Gavin W. Allan, C.S.B., of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
A free lecture on Christian Science entitled "Christian Science: A Religion of Service" was delivered January 3, by Gavin W. Allan, C.S.B., of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, at First Church of Christ, Scientist, New York and Dean Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mr. Allan, a member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, spoke substantially as follows:
To all of us there come times when we think seriously about life. At such times one may ask himself such questions as: What is the purpose of existence? Why am I here? What should be life's purpose? To serve oneself or to serve others? We know, of course, how Jesus would have answered these questions. He said of himself: "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." Also, "I am among you as he that serveth." Jesus had no doubt of his mission. He was here to serve.
When our Master was asked, "Which is the first commandment of all?" he told his inquirer that the first is to love God and the second is to love man. In no instance did Jesus urge obedience to the first without immediately adding the second. As recorded by John, there were two occasions when Jesus stressed the second without mentioning the first: in the thirteenth, chapter, calling it a "new commandment"; and in the fifteenth chapter, "my commandment, That ye love one another." This command to "love one another" has been emphasized more by John than by any other writer in the New Testament. In his first epistle he wrote, "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Indeed, so strongly did John feel the necessity of our loving our fellow men, that he said, in effect, if we do not love one another we cannot possibly love God. In other words, if we are not loving in just and helpful relations with our fellow men, there is something wrong with our concept of God.
If we look over the stories or parables with which Jesus illustrated his teachings, we may notice that on a number of occasions he stressed the thought of service. In his parable of the good Samaritan we may add his implied commendation of the Samaritan, who selflessly served a wounded man, and his implied condemnation of the selfishness which prompted the priest and Levite to do nothing. They were so wrapped up in themselves, so immersed in their own affairs, they had no time for anyone else. They did nothing.
In the parable of the judgment, the accusation was, "I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat." Again, the selfishness which did nothing.
In the parable of the talents, one servant was condemned, not because he had few talents, but because he did not use the one he had. He did nothing.
There is a question which confronts the world today, and to which each of us must give consideration. It is this: Can this world be brought under the government of divine Principle? Some of us may be ready to say we believe it is possible. But what are we doing to bring it about? We shall not help if, like the priest and Levite of the parable, we do nothing. But the Samaritans of today can. The Samaritan, you will remember, was the one who took in the situation, saw the need, was wise enough to know what to do, and [had] the desire and ability to do it, and proved that in such dire straits selfless service was the one thing needed.
How well did the Samaritan of the parable illustrate Jesus' own life of unselfish service! Might we not properly call it divine service? Divine service should mean more than formal worship. As has been pointed out in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy (p. 40): "It is sad that the phrase divine service has come so generally to mean public worship instead of daily deeds." Divine service is something that should begin early Monday morning and last throughout the week. Divine service means meeting humanity's needs through an understanding of what is true about God and man. Divine service means utilizing the power of God over evil, truth over error, and harmony over discord, thus proving that the kingdom of God is at hand. Divine service means helping each other. What are called our church services are intended to fit us for this work; and, looked upon in this way, how necessary they are.
True service, as we understand it in Christian Science, has two sides — its Godward side and its manward side; response to God and responsibility to men. To regard religion solely as a means of comfort to oneself, without any obligation to comfort others, would be selfish. Religion has properly two sides — getting and giving; receiving and reflecting; hearing and doing. On more than one occasion our Master approached those who did not practice their religion in their human relationships; those who knew what they should do and did it not. He said, "Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man." Jesus regarded a religion which did not express itself in helpful service as inadequate and selfish. One of our hymns (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 182) points out,
"They cease to have who cease to give:
Such is the law of Love."
This is a law in the realm of the mental or spiritual. If one gives of ideas, if one gives of his store of wisdom or affection, his treasure is not thereby lessened, but may be increased.
There are three passages in the Bible which illustrate rather clearly three quite different attitudes toward possession. First, the demand of the prodigal, "Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me": the childish attitude, dependent yet demanding; the selfish attitude, which is more concerned with getting than with giving. Secondly, when Ornan offered him a piece of land freely, David replied, "Nay, but I will verily buy it for the full price": the manly attitude, which desires to make a fair return; the mature attitude, which, while desiring to get, is willing to make a full return. Thirdly, the very well known, but even yet little understood saying of our Master, "It is more blessed to give than to receive": the one who understands this is he whose first thought is to give liberally to all.
