For those of you who have been working with Volume One of “First Lessons,” my book on the Ten Commandments, I welcome you back! I hope you found the first volume useful, inspiring, and educational. This is Volume Two of my series, which will focus on the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. If you are new to this series, a warm welcome to you, too! If you plan to use this book for teaching your children or Sunday School pupils, I recommend that you start with my first book on the Ten Commandments. Although each book should be able to stand alone, the Ten Commandments provide a foundation for practicing and understanding the teachings of Jesus, which are embodied and summarized in the Sermon on the Mount.
The title “First Lessons” is taken from the instructions relating to the Sunday School, given in Article XX of the Manual of The Mother Church. It states as follows:
Teaching the Children. SECT. 2. The Sabbath School children shall be taught the Scriptures, and they shall be instructed according to their understanding or ability to grasp the simpler meanings of the divine Principle that they are taught.
Subject for Lessons. SECT. 3. The first lessons of the children should be the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13), and its Spiritual Interpretation by Mary
Baker Eddy, Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-12). The next lessons consist of such questions and answers as are adapted to a juvenile class, and may be found in the Christian Science Quarterly Lessons, read in Church services. The instruction given by the children’s teachers must not deviate from the absolute Christian Science contained in their textbook.
As I explained in the Introduction to my previous book on the Ten Commandments, my goal is to encourage more in-depth study of these foundational lessons, which I have come to see are critical to our spiritual growth and the practice of Christian Science. Although these lessons are generally taught to the very young children in the Sunday Schools of Christian Science churches, I found in my years of experience as both a student and teacher in the Sunday Schools, and as a Superintendent of two Sunday Schools, that the older children may not receive repeat lessons on these subjects on a regular basis. Certainly, the explanations of the first lessons can take on deeper and more useful meanings for the older student that would not be understood by the very young. Therefore, they should be studied and practiced often as we grow in maturity and in our
understanding of Christian Science. We are never too old to study these lessons!
Since publishing my book on the Ten Commandments, I came across a reprint of an item found in the July 6, 1935 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel. It contained portions of a letter written by Mrs. Eddy’s secretarial staff in response to questions about the By-Law “Subject for Lessons.” The letters certainly reinforced the idea that the “first lessons” need to be studied and practiced, not just memorized. Although the message is intended for Sunday School teachers, it is just as useful for those parents teaching the lessons at home. One letter reads in part:
“When our Leader gave the By-Law on “Subjects for Lessons” in the Sunday School, it was not her intention to limit Sunday school instruction to the routine of memorizing the letter of the designated portions of the Scriptures. She meant that the children should be taught the meaning of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and its Spiritual Interpretation, and the Beatitudes.
“These spiritual fundamentals should be so set forth by means of practical illustrations and everyday examples of love, obedience, and good, that the child will catch their spirit, understand them, and as a result be interested in them.
“This work you will readily perceive, requires consecrated and intelligent effort on the part of all connected with the Sunday School. It means the demonstration of that love which does things. To teach a child the words, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me,’ is a comparatively easy task. To teach a child the meaning of that commandment so thoroughly that he can and will prove in his living that he actually has no other gods before good, is the grand privilege of the Christian Science Sunday School teacher.”
We know from Mary Baker Eddy’s statement in Miscellaneous Writings that she saw the need for everyone, not just young people, to demonstrate the “first lessons.” She wrote: “If I ever wear out from serving students, it shall be in the effort to help them to obey the Ten Commandments and imbibe the spirit of Christ’s Beatitudes.”
I hope this book will show you, in some degree, the insight that Christian Science brings to the Beatitudes, which Christ Jesus gave to mankind, so that you and your children can “imbibe the spirit” of these wonderful and revolutionary teachings.
Vicki Jones Cole
(Excerpted from “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume Two: The Beatudes” Copyright 2002)