Self-Denial

From the Christian Science Journal, March 1893, by


To become dissatisfied with one’s self is to desire something better, and this desire is inspired of God. Our blessed Master has said, and is still saying: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He was appealing to this desire found in each and every human heart, this desire for good, for something pure and enduring. Unconscious though it may seem, the time will come when it will find expression, and the promise ever awaits it: “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find.” “I am the way.” What way, queries this awakening desire? It is the way that leads away from self, and onward and upward into the realm of Spirit; the way that every man, woman and child must follow in; the way that is unseen to the outward man; the way that leads from sense into Soul, from matter into Mind; the way that leads to eternal salvation, the living or thinking way, the one and only way because it is the right way.

Mortal man for a brief space of time surmises a way of his own, finds pleasure and satisfaction in things pertaining to the world, resorts to worldly policies, is controlled by them, loses sight of the golden rule of justice and honesty, and caters to public opinion, only to surrender at last to the Truth, whose ways are not man’s ways. He reaches eventually, through multiplied trials and experiences, where he can say with the wise man: “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Up to this point he has been travelling his own road, and seeing thousands upon thousands going in the same direction, he has mistakenly said: “My way is right.” When everything was moving along smoothly, earth’s possessions increasing and public opinion endorsing, Truth came to this deceived one and said: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” but the desire for the good was smothered, hence the reply: “Go thy way for this time and let me go mine.” It was no effort to love the world and its ways, but to depart from it involved adherence to Principle, which Principle demanded self-denial, therefore it was rejected. With this mortal there was something at stake. In his own estimation there was something to be lost in the denial of self and he did not care to be the loser.

After a few short years the scene changes. His way has become extremely unreliable, and through unavailing efforts to secure health and happiness from it, he turns from it and is willing for the first time to be shown a better way, the way of Truth. With him there is a hope for something better, and if it proceeds from a “good and honest heart, it soon ripens into an earnest desire to “overcome evil with good.” The voice of Truth coming to this condition of thought says: “If a man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.”

In this Scripture is sounded the key-note of Christian Science, self-denial, which necessitates an understanding to distinguish between the real and the unreal. Before seeking the Truth of Christian Science we had often wondered why the way that led to Life should be “strait” and “narrow,” and why there should be but “few” who could find it. The true meaning of self-denial which is not understood outside of the teachings of Christian Science has fully explained the mystery however, and we are enabled for the first time to enter this strait and narrow way, leading us gradually to the understanding of Life which “flesh and blood cannot inherit.” Christian Science is showing us how, through the denial of self, to lose the supposed life of matter that we may find the Life that is real and eternal.

The prophet Isaiah told us to cease “from man whose breath is in his nostrils,” realizing that this man was a falsity, for there was no accounting for him in the realm of Spirit, but his discernment of Truth being from a negative standpoint, he could not show by demonstration, how to divide between good and evil, how to lay hold of omnipotence, hence the necessity of a way-shower, or mediator who should point out to humanity the error of believing in two opposite powers, by demonstrating the supremacy of Good. And when this way-shower comes, see what he says: “If a man would come after me, let him deny himself.”

A careful study of Jesus’ sayings and demonstrations through the teachings of Science and Health reveals a divine Principle, which is God, eternal Being, or Spirit. The world of sense calls Jesus’ works miraculous, simply because they demonstrate this Principle which contradicts the evidence before the material senses. If they accorded with material testimony, there would be no proof of any existence beyond the realm of matter. Looking deeply into the subject we find that Jesus’ whole work was one continual denial of the false claims of matter. The Sermon on the Mount, from beginning to end, denies the testimony of personal sense. No wonder the sensual man is arrayed against its teaching. It tells him to seek “first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” but he prefers to feast on the outward evidence of sin, dis-ease and mortality, for to reject this evidence would be to deny himself.

He sees this means to work out one’s own salvation, to take up the cross and follow Jesus “in the regeneration” from sense to Soul, but having been taught by creed and dogma to believe in the actuality of matter, he yields for a time to the claims of the latter, rather than even believe that Spirit is Substance and the All-in-all.

Jesus tells us to repent. What is that but to cast out evil thoughts, yea, all material thoughts, and to acknowledge omnipotent Spirit as the only causation? Consider his temptation, when personal sense offers to bestow upon him “all the kingdoms of the world” and their glory, if he would only acknowledge and serve its claims. What was the Master’s reply? “Get thee hence, satan.” Was this not an emphatic denial of material evidence? In this incident too, we see another important lesson, the harmonious result following self-denial, for we read that after the devil had been rebuked he left Jesus, “and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” Is not the presence of angels (pure thoughts of God) to be preferred to the thoughts of matter,sin and discord which obtain in the belief of personal intelligence? Jesus tells us that when we pray we must enter into the closet and shut the door. The door that would open to admit selfish material thoughts must be closed to allow Soul to testify in the place of sense. Again personal sense is denied. He tells us to “judge not according to the appearance” but to “judge righteous judgment.” Here is another rejection of sensual evidence, for we must admit that Jesus meant what he said. Personal sense saw raging winds and a boisterous sea, but Jesus denied this evidence and the result was “a great calm.”