He who receives must give if he would receive more. There is a vast difference between getting to give, and getting to keep. Let me illustrate by a story as told by a well-known writer: "The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are made of the same water. . . . The Sea of Galilee makes beauty of it, for the Sea of Galilee has an outlet. It gets to give. It gathers in its riches that it may pour them out again to fertilize the Jordan plain. But the Dead Sea with the same water makes horror. For the Dead Sea has no outlet. It gets to keep." May we not herein see a rule? The selfishness which gets to keep defeats its own ends.
Those of you who are acquainted with the events which attended the beginning of the Christian Science movement may recall that on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 1, 1866, Mrs. Eddy and a group of friends were returning from a meeting of the Good Templars in Lynn, Massachusetts; that she fell upon the icy street and was severely injured; that the doctor who was called found her injuries to be internal and of a serious nature; and that she was removed to her home the following day, though in a very critical condition.
On Sunday she called for her Bible and began reading the account of the healing by Jesus of the palsied man, and as she read she had a great spiritual experience — the realization then and there of the presence and power of God. In that moment all pain vanished. She rose from her bed, dressed, and walked into the parlor where her clergyman and a few friends were sitting. In that moment, Mrs. Eddy did more than experience relief from physical suffering. She received a revelation for which she had been fitting herself all her life.
Mrs. Eddy then began to put her new-found understanding to the test. One of her first demonstrations was the instantaneous healing of a boy of what was called a bone felon. Shortly thereafter she healed a young man of fever, and a little later a woman who had not walked for sixteen years (See "The Life of Mary Baker Eddy" by Sibyl. Wilbur, pp. 146-150).
Mrs. Eddy had now proved that through her understanding of Principle she was able to help herself and others. But could this knowledge be successfully imparted? She took one pupil, and, as a result of her instructions, he was instrumental in healing a number of people.
She accepted other pupils and taught them in small classes, and many of these became successful practitioners. Thus, the interest in Christian Science expanded, until, in 1875, a group of students engaged Mrs. Eddy to conduct regular Sunday services for them: this was the first step toward a Christian Science church. Four years later, a charter for a church in Boston was obtained, and this church was reorganized in 1892, under the title, The First Church of Christ, Scientist. Since that time, as interest in Christian Science has developed, branches of this church have been formed in many places, until they now encircle the globe.
From the moment of her healing, Mrs. Eddy devoted her life to the service of God and humanity. Few, indeed, have served their fellow men as did she. Few lived as did she — a life of unselfed service. Not all of her students became successful practitioners; not all of them entered upon a life of selfless service to the Cause and humanity. Some of them not only forsook her teaching but turned violently against her, and out of her wide experience in dealing with various mentalities, she has left for our guidance many warnings.
To those inclined to be overzealous in their efforts to serve, she warns against "venturing on valor without discretion, which is virtually meddlesomeness" (Miscellaneous Writings, p., 287); "Be sure that your means for doing good are equal to your motives" (ibid., p. 90) is another of our Leader's warnings. To desire to help is not enough; we must be equipped to help.
The overzealous, yet unequipped, worker has evidently had a long history. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians says he has heard about the "busybodies," and exhorts "that with quietness they work." Peter also warned his readers against being "a busybody in other men's matters." Why these warnings? Doubtless, because some had been so aggressive in their methods; had entered uninvited into the affairs of others; had become officious because of their lack of humility; had become busybodies, meddlers. Meddlesomeness is not service.
Another obstruction to usefulness is a phase of selflessness which lacks wisdom. Let us take an illustration far enough from home. In "Bleak House," one of Dickens' characters is the selfless Mrs. Jellyby. Selfless? Surely. Her whole time and thought were devoted to clothing the naked, and educating the ignorant natives of faraway Africa. The trouble was she had no time for the education, clothing, and care of her own children. All her kindness and care were concentrated on Bor-rioboola-Gha. Her selflessness was of no use where it was most needed. She did not put first things first.
