Christian Science: A Prophetical Religion
Ralph E. Wagers, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Dr. Ralph E. Wagers, C.S.B., of
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
This is an age of scientific achievement in the field of religion as well as of physics. The discovery of Christian Science has made obsolete unscientific modes of religious thought, quite as much as modern physics has revolutionized the materialist's concept of energy.
Spiritually interpreted, the Bible presents a vivid history of human consciousness awakening to the spiritual facts of being. Many struggles and achievements in the warfare between the flesh and the Spirit are recorded in its pages. And through it all, the Word of God shows forth the irresistible impulsion of the spiritual idea, or Christ, leading human thought on and up to the apprehension and demonstration of man's true identity as a child of God.
In their search for a better and more satisfying way of life, men's hearts turn as naturally to the Bible as the needle does to the pole. In their immature sense of spiritual reality, Christians may seem to prefer one denomination to another, but they unite in accepting the Bible as their chart of life.
The Word of God Enlightens
The confusion in the world today does not indicate any inadequacy of the divine government; nor does it point to the inability of the Word of God to enlighten human thought that it may perceive the underlying realities of being. The Word of God, as expressed in the Bible, highlights a great human need - the need of spiritually understanding the divine nature of this government and how the realities of being are preserved and perpetuated by it.
To understand the nature of God's government it is necessary to understand the nature of God. This is made possible only by God's revelation of Himself through what is known as His Word. The consciousness of men must become spiritually enlightened in order to understand and yield to God's government. The Psalmist declared, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). The Apostle John speaks of the Word as "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). Jesus the Christ said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John ).
Christian Science Discovered
The Master's injunction to all his followers to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils" (Matt. 10:8) gives assurance that his works were not phenomenal exhibitions of supernatural power but, on the contrary, were demonstrations of the life-giving power of the divine Word.
This life-giving power of the divine Word was indelibly impressed upon Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, when in 1866 she found herself greatly in need of healing. She suffered a severe injury through a fall upon the ice. Taking her Bible, she opened it to the account of the healing of the man who was sick of the palsy, as related in the ninth chapter of Matthew's Gospel. She was immediately healed, rose from her bed, and presented herself to her friends, free from the condition which the attending physician had described as fatal. Fortunately for all of us, she sought in the Bible a complete explanation of what had healed her. The explanation came in the form of a discovery. She discovered the law upon which spiritual healing is established and which was understood and demonstrated in varying degrees by the prophets, by Christ Jesus, and by those who followed his teaching and example.
Applying her discovery, she was able to heal quickly and permanently many cases of disease and injury which had not yielded to medical and surgical treatment. It is because of her discovery that Christian Scientists affectionately refer to her as the Discoverer of Christian Science.
The Christian Science Textbook
Through Mrs. Eddy's love for God and man and her deep gratitude for what she had discovered, she made her discovery available to the whole world through a textbook, a book which every Christian Scientist studies in connection with the Bible. This textbook, named "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," clearly explains her discovery and its application to the cure of disease as well as of sin. It may be read, borrowed, or purchased at any Christian Science Reading Room.
This book is unlocking the inspired passages of the Bible, which have been closed through literal and uninspired renderings. Science and Health is not another Bible, but by bringing out its spiritual meaning it does make the Bible a new book to anyone who will lay aside his religious prejudices and permit God to reveal Himself through His inspired Word. These two books reveal a moral and spiritual power which is more valuable to the human race than any form of material energy could ever be - a power which, when exercised, will hold in check the potentially destructive physical forces with which nations are now confronted. Moral and spiritual power is wholly constructive - healing, saving, regenerating in its nature. This power transforms human consciousness and establishes the kingdom of heaven within, by revealing the laws which underlie and constitute spiritual existence.
The Line of the Prophets
There are two distinct lines of religious thought running through the Bible. One stems from the first or spiritual account of creation in Genesis and may be referred to as the line of the prophets. The other, stems from the second or material account of creation and may be referred to as the line of the priests. In the first account, God or Spirit is represented as the creator of every form of existence. No mention of evil occurs in this account, which closes with these emphatic words, "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Here it is recorded that man is made in the image and likeness of God, Spirit, and so is spiritual. To this spiritual man of God's creating is given dominion. This account furnishes the premise upon which all metaphysical reasoning about God and man should be based, and from which all correct conclusions must be drawn.
