Christian Science: Its Truth and Value (2)
Judge Clifford P. Smith
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 living and thinking that finds its chief inspiration, its perfect illustration, as well as its complete proof, in the teachings and example of Jesus. It reveals, awakens, and develops the God-given possibilities that exist latently in every one. It shows how to throw off the inabilities, the disabilities, and the liabilities that have been imposed upon men by ages of wrong thinking, and how to gain true manhood. Its aim is not to prepare people for a heavenly hereafter, but to transform their present experience into health and harmony. It inculcates godliness, makes known the power thereof, and emphasizes the present effects no less than the enduring results of right thinking and right doing.
Christian Science changes its students into better men and women by giving them true motives, pure desires, and absolute ideals, 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."
It is well known that this movement has made steady progress, despite the clamor of an opposition for the futility of which there is an evident reason. Christian Science deserves what it has gained in the estimation of men. The vast majority of those who have sought its benefits in keeping with its rules, have been convinced that it is all it purports to be; while other people, in a fair proportion to their opportunities for observation, have recognized it as a thoroughly good influence in the lives of its adherents. Of the people who have accepted this teaching, about one third never were affiliated with any other religion. Of the other two thirds, many, perhaps most, were not active religionists before becoming interested in this teaching. Among those who were formerly active members of Christian or Jewish congregations, nearly all have become more devoted and enthusiastic than they were as adherents of other faiths. In short, it has converted a great multitude of people from disbelievers or passive believers into earnest and active Christians.
This truth has been known and taught long enough for its effects to be observed in a second generation. In Mrs. Eddy's Message to The Mother Church for 1900 (p. 6), she said, "The child not only accepts Christian Science more readily than the adult, but he practises it." The truth of these words is known to a great number of parents. Children who are brought up in the atmosphere of Christian Science are healthier, happier, and more capable by reason thereof. They are taught that good is normal and natural, while evil is unnatural, obnoxious, destructible, unreal; that the presence and power of God is an ever present reality of everyday experience, while sin, disease, and death are to be detected, rejected, and overcome. A child can be told first of heavenly things, and will then be able to hear of earthly things and to weigh them in the scale of eternal values. The attendance at Christian Science Sunday schools is one of the signs of these times. Not only do the children of Christian Scientists attend them until they reach the age limit of twenty years, but other children, whose parents are of other churches or no church, are frequently to be found therein as regular attendants.
The Christian Science view of man and the universe is simply that of pure and unadulterated Christianity. It does not begin with the negation of anything, nor end with a denial of anything that possesses the nature of substance, but it defines substance as that which is real in distinction from that which is apparent, and it attributes all creative power to God. Its view of man and the universe begins with the idea, "He that built all things is God." It proceeds consistently with the axiom, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." It concludes that spiritual facts must be "spiritually discerned." It therefore cultivates the faith which involves a conviction of unseen reality, and develops the spiritual understanding which sees all things as they really are, — as God made them to be. Moreover, the understanding thus conferred has been found to be capable of proof or demonstration when put into practical use for the betterment of human character and conditions.
This teaching has also been known and practised 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 distinctly wholesome. Consistently practised, it is conducive to health, moral and spiritual as well as physical, and it brings a corresponding degree of happiness. Accepting the test of reality furnished by Christ Jesus in the words, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up," Christian Science declares that all evil, everything in human experience which is not of God, can be abated and abolished by recourse to His law and power, and it gives to its students a spiritual understanding which lifts them more and more into the realm of the real, into the atmosphere of divine Truth and Love. In short, it meets human needs, and it does so in the way that promises to deliver humanity from the bondage of evil. 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.
Until after Christian Science had wrought wonderful cures in quite a number of places, and the influx of members from other systems of thought had begun to be noticeable, the readers of its text-book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," were permitted to peruse it for themselves, and to notice its pure ethics, its spiritual metaphysics, and its profound Christianity. Later on, self-appointed critics began to whisper or declaim perversions of its contents. The next period in the history of the movement was one in which misapprehension and misrepresentation were common or prevalent. When this period should be regarded as having come to an end, may be a matter of opinion, but the writer would put it at the close of the year 1910. That was the time when the world was moved by the passing of Mrs. Eddy to consider or reconsider, with the absence of passion and the abatement of prejudice which are possible at such a moment, the benefits which had accrued and were promised to mankind through her discovery and leadership of Christian Science. That occasion marked the beginning of a new era of public estimation.
This change was noted at the time by more than one editor accustomed to observe the drift of public sentiment. Take, for example, the following comment by the editor of Current Literature: "The column on column of news despatches and editorial comment evoked by the death of Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, may be said to reveal an important change in the psychology of this country." Also, the following observation by the editor of Harper's Weekly: "The tone of the newspaper comments on the death of Mrs. Eddy indicates a decided increase of respect in recent years both for her character and for her achievements. Nor is it a case of de mortuis nil nisi bonum, but a taking of one consideration with another, and giving a judgment of net approbation." On the whole, it can be said with respect to the people and the secular press in the United States and Canada during the years 1911-14, that the popular attitude toward Christian Science was usually fair, often friendly, and not infrequently appreciative.
What can be said for the religious press and for the clergy? Some of the representatives of the older denominations have welcomed Christian Science as a new and potent factor in the field of religious endeavor, many others have shown varying degrees of recognition or tolerance; but it must be said that a few ecclesiastics have tried to turn people away from Christian Science by means which disinterested and fair-minded persons with knowledge of the circumstances have generally regarded as extremely unfair. Thus in a recent article in a religious periodical, the reverend author constructed sentences out of words taken from an index that was formerly printed with Science and Health, and quoted them as though they were part of the text. This index was not compiled by Mrs. Eddy, nor even by a Christian Scientist, which he may not have known; but he must have known the difference between the text of a book and its index, and he evidently knew that this index had been discontinued.
The clergyman referred to declared that all of Mrs. Eddy's utterances regarding sin "are condensed in a sentence on page 237 [p. 71 of the 1910 edition] of her precious book. 'Evil has no reality. It is neither person, place, nor thing, but is simply a belief, an illusion of material sense.' It is 'neither person,' i.e. there is no devil, 'nor place,' i.e. no hell, 'nor thing,' i.e. no act of sin and no accountability." In short, he publicly declared that all of Mrs. Eddy's statements respecting sin are condensed in a couple of sentences which declare the unreal and illusive nature of evil, and that her teachings include no accountability for sin! That a "minister of the gospel" could make such assertions, — presumably in good faith, — is itself an illustration of what Mrs. Eddy meant when she spoke of evil as "a belief, an illusion of material sense." She gave much more attention to the overcoming of evil than to defining its nature; and throughout her writings she has insisted on the imperative need of goodness and the responsibility of each individual for his own thoughts and acts.
Addressing the teachers of Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy has said: "Rest assured that the good you do unto others you do to yourselves as well, and the wrong you may commit must, will, rebound upon you. The entire purpose of true education is to make one not only know the truth but live it — to make one enjoy doing right, make one not work in the sunshine and run away in the storm, but work midst clouds of wrong, injustice, envy, hate; and wait on God, the strong deliverer, who will reward righteousness and punish iniquity. 'As thy days, so shall thy strength be'" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 252).
Throughout her work as the Leader of a great religious movement, Mrs. Eddy consistently turned the attention of Christian Scientists away from herself to the message 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). 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 practised.
[Published in the Christian Science Sentinel, July 3, 1915. This was not identified as the summary of a lecture in the Table of Contents or in the text itself, but the opening of this item follows very closely the 1914 version of the lecture.]