Christian Science: Its Nature and Purpose
Bliss Knapp, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
In coming before you to speak on the subject of Christian Science, it is in full recognition of the great diversity of opinions you may entertain respecting economics, religion, philosophy, art, and even the sciences; but the coherence which enables such diverse opinions to yield to the larger sense of unity on the vital points of life and liberty, was forever fixed in that most potent and fundamental idea of our Declaration of Independence, which grants that "men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." So we learn that the things which would unite us are more potent than those which would divide us. It is in relation to these more vital problems that I wish to speak; that we may reason together on a subject which concerns the life, liberty, and proper pursuit of happiness of every man, woman, and child.
Experience has shown that the numerous cases of physical healing first invite serious attention to Christian Science; but I might describe to you scores of these cases, without conveying to you much of an idea of the fundamental teachings of Christian Science. Indeed, the healing follows as the direct effect of a divine cause; but to raise the point that we have a textbook is to indicate at once that the teachings of Christian Science are expressed in comprehensive language and open to the impartial investigation of all.
As a religion we have no creedal dogmas; but in place thereof we have certain religious tenets six in number to which all must subscribe their names upon joining themselves to any church of this denomination. These set forth the primal facts that we worship one God and accept His Son, Christ Jesus, as the Wayshower to life and salvation; and that we establish our Christian conduct on the guidance of the inspired Word of the Bible.
The inspired writings of the Bible have comforted the world for centuries; and its highest ideal, its most perfect expression of religious teachings, was manifested in the life of Christ Jesus. And why? Because he knew more about God than any other man in the annals of history. Christian Science is based upon his words and works. If Christendom regards him as the Wayshower, it is because he lived and demonstrated all that he taught concerning our heavenly Father and the way of life and salvation. Then if I recall to your memory what the inspired Scriptures say about God, I am setting forth what the Christian Scientist believes.
We recognize the fact that Moses,
through progressive footsteps, through the lessons of the
Notwithstanding the obstacles placed in his way by a rebellious people, Moses' transformation readied the mount of vision, where he beheld the promised land as the open door of salvation; and in the clearness of that vision he wrote that our God is "a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." We have, therefore, the Mosaic definition that God is Truth. Indeed, this is in direct line with a famous saying of the Master, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." This freedom means liberation from all the distresses of sin, sickness, and disease.
Pilate once asked the question, "What is truth?" Our schools of philosophy have endeavored for centuries to solve this infinite query; but their gropings have merely resulted in a growing divergence between reason and revelation, and the consequent belief that Truth must be twofold. In other words, philosophy would have us believe there is one truth called reason, and another truth called revelation; but that revelation is a kind of intrusion upon reason, and entirely lacking in a reasonable explanation. This philosophy would make gods many, and it has tended to make agnostics and atheists. On the other hand, Christianity corrects this twofold belief about Truth by declaring that God is one, and that Truth must be one, since God is Truth. Moreover, Christianity has proved that the acceptance of Truth in its spiritual unity corrects the wrong thinking or reasoning, and brings a return of primitive Christian healing; and this is not only reasonable and scientific, but a revelation. In its unity, its oneness, Truth can always be scientifically understood. Only error is beyond the ken of the understanding, for its lack of truth is its mystification and vagueness; and the psalmist asks the question, "Who can understand his errors?"
The agnostic declares the being of
God to be unknown. The atheist goes further, and declares there is no God. The
word agnostic, which means unknown, was invented by Professor Huxley in 1869,
and it was suggested to him by
The Mosaic decalogue, with its
"thou shalt" and "thou shalt not," suggests a sternness in
the absolute supremacy of Truth. But the Christly nature of Jesus reveals a
deeper meaning to the command, "Thou shalt have no other gods before
me," declaring this to mean, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. . . . And the
second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Whereupon
Although Christian Science has discovered no new God, it does adopt a new name in addition to these synonymous terms for Deity, declaring this God, who is Life, Truth, and Love, to be the Principle of the universe and man. Principle is truly a most comprehensive name for Deity. In our effort to lay hold of its exact meaning, let us observe the relation of principle to rule. The Century Dictionary says, "You can make a rule, but you cannot make a principle; you can lay down a rule; you cannot properly speaking lay down a principle. It is laid down for you." Thus God is already established as divine Principle, and all that really is must be governed by this Principle. So you cannot, properly speaking, establish a principle. You can only declare it. A principle lies back of both rules and precepts. Indeed, Christianity is founded not on a set of opinions or rules, but on the one Truth or Principle, which is expressed in life and salvation.
