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THE MOTHER CHURCH AND THE MANUAL

[An address delivered in The Mother Church, October, 1921, before the Biennial Conference of the Christian Science Committees on Publication]

From the April 1922 issue of The Christian Science Journal


It is historical fact that Mary Baker Eddy was the Discoverer of Christian Science and also that she is accepted and known as the Founder of the Christian Science movement. Objections have been made to her use of these terms; it has been preached from the pulpit and heralded from the press that a person cannot be the discoverer and also the founder of the same thing. Nevertheless, Mrs. Eddy insisted that she be known as both the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. In the Preface of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. xi), our Leader writes, "When God called the author to proclaim His Gospel to this age, there came also the charge to plant and water His vineyard." This latter we understand to mean the divine command to found and establish what is known as the Christian Science movement. We therefore not only accept Science and Health as a complete revelation of Christian Science, but we also accept the Manual, written by Mrs. Eddy, as her final instruction with regard to church government. It is the only one we shall ever have; its By-laws are the constitution of the Christian Science movement and make it what it is.

Every step taken by our Leader in the early stages of her work led her directly toward the forming and establishing of the Christian Science church. In June, 1879, she obtained a charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in which occurred the following clause: "Now therefore, I, Henry B. Pierce, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, do hereby certify that said Mary Baker G. Eddy and others [giving their names], their associates and successors, are legally organized and established as, and are hereby made, an existing corporation under the name of the Church of Christ (Scientist), with the powers, rights, and privileges, and subject to the limitations, duties, and restrictions which by law appertain thereto." Mark well the language used here. The church was not only given certain rights and privileges, but it was also made subject to certain legal limitations and restrictions.

Mrs. Eddy afterward saw that her church, representing "the structure of Truth and Love" (Science and Health, p. 583), could not be satisfactorily regulated by state laws. She felt that for its own development the church required laws wherein divine Mind governed, and not the state of Massachusetts. A story is told of a law student who made application for admission to the Boston bar. The examining committee soon discovered that he knew little or nothing about the fundamentals of law and so informed him. His reply was, "Why don't you examine me on the statutes? I know all the statutes," meaning by that the laws passed by the state Legislature. The presiding judge replied, "Why, if your knowledge of law is limited to the statutes, some day a Legislature may come along and repeal all you know." It was plain to Mrs. Eddy that if the government of her church depended upon state laws, a state Legislature might repeal those laws, or enact new ones that would seriously affect her church.

In "Retrospection and Introspection" (p. 44), in the article "College and Church," Mrs. Eddy says, "The charter for this church was obtained in June, 1879." This was followed by a period of prosperity, with growth in numbers and spirituality. Of subsequent events she further says (idem), "Examining the situation prayerfully and carefully, noting the church's need, and the predisposing and exciting cause of its condition, I saw that the crisis had come when much time and attention must be given to defend this church from the envy and molestation of other churches, and from the danger to its members which must always lie in Christian warfare. At this juncture I recommended that the church be dissolved. . . . This measure was immediately followed by a great revival of mutual love, prosperity, and spiritual power. The history of that hour holds this true record. Adding to its ranks and influence, this spiritually organized Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, still goes on. A new light broke in upon it, and more beautiful became the garments of her who 'bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace.' Despite the prosperity of my church, it was learned that material organization has its value and peril, and that organization is requisite only in the earliest periods in Christian history." Referring to the disorganization of her church it is evident that our Leader adopted this means of taking away from mortal mind something it could attack, and in its place she formed a spiritual organization of which mortal mind can know but little, which has since gone on and prospered, and is known as The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.

This church was not to be a local one in any sense of the word. It was to be The Mother Church of the whole world. Its powers, its rights, and its privileges must be ordained of God and authorized by Christ, and the scope must be broad enough to include all humanity. How could a merely legal enactment bring such a church into existence? How could a state Legislature dictate how such a church should be conducted? The Mother Church is in Boston but it is not of Boston. Note the title, "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston." This church does not belong to any locality or to any race of people; it belongs to God. How could a state law create it? How could a state law destroy it?

The enemy of Christian Science is beginning to whisper: It is time for church organization to cease. Error is sending out the argument that Mrs. Eddy has said, as quoted above, that "organization is requisite only in the earliest periods in Christian history;" therefore it says: Let us abandon the By-laws and the denominational government of The Mother Church, after the manner of the wicked husbandmen who said, "This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be our's." As usual, however, error is a few years behind time—in the present case it happens to be about twenty-nine years behind. The material organization to which Mrs. Eddy refers as being no longer requisite is the one she abandoned in the year 1892, and for which she substituted the spiritually organized Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, which, according to her statement, "still goes on."

