The subject of religious ordinances is frequently referred to by those who are interested in Christian Science, adversely or otherwise, and the neophyte is often called upon to give a reason for his changed views concerning Baptism and the Communion. With respect to the former, we find it first mentioned in the Bible as the distinguishing feature of John the Baptist's ministry. There is a tradition that his father, Zacharias the high priest, was slain at the altar (Luke, 11:51), because of his refusal to give up his child in obedience to Herod's cruel edict which condemned to death all the infants in Judaea in order to kill the child Jesus. John was, however, hidden by his mother, it is said, in the desert, where he lived the life of an ascetic up to the time of his public ministry, which was cut short by his violent death for daring to rebuke Herod's immorality.

         John had every reason to know the utter powerlessness of rite and ceremonial to save from sin and suffering, and so had thousands of his countrymen who offered their sacrifices and listened to the reading of the law and the prophets, but who could find no remedy for their sicknesses, and lived in constant dread of what might befall them or their children from the bloodthirsty tyrants who ruled the nation. Some of these needy ones came readily to listen to John as he preached in the wilderness, calling to them, "prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

         We thus find the son of a high priest leading the people away from the observances of the church of his father, and of theirs, while preaching the doctrine of repentance from sin, and with no rite save the symbolic water baptism which, he told his converts, must give place to the baptism of the Holy Ghost. To this prophet came Jesus, "To be baptized of him," but John saw that a material rite was not for such as he. He, however, yielded to what seemed the demand of the hour, obedience to which brings a blessing to all those who follow their highest sense of truth. At the close of the simple ceremony "the heavens were opened" and Jesus was divinely impelled, was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, where, like Moses and Elijah, he learned in his forty days' fast and vigil that man lives in and by God, Spirit, alone. Thus baptized of the Holy Ghost, he went forth to heal the sick and the sinful, to raise the dead, and to prove that this baptism gives man dominion over all the forces of nature, as well as over all evil.

         We are told that Jesus never baptized with water, and from the first chapter of Acts we learn that when he gave his final instructions to his disciples he said, "John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." This seemed to imply that he recognized no other baptism as of value. Later; we find Paul saying, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel."

         While to many Christian people symbols seem necessary to the observance of Baptism and the Eucharist, there comes a time when outward rite not only fails to meet the deepest human need, but when it tends to obscure the spiritual sense. Paul said, "If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing, . . . for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith that worketh by love." Now neither faith nor love can be adequately discerned, or expressed materially, and yet they are indispensable alike to true worship and true living. If God as Spirit can take no cognizance of material forms of worship, why should they continue when the truth for which they stand is apprehended, especially since Jesus made so clear the Divine purpose when he said, "The true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him"?

         The tendency of mortals is to rely upon material means for their salvation from sin and sickness, but Truth calls forever, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." With the dawning of this light within, there is of necessity a corresponding giving up of outward forms, for the demand of Truth is not that we may, but that we "must" worship Him who is Spirit, "in spirit and in truth."

         The best argument that Christian Scientists can offer in support of their concept of the Christian ordinances is their healing from both sin and sickness through this new sense of Baptism and Communion, through which they daily prove the cleansing power of divine Truth, and the applicability of these words of the Master to their every need, — "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so HE THAT EATETH ME, even he shall live by me.“

         It is well for us to recall Paul's warning against clinging to outward forms, which he characterizes as "the rudiments of this world," rather than to Christ, of whom he says, "Ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power."


Editorial by Annie M. Knott, CSD
The Christian Science Journal, February, 1905

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