Christ and Orthodoxy
Jesus made this teaching about God practical, in that he came to a suffering humanity as the Wayshower, to bring this spiritual understanding of Truth within the reach of humanity; to instruct them in the way of life and salvation by precept and example. He prayed to the one and only God, the Father, just as we should; and just as he taught us to do in the Lord's Prayer. How, then, can it be properly maintained, as some aver, that Jesus Christ is God? He declared himself to be, not God, but the Son of God. He said, "I and my Father are one;" but "my Father is greater than I." If the sun which lights the earth could be used to symbolize God, so all its rays stand for His Christ. There is the sun, and also its shining, two distinct offices, for the rays are but the emanation of the sun. So there can be but one God and one Christ. The infinity of God's being cannot be compassed by a finite form; and Jesus refutes the whole theory that he is God, declaring himself to be "the Son of God," the Wayshower by whom we may all learn of God as the one Father or Truth that makes us free; for he said, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."
When he cried out in agony from the cross, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" was Jesus praying to himself as the Godhead, or was he imploring the infinite compassion of the one and only God of Moses and all the prophets, who is Truth and Love? The Christian Scientist recognizes that Life, Truth, and Love unite in one to form the triune Principle of the Godhead; and this Trinity enables reason and revelation to behold the undivided garment of Christianity, without in the least detracting from the glory of Christ's divinity.
Why should one man be styled an orthodox Christian and his neighbor heterodox? The word orthodox conveys merely a human opinion with no fixity. Orthodox is composed of two words meaning correct and opinion; and heterodoxy means different opinion. Though we are quite clear about the constancy of astronomical laws as observable from the rhythmic movements of the universe, we must remember that human opinions about that constancy, however broad their basis, and however defensible time or circumstance may render them, these mere opinions are, after all, merely suppositional guesswork. To illustrate: The world held the opinion for centuries that the earth was the central orb, occupying a stationary position; and that the diurnal variations had to do only with the revolution or rising and setting of the sun. Those who held this opinion were orthodox, and all the others were heterodox; but this opinion, when corrected by astronomy, presented the facts as we now know them, the very opposite of the ancient idea, and from these facts problems may be solved and eclipses foretold with mathematical accuracy. An English bishop once explained to a noted lawyer the real significance of orthodoxy after this manner. "Orthodoxy is my doxy, heterodoxy is another man's doxy."
If therefore one claims to love God, and God is to him a mystery, he is loving a mystery. And of what real value to him is a mystery? If God is real, He is not mystery but revealed Truth. With the correct understanding of God, such as St. Paul was amply able to declare to the cultured Athenians, definite problems may be solved; such problems, for example, as the healing of sickness and sin by this liberating Truth.
A child tutored in the reality of God's existence abides in the righteousness of faith and spiritual teachableness, certain of the existence of one Supreme Being until doubtful disputations bring him face to face with the primal necessity for understanding and demonstrating more fully and satisfactorily its meaning. The student steps out into the world with certain religious beliefs, only to find his cherished ideals maligned and distorted by material philosophy. He must not, however, feel that he is losing his religion, if he is compelled to give a reason for the hope that is within him; rather should he rejoice over the day that compelled an intelligent reason for that faith, for scientific reason saves his faith. It abides no longer alone as faith, but as spiritual understanding.
This unfoldment of hope to faith, and faith to understanding, advances with the development of the problem, "What is truth?" But the great stumbling-block of the ages has rested in the query, "What about evil?" People are willing to admit that God is All but what shall we do with evil? Can God, who is all good, produce evil? As well might the ancients, have said, "Yes, we will admit that the earth revolves around the sun but what about this daily rising and setting of the sun? That we can see with our eyes." This helps to illustrate how necessary it is for Science to correct the unreliable testimony of the physical senses. The one thing needed was to correct this ignorant opinion by scientific truth.
The Scriptures say of God, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil." Therefore is it not logical to assume that He does not send either evil or sickness to humanity? He destroys them, as light destroys darkness. Our Master destroyed sin, sickness, and death as enemies of mankind. The nature of Jesus' teachings was to destroy sickness and sin as evil; as when he cast out the devil of dumbness, and the dumb spake. Again, when he healed the lunatic child, it is recorded that he "rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour." At another time he healed a woman who had been bowed together eighteen years, and could in no wise lift up herself. He spoke of this woman as "a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years."
