Bible Lesson LXI
Acts 8:26-40
Just What It Teaches Us

 

by Emma Curtis Hopkins

 

Swing your mind to the supremest statement: of praise of your Spiritual nature you can possibly make. This is affirmation. Drop your mind to the lowliest statement of your human nature you can make. This is denial. At the point of mental experience between the two orders of expression is your power of demonstration over the undesirable conditions that beset your pathway.

In Spirit, you cannot speak too nobly of yourself. In the mortal, you cannot speak too lowly of yourself. Spirit is the Omnipotent God. Mortality is powerless dust. Jesus taught this law of demonstration. He said, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18) “I AM that I AM.” (Exodus 3:14; 6:14) This was affirmation of His Spirit. He then said, “Of myself I can do nothing.” (John 8:28) “The son can do nothing” (John 5:19) This was denial suited to mortality. From these two kinds of speaking, He composed His miracle-working mind.

There were two Philips. Both were very efficient at healing the sick. Therefore, they had both taken, either consciously or unconsciously, high affirmations and lowly denials also. One sometimes takes these two states by strong feelings without words. He strikes the two notes of his mental scale at the sounds of a preacher’s words. He feels the power of his exalted Spirit; he feels the nothingness of his personal human. The exact poise between the two feelings is healing power.

You can come at this point, or polarity, by exalted praise of your spiritual “I” followed immediately by denials exactly correlative, or by beatific feelings followed by corresponding self-abasement.

Jonah kept his mental eye fixed on the temple while he was physically in the opposite place. There is a way of pulling yourself out of very humiliating circumstances by keeping the mind’s eye fixed on some sweet memory. At the gateway between the affliction and the sweet memory is freedom.

Paul told the disciples whose powers of demonstration were marvelous, to call to remembrance how that after they were illuminated they endured afflictions. He was catching a hint of the science of demonstration by mental attitudes. He was tacitly enjoining them to keep their mind’s eye on their glorified moments, while stones and prisons and fires were trying their hardest to call their attention.

Did you ever dream of an angelic being looking into your face? If now, while some hurting trial is near you, you will keep steadfastly remembering that face, you also will touch the poising point in your nature where what you do not like must fall out of your life, and what you do like must begin. But before ever any hardship comes into your human experience avoid its coming by making the lofty proposition, “I Am Omnipotent Spirit. I am meekness itself.” These down and up springs of the wings of your mind, will take you over the hardships of earth as a bird’s wings lift it high away from the guns of the hunters. That hardship or affliction that touched your neighbor, but did not touch you, was put out of your way by some sweet vision that once occupied your memory, while some hateful prognostication was being uttered. While they prophesy cholera, let the optimist keep up his sunny trust in the best. At the poise between the optimist’s hope of happy safety, and the pessimist’s miserable fears, is “the health of My people Israel.”

This lesson is all about the lovely swing of the mind and the demonstration that never fails to follow that dip of the pendulum called meekness. Philip made a convert of a princely scholar, a nobleman of the retinue of a queen. This was demonstration. Had Philip not been mighty in Spirit, he never could have been obedient to its voice and run after a great scholar with confidence in his mission. It was a ridiculous thing to do, so it would have seemed to a rabbi, but to docile Philip there was only one law, and that was obedience.

The measure of your pride is the measure of your abasement. And between the two states of shame and vanity is your troubled existence. This is not in the realm of the Spiritual, but it works itself out in close imitation of the omnipotent heights of the Truth and the meek docility of the Philip who lists to its call.

This lesson, which touches the downward dip of the truthful mind and its happy power of demonstration, begins at the twenty-sixth verse of the eighth chapter of Acts. “Go down unto Gaza, which is desert,” said the voice. So down towards the desert went Philip. Four words express the desert place of the mind, which has once proclaimed “I am Omnipotent Spirit.” At its Gaza spot it speaks, “I am obedient, meek, docile, teachable.” No great affirmation but has its lowly opposite. No lowly denial but has its majestic “I AM.” The meekness of Philip touches the right chord of the scholar. It is not the powerful intellect, the dominating will, which appeals to the school-bred man; it is the innocent unpretentious Philip, obedient to the extent of running whithersoever the Spirit pushes him, hearing no voice but its call.

There is no call for you to be learned in order to be great in the power of the Spirit. No; be so meek that, as in the thirty-second and thirty-third verses, which tell how the Lord of Life and Glory was shamed you are a fool in docile gladness for Christ.

There is no need for you to be talented, or accomplished, or rich, or of noble family in order to do mighty service as a minister of the Spirit. Nothing but docility is called for — teachableness, and obedience.

Philip was all this. Therefore, he could teach the splendid glory of the humiliated Jesus. Why should we not be struck with the profound words, “I am of judgment,” while knowing our judgment as God, if it is so of Jesus of Nazareth, who knew himself as Jehovah, but let his judgment be called in question?

Have you not heard many great thinkers, noble philanthropists, or grave scholars, speak of how much better it would have been had Jesus Christ lived to this day, slipping away from jailors, the cross, and the tomb, and appearing again and again in their midst till the whole world was redeemed? Thus was His humiliation complete. What the most kind-hearted would call the best judgment, He is secretly thought not to have had. “I have no judgment. My judgment is God.” At the poise between these words, the Teacher of man, the wise expounder of doctrine, opens His lips and the grave scholars listen with rapt earnestness. In the closet of silent prayer, you may touch the glistening mountains of illumination and the shaded valleys of meekness so spiritually set free that your thoughts run unseen to the princes of learning. By their side you will stand in the holy sweetness of power to drop into their wondering hearts the beautiful doctrine that if they will leave off their study of matter and follow you down to the waters of Spirit, their light shall break forth as the morning and they shall know all things without having learned.

