THE PASTOR'S SON
BY WILLIAM W. WALTER
F. S. B. IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF WORK WELL DONE
My sole reason for writing this book and placing it before the public is to call the public's attention to another book, wherein is contained the Christ truth, the understanding of which will free you from all your troubles.
If in sin, it shows the way out; if sick, it will heal you; if grief-stricken, it will mend your broken heart; if in poverty, it will give you plenty. I speak from experience, having been sick for more than seven years, at the edge of the grave, reduced to poverty, and all earthly hope gone. I was rescued from this inferno on earth, my health restored, my supply sufficient, my joy complete; surely I can say, my cup of happiness runneth over. Truly that book sayeth—"Come all ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
I THANKSGIVING MORNING
II THE TURKEY DINNER
III WHAT WALTER FOUND
IV PREPARING FOR THE LESSONS
V THE FIRST LESSON
VII THE SECOND LESSON
VIII THE THIRD LESSON
IX THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE JOURNAL
X HUMANITY'S MISTAKE
XI FALSE INVESTIGATION
XII A FAIR INVESTIGATION
XIII THE UNREALITY OF EVIL
XIV THE DREAM
XV TRUTH BEING MANIFESTED
XVI THE FAREWELL SERMON
A PARTING WORD
"What a beautiful Thanksgiving morning this is," said the Rev. James A. Williams to his son Walter, as he looked out of the dining-room window. "There isn't a cloud in the sky, and this soft, balmy breeze from the south makes one almost believe that it is a June morning instead of the 30th of November. I know there will be a large attendance at church this morning, which will please me very much, as I have prepared an excellent sermon, and feel certain that the congregation will enjoy it."
He glanced at his son as he finished speaking, and some of the joy and cheerfulness that had shown in his eyes faded away, for he saw no return of his joy and happiness on his child's face; all that was written there was sorrow, pain, and feebleness.
His son, who was nearly seventeen, had always been sickly and feeble since birth; the best physicians had been employed, change of climate had been tried, and everything else that promised relief, but of no avail. The best specialists had been consulted, but they gave little hope that hereditary consumption could be cured, for the minister's wife had been similarly afflicted for many years.
The Rev. Williams thought silently for a few moments, then tried to regain his cheerfulness by changing the subject to something that might interest his son; so he said, "Well, wife, I suppose that turkey Deacon Phillips gave us will be done to perfection by dinner time; I am beginning to feel hungry already, just from thinking of it and it is two hours to dinner time yet."
Lillian his wife, looked up from her work with a careworn expression on her face, and said, "Yes, it is a fine large turkey." His wife always looked worn-out and tired, for not being strong and still compelled to do all the housework, it fatigued her very much.
It had not always been this way, for the Rev. Williams was a man of ability, his congregation large, and his salary ample under ordinary circumstances, but the constant drain of physicians' bills, and the great expense of sending mother and son to a warm climate each fall, as the rigors of the northern winters were considered too hard for the two invalids to bear, had reduced them almost to poverty; consequently the expense of a maidservant had long since been dispensed with.
Rev. Williams now turned to go to his study, and as he was turning, said, "I know that I will do justice to that turkey, after delivering my long sermon, and I am very thankful to Deacon Phillips, and to God, for having given it to us."
There was silence for a few moments after the father left the room; then Mrs. Williams said: "Walter, dear, you had better get ready for church; I will soon have this turkey so I can leave it, then I will get ready and we will both go to church, there to give thanks to God."
Walter turned to his mother saying, "What have we to be thankful for, mother?"
His mother looked up, somewhat startled, and answered, "Why for everything that God gave us." "Everything, mother?" asked Walter.
"Yes dear, everything."
"Oh, mother, I don't see how I am going to do that, father told me that God gave me this sickness, and I don't see how I can feel thankful to Him for making me suffer."
The mother anxiously looked at her son, then said, "Remember Walter, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, also suffered."
"Yes, I know, but it was not God that made Him suffer, it was the Pharisees; but father said it was God gave me this sickness and that I must bear it with love and patience, which I have tried to do, but I have never been able to understand why a good and loving God should care to see me suffer."
"I am sure I cannot tell," said his mother, "but it must be for some good purpose; we will ask your father to explain some time. Now hurry and get ready."
A few minutes later they both walked to the church, which was only a short distance away, and entered its wide-open doors.
THE TURKEY DINNER
"Well wife, what did you think of my sermon?" asked the pastor as he sat down to enjoy the turkey dinner.
"I think it was the best sermon you ever delivered, James," answered his wife, quietly.
"I think so, too," said James, "and what's more, it ought to make every person that heard it feel very thankful to God, for all He has given them," then looking around the room he asked, "Where is Walter?"
"I don't know," said his wife, "he became so nervous and tired, that he left just before the last hymn was sung. I suppose he went up to his room, you had better call him to dinner."
"I will," answered the pastor, and going to the hall door, he called aloud, "Walter, dinner is ready."
"All right father, I will be down in a minute," came back the answer in a rather faint voice. The pastor turned to his wife and asked, "Do you think that last medicine is doing him any more good than the others we have tried?"
His wife raised her sad face to his, and replied, "No, James, I don't think it is helping him, for he seems to get weaker and more nervous all the time. I feel that he is losing ground even more rapidly than I am."
Here Walter entered the room, his face more flushed than usual, and his father's watchful eye took note of it, but he spoke up cheerfully, "Just look at that turkey, Walter, isn't it a fine one? See how nice and evenly it is browned, and the oyster dressing, I'll bet it's fit for a king."
Walter merely glanced at the turkey, then seated himself beside his mother.
After the pastor had said grace, he picked up the carving knife and said, "Now, son, just tell me what piece you like best and I will have it carved out for you before you can say, Jack Robinson."
"You are very kind, father, but I don't believe I care for any turkey, I am not feeling very well," answered Walter.
"Just try a little, Walter," said the mother coaxingly, "I know it must be very tender and nice, for Deacon Phillips said it was a young turkey."
"Yes, Walter," said his father, "hand me your plate, and I will give you a little of the dark and a little of the light meat, with some of this delicious dressing."
The boy listlessly handed over his plate without any more ado, his father put onto it a liberal piece of each kind of meat and some dressing, then handed it back, with the remark, "Eat all you can son, for it will make you strong." Then he added, "Now wife, it's your turn, I know you like the dark meat the best," and while he was talking he carved a nice piece of the turkey and laid it on her plate, and then said, "Now father, it is your turn, and I know your failing to be the leg," and suiting the action to the word, he carved for himself the leg.
Then, addressing his son once more, he asked, "How did you like the sermon, Walter?"
"I thought it was very fine, father, and as I looked over the congregation, I could see many heads nodding their approval of your words telling them they ought to be thankful, and I tried, oh, so hard, to be thankful, but I couldn't, for something seemed to say, you have nothing to be thankful for, God gave you this sickness as a punishment. I tried to think what I had done to merit this punishment, but found it could not have been anything I had done, as I remembered that you had said I always had been sick even when a little child, and then—"
"Tut, tut, child, now don't get excited," said the pastor. "We all know that your punishment is not for anything you may have done, but you are probably suffering for the sins of others, the same as Jesus did; why, Walter, just think, Jesus Christ died for all our sins."
"For my sins, father?" asked the boy.
"Yes, Walter, all our sins."
"But father, I don't see how that could be. We weren't any of us living at that time, and if we sinned, it must have been since then, and Jesus could not die for sins that had not been committed."
The father was so surprised at what he heard, that for a moment he just stared at his son; the idea was entirely new to him, and yet it was only common sense. He tried to find some reply that would be reasonable, but before he found it, the boy continued.
"I cannot believe that God punishes any one person for the sins of another. If He would do this, He would not be a just God. Why, father, even man is more just than that. Supposing Judge Baxter had pronounced sentence like this: 'Yes, I find Mose Webster guilty of stealing Mr. Johnson's chickens, and have decided to send the Rev. James Williams to the county jail for ten months, because Mose Webster stole those chickens,' would you think that justice? and could you feel thankful to the judge for sending you to jail to suffer in the place of Mose Webster, and—"
"Silence, child," said the father, more sternly than he had ever spoken to his son before. He was so confused by what the boy had said that he could not find words to speak. After a time he said, "Walter, never let me hear you say anything like that again, to think that you, a minister's son, should say such things. Why, they are almost blasphemous."
"Never mind, James," said the mother; "think how hard it must be to suffer year in and year out, without any relief, and remember, dear, that even some of the apostles doubted at times. Now, let us finish our dinner." Then, turning to her son, she added, "father will explain all this to you as soon as he finds time."
The father looked at the flushed face of the boy and his anger softened, then in a kind voice said: "I think it would be a very nice idea for us to set aside one or two evenings each week for Bible reading and study; in this way we would all get a better understanding of God, and His great love for mankind. What do you think of that plan, Walter?"
"I should enjoy it, as there is a great deal in the Bible that I should like to have explained."
"All right, Walter, now what would you say to starting our Bible class to-morrow evening?"
"That would please me," said Walter.
"How about you, mother?" asked the pastor.
"Oh, I certainly want to be a member of the class. I know it will be very entertaining and instructive, besides it will be such a pleasant way to spend the long winter evenings."
"Why mother, I thought we were going south this winter."
