Christian Science: The True Standard of Right
Bliss Knapp, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
An ex-mayor of
I remember, when a child, with what amazement I first discovered that some people do not always speak the truth: and I remember my perplexity as I begged to be told how to detect falsehood in ordinary conversation. My difficulty gradually disappeared as I began to learn in Christian Science that a right sense of honesty, based upon Principle, is a keen detective of dishonest motives. We sometimes speak of that natural discernment as intuition; for intuition is the expressed intelligence of spiritual qualities. This may explain why so many spiritually minded women often go directly and unerringly to the very heart of a problem which seems to baffle the reasoning process of others. That very directness is sometimes called "a woman's reason."
Those who are unwilling to obey an absolute standard of right, generally have a flexible standard which is sometimes called "the law of necessity." This phrase, "the law of necessity," applies to those who are honest in appearance, but who are quite ready to act dishonestly whenever the reward seems to shift about. Such a variable standard must be policy or deception, and not Principle. In the book of Job, in the Bible, you may remember how Satan once challenged the purity of Job's goodness, possibly because the Deceiver is always the most deceived. So he insisted that Job's goodness was nothing but a subterfuge to gain some reward in heaven, — that is to say, a form of selfishness. Those who make selfishness instead of Principle the standard of their actions must agree with Satan in upholding "the law of necessity." But the framers of the American Declaration of Independence recognized an eternal Truth when they wrote that men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The God of Christendom, therefore, is the divine Principle or Creator of those life-giving and liberating fruits of the Spirit, which are expressed unselfishly in right minded men and women everywhere.
An intelligent pagan of education and refinement may be found obeying the ordinary canons of honesty, because he has learned that honesty will serve his best interests, therefore he will be found acting as honestly as he can. But his standard of honesty is not the Christian God, or the divine Principle of honesty; for he worships a god fashioned by the hand of man. So long as he has no Principle, he can have no real qualities derived from Principle, and therefore no real sense of honesty. Thus a man's standard of right depends entirely upon the nature of the God he worships.
According to the Century Dictionary, "There are no two words in the English language used so confusedly one for the other as the words rule and principle. . . . You can make a rule: you cannot make a principle; you can lay down a rule; you cannot, properly speaking, lay down a principle. . . . You can only declare it. . . . It is a principle that 'the Sabbath was made for man'." The fact that the fourth Commandment is an emanation from Principle was the lesson Moses learned from his experiences in the wilderness with the manna. Always there was enough for their daily supply and nothing more; but on the sixth day, a supply of bread for two days could be gathered. The same God who supplied the Children of Israel with food to eat for forty years, also set apart the seventh day for a sabbath rest from toil. This same God or Principle supplies every need, and because He supplies our every need, He is not cold and austere. He is indeed the loving Father who blesses all mankind.
In her book "Rudimental Divine Science," Mrs. Eddy answers the question, "What is the Principle of Christian Science?" in these words: — "It is God, the Supreme Being, infinite and immortal Mind, the Soul of man and the universe. It is our Father which is in heaven. It is substance, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love, — these are the deific Principle."
Contrast, if you will, the
guidance of divine Principle through law, with the practice of heathen rites
and ceremonies. In one of the great cities of
Christ Dethrones Satan
The Founder of Christianity repudiated the notion that Satan could cast out Satan, and gave as a reason that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. He once spoke of a certain woman who had been bowed together eighteen years "and could in no wise lift up herself," as "a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years." He healed her immediately by the power of God, and it was on the Sabbath day. The Christian God therefore does not send disease, but He heals disease. He is, in other words, the divine Principle of our health and holiness.
To the Christian Scientist, the Christ idea bears the same relation to the divine Principle as the sun's rays bear to the sun itself. Christ Jesus declared himself to be the light of the world, — the same light that appeared in the beginning when God said, "Let there be light: and there was light." That light was the saving Christ: but God, the divine Principle, was the Creator of it. In due course, the coming of that light as a saving power was spoken of as "Immanuel, or God with us," which is the appearing of divine intelligence in human consciousness, healing and saving mankind.
Bible scholars make a distinction between Christ and Jesus, which Christian Science explains; for God appointed the man Jesus to the office of Christ. Christ Jesus therefore was the promised Messiah, or Mediator between God and men. He rightly declared himself to be, not God, but the Son of God, bearing witness through his healing ministry unto the Christ, Truth, that redeems and saves all mankind.
