The Idealism of Jesus
The Rev. Arthur R. Vosburgh of Rochester, New York
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Rev. Arthur R. Vosburgh, of Rochester, N.Y., delivered his lecture on "The Idealism of Jesus," on Sunday afternoon, before a large and deeply interested audience which filled Scenic Temple.
George Leonard McNeill, first reader of the Christian Science Church, of this city, first addressed the audience. He said, Friends: The lecture which we are to have the pleasure of listening to today is given under the auspices of First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Cambridge. On behalf of that Church I bid you all a cordial welcome and thank you for your presence here this afternoon to learn more about the good news which is being brought to the world through the teaching and practice of Christian Science. Mr. McNeill then presented Rev. William P. McKenzie, of Cambridge, a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship and president of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Boston.
In introducing the lecturer, Mr. McKenzie said:
It is now almost 12 years since the Board of Lectureship was established by the Leader of this movement, and in that time every part of the world has heard the message of the lecturers. In the length and breadth of this country, in Canada and Mexico, in Europe and Africa, in parts of Asia and in the island continent of Australia, the lecturers have been called by Christian Science Societies and Churches to proclaim the truth whose benefits those who called them to speak in public to their friends and neighbors had already proved so satisfactory that they wished all others to share in the advantage of knowing that same truth. The lecturers have not engaged in controversy or criticism, since the opportunity to speak regarding Christian Science is too precious to be wasted in discussion of what others may have said in ignorance. No living man of common honesty will ever disapprove of Christian Science if once he can practically know what it is. The business, then, of the lecturer is to show what this movement is working out, what the discovery of its Leader, Mrs. Eddy, may mean in blessing mankind. In fact, the motto given for The Christian Science Monitor, our daily paper, is significantly descriptive of the intention of all Christian Scientists, "To injure no man but to bless all mankind." Given by our Leader, this motto expresses her own motive also; and the lecturer who will speak to you has gained an understanding of the high purpose and consecration which makes her a benefactor to the whole world, and so is competent to tell you about the Christian Science movement.
Rev. Arthur R. Vosburgh then spoke in full as follows:
Rev. Mr. Vosburgh's Address
All through the Bible the ideal of spiritual attainment is pointed to as that which shall be achieved through knowledge. The prophet looks forward to the time when God shall write His law on men's minds and engrave it on their hearts, and no man shall say to his neighbor, "Know the Lord, for all shall know Him from the least even unto the greatest." Jesus taught that to realize eternal life is to know God and His Christ. Paul holds out to us as the ideal of individual attainment that we are all to "come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Such knowledge must be nothing less than the understanding of God and of the divine law of cause and effect by which man can prove how divine Love holds provision for every human need.
All humanity is in entire agreement at one point, and that is that there is a human problem to be solved, that there are questions unanswered, burdens unlifted, wants that are unfulfilled; and in its quest for good, human hope and faith are more and more turning for assurance and reassurance to Christ Jesus as the one who solved the problem.
The Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus' Ideal
Jesus came to establish a kingdom — a kingdom which he called the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God. In this kingdom there is to be no place for evil; in it there will be found no sorrow, no sickness, no sin, no death. It presents the very acme of possible or conceivable good, an ideal so high that it has seemed to be beyond any possibility of present or prospective attainment here; and because of this it has come to be held that the entrance to this kingdom is beyond the grave, that it is a paradise which we must die to reach.
But Jesus' assurance is that this kingdom of heaven is "at hand." John the Baptist's message was that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand;" and Jesus has taught his followers to pray: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." We cannot conceive that Jesus would teach his believers to pray for what never would be and in the nature of things never could be attained, and we are necessarily assured that it was Jesus' intention, expectation and purpose to establish this kingdom of heaven upon earth among men. Such a kingdom constitutes Jesus' ideal.
No one questions the height, the beauty, the purity of this ideal of Jesus. It has enshrined itself in humanity's strongest and tenderest affection and is entrenched in its deepest conviction. The only question that has arisen is as to its possibility and practicability for this world. We stand face to face with the statements of the Word and find there the promise and the demand that this ideal shall be practically applied, shall reach its fulfillment here; and before such an ideal humanity stands faltering between harassing doubt and trembling hope and asks, How can these things be?
We know what were the means and methods by which Jesus and his early disciples initiated this kingdom. When the disciples bore to any community the glad tidings and healed their sick this was the assurance that the kingdom of God was come unto them. And now, if these same works could have thus continued; if ever since the Christian era all the conduct of those who have called themselves Christians had been guided by the golden rule; if their every interest and activity, whether individual, social, industrial or political, could have found its chart and charter in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, and if through all these channels of human interest and activity could have flowed the same power that wrought in the works of the Master and his apostles, it requires no stretch of the imagination to conceive that long ere this the kingdom of God would have reached its triumphant consummation. And all this the Bible teaching inculcates and demands.
