From the Christian Science Sentinel, July 26, 1913, by Louise Knight Wheatley
One day a Christian Scientist who had recently passed through a somewhat trying experience was leaving the home of a practitioner just as another student of Christian Science was entering it. The newcomer and the practitioner stood for a moment on the veranda, enjoying the freshness of the spring morning, and the eyes of both half unconsciously followed the one who was leaving as he made his way down the shady street. “How that dear man has been persecuted!” murmured the newcomer. But the practitioner only smiled as she looked after the retreating figure. “Why not call it purified?” she asked. “To my sense, he is being pushed into the kingdom of heaven just as fast as he is able to go.”
“Purified,” not persecuted. As the one who was undergoing this purifying process proceeded on his way, his heart was full. He had gone to the practitioner that morning, trying to find surcease from a situation which was becoming well-nigh unbearable; and he had been given, not the sympathy which he had somehow expected, but a glimpse instead of the allness of God, lifting his thought into the realm of clearer vision, wherein he saw that “the accuser is not there” (Science and Health, p. 568) and man forever expresses the infinite perfection.
Oh, miracle of Love, he thought, which maketh even “the wrath of man” to praise Thee! How could I have been blind so long? Is the gold “persecuted” because the refining fire separates it from the dross? And what does it matter if the furnace does seem to be heated “seven times more than it was wont to be heated,” as was that Babylonian furnace wherein were cast the three captives of long ago? Since “seven” symbolically stands for “completeness,” it must mean that the fire burns only until the experience has been sufficient to teach us the lesson which we had need to learn.
When this larger, better, truer view of some trying human situation becomes clear to us, we begin to look at persons and events in an entirely different light, and no longer continue to hang the millstone of a false sympathy about the neck of those whom we profess to love. It is a fact not without significance that when the friends and relatives of Lazarus stood about his tomb, weeping and lamenting, Jesus spoke to them before he spoke to Lazarus. “Take ye away the stone,” he said. And when, at the Christ-command, Lazarus finally came forth, wrapped in his grave-clothes, Jesus once more addressed those who stood by. “Loose him,” he said, “and let him go,” thus implying that the friends of Lazarus had still something to do before the demonstration could be complete. Those of us who would be friends, in the highest sense of the word, will remember this, unless we are so blinded by “mere personal attachment” (Manual, Art. VIII., Sect. 1) that we cannot see a step beyond the present moment.
There is an incident in the experience of the three Babylonian captives before referred to which is well worth considering in this connection. Most of us have known the story from our childhood, having listened to it in wide-eyed wonder at our mother’s knee; but it remained for Christian Science to show us that this narrative, like all those in the Bible, when spiritually interpreted, will furnish us a practical working basis for our present-day problems. We see that Nebuchadnezzar may be likened to those who are today controlled by mortal mind, which has not changed much since those primitive times, but still condemns to a fiery furnace those who refuse at its command to enthrone matter as deity. As we read on, however, we find that a strange thing happened. As Nebuchadnezzar watched the progress of what was intended to put an utter end to those who had defied his supremacy, he suddenly called out to his counselors, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” Upon being assured that such was the case, “he answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
“The form of the fourth.” What was it? Whence came it? These three Hebrew captives had been in the king’s company, more or less, for a considerable time, yet no one had ever until that moment seen this form. Why was it so suddenly in evidence? Might it not have been because the fiery trial of persecution had so purified the thought of the three men that they were able to rise to the true consciousness of man as he really is, spiritual, and not material, and thus forever beyond the reach of mortal mind’s hatred? This discernment of the fact of being must have been so clear to them that after a while it became clear even to the dull perception of the heathen king, and he saw, all at once, their savior from the flames, even the true concept of man as he really is, “the Son of God.”
Persecution or purification, which shall it be? We have our choice. Those who have done much mountain climbing know that it sometimes happens that a rock stands directly in the narrow pathway, apparently putting a stop to all further progress. Shall we make of this rock an obstacle or a stepping-stone? If we choose to do so, we may sit down helplessly in front of it, and exclaim, “This is too much. Just because I am trying to get to the top of the mountain somebody who wants to see me fail has put this miserable rock in my way.” At this, however, some wiser companion only shakes his head. “There is nobody who wants to see you fail, for the only man is the man that God made, and the only Mind is the Mind that was also in Christ Jesus. This is just a stepping-stone, and from the top we will have a better view of what is beyond. Give me your hand, my brother, and let us go on.”
But sometimes the hand is not given. The one stays where he is, the other goes on. But he who sits looking at the rock, with anger, resentment, self-pity, and self-justification still rankling in his bosom, misses the joy of the one who stands at last upon the mountain top, and as he looks through the rarefied atmosphere of spiritual ascendency upon the new heaven and the new earth spread out before him, he forgets his bleeding footsteps, and only cries out in his heart, “Father, I thank Thee for every rock in the way, since, in surmounting it, I gained a stepping-stone to this!”
Christian Science does not teach that God puts these obstacles in our path, for He, the infinite good, never has need to make use of evil to accomplish His wise purposes, nor do Truth and error ever form even a temporary partnership for the benefit of mortals. God had no part in the persecutions which attended the earthly career of Jesus of Nazareth; yet the very sum total of human hatred which ultimated in laying Jesus in the grave, was turned into an experience wherein he reached his highest realization of the ever-presence of Life. In triumphing over the trials of Gethsemane and Calvary he set the seal of demonstration on a teaching which his enemies would fain have buried forever in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
We read in the text-book, in the chapter on the Apocalypse, that when the dragon stood before the woman, ready to devour her child, the spiritual idea, “this only impelled the idea to rise to the zenith of demonstration” (Science and Health, p. 565). Why, then, should any of us murmur when we pass through an ordeal which compels us to rise to a higher and more glorified view of God as the only power and presence, and of man, not as an ill-used, unhappy mortal, but as the Son of God, forever at-one with the Father? Surely it is time to have done with the sickly sentimentality which fondly parades itself or its friend in the guise of a martyr. St. John tells us that at the beginning of those terrible hours which marked the final scenes in that most bitter and unjust persecution for righteousness’ sake which the world has ever seen, Jesus “lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son.” To the clear, spiritualized thought of the Master it was a time of exaltation, not of martyrdom. The man who stands on the mountain top and thanks God, is not a martyr. He has only been forced onward and upward, by the compelling hand of Love, to heights of which he himself had never dreamed.
Then when next we meet him, instead of thinking “How that dear man has been persecuted!” let us hold instead that truer concept of the situation which will “loose him” from his load of human sympathy, “and let him go.” No word need be spoken between us; he will understand just from the silent clasp of our hand and the look in our eyes that we are rejoicing with him, because we know that when the fiery ordeal is over, he will come forth as gold.