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VIEW FROM THE TOWER
„AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”
„By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another. As I have loved you, love ye also one another.”—John 13:34,35
The law of love is the golden rule which, if in operation, would settle all disputes and controversies, and wipe out all bickerings, jealousies, strife and contention. In the world it does not prevail, though all men acknowledge that it should. Yet the world is not wholly loveless. In the midst of all its suffering and woe and sin we often hear of brave, heroic deeds, even by those who know not God; while abroad in the world there is a very general effort for the general good of mankind, prompted to a considerable extent by the somewhat latent principle of love which is a part of our common inheritance from our father Adam’s original perfection not yet wholly lost.
How often have men risked their own lives to rescue their fellow-men from drowning, or burning, or shipwreck, or railroad disasters. How often has the benevolent hand contributed freely to the necessities of suffering neighbors, or suffering communities. And while much of the more public charity is often ministered with ostentation which betrays an undue love of approbation, it is but just to conclude that there is at least a mixture of the higher motives. And to that extent is such a one blessed in his deed.
At the present time, as never before in the history of the world, men are studying, if not very generally practicing, the golden rule of love. They see that if it were in general operation the whole world would be greatly blessed by it. But how would it operate? How should it operate?—that is the perplexing question. One of the most popular suggestions among the masses of the people is what is commonly termed socialism. And just here we wish to introduce
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a brief article on the subject clipped from a recent issue of a secular journal. The article is as follows:—
A QUESTION OF TO-DAY
SOCIALISM AND PROGRESS
„All readers and thinkers are watching with interest the struggle of the civilized world with Socialism—a product evolved from the conditions and thoughts of the masses, peculiar to the closing years of the Nineteenth Century. In different nations it assumes different names, but all its aims and objects tend to a re-organization of society and the distribution of wealth. The masses read and think and reason something like this: ‚Well, here I am, a poor man, doomed to labor the year in and out; and, do the best I can, I am only able to pay my rent, keep body and soul together, get few luxuries and much misery, and no prospect to better my condition.
„‚What matters it to me what becomes of the princes, dukes and generals who wear fine linen and fare sumptuously every day? Let revolution come; my condition can not be any worse, and might be bettered by killing off our oppressors.’ In this frame of mind he is an easy prey to the wily agitator, and thus the ball rolls
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on, gathering force as it goes, in all the European countries.
„In the United States, only the extreme agitators are prominent, and work under the name of Anarchists, but they are few in number and are not gaining much ground. In Germany the social agitators are gaining rapidly, but there the Socialists must not be confounded with the Anarchists, for the latter have all been expelled from the Socialists’ clubs. The Socialists there really represent the progressive ideas of the nation; and, with some slight modifications, their platform is almost identical with modern republicanism. They have become so powerful in that country as to force the resignation of Bismarck.
„In Russia we have the Nihilists, who represent the advanced thought of that despotic nation; in France are the Radicals; in England the Liberals; and so on, in every nation, the social leaven is at work. The toiling millions are endowed with all the natural faculties of those who ‚toil not, neither do they spin.’
„The poor man reasons that if this world was made for man to enjoy, it is self-evident that all the enjoyment was not intended for a few individuals; that if a man inherits a fortune and title, he deserves no credit for the accident of birth, and there would be just as much reason and justice in making the rich man divide with his less fortunate neighbor as to let him spend it in riotous living or hoard it up.
„The average toiler also can not see why he should be heavily taxed to support an army of cut-throats, whose sole business was to fight for the glory of a few kings and generals, posing as figure-heads. And so the peasant comes to the conclusion that the people would be all the better off if the armies were disbanded, the titled rulers abolished, and the rich made to disgorge. A settled conviction soon becomes a duty, and the agitators who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by revolution have little difficulty in wielding the toilers in battalions and leading them to vote and work for the overthrow of the government under which they chance to live; for it is a well known fact that, in every nation, this class of people saddle all their woes upon the government, no matter what its form.
