Practical Christian Socialism
Part One: Fundamental Principles
Socialism and the Christian Religion
Practical Christian and Other Socialists
In ancient times there were the Pythagoreans, the Platonists, the Essenes, the primitive Christians, the Egyptian Canobites, etc. In modern times there are the Moravians, the Shakers, the Rappites, the Zoarites, the Owenites, the St. Simonians, the Fourierists or Phalansterians, the Icarians, the French and German Communists, the Church of England Villagers calling themselves Christian Socialists, the Noyesite Perfectionists, and, besides several others, our Practical Christian Socialists. All these agree substantially in the great doctrine of Socialism; but in almost everything else they differ as widely from each other, as do the different sects of professed Christians, or as do Pagans, Jews, Christians, Mahometans, and Mormons. All these believe in the social harmony of heaven in the next world. In this they are agreed, but in very little else. We Socialists all believe in the social harmony of a rudimental heaven to be established on earth. In this we are all agreed, but in very little else.
The terms, Socialism, Socialist, etc. are odious to many people, chiefly on account of Principles, practices and peculiarities prominent in certain classes of Socialists, with whom we have little or no fellowship. Why then do we use these terms, which must confound us with them in popular opinion? Would it not be good policy to drop these terms, and to substitute others less obnoxious to popular prejudice?
Nothing would be finally gained by such a policy. "Speak the truth and shame the Devil" is a good maxim. The truth is, we really are Socialists; we believe in Socialism; Socialism must ultimately be accepted by mankind; its day is coming; and it is not a doctrine for honest, noble souls to be ashamed of. As to justice from the opposition, no great Reformer ever received it; and Reformers only betray their cause, when they resort to a timid, evasive, and time-serving policy.
I am certain that Anti-Progressives hate the vital principles and requirements of true Socialism more than they hate what is really abominable in its wrongheaded and vicious professors. Therefore they would hate the same thing no less under another name. I am certain that I can make the world understand the merits of Practical Christian Socialism, in contradistinction to all other kinds, as well without substituting new terms, as I could by means of them.
The word Christian denotes that our kind of Socialism is based on the essential Principles of the Christian Religion. The word Practical denotes that the essential principles of the Christian Religion, as held by our kind of Socialists, are interior to all external ceremonies, formalities, ecclesiasticisms, scholasticisms, sectarianisms, localisms, temporisms and mere incidentals; are of universal application to human relations and conduct; are such as imperatively require of all individuals, and all societies, divine love in their affections, divine purity in their motives, divine wisdom in their understandings, divine rectitude in their conduct, and divine order in their relations. Practical Christian Socialism proposes to harmonize all the important interests of individuals and families in a true social state on this basis, by the moral force of these principles rightly expounded, organized and applied. And it affirms that such a result can never be effected in any other way.
The Christian Religion
Now there seem to be a great many Christian Religions. We have a multitude of sects, all professing and extolling the Christian Religion, and yet all giving it an aspect to suit themselves; so that virtually there are many Christian Religions. Practical Christian Socialists do undoubtedly regard the Christian Religion in a very different light from that in which it is viewed and represented a by the great mass of nominal Christians comprising what is called Christendom.
In the first place, the term Religion should be understood. It is a generic term. There are many Religions in the world, both general and particular. This term is said to be derived from the Latin verb religio, to tie hard, to bind, to make fast - to impose solemn obligation. Religion consists of truths to be believed and duties to be performed, or at least what are assumed to be such. Truths and duties thus prescribed are collectively termed Religion, because they impose the highest obligations of faith and conscience on the human soul. Every Religion claims that mankind are under the highest and most solemn obligation to venerate its declared truths, and practice its prescribed requirements. This is true of what is called Natural Religion, of Pagan Religions, of the Jewish Religion, of the Mahometan Religion, and of the Christian Religion. They all assume that unless mankind believe certain declared truths, and obey certain precepts of duty, they cannot escape indescribable privations and woes, cannot be acceptable to God, cannot be happy, either in this life or in that which is to come. All Religions recognize a God, or a plurality of gods, as their central and supreme Authority, to whom everything stands in a subjective relation. Hence all the Worships, and Priesthoods, and Externalisms of the various religions that have prevailed in our world.
To ascertain what the Christian Religion really is, I depend entirely on the Scriptures of the New Testament, together with their necessary references in the more ancient Scriptures, and in Nature. I pay no deference to the dogmas, opinions, expositions and representations of the Christian Religion, as now held by the nominal Church of the various denominations; nor to the decisions of Councils; nor to Ecclesiastical traditions, commentaries, glosses, catechisms, systems of scholastic divinity, or creeds; nor to any Writings subsequent to those of the Evangelists and Apostles. I go directly to the Bible, especially to the Scriptures of the New Testament, and most confidently to the four Gospels.