Healing by Faith
For a long time professed Christians fell into such idolatrous methods that they utterly lost sight of the healing power of Christ. All they beheld was the visitation of evil, and they prayed after the manner of the heathen to appease the wrath of their god. In effect, they really became worshippers of Satan, and that continued until a young priest of the church started a movement which made it possible for people of every rank and station to read the Bible in their own language. This was the great reformer, Martin Luther. As a result of this Bible study, the people began to gain a more correct view of God, and occasional instances of healing rewarded their faith.
A very significant and important result of Luther's Bible study was the healing of his disciple, Melanchthon. The man had lost consciousness, his eyes were set, and the court physician had pronounced him beyond human aid. When Luther saw his dearest friend in that condition, he was visibly frightened. Then, rousing himself, he exclaimed: "O God, how has the devil injured this thy instrument!" There was the evidence of his Bible study; for he refused to attribute that sickness to God. Rather did he appeal to the Giver of all good to save his friend. To use his own words, I "wearied His ears with all His promises of hearing prayers, which I could repeat out of Holy Writ: so that He could not but hear me, if ever I were to trust in His promises." Then grasping Melanchthon by the hand, Luther exclaimed, "Be of good courage, Philip; thou shalt not die. . . . He has pleasure in life, not in death. . . . Therefore give no place to the spirit of sorrow, and be not thine own murderer." In response to that right sense of God's loving care, Melanchthon's breath revived, but he acted very much like a drowning man who begs to be let alone that he may die in peace. "By no means, Philip," cried Luther; "thou must serve our Lord God yet longer." When food was brought, Luther burst out with the threat, "Thou must eat, or I will excommunicate thee." It is interesting to know that Melanchthon responded to that true sense of God and lived twenty years longer.
Mrs. Eddy's Early Preparation
It is not at all uncommon for devout Christians to be healed because their study of the Bible opens to them a more correct view of God. Calvin, Knox, Wesley and other Christian worthies have manifested wonderful healing power, as their prayers lifted thought to glimpse God's true nature. Such child-like qualities as humility, spiritual receptivity and teachableness communicate those heavenly blessings to human consciousness. So it is recognized as a Christian duty to instruct the receptive thought of the child in the saving grace of God. It was this Christian culture that Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, received from her mother; for Mrs. Eddy was taught from her youth to look to God for deliverance in every time of trouble. When Mary Baker was once taken with a fever, her mother reminded the little girl of God's loving care and protection, and assured her of His healing grace, if only she would turn to Him in prayer. Mary did pray fervently to God for deliverance from the fever, and she was quickly healed. Naturally her mother was glad; for the healing had confirmed her loving trust in God's care.
Many proofs of healing attended Mrs. Eddy's walk through life, attesting God's ever presence and confirming her faith in His goodness and power. Her faith was put to the severest test in 1866, when she was facing death itself. Turning for consolation to her Bible, she began to read from Luke's Gospel the healing of the palsied man. The account of the healing held her attention as never before, and she must have glimpsed the great Truth that the divine power which had restored that man in Jesus' time was still operative; for God's power can never change. The result was as immediate; for she arose from her bed perfectly well, dressed herself and startled her family by her sudden appearance. This was a most wonderful proof to her that God is the great Physician, whose healing power is changeless; and then and there she determined to search for the scientific Law which must underlie such instances of healing.
Mrs. Eddy is known to thousands of grateful men and women throughout the world to be the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, and because of that she commands our profoundest reverence and gratitude.
It was my privilege to know something of her as a loving, unselfed woman, — the kindest friend I ever had. My father was a deep student of the Bible, and when Christian Science healed two members of our family, he began the study of this Science and became an earnest Christian Scientist. For many years my parents were closely associated with Mrs. Eddy, who was their pastor, teacher and friend. At one time Mrs. Eddy spent a week at our home, and I then had the opportunity of seeing her to be a gentle, affectionate woman, interested in our pets and problems, laughing with us and sympathizing with us, yet always mindful of her great mission to suffering humanity.
