Berean Studies / Ber06 - Brotherly Kindness (Brotherly Love)
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Single Click a triangle below to see the references CT Russell selected for the associated question. The study questions (with the references) are also included as an attached Adobe PDF file at the bottom of this page.
1. What is the ‘new commandment’ given by Christ to his disciples?
2. What is brotherly love?
3. Who are our ‘brethren’?
4. Why is the manifestation of brotherly kindness so necessary ?
5. Is it important that we observe the spirit as well as the form of our Lord's command?
6. Why do the Lord’s ‘brethren’ need no ‘outward passwords, grips or badges’?
7. How is our love for God measured by our love for ‘the brethren’?
8. Can we fellowship all ‘the brethren’ alike?
9. Should we always expect to have our manifestations of brotherly kindness received in the same spirit?
10. How are the comfort and peace of the Church dependent upon the manifestation of this grace?
11. How should brotherly love exercise itself in seeking opportunities for service?
12. How should brotherly love manifest itself ‘in honor preferring one another’?
13. How should we ‘consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works’?
14. How will brotherly love exercise itself in ‘laying down our lives for the brethren’?
15. How should we manifest brotherly kindness toward the weaker brethren?
1Th 5:14; R2321 col. 2 ¶4; F236 ¶1; F304 to 306
1 Thes. 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
R2321 [col. 2 ¶4]:
Let us (Christians), then, take a broader view of matters, and especially of all who have named the name of Christ, and who give any evidence of seeking to walk in his footsteps. Let our love for them cover not only the little, trifling blemishes and differences from ourselves, but let our love cover also a multitude of imperfections in their flesh, so long as we see that their hearts are loyal to the Lord, and that they are seeking to walk not after the flesh but after the spirit: so long as they profess to be seeking to get rid of the meanness and selfishness and littleness of the fallen nature and to cultivate in themselves the nobility of character which belongs to perfect manhood, the image of the divine nature.
The Apostle sets before our minds a picture of the New Creation which illustrates the entire subject. It is a human figure, the head representing the Lord, the various parts and members representing the Church. In 1 Cor. 12 this subject is grandly elaborated, and with great simplicity, the explanation given being that, "As the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ [one body or company composed of many members]. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body [whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free]." The Apostle proceeds to call attention to the fact that as the well-being of a human body depends largely upon the unity and harmony and cooperation of all its members, so also it is with the Church, the body of Christ. If one Continuing our examination of the Apostle's words in our text, we note that the Church is to comfort the feeble-minded. We thus have notice that the reception of the holy Spirit does not transform our mortal bodies so as to entirely overcome their weaknesses. There are some with feeble minds, as there are others with feeble bodies, and each needs sympathy along the line of his own weakness. The feeble minds were not to be miraculously cured; nor should we expect that because the minds of some are feeble and unable to grasp all the lengths, and breadths, and heights, and depths of the divine plan that, therefore, they are not of the body. On the contrary, as the Lord is not seeking for his Church merely those who are of fine physical development, strong and robust, so member suffer either pain or degradation or disgrace, all the members are affected, willingly or unwillingly, and if one member is specially blessed or comforted or refreshed, proportionately all others share the blessings. He points out (verse 23) that we seek to cover and hide the weaknesses, blemishes, etc., of our natural bodies and seek to relieve and help them; and that thus it should be with the Church, the body of Christ--the most blemished members should have special care as well as the covering of charity--love; "that there be no schism [division] in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another," for the most humble as well as for the most highly favored member-- Verse 25.
F304 through F306--"Comfort the Feeble-Minded."
Continuing our examination of the Apostle's words in our text, we note that the Church is to comfort the feeble-minded. We thus have notice that the reception of the holy Spirit does not transform our mortal bodies so as to entirely overcome their weaknesses. There are some with feeble minds, as there are others with feeble bodies, and each needs sympathy along the line of his own weakness. The feeble minds were not to be miraculously cured; nor should we expect that because the minds of some are feeble and unable to grasp all the lengths, and breadths, and heights, and depths of the divine plan that, therefore, they are not of the body. On the contrary, as the Lord is not seeking for his Church merely those who are of fine physical development, strong and robust, so likewise he is not seeking merely those who are strong and robust in mind, and able to reason and analyze thoroughly, completely, every feature of the divine plan. There will be in the body some who will be thus qualified, but others are feeble-minded, and do not come up even to the average standard of knowledge. What comfort should we give to these? We answer that the elders, in their presentations of the Truth, and all of the Church in their relationship one with the other, should comfort these, not necessarily in pointing out their feebleness and condoning the same, but rather along general lines--not expecting the same degree of proficiency and intellectual discernment in the members of the family of God. None should claim that those who have such disabilities are, therefore, not of the body.
