Reverend Heber Newton on Christian Science:
To begin, then, at the beginning, Christian Science accepts the work of healing sickness as an integral part of the discipleship of Jesus Christ. In Christ it finds, what the Church has always recognized, theoretically, though it has practically ignored the fact--the Great Physician. That Christ healed the sick, we none of us question. It stands plainly upon the record. This ministry of healing was too large a part of His work to be left out from any picture of that life. Such service was not an incident of His career--it was an essential element of that career. It was an integral factor in His mission. The Evangelists leave us no possibility of confusion on this point. Co-equal with his work of instruction and inspiration was His work of healing.
The records make it equally clear that the Master laid His charge upon His disciples to do as He had done. "When He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease." In sending them forth, "He commanded them, saying, . . . As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons."
That the twelve disciples undertook to do the Master's work of healing, and that they, in their measure, succeeded, seems beyond question. They found in themselves the same power that the Master found in Himself, and they used it as He had used His power. The record of The Acts of the Apostles, if at all trustworthy history, shows that they, too, healed the sick.
Beyond the circle of the original twelve, it is equally clear that the early disciples believed themselves charged with the same mission, and that they sought to fulfil it. The records of the early Church make it indisputable that powers of healing were recognized as among the gifts of the Spirit. St. Paul's letters render it certain that these gifts were not a privilege of the original twelve, merely, but that they were the heritage into which all the disciples entered.
Beyond the era of the primitive Church, through several generations, the early Christians felt themselves called to the same ministry of healing, and enabled with the same secret of power. Through wellnigh three centuries, the gifts of healing appear to have been, more or less, recognized and exercised in the Church. Through those generations, however, there was a gradual disuse of this power, following upon a failing recognition of its possession. That which was originally the rule became the exception. By degrees, the sense of authority and power to heal passed out from the consciousness of the Church. It ceased to be a sign of the indwelling Spirit. For fifteen centuries, the recognition of this authority and power has been altogether exceptional. Here and there, through the history of these centuries, there have been those who have entered into this belief of their own privilege and duty, and have used the gift which they recognized. The Church has never been left without a line of witnesses to this aspect of the discipleship of Christ. But she has come to accept it as the normal order of things that what was once the rule in the Christian Church should be now only the exception. Orthodoxy has framed a theory of the words of Jesus to account for this strange departure of His Church from them. It teaches us to believe that His example was not meant to be followed, in this respect, by all His disciples. The power of healing which was in Him was a purely exceptional power. It was used as an evidence of His divine mission. It was a miraculous gift. The gift of working miracles was not bestowed upon His Church at large. His original disciples, the twelve apostles, received this gift, as a necessity of the critical epoch of Christianity --the founding of the Church. Traces of the power lingered on, in weakening activity, until they gradually ceased, and the normal condition of the Church was entered upon, in which miracles are no longer possible.
We accept this, unconsciously, as the true state of things in Christianity. But it is a conception which will not bear a moment's examination. There is not the slightest suggestion upon record that Christ set any limit to this charge which He gave His disciples. On the contrary, there are not lacking hints that He looked for the possession and exercise of this power wherever His spirit breathed in men.
Even if the concluding paragraph of St. Mark's Gospel were a later appendix, it may none the less have been a faithful echo of words of the Master, as it certainly is a trustworthy record of the belief of the early Christians as to the thought of Jesus concerning His followers. In that interesting passage, Jesus, after His death, appeared to the eleven, and formally commissioned them, again, to take up His work in the world; bidding them, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." "And these signs," He tells them, "shall follow them that believe"--not the apostles only, but "them that believe," without limit of time; "in My name they shall cast out devils . . . they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." The concluding discourse to the disciples, recorded in the Gospel according to St. John, affirms the same expectation on the part of Jesus; emphasizing it in His solemn way: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do."
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