Christian Science: Its Truth and Value (1)
Judge Clifford P. Smith of Boston, Massachusetts
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Christian Science is a way of loving and thinking that finds its chief inspiration, its perfect illustration, as well as its complete proof in the teaching and example of Jesus. It reveals, awakens, and develops the divine possibilities that exist latently in every one. It shows how to throw off the inabilities, the disabilities, and the liabilities that have been imposed on men by ages of wrong thinking, and how to gain their true manhood.
The aim of Christian Science is not only to prepare people for a heavenly hereafter, but to transform their present experience into order and harmony. It declares that heaven, or harmony, is the present result of right thinking and right doing; it is the mental state that always accompanies the supremacy of Truth and Love in man.
Its Object and Method
Christian Science changes its students into better men and women, not only by giving them true motives, pure desires, and absolute ideals, but by discovering to them the deceptive nature of evil impulses and the source and power of good thoughts. In like manner this Science equips its students for the cure and prevention of disease. It teaches them to analyze the conflicting elements of human consciousness and to maintain the true sense of being against the false sense of disorder, thus destroying the essential cause of disease and establishing the conditions of health. So, also, the power of infinite Mind, acting with true thoughts, or truth, is found to be available in every case of human need. As the psalmist said, "His truth shall be thy shield and buckler."
Being compassionate, helpful and spiritual, this Science is Christian. Since it is methodical, and calls for exact knowledge, and is based on Principle, this Christianity is Science.
Christian Science has now been taught and practiced long enough for its effects to be observed in a very large number of cases. In this manner a great quantity of evidence has accumulated to prove that its effects are exceedingly wholesome. Consistently practiced, it is conducive to health, moral as well as physical, with a corresponding degree of happiness.
Christian Science meets human needs; it does so in the way that promises to deliver humanity from the bondage of evil, and it proves that one person can aid another to gain his victory and freedom. Such being the case no one can afford to be either misinformed or uninformed concerning its truth and value. It will, therefore, be my effort to examine certain objections that are made against Christian Science and to illustrate its teaching on certain vital topics.
Jesus Not the Deity
Perhaps the most frequent objection is that Christian Science denies that Jesus is God; and what it does teach on this subject is of such vast importance to all mankind that I invite your attention to this topic especially.
The question whether Jesus is the Deity is, of course, an issue that ought to be settled by the Master's own utterances as they are recorded in the New Testament. The doctrine that would deify Jesus is within the scope of the subjects on which he spoke; therefore, if it were true, he would have confirmed it explicitly. His mere silence on such a vital point would be sufficient to refute the theory that he was God. But he was not silent, the record of his teaching authorizes, both negatively and affirmatively, the position taken by Christian Science.
Jesus was a man, acting within the range of what is possible for men, and it is for this very reason that he can be called the Savior of men. A just appreciation of what he was and what he did gives substance to what we may assuredly hope for. Christian Science thus honors Jesus as he wished, for he expressed the desire to be glorified, not to be deified.
On looking through the Gospels, we find that Jesus plainly said that he was a man — "a man that hath told you the truth." He referred to himself with other men as worshiping God — "We know what we worship." He frequently spoke of himself as distinct from God, as other than God. For instance, he said "Ye believe in God, believe also in me."
On one occasion he virtually denied that he was God. Certain of the Jews had taken up stones to stone him, and he asked them, Why? They answered, "For blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." In reply, he did not deny that he was a man, but he corrected them on the other point. His words were, "I said, I am the Son of God." Surely in these circumstances, if he were God, he would have said so. If the Deity were three persons of whom he was one, he would not have spoken as he did.
In order to understand the word "Son" as used by Jesus, we must consider his use of the word "Father," for each of those words is the counterpart and complement of the other. The Gospels show that he spoke not only of my Father, but of the Father, your Father, and our Father, and that he used these titles interchangeably. This fact, of itself, proves that he did not regard himself as a member of the trinity with the Father, nor different in kind from other men.
But there is further proof from his own lips. Several of his utterances plainly imply that the same relation to God in which he stood is the divine birthright of every man. Thus he spoke of other men as sons or children of God, and he expressed his whole aim and object in the word, "that where I am, there ye may be also."