The lesson is much the same if we accept the revised reading, "Comfort the fainthearted." Some naturally lack courage and combativeness, and with ever so good will and ever so loyal hearts cannot, to the same degree as others of the body, "be strong in the Lord," nor "fight the good fight of faith" in the open. The Lord, however, must see their will, their intention, to be courageous and loyal, and so should the brethren--if they are to attain the rank of overcomers.
All should recognize that the Lord's judgment of his people is according to their hearts, and that if these feeble-minded or fainthearted ones have had a sufficiency of mind and will to grasp the fundamentals of the divine plan of redemption through Christ Jesus, and their own justification in God's sight through faith in the Redeemer, and if on this basis they are striving to live a life of consecration to the Lord, they are to be treated in every way so as to permit them to feel that they are fully and thoroughly members of the body of Christ; and that the fact that they cannot expound or cannot perhaps with clearness discern every feature of the divine plan intellectually, and defend the same as courageously as others, is not to be esteemed as impugning their acceptance with the Lord. They should be encouraged to press along the line of self-sacrifice in the divine service, doing such things as their hands find to do, to the glory of the Lord and to the blessing of his people--comforted with the thought that in due time all who abide in Christ and cultivate the fruits of his Spirit and walk in his steps of sacrifice will have new bodies with perfect capacity, in which all the members shall be able to know as they are known--and that meantime the Lord assures us that his strength is shown the more fully in our weakness.
"Support the Weak"
This implies that there are some in the Church weaker than others; not merely physically weaker, but weaker spiritually --in the sense of having human organisms depraved in such a manner that they as New Creatures, find greater difficulty in growth and spiritual development. Such are not to be rejected from the body, but, on the contrary, we are to understand that if the Lord counted them worthy of a knowledge of his grace, it means that he is able to bring them off conquerors through him who loved us and bought us with his precious blood. They are to be supported with such promises as the Scriptures afford--to the effect that when we are weak in ourselves we may be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, by casting all our care upon him, and by faith laying hold upon his grace; that in the hour of weakness and temptation they will find fulfilled the promise, "My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness." The entire congregation can assist in this comforting and supporting, though, of course, the elders have a special charge and responsibility toward these, because they are the chosen representatives of the Church, and, hence, of the Lord. The Apostle, speaking of the various members of the body, after telling of pastors and teachers, speaks of "helps." (1 Cor. 12:28) Evidently the Lord's good pleasure would be that each member of the Church should seek to occupy such a place of helpfulness, not only helping the elders chosen as the representatives of the Church, but also helping one another, doing good unto all men as we have opportunity, but especially to the household of faith.
16. How will brotherly love sympathize with the more demonstrative brethren?
17. How should brotherly kindness deal with the self-seeking ?
18. How will brotherly kindness deal with brethren who lack self- control?
19. How should brotherly kindness seek to avoid ‘busy- bodying’?
20. How should brotherly love control the tongue?
21. How should brotherly love treat a slanderous report against an elder or other brethren?
22. How should the Church exercise brotherly kindness toward those who ‘walk disorderly’?
1Th 5:14; F292 ¶2; F298, 299; F303 ¶1; F307 ¶2; R3034 col. 2 ¶2 to R3035 col. 2 ¶1; R3092 col. 1 ¶1
1 Thes. 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
In carrying out the findings of the Church court, the matter rests with each individual; hence, each must discern the justice of the decision for himself. The penalty of withdrawal of fellowship is designed to be a correction in righteousness, and is of the Lord's prescribing. It is to serve as a protection to the Church, to separate those who walk disorderly, not after the spirit of love. It is not to be esteemed a perpetual separation, but merely until the reproved one shall recognize and acknowledge his wrong and to the extent of his ability make amends.
F297 [¶2] through F299--"Warn Them That Are Unruly"
"We exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any, but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves and to all men." 1 Thess. 5:14,15
This exhortation is not to elders, but to the entire Church, including the elders. It takes cognizance of the fact that although the entire Church, as God's New Creation, has a perfect standing before him as New Creatures in Christ Jesus, nevertheless each and all of them have their imperfections according to the flesh. It shows, further, what we all recognize; viz., that there are differences in the degrees and in the kinds of our fleshly imperfections; so that, as in children of an earthly family different dispositions require different treatment by the parents, much more in the family of God there are such wide differences of disposition as to require special consideration one for the other. To take notice of each other's imperfections, from the standpoint of criticism, would be to do ourselves much injury, cultivating in our hearts a faultfinding disposition, keenly awake to the weaknesses and imperfections of others, and proportionately, perhaps, inclined to be blind to our own defects. Such criticism is entirely foreign to the spirit and intention of the Apostle's exhortation.