How God's Kingdom Shall Come
It was certainly the Master's purpose that the same power and works that initiated his kingdom should carry it through to its conclusion. He exemplified in himself an ideal of being that accredited him as the Son God; he lived an utterly blameless, perfect life; and he wrought work, that could only be accomplished through divine power. Yet he evidently expects and requires that his followers shall recognize and rise into the same ideal of being, the same standard of living, and the same power of divine achievement as were manifested in him.
Jesus was the son of God and he has taught us to pray, "Our Father, which art in Heaven." When he appears to Mary on the morning of the Resurrection he sends her to his disciples with this message from him, "I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and unto my God and your God" (John 20:17), linking himself and his disciples to the same God as Father, in the same words, at the same time. Jesus claims his oneness with the Father; but he urges this same oneness for the disciples when he prays that "As thou Father art in me, and I am in thee, that they also may be one in us." (John 17:21). So in the Epistle to the Hebrews we read that, "both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Heb. 2:11). John writes, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. . . . Beloved now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (Ist John 3:1-3). These are only a few of the passages that indicate the line of teaching that runs through the New Testament, that we are the sons of God, as Jesus was the son of God.
This is one of the fundamental points on which Christian Science stands, that indicates the parting of the ways from some of the former doctrines, that the real man is God's son — God's child. This does not mean that a mortal is or ever can be God's son — ''the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God." (Rom. 9:8.) It does mean that the real man is God's likeness, spiritual and perfect, and that the mortal man is only the counterfeit of the real, neither does this indicate or intimate that other mortals should be found claiming equality with Jesus. The Christian Scientist understands very well he is not the equal of Jesus, and knows very well why he is not. Jesus represented the one son who always abode in the Father's house. Every other mortal is one of the prodigals, who has wandered into the "far country" of the material senses, and today, at the best, is only finding his way back to his Father's house, to learn what is the heritage that belongs to the children of God.
And while Jesus lived such a blameless life that he could openly challenge the world to convict him of sin, has he left for us any lower standard, when he enjoins that we shall be perfect even as the Father is perfect.
Again, while Jesus wrought works that no human or worldly resources could accomplish, works that prove that he had limitless divine resources open to his command, he has left the assurance that "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do." (John 14:12.) Likewise we read in the closing verses of Mark, "And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17, 18.) So, in the closing of Matthew, we find the great commission to go and "teach all nations teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you;" and preminent and primary among the things he had commanded them were these, to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons." (Math. 28:19, 20.) We know that the early followers of Jesus did these things; we know that these works continued as a constant feature in the Christian church during at least three centuries; and we cannot evade nor avoid the conclusion that it is expected that his followers shall continue these same works today. There remains, therefore, the conviction that to fulfill the opportunity and meet the responsibility of their high calling the followers of Jesus must recognize and rise into the same ideal of being — that of sonship with God, the same standard of living — perfection, and the same power of achievement — the Christworks that were exemplified by the Master.
But if Jesus was endued with divine resources that are not open to his followers, if the works he did represented a special power that was vested in him alone, if, in other words, the spiritual power that wrought in him and his early followers was a special divine endowment, given for a little time and then withdrawn, then the passages we have quoted above and many others like them do not mean what they seem to say; and the New Testament is full of promises "made to the ear, to be broken to the hope." But if Jesus' career was, as he averred it was, in fulfillment of law, then his works were demonstrations of law. And since law is abiding, changeless, it only remains for the Christian to understand the law to repeat the works of Jesus, and enter into his heritage and dominion. Christian Scientists have adopted the teachings of Christian Science because they find in it the understanding of this divine law, and out of the demonstration of good it has already brought they have reached the full conviction that its mission is to usher in and finally establish in its fullness the kingdom of God proclaimed and promised by Jesus.
And if Jesus came in fulfillment of divine law, and that law can be proven to be valid, it is an entirely rational thing to accept the whole New Testament story without reservation or qualification. The virgin birth, the marvelous works, the final triumph in the resurrection and ascension, these were marvelous to human sense, but were not miraculous to God. They were not supernatural, but a fulfillment of law that was divinely natural.
The Discoverer and Leader
Every great religious movement that has marked a spiritual epoch has always been dominated by some transcendent character. There has always been some Moses or Samuel or David, some Paul or Luther or Wesley to go before and lead forth the people of God. And every movement that has brought humanity nearer to God has in doing this elevated human thinking and living into realms where they have become more gentle and pure and good. So when such a movement as Christian Science should come into the world, it was inevitable that there should be a divinely ordained one to reveal and lead the way; and because it is inevitable that the knowledge which is divine power shall come in gentleness, beauty, purity and light, it was in the native order of the divine fitness of things that this one should be a woman.
It is a matter of common knowledge that Mary Baker Eddy is the discoverer of Christian Science and that this discovery came about through her own healing — a healing that came through the touch of divine power, when human resources could offer neither help nor hope.
