Christian Science: A Religion of Doing
Judge William G. Ewing, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Son of God! Saviour of men! Thy name
Shall be the copious matter of my song.
I assume it to be the earnest desire of Christian people all around the globe, so to concentrate and unify Christian thought and Christian endeavor that the highest and best there is in them may, without let or hindrance, be fixed upon the promotion of the reign of righteousness, the establishment of the kingdom of God in this world. To this consummation Christian Scientists are devoted by every sense of obedience, gratitude, and duty. I appear before you tonight in no spirit of proselytism or mere denominational aggrandizement, but in the very essence of the great commandment, "Love thy neighbor as thyself," to bring to you the story of the best that ever came into their lives, that it may impart a new joy to yours; not to thrust it upon you, but simply to hold it out, in the Master's name, as something for you to weigh in the scales of your best judgment, in your opportunity, your environment, your conscience, and to make your own, if you will.
Introductory to the discussion, I desire to tell you something about Mrs. Eddy, who by searching the Scriptures discovered Christian Science and gave it to the world, for as you come to know her, you will, like every other good person, who does know her, love her for the contribution she has made to the happiness of mankind. I do not intend to pronounce a fulsome eulogy upon this great woman; such an effort would not be in keeping with my own idea of the proprieties of the occasion, and would, I am sure, be offensive to her. She is not seeking the praise of men, but the friendly companionship of her own conscience and the favor of God. She is far from being indifferent to the commendation of her fellows, but she values it only in the exact ratio that the real purpose of her life and the accomplishment of that purpose justly commands the respect of the good everywhere. In her long "walk and conversation" in life Mrs. Eddy has presented as conspicuous an example of gentle, unselfish, ministering womanhood as rests in benediction upon mankind; but there is a large community of respectable, liberal-minded people who do not, but would, understand Mrs. Eddy, and it is to this class I address myself.
If I have rightly caught the current of thought respecting Mrs. Eddy, industriously promulgated by the protestants against her church, it is this: That she is an ambitious woman, laboring for personal distinction and her own preferment, and that to such accomplishment she has builded a great church and dotted the globe with its beautiful chapels and magnificent temples. Many people think that they think this of Mrs. Eddy. Now, with many years of abundant opportunity to know, may I not say to you, with some hope of your believing me, that such an impression of Mrs. Eddy has no basis in any fact of her life. A moment's reflection will convince any fair-minded person that Mrs. Eddy needs no triumph of the builder's art to keep her name secure against the cankering touch of time; she already has a monument reaching above the stars, more firmly based than the everlasting hills, outlasting tablets of granite or marble or brass, a monument which is reared in the grateful hearts of many thousands of men and women, to whom she has given roses for ashes and song for sighing.
Do you catch the significance of this enduring record of her goodness and greatness? What would you give, any one of you, if you could hold up your hand and say that these five fingers represent so many suffering, crying men and women, whom by the blessing of God you have been able to lift from disease into health, from despair into hope, aye! if you could hold up one little finger and say: "This represents a young man whom I knew in the bloom of youth and health, — a child of fortune, having all the advantages of education, culture, and travel, radiant in the flush and glory of 'love's young dream,' happy in the fadeless love of a beautiful woman and rich in the pressure of little arms about his neck, speaking volumes that no words can utter; then I saw the tempter press the wine cup to his lips, I heard the cry of agony, I saw the lights one by one go out, his home dismantled, his wife and children objects of charity and he an outcast; in the name of the pitying Christ I lifted him from the mire, spoke to him of something better, — of Love that reaches to the uttermost ends of the world, and caught in the repentant tear that dampened his cheek, the signet of God; I took him back to himself, back to his wife and children, back to respectability and purity, and rekindled in his home the fires that God's love has ever since kept burning." Oh, if you could say to yourself that this one little act of human kindness, this once loving your neighbor as you love yourself, stands to your credit in the great ledger of God, for what kingdom in this world would you exchange the welling joy of your heart? Well, Mrs. Eddy has many scores of just such ministries to her credit on the tablets of God's knowing.
