"BUT WHO ARE YE?"
It is related in the nineteenth chapter of Acts that Paul's teaching was followed by a great influx of light, a spiritual revelation. It is said of some of his students that the Holy Ghost came upon them." Paul was at Ephesus when he had a peculiar experience. His success in arousing the dormant thought of both his Jewish and his Gentile audiences, his success in healing, through the understanding of Jesus' teaching, had hitherto brought him persecution. He had been mobbed, stoned, flogged, and jailed. There was hardly a phase of human hatred and murderous revenge with which he was not familiar. His doctrines had been resisted by the materialists, by the professional theologians, by all who profited through the continued ignorance of the masses. But in Ephesus he had a new experience. The phrase, "Imitation is the sincerest flattery," had not yet been coined, but Paul saw it exemplified. The record of what happened is instructive and interesting. It reads thus:—
"Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds."
It may be that the opponents of the new-born Church of Christ realized how futile were their efforts to check its growth. They had tried ridicule and abuse; they had threatened openly and plotted secretly. They had sought the personal removal of all of the principal figures in the new religious movement, but to no purpose, and their campaign of hatred resulted in the very state of affairs they did not wish to bring about, for it is written, "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." Something else must be tried, some other remedy for this increasingly popular religion of Christ must be found; and so certain exorcists "took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus."
The intent of this imitative movement was plain. It was not honest in its inception, because it was born of a desire to combat Christianity, to wipe it out. It was not at heart philanthropic, loving, or good. It was not constructive. It did not start as a movement primarily to benefit mankind. It was begun primarily to annihilate Christianity. It had back of it cupidity, greed, envy, and jealousy. The record of events leading up to this is significant. The counter-movement of the "exorcists," or hypnotists, followed closely the remarkable success of Paul in healing the sick, which was a mark of his discipleship and the inevitable accompaniment of the preaching of Jesus Christ.
It must be remembered that the people were not back of the persecutions of the early Christians. At heart the masses were not in sympathy with the continued attacks on the followers of Jesus. It is true that a mob could easily be brought together in the theater or market-place, to stone the intrepid teachers of a new religion, but these mobs were incited and their worst passions were played upon by the professional classes who were interested in stopping the growth of the religion which showed results. In reality people were in sympathy with the new religion, for the very reason that it did something more for them than preach to them. It did something more for them than threaten them with punishment and suffering. The new teaching was loving, compassionate; and above all, it was simple and practical. The people could see the results which followed its preaching and practice, and results were what they wanted.
So it happened that when the leading exponents of theology and medicine saw the trend of thought, saw how their physical force methods to counteract Paul's growing influence had all failed, saw the favor of the populace turning from them and their musty dogmas to the pure, refreshing, helpful teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, they determined on a bold stroke. If healing was what the people wanted, if that was the drawing card of Christianity, they would give it them. Could not they supply the same attractions? To be sure it was a tacit admission of the genuineness of the system they had so vigorously fought. But what of that? The people forget easily, and they will not remember that a week ago we denounced Paul and his methods, and even denied that he ever really healed any one. We must regain our lost prestige. It is silly to make practical results a sine qua non of religion, but if the issue is forced on us by these pestilent fellows, we will meet it.
And how pitiable was the effort! It was doomed to defeat from the start, because it was not sincere; it was not scientific, in that it had no genuine basis in fact, and hence it was not Christian. Even the "evil spirit" knew the difference between the word of God and the world of the hypnotist. The attempt to heal the sick by hypnotic methods, coupled with the effort to make the people believe this to be "just as good" as Paul's method, "the same thing" as Christ's teaching, came to an ignominious finish, which was near to proving fatal to the experimenters, who found that their own false methods reacted upon themselves.
The representatives of an older civilization than ours, wearing a cloak of religion but manifesting none of the sentiments commonly attributed to a spiritual philosophy, viewed with disfavor the new precepts of the prophet of Nazareth, who taught the people that the test of any religion was its results upon the lives of men. The doctrine, "By their fruits ye shall know them." was not pleasing to those who had long since substituted a barren creed for good deeds. It was not unnatural that the scholastic critics of that day, rallying to the standard of a decaying creed, should attack the teaching which was a rebuke to all unfruitful systems. It will be remembered that one man, wiser perhaps than his fellows, and certainly more just, said, "If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
It was predicted of Jesus' religion that it would speedily wane. It is predicted to-day of the religion which most honors Jesus' commands and insists upon a whole salvation, that it will soon be effaced or merged with something else. Christian Scientists are willing to leave their cause to the arbitrament of God, confident that nothing which is true can ever be lost. Without bitterness or malice, we may all await the sifting of the centuries, which will vindicate all that is good and true. Sometimes writers of psychological treatises and makers of books on philosophy seem to discover what appear to them to be certain distinguishing features characterizing alike Christian Science and other systems of healing. This apparent likeness is declared to reside in the fact that no drugs are administered by any of these systems. For this reason all of them are supposed to be members of the same family. This deduction is not warranted by the premises. Because all soldiers wear uniforms we are not warranted in deducing from that fact that all soldiers are brave. The likeness between Christian Science and some other systems ends with the common attribute of druglessness. In no other particular are they at all similar.
Christian Science must be acknowledged, sooner or later, as a religion, and its cures must be understood to be the logical sequence of its spiritual teaching. Jesus was not a medical practitioner. He had no medical training. There was medical science, after a fashion, in his day, and many men of eminence were its professors, but Jesus did not make use of it. Yet he healed, and no healer of the sick, before or since, has ever been as successful as he was. He healed spiritually; he taught his disciples to heal spiritually. and he left certain instructions as to how the healing should be done.
Christian Science is a revival of this primitive Christian healing. It is definite and precise in its practice, it heals according to a Principle and by means of spiritual laws. It is in every sense a Science and in every sense Christian. Its letter and rules must be studied thoroughly, and its genius must be imbibed, before it can be utilized in healing the sick. It has no counterpart; it does not employ, but eschews, the human mind. It is individual and distinctive, and cannot be lightly trifled with as an experiment in healing; rather must it be devoutly studied, to the end that we may "put off the old man with his deeds," and "put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him."