The second account is the exact opposite of the first. Being opposites, if one is true, the other is false. Any mode of religious thought which accepts the second account to be true necessarily begins with a sinning mortal and through one device or another attempts to save this mortal and restore him to God, cleansed of the sins which God is supposed to have permitted or allowed to corrupt him. Such unspiritual methods have been doomed to failure from the start.
Jesus was of the line of the prophets. He did not identify himself with the established religious beliefs and practices of his day and so came under severe opposition from religious leaders. It is not difficult to appreciate the conflict which attends these divergent lines of religious thought, because many of us were at one time as opposed to what we presumed Christian Science to be as were the religionists of old to the Master's healing ministry, which they did not understand. Let me point out one typical instance of this opposition.
Jesus entered into the synagogue on the Sabbath, and Matthew records his experience in these words: "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him" (Matt. -14).
Many who are now Christian Scientists were formerly members of other denominations. They used to wonder why the Apostle James was not speaking to them as well as to those of his day when he wrote: "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James , 15). Not being encouraged by their own religious leaders to place their entire trust in healing prayer, they sought help in Christian Science. The complete healing of such a one is a case in point.
This fine Christian woman, who had received treatment in two well-known hospitals, was confined to a large chair day and night, and was reduced in weight to less than one hundred pounds. She had not been out of her home for many weeks. In his conversation with her, a Christian Science practitioner who was called on the case found that she read her Bible daily, praying as best she could to God for relief. Perhaps it would be well to mention here that a Christian Scientist endeavors to analyze a case from a metaphysical rather than from a physical standpoint. In his first visit, the practitioner discerned the error that was blocking the answer to her prayer, and he was grateful to find the patient willing to have the error corrected. You see, the error is never in God, but always an error about God.
This woman had a settled conviction that God is all-power, everywhere present, and knows all. But she was in error first in believing that she was a mortal, and next in believing that God, knowing all, knew she was sick and in great need of help. She had become discouraged, because she felt that she had done her part, and could not understand why God was not doing His part.
It was made clear to her that the all-knowing, divine Mind, being Truth, could know only what was true about her; that the loving Father could not and would not cause her to be sick or permit or allow her to be sick; that in reality God knows man to be whole, perfect, sinless, diseaseless, deathless, because this is the truth about man made in His likeness. It was pointed out that God is infinitely intelligent concerning His creation; that He knows all there is to be known about man; and that with the infinitude of the all-knowing Mind there is only one thing that can possibly be declared about evil or disease, and that is its absolute nothingness.
She saw that from this premise it was possible to conclude that God did not know she was sick, and that, as a consequence, she could not really know she was sick - she was merely believing it - and therefore disease could be properly classified as merely a belief, a false belief about herself, that she could reject as she would any other falsity. She was reminded of the statement of the prophet Habakkuk, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (Hab. ). She began to reason from the standpoint of that which was true rather than from the standpoint of that which was not true, though obviously apparent.
Previously, prayer had meant to her merely supplication. Now, for the first time, she learned something of prayer from another standpoint, the standpoint of affirmation and denial. She learned also that the primary purpose of prayer or treatment in Christian Science is to glorify and honor the presence and power of God. This prayer affirms that to be real which is of God, whether or not it is humanly apparent. It denies the reality of that which is not of God, regardless of how humanly apparent it seems to be. At first, it seemed rather illogical and difficult to affirm the presence of that which did not seem to be present, and to deny the presence of that which seemed very evident. But she agreed that it was important to glorify and honor God rather than material sense.
At the time Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always" (John , 42). In this case, Jesus gave thanks for the healing before the healing was apparent. So, in the case of this woman, the divine facts of man's spiritual identity were affirmed - the fact that man made in the image and likeness of God is perfect, harmonious, immortal. The generally accepted belief that man is imperfect, inharmonious, and mortal was denied - utterly rejected - regardless of how real this belief appeared to be. She was enabled to see, through this scientific prayer, that it was possible to become spiritually aware of the true facts about herself even before they were evidenced humanly in an improved condition of mind and body. Likewise, it was possible to become aware of the nothingness of disease even before it disappeared. Relief in her case came almost immediately, and within a period of two weeks she was enjoying normal health.
