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The Religion of the Bible
JUDGE SEPTIMUS J. HANNA, CSD
In corroboration of this conception of God and His power and presence in His universe and in His world, I desire to call attention to a definition of God given by the great psalmist, the sweet singer of Israel, in the 103rd Psalm: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." This is either mere abstract poetical sentiment or else it is a declaration of eternal truth, a definition of the eternal God. We accept it as the latter. We believe in just such a God as the psalmist here sings of, a God who possesses the power to forgive and who does forgive all our iniquities, a God who possesses the power to heal and who does heal all our diseases, who redeemeth our lives from destruction, who ever crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies.
I cite this definition of God not because it stands alone; we find just such conceptions of God running all through the Scriptures if we look for them. Have we sufficiently looked for them? Have we been generally taught of such a God? On the contrary, have we not been too generally taught of a God who, so far from forgiving all the iniquities of His children, has provided a means and place of eternal punishment for such of them as fail to live up to a prescribed course of conduct? A God who, so far from healing all the diseases of His children, sends disease upon them in order to chasten and make them better? I do not misstate the prevalent theological conception of God when I speak of Him thus. This manifestly was not David's conception of God. If it was, his own plain words falsify that conception. Nor was it the conception of God held by Jesus, if we accept his own plain words as expressing his conception. In immediate connection with the 103rd Psalm I now call your attention to a part of the New Testament record which we consider as fundamental Christian doctrine or teaching. I refer to the great commandment given by Jesus to his disciples, called by some Bible commentators his Great Commission to the Twelve. If it is true that this part of the Bible is fundamental Christian doctrine or teaching, then surely those who desire to live Christian lives cannot study it too much or understand it too well. For present purposes I quote the account contained in the tenth chapter of Matthew:
Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 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. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
This commandment is a unit. It is not two commandments. There is in this language no authority to separate or subdivide it; no more authority to do this than there is to reject it as a whole. The words relating to healing sickness and doing the other works there mentioned are not only part of the general commandment, but of the very paragraph in which occur the words relating to preaching; yet we have been taught to believe that while a part of this commandment was intended for all times and all peoples, another part was intended only for a particular time and a particular people. In other words, that the part relating to preaching the gospel was to be handed down to all the nations of the world, until the heathen nations should be converted to the Christian religion; but that the part relating to healing the sick and doing the other works mentioned was intended only for the time of Jesus and his disciples. Or, in yet other words, the theoretical part was to be perpetuated; but the practical part, the doing of the works, was to be relegated to the dead ages of the past, left away back beside the sea of Galilee.
Christian Scientists cannot agree to this attempt to cut out or make obsolete this part of the great commandment. Had they no other authority than this which I have quoted, they would feel compelled to maintain that this commandment has not been fully complied with, and cannot be fully complied with until the sick are healed and the other works mentioned therein are accomplished, in accordance with the teachings and methods of the Founder of the Christian religion. But they are not compelled to rest upon this alone. This commandment is substantially reiterated in the other Gospels. I shall not now stop to notice these particularly, but I do desire to call your attention to another commandment given by Jesus to the same disciples to whom he gave his first great commandment, with the exception of Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. After his crucifixion and resurrection, and just before his ascension, he gave to those disciples a final commandment, which is recorded at the close of the book of Matthew. I ask your attention to its plainness as well as to its sweeping character: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
This language is plain and unqualified. If we accept it for what it distinctly says, we must conclude that it embraces all of that first great commandment, as well as all of any commandment or instructions given by Jesus to his disciples. Without wishing to criticise or condemn the views of others, I must frankly say that I do not see how any one can read these plain words and give them a moment's thought, and continue longer to think or to say or believe that any part of the first commandment or of any commandment ever given by Jesus to his disciples was to be put aside or become obsolete. Especially so when we consider the closing words of the final commandment: "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