It is by no means a thing anomalous and unprecedented in Christian history that one should be healed through faith in answer to prayer. It is a matter of authentic record that spiritual healing was known in the work of Wesley and his early followers, among the Quakers or Friends, among the Scotch Covenanters. Luther healed his young friend Melancthon. All down through the Christian centuries, after eliminating everything that seems to bear the stamp of fanaticism or superstition, there yet remains in the Christian church a continuous record of those who came so near to God that in the hour of need they proved that He is one who not only forgiveth all our iniquities but who healeth all our diseases. One of the great orthodox thinkers and writers of last century, one whom some have thought even the greatest, Dr. Horace Bushnell, has said this: "The first thing arrived at by one who prosecutes this kind of inquiry apart from all prepossessions and saws of tradition, will certainly be that the clumsy assumption commonly held, of a cessation of the original, apostolic gifts, at about the same date is forever exploded; for as in fact they never consented to be stayed or concluded by any given time, so in history they persist in running by all time, till finally the investigator . . . comes into the discovery that the stream is a river, flowing continuously through all ages and always to flow." (Nature and the Supernatural.)
Some years before I had even heard that there was such a movement or work as Christian Science, there came to my knowledge the first case I had ever known that was near enough to satisfy me that there is in our own time any veritable instance of divine healing. I had before heard of those at a distance who claimed to have been healed through faith, in answer to prayer. I had thought, as perhaps the average person of today thinks, that these were persons who were nervous, melancholy, hysterical, people who needed only a little awakening of hope and renewal of effort, people who by the exercise of a little resolution might have been well all the time because there was really nothing that ailed them any of the time. But here was a case of what is known as Bright's disease which had been diagnosed as necessarily fatal and pronounced hopeless by the best medical skill and counsel obtainable. The point had come when she and her friends were looking for the oncoming days or even hours to bring what they thought was the inevitable end, to cut short the lingering suffering. Just at this time her pastor, the minister of the local Methodist church, during a call urged upon her that Christ is the great Physician, in his own words — "the Healer of the body as well as of the soul." He left, thinking his words had made little impression, but the invalid continued to search their meaning. That evening she sent a request that prayer for her recovery be offered in the church prayer meeting, which was done. That night she lay awake, pondering these things, and in the small hours of the morning there came a vivid sense of the divine Presence, the suffering ceased, she was healed. In the morning, to the utter astonishment of family and friends, she arose, dressed herself, and went dawn to breakfast; in three days she was on the street; in a few weeks convalescence was complete, and she rejoiced in more vigorous health than she had ever before known. Some time afterward this young lady told a friend of mine that there was something about her healing she did not understand; she felt that there was a law back of it, but she did not know what it was. Mrs. Eddy felt there was a law back of her healing, and that she must know what it was. Under this divine impulsion she retired from society for three years, and giving herself to a study of the Scriptures, "sought the solution of this problem of Mind-healing," as she herself has put it, "devoted time and energies to discovering a positive rule." (S. & H. p. 109.)
Through this search and research she came to the point of understanding, where she "apprehended . . . . . the Principle and rule of spiritual Science and Metaphysical Healing — in a word, Christian Science." (Retrospection and Introspection.)
When God has a message of Truth to bring to the world, He always prepares the way for the message, and He fits, prepares, qualifies and calls His messenger.
It is evident that one who should first be sufficient unto the task of gaining such an insight into the nature and genius of Christianity as to grasp its hitherto unknown Science, and then of formulating and stating this Science, must bring remarkable endowment, both intellectual and spiritual. And without asking you for the moment to concede anything as to the mission or the message of Mrs Eddy, I do ask you to note that there have come into her experience, into her character and career, just the elements and conditions that would tend to prepare a messenger of God to bring to the world such a message of Truth.
It is the testimony of Mrs. Eddy's contemporaries, from early years and on, that she is gifted with rare mentality, that in all dear and desirable qualities of head and heart she is one of the world's elect. But that which has peculiarly distinguished her always has been an intense spirituality, a yearning after God, a hungering and thirsting after things divine. Humanly speaking she has back of her the incentive and inspiration of the ideals of an illustrious and God-fearing ancestry. Her home nurture and training ever emphasized intellectual, moral and pre-eminently spiritual ideals as representing the real values of life, and there were given her generous opportunities for intellectual training and culture. Then came years when adversity and affliction wrought chastening and purification; and finally came the hour of supreme experience, when the power of God lifted her out of the death-shadow, and healing came in a realization of what in her own words is the "living, palpitating presence of Christ, Truth." (S. & H. p. 351.) Thus, out of this experience she emerged with a great spiritual elevation and illumination, and conjoined with this an intellectual clearness and breadth that could not rest until it had gained the explanation of her divine healing. In other words, this healing — bringing not only physical restoration but a wonderful baptism of spiritual light and power — was a definite fact; and for this sublime fact, as for every fact, she felt there must be a scientific explanation. This explanation she sought and found.
