Safe in Godís Care

 

Edward C. Williams, C.S.B., of Indianapolis, Indiana

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:

Will you believe me if I say one result of this lecture is going to be greater security for you? I mean this seriously.

Take accidents for instance. Think of the countless devices and the fortunes spent to prevent accidents. This helps, of course, yet accidents still happen.

But this doesn't mean protection is beyond our reach. All of us can be safe. We can find protection through a better understanding of God. Even a glimpse of God's control of our lives will give us more certain protection not only from accident, but from crime, illness and fear.

Yet many people, if they think about God at all, regard Him as some sort of mystery. A writer for a news magazine asked a number of people what they thought God was. A young scientist said, "God if anything, is hydrogen and carbon." A janitor said, "God is like a fiery flame, so white that it can blind you." A student theologian said, "God is all that I cannot understand" ("Theology Toward a Hidden God," Time, April 8, 1966). Today, let's consider God in a very practical aspect − as protecting every one of us in our daily lives.

 

God, Understood as Divine Love, Is Our Protection

Now, the definitions of God I just quoted didn't offer much in the way of protection, did they? But a higher authority on the subject of God, the Bible, tells us God is Love. It says, "Look unto me (God), and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 45:22). If we were certain that by looking to God, divine Love, we could actually be saved − saved from accident, saved from injury, sickness and unhappiness − wouldn't we make an all-out effort to know God better?

This made a lot of sense to me when I was a young man − this idea of looking to God for healing, for protection, or for the answer to any need. When I was about seventeen, I hitchhiked out West and worked in the wheat-harvest from Kansas on up north to Manitoba. I always carried two books with me, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. And I studied them whenever I could. They kept fresh my sense of God's presence and protection.

One afternoon as I walked along a gravel road in South Dakota a huge truck loaded high with bales of hay stopped and the driver offered me a ride into town. There was no room for me in the cab, so I had to ride on top of the load. This was a welcome lift and I sat up on top as we rolled along at about forty miles an hour.

I was sitting on the highest row of bales, facing the rear, and failed to see our approach to a heavy wire cable that spanned the road between two utility poles; it cleared the top of the load by only about twelve inches. The cable struck me with terrific force in the middle of my back. It jerked up over my shoulders and glanced off the back of my head. I found myself flat on my face at the back of the load, looking down at the blur of the road below, if I'd been thrown a little farther, I'd have fallen about ten feet down to the gravel road.

Yet there was no physical injury. I can't even remember any after-effects. It was as if the world's belief of accident and destructive evil force had struck at me without warning, but the truth of God's presence and power to save was even swifter. During the rest of the journey I lay quietly thanking God for the instant protection I had experienced. I was deeply moved by the realization that, although I had had no opportunity to pray or think of protection before the split-second blow, all of the truths of God and of man's relation to God that I had previously learned added up to instant protection at the moment of need.

Christianity looks to Christ Jesus as the final authority on the subject of God. Jesus not only taught that God is a very real source of protection and support. He proved it. To him God was the unchanging presence of Love, a presence so almighty and constant that there was never any doubt about man's security. Jesus proved this with such finality that two thousand years of human history have resounded to his message. Of this Mrs. Eddy writes: "The history of Christianity furnishes sublime proofs of the supporting influence and protecting power bestowed on man by his heavenly Father, omnipotent Mind, who gives man faith and understanding whereby to defend himself, not only from temptation, but from bodily suffering" (Science and Health, p. 387).

The supporting influence and protecting care of divine Love can be understood, and just so far as it is understood it will protect us from the perils of chance and disorder. Confusion, injury and disaster are contrary to God's loving purpose for you and me. It's natural and right for us to be aware of God's love, and this awareness becomes a protection to us.

 

Divine Love is Infinite Intelligence

Now let's take a closer look at this care of divine Love which is always with us. Jesus often referred to God as Father which implies the loving care of a wise and gentle parent; and in what I just quoted from Mrs. Eddy you may have noticed man's heavenly Father was described as omnipotent Mind. It's what Paul meant when he spoke of "the mind of Christ."

