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The Christian Science Bible Lessons
IRVING C. TOMLINSON, CSB 


         The Christian Science Bible Lessons, which appear in the Christian Science Quarterly, were born of the wisdom and foresight of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. She was the first preacher, as well as the first pastor in the denomination. She gave the name “Bible Lessons” to her illuminating explanations of Scriptural texts, which appear under this same title in her work “Miscellaneous Writings.” She appointed the members of the Bible Lesson Committee in 1889, and reference to their work first appeared in the January Journal of 1890. Three months later, these Lessons were issued, by Mrs. Eddy’s direction, as the Christian Science Quarterly. The Bible Lessons were at first similar in form to the International Series, then widely used in Protestant Sunday Schools, and were prepared, not for the church services, but only for the Christian Science Sunday Schools, which at that time included adults as well as those under twenty years of age.

         Mrs. Eddy’s students followed her example, as the preachers and the pastors in the Christian Science churches, until the completion of the original Mother Church edifice in 1894. Then she ordained that the Christian Science Bible Lessons be used as sermons in the church services, and that the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” be the only pastor and the only preacher at these services. Thereafter, “Scriptural texts, and their correlative passages from our denominational textbook” (Quarterly, Explanatory Note), comprised the Sermon. The topics in the International Series were used until 1898, when our beloved Leader named the present list of sermon subjects. Thus, Mrs. Eddy worked continuously in Truth for thirty-two years, from the time of her discovery of Christian Science in 1866, before she fully completed her demonstration for the Christian Science Bible Lessons, as at present provided for in the Manual of The Mother Church. What gratitude we owe our beloved Leader for this persistent, untiring labor of love!

         Viewed historically, the Bible Lessons are a plant of sturdy growth. They present spiritual facts, divine ideas, forever present in infinite Mind, facts or ideas which destroy sin and heal disease. The prophet gives to the incorporeal, healing Word the name of pastor, when he says, “I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” This pastor, the Word of God, has ever been the preacher, when there has been a prophet to lead the children of Israel out of the bondage of material Egypt into the promised land of spiritual freedom. Nehemiah tells us that when the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt, readers “read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” Then, as the result of preaching the Word, “there was very great gladness.” Where the Word of God is preached, understood, and demonstrated, there is always “very great gladness.” Luke also recounts a lesson-sermon preached by the Prophet of Galilee in his home town of Nazareth. Christ Jesus first read the Scriptural text from Isaiah beginning, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Then he corroborated and explained the Bible text in its “spiritual import and application” (Quarterly, Explanatory Note) to his and to all ages, saying, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” In the Christian Science Bible Lessons, through Mrs. Eddy’s prophetic vision, the Christ, Truth, is now preached and heard in its purity, the Scriptures are being fulfilled, and “the Spirit of the Lord” is upon the pastor and the flock.

         The subjects of the Lesson-Sermons, received by Mrs. Eddy through inspiration, are wonderfully fitted to elucidate the truth of scientific being. Therefore, since Truth manifests itself in infinite variety, no two Bible Lessons are ever the same. Though the same subject occurs twice every year, in each case it is approached from a different viewpoint; and since there is all of the Bible and all of the Christian Science textbook to draw from, a different lesson results. Likewise, though the same Bible verse or Science and Health selection may recur in different Lessons, it will have a fresh setting; and spiritual illumination having increased, it will come to the student with new power and meaning. The same Golden Text or Responsive Reading is not used oftener than once in three years; and no Bible or Science and Health passage is ever repeated on successive Sundays. Thus the voice of “our only preachers” (Quarterly, Explanatory Note) can never grow monotonous, for the sermons which they preach are the varied expressions of infinite Mind.

         The Lesson-Sermon is not a human, material structure. Like “the tree of life,” it has its main trunk, or subject, which subdivides into six branches, upon which ripens “the fruit of the Spirit,” and where grow the leaves of the tree “for the healing of the nations.” Each of these six branches, or subtopics, has its own individuality; but they are all vitally connected with the trunk or main subject, as well as vitally connected one with the other. There is, of course, no established order for the make-up of a Lesson-Sermon. Its six sections, consequently, have endless variety. Different people, also, view the Lesson differently; and the footsteps, or leading thoughts, of the sections are unfolded to them in different ways. While it is a mistake to suppose that one word is always sufficient to describe the predominating thought in each section of the Lesson, yet sometimes this may be very nearly the case. The intelligent student will thus see no set outline on which the Lesson-Sermons are constructed, but he will find variety in unity, and unity in variety.