"No, child, it will be impossible for us to go this year. You know that this last medicine which you and I are taking costs father five dollars per bottle, and we each need a bottle a week, so it has been impossible for father to save the money necessary for our going."
For a moment the boy's face looked sad and grave, and the pastor swallowed a lump that had risen in his throat, for it hurt the good man severely to think that he had not the necessary funds to gratify their every wish, but had already borrowed more than he could pay back in several years. Still he was willing to make more sacrifices, had his wife agreed, but she had said on one occasion when they were discussing this subject, "No, James, I will not leave you again. I think the separation does us as much harm as the warm climate does good, and I feel that we have not many more years to be together, so I cannot bear the thought of being separated from you for another five months. I think Walter and I will be better off to be at home with you. We need not go out in the cold very much, and you and I can arrange some way to entertain and amuse Walter."
The pastor had answered: "Well, Lillian, it may be the better way, for I must confess that these long separations were very unpleasant to me, yet I was more than willing to endure them, if thereby you and Walter could be benefited, still it seems that the change of climate idea did not prove as beneficial as we had hoped for, but please don't speak in that hopeless strain again, for you certainly have heard that old saying, 'while there is life there is hope,' so never give up, and remember that there are many noted physicians and chemists, working day and night to get a sure cure for tuberculosis, and who knows but that the morrow will bring it forth. You know that I am constantly on the lookout for everything that looks promising."
And so the thought of a southern trip had been dismissed.
WHAT WALTER FOUND
Dinner over, they all arose from their seats at the table, and the father asked, "Walter, what part of the Bible shall we start to study first?"
"I hardly know, father," said Walter.
"Well, you can take the old family Bible, look it over and then decide. As for myself I have very little choice; I have read and studied it so often that I feel very familiar with all it contains."
"All right; father, may I go up to my room now?"
"Yes, certainly, if you choose, but I should think you would rather be outside to-day, it is so warm, and there won't be many more days like this this year."
"I believe I would rather go to my room," said the boy, starting in that direction.
"Just as you please, son," said the father, as he stepped through the hall to enter the library. Walter went quickly up stairs to his room, and his mother wondered greatly at his hurry.
Once in his room he closed the door and quietly locked it, then going to his trunk, he excitedly pulled forth a little book with a black leather cover which looked very much like a small Bible. He opened it and began reading in a low tone. "Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker G. Eddy." "Yes, I am sure it is the same book that lovely lady down south told me about, and asked mother to get me one, but mother had said, 'no, we will never try Christian Science; we are real Christians and believe in God.' I could not hear everything they said, but I did hear the lady say, 'I don't see how you can say that you believe that God is all Good, and at the same time think He made your lovely boy sick.' I did not hear mother's reply, but I know she was angry. Now I wonder who lost this book? I saw no one in sight when I picked it up this morning; there is no name in it, so I can't return it to the owner. I wonder if I ought to read it? I don't need to believe it if I do read it. Anyway, that lady did not look like a person that was bad, and she said she read Science and Health every day, and that it had healed her of a severe sickness."
As he talked he turned a few pages and then read, "Contents, Chapter I, Prayer. I wonder if that chapter is in favor of prayer or against it. I suppose though it must be against it by the way mother acted towards that lady." He laid his head upon his hands and thought silently for some time, then raised his head and said, "Well, I am going to read it. That lady said reading 'Science and Health' cured her, and I am going to see if it will cure me if I read it. I suppose the place to start is Chapter I."
Walter began to read to himself: "Science and Health. Chapter I, Prayer.
"For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, what things whatsoever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him. Christ Jesus."
Then he stopped and said, "Why that is just the same as I read in our Bible; there certainly can be no bad in that. But maybe they only printed that so as to ridicule it farther on in the book; anyway, I wonder what Jesus Christ meant, when he said, 'therefore I say unto you, what things whatsoever ye desire when ye pray, believe ye shall receive them and ye shall have them.' Oh, how often and how earnestly have I prayed for health, with tears running down my cheeks, but my prayers never seem to have been answered; now I wonder why, for I know that what Jesus Christ said must be true, for He was the Son of God, and would not deceive us; why, oh why, doesn't God answer my prayers?"
He stopped to consider for a moment, then turned pale as death, pressed his thin hands to his breast, as a new thought came to his consciousness, then he gasped in a whisper, "I—believe—I—know." He paused a moment, then continued, "It must be that—I see it all now; I see my mistake. I prayed to God for health, and in the next instant doubted Him, doubted that He would heal me. In fact, I never really believed that He would heal me, and Jesus said, 'Believe that ye receive.' Oh, can this really be true. I am so excited I can hardly think. Here I am again, this time doubting the word of Christ." Then he jumped up with the exclamation, "I must tell father, for his prayers are not answered, and it must be for the same reason. No, I don't mean that. My father is a minister and he could not doubt God. But why aren't his prayers answered? I don't know what to do. If I tell father or mother, they may take the book away, and then my last hope would be gone. I think I will read it first." So saying, he sat down in an easy rocker, and was soon absorbed in what he was reading, nor did he notice how the time flew until he heard his mother's anxious voice and knock at the door.
He answered at once, and hastily put the book back in his trunk, then went to the door and opened it.
His mother greeted him with, "Why, Walter, what is the matter? Since when have you taken to locking your door in the daytime? You look so flushed and excited, and we haven't heard a sound from you all the afternoon. We were beginning to get alarmed about you, so I came up to see what was the matter, and to tell you that supper was ready. What have you been doing? Don't you feel as well as usual? Tell me, Walter, are you worse?"
"No, mother, I am not worse, I only became so absorbed in reading that I forgot all about time, and also that I had locked the door."
His mother did not think to ask him what he was reading, as she had always been very careful to see that no reading matter that was at all questionable was brought into the house, so she had no idea that he had been reading anything but what she had read and deemed proper.
"We had better hurry down, Walter, as father is waiting for his supper."
They both started down the stairs, his mother still talking to him; but he scarcely heard a word she said, for his thoughts were still centered on what he had read. And now that his excitement had abated, there seemed to be a hopeful gleam in his eyes. As soon as they entered the room, his father noticed that his eyes were brighter, but took it as a bad sign.
All through the evening meal they had to address him several times before he would answer, and his father's heart grew heavy as he noticed the thoughtful mood of his son.
When they had finished their meal, Walter asked to be excused, and immediately went to his room.
As soon as he was gone the pastor said, "Lillian, did you notice how Walter acted to-night? It seemed to me that he was very much more thoughtful than usual."
"Yes," answered the mother, "he seemed confused, and his eyes were so bright, but he ate a very hearty supper."
"I also noticed that," said the pastor, then added, "It seems there is a change, but I hardly know whether to say the change is for better or worse. I hope it is for the best; it may be that the medicine has just taken effect."
"God grant that this may be so," reverently said the mother. They were both silent for some time, then the pastor said, "I never heard Walter speak as he did this noon. I wonder how he thought of such an absurd thing, as sending me to jail because some one else stole some chickens."
"I know, James, that it does seem absurd at first thought, yet it seems to me to be just as sensible to punish the wrong person for stealing, as it would be to punish the innocent with sickness because some one else had sinned. I have been thinking seriously of this all the afternoon, but have not arrived at a satisfactory conclusion," said Mrs. Williams.
The pastor slowly turned toward his wife and said, "Lillian I am astonished beyond measure to hear this from you; it was bad enough to hear it from my own son, but to hear it from you is worse. Don't you think that Almighty God knows what is best for us, do you dare question anything He does? Do you think the allwise Creator would have made him sick if it were not for the best?"
"James, do you really believe God made our boy sick?"
"It must be so," answered James, "for we read in the Bible, that God made everything that was made."
"If this be true James, it would be a sin to give him medicine, for we would be trying to undo the work of God."
To say the pastor was astonished would be putting it mildly. Never in his whole life had he been so shocked as on this day, and each shock was greater than the preceding one.
He now stood perfectly still for a full minute, then said, "It seems high time that we begin the study of the Bible in this house, for from what I have heard to-day it is very apparent to me that my wife and son are quite ignorant of what the Bible contains." Then turning, he strode from the room.
The pastor was a good and kind man. He had always been a good husband and father, always patient and sympathetic with his invalid wife and son; but this day had been a very trying one to him, first in hearing his son say things that he considered little less than blasphemous, then to notice that the mother seemed to indorse what the son had said, and to make matters worse, to actually hear his wife questioning the doings of God, as he understood them. This was the last-straw. He was really angry and out of patience, and somewhat confused, so he decided to go to his library and think it all over. As soon as he arrived there he impatiently seated himself in an easy chair and began to soliloquize after this fashion: "I wonder where Walter got that idea about sending me to jail, what can that have to do with his sickness; then to think my wife agreed with him. Let me see, what did she say? I was so outraged I can scarcely recall what was said. I believe though she said something about some of the apostles doubting at times. What has that to do with sending me to jail? I don't seem able to think clearly to-day. Then this other matter, about giving medicine being a sin. Why everybody takes medicine; the most pious and devout Christians that ever lived have taken medicine, and this has been so for thousands of years. The Bible says that the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations. Then why may not the roots and the bark be used as well? Of course Jesus Christ did not heal with medicine. He was the Son of God and was endowed from on high with supernatural power. He didn't need the medicine. Well, all I can say is that I am glad we are going to have those Bible lessons, for I know that as soon as we get to studying them they will get the truth, and then I will hear no more of this nonsense. I don't think I will mention the matter again until we get to studying the lessons; then as we get to this medicine question, I will point it out to them."