The God, then, who protects, is not only divine Love; He is also the all-controlling intelligence. But accidents are not intelligent. Accidents are senseless and have no purpose, so it's plain they don't come from God. You or I as parents wouldn't deliberately involve our children in a destructive experience. How much less, then, would an infinitely intelligent loving God permit disaster for His children?

But children must listen, they must acknowledge their parent as you and I must acknowledge God. Confusion and disorder come from ignorant unintelligent thinking which doesn't acknowledge or understand God's control.

Because our experience is the outgrowth of our thought, we must be very selective about the thoughts we entertain. If right thinking is the activity of divine intelligence expressing itself through people, then mistakes and accidents must spring from wrong thinking, or non-thinking. Thoughts of self-will, indulgence and hate are ungodlike and self-destructive. Whoever makes such thoughts his own is in danger. Ungodlike thoughts mislead and betray us. God's thoughts guide and protect us.

Human consciousness is like a net we cast into the ocean of world thought and gather in mental concepts of all kinds. Then we must sit down and sort them out. But how can we sort them out unless we know how to be selective? The inability to judge between right and wrong, between true and false, accounts for most of the confusion and conflict in human experience. More intelligent thinking is needed.

I remember a sign I once saw in a machine shop. It was one word which stood out alone and imperative: "THINK." But we need more than just good thinking. Even the best human thinking is not as intelligent as it could be, and it never will be until we understand that intelligence comes from God. Thoughts which express God are wholly intelligent, just as thoughts which are truthful express Truth. Such thoughts are so lawful, so consistent with God's law of universal order, that they eliminate chance or accident. In the degree that human thought looks to the divine Mind as the origin of all true thought and intelligence, harmony and order will be more consistent in our experience. Chance and accident will diminish.

 

Divine Love the Only Power

In further considering the protective activity of divine Love, we could say that accidents often seem to be a clash between senseless forces − with poor mortals in the middle. But this can't be the position of God's man who is cherished, protected and governed by the intelligent power of divine Love.

Real power is the gentle, almighty force of divine Love operating continually to bless. The blind and merciless forces of disaster are the nightmares of a supposed mentality apart from the divine Mind and opposed to it. It's what the Bible calls the carnal mind. Paul describes it as "enmity against God." If we consent to it, it would involve us in its nightmares; but there's no law that requires you and me to participate in these illusions. There needn't be plane crashes and highway accidents. They'll diminish in our experience as we learn to think in accord with God's law, the power and control of divine Love.

At one time Jesus described a disaster which had occurred in the village of Siloam near Jerusalem. A tower had collapsed and killed 18 people. Perhaps he discerned in the thought of his listeners a popular superstition that this tragedy was some kind of divine punishment upon the victims. "Do you imagine," he asked, "they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem?" And then answered his own question, No, "but unless you repent," he said, "you will all of you come to the same end" (Luke 13:3, New English Bible).

The word "repent" as Jesus used it here means to "think differently" − and even more, to change the very basis of one's thinking. Perhaps he was implying something like this: that the victims in Siloam weren't particularly bad people who'd been marked for divine punishment, but they could have been protected by thinking differently − thinking from the basis of the divine Mind and living more consistently in accord with Love's protecting power. In his own life he showed repeatedly how "the mind of Christ" and the power of divine Love protected him from storm and mob violence. His love of God held him in conscious unity with divine good and this gave him continuous protection.

Our genuine love of God, good, identifies us with the protecting power of divine Love. Love of good will guide us safely through the smog of spiritual ignorance and material self-satisfaction where the percentage of casualties is so high. When we love God enough to endeavor each day to be obedient to good, we align ourselves increasingly with the power of good − and this operates as a protecting influence in our daily affairs.

Science and Health says, "To have one God and avail yourself of the power of Spirit, you must love God supremely" (Science and Health, p. 167). This of course is the work of a lifetime, but the sooner we begin to understand God as all-powerful divine Love and to love Him in return, the sooner this gentle, protective power begins to be felt.

