Christianity: Its Primitive and Ultimate Mission

 

Arthur P. Wuth, C.S.B.

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

Throughout his ministry, Jesus used his understanding to rectify the inequities of mortal existence. He felt the only valid test of religious doctrine was its usefulness in restoring, regenerating and healing mankind. Without such evidence it would be mere theory, lacking authenticity. "By their fruits ye shall know them," he said.

Primitive Christianity spread rapidly under this incentive. Not long after Jesus' ascension, Philip, the evangelist, preached Christ to the people of Samaria. Not only did they listen, but they heeded what he said. The healings he accomplished convinced them that what he preached was practical.

Christianity is just as vital for you and me today as it was then. Problems confronting us may appear more serious, more complex than in Jesus' day. But they are no more impervious to the spiritual truths regarding God and man than problems were centuries ago.

Together, let us consider a fresh new approach to the teachings of Christ Jesus and discover how very practical they are. They hold much promise for each of us. Immeasurably, they will bless our lives.

 

II. What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?

We can get at this quickly by considering the question: What does it mean to be a Christian? Primarily, it means that one understands the teachings of Christ Jesus and endeavors to follow his example.

What are those teachings? In the time allowed for this discussion it would be impossible to cover them all. And still, a constructive purpose can be served by considering what Jesus has taught as to the nature of God and man, how you and I are related to God, and how an understanding of that relationship will aid us in resolving mental and physical conflict. Also, let us see how Jesus' example supports his teaching. There are five basic concepts which deserve to be taken into account.

 

A. Father

First, Christ Jesus stressed the term Father for God, which is another way of acknowledging God as the sole Creator. He said, "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven."

In agreement with this, he taught that man is the child of God, that all men have one Father.

Jesus is his own example: "I am the son of God," he said. The close intimate relationship of Father and son is expressed in his statement: "I and my Father are one."

 

B. Good

Second, Christ Jesus taught that God is good, a quality that countenances no evil. He emphasized this by saying;

"There is none good but one, that is God."

In keeping with this, he taught that man is the expression of goodness, urging his followers to let their light shine so that others would see their good works and glorify the Father.

Again, Jesus was the perfect example. In his good works he healed the sick, regenerated the sinner, overcame death for others and for himself. And always with his expression of goodness he maintained complete humility. He knew that goodness did not originate with him. Its origin was God. He admitted frankly that he could of himself do nothing.

 

C. Spirit

Third, discounting the superstition of idolatry and clarifying the nature of God's being, Christ Jesus taught that God is Spirit; thus implying the infinitude of God and His ever-presence.

Man, then, having Spirit, God, as his Father, is born of Spirit and is therefore spiritual.

Jesus exemplified this in his own spirituality, his devotion to prayer, his reminder that the flesh is of no consequence, for it is the Spirit that quickens, and that to worship God aright, we must do so in spirit.

 

D. Love

Fourth, the tenderness, affection, and compassion of the Father is brought out clearly in Christ Jesus' teaching that God is a God of love. The Apostle John records: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

It follows that man, in turn, must be loving. Jesus confirmed the teaching of the Old Testament − man shall love God supremely, and love his neighbor as himself. He even took it a step further. We are not only to love our neighbor, those with whom we have frequent association, but we must love our enemy. Here he repudiates the old Hebrew law justifying retaliation − an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. To forgive seven times was not enough. It must be seventy times seven − without limit.

Love includes restraint in judging our fellowman. We are to mind our own business and not find fault with another's conduct. His much loved parable, that of the good Samaritan,  teaches the compassion, thoughtfulness, care and patience exercised by one who was even held in contempt by members of the Jewish community.

We find Christ Jesus' example in complete agreement with his teaching. Out of compassion he fed five thousand. He healed and regenerated multitudes. At the time of his arrest, he rebuked Peter for his act of retaliation in using a sword to injure the servant of the high-priest. Jesus healed the servant. His greatest example was in laying down his life for his friends, permitting the destruction of a mortal sense of existence that he might prove to them that man, the child of God, is spiritual, immortal and indestructible. Even on the cross, Jesus was not forgetful of his mother's need. He committed her to John's care.

