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Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. XI. Miscellanies
 
I. The Lord’a Supper
 
Sermon Delivered before the Second Church in Boston, September 9, 1832

  I LIKE a church; I like a cowl,
I love a prophet of the soul;
And on my heart monastic aisles
Fall like sweet strains, or pensive smiles:
Yet not for all his faith can see
Would I that cowlèd churchman be.
Why should the vest on him allure,
Which I could not on me endure?

  THE WORD unto the prophet spoken
Was writ on tables yet unbroken;
The word by seers or sibyls told,
In groves of oak, or fanes of gold,
Still floats upon the morning wind,
Still whispers to the willing mind.

        The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost—ROMANS xiv. 17.

IN 1 the history of the Church no subject has been more fruitful of controversy than the Lord’s Supper. There never has been any unanimity in the understanding of its nature, nor any uniformity in the mode of celebrating it. Without considering the frivolous questions which have been lately debated as to the posture in which men should partake of it; whether mixed or unmixed wine should be served; whether leavened or unleavened bread should be broken;—the questions have been settled differently in every church, who should be admitted to the feast, and how often it should be prepared. In the Catholic Church, infants were at one time permitted and then forbidden to partake; and since the ninth century the laity receive the bread only, the cup being reserved to the priesthood. So, as to the time of the solemnity. In the Fourth Lateran Council, it was decreed that any believer should communicate at least once in a year,—at Easter. Afterwards it was determined that this Sacrament should be received three times in the year,—at Easter, Whitsuntide and Christmas. But more important controversies have arisen respecting its nature. The famous question of the Real Presence was the main controversy between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. The doctrine of the Consubstantiation taught by Luther was denied by Calvin. In the Church of England, Archbishops Laud and Wake maintained that the elements were an Eucharist, or sacrifice of Thanksgiving to God ; Cudworth and Warburton, that this was not a sacrifice, but a sacrificial feast; and Bishop Hoadley, that it was neither a sacrifice nor a feast after sacrifice, but a simple commemoration. And finally, it is now near two hundred years since the Society of Quakers denied the authority of the rite altogether, and gave good reasons for disusing it.
  1
  I allude to these facts only to show that, so far from the Supper being a tradition in which men are fully agreed, there has always been the widest room for difference of opinion upon this particular. Having recently given particular attention to this subject, I was led to the conclusion that Jesus did not intend to establish an institution for perpetual observance when he ate the Passover with his disciples; and further, to the opinion that it is not expedient to celebrate it as we do. I shall now endeavor to state distinctly my reasons for these two opinions.  2
  I. The authority of the rite.  3
  An account of the Last Supper of Christ with his disciples is given by the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  4
  In St. Matthew’s Gospel (Matt. xxvi. 26–30) are recorded the words of Jesus in giving bread and wine on that occasion to his disciples, but no expression occurs intimating that this feast was hereafter to be commemorated. In St. Mark (Mark xiv. 22–25) the same words are recorded, and still with no intimation that the occasion was to be remembered. St. Luke (Luke xxii. 19), after relating the breaking of the bread, has these words: “This do in remembrance of me.” In St. John, although other occurrences of the same evening are related, this whole transaction is passed over without notice.  5
  Now observe the facts. Two of the Evangelists, namely, Matthew and John, were of the twelve disciples, and were present on that occasion. Neither of them drops the slightest intimation of any intention on the part of Jesus to set up anything permanent. John especially, the beloved disciple, who has recorded with minuteness the conversation and the transactions of that memorable evening, has quite omitted such a notice. Neither does it appear to have come to the knowledge of Mark, who, though not an eye-witness, relates the other facts. This material fact, that the occasion was to be remembered, is found in Luke alone, who was not present. There is no reason, however, that we know, for rejecting the account of Luke. I doubt not, the expression was used by Jesus. I shall presently consider its meaning. I have only brought these accounts together, that you may judge whether it is likely that a solemn institution, to be continued to the end of time by all mankind, as they should come, nation after nation, within the influence of the Christian religion, would have been established in this slight manner—in a manner so slight, that the intention of commemorating it should not appear, from their narrative, to have caught the ear or dwelt in the mind of the only two among the twelve who wrote down what happened.  6