So the pastor, after having thought himself into a better frame of mind, dismissed the subject from his thoughts, arose, and walked over to the bookcase, selected the book he wanted, and was soon absorbed in reading.
In the meantime Walter had hurried to his room and was soon busily engaged in reading "Science and Health."
About nine o'clock he heard his father and mother coming upstairs to retire for the night. He hastily turned out his light and scrambled into bed, clothes and all.
A few moments later when his mother looked in she found him in bed nicely covered up, and supposing him asleep, quietly left the room. As soon as Walter was sure they had retired, he arose, relit the gas, and continued reading. It was after midnight when he laid down the book and said, "I feel sure this book is true, and that God made only the good, and never made me or any one else sick. I believe I will get well when I understand how to pray aright." Then he undressed and got into bed, a happier and more hopeful boy than he had ever been.
After saying his usual prayers, he added, "And now, God, I wish to thank you for all the good things you have given me. I could not thank you this morning, for then I thought you had made me sick. But now I know that you are all good and could not make evil; truly I now have something to be thankful for and shall always remember this Thanksgiving day."
PREPARING FOR THE LESSONS
The next morning, when Walter awoke it was broad daylight, and the hands on the clock pointed to the hour of ten, as his mother came into his room with an anxious look on her face and said, "I have just come up to wake you as your father was worried because of your sleeping so long; how do you feel this morning?"
"Oh, mother, I feel better this morning, and I had the best night's rest I have had for years. I never woke up once all night, and I feel strong and hungry."
"Thank God you are better, I will go down and get your breakfast ready."
"All right, mother, I will be down as soon as I wash and dress." Before going down, he went over to his trunk, took out "Science and Health," and said, "I believe that you contain the truth and will free me of this disease." He then placed it in his trunk again, being careful to hide it from the view of any one who should carelessly look into it.
Hastily descending to the dining-room, he ate a hearty breakfast. As he was leaving the table his mother said, "I am sorry you did not take advantage of the beautiful sunshine yesterday, for the wind has changed and is now blowing severely from the north and it is very cold and dreary out."
"I don't mind it at all to-day, mother, for I feel so much better that I hadn't noticed the weather."
His mother was somewhat astonished to hear him speak so cheerfully, as it had been customary for Walter to complain of feeling worse on dreary days. Then she thought, "It must be that new medicine, for he certainly is better, and I pray God he will continue to improve."
As for Walter, he was glad it was a dreary day, as this would give him an excuse for staying in his room and continue his reading. He wished he was there now, but did not want to awaken the suspicion of his mother by too hurried a departure. So he walked about the room, trying to think of some excuse. Finally a happy thought occured to him, and he said, "Mother, I believe I will take the Bible and go to my room and read, so as to be prepared for our lesson this evening."
"Very well, Walter, you will find it on the library table."
Walter walked into the library, secured the book, then went up to his room, took out "Science and Health" and was soon absorbed in its contents.
The afternoon was a repetition of the morning.
At the supper table the Rev. Williams said, "I am sorry we cannot start our Bible lessons for a few evenings, as I have received a notification to be present at some meetings to be held by the local clergy."
"Any matter of importance, James?" asked his wife.
"Not particularly so. The Rev. Mr. Johnson said that they wished to find a way to successfully combat this new heretical idea called Christian Science, and they want to arrange so that each clergyman will give a sermon denouncing it, each on a different Sunday, and Rev. Johnson asked me if I was willing to deliver a sermon on it, and I told him yes."
"Why father," said Walter, "I did not know that you had ever read or looked into Christian Science."
"No son, I never did look it up or study it, and what is more I never intend to. The Bible is good enough for me."
"But, father, how can you preach a sermon on it if you do not know what it is?"
"I did not say that I did not know what it is. I have heard enough to know that it is not Christian and that they claim to heal in the same way that Jesus Christ did. This claim alone proves that it is false, for Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and that is why He could heal the sick, and for any man to consider himself equal to Jesus Christ is blasphemous."
"Father did not Jesus bid His disciples heal the sick?"
"Yes, certainly, He gave His disciples the power to heal the sick, but His disciples have been dead for a long time, and nobody else was given the power to heal as Christ did," said the pastor. "Was St. Paul one of Christ's disciples?"
"No Walter, he was not in reality one of Christ's disciples, but he was a very good and holy man."
"Did not St. Paul heal the sick?"
"Yes, there are several accounts in the Bible of St. Paul's healing power."
"Well father, where did St. Paul get his power to heal the sick if he was not one of the disciples that Jesus gave the power of healing to?"
"Why you see it was like this—that is—I mean to say—" the pastor stopped rather confused, then finished with, "It is too long a story to tell to-night, as I must be getting ready for that meeting. I will explain this all when we start our lessons."
The pastor left the room and entered the library, thinking deeply. "I wonder where that boy gets those queer ideas from. I am very much pleased that I suggested those Bible lessons, for if he was not enlightened, he would surely go astray."
Shortly after, the pastor was wending his way to the meeting, still thinking of what Walter had said regarding St. Paul. Walter made an excuse to retire to his room and was soon reading in his precious "Science and Health;" and it was precious to him, for in it he saw the only hope he had ever had of getting well. He read far into the night, and every spare moment of the next few days, so that when Wednesday evening came he had finished the book. But Wednesday evening was prayer meeting, so there would be no Bible lessons until Thursday evening.
He spent almost all day Thursday reading Genesis in the Bible and comparing it with the scientific interpretation as found in "Science and Health," by Mary Baker G. Eddy, under the subject of Genesis, beginning on page 501.
About six o'clock his mother called him for supper, and as he laid down his books he said, "It must be true; I feel that it is the truth. I will have father start with Genesis to-night and will ask such questions as will be most apt to get father to see the Bible in its true light. How I wish I had found this book long ago, then I would be better prepared to convince father. Still I know that God is good and will help me, and with Him to help me I cannot fail."
THE FIRST LESSON
It was just 7:30 p.m. when the pastor, his wife, and Walter entered the library to have their first Bible lesson.
"Well, Walter," said the father pleasantly, "have you decided where we shall commence our studies?"
"Yes, father, I should like to start at the beginning, with Genesis."
The pastor looked at his son and noticed that his face was flushed with excitement. Still he made no comment about it, but answered, "very well Walter, if agreeable to mother, we will start with Genesis."
"Yes, James, I am satisfied to start anywhere that pleases Walter."
"As we are all in accord, I will start with chapter 1 of Genesis, and continue reading until we come to something that you do not understand. Then you may stop me and I will explain. I think this will be an excellent way, don't you, Walter?"
"Yes, father, I think that will be the best way." The pastor started to read Genesis, chapter 1, and there was no interruption until he arrived at Genesis 1, 26.
Several times Walter was on the point of asking some question, but did not. Now he asked, "father, what is meant by that verse? I do not understand it clearly."
"I'll read it again for you," said the pastor. "Genesis, chapter 1, 26th verse. 'And God said, let us make man in our image after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.' Do you understand it now?"
"Not yet. God is Spirit, is He not?"
"Certainly, why do you ask?"
"That verse says that God made man in His image and likeness, does that mean that man is spiritual?"
"Yes," answered the pastor. "Then my body must be spiritual."
"Oh, no, our bodies are not spiritual, it is only the soul that is in the body that is here spoken of as the image and likeness of God."
"Then God did not make our bodies, did He, father?"
"Why, certainly He did. Have you never read that God made all that was made?"
"It doesn't say anything in that verse about God's making a body does it father?"
"No but it says 'in His image and likeness,' that means just like Him," said the pastor.
"Then if I am just like Him, He in turn must be just like me, and in that case God would have a material body, and would not be wholly spirit."
"Why son, what queer ideas you have. As I said before this verse is only speaking of the soul; you will see farther on where He created the body. Now let us proceed."
"Father, what is meant by that part of this same verse, where it reads: 'And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air,' etc.?"
"There has been considerable differences of opinion in regard to that passage. Personally, I think it means that we will have this dominion after we die and enter the spirit world, for we certainly haven't dominion over the fish and fowl here."
"James, do you think there will be fish and fowl in heaven?" meekly asked his wife.
"That is a very absurd question. Everybody knows there will be no fish and fowl in heaven," said her husband.
"Then how can we have dominion over them if there are none there?" asked his wife.
"It seems to me that you are both very dense this evening. Let us continue and these things will clear up as we proceed," said the pastor, a little nettled at his inability to answer their questions clearly.
Walter had several more questions he wanted to ask on this subject, but he thought best not to ask too many at one time.
There was no more interruption until the pastor reached Genesis 1, 31st verse—"and God saw everything He had made, and behold it was very good, and the evening and the morning were the 6th day." Here Walter interrupted with, "Then everything that God made was good."
"Yes, everything that God made was good," answered the pastor.
"If that be true, God could not have made me sick, for sickness is not good," said Walter.
"Walter, I believe you are right," said his mother.