 

E. Perfect

Fifth. Another concept of Christ Jesus' teaching, and one important to our consideration here, is the fact that God is perfect. ". . . your Father which is in heaven is perfect," he said. This is in agreement with the teaching in the Old Testament that God is the judge, the lawgiver, the governor of the universe, ordaining the divine law which constitute and maintain perfection.

It follows that a perfect God is the originator of all knowledge and understanding, the author of absolute  Science, the provable, demonstrable laws which govern the universe including man in perfect harmony.

In agreement with this, Christ Jesus taught that man is perfect, that we are expected to recognize and realize that perfection is now, at this present time, not as some future event. He said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

Jesus, in his own experience, exemplified this teaching. He taught the disciples how to heal, how to understand and apply the divine laws of perfection. He insisted that they prove practical in demonstrating this law, praying that they not be taken out of the world, but that they be kept from all evil. From his understanding of God's perfection, he predicted that his followers would perform even greater works than he did.

To assure the continuity of this teaching, he promised his followers another Comforter, the very Spirit of truth, one that would abide with them forever.

 

F. Rule of Authenticity

And then he gave that rule of authenticity which confirms the understanding of God's laws of perfection: "By their fruits ye shall know them." A good tree, he reasoned, produces good fruit. A good Christian, one who lives the teachings rather than merely professing them, reaps the harvest of sound morals, better health, the ability to heal and regenerate others. You can prove this for yourself.

 

G. Christ Jesus

What does it mean to be a Christian? Certainly it must mean that we sincerely desire and earnestly pray to follow the teachings and the example of Christ Jesus. It means that we honestly endeavor to live our prayers through a better understanding of him who was sent by God to be the Saviour of mankind.

Jesus so faithfully subdued a mortal sense of self, so fully recognized and realized his sonship with God, that he was able to withstand all the temptations of the anti-Christ. He loved God and man with a compassion and spiritual devotion that no one has ever equaled. He healed, regenerated, and restored all who responded to his ministry.

Christ Jesus called on his followers to preach the gospel, cast out devils, heal the sick. To humbly and gratefully respond to his instruction is what it means to be a Christian. It is to fulfill his rule of authenticity, "By their fruits ye shall know them." By their spirituality, health, moral rectitude, and ability to heal others you will know them.

 

III. The Remnant

It has been traditional in Hebrew history, as recorded in Scripture, that there would always be a remnant, a small minority that would remain faithful to God's law. It would consist of those who preserved the purity of their devotion and obedience to God, doing so in spite of the demoralization and wickedness of others.

 

B. Christ Jesus

The outstanding example of the remnant is seen in the ministry of Christ Jesus. He was sent by God to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He preached, taught, healed, regenerated, and restored all who were willing to respond. It was Jesus who fulfilled the higher, spiritual meaning of the law, Israel's rich religious legacy. It was for the remnant, those who were ready to understand that law, that he demonstrated man's immortality.

 

C. Mary Baker Eddy

Prophetic utterance found in the Scriptures point to the perpetuation of the remnant concept. In the book of Zechariah we read: "These (two olive trees) are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." John the Revelator refers to the olive trees as "my two witnesses." And then he writes of "A woman clothed with the sun" who "brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations."

The Hebrew tradition of the remnant continues today. A little over one hundred years ago, in 1866, a Reverend M. Baxter, published in London, England, a book entitled The Coming Battle. In it he writes: "It is a notable fact that the period from 1866 to 1875 is the only epoch that has been fixed upon by the general consent of so large a number as more than one hundred standard prophetic interpreters as the (second) coming of the Christ and the beginning of the Millennium."

It is significant that in 1866 the religion of Christian Science was discovered by Mary Baker Eddy. It came to her through devoted and intensive study of Scripture, through prayer, revelation and reason. Nine years later, in 1875, she published the first edition of her work Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the volume known as the Christian Science textbook.

