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Agreement and Difference
ANNIE M. KNOTT, CSD


         The problem of present day religions is, how such a basis of agreement can be reached that the greatest good may be accomplished along moral and spiritual lines. No Christian can well question the tremendous possibilities of such agreement, for in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew we read that after Christ Jesus had discussed freely with his disciples the differences and offenses which were apt to arise among even his professed followers he said: "I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." This very naturally led up to Peter's question, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" We are all familiar with the answer which followed, that the forgiveness must extend beyond seven times, even "until seventy times seven." This very statement showed that until the absolute basis of Principle is reached, offenses and differences are likely to occur, and that these cannot be remedied except through a fuller understanding of the Master's teachings.

         Again and again do we hear the cry of sincere Christians, "Back to Christ;" and there can be no question that until mortal's turn to the teachings of the Master, which were not mere theories, but practical truth, they will be "carried about with every wind of doctrine," to quote St. Paul's words. It is a very hopeful sign of the times that many turn to the Sermon on the Mount with assurance that in it the essence of Jesus' teachings is to be found. One earnest thinker, himself a clergyman, has this to say: "Among all the creeds of Christendom the only one which has the authority of Christ himself is the Sermon on the Mount. When one reads the Creed which was given by Jesus, and the Creeds which have been made by Christians, he cannot fail to detect an immense difference. . . . They all have a family likeness to each other, and a family unlikeness to the Sermon on the Mount. They deal with different subjects, they move in a different atmosphere."

         On page 174 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" Mrs. Eddy says, "The thunder of Sinai and the Sermon on the Mount are pursuing and will overtake the ages, rebuking in their course all error and proclaiming the kingdom of heaven on earth. Truth is revealed. It needs only to be practised." Here we may remind ourselves that Christian Science is not responsible for the differences of opinion which have prevailed among the professed followers of Christ Jesus since early in the first Christian century; and while to the material sense of things Mrs. Eddy's teachings seem to accentuate the differences which have arisen as to the teachings of Christ Jesus, they in fact point to the only real basis of agreement, and that is the proof by demonstration of what he actually taught.

         When Jesus declared that the truth would make men free, the religionists around him were indignant at his words, and said they had never been in bondage to any man. This was not true, even in a literal sense, for at that very time their national autonomy was submerged under the despotic control of the Roman Caesar, but the great Teacher did not concern himself with the political situation. He looked beyond it to the cause of all human bondage when he said, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." It is very evident that the religionists of Jesus' time did not approve of his method of dealing with sin, or of sickness either, for that matter, for they sought to convict him of an offense against the law on both points, and finally succeeded in doing so to their own satisfaction. This, however, only gave him an added opportunity of proving in his own experience, as he had done in three other instances, that death itself has no support in God's law, any more than has sickness or sin.

         It has been explained many times by students of Christian Science that a denial of the reality of sin is made by them on the basis of the allness of God, and their understanding and firm conviction that God is not the author or sustainer of anything unlike Himself, and so the temptation to sin is constantly lessened for those who understand and apply this fundamental truth. They see that to indulge sin in any way would be to conspire against their own happiness and progress, for they never lose sight of the law enunciated so long ago, '"Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." It cannot be denied that Christ Jesus did not concern himself with the origin of evil, but addressed himself invariably to its destruction, and this is the Christian Science method. The writer already quoted has this to say respecting it: "Among all the problems upon which the human intellect has tried its teeth, the origin of evil is the most useless and hopeless, the most fascinating and maddening." That the Master understood the nothingness of that which has not its support in divine law, is evident from the ease with which he destroyed the manifestations of evil appearing as sickness, suffering, and even death; but he found the greatest opposition to his teachings in the materialistic theology of his day.

         Here it may be said that while all Christian people may agree to accept the Sermon on the Mount as the right basis of faith and practice, little gain will be made until they see that its teaching is purely spiritual, and its practice can only be reached through recognition of spiritual law and obedience thereto. So long as mortals are fettered by their belief in the reality of matter and material law, they cannot rise to the height of this teaching any more than they can serve two masters, which Jesus said was impossible. Again it may be said that Christian Scientists do not seek to disagree with their brethren in the other churches, but instead seek eagerly and gladly the basis of a solid agreement in the recognition of one infinite God and His law as spiritually presented in the Sermon on the Mount. Mrs. Eddy herself pays loving tribute to the religious teachings which she received in her childhood and youth, teachings which impelled her to press on until she found in Christian Science the full content of Christianity, as enunciated and demonstrated by the master Christian himself.

         A little incident may serve to illustrate the difference of viewpoint between the Christian Scientist and one who represents scholastic theology. A young girl had for several weeks been quite ill with a fever, and at this point her parents and she decided to turn to Christian Science for help. The result was almost instantaneous healing, and she arose from her bed and went for a long walk in order to prove to herself the new sense of life which had come to her with her healing. On the same day the clergyman whose church the family attended came to call upon her and instead of rejoicing with her over her healing began to warn her that she must not tempt God by taking long walks, etc., when she had been so very ill. With a bright smile she answered that she felt she might be tempting God if she did not make use of this wonderful strength which had come to her; and then the gentleman added that she must be careful not to exceed this strength, for it had to be evolved or developed by natural — that is to say, material — processes. Those who were present could never forget the inspiration of the moment when the young girl said, with the deepest reverence, that she now knew our strength is never developed in that way, because in Christian Science we first learn, then prove, that God is our Life and our strength.

         Not only do Christian Scientists study the Bible as they never did before, but they find on every page the truth which rebukes sin and sickness alike, and the love which brings healing and strength that cannot be taken away. The beloved disciple tells us in unequivocal terms that "whosoever is born of God sinneth not;" and he also assures us, "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." To this he adds the words which have such deep significance from the Christian Science viewpoint: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." It is surely high time for all professed Christians to strive to reach the altitude indicated in Paul's words to the Corinthians, when he asks, "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" Then he adds, "Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." While with this call comes a demand for entire separation from all evil, obedience to it is rewarded by the promise of divine sonship; and Christian Scientists are learning that in working out their human problems from this basis, they draw nearer to God, and also to their fellow men.

 

"Agreement and Difference" by Annie M. Knott, CSD
The Christian Science Journal, September, 1918
 

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