Volume 1, Number 2
The Christian Science Standard


Having given our basic doctrinal views in the previous issue and shown them to coincide with those of our Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, this issue of the Standard discusses how independent churches fit into the pattern of history.

From the earliest times the Christian Church has been regarded as the Kingdom of Heaven established on earth. We agree with the theologians in saying that "the visible Church is called a 'kingdom.' Christ and His Father rule in it, and maintain righteousness, order, safety, and happiness therein. It is called the 'kingdom of heaven.' It is of heavenly origin, has a heavenly governor and laws. and is erected to render multitudes fit for heaven."

Bible scholars also point out that Jesus was more intent upon bringing his disciples and followers into his kingdom than he was in organizing an earthly church body. His followers were, in fact, those who broke with the present world and threw in their lot with the new order—or kingdom of heaven—which was "at hand." This is the basic idea of the church, and it is the idea on which it was originally formed, and the membership of this church is comprised of those who are seeking to order their thinking and lives by the principles of that kingdom, in which the will of God is the only law.

After his glorious resurrection and ascension Jesus' students and followers continued to live as they had when he was here, but as their numbers grew they were obliged to introduce some kind of order, which with the passing of time became more detailed. Before long the church became an institution with the mission of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth in the consciousness of Jesus' growing followers.

The records of the early church tell us that it had several wonderful peculiarities which the modern church does not possess. One of these was the evidence of intense ardor and confidence. The disciples had seen their Master resurrected, and then ascended into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus had taught them that the end of the world was to come after his second appearing. They believed his return would occur in their time.

Another peculiarity of the primitive church was that it embraced the whole life of its members. To them, the Kingdom of Heaven, or New Jerusalem, was the only thing worth troubling about. This material world was unreal and it meant nothing, because Jesus had proved it to them to be nothing.

They had been told that they must give up all materiality in order to enter his Kingdom and thus they were willing to sacrifice all for Christ and the Church. They literally became pilgrims on earth, whose home is heaven.

Another special feature of the primitive church is that there was nothing in the nature of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, with its political functions and dead forms. They felt they were ruled by Christ. All members took an active part in the church worship, and no important step was taken except through the common meeting, or membership meeting as we call it today.

The requirement for membership in the early church was the same as the requirement for admission into the Kingdom of Heaven,—that is, regeneration, changing one's thinking, or purification and spiritualization of thought. Jesus said: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God," into the true Church, or New Jerusalem.

The following extracts are from Genesis of the New England Churches by Leonard Bacon (copyright 1874):

In the beginning, Christianity was simply Gospel. Ecclesiastical organization was not the cause, but the effect of life. Churches were constituted by the spontaneous association of believers. Individuals and families, drawn toward each other by their common trust in Jesus the Christ, and their common interest in the good news concerning the kingdom of God, became a community united, not by external bonds, but by the vital force of distinctive ideas and principles. New affections became the bond of a new brotherhood, and the new brotherhood, with its mutual duties and united responsibilities, became an organized society. . . Their new ideas and new sympathies and hopes were a bond of union; and though not yet separated from the Jewish people, nor anticipating such a separation, they were beginning to be a distinct community with a life of their own—a community almost unorganized, so far as the record shows, and yet distinct in the midst of the Jewish nation, like that nation in the midst of the Roman Empire. A new and unique commonwealth had begun to live, and must needs grow into some organized form according to its nature. . . Having seen that the process of organization in the mother church at Jerusalem was essentially democratic while under the immediate guidance of the apostles, we need positive information to convince us that in other places the process by which believers in Christ became an organized body was materially different. But there is no such information. On the contrary, there are indications that in every place the society of believers in Christ was a little republic. . .

The Church of New Testament Times
Every reader of the New Testament books may observe the traces and rudiments of organization and scrutinize the pastoral epistles to ascertain how far the development of ecclesiastical institutions had advanced in the latest years of Paul.

The churches instituted by the apostles were local institutions only. Nothing like a national church, having jurisdiction over many congregations within certain geographical boundaries, appears in the writings or acts of the apostles. . . But that the organized church, in the primitive age of Christianity, was always a local institution—never national, never provincial or diocesan—is a proposition which few will deny.

Each local church was complete in itself, and was held responsible to Christ for its own character, and the character of those whom it retained in its fellowship. . .

Particular churches, in that age, were related to each other as constituent portions of the Universal Church [i.e., universal Christianity]. Their unity was their one faith and hope, the unity of common ideas and principles distinguishing them from all the world besides—of common interests and efforts, of common trials and perils, and of mutual affection. . . Such were the churches at the date of the New Testament Scriptures.

