Hymn 18 from the Christian Science Hymnal is by an anonymous author. It is a beloved and old hymn which was held in high regard by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy.
“Be firm and be faithful; desert not the right
The brave become bolder the darker the night.
Then watch and be doing, though cowards may fail;
Thy duty pursuing, dare all and prevail.
If scorn be they portion, if hatred and loss,
If stripes or a prison, remember the cross.
God watches above thee, and He will requite;
Forsake those that love thee, but never the right.”
According to the Concordance to the Christian Science Hymnal and Hymnal Notes, page 144: “In a copy of the Christian Science Hymnal which Mrs. Eddy used in her home, appears a note written by her own hand: ‘Sing often in The Mother Church the hymn 173 ‘ (present No 18). She never gave any formal expression of this wish; but her thought of these words has significance for all who use the Hymnal.”
The last line of this hymn always seemed curious to me -, that we might entertain the idea of forsaking those that love us. But the phrase is also associated with never forsaking the right. It is referring to forsaking the personal sense of those that love us, while never forsaking their higher nature. It refers to putting off the old man, and putting on the new man in our view of others, whether they appear as our opponents or as our loved ones. It is the human personhood of that loved one which is to be forsaken, but never their true spiritual identity. Personal human feelings do not directly reflect divine Love. They indicate a limited and flawed human sense of divine Love.
Consider a hypothetical situation. Perhaps a beloved close relative believes that it would be best for us to undergo a certain medical procedure, or to take a certain drug because of the results of a medical diagnosis – but our own prayer has revealed that this recommendation does not feel right. In this hypothetical situation, we have received through communion with God a spiritual intuition about what is the right thing to do. If we have resolved to follow God and His behests, then the only way to stay on the upward path is to be obedient to God. Obedience to God is much more than a “choice” to obey God.
Obedience to God is as necessary for us as is the necessity for a planet to be obedient to the sun. The planet has no choice but to orbit the sun. It cannot choose to wander off into another solar system. Being obedient to God in the same sense as a planet is to the sun, can we, as God’s obedient subjects, wander away and honor the gods of human advice, human love, instead of expressing obedience to divine Mind? We will stay on track mentally only when we choose to recognize the unchangeable fact that God is at the center of our being. Human advice and human love may claim their identity as our centers, but no amount of claiming can make that actually so, just as the planet cannot willfully choose another sun. God is still and always will be at the center of our being regardless of our human outlook. To follow the false “sun” of human guidance will only put us into a state of mental confusion, a state in which we cannot be sure where our universe is centered. What confusion we would have in our conclusions and observations on earth if we believed the earth itself to be rotating about the moon while it is actually rotating about the sun! The human mind finds itself in just such a state of confusion when it mistakenly, but with the best of intentions, honors falsity. Only in false belief can we making the impossible choice of recognizing allegiance to any force external to our real controller, God.
As wonderful as human love is in the human experience, person and human love do not accurately represent the true nature of God’s perfect man. They can be likened to beliefs in false “suns”, by which we believe ourselves to be influenced in place of the sun. The star of human love looks bright -it appears up there in the sky with the sun and it emits light as the sun does. But is it the master of the earth, or is the sun the master? We must take care not to mistake it for having the same influences as the sun if the revolutions of the earth are to appear orderly and explicable in our experience.
Human love only approximates divine Love with the best of intentions. It is flavored and influenced by beliefs in material limitations and fears. To human sense, we may fear that we are abandoning our loved one by following our own path. Such a false and egotistical sense presents itself to us as our real self. The mortal ego can be likened to the false sense of belief that the earth’s rotations can be explained by its supposed rotation about this “star” of human love. A rightly directed human mind follows not selfish egotistical direction, the dim star, but rather follows heavenly direction, the sun. A rightly directed human mind looks away from the human sense of ego, and dwells in the consciousness of the awareness of one supreme Ego, the identity of God, of which we all are perfect and individual reflections. These individual reflections reside in the one true divine consciousness, the consciousness of Mind, infinite in scope. Prayerful treatment of the action of our finite human mind creates an alignment with the infinite perfect divine consciousness. This alignment can be likened to assuring ourselves that the sun is the center of our solar system by observation of astronomical rules. We can be assured then, that following God’s direction is in consonance with divine Love, and that following sensations obtained through a mistaken observation process can only be in consonance with those false assumptions themselves. Divine Love is indeed the way. Human love is a misunderstood, and hence less reliable sense of divine Love.
Even the disciples caught but dimly the depth of Jesus’ message about the relationship of earthly life with the divine. Jesus rebuked Peter, when Peter proclaimed that he had left all to follow Christ:
Mark 10:28, 29
“Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s”
It was as if Jesus were saying that mere human love for our surroundings, homes, and families, wonderful as they all are to us now, pale in comparison to the highest and truest sense of Love found in the kingdom of heaven. Our real being is much higher than even all of the wonder, love, and beauty we are able to perceive through limited human experience. Pure and perfect spiritual consciousness makes us continually aware of the continually present umbrella of divine Love. This is the ultimate sense of existence for which we strive. When we reach this mental state, human existence will be seen to pass into obscurity, swallowed up by a sense of the vastness of permanent spiritual perfection. Though we love our human life now, we must be willing to leave the old for the new, to drop the mortal for the immortal, in order that we may climb the upward mental path to the heavenly and perfect state of experience. The human sense, though sometimes apparently beautiful, is the limited and false, which must and will ultimately be usurped by the infinite and divine sense of Love. There will we be found risen above all the limits of mortality and the materiality of human life.
Referring to good and evil, spirit and matter, divine and human, Jesus taught that we must make a solid choice between them. When we attempt to mix them, our heavenward progress is stifled. We will remain in a state of confusion, never knowing where to look or what to expect, because our expectations are tossed between a false perception honoring other stars, versus the sun, as the center of our universe. As a result, the observations we make about the things around us can never match with our expectations.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
When a new idea is understood, we retain it only by caring for it and cherishing it. We cannot put a spiritual understanding life into a material concept of body. Infinite life cannot be confined, and is not in the finite body. Only by ridding ourselves of the old concept of containment in carnal body, and putting on the new garment of understanding infinite spiritual embodiment , can we retain what we have learned. Jesus said:
“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.”
Let us take care to observe our life from the perspective of God at the center. The material senses would indicate that the center of our universe is elsewhere. They look everywhere but in the right place, to God, for a center. Our life forever continues to revolve around God regardless of the contrary evidence of human sense.