What Mrs. Eddy Discovered
Some persons affect the impression
that Mrs. Eddy claims that by reason of commission direct from the Almighty, —
some oracular communication, or occult virtue in herself, — she created, and
may exercise ad libitum, the superhuman, healing, reforming, redeeming grace
and power revealed in Christian Science. The utter absurdity of such an
impression is apparent in Mrs. Eddy's simple claim to be the "Discoverer
and Founder of Christian Science;" her declaration of discovery is
necessarily an admission of the prior existence of the thing or fact
discovered, and neither modesty nor precision of statement required her to do
That to the larger orb
The less attracts, thro' matter's whole domain.
Let me tell you, in simple words
and very briefly, what in its last analysis Mrs. Eddy discovered; when she
discovered it, and as nearly as I can, how, or her incentive or inspiration to
make the effort; and it will appear to you, I think, perfectly natural,
reasonable, and eminently selfless. Mrs. Eddy is descended from a long line of
The difference between the experience of Mrs. Eddy and that of the many universally recognized examples of divine healing all along the track of the centuries, is this: All the others were satisfied with mere declarations of gratitude, while Mrs. Eddy felt that there was something for her to do: what she had so greatly received, she must greatly give. Her logical mind reached at once the conclusion that her own healing was the result of the operation of an unvarying, divine law which should be known and published to the world. To the accomplishment of this high purpose she retired from the world, and with the Bible as her only oracle she devoted three years to its prayerful study. This is what she found, uncovered, discovered, to a demonstrable certainty, to wit: the modus, the infallible rule whereby the weary children of earth may today as successfully appeal to the might of God for redemption from sorrow, sickness, and sin, as the same power was invoked nineteen hundred years ago; or, in Mrs. Eddy's own words, "The discovery how to be well myself, and how to make others so" (Retrospection, and Introspection, p. 24). And this, in its briefest statement, is the benediction with which Mrs. Eddy has crowned mankind.
The Old Churches
I will not speak one word of unkindness, disrespect, or harsh criticism of the old churches; nineteen-twentieths of the Christian Scientists came out of the old churches and still retain a profound respect for them. I am strongly of the opinion that there never has been an association of Christian men and women brought together for the sole purpose of establishing God's kingdom in the world, that did not have a niche to fill in the divine economy, and that has not in its day and generation filled that niche well. I am not here to reflect upon your churches, but simply to tell you of the love, sweetness, and song there is in my own church, and to join you in grateful thanksgiving for the love, sweetness, and song there is in yours.
While it is evident that the
antagonism to Christian Science, of whatsoever form or degree of virulence, in
greater or less measure is akin to prejudice, still my appreciation of the
average intelligence and fairness of men will not admit of my making, without
direct proof, the charge of prejudice against any one. I do not like the word
"prejudice," and take pride in the fact that the vigorous old Saxon
tongue had no part or parcel in its conception or projection; some genius of
unfairness hitched it to our language by the unholy wedlock of two little Latin
words, in themselves harmless and of good report, but in combination offensive
to the very limit of a wordmaker's audacity. The Latin words are pre (before)
and judicium (judgment), — prejudgment, opinion without thought, conclusion
before investigation, determination without evidence, condemnation without a
day in court, or even a court in which to have a day. That word is the black
sheep, the outcast, the repulsive, blear-eyed degenerate of the royal family of
words; while prejudice, the act, is the mockery of justice, the thief of
reputation. It found the fagots and lighted the fires of martyrdom all around
the world; it stoned Stephen; imprisoned Paul; cast Daniel into the lions' den;
I will not charge any man with the sin of this association of infamies. I prefer to avoid scrupulously the use of prejudice in my estimate of the actions of men, and leave that word to a silent immortality of shame as the only apology for eternal punishment. There is no evil in the world vile enough to justify an intelligent man's prejudice. I am sure you will not misunderstand me. I do not say, nor do I intimate, that there are not evils by the score, infamous enough not only to justify your antagonism, but to invite — yea, demand — it. Such activity, however, must always follow, and never precede, honest investigation and a reasonable conclusion from such inquiry; this will save your act from the category of prejudice, and place it in line with intelligent reasonable human effort.