Those are addressed who have been begotten of the spirit of the truth, the spirit of holiness, the spirit of humility, the spirit of love. Such as are thus growing in the graces of the Spirit, will fear and criticize chiefly their own defects; while their love for others will lead them to make as many mental excuses and allowances for them as possible. But while this spirit of love is properly condoning the offenses and weaknesses of the brethren, it is to be on the alert, nevertheless, to do them good--not by bickering, strife, contention, chiding, faultfinding and slandering one another, but in a manner such as the Golden Rule, would approve. With gentleness, meekness, long-suffering and patience, it will seek to make allowance for each other's weaknesses, and at the same time to help each other out of them, each remembering his own weaknesses of some kind.
The unruly are not to be comforted and supported and encouraged in their wrong way; but in kindness, in love, they are to be admonished that God is a God of order; and that in proportion as we would grow in his likeness and favor we must observe rules of order. They should be admonished that nothing is further from the divine arrangement than anarchy; and that as even worldly people recognize the principle that the worst form of government imaginable is preferable to anarchy, so much the more should God's people, who have received the spirit of a sound mind, the holy Spirit, recognize this same principle in the Church; and the Apostle exhorts us to submit ourselves one to the other, for the sake of the general interests of the Lord's cause. If we were all perfect, and our judgment of the Lord's will perfect, we would all think exactly the same--there would be no particular necessity for submitting one to another; but since our judgments differ, it is necessary that each consider the other and the other's standpoint of observation and judgment, and that each seek to yield something in the interest of general peace --yea, to yield everything so as to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace in the body of Christ, except where principle would be infringed by such a course.
The unruly or disorderly are not entirely to blame for their condition, perhaps. Many people are born disorderly and inclined to be so in their dress and in all their affairs in life. Disorderliness, therefore, is a part of their weakness, which should be thought of sympathetically, kindly, but, nevertheless, should not be permitted to do injury to the Church of God, to hinder its usefulness, to prevent its cooperation in the study and service of the Truth. It is not the will of God that his people should have that meekness which would amount to weakness in dealing with disorderly persons. Kindly, lovingly, but firmly, they should be shown that, as order is heaven's first law, so it must be highly esteemed amongst those who are heavenly-minded; and that it would be sinful for the congregation to permit one or two or more of its members to do violence to the divine regulations, as expressed in the Word of God and as generally understood by the congregation with which he is associated.
But in respect to others, who "walk disorderly," the regulation is very different. Such an excluded brother or sister should not be treated as an enemy, nor thought of as such; but as an erring brother, as the Apostle says further on in this same epistle, "If any man obey not our word by this epistle [if he be disorderly, unwilling to submit himself to sound reasoning and loving, generous rules of order] note that man, and have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed; yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (2 Thess. 3:14,15) Such a case as this would imply some open, public opposition on the part of the brother to the rules of order laid down by the Apostle, as the Lord's mouthpiece; and such a public opposition to right principles should be rebuked by the congregation, should they decide that the brother is so out of order that he needs admonishing; and if he does not consent to the form of sound words, sent us by our Lord through the Apostle, he should be considered as so out of accord as to make it no longer proper that he should have the fellowship of the brethren until he would consent to these reasonable requirements. He should not be passed by on the street unnoticed by the brethren, but be treated courteously. The exclusion should be merely from the privileges of the assembly and from any special brotherly associations, etc., peculiar to the faithful. This is implied also in our Lord's words, "Let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Our Lord did not mean that we should do injury to a heathen man or a publican, nor treat either in any manner unkindly; but merely that we should not fellowship such as brethren, nor seek their confidences, nor as New Creatures give them ours. The household of faith is to be cemented and bound together with mutual love and sympathy, and expressions of these in various ways. It is from the lack of these privileges and blessings that the excluded brother is caused to suffer, until he feels that he must reform his ways and return to the family gathering. There is a suggestion in this respect to warmth, to cordiality, to true brotherliness, that should prevail amongst those who are members of the Lord's body.
