Individual Effort

From the Christian Science Journal, September 1888, by

Individual Effort is a theme to which overmuch study cannot be given.

The Goliaths of the present day must be met and conquered, as the lad David met and conquered the Philistine giant, centuries ago.

Individual effort alone can accomplish this result. There is no middle ground. We must look to ourselves, and improve the talents we now possess.

We must secure an ever-present consciousness of advancement. Excelsior should be the motto of every Christian Scientist. Higher and higher into the realm of eternal sunshine we must rise, day by day, hour by hour.

Christian Scientists reflect the only true and spiritual light. The keys of Heaven are given to us, which open the pearly gates into the celestial kingdom. Let each ask of himself: Am I bringing out, in my daily life, the requirements of Christian Science? Am I proving to the world that Christian Science is both Christian and Scientific.

Christian Scientists have been baptized with the Holy Ghost, and have subscribed to tenets which, if lived up to, would prove to the world that Christian Science is the Pearl of Great Price. We must surpass the spirit of Christianity expressed in the churches, or our teachings are vain. We love our cause, and harmony should ever reign supreme.

Let us unite our efforts, and stand a solid phalanx in love for our cause, and for its great Expounder. Our Teacher loves us all. What have her wayward children cost her? We do not understand her. We cannot comprehend her. We cannot, with our puny understanding, grasp the magnitude of her thoughts, motives, and acts. We know not “what manner of spirit we are of.” We do not even know what is best for ourselves. Her rebukes are but the expression of the love she feels for us.

Christian Science does not praise goodness. Goodness is ours by right, by inheritance from our blessed Father. No! Christian Science does not praise goodness; but it rebukes error, for error hides from us the sense of Truth. “Whomsoever He loveth, He chasteneth.” Our Pastor and Teacher is “all things to all men.” She is just what we make her. Our own mental conceptions endow others with their physical personality. Consequently, the evils entertained we express, and believe them sins. Evil is the subjective condition of our mind, until we conquer it in ourselves. Then are we able to discern evil outside of self, and it disappears. “To the pure, all things are pure.”

Every nail driven into the hands and feet of Jesus represented a lie. These were furnished by his enemies. Jesus did not supply one of these lies. The human malice, with which his persecutors drove the nails through our Master’s hands and feet, was furnished by themselves. They held the nails and drove them through his body, transfixing him to the cross. The cross was the hatred of the world. Jesus furnished none of the implements for his crucifixion. The deductions from this illustration are so apparent as to need no further elucidation. Let us heed the obvious lesson.

“Have ye any meat?” the Master asked his wayward and wandering disciples, who had returned to their old vocation immediately after his crucifixion? They answered him, No! Solemn words! Without their guiding Master, the disciples were as sheep having no shepherd. They had wandered from the fold. They slept when they should have watched; and their Master vanished from their sight. Back into the maze of worldliness they drifted, having no Saviour, no guide, — having no meat. Only through hunger did the disciples realize their error. This brought to their ears the glorious response, “Cast your nets on the right side, and ye shall find.” A glorious hope, indeed! They had been casting their nets on the side of error. They had been accepting the evidence of the senses, the testimony of matter, against which Wisdom had warned mankind of old, in the garden of Eden. In this condition they had caught nothing. They had no meat.

How many are taking the testimony of matter, which talks only of itself and to itself? Can we depend upon this sense? Surely, not. Then why heed it? Let us cast our nets on the right side, and we shall find light and Spirit. Nothing should ever separate us from the Principle of Christian Science; and if we understand this, we are forever one with its Founder. We shall surely come to grief, if we are separated from its Principle or Idea. The Bible abounds with illustrations proving this fact, a few of which are here cited.

A vineyard had been let out to husbandmen, the owner departing into a far country. As the harvest drew near, he sent servants to receive the fruits thereof. The messengers were maltreated and stoned. Again the householder sent other servants, who met with the same treatment. At last he sent his son, his heir, expecting the husbandmen would surely reverence him; but, when they saw him, because he had a clear title they were infuriated, and said: “This is the heir! Come! Let us kill him, and seize on his inheritance.” And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard; and slew him. What was the result? The inheritance, which might have been theirs through joint heirship with Christ, was taken from them, and given to others.