For this quest she had received a preparation along another line of experience. In her practice as a homeopathic physician she had noted often that prescriptions in which the drug had been so highly attenuated that it had practically disappeared healed cases that larger doses failed to reach. Even utterly unmedicated water or pellets frequently produced the same result. Only one explanation for this appeared, and that was that it was faith in the prescription and not the prescription itself which wrought the cure. Out of all these experiences she had become convinced that healing of any kind is always of mental procurement, and through her own healing she reached the understanding that God, divine Mind, is the true curative Principle. Thus, she arrived naturally at what she has given as constituting the central idea of her discovery — "the scientific certainty that all causation was Mind, and every effect a mental phenomenon." (Retrospection and Introspection.)
The All and Allness of Mind
This brings us to the basic point of view of Christian Science, which is that of a radical and consistent idealism. Its position, to put it a little differently, is that to find the true explanation, the real nature, meaning and substance of things we must look to Mind and not to matter. One of the fundamental propositions of the Christian Science text-book is, "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All in all" (S. & H. p. 468). This position is certainly radical and revolutionary; but any system that will interpret and demonstrate the ideal of Jesus can be nothing less. The kingdom of God cannot admit either matter or evil; and Christian Science eliminates both as either power or reality.
This idealism of Christian Science, holding to the allness of Mind and the nothingness of matter, has been the occasion of a vast amount of misconception and misrepresentation as to what Christian Scientists believe and how they believe it, and has been the object of a deal of caricature and attempted wit. Some time since I was compelled to overhear a gentleman having an office adjoining mine explaining to a caller who his neighbor was and what these Christian Scientists believe. "And," he said, "these people say, if you are sick, what you need to do is to think you are not sick, and that will be the end of it. If a man breaks his leg, all he needs to do is to say his leg is not broken and he'll be all right," and he ended by saying, "they're a queer lot." Now, if Christian Scientists were in the habit of making that sort of unqualified and unrelated statement, they would be "a queer lot": and there would be nothing I could say here that would be worthy of one moment of your time and attention. Yet Christian Science submits to you a proposition that may sound almost or equally radical, and it is this: All the evil that is in the world or has been from the beginning of time, all the sickness, sorrow, sin, pain or death has come about through wrong thinking; and the world's healing, redemption and release is going to come about through learning to do and doing the thinking that is right. But this position is by no means without precedent and support, entirely outside the distinctive teachings of Christian Science. We all recall the mooted saying of Shakespeare, "There's nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.'' We remember the statement of the Scripture that as a man "thinketh in his heart so is he." (Prov 23:7) We know that the word heart is used in this connection to indicate the seat of motives and the source of thought; and so still more emphatic and to the same point is the injunction to "keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). Jesus' teachings urge the same fact, in his assurance that in faith is to be found the condition of realizing all the limitless resources of divine power and good; for what is faith but an attitude and activity of thought; perchance, a skeptic, a scorner, an infidel, becomes a devout believer; what has taken place but a changed condition of thought? The whole purpose of Christianity is to bring about right thinking, right purposes, right motives and right reasoning, and to show how this is to be gained. This is the whole work of Christian Science; and this right thinking, that will lay hold of divine possibilities, is such as will enable us to "let this Mind be in" us "which was also in Christ Jesus," and will enable us to let this Mind work through us the works it wrought through him. All this means that we shall get an entirely new point of view — the point of view of the Master, which was that of the Allness of God.
For, primarily, a right approach and solution for every question or condition depends on gaining a right starting-point for thought and action — on getting the right point of view. Let us illustrate. Picture a tract of unmolested woodland, stretching away across a level valley, and rising back over a range of hills. Down through the hills comes rolling and plunging a river, and takes its way down through the valley to join the ocean in the distance. Now bring to this scene an average, unreclaimed American Indian, and he will doubtless see here little else than an opportunity to hunt and fish, to build his wigwam, and let his squaw carry home the game. Another man comes and sees far more than this; he sees an opportunity to secure a claim, to clear away the timber and open up a farm, to establish a home, and to leave it to his children when he is gone. Another man sees vastly larger opportunities. He sees a wealth of timber to be utilized, a great water power to be developed, a town-site to be located; he sees how down through the valley must be one of the world's great highways, that some day a railway will be constructed to connect all these resources with the great world beyond; he sees limitless opportunities for future glory and gain. Another man comes and sees none of these things. What impresses him is the stately grandeur of the monarch of the forest, the play of light and shade, the blending tints and tones of color; he sees and feels the beauty, that, half-revealed, and half-concealed, hovers over all. He sees and feels it all from the point of view of the artist.