In a message to her Church, delivered in 1900, Mrs. Eddy makes this comment: "Some modern exegesis on the prophetic Scriptures cites 1875 as the year of the second coming of Christ."

The Church of Christ, Scientist, was founded by Mrs. Eddy in 1879. It was organized to perpetuate the purity of her revelation. It was initiated by her motion: ". . . to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing."

Mrs. Eddy's faithful insistence on following the teachings and example of the Master is expressed in her own words: "Follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ."

Christian Scientists are deeply grateful for all that Mrs. Eddy has given mankind. They acknowledge her fulfillment of prophecy. They recognize the completeness of her revelation. They cherish her devotion to the instruction and the example of the master Christian, Christ Jesus.

In my own continuing study and application of Christian Science, I am struck with the magnitude of the revelation that came to her, the insight into God's nature, the perception of His character, the discernment of His allness, His presence, power, and infinite goodness.

I have been brought up in the teachings of Christian Science since early childhood. Instruction in the Sunday School was a great blessing to me in gradually arriving at a more mature understanding. My family relied on Christian Science treatment in the healing of childhood diseases. During my high school years I was healed of a painful condition of inflammatory rheumatism.

While in college, I suffered a period of extreme despondency and depression with suicidal tendencies. In my efforts to resolve it, I was able for the first time to make Christian Science my own in the sense that it was no longer just the religion of my family but something that I could understand, apply, and rely upon. It was the discovery of my own individual and inseparable relationship to God. Ever since, I have enjoyed the blessings of its healing and evangelical influence. Words are inadequate to express my gratitude for this faithful representation of Christianity.

Another factor that has more and more impressed me is Mrs. Eddy's skill in explaining and expounding spiritual truths. Have you ever tried to illustrate or define that which cannot be seen or felt materially and do so in a way that will enable someone else to understand the value and potency of metaphysical statements? Conscious of this, Christ Jesus used parables. Mrs. Eddy patiently and consistently worked at this immense problem. She refined, sharpened, clarified, amplified and simplified, in the best words that the English language affords, that which would enable us, you and me, to understand the deep reality of scientific, spiritual facts, their practical application to human affairs, the power of this word of God  to enlighten, regenerate, inspire, and heal. As in primitive Christianity today's remnant consists of those who maintain their faithfulness and purity in understanding and living the teachings of Christ Jesus, those who steadfastly fulfill his commands to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, and to cast out devils.

There is one certain way of measuring the bona fide nature of the remnant and that is its fulfillment of Christ Jesus' rule of authenticity "By their fruits ye shall know them."

 

IV. The Ultimate Mission

Mankind urgently needs the teaching and practice of Christianity, the fulfillment of its ultimate mission. The major problems besetting society are easily recognized. Materialism is one. Self-centeredness is another. Displaced and refugee peoples grow in number. Inflation affects everyone. The energy crisis becomes more complex. World tensions appear more aggravated. Social problems caused by decrepitude and chronic disease continue to multiply.

 

A. Christian Science

The resolution of these group and individual problems requires the spiritual enlightenment which characterized primitive Christianity and is revealed in Christian Science. At the beginning of this hour we considered five major concepts of the teachings of Christ Jesus and how his example confirmed those teachings. Let us consider them again from the standpoint of Christianity’s ultimate mission, the practical application of those teachings to the spiritualization, harmony and health of mankind.

 

B. Father

First, Jesus taught that God is Father, that He is cause, creator, and that He is so exclusively. What does this mean? If we are to remain faithful to the First Commandment and avoid falling into the trap of admitting other powers, other causes, other gods, it means that God is to be recognized as the only Cause. It means that everything He made must be like Him - like producing like. Christ Jesus confirms this: "Do man gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"

It means that everything God made is real, eternal, indestructible, pure, harmless, beneficial.

Reasoning logically on this subject, we find that God could never be the cause of fear, ignorance, pain, sickness, disease, death. These elements of human experience can only appear to be real to the human mind. Even there, they are only temporal, for they can be overcome. If this were not so, Jesus would not have overcome them. Christian Science teaches that they are the product of erroneous belief and are, therefore, non-existent and unreal in God's universe. They disappear as the spiritual fact is understood that God did not create them, nor could He abide their existence.