Think you that the Master healed the impotent man by believing in the reality of the evidence before the outward senses? Did he sympathize with the infirm thought that had seemingly held this man in bondage for thirty and eight years, and doubt on this account, whether it was God’s will that he should be made whole? Did he not rather understand the utter falsity of the material picture, which enabled him to speak with authority concerning man’s spiritual perfection? So also when the multitude were fed, Jesus realized that there was bread to eat which material sense knew not of, and the demonstration of this was a rebuke to the disciples present, who lacked the spiritual discernment to annul the false claims of matter. Another lesson in self-denial.

And in the raising of Lazarus, that mortal consciousness which was believing that a lifeless body had died and was buried, was disputed and overruled, and all life and intelligence attributed to God and not to matter. The Bible is full of just such lessons, which illustrate a living Principle opposed to matter and its laws, which Principle can be discerned and understood only as a personal sense of things is denied and overcome in each individual consciousness; and in this connection, let us ponder this fact, that whatever testifies falsely in one instance, will be, must be, wrong in every instance.

Jesus knew that nothing real and eternal was to be found in matter, or in a material sense, therefore his mission was to demonstrate to humanity the reality and omnipotence of Spirit, by overcoming the claims of matter, sin, disease and death. It was to prove that what men call supernatural and wholly foreign to the experiences of every-day life, is a divinely natural manifestation of the Life that is God; in other words, the natural result of living in obedience to the will of God. Does it not follow then, that to be obedient to the law of Spirit is to reject from thought the supposed laws of matter, or the evidence of the material senses? Even so, and Christian Science teaches us how to reject, by giving us fixed rules, which, when demonstrated, lead to the apprehension of Life that knows neither beginning nor ending.

The basis of all action in Christian Science is the supremacy of Mind or Spirit. Christian Science alone reveals this great Truth to the present age. For centuries mankind have been groping in darkness, seeing, as they supposed, good and evil dwelling together, without knowing how to separate the two. The impersonal remedy for every discord of sense, however, has at last been revealed to humanity, and scientifically expressed, it is this: “All is Mind, there is no matter.” (Science and Health.) Does this sound absurd? Yes, to the carnal man or self that Jesus tells us to deny, for as Saint Paul says, “the carnal man is enmity against God,” and is not even “subject to the law of God,” but to the sincere and honest heart that is yearning and striving for the Life divine, the one and only Good, it is the harbinger of health and peace. In it he sees that the way Jesus mapped out is wholly a mental one, revealing all action and Life in Mind, separate and apart from matter. He sees that thought precedes every effect, and that if he would have a harmonious body he must control it through Mind, its cause, by casting out discordant thoughts. Turning then to the Scripture, he is able for the first time to grasp the significance of Jesus’ words: “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” He sees that this household of thought embraces a knowledge of the world, the flesh and all evil, that within it is no knowledge of the Mind of the Christ that knows no evil, and that outside of it is all that is real and eternal: therefore to become conscious of the real he must reject the unreal, he must deny the false self that claims a consciousness of both good and evil, for this is the Adam in whom all are dead to the Truth. He sees too, that he must watch his own as well as another’s thoughts,— must regulate his own household.

The discernment that All is Mind and this Mind God, precludes the existence of anything unlike Mind, Spirit, for like creates like, and Spirit being causation, all results or effects must be purely spiritual. Reasoning from cause to effect, like Isaiah, the honest seeker finds there is no accounting for the “man whose breath is in his nostrils,” and the only conclusion he arrives at is that that which appears as mortal and material must be unreal, for it bears no resemblance to Spirit or Spirit’s creations, which accords with Jesus’ words: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit,” and also with the Apostle’s: “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” Gladly does he turn from this Adam or personal man, which seemeth to his own false consciousness to be something, but in reality is nothing, for he can say with the Apostle: “I perceive that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing (no thought of God),” and with the Master: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.” Discerning even a little of the nothing of self, he will not only seek but strive to become more and more acquainted with this self, and just in proportion as he discerns its unreality will he deny it and so demonstrate the reality of Good. The world’s Christianity rejects the healing power of Truth and Love, and says that to believe in God is all that is necessary. Such doctrine as this leaves mortal self intact, with not even an incentive to self-denial. To improve mortal man and to make a Christian of him are two very different things; the one is self-love, the other is self-denial. Are we, as professing Christian Scientists, choosing between the two? Science bids man appropriate his birthright of dominion which is understanding, the opposite of blind belief. Consider this thought as expressed in the Master’s words: “This is Life eternal, that they might know (understand) thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”