The pastor looked from one to the other, then slowly laid the Bible down in his lap. He was surprised at the turn the conversation had taken, and he remembered that Walter had on a previous occasion said something similar. Just what would be the best answer to make he did not know, so thought he would ask Walter a few questions, and in this way find out what the boy had on his mind. So he asked, "What makes you so positive that God did not make you sick Walter?"
"Because God is good and just, and I am His child, and the Bible says He made everything good and He made everything that was made, so everything must be good. Besides, I cannot conceive of a just God making me suffer for a sin some one else committed, any more than I could think of you, father, punishing me for something that our neighbor's boy had done."
Like a flash the pastor saw now what the boy had meant when he spoke of sending him to jail because some one else had stolen some chickens. The boy was only trying to illustrate to him the injustice of punishing one person for the deeds of another. Then the thought came, "Shall man be more just than God?" There was something here he did not understand, and yet the Bible said God made everything that was made. If this be true, He was the author of all the sorrows and woes, as well as the joys, of the human race.
Now that he had got to thinking on this subject, he did not like to admit even to himself that God was the creator of all the wickedness of the world. He decided he must have more time to think about this before he could answer the boy, so said, "We know that God is good and just, and some of the things that to us seem evil and unjust may still be for our good." He then picked up the Bible to proceed with his reading.
Walter noticed that his father was ill at ease and decided not to ask any more questions at present. The pastor then read Genesis 2, 1st verse: "Thus the heavens and earth were finished and all the hosts of them." He now cast an anxious look over at Walter, expecting him to ask some question that would be as hard to answer as the previous ones, but Walter was sitting perfectly still listening attentively.
The pastor then read the next verse, Genesis 2, 2nd verse: "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made"
"Is that all of creation, father?" asked Walter.
"Yes, God created everything in six days and on the seventh He rested; that is why we observe the Sabbath day as a day of rest."
There was no interruption in the next three verses, although Walter heard several things he would like to have asked about. But when it came to Genesis 2, 6th verse, "But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground," Walter asked, "What is meant by that mist, father?" The pastor tried to find some reasonable answer, but could not, so he replied, "I suppose it was something like the fogs we sometimes see rising from the ground." He had come to the conclusion that these Bible lessons were not going to be quite so easy and entertaining as he had anticipated, and had determined that on the morrow he would go over the lesson by himself, and in this way be prepared for any and all questions that might be asked.
Walter knew what this mist meant; he had read all about it, in "Science and Health," but still he did not think it policy to say anything more on the subject just then. The pastor continued his reading, Genesis 2, 7th verse. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul."
"Will you please explain that verse to me, father?"
"With pleasure; this is the verse I spoke of a little while back, when I told you that in Genesis 1.26, God only made the soul or spirit of man, while here is a record of the creation of the body.
"You see, son, we get a better understanding as we proceed. It is like this, the soul or spirit is in the image and likeness of God, but the body is not, it being material, having been created of dust. Do you understand it better now?"
Walter did not answer at once, so his mother said, "That all seems very plain to me now, although I was somewhat confused before."
The pastor turned a smiling face to her and nodded his head approvingly; he was now quite at his ease again, and did not look for any further trouble. Then turning to Walter, he was a little surprised to see him looking flushed and excited, so said, "Well, Walter, what are you thinking about?"
The boy looked up and said, "I was trying to think, when God started His second creation, for He had finished His first one on the sixth day and rested from His work on the seventh day, and here seems to be a record of something He created after He had finished."
Had a bomb shell exploded in the room, it would not have surprised and shocked the pastor and his wife so much as that which they had just heard; and coming just at the time when the pastor thought he was making everything clear and plain, it confused him terribly, and in his ears kept ringing what Walter had said: "I was trying to think, when God started His second creation, for He had finished His first one on the sixth day and rested from His work which He had made, on the seventh day." What could this mean; where did Walter get these queer thoughts from; were they in reality queer? The idea of a second creation was absurd, yet the Bible said, Genesis 2. 1, "thus the heavens and earth were finished and all the hosts of them." There it was plain enough, it spoke both of heaven and earth, "and on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made." Did God make a mistake in the first creation and so start in again to rectify His mistake? Impossible. God was, is, and always will be all-knowing; this precluded all chance of Deity making a mistake. Was the Bible wrong in this particular instance, if so, might it not all be wrong? This thought made the good man's heart stand still. No, no, it could not be; it must be some slight error in the translation or something of that kind—yes, it must be; how was it that he had never seen it before? Then he became conscious that his wife was asking him some question.
"James," he heard her say, "are there really two creations, one spiritual and the other material?"
What should he answer? He never was so at a loss for a reply in his whole life; there was his son and his wife, both apparently depending on him for an explanation, and he absolutely incapable of making a rational one. And then he remembered that he had said it didn't make any difference to him what part of the Bible they started with, as he was very familiar with it all. At length he said: "I don't seem capable of clear thought to-night; I think we had better stop for this time, and we will begin at this same verse to-morrow night."
Walter was sorry to see his father so confused and perplexed, and tried to think of some way to help him arrive at the truth. He was afraid to say much for fear of awakening his father's suspicion, for if his father had the least idea that he had secured his information from the Christian Science text-book, "Science and Health," with key to the scriptures, he would not have allowed him to ask any more questions, nor even voice any of his thoughts, on the subject.
Walter decided to try to show his father a way out of his dilemma, so he said: "Father, don't you think your explanation about that mist that is spoken of in Genesis, 2. 6, being a fog is wrong?"
"What else could it be, Walter?"
"Have you ever noticed, father, that this particular verse starts in with a 'but'? It reads, 'But there went up a mist,' it does not say, 'God made a mist to rise from the earth.'"
"I don't see that the word 'but' changes it any."
"I did not mean to say that it did, I only wished to point out the fact that here was something that God did not make, for nowhere in the preceding chapters of Genesis had God made a mist."
"I cannot understand what you mean, Walter. The Bible says that God made everything that was made, and as I have seen a mist many times, God must have made it as there is only one Creator," said the pastor.
"On the same line of reasoning, we would have to admit God created all the evils of this world, for we see these evils every day, and then I would have to admit that God made me sick, and I can never believe that, for Genesis 1, 31st verse reads, 'And God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good.' If we believe this, we cannot possibly believe He made any evil thing."
"Well Walter, we will not discuss that subject farther at the present time, for I know as we progress with our lessons you will see it in a different light; anyway I don't see what that mist has to do with the subject."
"Father, might not that mist mean a mistake or a misapprehension? Then that verse would read, 'But there went up a misapprehension from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.'"
"Why, Walter there would be no sense to such a speech; how could a misapprehension water the whole face of the ground?" "Is not the Bible supposed to be an inspired book, father?"
"And is there not supposed to be a spiritual meaning to all there is written there?"
"Yes, Walter, why do you ask?"
"Then might not the spiritual meaning of that verse be brought out by using the word 'arose' instead of 'went up,' and the word 'deceived,' instead of 'watered,' and the word 'intelligence,' in place of 'face,' and the word 'people,' instead of 'ground'; then the verse would read like this, 'But there arose a misapprehension from the earth and deceived the whole intelligence of the people.' If we add to this what is implied, that the following creation is what the people through this misapprehension believe, we get a clearer view of the real creation as narrated in the first chapter of Genesis."
It was several moments after Walter finished speaking before the pastor or his wife made any reply. Many times that evening they had been surprised at what they had heard Walter say, now they were both surprised and bewildered. The mother was the first to speak and said: "What you say, Walter, seems reasonable, yet I do not think we have the right to change anything that is written in the Bible."
"That is true, wife, it is from this pernicious habit of translating the Bible to suit the thought of each ignoramous that thinks he knows something of the Bible, simply because he has read it once or twice, that all the contradictory sayings about the Bible originate, and it ought to be stopped by law," said the pastor.
"Why, father, that is not changing the Bible, it is simply bringing to light the hidden meaning, the same as you do when you interpret some of the sayings, or parables, of Jesus; anyway, I merely suggested that this might be the solution of the question of a second creation."
"Walter do not speak of a second creation again; everybody knows there is only one creation for there is only one God and He is omniscient; that precludes the thought of a mistake and a re-creation. God made everything that was made in six days, and if He made everything in that time, there would not be anything more to make; for 'everything' includes, 'all.'" "Then which of the two narratives in the Bible is the true one, James?" asked his wife.
"My dear, this second narrative is the same creation, told in a more simple way so that all may understand. It enters into the details and tells how God created everything."
The pastor had not intended giving such an explanation as this when he started to speak, but this thought occurred to him and it seemed reasonable, so he voiced it, and now that he said it, he felt satisfied that the first creation was the real creation, and that the second narrative was the explanation of how everything was created.
Walter was somewhat confused by his father's explanation. He had never thought of it in this light, and now he was at a loss what to say. He felt sure that his father's explanation was not the correct solution, yet he could not find words to express his thoughts. Then he thought of his precious "Science and Health"; if I could only look into that for a few minutes, I know I could find the true explanation; then turning to his father he said: "Don't you think we have had enough Bible study for the first night? It is half past nine.
"Why, how fast the evening has passed. I'm sure you must be tired," anxiously exclaimed his mother.
"Yes, Walter," said his father, "it is time that we retire, for there are many more evenings this winter, and we must not think we can learn all the Bible contains in one evening. I hope I made that second narrative plain to you."
