The Claims of Christian Science on People of Liberal Thought
The Rev. Irving C. Tomlinson
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
We have heretofore announced in the Sentinel that the Rev. Irving C. Tomlinson, C. S. B., by special invitation of the Rev. B. Fay Mills, would, on March 20, deliver a lecture in Parker Memorial Hall, upon the subject "The Claims of Christian Science on People of Liberal Thought," the lecture being one of a series of public meetings on public questions, arranged and conducted by Mr. Mills.
The lecture took place as announced, and Parker Memorial Hall was filled to its utmost capacity. Mr. Tomlinson was happily introduced by the Rev. B. Fay Mills, and delivered the lecture which we herewith publish in full. At the conclusion of the lecture fifteen minutes were devoted to questions and answers, and thereafter thirty minutes to three minute speeches, in the nature of a free discussion of the lecture.
It is unnecessary to say that the whole proceedings were fraught with very great interest to all present, and especially to that part of the audience made up of Christian Scientists. Christian Scientists and those interested in our movement, appreciate Mr. Mills' kindly consideration in thus admitting their cause to a hearing before the audiences assembled at his meetings.
The lecture is a thoughtful and able presentation of the leading phases of Christian Science, and will be read with interest. It being a lecture outside of the ordinary course, we feel warranted in devoting to it the space it occupies in the Sentinel; hence its publication in full.
The subject for our calm consideration is "The Claims of Christian Science on People of Liberal Thought." People of liberal thought I understand to be people who think for themselves. People of liberal thought are people of liberated thought. Such persons wear no labels. They are to be found among Jew and Gentile, bond and free. There are people of liberal thought in Russia. There ought to be many in this land of the free press, the free ballot and the free school. People of liberal thought are open-eyed, open-eared, teachable, humble, ever-learning, ever-searching, confessing in speech and in manner that all they know is but as a grain of sand on the shore of a boundless sea. So when the Nazarine prophet was asked who made up the population of the Kingdom of Heaven and was the greatest among its citizens, he answered in substance, People of liberal thought, for he took a little child and placed him in the midst of them and said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." It is a recognized fact that the people liberalized by our free institutions consider that they have a right to the whole of Truth. With them it is simply a question of whether a thing is worth the having. Convinced of this, no prejudices of antiquity, no false claims of social prestige, no counterfeit badges of pharisaic exclusiveness can rob the thinking American of his just rights. If Christian Science is worth the having, liberal Americans will have it, and illiberal denunciation and blind opposition will not stay its onward march.
I was so slow myself in coming into Christian Science that I understand some of the difficulties which stand in the way of its instant appreciation by people of liberal thought. As I recall my own experience, I found a difficulty in getting at the full meaning, on the first reading, of the Christian Science text-book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker G. Eddy. There appeared to be an unfamiliar use of familiar words. I was helped somewhat by remembering a similar experience with the study of Herbert Spencer and Immanuel Kant. It is only fair in reading a new author to suspend judgment until you are able to approach the subject from his view point. Once in sympathy with your author many supposed differences fade away. I was also helped by discovering, on consulting the best lexicons, that the author of Science and Health used words, not in their corrupted sense, but in their original and primary meaning. Honest study will show that no modern author is more precise than is Mrs. Eddy in her choice of the right word to convey her exact meaning.
Another seeming difficulty which, for a time hid from me the claims of Christian Science on people of liberal thought, was the frequent occurrence in Science and Health of statements that were opposed to all that heretofore I had supposed to be true. I was helped over this difficulty by remembering the experience of Galileo, of Copernicus, of Columbus, and of every great reformer by whom the world has been blessed. They made statements that were opposed to all that had here to fore been supposed to be true, and as it turned out, this was their value — that they did revolutionize all existing systems. As I beheld humanity's sickness and suffering, its sorrow and its sin, as I remembered our overflowing hospitals and asylums, our crowded jails and reformatories, within our nineteenth century civilization, I said, "It may be that the one thing lacking is a new school of thought which shall revolutionize present conditions through a revolutionary system." Now after a careful study and a clear understanding of this system, I see that a strong claim of Christian Science on people of liberal thought is that it proposes to effect a needed revolution through doctrines that are revolutionary.
A Liberator from False Gods
Not an unimportant claim of Christian Science, on people of liberal thought, is the fact that it is a liberator from the bondage of false gods. Whatever one makes an object of worship, that is his God. He may make pious professions. He may recite the words of prophets and apostles, but his real God is that upon which his thoughts and affections are centred. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," said the great prophet.