Adam was dissatisfied. He separated himself from God, and hid himself in materiality, error. Did he better himself? What did the earth bring forth to him? Henceforth, nothing but thorns and thistles. God should have been his leader; but Adam hearkened to the Tempter, and he fell.

The Prodigal Son became dissatisfied with his ruler, and separated himself from his father’s house, where there was abundance and to spare. He departed into a far country, and took a menial position, where he found nothing but swine and husks. After being bound to the rulers of that far country, and compelled to submit to their demands, he came to himself, and said, “I will return to my father’s house.”

Can we not gather some wheat from these illustrations? Can we not find some ray of light which will illumine the prison of our thought, — some words which serve as a ladder of escape? Adam and the Prodigal both forsook their rightful rulers, and they both came to grief. Through thistles and thorns Adam had to find his way back to the God from whom he willfully parted. From swine and husks the Prodigal had to lift himself into the realization that his father’s house was his home. Truth, though hated and hindered by error, though “crushed to earth, will rise again.”

God knew Adam’s needs. God knew what was best for him. He knew more of Life, more of Truth, more of Love, than did the Serpent unto whom Adam hearkened; yet Adam preferred the Serpent’s advice, and went the way of error.

The father knew the Prodigal Son was safer and better cared for at home; yet the Prodigal was not satisfied, and, through famine and suffering, was compelled to learn to appreciate the worth of his home.

The great Expounder of the marvelous truths of God, which we know must be given to mankind through inspiration, knows more of God, and walks more with Him, than we can at the present time comprehend. A sudden light first brings pain and darkness to the eyes unaccustomed to it.

A perfect guide cannot lose his way. The traveler who is unfamiliar with the road is safer in the hands of a leader than when trusting his own resources. Have we not pursued the wrong way long enough? Let us thank God we have a guide.

From whom did we first learn the true Way? From whom emanated the first ray of Divine Science which shone upon us? Who has pointed out to us the demonstrable certainty of Eternal Life? Who has taught us how to subjugate the senses, subdue sickness, sin, and death? How many of us have been lifted from beds of suffering, — emancipated, after years of mental and physical torture? How many of us, who were looking into earth-cold sepulchres for Truth, have heard the angel’s voice, “He is not here, he is risen?” Whose was the voice that spoke? Who rolled away the stone from the sepulchre, where, to mortal sense, lay buried all our hopes? Do we doubt the teachings of Christian Science? If not, then to doubt the Teacher is to lose sight of the teachings. We gather not grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles. “The same fountain sendeth not forth both sweet and bitter water.”

To whom are we indebted for our sense of Life, — in Christ, Truth, and Love? Did we gain our present consciousness of Divine Science from our former creeds, doctrines, ecclesiastical teachers? Did it not come to us, whole and undivided, through one, and one only? We can neither truly appreciate nor understand the import of Science and Health, while misconstruing the mentality that sent it forth.

Can we understand the light, and shut our eyes to its source? Could the disciples have accepted the Christ, while they turned from Jesus? No, never! for Jesus was the concept of the Christ furnished by the senses. Jesus was a saint to some, a sinner to others. He was “all things to all men.” The people saw in him the embodiment of their own thoughts; and this idea was right or wrong, according to the different types of personal thought which gave rise to it. Hence the awful position of those who misguide the people as to one of God’s little ones.

Let us consider well every Scientific statement, and not turn from demonstrable rules, but deeply ponder the consequences of variation. I could not have received these ideas from evil; for evil does not lead men to ideas which carry Truth’s conviction with them. They must be God-given. Let us think deeply on this point. Am I reading in another my own condition of thought?

If God recognizes evil, must He not have an evil heart? Surely, you all believe this. Then pause and reason with yourselves. Remember that the pillar of cloud was darkness to the Egyptians, but light to the children of Israel. Let us see only the light. In answer to the question, “Shall we uproot the tares the enemy has sown during our slumber?” Jesus said, “Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” Wonderful counsel!

