From Mary Baker Eddy, Her Spiritual Footsteps by Gilbert Carpenter
Spiritual Interpretation of the Manual
Mrs. Eddy knew that God guided her in writing the Manual. On page 116 of Memoirs of Mary Baker Eddy, Adam Dickey quotes her as saying, “I prayed God day and night to show me how to form my Church, and how to go on with it. I understand that He showed me, just as I understand He showed me Christian Science and no human being ever showed me Christian Science. Then I have no right or desire to change what God has directed me to do, and it remains for the Church to obey it. What has prospered this Church for thirty years will continue to keep it.”
At another time, she spoke of the Manual as follows: “God gives us the victory. His plan is made long before we know anything about it; then we have to carry it out. The human heart requires many scourgings sometimes before it falls in line, but it must come. We can help one another and can help ourselves, but God gives the victory. When I used to preach in a hall, I would go there sometimes and the door would be locked; could not get in. Others would be inside in the front seats, laughing and talking. I would have to get a policeman to let me in; then in the room where I would stay until time to go out to speak, there would be cigar stumps lying around. Then when I had a Church I said, we will not have By-laws; see how I had to give that up? I finally said, there will have to be laws to put a stop to this (mortal mind) work. Then I wrote the Manual. I never had a Church until I had the Manual. See how God led me! I wrote the Manual as I did S. & H.”
Mrs. Eddy told me that the purpose of the Manual was to bless and encourage the students, to guide them wisely, but never to inculcate a human discipline according to mortal mind, which would endeavor to force others into doing and thinking what they should. She said, “When will the students learn how to utilize and interpret the Bylaws correctly? They are not intended to restrict nor to produce hardship.”
For instance, if the Manual instructed that the Readers be changed at stated intervals, Mrs. Eddy did not intend for them to follow it literally, if such meant to lower the spiritual standard. In defence of this statement, I will cite a definite case. When the students in New York wrote, asking Mrs. Eddy if John C. Lathrop could be considered a candidate for the Readership where he had read before, because the Manual called for a change, Mrs. Eddy wrote back a letter, which was dictated to me, in which she said that Mr. Lathrop should continue by all means, if they had no other suitable candidate, and that she never intended the Manual to lower the spiritual standard. Then, she said to me that she wished the students would understand the spirit in which the Manual was written.
Mrs. Eddy knew that a literal obedience to the By-laws was not sufficient; for the only true obedience is spiritual. They must all be obeyed in Spirit and in Truth. The Manual was provided for Christian Scientists, and not Christian Scientists for the Manual. The By-laws were spiritual revelations to our Leader, to be given to the Field as guides to set forth the better way. They require rotation in office, for instance, in order that no one student may yield to the error that would set one up as a Leader, and also, in order that as many students as possible may have the privilege of the blessings which accompany service in the various capacities which the organization offers. Through rotation, students discover that it requires demonstration to act correctly, rather than to have demonstration the result of one’s acts. Thus are workers built up for the Cause. Obedience without divine wisdom marks only the earliest steps of growth.
In reference to Mrs. Eddy’s speaking about the cigar stumps lying around, and the fact that she even found it difficult to get into the very hall where she was to speak, what did she intend to show forth?
That was simply to show that in the early days of Christian Science, before students were instructed sufficiently to know how to give her the necessary mental support at such times, she had to carry the whole burden alone, not only giving a lecture, but doing the mental work to support it as well. She was given no support either outwardly or mentally.