Christian Science: The Dawn of a New Day

 

Ralph E. Wagers, C.S.B.

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

My friends: Something of interest will soon occur, which we are all inclined to take rather for granted. In a few hours tomorrow will become today. When this new day dawns, I ask you to declare with the Psalmist (Ps. 118:24), "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Such an attitude will prepare you to see this day as God's gift to you, not merely a repetition of other days, but one that is brand new - yes, fresh, original, and full of promise. Yesterday's sowing is ripe for harvest today.

In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy (Pref., p. vii), is this encouraging statement: "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings." Such leaning involves faith and understanding - a faith that is positive and impelling, an understanding which can distinguish between truth and error and stand on the side of Truth. We read in Proverbs (3:5,6): "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." So why not rise and greet each new day as a wonderful occasion to lean on God, to gain more of the faith and understanding that removes all burdens.

 

Greeting the Dawn

A northwoods friend and I once determined to see just what the dawn was like. We took his canoe and paddled about a secluded lake most of the night, not only to be on hand at the first sign of a new day but also to discern the rich beauties of wilderness, silence, and solitude. Finally a soft gray light appeared on the horizon. The light spread, silhouetting the tall pine trees that lined the shore. Suddenly the whole heaven above and the landscape below were aglow with light. It was a magnificent spectacle, and for a time we were silent, moved by the glory of it. Then my friend said, with deep reverence, "How like the coming of the Christ!"

I have often thought of that sunrise in the wilderness and of my friend's remark, particularly when things have seemed rather dark in my experience, when it has seemed difficult to discern the presence of good, and when the illusions of evil have seemed to obscure my perception of God's light and power. The night was dark, indeed, as we paddled over that lake, but we were expectant. We knew the light would come - and it did. My friends, there is a similarity between the dawning of this day and God's spiritual day, defined by Mrs. Eddy in her textbook (p. 584) as "The irradiance of Life; light, the spiritual idea of Truth and Love." In other words, God's day is really the coming of the Christ to consciousness. No mental or moral darkness can persist before the light of this day.

The irradiance of Life was revealed throughout the whole earthly experience of Jesus of Nazareth. The distinction made by Christian Science between the terms Jesus and Christ magnifies rather than belittles the life of him who is properly referred to as the Son of man. "The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus," writes Mrs. Eddy (Science and Health, p. 25). This Christ-activity enabled Jesus to fulfill his healing ministry, and this same Christ-activity enables us to follow his every footstep on and up to complete salvation from sin and disease.

 

Mary Baker Eddy, a Discoverer

What greater dawn could ever be conceived than the dawning of the divine light of Christian Science to Mary Baker Eddy? Throughout her life Mrs. Eddy had shown a tendency to look above and beyond the common teaching that being, or life, must be defined in terms of matter. Even as a child her thought reached out continuously to the spiritual, to God, for comfort in behalf of herself and all who were in need.

But the time came when she found herself facing death due to severe injuries incurred   in an accident. She was told that material means could offer no hope of healing her. It was then that the Christ, speaking to her through her Bible, flooded her thought and lifted her to a higher sense of reality as spiritual, not material. She was instantly healed.

It is well to remember that it was at the darkest period of her life that the light dawned upon her waiting thought. Speaking of this experience, she writes in part (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 23) under the heading "Emergence into Light": "Previously the cloud of mortal mind seemed to have a silver lining; but now it was not even fringed with light. Matter was no longer spanned with its rainbow of promise. The world was dark. . . . The senses could not prophesy sunrise or starlight.

"Thus it was when the moment arrived of the heart's bridal to more spiritual existence. When the door opened, I was waiting and watching; and lo, the bridegroom came! The character of the Christ was illuminated by the midnight torches of Spirit. My heart knew its Redeemer. . . . Being was beautiful, its substance, cause, and currents were God and His idea. I had touched the hem of Christian Science."

Reverend Irving C. Tomlinson had a long and close association with our Leader. In a book entitled "Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy" he relates many interesting things which occurred during the time he was in her home. He tells us (p. 44) that Mrs. Eddy, referring to Science and Health, said, "I could not originate such a book as Science and Health. . . When I came to the writing of it each day, I did not know what I should write until my pen was taken up and I was ready to begin. It was divine Mind expressing itself."

Reverend Tomlinson also wrote of our Leader (p. 45), "In the face of opposition greater than the world had known since the advent of Christianity, she would not be swayed from her God-appointed task." "It was as natural for Mrs. Eddy to heal," he remarked (p. 55), "as for most people to see and speak. Receptive to God's guidance, ears open to His message, she was ever seeking to be more and more obedient, to love more, to understand God better."

