Christian Science: Its Worth and Work
The Rev. Arthur R. Vosburgh, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Some one has said, "There is nothing so painful as a new idea." The receiving of a new idea is as when a newer, more elegant article of furniture is brought into the home. The new stands for a different world, a different society, a different culture. Its presence brings out in sharp contrast the faults and failings of the old. And before harmony is restored the old must be refitted to be worthy to stand in the presence of the stranger, or else it must be ejected, to give place to that which is new. So the new idea, the truth when it appears, jostles our old mental equipment, disturbs our lines of thinking, and the fitness of things compels us to reconstruct many an old belief, to eject many another, or else to expel the stranger.
The most radical idea that has presented itself for judgment and acceptance in recent times, or in any time since the Christian era, is Christian Science. It is a stranger within our gates. And while, holding the ground of a safe conservatism, we prove all things and hold fast that which is good, we do well to beware lest, through an unwary prejudice in coldly rejecting the stranger, we fail in entertaining what may be an angel unawares.
The purpose and the promise of Christian Science are entirely good. Its works prove that it brings not only physical healing, but moral cleansing and spiritual illumination. If its radical claims can be sustained, it is "the desire of all nations," the hope of humanity; and every lover of good and friend of humanity will hope it may be true, until by thorough investigation he shall know whether or not it is true.
What, then, is Christian Science? First of all, Christian Science is a revival of primitive Christianity. It is a restatement of the Truth Jesus taught and demonstrated. It claims in no wise to be new, but the old, old story. It is a revelation to this age through its Discoverer, but it is a revelation of "the faith once delivered to the saints."
Science and Christianity Must Have a Common Principle
The term Christian Science comes at first with a kind of shock. That these two terms should be united seems to disturb our sense of the fitness of things; for the two words have stood for two systems of thought largely separated, often opposed. As the two words have been commonly used, Science has to be primarily with the things that are seen; Christianity with the things that are not seen. According to this usage, science has to do
with the things of sense; Christianity with the things of soul. Science seeks exact knowledge, and receives nothing except that which approves itself to the reason, and can be verified in practical experience; Christianity deals with things that transcend reason, and must be received by faith; and science is founded absolutely on law, while Christianity is founded on miracle. With two such radically diverse conceptions, it is no marvel that it seems incongruous, irreverent, to think of blending them as one.
Scientific investigation has done this much positively: it has discovered an orderly universe, a universe of perfect system and law. The ideal of science is to explain this — to reveal this universe, including man, who is a part of it. Christianity has founded its faith on the man Christ Jesus, and is fully persuaded that no explanation of things is true that does not find a constituent place for this man and his teaching, yea, that does not see in his career, his words and works, the central event of all history. Science appeals to reason and represents its highest conception; Christianity appeals to faith and sentiment and represents their highest vision. And now any separation and estrangement between these two is becoming more and more unbearable. Each is an established fact, — neither can be discarded; the reason and the religious sentiment must each be satisfied. And to this end we must have a Science and a Christianity that shall be essentially one; that shall proceed from the same Principle, be founded on the same premises, reach the same conclusions, and achieve the same results. For all Truth is one. And if Science is true, and Christianity is true, they must be identical.
Christian Science a Revelation of the Divine Principle
Now, truth is that which will answer human questions and meet human needs; and by this test neither Science nor Christianity, as they are now conceived, can speak with the authority of demonstration. Science — material science — cannot, does not claim to explain the real nature of even a single molecule of what it calls matter, nor of the smallest or greatest manifestation of what it calls force. With all the myriad forms of life revealed about us, with all its rising tides welling up within us, science cannot in any wise tell us what life is. No surgeon's scalpel has uncovered it, no microscope has perceived it, no chemical analysis has revealed it. And if we approach science with the mightier questions: What am I? Whence have I come? Whither do I go? her oracles are dumb. These are mysteries far beyond her ken. And still less can she even promise to meet the needs that press up against humanity on every hand. Something, yea, much, has our modern progress achieved in ameliorating external conditions and supplying comfort to the outer man; but it does not hold before us even a glimmering hope of meeting the needs of the human heart, or of giving us triumph over sickness, sin, and death.