Man's Relation to God
There is another incident, recorded in three of the Gospels, that ought to be conclusive of this whole question. He then said, "Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God." This saying is squarely contrary to the theory that Jesus was God and it points to the true and universal relation of men to the Author of their being. Jesus was, as Mrs. Eddy said, a "Godlike and glorified man" (Science and Health, p. 54); but his words show that even he was wholly dependent on the Father. His was a reflected glory; his was a derived goodness. He reflected the goodness of God and the power of God; which is the true function of all men.
That Jesus did not teach that he was different in kind from other men is again clearly shown by what he said in prayer for them: "The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." The unity with God which he claimed was therefore a relation with the divine Spirit or Mind which belongs to every man. It was evidently the real man's mental and spiritual unity with his divine Principle which Jesus had made known in order that God-given qualities might be possessed and expressed by us as they were by him.
The essence of Jesus' work was the illustration or exemplification of what is practicable for us: but his life would furnish no example unless he were "in all points tempted like as we are." It was essential to all that he sought to accomplish that we should "follow his steps; that we should overcome evil and rise above discordant conditions as he did; that is, from the same plane or status of being and by virtue of the same law and power.
The end and aim of his entire endeavor was to serve his fellow men; and there ought to be no doubt as to the nature and method of his service. We have his own authority for saying that it was teaching; it was enlightening the world; it was bearing witness unto the truth. His entire ministry was a series of concrete lessons by which he objectified the truth or reality of man's being.
"The Light of the World"
His acts of power were done in accordance with law. They were object lessons in the demonstration of law. They annulled the seeming law of evil with the absolute law of good. His unparalleled self-sacrifice (the crucifixion and resurrection) was incident and necessary to his demonstration of Truth. It was the supreme proof of divine Love and Life.
His healing works, so far from being supernatural, were supremely natural, for they evinced the true nature of God and man. They separated that which, in the human make-up, is illusive, destructible and unreal from what is substantial, enduring and real. In short, these mighty works were part of the means by which the Master taught; they were part of the method by which he bore witness unto the truth.
Such a service would have been vain and useless, indeed it would have been impossible, if the truth which he proved were not as true for us as it was and is for him. Happily for us, this truth was the reality of man's being brought to light. Hence it was that Jesus said, "Because I live, ye shall live also."
Therefore a correct view of the Way-shower is of the utmost importance. We need to know what he was in order to comprehend "the new and living way," "the way of the truth," which he showed, which he opened for us.
To gain the true and abundant life is, as Paul said, to "put off the old man" and "put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of his creator." To be saved from evil is to lift thought above sinful and mortal personality in matter to man's real individuality in Spirit or Mind, where evil does not exist.
In other words, to be redeemed from mortality is to perceive and achieve one's true manhood with its goodness and power, with its freedom, wholeness and immortality. To do this a true concept of man is absolutely essential, and it is a main factor, for with it we can then begin to realize the truth of Paul's saying, "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."
The Reflection of God
There is another point that needs to be emphasized in this connection. The belief that Jesus was a more than man, the theory that he was able to do as he did because he was God, tends to perpetuate a false concept, not only of man, but of God. This mistaken view limits the knowledge of deific power and causation; it turns thought away from the source and Principle of life eternal.
To understand the life which Jesus manifested we must get to know something of the infinite Life which is not in man but is reflected by man. To understand the love which Jesus showed forth we must see that Love is God and that divine Love is made manifest and effective through man. To appreciate the intelligence which Jesus possessed we must perceive that God is Mind, divine Mind is God, and He is the Mind of man.
To comprehend the so-called miracles which Jesus wrought one must know the deific law and power which made them possible, normal and natural. To understand whatever he was or did one must know the Principle by which he lived and acted. Every evidence of real life is a witness to the Principle of being, and this divine Principle is God.
The object, then, of what is called the incarnation was fulfilled when God was made manifest to human thought through man. Hence it was that Jesus said, "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also." In other words, written by Mrs. Eddy concerning the great Teacher, "Through the magnitude of his human life, he demonstrated the divine Life." (Science and Health, p. 54).
"Work Out Your Own Salvation"
Christian Science, therefore, explains that the difference between Jesus and other men was not that he was above the true standard of manhood, but that human life is below par. The difference is not that his mentality and spirituality were abnormal, but that he was more normal. Our need and duty is, not to worship him as God, but to appreciate him as a man, and to emulate his example.
Between Jesus and other men is a great difference of degree — degree of attainment; but there is no barrier between what he became and what other men may become. As he himself said, "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know."
