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THE PRAYER OF SACRIFICE

From the April 1921 issue of The Christian Science Journal


The first recorded effort of mortals to commune with God was through the medium of sacrifice, when Abel brought an offering of the firstlings of his flock, and the sincerity of his desire to know God brought him the assurance that his offering was not in vain. He had begun to learn, in his crude way, what Christians of this comparatively enlightened day need also to learn, that honest desire and sacrifice constitute the only acceptable prayer.

Abel's concept of atonement by material sacrifice became the outstanding feature of the Hebrew religion, but the simplicity of spiritual desire seems to have been early lost in the details of the ceremonial; and the willingness to give up the material sense of life for the spiritual, which the shedding of blood evidently typified, was mainly eclipsed by the attraction of thought to the offering itself. Thus that which was at first designed to lift the human into some recognition of man's spiritual relation to the divine, degenerated into the dead letter of material symbolism, wherein the truth about God was not unfolded but obscured.

The Christian Scientist, in common with all mankind, confronts the necessity of gaining such a practical knowledge of divine power as will enable him to overcome evil. The Scriptures imply that one must find this consciousness of good within himself, and not put it afar off. An awakening sense of this universal need is undoubtedly the impulse behind every really forward movement in the world to-day, whether or not it is expressed in these terms. To so realize the allness of God that the naturalness of good will take possession of the thoughts of men, and spontaneously express itself in good will and brotherly love, is the logical desideratum of all right desire. Such a consummation would transform earth into heaven, for it would leave nothing unprovided that can satisfy the human heart.

How this consummation may be realized, and heaven brought within the reach of earth, has been explained so simply, and made so universally applicable, that men have stumbled over it unheedingly. This attainment is no further from any one than he puts it. It is nothing more nor less than to depart from evil, the Scriptural recipe for gaining divine understanding, and an accomplishment that is within the capacity of every one. It means, however, that men must sacrifice on the altar of their own thoughts all the unrighteousness they find there. God is not pleased, the prophet said, with "thousands of rams," nor does He take any greater delight in thousands of prayers, or in thousands of declarations of His allness, unless our sense of evil is actually being sacrificed. The apostle Paul wrote of many great things which men might do, but which of themselves amount to nothing unless accompanied by love. Jesus' prayer, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," is the prayer of sacrifice, for it calls for the putting aside of everything that is not done in heaven.

May it not be that we are engaged too much of the time in the endeavor to save the human, instead of to sacrifice it. The salvation of human beings is not the process of making them over into perfect human beings, but the process of putting off the "old man" altogether. It is the "new birth," to gain which the old sense of birth must be sacrificed. Healing, to be scientific, must involve the destruction of some phase or degree of evil, for without this the mere physical experience of ease would be but a change of belief. In Christian Science, healing is the expression of mental or moral correction, the giving up of error for truth, and this describes the working out of human salvation, an experience wherein and whereby the human is laid aside for the spiritual and divine.

We should be sure of our position regarding this question. The carnal mind, so called, assuming to interpret the practice of Christian Science as a soothing panacea for the sufferings of the flesh, would put a compromising attitude toward error into the thoughts of the unwary or the unenlightened. This attitude virtually says to error: If you do not disturb me physically, I will let you alone mentally. Whether one may drift into this condition unwittingly, or whether he adopts it as the line of least resistance, its effect is equally disastrous to spiritual growth. The mental indolence or selfishness which is always asking God for physical benefits, but is unwilling to sacrifice error in return, bears no relation to the method of Christian Science.

"The Christian Scientist," Mrs. Eddy writes on page 214 of "Miscellaneous Writings," "cannot heal the sick, and take error along with Truth, either in the recognition or approbation of it." Every student of Christian Science is well aware that he cannot do this in mathematics, and he should know that it is equally impossible in metaphysics. The man who asks aught of God must take his stand on the side of good, else his prayers will not avail. One cannot stand at the same time on both sides of the line which separates Truth from error. Christian Science is unequivocal in statement, declaring unreservedly that good is all, and that evil is consequently nothing; and it is obvious that, if he would fully understand it, the student must take a correspondingly unequivocal position, not only in his acceptance of its logic, but in its application to his life.

