "within you" (which is to say, it is a state of consciousness); and he said it comes upon you as devils or evils are cast out. Heaven, therefore, is not the sequence of death; it is an active state of goodness. It is gained by overcoming evil; not by dying, but by right living. The kingdom of heaven is the consciousness of good. It is the reign of Life, Truth, and Love in man. We are in heaven here and now to the extent that we realize the actual qualities of true being.
How would you like to be sure that in the reality of your being you image and reflect divine Life and Truth and Love, while the only devil, evil, or hell is the illusion in human consciousness?
How would you like to know that infinite good is the Principle—the cause and substance —of all that really is, and that this divine Principle is always available to you for the overcoming of any evil condition?
How would you like to be certain that heaven and hell, health and disease, happiness and misery, are simply opposite mental states, resulting from contrary modes of thought, and that one of these states is real and true and enduring, while the other is a bad dream?
How would you like to learn that there is a way by which you can progressively awaken from this dream and thereby enter into the kingdom of God?
For the proof of these propositions Christian Science relies on four distinct grounds of assurance: First, the verbal instruction of inspired teachers as found in the Bible; second, the object-lessons or so-called miracles furnished by Christ Jesus and his followers in the first three centuries of the Christian era; third, the evident spirit of Truth which pervades the works on Christian Science written by Mrs. Eddy; fourth, the results of Christian Science in the experience of the multitudes who have sought its benefits according to its own rules. With this data Christian Science is able to satisfy the highest sense of reason; but, not content with the verdict of any human faculty, it makes its ultimate appeal to the understanding which is spiritual and divine.
Among the better human qualities are hope and faith. In them the message of Christian
Science finds a glad response. To read without hostility the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," is to hope that its teaching may be true, and to have some degree of faith that it is true; and if hope and faith induce the study and practice of its precepts, understanding will sooner or later furnish the demonstration of its truth in your own experience; and this is the highest order of proof. Seeking "first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," in the way illuminated by this commentary on the Bible, the earnest and persistent seeker will find that the appropriate benefits, both temporal and eternal, will be added unto him.
I do not mean to say that Christian Science coincides with the testimony of the physical senses. It does not. Neither does any science. Every system of science admits that sense impressions are always imperfect and often misleading; indeed, that knowledge is superior to the evidence of the senses is the proposition with which science begins. The science of astronomy began when knowledge corrected the belief of the senses respecting sunrise and sunset. The science of aviation began when knowledge overcame the belief of the senses that a heavier-than-air machine could not be made to fly. Perhaps nothing is more real to the senses than pain, yet there have been cases where one who has lost a limb still has pain in the severed member which seems as real as pain in one that is connected with the brain. Discoveries in the way of invention frequently set aside the testimony of the physical senses; and there is no limit beyond which material sense cannot be forced to yield. Christian Science declares that actual knowledge is not in the least material; it is purely spiritual.
Fortunately for each and all of us, this purely spiritual sense is ever present in human consciousness. It is the actual manifestation of Life. It is that which lives and does not die. Through the presence in human consciousness of this divine element, God is with us and we "have our being" in Him. It is by reason of the presence and power of spiritual sense or spiritual understanding that we have a dependable assurance of heaven, for it is that with which we can discern and realize the divine nature. What is the divine nature? What are the character and the attributes of God? What is man? These questions are the most important that can engage our attention, and when truly answered they dispose of the age-long mystery, What is evil?
The New Testament shows that Christ Jesus defined God by the use of the words "good," "truth," "life," and "Spirit." His names for Deity were "God" and "Father;" and in his use of the latter we find not only "my Father," but "the Father," "our Father," and "your Father." There must have been good reasons why he so often used this name for God. He employed it because he aimed to lift thought above human generation and mortal conditions and point to God as the only author of man; also, because this name as used by him denotes God's divinely parental power, government, and care with respect to man. Also, because the love of a parent is the highest type of human love, and it would serve as the semblance of the true idea of the Love which is divine. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" Taking the highest human concept of love, the Master used it to teach the infinite superiority of the divine Love - the divine Principle - which tenderly and omnipotently provides for the welfare of man.
Christ Jesus, the divine Teacher, did not, however, limit his method of enlightening the world to verbal instruction; he made much use of the object-lesson. The healing which he wrought by "the finger of God" (that is to say, by the power of God) was a vivid and cogent method of teaching. It proved the truth of his words. The gospels give more space to these significant proofs than is given to precepts or parables.
