The Law and the Gospel

From the October 1910 issue of the Christian Science Journal by

Francis Wharton, the distinguished American jurist and writer on ecclesiastical and international law, in his Law Lexicon divides the law into two main branches, namely, the “laws between man and God” and “laws between man and man.” In classifying the Decalogue under these two headings we find that the first four commandments deal with the relations between man and God, while the remaining six cover the relations between man and man. Jesus evidently recognized this dual nature of the law when, in answering the question of the Jewish lawyer respecting the greatest commandment, he said: “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and . . . thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In studying the Mosaic law in tin’s twofold aspect, we find that on the one hand it stands for an absolute monarchy or divine theocracy, and on the other hand for an ideal commonwealth or spiritual democracy. The harmonious conjunction of these generally considered opposite and incompatible systems in a perfect unity of Principle and practice furnishes a field of study that is at once interesting and instructive. When Moses came down from the mountain, after having received the law from God on Sinai, he wrote down all the words of the Lord in the book of the covenant; and when he had read them in the audience of the people, they answered with one voice and said, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.”

In the light of the Hebrew Scriptures it is apparent that the Decalogue as authorized by God and proclaimed by Moses constituted in effect a theocratic democracy, for it was spontaneously adopted with one voice by the people. It provided for a form of government in which the legislative power was derived from God, the judicial power was exercised by divinely appointed judges, and the executive power was vested in the people. The spirit of the law, like the gospel which followed it, was that of peace on earth and good will toward men. The preparation of a willing and obedient state of consciousness in the people seems therefore to have been the chief consideration of both Moses and Jesus. Speaking of this state of mind as a sanctuary, in which He might dwell, God further said, “There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee … of all things which I will give thee in commandment.” The construction of the ark of the covenant, with all its appointments, was but an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual idea. It stood for that consecrated state of mind, or holy of holies, into which the pure in heart alone can enter to commune with God, and from whence the covenants of God shall be given out continually to meet the growing requirements of advancing understanding.

To what extent the Israelites made good their promise to be obedient and to do all that the Lord had said, is known to every thoughtful student of the Bible. The reason that the period of the judges was not a more perfect success was certainly not the fault of the system of government nor its method of administration; it was entirely due to the errors of the people, who were continually straying after other gods. When the elders of Israel came unto Samuel and besought him to make them a king who should judge them, like other nations, such a course was displeasing to Samuel; but the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” The evil consequences which would inevitably result from their sinful desire to be like the other nations were faithfully set forth by Samuel in his eloquent appeal to dissuade the people from rebelling against the Lord. In the closing words of his address he warned them that the day would surely come when they would cry in vain to the Lord because of the king they were seeking; but the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel, and demanded that he choose a king to rule over them. And when God bade him hearken to their request, he remonstrated no more, but gave them Saul for a ruler.

In reviewing the history of Saul’s misguided reign we find that the cause of all his trouble was summed up in the words of Samuel, “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” Saul was governed by the belief that obedience to the word of God was bondage and that the gratification of his human will was freedom, a belief which ultimated in a state of complete self-deception. The story of the Hebrew people illustrates the fact that the only true government is the divine self-government,—not a government by self-will, but a submission of self-will to the will of God, constituting each individual a law unto himself. A governor therefore must be one who has first learned to govern himself according to Principle, and obedience to the one Mind as the only source of power must ultimate in the true commonwealth of Israel, or the kingdom of God on earth. King David, although by comparison to his predecessor a man after God’s own heart, was manifestly not the ideal king, but only foreshadowed him. His son Solomon also, who so excelled in wisdom all the men of his time, was not The Prince of Peace, as his name implies, but only prefigured him.

In his prophecy foretelling the coming of Christ’s kingdom, Isaiah says, “The government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” The fact that this kingdom was not outwardly established at the time of Jesus was evidently due to the lack of spiritual understanding on the part of the people. St. John, however, half a century later, beheld a vision of its ultimate fulfilment, and described the second coming of Christ as the birth of “a man child, who was to rule all nations.” Having associated the idea of the coming of the Messiah with the restoration of a material kingdom at Jerusalem, it is perfectly natural that even his disciples were disappointed with the outcome of his earthly mission. When conversing with their risen Lord on the way to Emmaus, Cleopas, as the spokesman for the twelve, said, concerning Jesus, “We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” This uncovered the fact that the disciples were still too much bound by material sense to discern the spiritual kingdom which Jesus had already established by his victory over sin, disease, and death.

