The Twenty-Third Psalm

From the Christian Science Journal, December 1898, by

What a sweet assurance of the Father’s loving care is given us in the Twenty-third Psalm. As we read, a sense of calm trustfulness comes in to take the place of doubt and anxiety, and it dawns upon us that our Father is not a harsh, frowning task-master, but a patient, gentle Shepherd, who slumbers not; a Shepherd who will safely guard and tenderly guide each one of His flock. He lovingly tells us that He knows His sheep and that there shall be one fold.

Our beloved Leader, in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” page 569, gives us the key which unlocks the treasures of Truth in this message. “Love” is this key. Thinking of Love changes the mental attitude. We rise above material surroundings where all that is real seems enshrouded in the mists of error. As we ascend toward the purer atmosphere, clouds disperse and the Love-light dawns.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” and our Lord is divine Love. Just that change of thought brings us closer to our Father. It suggests the tenderness of the tie between God and His children, and we grasp the inspiring thought, that in our despair and weakness and discouragement we may cry to our Shepherd, ever-present Love, and He will hear us and mightily help us. There is no place where His voice is not heard. He says that He is the good Shepherd and a good Shepherd is always ready to take the weak lambs in his arms and does not suffer any to stray.

The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him. If we are the sheep of Love’s pasture we shall listen for the voice. The innocent and pure in heart hear the voice of the Shepherd first. Then shall not we try to be innocent, and pure, and meek?

“I shall not want.” How can we lack if we realize that all causation is Mind; that divine Love is the source of all good. If we know the source of all supply to be God, Good, we shall not believe that there is any other source. No temporal need will go unsatisfied when we seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, but we shall lose consciousness of the false temporal wants as we realize more of Love, and shall feel confident of being abundantly supplied with all that our true being needs.

The basis of poverty is a lack of the consciousness of Love’s presence. If we feel the presence of divine Love we reflect love to all who come in touch with us. Our affection dissolves indifference and prejudice. Those who took no notice of us before are drawn to us and will seek opportunities for helping us. By understanding more of Love and manifesting it, we shall not want.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Common Version).

“On pastures growing green He lets me lie down, to waters of repose He leads me” (Polychrome Ed).

The good Shepherd would not let His sheep lie down except in a secure place where they need not be in fear of the wolves. There in the pleasant pasture, secure from invasion, the gentle flock may browse and drink of the waters and lie down in the shade of the trees. The rippling brook as it flows on its joyous way makes music that soothes the innocent lambs to tranquil slumber. What a scattering there would be if the wolves should come down on the unsuspecting fold! But there is nothing to fear, the Shepherd is watching, no harm can come nigh.

Our Shepherd, Love, maketh us to lie down under the shadow of His presence. He maketh us to know that there is nowhere any power that can harm us. Truth in Christian Science leadeth us into a higher, purer condition of thought. We are bathed in the peaceful waters of divine Love and purified. We learn the nothingness of error, and that there is no reality in sickness, no evil power.

“He restoreth my soul.”

We find in our text-book, that the word Soul used in this connection means “spiritual sense.” Spiritual sense is the understanding of God, Good, the realization of harmony, health, and holiness. Error has seemed to dull man’s perception, just as smoked glasses held before the eyes make all objects appear indistinct and blurred to mortal sense. To restore the normal perception in the one case, it is only necessary to remove the smoked glasses. Perception was not lost, but veiled. So with the spiritual sense or perception. A false belief in the reality of material things and of sin, sickness, and death, has beclouded the vision.

When we declare the Truth and cast aside the illusive spectacles of material sense, then the light of Truth reveals the eternal facts of Being, clear and distinct in consciousness. Our soul (spiritual sense) is then restored.

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Webster defines righteousness as “purity of heart and rectitude of life; conformity of heart and life to the divine law. . . . Nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty, and virtue, with holy affections; in short, it is true religion.”

Divine Love has shown us the way out of error and leadeth us through Christian Science into the “realm of unerring, eternal, and omnipotent Mind; the atmosphere of Spirit, where Soul is supreme” (Science and Health, 581).

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” What does this beautiful metaphor mean? It refers to that period of trial through which all must pass in the progress of the mortal sense to a realization of its own nothingness.

In Science we must work out our own salvation. We may be lifted to the mount of spiritual vision and get a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven, but we cannot stay there unsustained by demonstration. We cannot go very far with borrowed light. We must go down again into the valley of shadows and climb step by step. When we shall have proven the shadows to be shadows and not realities, we shall again ascend above the clouds of materialism there to remain.

Error will not let us imbibe the Truth without a struggle to prevent it. There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and fear will seem at times to have full possession; but “Love’s rod and Love’s staff” will comfort us. Our rod and staff are the Bible and Science and Health. Holding on to them we shall grow in strength of understanding so that error may scream at us in vain.

Our first glimpse of the Truth is just a little beam, not enough to melt away all error, but sufficient to furnish light to make our way slowly if we do not willfully close our eyes. All sorts of fears, temptations, and false beliefs,— devouring beasts of mortal mind,—come up to bar the way, but the Psalmist tells us that we shall tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shall we trample under feet.

God, Good, does not ordain suffering. We have let error impose upon us, and it is our work to prove error powerless.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”

Our enemies are our fears and false beliefs in sorrow, want, discontent, sickness, hate, malice, envy, jealousy, covetousness, and countless forms of error. Having been tried in the furnace of affliction, having emerged from the valley of the illusions of sin, sickness, and death, we face our enemies calmly. Knowing that they are mere shadows we shall not heed them but shall sit down at the feet of our Shepherd and partake of the bounties of His table.

“Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” We shall receive the inspiration of Truth, and our hearts shall overflow with healing love which blesses ourselves and all within the circle of our influence. Then “our cup runneth over” indeed, and we shall sing with David, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

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