by Floyd C. Shank: Mary Baker Eddy—Founder! What does the word “founder” mean that it should be so closely linked with the one who has discovered Christian Science, the complete healing system of Christ Jesus? Webster’s dictionary gives this meaning: “One that founds, establishes, or builds.” The Founder of Christian Science, then, is the one who has immovably established Christian Science on this earth.
In the Preface to the textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” ( p. xi), Mrs. Eddy discloses her divine authority for undertaking this gigantic task. She explains, “When God called the author to proclaim His Gospel to this age, there came also the charge to plant and water His vineyard.” How has she fulfilled this responsibility which God placed upon her? What evidence have we that she succeeded in performing a task of such magnitude? Through what avenues have her followers received directions for aiding their Leader in carrying out God’s orders to her “to plant and water His vineyard”?
Evidence of her selfless obedience to this command is to be seen in the incomparable church institution which she founded and which she fostered throughout her long years of devotion to the fulfillment of God’s charge. The Manual of The Mother Church by Mrs. Eddy records God’s directions to her for founding an institution, the purpose of which is to forward the new birth of everyone who enters its fold by requiring obedience to Rules and By-Laws which over the years were dictated to the author by divine Love.
The nameless struggle which brought her to the point where her work as Founder had to be undertaken may be glimpsed in the pathos of her words recorded on page 330 of Science and Health, “Until the author of this book learned the vastness of Christian Science, the fixedness of mortal illusions, and the human hatred of Truth, she cherished sanguine hopes that Christian Science would meet with immediate and universal acceptance.” Scriptural precedent for this rejection of the purely spiritual system of Christianity is recorded in the Gospel of John ( 1:11), “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
But even as the Master walked without faltering in the face of the world’s hatred of Truth, so Mrs. Eddy entered unhesitatingly upon her colossal task. Facing with unwavering faith in God the magnitude of the task before her, she listened for and obeyed His guidance in healing and teaching and evolving step by step a church designed to reestablish for present and future generations Jesus’ original system of the unadulterated Christ-healing.
In his book “Historical Sketches,” Clifford P. Smith gives this impressive description of Mrs. Eddy’s work as Founder (p. 64): “As Founder, she had to find, prove, and continually supervise the appropriate modes by which to communicate her discovery, preserve its purity, and make it most beneficial to all who would accept and use it. All this she did as one divinely guided. ‘And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend’ (Exodus 33:11).”
How has it been possible for this lone woman to succeed in founding a vast church establishment on teachings counter to the whole current of human theories commonly accepted by the human race? The answer is in the inevitable fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words to his disciples that he had much more to teach them than they could then comprehend. Hence his assurance that the full explanation of his method of salvation and healing would be forthcoming at some future time. His words are, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” ( John 14:26). This prophecy is now fulfilled in the lifework of Mary Baker Eddy. Through her total self-renunciation and consecration to her divine calling, the Master’s complete system and its demonstration in healing have been revealed and preserved in their purity.
Thirteen years after Mrs. Eddy’s discovery of Christian Science in 1866, there appeared definite evidence of her work as Founder. During those years she had demonstrated Christian Science to be Jesus’ method by healing hundreds of cases of all types of disease and sin through the power of God alone; she had taught this Science to students; and she had published the textbook. Now she undertook the planting and watering of God’s vineyard by organizing a church designed to reinstate primitive Christianity with its original healing element and to perpetuate in its purity her great discovery. However, after ten years of existence under a state charter, this humanly organized church was, at Mrs. Eddy’s request, dissolved, although regular services were maintained.
Then on September 23, 1892, under divine guidance she established, free from the limitations of a state charter, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts—The Mother Church. On September 1 of that year, Mrs. Eddy had executed a “Deed of Trust Conveying Land for Church Edifice,” stipulating that “said grantees shall be known as the ‘Christian Science Board of Directors,’ and shall constitute a perpetual body or corporation under and in accordance with section one, Chapter 39 of the Public Statutes of Massachusetts” (Manual, p. 130). Thus the Founder established a legal entity for the ownership of the land and church edifices. Under this provision The Christian Science Board of Directors holds the legal title to these properties in trust for the members of The Mother Church, and voting power is vested by the Manual in the Directors.
The Original Mother Church edifice in Boston was constructed in 1894 and was dedicated free of debt at the Sunday services, January 6, 1895. The date and the services are memorable in that it was on this occasion that the Bible and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” at Mrs. Eddy’s direction, became the Pastor of The Mother Church and all of its branches. In a letter addressed to The Christian Science Board of Directors, dated December 19, 1894, she made that announcement, stating in explanation that it was her intent to spiritualize thought through the pure Word, unadulterated by human views (see The Mother Church by Joseph Armstrong, p. 75).
