Chapter Fifty-one | Plainfield Christian Science Church, Independent

Chapter Fifty-one

From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by


The Picket’s Song

In the Christian Science Sentinel for March 16, 1899, there appeared the following, quoted from the Presbyterian: Some Americans, who were crossing the Atlantic, met in the cabin on Sunday night to sing hymns. As they sang the last hymn, “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” one of them heard an exceedingly rich and beautiful voice behind him. He looked around, and although he did not know the face, he thought that he knew the voice. So, when the music ceased, he turned and asked the man if he had been in the Civil War. The man replied that he had been a Confederate soldier. “Were you at such a place on such a night?” asked the first man. “Yes,” replied the second man, “and a curious thing happened that night, which this hymn has recalled to my mind. I was posted on sentry duty, near the edge of a wood. It was a dark night and very cold, and I was a little frightened, because the enemy were supposed to be very near. About midnight, when everything was still, and I was feeling homesick, and miserable, and weary, I thought that I would comfort myself by praying and singing a hymn. I remember singing these lines: ‘All my trust on Thee is stayed. All my help from Thee I bring; Cover my defenceless head, With the shadow of Thy wing.’ After singing that, a strange peace came down upon me, and through the long night I felt no more fear.” “Now,” said the other, “listen to my story. I was a Union soldier, and was in the wood that night with a party of scouts. I saw you standing, although I did not see your face. My men had their rifles focused upon you, waiting for the word to fire, but when you sang, ‘Cover my defenceless head with the shadow of Thy wing,’ I said, ‘Boys, lower your rifles, we will go home.’”

This story has been made the basis for an article, entitled Watching, by John C. Lathrop in the Christian Science Sentinel for October 13, 1923. Furthermore, it has been set forth in poetical form under the title, The Picket’s Song, by Alice May Youse.

“Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly:
While the waters near me roll,
While the tempest still is high.”

It was on an ocean steamer,
And one voice above the rest,
Beautiful, pure, rich and mellow,
All the air with music blest.
Something more, a faint remembrance
Broke upon the listener’s ear.
“Yes,” he thought, “’tis not the first time
That sweet voice is mine to hear.”

Silence followed. Then the stranger
Stept up to the singer rare,
“Were you in the Civil War, sir?”
“A Confederate, I was there.”
Then a time, a place, were mentioned.
“Were you?” “Yes, and strange to say
This same hymn was then my comfort,
That you hear us sing today.

“Dark the night, so cold and dreary,
And my boyish heart felt low,
Pacing there on sentry duty,
Dangerously near the foe.
Midnight came, the darkness deepened,
Thoughts of home, foreboding brought.
So, for comfort, prayer and singing,
Dissipated gloomy thought.

“‘All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my hope from Thee I bring,
Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.’
Then a strange peace came upon me,
No more fear and gloom that night,
Dawn came, heralding the morrow
Ere the first faint streak of light.”

Then the other told his story:
“I, a Union soldier, true,
In those woods that very evening,
With my scouts was passing through.
You were standing, and our rifles
Covered you. We heard you sing:
‘Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of Thy wing!’

“Twas enough, ‘Boys,’ I said,
‘Come, Lower rifles; We’ll go home.’”

Mrs. Eddy was evidently impressed by this story, because, in 1903, she said, “You must watch, as Jesus said, if you would not have the house broken open; you think you are watching, but are you, when the house is broken open? What would be thought of a watchman who would let the place watched be burglarized? Would he be the right kind of a watchman? That is just why I named our paper, Sentinel, and on it, ‘Watch.’ Now how should we watch? A guard who was watching on the side of the Union soldiers in time of the war, was walking up and down while on duty, when he suddenly felt the approach of the enemy, danger; so he began to sing, ‘Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly, etc.,’ and the verse that did the work was, ‘Other refuge have I none, Hangs my helpless soul on Thee, etc.’ He gave up to God. He afterward talked with the man who said he approached with his gun to his shoulder to shoot the guard, and he said his arm fell and the rifle with it; he could not shoot. That was watching. We must feel the danger and lift our thought to God. He will save us. If we do not feel the danger, and go right on as though everything were all right, declaring you are all right, you cannot die, etc., when the seeming is all wrong, you will not be watching with God. When we feel the danger, then we earnestly turn to God. Keep awake— watch; the right kind of watching.”

Was it scientific for Mrs. Eddy to advocate that the student feel a sense of danger in his watching? Furthermore, if one’s thought is spiritually awake, is not that the whole demonstration? After you have perceived the danger, is there anything more to do?

When an engineer, who has charge of keeping a head of steam in a boiler up to a certain pressure, is conscious that more steam is being drawn out than usual, he stirs up the fire and adds more coal. The effect of error on the spiritually-minded one is to depress thought. When he feels this depression, he should immediately rouse his thought to return it to the spiritual level where it belongs. Hence, the moment he feels a warning, announcing that error is endeavoring to touch his thought, depress it, and pull it down from its exalted level, he must add more truth to keep his thought up to that level of divine protection.

Once, a student who was clerk of a branch church of Christ, Scientist, remarked to her teacher what a splendid Sunday morning service they had just had. The teacher rebuked her, by saying that it might have seemed so to one whose thought was spiritually dulled, or self-centered in demonstration, but, in reality, the mental atmosphere was so devoid of spiritual thought, that it proved that most of the students had failed to recognize the universal need.