Another obstacle to true service is a desire for prominence. This made its appearance among Jesus' disciples. We may read of it in Matthew's account of the sons of Zebedee. No less a place than immediately beside Jesus was their desire. This desire for prominence, rather than self-sacrificing service, may be encountered today. It shows itself in a willingness to serve only in the higher offices, in the more prominent positions — not in the minor offices. Thus does this phase of selfishness frequently keep its victim in uselessness.
In the twentieth chapter of Matthew, Jesus painted in vivid contrast the worldly great and the useful self-effacing servant. He said: "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." The Christian Science organization has been built after this pattern. It has no personal rulers. Those who occupy what might be called the higher offices can do so only by rendering unintermittent, self-effacing service to the Cause and humanity. In this they are following the example of their Leader, who, because of her own life of self-sacrifice, was able to tell us (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 340), "Only by persistent, unremitting, straightforward toil; by turning neither to the right nor to the left, seeking no other pursuit or pleasure than that which cometh from God, can you win and wear the crown of the faithful."
What has Christian Science to say on this subject? Christian Science teaches that God is Love; God is Mind; the divine Principle of the universe, including man; and that man is made in His likeness, and expresses Him. Man, God's likeness, then, always reflects Love, intelligence, and the government of God. In our relationship with each other, we can reflect these qualities, can truly serve our fellow men, in proportion to our humility and our understanding of Truth. Domination, which is the opposite of true service, has its roots in an exaltation of self — self-importance or self-righteousness — which is the very opposite of humility, and is not a characteristic of man as he really is. Is it any wonder Mrs. Eddy has written (ibid., p. 354), "Humility is the first step in Christian Science"?
Another obstacle which mortal mind sometimes throws into the path of true service is the love of money. Paul wrote to Timothy (Rev. Ver.): "They that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil; which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Jesus saw this temptation and warned against it. He saw covetousness rupturing brotherhood; the lust for money invading the temple; men giving their lives to heaping wealth on wealth; and he closed one of his parables with the never-to-be-forgotten words, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." There was a reason for this. Jesus was living a life of service; he was teaching his followers to do the same. And he recognized that the lust for money was one of the obstacles to be overcome.
You and I have seen business organizations grow from small beginnings and continue to expand for decades. We have seen others rise like a rocket and fall as quickly. We know that those which have an enduring foundation are those whose primary intention is service: those which are based on the principle, Deal with the other fellow as you would like him to deal with you if you were in his place.
But the question: arises, What can I do to better conditions?
May I ask a few questions: Is the business in which you are engaged helpful to the community? If not, are you trying to make it so? Does your firm put the good of the community and service to its workers and patrons first? Does your business put profits before the welfare of its workers? If so, are you striving to change the policy of your firm, and to improve the conditions of your employees? Are you treating your employees as you would like to be treated were you in their place? If you are an employee, are you serving your employer as you would like to be served were you in his place? This is basing your business on the Golden Rule. This is linking your business to your religion, where it should always remain. This is living Christian Science. This is letting God govern you. Or, to quote Mrs. Eddy (The First Church, of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 222): "Mankind will be God-governed in proportion as God's government becomes apparent, the Golden Rule utilized, and the rights of man and the liberty of conscience held sacred. Meanwhile, they who name the name of Christian Science will assist in the holding of crime in check, will aid the ejection of error, will maintain law and order, and will cheerfully await the end — justice and judgment."
Frequently we shall find it helpful to ask ourselves, What would Jesus do if he were in my place? One could hardly imagine Jesus being in a business that would not be beneficial to the community. The welfare of his employees would have his constant consideration. The utmost of foresight, intelligence, wisdom, and industry, we should expect to see manifested. His business would be successful. Inevitably, under such management, it would be successful. It is essential that business be profitable: otherwise it could not continue to render service. But profit should not be the exclusive or even the primary consideration. Profit is an effect, and an assured effect of right motive and intelligent endeavor.
