MRS. EDDY began her work of healing and teaching at Lynn, Massachusetts, and its benign influence was felt in Salem, Ipswich, Amesbury, Stoughton, Haverhill, Newburyport, Boston, and in such environs of Boston as Charlestown, Roxbury, and Cambridge.
In 1878 her students in Boston appealed to her to give lectures in that city, and in consequence she preached and lectured in the church at the corner of Madison Street and Shawmut Avenue, also in Fraternity Hall in the Parker Memorial on Berkeley Street, and in Hawthorne Hall, Park Street.
Mrs. Eddy's work had so enlarged her field of labor that by 1881 she realized the necessity of having graded courses for the study of her teachings, also an institution in which students could be taught and degrees awarded, and on January 31, 1881, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts granted the charter for the Massachusetts Metaphysical College.
In 1882 there were two clergymen by the name of Gordon in Boston, one the Rev. Adoniram J. Gordon, an eminent Baptist, pastor of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church, with large membership and influence; the other the Rev. George A. Gordon, pastor of the Old South Church, in Copley Square. The former was of the militant type, and in the early 1880's was ready to attack religious teachings which he thought were not in line with his religious beliefs.
The Rev. George A. Gordon was a younger man, much beloved by all who came in contact with him; broad in his belief of liberty of conscience, and a fearless and independent expounder of the doctrines in which he believed. In his volume "My Education and Religion" he shows the conditions that were extant in religious circles in Boston when Mrs. Eddy opened her college on Columbus Avenue. He writes:
"Completely and honorably sincere as the Orthodox body was in Massachusetts, a more provincial and unenlightened mind upon the nature of religion in general and of Christianity in particular, probably never existed than in my ministry in Boston. Among the conservatives there was no learning, nor any desire for it. The New England scheme of theology was fighting its last battle; its generals without skill, its army ineffectual....
"Up to the time of my settlement here , the New England Calvinism had ruled every pulpit in the Commonwealth. Only one type of minister should be acknowledged....
"The old view and the new views, in endless mixtures and modifications, came into the light of day. The intellect of the churches, split into a thousand forms, was facing the task of finding a new and more adequate philosophy of the Christian religion."
It was in the midst of such confusion of religious conceptions that Mrs. Eddy began preaching and teaching a theology opposite in nearly all respects to theirs, but it was not until the latter half of 1884 that the militant clergy of Boston took vital interest in her labors, as by that time members of their churches had been healed by Christian Science, and were spreading the cause of their recoveries to others. Therefore, some of the clergy felt that definite and drastic action should be taken against Mrs. Eddy; and at ministers' meetings, and at "conferences," the subject of Christian Science was considered from many points of view, and plans were made to combat it.
This was Mrs. Eddy's first struggle against the most powerful religious forces in New England, with an army of supporters behind the triumvirate of the most influential militant clergymen in Boston, and using for their publicity organs the influential and widely distributed Zion's Herald (Methodist), the Watchman (Baptist), and the Congregationalist.
In October, 1884, the hostile Boston clergy began attacks in a Boston Methodist Preachers' Meeting. The bitter assault of the chief speaker, the Rev. Luther T. Townsend, D. D., Professor of "Practical Theology" in Boston University, on the subject of "Prayer and Healing," was so much liked by the assembled clergymen that they voted to request Professor Townsend to publish it, so that they could distribute it to their parishioners. After publication, the demand for copies was so great that Professor Townsend incorporated it in a series of attacks which began in Zion's Herald in November, 1884.
From that time, and during the next six months, the crusades against Christian Science rapidly multiplied. The records of the conferences of ministers held at different times and places, and published in newspapers and in religious organs, show the determination of the clergy in towns and cities to follow their leaders, and they made plans to overwhelm Christian Science by sermons, advice, lectures, ministers' meetings, and printed propaganda.
Mrs. Eddy and her followers were in the most critical situation they had experienced up to that time. The Journal, of only eight pages, seemed small, as against the influential denominational periodicals that were publishing attacks against Mrs. Eddy. Her small band of followers in Boston felt great fear, and did not know what steps to take to combat the persecution, for Mrs. Eddy would not allow them to draw the sword either in speech or in the press.
Her answer to an attack in Zion's Herald of December 3, 1884, by Professor Townsend appeared in the Journal of February, 1885. His second, of March 18, she answered in the April issue. (See "Miscellaneous Writings," "Prayer and Healing," pages 242-245; "To—, on Prayer," pages 132-134.) The editor of Zion's Herald refused to publish Mrs. Eddy's answer, dated March 21, to his attack of March 18.