Have we a church organization? Yes. Is it material? No; it is spiritual, perfect, harmonious, and intact. If we were to ask so-called mortal mind what it thinks about our church, it would probably say that we have no church, also that we have no God, no Christ, and no salvation, because it cannot see any of them. But this need not disturb us; the evidence of the senses is not to be relied upon, and if mortal mind believes we have no church, then it will have nothing to attack, nothing against which to expend its vapid fury. Mrs. Eddy took her church out of the hands of men and placed it in the hands of divine Love; and there it remains, "hid with Christ in God."

We have Mrs. Eddy's statement to the effect that at one time she considered laws of limitation for a Christian Scientist unnecessary (Miscellany, p. 229). In other words, she believed that the divine impulse operating in each individual consciousness was sufficient to guide her followers into doing exactly what was right under all circumstances; but God directed her otherwise and she found through experience that Bylaws were a necessity, and under the guidance of divine Mind she began to formulate certain rules, or Bylaws, for Christian Scientists to follow. They were written at different times and on different occasions, to cover different conditions and situations. We know of no one who ever expressed such a high regard for the Manual of The Mother Church as our Leader; nor do we know any one who has obeyed it more willingly or more implicitly than did Mrs. Eddy. She has been known to correct some simple thing she herself was doing on finding that it was not in accord with the Manual of The Mother Church.

We know Science and Health was written through the direct inspiration of divine Mind, and no Christian Scientist would think for a moment of revising it. This being the case, why should we not consider the Church Manual, which our Leader assures us was written under similar inspiration, just as inviolable as Science and Health? No alert Christian Scientist would want to revise the Church Manual; nor would any well-meaning Scientist conclude that our Leader had put any law therein that could be improved upon at a later date. Mrs. Eddy placed the Manual in the same class with Science and Health when she tells us on page 251 of Miscellany, "Adhere to the teachings of the Bible, Science and Health, and our Manual, and you will obey the law and gospel."

When in 1908 the By-laws were changed by our Leader, abolishing the communion service in The Mother Church, and also doing away with the office of Executive Members, it necessitated a number of changes in the Manual. These changes were important, and only came after long periods of consecrated prayer and devotion on Mrs. Eddy's part until God led her into making these decided changes. We are informed from the most personal and intimate knowledge that such changes as were made at that time by our Leader in the constitution of our church did not come about without a struggle. In this connection follows a statement from her own lips, which the writer took just as she uttered it. It is as follows: "I prayed God day and night to show me how to form my church and how to go on with it. I understand that He did show me, just as much as I understand that He showed me Christian Science, and no human being ever showed me Christian Science. Then I have no right or desire to change what God has directed me to do, and it remains for the church to obey it. What has prospered this church for thirty years will continue to keep it."

What Mrs. Eddy was then doing was preparing rules that would save her church from future disintegration; and error was not allowing her to do this unmolested. Through her ability to detect in advance what mortal mind was trying to do and thus to protect her church, she was led through revelation to establish By-laws which, when understood and obeyed, would at all times, both present and future, save her followers from suffering and from unfortunate experiences that could be avoided.

We have stated that the Manual is the constitution of the Christian Science movement. What is meant by this? That the By-laws in the Manual are the basic law of The Mother Church, and are the rules for guidance upon which The Mother Church is established. Without the Church Manual we could have no Christian Science movement such as it is today. We could have no Committee on Publication unless there were an authorization for such in the Manual. We would have no Board of Education; no Board of Directors; no departmental work of any kind in connection with The Mother Church, if it were not for the Manual. If an attempt were made to conduct an organization such as ours without the direction of divine Mind, which the Manual furnishes us, such a movement would lack the support and the stabilizing influence of Truth; and, being unable to withstand the attacks of error, it would crumble into dust. But our Leader has given us an error proof organization that will stand when all forms of aggression have ceased. Thus you will see that it is really the Manual that makes it possible for The Mother Church to be what it is. The Manual says, There shall be a Board of Lectureship; there shall be a Board of Education; there shall be a Committee on Publication. You will observe that all the rights, duties, and privileges of the Board of Lectureship are derived from the By-laws in The Mother Church Manual. The Board of Education obtains its authority from the same source; and the Directors of The Mother Church can go no farther in their particular line of work than the By-laws permit. The Manual provides how members shall be admitted, how they may be dismissed, and how the church shall be supported. It also states how branch churches may be formed, how they shall be recognized, and how they shall be self-governed in their local affairs.

