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SAMUEL FREDERICK SWANTEES
True human progress, therefore, must be said to be measured, not by material wealth and comfort, nor even by the number of churches and communicants a nation or a people may possess, but by the unselfish lives which are revealed day by day. As yet the world is liable to sneer at unselfishness and honesty; but in the judgment of God nothing is more certain than that the time is approaching when these qualities will be greatly honored. The world may also say of the life of Christ Jesus, our highest Exemplar of unselfed love, that it is today impracticable; but the time is near at hand when nations will be convinced that not only individuals but peoples must manifest, at least in a measure, the same unselfed love which the Master exemplified, if they wish to retain their hold on true civilization. In the daily press, for instance, one frequently finds a conclusion such as the following, taken from an editorial: Reviewing the wonders of modern invention has become the tritest exercise of the schoolboy essayist. But the profoundest of our philosophers are beginning to reckon the time when civilization must break under the weight of its complexity and its increasingly ungovernable mass. Yes, civilization, if it be reckoned as wholly material, must break, is breaking on every hand, until the great fact is universally recognized that no man or woman can afford to despise or set aside the example of Christ Jesus; nor can any nation do so with impunity. It is not matter or material intellectualism that can form the foundation of the civilization that will endure; it is unselfed love. This alone points unerringly to divine Principle.
Of this great spiritual fact, therefore, the poets of Israel sang; and of this fact, on many occasions and in differing ways, the prophets spoke. One of their familiar sentences is that in which they speak of nations flowing unto mount Zion, which simply means that nations will come to see the great value of divine Principle, expressed in unselfishness, in its entire relationship to individuals and peoples. This does not mean that petty human theories with attractive names will displace the wisdom of God; but it does mean that that which is considered spiritually basic in the life of an individual will also be considered as an essential to the life of a nation or a people.
Now if all these things are true, if the prophets of old did not merely guess, but actually foretold, the truth from the viewpoint of Spirit and not of matter, then these things must be brought into universal human experience, and all nations and peoples shall come to the recognition of Truth and Love. The church has been and will continue to be an important factor in accomplishing this. Men and women have for ages turned to the church or to the things the church should exemplify, in order to find there the solution of all human problems. This shows that human thought was at least looking in the right direction. Nevertheless, the perfect working out of the church ideal has been sadly lacking, inasmuch as material methods and ambitions have usurped the place of divine Principle, and the demand for unselfed love has largely been forgotten. When reviewing history and seeing sacred opportunities ruthlessly thrown aside, one must indeed pray often, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
The correct understanding of the office of the church in the establishment of true human government is very important; and the sooner people recognize the fact the better. But the true church is always spiritual, and derives its power wholly from the spiritual understanding which it exemplifies or reflects; hence Mrs. Eddys definition on page 583 of Science and Health. The Church, she says, is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick.
The chief enemies of the church upon earth always have been and still are personal pride and ambition. It was these enemies that caused the disciples to dispute among themselves as to who should be the greatest in the kingdom which they expected Jesus to establish upon earth. It was also personal pride and ambition on a larger scale that formed a strong religious prejudice and caused the Pharisees and elders to crucify the Saviour, and that today would like to continue to crucify the Christ idea as revealed in Christian Science. Personal pride and ambition within the church have been the factors that throughout the ages have hindered the cause of God, good, upon earth, and even today would set churches and church members at variance. Now Paul, like all others having spiritual understanding, foresaw the danger to the church from selfishness, pride, and ambition; so he gave the rule which, if obeyed, will absolutely meet the problem: Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. Here again is the demand for unselfed love, which brings harmony, and without which no one can enter the kingdom of heaven.
Nothing, then, can be of much more importance in the understanding of a Christian Scientist than this recognition of the true value and place of unselfed love in his life. John, as well as Paul, indicates that it is the measure of ones spiritual stature; for it alone shows how near we have approached to true manhood. We know, says John simply, that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. How clearly we now see what Jesus meant when he washed his disciples feet and told them that he who desired to be the greatest must first of all be the servant of his brethren! It was during one of the most sorrowful occasions of Jesus life, when he had every human right to expect sustaining help from his students, that he took the precious time and sought to teach his disciples the lesson they so much needed. Does not this act of Jesus prove the importance which the problem of overcoming pride and ambition held in his estimation; and how, even to the last day of his earthly career, he sought to point out clearly to his disciples these errors, and the necessity of conquering them through unselfed love?
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. In the overcoming of selfish pride and ambition it is most necessary to watch ourselves especially and not be busy judging our brethren, thus defeating the very ends we would attain. Most of us desire to be counted as friends of Mrs. Eddy. Then let us do the one thing that is most needed to prove our friendship for her, and which she would most appreciate: let us overcome selfishness, false pride, and false ambition. Mrs. Eddy herself gives us an ideal which will help us to attain this most desirable result. She says on page 2 of her Message for 1902: To live and let live, without clamor for distinction or recognition; to wait on divine Love; to write truth first on the tablet of ones own heart, this is the sanity and perfection of living, and my human ideal.
The Christian Science Journal, February 1924
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