There is always, amid the formal sectarianism of the most formal and sectarian body of people, one who is "A man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus." That is, by reason of his being called upon to teach and being in some way a leader among his colleagues, he has found himself unconsciously concluding that there are finer meanings and deeper intentions in religious precepts than he has been taught.
Mind always puts out tendrils and lays hold on new "leanings if it is not willfully set to a prejudice. The mind that makes God its theme will sooner or later meditate much on Jesus Christ, unless it is the mind of one determined to gratify bodily passions. Jesus Christ draws the mind that thinks on God as a magnet draws a steel filing. "No man cometh unto Me save the Father that is in Me draw him." We are drawn to those who have a quality akin to something within ourselves. So Nicodemus was drawn to Jesus.
There is some great idea that your mind has been meditating upon, some principle not definitely understood by you, but which it is possible for you to understand perfectly. You ought to get acquainted with that idea. You notice, don't you, that in all the pauses of the business or conversations of the day the vague but great idea comes up? So Nicodemus had for days been looking towards the idea of the power of faith as the prophets of the past had demonstrated it, and as the young man traveling about the country was demonstrating His principles. How did it happen that Elijah raised to life the Zarephath child, was fed by ravens, had such prophetic powers? How did Elisha raise tile boy to life, heal the waters, cure leprosy? Was it not by the presence and working of the same God that he, Nicodemus, worshiped? Why should not this God work miracles now as in the old days? Surely God had never departed as the health of His people, the strength of their life, and the answerer of their prayers, yet nothing was done as in days past. Why not?
Maybe the young Jesus was right. He would go and see. He had been a moralist, Nicodemus had, and taken pride in his morality. So he came to Jesus. High moral conduct, coupled with thoughts of God, is liable to strike the white heat of goodness as Christ quality.
Jesus Christ preached His most stupendous doctrines to audiences of one and two. He taught over and over again not to despise the smallest circumstance or opportunity. "The situation that hath not its duty, its ideal, was never yet occupied by man." James Holmes found at Castle Bar an audience of three to hear him where he had been publicly announced to preach. Instead of shutting his mouth he opened it and preached so earnestly that one of the three, a young man, was converted, and was afterwards called the "Tongue of Fire", because he was so fervent in Spirit.
Jesus Christ waived the personal praise. He never received it from anybody who revealed His Being among them as another man with just a few points of ability, perhaps, above the usual Rabbi. Praise of His teachings He received. Praise principle, not person. Do right because it is right, and not through fear of somebody or love of somebody. So He drove straight to the need of Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." "Nicodemus, except a man look into the Spirit only, utterly refusing to call any man of flesh, or any earthly circumstances, his environment as help or hinderance, he cannot set his home life, his health, his affairs, or his neighbor's health and affairs into harmony."
How coarsely Nicodemus answered Him. The mathematician responded to the entranced musician concerning the marvelous music, "Yes, it was wonderful to see the violinist move his elbow so many times in a minute." So "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness unto him, and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
But Jesus Christ understood the law of mind. He knew how to hold the concentrated attention of His hearer till he should understand that "Never the Spirit was born, the Spirit shall cease to be never; end and beginning are dreams." He knew that it must be by the recognition that all power whatsoever is of the Spirit and not of intellect or physical force. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit." The Rosetta Stone to all miracle-working is that lesson on the increasement of loaves and fishes. The Rosetta Stone to this birth of water and Spirit is the statement, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself."
Now, He never taught that we should deny the good in ourselves; certainly He meant that we should deny the evil. He told His hearers that it was His words of which He was speaking and the power of His words, so we know that the baptism of water of which He spoke to Nicodemus was the use of the washing words of denial, whereby the mind that has thought things not true is cleansed of its errors, as a body is cleansed by water.
There was certain errors or mistakes called profitless and nothingness and uselessness by Him, serving to hide the power of the Spirit. To deny these errors is to call them by name and reject them. This is the water baptism this great metaphysician meant. Now Naaman's seven washings in Jordan were typical of the seven denials every mind must make to be cleansed of error. By looking them over we know exactly what errors to reject and what to eschew.
The first washing we do must be the rejection of the belief in another power operating in the universe besides omnipresent, omnipotent, omnicient Goodness. There is no power of evil. This denial is the washing away of evil imaginations, so that we do not any more believe in the possibility of any cruelty or greed or crime coming nigh us forevermore. According to the law of mind action, we find that it sets the world free from evil also.
The second washing we must do is the speaking of the positive Word of rejecting the belief in another substance than Spirit. If God is omnipresent Spirit, then indeed Spirit is the only substance present anywhere; so the rejection of the supposition of the reality of matter is a necessary process. Matter has no reality, or, there is no matter. This Word of denial has the effect of cleansing us from as much experience of the hinderance or burden of matter as the law of the Word brings, spoken as an experiment or in faith. You certainly do find the hard tumor, the stiffened joint, or the heavy indebtedness grow less. This second washing is very, very efficient in making hard ways easy and heavy burdens light, exactly as the personified Word of truth promised that it should.
The third washing Word (remember that Jesus Christ was always teaching words and thoughts and states of mind by material terms) is the denial of our false notion that there is any life, substance or intelligence in matter, for if there is no matter surely God is the only life, Spirit the only substance, Omniscience the only intelligence.