"To err is human," wrote Pope, or, as Mrs. Eddy more comprehensively states it on page 99 of Science and Health, "Christian Science is unerring and Divine; the human sense of things errs because it is human." It is plain, therefore, that it is this sense of error in human consciousness that makes it human. Without it there would be no necessity for human salvation, or, to carry it still further, there would be no human at all. It is the infinity of the Divine which declares the nullity of the human, but this infinity of good, when understood, blots out nothing; instead, it reveals every thing as it truly and eternally is. As a human being reaches this perception, and recognizes that the error in his consciousness is unreal, the human begins to disappear, and man in the likeness of God begins to appear.

But we do not have to wait for perfection before partaking of the benefits which the revelation of God's allness holds for mankind. Christian Science protects and blesses one even during a seeming struggle to overcome material error and to reach the apprehension of spiritual reality; but even while it is restoring mortals to physical health, it is teaching them to deny their materiality. The call comes to Christians to-day, as it came to Abraham, to leave their father's house, their belief in human, material origin, and to seek the new and better country of spiritual sense, wherein God, Spirit, is acknowledged to be the only Life.

Our only course as Christian Scientists lies in obeying the Master's injunction to deny one's self, but this does not involve the sacrifice of anything good and worthy. This self which is to be laid upon the altar is only the suppositional opposite in human consciousness of the divine man, the son of God, and is made up of such qualities as pride, vanity, hate, jealousy, greed, lust, dishonesty, and so on. We know that not one of these qualities is worthy of displacing for a single moment our apprehension of man as divine idea; then what should persuade us to entertain them for a single moment, since we also know the impossibility of being the instruments of these evils and yet enjoying the liberty of the sons of God.

Although human experience may present the necessity of choosing between a lesser and a greater evil, this is not so in the mental or moral realm. For instance, one may not claim exemption from the command to love one another, on the ground that human weakness makes it necessary, at this stage of our progress, to be malicious, or false, or unjust toward some of our fellows. And this applies to all other forms of voluntary evil. They perform no needed function in the human mind or body; nor do they fill any useful place in society, church, or state. Were a man to cast out forever all his wickedness and meanness, it would rob neither himself nor his family, nor anything with which he had to do. On the contrary this sacrifice, if such it can be called, would benefit every one concerned, and himself most of all.

Wisdom does not require of mortals the abandonment of anything for which there seems to be a temporary necessity; but the holding fast to what we know is baneful, to debasing appetites, or to questionable business methods, all of which discredit our high calling, deprives us of taking advantage of Truth to uplift and redeem us. Unless the spirit of willingness to forsake all ungodliness animates our profession of Christianity, we place ourselves in the position of being more ready, if not more anxious, to be sinful than to be good. The study of Christian Science should assure every sincere student that nothing less than actual righteousness can open the door to its satisfying demonstration. An intellectual agreement with the logic of Christian Science, without its inspiration, cannot regenerate the human self. If we believe with the apostle that "the day is at hand," we should at least begin to "cast off the works of darkness."

There is no neutrality in the conflict, ever going on, between Truth and error. We are on one side or the other. Whether we think of it or not, we are either resisting Truth or we are resisting error all the time. Every moment finds us tendering our allegiance and our service to good or to evil, a fact we should be able to grasp in its bearing upon our individual experience. Every human being, as surely as he thinks at all, is, unquestionably, either sacrificing his sense of evil in order that good may be supreme in his life, or he is sacrificing his sense of good for the sake of his love of ease or his love of sin. Because of their positive affirmation that good only is real, the call to keep themselves from the evil that is in the world is becoming increasingly peremptory to Christian Scientists. Mrs. Eddy, in one of those incisive passages which expose the hollowness of human pretense, thus writes on page 11 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "We know that a desire for holiness is requisite in order to gain holiness; but if we desire holiness above all else, we shall sacrifice everything for it. We must be willing to do this, that we may walk securely in the only practical road to holiness."

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