The Law of Christian Science Healing
Michael B. Thorneloe, C.S.B., of Sheffield, England
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Citing "love for God and love for each other" as "the very essence of spiritual healing," Michael B. Thorneloe, C.S.B.. of Sheffield, England, spoke on the subject "The Law of Christian Science Healing" at an April 13, 1978, lecture in Boston. The lecture was held at noon in the Old South Meeting House.
Mr. Thorneloe, a former lawyer, has for many years devoted his full time in service to the Church of Christ, Scientist - as a practitioner, teacher, and since 1976, as a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship.
John A. Marshall, a local member of The Mother Church, introduced the lecturer.
An abridged text of his lecture follows:
The musician Antonio Vivaldi lived in Venice, Italy, during the late 1600s and early 1700s. There he taught students how to play the violin, but more important, he also composed concertos, operas, and choral works.
One was called "Gloria" in which soloists and chorus sang praise and glory to God. It was a beautiful work, full of majesty and joy - a profound declaration of the power of God.
After Vivaldi passed on in 1741, "Gloria," along with many of his other compositions, was left on the shelf gathering dust. A few years later, an Italian count, a collector of books and manuscripts, bought these works for his large collection. But he was only interested in them as manuscripts, not as music to be played. The dust grew thick again. "Gloria" was lost.
Let me jump to one Saturday evening in October, 1975. My wife and I were attending a concert given by the Halle Orchestra and the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus. The orchestra and the chorus filed onto the platform and took their places. Soloists and conductor came on to the applause of the packed hall. The conductor turned, faced the performers, and extended his arms. We all fell silent.
After a few moments' pause, the brilliant fast-moving first section of Vivaldi's "Gloria" - "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" - burst forth again with all its joyous praise of God. Between the composer's lifetime and the rediscovery of "Gloria," more than two centuries had passed. It's now one of his well-known works.
But for the audience in Sheffield that Saturday evening to be able to hear the music, three things had to have happened. Before the music could be enjoyed, the score had to be found. Musicians had to study and practice it. Then the fulfillment - the performance of what had been discovered and practiced. It had to be found, practiced, and performed.
Now you haven't come here today to hear about music. You've come to hear about the law of Christian Science healing. But the story of "Gloria" is helpful in considering this law. It, too, has to be found by each individual for himself. It, too, has to be studied. It, too, has to be practiced. Found - practiced - performed.
Of course, another element in the story of "Gloria" is that the music had to be there in the first place. And so it is with the healing law of God, divine Love. We'd all like to know there is such a law. Many doubt it exists. And if it does, where can we find it?
Whenever I have questions like these, there's one place I turn and always find the answer. It's here - it's this book, the Bible. The Bible is called "the book of books," not only because it's a book of prime importance in men's lives, but also because it's composed of 66 different books written over a span of about nine centuries.
One of the early characters we read about was Abraham. He lived nearly 2,000 years before Jesus as we are nearly 2,000 years after. It's in connection with his experience that we first find the word "heal" in the Bible.
King Abimelech and his wife had been unable to have any children. Genesis says that "Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife" (Gen. 20:17). Here's early evidence of healing through prayer to God. Some years later, God said to Moses, "I am the Lord that healeth thee" (Ex. 15:26).
Healing continues throughout the Bible. David in one of his Psalms refers to God as one who "healeth all thy diseases" (Ps. 103:3). And again, when we come to the time of the Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha, for example, many healings are recorded. Healing came to its culmination of proof in the New Testament where we learn of the many healings performed by Jesus and his followers.
Jesus was the most effective healer the world has ever seen. And everything he did was in strict obedience to law. His whole ministry of healing and teaching was based upon law. He said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matt. 5:17). Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "He did the will of the Father. He healed sickness in defiance of what is called material law, but in accordance with God's law, the law of Mind" (p. 168).
One day, a certain lawyer tempted Jesus with a question about the law. This encounter reveals the heart and soul of Jesus' method of healing, the law underlying his work. "Master," the lawyer said, "which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus answered. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." But another, Jesus said, was "like unto it," - "Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:35-40).
