Christian Science: The Promised Comforter
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
A Christian Science lecture often encourages a listener to become better acquainted with the Bible; particularly with the first four books of the New Testament. These books record the life history of Christ Jesus, a life which was so important to humanity that it brought forth a new calendar. There has never been a time when an understanding of his life was more important than it is now. And there are encouraging signs that humanity is turning in that direction more than ever before.
The Promised Messiah
What Jesus said about himself, the
purpose of his life, and the nature of his mission, is essential to one who
would acquaint himself with the true significance of Christianity. It is
evident that he recognized his earthly mission to be in fulfillment of
prophecy. In the Gospel according to
Luke writes of the Master:
"And he came to
Luke also records a conversation Jesus had with two of his disciples after his resurrection: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). Later, the disciples said one to another: "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32).
The Promised Comforter
Jesus recognized that he had a particular work to finish, and he finished it. A part of his work was to prepare thought for a fuller unfoldment of Christ, Truth. Fulfilling the prophecy concerning himself, he forged another link in the chain of prophetic promise: "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:15-17). Revealing the nature of this Comforter, Jesus said: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).
Jesus then had this to say about
the need for further preparation in order that spiritual teaching might be
better understood and utilized: "I have yet many things to say unto you,
but ye cannot bear them now.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all
truth" (John ,13).
What a wonderful promise! And what of its fulfillment? In the Christian Science
textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker
Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes (p. 55): "In
the words of
Centuries elapsed between the prophecy and the fulfillment of the appearing of the Messiah. A similar period elapsed between the prophecy and the fulfillment of the appearing of the Comforter. These were periods of mental and spiritual preparation. Comparing the unfoldment of Christ in human consciousness to the growth of grain, Jesus made use of the illustration, "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (Mark ).
Preparation for the Comforter
In order for the Comforter to fulfill its divine mission and accomplish the greater works to which Jesus referred, it was essential that human thought become spiritually receptive. But this thought must be prepared to think scientifically as well, in order to gain the more impersonal sense of God as divine Principle and of man as divine idea. It was the lack of this scientific sense that was to a great extent responsible for the loss of primitive Christian healing in about the third century.
In an interview with a correspondent
of the New York Herald in 1901, Mrs. Eddy stated her attitude toward the
pursuit of modern material inventions. She declared that we cannot oppose them
and said (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 345):
"They all tend to newer, finer, more etherealized ways of living. They
seek the finer essences. They light the way to the
The word "science" comes from a Latin word meaning "knowledge." It is defined, "knowledge, duly arranged and referred to general truths and principles on which it is founded, and from which it is derived" (Webster). In the Christian Science textbook, Mrs. Eddy writes (p. 123): "Christian Science differs from material science, but not on that account is it less scientific. On the contrary, Christian Science is pre-eminently scientific, being based on Truth, the Principle of all science." In the same book, she writes (p. 313); "Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe. He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause." Neither Jesus nor Mrs. Eddy may have been capable of building or repairing a radio receiving set, but they were able to reclaim the sinner, heal the sick, and raise the dead, through their scientific understanding of the spiritual nature of man and his relationship to God.
There is no valid reason why what is termed science should be confined to the so-called physical realm. And there is every reason to believe that, to the progressive scientific thought, matter will appear more and more to be merely the counterfeit of Spirit. In Christian Science, when the word Science is spelled with a capital "S," it is elevated to its spiritual meaning, just as the words Truth and Mind, spelled with capital letters, are appropriately used as synonyms for God. True Christianity demonstrates the inseparability of Science and religion. That is why this religion is termed Christian Science.
In the final analysis it will be clear to both scientist and religionist that there is no necessary conflict between Spirit and matter, because as is stated in the Christian Science textbook (p. 264): "Matter disappears under the microscope of Spirit." Of special interest to the Christian Scientist in considering Christian Science as the promised Comforter are these words of Mrs. Eddy (ibid., p. 127): "Science is an emanation of divine Mind, and is alone able to interpret God aright. It has a spiritual, and not a material origin. It is a divine utterance, − the Comforter which leadeth into all truth."