The efforts of the hostile clergy in Boston and in other places brought so much pressure to bear upon those in their congregations who had any interest in Mrs. Eddy and her teachings that they became intimidated, and some who were patients feared to continue having treatment. The situation demanded the leadership of one who had faith, conviction, courage, wisdom, and love, and because she had these qualities Mrs. Eddy was forced into defending her teachings and her followers, and an action, which required courage and great faith on her part, was her determination to convince the clergy that she could teach them to heal if they would study with her. Fully realizing the power of her teachings to heal, as against traditional theology that did not heal, unafraid, courageous, and generous, she issued a ringing challenge to the hostile clergy in the Journal of March, 1885, and it reads:
"Christian Science is interpreted spiritually: until thus discerned it should not be judged. To have fair play, I offer clergymen gratuitous instruction; if they give me this chance, I will guarantee they shall understand Christian Science sufficiently to demonstrate it conclusively by healing the sick."
In her classes previous to and after that offer, Mrs. Eddy taught nineteen clergymen and eight physicians, during her period of teaching in Boston. Of the nineteen clergymen who studied, nine became practitioners and workers. Eight preached for her at services in Hawthorne and Chickering Halls. Three who did not become practitioners or workers, valiantly defended her in publications.
In her work of teaching classes, in which there were clergymen of various Protestant denominations and physicians of different schools, Mrs. Eddy stood in a unique position as a teacher, for the reason that in those classes many questions were asked, various in their type, and many were widely different from those asked in medical and theological schools. The ministers in her classes were men trained in the analysis of Biblical history and exposition of its teachings. Mrs. Eddy's knowledge of the Bible was such that she was able to prove, from that standpoint, her answers to the many questions asked by clergymen and physicians.
In the same month that she wrote the offer to clergymen, the hostile ministry of Boston decided to make the most powerful attack upon Christian Science that could be made, one they believed would crush the teaching and its teacher. The militant clergy chose the battleground so that hundreds of ministers would be present, ministers located not only in Boston, but in cities and towns miles away. The scene of action was to be in Tremont Temple, and the attack was to be made on Monday morning. February 26, at a session of the world-famous "Monday Morning Lectureship" conducted by the Rev. Joseph Cook, whose lectures were known in all English-speaking countries.
The choice of the session of the "Lectureship" as the battleground gave the militant clergy a great advantage over Mrs. Eddy, and they were determined that such charges as would condemn her in the eyes of the Christian world should be made against her, but no opportunity would be allowed for her to reply personally at a "Lectureship" session.
The severity of the attack did not intimidate Mrs. Eddy, for she took immediate action, and nine days later, in the Journal which was issued on March 7, there appeared her brilliantly written and convincing reply, under the title of "Defence of Christian Science," and in the same issue it was advertised for sale in pamphlet form. This is now in "No and Yes," beginning on page 13.
At the time the Rev. A. J. Gordon was making his charges, there was being prepared in Chicago an attack upon Mrs. Eddy's teachings, and this appeared in the March issue of the magazine, Mind in Nature. The article was by a clergyman of high standing, of large ability, and of exemplary character, but who could not at that time understand Christian Science, although later he did. His second article appeared in the April number of the same magazine. In the June issue of that periodical, Mrs. Eddy met his arguments with a vital article entitled "Christian Science." (Not republished.)
The little band of Christian Scientists in Boston realized how small was the sense of justice and tolerance among those who opposed them, and how very small as a body they stood in the sight of the public, but, led and advised by Mrs. Eddy, they sought to have one of their number make answer to Dr. Gordon's charges at an early meeting of the "Lectureship." Their request was refused by the officers. As that body was composed of the Governor of a state, a former Governor, a Bishop, and the heads of three theological schools, there appeared little hope of its yielding, but Mrs. Eddy kept certain of her students at work on the matter, and hope revived in the hearts of her followers when word was received that she would be allowed ten minutes for an address at the session of March 16.
Although granted what she desired, Mrs. Eddy was not to be allowed an opportunity to gain favor with the audience of the "Lectureship." Therefore, to offset any effort she might make, and undermine her in public opinion before she should make it, the Rev. A. J. Gordon published in the Congregationalist of March 13, just three days before the Monday on which she would appear, a letter filled with denunciations, and stating that Christian Science was "of the same root as Spiritualism, Theosophy and Brahmanism."
At this very critical time, Mrs. Eddy showed her wisdom in leadership in this, that as the clergy had been attacking, she would defend herself by having clergymen who sympathized with her, especially those who had been taught by her, preach at services in Hawthorne Hall, thereby showing that there were clergymen independent of creeds and dogmas, and sufficiently interested in her teachings to preach from her pulpit; and from November 2, 1884, shortly after Professor Townsend had made his first attack, until March 1, 1885, four clergymen preached. One of these was a man of eminence, now memorialized in the Memorial Chapel in Harvard University, by a bronze tablet inscribed as follows: "Andrew Preston Peabody, D. D., LL. D., Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Preacher to Harvard University. Author, Editor, Teacher, Preacher, Helper of Men. Three generations looked to him as a benefactor, a friend, a father. His precepts were glorified by his example, while for thirty years he moved among the teachers and students of Harvard College and wist not that his face shone."