F307 [¶2]--"See That None Render Evil for Evil"
This is more than an individual advice: it is an injunction, addressed to the Church as a whole, and is applicable to each congregation of the Lord's people. It implies that if some of the household of faith are disposed to take vengeance, to retaliate, to render evil for evil, either upon brother members or upon those outside, that the Church will not be acting the part of a busybody in taking notice of such a course. It is the duty of the Church to see to this. "See that no man render evil for evil," means, give attention to it that this proper spirit is observed in your midst amongst the brethren. If, therefore, the elders should learn of such occasions as would be covered by this injunction, it would be their duty kindly to admonish the brothers or the sisters respecting the Word of the Lord; and, if they will not hear, it would be the duty of the former to bring the matter before the congregation, etc., etc. And here is the Church's commission to take cognizance of such an improper course on the part of any. Not only are we thus to see one another, and to look out for each other with kindly interest, to note that backward steps are not taken, but we are to see to it that, on the contrary, all follow after that which is good. We should rejoice in and commend every evidence of progress in a right way, giving it our support as individuals and as congregations of the Lord's people. By thus doing, as the Apostle suggests, we may rejoice evermore, and with good cause; for so helping one another the body of Christ will make increase of itself in love, growing more and more in the likeness of the Head, and becoming more and more fit for joint-heirship with him in the Kingdom.
R3034 [col. 2 ¶3] through R3035 [col. 2 ¶1]
We are at present specially referring to the proper attitude to be observed toward unruly brethren--they are not to be treated as those who are esteemed very highly in love for their works; otherwise they would be encouraged in being unruly. On the contrary they are to be warned, cautioned,--in love, truly, and with patience, but not with marks of the same love and esteem as tho they were walking orderly in the footsteps of Jesus and in harmony with the directions of his Word. The marks and evidences of our love and esteem must be sincere; and must be in proportion as we see in the brethren evidences of the right desires of heart,--to walk after the spirit of the truth. The Apostle Paul intimates how our disapproval ought to be shown, in cases which seem, in our judgment, to be of sufficient importance to demand a manifestation of disapproval.
Evidently the Apostle did not mean that the brethren should be watching each other for an occasion of fault-finding in every word and every act; but that, on the contrary, they should be so full of love one for the other that trivial matters would be entirely passed over, as merely of the weakness of the flesh, and not at all of intention, of the heart. The matters to be considered worthy of manifestations of disapproval and warning are, rather, those which are so open and manifest on the surface as to leave no room to question the fact that they are displeasing to the Lord, and injurious in their influence upon the brother or upon the household of faith. For instance, if the brother had been seen under the influence of liquor; if he had been heard to utter vile or otherwise improper language; if it were a matter of general knowledge that he was living in sin; these would be such grounds as we believe the Apostle had in mind. But evidently the Apostle had no intention of cultivating a spirit of fault-finding and judging one another as respects the heart and private affairs,--use of time or money, etc. These belong to our individual stewardship and none should endeavor to interfere with the proper liberties of conscience and conduct which the Lord has granted to each. The Apostle is very stringent in his condemnation of such judging of one another, which so often leads to roots of bitterness, misunderstanding, disfellowship, etc., and which, as the old leaven, should be purged out of our hearts and lives.--Rom. 14:10,13.
But now, for those who "obey not our word," the apostolic Scriptural directions in respect to their conduct, etc., is "note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." Nevertheless, knowing the tendency of the fallen mind to go from one extreme to another, either of too great leniency or of too great severity, the apostle continues, "Yet count him not an enemy, but admonish as a brother." (2 Thess. 3:13-15.) To admonish as a brother does not mean to denounce roundly and severely; it means to admonish in a spirit of love, gentleness, meekness, patience, and with a sincere desire to help the brother to see the fault which we are certain exists, and which we are sure is not evil surmising on our part.
The Apostle John shows us that this matter of distinguishing as between brethren that are to be esteemed and brethren that are to be warned, appertains not merely to conduct but also to doctrinal matters. Yet we may be sure that he does not mean that we are to disfellowship a brother merely because of some differences of view on non-essential questions. We may be sure that he does mean his words to apply strictly and only to the fundamentals of the doctrine of Christ: for instance, faith in God; faith in Jesus as our Redeemer; faith in the promises of the divine Word. These will be marks of a "brother," if supported by Christian conduct, walking after the spirit of the truth;--even tho the brother might have other views which would differ from ours in respect to certain features of the plan of God not so clearly and specifically set forth in the Scriptures. But for those whom we recognize as being doctrinally astray from the foundation principles of Christ, the Apostle intimates that very drastic measures are appropriate;--not persecutions, nor railing; not bitter and acrimonious disputes; not hatred, either open or secret; but a proper showing of our disfellowship with the false doctrines held and taught by them; a proper protection, so that our influence shall not be in any manner or degree used to uphold his denial of the fundamentals of the Gospel. This drastic course is outlined by the Apostle in these words: "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine [confessing Christ to have come into the world, in the flesh, to redeem our race, etc.] receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds."--2 John 10,11.