I learn from the closing paragraph of St. John's Gospel, that if all the things said and done by Jesus Christ had been written, "even the world itself could not contain the books." I infer from this that the New Testament Scriptures do not record a hundredth part of Christ's words and works. But we ought not to infer that anything absolutely essential was left out of these records; nor that professed Christians of later generations have reliably supplied any important deficiencies. We must depend on the primitive histories and expositions alone. What cannot be learned from them must remain unknown. We cannot depend on the mere opinions and judgments of men who had no higher sources of information than are accessible to ourselves.
Jesus Christ did not leave Writings under his own hand, containing a complete statement of the doctrines and duties of his religion. We are left without one word purporting to have been penned by him; and with nothing from his disciples but synoptical reports of his teachings and life - very brief sketches of the more important particulars of what he said, did, and experienced. I regard this not as a defect, but as a capital excellence. To systematize, expound in detail, and amplify the applications of Religion, is a work which can be done by subordinate teachers. But to be the oracular Medium of essential divine principles - eternal, fundamental, universal principles - required a mind at the very head of the human race, a representative of the highest spiritual capabilities, one through whom the Divine Love and Wisdom might flow forth to all ages in incorruptible purity. Such an One was the man Christ Jesus. His Religion is one of essential divine principles. It is therefore a universal Religion, proper for all men, and all spiritual intelligences, in all progressive states of existence. It does not consist of mere words. It was never designed to wear the livery of any one particular nation, or age. It cannot be petrified into external forms, nor crystallized into mere human language. Therefore its Mediator did not write it out in systematic detail, nor provide for its being so written out. He knew that the language in which he must express his Religion, and the external forms which it must then take on, would become obsolete to after generations. He knew that change is inevitable in all mere human externals - and that there must be ceaseless progress, as well as change. He knew that the same Spirit of Truth which had spoken through his visible humanity, would flow into the minds of men in all coming time, and would magnify the same divine principles, in ever-living applications to the wants of each succeeding age. Hence those memorable words:
I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, That he shall take of mine and shew unto you. (John 16:12-15)
That is, he shall reiterate my divine principles, only with endless new diversifications and applications to human necessities. It was far wiser for Jesus to have taught and exemplified his Religion in its essential principles, as he did, leaving just such synoptical, artless sketches of it as have come down to after times, than to have given it an artificial, systematic elaboration in writing.
It is declaratively a Religion, "not of the letter, but of the spirit," not in mere "word, but in power."(2 Cor. 3:6; 1 Cor. 4:20). Therefore, if we have only enough of letter and word to signify plainly what its principles are, we need no more. Indeed, more would embarrass, rather than facilitate, the progress of such a Religion. Even as it is, nine-tenths of nominal Christians pay nearly all their reverence to the "letter" which has reached them; very little to the essential divine principles and "spirit."
I do not affirm that none of these principles was ever revealed or taught except through Jesus Christ. They have been partially and imperfectly taught in all Religions, and in all spiritual Philosophies. What is called the light of Nature reveals some of them. Divine inspiration, wherever it has acted strongly on human minds, has revealed them to a greater or less extent. The Seers, Prophets and Sages of all ages and countries have discovered and inculcated these principles with more or less distinctness. The Hebrew religion, as set forth in the Old Testament Scriptures, contained many of these principles. But Jesus Christ taught and exemplified them all in their purity, in one complete embodiment. He focalized all the scattered, fragmentary and obscure illuminations of the Past into one resplendent Sun of truth and righteousness; and this Sun will radiate the ever-waxing luminosity through all the Progressive Future.
Such is the Christian religion. It transcends all other Religions, because it contains the essential truth and good of them all, without their errors and evils; because it contains higher unfoldings of divine principles than any or all of them together; and because, in its cardinal principles, it is a universal, perfect, and immortal Religion. If those principles were heartily embraced, and reduced to practice, by individual and social man, the Earth would be an Eden, swarming with the holy and happy millions of a redeemed race.
The Essential Divine Principles of the Christian Religion
Here are twenty-four cardinal principles: eight of Theological Truth, to be embraced by faith; eight of Personal Righteousness, to be illustrated in practice; and eight of Social Order, to be acknowledged and acted upon in the constitution, organization and establishment of a true harmonic Society.