We read of a man who once healed the sick and raised the dead; who turned water into wine, walked the wave, out of a handful of loaves and fishes fed the assembled thousands; who finally came and went through closed doors, appeared and disappeared, and at last passed hence, not through the gateway of death, but through the unfolding portals of eternal Life. What would God's Universe seem to us to be, could we gain his insight and secure his point of view? For what must have been his sense of the real power that lies back of chemical activity and chemical affinity, when he turned water into wine? What must have been his relation to the elements and forces about him when he stilled the storm and walked the wave? What was his conception of the nature of Life when he healed the sick, and raised the dead? and what his understanding of the law of Mind when with a spoken word or an uttered thought he restored the lunatic and demoniac to rational poise and power? From all these mighty workings we can be sure of this, that Jesus understood that the government of the Universe is constituted in spiritual power and law; but this is only another way of saying that Jesus understood that the real universe is spiritual and not material.
Was it Jesus' purpose that his followers should enter his understanding of the nature and meaning of things? In other words did he represent an intelligent and intelligible ideal? There can be no doubt of this. His assurance that his mission was to bear witness to the Truth, and that for us to know the Truth would make us free, would be meaningless unless he came to reveal the Truth that he expects us to understand.
The Mind Universe
Of all the Gospel writers, John undertakes to give us most of the philosophy and theology of Jesus. And John evidently conceived that to enter into the understanding of the Master his readers need first to get the true outlook on Creation, the outlook of Jesus. His gospel opens with the same words that begin the book of Genesis — "In the beginning," and the statement is, that "In the beginning was the Word," and that "All things were made by Him." Now just what does this mean? What is the significance of the Word and of the statement that all things have been created through the divine Word? We have all doubtless in mind the elementary definition that "A word is the sign of an idea." A word is the expression of an idea; and thus the Scriptural statement can only mean this, that the Universe as the creation of the divine Word expresses God's idea. The universe is God's idea or God's thought expressed. God's creating has been by thinking all things into being, and it is His thought that maintains and constitutes their being. "He spoke and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast." (Ps. 33:9).
This may at first seem too transcendental and intangible to bring to a practical level of thinking; let us by way of illustration and comparison note what it is that really takes place when anyone makes anything. Let it be supposed that a man is to construct so simple an object as a table. Before he begins his work he has in mind a definite idea or conception of a table, and when he has completed his table his work stands as the expression of his concept. The artist in his picture has simply given what is an expression of his thought. The architect who plans and erects some monumental structure holds it first as an ideal in mind, and when his structure is completed what he has done is to give an external form and reality to his own concept. In all these instances we have noted, in every instance that could be noted, anyone who makes anything first has the idea or the concept of that thing in mind, and then given an external form and reality to that concept. But note the fundamental difference between what takes place when man makes anything and when God creates. Man avails himself of the elements he finds to his hand, with which he clothes and defines his concept, through which he gives it an external form and reality. But when God created the universe there were no elements except those which He evolved; and hence the elements themselves must be expressions of God's thought. And thus if the New Testament ideal is true we live in what is essentially a mind universe, or a thought universe — a universe sustained by thought-power, dominated by thought-law, animated by thought-life. In other words, Mind accounts for all and Mind controls all; but this Mind is divine, not human, and is manifested as Life, Truth and Love.
This idealism is by no means out of the line of the tendency and trend of all modern thinking, although in advance of it. No one can have failed to note the increasing emphasis that is today being laid on the powers and possibilities of thought, and in every department of learning the tendency is more and more away from a material to an immaterial basis, away from a physical toward a metaphysical explanation of things. The scientific investigator of so-called physical phenomena is today telling us that matter is not what it seems to be, that "Matter is explained and is explained away." We are told that the real substance of things is not matter but force. The newly discovered phenomena of recent years have compelled the adoption of a new hypothesis which says in effect that what we call matter is really the manifestation of negative electricity, having the properties of so-called matter. This hypothesis is only a tentative one, and does not attempt to explain life or mind. But it does come to a more metaphysical basis in that it replaces a universe of matter with a universe of force.
Everyone is in some wise familiar with the remarkable work of Mr. Burbank in bringing forth new and changed forms and conditions of plant life. After years of observation of such phenomena, not as a metaphysical abstraction but as a practical deduction from observed facts, he is quoted as saying: "All my investigations have led me away from the idea of a Universe of matter, moved upon by outside forces, to that of a Universe that is all force;" and then he defines this force as "life, soul, thought, or what name you may choose to give it."
Now these changed positions and changing statements we have noted and quoted are not those of the Christian Scientist, but I submit that from these it is not a far cry to the statement that over thirty years ago Mrs. Eddy made in Science and Health when she said: "We tread on forces. Withdraw them and creation must collapse. Human knowledge calls them forces of matter; but divine Science declares that they belong to the divine Mind, are inherent in this Mind and so restores them to their rightful home and classification."