The final disappearance of Jesus has been commonly called his ascension. Truly regarded, that was the culmination of it. His ascension began when he first commenced to consciously overcome evil with good. He began where we must begin, and did as we must do.
With the knowledge of Truth he overcome one after another the errors which seem to make man mortal until he demonstrated the truth of man's immortality, completely. Understanding the infinity of Spirit, he put off the belief of life in matter until every material element vanished and he became invisible to human sight. In this manner he ascended progressively from human life to that which is purely divine.
Nor did he do this in a way that was personal to himself. On the contrary it was "the new and living way," "the way of the truth," which he "dedicated for us." He invited all men to learn of him, and he declared that we can do as he did. Therefore, the way which he showed is universal, practicable and scientific.
How long it may take for any particular person to scale the whole ascent, and whether he will do so without the change called death or in spite of it, these are points of but little importance as compared with a definite grasp of the possibility, including the problem to be solved and the way of its solution.
A Fallacious Objection
Another argument that is sometimes offered as an objection to Christian Science is vague in reason and shifting in statement, but the gist of it is that Christian Science should have been discovered by someone else. It was not made known through anyone to whom many persons had looked for religious leadership, hence most people were disposed to deny or to minimize its importance. Indeed, the world always has been loath to credit any person with having rendered it a great spiritual service. The average man is ready to acclaim a material achievement, but his spiritual expectation is very slight.
So far as Mrs. Eddy is concerned, her fitness for a great spiritual service to mankind is now proved by what has been accomplished. Christian Science has now become a worldwide religion, and its wonderful redemptive value — its healing and saving efficacy — is a fact of authentic history — a fact that cannot be reversed nor turned back.
It is also true that Mrs. Eddy was a person of extraordinary capacity, even from an early age. From childhood she was a profound student of the Scriptures; and while she was a girl and young woman, her unusual comprehension was often observed by those who knew her best. An instance of this will serve as illustration.
From the time when she was a girl of 15 until she married at the age of 22, 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 his church when she was 17, 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, his contemporaneous evidence is of course entitled to much weight.
A Contemporary Witness
In these circumstances Mr. Corser once said of Mrs. Eddy to his son, Bartlett Corser, with such earnestness and emphasis that the words were preserved for history: "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 46 when she discovered Christian Science and thus became one of the world's benefactors. Spiritual growth and scientific attainment had in the meantime 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 healing and saving efficacy 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 for the benefit of individual and collective mankind.
The Reason for a Church
A reason for hostility to Christian Science which is oftener felt than spoken is that Mrs. Eddy founded a new church; she added to the number of churches; and members have withdrawn from other churches to join this one.
There are two facts, either of which ought to put an end to hostility of this sort at once and forever. The first of these facts is that thirteen years elapsed after the discovery of Christian Science before Mrs. Eddy founded a new church, and she did so then only because the non-receptive attitude of the then existing churches made a new church necessary so that Christian Science might be presented to the world.
The other fact to which I have referred is this: The Church of Christ, Scientist, has gained members only as those who have come to Christian Science have gained a better life. There can be no just cause for offense in this. It is the object of all churches, and none of them need feel a loss when a man finds in Christian Science what he could not, or even did not, find elsewhere.
Mrs. Eddy never sought a personal following. Throughout her work as the leader of a great religious movement she consistently turned the attention of Christian Scientists away from herself to the message that was spoken through her. Her aim and hope, as she often said, were to "quicken and increase the beneficial effects of Christianity" (Science and Health, p. 367, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 207). The spiritual vitality of her message is proved by what it has already done; but this is only a foretaste of the benefits that will accrue to humanity as this Science is more widely understood and practiced.
To the wise of this time Christian Science healing is the sign of man's complete dominion over evil. It signifies that no ill or evil — no harmful event or condition — is either lawful or natural: none is inevitable; none but what can be overcome with the law and power of God. Christian Science simply makes practical the ideal worship and service set forth by Isaiah: "To loose the hands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke."
A thoughtful reader of the New Testament, especially the historical parts of it, can find plenty of evidence that the Christian religion, as practiced by the Founder and the early Christians, included loosing men and women from the bondage of disease. And though the greater part of the New Testament was written many years after the personal ministry of Jesus, there is nothing to indicate that the practice of healing had ceased; nor is any reason given why it should cease. On the contrary, it is consistently referred to as a continuing service, and as distinctive or characteristic of the Christian ministry.