  Still we must suppose that the expression, “This do in remembrance of me,” had come to the ear of Luke from some disciple who was present. What did it really signify? It is a prophetic and an affectionate expression. Jesus is a Jew, sitting with his countrymen, celebrating their national feast. He thinks of his own impending death, and wishes the minds of his disciples to be prepared for it. “When hereafter,” he says to them, “you shall keep the Passover, it will have an altered aspect to your eyes. It is now a historical covenant of God with the Jewish nation. Hereafter it will remind you of a new covenant sealed with my blood. In years to come, as long as your people shall come up to Jerusalem to keep this feast, the connection which has subsisted between us will give a new meaning in your eyes to the national festival, as the anniversary of my death.” I see natural feeling and beauty in the use of such language from Jesus, a friend to his friends; I can readily imagine that he was willing and desirous, when his disciples met, his memory should hallow their intercourse; but I cannot bring myself to believe that in the use of such an expression he looked beyond the living generation, beyond the abolition of the festival he was celebrating, and the scattering of the nation, and meant to impose a memorial feast upon the whole world.  7
  Without presuming to fix precisely the purpose in the mind of Jesus, you will see that many opinions may be entertained of his intention, all consistent with the opinion that he did not design a perpetual ordinance. He may have foreseen that his disciples would meet to remember him, and that with good effect. It may have crossed his mind that this would be easily continued a hundred or a thousand years,—as men more easily transmit a form than a virtue,—and yet have been altogether out of his purpose to fasten it upon men in all times and all countries.  8
  But though the words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” do not occur in Matthew, Mark or John, and although it should be granted us that, taken alone, they do not necessarily import so much as is usually thought, yet many persons are apt to imagine that the very striking and personal manner in which the eating and drinking is described, indicates a striking and formal purpose to found a festival. And I admit that this impression might probably be left upon the mind of one who read only the passages under consideration in the New Testament. But this impression is removed by reading any narrative of the mode in which the ancient or the modern Jews have kept the Passover. It is then perceived that the leading circumstances in the Gospels are only a faithful account of that ceremony. Jesus did not celebrate the Passover, and afterwards the Supper, but the Supper was the Passover. He did with his disciples exactly what every master of a family in Jerusalem was doing at the same hour with his household. It appears that the Jews ate the lamb and the unleavened bread and drank wine after a prescribed manner. It was the custom for the master of the feast to break the bread and to bless it, using this formula, which the Talmudists have preserved to us, “Blessed be Thou, O Lord, our God, who givest us the fruit of the vine,”—and then to give the cup to all. Among the modern Jews, who in their dispersion retain the Passover, a hymn is also sung after this ceremony, specifying the twelve great works done by God for the deliverance of their fathers out of Egypt.  9
  But still it may be asked, Why did Jesus make expressions so extraordinary and emphatic as these—“This is my body which is broken for you. Take; eat. This is my blood which is shed for you. Drink it”?—I reply they are not extraordinary expressions from him. They were familiar in his mouth. He always taught by parables and symbols. It was the national way of teaching, and was largely used by him. Remember the readiness which he always showed to spiritualize every occurrence. He stopped and wrote on the sand. He admonished his disciples respecting the leaven of the Pharisees. He instructed the woman of Samaria respecting living water. He permitted himself to be anointed, declaring that it was for his interment. He washed the feet of his disciples. These are admitted to be symbolical actions and expressions. Here, in like manner, he calls the bread his body, and bids the disciples eat. He had used the same expression repeatedly before. The reason why St. John does not repeat his words on this occasion seems to be that he had reported a similar discourse of Jesus to the people of Capernaum more at length already (John vi. 27–60). He there tells the Jews, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” And when the Jews on that occasion complained that they did not comprehend what he meant, he added for their better understanding, and as if for our understanding, that we might not think his body was to be actually eaten, that he only meant we should live by his commandment. He closed his discourse with these explanatory expressions: “The flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life.”  10