But, as our text intimates, we are to use discretion, judgment,--"and of some have compassion, making a difference." Some we may recognize as being merely entrapped of the Adversary, either in sin or in false doctrine, as the case may be, and not wilfully, intelligently, of their own volition. Toward such, still maintaining an attitude of firmness, we are nevertheless to express freely our trust that they are only temporarily wrong; and to seek to restore them, either doctrinally or in respect to their perverse moral course, to the position of fellowship with the Lord and with all the brethren who are in fellowship with him. Others we are to "save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." We may be obliged to speak very plainly to them; we may be obliged to tear open and expose before their eyes the sores of their own immoral course, showing them, as the case may be, the grossness of the sin or the grossness of the error in which they are involved; and doing so perhaps in strong language, if we realize that nothing short of this has availed to arouse them from their lethargy. In pulling them out of sin we are "pulling them out of the fire"-- out of the Second Death--as the Apostle James says, speaking of this same class: "Let him know that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death"--a brother who is a sinner, a brother, he explains, who has "erred from the truth." --James 5:19,20.
Finally, we remark that the dealing of the brethren with the disorderly is not to be in the nature of a punishment; for it is not with us to punish. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." Our warnings or reproofs or withdrawals of fellowship, are to be merely in the nature of correctives, with a view, as the Apostle says, to the restoring of such an one. "Ye that are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted";--if not in the same manner, possibly in some other manner, in which you are weaker .--Gal. 6:1.
As to what would be a sufficiency of evidence of repentance and reformation, each will require great wisdom and grace to determine. The heart in which brotherly love dwells richly, the heart which loves righteousness and hates iniquity, the heart which realizes its own imperfections, and that it is acceptable only through the Beloved and the New Covenant--that heart will rejoice at the first evidences of contrition and repentance on the part of the disorderly brother. If very full of love, his heart may go out to him almost too quickly; he may need to restrain himself; especially if it be a second or a third offense of the kind, or the circumstances otherwise very grievous. It will be apparently his duty to look for works in harmony with the repentance, and to wait to see some demonstration, in the nature of restitution for wrong done, or such an open and radical change of conduct as will give evidence that the heart has returned to its loyalty to God, to the truth, and to righteousness.
R3092 [col. 1 ¶1]:
Let us not be misunderstood; the Scriptures nowhere teach that all men are brethren in the spiritual sense; on the contrary, they teach that the unjustified are not God's children, but "children of wrath," and some of them are so thoroughly evil that from God's standpoint they are of "their father the devil"; we are to recognize as brethren in Christ only the household of faith, and to draw a sharp line of demarcation in our minds and in our salutations as between these and the children of this world. This does not imply either that the children of this world are to be treated unkindly by us or insulted or offended; rather they are to have our sympathy, our love, to whatever extent possible, our assistance as the Apostle suggests. We are to "do good unto all men as we have opportunity," especially unto the household of faith, --the brethren. Brethren are still to be recognized even though they fall into difficulty, dangerous snares of the adversary; and if it be necessary that our fellowship be withdrawn for a time, it is merely with the view to assist them back to their proper relationship to the Lord and back to our love and sympathy in fullest measure; as the Apostle says even such are to be treated, not as enemies, but, as misguided brethren for whose recovery we are to be willing to lay down even our lives--an hour here, another hour there, an effort for this one and an effort for another one because they are the Lord's. It is only after such brethren have turned back from the Lord's service like a "sow to her wallowing in the mire" or after they have discarded the redemptive work of Christ like the man in the parable who took off the wedding garment--only then are we to esteem them as enemies, adversaries, and even then we are not to bring against them a railing accusation, but to leave the matter for the Lord's judgment.--2 Thess. 3:15.