Church Government at the Time of Constantine
When Christianity, by the conversion of Constantine (A.D. 312), became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire, the form of church government then existing was in some respects widely different from that of the primitive churches. Less than three hundred years after the beginning at Jerusalem, the government of the churches had become essentially episcopal [i.e., governed by bishops], though the bishops every where were elected by the Christian people. The authority of the bishop, instead of being simply parochial [i.e., within a parish], extended over many congregations, the mother church, in which the bishop had his throne, being surrounded with dependent congregations, all under one government. The bishop had under him a body of presbyters, who were his council and helpers, and to whom he assigned their duties. Not infrequently the bishops of a district or province were assembled in synods or councils to deliberate on affairs of general interest, such as disputed points of doctrine, and questions about uniformity in worship and discipline. There was a firmly established distinction between clergy and laity, the clergy consisting of three orders or gradations, bishops, presbyters, and deacons.

Divergence Occurs Unnoticed;
Reformation Occurs Through Agitation

It has been sometimes assumed that what was in the fourth century must have been from the beginning. The fact, so conspicuous in the survey of that age, that the then existing church government was substantially episcopal, has been thought to prove that the churches never were organized and governed in any other way; especially as there are no traces of any revolutionary conflict by which one form of church government was substituted for another, and no exact line can mark the beginning of the distinction between presbyters and bishops, or the transfer of power from self-governing Christian assemblies to a hierarchy. Constantine found the episcopal form of government over the churches already existing, with its roots in the past; and in adopting Christianity as the religion of the empire, he adopted that ecclesiastical form of church government. What, then, had become of the form of government which we find in the New Testament? At what date was it superseded? Who introduced another form in the place of it? Such is the outline of an argument which often seems conclusive. The fallacy lies in the assumption that church government [as that which was established by the apostles], once instituted, will perpetuate itself, and can be changed only by a revolutionary agitation. . .

[NOTE. The (divergent) episcopal form of church government was believed to have been instituted by the apostles because that is the way people find it today. Likewise, they also believe the teaching of the church today is that of the apostles because that is the way they find it today. They do not recognize and comprehend the radical change because it was so gradual and imperceptible and without a revolutionary agitation.]

Growth of Church Government means Change
The period between the day of Pentecost [A.D. 33] and the middle of the second century [A.D. 150]—or the narrower period between the date of the Pastoral Epistles [A.D. 50] and the beginning of that century [A.D. 100]—could not but be a period of rapid development in the Christian commonwealth. Nor did the growth of ecclesiastical government terminate then. It went on, imperceptibly but steadily, to the age of Constantine—as it went on afterward to the age of Luther—as it goes on now, even in communities most abhorrent of progress and most observant of traditions. [The change goes on until you have a revolutionary agitation to restore its original purity.]

The Tendency to Hierarchy
The circumstances of that early development determined in many respects its character and tendency. In that age the churches had no experience to guide them or to warn them. They knew nothing of what we know from the history of eighteen centuries. Why should they be concerned for their liberty? How should they be expected to detect and resist THE BEGINNING OF LORDSHIP [HIERARCHY] OVER GOD'S HERITAGE? In those times of inexperience the development of the Christian organization was a development under pressure. Christianity, often persecuted, always 'an illicit religion,' was making its way in the presence of powerful enemies. Its natural leaders, the 'bishops and deacons,' freely chosen in every church were of necessity, intrusted with large powers over the endangered flock, and, of course, power was accumulating in their hands.

[NOTE. Is not this the pattern of the development of the Christian Science Church? The early members were under extreme pressure. They were often persecuted and Christian Science was considered an "illicit religion." It was making its way in the presence of "powerful enemies," and the organization established at that time by our Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, was to protect "the endangered flock." When that danger was passed the estoppel clauses in the Mother Church Manual were present awaiting the time to restore the original purity that would be lost during that period by the form of government which was then necessary in order to deal with those same "pressures and dangers."]

The Tendency to Mother Churches
The churches were in cities; for it was in cities that the new doctrine and worship could obtain a foothold. Such churches, as they grew, were naturally distributed, rather than divided, into a plurality of assemblies governed by one venerable company of bishops or elders, and served by one corps of deacons. Equally natural was it for each mother church to become still more extended by spreading itself out into the suburbs and surrounding villages; all believers in the city and its suburbs, or in the country round about, being recognized as constituting one ecclesia with one administration.

From Simple Republics to Monarchy
In the growth of such a community, as its affairs become more complicated, one of the elders or overseers must needs become the moderator or chairman of the board; and to him the chief oversight must be intrusted. At first that presiding elder is only a leader, foremost among brethren who are equal in authority; but by degrees he becomes a superior officer with distinctive powers. A tendency to monarchy begins to be developed in what was at first a simple republic. The principle of equality and fraternity begins to be superseded by the spirit of authority and subordination. This may be noted as the first departure from the simplicity of the primitive polity. . .