 

The Demonstration of Love's Power

This year, 1975, marks the centennial of the publication of Science and Health. For a century now students of this book have been progressively demonstrating the availability of God's power to protect them from the destructive forces of disease and disaster. For example, one of the speakers at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California, made an interesting statement. He said that Christian Scientists have one of the highest life expectancies in the United States. Insurance companies have found that Christian Scientists generally are safety-prone, and that their insurance claims are lower than average.

I don't suppose in Jesus time there were many insurance policies sold. Today in our modern economy insurance is one of the ways people use to make financial provision for unexpected needs. But insurance policies don't prevent disaster, they only help to relieve some of its effects. An understanding of the presence and power of divine Love is the preventive Jesus used, and this power to protect man can still be proved today.

I'll always remember one highway casualty that never happened. Mrs. Williams and I had decided to drive to a lecture in a small town about ninety miles from where we live. As we left the outskirts of the city, I felt impelled to declare audibly that we moved always under God's protection and guidance. I said something like this: "We know divine Love is all-power and ever present. Every detail, every moment of this journey, is controlled by divine intelligence. There's no destructive power that can delay or interrupt the fulfillment of our right purpose." We attended the lecture and returned home late that evening.

The following morning Mrs. Williams drove me downtown to my office, and just as she stopped to let me out of the car one of the nuts on the front wheel fell off and started to rattle around inside the wheel cover. We'd just had a new set of tires installed on the car the day before, so now we agreed that after leaving me she'd go directly to the dealer and have the wheels checked. When she did, it was found the mechanic had failed to tighten any of the wheel nuts. He'd simply put them on temporarily with his fingers and forgotten to tighten them with a wrench. Without knowing it, the night before we'd driven 180 miles at top speed with four loose wheels! What could have been a casualty never happened and we were convinced that protection from accident is no accident.

There is a power to protect everyone from the cruelty of chance and circumstance. That power is divine Love right here, and it works for anyone who understands and relies upon it.

 

God Controls Man as His Expression

Now so far we've seen that the best basis for security is an understanding of God as all-powerful divine Love. We've seen the need to align our thinking with divine Love. But to do this and to experience the protection such thinking brings, we need to understand clearly the nature of man and of his relationship to God.

If we accepted only material appearances, we might conclude that our relation to God is so uncertain we can't be sure of anything. In fact it's widely believed man is an outcast left to drift for himself and, even if there is such a thing as God, He has little concern for our welfare. But let's think for a minute about what's meant when we say man is the child of God. Man, as the expression of God, divine Love, wouldn't be an outcast. He'd be the indispensable evidence of God's being. As tone is indispensable to music, as light is indispensable to the sun, man is indispensable to God's self-expression. Without man there'd be no full evidence of God. So the belief that God is indifferent to man is an absurdity. God's continuing self-expression requires the existence of man, the safety of man, the security, the integrity of man. When we know ourselves as God knows us, we'll never be afraid again!

Now considering what we've said about God as Love and Spirit and Mind, we can see that you and I as God's spiritual ideas live forever in the presence of divine Love, divine intelligence. Under the control of this Love we're always safe. Even people who don't know this feel instinctively it's right to be safe. Every effort toward accident prevention is based on humanity's conviction that safety is right and disaster is wrong. People feel instinctively that disaster should and can be prevented. And as human consciousness rises to understand that man is wholly spiritual, controlled by divine intelligence, disorders of every kind will diminish until we know them no more.

The material illusion in which man seems to be a physical mortal who must suffer and die is a fabrication of the suppositional carnal mind we spoke of; it's a belief based on ignorance of God as the only Mind and of man's spiritual identity. This illusion must yield to the understanding that divine Mind is always in control, governing its spiritual universe in perfect order. Man is individual consciousness, dwelling in this spiritual universe. His identity is distinct, indestructible; he lives by divine authority wherein the loving control of intelligence is absolute.