23. How should the elders exercise brotherly love in reproving the ‘unruly’?
24. How may we avoid judging one another as individuals ?
25. How should brotherly kindness be exercised toward brethren who have doctrinal ‘hobbies’?
26. What is the relation between brotherly kindness and ‘the unity of the faith’?
27. How should brotherly kindness deal with serious offenders in the Church?
28. By what rules are ‘false brethren’ to be judged?
29. What should be our attitude toward ‘siftings’ among the brethren?
30. What should be the attitude of all ‘true sacrificers’ toward each other and toward those who have left ‘the Holy’?
31. How does brotherly kindness apply ‘the Golden Rule’?
32. How should brotherly love exercise itself toward the special servants of the Church?
33. How should we exercise brotherly love toward our brethren still ‘in Babylon’?
34. How should brotherly kindness consider ‘social obligations’?
35. What course will brotherly love dictate in the matter of ‘borrowing and lending’?
36. How should brotherly love regard visiting, ‘borrowing a neighbor’s time ‘?
37. What is the relation between brotherly love and communism?
D474 to 481
D473 [¶3] through D481--Communism as a Remedy
Communism proposes a social system in which there will be community of goods; in which all property shall be owned in common and operated in the general interest, and all profits from all labor be devoted to the general welfare--"to each according to his needs." The tendency of Communism was illustrated in the French Commune. Its definition by Rev. Joseph Cook, is-- "Communism means the abolition of inheritance, the abolition of the family, the abolition of nationalities, the abolition of religion, the abolition of property."
Some features of Communism we could commend (see Socialism), but as a whole it is quite impracticable. Such an arrangement would probably do very well for heaven, where all are perfect, pure and good, and where love reigns; but a moment's reflection should prove to any man of judgment and experience that in the present condition of men's hearts such a scheme is thoroughly impracticable. The tendency would be to make drones of all. We would soon have a competition as to who could do the least and the worst work; and society would soon lapse into barbarism and immorality, tending to the rapid extinction of the race.
But some fancy that Communism is taught in the Bible and that consequently it must be the true remedy--God's remedy. With many this is the strongest argument in its favor. The supposition that it was instituted by our Lord and the Apostles, and that it should have continued to be the rule and practice of Christians since, is very common. We therefore present below an article on this phase of the subject from our own magazine:
"They Had All Things in Common"
"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people." Acts 2:44-47
Such was the spontaneous sentiment of the early Church: selfishness gave place to love and general interest. Blessed experience! And without doubt a similar sentiment, more or less clearly defined, comes to the hearts of all who are truly converted. When first we got a realizing sense of God's love and salvation, when we gave ourselves completely to the Lord and realized his gifts to us, which pertain not only to the life that now is, but also to that which is to come--we felt an exuberance of joy, which found in every fellow-pilgrim toward the heavenly Canaan a brother or a sister in whom we trusted as related to the Lord and having his spirit; and we were disposed to deal with them all as we would with the Lord, and to share with them our all, as we would share all with our Redeemer. And in many instances it was by a rude shock that we were awakened to the fact that neither we nor others are perfect in the flesh; and that no matter how much of the Master's spirit his people now possess, they "have this treasure in earthen vessels" of human frailty and defection.
Then we learned, not only that the weaknesses of the flesh of other men had to be taken into account, but that our own weaknesses of the flesh needed constant guarding. We found that whilst all had shared Adam's fall, all had not fallen alike, or in exactly the same particulars. All have fallen from God's likeness and spirit of love, to Satan's likeness and spirit of selfishness; and as love has diversities of operations, so has selfishness. Consequently, selfishness working in one has wrought a desire for ease, sloth, indolence; in another it produced energy, labor for the pleasures of this life, self-gratification, etc.
Among those actively selfish some take selfgratification in amassing a fortune, and having it said, He is wealthy; others gratify their selfishness by seeking honor of men; others in dress, others in travel, others in debauchery and the lowest and meanest forms of selfishness.
Each one begotten to the new life in Christ, with its new spirit of love, finds a conflict begun, fightings with in and without; for the new spirit wars with whatever form of selfishness or depravity formerly had control of us. The "new mind of Christ," whose principles are justice and love, asserts itself; and reminds the will that it has assented to and convenanted to this change. The desires of the flesh (the selfish desires, whatever their bent), aided by the outside influence of friends, argue and discuss the question, urging that no radical measures must be taken--that such a course would be foolish, insane, impossible. The flesh insists that the old course cannot be changed, but will agree to slight modifications, and to do nothing so extreme as before.
The vast majority of God's people seem to agree to this partnership, which is really still the reign of selfishness. But others insist that the spirit or mind of Christ shall have the control. The battle which ensues is a hard one (Gal. 5:16, 17); but the new will should conquer, and self with its own selfishness, or depraved desires, be reckoned dead. Col. 2:20; 3:3; Rom. 6:2-8
But does this end the battle forever? No—
"Ne'er think the victory won,
Nor once at ease sit down;
Thine arduous task will not be done
Till thou hast gained thy crown."
