Individual Responsibility

        If there is one thing which is insisted upon in the Scriptures more than any other, it is our individual responsibility and freedom to choose between right and wrong. In the Genesis allegory we find Adam seeking to evade this demand of Principle by fixing upon Eve the blame for his disobedience to the divine command. His complaint was not disregarded, but the woman's answer to the challenge of Truth uncovered the error of sensuous animal magnetism and brought her deliverance, although her share of the "thorns" and "thistles" of mortal experience remained to be patiently weeded out. Here we find the prophecy that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent, respecting which Mrs. Eddy says in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 533): "Truth, cross-questioning man as to his knowledge of error, finds woman the first to confess her fault. . . . She has already learned that corporeal sense is the serpent. Hence she is first to abandon the belief in the material origin of man and to discern spiritual creation."

         The psalmist says, "Unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work." From the Christian Science viewpoint we might add that every man will be judged not merely according to his work but according to his thought, which is back of every outward effort. It is true that we must take into account the human belief in duality expressed in one's character, which is explained by Mrs. Eddy in the Glossary to Science and Health, where we find the mortal concept but in contrast therewith the spiritual idea. We occasionally hear the statement made by students of Christian Science that the individual has really nothing to deal with but his own thought; and in a sense this is true, because the judgment of Truth finally deals with this alone, but we must not forget that one has a human mental environment to overcome, and thus to prove his spiritual strength.

         It should never be forgotten that the most extreme difficulties and the seeming disabilities of mortal experience when rightly faced bring out the latent possibilities which otherwise might never be called into action, and so become splendid opportunities to reach real greatness. A poet writes:

Do battle with the leagued world,
         If worthy truly brave;
And make each adverse circumstance
         A helper or a slave.

This is wonderfully illustrated in the story of Joseph, who might have remained like his brothers, a simple shepherd, if his seemingly tragic experiences had not called forth the deep spiritual lessons which had made his boyhood beautiful, and which when put into practice made his manhood truly heroic. It therefore rests with us to discover what there is in ourselves which hinders us from reaching perfect harmony in any or every direction. One thing may be the belief that because we have attained success along certain lines, we should be exempt from the further test called for in overcoming other discordant conditions. We may say to ourselves that these are wholly or largely due to our surroundings, and that we are not to be blamed for them; but so long as we are content to accept this unscientific conclusion, no real progress can be made in the overcoming of the conditions which are admittedly undesirable.

         Mrs. Eddy deals fearlessly with this subject in her article called "Obedience," in "Miscellaneous Writings." On page 118 she says: "Self-ignorance, self-will, self-righteousness, lust, covetousness, envy, revenge, are foes to grace, peace, and progress; they must be met manfully and overcome, or they will uproot all happiness." To this she adds, "Be of good cheer; the warfare with one's self is grand." We here find that she does not ignore the evil influences which may operate through others' beliefs, for she says (p. 119): "If malicious suggestions whisper evil through the mind's tympanum, this were no apology for acting evilly. We are responsible for our thoughts and acts; and instead of aiding other people's devices by obeying them, — and then whining over misfortune, — rise and overthrow both. . . . Each individual is responsible for himself." This may recall the Master's words, "The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works."

         The student of Christian Science may not be tempted to commit sin in the ordinary sense of the word, but he may be tempted to believe that there is another power than God, and the results of such belief can never be other than discordant. It is beyond all question that when we face fearlessly and with entire reliance upon divine Principle whatever presents itself as our greatest trial, we shall find that through the transforming power of Spirit the result will enable us to rejoice in the opportunity afforded us of proving what man's divinely bestowed strength really is. As soon as we actually begin "to discern spiritual creation," we shall make no delay about facing our foe, with full assurance as to the outcome. Whatever be our human problem, we may rest assured that if we work it out in accordance with the demands of enthroned Love and justice, each day's effort — nay, each hour's effort — will add to our strength and bring us closer to the reward. Paul says that God "will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life."


"Individual Responsibility" by Annie M. Knott, CSD
Christian Science Sentinel, August 17, 1918

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