Have you ever stopped to think that in the creation of an infinitely intelligent creator there couldn't be a single flaw, a single reject? Some time ago as we were driving along the highway we came into a town − and you know how common it is, as you approach a town, to see a sign on the roadside that gives the population of the community. This town had a sign that said, "Population − 2000 good people, and one bad egg." But actually, God has never made even one mistake. There's not a single bad egg in God's spiritual creation − not a single one unloved, unneeded, unknown, or unworthy. And it's in this universe of Spirit that your true identity and mine are held secure.

 

The Christ Reveals the Truth of Man

God's man is the full representation of divine Mind and he individualizes all of Mind's qualities. Like a ray of sunlight, he's complete. For example, if you were to direct even the tiniest ray of sunlight into a prism, you'd see that it contains all the colors of the spectrum. As we see man through the prism of spiritual understanding, we see him as complete, individualizing all the hues and qualities of Spirit.

One of these qualities is divine intelligence which gives man self-control. Jesus gave us the world's highest example of man's God-given self-control. He proved the freedom and dominion which accompany the understanding of man's spiritual selfhood. This understanding of God and man is the Christ message which the human Jesus taught and exemplified. Jesus understood God's controlling power over all; and he understood his relation to God so clearly that he told his disciples, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).

Yet he emphasized that this power was not given to him only, but to all who understood the Christ he represented. Again he said: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19). Think what this means to you and me today in our need for protection in so many ways!

Actually Jesus was defining a means of protection which is relevant to all times and circumstances. The power which the Christ understanding bestows is the power of God's control over all, governing man as His conscious expression. The Christ is not and never was just a human person. The Christ was and is the true idea of God and man and their indestructible relationship to one another, as Father and son, as Mind and idea, as cause and effect.

As we begin to understand this relationship of man to God, we find the serpent of temptation, and the scorpion of sin and disease, gradually giving way before the Christ, Truth. "The power of the enemy" to which Jesus refers is mortal mind, the hypnotic world belief that man is a material mortal separate from God, helpless under suppositional evil forces which threaten and terrorize him. This mistaken belief is not power; it's ignorance of God's power.

Now how does this apply to us? It applies because Jesus' sonship with God is our sonship with God. He left his followers the assurance that his Father was their Father and his God was their God (John 20:17). And this brings it right down to you and me; it shows the divine Love and intelligence which controlled Jesus' affairs are the same divine Love and intelligence we can follow today. Obedience to God is our acknowledgment of the spiritual and scientific fact that we are always under God's control − in all ways, at all times. This is the Christ, Truth, healing and redeeming all aspects of human experience. It quiets fear with the realization that we are always safe under God's control.

 

Man is the Fearless Expression of Divine Love

Let me give a simple example of this. Some years ago the mother of a little girl called me and said: "Every night our household is in a turmoil because at bedtime Joanne is afraid to go to sleep. She cries and struggles because she is terrified by the thought of going to sleep. I don't understand this fear. It wears us out. Can you help us?"

Well, I could only help her look to God, the ever-present help, and encourage her to acknowledge that Joanne is always safe in God's care. I asked her to pray to see this clearly, − pray to feel the real inner conviction of God's tender presence and love for all His children. I asked her to take her Bible and read aloud to Joanne the last verse in the fourth chapter of Psalms, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psalms 4:8).

Then I did some praying myself to realize the full meaning of this Bible statement and to understand why God's child is always safe. I began by acknowledging that God is Love which is infinite, perfect consciousness − the one divine Mind expressing its nature and qualities in its idea, man. The quality of peace mentioned in the Bible was a quality of this all-encompassing Love, and Love could never be separated from its expression. Peace is freedom from fear, freedom from disturbance and torment. Man as God's expression must always be conscious of peace because he understands his unity with God.

Of course this was all very different from the material picture of a terrified child who was afraid to go to sleep − the appearance which was so distressing to the mother and family. Where did such a contradictory appearance, this denial of God's control, come from? It could only be a misconception of God and man entertained in a suppositional mortal consciousness. It was a mistaken belief about what was actually perfect and true of Joanne, and I prayed to see more clearly that this illusion was totally unreal. God's child could not be held in the grip of fear because her true being was the expression of God and God was not making her afraid. I prayed to realize more clearly that at the very point where deceptive material belief claimed fear was in control, there divine Love was caring for its own and revealing its comforting, protecting presence to everyone concerned.