Ah, yes, we must renew the battle daily, and help divine implore and receive, that we may finish our course with joy. We must not only conquer self, but, as the Apostle did, we must keep our bodies under. (1 Cor. 9:27) And this, our experience, that we must be constantly on the alert against the spirit of selfishness, and to support and promote in ourselves the spirit of love, is the experience of all who likewise have "put on Christ" and taken his will to be theirs. Hence the propriety of the Apostle's remark, "Henceforth know we no man [in Christ] after the flesh." We know those in Christ according to their new spirit, and not according to their fallen flesh. And if we see them fail sometimes, or always to some degree, and yet see evidences that the new mind is wrestling for the mastery, we are properly disposed to sympathize with them rather than to berate them for little failures; "remembering ourselves, lest we also be tempted [of our old selfish nature in violation of some of the requirements of the perfect law of love]."
Under "the present distress," therefore, while each has all that he can do to keep his own body under and the spirit of love in control, sound judgment, as well as experience and the Bible, tells us that we would best not complicate matters by attempting communistic schemes; but each make as straight paths as possible for his own feet, that that which is lame in our fallen flesh be not turned entirely out of the way, but that it be healed.
(1) Sound judgment says that if the saints with divine help have a constant battle to keep selfishness subject to love, a promiscuous colony or community would certainly not succeed in ruling itself by a law utterly foreign to the spirit of the majority of its members. And it would be impossible to establish a communism of saints only, because we cannot read the hearts--only "the Lord knoweth them that are his." And if such a colony of saints could be gotten together, and if it should prosper with all things in common, all sorts of evil persons would seek to get their possessions or to share them; and if successfully excluded they would say all manner of evil against them; and so, if it held together at all, the enterprise would not be a real success.
Some saints, as well as many of the world, are so fallen into selfish indolence that nothing but necessity will help them to be, "not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." And many others are so selfishly ambitious that they need the buffetings of failure and adversity to mellow them and enable them to sympathize with others, or even to bring them to deal justly with others. For both these classes "community" would merely serve to hinder the learning of the proper and needed lessons.
Such communities, if left to the rule of the majority, would sink to the level of the majority; for the progressive, active minority, finding that nothing could be gained by energy and thrift over carelessness and sloth, would also grow careless and indolent. If governed by organizers of strong will, as Life Trustees and Managers, on a paternal principle, the result would be more favorable financially; but the masses, deprived of personal responsibility, would degenerate into mere tools and slaves of the Trustees.
To sound judgment it therefore appears that the method of individualism, with its liberty and responsibility, is the best one for the development of intelligent beings; even though it may work hardships many times to all, and sometimes to many.
Sound judgment can see that if the Millennial Kingdom were established on the earth, with the divine rulers then promised, backed by unerring wisdom and full power to use it, laying "judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet," and ruling not by consent of majorities, but by righteous judgment, as "with a rod of iron"-- then communism could succeed; probably it would be the very best condition, and if so it will be the method chosen by the King of kings. But for that we wait; and not having the power or the wisdom to use such theocratic power, the spirit of a sound mind simply bides the Lord's time, praying meanwhile, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." And after Christ's Kingdom shall have brought all the willing back to God and righteousness, and shall have destroyed all the unwilling, then, with Love the rule of earth as it is of heaven, we may suppose that men will share earth's mercies in common, as do the angels the bounties of heaven.
(2) Experience proves the failure of communistic methods in the present time. There have been several such communities; and the result has always been failure. The Oneida community of New York is one whose failure has long been recognized. Another, the Harmony Society of Pennsylvania, soon disappointed the hopes of its founders, for so much discord prevailed that it divided. The branch known as Economites located near Pittsburgh, Pa. It flourished for a while, after a fashion, but is now quite withered; and possession of its property is now being disputed in the Society and in the courts of law.
Other communistic societies are starting now, which will be far less successful than these because the times are different; independence is greater, respect and reverence are less, majorities will rule, and without superhuman leaders are sure to fail. Wise worldly leaders are looking out for themselves, while wise Christians are busy in other channels--obeying the Lord's command, "Go thou and preach the Gospel."
(3) The Bible does not teach Communism, but does teach loving, considerate Individualism, except in the sense of family communism--each family acting as a unit, of which the father is the head and the wife one with him, his fellow-heir of the grace of life, his partner in every joy and benefit as well as in every adversity and sorrow.