An enchanting freedom comes with the third washing enjoined by Jesus Christ. The mind throws off the ugly nightmare of its third delusion by boldly announcing that there is no life, substance, or intelligence in matter. The heart rises with quickened hope. The friendship and beauty and goodness of living we see. The mind is clear to understand what is reasonable and right. Knowledge of Truth is freedom. Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ both said so and proved it.
Take the fourth washing Word boldly. Naaman hesitated and was petulant. We will press boldly forward for the mark of the high calling of Regeneration, which is the subject of this lesson. By this time you see that Regeneration means giving your spirit perfect freedom. The fourth Word of self-denial states that as matter is not a reality its sensations are fallacious. There are no sensations in matter. This Word will cause pain to falter and fail; will cause sensual appetites to fall away. We have no taste, sight, or hearing but for Spirit. "Taste and see that the Lord is g6od." "Feel after Him."
The fifth washing is a severe one for some of us to take, but there is no escaping the metaphysical meanings of Jesus Christ. Sin, sickness, and death are delusions. This does not make a stealing or a slaying good but announces that they are delusions, without power to hurt or hinder. The temptation to falsehood, the inclination to transgression, are unreal. To know this sets us free from them. Sickness and death are a myth.
Can Spirit be diseased or die? Since God is Spirit, the only Substance, the speaking of this washing Word of denial is the sure setting free from sin, sickness, and death.
These five cleansing waters are suitable and essential for all the world. There are two special ones applying to each man, woman, and child, besides the five for all the world. You can easily find out what two you ought to make for yourself.
There was once a woman who loved money so much that she saw everybody through her thought of money. If she looked at you she thought first of how much you were worth, or how much she could make out of you. You see by her looking at everybody and everything through money eyes, she got blind — quite blind. Money is blinding. If she wanted to see clearly she should deny herself of looking through money. It would be well for her to say much, "There is no money in Spirit."
A child's toothache will depart if you say, "There is no pain in Spirit." Your burden of poverty will clear off if you say, "There is no poverty in Spirit."
There are many who look at their acquaintances and friends and all circumstances, through jealous ideas of some sort. They unconsciously or consciously wonder how much of their own rights, or position, or possessions, the other will get away from them. So they have lost one or more of their faculties, for jealousy is cruel and lops off from us our fondest hopes. Such should deny themselves of looking and judging through jealousy. Let them say, "There is no jealousy in Spirit."
Notice that this lesson reads that we must be cleansed by water and clothed by Spirit. Jesus gave the idea that we should take the house, swept and garnished, and fill it with good "Spirits." "Spirits" are words, as "My Words are Spirit."
There are seven Words of affirmation that are the hot glory of God over and through all who make them. Ye came forth from God. "No man upon earth is your father." Thus these Words are the shining forth of your own nature with which you were endowed from the great Forever without beginning of years or end of days.
None of the miracle-working power Nicodemus wished to be master of is ours till we have boldly announced the spiritual nature and office we are endowed with.
This is the first affirmation of Spirit: Life, Truth, Love, is God. Then we recognize all Life as God and all Truth and all Love as God. We hail and welcome and praise all the living Beauty, all the living Strength, all the living Kindness; we recognize, knowing that it is God. This recognition of Good is the shining forth of our own Goodness. Once it was thought that we were able and capable if we recognized vanity or deceitfulness in a neighbor, but now we know that since vanity and deceitfulness are nothingness and profitless that it is a waste of time on the insubstantial. That which we see of Good is our own thinking or our own shining forth of our own Spirit. We learned by last Sunday's lesson that everything has the potentiality of Good ready to increase itself by our praise and blessing.
There is the fifth Word from above that secures our immunity from sin, sickness, and death, and that makes all the people secure when we come near them. Like the fifth denial the fifth affirmation takes strong rising "To do the will to prove the doctrine."
I am governed by the law of God, and cannot sin, nor suffer for sin, nor fear sin, sickness, or death. As Spirit we cannot swerve from our orbit any more than a star in its course. To swerve and falter would be sin, but Spirit cannot sin for God is Spirit. "He'll surely guide our steps aright." There is the safe walking of all who speak these Words thru all the thorny ways of delusion.
Then the two "Other Spirits" or Words of affirmation which belong to each of you, you must find out for yourselves. Notice that Paul says that in his greatest weakness is his strength. So you can see that if you have believed yourself inefficient or ignorant you must let the Spirit of Truth drop down over you with the bold affirmation: "I am strong and efficient. I praise the Spirit that now works with me and through me and by me and for me to do all my work faithfully and well. I am wise with the Wisdom of Spirit." This is the full potency of the treatment Jesus gave Nicodemus. "Marvel not." Only the carnal intellect marvels, wonders, asks questions. Spirit knows.
So Nicodemus rallied his faith. He had entered the presence of Jesus with hope. Hope is only the left hand; faith is the right hand. "Hope thou in God". Have faith in the Good. Your faith will show forth; your works of good faith will be good when you have learned how to be born of water and of Spirit according to this meaning of Jesus.
July 26th, 1891