That God is the only cause and creator must mean that He made man according to the Scriptural record − in His image and likeness, spiritual, immortal, sinless, diseaseless, deathless, expressing freedom, dominion, harmony.

I know a man who suffered from occasional lapses of consciousness. A Christian Science practitioner prayed for him. The attacks ceased. Months later, the symptoms returned. Clinging to the fact that man is God's image and likeness, he refused to submit. The symptoms gradually disappeared and have never returned.

Just as Christ Jesus maintained his oneness with God, so must we follow his example by praying daily to realize our coexistence with the Father, our God-centeredness, our devotion to His will, reflecting and expressing Him.

 

C. Good

Second, Christ Jesus taught that God is good. Does it not follow that good is universal and that God could originate only that which is of His nature, expressing goodness?

This means that evil in all its forms is without a real cause, is actually non-existent in God's universe, and there is no other universe.

It means that sin, the commission of evil, is void of any authority, any law or purpose, any power or capacity to perpetuate itself.

Which means that you and I can be freed from evil's predatory influence, from sin's enslavement, from the snare of physical pain and sensual pleasure.

A woman I know of experienced a second divorce. In an effort to find new sources of happiness and love she turned to alcohol and sexual promiscuity. For days she would remain in a constantly doped and drunken state. Christian Science was introduced to her. Gradually she began to understand that to leave sin entirely behind is to be forgiven. It was not long before she was completely healed.

How can we be freed from evil's predatory influence? Through the understanding of man's spiritual freedom and dominion, through the influence of the Christ in human consciousness, as taught in Christian Science.

This means that you and I can learn how to express God, good, in spiritual goodness. We can humbly learn how to remove the burdens of evil and sin from others, how to heal them through Christ, as Jesus exemplified.

 

D. Spirit

Third, Christ Jesus taught that God is Spirit, the only real substance, the very opposite of matter.

This means that God is infinite, a term that is practically beyond human comprehension. The infinite know no limits. There is no space that God, Spirit, does not fill. There is nothing outside infinity. There can be nothing inside infinite Spirit that is contrary to its nature.

Recent space exploration by Voyagers I and II have given us photographs of the planets Jupiter and Saturn, hundreds of millions of miles distant from earth. Such measurements are almost inconceivable to human consciousness. But the infinity that is filled with Spirit is totally different from any measurement of distance. It is without limits, completely and utterly boundless.

Spirit, God is infinitely near. We can never be outside His presence. We can never wander beyond His influence.

That God is Spirit means that He is indestructible and is therefore eternal, something that cannot be said of material objects.

It means that Spirit is All, the All-in-all that includes both cause and effect, God and His creation, the one Creator, and His spiritual manifestation.

Mrs. Eddy makes an exceptional and unique contribution to mankind's understanding of Christ Jesus' description of God as Spirit. She does so by lifting consciousness to what is implied here. She writes: "God is everywhere, and nothing apart from Him is present or has power." She also tells us: "Where the spirit of God is, and there is no place where God is not, evil becomes nothing, − the opposite of the something of Spirit."

As one ponders and realizes the truths of these statements, Mrs. Eddy's obvious conclusion becomes all the more impressive; "Since God is All, there is no room for His unlikeness."

Considering what it means to understand these statements and to believe them, we find that one is never alone, never separated from God; that no disease, no accident, no circumstance is beyond the power of God to correct and heal.

How does all of this apply to you and me? By understanding that God is Spirit, it follows that man, made in His likeness, is spiritual, not material. It means that man lives in God, not in a physical body, just as the Apostle Paul reminds us: "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." It means that man is not governed by material laws of mortality and decrepitude, for he is immortal. It means that man is blessed with spiritual faculties − vision, hearing, perception, comprehension; and that these are without deterioration, free from accident. The spiritual understanding of this scientific fact corrects faulty vision.