At the Annual Meeting of The Mother Church on June 18, 1902, the thousands of members present adopted unanimously a motion to provide adequate funds for erecting the extension of The Mother Church adjoining the Original Edifice. For this action Mrs. Eddy expressed her deep and heartfelt thanks (see The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 7-9) . The purchase of the needed land, the completion of the new building, and payment in full for the magnificent structure enabled the opening dedicatory services to be held on June 10, 1906.
This brief summation of the Founder’s progress in establishing the Cause of Christian Science, symbolized by the completion and dedication of The Mother Church edifices, is cited merely to hint at the vast growth of this new-old healing religion throughout the world. And this progress has continued during the sixty years following the dedication of The Mother Church extension. Today there are branch churches with their public Reading Rooms and also societies encircling the globe; Christian Science practitioners and teachers carrying on their healing and teaching work for humanity; and The Christian Science Publishing Society supplying the world with the religious periodicals of the Church and its daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor.
In his book “Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy” (p. 111), Irving C. Tomlinson makes this impressive statement: “How little the world knows, how slightly it appreciates, the hardships and the self-sacrifice of Mary Baker Eddy in presenting her inspired revelation to the sons of men! Only through divine wisdom and unceasing toil did she accomplish the work of keeping Christian Science unadulterated. What humanity owes to her foresight in establishing The Christian Science Publishing Society, it now little comprehends, but future ages will accord a just estimate to the untiring labor and manifold achievements of the Founder of the Christian Science movement.”
Nowhere is the vastness of Christian Science and its divinely established Church indicated more comprehensively than in the Church Manual. The deeply spiritual purpose of this Manual is outlined in Article XXXV, Section 1, “It stands alone, uniquely adapted to form the budding thought and hedge it about with divine Love.” This forming of “the budding thought” is the impelling of spiritual growth in the individual member’s thought and life to the degree that the member orders his thinking and living in accord with the Manual’s God-given By-Laws and Rules. In an extract from a letter in her book “Miscellaneous Writings,” printed on page 3 of the Manual, Mrs. Eddy makes clear the divine origin of the Manual and its many By-Laws.
The Mother Church, with its branches, is unique. Far from being just another sect or organization, it is a divinely dictated plan for fostering and promoting the study, understanding, and demonstration of the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures as revealed in Christian Science. Does not this fact emphasize the grave responsibility resting upon each member of the Founder’s Church to strive daily to increase his spiritual understanding and his obedience to the By-Laws and Rules of the Church Manual?
This complete plan can never be changed, needs never to be changed (see Manual, Art. XXXV, Sect. 3). But change must take place in the thinking and living of the members as they more and more fully comprehend and live in accord with the Tenets and By-Laws of the Church. Through obedience to the Manual, discipline of thought develops moral and spiritual power, both of which are indispensable to spiritual advancement in Christian Science.
The Founder not only has planted and watered God’s vineyard, but also has provided for its perpetual care, for its continued watering and weeding and cultivating by her followers. The budding and unfolding of spiritual understanding take place in the consciousness of every member and grow to fruitage in healing disease and sin, in reformation, and in spiritual advancement. It is through our willing obedience to the Church Rules that mankind will be the beneficiary of pure Christian Science.
Is it not apparent that the purpose of our Leader’s labors as Founder is to preserve the light of Truth undimmed until it reaches all mankind? In a powerful admonition recorded in her book “Retrospection and Introspection,” Mrs. Eddy warns against any deviation from the divinely prescribed order. She says (p. 85), “Guard yourselves against the subtly hidden suggestion that the Son of man will be glorified, or humanity benefited, by any deviation from the order prescribed by supernal grace.”
Can her followers be dismayed if at times their tasks should seem sore, when they recall the great accomplishments of the Founder as she obeyed God’s call “to plant and water His vineyard”? How was she to prepare soil in which the seed of spiritual truth would grow and reach the point of fruitage? God led her step by step to comprehend and carry out His directives. Faithfully, tirelessly, she followed through success and through failures, through harmony and through discord, through poverty and through plenty!
She has given to mankind her spiritually established Church, The Mother Church, with its branches in most countries. Obviously the purpose of this Church-plan is to prepare the soil and to provide for cultivating and guarding the tender plants of spiritual awakening as they appear above the weeds of material thinking and living.
As her followers, let us rise spiritually to study and comprehend more fully our Leader’s lifework as Founder. Her Church is a prolongation of her own life purpose. It represents the Founder guiding and leading us on in our journey out of the flesh. She tells us to look for her only in her writings, which include the Church Manual (see Miscellany, p. 120). Through the divinely dictated Rules and By-Laws in the Manual the Founder speaks to us with authority in behalf of her discovery. These By-Laws are the continuing means of protecting, cherishing, and mothering the true idea of God as it dawns on human thinking and living.
May we, her followers, grasp more fully the actual meaning of the Founder’s stupendous work and mission, which she has fulfilled through total self-renunciation and unceasing communion with the infinite! Mrs. Eddy alone fully comprehends this. She humbly declares in Miscellany (p. 249): “Millions may know that I am the Founder of Christian Science. I alone know what that means.”