The Bible and Religious Freedom
The Christian Science Textbook
In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. ,17). Referring to the authorship of Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy has written (Science and Health, p. 110): "No human pen nor tongue taught me the Science contained in this book, Science and Health; and neither tongue nor pen can overthrow it." It is not possible to compare the Bible with any other book, and the Bible is the only book with which Science and Health may be compared. The substance of both books is divine, not human.
The Nature of Spiritual Unfoldment
Studying these books one finds unfolding within his consciousness an ability to understand them which he did not before possess. The consistent study of these books unfolds the ability to understand and demonstrate the Science they present. As one grows in spiritual stature he appreciates the value of these books, and it is by studying them and applying their teachings that he grows in spiritual stature. The divine Mind imparts the ability to understand the nature of true existence. Truth is self-explanatory, because Mind and Truth are synonymous, and the nature of Mind is to unfold or reveal Truth. Studying and applying the truths revealed in these books one becomes more and more consciously aware of the things of Spirit. Such is the nature of spiritual unfoldment. Since God, Mind, is infinite, and man is His expression, man's unfoldment must be unlimited.
Spiritual Causation and Human Progress
If one is accepting as real the problems incidental to a material sense of existence, he may believe he would prefer to postpone to a more convenient time a consideration of spiritual causation − shall we say until after death? However, a statement in Science and Health shows how important it is for us to give proper consideration to this subject today. It is to be found on page 170, and it reads: "Spiritual causation is the one question to be considered, for more than all others spiritual causation relates to human progress."
In its original presentation, Christianity differed from every other religion in that it was devoted to works rather than to observances. These works were based upon the understanding that as God is the only cause and creator, and God is Spirit, causation must be spiritual. Spiritual causation implies the spiritual nature of effect. Considering God to be the divine Parent, and man to be the divine offspring, it is necessary to recognize that man derives his nature and existence from Spirit. Man, then, is not material; he is spiritual. The one who is willing to test the effect of this spiritually scientific declaration of man's true being will find himself awakening to the truth about himself. The appearing of the truth about himself and the disappearing of the error brings about healing and a satisfying progress in every aspect of human experience.
Christian Science is a practical religion, noticeably lacking in creed and dogma, ritual and ceremony. Because these have been so commonly associated with religion, the inquirer may wonder at the lack of them here. Christian Science makes plain the incompatibility between human creeds and the living presence of Christ; between mortal dogma and healing works; between ritual and divine Science; between ceremony and demonstrable truth. It is the exchange of the material and unreal for the spiritual and real which constitutes Christian Science. Ceremonial observances do nothing in the way of spiritualization of thought, while inspiration unfolds in human consciousness those spiritual ideas which counteract erroneous material beliefs.
Here let us consider the term "prophetical religion." Students of the Bible recognize that 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. Prophetical religion is inspirational in nature; the other is ceremonial. The prophet entertains a spiritual concept of creation. With ever-increasing clarity, prophecy declares the spirituality, the absolute goodness, the unchanging perfection, the immutable purity of God and of man as His image and likeness.
Prophecy, then, has to do with spiritual seeing, with seeing spiritually, or from a spiritual rather than from a material standpoint. Writes Mrs. Eddy in Science and Health (p. 476): "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick."
The early Christian healers were prophets, spiritual seers, beholding in ever-increasing measure "the perfect man," not a perfect mortal, but the perfect man who, as the image and likeness of God, shows forth the holy, sinless, diseaseless, deathless nature of deific Mind, the one divine Being, who causes each manifestation of Himself to be as perfect and complete in nature as He is. In this perfect man the Christian healer sees "God's own likeness." And today, as always, "this correct view of man" heals the sick.
Thus is the office of the Christian Science practitioner defined. He is not a priest, not a minister, not a doctor, but a prophet. His is a prophetical office, and his ministration is effective in the degree that he holds himself spiritually receptive to divine inspiration.
Spiritual Healing Explained
In Science and Health (p. 370) we read: "The body improves under the same regimen which spiritualizes the thought." This explains spiritual healing. Not through ceremonial use of manipulative words, nor by psychological suggestion, but through spiritualization of thought, is the body healed and the human self transformed in Christian Science. What we call the material body is merely the objectification of material thought. Being a mental concept, the body responds to the transforming action of the Mind which is God. As human thought yields to spiritual unfoldment, spiritual ideas appear where material beliefs seem to be exercising a negative influence over the movements of the body, restoring normal action and revealing the orderly control of the divine government.