According to the second record of creation in Genesis, the allegory makes God say to the man, "If ye eat of the fruit of both good and evil, ye shall surely die." But the serpent lie said, "Ye shall not surely die." Thus the Spirit and the flesh appear to be warring for supremacy. The first of these powers (God) is the author of all goodness. Its opposite, evil, is the suppositional origin of sin and death. The serpent, not God, would combine both good and evil into a third power called mankind. As a result, this kind of man appears to suffer and die. Jesus drew aside this mask, and placed sickness and sin where they belong, as errors which Truth destroys. Paul declared the unrighteous mammon "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator." "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"
It was because Christ Jesus knew sickness to be a travesty of all law that he said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil;" that is, to fulfil the law of Truth. This he did, not by showing up the powers of evil as real, to drive men to heaven through fear; for they might truly cry out, "Where shall we go?" Rather did he show the poor tired heart the way through the law of Truth and Love, and then said "Walk ye in it." Thus the works of Jesus, more than his words, should have influenced Christendom; for he said, "Though ye believe not me, believe the works."
To gain Truth, it must be approached through the "Spirit of truth" through Mind and not matter. Jesus' disciples were at first, like other men, viewing everything materially; and Jesus said of such, "O ye of little faith!" When they failed to heal the epileptic child, they were laboring under the belief that epilepsy was an incurable disease. Nevertheless, Jesus healed the child, and then rebuked the disciples for their unbelief. Then followed the explanation that "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." If prayer and fasting are alone sufficient to destroy a so-called incurable disease, it must be reasonably certain that this same prayer can cure all lesser difficulties. Indeed, the redemptive power of such prayer regards God as no mystery, for it is the prayer of spiritual understanding.
The human mind doubts the truth of God's law, because it studies the creature more than the creator; looks into the evil instead of the good; seeks for cause in matter rather than in Mind; looking to destroy evil by something as far removed from God as the disease itself. Jesus' teachings strove to lift the human element in man to rely more on the spiritual power of infinite good. As a supreme effort in this direction, we may read in Luke's Gospel how that finally "opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures." With their thought opened to spiritual understanding, the disciples merited the remark of the Master, "I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father."
How well the disciples evidenced this understanding of the Principle of Jesus' teachings was later shown in their more successful efforts in healing the sick. Even the prison doors were opened before them; we also read of the raising of Dorcas to life, and many other remarkable evidences, all pointing to the potency of the law of Truth that makes free.
I have thus touched upon the teachable nature of Christian healing the fact that as fundamental truth it may be imparted to others because I wish to continue this line of teaching to Paul, who was outside the inspiration of Jesus' personal teaching; and also to the early Christian fathers, who were even further removed from the personal teaching of the Master. The fact that Jesus could teach the healing truth to the disciples would indicate that it follows a definite law; but the proof is even more certain, from the fact that Paul gained a similar understanding. Did not the Master promise to send us another Comforter? This Comforter he called the "Spirit of truth;" and we have learned that this "Spirit of truth" has healed the sick in every age, and it does this just as certainly today in Christian Science.
Paul was first a persecutor of the Christians; the chiefest of sinners, as he afterwards called himself. To rebel as he did, venting his wrath against the truth practiced and demonstrated, and then later to do those very same works, proved he was laboring under a great misapprehension of the truth of Christian healing. He learned that his carnal mind was no fit standard by which to judge of spiritual Truth. Furthermore, it proved that the healing works must inevitably follow this spiritual understanding. It is the "Spirit of truth," the holy Comforter, that humanity is longing for. Christian healing did not end with the apostles, but continued to mark the efforts of the early Christians for nearly three hundred years. Gibbon's "History of Rome" relates how the dead were frequently raised by the prayers of the Christians, until near the close of the second century. The Comforter was present with such of the Christian fathers as Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenζus, Tertullian, and others; indeed, their own writings abound in evidences of this same healing.
Ignatius is an especially interesting character, because he is reputed to be one of the children whom Jesus took up in his arms and blessed. Polycarp, when quite a young man, moved in the gracious companionship of John the beloved, and others of the disciples. He manifested much love and charity, and when under the pressure of violence gave utterance to those famous words, "I cannot turn at once from good to evil."
This Comforter, or the "Spirit of truth," is manifested through humility, spiritual receptivity, and teachableness three qualities inherent in a child. These we must retain to reach heaven; for it is the childlike sense of humility and teachableness that leads us away from the carnal to the spiritual, from flesh to Spirit.
