“Satisfied”

That’s the title of a poem, later set to music as a hymn, by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science. It begins:

It matters not what be thy lot,

So Love doth guide;

For storm or shine, pure peace is thine,

Whate’er betide.

And it concludes:

Who doth His will — His likeness still —

Is satisfied.

I remember being astonished when I read that she wrote this poem in the midst of a lawsuit brought against her by Josephine Woodbury, a former student. In the October issue of The Christian Science Journal, Judy Huenneke, senior research archivist at The Mary Baker Eddy Library, in Boston, wrote of this time, as follows:

The lawsuit hinged on whether an address by Mrs. Eddy contained derogatory references to Woodbury. Since Mrs. Eddy had not mentioned her student in the speech, it was hardly surprising that the lawsuit was not successful. But for months preceding the actual courtroom proceedings, Mrs. Eddy’s enemies (including Woodbury and her lawyers) found frequent and numerous opportunities to criticize and ridicule her in print. The collapse of the lawsuit in early June 1901 brought huge relief to Mrs. Eddy and to those assisting her….

John Henry Keene, a Baltimore lawyer who was not a Christian Scientist, was angered by the attacks on Christian Science in the press and defended Mrs. Eddy and her religion in a number of newspaper articles. In 1902, one year after the conclusion of the Woodbury lawsuit, he reprinted his articles in a pamphlet titled Christian Science and Its Enemies. The publication included sharp criticism of the medical profession, the clergy, and (in one instance) governmental authorities in Germany. Mrs. Eddy initially praised Keene. But after a more thorough reading of his pamphlet, she realized that what she called his “thunderbolts” were not the proper way to deal with the critics. She wrote him. At one point it appeared that perhaps Keene could revise the pamphlet, toning down the language, and republish it, but in the end the work was withdrawn.

In a statement to the Boston Journal, she explained that she had asked Keene to stop publication of his booklet “solely because the author’s vehemence in denouncing the pulpit’s furious attacks upon me was not consonant with my Christian sentiment. It is written of our great Master whose life and teachings furnish my model that when he was reviled, he reviled not again. In a letter to Keene, she reiterated these principles: “One uniform rule is mine. It is this: ‘Overcome evil with good.’ I take the sword of spirit, Love, to conquer my enemies and none other.”

Perhaps that’s what leads to true satisfaction?

Note to our readers: Please feel free to contact the Research staff with your historical questions about Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science movement at research@mbelibrary.org or 617-450-7218.

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