What do these healing works teach? Of what do they furnish evidence? What assurance should they convey to us today? Preceding the answer to these questions there are certain prefatory facts which ought to be mentioned. The Greek words that are usually but not always translated "miracle" in the King James version of the New Testament do not mean a supernatural event. Their meaning varies from an act of power, a mighty work, to a sign or proof, but they do not denote that which is supernatural. This is plainly set forth in the Oxford English dictionary and in other standard works of reference. The Greek word in the gospels which is oftenest used to refer to the works of healing done by Christ Jesus, means a sign and includes the idea of evidence or proof. This is shown by what Jesus said at the end of the gospel according to Mark: "These signs shall follow them that believe." The Greek word which is here rendered "signs" is the same word which is elsewhere rendered "miracle."
Another pertinent fact is that the early Christians cited the healing of the sick by divine power as verifying the teaching in which they believed and attesting their understanding of it. With the loss in the third century of this power they lost the most cogent and persuasive evidence of Christianity. Moreover, the lack of this power made the later Christianity differ from that which was practiced and taught by Christ Jesus. The lack of the healing power made the later practice differ from the original in scope and in effect. An explanation, therefore, became necessary, and the supernatural explanation which still persists is the outgrowth of this predicament. The explanation which thus came to be formulated is that God normally acts through natural law, but that His personality is such that He may act supernaturally, and that He has done so at certain critical moments in the history of the human race.
There is, however, no need to assume a change in God's law or government in order to account for the possession of the healing power by some persons and not by others. The more natural explanation is that some of them possessed, while others lacked, the necessary understanding. Jesus never attributed the possibility of Christian healing to anything abnormal on the part of God, nor on the part of himself. On the contrary, he spoke of such works as the indicia or test of discipleship. I have already quoted one of his sayings to this effect. Another one is this: "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also."
Another objection to the hypothesis in question is that it ascribes a human character to Deity. It likens Him to a human father who says, "Since my ordinary and regular plan of government is not working well, I will modify it or try another." This is not the character of Him "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." The plans of infinite wisdom do not need to be changed.
The final refutation of the supernatural explanation of Christian healing is supplied by the fact that such healing has been resumed since the discovery of its Science. The healing of the sick by the power of God in the first, second, and third centuries, and again in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, abundantly confirms the truth of Mrs. Eddy's saying "that the so-called miracles of Jesus did not specially belong to a dispensation now ended, but that they illustrated an ever-operative divine Principle" (Science and Health, p. 123). When Christ Jesus cured the man whose right hand was withered, declaring that it was lawful to do so, he proved two facts; he established two propositions: first, that there is a Principle and modus by which such healing is possible; second, that he possessed the understanding thereof. One of these facts was personal to himself, and to many others, but the other was not peculiar to him at all. The Principle of Christian healing is universal and eternal; the method is available to all who understand it. The only personal factor is the understanding; and in the last analysis this is personal only in the sense of being individual, not in the sense of being human. Its source and power are divine.
Whenever Christ Jesus overcame sin, disease, or death by knowing the truth of being (in accordance with his scientific statement, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"), he proved that evil and its conditions are destructible and unreal; and he showed that they should be known as such by every one. When he loosed the woman who "was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself," of whom he said that Satan or evil had bound her, he proved that her "spirit of infirmity," even though it had lasted eighteen years, was merely a belief of infirmity, an illusion of material sense. When he enabled the man to receive his sight, who was in medical theory incurably blind, he demonstrated the unreliability of material knowledge and the superiority of spiritual power over material resistance.
Near the close of his earthly career Christ Jesus said to his disciples, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Why should they or we "be of good cheer" because of his overcoming? Because he exemplified universal possibilities. Because his acts of power were done in accordance with law - in accordance with the immutable law of good. Because his mighty works attested the presence, action, and power of divine Principle; and Principle does not change. Because the signs that he wrought proved the actual qualities of real being - of your being and mine - and proved them to be free from evil.
Such is the significance, the evidential and educational value, of the so-called miracles of healing; and though to material sense they seem unnatural, to spiritual sense - to the understanding of good - they are supremely natural, for they evince the true nature of God and man.
With respect to names and synonyms for Deity, there are not many differences between Scientists and others who search the same Scriptures. Such a disagreement as exists today is more practical than theoretical. The divergence is more substantial than formal. For example, we concur that God is Mind, and that "we live, and move, and have our being" in Him. Yet many persons practically desert these premises by claiming to have another mind, and to live, think, and be separate from God.