The God of this world is the God of matter. Then there are many lesser gods in this kingdom of mindless matter, gods of gold and gods of houses and lands. But in fact, the god most men worship is their body; upon this god all thought and affection is centred. Drink-offerings and meat-offerings they bestow upon this god without measure. All goes merrily until their god falls sick; then they look for help, not to the Lord of Heaven and earth "who healeth all thy diseases," but they apply to the god of drugs for relief. Soon they are in fetters to calomel or nux vomica, belladonna, aconite. Observe the conversation of the sewing circle, or the summer veranda, as people talk their gods over. The discussion will begin with reference to the latest fashionable malady with which they claim themselves victims; then it changes, and their children's maladies, their relatives' maladies and their neighbors' maladies consume their time. And then, having talked themselves out on the neighborhood's bodily weaknesses, if there is any time remaining it is spent in discussing the neighborhood's spiritual weaknesses. Observing the prodigal thought bestowed on sickness and sin, the wonder is, not that there are so many sick and dying, but the wonder is that there are so many still alive.
Fault is often found with Christian Scientists because they are said to be narrow. Now if breadth consists of saying very little of health, of life, of good, and very much of sin, sickness and death; if it be narrow to talk of God, of life, of peace and joy and not at all of aches and pains, of gossip and slander, then must it be confessed that Christian Scientists are narrow. They enjoy talking of their religion and the practical results it is accomplishing; they do delight to help one another to clearer views and a better understanding of God and the present help he is to them.
Does one say all this seems very narrow? Then because we are all so healthy and happy, we are in a mood to take the criticism very kindly.
A Liberal and Liberated Leader
It is but natural to expect that a liberating system should have a liberal and a liberating leader. There are those who would have us think otherwise. There are those who profess to believe that the founder of a religion which has released its multitudes from the serfdom of superstition and ignorance and from the bondage of sickness and sin, is herself illiberal and unliberated. An appeal to the facts will reveal the truth.
At least it must be granted by the fair minded that Mrs. Eddy fulfills the Gospel injunction, "Physician, heal thyself." Before beginning the work of liberating others from bondage she first freed herself. For forty years she was a faithful member of the Orthodox church. As she read Bible she read of a practical, helpful God. As she read her New Testament she read of a Saviour who actually saved people from sorrow and suffering, from sickness and death. As she listened to his promises she understood him to say, "Ask and it shall be given you." As she read his commands she heard him declare, "Go, preach and heal." As she followed him in his journeys through the different towns of Palestine she saw that but a small portion of his time was given to preaching the gospel, the far larger portion was given to healing the sick, and the sinful. As she listened to this great reformer describe the legitimate work of his pupils and representatives, she plainly heard him announce to all, "The works that I do shall ye do also," or that is to say, "The work of healing the sick and the sinful which I do is the work which every Christian should accomplish."
Then as the founder of Christian Science noted the conduct of his worthy followers, she saw that they did precisely what they had been told to do. They, like their illustrious leader, healed all manner of diseases without drugs or material remedies of any sort. She saw also that the church for the first three hundred years of its existence did likewise. Then is there any reason why this earnest, liberal-minded woman asked if such was the work of the early church, under the direction of its founder, why should not the church be doing that work now. The Master said, "Go, preach and heal." If it be evangelical to obey one-half his command to preach, why is it not evangelical to obey the entire command and heal the sick and the sinful?
Then there were other serious questions that came to this deeply religious and pure-minded woman. When the Bible from Genesis to Revelation assures us that true prayer is answered, why was it that so seldom there was any satisfactory answer to prayer? And then other questions came. "If God was good, why so much that was bad?" "If God was all powerful, why did he not utilize some of this power to put an end to wickedness now?"
She had always been a prayerful woman, and yet she had always been a sickly woman, and she asked herself what we have asked, "Why are the saints so sickly?" Mrs. Eddy sought long and earnestly in the old way for the solution to these puzzling questions, but without avail. In her search for health she went from allopathy to homeopathy, in which latter school she was a practitioner for many years. She tried massage, and the nearest approach then to mind cure, but without success. All known methods of the healing art were studied and given a fair trial and all proved failures.
The Power which Liberates
Such was the situation when in the year 1866, one Sunday morning found her in bed in Lynn, an incurable invalid, as the specialists declared who were in attendance. On his way to church her pastor called, and so critical was her case that he bade her farewell, expecting that on his return he would find her no longer a member of his flock. When he had gone, the patient sufferer, still trusting God, called for her precious Bible and opening it to the third chapter of Mark, she read the command of the great liberator to the man with the withered arm, "Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other."