Why did the practice Christian healing cease? And why does any one object to its revival? There is one answer to both these questions: that is, the failure to see the Principle, as distinguished from the person, in the work, and the tendency of human thought, even that which is religious, to cling to a material sense of all things. But for this and the fears which are felt for other interests, the Science of Christian healing would be welcomed universally.
The material sense of what is possible might gain a lesson from some of the developments in physics. Take, for instance, the knowledge of power. It has increased in proportion as it has become less material.
The primitive concept of power is that of muscle — the brute force of the human frame, or that of a beast in harness. Becoming less material, getting to the point called steam, the knowledge of power increased a thousand times. Becoming still less dependent on what is palpable to the senses, getting to the point called electricity, the knowledge of power again multiplied times without number.
These developments indicate states and stages of material belief, but as understanding forsakes matter for Spirit the progress is even greater, for we then come to the power of omnipotence, the power adequate to order the universe, the power of Mind, whose law is available and sufficient for the preservation of men.
The original objection to Christian Science healing was a flat denial that it had occurred or could occur. Now that the cases of healing have become numerous, either personal observation or the weight of testimony has convinced most people, and the greater part of those who still hold out have chosen a difficult position. They can say that they never have known a case of Christian Science healing only by refusing to accept the statements of persons who would be regarded as worthy of belief on other subjects, or by insisting on some other explanation for effects which, in the ordinary course of reasoning, would be credited to Christian Science.
When the sequence of events is, first, a condition of ill health, then the employment of a remedial system, followed by the recovery of health, credit is usually given to the curative agency so employed. This is the logical conclusion unless the agency is Christian Science. In that case the inference immediately becomes different, no evidence of a cure can been seen, and it is held that the sufferer just got well anyway, or there was nothing the matter with him.
All of which means simply that those who contest the fact of Christian Science healing still regard it as incomprehensible.
But Christian Science healing is perfectly knowable; it is apprehended as fast as one gains the true sense of being and of what Life includes.
With most people the chief difficulty is the distinction between what really is and a person's concept of it. This ought not to be a stumbling point, for physical science and philosophy recognize such a distinction, although they do not solve the problem which they acknowledge. Thus, in a recent book on "The Problems of Philosophy," it is said that the one thing we know about any physical object is that it is not what it seems.
Healing with Christian Science involves the application to man of the distinction between a real object and the human sense of it, that is, the difference between the man of God's creating and the human or mortal concept of man. There are not two kinds of men, the one mortal, the other immortal. In the absolute truth of being there is only one kind of man, but in human belief there are many differing views of him.
Whether man is mortal or immortal to you, depends on your way of thinking. To material sense man is mortal, but to spiritual sense he is immortal, and the absolutely spiritual element of human consciousness is all of it that is real or true. The knowledge which knows is derived from Principle; it is the spiritual reflection of the Mind that is Spirit, or God. There is no other true consciousness.
A Scientific Analysis
Then, what is evil? Of what does it consist? Jesus defined it as "evil thoughts" He resolved all of "the things which defile a man" into thoughts that are evil. Therefore the whole sum of evil thoughts in human consciousness is the evil one or one evil from which we pray to be delivered.
But the great Teacher did not leave the subject there. If evil thoughts were true thoughts, they would be as substantial as anything in the universe. If they were not different and separate from true consciousness, there would be no deliverance from them. Hence we have his further description of evil as a lie, and his emphatic statement that there is no truth in it (John 8:44).
In short, evil is the mortal illusion which presents itself mesmerically as thoughts. Its nature is best apprehended when some phase of it is overcome with the understanding of its unreality.
And what is the exact nature of disease? Of course it is a phase of evil. Primarily and essentially it is mental. It is a particular form of illusion with certain physical consequences. It signifies the lack, for the moment, of a true sense of being and the lack of even a normal human sense of being. In the words of Mrs. Eddy, "Disease is always induced by a false sense mentally entertained, not destroyed. Disease is an image of thought externalized" (Science and Health, p. 411).
A Broad Illustration
Take for illustration the incident related in the twenty-eighth chapter of Acts. Paul was laying a bundle of sticks on a fire, when a viper came out of the heat and fastened on his hand. The bystanders looked for him to become swollen and fall dead, but he "shook off the beast and felt no harm." The spectators, referred to in the narrative as "barbarians," concluded that Paul was not a man but a god.