When, then, we remember how far what is called science is from any absolute basis; when we recall how much that was called science twenty years ago is called nonsense to-day; when we survey again the systems of thought that were in more ancient times held as scientific, but have long since been given to the rubbish pile of the ages and are counted as only curiosities of history, and when we know not how much of our modern science may go in the same way; when we consider these things, and see how far short our materialistic theories have come from solving the human problem and meeting humanity's needs, is it not evident that we need a Science that shall give us firmer ground on which to stand and a Principle on which we can depend?
And if Truth be that which shall answer our questions and meet our needs, Christianity, as we have understood it, has likewise failed. We would not here be with those who decry what Christianity and the Christian Church has been and is to the world. We would not fail of being with the first of those who honor its name and its work. But does the church to-day come up to its primitive ideal? Where is the spiritual light and power that marked the early history of Christianity? The Christianity of the New Testament healed the sick and raised the dead, and Jesus gave that ideal as the standard for all times, for he says: "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do." Again he says: "These signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Where is the doing these works and the fulfilling these signs to-day? Is it not evident that the Christian Church to-day stands in need of something it does not possess?
Now, many of you will answer, "That was an age of miracles, and we cannot have those wonderful works repeated to-day, for the age of miracles is past." But what Scriptural warrant have we for this? Nowhere are we warranted in taking for ourselves to-day any different standard than that given to the early church. And if we ask, what had the early church which the church to-day has not? What can it have been but an understanding that has since been lost?
And this becomes more evident as we read our New Testament and see how much of it is not understood. We are told, perhaps, that these are mysteries not for us to know. But why are the words written if they are not to be understood? How is it that God has tried to tell us some things which we are not to understand? Those who wrote understood, and they seem to take it for granted that those to whom they are writing will understand. And we find, too, that not only faith, but understanding is required of the Christian. Thirty-four times is the word "know" used in John's first epistle. And the thought of the epistle draws to a close and reaches a climax in this statement: "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." Or, take again Peter's second epistle. After the salutation of the first verse, the thought of the epistle opens with the benediction: "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." And the Greek word used here is not the simple word gnosis, the general term for knowledge but it is epignosis, which means precise, exact knowledge — scientific knowledge, if you will. And this same word is used at least a score of times in the New Testament. Again, Jesus' definition of eternal life is not to believe, but to know: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Evidence from the gospels and epistles might be thus multiplied to show that the early teaching of Christianity led beyond faith into understanding, and that it was through this enlightened spiritual understanding that the early Christians demonstrated the power of God in what we have called miracles.
Now, there must be some primary Truth that will restore this lost element of Christianity, that will reconcile reason and revelation and will make Science Christian. And this Truth must be revealed. If what is to-day called Christian Science be not the revealing of this Truth that should come, then we must look for another. But it is a fully demonstrated fact to-day that Christian Science is the revealing of this final Truth; and this Truth is the understanding of the divine Principle of Being, the infinite Power and Intelligence that underlies, overlies, upholds, and enfolds all things — the infinite Good that we call God.
What Is Divine Principle?
Just what, then, do we mean by speaking of God by this new term? What is meant by saying God is divine Principle? The word principle in its highest use is defined as cause, source, or origin. In applying it to Deity we mean that from which all things proceed, and of which in their working all things are an expression. When we say God is divine Principle, we are simply explaining and expanding the thought we have had before in speaking of the first great Cause. We mean that God is the ever-present creating, sustaining, controlling, and directing Cause of all that is.
Now, it is objected to this, that it denies the personality of God and is pantheistic. It is intended to deny the usual concept of a personal God. There is strongly entrenched in popular thought a conception after what Carlyle calls "an absentee God, who ever since the first Sabbath has been sitting in idleness outside of his creation seeing it go." To the average individual the thought of God as a person means a limited God, a being who has some particular place of abode and some definite form and appearance. But this cannot be true of infinite Spirit, and this old limiting thought of a personal God must be entirely discarded before we can know Him as the Bible reveals Him, as ever-present Life, Truth, Love. That God is divine Principle means this, that God is creative Mind. Creation is His idea or His thought expressed. And so it is that "in Him we live, and move, and have our being."