The relation of man to God, and the function of man in the action of Mind, was set forth by Christ Jesus in these words: "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." He did not speak of himself alone, for the son of God is man. The offspring of Mind is idea. The likeness of Mind is consciousness. The image of Mind is the reflection of it. These names for the representation of Mind mean the same, and they define the real man. Thus the unity that exists between God and man unites true thought to the infinite good, than whom is none else, and in whom is all. It was a profound truth that Mrs. Eddy uttered when she said, "The basis of all health, sinlessness, and immortality is the great fact that God is the only Mind" (Science and Health, p. 339).
Christian Scientists and other Christians also agree that God is Love, and that His mercy endureth forever. Yet it is often believed that He employs or sends evil. To say this is simply to call evil good. It is an attempt to get rid of evil by combining it with good. God could not employ or send evil without its being a part of His character and attributes; He could not send evil without having it to send. It is said, however, that evil is in some way a necessity; that we need it. Such an argument betrays a singular confusion of thought. What we need is good, and unless evil were the same as good we would have no need of it.
Let us analyze this question further. It is universally admitted that fear is a bad thing; it is a phase of evil. It beclouds the judgment, halts action, weakens endeavor, induces man's inhumanity to man, and is a larger factor in disease and death than is commonly understood. But the chief procurator of fear is this very belief that God employs or sends evil. Mortals fear because they doubt His provision for their care. Fear springs from the supposition that God may have ordained the evil event or condition that is dreaded. Is it possible, then, that the consequences of this belief and fear can be traced to divine Love? If the belief were true, God would be responsible for the fear and torment that follow as its consequence. But the belief is false, for "perfect love casteth out fear." Neither fear, nor its effects, nor the errors back of it, can withstand the true idea of divine Love. Christ Jesus refuted the notion that God sends or employs evil by saying that "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
We are also agreed that God is Life, and that He giveth life to all. We unite in declaring that God is Spirit, that His will is law, and that power belongeth unto Him. These are Scriptural statements of truth which we all accept, at least in form. Yet the conduct of the average man concerning his health repudiates them almost without compunction. In the endeavor to preserve or regain their health, most people would rather follow a medical book than the New Testament; they continually worship and frequently sacrifice at the shrine of material belief, while spiritual understanding is hardly allowed to enter into the question. The majority of Christians appear to regard matter, instead of Spirit, as the source and environment of life; and in regard to law and power they concede less to God than to germs and bacteria.
You know, of course, that the present medical theory of health and disease is chiefly concerned with germs and microbes. Certain breeds of microorganisms are said to be destructive of health and life, while others are said to be beneficial, because they are supposed to be willing and able to consume the other sort. The human body is therefore regarded as a battleground for germs, and the victory of health is made to depend on finding and using the species that is supposed to be more helpful than harmful in the particular case. Such theories manifestly have no relation to Spirit, or God, for they are wholly material. They utterly disregard the spiritual status and welfare of man. They regard life as a condition of animated matter.
Let us therefore pause for a moment and ask, What is matter? I will answer in the language of a modern encyclopedia that "all theories as to the ultimate constitution of matter cannot be other than purely speculative." Matter is admitted by natural science to be indefinable. It was formerly resolved into atoms. Latterly these have been resolved into gaseous particles called electrons or ions. The nature of these supposed units is unknown, but it is explained by some physicists that they are possibly a center of strain or vortex in an all-pervading ether of unknown nature. Therefore, as a recent writer said, matter has disappeared in a supposed swirl in a hypothetical ether. The gist of matter, therefore, is material supposition. The fact is that Spirit is the only substance; matter has no actual entity. Matter consists of material belief, and Mrs. Eddy furnished the scientific explanation of material phenomena by saying that "mortal mind sees what it believes as certainly as it believes what it sees" (Science and Health, p. 86).
How about the physical body, with which man seems to be identified? Mortals will undoubtedly have a material body until they outgrow the belief of material selfhood. But they will not always have the same body. Natural science declares that the physical body is in a state of constant decay and reconstruction.
It is supposed to be completely changed every few years. Is man, then, involved in this shifting of the particles of matter? Not at all. No difference how often the mortal body is changed, man's individuality continues and is not touched. The identity of man is wholly mental and spiritual; it inheres entirely in consciousness. Even on the plane of mortal belief the physicality without the life would not be called man by any one. Consciousness, individuality, identity, are more enduring than anything which the physical senses can perceive.
This illustrates the illusive nature of material sense. The testimony of the physical senses is limited to matter and its phenomena. They furnish no information concerning Spirit. They take no cognizance of that which is spiritual. Hence, as Christ Jesus pointed out to Nicodemus, they can tell nothing of the real man. What man is depends upon what God is. It is an axiom that every product or effect must be like its cause or principle. To find the product, man, we must start from his Principle, God; and we can know God and His offspring not materially, but spiritually. Since God must be found as Spirit and Truth, as Love and Life, the consciousness, individuality, and identity of the real man must also be found therein. When thus understood, man proves to be harmonious and eternal.
