When Jesus asked Peter, “Whom do the people say that I am?” Peter and the disciples said, Some say, John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Now all of these were dead; therefore they did not mean to confound the man Jesus with them. But they believed the spirits of these men came back and entered the living and talked to the people. Jesus knew that this was their belief and they knew it. When Jesus asked His disciples the question, He never intended to convey the idea that He wanted to know who He, Jesus, was, but who this power was. They thought it must be the spirit of some person who had been on earth and when Peter said it was the Christ or God or Truth or Science, this was a new idea, and Jesus answered, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed the explanation to you,” and upon this explanation He, Jesus, would build His Christ or Church or Truth, and the gates of error could not prevail against it. He, that is, Jesus, would give Peter the keys or explanation so that he could understand and practice it for the benefit of mankind. This knowledge would give him power to loose those who were bound in heaven or in the mind, and loose those bound in their earthly body. The idea that the man Jesus was anything but a man was never thought of. Jesus never had the least idea of such an explanation.
The prophets had foretold of a Messiah that should come and when the child Jesus was born, the people believed that David's spirit had come and taken possession of his body. So they called Jesus the son of David. But they meant to be understood that it was David's spirit speaking through Him, Jesus, and some called him the Son of Man.
Now, everyone admitted the power that Jesus had, but there was a difference of opinion in regard to it. All men have a power, but to have a power superior to the natural man has been a question ever since the world began. Upon this question the people split. To believe is to believe in a power the natural man cannot explain. If Jesus had a power, we must admit a knowledge superior to it, that governs and directs it, and if we do admit it, where does it come from? All will answer, from God. All will admit that there is another power that affects man for evil. There must then be a sort of bad knowledge or false Christ that governs it. Then we must admit a true knowledge and a false knowledge which act upon His power. Now how are we to know the good from the bad? Only by the fruits or direction. If we must take an opinion, then we have no standard; for everyone has a right to his opinion and by doing so we throw away Christ's or Jesus' opinion when He says, By their fruits men ought to be judged. We judge them by their works. What are their works? I suppose Jesus knew what He meant and He meant to give His disciples the true idea of His meaning when He called them together and gave them the power to heal all sorts of diseases and cast out devils. Did He mean to give the power without any knowledge how to apply it, or did He give the knowledge with the power? If He gave the knowledge so that it could be applied, are not the ones who apply it better acquainted with the power than those who are ignorant both of the power and the knowledge?
I will try to illustrate what Jesus meant by these powers when He was accused of curing by ignorance. You may have seen in the papers an account of a young lady being cured by the prayers of a Mormon preacher. I have no doubt that he raised her up by his prayers and the belief in Mormonism would naturally be established in the young lady's mind. This cure, as far as it goes, is to establish Mormonism. Now if the Mormons established all their beliefs and that is right, why do not all people who believe in prayer embrace Mormonism and all that the Mormons preach?
When the disciples said to Jesus, We saw men casting out devils in thy name and forbade them, He said, “Forbid them not, for they that are with us are not against us, and they that are not with us scattereth abroad.” Here Jesus made the difference between His knowledge and theirs in using this power. They cured, but the world was not any wiser for their cures, so they scattered abroad. The cure was right, but it was done through ignorance.
This is the way with prayer. Prayer contains no knowledge and only leaves men in ignorance and superstition. Seeing this account in print and knowing how it was done, I thought I would try the same experiment on a lady myself according to my way of curing disease. I have no creed or belief. What I know I can put into practice, and when I put it into practice I am conscious of it and know what will be its effect. I sent to the lady (the subject of my experiment) who lived out of town a letter, telling her I would try my power on her from the time I commenced the letter which was Sunday, and visit her at different times until the next Sabbath; and on the next Sabbath I would come between the hours of eleven and twelve and make her rise from her bed where she had been confined by sickness, unable to walk for nine months. At the time appointed I went and used my power to restore her to the use of her limbs and to health. On the Wednesday following my letter, her husband wrote me that on Monday night she was very restless, but was better the next day. On the Monday following that, I received a letter from her saying that at the time I appointed for her to rise from her bed, she rose from her bed, walked into the dining room and returned and laid down a short time. She then rose again, dined, and also took tea with the family, rested well that night and continued to do well. Now I suppose all of this transaction would be accounted for by the religious community by the power of the imagination of the patient. Suppose you do give it that explanation. How was the lady cured by prayer? On the same principle, I suppose. If so, how was it with the centurian who came to Jesus, saying that he had a servant lying sick with the palsy, grievously tormented? Jesus said unto him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurian said, “Speak the word only and my servant shall be healed.” Then Jesus told him to go his way and the servant was healed in that self-same hour. Now who cured the servant? Jesus, or the centurian, or the servant's own imagination? Settle this question among yourselves.
Another case: when Jesus came into Peter's house, He saw the mother of Peter's wife lying sick of a fever. He touched her and she arose and ministered unto them. Now if you cannot tell how this was done and yet admit it, you must admit a power that you cannot explain or understand, and if you cannot understand it, it is an unknown power. Now to exist in any individual this power that you admit and from which you hope to derive benefit is to worship an unknown God or principle. This principle which you ignorantly worship, this I declare unto you by explaining it.