I would like to give you another interesting quotation here. The Reverend Frank L. Phalen, one-time resident of Concord, New Hampshire, and pastor of the Unitarian Church, moved to Fairhaven, Massachusetts. While there he preached a sermon which was printed in the Fairhaven Star. He said in part (Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, p. 149): "I know Mrs. Eddy, and I do not know one single fact against her . . . .I have never met, or seen, or heard of anybody who could prove in a court of law anything against her purity, her honesty, her spirituality. . . . She practices what she preaches. This confirms my opinion that Mrs. Eddy, to speak very moderately and with a careful conservatism, is a remarkable woman. She is the most remarkable woman I know anything about in Europe or America at this moment."

Mrs. Eddy discovered the spiritual Science of Jesus' teaching, therefore Christian Scientists are devout Christians. They recognize Christianity to be the one dependable moral and spiritual force in the world today. That is why they strive to understand the teachings of the Master in their spiritual import that they may bring them forth in their daily lives - making the Word flesh, so to speak.

 

A Businessman Sees the Dawn

In a parable (Luke 15:11-24), Jesus spoke of the younger of two sons, who asked his father for the portion of goods that fell to him. Receiving it, he proceeded to waste it in riotous living. Eventually he was reduced to feeding swine. Things looked very dark. The night of his folly had overtaken him. Then appeared the wonderful experience of coming to himself - the dawn of a new day for him - which we would speak of as the coming of the Christ to his consciousness.

Immediately he arose and began his return to his father's house, willing, if necessary, to be as a hired servant. But what happened? The father ran to meet him! The conclusion may be that while, through ignorance and sin, the son had seemed to separate himself from the father, this had never really separated the father from him. Divine Love can never be separated from its idea.

When, in mental darkness, we think of ourselves as mortals, we lose sight of our divine sonship and act as though we were separated from God. One of our hymns, however, the words of which were written by our revered Leader (Hymn 253), declares, 

 

"And o'er earth's troubled, angry sea

I see Christ walk,

And come to me, and tenderly,

Divinely talk."

 

This Christ is hourly - yes, continuously - coming, tenderly, divinely talking to us. Listening to what it reveals, we find ourselves in the light of a new day; we recognize our sonship with the Father and return from our fruitless wandering to a future full of promise.

This is what actually occurred in the experience of a man with whom I am personally acquainted. He was considered to be a successful businessman. At the height of his career he became an alcoholic, and he also developed tuberculosis. He weighed only one hundred and twelve pounds. Doctors told his wife that he had only a few months to live.

During this trying period the wife developed a serious organic condition, became interested in Christian 'Science, and was healed. After considerable urging on her part, her husband, though skeptical, finally agreed to try Christian Science. He had not been reduced, literally, to feeding swine, but at no time was the prodigal son in greater mental darkness than he seemed to be in at that moment.

He told me that in his first visit with a Christian Science practitioner he was impressed with the assurance that the Christ was present - ready, willing, and able to heal him. He learned that as the Father's beloved son, the image and likeness of God, he was free from enslaving appetites, that he was not susceptible to degenerating suggestions of world thought, but honored, upright, and satisfied. He was told that he could cultivate a thirst for righteousness instead of for liquor, and that the entertaining with which he needed to be concerned was the entertaining of a higher sense of God and of his relationship to Him. Then he would be able to go forth and give of that which was unfolding to him of God. In that one visit the burden of condemnation was lifted. The terrible sense of fear was overcome, being replaced with the knowledge that God is our loving Father and that the Christ is an ever-present help.

The glow of this promise was like the dawn of a new day to him. The cold night of ignorance and sin yielded to a completely new sense of himself. He virtually devoured the Christian Science textbook, accepting what he could understand and earnestly striving to understand more. The hemorrhaging stopped, and he gradually regained not only his self-respect, but also his strength. The desire for tobacco as well as for liquor was quickly overcome. As he viewed his business activity in the light of his advancing spiritual understanding, it became even more satisfactory than it had been before.

Occasionally he had an opportunity to explain to a friend or acquaintance what it was that was working this transformation in him. Some time later he gave up his business and devoted his entire time to the public practice of Christian Science. When one after another of the business problems of his patients was solved through the same dawning of the Christ-idea that had brought release to him, he saw that he had really not gotten out of business at all. He was gaining a better sense of business than ever and he was able to share it with others. Today both he and his wife are happily engaged in the public practice of Christian Science and are helping others to solve not only business problems, but all sorts of difficulties through the healing action of the Christ, illumining human consciousness.