"Adhesion, cohesion and attraction are properties of Mind. They belong to divine Principle, and support the equipose of that thought force which launched the earth in its orbit, and said to the proud wave, "Thus far and no farther." (S. & H. p. 124.)
Man as God's Reflection
If, then, the real substance of all is Mind, and the real power that is manifested in all is a divine thought-force, what is man's relation to this beneficent, all-embracing, all-sustaining power? Just this — as God's likeness, the real man reflects the divine Mind, and as human thought recognizes and understands this, all the resources of good that are in divine Mind, all the treasures of limitless Life, Truth and Love, will be found humanly available. Just in the degree that mortals recognize and understand that the real man is God's likeness, that is, God's reflection, and that this indicates the scientific relation of God and man, just in this degree will they find the way of release from the besetments of evil and a fulfillment of the promises and possibilities of good.
Christian Science is compelled to use what are relatively new modes and forms of expression, and are not always at first clearly and fully understood. The statement that man, spiritual man, reflects the divine Mind may at first sound somewhat ambiguous. Let us illustrate what we mean by this: Everyone who has come to conscious thinking can grasp this proposition that two and two make four. This represents a universal relation; it is a part of the general constitution of things, a universal fact.
Whether it be the sum of two grains of sand added to two grains, or two mountains to two mountains, or two worlds to two worlds — two plus two makes four. But how does this come to be a part of the universal constitution of things? Who first thought it? God first thought it, and man in recognizing it is only thinking one of God's thoughts after Him — is reflecting a thought of God. This mathematical truth is reflected in all of God's creation and in the human understanding; and just in the degree that man recognizes this truth he can practically understand and apply it. There is a law of form and fitness that is implied and involved in the common saying that it takes a square peg to fit a square hole. This likewise constitutes a universal relation, but how does any such law of form and fitness come to obtain. Who first thought it? God must have thought it, and man, in recognizing this, is only thinking God's thought after him. This truth is reflected in God's creation and in the human understanding, and as this is recognized it is practically applied, is demonstrated. So the law that like causes produce like effects — like begets like. Here is a universal condition, a universal relation that is a thought of God reflected in all His creation. Man reflects this in understanding, and in reasoning and applying it he is only thinking another of God's thoughts after Him. And thus in the whole range of the divine activity man as the divine likeness reflects the intelligence and energies of the divine Mind and just in the degree that this is seen and understood these divine resources become available in practical demonstration.
The one condition of entering into these resources is in knowing that the material sense of things hides while the spiritual sense reveals them. "Thought will finally be understood and seen in all form, substance, and color, but without material accompaniments." (S. & H. p. 310.) Then it will appear that man and the universe are spiritual and not material.
But if the real man is spiritual, how shall we explain the so-called physical body from which so largely we have heretofore drawn our definition of man? Well, we often use a term which exactly indicates how it should be regarded, when we call it the human figure. For what is a figure? It is a sign to indicate an individual number. For instance, we think the number three and we indicate it by the figure three. But the number is a thing of mind and exists as a concept in mind whether or not we use any figure to indicate it. The figure we use will express our concept of the number. Suppose, however, that we have in thought the wrong number; we will inevitably express this mistaken wrong concept in the wrong figure, and this is just what that which is called the human body does — it expresses the mistaken concept of man. Obviously, our concept of ourselves will be right when it coincides with God's concept of us. Now what must be the divine concept of the man whom God creates? We may be very sure of this, may we not, that when God creates a man, he will create him according to his own ideal of the man who is to be his own likeness? How high and how far will that ideal go? Certainly God's idea of what a man ought to be will not be any lower than our own.
Let our concept of a perfect man rise to the zenith of its ideal, yet the divine concept must be immeasurably beyond this. Then, surely, such a divine ideal must constitute the real man, who is God's idea. Our work then is to gain some notion as to what this perfect man is. Step by step, stage by stage, our concept and consciousness of ourself will change; we will be putting off the false material, imperfect concept of ourself, for the perfect spiritual, divine ideal. Step by step we shall thus "put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts," and in his place "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:22, 24.) When we finally have escaped from the false sense, the mistaken concept of a man, we shall "Know as we are known," and "shall be satisfied," because we "have awaked with his likeness." But to reach this we must begin by grasping and holding this divine ideal as the only reality of our being, here and now, and so continue until here or hereafter this ideal is fully realized.
Then all that is real in human consciousness is a reflection of the divine Mind. The activity of the real man reflects the activity of God. In the words of Jesus, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do, for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."