An incident that occurred during her visit with us has always stood out vividly in my memory. One morning before breakfast, my sister sat down at the organ and began to play and sing the good old gospel hymn taken from the psalms, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." My father joined in the song, and when it was finished, Mrs. Eddy's door opened and she appeared, her face radiant. Then she told us that she had continued all night in prayer over some problem, and the answer had come when she felt the spirit expressed in that song. This incident evidently impressed her; for several years later, she referred to it in a letter to my father.
Basic Rule of Christian Science
Ever since the time of the early Christian Fathers, those who had received some proof of God's power and willingness to heal almost invariably lost the gleam that their pure faith had brought them; and they dropped back, as did Luther, into dependence on material means and remedies according to the custom of their times. But Mrs. Eddy's purpose was to seek something more than faith, even the understanding which would enable her to heal all manner of sin and disease with the directness and regularity of a Science; for that which one really understands can never be lost.
Possibly the first step in gaining the Science of Christian healing came with her ability to detect in her own mind the difference between the thoughts which come from divine Principle, and the aggressive suggestions of the flesh, which St. Paul classified as the carnal mind; for he said, "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Here are two opposite sources of thinking, as opposite as God and Satan. The thoughts coming from God express the joy and harmony of life; but the suggestions of the carnal mind seek to drag one down to sin and death. Knowing that opposites can never abide together in one's thought at the same time, Mrs. Eddy was impelled to work from the single viewpoint that "to be spiritually minded is life and peace." This, of course, involved a search into the understanding of the divine or spiritual Mind, in order to lay hold of that life and peace. Such a scientific segregation of thought is the first step in learning to pray aright.
Of all the systems of religion or philosophy known to men, none but the teachings of Christ Jesus and of Christian Science ever have held consistently to the one spiritual viewpoint. These teachings, moreover, are the only religions that have ever demonstrated the divine power to heal physical sickness as well as sin. A single sentence in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, presents the process of reasoning by which Mrs. Eddy gained that healing power. It is as follows: "Reasoning from cause to effect in the Science of Mind, we begin with Mind, which must be understood through the idea which expresses it and cannot be learned from its opposite, matter." This is indeed the rule of logic which bases the teachings of Christian Science.
Reasoning from the viewpoint of God, or divine Principle, one must naturally see all things as God sees them — complete, harmonious and eternal. His true nature can be understood through the idea which expresses that nature, even as the idea of honesty reveals the nature of an honest God, but that nature can never be understood from its opposite, dishonesty. Since Jesus proved that healing, like honesty, expresses the nature of God, one needs only to recognize and heed God's promises to heal in order to experience that healing power. Like honesty and goodness, this healing power must be obeyed from the heart and not the head, and only as it is thus lived can it properly be understood and demonstrated.
Jesus' Early Experiences
Mrs. Eddy has declared in her book, Science and Health, that "the Sermon on the Mount is the essence of this Science." Let us now apply the test of our rule of logic to that standard of Christian teaching. After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, a voice from heaven was heard to say, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." When Jesus received that testimony, and it was noised abroad that he was the Son of God, there must have burst upon his vision the full meaning of unlimited power, — the undisputed heritage of the Son of God. Has not every one at some time wished for unlimited wealth or power? If one's wildest dreams were suddenly realized, how would he act? Would he not be tempted to use his power selfishly? It is not surprising therefore that Jesus was immediately driven into the wilderness, and tempted to use his power for selfish ends. Satan offered him all the kingdoms of the earth, if only he would bow down to the claims of evil; but Jesus knew the impossibility of obeying two such opposites as God and Satan. When he realized that impossibility, the temptation ceased. Then the devil departed and only the consciousness of good remained. In the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered."
Having learned the divine logic that one can work only from God's viewpoint, and that the divine Mind can be understood only through its own ideas, Jesus entered upon his ministry, "teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people."
Sermon on the Mount
Scarcely any one listened at first to the teaching and preaching of Jesus, but multitudes thronged him for the healing. The lessons he gained from those experiences are summarized with matchless simplicity in the first and second Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Here Jesus pronounces a blessing on those who have begun to turn from matter and yearn for heaven. They respond naturally to spiritual truth wherever spoken, and that spiritual receptivity, which is born of God, opens the way to heavenly harmony.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." In the second Beatitude, Jesus considers those who have learned through suffering to turn from matter. Their suffering had prepared them for the Christ healing which brings them greater comfort than mere release from physical ills. It brings the peace and harmony of God's kingdom, making the comfort as abiding as is the kingdom itself.