True, God permitted a communistic arrangement in the primitive Church, referred to at the beginning of this article; but this may have been for the purpose of illustrating to us the unwisdom of the method; and lest some, thinking of the scheme now, should conclude that the apostles did not command and organize communities, because they lacked the wisdom to devise and carry out such methods; for not a word can be quoted from our Lord or the apostles advocating the communistic principles; but much can be quoted to the contrary.
True, the Apostle Peter (and probably other apostles) knew of, and cooperated in, that first communistic arrangement, even if he did not teach the system. It has been inferred, too, that the death of Ananias and Sapphira was an indication that the giving of all the goods of the believers was compulsory; but not so: their sin was that of lying, as Peter declared in reviewing the case. While they had the land there was no harm in keeping it if they got it honestly; and even after they had sold it no harm was done: the wrong was in misrepresenting that the sum of money turned in was their all, when it was not their all. They were attempting to cheat the others by getting a share of their alls without giving their own all.
As a matter of fact, the Christian Community at Jerusalem was a failure. "There arose a murmuring"--"Because their widows were neglected in the daily ministrations." Although under the Apostolic inspection the Church was pure, free from "tares," and all had the treasure of the new spirit or "mind of Christ," yet evidently that treasure was only in warped and twisted earthen vessels which could not get along well together.
The apostles soon found that the management of the community would greatly interfere with their real work--the preaching of the gospel. So they abandoned those things to others. The Apostle Paul and others traveled from city to city preaching Christ and him crucified; but, so far as the record shows, they never mentioned communism and never organized a community; and yet St. Paul declares, "I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God." This proves that Communism is no part of the gospel, nor of the counsel of God for this age.
On the contrary, the Apostle Paul exhorted and instructed the Church to do things which it would be wholly impossible to do as members of a communistic society--to each "provide for his own"; to "lay by on the first day of the week" money for the Lord's service, according as the Lord had prospered them; that servants should obey their masters, rendering the service with a double good will if the master were also a brother in Christ; and how masters should treat their servants, as those who must themselves give an account to the great Master, Christ. 1 Tim. 5:8; 6:1; 1 Cor. 16:2; Eph. 6:59
Our Lord Jesus not only did not establish a Community while he lived, but he never taught that such should be established. On the contrary, in his parables he taught that all have not the same number of pounds or talents given them, but each is a steward and should individually (not collectively, as a commune) manage his own affairs, and render his own account. (Matt. 25:14-28; Luke 19:12-24. See also James 4:13,15.) When dying, our Lord commended his mother to the care of his disciple John, and the record of John (19:27) is, "And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." John, therefore, had a home, so had Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Had our Lord formed a Community he would doubtless have commended his mother to it instead of to John.
Moreover, the forming of a Commune of believers is opposed to the purpose and methods of the Gospel age. The object of this age is to witness Christ to the world, and thus to "take out a people for his name"; and to this end each believer is exhorted to be a burning and a shining light before men--the world in general--and not before and to each other merely. Hence, after permitting the first Christian Community to be established, to show that the failure to establish Communities generally was not an oversight, the Lord broke it up, and scattered the believers everywhere, to preach the gospel to every creature. We read--"And at that time there was a great persecution against the Church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles," and they went everywhere preaching the gospel. Acts 8:1,4; 11:19
It is still the work of God's people to shine as lights in the midst of the world, and not to shut themselves up in convents and cloisters or as communities. The promises of Paradise will not be realized by joining such communities. The desire to join such "confederacies" is but a part of the general spirit of our day, against which we are forewarned. (Isa. 8:12) "Trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." "Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:36
38. Do those who have reached ‘the mark’ still have trials along the line of brotherly love?
39. Why is brotherly love ‘one of the final and most searching tests ‘ of the brethren and how may we prepare to meet it?
40. What should be ‘the main- spring back of brotherly kindness’?
41. What does the illustration of ‘the third- quarter mark’ signify?
42. Why is it important that we manifest brotherly love now ?
43. How may we become members of ‘the Mary class’?
44. How did Jesus show us a grand example of brotherly love and sympathy?
45. How can we fulfill Jesus’ command to ‘wash one another’s feet’?
46. How jealously should we guard and increase this grace of brotherly kindness?
47. How may we cultivate brotherly love?
48. What additional thoughts are found in Topical Index of ‘Heavenly Manna, ‘ under ‘Love One Another‘?