Then the emancipating Truth flashed upon her understanding, that the same Power which restored the withered arm was her restorative. She saw that the Christ-power which healed through Jesus of Nazareth is present here and now to heal us. Could that blessed fact be true? Yes, thank God, it is eternally true, for lo, her withered form was restored whole, and she rose from that bed of suffering healed and free.
What wonder that there was impressed upon her the necessity of spreading this liberating gospel. Let us use her words from the Christian Science text-book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 122.
"I saw before me the sick, wearing out years of servitude to an unreal master, in the belief that the body governed them, rather than Mind.
"The lame, the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the sick, the sensual, the sinner, I wished to save from the slavery of their own beliefs, and from the educational systems of the Pharaohs who today hold the children of Israel in bondage. I saw before me the awful conflict, the Red Sea, and the wilderness; but I pressed on, through faith in God, trusting Truth, the strong deliverer, to guide me into the land of Christian Science, where fetters fall, and the rights of man to freedom are fully known and acknowledged."
A Burden-lifting System
A candid investigation of the genesis of this burden-lifting religion will reveal that every incident and circumstance connected therewith has a rational and common sense explanation. We have in the first place a pure, true, liberal, cultured, consecrated woman. We have more than forty thoughtful years devoted to the profound study of the world's emancipation. We have a unique experience in a marvelous rescue from death and a complete restoration to health after every earthly hope had fled. From these premises there follows naturally, the perception of the active Principle of life, understanding which, all manner of diseases are healed. There follows the recognition that the healing recorded of Jesus and his disciples was not contrary to law but in full harmony with a known law, which all may understand and put into practice for themselves. There follows the instruction of others in the understanding of this Principle so that they also heal in accord with the higher law, and lastly there comes the publication of a scientific treatise on the subject, the study of which has fitted thousands to heal themselves and others afflicted like themselves.
Surely there is nothing of mystery, nothing incredulous in that simple story. The facts when once known, completely overthrow the base charge of selfish or sordid motives on Mrs. Eddy's part. Mrs. Eddy kept nothing secret, She gave all she had to help humanity. And today her whole life is spent for the welfare of others. The recent class which Mrs. Eddy taught in Concord, of which class it was my privilege to be a member, contained seventy members: for teaching those seventy Mrs. Eddy received not one single dollar, because she would not accept pay where it was her joy to give. In that class were scholarly professors, wise editors, liberated clergymen, gray-haired physicians, and learned judges, but in understanding and in knowledge Mrs. Eddy was so much the wisest of them all that she appeared the master teacher, they the willing learners.
The head of this movement is so manifestly fitted for spiritual leadership, her entire history gives such convincing proof of her right to lead a great religious reformation, that because of its wise and successful leader Christian Science makes a strong claim on people of liberal thought.
A Liberating Religion
Christian Science has still further claims on people of liberal thought, because it is essentially a liberating religion. The world has seen much of liberal religions. It has seen, as yet, very little of a liberating religion. Christian Science presents no new God but it does present much that is new of the one living and true God. The claim has been raised against this religion that it takes away the people's God. If one's God be that of a scholastic trinity which is a mathematical absurdity, then the charge is true, for Christian Science declares with Moses' saying, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." If one's God be an infinite corporeality of limitless form, which is an intellectual absurdity, the charge is true, for Christian Science says with Jesus, "God is Spirit." If one's God be a war God, who loves his favorites and hates his enemies, which is an ethical absurdity, the charge is true, for Christian Science affirms with the Apostle John that "God is love." But if one's God be that of reason and revelation, the claim is false, for Christian Science is but the unfoldment and understanding of that God "in whom we live and move and have our being."
The Indians believed in electricity. When it flashed across the sky they stood in wonder and awe before it. Their belief was enslaving rather than liberating. They were none the better for their belief, for it made electricity of no use to them, for their belief was crippling and paralyzing through the fear created.
Edison also believes in electricity, but to that belief has been added understanding, and behold the transformation. What awed the Indian now lights our streets, propels our cars and runs our factories. What was once a fear transmitter, now that its science is understood, is a power transmitter. What was only a useless belief is now, through the discernment of its principle, a beneficent force for good.
Likewise of God. He has been to the world what electricity was to the Indian, only a belief. Their God has been of no practical value to them. They have gained no benefits, their enslavement and enfeeblement are often the only results from their crippling belief.