This denial of the mesmeric suggestions of evil and the affirmation of God, good, as supreme over all is prayer. Speaking of prayer, Mrs. Eddy writes: "It makes new and scientific discoveries of God, of His goodness and power. It shows us more clearly than we saw before, what we already have and are; and most of all, it shows us what God is" (No and Yes, p. 39). Such prayer goes beyond asking God for help. It's opening thought to accept what's already here and deeply to know that divine Love has already answered.

I don't remember ever hearing from Joanne's mother again. But fifteen years later I was on the bus one evening on my way home and a young lady sat down beside me. "Mr. Williams," she said, "Do you remember me? I'm Joanne. Years ago my mother called you one night because I was afraid to go to sleep and you gave her a Bible verse to read to me. I was healed that night, and I've never been afraid to go to sleep again. I'm in college now, but do you know, I still turn to that Bible verse every night!"

So in Joanne's experience we have a proof of divine Love's power, expressed in a simple Bible verse, to bring release from the bondage of fear. It illustrates that the spiritual reality of man's true selfhood as the expression of God is always here to be recognized. To understand this, even a little, can break the mortal dream of fear, of disease, of pain or unhappiness, and reveal man as secure under God's control. And as this is revealed to you or me, the result is healing.

 

Divine Love Is the Only Presence

How can we find the assurance that divine Love is really all around, always? Where is that instant faith that wipes out all fear?

I used to be afraid of high places, and whenever I'd look down from a height it would have a disturbing effect on me.

One day I stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Way out in the purple depth a great white bird soared effortlessly mile after mile through the summer air. It was so confident, so at ease, so at one with its environment that I began to ask myself, "Why can't I feel that way?"

Aerodynamics might explain that every detail of this bird's anatomy, every feather, every curve of his body and wings was adapted to the air which upheld him and kept him from falling. The atmosphere in which he moved was an invisible presence with which he was in perfect harmony. I'm sure this great white bird was without fear, and the possibility of falling to the rocks below never occurred to him.

As I watched, I felt he was telling me something. I felt I shared his security; his unity with his environment illustrated my unity with God's invisible, all-supporting presence. Why shouldn't I be just as sure of my safety as the bird was sure of his?

God's presence surrounds us wherever we are. It's infinite; there's no place outside of it. Whether we're in the air, or underwater, or in a mine deep underground, divine Love is already there and we can find protection and security through understanding our unity with God. Unity means to be at one with, and as you and I bring our thoughts into accord with God's presence by expressing Godlike qualities because it's our nature to do so, we're adapting to the spiritual environment of all-supporting divine Love. We bring ourselves under the control of God's law. You might say that, like the bird, we're using our wings and we're upheld by God's law.

 

God's Law Gives Security

Can you and I really find protection and security in this way? Indeed we can. It's Science that Christ Jesus illustrated for all of us − the practical Science of the Christ, Christian Science. By aligning our thought to divine Principle, Love, we find protection and security. The math student finds protection from mistakes by thinking in accord with mathematical law. The automobile driver finds protection from accident by thinking in accord with the traffic law. You and I will find increasing protection from confusion and discord by thinking in accord with God's law.

The whole world needs protection nowadays from a prevalent lawlessness which appears in forms of aggression, violence, dementia and crime. These lawless mental states arise from ignorance of God and of moral and spiritual values. Lawless, violent, fearful thinking often seems to circulate in public thought as a kind of mental contagion. It has a hypnotic influence upon whoever is receptive to it.

Some people are drawn into committing criminal acts contrary to their natural inclinations because they're ignorant of the silent suggestions of the carnal mind. They feel the suggestion and mistakenly believe it's their own thought. This compulsive lawlessness isn't power; it's an aggressive suggestion which controls people only so far as they consent to it. Even a little understanding of man's unity with God shows that God's presence is always at hand. There's no need to seek good violently or to fear that it will be lost. Good in all its essential manifestations is already here to be recognized. It's not something that can be taken forcibly from others by violence or crime.