I trust anything I have said will not induce the impression that Christian Scientists object in the slightest degree to candid investigation and honest criticism of all that their church represents. They do not shrink from any responsibility attaching to their religious belief or its practice; they do not invoke your sympathy nor supplicate your charity; they openly challenge your investigation and demand your respect, because the contribution of Christian Science to the weal of men commands it. Serene in their purpose to be right, if wrong they would gladly be righted by you; but if right, they insist — must insist — that the good they have belongs to humanity, and should — aye, shall — be given to its own.
No Antagonism to Christian Science
It is a safe postulate that among Christian people there is not in fact, and from our viewpoint logically cannot be, any antagonism to Christian Science. I concede that there is much activity on the part of some Christian people against their own concept of Christian Science, what they think it is, or quite probably what their pastor says he thinks it is; or against doctrines, beliefs, and practices they unadvisedly, and therefore most unjustly, associate with Christian Science.
Now, if a traverse of the facts upon which Christian Science is based should satisfy objectors that their concept of it is the product of imagination and not of judgment enriched by investigation, and that their thought respecting its doctrines, beliefs, and practices has no basis in fact and is demonstrably as foreign to Christian Science as an iceberg is to the sun; in other words, if they should find that the evils which they are bombarding are as offensive to Christian Scientists as to themselves, they should be and would be pleased, I am sure, not only to admit their error, but to publish it to the world. The ground of your opposition to Christian Science is your unwarrantable assumption that it is not Christian. Now, if your premise is true, your conclusion is both logical and Christian, but if your premise is not true, your conclusion is neither logical nor Christian. If Christian Science is Christian, of course you as Christian people cannot antagonize it without the sacrifice of your own Christian character. Therefore, clearly, the unchristian attitude of Christian Science is the objective point, the matter in contention, the fact to be proven, and not in disregard of every rule of logic and principle of justice to be assumed.
If a robber assaults you in the highway, you may take his life, if need be, in defense of yourself and your property, but you must be reasonably certain of his assault before you do so; for his assault is the fact upon which the excuse or justification of your act depends, and that fact must be proven, not assumed. By parity of reason you cannot fail to see, I am sure, that you cannot strike down a great church upon a mere assumption of its antichristian character without denuding yourselves of all semblance of the Christ and loudly invoking upon yourselves the divine decree, "With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
The Test of Belief in God
What is the rule by which men measure the merit or status of any theory, belief, or practice respecting man's relationship to his fellows and to God? Evidently the standard is the religion of Jesus Christ. What is the status of your church among the believers in God, the disciples of the Christ, when tested by this infallible rule? You say that you believe in one God the maker of heaven and earth, infinite in power, goodness, mercy, and love; that you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son; that you believe in God's revelation of Himself to men as revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as the only guide to eternal life. You say that you believe in the Ten Commandments as God's laws respecting human conduct; you say that you believe in the potency, the duty of prayer; you say that you believe in the great commandment of the Christ to love God supremely and your neighbor as yourself. You thus cover in your declaration of belief the essentials of the religion of Jesus Christ. Upon this declaration you rest your right to rank on a common plane with the Christian churches and Christian people of the world.