Unreality of Evil
But there is a wide scope of human experience and human activity as we find them, that have in them nothing God-like. We find conditions of evil manifest, often seeming to over-balance good. How is this to be accounted for if man is a reflection of God, who is entirely good? Evil is present only as the manifestation of a false belief. It is essentially and entirely an unreality. How can anything be real, unless it be a part of the divine creation? Is it possible for man or mortals to bring into being something which God has not? And if mortals are thinking thoughts which God has not thought before them and are putting these thoughts into word and deed, what can these be but false beliefs, unrealities? If, to go back to an illustration already used, someone or everyone should adopt the belief that two and two make five, it would obviously be a false belief, an unreality. So whatever makes up the whole range of being throughout the creation, whatever is adopted and believed which does not represent that which is divinely constituted can be nothing but a false belief — an unreality. The working of evil in every form represents the activity of a false belief — the belief of some power other than God, some good apart from God, some life and being separated from God. Jesus did his work through the understanding that these were false beliefs, and he swept them aside and "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (II Tim. 1:10.)
Some precedent and illustration for this statement may easily be found in the commonest range of experience. Suppose that some school-boy, has to find the sum of eight and seven, and he arrives at a premature conclusion that the sum of eight and seven is thirteen. We know that is not, never was and never will be a fact. It can be nothing but a false belief. But suppose that this mistake, instead of being made by an irresponsible boy, is that of some accountant, upon the accuracy of whose records rest great vested interests. Such a mistake, if not discovered and corrected, might entail a matter of profit or loss that would decide the difference between the success or failure of some great enterprise. Or suppose that this mistake should enter into the calculations of some man who was estimating the elements and materials that must enter into some great structure. Such a mistake might involve a structural weakness that would some day entail calamity and disaster. And yet what would it all be but a mistake builded upon a mistake.
Or, to look at another range of human experience, we will suppose two wedded lives who have pledged to each other lasting fidelity and affection. There comes a time when, through care, preoccupation, neglect on the part of one, there is some failure to give the wonted expression of thoughtfulness and affection. This presently causes the other to wonder what it means; wonder proceeds to doubt, doubt begets suspicion, suspicion breeds jealousy; and when jealousy comes we know that nothing that the other can do will be seen aright — even the good will be reversed. The jealous thought will seem to find confirmation of its worst fears: "Trifles light as air, to the jealous mind, are confirmations, strong as proofs of Holy Writ." We know that more than one of Shakespeare's dramas is founded on some such situation as this. Now, when such a condition has wrought its worst, when the hopes of two lives seem blasted and a home has been wrecked, go to these! Tell them that it is all a false belief, an unreality, and it will seem to them that you mock at their calamity! Let the situation be seen as it really is, turn the light of truth upon it, and all the discord, dissension, division, will vanish like the baseless fabric of a dream. Let the light that was reflected in the life of Jesus Christ shine to the innermost recesses of human consciousness and all the evil will vanish like the dream it is, "and leave not a wreck behind."
Jesus' teachings and works set before us an idealism that excludes matter and evil, and includes all good. The Christian Scientist frankly, squarely adopts this idealism and he meets every manifestation of evil, whether of sickness, sin, poverty, sorrow, disaster, with a positive denial of its power or reality, and an affirmation of the allness and goodness of God; and just in the degree of his spiritual clearness and understanding he supports these statements by demonstration.
The Practicability of the Ideal
The public attitude of thought regarding Christian Science is today one of increasing friendliness. The one objection that constantly recurs is "You go too far." But does Christian Science go any farther than the teachings of Jesus? Could any doctrine be more radical than that of the Master? And the same objection was brought against him. Everyone who ever brought to the world any innovation that should mark some distinct march in the line of progress in any direction has been greeted by the same old objection, "You go too far." When the inventor of the steam locomotive appeared before a committee of Parliament to explain his new invention, he was asked if it would be possible for coaches drawn by a steam locomotive to travel as fast as ten miles an hour, and his answer was that it would. Then he was questioned as to the possibility of traveling at the rate of twelve, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five and even thirty miles an hour and he averred that this would all be possible. This was all so far beyond the range of rational acceptance for these wise men that they wanted nothing more to do with such an impractical dreamer. He "went too far." So of the steamship, the telegraph, the telephone; the men who first believed and advocated the possibility of these things were met by the same old objection — that they were going too far. And far more strenuously has this objection been urged against the philosophers and prophets who have dared to think ahead of their generation and urge their people to higher ideals.
The hemlock cup, the cross, the stake have been among the penalties that have awaited such as these. Strangely, inevitably has it ever been the case that one who has brought to his generation a heaven-born truth that would lift them to higher levels of thinking and living has always been met not only by the world's scorn and derision, but by its malice and persecution; and even his brethren have greeted him with the biting gibe, "Behold this dreamer cometh," and then have sold him into Egypt. But the one who, with the conviction of a divine ideal, is Egypt's bondman today, stands next to the throne tomorrow, and his brethren come to his feet to buy the bread that will save their lives. The world's light-bringers and light-bearers have all been the dreamers, the idealists, whose only transgression was that they went too far.