The healing of a friend of mine shows the practical effect of applying spiritual teaching. For many years she was the victim of a disturbing organic condition. Physicians had agreed that due to an injury at the time of her birth a certain necessary function of the body was impaired.
We began to reason along these lines: If all action is in reality the action of Mind, then it is at all times perfect, harmonious, unlabored. We analyzed this statement in Science and Health (p. 108): "My discovery, that erring, mortal, misnamed mind produces all the organism and action of the mortal body, set my thoughts to work in new channels, and led up to my demonstration of the proposition that Mind is All and matter is naught as the leading factor in Mind-science." Then we turned to this statement (p. 111): "After a lengthy examination of my discovery and its demonstration in healing the sick, this fact became evident to me, − that Mind governs the body, not partially but wholly."
We realized that the functional difficulty was associated with the belief that man is material and that his well-being is of necessity dependent upon and subject to the condition of physical organisms rather than upon divine law. As this phase of material-mindedness yielded to the realization that "Mind is All and matter is naught as the leading factor in Mind-science," we saw that man reflects the perfect action of divine Mind. Through spiritualization of thought it was possible to see this perfect action of the divine Mind rather than some phase of imperfection. The next day the situation was normal and has remained normal ever since.
Science and Christianity
A very illuminating statement in Science and Health indicates the limitless possibilities of Christian Science. It reads (p. 466): "Science will declare God aright, and Christianity will demonstrate this declaration and its divine Principle, making mankind better physically, morally, and spiritually." Let us consider it. As Science and Christianity in their true sense are one and the same thing, it is impossible to separate words and works, message and manifestation, statement and proof, declaration and demonstration. Science declares; Christianity demonstrates. Science declaring God aright is not the human mind declaring its limited concept of Deity. It is the declaration of the truth about cause and effect. Christianity is the action of this declaration in human consciousness, whereby Truth replaces error, health replaces disease, and the primal harmony of God and man is restored in the present experience of mankind.
The term Christianity means not form or ceremony, ritual or creed, doctrine or dogma, but the very spirit of Christ penetrating the veil of materiality and permeating the consciousness and lives of men with such transitional qualities as "humanity, honesty, affection, compassion, hope, faith, meekness, temperance" (ibid., p. 115). Thus the lives of all who are receptive to the liberating Christ, Truth, are transformed.
Are we declaring God aright? We may test our declaration by the effect it has upon us. Into the thought filled with the omnipotence and omnipresence of God can enter no belief of another power. Our declaration of God's allness must be so complete as not to permit any suggestion of evil to be power, influence, or attraction. The unreality of evil is as firmly established in Science as is the allness of good. And it is by denying its reality in declaration and action that we prove man's immunity to evil and his oneness with God, good.
Declaration and Demonstration
A fountain can rise no higher than its source. So our demonstration of harmonious being can rise no higher than our declaration of God's allness. In the practice of Christian Science, our declarations may be higher than our demonstrations, but the opposite is never the case. As our thought becomes more spiritualized, our declarations will be so true, our words will be so in harmony with Truth itself, that they will be immediate in demonstration: our words will be confirmed instantly in works. Jesus said, "Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other" (Mark 3:5). Peter said, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk . . . and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength" (Acts 3:6,7).
Christian Science is today performing works of healing such as those which characterized the practice of primitive Christianity. What is the explanation? It is by declaring God aright and by unfolding the scientific rules by which men and women may understand and apply spiritual truth in their individual lives.
The oneness of Science and Christianity is evidenced in the progressive demonstrations of Christian Scientists. Our highest achievement so far is but a foretaste of greater possibilities. A Christian Scientist who endeavors to be as scientific as he would be Christian, and as Christian as he would be scientific, is sure of success. In fact, it is this and this only that constitutes a successful Christian Scientist. These compassionate words of Mrs. Eddy provide a yardstick for one who would measure his stature as a genuine Christian Scientist (Science and Health, p. 366): "If we would open their prison doors for the sick, we must first learn to bind up the broken-hearted. If we would heal by the Spirit, we must not hide the talent of spiritual healing under the napkin of its form, nor bury the morale of Christian Science in the grave-clothes of its letter. The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love."
