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The Gateway
JUDGE SEPTIMUS J. HANNA, CSD


         A leading daily newspaper in one of the cities of the middle West contains an editorial review of a lecture on Christian Science which had just been delivered there, wherein it is said, —

         "He [the lecturer] did not refer to the fact that death has existed throughout the entire earth in all ages as one of the conditions of evolution, that from it there could be no escape, and that most Christians regard it as the gateway to a higher life; but he talked as if death, physical death, was something that did not belong in the divine order and might be overcome. In this strain the speaker proceeded, . . . speaking with evident sincerity and earnestness."

         I make this part of the editorial my text, not because it was written by a particular person and published in a particular newspaper, but because it reflects a yet generally prevalent sentiment or belief.

         Is the sentiment or belief Scriptural?

         Those who maintain that it is must be able to explain consistently therewith some very explicit Scripture. For instance, the following: —

         "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man . . . . Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."

         It cannot rationally be said that a power held by the devil is the gateway to a higher life, nor in the divine order. Can spiritual life be evolved out of physical death? If so, the physical is the parent of the spiritual and, therefore, superior to it. Moreover, if so-called physical death were evolutionarily spiritward, it would not be death at all, but progressive life. Hence the word death as thus applied would be a misnomer.

         The Scripture above quoted is but a re-statement of Jesus' teaching: —

         "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

         Here sin and evil are clearly personalized as the devil — the destroyer. Jesus came to destroy the works of this destroyer; that was his mission. He was sent of God. If God were the destroyer of soul and body He would not have sent Jesus to undo that which He had done and was doing. This is sufficient evidence that the destroyer is the devil — evil.

         We quote further: —

         "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction."

         If death and the grave are the gateway to a higher life and in the divine order, why does God, speaking through his prophet, declare that He will ransom from the power of the grave? If He sends death why does He declare through Hosea that He will be death's plagues? Does He create on the one hand that He may have something to destroy on the other? Why such dual action by Him whom the Scriptures declare to be immutable, unchangeable, and "without shadow of turning"?

         It would seem as though the above Scripture must be eliminated before it can be concluded that death is the gateway to a higher life and in the divine order. In that case, what shall we do with the declarations of Paul, who in substance, reiterates the above Scripture? He says, —

         "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is; thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Paul also places his conception of death beyond all question when he says, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." That which is an enemy cannot logically be the gateway to a higher life; nor can the enemy which is to be finally destroyed be in the divine order.

         In entire harmony with the foregoing Scripture John tells of the final destruction of the last enemy: —

         "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them. . . . And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."

         In the light of the above Scripture and much more that might be cited it cannot consistently be said to be a Scriptural teaching that death is the gateway to a higher life or in the divine order.

         As a matter of common reasoning and observation, independent of Scripture, is death the gateway to a higher life and in the divine order? A man is sentenced to be hanged for committing a foul murder. He dies as he lived. Will it be said that for him death is the gateway to a higher life and in the divine order? So of all wicked persons dying in their sins. If the sentiment relates only to the righteous and not the wicked, then may we not fairly ask, Is it the fact of dying that opens the gateway to a higher life? or is it the righteous living which preceded death?

         If death were indeed the gateway to a higher life and in the divine order, then all should court it, enter the gateway, and come into the divine order as speedily as possible.

         Christian Science teaches emphatically that right living, not dying, fits mankind for heaven, — the higher life. It seems clear that this teaching is in strict accord with Scripture as well as with sound logic and common observation. If death is not in the divine order it must be in the human order. It must be the result of human and not of divine law. The Scriptural and logical conclusion is that it exists by reason of failure to comply with the divine law, rather than as the result of that law. God does not destroy His own works. We may be sure of that.

         Paul had no sooner declared that the sting of death was sin than he triumphantly exclaimed: "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." In Revelation we read this joyous message: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city . . . . I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches." This is the true gateway, the real divine order. A few quotations from the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," will clearly indicate the teaching of Mrs. Eddy, its author, upon the subject in hand. On page 485 we read these emphatic and startling words: "Not death, but the understanding of Life, makes man immortal." Is this remarkable declaration in accord, with sound reason, or is it not? Life should be more efficacious than death. Life is activity. Death is inertia. Which of the two, as a matter of ordinary logic, should open the gateway to a higher life?

         I quote further from the textbook, page 409: "We cannot spend our days here in ignorance of the Science of Life, and expect to find beyond the grave a reward for this ignorance and sloth. Death will not make us harmonious and immortal, as a recompense for unfaithfulness. If here we give no earthly heed to the life which is spiritual and eternal, we shall not be ready for it hereafter."

         Again: "The relinquishment of all faith in death, and also of the fear of its sting, would raise the standard of health and morals far beyond its present elevation, and would enable us to hold the banner of Christianity aloft with unflinching faith in Life eternal. Sin brought death, and death will disappear with the disappearance of sin. Man is immortal, and the body cannot die, because matter has no life to surrender. The human concepts named matter, death, disease, sickness, and sin are all that can be destroyed" (page 426). Note the word "destroyed" as here used, and compare it with the word "destruction" as used in the Scripture quoted. "Death and hell" Jesus said should be destroyed. These are but other terms for matter, death, disease, sickness, and sin, as the latter are used in the textbook.

         Right living, therefore, not dying, is the gateway to immortality and the higher life. This means the constant living in prayer, in watchings, in strivings, which effect a daily dying to sin, sickness, and all that pertains to them. Paul said, "I die daily." He evidently meant by this that he so lived in the consciousness of life eternal that he was daily overcoming the things of the flesh, or the claims of matter. Every sin overcome is a step in the direction of the higher life. The destruction of sin in the human consciousness, be it slow or fast, is the pathway to immortality, and there is no other. The Scriptures make this so plain that we should no longer harbor the vain delusion that there are other ways, or that mankind can accomplish by dying what they fail or neglect to accomplish by right living. Through faithful prayer and watchfulness, through eternal vigilance, through hopeful, joyous striving, the gateway to a higher life is reached, and through this gateway all must enter the "celestial city." There are no by-ways through which, by slumber or inertia, the gateway of paradise may be entered.

 

"The Gateway" by Judge Septimus J. Hanna, CSD
The Christian Science Journal, October, 1903

 

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