By Blanche Hersey Hogue, from the May 1909 Christian Science Sentinel
In the 23rd chapter of Exodus it is written, “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.” In the text-book of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mrs. Eddy writes, “Human conjecture confers upon angels its own forms of thought, marked with superstitious outlines, making them human creatures with suggestive feathers; but this is only fancy” (p. 298). Her own interpretation of angels, as “God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality” (Ibid., p. 581), establishes them on the spiritual rather than the physical plane.
The students of Christian Science make no attempt to set forth a dogmatic interpretation of the Scriptures, but from the basis furnished them by Christian Science, which resolves things into thoughts and lifts their analysis from the material to the spiritual view-point, they draw from Scriptural narrative, parable, or promise, the lessons which are of the greatest value in their own mental and moral growth. In this manner, much that is recorded in this chapter of Exodus becomes, in the light of Mrs. Eddy’s uplifted and spiritualized perception concerning angels, a positive inspiration toward the renovating of individual thought and life. When the promise reads to the student that God will send a pure and perfect spiritual intuition to keep him in the way, and to bring him into the place which God has prepared, the mental process of spiritual guidance can be comprehended. When it is seen that an angel is not an etherealized person, but a right idea, and that such right idea can become a dominating influence in the mind of the individual who cherishes it, mortals need no longer grope in doubt concerning divine help, for they learn that the angel of one’s highest sense of good lies within, not without, the borderland of one’s own thinking, and consequently is an ever-available help in every problem of life. This angel, admitted, understood, and obeyed, fosters the right living which naturally follows right thinking; and so salvation can begin today, and the place which God has prepared can be, in a degree, a present possession.
In the chapter under discussion, the offices of the angel, the things required of him who would follow it, and the happy results of obedience to it, are clearly stated. God sends His angel to each receptive heart. His highest idea of good then goes before the mortal, keeping him, bringing him into the prepared place. The mortal is admonished to “beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions.” Truly, every would-be Christian has long since learned that his highest ideal has no pardon for the unworthy and the base, but holds him unwaveringly to his highest and best performance! “For my name is in him,” continues the record,—the seal of divinity marking every right idea as its own, declaring every pure and perfect thought God’s offspring! Then the promise follows, the reward of obedience: “But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.” By simple obedience to the highest monitor of heart and conscience, right purpose and endeavor are strengthened, and every Christian warrior may find himself equipped for the battle with the hosts of self, wherein God’s angel is indeed an adversary unto all the foes of righteous manhood.
It is further written: “For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.” To these tribes about Israel, the Israelites’ deadliest enemies, the angel of God was to “bring in” the children of Israel. Their enemies must be faced, if vanquished, and according to the text, Israel was to be led by the angel to a direct encounter with that which was to be overthrown. Herein is illustrated one of the greatest lessons of Christian Science; that the office of a newly discovered good is to uncover and destroy hitherto unrecognized evils, and that the angel of right thinking leads directly to the detection of the evil nature of evil thinking.
The carnal mind has for ages sought to cover much of its own carnality and call it good. It has sought a future heaven for the carnal under its guise of good, and has failed to see that the carnal must disappear, because only absolute Christlikeness is fit for heaven. Despite Jesus’ uncompromising statements that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and that “there is none good but one, that is, God,” mortal mind has persistently wrapped its cloak of self-righteousness about it and has gone on striving to occupy the land, the prepared place in consciousness wherein right thinking alone is entitled to dwell. Christian Science, revealing the real man to be only that which is faithfully and perfectly the likeness and image of God, uncovers all mental deformities as the enemies which must be “cut off” from the land,—banished from individual thinking. God’s angel does indeed bring the earnest Christian to a recognition of the unlovely and the undesirable in his own consciousness, and this highest idea of good, which has led to this discovery, serves him further as it sustains him in obeying the accompanying command: “Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.”
Mrs. Eddy writes on page 366 of Science and Health, “The physician must also watch, lest he be overwhelmed by a sense of the odiousness of sin and by the unveiling of sin in his own thoughts.” Only the illumination of a higher knowledge of good can expose to the honest heart the winding subtleties of its own selfishness, that selfishness which has been for so long half-hidden under the guise of “disposition” and “temperament” that analysis of it has been well-nigh impossible. Only the revelation, in Christian Science, of perfect spiritual manhood, the absolute Christian ideal, is able to bring to the light the imperfection of the so-called man of the material senses. And only the courage born of this revelation can sustain the individual in his warfare against the selfishness, the wilfulness and the vagaries, the habits and the sins, he has formerly called himself. It requires both insight and bravery to call one’s own unhappy emotions and moods self-love, envy, resentment, self-pity, cowardice, self-justification, criticism, vanity, greed, appetite, indolence, anger, or malice, yet spiritual intuition often leads one to just such discovery, and to the righteous conquest of just such enemies, before any abiding peace can be obtained. For this purpose Christian Science has come into the world, and its task is not accomplished till Christian practice and profession are so quickened as to “utterly overthrow” these evil habits and “quite break down their images.”
In the Exodus lesson, tender promises follow these stern commands. “And ye shall serve the Lord your God,” reads the text, “and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” Well do the students of Christian Science know that this rich inheritance is theirs, and that sickness shall be taken away from the midst of them, for they rest in the promises of God. They are learning as well, however, that they must follow the “angel” unfalteringly, and through its guidance face and overthrow the self-distorted images of their own wrong thinking, if they would escape the pain and disease attendant upon such thinking. When healing is delayed, the humble prayer which leads either patient or practitioner to the discovery of his own “stone of stumbling,” leads him past it to that place in consciousness wherein he knows he is not separate from any God-given good. Then has he earned the promised healing, for he has followed his angel wherever it has led him, and comes by God’s ways to the place which God has prepared.
The command of this Exodus chapter continues, forbidding covenant with Israel’s enemies, prohibiting any serving of their gods, and the promise reads: “I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.” Not with one great demonstration, not with spectacular rush or climax, but by patient, faithful endeavor toward the highest and the best, is this promised land to be inherited. Many weary battles with the tribes of unlawful thoughts may mark the way, but as the angel guide is followed to and past such encounters, Love itself will bless the neverending supply of bread and water, and sickness will not be found within the borders of the inheritance. The wayfarer needs but to follow and obey. Divine Love cares for the fulfilling of the promise. Henry Van Dyke has written:—
Self is the only prison that can ever bind the soul; Love is the only angel who can bid the gates unroll. And when he comes to call thee, arise and follow fast; Its way may lead through darkness, but it leads to light at last.