The Comforter, or Holy Ghost, which Jesus said the Father would send in his name, is not merely that which comforts us in our affliction as a friend would comfort us. It is that which lifts us out of our affliction through acquainting us with the nature of reality, as distinguished from that which is unreal. The understanding of Christ, Truth, not merely enables us to endure suffering, but to overcome it by recognizing its unreality.
The attitude of established systems of religion and medicine toward Christian Science is becoming more tolerant and kindly as Christian Scientists become more consistent in their presentation of its teachings. Resistance and opposition are recognized as merely evidences of misunderstanding. The greatest area of misunderstanding seems to center in the necessity of departing from the usual material means of treating disease. Let us consider why it is basically impossible to work from two contrary standpoints.
Spiritual and material means are fundamentally opposed to each other and cannot be made to work together. To attempt their combination is to serve two masters. Mrs. Eddy says (ibid., p. 142), "God being All-in-all, He made medicine; but that medicine was Mind. It could not have been matter, which departs from the nature and character of Mind, God. Truth is God's remedy for error of every kind, and Truth destroys only what is untrue." There has never been a mode of dealing with disease so complete and satisfying as that of Christ Jesus. A careful study of the four Gospels will confirm this fact.
It is quite generally believed that these works of healing do not belong to our time: that in modern times, medical systems have superseded the practice of primitive Christian healing. But Christian Scientists are proving that this is not so. Many of your neighbors, and perhaps some of your relatives, have experienced healing in Christian Science after failing to be healed otherwise. And there have been cases where recognized medical doctors not only have been healed through Christian Science, but have found themselves better equipped than they were before to heal the sick when they have engaged in the practice of Christian Science.
Christian Science recognizes disease to be not fact, but deception, regardless of the form it assumes. Any conflict there may seem to be between Christian Science and materia medica revolves around this basic point, and the area of disagreement will be widened, rather than narrowed, as this difference is recognized.
Health, being wholly good, is spiritual in nature, as present as God is present. Health being infinite, there is an abundance of health for everyone. Health is positive; disease is not. Of course it would be stupid, but suppose you tried to reflect a ray of darkness into a light room. You would see how impossible it is for that which is negative to exercise any effect upon that which is positive. But a ray of light displaces darkness in an instant, and without effort or struggle. The only successful and scientific way to dispose of disease is through a spiritual understanding of the true nature of health, the truth that health is ever present. And why is it ever present? Because as is stated in Science and Health (p. 120):
"Health is not a condition of matter, but of Mind." Health, then, is as present as Mind, God, is present, and as irresistible. The appearing of the truth about health in consciousness is the disappearing of the lie about health in experience, just as the appearing of light disposes of the darkness − and disease is nothing but a lie about health.
Christian Scientists' Attitude Toward Mrs. Eddy
Those who have not yet experienced the healing and regenerating power of Christian Science may not readily understand Christian Scientists' attitude toward Mrs. Eddy. We, of course, do not worship or deify her. We are grateful for what she has accomplished in restoring the lost element of Christian healing. If we unintentionally give a misleading sense of our attitude toward our Leader, this is to be regretted. That a lone woman should find herself destined to take her place as the greatest religious leader since the time of Christ Jesus, all through a spiritually scientific sense of Biblical teaching, seems in this age a startling proposition. That a world-wide religious organization should be established by a woman in what is considered to be more or less a man's world is all the more startling. That her propositions should so coincide with the teachings of Christ Jesus and be so contrary to orthodox theology would naturally arouse both profound gratitude and determined antagonism. But is not this the pattern of outstanding religious achievement?
Yielding to the laws which her discovery revealed, Mrs. Eddy found her own life transformed. Through the purging of material beliefs in her consciousness, she became more and more spiritually-minded. This enabled her to see in the teachings and demonstrations of Christ Jesus the operation of spiritual law. Accordingly, she defined Christian Science "as the law of God, the law of good, interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony" (Rudimental Divine Science, p. 1).