Mrs. Eddy's Discovery
Today the Comforter, or "Spirit of truth" in Christian Science is leading us away from materialism to the spiritual ideal which brings about a return of primitive Christian healing. Because the spirit of humility and spiritual teachableness were so native to Mrs. Eddy's consciousness, she was lifted from a bed of pain by this same Comforter and restored to perfect health after she had been given up as a helpless sufferer. This was in the year 1866. From that moment she sought to lay hold of this Comforter, or "Spirit of truth," that she might understand the fundamental law of Christian healing. Instinctively turning to her Bible, she sought it there; and for three years she continued this search with unabated energy. Then she began to write the book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which was first published in 1875.
Meeting with but a modest recognition at first, the demand for this book has rapidly increased. Indeed a complete edition of a thousand volumes is now regularly sold on an average every seven or eight days. This vast output of books is not purchased entirely by Christian Scientists. Professional men, ministers, and doctors are reading the book. Lawyers, business men, and laymen are seeking to learn more about God from its pages. Devout women are proving they understand its teachings by healing themselves and others. All this is going on quietly, in the secret of the home circle; but the Comforter has come, and the world is fast finding this out.
There has never been a woman in the world's history who has accomplished the good that Mrs. Eddy has. As Leader of a great religious movement, no other woman in the world has been the direct exponent, as she has, of actively engaging so many thousands of intelligent men and women to search the Scriptures and seek to draw nearer to God through the redemptive power of Christian and Scientific prayer. She has led a people to seek God with a willing desire and an understanding heart.
Since the divine Principle of Christian Science is forever established, Mrs. Eddy has religiously excluded any mere opinions upon this subject, and adhered strictly to living and declaring this Principle of absolute Truth. The result is that everything within Science and Health may be said to deal with this Principle, together with its human application. Thus the true idea of God has been presented, not empirically or experimentally, but scientifically; with the result that people are healed from sickness and sin by the simple reading of Science and Health. Far from being anything strange, this is in direct obedience to the Scriptural declaration that "the truth shall make you free." This wonderful textbook, which heals the sick and sinning whenever Christianly entertained, gives the ideal of Truth discovered by Mrs. Eddy. The Scriptures say, "There is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me." It follows just as truly that no one can lightly speak evil of the author of Science and Health and expect to understand her ideal.
The educational advantages and
natural aptitude of this great religious Leader enabled her to enjoy the
patronage of scholars from her youth. As early as her sixteenth year she began
to write articles for publication, and was invited to contribute to the
newspapers and periodicals of that time. She soon gained such recognition as an
author that some of her writings were included in a book of representative
As for the world's estimate of her notwithstanding the old saying that "a prophet is not without honor save in his own country," the people of her own city welcome every opportunity to evidence their appreciation of her. Mayors of her city and governors of her state have been pleased to honor her. Moreover, the world at large is beginning to recognize in her a benefactor to the race, as the direct result of her spiritual and redemptive teachings. Never intruding her personality upon any one, not even in her writings, Mrs. Eddy claims nothing more than to be the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. In fact she has charged us, "Follow your Leader, only so far as she follows Christ."
True there have been differing
theories about Christ, and therefore about Christianity, because men have been
unable to answer the Master's own question "Whom do men say that I
am?" To be sure the subject has not lacked in serious deliberation. But in
accordance with the purity of her own faith, Mrs. Eddy touched the hem of the
"Spirit of truth," and was instantly healed. That was the falling
apple by which she discovered that Christ Jesus had answered his own question
in these words. "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do
also; and greater works than these shall he do." As
Christian Science Not Will-Power
The return of primitive Christian healing is in response to the prayer of spiritual understanding. Notwithstanding the higher law of Spirit, some people have taken considerable pride in the limited strength of their own human will and personal magnetism. Not looking in the right direction, they believe or assert that Christian Science prayer must be will-power, and that the sick are in consequence healed by that will. It may be advisable, therefore, to explain what the mental power is in a Christian Science prayer which acts upon the sick to heal them.
"By their fruits ye shall
know them." Human will is the expression of the carnal mind, and
Christian Science has come to correct this belief in materialism and turn people to God as the only real cause and creator. Materialism would make this animal force the procuring cause; but really it is the old story of the serpent intruding a negative condition and tempting us to eat of the forbidden fruit.
A certain school of philosophers presents the following unique plan: Will and its idea constitute the universe. Then will, with no definite aim, entirely lacking in reason, manifests the second stage of evolution, called need; the next stage to be reached is brain; whence arises intelligence, followed by speech, and thence to the attainment of higher powers. Really this is an ingenious method; but it is entirely void of spiritual revelation, nor has it any relation whatsoever to God's universe and law. Therefore it is utterly void of truth.