It is possible for a user of tobacco to grow so callous in his taste, that he must highly season everything he eats in order that he may enjoy it. Under such conditions, might he not even eat tainted food without realizing it?

Christian Science unfolds that everything mortal mind has to offer is tainted, because it has a mortal origin. The student who is gaining true spirituality, is becoming so mentally sensitive, that he can detect the blighting touch of materiality, wherever and whenever it appears. Thus, in Miscellaneous Writings, on page 180, Mrs. Eddy graphically describes her experience when she felt this mental pollution, “Then another person, more material, met me, and I said, in the words of my Master, ‘Touch me not.’ I shuddered at her material approach; then my heart went out to God, and I found the open door from this sepulchre of matter.”

Hence, the clerk of the church who felt that, because she enjoyed the Sunday service, it was not necessary for her to do any mental work, mistook a human sense of harmony for a spiritually demonstrated atmosphere. Her own words, therefore, exposed the spiritual deadness of her thought, revealing how lacking it was in sensitiveness to the presence of the claim of animal magnetism.

From the standpoint of Christian Science, mortal belief has no atmosphere in which the Christian Scientist should relax, feel content, and become unwatchful. In corroboration of this statement, we need only turn to the Master’s saying, “The Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20. Hence, we conclude that the only way a student can relax and feel safe in the lion’s den of animal magnetism, is to become unconscious of the danger. By this assertion we mean, man being in a state of mesmerism, where he is so contented in the flesh and mentally callous, that he could sit on a barrel of dynamite and smoke his pipe with pleasure.

There is no way in Christian Science for the student to spiritualize his thought, without first becoming conscious of, and sensitive to, error. Our Leader set this idea forth, when she said to the household, “The higher one senses harmony, the more sensitive he is to discord; the same in music.” Then, the next step is to eliminate the belief of error, thus leaving man conscious of Truth only.

In mining gold, one first digs out the ore. Then, a further process eliminates the dross and leaves the gold. Nevertheless, in the first process, both gold and dross are brought to light. Similarly, when one’s thought, while working to separate Truth from error, is spiritually active and infused with Truth, it recognizes when specific animal magnetism approaches. Then comes the second spiritual step, which eliminates the sense of error and leaves thought free. The way to become conscious of error for protective purposes, is to spiritualize one’s own thought, so that it becomes repelled by, rather than attracted to, any human sense of good.

The sentry on duty felt the approach of the enemy, because he was sensitive both to error and truth, and because he was mentally on guard and saw the fingerprint of error on the polished surface of his clean mental windowpane. In other words, a thought that is watching has polished the window to let in all the light possible, and hence, is conscious of the danger of dirty fingerprints being put upon it. It follows, that if the window is dirty in the first place, such fingerprints will not show.

Why does Mrs. Eddy say that we must be conscious of our danger? Would not that word danger tend to arouse fear in the mind of the student? Are weeds dangerous? Only when permitted to grow unmolested, until they crowd out the plants. If you are watching, the error that touches you has no more power than mice or moths, that only destroy when not detected. When thought is watching and is touched by error, it is simply the announcement that there is a claim present, that would grow upon the thought if permitted to, as a false and malicious bit of gossip might make a mental impression, if not instantly rebuked. The danger connected with error is not the danger of an opponent with horseshoes hidden in his boxing gloves. No error can ever produce a physical effect, except as it works through man’s own belief. Hence, the physical manifestation is the price man pays for entertaining fear and false deductions. Or, looked at in another way, the outward manifestation is a protection, for it announces without, the presence within, of an error which is being entertained, instead of being destroyed.

Thus, when Mrs. Eddy recommended her students to be conscious of their danger, she was calling their attention to the danger resident in cause, and not effect, which is a very important differentiation. The only effect of the enemy, animal magnetism, is to tempt one to think incorrectly, to think from the standpoint of sense testimony, rather than from scientific knowledge.

Is the burglar alarm afraid of the burglar? Does it stay awake all night in fear of danger? No! It knows that the only danger from a thief, would be if he slipped in unnoticed and was allowed to work in the dark, for thus, undetected, he might accomplish his evil purpose. Once his presence is discovered, however, his power is gone. Similarly, the burglar-alarm is a symbol of scientific watchfulness. When one’s spiritually-watchful thought is rightly conscious of the danger, it is always ready to give the alarm, when the fingerprint of animal magnetism sullies the clean windowpane of spiritual reflection. Then the scientific remedy can be applied instantly.

There is a dual watching that is necessary in connection with Christian Science church services. One must watch against human harmony, or apathy, that tends to lull thought into inactivity, and also against the temptation to hide one’s light under a bushel, selfishly to demonstrate a little globe of harmony in a big globe of discord. The effort to free one’s own thought from mesmerism in order to enjoy a service, is in direct disobedience to the Manual, Art. 8, Sec. 5. Science and Health instructs students to seek their own in another’s good; to follow the example of the Master, who took upon himself the iniquity of us all, or who recognized any sense of inharmony he might feel, as a call to help his brother in distress. When a Christian Scientist feels within himself that which he should recognize as a demand upon him to help his brother, it is a misuse of Truth to apply it selfishly in an effort to silence that call. The scientific attitude of mind in a Christian Scientist, is to regard himself as a servant of God, because he is the custodian of the mental atmosphere of the world. Then his watching will bless all humanity.




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