To compare our lives with our Master's is, as Mrs. Eddy has said (No and Yes, p. 41), "to subject them to severe scrutiny," but much may be gained from such "severe scrutiny" of our thoughts, and actions. And it has been the experience of many people that an understanding of Christian Science has enabled them to emulate in increasing measure the example of our Master in their business life.
Probably one of the strongest, one of the most ineradicable, of the human characteristics is a sense of justice. It demands that wrong be punished and right be rewarded. So under the Mosaic law we find one sense of justice expressed in the phrase "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." Remember not two teeth for one tooth; one only, not a fraction more. Retribution must be just, revenge must be limited; there must be no injustice. This was the best way then known to discourage wrong. But humanity grew in its understanding of justice and mercy, and in New Testament days Paul wrote to the Romans, "Recompense to no man evil for evil," and, "Avenge not yourselves." The Mosaic law limited retaliation; the New Testament annulled it. A better way had been found. Jesus revealed it.
Few people in any age have been vilified as was the Leader of the Christian Science movement, and in many instances by those whom she had immeasurably helped. She experienced hatred in its most virulent form, and learned to deal with it successfully. Out of her life experience she has written (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 11): "Love metes not out human justice, but divine mercy. . . . We must love our enemies in all the manifestations wherein and whereby we love our friends; must even try not to expose their faults, but to do them good whenever opportunity occurs. To mete out human justice to those who persecute and despitefully use one, is not leaving all retribution to God and returning blessing for cursing."
Many will admit that it is our duty to render some sort of service to our friends, but scientific Christianity demands much more. It says, "Do as you would be done by." You desire from others active good will; then you must give it. Simply restraining oneself from doing an enemy harm is not conforming to the Golden Rule. This rule cannot be kept negatively. Justice is positive. It demands that you put yourself in the place of the one with whom you are dealing. It demands that our enemy receive at our hands a painstaking bestowal of kindness, affection and love. Thus and thus only can we reflect our Father, who, as Jesus has told us, "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Humanity divides itself into classes: the young and the old; the rich and the poor; the learned and the unlearned; the strong and the weak; and it asserts as one of its laws, "the survival of the fittest," by which is meant the strong will become stronger and the weak, weaker, or the strong will live at the expense of the weak.
Christianity introduced into human experience a glimpse of divine Principle. It says, to quote from Paul's epistle to the Romans, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." What a revolutionary idea! Instead of the strong battening upon the weak, and the rich upon the poor, they should help them; help them because they need it. Here then is another reason for service. Mrs. Eddy puts it thus (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 518): "The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good."
Strong and weak are, of course, only comparative terms, and most of us are in both classes; that is, one may be strong compared with a weaker, and weak compared with a stronger. However, no one of us is in a position where he is independent of the service of his fellow men. There have been times in the experience of each one of us when we were absolutely dependent upon the help of others. Is it not then our duty to repay that debt when possible?
But what says Christian Science? Does Christian Science teach that there is inequality among God's children? It reiterates the message of the first chapter of Genesis: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him. . . . And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." Who is the man God made? Who, if not you, and you, and you? Perfect ideas of a perfect Mind, perfect children of a perfect Father. Is not that your true being? Is not that what is really true about you as God knows you? A spiritual, not a material being; a perfect, not an imperfect idea; a son of God, expressing Him. No inequality there. And remember this is what is absolutely true about each one of us at this moment. Is not this what John meant when he wrote, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God" — sons of God, with all that term implies of God's provision; God's protection; yes, God's perfection.
A century ago when methods of communication and transportation were comparatively slow, a person was able to render quick and effective service only to those in his vicinity. Today, with much improved methods of communication, one may hear by radio of some great need which has suddenly arisen on the opposite side of the world; and if he desires to render assistance, his service may be effectively present at that distant place tomorrow. He may not be there, but his money to buy supplies may be there, along with contributions from thousands of others. Thus can he unite with others to meet a need thousands of miles distant, and do it quickly.
On many occasions Christian Scientists from various countries have thus co-operated in their service to the needy, when the need has arisen by reason of storm, flood, or earthquake. Each person, by his prompt contribution, has helped to serve the needy more quickly, and possibly more effectively, than if he had been himself on the spot.
