WHEN Joshua stood before the congregations of Israel and uttered his stirring words, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell," he sent forth an admonition that Christians of to-day may well ponder with prayerful sincerity.
The children of Israel had left behind them the Egyptian gods, and had progressed by ascending steps beyond the aggressive foes manifesting themselves as Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites. According to the promises, the wicked nations, mightier and stronger than they, had been driven out before them. They had reached the promised land, the place in which they were free to serve God according to their highest understanding. But there was still a choice to be made; for the gods of the Amorites, in whose land they dwelt, presented a subtle temptation to them.
The story of Israel's mighty conquests under the inspired leadership of the valiant Joshua is a record thrilling enough in itself to be worthy of careful perusal. Considered in the light of Christian Science it affords many valuable lessons and examples. Like the Israelites of old we, too, have set out to reach the promised land—we have started on our journey from sense to Soul. In obedience to our Leader's words in the Manual of The Mother Church (p. 41) we pray each day, "Thy kingdom come;' let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!" We turned away from the gods which were "on the other side of the flood" when we became earnest Christian Scientists. Each victory over sin, sickness, limitation—error of whatever nature—marks the destruction of some of the false claims that would obstruct our progress. But our prayer is to be rid of all sin —all error, every phase of material belief that would oppose itself to the supremacy of God. The command still is to smite and utterly destroy them.
At this point it is well to pause and ponder the import of Joshua's command, "Choose you this day." In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (pp. 480, 481) by Mary Baker Eddy, we are told: "If sin, sickness, and death were understood as nothingness, they would disappear. As vapor melts before the sun, so evil would vanish before the reality of. good. One must hide the other. How important, then, to choose good as the reality!" To choose good as the reality requires alertness, self-abnegation, and spiritual growth. To choose good, we must be ceaselessly vigilant. Mortal mind is very active in presenting negations of good, and in building up the illusory superstructures of false belief. We cannot choose the affirmations of reality one moment, and settle back to take our ease the next. Failure to choose the true and acceptance of the false or unreal involve a temporary loss of attendant spiritual blessings and necessitate a return to the real, sometimes under trying circumstances. Until every claim, every suppositional lie, is utterly annihilated, mortals must choose between truth and error.
To choose reality requires humility and self-abnegation. The false sense of self, which claims to be an entity separate from God, is always desirous of adding something to itself to adorn, to glorify, and to increase its sense of self-importance. From its very nature it could choose nothing real or good, because Truth, when turned upon it, would dissolve it as light dispels a shadow. True humility, self-abnegation, and unselfed love abide in the heart that yearns for good only. Regardless of what the material senses may be claiming, such a consciousness steadfastly refuses to recognize aught but the eternal harmony of God's allness. It chooses to become as a little child, putting aside the pride of place and power. It chooses to have one God, and that one omnipotent and omnipresent Mind.
Choosing the right is the basis of progress. Christian Science is absolute, complete, final. God is perfect. Harmony is now the fact of being. Because the real man is the reflection —the image and likeness—of God, he is perfect now. Harmonious in every detail, man is now expressing freedom and harmony. To compromise with the gods of the Amorites, to be content with anything but complete reliance upon God, is not Christian Science. How prone is mortal mind to excuse its own failures by saying glibly, We have not yet reached the perfect state! When confronted with the temptation to use, even in a degree, the methods of materia medica, of so-called mental science, of hypnotism, we should remember the command of God to the Israelites to "make no covenant with them." To-day, as yesterday, it is impossible to serve two masters: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
If, after seeing the vision of the longed-for goal, the Israelites had chosen to tarry in the lands of the heathen nations, desiring their gold and silver or their material goods or treasures, how different would have been the subsequent history of their nation! Suppose they had decided that the completion of their tedious wandering was too long delayed, or suppose they had yielded to the subtle suggestion that the material practices of the peoples whose lands they passed through could be carried with them into the promised country— had they done anything else, in fact, except complete the entire journey, could they have stood in the annals of the ages as the chosen people, the nation which became cognizant of the one God?
All of mortality must be put off. Nothing but a complete surrender of every false encumbering belief will enable us to reach the land of absolute Christian Science. All materiality, all sensuous indulgence, every lie of intelligence, sensation, or pleasure in matter, must be exchanged for the realities of Spirit. The tendency of mortal mind is to work zealously for a season, then, self-satisfied, to rest upon its oars, saying, I have come so far on my journey; I shall rest a little. How wide awake we need to be when this suggestion tempts us! There is a choice to be made. Reality with all its attendant blessings is just at hand. Lethargy would rob us of the laurels of victory which crown the choice of Truth and the rejection of error. Superstition would bid us pause, and stand in fear and awe at the foot of the mount of vision. At such times, if we but stopped to listen, we should hear the command, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward."
By choosing to prove that unwillingness to put off some cherished belief cannot stop or obstruct our progress in Truth, we go forward. Since there is no past, nothing but the eternal now, whatever of harmony, health, joy, or peace we experience at any given moment is the result of that moment's choice of divine reality. Therefore, in order continually to experience good, there must be a continuous, active, unselfed choosing of good. The increasing ability always to choose good and to reject instantaneously the lie of evil comes from clinging steadfastly to God for guidance, through unceasing prayer.