John Humphrey Noyes and Bible Communism (1845 and 1849)


John Humphrey Noyes, Speech to the Convention of Perfectionists (1845)

Dear Brethren:

As I am prevented from meeting with you in person I will place at your disposal a contribution to the deliberations of the convention in writing.

My attention has been turned of late to the symptoms of advancing conviction on the subject of holiness which are manifesting themselves in the churches, and I see much occasion for rejoicing and hope. . . . Charles G. Finney, the center of the revival spirit, was first affected and compelled to take an advanced position. He drew after him a large body of influential followers and a theological seminary. Now Dr. Beecher, the leader that stands next after Finney in spiritual power, has submitted partially to the truth; and he too draws after him a large body of influential followers and a theological seminary.

I am well aware that Finney and Beecher have not come in line with us and with the Primitive Church on the high grounds of the new covenant. Their advance is but half way; but no hope and expectation are that the work of conviction will forward to conversion.

Let us now ask ourselves, brethren, what line of conduct is marked out for us. I will briefly give my judgment on the question. In the first place I think we ought to feel that the post assigned to us is that of the body-guard of the gospel. We must stand firm for perfect freedom from sin, for security, and for confession. These are the essentials of the new covenant. If we steadfastly abide by the gospel which proclaims these victories of faith, the masses that have begun to move will sure come to it at last.

In the next place we must purge our own ranks of semi-Perfectionism. I have seen many indications within the last year, that there is a class bearing the name of Perfectionist claiming fellowship among us and even assuming to be inspired leaders and teachers, who exert their influence more or less openly and directly against justification, security and confession of salvation from sin. Such men have no right to a place among us. They are not with us in spirit, but with the half converted masses that are moving toward us. Let us draw the line between them and us, that we may fully discharge our responsibilities as God's banner-guard in the coming conflict.

Finally it behooves us to take away all stumbling-blocks from the path of those who are approaching the gospel; to put away childish things; to frown on disorder, fanaticism and licentiousness; to give place among us as fast as possible to the order and discipline of the Primitive Church.

In the Kingdom of God, marriage does not exist. On the other hand there is no proof in the Bible nor in reason that the distinction of sex will ever be abolished. Matt. 22:29-30.

John Humphrey Noyes, "Bible Communism" (1849)

In the Kingdom of God the intimate union that in the world is limited to the married pair extends through the whole body of communicants; without however excluding special companionships founded on special adaptability. John 17:21.

The situation on the day of Pentecost shows the practical tendency of heavenly influences. "All that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, as every man had need."

Communism on the day of Pentecost extended only to goods, it is true. But the same spirit that abolished property in goods would, if allowed full scope, abolish property in persons. Paul expressly places property in goods and property in persons in the same category, and speaks of them together as ready to be abolished by the Kingdom of God.

The Communism of the day of Pentecost is not to be regarded as temporary and circumstantial. The seed of heavenly unity fell into the earth and was buried for a time, but in the harvest at the second coming of Christ it was reproduced and became the universal, eternal principle of the invisible church.

The abolishment of appropriation is involved in the very nature of a true relation to Christ. Appropriation is a branch of egotism. But the grand mystery of the gospel is vital union with Christ, which is the extinguishment of egotism at the center.

The abolishment of worldly restrictions on sexual union is involved in the anti-legality of the gospel. It is incompatible with the perfected freedom, toward which Paul's gospel of "grace without law" leads, that a person should be allowed to love in all directions, and yet be forbidden to express love except in one direction.

The abolishment of marriage is involved in Paul's doctrine of the end of ordinances. Marriage is a worldly ordinance. Christians are dead to the world by the death of Christ. The same reasoning which authorized the abolishment of the Jewish ordinances makes also an end of marriage. . . .

The plea that marriage is founded in nature will not bear investigation. Experience testifies that the human heart is capable of loving more than one at the same time. It is not the loving heart but the green-eyed claimant of the loving heart that sets up the one-love theory.

A system of Complex Marriage will open the prison doors to the victims both of marriage and celibacy: to the married who are oppressed by lust, tied to uncongenial nature separated from their natural mates; to the unmarried who are withered by neglect, diseased by unnatural abstinence, plunged into prostitution by desires that find no lawful outlet. . . .

The chain of evils which holds humanity in ruin has four links: first, a breach with God; second, a disruption of the sexes, involving a special curse on woman; third, oppressive labor, bearing specially on man; fourth, death. The chain of redemption begins with reconciliation with God, proceeds to a restoration of true relations between the sexes, then to a reform of the industrial system, and ends with victory over death.

It was the special function of the Apostolic Church to break up the worldly ecclesiastical system and reopen full communication with God. It is the special function of the present church, availing itself first of the work of the Apostolic Church by union with it and a re-development of its theology, to break up the worldly social system and establish true sexual and industrial relations.

From what precedes it is evident that no one should attempt to revolutionize sexual morality before settlement with God. Holiness, communism of love, association in labor, and immortality must come in their true order. . . .

Sexual shame is factitious and irrational. The more reform that arises from the sentiment of shame attempts hopeless war with nature. Its policy is to prevent pruriency keeping the mind in ignorance of sexual subjects, while nature is constantly thrusting those subjects upon the mind. The only way to elevate love is to clear away the false, debasing associations that usually crowd around it, and substitute true, beautiful ones.

The foregoing principles furnish motives for Association. They develop in a larger partnership the same attraction that draw and bind together a marriage partnership. A Community home, where love is honored and cultivated, will be much more attractive than an ordinary home as the Community outnumbers a pair. . . .

The men and women are called to usher in the Kingdom of God will be guided not merely by theoretical truth but by direct communication with the heavens, as were Abraham, Moses, David, Paul. This will be called a fanatical principle. But it is clearly a Bible principle, and we must place it on high above all others as the palladium of conservatism in the introduction of the new social order.