Lawless mental states where everything seems to be out of control show humanity's great need to understand man's unity with God. Lack of control, whether in the form of fear, dementia, or crime, must yield to God's law.

 

The Law of Divine Allness

What is God's law? Mrs. Eddy writes: "God's law is in three words, 'I am all;' and this perfect law is ever present to rebuke any claim of another law" (ibid. p. 30). This divine allness is the guarantee of our unity with God, of our continuing safety in His presence.

It was Mrs. Eddy's understanding of God's law, this spiritual force of divine Love, that gave her instant security in time of danger. A man who had escaped from an insane asylum came into her home one day in Lynn, Massachusetts. His clothes were in rags and he presented a frightful appearance. When Mrs. Eddy confronted him, he raised a chair to strike her, but she felt a great compassion for him and faced him without fear. We can't say what thoughts came to her in that moment; but they must have been thoughts of love, and of God's all-controlling presence, for the man dropped the chair and fell on his knees at her feet, sobbing. Mrs. Eddy touched him gently and told him to go in peace. He left the house quietly.

Years later the man called on Mrs. Eddy in Boston and told her that, when he had left her that day, he'd returned to the asylum and the authorities had released him as healed. He now had a wife and family, and had never been mentally disturbed again (Historical Sketches, Clifford P. Smith, P. 81).

At another time Mrs. Eddy visited the assassin of President Garfield in his jail cell. She said he was in a state of moral idiocy, having no sense of his crime, but regarding his act as one of simple justice and himself as the victim. His attitude was flippant; but when she spoke to him he sank back in his chair, limp and pale. His flippancy was gone. Whatever her words were, they must have cut to the very root of the evil thoughts that had moved him. The jailer thanked her for coming and said. "Other visitors have brought to him bouquets, but you have brought what will do him good" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 112).

What enabled Mrs. Eddy in one instance to heal an insane man, and in another to cause a depraved criminal to recognize his wrongdoing? We might say it was spiritual perception. Did she have something we don't have? No, for spiritual perception is a quality of divine Mind, and each of us is an expression of that Mind. But to utilize our spiritual perception we need to understand our unity with God, divine Mind.

It was this spiritual unity of God and man that Mrs. Eddy discovered through her lifelong study of the Bible. Christ Jesus had exemplified this divine relationship, and Mrs. Eddy was convinced that Jesus was demonstrating a Science which can be understood and practiced. Through long years of study and prayer, and at the cost of trials, misrepresentation, and personal sacrifice we can hardly imagine, Mrs. Eddy penetrated the surface of traditional religion and found the key she sought in the Bible's deep spiritual truths. She knew it was the key, for the revelations which came to her as the result of this study raised her from chronic invalidism to health and usefulness. She spent the next four decades founding the Church of Christ, Scientist, on the healing Truth she had discovered.

Christian Scientists have found that her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is truly a key to the Bible's practical, spiritual meaning. You can read it, use it as a companion to the Bible, and you'll begin to see for yourself that there's nothing uncertain about our protection and security. They're the natural result of understanding the true nature of God and our unity with God. And they are always and immediately available to us.

 

Man is Forever Safe

The true selfhood of man − of you and me − is spiritual, the individual expression of God. Our security lies in understanding this true selfhood; understanding that it's always controlled by the infinite, intelligent power of divine Love; understanding Love's unchanging presence.

This gentle presence which embraces the universe and you and me is almighty law. It's the law of God's allness − the allness of good. It prohibits anything unlike itself.

Man is secure as God's expression. The understanding of this relationship becomes a law of security in our human experience. As we love good, identify with good, exemplify good, good becomes the controlling force in our lives.

Man is safe in God's care. In the Science of Christ we now have what we need to prove it.

 

[1975.]

 

 

HOME PAGE††††††††††††††† INDEX OF LECTURES