A woman I know of had an unfortunate incident at the time of her birth. Her sight was destroyed. A family friend who was a Christian Science practitioner visited the parents and was permitted to care for the child. In prayer she saw clearly that sight is truly spiritual, and that the child's real being was the image of God, reflecting perfection. In three days the healing was complete.

By understanding that God is Spirit, we follow Christ Jesus' example in the cultivation of spirituality. This requires prayer, daily and consistent communion with God, Spirit, as the Bible reminds us: "To be spiritually minded is life and peace." The practical effect of such prayerful effort is better health, more normal activity, constructiveness, usefulness, harmony, order.

It is significant that spirituality is the state of consciousness which enables one to heal. Spirituality calls for disciplined living, and that discipline leads to greater freedom from material bondage, the consistent awareness of God, Spirit's omnipotence and omnipresence.

 

E. Love

Our fourth consideration was Christ Jesus' emphasis upon God's love. The Apostle John was so deeply impressed with this that he wrote: "He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love."

Here, again, Mrs. Eddy contributes bountifully to our understanding of God's love as made so specific in the teachings of Christ Jesus. She helps us to realize that Love, God, is impartial, universal. This is an acknowledgment of the Master's teaching: "For he (God) maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Obviously, this means no discrimination, no prejudicial personal sense, no bias.

Mrs. Eddy explains to us that Love, God, is a solvent, dissolving the hardest forms of error.

She makes it clear that Love is fearless, that it destroys fear.

She refers to Love as the greatest power. Love chastens and purifies. Love liberates from slavery, restriction, bondage. Love supplies complete protection.

Let me give you an example of this. One morning a woman noticed that one of her feet was swollen. It caused her no discomfort so she did nothing about it. Sometime later her entire leg became swollen and there was considerable pain.

She called a Christian Science practitioner who recommended that she begin a sincere study of Mrs. Eddy's writings. As the practitioner prayed for her, she was able to lift consciousness above the body and to think more convincingly of her relationship to God. But one morning when the pain seemed excessive, discouragement overwhelmed her. A call to the practitioner brought immediate results. Her character yielded to the necessary transformation. A hardened attitude toward others was softened by greater love for mankind. Rigidity gave way to forgiveness and compassion.

Physical freedom came and the woman left for her vacation. This included considerable walking and swimming with no ill effects.

This woman was blessed by a deeper understanding of the nature and character of God as divine Love, a Love that she was expected to live and express in her relations with others. As she put that love into practice, making it practical in her own human relationships, she was healed.

For you and me, the fact that God is Love means that each of us can demonstrate more fully the ability to love. Mrs. Eddy herself placed great demands on love. She writes: "Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power."

One of her students has recorded the words Mrs. Eddy used to describe her own healing work: "I saw the love of God encircling the universe and man, filling all space, and that divine Love so permeated my own consciousness that I loved with Christlike compassion everything I saw. This realization of divine Love called into expression 'the beauty of holiness, the perfection of being' (Science and Health, p. 263), which healed, and regenerated, and saved all who turned to me for help."

 

F. Perfect

The fifth point we considered in Christ Jesus' teaching is that God is perfect. In the revelation that came to Mrs. Eddy she uses the term Principle as one of the synonyms for God, a term especially descriptive of His perfection. God is the divine Principle of the universe including man, perfect in law and implementation. Principle is understandable and the law or Science expressing it is demonstrable. It is practical and provable in human experience.

The divine Principle, God remains constant, changeless, complete. It never began, will never end, and is the only continuous self-existence. It is ever present, fills all space, is always available for everyone to know and apply.

This scientific fact eliminates any possibility of a devil, a hell, or an error of any kind. This Principle is divine Love, giving life, intelligence, substance, and reality to man and the universe.    

This means that man, as God has made him, is perfect, just as Christ Jesus has taught us: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Man is immortal, spiritual, governed by divine law, sinless, pure, harmonious.

The understanding of this enables you and me to follow Jesus' example in understanding man's spiritual, perfect status, in learning to demonstrate order and harmony in human experience, in working out our salvation, in resisting and overcoming temptation, in maintaining health and well-being, in preserving peaceful relations with others.