Another example of co-operative service. A few years ago it became apparent that if the Christian Science organization were to continue to grow in meeting efficiently humanity's need for literature — literature which would carry to its readers helpful messages to encourage and inspire them in their daily tasks — The Christian Science Publishing Society would have to be given greatly enlarged facilities for its work. How many Christian Scientists co-operated in providing the needed funds we do not know; but it is now a matter of history that before the building was completed and equipped, approximately $4,000,000 was received by those who had the work in hand, and without such co-operation, the task would have been impossible.
Yet another example: The Christian Science denomination is made up of The Mother Church and its many branches throughout the world. Church, is defined in our textbook (Science and Health, p. 583) in part as follows: "The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick." The activities of each branch church will therefore afford many an opportunity for selfless co-operation in its service to the community, and the more selfless the service the better.
There are numbers of persons who are willing to work, are ready to serve, if they can work alone, and in some instances effective service may be rendered in that way, but many of the world's' activities are most successfully carried on by co-operation; and efficient co-operation may entail many persons in selflessness. If you would know what it means to be a good co-operator, read the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians. You will see that it is to possess a love that is (I quote from Moffatt's translation) "very patient, very kind, . . . knows no jealousy, . . . makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful, . . . is never glad when others go wrong, . . . always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient."
This chapter in Paul's letter to the Corinthians is no mere sentiment. It is a plain statement of the only way to live helpfully and smoothly with our fellow men. It is the only basis upon which we human beings can live and work together harmoniously. In the preceding chapter, Paul uses the figure of one body and many members to present vividly the normality of cooperative effort; to show us, in other words, that the primary law of living is not selfishness but selflessness, love.
Christian Science has, however, embarked upon a much wider program than dealing with the needs of people in the immediate vicinity of its churches. "The Christian Scientist has enlisted to lessen evil" (Science and Health, p. 450), to quote again from our textbook, whether such evil claims to control an individual, a nation, or the world. You have doubtless heard of instances in which discords of various natures have been overcome for individuals through Christian Science, and if this has been done for individuals, why should it not be possible to do it for nations? The cause of discord is the same in either case — the carnal mind. The remedy is the same ‒ the utilization of God's law. True, it may not seem as easy to determine the specific trouble in the wider realm, or to break the mesmeric influence of evil over collective human thinking; nevertheless, it is possible, and is it not our duty to do what we can in this wider sphere, even though it does necessitate a deeper understanding and a wider application of divine Principle?
The Christian Scientists of today should be well equipped to evaluate world needs, because through their international daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, they receive news, selected, interpreted, and commented upon by several writers who have proved their ability to survey world affairs in the light of divine Principle. Is it not equally the duty of the Christian Scientist today to do his utmost to prove the powerlessness of the evil which claims to rule nations through greed, hatred, superstition, or race jealousies as it is to prove the powerlessness of disease to bind an individual?
Because each of us is a citizen of the world, just as surely as he is an inhabitant of a country, it is our duty to give consideration to the problems of the world as well as to the problems of our vicinity. And because the only way by which problems are solved is a mental process, we must be alert to think rightly about every situation which comes before our attention. We must clearly differentiate between good and evil; foresee, and, when possible, forestall the underhand attempts of evil to deceive humanity, and recognize and do our utmost to realize the presence and power of good as operative in the very place where it appears to be unknown or unseen.
