This is one of several posts covering Chapter XVIII – FRUITAGE of Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy. The testimonies shared in Fruitage help explain, in part, why Christian Science had such a rapid rise in the late 1800s, and continued to be successful through the early 1900s.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.— JESUS. (Matthew 7:16)
Fruitage of Science and Health (1) contains some of the earliest testimonials of healing through Christian Science. Beginning on page 600 it is full of first-hand accounts of the effectiveness of Christian Science as an alternative to the medical care of the day (2). As a child I would skip to the Fruitage and marvel at the amazing healings, if people could be healed of neurasthenic, torpid liver and dropsy, surely I could overcome whatever minor sniffle I was dealing with.
Christian Science is founded on the idea that Ms. Eddy rediscovered the “lost art of healing” by reading the Bible after her infamous “fall on the ice.” As Eddy tells it, she slipped, hurt herself badly, was told by a doctor things were dire, she read the Bible, and was better. Eddy’s story differs from the doctor’s affidavit, and official records (3).
Testimonials are a key aspect of Christian Science, and Christian Scientists are encouraged to share in the periodicals and during Wednesday evening services. These testimonials are often held out as proof that “Christian Science works,” and have been used to attract followers and influence laws at the state and federal levels (4).
Testimonials. SECTION 24. “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (St. Paul). Testimony in regard to the healing of the sick is highly important. More than a mere rehearsal of blessings, it scales the pinnacle of praise and illustrates the demonstration of Christ, “who healeth all thy diseases” (Psalm 103:3). This testimony, however, shall not include a description of symptoms or of suffering, though the generic name of the disease may be indicated. This By-Law applies to testimonials which appear in the periodicals and to those which are given at the Wednesday evening meeting (5).
Researchers at the Mary Baker Eddy Library provide a little background on how Journal testimonies were not initially verified. They have a fascinating set of articles about this topic, linked below. The Researchers state:
When the Journal first began in 1883, it appears that there was no verification process for testimonials. In a September 1889 notice, the Editor of the Journal announced that the names of Christian Science practitioners and their patients, mentioned in testimonials, were kept on file. There is however no indication of a formal verification process.
“Fruitage” first appeared in Science and Health in January 1902. The chapter included this introduction: “For the assurance and encouragement of the reader, a few of these letters are here republished from The Christian Science Journal and Christian Science Sentinel. Most of the originals are in the possession of the Editor, who can authenticate the testimonials which follow.”1 Based on this description, it appears that keeping the original letter was considered the primary form of evidence that a testimony was factual. (6)
Does keeping “most of the original” letters really make the claims of healing more authentic? I digress.
The current requirements for submitting Journal articles are as follows:
Verification Include names, telephone numbers, and e-mail (or post office) addresses of three people who would be willing to verify your testimony. Verifiers should be people who know you well and have either witnessed the healing or can vouch for your integrity in sharing it (7).
The 1910 Fruitage consists of 84 testimonials, varying from the vague complaint of “many physical troubles” to a graphic detailed description of a freak accident with a circular saw (8). Researchers at the Mary Baker Eddy Library say the current revision of Fruitage was compiled in 1906. (9)
People who submit testimonies to the Journal and Sentinel are self-selecting survivors, they have/had illnesses that were not bad enough to kill them outright, and with no follow-up data, there is no way to know how long they lived after their “healings.”
The testimonies selected for Fruitage appear to have been selected to include people who had read Science and Health on their own (or with an immediate family member), very few mentioned Christian Science Practitioners (CSP). When CSPs were mentioned, they were “urged to call one,” however they opted to read Science and Health on their own, or were “unable to procure” one as the CSP was too busy to take on new clients.
The testimonies selected for the 1910 Fruitage include people who came to Christian Science, usually after struggling with health issues. Science and Health was recommended by family, friends, strangers, and fellow members of boarding houses. Several people learned about Christian Science after randomly walking into a Wednesday evening testimony meeting, or reading about healings in CS literature or newspaper coverage.