In direct connection with Jesus' first great commandment and his final commandment, I desire to call your attention to one more declaration made by the Founder of the Christian religion and it will be observed that with the exception of the 103rd Psalm I have quoted exclusively from the teachings of the Founder of the Christian religion, and this ought to be good authority for all professing Christians. When we think of the great works that Jesus did during his earthly career, how he overcame and destroyed all kinds of sin, how he healed all manner of sickness and disease, how he raised the dead, walked the waves, and stilled the tempest, and how he did many other wonderful works, when we think of this, and view things from the standpoint of our limited mortal senses, we may well be astonished at the words which I now quote as they are recorded in the 14th chapter of John, 12th verse: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also." Plain words. I do not see how words could be plainer. It seems to be only a question as to whether we shall accept them or reject them. We might well suppose that when Jesus had made so startling a declaration he would have ceased. We might well suppose that when he had in terms of such solemnity and plainness declared that those who believe on him should do the great works that he did, he would have reached the utmost limit of mankind's hopes and expectations and possibilities. But he did not stop there. He went further, and uttered these yet more astonishing words: "And greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
"Because I go unto my Father," as he here says; "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," as he says at the close of his final commandment. If these words are true, we must believe that the Christ-power and the Christ-spirit were never withdrawn from this world. Jesus went unto the Father, into a better understanding of the divine law whereby he did his mighty works upon earth, and by virtue of which those who believe on him were to do not only the works that he did, but greater. Here, I say, is Jesus' great commandment to his disciples. Christian Scientists are not responsible for it. Mrs. Eddy did not write it. It stood unrepealed, unchanged, unmodified, long ages before her birth, long ages before the birth of any one claiming the name of a Christian Scientist today. We are not responsible for it, but we are responsible, together with all other professing Christians, for either accepting or rejecting these plain teachings. What shall be our position with reference thereto we who claim to be followers of the teachings of the Founder of the Christian religion?
It is matter of history that for two hundred years after the inauguration of the Christian era the sick were healed by the early Christians without resort to material means or remedies. Gibbon in his history of the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" treats elaborately of this subject under the head of the early Christians. He cites instances of persons, some of them well-known Romans, high in official authority, who were healed of diseases pronounced incurable by the physicians of the day, through the ministration of the early Christians. Not only so, but he states with equal emphasis that down to the close of the second century the dead were raised by the early Christians. In this he does not stand alone; he is corroborated by other authentic historians. Then there are the writings of the early Christian Fathers, the ante-Nicene Fathers, as they are called; they wrote exhaustively upon this subject, going into minute details as to the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead by the early Christians. Their writings are yet extant and constitute a library of themselves. I am the possessor of a set of them, and have read them with much interest and profit in the connection here mentioned. It is matter of church history also, that a number of the Christian sects in their earlier church life were believers in the efficacy of prayer alone to heal the sick, and that they practised such prayer. This is true of the Waldenses, of the Moravians, of the Huguenots, of the Friends or Quakers, of the Baptists, and of the Methodists. According to the life of Martin Luther, he was a believer in the power of prayer to heal sickness and more or less practised it. According to the life of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, he for many years was a firm believer in the direct power of God to heal the sick through the efficacy of prayer, and practised it, not only for himself but for others. An instance is related where he restored himself to health, almost immediately, from a severe fever which had hung upon him for several days, by asking God's direct help, and by revolving in his mind and contemplating some of the very same Scriptural passages to which I have called your attention. It is also matter of record in connection with the Methodist Episcopal Church that when the bishops of that denomination are ordained they are instructed, among other things, to heal the sick, not as educated physicians, nor with drugs and medicines, but by virtue of their office. Why this part of the ceremony has become a dead letter is not for us to say.
Does this plain Biblical authority, with its corroborative history, both sacred and secular, count for nothing now? Has it no meaning for us today? Has it had no meaning for those preceding us? Have we a right to wipe it all out, or to declare it obsolete? Let us think a moment. If the contention to which I have referred were true, namely, that a part of Jesus' great commandment has become obsolete, then it is a mere dead letter, and each of us would have a right at pleasure to take pen and ink and blot it out. We surely have the same right to blot it out physically that we have to blot it out mentally. Christian Scientists do not admit this right nor seek to exercise it.