Every claim that a Morse or Edison could make upon the confidence of thinking people in the domain of electricity, a similar claim Christian Science makes upon people of liberal thought in the domain of God, for Christian Science gives such an understanding of this All-Power that the dark world becomes light, progress is hastened, burdens are lessened, sin and sickness vanish. The God which was once a fear transmitter has become, through Scientific understanding, a beneficent force of good.
God the World's Liberator
Christian Science has claims on thinking people then, because of its liberating thought of God. Almost the first word the child lisps is the word "good." All that ministers to its welfare it calls good. And when of larger growth there comes a larger sense of good, he learns to call that truly good which does his soul good. And if he be a reflective man he will have had experiences which words faintly describe. It may have been in early spring when nature was taking on her fairest hues. Beside the rippling brook with the blue-eyed violets smiling up at him, there has stolen upon him a sweet sense of an ever-presence near at hand. Ah! who shall tell the story?
It may have when reading the sacred pages of some beloved book or listening to the strains of heavenly melody, that there has dawned upon the waiting senses a peace and calm which words do not describe, but which he knows is good.
And of this good he can tell you this much. It cannot be measured. It cannot be weighed. His eyes see it not, his ears hear it not, his hands find it not, for this good is Spirit. As he reflects upon this rare experience he will declare that this sweet sense of good had for companions the beautiful and true. Amidst those surroundings which manifest the most of Truth, in them, was the most of Good. Nor on meditation can he separate Truth from Good, for they are one. Good is Truth and Truth is Good.
And if we will search through the centuries here and there we shall find those pure souls who have so liberated themselves from sordid care and sensual pleasures that they have resolved to know more of this Good, to be more in its sweet companionship and to express in their lives the Good they felt but could not touch. If you have gained the confidence of such an one he will tell you: Not gold or silver, not place or power, shall be my God, for the Good only shall I seek, the Good only shall I adore, for Good is my only God and God is my only Good.
Such is not a new God, but the old, old God, for in the old Anglo-Saxon language Good was the term for God. And the Psalmist said, "The Lord is good." And Jesus said, "Why callest thou me good; there is none good but one, that is God." Likewise said the Master to a materialistic worshipper, "God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." And when the same reformer advanced the claims of his religion upon those who needed liberating, he said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." The God of Jesus, the true God, is the spirit of truth which is good. All that is good is of God, and God is nothing else than Good.
A Liberated Man
With a liberating God there is sure to be a liberated man, for what a man's God is that will the man become.
The man the world knows best is a slave, a slave to circumstances and conditions, a bondman to appetites and passions, a slave to superstition and to fear. Not more cruel was the Egyptian bondage than is that under which the majority of mankind suffer to-day. The man of Christian Science is a free man, because like Paul, he was free born.
Christian Science then, does not appeal to people of liberal thought because it presents man as a miserable sinner or a crawling worm, but because it has a man who is worthy of his Maker and not an insult to Him.
God is Truth, but Truth exists not for itself alone. Truth expresses itself in ideas and those ideas image the parent Truth. In mathematics the numbers express the truth, and each number is an idea of the truth of numbers. And each mathematical idea is the truth because it is like its parent, the all truth. The figures which represent the numbers may be good or bad, depending upon the intelligence or its lack which makes them. The figures may be rightly or wrongly combined, depending upon the mind or the mindlessness which combined them. But the numbers themselves for which the figures are only the signs, these numbers because of the truth are always good and true. The mistakes, the errors that appear are not of the mathematical ideas; they pertain only to figures. These errors are no part of the truth or truth's idea; these errors are traceable to ignorance in their combination.
Likewise of man. As the number is the idea of mathematical truth, so man is the idea of the spiritual Truth which is God. As each number has its figure which is its sign, so each man has his figure, the human figure, which is but the sign or symbol of the true man, or spiritual man. It is possible the ignorant schoolboy might consider that the multiplication table consisted of the figures in his arithmetic, and when distressed because of his poor figures, his errors and mistakes, he might think he would relieve his distress by destroying the arithmetic. Not so his elders. They know that the science of mathematics is quite independent of the arithmetic. They know that numbers are ideas of eternal truth and likewise eternal. They know that the poor figures and the errors are caused by ignorance which the presence of truth will destroy by setting things right. They know that to heal that schoolboy's distress the remedy is not to doctor the figures but to banish the ignorance. When he knows the truth, the truth will make him free from his distress.
On the same Scientific basis Christian Science takes its stand concerning man. It affirms that man is an idea of Truth, that this human figure is the sign of the spiritual reality, that the real man is no more the flesh and blood than the chalk or pencil mark is the real number. Man is an idea of Truth. Man then, the true man, is not material, but spiritual. Christian Science does not affirm that this body is nothing, but it does affirm that it holds the same relation to the real man that the printed figure holds to the eternal number. The human form is but the symbol of the divine idea. In itself it is not the man, it is but the sign of the real man whose builder and maker is God.