He who would follow in the footsteps of the Christ must, to begin with, become dissatisfied with belief (Adam) and then press forward into the light of understanding, which alone brings peace, joy and harmony on earth. He must seek to be absent from the body (self) and to be present with the Lord. Only through the denial of self will he be freed from the false claims of sickness, sin and death, for to believe in self is to misunderstand God and misunderstanding is all that ever occasions a sense of discord. The thought that would find Good, must be removed from the self that is opposed to the Good.

Have we ever stopped to think that Jesus would never have told us to deny anything that is of God? How impossible to lose that which is real and eternal! Nothing that lives can ever be deprived of its God-given Being, can ever be separated from Life that is God. The letter of Scripture would indicate to the contrary, but thanks to Christian Science we are no longer in bondage to the letter that killeth. We have chosen the way of self-denial, rather than “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”

A beginning signifies an ending, therefore that false consciousness which recognizes a beginning must sometime and in some way come to an end. Mortals admit an end to mortality, but they expect to find it in death. This is but the erroneous reasoning of personal sense, for through righteousness (right thinking and acting) alone can the sense of a material or bodily existence be outgrown. The supposed death of the body mortal, Science tells us, is not the death of unrighteousness.

Whatever contradicts the facts of spiritual creation, revealing God, man and the universe in perfect harmony, “the same yesterday, and today and forever,” must be a misconception of facts, originating in the false self or personality which we are bidden to deny, and this misunderstanding is all that is to be lost. God’s gift to man is eternal Life, unknown to a finite or personal sense.

Self is further defined as the belief or supposition that Life, Substance and Intelligence are in matter. This belief divides itself into five physical senses, which afford no evidence of Spirit, but limit all things, claiming Life and Intelligence to be finite and structural, and man, God’s child, physical, subject to birth, growth and decay, the very opposite of Truth. What think you? Was Jesus’ language too strong, when he said to the belief of intelligent matter: “Ye are of your father, the Devil?”

Saint Paul speaks of “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Does this not point to a most complete denial of self? The demands of Truth on this point are imperative. They leave no half-way condition for thought to rest in, but compel the utter annihilation in human consciousness of every thought that is unlike eternal Life, Truth and Love.

Error claims that self-denial is impracticable, and from error’s standpoint, which is that of matter, it is, but from a positive or truly Christian standpoint, which is that of Spirit, it is the prime essential to all spiritual growth. It is something that must be carried into the every-day walks of life. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, the unceasing prayer of self-denial must accompany us, else there is something left undone. Jesus overcame the world to show us how to do the same. The work that the Father hath given us is before us, and in a word it is self-denial. Overcome self and we have overcome a material finite sense of the world.

This means a putting off of “the old man” with his erroneous thoughts. To illustrate: the claim of sickness presents itself, but knowing that God is not the creator of evil, we deny the claim and arise in thought to discern that health is a mental and not a physical or bodily condition. A thought of sin is in like manner denied, and a higher sense of the Good takes its place. A thought of sorrow is supplanted by one of joy, for one is real and the other unreal. The thought of hatred, envy, malice, jealousy, or revenge seeks admission, but knowing that Good alone has power, we cast it out and a purer sense of Love prevails. The desire for personal—or self-aggrandizement comes; this too is rejected and a deeper sense of humility is the result; and so on through the whole range of materiality, until the nothingness of all the claims (thoughts) of matter are fully realized and we enter into the house of the Lord, there to abide forever in understanding. Is this mental way so impracticable after all? Truth says: “Come and see,” for not until we do the will of the Father shall we be able to judge pro or con.

Are we truly willing to do the Father’s will? That is the all-important question for each and every one of us to decide. Are we truly ready to believe and to demonstrate in our daily living that there is but one Good and that God; that matter and personal man are falsities and never were created; ready to know “no man after the flesh,” ready to call no man Father upon earth? If so, then nothing can prevent us from coming out from the world and being separate from all belief, in order that we may seek first the kingdom of the one Mind and its ideas.

The honest seeker for Truth who has discerned even in part the teachings of Science and Health, is able to distinguish between good and evil, and he will reject the thoughts of the latter, even though by so doing, the evidence of the five personal senses is reversed, as must always be the case.

Jesus says that he came into the world that “they which see might be made blind,” that is, blind to sensible evidence in order that the evidence of spiritual existence might be realized, destroying all the discords of earth.




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