The understanding that God is Principle and that man is the perfect expression of that Principle, results in healing and regeneration. Christ Jesus knew this. We read in Science and Health: "Perfection does not animate imperfection. Inasmuch as God is good and the fount of all being, He does not produce moral or physical deformity, therefore such deformity is not real, but is illusion, the mirage of error. Divine Science reveals these grand facts. On their basis Jesus demonstrated Life, never fearing nor obeying error in any form."

How does this apply to Christ Jesus' rule of authenticity − "By their fruits ye shall know them"?

 

G. Preaching the Gospel

For over one hundred years the Church of Christ, Scientist has obeyed the instruction of the Master to preach the gospel to every creature. It does this each Sunday morning through its Lesson-Sermon. And it does it in public lectures like this one.

 

H. Healing the Sick and the Sinner

During the past century Christian Science has persisted in its efforts to fulfill the Master's instruction to heal the sick and cast out devils.

Recently I went through late copies of the religious periodicals of our Church and found documented healings of 43 different physical conditions that would be considered by some to be almost incurable, such things as crippling arthritis, tuberculosis, asthma, diabetes, cancer, pernicious anemia, spinal meningitis, disintegrated spinal disc, cataracts, chronic appendicitis.       

These healings are on file in the editorial offices of The Christian Science Publishing Society. The credibility of those healed has been verified. A number of the conditions were medically diagnosed. Some had been medically treated, but hadn't been healed by that method. Several are healings of children. These and countless other healings testify to the completeness of the revelation that came to Mrs. Eddy − that no circumstance is beyond God's help when the Science of His laws is correctly understood and applied. It is, as Christ Jesus affirmed: ". . . with God all things are possible."

 

I. Implementation

How does Christian Science heal? Healing is the result of prayer, prayer in keeping with Christ Jesus' instruction that we pray in secret, that we enter the closet and shut the door, that we not invoke vain repetition.

Christian Science healing is motivated by love for God and man, as Christ Jesus' emphasized − to love God supremely, with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself.

Christian Science healing requires an increasing devotion to spirituality on the part of healer, surrendering materialism, sensuality, immorality, animality, just as Christ Jesus taught: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God . . . Ye must be born again." To emphasize this, he taught: "It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing." 

Christian Science healing involves affirmation and denial. The healer must affirm what is true, as the Master instructed his disciples: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." And the healer should deny what is false. Jesus did this. In his wilderness experience he emphatically denied the devil. In restoring others, he vehemently denied the unclean spirits. He sternly denied the hypocrisy of scribes and Pharisees.

And Christian Science healing includes gratitude. Christ Jesus set the example in feeding the four thousand: ". . . he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks. . ." In the account of the raising of Lazarus: ". . . Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." The grateful acknowledgment that God, through His Christ, is our Saviour underlies all spiritual healing. Gratitude maintains the spiritual humility of the healer. It recognizes the completeness of the healing on the part of the one healed.

 

J. Summary

The ultimate mission of the Christianity is to address itself forthrightly and courageously to the current complex problems confronting not only the individual but all mankind. Humanity needs the salutary influences of Christianity's powerful moral and spiritual law, the Science or understanding of the nature and character of God, and man's relationship to Him. Materialism, self-centeredness, displaced refugees, inflation, energy depletion, world tension, human suffering are not void of solution. There is no problem that the spiritualization of thought, the effect of the Christ in human consciousness, will not resolve.

 

V. Conclusion

And so we ask ourselves once more; What does it mean to be a Christian?

 It means to recognize the scope and force of primitive Christianity − the teachings and example of Christ Jesus.

For the remnant, it means preserving the purity and the validity of Christ Jesus' teachings.

It means living and applying those teachings today to individual problems and the problems of society.

It means preaching the gospel, healing the sick, regenerating the sinner.

It means the fulfilling Christ Jesus' rule of authenticity: "By their fruits ye shall know them."

 

[1980.]

 

 

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