These two groups of people seem to be the only ones ready for the kingdom. But Jesus is not unmindful that they are still on probation. Their blessing thus far has been partly the work of others, as when a child first begins to walk; for one group was helped along by a preacher, and the other by a healer. Now they must learn to walk alone. The only way by which they can gain the divine power for themselves is through the quality of meekness. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Dominion over all the earth is gained, not through matter or the human will, but through the divine idea of meekness. Considered as a group, the receptivity that leads to heaven, the yearning that gains divine comfort, and the meekness that achieves divine power, are all ideas of God. Through these ideas, we perceive God's true nature, and we gain perfection by demonstrating these ideas.
Those Called of God
It is sometimes charged that Christian Scientists make too much of the healing ministry of this Science, but the critics should remember the lesson of the Beatitudes, that only two groups of thinkers are really prepared for the kingdom. What Jesus iterated in the Beatitudes, he reiterated in the Parable of the Great Supper. When the invitations to the feast were given out, you may remember, all made excuses. One had purchased some land, so he could not come; another oxen, and so on. They all begged to be excused but one. That one could not come because he had married a wife. They were all so absorbed in material things that they gave no heed to spiritual things. So the master of the feast found it necessary to turn to those who might be awakened through suffering to seek the kingdom. He invited the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind, — those that mourn, and still there was room, for not even human suffering had alienated the faith of many from their reliance on matter.
Such lessons have taught the Christian Scientist to serve those who are drawn of God, because they are ready and willing to receive the blessing according to the plan of our great Master. Unless they come willingly, through the teaching or through the healing, they are not prepared to understand the spiritual message; for spiritual things must be "spiritually discerned." Jesus warned us, moreover, not to give that which is holy to the unprepared thought. How many there are who have read a few pages of our textbook, only to declare with a sweep of the hand, "There is nothing in it." Even so, the healing challenges attention and it cannot be explained away. One should remember that there is something else beside human intellect necessary to comprehend spiritual things. It is indeed that spiritual sense, born of God, which overcomes sin and disease first in one's self, and then in others. But if one is wedded to some position in his church, business or society, and he begs to be excused, he is not ready for the blessing. Hence the uselessness of all proselyting propaganda. God must indeed open the way to every sincere seeker through God's own ideas.
Signs of the Comforter
When Mrs. Eddy established her church in 1879, she declared that its object was to "reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." The healing of sin has always been regarded as a province of the Christian church. We learn in Christian Science that God's power is always available to heal physically as well as morally. The same prayer healed physically and morally in Jesus' time, and that prayer can never be divided in its healing effect when one understands the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount.
John the Baptist once seriously questioned whether Jesus was really the promised Saviour. Jesus' reply to John's messengers was the simplest and most convincing statement which would identify the messenger of God, for all time, with the works of healing. "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." The Christian Science Church has adopted a similar method for answering honest inquiry about the Comforter which Jesus promised to send us from the Father, and which he defined as the "Spirit of truth." Therefore all Christian Science churches throughout the world provide a mid-week testimony meeting, at which members of the congregation may testify to the healing power of God, which they themselves have seen or experienced.
The Bible Interpreter
The divine power which can do good, but not evil, has been interpreted in Mrs. Eddy's book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, with such clearness and simplicity, that it is a frequent occurrence with the sick and the sinning to be healed by reading this book. The last chapter of Science and Health contains one hundred pages of testimonials by those who have been healed of organic and functional diseases simply by reading and studying this book. Practically every sin and disease humanly known has, at some time, been healed by the teachings of Christian Science. The question, "How does Christian Science heal?" is answered by these fruits. There is no mystery about the operation of Christian Science, for the power of God's truth is in itself, and it needs only to be understood in order to be manifested. Those who receive such blessings, naturally give thanks to God and to His Christ for the promised Comforter.