"I am not fully convinced that we have arrived at the truth of this second creation, father. I shall spend to-morrow thinking and studying on that subject, and maybe by to-morrow evening I will be able to see it as it really is."
"That's right, Walter," said the pastor, highly pleased at the thought of his son taking such an interest in the scriptures, "it is only by study and research that we can gain knowledge." The pastor had no idea that Walter had any other source of information than the family Bible, but Walter was thinking of his key to the scriptures by Mrs. Eddy, with which he proposed to unlock the treasure vaults of the Bible. "Come, Walter, you had better go to bed, I fear you have already overexerted yourself, as you are not accustomed to being up so late."
Walter turned a bright and cheery face to her and said, "I do not feel tired at all mother, for the lesson has been very interesting to me, so do not worry. I am sure it did me good." Then turning to his father, he said, "Good-night, father, shall we have another lesson to-morrow night?"
"Yes, certainly; now good-night and pleasant dreams."
Walter bade his mother an affectionate good-night and went to his room. As soon as he was gone, father and mother looked at each other and there was hope and delight written on both their faces.
"He is surely getting better," said the mother.
"I never saw him so interested and cheerful in his whole life," remarked the father.
"I think we have secured the right medicine at last," said the mother.
"I have prayed long and faithfully to God that He spare his life and guide his footsteps into the ministry, and I believe both prayers have been heard, for he is surely gaining rapidly in health, and has taken more than an ordinary interest in the Bible; some of his questions were very absurd, but this is simply because he does not understand. I shall put a little study on to-morrow's lesson, so as to be more able to explain any and all questions he may ask," said the father.
Shortly after, they ascended the stairs to retire for the night. As they passed Walter's room the mother softly opened the door, looked at her sleeping boy, silently closed the door, and said, "Dear boy, he must have been tired to fall asleep so quickly."
But Walter was not sleeping, he felt he could not sleep until he had cleared up the matter of a second creation. He also knew his mother would look into the room before she retired, so he pretended to be asleep. As soon as she had closed the door he arose and turned on the light, went to his trunk, and brought forth his "Science and Health." He then seated himself and said, "I'm sure I saw this all explained in the book; I wonder what part I will find it in; I should think it would be in the explanation of Genesis." Turning to Genesis, he read until he came to page 524, line 14, then exclaimed, "Here it is, plain as day; it wasn't God, Spirit, that created the dust man, and all the rest of this material universe. It was the Lord God, that is, man's material conception of God, or false God. I wonder how I am going to make this plain to father without showing him my 'Science and Health.'" Then putting away his book he was soon in bed and asleep.
The next morning as soon as breakfast was over, the pastor went to the library, secured his Bible, and began to read. After reading for some time, a look of perplexity came over his face; he leaned back in his chair, thinking deeply, and his thoughts were as follows: It's remarkable that I never noticed this second narrative is the reverse of the first; they are clearly and distinctly two narratives. In the first there is no mention made of anything material, and all is created by the word of God—or spiritually; there is no mention of evil, but—all is pronounced good by God. He made the earth, the trees, and the animals first, and man last, in an ascending scale; while in the 2d chapter of Genesis, God is supposed to have made man first, then woman, then the animals, etc., in a descending scale. I am now quite sure my explanation to Walter about this second creation being a more detailed account of the first is not correct, yet what else could it be? It certainly cannot be a second creation. Let me see, what did Walter say about that mist being a misapprehension that arose among the people as to creation? And that this second narrative was the misapprehension? It sounded reasonable and would be an easy solution to this second creation; but how about this material body of mine, and the rest of the material things? Are we laboring under a misapprehension regarding all these things? Impossible, we could not all make the same mistake; yet according to Walter's explanation this mist watered the whole face of the earth; that means all the people. Where did this mist or misapprehension come from? There is no record of God having made it. What a position for a minister of the gospel to be in, unable to explain the simplest things regarding creation; preaching that man is the image and likeness of God, who is Spirit, and believing man was created out of dust or materially, thereby contradicting the statement, that we are the image and likeness of God, Spirit; for matter is not spirit, but its opposite. I must admit I am very much confused, and I must be able to explain by to-night, for Walter will be disappointed if he cannot continue his lesson this evening. I think I had better read these first two chapters of Genesis over a few more times, and maybe I will be able to see through this confusion.
The pastor read and studied until dinner was called, then the entire afternoon. When he laid his book down to come to supper he said, "I am fully convinced that these two narratives are not meant to be the same, nor is one the explanation of the other, for one is the direct opposite of the other. But I cannot decide which is the real, for the Bible speaks as though God was the author of both. Maybe Walter will have some idea that will shed light on the subject. I am astonished at his explanation of that mist; it is so reasonable. It is remarkable that it never occured to me, after the many times I have read it."
At the supper table the pastor said, "Walter, what have you been doing all day? I haven't seen you except at dinner, and now at supper."
"I have been reading and thinking preparatory to our lesson, as I suppose we will have another lesson this evening."
"Yes, Walter, we will continue, although I must confess I am not as well prepared as I should like to be."
"Why, James, I thought you were reading the Bible almost all day," said his wife.
"So I was, dear, but could not fully satisfy myself as to that second narrative being an explanation of the first; in fact, I came to the conclusion that it was not, but that it is a separate, and distinct narrative."
"Do you mean to say that there really were two creations?" asked his wife in a surprised tone.
"No, dear, I do not mean that; the fact of the matter is, I cannot find any reasonable solution for there being two accounts of creation, and as this thought had never occured to me before, I have not been able to find a satisfactory explanation. Nevertheless, we will take this subject up in our lesson this evening, and see if we cannot explain it satisfactorily to all concerned. I am going to the library, and when you are ready you can both come there, and we will get an early start." The pastor then quitted the room.
Mrs. Williams turned to her son and said, "Walter, I cannot understand how your father can be confused at anything he could find in the Bible, for he was credited with being one of the best Bible students in this part of the country."
"I suppose, mother, that it had never occurred to father, that there were two accounts of creation in the Bible, and possibly it had never been pointed out to him. I think though, that before the evening lesson is over we will all understand just why that second account is given. Personally, I have come to a satisfactory conclusion concerning it, and maybe father will agree with me."
"Now, Walter, you must not presume to teach your father anything concerning the Bible; he has put years of hard study on it."
"I know that is true, mother, but it has often happened that a skilled mechanic has worked for years on some particular thing, and never attained what he was after, and some other person who knew nothing of mechanism discovered the solution without any trouble. It may be so in this case, you or I may say just the thing that will clear up this seeming mystery."
"I know that such things have happened, but I would hardly presume to be able to say anything in regard to the Bible that your father has not thought of years ago."
Walter did not wish to say anything more on this subject at present, but it had occured to him that if his father had been taught wrong in regard to creation, most likely he had also been mis-taught in regard to the rest of the Bible, for he reasoned that if he started to explain the Bible from the wrong standpoint, that is materially, instead of spiritually, he would necessarily be in error as to the truth of all the teachings of the Bible.
THE SECOND LESSON
It was not long before his mother had finished her work. She then said, "Come, Walter, I am ready now to go to the library."
They both entered and found Mr. Williams waiting for them with the Bible open in his hand. He looked up at them as soon as they appeared and said, "I suppose the great question before the class to-night is to decide whether there are one or two creations chronicled in the Bible; and if there are two, which one is the real. Have you arrived at any conclusion in regard to this point, Walter?"
"Yes, father, I have. It seems very plain to me now, and if you will allow me, I shall be pleased to give my views regarding these two creations."
This was just what the pastor wanted. He wished Walter to speak first, to see what conclusions the boy had arrived at, before he expressed his own opinion, so he readily gave his consent and said, "Speak your mind freely, son, and if I cannot agree with you on all points, we will take up those points afterwards and discuss them."
Walter now had the privilege he wanted, but he felt he must be careful not to say too much for fear of awakening his father's suspicion; so he quietly opened the Bible he had brought with him, and read aloud, Genesis 2, 7th verse, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." As he finished reading this verse, he looked at his father and said, "You will notice, father, that the Bible says, 'the Lord God' formed this dust man, and this is not the same God that created man in his image and likeness. You will also notice that in the first narrative it simply speaks of God creating everything, and in the second narrative it always speaks of the Lord God as having made everything and—"
"Wait, Walter," said the pastor hurriedly. He had intended to let Walter say everything he had to say on the subject, but he could not think of allowing his son to bring out the theory that there were two Gods, as this would be worse than the thought of two creations. "You surely are not trying to bring forth the theory that there are two Gods, two supreme powers. I cannot possibly allow you to advance such a thought even in theory, for that would be pantheism."
"Please, father, let me finish my explanation. I have no intention of bringing forth a theory upholding two supreme powers, but I desire to show that we are now believing in two supreme powers, and that only one is true and real. Will you please look at the verse I have just read? Notice that it uses the words, Lord God, and you will find that this form is used almost all of the way through this second narrative. Now look at the first chapter of Genesis; you will notice that it never speaks of the Lord God, but simply of God."
The pastor had caught the meaning of what Walter had said, and was now diligently reading first a verse in chapter 1, Genesis, then a corresponding verse in chapter 2.
