The Science of Mind, by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes , at sacred-texts.com
Atonement is defined as reconciliation: "To make an expiation for sin or a sinner," and "To be at one." The definition for sin is, "To commit sin, transgress, neglect or disregard the Divine Law; to do wrong or offend." Literally speaking, sin means missing the mark or making a mistake. "There is no sin but a mistake and no punishment but a consequence." To assume that man could sin against God would be to suppose that a Divine Law could be broken. To suppose that Divine Law could be broken would be to assume that man has
the power to destroy Divine Harmony and wreck the universe with his actions.
Man may have power to go contrary to Law, but certainly he has no power to break it. Man cannot break a law, but the law can break him if he goes contrary to it.
There is no doubt but that all of man's troubles come from his disregard of law, through ignorance. There can be no doubt that much of his trouble will be over when he comes to understand the law, and to consciously coöperate with it.
We live in a Universe of Law and a Universe of Love. The Law of God is Perfect, and the Love of God is also Perfect. The Law of God is the way in which the Spirit works; the Love of God is the Self-Givingness of the Spirit to Its Creation. The unity of Love and Law produce a harmonious Universe and a Perfect Creation.
Man, because of his individuality and the use that he makes of it, may go contrary to both Love and Law; but so long as he does this he will suffer. This is the real meaning of sin and punishment.
Man has gone contrary to the Law of Harmony and Love, and no doubt this is the reason for all his troubles. He will be saved to the degree that he returns to a state of harmony and unity with God and with Life. He can do this only as he first comes to realize that God is Love and that he lives in a Universe of Law.
The greater lesson that can be taught to the race is the lesson of Love and of Law. The lesson of Love teaches us that Life gives and that God is Good; while the lesson of Law teaches that there is a way to freedom through real Love.
If Love is the Self-Givingness of Spirit, then that man who most completely loves, will most completely give of himself to Life. The man who loves his work gives himself to it; the one who loves his art gives himself to it. We give ourselves to our friends and to our families and to the causes which we really love. Love is always the giving of the self to something; but the idea of self-givingness is not a morbid one and should never be thought of in this light.
We have always thought of the Atonement of Jesus as the
act of His giving Himself, through suffering on the cross, as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. But God surely does not need that any man shall suffer for Him, nor sacrifice himself to please Him. This would, indeed, be a limited idea of the Divine Being. God does not need an At-one-ment, since He is already at one with himself and with all Creation. It is man, not God, who needs an At-one-ment. The act of atonement must be on the part of man and not of God. Man may need salvation, but God is already conscious of Complete Life and Being.
MAN'S WHOLE TROUBLE
Man's whole trouble lies in the fact that he believes himself to be separated from the Source of Life. He believes in duality. The At-one-ment is made to the degree that he realizes the Unity of Good. Man needs, and always has needed, to know the Truth about himself and God; and anything that helps to fill this need would be an act of atonement.
Now a man who had reached the understanding at which Jesus must have arrived would find the ordinary channels of expression inadequate to portray His concept of Life. Jesus could have had no desire to become rich; neither did He wish to be made a king, nor to receive the plaudits of the world. He wished to show to the world what the Love of God could really mean in the lives of men; He wished to show that the Self-Givingness of Spirit is complete; to prove that Life completely gives of Itself to Its Creation. This he could do only to the degree that He let God become Man through His own Individuality.
The whole thought and attention of Jesus was given to the accomplishment of one supreme purpose: to show that God is a Living Reality in the lives of all men. He must show the Nature of the Divine Being; he must take the place of God and reveal the Love and tender care of the Creator for Its
[paragraph continues] Creation. No more complete plan was ever organized in the mentality of an individual than the plan of Jesus to prove the reality of Spirit.
His thought, being psychic, that is, being able to read mental causes, told Him just what would happen if He did this. (See chapter on Prophecy in lesson on Psychic Phenomena.) He knew that he would have to suffer physical agony, and for a time, at least, be misunderstood and abused. He also knew that the lesson would prove for all time that God is Love. He knew that in the end the lesson which He was to teach would be accepted by all; and in this way He would become a Living Witness to the reality of Divine Love and Goodness.
Carefully He worked out His plan and patiently He waited for the right time to come to complete His life work; and when this time came, He unflinchingly gave of Himself to the necessity of the case. Man must come to understand God if he is ever to realize his own nature; he must come to know Spirit as a Living Reality and not as a myth.
THE VICARIOUS ATONEMENT
The Vicarious Atonement was the conscious giving of the Self to the needs of the human race--an example for all time that God is Love. Jesus perfectly understood the Law of Life and consciously chose to make an example of Himself that would cause all people to see what a real At-one-ment could mean. In order to do this, He had to take on the sins of the world; that is, He had to enter into men's mistakes in order to rectify them; not because God demanded this, but because man needed the example.
The suffering of Jesus, as He contacted the disorders of men's minds, was His vicarious atonement for the race. It was a wonderful example of what one man could do in proving the Unity of Good.
Any person who contacts the race-mind with the desire to lift it above its own level, will, thereby, go through a vicarious atonement. But the thought of morbidity that theology had given to the message of atonement is entirely erroneous. It is not a morbid thing but a glorious one. Atonement could
not be morbid, but must always produce a realization of Unity and of Good. The life of Jesus is not a sad story, but is the account of a Man Who so completely realized His own At-one-ment that He had realization to spare and to give to all who believe in His teaching. His life was a triumphant march from the cradle into Eternity, and not from the cradle to the grave. He swallowed the grave in victory, because of His At-one-ment. Jesus left no grave and no dead man behind Him.
The At-one-ment, then, is a glorious recognition of fulfillment and completion. The vicarious part is lost in the greater realization of Unity and of Good. Jesus is the most Triumphant Figure of all history and the only Man, of Whom we have record, Who completely knew His own Nature. All thought of sin, shame, iniquity, poverty, sickness, obscurity and death are swept away with the empty tomb. No wonder that this lesson still remains and His teachings still hold good, for Reality never changes.
THE GIVINGNESS OF SPIRIT
As the human side of Jesus gave way, more and more, to the Divine Realization, He more and more completely became Divine; that is, He more completely became God, Incarnated in and through Man. In this mystic way He took the place of God, and we may, perhaps, say that through Him God proved the Love of God. Of course this is a crude way of putting it, but it does serve to point a moral and is, perhaps, the best way that we can conceive of the greatest lesson of all history.
THE WORLD HAS LEARNED ALL THAT IT SHOULD THROUGH SUFFERING
The world has learned all that it should through suffering. God does not demand that man suffer; and man suffers simply because he is ignorant of his own nature and because he misuses his power. Jesus proved the Truth and departed this life in joy, having fulfilled His Divine Mission. The lesson has been taught and the evidence is complete. The grave has
been swallowed up in the Victory of Life and Love; and the tomb is empty for all time. "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" 110 The time has come for rejoicing and not for sorrowing; for the fulfillment of that peace which was promised. "Peace I leave with you." 111 There need be no more sorrowing nor crying; for Reality is now known. Life is Triumphant and Love reigns Supreme.
OUR PART IN THE ATONEMENT
The Vicarious Atonement is over, but the real At-one-ment has only begun. We are just beginning to realize what Love and Life mean. Every time we give of ourselves to others, helping them to overcome their troubles, we are performing an At-one-ment; we are proving the Unity of Good.
312:110 Luke 24:5.
312:111 John 14:27.