Three simple words are common to both commands - "Thou shall love." Isn't this the key to the healing law of God? Thou shall love. Love for God and love for each other is the very essence of spiritual healing. The New Testament says, "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10).
To love God is to open our heart to recognize more of His nature and respond obediently to what He impels us to do. The Bible tells us God is Love. We get to know God better as divine Love by being more loving. To be more loving is to act in obedience to God's law.
The Bible also tells us God is Truth. We get to know God better as divine Truth by being more honest. But is honesty in its normal human context enough? It's an important beginning, but we need to take it further than that. We need to be honest in a spiritual sense.
Let me explain what I mean. One day I was sitting by a window in our home reading. Out of the corner of my eye I saw what appeared to be smoke from a fire in the garden. I looked up and saw that what had appeared as writhing smoke was in fact a beautiful shrub waving gently in the breeze. My first glimpse was a misconception of the situation.
Now the Bible also tells us that man is made in the image of God. Since God is Spirit and Love, in truth His image or expression must somehow ultimately be spiritual and lovely. To be honest in a spiritual sense, then, is to perceive this spirituality of man, the loved and cherished child of God, and to bear witness to that. This doesn't mean we ignore the desperate problems in the world around us. It means we begin to bear witness to the spiritual harmony that really exists in spite of material problems and misconceptions - the attractive flowering shrub rather than the writhing smoke.
Let me explain what I mean by giving you an example from the life of Jesus.
One day Jairus, the president of a synagogue in Galilee, came to see him. Jairus' daughter had a terminal illness. Material "law," so-called, said she wouldn't live. Jesus agreed to go with him to his home, and the crowd went along, too.
On the way, a woman was healed who'd had a hemorrhage for 12 years. While Jesus was talking with her, someone came from Jairus' house and said the daughter was dead. Jesus immediately dealt with the father's fear. "Now don't be afraid, go on believing and she will be all right" (Luke 8:41-55, Phillips translation). He then insisted that only his immediate disciples go with him.
When he arrived at the house, the neighbors and friends were there, weeping and wailing. Jesus said the girl was only asleep. They laughed at him. So only his disciples and the girl's parents were allowed in. He then held the girl's hand and told her to get up. "... and she got to her feet at once. . . ."
Jesus' approach in this case tells us a lot about the law of spiritual healing. First of all, he was willing to respond to the call for help and expressed this willingness. Then, when the report came that the child was dead, he immediately destroyed the fear Jairus felt. No one can say what Jesus was thinking as he approached the house where the girl lay, but he certainly wasn't willing to admit into the house - or, shall we say, into the situation - the ridicule of disbelief in God's power to cope with the problem that needed healing. He expressly excluded it.
Isn't this what we can do through prayer? Can't we, too, be so conscious of God's presence and power that disbelief, sorrow, and dismay are excluded? This is the law of Christian healing in operation. When acknowledged through prayer, the law of divine Love excludes anything that isn't in accord with it.
As Jesus went to the girl, her friends and family scorned his healing ability. So he put them out. Doesn't this show us how, in our own prayers for healing, we must see the one concerned as the child of God, rather than a mortal person from a mortal family? To see man as God's child - as His spiritual outcome - is to see man as immortal, deathless.
Having excluded all false arguments, Jesus addressed the girl herself and told her to get up. She immediately responded.
The Master's prayers had replaced sorrow with joy, error with spiritual truth. He had eliminated disbelief with calm assurance in the allness of God, divine Life. And the girl responded to the power of good Jesus knew and taught. Could we perhaps say that this expressed power of spiritual good which impelled the girl to rise was the Christ, Truth, Jesus brought to mankind?
The healing law of divine Love Jesus lived had overcome the so-called material law of death. He showed the girl, her family, and indeed all mankind that this law of spiritual healing exists. Each one of us here today can find that same law operating to bless. As the old hymn I used to sing at school says, "The Bible tells us so."
Finding the law isn't sufficient, just as finding Vivaldi's music wasn't enough. This law has to be learned. It has to be studied. It has to be practiced. I've seen many instances of the healing law of Love being learned by being put into practice, too.
