The Letter and the Spirit

With the wealth of literature available to the student of Christian Science in his search for that wisdom that "is more precious than rubies," it may be well to contemplate for a moment the successive steps through which these riches were accumulated. Looming clear and distinct on the horizon of history, we see the patriarch Abraham responding to the voice of Truth, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." On this journey from materiality to spirituality Abraham had no printed guide, no store of sacred precepts from which to replenish his strength along the weary way. His only guide was the "still, small voice," and in following this guide Abraham became a symbol of faithfulness to all succeeding generations. Moses, in the wilderness, heard the divine call, and accomplished his life work successfully. Following him were other prophets, strong in spiritual understanding not gained from books, proclaiming their ringing messages of rebuke, admonition, and encouragement to the wayward and the weary. In process of time these precepts, interspersed with the history of the Hebrew people, were embodied in the Scriptures of Jesus' day—Scriptures in which the scribes and the Pharisees were proficient in the letter but sadly deficient in the spirit. Over and over again Jesus, the great Teacher, uncovered and rebuked this unprofitable study. His own teachings and those of his immediate followers have shed a new glory on these older Scriptures, and the succeeding centuries have been richly blessed with a more spiritual teaching. But the theology and ritualism of the earlier ages was not entirely divorced from scriptural interpretation.

Through the inspired work of Mrs. Eddy these teachings have acquired a more practical value, and the admonition of the apostle is reiterated, "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." Mrs. Eddy's teaching on this subject is clearly set forth on page 451 of Science and Health in these words: "Students of Christian Science, who start with its letter and think to succeed without the spirit, will either make shipwreck of their faith or be turned sadly awry. They must not only seek, but strive, to enter the narrow path of Life, for 'wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.'" Paul also gives us a list of the fruits of the spirit: "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," fruits which it is most certainly desirable to possess.

It is interesting to note that Jesus was familiar with the letter of the sacred writings of his day. The readiness with which he quoted prophetic statements to substantiate his own words and works showed him to have been a careful student of the letter. But in studying the letter he had gained the deeper import of the spirit to such a degree that men maeveled. "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned" they asked, which was equivalent to saying, How does this man possess such marvelous wisdom without having had the benefit of the training of our doctors of the law? It is recorded also that "the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." It is clear to students of Christian Science that this wisdom, so far beyond what others had been able to acquire, came to him through inspiration, and this should be an ancentive to the student in his study to gain the inspired writings of the letter not only of the Bible but of the inspired writings of our Leader,

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"To depart from evil is understanding"
November 19, 1921

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