Christian Scientists profess to believe in the same God whom you worship; they declare reliance upon the same divine Christ; they profess to seek guidance and direction from the same Word of God that you read; they lift their voice in prayer to the same loving Father whose protection you say you implore; they proclaim obedience to the same great commandment to love God supremely and your neighbor as yourselves, to which you declare adherence; wherefore it is apparent that, by virtue of mere profession or declaration of Christian belief, Christian Science occupies a position quite as firmly based as that of your church, and is entitled to precisely the same marking or credit respecting its affinity to the religion of Jesus that you may reasonably ask for your church, which is quite sufficient, under the doctrine of the "pot and kettle" case, to seal your mouths of complaint. There is, however, a higher lesson to be drawn from this analogy between mere professions of Christian faith, than simple notice to dwellers in "glass houses;" it serves as a reminder to all of us that "faith without works is dead;" that, as Jesus said, "not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
There is not anything respecting which people so persistently and insistently deceive themselves, as they do in the value they attach to professions of belief in God. Something more than mere declaration, profession, saying, is required to satisfy even ourselves. In the court of God, where all things are as they seem, where errors cannot occur, creeds and confessions of faith will not be admitted, the only inquiry will be, "What did you do?" The world seems to be awakening to the momentous fact that the religion of Jesus Christ is not a religion of words, of form and ceremony, platitudes, professions, confessions, creeds, and candlesticks, but a religion of accomplishment, of ministry to men, — a religion of love.
Need of Faith
It may have been dangerous heresy yesterday, but in the broader, freer today it is not, to say that it will do you no good simply to confess religion; no good merely to profess religion. You may repeat your creeds, the creeds of men, indefinitely, and it will do you no good — absolutely no good — unless your lives are so ordered that day by day and hour by hour you may know, and your neighbors about you may know as well, that you do indeed believe what you profess to believe, and know it by what you do. This is the only way given by God or known among men, whereby you may know what you believe respecting eternal things, namely, by what you do, and not by what you say. This is not my dictum, it is not the pronunciamento of my church. It is the open proclamation of the Master: "By their fruits ye shall know them."
This message was directed to you and to me as certainly as it was to the disciples who confronted him in the flesh, and it must be gratifying to us all, whatever our denominational name, to learn with what striking fidelity and picturesque consistency Jesus applied this severe test to himself. In a crucial moment of his mission, one of his own raised the startling and impious question as to whether he was the Christ or a pretender. Then your human judgment and mine would have said, "Now is the auspicious moment in which this messenger of God, this master of all reasoning, and master of the minds of men, too, may easily make an argument that will satisfy all men, the learned and unlearned alike, that he is 'the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" It is the supreme instant of all the ages. The world stands aghast with the stupendous issue of its redemption hinged upon the answer. What shall it be? Listen! Men and women hush the beating of their hearts to hear it, — the mightiest speech of all time, spoken with the simplicity of a child and the sublime assurance of a man! The gravity of the situation was appalling, — the Master's mission to the world, the hopes of men, impending on the answer; but without a moment's hesitancy, he surrendered the solution of the whole matter to the infallible test of works, of fruits, and turning to the bearer of the impious question, said: "Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk." That was all, — it was not more brief than convincing; it touched the high level of the momentous occasion and hushed to silence through the march of the centuries all reasonable questioning of the divinity of the Christ; the indivisible union, oneness, of Father and Son "in power and glory."
Have you ever thought, for a moment, that this is the only argument Jesus ever made in this world to establish his divinity? Think of it now! Many times he said that he was the Christ; that he was in the Father and the Father in him; that he and the Father were one; but the only argument, supporting reason, he ever uttered to establish the truth of his declaration, is found in the simple assertion of the patent physical fact, no less patent now than then, — that the blind see and the lame walk. These are the talismanic words of the Son of God, the amulet of the Christ, the herald of safety, the mighty panoply of Truth; the quick, decisive reply to every veiled or open assault upon the infinite supremacy of God or the divinity and healing ministry of the Christ. The lame walk, and the blind see, is the shibboleth of Christian Science, the impregnable bulwark of its safety, the quietus of questioning Johns the world around. The lame do walk and the blind do see today by virtue of the same limitless power and boundless Love that they did walk and see nineteen hundred years ago; and so long as this can be said in truth, as in absolute verity it is said today, just so long every shaft aimed at Christian Science, coming from whatsoever source it may, from Christian or pagan, from the learned or the ignorant, from the ambitious or the disappointed, will fall harmless to the ground, while Christian Science, unhurt, in the keeping of God, will move serenely on "toward the mark," for the prize of its "high calling" — the reclamation and redemption of men.