Now, is this pantheism? By no means. Pantheism is any system that confounds the Creator with His creation, while Christian Science emphasizes the truth that God is not in His creation; that the creation does not include or embody God, but expresses Him. And so, if of such a God, a Being who is infinite Life, infinite Intelligence, limitless Love, it is said that He is in this sense personal, Christian Science brings no objection. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, the Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy, has said this in this connection: "As the words person and personal are commonly and ignorantly employed, they often lead, when applied to Deity, to confused and erroneous conceptions of divinity, and its distinction from humanity. If the term personality, as applied to God, means infinite personality, then God is personal Being, — in this sense, but not in the lower sense. An infinite Mind and a finite form do not, cannot, coalesce" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 10). If we conceive of such a divine Being as personality, then this infinite, ever-present Personality is the living Principle of the universe. To a Christian Scientist, the word Principle as applied to God does not mean a cold generalization, an abstraction of our own thinking. We gladly and unreservedly adopt John's statement, "God is love." And what is love but the loftiest, mightiest Principle that can enter human experience or touch a human life to control it.
Christian Science has fashioned for us no strange god, but has given us a higher, more practical, more helpful understanding of Him whom we have known from the beginning. All the thoughts of God that have ever been helpful, comforting, and inspiring we still own. All that we have discarded are the beliefs concerning Him that have hidden from us His real nature as changeless Good. According to the way that our critics may call heresy, that we reverently call Christian Science, while we call our Deity divine Principle, we yet worship the God of our fathers.
Matter and Evil Unreal
And now arises a two-fold dilemma, as old as the record of philosophic thought. If the infinite Original of all things is Spirit, whence comes matter? and if Good, how is this reconciled with evil? The logic of Truth shows that they cannot be reconciled, that matter and evil are nonexistent, unreal. This denial the world challenges, and Science sustains it by demonstrating the allness of God, Good.
Let us look at these statements a little more closely. The denial of the existence of matter does not mean quite what it at first seems to mean. It is not intended to assert that there are no houses, no hills, no trees, no heavens nor earth; that there is no external objective existence. What is claimed is that we perceive all these things through the medium of a false sense of things; that our human belief has put a wrong interpretation on nature; that back of the things that are seen lie spiritual realities of which what we call material forms are poor counterfeits, shadows of the real. It is not affirmed that the physical senses tell us nothing, but that they do not tell us the truth. Their evidence needs to be re-interpreted from Principle, and when so interpreted we shall find that this explains while it denies the testimony of the senses.
For we do not trust the senses as absolutely as we think we do. On a lower plane we are constantly explaining and denying their first obvious testimony. For instance: you see a straight rod plunged into the water, so that part is beneath and part above the surface. Now, the appearance is that where the stick emerges from the water it forms an angle. If you take the first testimony of what the eyes behold, you will say the stick is broken. The phenomenon is explained by the principle that governs the reflection and refraction of light; that explains while it denies the testimony of the senses. You stand on a railroad track, and your eyes tell you that the two lines of rails approach each other until they meet in the distance. But the principle that governs the law of perspective interprets this phenomenon, and so explains while it denies the testimony of the senses. No fact is more obvious at first impression than that the earth stands still and that the sun moves around it. For centuries no fact or belief was more unchallenged. It was intrenched in the world's philosophy and fortified by religious conviction. But deeper investigation revealed this as a mistake, and an understanding of the principle that governs the relation and motion of the heavenly bodies explained while it denied the testimony of the senses. And so out of the difficulties and discords that have arisen from believing in mind and matter has come a deeper investigation. And interpreting the universe according to its divine Principle, the infinite Mind, we find that this explains while it denies the entire testimony of the senses; and in perceiving the allness of God is seen the non-existence of matter. In other words, Christian Science explains all the phenomena of our conscious experience and interprets their meaning by divine Principle, according to Mind instead of matter. When from the new point of view our vision becomes spiritually clear, we shall see what the revelator saw: "A new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away."