This blind and stubborn will is observable in a more marked degree in animals, as an unalloyed exhibition of force seeking to procure sufficient food for subsistence. It craves within itself lust, strength, pleasure, and is entirely a beastly sense of being.
The educated and more hidden use of willpower is exploited in hypnotism and mesmerism; and these are known as animal magnetism. All these are entirely void of scientific application, the mere sport of circumstance, but there is more reason in a single act of honesty than in a wilderness of passion or appetite, for honesty is a virtue; animal magnetism a vice. Mortals use human will-power because they "worship and serve the creature more than the Creator." Christ came to awaken the world from the evil effects of animal will, and the Comforter today continues this warfare; "for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death," and free to do God's will.
The Master said, "I can of
mine own self do nothing: . . . because I seek not mine own will, but the will
of the Father." The utility of this grand verity is illustrated in the
fact that there is no human will-power exercised in teaching a child that two
and two are four, because reason is the unfoldment of scientific understanding.
The child assimilates the truth in the degree that the basic law of mathematics
unfolds and is declared to him. So does man assimilate the truth of spiritual
being as the Principle unfolds its infinite ideas of goodness and rightness.
When Jesus was struggling in
It is the natural love in the little child that melts the father's heart. And it is a mother's affection for her child that points us to a greater Love, even to infinite good, which is the scientific Principle of Christian healing.
Christian Science and Medicine
Thousands of good and intelligent people have run the gantlet of medical practice, and found relief in Christian Science after everything else had failed. Therefore, standing on the vantage-ground of experience, they have chosen God's way, which teaches them to look for healing, not in matter, but in the redemptive power of the prayer of understanding; for the same Mind which led the primitive Christians to heal sickness and sin is just as true and efficient today.
Plato once declared that "the office of the physician extends equally to the purification of mind and body," but he failed to explain how to effect a mental cure. His pagan philosophy could not distinguish between truth and error, because that means to distinguish between the divine Mind and the erring human mind. When we learn that divine Mind is the only Mind, and that erring will is not Mind, thought is being purified already of many degrees of erroneous beliefs that ordinarily make for disease. The Christian thinker who heals by preaching and preaches by healing, is keenly alive to the divine nature which regenerates him in the new dispensation of spiritual understanding.
With this new-born hope comes the realization that the distinctive issue between Christian Science and medical practice is not with the benevolent purpose of the physicians, but with the incorrect system. When the surgeon administers chloroform, preparatory to amputating a limb, he proceeds on the assumption that if the patient cannot think, he cannot be hurt. Therefore the pain must be all in the thinking. Indeed, a prominent English physician, the author of several publications on the mental factor in medicine, mentions a large class of diseases that have a purely mental origin, and then expresses wonderment that intelligent physicians, while readily admitting the mental origin of many diseases, never recommend mental treatment as a cure, but rather regard such treatment as charlatanism.
Christian Science regards sickness as an error of thought, and heals it on the basis that Christianly scientific thinking dispels the wrong thinking. Materia medica, on the contrary, attempts to correct this mental disease by doctoring its physical effects with something of the same material nature, which is scientifically impossible. This erroneous method has not lessened disease, but rather have its forms multiplied, as the history of four thousand years of medicine proves. Material philosophy and human reason are not regenerative; and to them the divine nature of Christian healing may seem mysterious and supernatural.
If we hold the erroneous belief that two and two are five, the only remedy is to consult not the error, but the basic law which declares the truth that two and two are four. It was what Jesus knew about God's idea, or the perfect man, that enabled him to heal the sick and regenerate the human mind and body. The salient feature is to learn the truth first, for "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." By it we learn that truth is real and that sickness and sin are unreal claims of mortal mind. And yet the most masterful logic of human philosophy can never convince the suffering invalid that his sickness is not real. If philosophy and materia medica seem to enlarge upon the original knowledge of good and evil, Christian metaphysics alone is regenerative.
After four thousand years of research, some physicians have taken shelter under the simple rule that a patient, to be benefited, must have faith not only in the drug, but in the physician.
This is because physics, as opposed to divine metaphysics, presents the error of being. So Lord Kelvin, the present dean of the physical scientists, in a speech delivered in Glasgow in 1896 and quoted by a contributor to the Boston Transcript of May 24, 1905, said of his long and notable list of discoveries: "One word characterizes the most strenuous efforts for the advancement of science that I have made perseveringly during fifty-five years that word is failure. I know no more of electric and magnetic force, or of the relation between ether, electricity, and ponderable matter, or of chemical affinity than I knew and tried to teach my students of natural philosophy in my first session as a professor."