"Church" is defined in our textbook (Science and Health, p. 583) in part as follows: "The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race." "Elevating the race" is undoubtedly one of the purposes of the church. In particular, the church accepts into membership those who are not fully acquainted with its purposes, activities, or government, and by precept and example educates them into a fitness to take part in the activities and government of the organization. But the church carries on a much wider service. It welcomes to the services of both the church and Sunday School those who desire to attend, and instructs them by means of its Lesson-Sermons and literature in the truth about God and man — truths which these newcomers can utilize in their daily lives, to protect and free themselves from ills and discords of various kinds. Mrs. Eddy has told us in our textbook (Science and Health, p. 371), "The necessity for uplifting the race is father to the fact that Mind can do it; for Mind can impart purity instead of impurity, strength instead of weakness, and health instead of disease." From this statement we may properly infer that what needs to be done, can be done; for every need, there is an ability; for every ought to be, a can be. Let us put this another way. If we were really to believe that there is absolutely no way by which a great human need can be met, might it not be that there is just a little atheism lurking about? Is it not a fact that God is supplying man moment by moment with all the wisdom and intelligence he needs? Is not God doing for us, at this moment, all we are permitting Him to do? If human needs are not being met, the responsibility rests not upon God, but upon ourselves — upon our ignorance of God and His laws.
We were saying that one of the purposes of the church is to "elevate the race," and I am sure you will find that the members of Christian Science churches are usually eager to assist and encourage the beginner, the newcomer. This is as it should be. On the other hand, the church should never be found attempting to harm anyone, to hinder anyone's progress. I mention this because it has been attempted by organized religion in the past — an attempt to keep anyone from getting much above the average. If you are in doubt about this, let us ask ourselves some questions. What was it that persecuted the prophets, discoverers, and spiritual seers of the past? Can organized religion claim to be guiltless? Has not persecution for righteousness' sake been all too frequently one of its activities? What persecuted our Master, and why? Had not our Master been more spiritually minded than all others; had he not possessed a demonstrable understanding of God, which seemed uncanny to the theologists of his day; had he not been inspired by a self-abnegating desire to help humanity, utterly undreamed of by his fellow men; had he not been above the average, would he have been so persecuted?
But this strange attitude of religionists has not been confined to the early centuries. It has manifested itself in our time. Did it not do everything it knew how to do to prevent Mrs. Eddy's making known her discovery? Did it not later attempt to obstruct the organization and progress of the Christian Science movement? And may it not be attempting at this moment to discourage the spiritual development of individuals within the organization? Through what channels does this phase of evil work? Frequently through bigotry or envy.
Let us examine this subject in the light of Christian Science. When Mrs. Eddy established The Christian Science Monitor, she wrote (Miscellany, p. 353), "The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." Does not this give us more than a hint of what should be the life-purpose of every Christian Scientist? To help all and to harm no one. The Christian Scientist is, therefore, endeavoring to see man as he really is. In this he is following the example of our Master. What was Jesus' view of man? Our textbook (Science and Health, p. 476) answers this question thus: ''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." And it might with propriety be added "this correct view of man" healed the sinner; also, "this correct view of man" raised the dead. This is the concept of man, or the understanding of man, we are trying to gain.
The Christian Scientist is learning to draw a line of clear distinction between good and evil, also between evil and man. In the measure that he is able to perceive clearly that evil is not a part of man, he finds that he can love men even while he condemns the evil they may have committed, and this love for man may free the wrongdoer, and prove to him that evil will never really be a part of him.
Whether, therefore, his neighbor may be reputed to be very bad or very good, a public enemy or a moral leader, the student of Christian Science recognizes that he has a duty toward him, a duty which he must fulfill. That duty is to think rightly about his neighbor at all times, to endeavor to see him as he really is; to love him, for love and love alone "is the fulfilling of the law."
Luke tells us that on one occasion Jesus "called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases." This does not mean that Jesus in some mysterious way bestowed upon his disciples magic powers, but, that he taught them what was necessary for them to know in order that they might be able to render this service to their fellow men. Again, Luke tells us that Jesus "appointed other seventy also" and commanded them to "heal the sick," and we read later, "The seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name."
If there were, by any chance, a tinge of unconscious vanity in that statement, Jesus swept it aside in his reply, "Rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." In other words, Rejoice not in your success, but rather rejoice in the omnipresence and omnipotence of God, which is the basis of healing. You may remember, there came a day when the disciples admitted that the devils were not subject to them, but they were subject to Truth; to Jesus' impersonal realization that God, good, is the only cause and creator. Neither the disciple of Jesus' time nor the Christian Science practitioner of today could logically take credit for healing unless he were at the same time willing to accept all blame for failure to heal. The individual, whether disciple of old or practitioner of today, is not the source of healing: he is only the instrument; and his success in healing will depend upon his Christlikeness — upon his understanding of God, the Principle of all true being.
