What baptism does
A MAN once said to a Christian Scientist, ``I like the idea of spiritual healing, but I could never bring myself to do away with things like baptism, the way your religion does.'' She thought for a moment and then replied: ``But we don't do away with baptism. On the contrary, we give it a wide and deep significance. We think of it as an ongoing cultivation of spirituality, which enables one to heal through prayer.'' Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes succinctly, ``Our baptism is a purification from all error.''1 Long before John the Baptist administered the ceremonial form of baptism to Christ Jesus, the significance of washing and purification was sometimes stressed in the Bible stories. For example, Elisha the prophet healed the Syrian captain, Naaman, of leprosy after requiring him to wash in Jordan, a prospect which he at first found demeaning.
The story goes on: ``And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.''2
Wasn't it the sense of pride and personal status and importance that had to be washed away rather than just physical impurity? And what if Naaman, or anyone, had been troubled by self-depreciation? Wouldn't the need in either case be to get a clearer sense of man's identity as the offspring of God, as a spiritual being and not a mortal creature, either important or unimportant? This higher sense of man underlies all spiritual healing, and it's progressively brought to light through baptism, through the purification of thought from sensuous, materialistic thinking.
Purifying and spiritualizing thought isn't a trudging human effort to be a little better and do a little better, or an intricate intellectual exercise. The effect, of course, is that we are better, but as a result of a natural yielding, through humble prayer, to the divine will. Through such yielding we begin to get refreshing glimpses of the inherent purity of our being, a little like taking a cool shower on a hot, dusty day. These glimpses of our true nature, which is Godlike, and of our relationship to God are evidences of baptism, whether we recognize it or not. They lead to greater health and to a deeper, genuine peace, resting on eternal foundations.
Mrs. Eddy says: ``The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the spirit of Truth cleansing from all sin; giving mortals new motives, new purposes, new affections, all pointing upward. This mental condition settles into strength, freedom, deep-toned faith in God; and a marked loss of faith in evil, in human wisdom, human policy, ways, and means.'' She continues further along, ``By purifying human thought, this state of mind permeates with increased harmony all the minuti8 of human affairs.''3
Not everyone would think of baptism as having a direct, practical impact on the minuti8 of human affairs. But it's clear that the same individual in the same circumstances will have quite a different experience if his thought changes from a limited, materialistic standpoint to some comprehension of what spiritual living represents. His perspective is different. His priorities are different. And this makes his experience more effective, not less so. This is what baptism does, and keeps on doing.
1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 35. 2II Kings 5:13, 14. 3Miscellaneous Writings, p. 204. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. II Corinthians 7:1