I know of a young boy in England who had meningitis. This was complicated by inflammation of the mastoids. In accordance with British law concerning young children, a doctor was in attendance. The illnesses reached a point where he said nothing further could be done. The child was unlikely to survive the night.
The boy's mother called in the help of a Christian Science practitioner, who devoted full time to the healing ministry. The practitioner went to that home, and the mother has often spoken to me of the calm trust in God she brought with her. When things seemed at their worst, the practitioner prayed. Her prayers were a clear declaration of the healing law of Love in operation.
At one point when the mother was distraught about "my child," as she put it, the practitioner firmly rejected this by saying, "No. He's not your child. He's God's child." Doesn't this remind you of the way Jesus put out the family and their fears when he healed Jairus' daughter? The statement that the boy was God's child was an exact statement of divine law. That law had power to heal.
The child fell into a peaceful sleep and woke the next morning asking for a hearty breakfast. And I'm told he's been asking for a hearty breakfast ever since. At least my wife says so, because I was that boy.
There was never any further problem with meningitis. That had been completely healed. But I suppose there was some lingering fear about my hearing. I remember as a young boy being made to wear protectors over my ears when I went swimming.
Then, when I was in my late 20s, I had difficulty with my hearing. I was a practicing lawyer then, and one Friday in court my hearing became very bad. I couldn't hear what the witnesses were saying. The clerk of the court had to repeat their evidence to me as they gave it.
I went home that evening and really got to work. I started listening for spiritual ideas that came through prayer. As a result of studying the Bible and Science and Health, many thoughts came showing me more of the nature of God as the source of the true senses which are spiritual. Mrs. Eddy says that, "Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God" (Science and Health, p. 209). It was up to me to exercise that capacity. So I did.
I consciously endeavored to understand God better and to love my fellowman more. Where I'd been listening, taking in, critical thoughts of another, I began to see that one as divine Love's expression. I was listening properly.
As I prayed further about this hearing deficiency, I felt that medical opinion was pronouncing an unjust sentence upon me. But this sentence was not in accord with divine law. Just listen to what Mrs. Eddy says on this point. "Let us banish sickness as an outlaw, and abide by the rule of perpetual harmony, - God's law. It is man's moral right to annul an unjust sentence, a sentence never inflicted by divine authority" (Science and Health, p. 381).
By the time I went back into court the following week, I could hear every word with perfect clarity. The healing has been permanent. There's no wonder I say with the Psalmist, "0 how love I thy law!" (Ps. 119:97).
This is just one case among thousands which show that the healing law of Love can not only be found, but put into practice. And this law has been and is available to everyone everywhere at all times. It's just that mankind lost sight of it. Like Vivaldi's music, it had to be rediscovered before it could be practiced and "performed."
The one who found the law in the healing works of our Master is the woman who wrote the book we've already referred to, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy. She'd been searching for many years for an answer to the problems men, women, and children face. And she found that answer in the healing work of Jesus. She herself was healed of a severe accident at the beginning of 1866. This marked the rediscovery of God's healing law.
Later in the same year on a sunny summer day, Mrs. Eddy was walking on the beach at Lynn, Massachusetts. She saw a little boy named George. His mother had left him on the sands while she went to get water for her horse. This seven-year-old had been born with clubfeet. He'd never walked.
Can you imagine the utter amazement and joy of that mother when she returned a little while later to find the boy on his feet for the first time in his life, walking hand in hand with Mrs. Eddy? The two women looked into each other's eyes and wept. Both expressed gratitude to God for this healing. The boy went on to become a mechanical engineer and lived a happy and useful life (Robert Peel, "Mary Baker Eddy, The Years of Discovery," p. 201).
So - Mrs. Eddy was healed, and she was healing others. By the end of 1866, she was coming to understand the spiritual law that was bringing about these healings. As she says in a letter she wrote about 30 years later, "After I had discovered in 1866, the proof that God, the divine Principle of man's being, does all the healing, my next step was to learn from experiment and experience the scientific rule for applying Truth to man's physical need ..." (ibid., p. 213).