Before I proceed, I wish to critically define what I mean by the term principle. People in general use a variety of terms, such as doctrine, dogma, tenet, opinion, sentiment, etc., almost synonymously with principle. The term principle is used with some variety of signification, even when used with strict propriety, and of course by undisciplined minds very loosely. I mean by the word principle, chief root of originating life. When I speak of the essential divine principles, or fundamental principles, or cardinal principles of the Christian Religion, I mean those chief roots of Truth, Duty and Order, in which inhere the vitality of the Christian Religion. When I speak of principles of Theological Truth, I mean those great truths, respecting God and spiritual natures, which must be acknowledged and acted upon, in order to the true spiritual life and happiness of all moral intelligences. When I speak of principles of Personal Righteousness, I mean those great Duties of affection, intention and action which all moral intelligences must illustrate, or be personally more or less sinful and miserable. When I speak of principles of Social Order, I mean those great truths of relation, condition, affection and action between moral intelligences, which they must sacredly respect, or be socially discordant, disorderly and miserable.
Now a chief root implies outgrowing branches. So a principle always implies branches dependent on it as its natural outgrowth. What I call an essential principle always has several sub-principles, minor principles or branch principles, from each of which grow minuter branches, twigs, stems, leaves, fruits, as from a tree or vine. What is it that immediately produces and sustains the fruit? We see the stem growing out of the twig, the twig out of the small branch or limb, the limb out of the large branch, this out of the main trunk, and this last, with a few great roots, we find established in the ground. The whole life-power of the tree inheres in its main root or roots; and without these the trunk, large branches, limbs, twigs, stems, leaves, blossoms, fruits, could not have been produced. Just so in religion and morals. Just so with my system of Practical Christian Socialism. It must have its life-originating roots, alias essential principles.
Doctrine comes from the Latin doceo, to teach. What is taught is a doctrine, whether true or false, right or wrong, or great importance or of little. So a principle may be a doctrine, or a mere lesson may be a doctrine. All doctrines, however, presuppose some kind of principle, or principles, true or false. Dogma comes from a Greek word which signifies to think. It means a settled opinion; and is sometimes synonymous with principle, sometimes with maxim, sometimes with tenet. It generally means a doctrinal notion in religious faith or philosophy. Tenet comes from the Latin to hold, or he holds. So any principle, opinion, doctrine or dogma which is held by a man, or a class of men, is a tenet. Opinion comes from opine, to think, which also hails from a Latin word. A man thinks, supposes, or assumes that this or that is true, or is right, or is best. His thought is his opinion; which may be of great, little, or no value, according to the man's thinking powers, and his reasons for thinking as he does. Sentiment, in popular usage, means thought, opinion, notion, judgment of the mind. More properly it is a thought prompted by passion or feeling. Phrenologists generally use the term Sentiment to denote those religious and moral faculties of human nature which are the centers of religions emotion, moral sensation, and elevated affection, as contradistinguished from the Propensities, the Intellectuals, and the Reflectives.
I. Principles of Theological Truth
1. The existence of one All-Perfect Infinite God.
2. The mediatorial manifestation of God through Christ.
3. Divine revelations and inspirations given to men.
4. The immortal existence of human and angelic spirits.
5. The moral agency and religious obligation of mankind.
6. The certainty of a perfect divine retribution.
7. The necessity of man's spiritual regeneration.
8. The final universal triumph of good over evil.
II. Principles of Personal Righteousness
1. Reverence for the Divine and spiritual.
2. Self-denial for righteousness' sake.
3. Justice to all beings.
4. Truth in all manifestations of mind.
5. Love in all spiritual relations.
6. Purity in all things.
7. Patience in all right aims and pursuits.
8. Unceasing progress towards perfection.
III. Principles of Social Order
1. The supreme Fatherhood of God.
2. The universal Brotherhood of Man.
3. The declared perfect love of God to Man.
4. The required perfect love of Man to God.
5. The required perfect love of Man to Man.
6. The required just reproof and disfellowship of evildoers.
7. The required non-resistance of evildoers with evil.
8. The designed unity of the righteous.
These are the essential divine principles of the Christian Religion. With their sub-principles and indispensable cognates, they include all that is vital in that Religion. Taken together, they constitute its soul, its spirit. Practical Christian Socialists hold these to be essential, eternal, universal, divine principles; positively practical in their natural tendency, and interior to all external ceremonies, formalities, scholasticisms, ecclesiasticisms, sectarianisms, localisms, temporisms and mere incidentalisms.
