Whittier as Quaker

Our Master

Union Congregational Church, Amesbury, MA Whittier opposed a regular minister, protracted meetings, revivals, and singing when these were introduced into some of the Friends’ Meetings. Although he wouldn’t engage in religious debate, he expressed his feelings in his poems.

In “Our Master,” Whittier identifies specific practices he finds objectionable in other sects:

Immortal Love, forever full,
Forever flowing free,
Forever shared, forever whole,
A never-ebbing sea!


First, no to transubstantiation

No holy bread, nor blood of grape,
The linements restore
Of Him we know in outward shape
And in the flesh no more.

and Judgment Day

First United Methodist Church, Amesbury, MAHe cometh not a king to reign;
The world's long hope is dim;
The weary centuries watch in vain
The clouds of heaven for Him.

Death comes, life goes; the asking eye
And ear are answerless;
The grave is dumb, the hollow sky
Is sad with silentness.

The letter fails, the systems fall,
And every symbol wanes;
The Spirit over-brooding all
Eternal Love remains.


No fable old, nor mythic Jove,
Nor dream of bards and seers,
No dead fact stranded on the shore
Of the oblivious years;--

About half way through begin the stanzas included in Protestant hymnals which gave the poem its name.

St. James' Episcopal Church, Amesbury, MA Our Lord and Master of us all!
Whate’er our name or sign,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine.


After the hymn, Whittier returns to Friends’ dogma, including the Inner Light

We faintly hear, we dimly see,
In differing phrase we pray;
But, dim or clear, we own in Thee
The Light, the Truth, the Way!

He praises the lack of structure and ritual in service

Our Friend, our Brother, and our Lord,
What may Thy service be?--
Nor name, nor form, nor ritual word,
But simply following Thee.


And the absence of incense or bells:

Amesbury Meeting House todayIn vain shall waves of incense drift
The vaulted nave around,
In vain the minster turret lift
Its brazen weights of sound.

The heart must ring Thy Christmas bells,
Thy inward altars raise;
Its faith and hope Thy canticles,
And its obedience praise!


Full text of "Our Master"

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