Walter's mother had quietly risen, gone to the bookcase, secured a Bible and was also comparing one with the other. At length the pastor looked up at Walter with a surprised and confused look, and said, "What you say is true, Walter, and I must admit I never noticed this before, but I cannot see that it changes the narratives any. The author or writer simply changed the name he employed to designate Deity, that is all. Still I cannot understand what his reason could have been for making the change. It is also remarkable that the change should take place just at the time it does, at the beginning of the second narrative."
"It does seem strange that such a change should be made, if it was not done for a purpose," said Mrs. Williams.
"I believe I can explain why the change was made," said Walter.
"Very well, Walter," said the pastor, "let us hear your explanation."
"Well, father, as I understand it, the first creation is real, it being the work of God. Then the Bible speaks of that mist or misapprehension that arose, and the story told in the second narrative is this misapprehension. Therefore, I should judge that Lord God would mean a man-conceived God; and man, through misapprehending the real character and nature of Deity, believes the earth and man were created according to the second narrative, which would agree with all our present ideas. I mean by this that we all think and believe that God made man materially out of the dust of the earth, while the first account says man was made in the image and likeness of God; and as God is Spirit, man must be spiritual; as a dust or material man cannot be that likeness, because matter is the opposite of spirit. Then again, everything that God made was good—and this dust man is more evil than good; and as God, who is conceded as being all good, made all, and pronounced all He made good, this dust or material man, being evil, was never made, but, through a misapprehension, we think man to be material, and believe him to be the real man. To illustrate what I mean, say some one told you a falsehood and you believed it to be the truth; then the lie would seem true to you. Nevertheless, because you believe this lie to be the truth, it would not make a truth of it, as it would be a lie still, regardless of your belief. In the same way theologists have made a mistake by thinking that this second creation is the real, and have taught all mankind that they originated from dust and must return to dust, and every one believes this; and because every one believes this mistake, it seems like the truth to all of us, but no matter how many believe a lie, it does not make a truth of it; and it is because of this false interpretation that all evil has come upon us, for in the real and spiritual creation there is no mention of evil. It is only after that mist or misapprehension arose that evil is mentioned. Oh, father, if my explanation is the truth, then God did not make evil, did not make sickness; and if He didn't make sickness, it was never made, for the Bible says, God made all that was made, then sickness is also a part of the misapprehension that arose, and is not real, does not exist, only in our mistaken thoughts. In other words, we have all been taking a lie for the truth, and the whole world has been taught this error, and through this mistake we thought it possible for evil to exist when we ought to have known that God could not have made evil, for there is no mention of sin, disease, or death in the first narrative, or real creation."
Walter stopped, his face all aglow with joy and happiness. He had risen to his feet while he was speaking and now he looked from father to mother, but he only saw perplexity written on their faces.
"Can't you see it, father? mother, didn't I make it plain? It seems so easy for me to understand it now; don't you see what it means to me? It means that I never was sick in reality, that I never need be sick in reality, that I am sick only in belief, that all any one need do to get well is to find out this truth, that sickness is only an illusion, a lie, which the truth will correct. This must be the truth that Jesus Christ spoke of when He said, Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Yes, it has made me free, for it has lifted this cloud of sickness and feebleness from my mind, and I feel perfectly well and strong."
Again he looked from one to the other of his parents, on his father's face he saw sorrow written, on his mother's fear.
Walter then turned his face upward, and said, "Oh, thou, God, who is all good, who never made evil or sickness, I thank thee for this great truth which thou hast revealed to me. I also desire that thou show this same truth to my father and mother, and I believe that thou wilt, for thy Son, Jesus Christ, hath said that whatever we desire when we pray, we should believe that we receive and we would receive; and I do believe that my desire will be granted, for Jesus Christ would not have said it if it were not true."
The Rev. Mr. Williams and his good wife were speechless. The words they had heard and the actions of Walter had caused the father to fear that his son's mind had given way; while the mother thought there was something supernatural about it all, and she felt half inclined to believe that what she had heard was the truth, and that this wisdom was given to her son from on high.
Now the pastor advanced to where Walter stood, looked at him inquiringly, laid his hand on his arm, and said, "Sit down, Walter, don't get excited about this question; we will all understand it better after a while." Then looking at his wife, he said, "Mother, don't you think we have had enough Bible lesson for this evening?"
His wife was surprised at the question, for she had not thought of Walter as being demented. She could not see why the pastor wished to discontinue the lesson, for they had only begun; but, ever ready to agree with her husband, she answered, "Just as you think, James."
Walter looked at his father for a moment, wondering what could be the matter, and as he thought of all he had said, it occured to him that his father must think he had lost his reason; this struck him as so ridiculous that he burst out laughing, more heartily than he had ever done in his life, for he felt better and more free than ever before. But his laughter only made matters worse as it confirmed his father's opinion in regard to his having lost his reason; and now the good man sadly shook his head, saying, "It is worse than I thought."
This only made Walter laugh the heartier.
The mother looked from her laughing son to her sorrowing husband, wondering what it all meant. At last she said, "James, what is worse than you thought?"
Before the pastor could answer, Walter said, "Mother, father thinks I have gone crazy, and this seemed so ridiculous to me that I could not control my laughter."
"Crazy!" ejaculated the mother, "did you think that, James?"
The pastor did not answer. He had supposed that no one but a demented person would say the things Walter had said, but it certainly was not the act of a demented person to guess what he had thought.
"Mother," said Walter, and there was still a healthy smile on his face, "now that I come to think of it, I do not wonder that father thought I had lost my reason, as it would be impossible for him to grasp this great truth as readily as you or I. To do so, he would have to unlearn in these few minutes all that he had ever learned regarding this false creation; with you and I, mother, it would be easier; we only believed, and belief is never absolute conviction, and can more readily be changed. I read a parable to-day that I think will explain what I mean. Jesus said, 'you cannot add any more to a cask already full.' So it is with father; his mind is filled so full of the present idea of God and this material creation, that there cannot enter anything different from this teaching, until some of the old is emptied out. I believe this emptying out process is what is meant by Jesus when He said, 'unless ye become as little children, you can in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.' I take this to mean that we must put human opinion and prejudice aside, and have a free, open, and inquiring mind before this great truth can be understood by us."
"Walter," said his father rather sternly, "I think you have said enough on this question. Do you think it common sense for you to put yourself up as a greater authority as to what the Bible means than all the great men who have labored all their lives on the Bible? I do not wonder that I thought for a moment you had lost your reason, as I do not think any sane person would advance such a chimerical idea, and claim it to be the truth, as you have done. I see I have made a mistake in allowing you to question the Bible. Hereafter, I shall read from the Bible and explain it as we proceed, but I will not allow any more comments to be made. In regard to this question of creation, we will consider that closed for the present, and in the near future, probably next Sunday, I will preach a sermon on creation; and as you will undoubtedly both be there, you will see this question made plain. In the meantime I think we will discontinue the lesson, so as to give you a chance to study the Bible. I was not aware that you knew so little of what it contained, for you do not seem to grasp the simplest statements when I explain them to you."
Walter was very much astonished at the way his father had taken his explanation, and for a moment was sorry that he had said so much at one time; then he smiled as a happy thought struck him. If his father intended to deliver a thorough sermon on creation, he would be compelled to carefully study Genesis, and Walter believed enough had been said to make his father doubt the second narrative. He felt like saying, "I don't believe you will ever preach that sermon," but instead, he said, "Alright, father, I shall put considerable study on the Bible, as you wish and I am sorry if my explanation has offended you, yet I explained it just as it seemed to me."
"Never mind, Walter," said his mother, "we cannot all of us be as well versed on the Bible as your father, who has spent most of his life in the study of it."
"Would you suggest, father, that I continue to study Genesis from the place we left off?"
"Yes son," said the pastor more kindly, "start from where we left off this evening, and it might be well for you to review what we have passed over, so you will be able to fully understand my sermon when I deliver it."
After a few more commonplace remarks, Walter bade his father and mother good night, and ascended to his chamber, carrying his Bible with him.
As soon as Walter had left the room, the pastor turned to his wife and said, "I wonder what can have taken possession of that boy, he has changed wonderfully. Whereas he was always speaking of his sickness, and complaining of being weak, he now never refers to his trouble, nor does he complain of being tired any more. And what is more wonderful, he does not walk and act as if he was tired or weak; he also looks cheerful and his explanation was full of vim and courage, even though it was nonsense."
"I think, James, it is the work of that last medicine. He has begun to notice that he is getting better, and in his great enthusiasm he ascribes his healing to the goodness of God, and is very desirous of giving thanks for his recovery."
"That may be it," said the pastor, "yet I don't see any reason for his talking such nonsense. Some of his assertions are simply absurd; for instance, that assertion about his never having been sick in reality, and that there is no evil; haven't we had the best physicians in the country, and didn't they say he had hereditary consumption. That certainly ought to prove its reality. Besides, he has been gradually growing weaker and weaker under our very eyes."
"That is all true, James, yet I do not think all he said was nonsense. It seemed to me that when he was speaking he seemed to glow with a heavenly radiance, and while you thought he had lost his mind, I supposed he was inspired from on high."
The pastor sat bolt upright in his chair, and looked at his wife. If this thing kept up much longer he would be demented himself; what was the matter with his family? How could his wife take the nonsense of a boy for inspiration?