By external ceremonies I mean what are commonly called the public ordinances of religion, such as water baptisms, the Lord's supper, the several sacraments, etc. By formalities I mean all stated forms and observances as to days, times and seasons, places, postures and modes of address, in the worship of God, in fasting, prayer, thanksgiving, praise, etc. By scholasticisms I mean studied propositions in which metaphysical doctrinaries of different ages, either individually or in conclave, have stated the articles of their faith, such as the Trinity, Transubstantiation, Election and Reprobation, Foreordination, Total Depravity, Vicarious Atonement, etc.; which may have more or less of truth as their original basis, but are not warranted by the simplicity of Scripture, or its plain testimony as a whole. By ecclesiasticisms I mean Church Constitutions, Confessions, Covenants, Clerical Orders, and all kinds of Ecclesiastical Polity, Rules, Regulations and usages; which may be good, bad, or indifferent, according to their nature, use, and circumstances. By sectarianisms I mean all peculiarities of faith or practice which only appertain to a particular sect as such, and which merely distinguish it from other sects, but are not essential, universal principles of truth and righteousness. By localisms and temporisms I mean those peculiarities of religious action or manner, observance or form, which become customary in a particular locality or age, which may be proper, or even indispensable there and then, but which are neither necessary, nor useful, when circumstances have greatly changed. By incidentalisms I mean all little peculiarities of fashion, custom, habit, or eccentricity, into which religious leaders sometimes fall, without intending to make them any way essential, or expecting them to be insisted on by their followers; but which, nevertheless, through human weakness, become sanctified, and magnified into great importance.
Now when I asserted that the essential divine principles of the Christian Religion, stated in my Table, are INTERIOR to all external ceremonies, formalities, scholasticisms, ecclesiasticisms, sectarianisms, localisms, temporisms and mere incidentalisms, I did not mean to condemn and discard all these as necessarily evil, or useless, nor to raise a quarrel against them, but to affirm that the PRINCIPLES are absolutely essential to the Christian religion, as its vital, unchangeable interiors; whilst all these are, at best, non-essentials - mere changeable exteriors of the Religion, every one of which may pass away, or be modified, without impairing its inherent life.
Practical Christian Socialism and the Religion of Christ
I am afraid many will think I have torn up the very foundations of the Christian Religion. Practical Christianity is altogether a different thing from nominal Christianity; but I will show you that it is the Christianity of Jesus Christ. I will now proceed to demonstrate that these are the cardinal principles of the Christian Religion, and, in so doing, illustrate their nature and scope.
Then you will begin to see that Practical Christian Socialism is SOMETHING; that is has a broad and solid religious basis; that there is nothing narrow and superficial about it; that it is not a petty, arbitrary, purblind sectarianism; but an infinitarian harmonialism, recognizing the Deific Interior Spirit of innumerable earths and heavens, with his various manifestations, as affecting the progress and happiness of all spiritual intelligences.
You will henceforth understand why Practical Christian Socialists, unlike some other Socialists, cannot ignore Christ, nor contemn his authority, nor hold his Religion in light esteem; but feel impelled to reverence him as the exteriorization, the Apparition, "the Image of the invisible God," and to exalt his name "above every name." For to them Christ is not only a beautiful and perfect man, one "altogether lovely" in the highest attributes of humanity; but he is a heavenly and divine Spirit, the outer and perceptible essence of the one Deific Nature that inherently and most interiorly vitalizes the whole Infinitarium of worlds and beings - the manifested Father - the communicable Life, Love and Wisdom of God to all moral and spiritual beings. All they expect to know of THE ABSOLUTE God, even in the highest heavens, they expect to know in his Christ-form of Deific Personalization, and by the Christ-Spirit of Love and Wisdom illuminating their own spiritual interiors. All they have yet known of the true God, they have learned in these ways. They see all truth by the Christ-Light. They feel all absolute Good by the Christ-Heat. Therefore it does not stumble them to read the uncompromising testimonies of Jesus Christ, that men must believe in him, or abide in spiritual darkness and condemnation; for they see that this is the simple truth:, necessitated by the moral and spiritual constitution of human nature. He says, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me," and truly this is so. He says, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" and it is even so. He says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him" [i. e. he necessarily remaineth in spiritual darkness and moral death]; and surely this is so. He says, "He that hateth me, hateth my Father also": and elsewhere, "all they that hate me love death."
Practical Christian Socialists see that all this is truth. They see that when any individual soul is brought right, the Christ-Spirit must have done it, and that this Spirit must have taken up his abode within such a soul; even as it is written: "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." They see that when Society is brought right the Christ-Spirit will have done it, and must take up its abode in the constitutions, laws and organic administration of such Society; because Society is a man, a complex man, a Social man. Therefore, they have no more hope of regenerating Society without faith in Christ, without reconstructing it on Christ-Principles, and breathing into its organism the Christ-Spirit, the true breath of divine Life, than they have of regenerating individual sinners without the Faith, Hope and Charity of the same eternal Christ-Spirit; or than they have of saving a wicked man in his sins. This is their grand reason for making the interior, essential principles of the Christian Religion the basis of their Social Superstructure.