The scientific explanation is that Paul was a man like any other; but his mental state, and his ability to maintain it, proved to be superior to the evil thought, named poison, to which another might have succumbed. The viper was the same as any other, but Paul's knowledge of the truth concerning God and His creatures was a higher law than the general belief in poison and death, and therefore "felt no harm."
The case of Paul and the viper is a broad illustration of both prevention and cure. To prevent disease, mortal beliefs must be kept out of one's mentality. To cure it, the illusion of evil must be broken. For either prevention or cure, the false material sense, with its fear, ignorance, and sin, which would enter or remain in one's consciousness, must be controlled by the true spiritual sense. As Mrs. Eddy has said, "To prevent disease or to cure it, the power of Truth, of divine Spirit, must break the dream of the material senses" (Science and Health, p. 412)
The Main Question
The main question for each of us to decide is whether his view of Life and self should be subordinate or superior to the so-called facts of mortal existence. Christian Science adopts the answer to this question offered by Paul — "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed." Now, in what way can this be done? Paul answered that question also at the same time. He said, "By the renewing of your mind."
Every item of experience is primarily and essentially mental. All that constitutes self depends on the mental state. Causation is mental, not partly but wholly. If the mental action is true — representing divine Mind or Truth — the effect is harmony experienced as goodness, joy, health and the like. If the mental action is erroneous — representing the mesmerism of evil — the result is discord in the form of sin, suffering, disease, and the like.
Therefore, human conditions are improved and human experience transformed "by the renewing of your mind;" that is, as false mentality is displaced by true thought. There is no exception or limit to this rule. As the Master himself said, "Cleanse first that which is within * * * that the outside * * * may be clean also."
The Way of Salvation
Let me call your attention to the perfect parallel between this utterance and one which I have already quoted from Mrs. Eddy. By bringing them together we have the nature of disease and its cure stated in two sentences. "Disease is an image of thought externalized." "Cleanse first that which is within * * * that the outside * * * may be clean also." Here are the nature of disease and its cure in two sentences.
The position of Christian Science, therefore, with reference to what it declares to be unreal is perfectly consistent. It does not deny that sin, disease, death, want, woe, suffering, and all the phenomena of evil have a relative existence in human experience. But this Science does deny that evil, in any form, has the reality of absolute substance or being, it declares that every phase of evil can be scientifically abated and abolished; and it gives to its students a spiritual understanding that lifts them more and more into the realm of the real.
This is the way of salvation. The absolute knowledge of the absolute truth, this and nothing else makes us free; and though we now see as through a glass darkly, sooner or later we shall know "even as we are known." Then we shall be perfectly free from the illusion of evil; free from all that is adverse to the welfare of man.
Meanwhile, by overcoming specific forms of evil we shall not only transform personal experience but advance the general progress. And this we can do by living above false beliefs and correcting them with true ideas. In other words, by lifting thought above evil conditions, as testified by the physical senses, to the actual facts of being, as directly known to real consciousness. In short, by letting creative and deific Mind, acting through true thoughts, or truth, exhibit the real status of man.
There is nothing so powerful or so beneficial in its effect on human welfare as a true idea, a divine concept, a spiritual truth. I will mention two of them by way of illustration; and to make sure that they will be acceptable, I will state them in the words of St. John. "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." "As He is, so are we in, this world."
Of course the words "light" and "darkness" as here used represent good and evil, as they do elsewhere in the New Testament. So we may say that God is light or good, and in Him is no darkness, or evil at all — nothing unlike absolute good. And as He is, so are we, not in a far-off time or place called heaven, but here and now — in the reality and truth of being.
These are true ideas, and whoever thinks accordingly will be benefited by them immediately. Christ Jesus once said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." That is to say, only that is real or enduring of which God is the Author. He referred every question of reality to God as the Principle thereof. Divine good is the cause, the substance, the Principle of all that really is.
"Ye who can discern the face of the sky — the sign material — how much more should ye discern the sign mental, and compass the destruction of sin and sickness by overcoming the thoughts which produce them, and by understanding the spiritual idea which corrects and destroys them" (Science and Health, p. 233).
"The Christian who believes in the First Commandment is a monotheist. Thus he virtually unites with the Jew's belief in one God, and recognizes that Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared, but is the Son of God. This declaration of Jesus, understood, conflicts not at all with another of his sayings: 'I and my Father are one,' — that is, one in quality, not in quantity. As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being. The Scripture reads: 'For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.'" (Science and Health, p. 361).