So if God is Good and God is All, where is a place for evil? If God, Good, is All-power, where can there be an evil power? If God originally created all things "very good," what real place can evil have in this creation?
Christian Science denies that evil is a reality, or has, in the nature of things, any abiding-place. And this does not mean just what it may at first glance seem to mean. It is not a denial that we have this sense of evil to meet in actual experience; but it has no more ultimate reality than the ghosts that appear to the child who is taught to believe in them, or the superstitions that are very real to the heathen, whose ancestors, from ages back, have credited them. Personified evil has been well defined by Jesus, when he says of Satan, "he is a liar, and the father of it." In an orderly Universe, governed by its Principle, there is no place for evil, any more than there is a place for errors in mathematics, or discords in music. When the principle of mathematics is sufficiently understood and demonstrated, the errors disappear; they have no real place in mathematics. When the principle of music is understood and demonstrated, the discords disappear; they have no inherent place in music. When the Principle of Being, which is infinite Love, is understood and demonstrated, evil will disappear, for it has no principle, no ground of existence, no ultimate reality.
Real Man Is Spiritual
Then interpreting life from this perfect Principle, what shall we answer to the age-long, world-wide question, "What is man?" Just what the original statement of the Scriptures reveals him, — God's likeness. And as God's likeness, man can really be only like God; he must be originally perfect, as the Father is perfect. But how then do we account for what we find round about us in practical experience to-day? Simply through man's failing to understand and demonstrate his divine Principle, and interpreting himself (as all things else) materially, instead of spiritually.
The Scripture says that "God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." We see these inventions in the multiplicity of human opinions and beliefs. We see too, these human beliefs working out their legitimate conclusions in human experience. Man was originally upright. According to the Scriptures he was originally perfect, subject to neither sickness, sin, nor death, — to-day, according to human belief, these are inevitable elements of human experience.
But now reason raises this query: If man was originally upright, has he lost his original nature? If he was originally God's child, is he not still God's child? The mere fact that he is not manifesting the divine nature, and that we do not see him as God's child cannot alter the original fact, nor change the eternal truth. In seeking an answer to this question, What is man? we remember that it was foretold of the Messiah, that "He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears." Jesus injunction was: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." Man is to be judged from the standpoint of Mind, not matter. On the superficial judgment of the senses we cannot rest. Truth and Love must lead us within the barriers of the outer appearance, to where God's likeness is enshrined, ere we can answer the question, What is man?
For man, as God's likeness, must be to-day, in his essential nature, a spiritual and perfect being, and sin, sickness, and death only mortal beliefs about man; but since as man "thinketh in his heart, so is he," these beliefs must seem to be substantial realities until they are proven to be but beliefs, and they disappear before the "revealing of the sons of God" (R.V. Romans, 8:19). And a wrong belief about anything, or a false interpretation about anything, does not change the real thing, although it may pervert its application and interrupt its working. Let me illustrate this: —
God gave to the Jews a message through the Old Testament Scriptures, — they contained His Word. But how was this message misunderstood and misapplied by the Jews of Jesus' time. The Jew professed and proposed to conform his life accurately to the Word. What he did was to obscure the tenor of the Word with his belief, and to conform his conduct to this belief. But the fact that the Jew held a certain belief about the Scripture, and the fact that his belief worked itself out in visible, tangible, definite results, did not alter the character of the Scriptures.
Now man is God's Word; that is, man's true consciousness contains what the Bible contains, the spiritual idea. As it is written, "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. . . . But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." This then means that man is the highest expression of divine Mind, — in his true selfhood he individualizes the spiritual idea, and this is all that is really in man's consciousness. Whatever else there may be present as an element of our consciousness, cannot be something which is a part of the original, perfect man, but is something which has crept in as a belief about man. The fact that there is a belief that man is material and mortal, does not change the original truth; and that this belief works itself out in visible, tangible results in human experience, by no means establishes the belief, nor alters the original fact, that man is in God's likeness.
And what, then, is the man of the senses? He is a creation of belief only. His life is that which James describes as a "vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." His origin is that of one "conceived in sin, and brought forth in iniquity." His mentality is the mind of the flesh, which is "enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Now this belief about man is what the Apostle refers to when he exhorts to "put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts: and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." And again, "Be ye not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." When we shall have cast off all this mortal belief of life in matter, we shall be satisfied, for we shall have awaked in His likeness.
