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Freedom
ALBERT F. GILMORE, CSB

 
         During a recent visit to a well-known penal institution, the truth of the familiar lines of the seventeenth century poet, Richard Lovelace,

Stone walls do not a prison make,
       Nor iron bars a cage,

was brought most vividly to the writer's thought. At the close of a peculiarly interesting testimony meeting held in the prison chapel, at which several earnest expressions of gratitude for Christian Science healing were given, one of the inmates said to the writer that he had never known what it was to be free until confined in that prison. Although reared in a circle of culture and refinement, with college and professional training, yet only through this experience in prison had there been revealed to him even in the slightest degree that "glorious liberty of the children of God" which the apostle declared to be the ultimate goal of deliverance of "the creature." With a little reflection this rather startling statement was seen to express a situation wholly in accord with the knowledge of man that is gained through the study of Christian Science; for man in the image of infinite Mind, as Mrs. Eddy expresses it in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 475), "the compound idea of God, including all right ideas," is found to be entirely apart from the limitations of time and space, which are the fundamental beliefs underlying the experience of confinement, that is to say, imprisonment.

         This man had learned through the study of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook that, after all, he alone is in prison who conceives himself to be confined in matter, and consequently circumscribed in his capacities and activities by the countless limitations which mortals have set for themselves through the ages, multiplied and intensified, perhaps, by each succeeding generation, and from which there is no escape except through the uncertain gateway termed death. This bondage of the flesh, it may be said, has been accepted as inevitable, part and parcel of the divine purpose. The testimony of the physical senses, confined to the phenomena of material man and his environment, readily acknowledges the metes and bounds set by mortal belief, for limitation is the very essence of mortal mind's sense of existence, — mortal mind in mortal body, moving altogether in an orbit of its own choosing. It would be rather difficult to conceive of a more complete scheme of imprisonment, limitation, and restriction than is represented in the experience of the Adam man, though, to be sure, this is the common lot of mankind.

         Into the consciousness of the man in prison, that is, to the man who is in the belief of life in matter, there comes a glimmer and then a gleam of light, a light the like of which has never shone on land or sea, revealing to him the facts of spiritual being, the truth about God and man. With this revelation how changed to him becomes the whole problem of existence! In place of bondage and servitude to mortal belief, which is always an exacting taskmaster, there is mental and spiritual freedom, the inherent and inalienable accompaniment of man's true selfhood, which to know is to experience. How far, then, is removed the sense of bondage and how quickly with this realization the confining walls of the mental prison vanish. And the perspective of life extends until it loses itself in contemplating the infinite ideas of divine Mind, the eternal glories of celestial being. How true are the psalmist's words, as understood in Christian Science, "The Lord looseth the prisoners: the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind."

         On page 503 of Science and Health Mrs. Eddy says, "Immortal and divine Mind presents the idea of God: first, in light; second, in reflection; third, in spiritual and immortal forms of beauty and goodness." In the light of this understanding it will be seen that the author of the old poem referred to was really, though perhaps quite unconsciously, reciting a fine metaphysical fact, which is elaborated farther on in the same stanza: —

If I have freedom in my love,
       And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above
       Enjoy such liberty.

Being, as thus cognized, knows no restriction or limitation, for its very essence is liberty. He who knows (understands) his real freedom will demonstrate it in proportion to his knowledge. Like Peter he will, perhaps most unexpectedly, find an angel of light in his prison ready to lead him in devious ways, past sleeping guards, through gates which swing wide at the bidding of Love, until he stands in the outer atmosphere of perfect freedom. He, too, will know that it is the Lord who has sent this angel of deliverance. And mayhap another Rhoda, recognizing the freed man and running to tell her fellows, will be greeted by the same incredulous cry: "Thou art mad . . . It is his angel;" for mortal mind, ever tenacious of its own false sense of existence, does not readily give place to the spiritual concept.

         Before dismissing the meeting referred to at the beginning of this article, its leader, who is a member of the parole board of that state, announced to the audience that there had gone out on parole one hundred and fifty men who had gained a new sense of freedom through Christian Science; that every one of these paroled men had found profitable employment and all were filling respectable places, doing useful work in the world, and reestablishing their citizenship. These men who had beheld the angel of light through the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy might well repeat with tears of gratitude her inspiring words (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 275), "Father, we thank Thee that Thy light and Thy love reach earth, open the prison to them that are bound, console the innocent, and throw wide the gates of heaven."

         Who can deny that this understanding of freedom is indeed the fruit of Spirit, the fulfillment of the mission which Isaiah foresaw should accompany the coming of the Christ: "Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."

 

"Freedom" by Albert F. Gilmore, CSB
Christian Science Sentinel, December 28, 1918


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