„England groans under the oppression of landlords, dukes, titles, lords, etc., and the masses see no reason why they should be taxed to support a royal house which is, at best, only a figure-head; and so social democracy grows apace.
„But while the poor man always is entitled to be heard, the question arises: Suppose property were divided equally, how long would it be before those who have it now would get it back again? The extreme Socialist says, We’ll remedy that matter by making an equal division every ten years. But if you do this you destroy the spirit of competition and the desire for improvement, and with all the human aspirations put under this sort of a ban, man would relapse into a semi-savage state, and all law and order be hurled into chaos. To share equally in property unequally earned is contrary to all political economy. The best thing for a man to do is to do the best he can under the circumstances.
„To abolish law and order would put every poor man at the mercy of the desperado and the cut-throat: and, with no one to see after the welfare of society, everything would go to eternal smash.
„If the people would devote their intelligence and energy to the reforming of existing institutions and give the agitators a wide berth, much of the existing evil might be ameliorated.
„Communistic Democracies all end in social chaos, and promiscuous socialism means social anarchy.
„Germany is so situated that a strong centralized government will always be necessary for self-protection.
„With Russia on the east with her barbaric millions, and a half million soldiers who are veritable heathen, and France on the west with her desire for revenge, the Kaiser’s country must always be on the alert and ready to defend herself. France is more favorably situated, and, if the conservative element keeps the ascendency, may continue a moderate Republic. England will never be what she ought to be, until the masses own the soil. Great reforms are necessary in all the nations, and can only be brought about by reforming existing institutions, and not by adopting the views and impracticable theories of the socialistic agitators.”
Here is some sound logic, and some not so sound. The reforming of existing institutions, for instance, would be a hopeless task. The fact is, they are so imperfect that nothing but revolution will reform them. And such a revolution, we are forewarned, is coming; the signs of the times also clearly indicate its rapid approach; and the outcome of that revolution will be the utter wreck of existing institutions—civil, social and ecclesiastical.
But what of socialism? will it survive the world-wide wreck and bring men to a realization of their common brotherhood and to the actual practice of the law of love? No: socialism, however moderate its principles and course in the beginning, must and will degenerate into
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wild and ungovernable anarchy, which, as this writer claims, places every man at the mercy of the desperado and the cut-throat. The writer truly claims that, „To share equally in property unequally earned is contrary to all political economy.” Why? Because it would crush out individuality and enterprise, and rob the worthy individual of his just need of credit and remuneration, and encourage the unworthy in a shiftless and ignoble dependence. The general tendency of such a course, it is easily seen, would be toward national, as well as individual, imbecility. Any system of political economy which would subordinate the individual to community interests is imperfect and unjust; for the individual has rights, as well as the nation, and the real interests of the nation can only be properly considered as the accumulated rights and interests of every individual of the nation.
When the Kingdom of God, which is to displace all present institutions, is set up, it will have respect, not only to national or community interest, but to every legitimate individual interest as well. At first, in the great time of trouble, there will be a great and very necessary leveling process; for the pride of man must be humbled and his dependence upon God must be realized before he can be exalted to the true dignity of manhood. That the individual right of property will be respected is manifest from the promise that „they shall build houses and inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat … and they shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”—Isa. 65:21,22.