The Spiritual Idea
Now generic man constitutes God's son, for man is originally and eternally God's child. Have you ever noted the significance of the genealogy of Jesus, as given in Luke, tracing back from son to father; beginning by saying that Jesus was, "as was supposed, the son of Joseph"? And so it follows back from generation to generation, until we come to "which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." What can this signify, except that man is originally and by lineal descent, God's son? Jesus, the Christ, knew of his sonship; hence he is "the first-born among many brethren."
It was Jesus' mission to reveal God to man, and to reveal man to himself. He revealed God by reflecting him; and he revealed man by revealing himself as the ideal man. He says emphatically: "He that hath seen me," — hath discerned me spiritually, — "hath seen the Father;" and likewise he almost invariably calls himself "the son of man." That the son of man is identical with the Son of God, is the key to his teaching. He asks his disciples, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" and in the same connection "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter replies, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;" and Jesus approves the answer. In the words of our textbook, Science and Health, "Christ, born of the Father, illustrated the coincidence, or spiritual agreement, between God and man." Christ Jesus brought to human consciousness the spiritual idea, which reveals God as infinite Good, as changeless Love, and reveals man as perfect, as the Father is perfect. He embodied in himself this idea; he was an individual expression of this idea. Now this spiritual idea is the Christ. Jesus, the Christ, means Jesus the anointed one. It was the spiritual idea that anointed the man Jesus. This idea imbued his whole consciousness, and was revealed in him as the Christ. It is this spiritual idea which the Apostle says is "Christ in you the hope of glory." It was this spiritual idea that we are told followed the Israelites in their journeys of old. "For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." This same spiritual idea was that which revealed itself to all the prophets, that which they spiritually perceived, and whose perfect coming they foresaw and foretold. And it is the reappearing of this spiritual idea, in Christian Science, which is the second coming of Christ
It is the working of this idea in human consciousness, that is to regenerate humanity and redeem the world. As it unfolds itself in the individual consciousness, all the elements of sickness, sorrow, and sin, must disappear. Do you ask, "How can these things be?" By a certain law of cause and effect. For we grow into our ideals, and our ideals form and control us.
Hawthorne tells a story that illustrates this. In a certain locality in New England, there is a cliff on the mountain side, which, from a certain position, presents a clear profile of a human face. A little boy lived where, from his home, he had ever before him the old man of the mountain. The face in the rock seemed to hold a strange fascination, and he would sit and look for hours at the rugged granite features. And lo! As years went by, people marked with wonder that the features of the boy were becoming as the features of the face of stone. He had grown into the likeness of that which absorbed his thought. Whether this be fact or fiction, it holds a truth: we reproduce our ideal. The lawyer, the soldier, the clergyman, the priest, each stand for a particular idea, and in each case we see a certain distinct type. We can pick out an individual as belonging to each particular class, according to the degree that he has been absorbed by his own professional idea. The military idea, the legal idea, the clerical idea, the priestly idea, impresses itself on the man so that he who runs may read. And so let the Christ idea be held in the foreground of consciousness; let it be seen how the life of Jesus defines this idea; let it be known that this idea interprets us to ourself; let it absorb our thought and control our conduct, and we shall be healed and saved. And thus growing in the Christ idea, living it as Jesus lived it, we shall be following Christ Jesus.
Herein is the Truth that makes us free. Man is to-day spiritual and perfect, and divine Principle is his Life. Man is in the position of an old negro, who was a solitary slave on a remote backwoods plantation. The war came, the emancipation proclamation was issued, the slaves went forth, but the old man slaved on. He knew nothing of all these things. Finally the word came to him, he was convinced of its truth, and he went forth free. The truth made him free, by showing him that he had been free, and had not known it. Man governed by his divine Principle, under no law but the Law of Love, is to-day free, — all he needs is to know it.
How Truth Heals
The truth of Christian Science finds practical application in this: that Mind accounts for all, and Mind controls all.
