“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. The day of formal religion is past, and we are to seek our well-being in the formation of the soul. 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 that purpose; and 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 acceptable to their understanding or not. Is not this to make vain the gift of God? Is not this to turn back the hand on the dial?”
To these objections he adds the practical consideration that it brings those who do not partake of the communion service into an unfavorable relation with those who do.
The beautiful spirit of the man shows itself in all its noble sincerity in these words at the close of his argument:—
“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.”
He then announces that, as it is the prevailing opinion and feeling in our religious community that it is a part of a pastor’s duties to administer this rite, he is about to resign the office which had been confided to him.
This is the only sermon of Mr. Emerson’s ever published. It was impossible to hear or to read it without honoring the preacher for his truthfulness, and recognizing the force of his statement and reasoning. It was equally impossible that he could continue his ministrations over a congregation which held to the ordinance he wished to give up entirely. And thus it was, that with the most friendly feelings on both sides, Mr. Emerson left the pulpit of the Second Church and found himself obliged to make a beginning in a new career.
1833-1838. AET. 30-35.
Section 1. Visit to Europe.—On his
Return preaches in Different
Places.—Emerson in the Pulpit.—At Newton.—Fixes his Residence at
Concord.—The Old Manse.—Lectures in Boston.—Lectures on
Michael Angelo and on Milton published in the “North American
Review.”—Beginning of the Correspondence with Carlyle.—Letters to the
Rev. James Freeman Clarke.—Republication of “Sartor Resartus.”