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"The opening of the prison"
It was in an inner prison with "their feet fast in the stocks" that Paul and Silas found themselves after being persecuted and beaten. Their persecutors were those who had been deprived of their profit from wrong methods by the teaching and healing work of Paul, as we read in the Acts.
At midnight, the record goes on to say, the foundations of the prison were shaken by an earthquake, and not only Paul and Silas but all the prisoners found themselves free. In that dark and dismal place, Paul and Silas had been praising God and singing hymns.
Thus was the presence of the Christ literally proved in human experience, as foreshadowed in the words of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."
It must have sounded strange in that gloomy place of confinement to hear hymns of praise of God, but all the prisoners heard the singing and they, too, undoubtedly were cheered. So is it today. When one sings, and the singing is filled with praise to God, many are blessed. As thought dwells upon the liberation of Paul and Silas, the words of Mary Baker Eddy in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (pp. 433, 434) are recalled with gratitude and inspiration: "Ah! but Christ, Truth,the spirit of Life and the friend of Mortal Man, can open wide those prison doors and set the captive free."
Many are availing themselves of the power of the Christ to free them from bondage, and are joyously acknowledging their freedom. These are they who sing and praise God in the darkest hour. Had Paul and Silas spent their time deploring their circumstances, retailing their troubles to others, or uselessly analyzing the events which led up to their imprisonment, their deliverance would have been at least delayed.
If they, by their own deliberate wrong thinking or doing, had got themselves into trouble, some needful healing of thought would have had to take place before freedom could be realized. In the recognition of the Christ, Truth, there is repentance for all wrongdoing. In conscious and joyous affirmation of God's presence and power, true healing and freedom are immediately available.
Whether the form of bondage seems to be heredity, domination, tyranny, contagion, appetite, limitation, or any other discordant condition, we learn through the teachings of Christian Science that firm, persistent, scientific affirmation of the truth frees the imprisoned thought. Freedom was never won by rebellion against the prison bars or by overmuch consideration of the seeming bondage. Rather must thought and action be directed to the supremacy of Spirit. Mrs. Eddy writes in "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 173), "If Mind, God, is all-power and all-presence, man is not met by another power and presence, that—obstructing his intelligence—pains, fetters, and befools him."
Spiritual man cannot be bound, limited, attacked, or overcome by that which is unlike God. Therefore, that which may seem to bind or confine must be a creation of mortal mind, an unreality. God's ideas express only the qualities of God; and since the universe of Mind is filled with spiritual ideas, there is, in divine reality, nothing that could imprison or be imprisoned. Infinite God and His infinite expression admits of no limits or bonds.
Clear recognition of one's spiritual identity, as the reflection of God, will enable one to free himself from any belief in material bondage. All that is true is the scientific fact concerning real existence. Therefore, one may intelligently and correctly deny the belief that any erroneous condition ever was real or could be manifested.
Even if one seems to be miserable and imprisoned because of injustice or persecution, surely the experience can be no more menacing than was that of Paul and Silas, who seemed for a time to be at the mercy of their captors. But they sang at the midnight hour. Oh, let us sing and claim our freedom! Let us refuse to believe that there is any imprisoned thought in God's universe. As we do this, all seeming bondage to error will disappear and true freedom will be known and understood.
Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn at the close of the last supper when the betrayal was close at hand. Paul and Silas sang in the prison at midnight; and throngs today are singing praises of God as they face all kinds of tribulation. Let us join in singing praises to God,
"For blessings flow where'er He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to loose his chains."
Then is immortal man understood; then are the mental prisons of false belief thrown open and freedom is found.
Spiritual Alertness Antidotes Apathy
W. STUART BOOTH
"The opening of the prison"
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RAYMOND W. SCHULTZ
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RAYMOND MANSBRIDGE BROCK
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E. OLIVE DAVIS
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ETHEL WASGATT DENNIS
George Shaw Cook
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