  Whilst I am upon this topic, I cannot help remarking that it is not a little singular that we should have preserved this rite and insisted upon perpetuating one symbolical act of Christ whilst we have totally neglected all others,—particularly one other which had at least an equal claim to our observance. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and told them that, as he had washed their feet, they ought to wash one another’s feet; for he had given them an example, that they should do as he had done to them. I ask any person who believes the Supper to have been designed by Jesus to be commemorated forever, to go and read the account of it in the other Gospels, and then compare with it the account of this transaction in St. John, and tell me if this be not much more explicitly authorized than the Supper. It only differs in this, that we have found the Supper used in New England and the washing of the feet not. But if we had found it an established rite in our churches, on grounds of mere authority, it would have been impossible to have argued against it. That rite is used by the Church of Rome, and by the Sandemanians. It has been very properly dropped by other Christians. Why? For two reasons: (1) because it was a local custom, and unsuitable in western countries; and (2) because it was typical, and all understood that humility is the thing signified. But the Passover was local too, and does not concern us, and its bread and wine were typical, and do not help us to understand the redemption which they signified. These views of the original account of the Lord’s Supper lead me to esteem it an occasion full of solemn and prophetic interest, but never intended by Jesus to be the foundation of a perpetual institution.  11
  It appears, however, in Christian history that the disciples had very early taken advantage of these impressive words of Christ to hold religious meetings, where they broke bread and drank wine as symbols. I look upon this fact as very natural in the circumstances of the Church. The disciples lived together; they threw all their property into a common stock; they were bound together by the memory of Christ, and nothing could be more natural than that this eventful evening should be affectionately remembered by them; that they, Jews like Jesus, should adopt his expressions and his types, and furthermore, that what was done with peculiar propriety by them, his personal friends, with less propriety should come to be extended to their companions also. In this way religious feasts grew up among the early Christians. They were readily adopted by the Jewish converts, who were familiar with religious feasts, and also by the Pagan converts, whose idolatrous worship had been made up of sacred festivals, and who very readily abused these to gross riot, as appears from the censures of St. Paul. Many persons consider this fact, the observance of such a memorial feast by the early disciples, decisive of the question whether it ought to be observed by us. There was good reason for his personal friends to remember their friend and repeat his words. It was only too probable that among the half-converted Pagans and Jews, any rite, any form, would find favor, whilst yet unable to comprehend the spiritual character of Christianity.  12
  The circumstance, however, that St. Paul adopts these views, has seemed to many persons conclusive in favor of the institution. I am of opinion that it is wholly upon the Epistle to the Corinthians, and not upon the Gospels, that the ordinance stands. Upon this matter of St. Paul’s view of the Supper, a few important considerations must be stated.  13
  The end which he has in view, in the eleventh chapter of the first Epistle, is not to enjoin upon his friends to observe the Supper, but to censure their abuse of it. We quote the passage nowadays as if it enjoined attendance upon the Supper; but he wrote it merely to chide them for drunkenness. To make their enormity plainer, he goes back to the origin of this religious feast to show what sort of feast that was, out of which this riot of theirs came, and so relates the transactions of the Last Supper. “I have received of the Lord,” he says, “that which I delivered to you.” By this expression it is often thought that a miraculous communication is implied; but certainly without good reason, if it is remembered that St. Paul was living in the lifetime of all the apostles who could give him an account of the transaction; and it is contrary to all reason to suppose that God should work a miracle to convey information that could so easily be got by natural means. So that the import of the expression is that he had received the story of an eye-witness such as we also possess.  14
