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Sunday School Notes and Comments
Remarks by Bliss Knapp at a Meeting of
Sunday School Teachers of The Mother Church Sunday School


         Mary Baker Eddy, the Leader of the Christian Science movement, is the topic assigned to me by our Superintendent. Mrs. Eddy's leadership is the most vital problem of today. She has claimed for herself three titles, namely, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, and the Leader of the Christian Science movement. These titles have all been severely contested. Mrs. Eddy took the first case to the Federal District Court, and there won the right to be known as the Discoverer of Christian Science. Litigation developed in the year 1919 which involved her claim to be the Founder of Christian Science. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts decided in her favor by sustaining the government of our Church Manual. There remains her title of Leader, and she represents the highest visible idea of God concerning leadership. The contest is still with us as to whether her own followers shall accept her leadership.

         We can learn much more about such problems from practical experience than from theorizing. I recall how much I once learned along this line at a Christian Science lecture. The judge who introduced me was not a Christian Scientist. In presenting his introduction, he kept increasing the volume of his voice until he was fairly shouting at that small group of people. I thought at first his purpose was to overcome opposition in the audience. I soon learned the facts of the case when I began the lecture. In response to my every statement, there came back to me from the audience the mental argument that no one could understand what I was saying. Such a mental argument was in direct contrast to what I had experienced the night before in a nearby town, for many of those present had remarked upon the clarity and simplicity of the lecture. I promptly concluded that the difficulty was not with the lecture.

         A lecturer has to think of many things besides the delivery of his lecture, and it was my business to discover as promptly as I could what was producing that disturbing condition in the audience. Twice I succeeded in silencing the opposition, but each time it was momentary. That experience gave me my first real clue to the difficulty. Then I knew the opposition was not in the audience; if it had been, the silencing of it would have remained permanent. So I concluded the difficulty was not confined to the congregation; it must be a community problem.

         From then on I tried in various ways to discover the exact nature of the opposition, and I finally got my answer when I began to speak about Mrs. Eddy. What I had to say about our Leader brought a quieting effect to the audience. Until then there had been much restlessness; the people squirmed about in their seats, and there was plenty of noise and mental confusion. But when I began to speak about Mrs. Eddy, all that restlessness changed and quietness reigned. That was my second cluethe opposition was against our Leader. Simplifying the lecture would not have removed the error. The poison of malice in the community against our Leader must be overcome! How could that be done? I turned to the chapter on Fruitage in the textbook and handled the problem on the basis of the works of healing, keeping in mind that the patient in each case was healed by his own study of Science and Health. The truth contained in the book healed him. The cases of healing there recorded are so similar to those healed by Christ Jesus that the same Mind must have healed them all. It is by such means that we learn the real nature of Mrs. Eddy's mind or consciousness, for "by their fruits ye shall know them."

         By continuing along this line of reasoning, I soon became aware that the poison and malice against Mrs. Eddy were fast fading out. When they finally disappeared, I returned to the regular theme of the lecture and continued to the end without any further difficulty. The condition was healed so completely that many remarked at the close of the lecture about its clarity and simplicity, just as others had done the night before. The lecture did not have to be made more simple, but the local opposition to Mrs. Eddy's leadership had to be removed. That local opposition had had the effect of making the people in that community believe that no one could understand her teachings.

         This brings me to Mrs. Eddy's own explanation of the problem. In her "Miscellaneous Writings" she says (p. 105): "Christian Science is my only ideal; and the individual and his ideal can never be severed. If either is misunderstood or maligned, it eclipses the other with the shadow cast by this error." A misunderstanding of the messenger results in a misunderstanding of the message, even to the degree that a lecture audience could not understand Mrs. Eddy's teachings until a correct estimate of her character was established. This explains why the Church Manual requires each lecturer to state the facts about our Leader.

         The next morning I received a call from the only registered practitioner in town, and I asked her what was going on there against Mrs. Eddy. She told me that the Protestant clergymen had joined in a crusade against Mrs. Eddy, and it had been going on for several weeks. So the "smearing" of Mrs. Eddy had made that audience believe they could not understand her teachings. Then I told the practitioner how easily that condition had been healed at the lecture, simply because the stories about our Leader were not true, and that the righteous thinking of a single individual could liberate a whole community form malice and poison against our Leader.

