The Lion of the tribe of Juda
From the Christian Science Journal, September 20, 1919, by Louise Knight Wheatley
In the fifth chapter of Revelation we read of a book “written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals,” and the Revelator goes on to say that he “wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.” But presently one of the elders said unto him, “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” What is this “Lion of the tribe of Juda,” we perhaps wonder, which had power to prevail when all else failed? Since the Bible to be correctly understood must be spiritually interpreted, how natural it is to turn at once to that dear companion, ever close at hand, which is indeed a veritable key to hidden treasures, our beloved textbook; and there we find our answer, on page 514 of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy. “Moral courage is ‘the lion of the tribe of Juda,’ the king of the mental realm.”
How beautifully it all unfolds as we ponder it more deeply and recognize the indisputable fact that he who would break the seven seals of error’s utmost effort and read, as in an open book, “things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world,” must indeed possess that kingly quality which enables him to roam the mental realm as its master. What Christian Scientist, in fact, has not already proved this, to some extent; for who of us has not, at some time or other, been placed in a hard situation, a trying position, an embarrassing predicament, from which there seemed for the moment no possible way of escape? That so-called mind, which is always enmity to God, likes nothing better than to get mortals into “a tight corner,” as the saying is, and then stand off and laugh at them. “What are you going to do about it?” it seems to say; and, to tell the truth, we hardly know, so bound hand and foot do we seem to be by the invisible chains of fear, uncertainty, and irresolution. No matter where we turn, it seems impossible to take a single step in any direction. Yet as we stand there, praying for wisdom to know what to do, it begins to dawn upon us after a while that the one thing needed to break our bonds and set us free, is moral courage.
Following this conviction, quickly comes the realization that no matter how much mortal mind may be laughing at us, there really is a way out after all. If this were not so, would not the one All-power be powerless on some occasions? Divine Love has always and under all circumstances provided “a way out;” let us never forget that. So, as we look about us, gathering fresh courage now from our confidence in God’s willingness and ability to help us, a strange thing sometimes happens; instead of seeing no way out at all, we now see two ways,—a right way, which looks like a hard way, and a wrong way, which seems to be a very easy way. The question now arises, Which shall it be?
It should not take a true Christian Scientist long to decide, and the decision once made, all we need is moral courage to take the next step. Sooner or later, to-day or tomorrow or next month or next year, according to our faith in the omnipotence of good, this step is taken, and we find that with it our bonds are instantly broken and we are free to go forward as Principle may direct in that right way, though it may seem the hard way. This is wonderful enough of itself, but after a while another even more wonderful thing happens: the right way gradually ceases to be the hard way, and becomes the easy way instead. Why? Because Love is right there with us, to help us through. A joyous sense of protection, of safety, of peace indescribable steals over us. Can this be the hard path which we thought we were entering? We supposed we should have to tread it with bleeding footsteps; but it might be carpeted with flowers, so little do we feel the stones and the thorns and the hard places on the road. Where are the jagged rocks which we once saw standing in the way, the threatening cliffs which looked so terrifying, the dark, icy waters which we thought we would have to cross alone? Were they, after all, only the visions of our frightened imagination? How beautifully the way is all smoothed out before us as we go steadily, surely, unfalteringly on, with the Father’s hand in ours! Why should we be afraid when all that really is, is on our side?
It may be, however, that some of us have had to learn a much needed lesson by trying to get out of our corner by taking the other path, the wrong way, which seemed the easy way. Then what did we find? Just this,—that we were simply going round in a circle, and would sooner or later find ourselves exactly in the place from which we started. For the easy way is only the hard way camouflaged, as many of us have found to our sorrow. No matter how innocent and alluring it may appear, it never gets us anywhere but right back in our corner again. In other words, the predicament in which a student of Christian Science may find himself will present itself again and again until he has extricated himself from it in the right way. If he attempts to escape in any other he will simply have to go back, sooner or later, and do it all over again. It may present its claims in a new form and call itself a new set of circumstances; but underneath it all ever lurks the same old lie, the lie which was never squarely faced and overcome, as it should have been, but avoided and evaded and condoned instead.