  But there is a material circumstance which diminishes our confidence in the correctness of the Apostle’s view; and that is, the observation that his mind had not escaped the prevalent error of the primitive Church, the belief, namely, that the second coming of Christ would shortly occur, until which time, he tells them, this feast was to be kept. Elsewhere he tells them that at that time the world be burnt up with fire, and a new government established, in which the Saints would sit on thrones; so slow were the disciples, during the life and after the ascension of Christ, to receive the idea which we receive, that his second coming was a spiritual kingdom, the dominion of his religion in the hearts of men, to be extended gradually over the whole world. In this manner we may see clearly enough how this ancient ordinance got its footing among the early Christians, and this single expectation of a speedy reappearance of a temporal Messiah, which kept its influence even over so spiritual a man as St. Paul, would naturally tend to preserve the use of the rite when once established.  15
  We arrive, then, at this conclusion: first, that it does not appear, from a careful examination of the account of the Last Supper in the Evangelists, that it was designed by Jesus to be perpetual; secondly, that it does not appear that the opinion of St. Paul, all things considered, ought to alter our opinion derived from the Evangelists.  16
  One general remark before quitting this branch of this subject. We ought to be cautious in taking even the best ascertained opinions and practices of the primitive Church for our own. If it could be satisfactorily shown that they esteemed it authorized and to be transmitted forever, that does not settle the question for us. We know how inveterately they were attached to their Jewish prejudices, and how often even the influence of Christ failed to enlarge their views. On every other subject succeeding times have learned to form a judgment more in accordance with the spirit of Christianity than was the practice of the early ages.  17
  II. But it is said: “Admit that the rite was not designed to be perpetual. What harm doth it? Here it stands, generally accepted, under some form, by the Christian world, the undoubted occasion of much good; is it not better it should remain?” This is the question of expediency.  18
  I proceed to state a few objections that in my judgment lie against its use in its present form.  19
  1. If the view which I have taken of the history of the institution be correct, then the claim of authority should be dropped in administering it. You say, every time you celebrate the rite, that Jesus enjoined it; and the whole language you use conveys that impression. But if you read the New Testament as I do, you do not believe he did.  20
  2. It has seemed to me that the use of this ordinance tends to produce confusion in our views of the relation of the soul to God. It is the old objection to the doctrine of the Trinity,—that the true worship was transferred from God to Christ, or that such confusion was introduced into the soul that an undivided worship was given nowhere. Is not that the effect of the Lord’s Supper? I appeal now to the convictions of communicants, and ask such persons whether they have not been occasionally conscious of a painful confusion of thought between the worship due to God and the commemoration due to Christ. For the service does not stand upon the basis of a voluntary act, but is imposed by authority. It is an expression of gratitude to Christ, enjoined by Christ. There is an endeavor to keep Jesus in mind, whilst yet the prayers are addressed to God. I fear it is the effect of this ordinance to clothe Jesus with an authority which he never claimed and which distracts the mind of the worshipper. I know our opinions differ much respecting the nature and offices of Christ, and the degree of veneration to which he is entitled. I am so much a Unitarian as this: that I believe the human mind can admit but one God, and that every effort to pay religious homage to more than one being goes to take away all right ideas. I appeal, brethren, to your individual experience. In the moment when you make the least petition to God, though it be but a silent wish that he may approve you, or add one moment to your life,—do you not, in the very act, necessarily exclude all other beings from your thought? In that act, the soul stands alone with God, and Jesus is no more present to your mind than your brother or your child. 2  21
  But is not Jesus called in Scripture the Mediator? He is the mediator in that only sense in which possibly any being can mediate between God and man,—that is, an instructor of man. He teaches us how to become like God. And a true disciple of Jesus will receive the light he gives most thankfully; but the thanks he offers, and which an exalted being will accept, are not compliments, commemorations, but the use of that instruction.  22
  3. Passing other objections, I come to this, that the use of the elements, however suitable to the people and the modes of thought in the East, where it originated, is foreign and unsuited to affect us. Whatever long usage and strong association may have done in some individuals to deaden this repulsion, I apprehend that their use is rather tolerated than loved by any of us. We are not accustomed to express our thoughts or emotions by symbolical actions. Most men find the bread and wine no aid to devotion, and to some it is a painful impediment. To eat bread is one thing; to love the precepts of Christ and resolve to obey them is quite another. 3  23