         Sunday School pupils can readily grasp such an explanation of the proper way to protect our Leader. They are quick to grasp the fact that messenger and message are inseparable, and when thought is healed of all malice and poison against the messenger, her leadership is established. When the cloud is removed, those who claim to be her followers will become more keen in recognizing the spiritual nature of her writings.

         When I first became a Christian Science practitioner, I had plenty of time for study, and I was very faithful in my study of the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings. Finally I took up the study of Abraham and discovered the term "Almighty God" in the seventeenth chapter of Genesis. Consulting my concordance, I discovered that was the first use in the Bible of the word "Almighty" in its application to God. Shortly after that, I met Mr. McLellan, who was then Editor-in-chief of our periodicals, and incidentally remarked that Abraham was the first man in Bible history to give the name "Almighty" to God. There came a prompt denial of my statement. While I was wondering just how to take that challenge, the Editor explained: "Abraham never named God anything. On the contrary, it was God who revealed Himself to Abraham as the Almighty." I was quick to see he was correct, and that a divine idea can never originate in a human being; it must originate in God.

         Bringing that down to the thought of the Sunday school children, we know that Christian Science is a divine idea. It goes without saying that Christian Science never could originate with a human being. God had to select His chosen vessel and reveal Christian Science to Mrs. Eddy just as He revealed His nature as the Almighty to Abraham. Take for example Mrs. Eddy's definition of God as divine Principle. Such a definition never could originate with her. God alone could reveal His nature as divine Principle. Confirming that fact, we have as the subject of one of our Bible Lessons, "God the Only Cause and Creator."

         The question of who originated Christian Science, or who is the real Discoverer of Christian Science, rests entirely upon a correct concept of God as the only cause and creator. With the correct understanding of that Bible Lesson, the children in our Sunday school will never believe that Christian Science could have any but a divine origin. They will know that Christian Science is the inspiration of God humanly expressed, that Science and Health had to be written from an inspirational point of view, and that it requires spiritual inspiration to understand it.

         We have a By-Law in our Church Manual which requires us to defend ourselves "daily against aggressive mental suggestion" (Art. VIII, Sect. 6). The reason given is that daily defense frees us from being made to forget or neglect our duty to God, to our Leader, and to mankind. That little word "made" is significant. Under ordinary circumstances, a loyal Christian Scientist will not neglect his duty to his Leader, but what about being made to do it?

         Here is a case that illustrates my meaning. While motoring in the West, we reached a town one Sunday where there is a Christian Science church, and we attended the morning service. It was the first Sunday in the month, when the First Reader is required to read from our Church Manual "A Rule for Motives and Acts" (Art. VIII, Sect. 1). He read the By-Law according to the custom, but he neglected to mention Mrs. Eddy as the author of the Manual. Later, he announced one of our Leader's hymns, without mentioning the author's name, as the Manual requires. Before reading from Science and Health, however, he did announce Mrs. Eddy as the author. Twice during that service, the First Reader had been made to forget or neglect his duty to his Leader.

         The value of our church By-Laws is clearly seen in the light of Jesus' words, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Had the First Reader really loved Mrs. Eddy as the true Leader, nothing could have made him disobey her commands. True obedience is aglow with love. Sometimes I am asked, "What do you believe about this or that point in Christian Science?" I have frequently replied, "If you will consult your Concordances to Mrs. Eddy's writings, and study every reference in her writings on the point in question, you will discover exactly what I believe about it." If ever I should find myself at variance with her statements, I would drop that erroneous belief immediately. That is my sense of true obedience, and it exemplifies Jesus' words, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Such a love for our Leader should be instilled into the hearts and minds of our Sunday school pupils, so that they will gladly obey her teachings.

 

"Sunday School Notes and Comments" by Bliss Knapp, CSB
Christian Science Sentinel, January 28, 1939
 

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