The great Reformation in the sixteenth century was an attempt to recover the primitive Gospel. What was, at first, the experience of individuals struggling with the great question, 'How shall man be just with God,' driven back from tradition to the Scriptures, and finding rest in Christ the one mediator between God and men, became a new announcement of the primitive Gospel. . . .

The Puritans
Then began that age-long conflict in the Church of England between government Protestantism, on the one hand, completed and immovable, and the demand, on the other hand, for a more thorough reformation that should carry the National Church and the national Christianity back to the original purity portrayed in the Scriptures. On one side were the court and the court clergy. On the other side were the PURITANS, so named from their demand for purity in the worship of God and in the administration of Christ's ordinances. . . . There were Puritans more or less decided in their opinions, and more or less resolute in word and deed; but, at first, there was no Puritan party acting in concert under acknowledged leaders. . . . The origin of Puritanism was not, nor did it intend to be, a secession or separation from the National Church. They were not Dissenters in the modern meaning of the word. The great body of them had not arrived at the conclusion that diocesan episcopacy must be got rid of. At first the most advanced of them were only 'Nonconformists,' deviating from some of the prescribed regulations. As Christian Englishmen, they were members of the Church of England; and what they desired was not liberty to withdraw from the National Church and to organize a distinct 'denomination;' nor was it merely liberty in the National Church to worship according to their own idea of Christian simplicity and purity—though, doubtless, many of them would have been contented with that. What they desired was reformation of the National Church itself by national authority.

Comparison of New Testament Churches
With the National Church

Thomas Cartwright, Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, a man of great celebrity for learning and eloquence, began (1570) to say how the government of the Church of England was widely divergent from the most ancient examples, and the authoritative precedents and principles of the New Testament. Still holding the theory that an independent Christian nation is an independent Christian Church, he aimed at nothing more than a complete reformation by the government; but the system which he would have the queen and Parliament establish in England was essentially that of Geneva and of Scotland. Under Cartwright's influence, English Puritanism became, essentially, in its ideas and aspirations, Presbyterianism like that of Holland or Scotland.

A Fatal Error
The controversy in the Church of England was long and bitter. On one side there was power, on the other side there was the tenaciousness of conscience, an earnest religious feeling. On the one side was the fixed purpose to extinguish the nonconforming and reforming party. On the other side there was the invisible yet invincible might of those who suffer for conscience sake. Both held a fatal error in assuming that the reformation of the church could be wrought only by the legislative and executive sovereignty of the nation. What Puritanism demanded was an ecclesiastical reformation to be made by the national authority. No withdrawal from the National Church was to be thought of at first, for that would be schism.

Oppression Furnishes New Light
But under oppression men sometimes get new light. As the urging of conformity to an obnoxious ritual led Thomas Cartwright and others to investigate the theory of church government, and to find a warrant in Scriptures for the English system, so, under the discipline of impoverishing fines and tedious imprisonments, some of the sufferers began to doubt whether the exceptional institution called the Church of England—having Elizabeth Tudor as its supreme ruler on earth, to whom every minister of God's word was responsible for his preaching and for all his spiritual administrations—was really a church of Christ in any legitimate meaning of that phrase. The more they studied the New Testament, the less they could find bearing a resemblance to that or any other National Church. Questions were beginning to emerge which had not yet been fairly considered. Did the apostles institute any national church? If not, what was Jesus' intention when he sent forth his disciples to convert all nations? Nonconformists were holding conventicles in private rooms, with the doors shut for fear of informers and persecutors; but in what capacity or character were they assembled? What was the relation of such assemblies, and what was the relation of the queen's National Church to the true church of Christ in England? Such questionings among the Puritans gave origin to another party aiming at a more radical reformation. The men of the new party, instead of remaining in the Church of England to reform it, boldly withdrew themselves from that ecclesiastico-political organization, denouncing that and all other so-called national churches as institutions unknown to the law and mind of Christ.

The Authority of Private Judgment
In that region (Scrooby) the idea of 'reformation without tarrying for any' was beginning to take effect. Men were beginning to learn that there might be INDIVIDUAL and PERSONAL reformation, voluntary conformity to the rules and principles given in the New Testament, without waiting for a reformation of the National Church by the national government. How this came to pass and by what stages of progress, may be best told by one who had himself no small part in the story. Tracing the movement from an undefined beginning, he tells us that 'by the travail and diligence of some godly and zealous preachers, as in other places of the land, so in the north parts, many became enlightened by the word of God, and had their ignorance and sins discovered [exposed to themselves] by the word of God's grace, and began to reform their lives and make conscience of their ways.' In other words, they began to be conscientious in all things, and were earnest to know the will of God that they might obey it. This was nothing else than private judgment in religion—the practical recognition of individual responsibility to God—the first stage of 'reformation without tarrying for any.'