  The statement of this objection leads me to say that I think this difficulty, wherever it is felt, to be entitled to the greatest weight. It is alone a sufficient objection to the ordinance. It is my own objection. This mode of commemorating Christ is not suitable to me. That is reason enough why I should abandon it. If I believed it was enjoined by Jesus on his disciples, and that he even contemplated making permanent this mode of commemoration, every way agreeable to an Eastern mind, and yet on trial it was disagreeable to my own feelings, I should not adopt it. I should choose other ways which, as more effectual upon me, he would approve more. For I choose that my remembrances of him should be pleasing, affecting, religious. I will love him as a glorified friend, after the free way of friendship, and not pay him a stiff sign of respect, as men do those whom they fear. A passage read from his discourses, a moving provocation to works like his, any act or meeting which tends to awaken a pure thought, a flow of love, an original design of virtue, I call a worthy, a true commemoration.  24
  4. The importance ascribed to this particular ordinance is not consistent with the spirit of Christianity. The general object and effect of the ordinance is unexceptionable. It has been, and is, I doubt not, the occasion of indefinite good; but an importance is given by Christians to it which never can belong to any form. My friends, the Apostle well assures us that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” I am not so foolish as to declaim against forms. Forms are as essential as bodies; but to exalt particular forms, to adhere to one form a moment after it is outgrown, is unreasonable, and it is alien to the spirit of Christ. If I understand the distinction of Christianity, the reason why it is to be preferred over all other systems and is divine is this, that it is a moral system; that it presents men with truths which are their own reason, and enjoins practices that are their own justification; that if miracles may be said to have been its evidence to the first Christians, they are not its evidence to us, but the doctrines themselves; that every practice is Christian which praises itself, and every practice is unchristian which condemns itself. I am not engaged to Christianity by decent forms, or saving ordinances; it is not usage, it is not what I do not understand, that binds me to it,—let these be the sandy foundations of falsehoods. What I revere and obey in it is its reality, its boundless charity, its deep interior life, the rest it gives to mind, the echo it returns to my thoughts, the perfect accord it makes with my reason through all its representation of God and His Providence; and the persuasion and courage that come out thence to lead me upward and onward. Freedom is the essence of this faith. It has for its object simply to make men good and wise. Its institutions then should be as flexible as the wants of men. That form out of which the life and suitableness have departed should be as worthless in its eyes as the dead leaves that are falling around us.  25
  And therefore, although for the satisfaction of others I have labored to show by the history that this rite was not intended to be perpetual; although I have gone back to weigh the expressions of Paul, I feel that here is the true point of view. In the midst of considerations as to what Paul thought, and why he so thought, I cannot help feeling that it is time misspent to argue to or from his convictions, or those of Luke and John, respecting any form. I seem to lose the substance in seeking the shadow. That for which Paul lived and died so gloriously; that for which Jesus gave himself to be crucified; the end that animated the thousand martyrs and heroes who have followed his steps, was to redeem us from a formal religion, and teach us to seek our well-being in the formation of the soul. The whole world was full of idols and ordinances. The Jewish was a religion of forms; it was all body, it had no life, and the Almighty God was pleased to qualify and send forth a man to teach men that they must serve him with the heart; that only that life was religious which was thoroughly good; that sacrifice was smoke, and forms were shadows. This man lived and died true to this purpose; and now, with his blessed word and life before us, Christians must contend that it is a matter of vital importance,—really a duty, to commemorate him by a certain form, whether that form be agreeable to their understandings or not. Is not this to make vain the gift of God? Is not this to turn back the hand on the dial? Is not this to make men,—to make ourselves,—forget that not forms, but duties; not names, but righteousness and love are enjoined; and that in the eye of God there is no other measure of the value of any one form than the measure of its use?  26
