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GEORGE PERRY DIXON
One reason why the stories of the Bible appeal to many is that people feel the experiences narrated there bear a strong resemblance to their own lives. In the twelfth chapter of Acts we read of Peter being thrown into prison for no reason except that Herod craved the applause of the people. It is interesting to note Peter's attitude toward Herod's persecution of him, and to ask ourselves what we should have done under similar circumstances. Imprisoned and chained, while soldiers guarded the outside of the prison, his position seemed hopeless; but it is in the humanly hopeless situation that the power of God is often seen the clearest. Though his position seemed perilous, we have no record that Peter sank into the slough of self-pity or resentment. Apparently he did not even exclaim, Why should I have this problem to solve? The right thinker resists the temptation to feel sorry for himself, because of his confidence in God's protecting care. It should be as reasonable to feel sorry for God as for His image and likeness, man.
Light plays a prominent part in this narrative: it was the harbinger of Peter's deliverance. Light and bondage do not go together. When a problem, however difficult, presents itself, it is usually a question of our choosing light and freedom or darkness and bondage. "A light shined in the prison," we are told, when an angel appeared commanding Peter to "arise up quickly." He must have been obedient, for his chains fell off immediately. It is the same obedience which is now demanded of everyone who would be free from any of evil's fetters. "Arise," was the command Jesus so often gave to test the faith and willingness to be obedient of the one he was about to deliver from some malady. "I will arise and go to my father," was the prodigal's exclamation at the moment of the big turning point in his life.
When so-called mortal mind shoots its false mental darts of sin and disease, they will never find lodgment in the thought of him who is alert to "arise up quickly" to the understanding of God's allness and the consequent nothingness of His opposite. Not being able to lodge in thought, these false beliefs can never be manifested in erroneous conditions. Many have found themselves bound perhaps not with chains, as in Peter's case, but with wrong mental habits. Then the angelic message of Christian Science has been heard with the usual result the fetters of sin broken and the walls of disease shattered. Next the angel commanded: "Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. . . . Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me." Like Peter, we are constantly being called to arise, clothe ourselves, put on Godlike thoughts, and follow in Truth's narrow path. The more closely we follow, the more unbounded and unlimited become our vistas, and what was called a narrow path becomes a universal outlook. God is everywhere; and man, following Him, exists in boundless opportunity and freedom.
When we feel shackled by regrets of the past and fears of the future, we must let in the light by changing our thinking. The way to this end is clearly shown in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," and the other writings of Mary Baker Eddy. Escape from the difficulty confronting us may seem impossible; but though we may feel we cannot do anything for ourselves, God can do everything for us. Our part is to know that He can and will do it. How well Mrs. Eddy knew that mortal mind is constantly trying to limit and bind mankind! In Science and Health, on the four pages immediately following the marginal note "Mental emancipation" (p. 224), our Leader has written an inspiring message on the freedom of man, God's child.
Like some demonstrations of healing in Christian Science, Peter's liberation came in the night the darkest hour, just before the dawn; for in the morning he was to have been put to death. In this hour of testing, mortal mind would try to argue that the dawn will not appear for us; but it always does when we are willing to trust our heavenly Father. God never fails. Christian Science solves our problem when we do our part.
Mortal mind likes to be considered victorious over God's children. It found a willing agent in this Herod, son of the Herod who put to death the children of Bethlehem in an attempt to slay the child Jesus. But its efforts are so futile in the presence of good! It could not injure the Christ-child, or keep Peter in prison; nor can it harm in the slightest degree the one who turns in thought to God. There is no power to equal the power of true prayer or spiritual understanding. So when we read that "prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him," we are not surprised that Peter was emancipated. He too knew the power of prayer; for, among other demonstrations, he had healed one of palsy and raised Dorcas from death.
One of the worst forms of imprisonment is bondage to the phantoms of fear. Christian Science brings the greatest liberation, for it frees us from these phantoms by pouring the light of liberty the truth into the dark corners of apprehension, doubt, and anxiety. Fear is not real: a phantom never can become a reality. Man is not fettered, since God never created bondage or made man a prisoner. In Science and Health (p. 227) Mrs. Eddy writes, "God made man free."
Christian Science Sentinel, April 3, 1926
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