A woman once heard Wendell Philips in a lecture say that God never permitted any man to hold an ideal too beautiful for his power to make practicable. Under the impulse and inspiration of the statement she went to her home and wrote a poem, of which these are the first and last stanzas:
"Men take the pure ideals of their lives and lock them fast away,
And never dream that things so beautiful
Are fit for every day.
So, counterfeits pass current in their lives,
And stones they give for bread.
And starvingly and daringly they walk
Through life, amongst the dead.
Though never yet was pure ideal
Too fair for us to make our real.
"Thine early dreams, which came in 'shapes of light'
Came bearing prophecy,
Commissioned sweetly to unfold
Thy possible to thee.
Fear not to build thine eyry in the heights.
Bright with celestial day,
And trust thyself in simple faith
To thine inmost soul alway,
And God shall make divinely real
The highest forms of thine ideal."
The Christian Scientist has adopted the ideal of Jesus, an ideal that includes all the possibilities of good and excludes all the elements of the flesh and of evil, and he finds the practical application and demonstration of this ideal in affirming the constant healing, guiding, sustaining presence of divine Love and in denying any principle, power or reality to evil. This affirmation of good and denial of evil gain beneficent results just to the degree of the clearness of the understanding and the faithfulness of the application of the ideal, and herein is found the only needed means and mode by which to prove God's love and power to be sufficient for every need. A multitude stand forth today and bear glad witness that they have proven the ideal true; that when it bids us trust God entirely as the one "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities and who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's," in this it is not bidding us go too far.
The Bible and the Christian Science Text Book
In following this line of light the Christian Scientist has acknowledged that: "As adherents of Truth we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life." (Science and Health, page 497.) Hand in hand with the Bible — not as supplementing its message, not as adding to or taking aught therefrom, but as interpreting its meaning — is the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, whose author is the Rev. Mary Baker Eddy. The Christian Scientist has increasing and unreserved confidence in those two books, because he has thus far proven them safe guides upon the way, and this gives him assurance that they will be safe guides to the end. He believes that the light which their message has brought, with its witness of unfolding health, holiness, harmony, will grow brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. He brings his supreme allegiance, which is his reasonable service, to the Christ which they reveal, and he brings an abiding and abounding gratitude to the discoverer of Christian Science as the one who in our own day has helped human thought to find its way back to the clearness and power of primitive Christianity; who has shown how in the understanding of the Christianity that Jesus taught and demonstrated is to be established the kingdom of heaven on earth; and who through evil report and good report has stood faithful and obedient to the heavenly vision in declaring the Truth as she has received it.
How the Kingdom Shall Come
The practical unfoldment and demonstration of this ideal means the visible coming of the kingdom of heaven on earth; and whereunto shall this coming be likened? One of its most impressive illustrations is found in one supreme event in the life of the Master, when on a day toward the close of his earth-ministry he took the three specially chosen disciples up into a mountain apart, and there was enacted the wondrous experience of the transfiguration. The things of the unseen world appeared as palpable realities, and in the holy benediction of that hour it seemed to Peter that it would be well to abide there forever. The vision passes, they make their way down the mountain and on the morrow come to a scene which is the glaring earth contrast of the vision of the mountain. There the other disciples are surrounded by a cynical, clamoring multitude, and in their midst is a father with a lunatic boy whom they have undertaken and failed to heal. Jesus quiets the clamor, gains the attention of the father, speaks the word of power, and the boy is healed. How could the Master do these wondrous works? He brought the vision of the mountain down into the experience of the valley. This remains for his followers to do — to gain the mountain vision, and then to bring the mountain vision down into the valley-experience; and some day every valley that harbors any dark shadow of sickness, sorrow, or sin shall be uplifted into the clear sunlight of God's eternal truth, and every mountain of highest spiritual attainment shall be brought within reach of the lowly, the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places smooth, because the whole "earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
[Delivered March 20, 1910, at Scenic Temple under the auspices of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and published in The Cambridge Tribune, March 26, 1910.]
[In an article by the Rev. Mr. Vosburgh entitled "The Release of Thought," in the April 1903 issue of The Christian Science Journal, he identifies the author of the above-quoted poem as Ann Preston, who was a 19th-century medical doctor and a Quaker. The poem appears first to have been published in the Unitarian magazine The Spirit of the Age (under the comment "For the Spirit of the Age") on Dec. 22, 1849, where it is signed with the initials A.P. and is entitled "The Ideal is the Real". The statement from Wendell Phillips, unattributed, appears directly under the poem's title, reading: "God never yet permitted us to frame a theory too beautiful for his power to make practicable." Vosburgh quotes the first and last stanzas more or less as they appeared in this magazine and he also quotes the last stanza in his lecture "Christian Science: Its Worth and Work." The first and last stanzas of the poem were also published in an earlier issue of The Christian Science Journal, June 1888, in which, however, a later version of he poem, with a substantially revised first stanza, was used.]