"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you," commanded Paul in a letter to a small band of converts living in what is now Saloniki, Greece. "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good," the apostle continued ( I Thess. 5: 18-21).
The tenor of the exhortation indicates that there were difficulties within this little group of Jews and Greeks who eventually would be called Christians. Apparently they were undergoing what students of Christian Science often call a testing time —a period in human experience when we must prove that what we know is true; when it is necessary that we clean out the suggestions which have slipped past our guard, and when we must fill our consciousness with good so that not only we but all with whom we come in contact may plainly see the evidence of Truth and Love working in our affairs.
Throughout her writings, Mrs. Eddy refers to gratitude, or the giving of thanks, in ways which establish this quality as vital to the demonstration of Christian Science healing. In the chapter of Science and Health entitled "Glossary," she gives gratitude as one of the synonyms for tithe ( p. 595). Being grateful for the trial which proves God's care and being joyfully expectant of the immediate right solution to whatever seems to be a problem, most certainly provide a firm foundation for the metaphysical work which follows.
"Metaphysical work," as the term is used by Christian Scientists, means prayer. It is not, however, a prayer which undertakes to tell God, infinite Mind, what is wrong and to provide Him with a rather complete blueprint of how He should go about correcting it. Instead, it is the prayer which includes the affirmation of the truth of God and His creation, namely that God is Life, Truth, and Love, omnipotent and omnipresent, that man's real being is in God, and that the opposite testimony of the material senses is untrue.
The total nothingness of matter is the inescapable corollary to the absolute allness of God, Spirit, which Christian Science teaches. Then may we not interpret Paul's words, "Quench not the Spirit," as meaning not to subordinate Spirit to matter, but to put matter out—out of thought, out of mind, out of consciousness? Thus it is that we prove—test—all things in order that we may "hold fast that which is good."
The Book of Job is a well-known story of the testing of an individual. The account at first glance appears to present a false picture of God as permitting Satan, evil, to operate in the affairs of men. A basic teaching of Christian Science is that God, unchanging goodness and Love, does not send evil upon His children, either directly or indirectly.
In the Bible story, Job is described as a rich and influential man, "the greatest of all the men of the east" ( Job 1:3). Satan chides God for His pride in Job's loyalty and charges that Job is faithful only because God has been good to him. In the story, God accepts Satan's challenge to put Job to the test, and Job suffers first economic ruin and then the sudden death of all his children. But he remains faithful. Satan then demands that Job be subjected to physical ills, and the affliction of boils descends upon him. When Job's friends come to commiserate with him, his resolve breaks, and he blames God for his suffering, calling upon God to allow him to die. Job eventually sees the error of this kind of thinking, reasserts his trust in God to deliver him, and is healed.
Among her references to the Book of Job, Mrs. Eddy includes the following, beginning on page 320 in Science and Health: "The one important interpretation of Scripture is the spiritual. For example, the text, 'In my flesh shall I see God,' gives a profound idea of the divine power to heal the ills of the flesh, and encourages mortals to hope in Him who healeth all our diseases; whereas this passage is continually quoted as if Job intended to declare that even if disease and worms destroyed his body, yet in the latter days he should stand in celestial perfection before Elohim, still clad in material flesh,—an interpretation which is just the opposite of the true, as may be seen by studying the book of Job."
That proving times can be turned into joyous occasions of spiritual growth with the overcoming of ill health, inadequate supply, or any other seeming evil is shown in the daily experiences of many Christian Scientists. Because Christian Science is a religion of works, it is the student's demonstration of his ability to overcome claims of evil that, more than anything else, identifies him as a Christian Scientist.
One who for many years had thought he could be a halfway student and who qualified his religious convictions by saying that he "tried to be a student of Christian Science," one day found himself waiting for a heart specialist to give him an electrocardiogram. He had undergone what appeared to be a mild heart attack while at work and, in great fear, had gone to a physician who made an examination, recommending that he visit a specialist. As the student sat in the waiting room, he found himself studying the faces of the others who were also there. He thought: "How sad. These people honestly feel their only hope is in this man's hands." And then he suddenly thought, "What am I doing here?"
Instantly he arose and left the doctor's office and went to a Christian Science practitioner, who aided him in understanding that God is the only physician and that He has created man in His likeness, perfect and spiritual. There has been no return of the heart condition, and before that year was over, the student had taken the long deferred step of class instruction in Christian Science. He no longer was a halfway worker.
A measure of his progress was shown some years later when one of his children brought from the school nurse a report that an examination showed the child to be sightless in one eye. When this claim of imperfection was brought to his notice, he was able to declare with authority, "It is not so!" Unquestioning gratitude filled his thought, and the only additional mental treatment given was a prayer of thanksgiving to God that the words he had just spoken were absolutely and literally true!
An examination by an eye specialist was given the child, and both eyes were found to be normal. In view of the report of the school nurse, the tests were repeated six weeks later with the same result.
On page 271 of Miscellany in an article entitled "Harvest," Mrs. Eddy says: "When I wrote 'Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,' I little understood all that I indited; but when I practised its precepts, healing the sick and reforming the sinner, then I learned the truth of what I had written. It is of comparatively little importance what a man thinks or believes he knows; the good that a man does is the one thing needful and the sole proof of Rightness." So does she whom Christian Scientists recognize as their Leader describe her own testing times. It is plain that her followers too must provide their proofs of Rightness. We must gather in the fruits of our planting, else the work will have been in vain.
What did the Master say? Even that "the fields . . . are white already to harvest"! ( John 4:35.)
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