Human experience has been full of intimations of the deeper workings of mind, as the perfectly commonplace fact that a person will turn when looked at intently; or the game often played, where one comes into a room, and without previous knowledge or instruction, does just what all in the room are holding the thought that he will do. Experiences of transference of thought occur to all. So instances may be multiplied, to show how we are swayed, and influenced, and directed by unrecognized conditions of thought. These intimations are straws which show which way the wind is blowing. They usually show simply the influence of one human mind over another; but they are intimations of human possibilities, which when they are understood and unfolded in their Principle and law, are boundless in their promise.
The work of Christian Science is to heal sickness and cast out sin, and it does this through understanding that man, as the idea of divine Principle, is spiritual and perfect, and is sustained and controlled by divine Mind. The healing of Christian Science is not brought about through mental suggestion, but though bringing to the consciousness of the patient the presence and power of Truth and Love, which destroy the wrong suggestion that has manifested itself as sickness, — for all sickness does in reality come about as a mental suggestion; that is, it is a mind picture, or a condition of consciousness imaged on the body, — for the body has no intelligence to say I am sick, but only reflects the condition of the thought that governs it. That disease does get about through such a transfer of mind pictures, or mental suggestions, is demonstrated beyond cavil. Medical students are frequently violently attacked with the symptoms of the disease of which they are studying. After the death of General Grant, and the prominence that was given to the difficulty and symptoms in his case, which was said to be cancer of the throat caused by excessive smoking, every old smoker began to say, "I shall have to be careful, or I shall have the same thing." And it is claimed that after this case of General Grant, many more cases of the same difficulty arose than had ever been known before. I know an instance where, when the mother was sick, the son, a man grown, was sick, even though miles away, and knowing nothing of the illness of the mother, and vice versa, when the son was sick, the mother was sick also. It is notorious that people who read and study the doctors' books are apt to become ill, and often do.
The spread of epidemics, what we call contagion, is really mental inoculation. Nurses and physicians who rise above the fear of disease with which they are brought in contact, and who are actuated by love for humanity and the desire to relieve, are largely immune from these diseases. Now here is the difference and difficulty. We have learned to mistake the occasion of sickness for the cause of the sickness. Some exposure is followed by a cold: we say the exposure caused the cold. We eat some particular article of food, and have dyspepsia; this occurs again and again; we conclude that the food caused the trouble; now in every instance the belief and the fear of the power of so-called material conditions is the procuring cause of sickness. The material condition is the occasion, not the cause. Banish the belief and fear from mortal mind, and no circumstance can cause us suffering. And here is the practical application: if we can banish from our thought all belief of the necessity of disease, all belief in the power of supposed laws of matter to bring disease, if we can replace sick thoughts by healthful thoughts, selfish thoughts by loving thoughts, and sinful thoughts by holy thoughts, — in short, if we can banish the beliefs of the mortal mind, and let this Mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus, sickness and suffering will depart.
Paul says, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; . . . think on these things."
The Principle and the Law
Christian Science claims to teach the Truth. The power on which it relies for demonstration is the power of Truth. What, then, is Truth? We use the word in a variety of applications, sometimes in a lower, sometimes in a higher sense. Truth, in any sense of the term, is that which represents things as they are. Truth, as applied to the unfolding of any system of thought, has to do with principle and law. As we apply the word to any department of human inquiry, truth, ideally, is the understanding of a principle and the idea that expresses it. Truth, practically, is the understanding of a principle and the law that governs its operation. Now the universe, including man, has a divine Principle that includes and governs all. Absolute Truth is included in the understanding of divine Principle, and the idea that expresses this Principle. Man has a demonstrable knowledge of Truth, to the extent that he understands his Principle, and the law of Principle's operation.