         "The Golden Text may be said to contain the fundamental thought with which the sermon deals. . . . The responsive reading, while entirely separate from the sermon, deals with the same subject. While no part of the temple (sermon), it may be called the stairway which leads to the temple, warning the worshiper that he is drawing nigh unto the holy place” (Journal, May, 1899). The Sentinel of May 31, 1900, said of the Lesson-Sermon: “The Bible does its part and the Science and Health quotations do their part in unfolding and enforcing the subject. Let it be remembered, then, that the Bible selections are not put down in one column and the Science and Health passages placed opposite them to explain their every detail. Taken together they form a complete discourse and fully expound the subject of the Sermon.”

         It is gratifying to know that more than half a million copies of the Christian Science Quarterly are in circulation. Every loyal Scientist consecrates some part of each day to commune with divine Love, through meditation upon the Lesson-Sermon. There is no one method whereby to study and imbibe the truth contained in the Bible Lessons. The way of approach through them to God is an individual demonstration. The procedure which may seem best for one may not be so for another; but experience shows that there are some things helpful to do and others not helpful to do. When spiritual darkness once enveloped Israel, it is related “there was no open vision.” Blessings come to those who study the Lesson with open spiritual vision. To those who have not this vision the conscientious study of the Lesson-Sermon helps to impart it.

         Blessings come to those who perceive and understand the truth; so, those who discern and grasp a leading thought in each section of the Lesson receive a blessing. Usually, the first Science and Health reference in each section hints the leading thought in that section, which the Bible selections and the other Science and Health selections in the section develop. Although, naturally, the first section introduces, the last concludes, and the intermediate sections amplify the subject of the Lesson-Sermon, let it be repeated that there is no formula, no rigidly fixed order for these footsteps. They who only skim the Lesson over miss many blessings that await them. They who prayerfully study the Lesson, and imbibe its spirit, rejoice in blessings manifold.

         Since the only preachers in Christian Science churches are the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, the Readers endeavor to demonstrate the selflessness which will permit “our only preachers” to be heard. “Readers in Branch Churches,” says the Church Manual (Article III, Sect. 6), “shall read understandingly and be well educated.” The Lesson-Sermon supplies the bread of Life for which both devout Readers and listeners alike hunger. The Readers share with others the heavenly manna — the truth — which during the week has fed and sustained both Readers and listeners. Our revered Leader once lovingly wrote to a First Reader (Miscellany, p. 247): “Do you come to your little flock so filled with divine food that you cast your bread upon the waters? Then be sure that after many or a few days it will return to you. The little that I have accomplished has all been done through love, — self-forgetful, patient, unfaltering tenderness.”

         Christ Jesus spoke with the authority of profound spiritual understanding. Today, many witnesses testify that Christ, Truth, speaks with authority through the Bible Lessons. Every student whose thought is becoming spiritualized will affirm that the Lesson-Sermon is fulfilling the words of Genesis, “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” Those whom it has helped to free from bondage — and they are to be counted by the thousands — see its authorization in the words of the great Metaphysician, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Those who were “dead in trespasses and sins,” and have been raised by it to life — and they are a great multitude — know that these concluding words of the Bible prove it to be “divinely authorized,” as the Explanatory Note in the Quarterly declares: “And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Thus, the Lesson-Sermon is “divinely authorized,” because divine Principle speaks through it with authority, the authority of omnipotent Truth.

         A great multitude, the world over, study in the Bible Lessons the same truth at the same time. Where many are thinking from the standpoint of Truth, the carnal mind is more obviously absent and the divine Mind more consciously present. Scripture says, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Gathering together in His name is not the mere assembling together of many personalities; but, rather, it refers to the unity of thought which results from an understanding of divine Principle. Thus, the dominion of the one Mind is made manifest; and thereby may “one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.”

         The healing message of Truth, discovered by Mrs. Eddy in the Scriptures, freed her from the effects of a so-called fatal accident. The Christ, Truth, apprehended and lived by Jesus, which healed all forms of error, was rediscovered and demonstrated by our Leader. The Christ, Truth, made manifest by Jesus, again became manifest in Christian Science. It is this Christ, Truth, revealed in the Bible and in Science and Health, and brought out in the Lesson-Sermons, that awakens thought to perceive the ever present Christ, which destroys sin and heals disease. The Lesson-Sermon is the Word of Truth, the expression of Truth, and is inseparable from Truth. Obeying Truth we become at-one with it, and thus are made free. So, the Lesson-Sermon is a spiritual unfoldment of the truth of being, a continuous feast at the table of spiritual consciousness. The Lesson-Sermon is a direct message of Truth, speaking impartially and universally to one and all, bringing blessings from our Father-Mother God. Truly, Mary Baker Eddy walked with God, heard His voice, and shared with others the freedom-giving truth; because, through her inspiration and devotion, the Christian Science Bible Lessons again make true the prophet’s glad acclaim, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.”

 

"The Christian Science Bible Lessons" by Irving C. Tomlinson, CSB
The Christian Science Journal, March, 1923
 

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