Perhaps it's my legal background, but the fact that Christianity can be thought of as science or law is something that's always appealed to me. People can believe whatever they want to believe. They can only know what they can prove.
Referring to her search in the Scriptures for the law of healing and how to prove it, Mrs. Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook: "I knew the Principle of all harmonious Mind action to be God, and that cures were produced in primitive Christian healing by holy, uplifting faith; but I must know the Science of this healing, and I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration" (p. 109).
We're only just beginning to grasp the significance of what had happened. Christianity isn't a chance affair with an occasional miraculous healing. It's Science, demonstrable divine law. Remember the lawyer who asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment? He asked about law. He was answered with love, love for God and love for man. Law linked with love. Science linked with Christianity.
Everyone who wants to can practice the healing law of Love, the divine Principle of all true being. This law of Love isn't like human statutes that sometimes change like a chameleon according to the political color of the party in power. This law isn't like a law of physics or chemistry that depends upon observed testimony of the physical senses resulting in a hypothesis that will be changed as further observations are made.
'Natural science' unsound
The changeableness of the laws or hypotheses of natural science is well known to any parent who tries to help his child with his chemistry or physics homework. I know I've had difficulties with this in our family. A lot of things certainly have changed since I was at school.
Mrs. Eddy contrasts natural science with the law of God. She says, "That which is termed 'natural science,' the evidences whereof are taken in by the five personal senses, presents but a finite, feeble sense of the infinite law of God; which law is written on the heart, received through the affections, spiritually understood, and demonstrated in our lives" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 172). This law, "... written on the heart, received through the affections . . . ," is the power that constitutes and governs man as God's expression.
We learn to practice this law as we learn to love. Jesus said love for God and love for man is the basis for proving God's unerring law. But why is this love, law?
God's love is always operating, just as the law of mathematics is always operating. Can you imagine the law of mathematics deciding not to govern numbers properly for three hours tomorrow morning? Of course not! The principle of numbers is constant.
Since divine Love is God and God is Principle, divine Love is divine Principle. But the law of divine Principle, God, isn't cold and impersonal like the law of mathematics.
And because God is both Principle and Love, love expressed is law in action. So the law of God isn't only precise and accurate. It's also warm and gentle, and brings comfort and healing. As law, it can be put into practice by anyone.
So why is love law? Because love lived has the authority of divine Principle behind it.
When I referred to the discovery of Antonio Vivaldi's music, I mentioned it had to be found, practiced, and performed. Let's now turn to the third element, performance. I think we'll see how closely linked is the practice and the performance. In talking of the law of Christian Science healing, the practice really is the performance. Healing naturally follows obedient, disciplined practice of God's law. This was illustrated by the experience of a friend of mine.
He was studying accountancy and had an important examination to take. He read the textbook on the subject, but when he came to take the examination, he failed. In asking himself why, he realized that although he'd done his reading, he needed to take things further than that. So this time he really studied that book. Then when the time came for him to take the exam again, he failed again!
This worried him a great deal. He felt he'd been diligent in preparing himself. But deeper thought brought him to see that in his preparation, one essential element had been missing. He hadn't really been putting theory into practice. He hadn't been "performing" what he'd been learning.
So this time he got hold of a number of previous exam papers and started applying the clear-cut rules of accountancy to specific problems or cases. He'd recognized the need to develop his ability to reason from given rules in finding solutions. Confidence in his ability to cope with the examination came as he started to use what he'd read and studied. You can guess the result of the next exam. He passed it easily. This time the performance went off well.
Yes, you might say, that's all right with a subject like accountancy where the rules are comparatively straightforward with clearly defined "dos" and "don'ts." But what about the law of spiritual healing? As we've seen, the Bible explains this law. In fact, Mrs. Eddy refers to the Bible as a "statute book."
And that's exactly what the Bible is to a Christian Scientist - a statute book. This other book we've mentioned, Science and Health, is a key to that statute book. It unlocks and opens the Bible for us. It shows us how to find the law we're talking about and how to put it into practice.