The promise here is not that every man must build his house and plant his vineyard according to a fixed common idea, so that every one will be exactly equal in convenience, elegance or tastefulness. Each man may work out his own ideas and enjoy the results, and also the approbation of God and of his fellow-men for his commendable progress. Will it seem selfish for a man thus to build and plant for his own enjoyment? No. Will it be in strict accord with the golden rule of loving his neighbor as himself? Yes. The golden rule is not to love your neighbor more than yourself, but simply as yourself. If this man works out his own ideas and carefully guards against any infringement upon his neighbor’s right to work out his ideas; and if he is pleased with his neighbor’s prosperity as he is pleased with his own, and is pleased under proper circumstances to lend a helping hand if needed and desired, then he is loving his neighbor as himself, and doing unto his neighbor as he would have his neighbor do unto him. And God’s great storehouse of blessing is large enough and full enough to supply all their need when justice rightly balances the affairs of men. There will be an abundance, not only of comfort, but of luxury, too, for every man; but men will have to learn by degrees how to acquire it. God will not put money into the pockets, nor grand ideas into the minds, of the slothful. Success and approbation and ease and luxury and honor and glory and blessing will reward the righteous and persevering effort of each individual. And the law of God, re-written upon the human heart, will strictly forbid the coveting of another man’s lawful right; but every man may rejoice in his neighbor’s achievements and prosperity and may be stimulated thereby to greater attainments on his own part: not, however, from a selfish, ignoble ambition to outdo his
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neighbor, but from a healthful and pleasurable ambition to develop his own powers and to enjoy the added comfort, etc. While individual interests will be thus conserved to the finest point and to the high purposes of development, thrift and culture, community interests will also be adjusted to the highest degree of national prosperity.
Socialism, therefore, is not God’s ideal condition for the human race, but it will be the last attempted experiment of fallible, fallen men to adjust their own affairs; and its predicted result is world-wide anarchy and dire confusion.
But though socialism is not God’s ideal for man’s future happiness, says one somewhat influenced by the infection in the air of these times, would not such a condition be the proper one for the Church of God now? Should they not have all things common, so that there could be no difference in the body of Christ? and would not unfeigned love surely
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lead to such a course? Well, let us see; but let us bear in mind that God acts and would have us act upon established and well founded principles. Where God does not directly express his will concerning the details of our course, he has left them to be gathered from observation of his dealings. So when we discover, as above, that socialism is not according to his purpose, and that such a scheme would be detrimental to man’s highest interests of development and happiness, we know, or ought to know, that it would be similarly detrimental now to the highest interests of the body of Christ.
Let us see how. Suppose, for instance, that all who claim to be fully consecrated to the Lord, and therefore members of his body, the Church, were to decide to-day to have all things common—what would be the effect? Well, in the first place, it would necessitate an organization; not merely a small organization here and there, but a world-wide organization, including all such professors, so that all could be on an equal footing. Secondly, It would impose upon each one entering the organization the obligation of placing all his possessions at the disposal of the whole company, or rather of some representatives of the whole company, notwithstanding the obligations or the opposition of friends and relatives; and therefore it would relieve him of all personal responsibility as a steward over those possessions. Then there would be differences of judgment among those thus opposed as to the reasonableness of the opposition, and as to how far it should be heeded; and these individual differences of opinion would have to be decided by the representatives of the company in order to avoid general dissatisfaction. And in time these representatives would assume the dignity of a clerical class with despotic power over all the interests of the Church.
Then, again, some of those thus entering the Church might, as they often do, fall away from the faith and desire to withdraw from the organization; when, if they could not reclaim some or all of the means put into it, they would feel that they had been deceived and cheated, and the whole Church would be scandalized. Then, if it were possible for the Church to claim and thus actually to confiscate all the property of its individual members and to re-distribute it in equal measure amongst them all, such a course would gather into it many who, having nothing to lose but all to gain, would come merely for „the loaves and fishes,” and the acquisitiveness of many of those already in would be apt to make them anxious to interest others who would add to their financial welfare. And very soon this would be generally understood to be the spur to all efforts of the Church to preach the gospel. Thus such an organization would rapidly fill up with poor tares; it would be a scene of contention, bickering, strife and evil-speaking, and a reproach to the cause of Christ. In other words, it would result in the Church, as its attempt will in the world, in anarchy and ruin.