Individuals, one by one, were beginning to reform themselves under the guidance of the Scriptures. What next? As soon as 'the work of God,' moving them to live soberly, righteously, and godly, became manifest in them. 'they were both scoffed and scorned by the profane multitude; and the ministers', among whose hearers such changes were taking place, began to experience the oppressive urgency of the queen's hierarchy. Those ministers must submit to 'the yoke of subscription,' or be silenced. Nor was this all. Scoffs and scorn might be endured. The silencing of Nonconformist clergymen—if it had merely debarred them from preaching in the pulpits of the state church—would not have been an intolerable hardship, so long as there were private houses in which they could meet quietly those who desired to hear them. But the queen's supremacy gave them no such liberty; and the enginery of ecclesiastical oppression was brought to bear on the hearers as well as the preachers. 'The poor people were so urged with apparitors and pursuivants and the commissary courts, as truly their affliction was not small.'

National Church not a New Testament Church
They were brought to the conclusion that, whatever might be the Christian character of some congregations in the parishes of England, and however numerous the true followers of Christ and members of his body might be among the English people, the ecclesiastico-political institution called 'the Church of England' was not at all a church in any New Testament meaning of the word, but was (as their experience had proved) a positively anti-Christian institution. [They persecuted their own people.] Having arrived at this conclusion, they could no longer be Puritans merely, waiting and protesting in the hope of a new reformation to be made by national authority in the National Church. They found incumbent on them a personal duty of reformation—even of church reformation 'without tarrying for any.' Assuming their rights 'as the Lord's free people,' they became, by their covenant with each other and with God, a church of Christ, and determinately 'shook off the yoke of antichristian bondage.'

Pilgrims Driven from England
Such were the men and women who were thus driven out of their native England, yet hunted and intercepted in their flight, as if they were criminals escaping from justice. Why did they suffer the spoiling of their goods, arrest, imprisonment, exile? They had caught from the Bible the idea of a church independent alike of the pope and the queen, independent of Parliament as well as of prelates and dependent only on Christ. It was their mission to work out and organize that idea.

(The above extracts are from Genesis of the New England Churches, by Leonard Bacon—1874. These extracts may be read in a more complete form in Christian History of the Constitution, compiled by Verna Hall, a Christian Scientist. This book was advertised extensively in The Christian Science Monitor in the 1960's. It is still in print and today it may be purchased from: The Foundation for American Christian Education, P.O. Box 27035, San Francisco, CA 94127.)

In the Christian Science Sentinel of February 9, 1899, appeared a quotation from the Literary Digest, as follows:

"An address was delivered before the Church Congress, recently held at Bradford, England, by the Right Rev. W. Boyd Carpenter, Bishop of Ripon, containing some passages which have excited a great deal of comment. Bishop Carpenter was president of the congress and the subject was, 'The Opportunities, Needs, and Characteristics of Our Age.' The closing passage, on 'The Religion of the Future,' which is copied from the report of the London Chronicle, is as follows:—

I. Polity
"The future of the world does not belong to sectarianism, and so the dream of catholicity [one universal Christian Church] will be fulfilled.

II. Doctrine
"Of another thing I am certain. As increasing light falls upon great problems, and men begin to realize how much of Judaistic, pagan, and scholastic thought is mingled with popular Christianity, how many accretions due to human weakness and race prejudice have been incorporated in our conceptions, they will distrust the Church. For every new epoch has added new dogma to faith, and with every new dogma has gone further from the simplicity of Christ. The future of the world does not belong to Latinism, and so the vision of Protestantism will be fulfilled. "But of a third thing I am convinced even more surely. The religion of the future will neither be Protestant nor Catholic, but simply Christian. The Dogmas of the Churches which have separated communion from communion will fall off as autumn leaves before the fresh winds of God. Many views which in the very Providence of God have played their part in clearing the thoughts of men will pass into forgetfulness.

"Men will not grieve to see the old things go, for a larger faith will be theirs; they will not think God's world will fall apart because we tear up parchments more or less. The Church of God will renew its youth. It will be content with a simpler symbol because it will have learned Christ. It will not need any longer Trent, or Westminster, or Lambeth, or the Vatican to lead it. It will be satisfied with simpler thoughts and a purer faith. It will be satisfied to realize that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all."

The question is often asked. "What will Christian Science churches be like in the future?" Based on the general pattern of history described in this issue, if Christian Science is to grow and succeed it will consist of local churches throughout the country bearing witness to Truth. It will not include a hierarchy, for according to Mrs. Eddy that tends to "retard spiritual growth." Society today is moving from the organizational to the individual. Each local church will be alive, inspired, intensely enthusiastic in proclaiming intelligently and scientifically the Kingdom of Christ on earth. Christian Science as taught by Mary Baker Eddy will survive and prevail.

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