The Mother Church, our Leader tells us, is unique in its form of government and must always be distinguished from that of branch churches. To attempt to put into operation in The Mother Church the democratic provisions made by Mrs. Eddy for the welfare of branch churches would destroy the individuality of The Mother Church and interfere with the divine purpose. All Christian Scientists who unite with The Mother Church pledge themselves to obey the Manual, and since the Manual contains Rules and By-laws to govern every phase of the Christian Science movement, we see what a tremendously strong organization we have, when our Leader's instructions are carried out.

The question has been asked, "Is it not strange that Mrs. Eddy put the government of The Mother Church in the hands of five persons?" Christian Scientists do not understand that she did this. What she did was to put the government of The Mother Church into the By-laws. The church is not being governed by persons; it is governed by Principle through the Bylaws in the Manual. Our Leader tells us that man is self-governed properly only when he is governed by God. The government of the church lies in obedience to the Manual. When the Manual is obeyed absolutely and implicitly, the church is being governed according to the law of God. When the Manual is disregarded, the church is in danger.

The safety of the Christian Science church does not rest in the Board of Directors; it lies in the integrity of each individual member, and in the determination of the members to obey the By-laws. Without loyalty and support and obedience to the Church Manual this cause could not possibly exist. Each individual has been charged with the responsibility of obeying the Church Manual, and this means that to a certain extent the government of The Mother Church is upheld and sustained by the obedience and devotion of every one of its members. The Board of Directors has been charged with certain responsibilities which they must carry out. For instance, one of the Bylaws in the Manual (Art. I, Sect. 6) states, "The business of The Mother Church shall be transacted by its Christian Science Board of Directors." This does not mean that the Directors are at liberty to inflict their will or their desire upon the Christian Science movement. Indeed, the very opposite is true. The movement could not endure if the Directors should arbitrarily undertake to tell the members of The Mother Church how to conduct themselves. This must needs be a question of individual demonstration with which the members of the Board of Directors have no personal responsibility.

While the Directors are charged with transacting the business of The Mother Church, there are other bodies within the church, created by the Manual, which are also charged with certain duties. The lecturers are the only ones authorized to deliver Christian Science lectures, and they must deliver lectures in compliance with the terms of the Bylaws. The Committee on Publication is also charged with certain responsibilities which must be carried out in accordance with the By-laws. The lecturers are not expected to do the work of the Committee on Publication, and the Committee on Publication is not expected or required to do the work of the lecturers; in fact, each is prohibited from doing the work of the other. Then, again, the teachers in Christian Science must observe the By-laws. They are charged with the responsibility of teaching, and a member not authorized is prohibited from teaching. A practitioner cannot teach unless he is authorized to do so. There are many departments created by The Mother Church Manual, and members of the church are prohibited from encroaching beyond the responsibility that is directly associated with their work.

In speaking of the Church of Christ, Paul says: "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. . . . For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? . . . And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you."

Just so it is with every one connected with the Christian Science church. There are all the members, including Directors, Trustees, Editors, Lecturers, Committees on Publication, Readers, Teachers, Practitioners, each one filling his own place, each one owing allegiance to The Mother Church; and when each one recognizes that his cooperation is required, and when he is willing to yield obedience to the government of The Mother Church, then we shall have a perfectly harmonious, self-sustaining organization that will withstand any attack that error can bring to bear upon it. If each individual will see that he is in his place, and standing there with God, then no attempt on the part of error can possibly affect The Mother Church.

Thus we see that The Mother Church Manual is the constitution of the Christian Science movement. What a wonderful organization we have, when we consider that it is all set forth in a few simple rules that are so easy to obey that every one ought to be glad to give his entire and ready support to every By-law contained in the Manual! Our Leader knew that her church would be attacked, and therefore she made its government as simple as it could possibly be made. She declined to have a charter from the state, through which to govern her church. She made it a simple, voluntary religious association. It is indeed the most simple form of church government of which the world knows anything. Again we are reminded of what Paul said in I Corinthians: "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty."

What if conspirators should combine in their efforts to destroy the Christian Science movement! If Christian Scientists are obedient, and if they never abandon the By-laws or the denominational government of The Mother Church, they will thereby demonstrate that God is the defender of our cause, and will prove that no weapon that is formed against it shall prosper.

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