This leads to a consideration of the subject of this lecture: "Christian Science: A Prophetical religion." Prophecy has to do with spiritual seeing, with seeing spiritually, or from a spiritual, rather than from a material, standpoint. The substance of this spiritual perception is divine intelligence. In the Christian Science textbook, prophecy has these definitions: "spiritual evidence opposed to material sense;" "disappearance of material sense before the conscious facts of spiritual Truth;" and "Christian Science, with which can be discerned the spiritual fact of whatever the material senses behold" (Science and Health 585:9-10; 593:4; 585:10-11).
We perceive the things of Spirit only through the spiritual senses. Spirit and all things spiritual can be understood spiritually, but not materially. Matter is the unlikeness, the opposite of Spirit in every respect. Spirit and matter no more mingle than light and darkness. Where Spirit is, matter is not; just as where light is, darkness is not.
Spirit being infinite, if matter exists at all it must exist outside infinity. But there is no outside to infinity because infinity is all-inclusive, all-embracing. To admit that there is something apart from, outside of, or opposed to infinity, is to deny infinity itself. And this is exactly what matter does and what it is. It is merely the denial or negation of Spirit, and that which denies Spirit cannot understand Spirit, and therefore cannot deny it. The belief that Spirit and matter unite in creation is pantheism.
Now, such truths as these have been hinted at in human philosophies, but they have been considered mere abstractions by most people. What philosophy hints at, Christian Science explains and demonstrates as being most practical in redeeming human consciousness from materialistic doctrines, which merely perpetuate and multiply enslaving errors of belief.
Spiritual seeing, or seeing the spiritual fact, involves unseeing, or seeing through, the material falsity. It also involves foreseeing, or seeing a spiritual fact before it becomes humanly apparent. Whatever is revealed to human consciousness as a spiritual fact must appear tangibly in present human experience because of the Christianly scientific relationship which exists between the divine and the human.
"The scientific statement of being"
At each Sunday service, the First Reader in Christian Science churches reads, from the Christian Science textbook, what Mrs. Eddy has termed "the scientific statement of being" (Science and Health, p. 468). It reads, "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual."
This statement does not deny life, truth, intelligence, or substance, but it does deny that they are material. As infinite Mind is all-embracing, it must be All-in-all. Infinite Mind is infinitely expressed and the manifestations of Mind are forever embraced in the infinitude of Mind itself. Manifestations of Mind are ideas of Mind, hence the life, the truth, the intelligence, and the substance of each individual idea are spiritual. These ideas are the creations of Spirit and so constitute spiritual creation.
Man, the image and likeness of God, is idea. Everything that is true about him is spiritual. Man forever images or reflects the nature and character of his divine Principle - the divine source, cause, origin of his being. The universe of God's creating is the universe of spiritual ideas, the identity of each idea being forever maintained by God in absolute perfection, untouched by the material beliefs about it.
Matter as Nothing
Christian Science has a divine mission to fulfill, and will fulfill its mission in the individual experience of each one of us as human thought accepts the allness of Spirit and the nothingness of matter. Think of it - Spirit cannot be all to you until matter becomes nothing to you. The allness of Spirit and the nothingness of matter, the fact that man is not material, he is spiritual, will become clearer and clearer to you as the revelation of spiritual Truth disposes of the mysticism of materiality in your consciousness.
Christ Jesus shared with his students his understanding of spiritual facts. He opened their eyes to see as he saw. With the skill and wisdom of an inspired teacher he elucidated metaphysical points. When he spoke of himself as the human Jesus, he referred to himself as the Son of man. But when he spoke of himself as Christ, he referred to his sonship with God. This is the spiritual significance of the term Christ Jesus.
The term "Christ" needs to be understood by each one of us if we would gain a proper sense of our sonship with God. You will find the teachings of Christian Science clear and helpful on this point. It was through Christ that Jesus did his wonderful works, and this Christ antedated Jesus - yes, antedated Abraham. It is Christ as defined in Science and Health as "the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (p. 332), that is performing the works of spiritual healing through Christian Science today. Jesus was the messenger, Christ the message.
To determine the depth of his students' spiritual perception, he asked them this question (Matt. ), "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" They replied, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets." Then said he, "But whom say ye that I am?" Simon replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." How joyously Jesus accepted this answer to his question! It was proof that human thought had so yielded to spiritual Truth that it was able to perceive this basic spiritual fact. In place of crediting the human, corporeal Jesus with supernatural power to perform miracles beyond the ability of others to attain; or in place of considering him a reincarnated prophet, Simon discerned in Jesus' works of healing the spiritual idea or Christ, referred to by Mrs. Eddy, as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (Science and Health, p. 583).
"Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona," replied Jesus, "For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." In other words, God, Spirit, revealed to Simon the spiritual fact of what the material senses were beholding. Then Jesus continued, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. -18).
This rock, which Mrs. Eddy interprets as "the God-power which lay behind Peter's confession of the true Messiah" (Science and Health, p. 138), is the cornerstone of Christian Science. The Church of Christ is built first in the individual consciousness of each man or woman who becomes spiritually enlightened sufficiently to discern spiritual facts and to separate the real from the unreal. This spiritual idea of Church, cherished in thought, naturally leads one to identify himself with the Church of Christ, Scientist - its outward manifestation. And the Church of Christ, Scientist, welcomes into its membership those who recognize its spiritual nature. The one who is building Church in his own consciousness will not lose the light which Christ imparts to it so long as he heeds "what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 2:7) because, as Mrs. Eddy says, "divine Mind is its own interpreter" (Science and Health, p. 577). The gates of hell cannot prevail against this Church, or against the one who is building it daily in consciousness and manifesting it daily in his life.
Christian Science is the fulfillment of the Master's prophecy concerning the coming of the Comforter, or Spirit of truth, teaching us all things, and bringing all things to our remembrance (see John 14:15-26). It enables us to do the works of healing which Christ Jesus said would give evidence of a correct understanding of God and man's spiritual relationship to Him.
If you will accept this lecture as a cup of cold water in Christ's name instead of the offering of a human being; if you will accept the fact that this lecture, being Mind's unfoldment of itself to you, is designed to meet your present need for spiritual enlightenment; if you will cherish the message rather than judging favorably or unfavorably the messenger, you will have some appreciation of what Peter saw when he acknowledged the living Christ.
Christian Scientists are but touching the hem of the Christly garment. We are putting off the old for the new, the material for the spiritual, as rapidly as possible. We do not claim to have as yet reached the full stature of manhood in Christ. But what we have already attained in this direction gives such promise and proof as to encourage us to accept Christian Science as the second appearing of Christ.
The Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" are united in divine Science; and what God hath joined together no man can put asunder. In the Church whose cornerstone is Christ, Truth, is to be found safety and security from every device of a suppositional evil power. This is why Christian Scientists accept the Bible and Science and Health as their only Pastor in the study of this new-old religion: new, because it reveals the "new man"; old, because the unfolding of Christian Science can be traced in an unbroken line from the first account of creation in Genesis through Revelation.
Our church services are devoid of personal preaching, but we have inspired sermons which we may study daily as well as hear read in church on Sundays. These sermons are "undivorced from truth, uncontaminated and unfettered by human hypotheses, and divinely authorized" (Explanatory Note, Christian Science Quarterly). That these Lesson-Sermons have proved to be most valuable in establishing the teachings of Christian Science in the lives of its adherents is attested to by all who have perceived their spiritual nature and divine potentialities.
In the home life of Christian Scientists, parents and children make a practice of studying their Lesson daily, and then seek to apply in the home, the school, the office, factory, or shop whatever they can make practical from their study of the Lesson-Sermons. The spiritual education of children is very important and should not be neglected. In the home where the Lesson-Sermons are regularly studied, and where there is an earnest effort to have them yield their full measure of spiritual enlightenment, there is found a unity of purpose which makes for cooperation and mutual respect. Spiritual growth and development bring forth in both children and adults a wholesome respect for moral values, and encourage living up to high moral and ethical standards
The Word of God is the creative action of Mind, forming the thought and determining the experience of each individual who yields to it. Our Lesson-Sermons focus the teachings of Christian Science upon the problems of mankind, individually and collectively. Many observing students have found in the current Lesson-Sermon the healing truth especially needed to solve their everyday problems.
Christian Science Sunday Schools
The Christian Science Sunday Schools invite pupils up to the age of twenty years to learn of man's relationship to God and how they can live honest, healthy, and useful lives. Young folks who are encouraged by parents to make spiritual education an important part of their lives usually succeed in their other studies better than they otherwise would, because they understand man's oneness with divine Mind, the source of all intelligence. They usually become amenable to laws and regulations, and respect authority more than they otherwise would, because they understand something of the government and control of divine Principle.