This doesn't mean people can't be healed until they know a lot about Christian Science. In fact the last 100 pages of Science and Health are full of accounts of men and women who've been healed as they studied it. But to grow in our ability to heal as a proof of God's healing law involves a willingness to study and pray. Isn't that what my friend learned with his accountancy examination? He needed to read, study, and then prove the efficacy of the rules he'd learned. And so it is with our continued spiritual growth.
Let's take a specific example to illustrate how this works out. A young married couple had a baby daughter. She was a beautiful child except that her upper jaw wasn't the correct shape.
One evening, when she was about three years old, she ran in to her father in the bathroom. She'd got ready for bed hurriedly and hadn't put her dressing gown on properly. It was down off her shoulders across her back. She had socks on her feet.
As she ran across the smooth floor of the bathroom, the child slipped. With her arms pinned behind her by the dressing gown, she literally fell flat on her face. Her teeth cut through her lip. She started to cry violently, and her mother came to see what was wrong. Both parents were Christian Scientists. They'd learned something of the healing power of divine Love.
They picked the child up and comforted her. At the same time they turned to God. They prayed. Their prayer was a declaration of the fact that, whatever the human picture may seem to be, in fact the law of God was fully in control. They recalled how the Bible says that God is Love, and He fills all space. A verse from Psalms came to their thought, "He [God] shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shall thou trust" (Ps. 91:4).
Under the authority of divine Love's presence and power, the fear they'd both felt disappeared. As the fear went, the bleeding stopped, and the little girl stopped crying. The mother washed the child's face, covered her lip, and put her to bed. They continued to claim the fact that God's law was operating to correct the human situation.
The child had a good night. The next morning, where there had been a hole in the girl's lip, the flesh had knitted together again. By the time her father came home at the end of the day, there wasn't a trace of the accident on her face.
A week or so later, the family was sitting at the table having a meal when the parents recalled what had happened. They both looked at their daughter. Not only was there no trace of the accident, but the congenital problem of a misshapen mouth had been healed as well, in spite of the predictions that this difficulty would remain with her throughout her life.
Why had this change taken place?
The couple had been living with the unchangeable, healing law of God, applying it to all they were doing. This all-powerful law had, by its very nature, overruled any so-called law of either heredity or congenital problems.
This exemplifies what Mrs. Eddy says, "God's law is in three words, 'I am All;' and this perfect law is ever present to rebuke any claim of another law" ("No and Yes," p. 30). The healing has remained complete through the years. The shape of the girl's mouth and her teeth are normal.
From this experience the parents learned a great deal. They found the law of healing in God's allness. They practiced the law by endeavoring to recognize God's unerring control of every situation, and seeing spiritual perfection where discord appeared to be. And what we might term "the performance" - the outward evidence of law in operation was the physical change that took place.
Found, practiced, and performed. This scientific law of healing can be found by anyone who looks for it. Vivaldi's music was there. It just needed someone to look in the right place and recognize it when he saw it.
The scientific law of healing can be practiced by anyone who's willing to learn how to love God and to love his fellowman. Then the practice of God's unerring law of necessity brings healing to any situation whatever the problem may be. This, we may say, is the performance.
When I was a boy, I used to play the violin. I gave it up when I was about 17. We came across that fiddle a while ago when we were clearing out some cupboards. I tried to play it, but the sound was - shall I say? - less than pleasant!
Everything was there: the body, the neck, the fingerboard, the strings, and the bow. One element was missing. Practice. We'd found the violin, but I hadn't practiced. So I couldn't perform.
And so it is with you and me and the law of Christian healing. We need to keep our "violin" in tune all the time. And then we'll be so full of love for others and have such a clear spiritual concept of them that every street we walk along will be blessed because we've walked along it. Every store we go into will be blessed because we've been there. Every home we enter will feel the healing influence of our love.
All this doesn't take time. The love of God is available to each one of us any moment. The truth of man's spiritual selfhood is always present.
Jesus expected every one of us to follow his example in his ministry of spiritual healing. Just listen to what he says: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). "Heal the sick" (Matt. 10:8).