From Puritanism to Christian Science

Perhaps no other spiritual impulse of the Puritan has been so misunderstood and misrepresented as his attitude toward so-called pleasure. The campaign of false theology to picture the Puritan as unduly solemn has been so active, and mortal mind is so ready to accept such a picture of any one who rebukes or restrains its indulgences, that the proper noun is exchanged for an adjective, and to speak of any one as puritanic is to associate that person in popular thought with an overscrupulous and affected regard for the letter of religious law.

Macaulay, usually a sympathetic and penetrating critic of Puritanism, was entirely incorrect when he said, "The Puritan hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators." This picturesquely turned sentence is widely quoted derogatorily of the Puritan, and yet the specific objection of the Puritan to bear baiting, as well as his general attitude toward the human belief of pleasure, was largely Christian and spiritually scientific, as can be substantiated by reference to the writings of Mrs. Eddy with respect to the beliefs of pleasure and pain. The inference that the Puritan should have been more solicitous about the pain of the bear than about the pleasure of the spectator, or that he was opposed to the sport solely because he believed joy to be a vice, was wrong. The Puritan saw dimly what Mrs. Eddy has made perfectly clear; namely, that man is the highest idea of God. Hence, the Puritan was correct in focusing attention upon the spectator and his concept of pleasure, for it was because of the spectator's concept of pleasure in witnessing a fight that pain was caused to the bear. By restraining the spectator from gratifying his false concept of pleasure, the Puritan saved the bear from pain; but mere restraint simply leaves the human mind with a sense of cacuity, like that produced in a child deprived of a dangerous plaything and given no hint of a better outlet for his activity.

Christian Science has a more excellent way of accomplishing the purpose of the Puritan. While Mrs. Eddy repeatedly emphasizes the falsity of a human belief of pleasure, as for instance on page 209 of "Miscellaneous Writings," where we read, "False pleasure will be, is, chastened; it has no right to be at peace," she never dealt exclusively with negatives. If she took away it was to replace. Thus where the Puritan used forcible restraint, she substitutes healing, and having destroyed the false concept she lifts thought to David's vision: "At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Further support of the Puritan, even more incomprehensible to the human mind, is found in Mrs. Eddy's teaching that a belief of pain is not so harmful as a belief of pleasure, particularly if pain tends to drive us to examine the spiritual reality of existence. Thus the Puritan was intuitively right in opposing the counterfeit pleasure, although he could not articulate scientifically his inspiration, nor did he develop the joyousness that rightfully should characterize the Christian.

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July 10, 1920

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