The Christian Science Bible Lesson
The CS Bible Lessons are an integral part of Christian Science and were introduced in the early days of the Christian Science Movement. Man’s origin and destiny have always been questions in everyone’s heart and so our leader provided Lesson-Sermons to help quench this thirst and to answer specifically these queries which have so puzzled and disturbed mankind. Though the same subject occurs twice every year, in each case it is approached from a different viewpoint; and a different lesson results from the use of different texts resulting in spiritual illumination.
Mrs. Eddy once wrote to a First Reader: “Do you come to your little flock so filled with divine food that you cast your bread upon the waters? Then be sure that after many or a few days it will return to you. The little that I have accomplished has all been done through love, — self-forgetful, patient, unfaltering tenderness.” 1
Mrs. Eddy referred to the weekly Lesson in the Church Manual as “a lesson on which the prosperity of Christian Science largely depends.” 2 She established the daily study of the lesson to educate students in Christian Science without human interference.
Although lessons have been published in the Christian Science Quarterly since 1898 under instruction from Mrs. Eddy, these were not meant to replace the readings from the Bible and Science and Health when addressing public or private audiences; she said “No copies from my books are allowed to be written, and read from manuscripts, either in private or in public assemblies, except by their author.” 3
Irving Clinton Tomlinson was a student of Mrs. Eddy and a member of the Bible Committee which she set up. He was her secretary for twelve years. He said of the lessons: “Not only do the Bible Lessons form the Sunday sermons, but through their daily study, they provide the chief part of the spiritual food so essential to the health, well-being and spiritual growth of every Christian Science student.” 4
In 1941 one of the Mother Church Publications gave a history of the early Bible Lessons in the Church. “The plan of the church services which was first adopted by the Church of Christ, Scientist, included a sermon by Mrs. Eddy. So important in Mrs. Eddy’s estimation, however, was knowledge of the Holy Scriptures that, after a few years, the personal sermon at the services was given up and a Bible Lesson substituted.” 5
It goes on to say that “Bible Lessons were printed in The Journal of Christian Science, Volumes I and II, as a regular feature, but were discontinued in 1885, when Mrs. Eddy relinquished her role as editor because of the demands on her time.” 6
Frank E. Mason who was an editor of the Journal continued the idea and came up with a series of Lessons based on the life and ministry of Christ Jesus, from sermons which he had heard from other sources. These ran from 1888 until March 1889. Then in June of 1889, the Bible Lesson feature reappeared under the heading of ‘International Bible Lessons by Frank E. Mason, C.S.B.’ This was based on a series of themes and subjects which all protestant churches used at that time from the “International Bible Series.”
This feature was discontinued in December when Mr. Mason resigned.
Then followed this announcement in December 1889:
“The Publication Committee of the National Christian Scientist Association decided at a recent meeting, to issue Christian Science Bible Lessons (International Series) — commencing January 1890 — prepared by a number of Christian Science workers. They will appear under no compiler’s or author’s name and will embody new features that will, it is believed, make them helpful to Science students of the Bible. One of these will be copious references to passages of Science and Health illustrative to the Scripture text under consideration.” 7
Mrs. Eddy then appointed a committee to issue a monthly periodical called the Christian Science Bible Lesson from January 1890. After the first three monthly issues, the Lessons were published quarterly, and became known as “the Quarterly.” These Lessons continued to be based on the International Bible Lessons Series, but in a changed form geared more for Christian Science. It is important to note that the reason why the Quarterly was created, was to simply make more space in the “Journal.” At this time, the lessons took on a new look and started to resemble the lessons we know today. For over 100 years, lesson-sermons always had six sections, except for the Thanksgiving lesson, which had four sections, but since 2006, there have been a varying number of sections, from as few as five to as many as eleven. 8 *
At this time the organization in Boston was being dissolved by Mrs. Eddy. She closed the Metaphysical College, asked the Church to dissolve, and relocated to Concord, New Hampshire. She felt that the movement had become impersonal and she relocated to work to establish it along more spiritual lines. The Christian Science Bible Lessons then became a separate and distinct publication from anything else and held the people together at a time when there was no official organization.
Mrs. Eddy appointed the Bible and Science and Health as the impersonal pastors, using the Lessons in place of a sermon at church services.
She once said: “My students were preaching, and were sending me copies of their sermons. They grew worse and worse. Finally one came which was so great a mixture that if I had not known the fact, I should not have been able to tell whether the writer was a Christian Scientist, a spiritualist, or a theosophist. I said to myself, ‘Something must be done and at once.’ I withdrew from all other work, and in solitude and almost ceaseless prayer, I sought and found God’s will. At the end of three weeks I received the answer, and it came to me as naturally as dawns the morning light. ‘Why, of course, the Bible and Science and Health.’” 9
Until July of 1898, the Lessons were still based on the International Bible Series. Then Mrs. Eddy selected twenty-six subjects for them — each subject to be used twice a year. The Lessons then took on their present form.
“The subjects for these sermons, as is quite well known, were furnished by our Leader. As has been observed, they follow the order she was wont to employ in teaching her classes.”10
The Lesson-Sermon is Truth, pure and simple, it is the expression of Truth, and is inseparable from Truth. Obeying Truth we become at-one with it, and thus are made whole. So, the Lesson-Sermon is a spiritual unfoldment of the truth of who we are , and is designed to uplift our thinking. It is speaking impartially and universally to all of us today and always.
“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16)
To conclude then, the CS Bible Lesson is our Pastor speaking to us together with a sermon for us to read from the texts which they have given us. It’s easy to look to people and practitioners for help and advice, but we have a very powerful pastor who speaks to us daily, which is a lot more than any other Christian denominations claim to have.
- 1 (Miscellany, page 247)
- 2 Church Manual, Section Church By Laws, Moral Obligations, Article 3 Section 1
- 3 Miscellanous Writings, page 315: 6-8
- 4 12 years with Mary Baker Eddy (1945)
- 5 Christian Science Sentinel, March 12, 1941
- 6 Christian Science Sentinel, March 12, 1941 (as above)
- 7 Christian Science Journal, December 1889
- 8 “A Note About The Christian Science Bible Lessons” Christian Science Sentinel (July 17, 2006). And Hamilton, Michael. “An Entirely Spiritual Creation” Christian Science Sentinel (November 29, 2010)
- 9 We Knew Mary Baker Eddy (first series)
- 10 The Journal of 1899 (July)
* During the 1980’s, the Plainfield church — after gaining its independence — began producing its own lessons. This allowed for great spiritual growth in their members, as they followed a simple format of one section for the Bible and one section for Science and Health. Decades later, this format is still being used.