Christian Science a Religion
No one should entertain the impression for a single moment that Christian Science is a mere health resort, and valuable only for its prophylactic and therapeutic virtues; for while these are advantages of such merit as no Christian church has enjoyed since apostolic times, still, to every student of Christian Science, it is apparent that the healing is simply an incident of Christian Science, precisely as the "mighty works" the Master wrought were but mere incidents of the boundless redemption he brought to men. Nevertheless these incidents are the incontestable proof of the divinity that produced them. Our contention is that Christian Science is the Christian religion pure and simple, a religion of works, a nearer approach to the ministering religion that Jesus taught and practiced in the accomplishment of his mission to the world than men have known for seventeen hundred years.
It already appears that the declarations of Christian Scientists and the declarations of what are called the orthodox churches, respecting the essentials of the religion of Jesus Christ, are quite in harmony, — in spirit, if not in letter, the same; and this might raise the question, "Why then a new church? If we believe alike respecting the essentials of the Christian system, by what impulsion did you leave your old churches?" To this I reply that if we really believed alike respecting these essentials, if we all knew God alike and knew Him aright, there would be no old churches from which to separate. The simple fact of the unification of a true concept of God and our relationship to Him would instantly, per necessitatem, extinguish every denominational distinction, consume every creed, and unite all the children of God in one all-inclusive, invisible church, — its foundation the eternal purpose of the Father; its dome the ripened promises of the Son; its temple the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb; its music the songs the angels sing; its minister Love. But we do not believe alike, and therefore we left our old churches. I have not stated or intimated that we believe alike. I have simply said that our declarations of belief concerning the essentials of the religion of Jesus are in harmony; but our beliefs are wide apart.
Difference in Belief
We believe that God is Spirit, intelligence, Truth, Love, and is to be worshiped "in spirit and in truth;" you believe that He is person, with ears to hear your cry, eyes to see your wretchedness. We believe that God, by the word of His power, made all that was made, and pronounced it all very good. You believe that God made all, but made some of it bad, very bad. We believe that He is loving, gentle, kind; that He gives His children life, health, joy, song. You believe that He is moved by anger, jealousy, cruelty; that He makes you sick and lame and blind; that His mysterious providence houses you in poverty and clothes you in want; that He rocks the earth in anger, lashes the waves to fury, enters your home in the stillness of night and presses your little child's eyelids shut in death.
If I were asked to state the striking difference between the beliefs of Christian Science and the beliefs of the old churches, I would say it is the difference between saying your religion and doing your religion; or, in other words, the difference between what one says he believes and what he really believes. A moment's reflection will satisfy you that the creature's belief in the creator, a man's belief in God, is not within the compass of spoken language; it is just as impossible for you to write on parchment, paint on canvas, carve in brass or marble, your beliefs respecting the Almighty, as it is to measure infinity with a line. Your creed, at best, is but the result of an intellectual process, based upon human evidence; whereas the belief in God, essential to salvation, necessarily involves the element of trust, faith, reliance, which can be expressed only by fruits, works.
The word "belief," in one or another of its various forms or tenses, was used by Jesus more frequently than any other word of two syllables in his vocabulary, and without a solitary exception, when speaking of belief as an essential to salvation, in the sense of trust, faith, reliance. Jesus made it perfectly clear that your belief in God can only be expressed by your manifest faith in God, your absolute reliance upon Him. The Master made quite clear, also, the universal application of his rule of works, fruits. Notwithstanding this, the theologians for centuries have led the old churches in the thought that belief in God is simply a result of human reasoning, based upon human evidence, and such conclusion has no other force or certainty than human declaration. These two statements present exactly the difference between what you say you believe and what you do believe, and the difference is that you do, always do, what you believe, and you sometimes do what you say you believe.