If faith in the physician claims to relieve suffering, and faith in God is ventured only when the probabilities seem equal, Christian Science presents the evidence, through Christian healing, that to have faith in no other than the true and living God is to know the truth that makes free indeed. There needs to be a change of base, a compliance with the law of divine Mind; then we can not only learn what heals, but find the origin of life not in matter, but in Spirit and Truth.
Right Thinking and Acting
Every Christian thinker must hold some opinion about the purpose of Jesus' commands to heal the sick and preach the gospel, but what would you think of an artist who prayed to have his colors arrange themselves on the canvas? Scientific knowledge always needs to be executed; and that which executes or demonstrates divine Science is Christianity. It is that which demonstrates the law of the great commandment that ye love one another. In mathematics the rule of science is the mediator between its basic law and the prospective student. For example: Picture a student involved in a difficult problem, laboring long in a vain attempt to reach the correct solution. Many a child has burned the oil, only to retire in meditation; and often there, in sleepless thought, the correct solution has burst into view. He has suddenly awakened to the real meaning of the rule and its correct analysis, and that rule mediated between his false position, with nothing determinative in sight, and the truth which determines all things. Though the truth was there all the time, he had failed to grasp it. Without the rule or law of rightness, one can read and reread truthful statements; just as so many have read their Bible without receiving a single scientific solution to the parables and proverbs. First we must know the absolute truth about God, putting aside our vain speculations about Him, before we can demonstrate that truth which makes us free from sickness and sin.
Such a communion with God is a revelation. When reason and revelation are thus reconciled, the sick and sinning are healed in response to this understanding of the Scriptures, and we behold a practical demonstration of this rule unto life and salvation.
A ship must have a rudder, else
the governor has no guide; and yet the rudder taken separately from the ship is
useless. Our ship of Christianity must likewise be guided by the rudder of
divine Science to reach the
Right thinking is not alone sufficient, for right acting is just as important and necessary; therefore Christianity becomes the motive power to every good resolve. Philanthropy has often been considered the standard for Christianity. Truly it is Christian to feed and clothe the poor and give them shelter; but far more do you fulfil the law of Christ by healing the disease which begets poverty. If the crippled circumstance is due to depravity or disease, as so often happens, show the suppliant that this inhuman condition may be healed, and with "signs following;" then the necessity for alms is destroyed. With this new-born hope, life becomes worth the living, and a new impetus is given to self-support. Like the blind man, he can say, "Whereas I was blind, now I see."
If the blind man was unable to explain how he was healed or what healed him, he knew the one fact perfectly, and all the learning and philosophy of the age could not overthrow it. If human reason should make it appear absolutely foolish, according to the senses, the facts were otherwise. If, therefore, the mere argument is of little value until one seeks the explanation, the actual healing can no more be explained away than the healing of the blind man.
Any one of us might commit to memory an Italian sonnet without knowing the meaning of a single word, and we should receive no more benefit than merely to read off a page of difficult examples. It is the study and application that bring out the meaning. Consequently, we need to study Science and Health to prove its teachings. The little child can understand this book and apply it, for he has already taken the first lesson, which is spiritual receptivity and teachableness. No one can understand the things of God without taking those footsteps first.
When one is possessed with the glow of spiritual understanding, Christian healing is as certain to him as a bird's flight when it feels the strength of its wings. As the tender leaves announce that summer is at hand, so Jesus merely recounted his works to prove his spiritual identity. Sending forth his disciples, he said, "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." The saying, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" must give way to the deeper saying of our Master: "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always."
Prayer expresses desire and aspiration, but it also expresses purpose and endeavor. This active nature of prayer is that which leads the suppliant Godward. His relation to God is illustrated by the circumstance of a man in a boat who is pulling at a rope made fast to the shore. The shore seems to be drawing nearer to the man, but in fact he is drawing nearer to the shore.
If such prayer awakens thought to grasp the infinite possibilities of a practical religion, revealing God's saving power as ever nearer and dearer to us, it is not that God has drawn nearer to us, but that we have awakened to the fact that He is an ever-present help in trouble; "for in him we live, and move, and have our being." Therefore our progress out of error out of bondage to sin, sickness, and disease is entirely due to a better sense and understanding of God and man's relation to Him who is all Life, Truth, and Love.
[Published in pamphlet form by The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1909.]