For the Fruitage contributors, the medicine of the day was unreliable, quackery was rampant, and patent medicines were entirely unregulated and often harmful. Many of the “treatments” may have (probably) exacerbated the problems, so switching to Christian Science, and quitting the questionable “treatments,” likely allowed the body to heal/recover (10).
Take for example, the testimony of C.E.M., from Philadelphia, Pa. who was diagnosed as suffering from neurasthenic and other troubles (11). C.E.M. is one of the few to detail what they were taking including, creosote, Fowler’s solution of arsenic, various patent medicines, and a restricted diet (12). C.E.M writes:
I was almost constantly taking medicine and had in all eleven physicians who undoubtedly did their best, but without avail, not- withstanding almost all known drugs were prescribed, and further I had tried very many patent medicines. I was also put through forms of hygienic treatment and other things that offered inducements. At the time of coming into Science I was taking three times daily forty minims of cod-liver oil and three of creosote, also three drops of Fowler’s solution of arsenic, and on the month or so previous had bought eighteen dollars’ worth of patent medicine. I was restricted to the simplest means of diet, — all stews, fries, sweets, berries, and tomatoes I had not touched for two years. Science & Health p. 617-618
In the end, C.E.M. went on to “read the book eleven times straight ahead and many times skipping about,” then credited Science and Health for his recovery, stating “The book has done the work and I am a well man.” On some level, Christian Science can be credited with his recovery, in that it inspired him to QUIT TAKING ARSENIC and other questionable medications.
Other contributors are a bit more vague as to the remedies employed, but when the other options include hypodermic injections, various patent medicines, the rest cure, sanitorium stays, and the ever ominous “operation,” reading Science and Health holds some appeal.
In the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, sitting and reading Science and Health was less dangerous than “operations,” and other treatments. Christian Science “worked” in that it encouraged people to step away from the wildly unregulated patent medical industry, and to stop literally poisoning themselves. So did Christian Science actually “heal” anyone? We will leave that up to the readers to decide.
- To spare you digging up your copy of Science and Health, here is an online PDF you can use if you’re curious, SCIENCE AND HEALTH WITH KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES; the 1875 edition does not contain Fruitage, but it is likely what people were reading when their healings happened ‘Science and Health’ by Mary Baker Glover (1875 edition)
- It is important to recognize what medical care was like in the late 1800s
- From the Archives: The ‘Fall On The Ice’ – The Ex-Christian Scientist
- U.S. Federal office – Christian Science, Healthcare bill –, https://kindism.org/2014/03/15/christian-science-the-affordable-health-care-act-congressional-lobbying/, Where are my damn car keys? | Emerging Gently
- Manual of the Mother Church Testimonials. SECTION 24 https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/18039/pg18039.html
- How were the testimonies in “Fruitage” verified? – Mary Baker Eddy Library
- Testimony Guidelines / JSH-Online There are no verification guidelines for Wednesday evening testimonies, which often leads to the ever-popular lost keys found, and the occasional healing of blind kittens. Please Bring Your Testimony to its Healing Conclusion, https://emergegently.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/christian-science-testimony-mad-libs/,https://kindism.org/2012/10/11/i-would-like-to-thank-the-reader-for-the-readings-from-the-desk-this-evening/
- Science & Health p.673-675 “An Ever-Present Help Found”
- How were the testimonies in “Fruitage” verified? – Mary Baker Eddy Library
- The Medical Context of Mary Baker Eddy’s Times – The Ex-Christian Scientist, The Field was Full Well-Meaning Ignorance and Greedy Quackery,
- Neurasthenia and a Modernizing America | JAMA
- Minim (unit) – Wikipedia, Creosote – Wikipedia, Fowler’s solution – Wikipedia, Patent medicine – Wikipedia
Articles from the Mary Baker Eddy Library about Fruitage
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