Today Christian Science is teaching us that it is our duty not only to learn the truth about God and His creation, but also to prove our understanding of Truth by meeting human needs. If our theology is not continually put to the test of practical application, of demonstration, it will soon cease to be any more than a theory.
In our textbook there is a very practical chapter entitled "Christian Science Practice." When the practice of Christian Science is mentioned, many are apt to think this term refers solely to that part of a Christian Scientist's time which is devoted to the healing of the ills of his fellow men. But the healing of disease is not of itself Christian Science practice; rather is it one of the results of such practice. One begins the practice of Christian Science the moment he begins to think rightly, or from a purely Christian standpoint. Christian Science practice is the practice of righteousness in his own thought and life. Nothing short of right thinking and right acting, from a purely spiritual viewpoint, is Christian Science practice, and to the extent this is done, effects or healings will naturally follow.
Calming the fearful, comforting the sorrowing, healing the sick, and reforming the sinner are services we should and must render to those who seek our help. Nor should these privileges be left entirely to those who give their entire time to the public practice of healing. Every Christian Scientist has, to use the words of our textbook, "enlisted to lessen evil, disease, and death" (Science and Health, p. 450); that is, to put into practice what he is learning about God and man, and he must not, at his peril, neglect to do this.
This does not mean that one who is just beginning the study of Christian Science becomes immediately a competent practitioner, but it does mean that the best way to know more is to put to the test, or to put into practice, what he has already learned.
Every normal person has a desire to help others, but such a desire does not always carry with it the ability to render the needed service. So Mrs. Eddy has cautioned (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 90), "Be sure that your means for doing good are equal to your motives." Good intention is not sufficient; there must be ability, or fitness. For example: The intention to join a church, laudable as that may be, is one thing; to be fit to join may be quite another. To desire to serve your organization in a certain capacity is one thing; to be equipped to render satisfactory and efficient service is another. To accept some needy person as a patient is one thing; to heal him is another. And, by the way, a Christian Scientist accepts a patient for only one purpose, and that is to get rid of him — I mean, to heal him. His purpose is not to gather around himself a large clientele, a body of followers or supporters. His endeavor is to turn the attention of his patient, not to himself, but to God, because God alone is the source or Principle of healing.
A desire to do good is quite proper, but unless one knows what it is good to do, it may be dangerous. "A lack of wisdom," our Leader has pointed out (Miscellany, p. 128), "betrays Truth into the hands of evil as effectually as does a subtle conspirator; the motive is not as wicked, but the result is as injurious." This is strong language. Unfitness may be treachery.
As we said before: to desire to heal is one thing; to be able to heal is another. This is just what the Christian Scientist is constantly and conscientiously endeavoring to do — to fit himself to heal quickly. To do this he knows that he needs more humility, more love, more wisdom, a better understanding of God and His laws, and a clearer vision of man as God's expression. To this end he studies daily the most helpful books in the world, the Bible and the Christian Science textbook. Mrs. Eddy leaves us in no doubt as to the necessity for consecrated preparation for the work of a Christian Science healer. She has written (Christian Healing, p. 14), "The preparation for a metaphysical practitioner is the most arduous task I ever performed."
One word more before we leave this subject. The influence of Christian Science teaching is today felt far beyond the confines of the Christian Science churches. By reason of it humanity is being awakened to see that distresses, which were formerly regarded as acts of God, and, therefore, to be endured with becoming resignation, are not of God at all, but are evils, which should be overcome and destroyed. Because of this awakening, there is a growing demand for freedom from discord, and an insistence that such a freedom is humanity's right. This demand Christian Science must meet; in other words, Christian Science has helped to create this demand, and Christian Science must meet it, and we as Christian Scientists cannot evade the responsibility.
[Delivered Jan 3, 1938, at First Church of Christ, Scientist, New York and Dean Street, Brooklyn, New York, and published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 8, 1938.]