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Christianity and the Commonwealth
ANNIE M. KNOTT, CSD


         In all times thinkers have agreed that the commonwealth is the highest ideal for a nation, although there have been widely differing views in ancient and modern times as to how this form of government could be realized. It goes without saying that the ideals embodied in the commonwealth have been worked out in a more practical and satisfactory way in the United States of America than in any other country, and this is undoubtedly due to the fact that religious freedom was made the foundation stone of the great edifice which has been built up during the last two hundred years. This form of government, rightly viewed, always implies the recognition of the supreme governing authority and obedience to moral and spiritual law, for without these no human government can have stability or continue to exist. It is also clear that in the final analysis such authority is never dependent upon any individual or group of individuals, although it may be expressed through them, but rests upon the law which is itself the manifestation of eternal justice and right.

         In the early history of the Hebrew people we find that under the leadership of Moses their thought was directed toward the divine government of the nation, and although there were priests and princes set over the tribes, yet they only held authority as they obeyed and expressed the divine law. As the years went on and the people intermarried with those of other nations we find them crying out for a king who would establish militarism in the land, but the prophet Samuel warned them against this and strove to direct their thought away from mortal man to infinite Mind.

         Here we should remember that even among the judges and priests in the land of Israel there were few who expressed the pure spirituality which alone would qualify them to lead their fellow men into spiritual freedom, with its necessary expression in good government in which all the people shared, and which would necessarily bring prosperity to all. In Christian Science this is readily understood, and we see that, until the demands of Principle are recognized and kept constantly in view, the human tendency is ever toward retrogression; in place of the pure spirituality which is manifested in the application of divine intelligence to all things, superstition usurps the place of religion, and instead of men being firmly bound to God, good, they drift away from pure religion with its ideal conditions until all things tend toward chaos. On page 278 of Miscellany Mrs. Eddy says, "To coincide with God's government is the proper incentive to the action of all nations."

         When we come to the teachings of Christ Jesus we find that superhuman wisdom which knew how to deal with human conditions and beliefs, while at the same time lifting the thought of all Truth-seekers to the plane where absolute right is held forever as the one and only standard. Jesus' work began with the individual, but it reached out to the emancipation of the whole race from bondage of every sort and lifted humanity above the age-long tragedy of sin, disease, and death. Jesus taught his followers to obey the law relative to taxation when he said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's;" but he never taught them to yield up their right to spiritual freedom to any mortal man or mortal form of government. After his ascension we find his followers attempting to establish a sort of communism which may be regarded as an experiment looking toward greater things, but so far as we can tell it did not meet the human need, although the truth itself bound together the men and women who were thus striving after the best form of government, by bonds which cannot be broken, namely, their love of the truth and their conviction of its power to make all men free.

         As we read the New Testament from the Acts of the Apostles on to and through Revelation, it is plainly apparent that the teachings of the apostles and their demonstrations of divine law, had they been understood and accepted, would have given stability to all righteous government and have brought harmony everywhere. We find, however, that priestcraft and sorcery were sorely disturbed by the pure teachings of Jesus' followers, and so the representatives of these systems arrayed themselves against the representatives of divine Truth, believing that they could banish from the face of the earth all who opposed them. Not only was this opposition to Truth characteristic of the first Christian century, but whenever the light shone with distinctive clearness, as for instance in the sixteenth century, error did its utmost to resist its own annihilation. The massacre of St. Bartholomew shows how a weak and wicked king was used to make murderous attacks upon the noblest and best in the land, among them Admiral Coligny.

         Here we may recall the event recorded in the eleventh chapter of John, immediately following the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The chief priests and Pharisees held a council, seeing in the miracles of Jesus the loss of their own authority, and so we find them saying, "If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him." It is perfectly evident that in both of these cases had there been a measurably clear expression of the true commonwealth such conditions would have been impossible, because there would have been an appeal on the part of so many to divine Principle that the subtle designs of evil would have been rendered ineffectual. Well did Christ Jesus know that the kingdom of God with its benign and absolutely just government was little understood by humanity, and that the only means for the protection of innocence was the exercise of unceasing watchfulness and prayer; therefore we cannot too often recall his words of warning, "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."

         From the Christian Science viewpoint it is perfectly clear that if in all lands and climes there had been freedom to worship God, all other things would have been adjusted so as to work out through the advancing human thought the problems of equal rights, opportunities, and privileges for all men, but so long as this one vital thing is denied we have wars and fightings, sickness, poverty, and wretchedness, when we ought to have universal peace and progress based upon God's righteous law.

         Let it never be supposed that in Christian Science license is ever mistaken for liberty. Obedience to law, so long as the law is based upon justice, is one of the safeguards of humanity, for without a recognition of law we have abnormal conditions in the body politic, as well as in the in the individual mind and body. In Christian Science we find that unswerving obedience to God's law gives the truest freedom, and as this is more fully understood, all the asserted laws of disease and health and all material theories of government fade out as shadows of the night before the advancing light of Truth and Love, which establishes the Christian commonwealth on the basis of a pure democracy. On page 287 of Miscellany there begins an article by Mrs. Eddy which was published in the New York Mail and Express. Here we read: "Love talked and not lived is a poor shift for the weak and worldly. Love lived in a court or cot is God exemplified, governing governments, industries, human rights, liberty, life. In love for man we gain the only and true sense of love for God, practical good, and so rise and still rise to His image and likeness, and are made partakers of that Mind whence springs the universe."

 

"Christianity and the Commonwealth" by Annie M. Knott, CSD
The Christian Science Journal, February, 1919
 

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