"Now, James, don't look at me that way; it does not seem so very incredible to me that God should have made everything good, and that the good alone is real, and that evil is unreal, but that we make a reality of it simply by thinking it real. I think that is what Walter was trying to make clear to us. To illustrate, if you should receive word this evening that your brother was killed in a railroad disaster, you would certainly feel sorrowful, and you would say you felt that way because your brother was killed. Now if in the morning your brother should step in the house perfectly well, your sorrow would flee. This would prove that your sorrow was not caused by the death of your brother, but simply because you believed him dead; so it was the belief that caused the sorrow, and not the deed itself." "I can agree with you in regard to your illustration, for it was the belief of my brother's death, and not his real death, as he did not die, that made me sorrowful. But the two cases are not parallel; in the one, nothing had happened, but in the other there is in reality a sick boy, and not simply the report of a sick boy."
"Can you not see, James, that if God never made sickness, and He made all there was made, that sickness could not be a reality? And we could not be sick in reality. Yet if we thought ourselves sick and believed what we thought, this would make it seem true to us, though in fact, it was not true. I believe it is just as Walter put it. If we believe a falsehood to be the truth, this falsehood, then, seems like the truth to us. But no matter how often, or how many, believe a lie to be the truth, it still in fact remains a lie."
"What you say about the lie, wife, is plain, but sickness is not a lie or a falsehood, it is only too real."
"James, if sin, sickness, and death are real, God must have made them, for the Bible says God made everything that was made and pronounced it all very good. It might be possible to stretch the imagination so as to say that sickness, or even death, might be good under certain conditions; but no Christian would agree with you that sin was good. And if we would agree that sickness and death were made by God and were good, then Jesus Christ destroyed the works of God, and at the same time destroyed something that was good."
"Oh, James, the more I think of Walter's explanation, the more reasonable it seems, and I cannot get the idea out of my mind that our boy was inspired when he made that explanation."
"Lillian, I will admit that never in my whole life have I been so confused on anything as I am in regard to these two narratives of creation. If we admit that the first is the real and was all that was made, whence came all this evil, sin, and sickness into the world, and how did I acquire this material body, and where did all these other material things come from? If we admit that the second creation is of God, then God, in a sense, would be responsible for all the trials and tribulations of man, for God is all-powerful and could have made us better, even to perfection. Now that I think of it, I don't believe the Bible mentions anywhere that God made evil. It speaks of the Lord God cursing the ground, but it does not accuse Him of making evil; and yet God should have made all. Can evil only be a lie, a dream, a delusion, a mistake or misapprehension, as Walter called it? What a state for a minister to be in; why, I believe I am questioning the truth of the Bible."
"No, James, I don't think you could properly call that questioning the Bible, you are simply seeking the truth, and I know that when you get into a calmer frame of mind you will readily find it; don't you think we had better retire for to-night? To-morrow you will have time to look up this entire matter."
"I suppose we had, as I see no way to satisfy myself except by carefully studying the whole book of Genesis, and I am very doubtful whether I will be able to find what I want even there, for I have often noticed that when a man once begins to doubt the truth of the Bible, he usually ends up as an unbeliever. God grant that this may not happen to me."
"O, I have no fear of that," said his wife; "you are too firm a believer in God to ever doubt anything in the Bible."
"I hope so, wife, yet I must admit that I am beginning to doubt the genuineness of the second narrative, and for the last fifteen years I have preached the gospel from the standpoint of this second or dust creation. In fact, I could not preach otherwise, as it would be impossible for me to make my congregation believe that they were wholly spiritual, and that they have no material body, had I desired."
"Why, James, of course we have a material body, don't we have to feed, clothe, and take care of it?"
"That is the way I always believed, but if Walter's idea is correct in regard to that mist, or misapprehension, then the first chapter of Genesis is correct, and in that case we could not possibly have a material body, but only think we have, and because we believe what we think, it would seem so to us. Wife, I am half inclined to think this is the solution, but how can I prove to others, or even myself, that my body is spiritual when it is so very material?"
"It is quite surprising to me, James, that you cannot readily explain this part of the Bible, for you have done little else all your life but study the Bible. At any rate, let it rest for to-night; you will, no doubt, get the right thought more readily after a good night's sleep."
The pastor rather reluctantly followed his wife out of the room and up stairs. He would have preferred to solve this knotty problem before retiring. He lay awake a long time thinking deeply, and the more he thought the more firmly he believed that Walter was right in his conclusions that the first narrative was the true one. Then the thought came; if this is correct, it will turn the whole world into confusion, for everybody believes in the dust man; in fact, every clergyman I know of is preaching the gospel from this standpoint.
It was after midnight before he finally went to sleep.
Walter, also, lay awake some time, but he was not trying to solve the question of which was the true narrative; he had fully satisfied himself in regard to this. What he was trying to do was to think of some way to convince his father and mother in regard to it.
THE THIRD LESSON
Nearly two months had passed since the evening of the last Bible lesson. Walter was so interested in studying the Bible and "Science and Health," that he did not notice the dreary winter days. Besides, he was gaining very rapidly in strength and flesh to the great joy of his parents. His mother had some time ago noticed that he did not take his medicine, and spoke to him about it. He answered her in a very positive, but gentle tone, "No, mother, I am not taking any medicine and never intend to take any more, for I am now depending entirely on God, and He is making me well."
His mother had asked him when he had stopped taking it, and he said, "I determined never again to take medicine the night I realized the unreality of sickness, as it would be very foolish to take medicine to cure me of something which in reality did not exist." Both his father and mother tried to persuade him to continue taking his medicine, as they believed his improvement was due to this last kind he had been taking.
Walter knew better, so had said, "Please allow me to leave off taking it for a short time, and if I do not continue to improve, I will start taking it again to please you."
It had been left that way, although his parents were averse to his stopping at the very time he seemed to be gaining. They watched him closely, but he continued to improve so steadily and rapidly, that taking medicine had not been mentioned to him again. His mother continued taking hers, but showed no improvement.
Many times Walter asked his father when he would take up their Bible lessons again; but his father never seemed ready. He noticed that his father always seemed to be in a very thoughtful mood. The boy knew what was the cause of it, and several times had tried to engage his father in conversation regarding creation or some other part of the Bible, as he desired to point out the truth to him. But his father always dropped the subject as soon as possible, nor had he preached his sermon on creation as he had promised.
The pastor daily studied his Bible and was taking copious notes as he read, but did not seem to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. Many times he wondered at the little things Walter would say about the Bible, and on several occasions he had made up his mind to ask him some questions, but he disliked to let the boy know of his own inability to understand the Bible. He wondered if his wife was right in regard to the boy's being inspired. How else could he account for some of the things Walter said. On several occasions he had taken the trouble to prove his assertions, and found to his surprise that the Bible easily substantiated what the boy had said.
This was the state of affairs on a January afternoon when the pastor said to himself, "come what will, I am going to continue those Bible lessons this evening. What Walter said brought me into this darkness and confusion and it is possible he may say something that will show me the light."
That evening at supper the pastor surprised his wife and son by saying, "If it is agreeable to you both, we will continue our Bible lessons this evening."
They readily assented, and as soon as Mrs. Williams had finished her work, they repaired to the library.
As soon as they were seated the pastor said, "Well, Walter, have you changed your mind in regard to which of the two narratives regarding creation is the correct one?"
"No, father, I have not. I have put considerable more study on that subject since our last lesson, and I am now fully satisfied and convinced that the view expressed in regard to the first narrative being the true one is correct."
"Walter, I believe you are right. I have been studying and thinking all of these two months, and have come to the same conclusion regarding creation. Yet in no way have I been able to explain away all these material things and this material body."
"James, have you come to the conclusion that everything is spiritual?" asked his wife.
"Yes, Lillian, for there are only two conclusions to arrive at, either God is the creator spoken of in the first narrative where everything was made by the Word, or spiritually, and is pronounced very good, or else God is the creator spoken of in the second narrative and therefore He would be the creator of all this evil, sickness, sin, and death, with all the other dire calamities we are subjected to. And since I have thought and studied on this question, I cannot conceive of our Heavenly Father being the cause of all our troubles, who are His children, any more than I would bring such a visitation on my family. So of the two, I prefer believing that God made everything good as described in the first narrative, as it is impossible to believe both, for they are direct opposites. What bothers me is this material body and everything else that is material."
"Father, I believe I can throw some light on that subject if you will allow me."
His father looked at him for a moment, undecided whether to ask him to explain or not, for his last explanation had caused all his confusion, yet, as he thought of it, he now agreed with that explanation. Maybe the boy was inspired and he was doing wrong in not hearing what he had to say. Anyway, his getting well without the use of doctors or drugs was little short of a miracle to him, so he decided to have him explain, and said, "I will hear what you have to say on this subject, Walter, but be careful not to say anything ridiculous."
Walter smiled; he had learned a lesson the time he made his explanation regarding creation, and he did not intend that his enthusiasm should cause him to say too much this time and thereby make the same mistake he had made before. So he simply asked his father a question. "Did not everybody think the earth was flat years ago?"
"Yes, Walter, but what has that to do with our material bodies?"
"Did everybody believe it, father?"
"Certainly, for they did not know different"
"Did their thinking so make it so?"
"Most assuredly not, as you well know, Walter, the earth was always round."
"And even though they believed this mistake regarding the earth, it did not change the earth any, did it, father?" "No, but why these questions?"