 

Man Is Spiritual

What proof have you that there is God? Would it not be the consciousness of your own existence? Being aware that you are necessitates being aware that you exist as effect, not as cause. There must be a cause of your being, a primal cause, one great First Cause, and there are few who object to referring to this cause as God, not a physical entity, but as the divine power or all-pervading Spirit. In the light of our education, however, it may seem difficult for some to agree that the effect of Spirit must be spiritual. But the fact remains that if you start with Spirit, God, as cause, you must conclude that creation or effect is spiritual.

Even those who, at present, consider man and the universe to be simply material look with respect and interest upon the interpretation of Spirit, or God, as cause and of effect as spiritual. They are wondering if, after all, it might not be only from this spiritual standpoint that man will eventually find himself - learn what he really is, and why he is, and how to live in peace with his fellowmen. The coming of this Christ-sense of being to one's consciousness, like the dawn of a new day, is a complete change of viewpoint.

Suppose you had two lenses through which to view an object, one of which made the object appear distorted. Unless you knew that distortion was in the lens, you might conclude that it was in the object itself.  This would of course, be an illusion which could very easily involve you in a great deal of futile speculation, confusion, and effort. For instance, suppose the object was a table. What would be accomplished if you attempted to remove the distortion seen through the lens by making a problem of the table? You would accomplish nothing until the lens by which you were judging the table was corrected or replaced.

Now, if you look at yourself or another through the lens of material sense, what do you see? You see a mortal, a physical organism, and you see yourself or him as subject to all manner of disease and difficulty, of enslaving beliefs and evil tendencies. But the fact is that the mortality you apparently see is not in what you are looking at. It is in the lens through which you are looking.

Suppose I am looking at man through the lens of spiritual sense and you are looking at him through the lens of material sense. We would be looking at the same man, but we would not be seeing the same thing. If each of us tried to reconcile the other to what he was seeing, we would draw farther and farther apart in our thinking rather than closer together. I might never know what you were talking about, and you might always wonder how I could be so contrary.

This explains why Christian Science is so often misunderstood and misrepresented. The difficulty arises from viewing things from opposite standpoints. Even partially to understand one another we would have to look through the same lens. As this is a lecture on Christian Science, and I am interested in discussing man and the universe from the standpoint of Spirit, I shall ask you to look with me, not through the lens of physical sense, or matter, but through the lens of spiritual sense, or Christian Science.

 

Two Accounts of Creation

Corresponding with these two lenses or viewpoints are the two separate, distinct, and opposing accounts of creation in Genesis. When you return to your homes, will you take the few minutes necessary to read the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis?  Realize that it is a spiritual account, to be viewed from the standpoint of Spirit as cause. You will find that it includes no sin, no disease, no death. You will read (Gen. 1:31), "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." No mention is made in this account of anything being wrong with creation or with man. On the contrary, man is presented as the perfect image of God. Furthermore, please remember that you are that man.

Then go on to the second or material account in the second chapter of Genesis, where you find the words, "But there went up a mist from the earth." Here is the distortion, the clouded lens, which obscures the true sense of creation and exposes human thought and experience to endless devastating speculation. It completely distorts the Science of the first account. Now, What are you going to do? Will you try to reconcile the two opposite accounts? Will you try to explain an imperfect material creation as the outcome of a perfect spiritual cause, or God? My friends, these two accounts cannot be reconciled, because they are opposites.

This is the important point: There are not two creations, two universes, two men, one spiritual and the other material. What we are dealing with is lenses, that it is, differing interpretations or viewpoints. If we try to reconcile opposites we shall fail, and the distortion will continue to appear in everything we observe. And the worst of it is, we will blame God for having made what we are seeing. That is where most of us were before Christian Science straightened us out.

Someone may ask, "But how does Christian Science explain the physical universe?" The physical universe is recognized as being nothing but a false distorted sense, an entirely erroneous concept, of the one spiritual universe.

When through Christian Science you are able to see in yourself spiritual qualities that you have never seen before, you will find yourself increasingly dissatisfied with the erroneous human doctrines and conclusions that constitute the distortion in your lens. You will find it possible to place evil and matter, all that is unspiritual, where they scientifically belong, in the realm of distorted sense, of illusion - yes, of deception. You will realize that whatever is imperfect and seems to require healing, regardless of the form it assumes, is simply part of the distorted viewpoint. It is never what or where material sense claims it to be.