Let us illustrate this. As we sometimes use the word truth, not in an absolute, but in an accommodated sense, we speak of practical knowledge as truth. In this sense, we say to-day that we have come to know, to a degree, the truth about electricity. And what we mean is, that we know it as a force or principle, and the law that governs its operation. Take another illustration, music. That from which the entire science and art of music proceeds, and of which it is an expression, is the sense and sentiment of harmony, which is revealed in the world of sound. This sentiment in the individual consciousness, is a working power, an impulse, a principle. There is an exact law that governs its expression. Through awakened musical perception, to understand this principle and the law that governs its expression, is to know the truth about music. To know God as the only Power and Presence, through awakened spiritual perception to understand Him as Life, Truth, and Love, is to know divine Principle. To know Him as the Principle of our being and to understand the spiritual law that governs all His workings is to know the Truth that makes free.
"All things are possible to him that believeth." To believe, we must understand; we cannot believe until we know what we are believing. But just as much as it is true that we can demonstrate music to the extent we understand its principle, just as it is true that we can demonstrate mathematics to the extent of our understanding of the principle of mathematics, it is true that to the extent we understand divine Principle, we can demonstrate His power, — the power of Life, Truth, and Love. But this understanding comes not by any cold process of reasoning. These things are hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes. The entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven lies wide open to those who are "as little children," — simple, open-minded, innocent. To those who are "pure in heart" is it given to "see God;" but "he that loveth is born of God and knoweth God." In this new realm to know is to love, and to love is to know. Herein do we learn Jesus' secret of life and power. With him living and loving were all one. To know by a vital experience that God is Love is to grasp the Principle that shall solve all the problems of earth, and to hold the key that unlocks the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.
As the Principle of all Being is Spirit, the one law of Being is spiritual. If we are to understand and demonstrate the Science that leads to harmony and life, we can have but one law, for we cannot serve two masters. It is often asked, Why do the best people have the most trouble? They are trying to obey two laws, Spirit and matter, holding both as God's laws. Each annuls the other. It involves us in a maze of contradictions. For instance: A clergyman is summoned to come to the bedside of a man supposed to be dying. The man needs his spiritual ministration. It is an inclement, wintry night. The clergyman, to human sense, is in delicate health, and his physician has warned him against any exposure. Now, according to physiological law, he is forbidden to venture out on such a night. The law of health says, Go not! The law of Love says, Go! If the man goes he breaks the law of health, — if he stays he breaks the law of Love. If they are both God's laws, he is placed in a position where, either way, he must be a transgressor. How can these things be?
In the seventh of Romans, Paul brings up this attempt at keeping two laws, at believing in two laws. He states very directly that "the law is spiritual," but he notes another law which he says is "in my members," a physical law, which he defines as a "law of sin and death." But he shows us what to do with this supposed law, and how to be rid of its false bondage; for he writes, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, has made me free from the law of sin and death." If we remember that in human experience there is an intermediate term between sin and death, and that is sickness, we shall see that the law of Christ releases us from the supposed law of sin, sickness and death.
All laws based on material premises are false and futile. They have only the power that human belief gives them. The only real law, valid for time and eternity, is the spiritual law, manifesting the power of its divine Principle, Good. This law gains acceptance, not through belief, but through understanding: and the measure of our understanding marks the only limit to our ability to demonstrate the ultimate of this one divine law, even as Jesus did.
Then to repeat: Truth, ideally, is the understanding of divine Principle, and the idea which expresses Principle; Truth, practically, is the understanding of divine Principle, and the law that governs its operation. As man comes into his heritage, through understanding, he will realize his highest ideal, his dreams will come true, and he will be satisfied.
Thine early dreams which came in shapes of light,
Came bearing prophecy,
Commissioned, sweetly to unfold
Thy possible to thee.
Fear not to build thine eyrie in the heights
Bright with celestial day,
And trust thyself in simple faith
To thine inmost soul alway,
And God shall make divinely real
The highest forms of thine ideal.
How Truth May Be Known
The spiritual idea, God's idea, or God's work, is contained in the Bible. In the works and words of Jesus we find the spiritual idea first clearly and completely presented. The Old Testament Scriptures are an unfolding record and expression of the spiritual idea, as it is being progressively revealed, until it comes to its fulfillment in the Christ. Now, in this generation, the spiritual idea is again set forth in its order and in its Principle, in the book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." To grasp this spiritual idea, in all its applications to all the need of human experience, to practically know God and His Christ, we need these two, and only these two, books.