"One of the most conservative of his sect," and "equally admired and loved by all parties," Dr. Peabody preached at five services in Hawthorne Hall, three of which were in November, 1884, and January and February, 1885, the period in which the severe attacks were being made upon Mrs. Eddy.
On the Sunday preceding the Monday on which Mrs. Eddy should personally answer in Tremont Temple the charges that had been made against her, she preached in Hawthorne Hall to encourage and spiritualize the thoughts of her followers; and of this service the Journal of April has the following: "Mrs. Eddy preached a powerful and awakening sermon from the text: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' "
On Monday morning, March 16, she went courageously to Tremont Temple to answer her accusers, and to face an audience of about twenty-five hundred persons, in which were hundreds of clergymen, The Rev. Joseph Cook made no attempt to show her the slightest friendliness in his introduction of her to the audience. At the end of his unfriendly introduction, the applause from the little band of Christian Scientists present seemed to make their smallness in number more evident.
Before that great hostile audience, without manuscript or notes, Mrs. Eddy delivered her answer, an answer so different in intent and in wording from the attacks that had been made upon her; a masterpiece, with splendid economy of words; an answer that was stirring and uplifting in its inner meanings, which appear only when the background and conditions of that time are known; inspiringly spiritual in its beauty of holiness, and length and breadth of vision. To the far end of the auditorium, her voice rising and falling in rhythmic sound, each word uttered with fervent earnestness, she gave out the spiritual interpretation of the passage, "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me." (See "Miscellaneous Writings," pp. 95-98.)
The hundreds of clergymen in the audience could not have visioned that the woman who seemed to be so friendless and alone, and who apparently was being crushed by the great power exercised by the clergy, would, fourteen years later, in the same auditorium with every seat filled, all standing room taken, and on the great platform more than a hundred persons, address three thousand of her students and followers, a larger audience than had ever attended a "Lectureship" session. And on that day, June 6, 1899, at the Annual Meeting of her church, they were loving her as their Teacher and Leader.
In the Journal of March, in which her "Defence of Christian Science" appeared, was published what is now known as the "Communion Hymn" (Poems, p. 75). From the furnace of persecution was molded this sublime sermon of spiritual reasoning; this calm and loving questioning; this hymn of affirmations of love and faith, all given without the slightest tinge of resentment or retaliation. The last stanza of the hymn swells to a sweeping spiritual fervency of protest against scholastic theology, and to an appeal to accept the impersonal Christ; to forsake man-made creeds and material symbols— a hymn in which she sets forth the reasons for, and the results of, her teaching.
"Saw ye my Saviour?" No! If ye could see him as I see him ye would not reject.
"Heard ye the glad sound?" No! If ye had heard, as my people have heard, ye would not persecute.
"Felt ye the power of the Word?" No! If ye had, ye would heal as we heal.
Do ye heal the mourner as Christian Science heals? No!
Do ye cleanse the sinner by cleansing the "foul senses within"? No!
Then comes her teaching of the sublime glorification of the Christ as the "strongest deliverer," not the creed—the deliverer, as "the Truth in thought and deed," "the water, the bread, and the wine."
The defense of her teachings during the conflict had brought from Mrs. Eddy's pen nine pieces of writing. It was she who bore the brunt of the conflict, and it was she who continually taught the power of divine Love to guide. Students and followers, not knowing what course to take, sought her advice, and with them she broke the bread of Love, so that in no newspaper, magazine, tract, or circular, did any of her followers give utterance to feelings of enmity, although the provocation to do so was very great. Some felt that they had a precedent for taking such action, since a clergyman was bringing a suit for libel against one of the influential religious periodicals, but at this time Mrs. Eddy wrote her correcting and consoling article, "Love" (Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 249, 250). In her "Veritas Odium Parit" she says: "The combined efforts of the materialistic portion of the pulpit and press in 1885, to retard by misrepresentation the stately goings of Christian Science, are giving it new impetus and energy; calling forth the vox populi and directing more critical observation to its uplifting influence upon the health, morals, and spirituality of mankind.
"Their movements indicate fear and weakness, a physical and spiritual need that Christian Science should remove with glorious results. The conclusion cannot now be pushed, that women have no rights that man is bound to respect. This is woman's hour, in all the good tendencies, charities, and reforms of to-day" (ibid., p. 245).
And with "woman's hour" there came, as never before in the history of mankind, the knowledge of the blessings of divine Love as reflected from man to man. Mrs. Eddy teaches that divine Love is the cornerstone of Christian Science, and how to use it under all the conditions in which men find themselves, expressed in gentleness; in persuasiveness; in healing; in uplifting strength in the midst of conflict; in its power to heal the desire for retaliation, and as an answer to the insistent cry of the human race in its travail of sorrow and pain.
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