They may be called away with the swift horses of Candace into a gladness of mind to be free from hunting among the dry dust of materiality for the knowledge that ages of study could never give. How easy to be taught of the Spirit! How quick to know all things, the Spirit!

A majestic friendship sprang up between the prince of scholars and the spiritual Philip, which was a sweet halo of healing through the lifetime of the eunuch. Friendship is a healing principle. Steadfastness in friendship is a steadfast healing power. Unreliable friends are unhealthy companions. Many a recovery from sickness has dated from the loving remembrance of some eternally steadfast friend.

“There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) Keep your mind facing that Friend, till you are drawn away from that place where you now are into the home where the heart can sing. You may be found at Azotus, your stronghold, your castle. From this home, where none can molest you, into which none dare enter who have enmity to you or your doctrine, you may shed abroad the fame of your teachings even unto Cesarea, chief city of the Romans, or the very high towers of pride, of riches, and worldly conceit.

This lesson teaches that obedience, meekness, docility, and teachableness are the preludes to power. From these stones in the deep places of right thoughts, we step into the easy demonstrations of what people have been working so violently to accomplish. From these easy demonstrations, which we never struggled to make, we step swiftly into our stronghold, our castle, into which no enemy comes. God fills it with friends for our sakes.

From the strong castle of defense, we shed abroad still further radiance of our light. Cesarea gets our ministry. We did not try to be great. We accept our inheritance from Spirit. We did not try to do works. We are obedient natures for works to flow through.

Philip was obedient to Spirit, not unto pride. It was no impulse of hope to get something from association with a great personage. He was simply obedient to a spiritual prompting. It was the quick docility of a man in love with spiritual teachings, satisfied utterly with keeping his mind on them, not moved with the ideas of fear or of favor. He was not obedient to the clutch of an impulse, but yielded to the Spirit. He never went into Azotus, his citadel, till he had explained the humiliation of Jesus Christ. Then he preached denial, for he took the prince of eunuchs down to the water and baptized him, which is the symbol of mental cleansing from old ideas. It is the teaching of the lowliest state of mind as necessary to the quick ear of a right scholar. It is the skilful teacher of denial, who feels the freedom of fearlessness. There is no terror in the meek mind lest we get to be fanatical, or go too far on the run of our reasonings. It is the skilful teacher of absolute denial who is taken up into the citadel, wherefrom his ministry spreads into all the cities. He is taken into his stronghold. He does not strike and struggle to get there. An arm stronger than all the soldiers of Candace lifts the sweet teachable teacher into Azotus.

The teacher of supreme denials by lines of pure reason never is caught in the fingers of grief or anger. He is not obedient unto these. He denies the power of these mortal claims. Thus, he becomes a vacuum into which all the miseries of earth strive to rush. The people who bring their miseries to his presence are bathed in the placid waters of his purified mind. It is good for them to come near him. But he does not feel them. He knows not their miserable thoughts. Then when he has cleansed them by his persistent meekness, as well as himself of all knowledge of them, he is taken up, up and away into his own house of safety.

God teaches you the mighty principle of meekness. It is the first sign of the nearness of your power of demonstration. It is a communicable quality. It opens your eyes and ears to the ways of Spirit.

Meekness unto grief is not meekness; obedience to the impulse of sorrow or pride is a denial or ignoring of Spirit. This vacuum from Spirit causes poverty, death, or unkindness, to come close and cling to your life. They find their own and stay near it. They are not cleansed and purged away forever by touching the sphere of your thoughts. Socrates explained how subtly grief in the mind, though hidden by smiles and pleasant manners, will draw like a vortex. Notice how even the servants will change to pertness if you are secretly grieving. Notice how people take to chiding you for imagined offenses. See how quickly they strike you with suspicions of your guiltiness of something they tried to devise in their hearts. See how the trades go against you; the sales of your own store are smaller; the ships cast their cargoes into the deep waters but half insured. This is the steady pursuit you will feel while you are obedient to grief in the heart.

Grief is to be denied. It is Spirit with its buoyant winds of denial of all human passions and proclamations of unlimited, unassailable gladness unto whose voice you are to be obedient.

So this lesson teaches that it is by fearlessness of the world and its utmost stretch to the deeps of the denials of Science that the right state of mind to do great works is attained. Works must not be the results of hard effort. They must be all done by the Spirit. The strong house, the citadel of mind, the high tower of defense, from which you are to diffuse your message abroad shall not come by your efforts. It shall come by your persistent lowly denials, obeying Jesus in teachable meekness. “Deny thyself.” (Luke 9:23) You shall rest on the watch tower of your safe retreat, your castle, your home, your Azotus, by the fearless praises of the Jesus Christ nature within you, waiting your obedient, ungrudging “I AM IT.” “I am nothing save as I am Spirit.”

He who omits the denials of Science never rises by the bold action of Spirit into “Azotus.” It is the meek teacher of denials, who is castled in unassailable security. He it is whose teachings shed abroad to the cities of the world. He it is whom the Spirit “catches away’” to an impregnable stronghold.

“My soul on wings of glory
Mounts up to happy skies
Here none can pursue us,
Here none can undo us,
God is our Home.”

September 11, 1892

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