What is the origin of the Explanatory Note found in the Christian Science Quarterly?

March 23, 2020

In November 1896 Septimus J. Hanna, the First Reader of The Mother Church, wrote to Mary Baker Eddy, requesting the addition of a note in the Christian Science Quarterly:

We have found that strangers coming to our services are at a loss to know what sort of sermons we have, the relations the Bible bears to the sermon, etc., and so after consultation with the Directors, I concluded it was best to make a brief explanatory statement before reading the lesson. The field hearing of this have taken it up, and I am told at some places they go into a somewhat lengthy explanation of the lesson itself, instead of leaving it to its own explanation. To prevent this and to ensure uniformity, the [Bible] Lesson Com[mittee] concluded to prepare a statement to go into each Quarterly to be read at each service, just before the Lesson;—subject, however, to your approval. I enclose a draft of same. May I ask you to make any changes you see fit? or advise us whether you deem it best to make such a statement?1

Eddy approved of Hanna’s concept, although his draft, and any subsequent edits made before publication, are no longer extant. The note first appeared in the January–March 1897 issue of the Quarterly:

NOTE.

TO THE READERS:
WE RECOMMEND THAT THE FOLLOWING EXPLANATORY NOTE BE READ AS A PREFACE TO EACH LESSON IN THIS QUARTERLY.
THE BIBLE LESSON COMMITTEE.

These lessons are prepared by a Committee of Christian Scientists, but as to their number and the Scripture constituting each lesson, they follow the International Bible Lesson Series.

The lesson-text of each of these lessons is supported by selections from the Bible, and the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by the Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy; the purpose being to emphasize, corroborate and explain the lesson-text in its spiritual import, and its application to the present and future, as well as the past.

Following the note’s second appearance in the Quarterly’s April–June 1897 issue, Eddy wrote to the Bible Lesson Committee:

I have changed the note in the Quarterly Please erase, and retain in the Quarterly according to this corrected form, if you are willing so to do. Read next Sunday in the pulpit at the opening of sermon (or Reading) the little announcement that I enclose in this letter – by omitting the note. Also publish this with the note in our next Journal for all C.S. Churches to adopt; then print it in the next edition of the Quarterly with the note which is not to be read in church. 2

Eddy’s revised version of the Explanatory Note appeared in the April 1897 issue of The Christian Science Journal:

Note. All the churches of our denomination are respectfully requested to have the first Reader, read the following, at the opening of the Bible Lesson on Sunday.
MARY BAKER EDDY.

The Bible, and the Christian Science text-book, are our only preachers. We shall now read scriptural texts, and their correlative passages from our text-book,—these comprise our sermon.

The canonical writings, together with the word of our text-book corroborating and explaining the Bible texts in their denominational, spiritual import and application to all ages, past, present, and future, constitute a sermon undivorced from truth, uncontaminated or fettered by human hypotheses, and authorized by Christ.

The number of our Sunday lessons and the Scripture they contain follow the International Series.

Note.—The Quarterly for the next quarter having been mailed before the receipt of the above from our Leader, we will add that the above is to be read in lieu of the note printed in the Quarterly,—omitting, however, the preliminary note by Mrs. Eddy.—Editor.

Throughout her lifetime Eddy continued to edit the note. For example, on January 31, 1910, Professor Joel R. Mosley asked her to clarify the phrase “authorized by Christ.”3 On February 5, Adam H. Dickey, a secretary in Eddy’s household, responded: “Our Leader’s reply to your letter of the 31st. ult., is that the phrase ‘authorized by Christ’ is used by her because ‘Christ’ signifies divine Truth, and the expression means: ‘divinely authorized.’”4 Records suggest that sometime between February 5 and 9, Eddy asked The Christian Science Publishing Society to change “authorized by Christ” to “divinely authorized.” On February 9 the Publishing Society wrote to her: “We are much pleased by the two changes which you have just made in the Quarterly.”5 On February 14 the Publishing Society sent a circular letter to all First Readers:

The explanatory note in the front of the Quarterly has been changed so that the last clause now reads “and divinely authorized” instead of “and authorized by Christ.”6

The final changes to the note appeared in the January–March 1911 issue of the Quarterly.

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  1. Hanna to Eddy, 6 November 1896, IC033bP1.13.021.
  2. Eddy to Bible Lesson Committee, 14 March 1897, L05183.
  3. Mosley to Eddy, 31 January 1910, IC170.29.013.
  4. Dickey to Mosley, 5 February 1910, V03921.
  5. The Christian Science Publishing Society to Eddy, 9 February 1910, IC094b.21.080.
  6. David B. Ogden to First Readers of Christian Science Churches and Societies, 14 February 1910, Subject File, The Christian Science Publishing Society – Periodicals – The Christian Science Quarterly.