Another thing we find, when we endeavor to escape the issue by a wrong path: we find that the farther we travel, the darker things seem to grow. It is no small thing to have let go of the Father’s hand, and of course that is what we are doing when we voluntarily turn from Principle. We no longer have anything on which to rely, no basis for our conclusions, no foundation for our footsteps, no law to govern our actions, no stability, no permanence. We begin to be afraid, and that is only natural; for when we are walking in a wrong path, we have reason not only to be afraid but to be very much afraid. God has not changed in any way, of course; but what has happened? Even that of which Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Has not our Leader expressed the same thought on page 19 of Science and Health, “If living in disobedience to Him, we ought to feel no security, although God is good”?
Why should we, then, why do we, ever wander into that insecure path which never goes anywhere but round and round in a circle? What keeps us from taking that first right step in the other direction? Nothing but lack of moral courage. And what is back of this lack of moral courage? Fear. We are afraid to leave the beaten track of popular opinion lest we be thought odd or queer or different; or we are afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings; or we are afraid of losing something,—social standing, business prestige, or personal popularity; or we are afraid of ridicule, the worldling’s frown, or its cynical smile; most of all, we are afraid that our motives will be misjudged, our acts misunderstood, our words misinterpreted. So we try to dodge the issue. In other words, while we are not, of course, saying that black is white, we are quite satisfied to compromise by calling it a sort of gray.
Divine Principle, however, recognizes no such vacuous and neutral tint: He who is not with me is against me. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. There is no convenient middle ground. We stand at the parting of the ways. Will we choose the right path now, or do we prefer to go round in a circle a little longer? Of course no one likes to be misunderstood; but after all, what does it matter? There are worse things than being misunderstood. Being a coward before Truth is worse. Every one who has ever done anything for humanity has been misunderstood more or less. Our Master himself was mocked and reviled, as he trod in mighty meekness the shores of Galilee. Then, many centuries later, another great teacher had to stand and face the world alone,—a gentle, patient, loving woman, misrepresented, maligned, misunderstood. Have we ever considered what it must have meant to be the only Christian Scientist on earth? No wonder that the sublime quota of moral courage which enabled our beloved Leader, Mrs. Eddy, to take her single-handed stand for Truth, was also that which opened for her the seven seals, and gave us the complete and final revelation of Truth as contained in our textbook.
Is not this quality, then, well worth cultivating, and never more than now? Because the outward conflict across the sea is over, it by no means follows that our mental warfare, as Christian soldiers, is over also. The ringing of the peace bells did not at the same time, unfortunately, sound the requiem for all error. Already those on the watch-towers have given us warning. Let us not subside into self-satisfied lethargy, lest it trap us, after all, in the very midst of our songs of victory. During this coming period of reconstruction many questions will undoubtedly arise,—indeed, have already arisen,—which will require much earnest, prayerful consideration on the part of every student of Christian Science. The warfare between flesh and Spirit has not yet reached the place where there is even an armistice, as most of us know, and we may at any time be called upon to take a stand for Principle which will not seem easy; but let us always remember that Love is right there with us to help us through.
Then let us cultivate this moral courage which enables us to take the required first step, thereby helping others to do the same. “On ne passe pas” should be our daily watchword, as each wrong suggestion is halted and challenged. Let nothing pass which is not in accord with Principle. Let nothing elude our mental vigilance; most of all, that phase of evil which may come in the guise of good. Let there be no good-natured, easy compromise. Since we must take our stand against error, sooner or later, why not meet every question fairly and squarely as it comes? In the presence of “the Lion of the tribe of Juda” it will quickly show itself for what it is; for it dares do nothing else. And why not take our stand at once? Surely there is nothing to be gained by waiting. We live not in a past of unhappy memories, nor yet in a future of vague possibilities. We live in the to-day of Mind’s eternal presence.
Copyright, 1919, by The Christian Science Publishing Society, Falmouth and St. Paul Streets, Boston, Massachusetts. Entered at Boston post office as second-class matter. Acceptance for mailing at a special rate of postage provided for in section 1103, Act of October 3, 1917, authorized on July 11, 1918.