Consider disease, for example. If disease were to be explained as a physical condition in a matter body - that is, if the trouble were in the table rather than in the lens - Christian Science treatment, which is wholly spiritual, could not effectively deal with it. But, since evil is basically deception, therefore the operation of Truth, of Science, in human consciousness can correct the distorted sense and so dispose of the false evidence, and nothing else really can. The best part of it is, one who is healed in this manner becomes less susceptible to deception, and so to disease, than he was before - a fact to which many Christian Scientists can testify.

As we learn to reject what material sense presents, we will not be so burdened by the critical, and sometimes hostile, attitude of relatives, friends, and neighbors. We will approach the study of Christian Science with the conviction that we, too, can fulfill the Bible promises of healing and deliverance, through Christ which strengthens us. We will become less concerned with, and less disturbed by, the material name, nature, and history of the difficulty. Our fears will proportionately disappear, and healing will result.

 

A Healing of Heart Disease

Take, for instance, what might be termed a condition of heart disease. From the standpoint of material sense we would be apt to believe that because of such a condition one's life is in jeopardy, because it depends upon a physical organism. But, in reality, it is not a physical organ but God who is the source of man's life or action; nor is such an organ responsible for keeping man alive. God constitutes the only Life there is.

One who was healed of a condition of heart trouble realized that because, as is stated in Science and Health (p. 283), "Mind is the source of all movement, and there is no inertia to retard or check its perpetual and harmonious action," the only action there really could be is the action of divine Mind. Its perpetual and harmonious action is always unlabored, unfailing, unceasing. The only action, then, is restful action, and the only rest is active rest. This woman realized that these were the spiritual facts about what the material senses were beholding as heart action. These truths ruled out of her thought the dark images of disease and the fear of it - all the distortions which false sense was presenting in regard to the case. She saw that she lived under the control and harmony of divine law and of divine law alone. She saw that, therefore, she was not subject to fear, generally   accepted medical concepts such as infection, injury, overwork, fatigue, or hereditary tendencies. Nor was she subject to any phase of morbid emotionalism. The material belief had been replaced by the spiritual idea. She was healed, and has been active and strong ever since. This healing occurred many years ago.

Such experiences explain why Christian Science does not leave the sick in the hands of material methods of healing, why it does not limit its efforts simply to trying to help people overcome sin in preparation for the hereafter.

 

Jesus' Preparation for His Ministry

No engineer was ever better prepared for his work than Christ Jesus was for his ministry. When, at the age of twelve years, he was found in the temple, discussing with the elders the deep things of God, all were amazed at his understanding and keen spiritual perception. He was only thirty when he was recognized as the Way-shower, whose teachings and demonstrations were to inaugurate a whole new era of religious thought.

Two important events completed his preparation for his great mission. First, he was baptized of John. You will remember this wonderful experience, recorded in Matthew (3:16,17); "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Immediately afterward came what is referred to as his experience in the wilderness when he was tempted of the devil - an experience which deeply concerns each one of us. Why? Because we, too, must have our wilderness experiences. That is, we also must prove our superiority to the suggestions of Satan, evil, if we would be followers of the Master and demonstrate our God-given heritage of freedom, harmony, and dominion.

To understand what is meant by wilderness, it is helpful to consider the definition of this word in Science and Health (p. 597). The definition is in two parts. In the first part is indicated the attitude of the human or personal sense toward a severe testing time. It reads, "Loneliness; doubt; darkness." The latter part brings out the richer meaning, the spiritual sense of wilderness. It reads, "Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence." How helpful and constructive it is to think of our testing times as simply a vestibule to higher freedom!

This vestibule is not a place, but a state of thought. It is something to go through rather than to remain in. And going through it does not necessarily involve time. The mere passing of days, or even years, does not usher us into the kingdom of heaven, nor can it keep us out.

Let us consider Jesus' wilderness experience and draw some helpful conclusions therefrom. The voice from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," was immediately challenged in the tempter's words, "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." Was not this the temptation, among other things, to consider matter rather than Spirit as the source of supply? Such materialization of thought and method, if it had been accepted, would have defeated the Masters mission at the very outset.