  There remain some practical objections to the ordinance, into which I shall not now enter. There is one on which I had intended to say a few words; I mean the unfavorable relation in which it places that numerous class of persons who abstain from it merely from disinclination to the rite.  27
  Influenced by these considerations, I have proposed to the brethren of the Church to drop the use of the elements and the claim of authority in the administration of this ordinance, and have suggested a mode in which a meeting for the same purpose might be held, free of objection.  28
  My brethren have considered my views with patience and candor, and have recommended, unanimously, an adherence to the present form. I have therefore been compelled to consider whether it becomes me to administer it. I am clearly of opinion I ought not. This discourse has already been so far extended that I can only say that the reason of my determination is shortly this: It is my desire, in the office of a Christian minister, to do nothing which I cannot do with my whole heart. Having said this, I have said all. I have no hostility to this institution; I am only stating my want of sympathy with it. Neither should I ever have obtruded this opinion upon other people, had I not been called by my office to administer it. That is the end of my opposition, that I am not interested in it. I am content that it stand to the end of the world, if it please men and please Heaven, and I shall rejoice in all the good it produces.  29
  As it is the prevailing opinion and feeling in our religious community that it is an indispensable part of the pastoral office to administer this ordinance, I am about to resign into your hands that office which you have confided to me. It has many duties for which I am feebly qualified. It has some which it will always be my delight to discharge according to my ability, wherever I exist. And whilst the recollection of its claims oppresses me with a sense of my unworthiness, I am consoled by the hope that no time and no change can deprive me of the satisfaction of pursuing and exercising its highest functions. 4  30
 
Note 1. MR. EMERSON did not wish to have his sermons published. All that was worth saving in them, he said, would be found in the Essays. Yet it seemed best, to Mr. Cabot and to Mr. Emerson’s family, that this one sermon should be preserved. A record of a turning-point in his life, it showed at once his thought and his character; for he not only gives the reasons why he believes the rite not authoritatively enjoined, and hence recommends its modification or discontinuance, but with serenity and sweetness renders back his trust into his people’s hands, since he cannot see his way longer to exercise it as most of them desire.
  In the month of June, 1832, Mr. Emerson had proposed to the church, apparently with hope of their approval, that the Communion be observed only as a festival of commemoration, without the use of the elements. The committee to whom the proposal was referred made a report expressing confidence in him, but declining to advise the change, as the matter was one which they could not properly be called upon to decide.
  The question then came back to the pastor, whether he was willing to remain in his place and administer the rite in the usual form.
  He went alone to the White Mountains, then seldom visited, to consider the grave question whether he was prepared, rather than to continue the performance of a part of his priestly office from which his instincts and beliefs recoiled, to sacrifice a position of advantage for usefulness to his people to whom he was bound by many ties, and in preparation for which he had spent long years. He wrote, at Conway, New Hampshire: “Here among the mountains the pinions of thought should be strong, and one should see the errors of men from a calmer height of love and wisdom.” His diary at Ethan Allan Crawford’s contains his doubts and questionings, which Mr. Cabot has given in his Memoir. Yet there was but one answer for him, and after a fortnight, he came back clear in his mind to give his decision, embodied in this sermon, to his people. On the same day that it was preached, he formally resigned his pastorate. The church was loth to part with him. It was hoped that some other arrangement might be made. Mr. Cabot learned that “several meetings were held and the proprietors of pews were called in, as having ‘an undoubted right to retain Mr. Emerson as their pastor, without reference to the opposition of the church.’ At length, after two adjournments and much discussion, it was decided by thirty votes against twenty-four to accept his resignation. It was voted at the same time to continue his salary for the present.”
  Thus Mr. Emerson and his people parted in all kindness, but, as Mr. Cabot truly said, their difference of views on this rite “was in truth only the symptom of a deeper difference which would in any case sooner or later have made it impossible for him to retain his office; a disagreement not so much about particular doctrines or observances as about their sanction, the authority on which all doctrines and observances rest.”