If the disciples who came in direct contact with the great Teacher and received his personal admonition and instruction then failed to form a correct estimate of the real scope of his mission, it is hardly surprising that Christendom to this day has been unable to grasp the true import of the law and the gospel. When Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world he evidently implied that his kingdom was not material but spiritual. In order to establish his kingdom on the earth, therefore, we must spiritualize thought, and we must demonstrate the meaning of those comforting words of the Master when he said, “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Looking back over the pages of history in the light thrown upon them by Christian Science, we find many remarkable evidences of a growing perception that the only ideal human government is that based upon the idea of theocratic democracy. When George Buchanan, one of the most accomplished scholars and thinkers of the sixteenth century, became a convert to the Reformation, he not only perceived the dawn of a new religious era but he likewise foresaw the downfall of the “divine right of kings.” In his “De Jure Regni,” dedicated to James VI. of Scotland in 1579, he said, “The will of the people is the only legitimate source of power. It originates from a natural, instinctive perception of the principle that men, to have government, must have a governor; and the same principle gives them the right to say who shall govern them.” His dictum that “kings exist by the will of the people” would have cost him his head had he not been a favorite at the court of King James.

Public opinion, however, was not yet ready to accept and adopt the progressive ideas that Buchanan had advanced, and two years after his death all the obtainable pamphlets containing the foregoing utterances were publicly . burned by an act of Parliament. But the basic law of man’s individual freedom and fundamental rights as a son of God still survived, and a few years later the very same ideas were embodied in the original constitution signed by the Pilgrims on the shores of New England. The closing paragraph of this notable document reads as follows:”In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof, to enact, constitute, and form such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, under which we promise all due submission and obedience.” The form of government thus outlined embodies the fundamental idea of theocratic democracy, and it illustrates the fact that when human government begins with the right relations between man and God, it covers the true relations between man and man.

Following in the line of spiritual development, “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen States of America,” with which all are familiar, is but a more elaborate and detailed expression of the same general idea. Mrs. Eddy paraphrases the clause referring to the rights of citizens as follows: “God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self government, reason, and conscience. Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love” (Science and Health, p. 106). The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which provides against the enactment by Congress of any laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” also appears to have been especially designed for the protection of the spiritual idea, in its gradual unfoldment throughout all ages to come.

In pointing out the inseparable relationship between individual self-government and political liberty in his now famous temperance address, delivered in 1842 at Springfield, 111., Abraham Lincoln said, “How nobly distinguished that people who shall have planted and nurtured to maturity both the political and moral freedom of their species! . . . Happy day, when, all appetite controlled, all passion subdued, all matter subjugated. Mind—all-conquering Mind —shall live and move, the monarch of the world! Glorious consummation! I Tail, fall of fury! Reign of reason, all hail!”

The historical events surrounding the origin, growth, and gradual acceptation of the idea of liberty which has found outward expression in the United States of America, like the chronicles of the Hebrew people, serve to illustrate and prefigure the final perception of the union of all the states of consciousness comprising the one infinite intelligence constituting man in the likeness of his Maker. According to Christian Science, man must eventually be revealed, clothed and in his right mind, discharging his proper functions in the great theocratic democracy, wherein there are no class distinctions, no rich and no poor, and all God’s children are created equal. As in the case of human organization, in which success depends upon the perfection of the individual unit and the obedience of these units to constituted authority, likewise in Christian Science each Christian Scientist must demonstrate that man is perfect, even as his Father in heaven is perfect: then shall all men dwell together in unity and the long talked of brotherhood of man will be realized.

Thus profiting by the experiences of human history, we find that the vesting of despotic power in one or more individuals who hold office by heredity is not productive of a government which will secure the best conditions of national prosperity. It has been shown also that representative government, even when made up of the best human beings and conducted under the most favorable circumstances possible, is likewise incapable of fulfilling the conditions of an ideal republic. Although these conclusions are manifestly true, they should in no way be construed as deprecating political reforms and improvements in our present institutions of government, but should serve as an incentive to still higher attainment.

“Democracy,” as defined by Webster, is “a form of government in which the power resides ultimately in the whole people.” According to this definition, therefore, a franchise which limits the body politic to some of the men and none of the women in a community is not pure democracy, but only a government by a part of the people. Again, if the suffrage be extended to all the people, and some were to vote one way and some another, the government would not even then be controlled by the whole people, but only by a majority. Thus, to have a government by the whole people, all class distinctions and all differences of opinion must be swept away, and all men must become obedient to the one intelligence, which is no respecter of persons, and which will eventually “unite all interests in the one divinity” (Science and Health, p. 571).

It is axiomatic that two wrongs can never make a right, and it is equally self-evident that until the right relations between man and (God are established no form of government can ever produce ideal relations between man and man. To meet the problem of human government, therefore, in the only way that gives promise of solution, is to accept the teachings of Christ Jesus, respecting God and man in His image, each correcting, first of all. his own point of view before attempting to work out the salvation of others; and this is the attitude and aim of every true Christian Scientist. Every one can thus contribute a note to the universal symphony, and by attuning this note to the true pitch, according to the Science of Christ, Truth, he may swell the chorus of the invisible choir as “they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works. Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”

By recognizing Mind as God and man as the perfect reflection of this” infinite Mind, we cannot escape the conclusion that the kingdom of God is, in the truest sense of the term, a theocratic democracy. Thus the spiritual form of government which Christian Science sets forth, when compared with the commandments and precepts of Moses and Jesus, is found not to disagree, but to accord fully with both the letter and the spirit of the law and the gospel.

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