A few words as to Jesus' healing of the sick. Often when he healed a sick person he said to him in substance, 'Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you." When he healed the man sick of the palsy he said to him, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." He evidently recognized a connection between some kind of sin this man had been committing and the sickness which was upon him, but he did not denounce the poor fellow because he was sick as the result of his sins; he made no threats of his eternal punishment, nor did he pronounce upon him a verdict of incurability or of death. He did nothing to frighten him, but everything to encourage him. He bade him be of good cheer, and at the same time he pronounced his sins forgiven he declared his sickness healed, and told him to arise, take up his bed, and go into his house; which he did. In recognizing the fact that sin was the cause of much of the sickness of his time, to say the least, Jesus was only recognizing that of which we are bound to take notice today, if we take notice of anything. Had we the power now, and did we exercise it, to remove from the world all the sickness and disease, the sorrow, grief, woe, suffering, and death resulting from any one kind of sinful, or wrongful, or foolish living, we would thereby almost literally have verified the possibility of doing the works that Jesus said must be done by those who believe on him. Take the great sin, the stupendous folly, of intemperance; had we the power this moment to remove from the world all the sickness, disease, sorrow, grief, woe, suffering, poverty, and death resulting from this one form of sinful or foolish living, we would thereby almost have transformed this earth into a paradise. I refer to this because it stands out conspicuously and we know it to be a prolific source of many kinds of sickness and all the consequences thereof. There are other evils, of a mental character, such as mental worry and stress, anxiety, discouragement, and melancholia, with their long train of physical disorders which our human wisdom is pleased to call physical diseases. Take the business world; how many men and women become sick, and how many die as the result of business worry, disappointment, discouragement, and defeat, and how many seek to escape from their sufferings through suicide.
The Christian Scientist in his analysis of the causes of sickness goes farther, and tells you that there are yet other causes, mental in origin, such as anger, malice, hatred, jealousy, the spirit of revenge, and kindred mental conditions. We know that people sometimes get sick and sometimes die in fits of passion. These other qualities, harbored, are not less harmful; and if they be not overcome, sooner or later manifest themselves in the form of so-called physical diseases.
Having thus briefly referred to the causes of sickness and its consequences, what shall we say of the real remedy therefor? Can we hope for final and radical healing of sickness and disease resulting directly or indirectly from the causes referred to, through any supposed power or efficacy contained in inanimate drugs? Can the drug enter human thought and regulate wrong conditions there? Can it destroy wrong mental appetites and desires? If it could do this it would be both powerful and intelligent. If it could really heal under such circumstances it would be the very god that some honest people believe it to be. And what shall we say of surgery? Can the surgeon's knife cut out wrong mental conditions or remove wrong appetites and passions? The utmost that is claimed for it is that it may in some cases remove the physical effects of these. In saying this, I wish to cast no reflection upon the professions of medicine and surgery. From their standpoint they are doing the best they can. Their purpose is right, for it is to alleviate human suffering and stay the ravages of disease; but allowing to these professions all the credit to which they can possibly be entitled, the question recurs, and to those who are at all awakened to this great question, it keeps recurring, and like Banquo's ghost, will not down at their bidding, Can inert drugs and medicines or the surgeon's knife really heal diseases which are the result of wrong thoughts, wrong mental conditions, or wrong habits of living?
In speaking of sin and its consequences, we do not wish to be understood as saying that all who get sick are sick as the result of any conscious or wilful wrongdoing on their part, for some of the best people in the world seem to suffer most, some of the most refined and sensitive natures seem to succumb most readily to the ravages of disease; but what we do wish to be understood as saying is, that we are all suffering in greater or less degree as the result of long ages of wrong human conditions or human error; long ages of living too far away from God and His divine law; long ages of too great failure to study and understand and apply the teachings of the Bible, and especially the teachings of the great Founder of the Christian religion. Hence the necessity that mankind awaken to a higher and truer sense of the causes and cure of sickness and disease. Hence the need of the establishment of that Church whose purpose and mission are to "reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing."