When, in our healing work, we yield to the temptation to try to heal matter, or to try to heal on a material basis rather than by the word of God, we prolong our wilderness experience unnecessarily. We paddle about our dark lake longer than we need to, waiting for the dawn. When the tempter would induce us to look to matter to satisfy human needs, is not this like trying to turn stones into bread? We need to remember how the master completely annulled this false suggestion by saying, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Here was the clear declaration that man is spiritually sustained. His ability to see through the claims of evil, and to unsee the false claim that matter is substance, accounted for the Master's ability instantaneously to heal all manner of disease.

The tempter then sought to bring about Jesus' own self-destruction by setting him on a pinnacle of the temple and saying unto him, "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone" (Matt. 4:6). Similarly the voice of evil might tempt us to believe that it does not matter what we do humanly since God will take care of us anyway. But, my friends, when we respond to human will instead of divine wisdom we are not safe. Mrs. Eddy writes (Science and Health, p. 19), "If living in disobedience to Him, we ought to feel no security, although God is good." When we permit ourselves to use human will power instead of Christian Science to achieve a good purpose, it is like casting ourselves down from the pinnacle of the temple - tempting God, so to speak. But the Master rejected this suggestion immediately, saying, "It is written again, Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God." Notice how evil would quote the Scriptures and pervert their meaning in order to accomplish its wrong purpose. How careful we must be not to try to justify wrong methods in the name of Christian Science!

Mrs. Eddy once said that Christian Scientists should be instruments of much good to the world. One student commented, "Yes, if we have love enough." Mrs. Eddy responded: "Love alone is not sufficient. You must also manifest divine wisdom if you would be of real service to others" (Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, p. 85).

Finally, we read that the tempter took Jesus up into an exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them and said to him, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." How often in human relationships, and in business in general, comes the temptation, as it did to the businessman of whom we have spoken, to bow down and worship mammon, to conciliate society, to compromise with wrong methods in order to achieve popularity and success. What was the Master's answer to this temptation? He said emphatically, "Get thee hence, Satan" (Matt. 4:10). When we answer thus, what will be the result? The devil will flee. The temptation will fail. Angels, or God's thoughts, will come and minister unto us.

The wilderness experience of the Master so equipped and strengthened him that even the persecution and crucifixion which followed could only bless him and his ministry, lifting him to a sense of peace above all temptation and suffering, above everything that the carnal mind could devise against him. And, my friends, every wilderness experience can do the same for us.

 

Turning Wholeheartedly to God

If you feel that you have worked long, and perhaps unsuccessfully, to overcome some deceptive phase of material sense, why not turn more wholeheartedly to God, Spirit? To do this you will turn away from the flesh with such devotion to God that your problem will diminish into insignificance in comparison with the glorious dawn of the new day which is awaiting you. Realize that a false material sense of yourself and of your existence is the devil with which you must successfully contend on the basis of the Word of God, divine Science. Realize, too, that divine Science is of God.

Do not permit yourself to be deceived by the temptation of material sense to believe that you or a loved one may not be able to be saved through the healing power of the Christ. Do not allow yourself to believe that the wilderness is interminable and that there is no dawn for you. Christian Science is God's law in action. It has a divine mission, which is destined inevitably to fulfill itself in each one of us. Doubt and fear of defeat are merely suggestions of the devil, false material sense. They are only the distortions in the lens claiming to obscure the light of God's day. In the spiritual universe and spiritual man there has never been defeat or failure and there never will be. In divine Science there is no incurable disease, no unforgivable sin, no unsolvable problem, no doomed man. As the Christ transforms your consciousness through the action and influence of spiritual ideas, loving thoughts within you, a change for the better will occur in your human experience.

 

Facing the Light

Perhaps the night is farther spent than you realize. Perhaps the day - God's day - is nearer at hand than you dared to hope. The allness of good and the utter unreality of affliction - this is what must appear as one faces the light of the new day. Be sure you face the light rather than the shadows of fear and doubt, until in the noontide of the new day no shadows are left. And remember, as God's image, as divine Mind's own expression, it is no more possible for you to fail than it is for God to fail. Failure is merely a phase of distorted sense, of thought dwelling in darkness. It has no place in divine reality. It is no part of man; it is no part of you.

And so, my friends, it you have been struggling in the wilderness, paddling your canoe, as it were, through a dark and troubled night, hopeful but uncertain, take a firm control of your course. Be as certain of the Christ as you are of the dawn, and accept its promise, knowing that it heralds the day you have been looking for. Go on and take possession for yourself of the divine gift of spiritual well-being.

Then you will fulfill Paul's admonition to the Colossians (1:12,13), "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son."

 

[Published in The Milwaukee County (Wisconsin) News, March 22, 1956.]

 

 

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