Occasionally, however, modern education and material ways of living may confuse the thought of boys and girls who, up to a certain point, have accepted without question the teachings of Christian Science. Such experiences are difficult for both parents and young folks. This possibility needs to be guarded against by laying a good foundation in the daily study of the Bible and Science and Health, and in appropriate periods of prayer or silent communion with God. Especially should the importance of systematic metaphysical work in the handling of everyday problems be recognized.
Sometime or other each one of us may have our wilderness experience, which will test the quality of our faith and understanding. These young folks who are having such experiences have a right to expect our prayerful spiritual support rather than criticism or condemnation. A very helpful experience has encouraged one mother to be grateful for the realization that as a child accepts basic spiritual truths, even without apparently understanding them, these truths remain in consciousness to guide and protect, regardless of the circumstances.
Her daughter, a young woman in her early twenties, called a Christian Science practitioner and asked, "Is it possible for me to have help in Christian Science?" The practitioner had never met the young woman, but had learned from her mother that the daughter had gone to the Christian Science Sunday School and then had apparently turned completely away from Christian Science, and thought she wanted nothing more to do with it.
When the practitioner assured her that she could be helped in Christian Science, the young woman said, "Oh, I am so scared." It appeared that some very disturbing bodily symptoms had developed, and she had gone to a physician, who told her that she would have to submit to an immediate operation for a serious thyroid condition. After a short talk with the practitioner, she hung up the receiver. When she called on him two or three days later, this is what she reported: Immediately after their talk, she had felt an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude take possession of her. She said, "I found myself grateful for Christian Science, and particularly for the Christian Science Sunday School." This seemed so unusual, because she had thought that her Sunday School experience was of no particular value. With this gratitude came clearly to her thought many of the spiritual truths she had learned. They seemed wonderful to her. The unfoldment continued for some time.
Without realizing what she was doing, she placed her hand to her throat, and was surprised to find that the enlargement had disappeared, and with it the distressing pressure that had bothered her for some time. Eagerly she reached for her mirror, and found that her eyes were normal. She then looked at her limbs, and found that they were normal. She recognized that she had been instantaneously healed. She returned to her work the next day and put in her full nine hours. She bought a Christian Science Quarterly, dusted off her Bible and Science and Health, and resumed the daily study of the Lesson-Sermons. Is not that what you would have done under the same circumstances?
The Need of the Hour
There is taking place in the world today an acute mental and moral chemicalization. To those unacquainted with the nature of the spiritual leaven which is leavening the lump of human thought, the symptoms attending this chemicalization may appear to be quite alarming. However, in the light of Christian Science, it is clearly seen that the disturbing elements in the world will ultimately be dissolved in the crucible of scientific Christianity. For, let it be remembered, Christianity as Jesus taught and demonstrated it is a great moral and spiritual force which is destined to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Our attention should be directed to those basic underlying realities which unite men and women in one spiritual brotherhood. The one great need of the hour is consistent daily prayer, and the great prayer which must eventually awaken mankind to the presence of the healing Christ is the Lord's Prayer.
Referring to this prayer, Mrs. Eddy has written, "All Christian churches have one bond of unity, one nucleus or point of convergence, one prayer, - the Lord's Prayer. It is matter for rejoicing that we unite in love, and in this sacred petition with every praying assembly on earth, - 'Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven' " (Pulpit and Press, p. 22).
The first chapter of the Christian Science textbook is significantly devoted to the subject of "Prayer." It consists of only seventeen pages, but in all religious or scientific literature no more helpful pages may be found. The first paragraph of this chapter contains these words (p. 1): "Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation, are God's gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind."
The Christianization of mankind is of utmost importance, and the place for it to begin is in individual human consciousness - in yours and mine. God's gracious means for accomplishing this are "prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation." The question which you and I must settle in our own hearts is how much are we willing to pray, to watch, and to work - with self-immolation - for the Christianization and health of mankind?
With prophetic foresight, Mrs. Eddy points clearly to the ultimate result of the Christianization of mankind. In Science and Health she writes (p. 340): "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars;
fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, - whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuals the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed."
[Published in The Marion County Mail of Indianapolis, Indiana, March 14, 1947.]