In the Church, therefore, as in the world, we must recognize individual rights and responsibilities, and also the fact that the accountability of each member is to God alone; and that to our Master, who is able to read the heart, to measure the circumstances, and to judge righteous judgment, we must each severally stand or fall. The Lord never commissioned the Church to consume its precious time and energy in thus looking after temporal affairs and minding earthly things. The Church’s talents are consecrated to a higher service—to the service of heralding the good tidings, by the voice, the press and the pen, and in endeavoring to build one another up in the most holy faith—mutually to stimulate zeal, faith, love and the spirit of sacrifice and of patient endurance of hardness as good soldiers for the truth’s sake.
In the body of Christ there must of necessity in the present time be different degrees of prosperity in temporal things. We are not all equally endowed either mentally, morally or physically, nor by circumstances nor by education. Some have five talents and some have only one. The question with each consecrated believer, as he comes into the body of Christ, should be, not How can I better my temporal condition? but, on the contrary, How can I sacrifice some of the things which I already have? In some cases the earthly store is very
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small and yet the spirit of sacrifice finds many a little love-token to present to the Lord; and the Lord, though he is rich and could well spare the trifles thus received, accepts them and commends the deed. But being rich in grace and plenteous in mercy he gives to such due credit on the bank of heaven, and in due time they will receive their own with compound interest. Every act of sacrifice here is thus laying up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.
The manner in which each member of the body of Christ shall exercise his stewardship of the consecrated talents entrusted to his care is left by the Lord with each individual member. He may use either good or bad judgment in their use, but the Lord will commend and reward according to the motives and not according to actual results. The poor widow was commended for casting her last two mites into the Jewish treasury, because her evident motive was devotion to God and a desire to serve him; though actually she might have made better use of the money than in further supporting that system of worship which was then being displaced by the teachings of Christ. Good judgment, even when prompted by the most zealous spirit of sacrifice, would seldom prompt to the immediate surrender of all one’s money talent. The poor widow probably still had, however, a surplus of health and strength and knew she could earn more for her immediate wants; and probably neither she nor a family of starving children lacked the necessities of life on account of it.
If we have families dependent on us, the Lord has made the necessary provision for them our first duty. Children must be clothed and fed and sheltered and trained; and each consecrated parent can use only his own best judgment as to how it shall be done, remembering to do all as unto the Lord, and not as unto the world. If he does so, they will come up ready for the Master’s use and will be trained in his love and in his service; the spirit of the world will be pointed out to them in contrast with the spirit of Christ; and they will learn to see the deformity of the one and the grace of the other.
As much, therefore, of the money talent as in the judgment of any individual member is necessary to this work is properly used in it, if so used with an eye single to the glory of God, and without any reference to the spirit of the world.
In view of this individual responsibility of the various members of the Church to God direct, we are also told not to judge one another. Each consecrated child of God is made a steward of the talents in his keeping—whether they be talents of money, of time, of influence or of intellect; and no brother or sister has any thing to do with those talents, either by way of management or of adverse criticism; nor can he covet them and stand before God guiltless. But he may observe their right use in any case, may emulate the example furnished, and may rejoice in their value to the Church at large.
The question now arises as to how that love among the body of Christ, which should make them manifest to the world as the Lord’s disciples, is to be manifested, if not by a socialistic community of goods. There are many ways. In the first place, this love will work no ill to its brother: it will neither slander his character, nor cheat, nor envy, nor in any way wrong him. And it will not only be thus negatively good to him, but it will be active to do him service. It will think as favorably of his motives of action as possible and decline to pronounce judgment against them; it will speak kindly and cordially to him and of him; it will sympathize in his afflictions and rejoice in his prosperity; it will, when desired, counsel with him in perplexity and assist him when possible and when needed in adversity; it will rejoice with him in the blessings of divine truth and engage heartily with him in its service. Indeed, all who thus love each other will stand shoulder to shoulder in the great work to which their united talents are consecrated, not coveting the talents of any for their temporal use, but anxious to see as much as possible directed into the great channel of the service of the truth. So the Lord loved the disciples, and so they loved each other and worked together in the common cause.
— October, 1891 —