I make the assertion that in every instance where Jesus employs the word belief as an essential to help or salvation, the sense of reliance must be understood in order to make his statement intelligible to the common understanding. Take, for instance, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." "These signs shall follow them that believe." Believe what? Who can answer what? It will not do to say, "Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God;" for the wickedest man in the world, if he has ordinary intelligence, from the historical and traditional evidence, would be forced to the intellectual belief of Christ's divinity. Now read these same texts with the substitution I have suggested, and how clear, comprehensive, and perfectly satisfying they are. "He that relieth upon me and is baptized shall be saved." "He that relieth upon me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." "These signs shall follow them that rely upon me."
Is it not palpable to human comprehension, and entirely reasonable, that if one relies wholly upon the power, goodness, and promise of God, he shall be saved, must be saved? "If God be for us, who can be against us?" If my reasoning upon this point is sound, it necessarily follows that any alleged belief in God which does not include reliance upon Him does not bring one within the promises of the Christ to them that believe. This conclusion seems to be corroborated by the statement of James: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."
What You Say You Believe, and What You Believe
Your worship of God, the tangible exhibit you make of your reliance upon God, is the supreme test of your belief in God. For centuries we, and our fathers before us, have stood in our temples of worship, repeating those most helpful and hopeful words that ever fell from the lips of the immortal Paul, "In him [God] we live, and move, and have our being," and yet we have gone immediately from this beautiful declaration of life and health in God, to the doctor or the druggist for that life and health which we had declared times without number we had only in the living God! Now, good friends, do you not think there is room, much room, for consistent, intelligent people to think that you are mistaken in your declaration of belief that your life and health are in God, if you never go to God for them? Is it not clear to you, to every one of you, that if right now you believed to an absolute certainty, as so many times you have said you believed, that God is the "great Physician", who heals all our diseases, that you would go, to the "great Physician" for succor and not to a mortal man? Again and again you have said in apparently absolute sincerity that God "is a very present help in trouble," and yet you have followed every such declaration by a line of action consistent only with the real belief that God is a never present help in trouble, and wouldn't help you if He were there. It is not conceivable to my mind that you can really believe in the power and promises of God to help you in time of trouble, and not seek His help when trouble comes. For, if unshackled, your belief conforms your action to itself; you do what you believe.
A well-known clergyman said a few days ago from his pulpit that Christian Scientists had dug an impassable gulf between themselves and the old churches by leaving their old churches and forming a new one. In making this statement, the distinguished prelate was indulging somewhat loosely in pulpit, if not poetic, license, and without any reflection upon the possibility of the public receiving his declaration as a modestly veiled announcement of the passing of his occupation. However, if the isolation of our church is as complete as the bishop says, and he can make the old churches believe it, this is our comfort and compensation, that there will never be another pulpit utterance against Christian Science in this world; for experience teaches that a church not accessible by the exits from other churches never unclutches the ministerial tongue. But there is no gulf, much less an impassable one, between the old churches and ours; hundreds of thousands of people nurtured in the old churches have found us, and thousands more are coming in the earnest conviction that to faith must be added works; that a mere profession of belief in God does not establish the mighty redeeming fact of belief in Him. We have invited many people to reform their lives, to study the Scriptures, to have faith in God, to follow the Christ, but not one to join our church. From what I have said you can easily see the reasonableness, if not the necessity, of forming a new church. The old churches think we are a little peculiar, and why? Because we believe in the infinite allness and goodness of God; believe that "in him we live, and move, and have our being;" believe that he is the "great Physician" who healeth all our diseases; believe that He is our refuge and strength in trouble, and demonstrate the absolute verity of our belief by our reliance upon God, and God only, in all the exigencies and emergencies of life. Is that unchristian? We appeal to the Christian men and women of the world, irrespective of church or creed, to hold in abeyance their traditional convictions, inherited beliefs, long enough to realize what a flood of light would be thrown upon the condition that confronts them, if they really believed — believed in the sense of trust, faith, reliance — the first clause of the apostles' creed, "I believe in God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth."
[Published in pamphlet form by The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1909.]