"Only this, father, that this is just what we have been long doing regarding our bodies, thinking that they were material and believing it, but our mistaken thought regarding our bodies has not in reality changed them, any more than the thought that the earth was flat changed the earth. It seemed flat to those who believed it flat, though the truth was that the earth was round in reality. So with our bodies; they are material to us who believe them so, but in truth or reality, they are spiritual."
"I can readily agree with you in regard to the earth, because we know that it always was round, but we cannot prove that the body is spiritual."
"That is just the point, father. We can readily admit that the earth is round after it has been proven so; still before this proof was furnished the people would not admit it, any more than we will admit that our bodies are spiritual. Nevertheless the earth was round before it was proven so, and so with the body being spiritual. The proof of its spirituality does not change it any, as it will always remain as God made it, regardless of what man thinks or believes about it, nevertheless, Jesus Christ on several occasions proved the body to be spiritual and the proof that He done so is contained in the Bible, He also said 'Blessed are they who believe and do not see.'"
"I know Jesus Christ said that, but that was about something entirely different. You could hardly want me to believe something I could not see or prove, for you know, Walter, the old saying is that seeing is believing."
Walter immediately thought of what "Science and Health" said on this subject, so he said, "Can we always believe what we see?"
"Yes, I think so, son."
"Father, if you were to look out of this window to-morrow morning you would see in the distance where the heaven and earth seemed to meet; would you believe they did?"
"Certainly not, for I know better."
"Still you say, seeing is believing." His father leaned back in his chair and regarded his son critically; was the boy inspired? How else could he account for his intelligence? What was he to hear next, should he ask any more questions? Yes, he would ask him something more about this material body: "Walter is there anything in the Bible that you know of wherewith to substantiate your claim of a spiritual body?"
"I think there is, father. Jesus Christ must have known that his body was spiritual, and not material, for if his body had been material he could not have walked on the water, and in several places it speaks of Jesus becoming invisible to those around him."
"I know, son, but Jesus Christ was the Son of God."
"That is true, father, so are we, I distinctly remember reading in St. John—'now are we the sons of God.' St. Paul also speaks of us as sons of God and joint heirs with Christ."
The Rev. Williams slowly closed the Bible he had been holding open on his knee and looked at his son. Where would this thing end? He must try and confine the boy to one thing at a time, so he said, "I am still in the dark concerning your idea of how the material body came to be."
"Father, I will quote you again from the Bible—'as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he' This means that if you think anything, no matter what, and believe what you think, then so it is with you, and it seems true to you. For instance, take a person that is demented, who imagines he is King George, and believes it; to himself he is king George and no one can make him believe otherwise."
"That may be true of one who is demented, but how about a sane person?"
"This person may be sane on every topic but that one. Still I will give you another illustration of what the wrong thought on any subject will do. I read a while ago about some college students who decided to play a joke on their professor. This professor had several blocks to walk to the college, and the students decided to place themselves at frequent intervals along his path, and each one was to comment on how badly he looked, and intimate to him that he was sick. So on a certain morning as the professor was walking to the college (and he was feeling as well as usual), the first person he met was one of the students who greeted him warmly with a hearty 'good morning' and then added, 'What is the matter, professor, are you sick?' The professor said, 'No, I am feeling as well as usual; why do you ask?' The student then told him he looked very pale, and that he thought he must surely be sick. The professor then assured the student that he was feeling well and started toward the college. The next student he met also told him he looked sick; this was repeated several times, and caused the professor to imagine there must be something wrong. After meeting several more of the jokers he began to think he must be sick. Then being told the same thing a few more times, he believed he was sick, or believed what he thought, and turned back home a very sick man. So it is with us, we think we have material bodies, and because we believe what we think, it makes it seem true to us, even though it is not the truth."
"A very good illustration, Walter, I think I understand what you mean. If we all thought our bodies were spiritual and believed what we thought, then our bodies would be spiritual; in other words, whichever way we thought and believed, so it would really be."
"No father, that is not quite right. Simply thinking you are sick or well and believing it does not make you sick, or well, in reality; it only seems to do it to our mistaken mortal sense of things; the truth of anything remains the truth, regardless of how many falsehoods are told about it."
"Am I to understand Walter, that no matter what I or others may think or believe about this body, it does not change the facts regarding it, but only seems to do so to our senses?"
"That is just what I mean. God made us in His image and likeness, and as He is Spirit we must be like Him or spiritual, for matter is not the likeness of Spirit, but its opposite."
"That seems quite reasonable, Walter," said his mother, "but this material body is here, I can see it and feel it."
"It only seems to be material, mother, because we take our information from our five material senses; and as these five senses can only testify regarding material things because of their materiality, they do not testify to the truth, or reality, of man and the universe."
"But Walter," said the pastor, "if I am not to believe the testimony of my five senses, how am I to know anything?"
"The five material senses are continually deceiving us. The sense of sight I have spoken of before, but will give you a different illustration that shows up the deception of all the senses." "Father, do you believe life to be a reality?"
"I certainly do."
"Can you see life?"
"I hardly know how to answer that, I can see that you are alive. No, I shall say we can not see life itself, but only the manifestation of life."
"I agree with you, father, we cannot see life itself. Can we hear life?"
"Can we touch life?"
"Can we smell life?"
"Can we taste life?"
"Then our five material senses do not testify anything regarding a reality, for you said life was a reality." The pastor and his wife were very much surprised at Walter's ability to explain these things, and his mother was fully convinced of his being inspired, and the father was fast coming to the same conclusion.
"Did you understand me, father?"
"Yes, fully, you made it very plain."
"Now, father, would you say that the opposite of a reality was an unreality?"
The pastor hesitated, hardly daring to answer; at length he said, "Yes, it must be."
"Is not death the opposite of life, father?"
"Then if life is real, its opposite, or death, must be unreal; can you agree with me, father?" He always addressed his father, for his mother was showing by the nod of her head that she fully agreed with him."
"I must say, Walter, that I do agree with you, to quite an extent; but, I shall have to think it all over carefully before I will be fully convinced."
Walter then continued: "We have found that the five senses do not testify regarding a reality, now let us see if they testify regarding an unreality. As we had agreed that death was the opposite of life and that life was real and death unreal, we will take death as our example. When a person dies, we say life, or the reality has flown, and the unreality, the material or dead body, remains. Do our five material senses testify anything regarding this unreality or dead body? Yes, all five of them, for we can see this unreality with the eye. If we move this unreality, we hear it move with the ear. If we reach forth our hand we can touch it. After decomposition sets in, we can smell it; and if we would put a piece of it into our mouth, as we do of the dead cow or bird, we could even taste this unreality. This ought to convince us of the unreliability of the knowledge transmitted to us by the five senses; for, as I have shown, they all say the unreal is real and that the real is unreal. St. Paul said, 'To be carnally minded is death, and to be spiritually minded is life eternal.'"
"I know that St. Paul said this, but do not see as it has any bearing on the question we are discussing," said the pastor. "On the contrary, father, I think it is a verification of what I have been illustrating."
"Can you explain what you mean, Walter, so your mother and I will understand?"
"To me it seems plain, the carnal mind is the fleshly mind, which thinks everything is material; and this method of thinking leads to the belief in a material body and eventually in the death, or unreality, of this material body, the returning of the fleshly body to its original state, dust to dust, the real meaning of which I think is, nothing you were, to nothing you must return, for only the real is eternal."
"Walter, where do you get that definition of the word dust?"
"I take it from what is implied in the 2d chapter of Genesis, 7th verse, where it reads, 'And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground'; as there is no record of any dust having been made, it is very easy to see that dust must be the name given to designate something that exists only in our imagination, a false sense of the real, an illusion, and this 'Lord God' the suppositional creator of material things, is the false or material sense of God entertained by us mortals, and only exists in our imagination. I believe our prayers are unanswered for this very reason that the God we have been praying to exists in our imagination only and is a man-made God, or, as I said before, a God conceived by man."
"Not so fast, Walter; let us finish one thing at a time. Your explanation of the dust man is very reasonable, but I don't see where you get your authority for calling dust an unreality, or illusion."
"Father, I thought we had agreed that there was a hidden, or spiritual, meaning to all that was written in the Bible, and I think what I have said about this dust or material man is this meaning; take for instance, the first verse of chapter 3 of Genesis, which reads, 'Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, which the Lord God had made, and he said unto the woman, yea, hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden.' Now, father, who ever heard of a talking snake. No one. It is only a myth, and I believe this snake was used to symbolize the narrator's idea of evil, tempting the children of God, Good, to do evil.
"Another illustration that this second narrative is metaphorically written is in Genesis 2, 9th verse, which reads: 'And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.' We can readily agree that there is no tree that bears fruit called good and evil, so this word 'tree' is used metaphorically, and stands for something quite different."
Here Walter stopped and looked at his father to see what effect his speech was having on him, also because he thought he had said enough for one time. But his father was leaning slightly forward and had been drinking in every word the boy was saying, as he was fully convinced that his son did not of himself know all these things about the Bible, and, consequently, it must be that he was inspired.
The mother had the same opinion, so did not care to interrupt him.
Walter continued looking from one to the other not knowing what to make of their silence and the knowing look which passed between them, as he did not know that they thought him inspired.