I have already asserted that health and disease are opposite mental conditions, resulting from contrary modes of thought. This statement is both scientific and Christian. The worst aspect of disease is death. Death is the culmination of disease in its most extreme forms. Hence, the cause of death includes the cause of disease, and what St. Paul wrote to the Romans about life and death is equally true of health and disease: "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." In these words he explicitly declares that life is a condition of mind or thought; causation is analyzed as wholly metaphysical. The mentality which sickens and dies is carnal; that is to say, material, while the thought which lives and enjoys the perfect attributes of Life is spiritual.
This subject is illuminated by one of the sayings of Christ Jesus on account of which many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." In the language of modern translations, "It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing." It is plain from this utterance and others that he referred to God as Spirit, and St. Paul repeatedly spoke of God as Mind. Hence it can be declared upon the authority of the Teacher, Christ Jesus, and of St. Paul, that it is Spirit, God, the divine Mind, which gives life and health to man, and that this is given through mentality or thought. It is therefore both scientific and Christian to say that health is a mental and spiritual quality, and is to be gained and preserved as such; that is, through the understanding of and obedience to the spiritual law which emanates from the divine Mind. This being the case, it is evident that Christian Science healing has an ethical and saving effect which makes it inseparable from Christianity.
Christian Science is a system of thought based on God as the only Mind and cause. Its office is to minister to human needs, and to do this in the way shown by Jesus the Christ; that is, by mental and spiritual means. Although the cure of physical disorder is not its chief purpose, such healing is a part of the world's great need; and in the ministry of Jesus it was not neglected. It is therefore not to be supposed that his followers have ever willfully passed by on the other side from such a patent and crying need. They have tried to aid the sick and suffering, but their comfort has not been cure simply because they have not known the Principle and method of Christian healing. This knowledge was lost to Christians because a personal and supernatural view of the Saviour removed their concept of Jesus' life-work from the realm of naturalness and law to that of mystery and miracle.
With the loss of this knowledge was lost an essential element of Christ's Christianity, for it is indivisible. That from which a savior is needed is the evil one or one evil, and that which will overcome it cannot be understood as limited to a part of the error. The saving Truth cannot be divided; neither in Principle nor in effect. St. Peter correctly used the word "healing" when he said that Jesus "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him."
In the nineteenth century, however, a limited form of Christianity had long been orthodox. Faith in Spirit, God, had yielded and was giving way to faith in material theories and methods. As for the science of God and His universe, the possibility of this was doubted and denied. Science and religion were thought of as foreign to each other - as incongruous. This was the case with professed Christians, even though the utterance of Christ Jesus made the knowledge of God the basic requirement of Christianity, and science is simply knowledge reduced to order and referred to law.
Here and there, nevertheless, were families or individuals with whom faith in good was vital, and spiritual causation was a present and paramount fact. Such a person was the mother of Mary Baker Eddy, and it was in such an atmosphere as this that Mrs. Eddy was reared and her development was begun. The facts of Mrs. Eddy's personal history are simply told in a biography by Sibyl Wilbur, which can be found in most of the public libraries. As an authentic account of an illustrious woman this book is well worth a thoughtful reading. I shall not try to sum it up here, but will quote what was said of Mrs. Eddy by one who observed her in her youth. From the time when she was a girl of fifteen until she married at the age of twenty-two, Mrs. Eddy resided with her parents at Tilton, New Hampshire, where the Rev. Enoch Corser was pastor of the Congregational church. He received her into this church when she was seventeen, and five years later officiated at her wedding. Meanwhile he was her pastor and to some extent her tutor. Himself a man of mature years and liberal culture, he once said of her to his son with such earnestness and emphasis that the words were never forgotten : "Bright, good, pure, aye, brilliant! I never before had a pupil with such depth and independence of thought. She has some great future, mark that. She is an intellectual and spiritual genius."
Showing this promise in her youth, Mrs. Eddy had reached the age of forty-five when she discovered Christian Science and began her wonderful career of service to mankind. Spiritual growth and scientific attainment had, meanwhile, prepared her to receive and impart this comprehensive view of divine reality. Mrs. Eddy was fully aware of the importance of Christian Science. No one foresaw its redemptive value so well as she. It was therefore but natural that she should cherish the right to be known as its Discoverer. But the only token which she desired for her labor in behalf of humanity was a truthful record of her life; and the only demand which she made on her followers was that they should make good use of her discovery; that they should preserve and promote the understanding of genuine, operative Christian Science, so that the so-called human mind may increase in goodness until the claim of a mind separate from God disappears. This being the case, there is not the slightest reason for regarding Mrs. Eddy with either emotional ecstasy or personal worship; but there is abundant reason why mankind in general, and Christian Scientists in particular, should feel and express for her the utmost gratitude, love, and reverence.