It should be well understood that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures does not take the place of the Bible, but it has so clearly interpreted the Bible as to bring a return of primitive Christian healing. Moreover it confirms the divinity of Christ Jesus and of his wonderful works. The fact that people have been healed of cancers, tumors, consumption, the drug habit, and so on, simply by reading a book and gaining its spiritual import, should be a most convincing proof that it is not the human will or carnal mind which does the healing. Even Jesus himself was forbidden to use his own will in healing, for it is the truth about God and man that makes us free. Healing is not gained from a knowledge of sin, matter or the carnal mind; it is gained from the truth about the spiritual Mind where life, health and happiness abound. Since the divine Mind is everywhere present, it is never transmitted nor projected. Since the facts about God are the same everywhere, one needs only to realize those facts wherever he may be, to know they are just as true everywhere, — right where a patient most needs the help. As one realizes that divine Presence, together with the nature of that Presence, he must realize the very presence of life, health and freedom; for "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
It should be perfectly evident
that one can never suffer from aught that comes from the spiritual Mind, for
that Mind brings only life and peace. If he suffers at all, then it must come
from the carnal mind, which is sin and death, and it must be by reason of his
belief that God is afar off, which really is not
true. Suffering, then, is really just a false belief about God's absence; for
when one realizes God's ever presence, the belief disappears and the healing
The belief in a power apart from
God, which seeks to pervert one's natural goodness, is referred to by our
dictionaries as "animal magnetism." It is not a modern invention, as
you may observe from the reference to it by Job and
Animal magnetism is undoubtedly
what is meant by the term "Satan" in the Bible. It "changed the
truth of God into a lie," according to
When animal magnetism assailed the loyalty of Simon Peter, his great Master gave him a sharp warning, "Simon, Simon," said Jesus, "Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." In addition to warning Peter, the Master did only one thing. He prayed that the faith which he himself had fostered in the consciousness of his disciple should not fail. The substance of faith which is born of God will survive the malice of the whole earth, and will eventually bring the individual under subjection to the divine Law, absolutely, completely and finally.
The mental qualities, or fruits of
the Spirit, which come from God cannot be hypnotized. "Know ye not,"
says St. Paul, "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?" Evil suggestions therefore can have no government over an
individual unless he willingly and voluntarily yields his obedience to them. As
It is the nature of evil to claim
autocratic power. This thought of autocracy seems to develop along two distinct
lines; one through the autocracy of the individual, and the other through the
autocracy of the masses. The autocracy of the masses is well expressed today in
a movement known as Bolshevism. This movement is the will of the flesh, organized
to war against "the fruit of the Spirit." It is an attempt to
undermine the law and order which sustain the State, the church and the home.
Let us suppose for the moment that such a movement were to gain its object: the
result would be the reign of disorder and lawlessness, disintegrating our most
cherished institutions. It would mean the reign of immorality, adultery, envy,
hatred and strife, which are the works of the flesh, and which have no part in
When we observe the motives of
Bolshevism, as well as the effect of its crimes, it is quite clear that the
great social unrest of today is but a phase of the last enemy. When the
autocracy of individuals and the autocracy of the masses yield to the
government of life, liberty and happiness, as it is expressed through divine
Law, there can be no repetition of the experiences on
The Way of Salvation
Suppose Bolshevism has assailed
the moral and economic standards of some great industrial plant, so that men
regard their contracts as mere scraps of paper, — What is the remedy? It is to
establish obedience to the moral forces which God bestows, — forces which bind
man to fulfill his contracts, to deal honestly with his neighbor, and to
maintain law and order as imperatively as these forces of God sustain the
harmony of the universe. And how can such moral obedience be established in the
individual Bolshevik? Nothing definite or positive can be accomplished from any
standpoint but that of God Himself. The heaven towards which the Bolshevik aims
is the final destruction of all law, a condition in which God is eliminated and
materialism reigns. To the Christian Scientist, on the other hand, heaven is
gained not by the destruction of law, but by the fulfilling of law under the
supremacy of the God who is Love: for "Love," declared
The Christian Scientist learns
through divine Love to heal the sick and the sinning and to establish a
heavenly harmony here and now. The healing is demonstrated with such regularity
and consistency as to prove the presence and operation of a fundamental law.
Moreover, this law is so tangible and self-evident that it can be not only
understood, but taught to others. Such a demonstrable law must have a source or
Principle which we call God. By the footsteps of healing, even the Bolshevik
may be led to recognize the presence of law and its governing Principle. He may
even experience the heavenly harmony of obedience to the law of Love. Then he
will have attained the only true freedom; for "Where the Spirit of the
Lord is, there is