The ability to follow a path hidden by dogma and obstructed by mountains of materialistic doctrines required of Mrs. Eddy keen discernment and exceptional pioneering courage. Her mental progress beyond form, ceremony, and ritual was God-directed. Her unwavering obedience to the spiritual teachings of the Master are becoming clearer and clearer to Christian Scientists, and will be better understood by others as Christian Scientists demonstrate more fully the truths she taught.
The Jews of Jesus' day did not recognize his spiritual grandeur. It is unfortunate that they were not prepared to see his Christly nature. But material-mindedness could not grasp the spiritual significance of the prophecy concerning him. So that was rejected which, if understood and accepted, would have saved from recurring experiences of martyrdom.
It was not the person, but the spiritual-mindedness of the Master which separated him from his brethren, and this is also true of Mrs. Eddy. She had great appreciation for all who were engaged in ministering to human needs. She recognized the sublime importance of her mission and lived so close to divine Love that she received of God a greater measure of spiritual strength, sagacity, and discernment than any person − man or woman − has received since the days of Jesus.
Mrs. Eddy justly requires of her followers an honest recognition of her position as Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science and Leader of the movement she established. The requirement is for the growth and protection of the great movement and for the welfare and development of her followers, certainly not for any gratification of personal pride. The more demonstrable one's understanding of Christian Science, the more one values a life so consecrated to a mission as that of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. But we, as her followers, need to watch lest we give others the impression that our affection for our Leader does savor of deification. We owe to her this consideration.
Problems and Answers
It is nearly time to bring this lecture to a close. Before doing so, however, may we consider the proposition that problems are human but the answers are divine? Because that which is divine is infinite, there is a divine answer to every human problem. When the answer appears, the problem disappears. When we think of ourselves as mortals, we invite the problems that vex us. But when we acknowledge with John "now are we the sons of God" (I John 3:2), and carry this acknowledgment to its logical conclusion, we become assured of the answer to our problem.
What if the problem is that of some diseased condition, or some disappointment with accompanying grief? What if the problem has to do with lack − lack of health, of employment, of advancement; with inability to withstand some weakening temptation or loathsome sin? What if the problem has to do with some hereditary tendency, with some phase of temperamental instability; or with some past mistake or wrongdoing? Regardless of the nature of the problem, the answer is at hand. And with the appearing of the answer will come the healing, the correction, the reward, the freedom.
When we think from the standpoint of what we humanly seem to be, we are troubled and sometimes overwhelmed by various problems. But when, through spiritualization of our thinking − and this means through our God-given ability to think spiritually − we become spiritually aware of the truth about ourselves, we identify ourselves with God, the divine source of our being. In God there are no problems.
Have you read the book of Job in the Bible? If not, you have missed something. Here was a man who seemed to be overwhelmed by problems. His friends attempted to comfort him, but they only made him more miserable by justifying his plight from the standpoint of a wholly inadequate sense of God and Job's relationship to Him. When this approach failed to relieve his suffering, or even to satisfy his troubled thought, Elihu brought healing through a wholly right sense of God and man's relationship to Him. He declared: "But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8).
Depending upon this inspiration of the Almighty, Elihu turned Job's thought completely away from a mortal sense of himself to a divine sense of God. He began with the statement: "The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job 33:4). He spoke in his day much as a Christian Science practitioner would speak today. He set forth in language suitable to his time the omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience of God. He rebuked Job's mortal, material sense of himself, and opened his eyes to see what a glorious heritage he had as a son of God.
Elihu's language seems strange to us, but the truths he enunciated are the same truths which are applied in Christian Science treatment today. The result of Elihu's treatment was all that could be wished for.
My friends, we are living in an age that corresponds to the early Christian era. Christian Science is the Comforter promised by Christ Jesus. You are not asked merely to believe this, but to understand and demonstrate it. And as you do, you will find yourself grateful beyond measure that you are receiving of God the moral courage and spiritual stamina required to maintain your position as a demonstrator of Truth in every phase of your experience. This is the way you make the Comforter your own.