  In the farewell letter which Mr. Emerson wrote to the people of his church, he said:—
  “I rejoice to believe that my ceasing to exercise the pastoral office among you does not make any real change in our spiritual relation to each other. Whatever is most desirable and excellent therein remains to us. For, truly speaking, whoever provokes me to a good act or thought has given me a pledge of his fidelity to virtue,—he has come under bonds to adhere to that cause to which we are jointly attached. And so I say to all you who have been my counsellors and coöperators in our Christian walk, that I am wont to see in your faces the seals and certificates of our mutual obligations. If we have conspired from week to week in the sympathy and expression of devout sentiments; if we have received together the unspeakable gift of God’s truth; if we have studied together the sense of any divine word; or striven together in any charity; or conferred together for the relief or instruction of any brother; if together we have laid down the dead in a pious hope; or held up the babe into the baptism of Christianity; above all, if we have shared in any habitual acknowledgment of the benignant God, whose omnipresence raises and glorifies the meanest offices and the lowest ability, and opens heaven in every heart that worships him,—then indeed we are united, we are mutually debtors to each other of faith and hope, engaged to persist and confirm each other’s hearts in obedience to the Gospel. We shall not feel that the nominal changes and little separations of this world can release us from the strong cordage of this spiritual bond. And I entreat you to consider how truly blessed will have been our connection if, in this manner, the memory of it shall serve to bind each one of us more strictly to the practice of our several duties.” [back]
Note 2. The doctrine of the offices of Jesus, even in the Unitarianism of Dr. Channing, was never congenial to Mr. Emerson’s mind. He notes the same with regard to his father, and even to his Aunt Mary, in spite of her Calvinism. Any interposed personality between the Creator and the created was repugnant to him. Even in March, 1831, he is considering in his journal that his hearers will say, “To what purpose is this attempt to explain away so safe and holy a doctrine as that of the Holy Spirit? Why unsettle or disturb a faith which presents to many minds a helpful medium by which they approach the idea of God?” and he answers, “And this question I will meet. It is because I think the popular views of this principle are pernicious, because it does put a medium, because it removes the idea of God from the mind. It leaves some events, some things, some thoughts, out of the power of Him who causes every event, every flower, every thought. The tremendous idea, as I may well call it, of God is screened from the soul…. And least of all can we believe—Reason will not let us—that the presiding Creator commands all matter and never descends into the secret chambers of the Soul. There he is most present. The Soul rules over matter. Matter may pass away like a mote in the sunbeam, may be absorbed into the immensity of God, as a mist is absorbed into the heat of the Sun—but the soul is the kingdom of God, the abode of love, of truth, of virtue.” [back]
Note 3. In the hope of satisfying those of his people who held to the letter of the Scriptural Law, Mr. Emerson made the foregoing clear statement with regard to the authority for the rite, from the professional point of view. It seems quite unlike his usual method, and there is little doubt that in it appears the influence of his elder brother, William, whose honest doubts had led him to abandon even earlier the profession of his fathers. In the introductory note to the chapter on Goethe, in Representative Men, is given an account of his unsuccessful pilgrimage to Weimar, in hopes that the great mind of Germany could solve these doubts. There is a letter still preserved, written by William, soon after his return, to his venerable kinsman at Concord, Dr. Ripley, in which he explains with great clearness his own reasons for not believing that the Communion rite was enjoined by Jesus for perpetual observance. The argument on scriptural grounds there clearly stated is substantially the same as that which his younger brother makes use of in the beginning of this sermon. Thus far he has spoken of outward authority; from this point onward he speaks from within—the way native to him. [back]
Note 4. Mr. Emerson left the struggles of the Past behind, and did not care to recall them. Thus, writing of Lucretia Mott, whom he met when giving a course of lectures in Philadelphia, in January, 1843, he said:—
  “Me she taxed with living out of the world, and I was not much flattered that her interest in me respected my rejection of an ordinance, sometime, somewhere. Also yesterday—for Philadelphian ideas, like love, do creep where they cannot go—I was challenged on the subject of the Lord’s Supper, and with great slowness and pain was forced to recollect the grounds of my dissent in that particular. You may be sure I was very tardy with my texts.”
  Mr. Emerson’s journal during the period of trial and decision, in the mountains, shows that he was reading with great interest the life of George Fox. The simplicity of the Society of Friends, their aversion to forms and trust in the inward light, always appealed to him.
  In his essay on The Preacher he says:—
  “The supposed embarrassments to young clergymen exist only to feeble wills…. That gray deacon, or respectable matron with Calvinistic antecedents, you can readily see, would not have presented any obstacle to the march of St. Bernard or of George Fox, of Luther or of Theodore Parker.” This hints at the help he had found in the Quaker’s history in his time of need. [back]
 
 
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