As a scientific discoverer and religious leader, Mrs. Eddy has been the means of giving to the world the priceless benefit of a truer concept of God and man. Incidentally, she has taught a mental self-knowledge that discriminates between genuine thoughts, which emanate from the divine Mind, and the illusions of material sense, which appear in the guise of thoughts and constitute evil; and she has made known a mental practice, including this true self-knowledge, which enables the learner, in a large and ever-increasing degree, to recognize and obey the thoughts of God and to resist and destroy aught else.
Deliverance from evil depends on this attainment, for the situation is mental. Unless evil can affect your mentality or consciousness, it cannot touch your welfare. "Evil thoughts . . . defile the man," said Jesus; and his explanation, as reported by Matthew and Mark, shows that a man cannot be harmed unless it be through the heart or consciousness. The Hebrew proverb is scientific, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." With the situation thus set forth, the importance of a scientific mental practice is evident. The forms of evil are the phases of mortal and material belief. The scene of its appearing and disappearing is the so-called human consciousness. Evil must be met and overcome at that point; and it can be rejected with the power of Mind. The kingdom of heaven is at hand because self-knowledge and self-control through the law and power of God is a present possibility. As Mrs. Eddy has said, "We have nothing to fear when Love is at the helm of thought, but everything to enjoy on earth and in heaven" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 113).
In the religion and philosophy which preceded the discovery of Christian Science, want, woe, and disaster were dreaded as belonging to the natural order of the universe, while undeserved suffering was accepted as inevitable. In the short time during which Christian Science has been taught and practiced, it has produced a great change in the whole of human thought. Its concrete results appear as health, longevity, reformation, spirituality, and the like, in the lives of the many who bear witness to its healing power; but the effect of this spiritual leaven extends beyond these particular cases. Others are recognizing their God-given dominion and being, and every case of healing wrought by the divine Principle on which Christian Science is founded, forecasts the complete fulfillment of the Master's scientific prophecy, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up."
Much of the misunderstanding of Christian Science results from the failure to grasp the distinction which it makes between absolute or real being and the human or mortal sense of existence. If the so-called human nature (a mingling of good and evil) were really man, we could never hope to become essentially different from what we now seem to be. Hope of salvation is justified only by the fact that good is real and eternal, while evil is unreal and temporal. Human conditions and conduct will become better only as the illusion or error in human consciousness is displaced by true thought.
Evil is the mortal or material element in the so-called human consciousness. It is false consciousness that seems to prevent or obscure true thinking. It is that which seems to itself to sin, sicken, and die. Therefore redemption or salvation from evil consists in forsaking material belief and gaining spiritual understanding or divine consciousness. Each individual must by progressive self-correction assimilate himself to God; and to do this requires an absolute ideal as the aim and end of endeavor. The real man possesses the qualities of his Maker; he reflects the divine Mind in all its perfection. This is what Jesus taught. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Since evil is nothing but mental error, the remedy for it must be found in Mind. The universal and perfect remedy is the action through thought of the divine Mind, whereby man "speaketh the truth in his heart" and is enabled to perceive and prove the reality and supremacy of good and the consequent unreality and nothingness of evil. This is how God "healeth all thy diseases," and creates the kingdom of heaven within you. The divine Principle or Mind creates a true consciousness. Spiritual sense, by which man is united to Mind, discriminates between evil and good in such a manner as to induce and enable men to forsake that which is evil and hold fast that which is good.
St. John said, "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." In other words, true thoughts from the divine Mind, thoughts which bear the presence, action, and power of God, overcome evil in all its forms; and these spiritual ideas are the only redemptive agents. They possess the power of the omnipotent One; they are "the finger of God." Through them He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Speaking relatively, the true idea of reality is a fact to be proved in spite of material sense. But in Science, the passing of thought from God to man is the normal and incessant action of Mind, while the receiving of such thought is the natural and necessary function of man. Hence the oneness and allness of Mind - the unity of God and man - excludes and precludes the possibility of evil. God is Mind, and "he is one, and there is none other but he." (See Mark 12:29,32,34, American Revised Version.) This is the absolute truth of being, and it is as true here and now as when it was first uttered.
St. Paul said, "Be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you." Christian Science says, Being of the one infinite Mind, the God of love and peace is with you.