This is the purpose of the Christian Science Church. This is the single life-purpose of the Discoverer and Founder and Leader of Christian Science. To this great end she wrote and published and promulgated the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." To this great end she organized The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and all of its branches. To this great end she caused to be established a Christian Science literature, which is so rapidly permeating and leavening human thought. To this great end she caused to be ordained as the only Pastor of the Christian Science Church the Bible and its Key, the Christian Science textbook. To this great end the Lesson-Sermons, selected from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, are read each Sabbath all over this land and in other lands. To this great end these public lectures are given. To this great end every legitimate means of spreading this great truth is resorted to, that the public may be informed thereof and avail themselves of its blessings and benefits if they desire.
In thus endeavoring to obey the teachings of Christ Jesus in all their fulness, and to establish upon earth his complete gospel, are Mrs. Eddy and her adherents doing right or wrong? Are they or are they not entitled to the good will and the good fellowship of all who desire a full reign of Christ's gospel in the earth, a complete redemption of humanity from all its sins, its sorrows, its griefs, its woes, its sicknesses, and its deaths?
May we not fairly ask our friends of all Christian churches: If it is right to do or to undertake to do a part of the work which Jesus said must be done by those who believe on him, is it not right in greater measure to do or to undertake to do all of such works? If, on the other hand, it is wrong to do or to undertake to do all of those works, it is wrong, in relative degree, to do or to undertake to do a part of those works. How, then, can any one claiming to be a follower of the Christ consistently disavow or denounce the teachings of Christian Science and the glorious results thereof?
Christian Scientists do not claim to be able, at this period, to do all the works that Jesus and some of his disciples did, but they do sincerely claim to be making an honest and a united effort in that direction. And even thus far their labors have been crowned with such wondrous and gratifying success that they may well be encouraged to go on and on and on in the Christ way, with the full hope and expectation and knowledge that if they are true to their sacred trust, sooner or later there shall be accomplished here upon this earth all of the great works that Jesus did and taught his disciples to do; and through them the whole world, all the nations thereof. Not only so, but even the greater works which he prophesied shall also be accomplished. Either this is true, or the promises are false.
What, then, is the cure for sickness? I have already indicated the Christian Science answer to this question. I have, in a general way, pointed out the cause or causes of sickness. The true office of the physician, or the metaphysician as the case may be, is to get at and remove causes, not to doctor effects. The best remedy for those forms of sickness which are known to be the direct result of wrong living, is to stop the wrong living. Suppose a stream or reservoir of water which furnishes the supply of a city becomes so polluted that many inhabitants are getting sick and dying from drinking it? What is the sensible and effective thing to do? to pay no heed to the water, but give all time and attention to doctoring the sick and burying the dead? Would not all sensible people say that the thing to do would be to remove from the water the poisonous elements and thus purify it and stop the cause of the sickness and death?
The Christian Science position is that this same sensible rule should be applied to all kinds of sickness, and therefore the great aim should be to seek out causes and destroy them, rather than to tinker effects. It is irrational and unjust for men to go carelessly and thoughtlessly on, disregarding the conditions which produce sickness and death, and then when these calamities come, to charge them to the will and purpose of an inscrutable Providence. They should rather turn their attention, as earnestly at least as they do to the promotion of their worldly purposes, to the learning of how to order their lives in conformity to divine law. To the extent that they do this they may be sure that they will reap the due reward of their efforts, and relatively speaking, a much greater reward than mere worldly seeking can bring.
If the cause of sickness is of such a nature that the patient is unaware of it, then the office of the physician, or metaphysician, is to ascertain the cause and apply the remedy. If the cause is found to be mental, and this is what the Christian Science practitioner always looks for, then the work to be done is to regulate or remove this mental cause. The Christian Scientist endeavors to awaken his patient spiritually and to point out to him his true relationship to God. This is prayer in the highest sense of the word. Not alone the prayer of sincere desire and supplication, but more, the realization of God's all-presence, all-power, and all-Life.
A lecture by Judge Septimus J. Hanna, CSD
The Christian Science Journal, June, 1907
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