The Science of Liberation
But, says one, of what avail this high conception of man, when the individual we have to do with is not up to the standard? You say, Christian Science tells me, I am good, I am true, I am spiritual. Well then, I do not recognize myself. You say I am good but that is not the way I feel. After this glowing account of myself I feel that I need an introduction to myself. You speak of the perfect spiritual man. I feel myself burdened with an imperfection.
Granted this be so, the question is, how are you to deal with the situation? Christian Science has a definite and exact answer. This science affirms that you are to treat the discrepancy as you would treat the discrepancy in numbers. You would remove the error by removing the ignorance which is its occasion. This answer is so simple, it commends itself with such readiness to the thoughtful that it is difficult to conceive of any other method of treatment. But is this the method of treatment to which the world has been accustomed?
Consider the method of materia medica. It professes to deal with those errors which manifest themselves in bodily disease. Bear in mind we are treating not wood or stone; we are treating man; mortal man is represented to our material sense by a sign or figure, which human figure we call the body. The method of material medicine does not in any way consider the real thing in the problem. It gives the spiritual idea no thought, although it professes sole authority for dealing with the human life, yet it proceeds to effect harmony, treating only the sign, the human figure. Common sense would say, remove the discrepancy by removing the ignorance which was its occasion. Not so with the old fashioned dosing methods. They undertake to solve the problem by treating the figures only. As if in numbers you were to attempt to correct the schoolboy's mistake by drugging his faulty figures, instead, the scientific treatment is to remove ignorance with truth, and in the presence of the truth the figures will correspond with the numbers and the error is removed.
Scholastic theology has still another method for the removal of discrepancies. Having abandoned the platform constructed by its founder for dealing with the entire man, having forsaken the sacred work given it by healing both sickness and sin, it assumes to treat the discrepancy of sin, neglectful of its rightful work of caring for the whole of man. Ecclesiasticism professes to have sole authority for treating one-half of man.
Consider then the theologic method for treating errors in the human problem. It professes to eliminate the errors which manifest themselves in forms of sin. Having given over the material man to the matter doctors, it fixes its thought upon the spiritual man. Materia medica says illness is bodily sickness. Scholastic theology says that sin is soul sickness. The drugging doctors declare that the error of sickness is in the sick figures. The ecclesiastical doctors say that the error of sin is due to a sick idea. Science and common sense say that the error of physical sickness or moral sickness like all error, is due to no fault of the figures and no fault of the ideas, but is due to ignorance.
Christian Science is Common Sense
Science and common sense take issue with the unscientific doctors and affirm that the sickness is not in the figures and is no part of the idea, but the error consists in wrong relations. They say, rightly relate the figures, let truth reign in place of ignorance, and error vanishes. The blunders of both theology and medicine are apparent. Medicine in treating sickness mistakes the figure for the thing it signifies. It regards the body as everything and the soul as nothing. Scholastic theology in treating sin, mistakes what is the imperfect figuring of ignorance, for an imperfection in the perfect, spiritual idea. Medicine attempts to heal the sick by treating the figures instead of treating the ignorance which puts the figures out of order. Theology attempts to heal sin by undertaking to treat the perfect spiritual idea instead of treating the imperfect figuring. Medicine believes its patient helpless, and mindless matter all-powerful. Theology likewise believes its patient helpless and teaches him to look to another for help when it should teach him how to help himself. Calm reflection will show that the failures of medicine and the failures of theology are due to their untruthful premises and their unscientific methods. Success in treating sickness and sin can only come by abandoning these faulty systems and adopting one which has Truth for its premise and common sense for its practice.
Thus Christian Science affirms that the scientific process for liberating error in the mathematical problem by removing the ignorance that made it, is the scientific process for liberating man from all error by removing the ignorance that makes it.
Christian Science then has claims on people of liberal thought.
Because it is a world-wide movement for the world's liberation.
Because, as a million witnesses testify, it has a liberty-giving system.
Because, as more than thirty year's of experience proves, it has a liberal and a liberating leader.
Because it holds a liberating thought of God and man.
Because it has a system of liberation which is scientific in facts and scientific in its processes.
[Delivered March 20, 1899, at (Theodore) Parker Memorial Hall, in Church of the Messiah, Appleton and Berkeley Streets, Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Sentinel, March 23, 1899.]