Some of you are investigators of Christian Science; you are honestly seeking Truth; now, in your seeking, are three proofs or criterions that we find in the New Testament, which we can apply to whatever claims to be Truth. Whatever does not present these proofs is not the truth of the Bible, — is not true Christianity: First, what are spoken of as the signs. "These signs shall follow them that believe." These are open demonstrations of physical control through Mind. The most usual sign was, and is, healing the sick. The second is what Jesus calls the fruits: "By their fruits ye shall know them." These fruits are the works of the Christ shown in a godly character. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." The highest witness of all is that in our own consciousness. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Where you shall find this threefold witness, there will be the Truth.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science
Alongside of the wonder and admiration that is aroused by the remarkable growth and work of Christian Science, is that inspired by the esteem in which all its believers hold its Discoverer and Founder, the Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy. This esteem holds in it nothing of fulsome adulation, nor anything approaching personal worship. It is simply a reverent, loving appreciation of her work, and her position as the one whom God has chosen and called to be the Revelator of this new-old truth. We know that through sacrifice unspeakable and love unutterable she has wrought the work that has restored to us a priceless gift, and for this we give her gratitude. Christian Scientists have seen in the life of their Leader an unselfishness and a wisdom that could only come from a life divinely directed. Instead of seeking power, she has taken just the steps that make it impossible to build up an ecclesiastical despotism. The steps that she has taken, the movements that she has directed, have proved their wisdom. And for these things we give her confidence. She has unveiled to us the transcendent beauty of Christliness. For this we give her love. As those who are working in the spirit of Christ, could we offer less?
Christian Science comes as an expected one. The seers and sages of all the centuries have foretold it. In the land of its birth, out of many who have been "voices in the wilderness," prophets of its appearing, I will quote from two, as weighty as any America has known. The first is Dr. Horace Bushnell, for whom scholars have claimed that he, more than any other man, except Jonathan Edwards, has influenced the course of religious thought in this country. In the closing paragraphs of "Nature and the Supernatural," we read: —
"How different the fortunes of religious experience, when it is regarded — which, in some future time, it will be — as a coming unto God by the laws that regulate His bestowments; when the world of His supernatural kingdom is conceived to be as truly under laws as the word of nature, and these laws, accurately distinguished, enable the disciple to address himself accurately to the powers of grace, as now to the forces of nature. So the whole life of faith is an experience and spiritual discovery of God. And no discovery of natural science is more valid.
"The power of Christian piety will be as much greater than now, as it knows how to connect more certainly, and more in the manner of science, with the resources of God. And great will be the day when faith, laying hold of science, and rising into intellectual majesty with it, is acknowledged in the glorious sisterhood of a common purpose, and both lead in the realms they occupy, reconciled to God, cleared of the disorders and woes of sin, to set them in that final unity which represents the eternal Headship of Christ."
These words were written nearly two decades before Science and Health was published. Nearly a score of years earlier, Emerson wrote: —
"I look for the hour when that supreme Beauty which ravished the souls of those Eastern men, and chiefly of those Hebrews, and through their lips spoke oracles to all time, shall speak in the West also. The Hebrew and Greek scriptures contain immortal sentences that have been the bread of life to millions. But they have no epical integrity; are fragmentary; are not shown in their order to the intellect. I look for the new Teacher, that shall follow so far those shining laws, that he shall see them come full circle; shall see their rounding complete grace; shall see the world to be the mirror of the soul; shall see the identity of the law of gravitation with purity of heart; and shall show that the Ought, that Duty, is one thing with Science, with Beauty, with Joy."
And what many hold as the greatest poem of the century, closes with the vision of —
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event.
To which the whole creation moves.
The worth of Christian Science is that it reveals divine Principle; its work is to demonstrate Principle. Herein faith becomes understanding, reason and revelation are reconciled, and the prayer of Christendom, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven," is finally fulfilled.
The world sits at the feet of Christ
Unknowing, blind and unconsoled,
It yet shall touch his garment's fold,
And feel the heavenly alchemist
Transform its very dust to gold.
[Published in The Christian Science Journal, March 1900.]