According to mortal sense, we exist in each other’s consciousness. Therefore, if we attempt to uproot error in another, on this basis of error, we are destroying our own sense of Truth. Jesus saw more sin, and uncovered it, than any other man on the globe; but he did not recognize it as real, but as the unreality of existence. The more we know of evil, while we are in evil, the better our prospect for getting out of it. The issue of the day is Satan’s attempt to separate us from our true guide, and from the Cause of Christ. We must see this intent in order to destroy it. Can we not do so?

Our work must be done at home. Individual effort only can accomplish it. The beam is invariably in our own eye. Remove this, and we find but a mote in our brother’s eye. Let us agree with our adversary quickly, lest we be cast into prison; for verily we shall there remain until we pay the utmost farthing.

Let us “try the spirits, and see whether they be” good or evil. Jesus says, “If we walk in the light we stumble not.” Christ, Truth, is the light. Jesus is the Way. Truth is the passport. Love is the countersign. The Bible and Science and Health are the guides. And the authors of both books are our true leaders.

Let us not forget the Stranger within our gates. Let us welcome the heavenly message with outstretched arms. Let us thank God that this Stranger opens the gates of our consciousness, and even now stands within the enclosure. Let us approach with love, and not with abuse, to whatever has lifted up the gates that “the King of Glory may come in.” “Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, the Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.”

Who but the Stranger has ransomed us from sickness, sin, and death? Who has held out to us the finger of Love, that we might grasp it, lest our tottering infant limbs weaken beneath the mighty load? Who has given us birth, nursed and cherished us from helpless infancy, even to the present hour, teaching us line upon line, precept upon precept? Who has stood like the guardian angel, with a hand upon our heads, beckoning, cheering, entreating, and ever pointing upward? Whose sense of love has time and again silenced the utterance of hate? Whose tears of pity have washed the feet of mankind, cleansing them from worldly contagion? Who has come, a light into this world, that whosoever believeth in Truth shall not abide in darkness? Who has done all this for you and for me, but this Stranger within our gates?

We can not extinguish this light. All we can possibly do is to deprive ourselves of it. Shall we then extinguish our only sense of the true light? Shall we strike like madman, to break the lens that enlarges our senses of Truth and Love?

We need to watch and be sober. The issues of the hour challenge us to greater activity, to increased vigilance, to higher Christianity. Greed rather than sacrifice, — hate, envy and spite, brute courage, Animal Magnetism, are fiercely fighting with weapons of lies; and the smooth tongued Absalom usurps his Father’s throne. Divine peace covers the nest with soft feathers. None can steal away its treasures. The gratitude and love of millions fall upon the parent bird as the dews of Hermon.

It was the united effort of the children of Israel, the one simultaneous shout, which overthrew Jericho’s walls. We must all be of one mind, of one thought. This can only be accomplished by individual effort. Let us begin right, and all will end right. Take care of the fount, and the streams will take care of themselves.

Christian Scientists must watch and pray continually. They must protect their sense of Truth, even as the Hebrew mother protected Moses from the tyranny of a despotic Pharaoh. As long as we exist in material belief, quietness and peace afford no certain pledge of continuance or security. Trees and shrubs may flourish, and sweet flowers bloom upon the silent mountain, while noiselessly the little raindrops follow each other down the treacherous sides, broadening rills and streamlets into gullies, and gullies into torrents, tilling deep caverns, undermining barriers heretofore impregnable, until in an instant the towering trees whose tips stretched upwards toward heaven, and the fragrant flowers which smiled at the bright sunshine, are hurled in wild disorder into the valley of destruction.

Let us watch and destroy the subtle errors which silently undermine our consciousness. A man always finds what he earnestly seeks. Let us then look only for good. Let us seek only for pearls, and they will increase in size until at last we find there is but one pearl, and that one the priceless jewel of universal Love. Pearls in the premise will ensure pearls in the conclusion. They shall be glad who favor a righteous cause, and say continually, “Let the Lord be magnified.” Let us sing with Longfellow:

Trust no future, howe’er pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act, in the living present,
Heart within and God o’er head.

To be dependent on others for sympathy and comfort makes you weak. To be self-dependent makes you weaker still; for that fails you in the day of your greatest need. To become independent is a dream of your pride; for no such thing is possible. To become dependent on God makes you strong.

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