The Practical Application of Charity
Hi Friends -
Have you ever wondered why Christianity grew in the first three centuries? Generally, Catholics will say it is due to God working the “apostolic” tradition; Calvinists tell us it is because of testimony of the blood of the martyrs; Pentecostals speak about prophecies and visions. No doubt, all these played a part. But, to paraphrase St. Paul, let me tell you a better way.
Henry Chadwick, author of The Penguin History of the (Early) Church writes that “The practical application of charity was probably the most potent single cause of Christian success.” Chadwick goes on to explain what that means. He writes, “Christian charity expressed itself in care for the poor, for widows and orphans, in visits to brethren in prison or condemned to the living death of labour in the mines, and in social action in time of calamity like famine, earthquake, pestilence, or war.”1
Chadwick is what theologians call an authority; someone with an academic reputation strong enough to author a Penguin-published book on history and someone with honorary doctorates all over the world. New Thought doesn’t have such authorities, except perhaps the founders of its several branches, and even they “reserved the right to change their mind.”
One hundred years ago, life in America was more difficult than most people could bear. In a sense, life was as stressful then as it was in Roman times. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was just winding down (after 18 months) and just a few weeks earlier (July 27-August 3, 1919), the Chicago race riot of 1919 had erupted. The riot was “the worst of the nearly 25 riots and civil disturbances in the United States during the Red Summer of 1919”, according to Wikipedia. So, if we can look to Chadwick to explain how Christians flourished in Roman times, maybe we can look for a modern day authority to explain how we can flourish today.
On August 24, 1919 Charles Fillmore gave a talk on Social Responsibility. That same month Unity magazine also had an article entitled Social Responsibility, which was based on the parable of the Good Samaritan.
I believe Mr. Fillmore’s talk and article on Social Responsibility are as close as we will come to a trustworthy authority we have today regarding how to overcome extended pestilence and racial injustice. If we can overcome, once again, the seemingly insurmountable, and if we can take positive steps to effect meaningful change, then we will see our churches and our nation move forward to a new era of liberty, love and life, in my opinion.
For Henry Chadwick, the path forward was “a practical application of charity.” For Charles Fillmore, a practical application of charity for our time is to conduct oneself “in a loving way.” He said,
“It is within the heart of man—deeper than the heart—it is in the soul and the spirit. Well now if it is there all it needs is to be recognized. All that is required man is to conduct himself in a loving way.”
For Mr. Fillmore, the standard for conducting oneself in a loving way are the twelve fruits of the “tree of love” that “grows by the river of life.” These fruits of the tree of love are, as St. Paul said to the Corinthians, the better way.
So, just as Henry Chadwick described how “a practical application of charity” played out in Roman times, Mr. Fillmore describes how “conducting oneself in a loving way” plays out today—patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, good temper, purity, joyousness, unresentfullness, trustfulness and endurance.
Some may ask is conducting oneself in a loving way really practical? We are all aware of how much anger is out there in today’s world. The question is not about whether we shall pursue justice. That we shall do. The question is, as St. Paul would have asked, shall we pursue justice in a loving way? For even if we give great speeches, or we demonstrate great force, if we have not love, we are nothing. Love is, as Henry Drummond wrote, “The Greatest Thing in the World.” Eighty years later, Dr. King wrote “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
I hope you will read Charles Fillmore’s talk about these “twelve matter of fruit” of the tree of love, which we are. You can click through to download PDF of the original transcript (thanks to Bob Brach) and a PDF of this post. And I hope you will read I Corinthians 13:4-7 in the Fillmore Study Bible, where Mr. Fillmore's comments on the twelve fruits of love in this talk are applied as annotations. Most important, I hope you allow the words of Paul, as interpreted by Charles Fillmore, to speak to your heart.
Sunday, September 20, 2020
- Henry Chadwick, The Penguin History of the Church, Rev. Edition (London and New York: Penguin Group, 1993), 56.
Download a PDF copy of this page.
I Cor. 13:4-7
This lesson from Charles Fillmore was featured on Bob Brach's Unity Classic Radio broadcast on April 14, 2015. Bob writes, "This is an early (1919) talk of Mr. Fillmore's. He shares an interesting story of how he was fired from his railroad job for getting angry and telling his superintendent to go to hell. (see page 12) Anyway ... this is an interesting talk about social law and the law of love.
The subject of our lesson, Social Responsibility, is one that appeals to every one, because we live in a social world. We live, too, with our fellows, and it is necessary, too, that we have some standard by which to establish that relation, and in considering this subject it first came to me how I must look up all the different social laws.
Men have through ages of association established certain relations and those relations, of course, should be considered, but when I began that consideration I found that I had a mountain of laws that the human family have been trying to observe and there were many contradictions. One author said I should do this, and another said I should do that, and I became almost discouraged with the subject and said why, I am not familiar with the relations existing in the world, I am not posted on social law, I don't know very much about etiquette, and as it seemed to me a very complex proposition I meditated and meditated, and all at once it flashed into my mind, why there is a very simple law lying at the foundation of this question, social responsibility.
Who is my neighbor? and that law is the one that Jesus Christ talked so much about, the law of love, and I said, "Well where will I find the relations growing out of the law of love?" In the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, as Henry Drummond says, there is the greatest love poem ever written, and it is the greatest exposition of love.
Love is the foundation principle
Now we know that love exists as a foundation principle in the Godhead. Divine love is always taken into consideration as we think of the Source of all that exists. It must have been given out from a love center, because we see the love everywhere manifest in the world about us, that is, there is a preponderance of love. We are held together by a love Principle.
Then love must be the source of certain relations existing in not only the human mind, but in human relations, so taking love as the foundation, I saw that out of it grew many activities, many secondary relations, and it came to me that in the Scripture symbology love was the tree that grew by the great river of life, and that it bore twelve manner of fruits.
Now we have thought that love had to be cultivated in man's mind, that it had to be formed a part of our character through a certain evolution. But here is a statement of its being one of the foundation principles of man's character. It is within the heart of man, deeper than the heart - it is in the soul and in the spirit. Well now if it is there all it needs is to be recognized. All that is required of any man is to conduct himself in a loving way.
But what is the standard of love in the human family? Why it is a mortal standard, it is love between individuals, but is that the love of God? Yes, there is only one love. I have heard people argue that selfishness in love was not love, or that lust in love was not love, but there is only one love, and we must get at the foundation principles when considering this subject, and as we consider love we find that it expresses itself just according to the capacity of the individual. Love is just as large in one as in another, but how many have opened the avenues of love? That is the standard in the world of expression.
Now there is a world of Spirit, a world in which there is fullness of everything, everything is complete in the spiritual world. God created the world and He put himself in it. Now you find that John, the apostle of love, says that God is love. God is love. Man is the perfect expression of God. Well now as a logical conclusion we must arrive at that place where we accept as a truth, a fundamental truth of being that man is love.
Twelve fruits of Love
Now let us start with this proposition and analyse the fruits that grow upon that mighty love tree. According to Paul in this love poem which he wrote, I have found twelve growths or expressions of this one tree, this one love which exists in you - in you - in you. It is not outside of you. No, it is within you, the kingdom of God, the ruling power of everything that appears in man. Remember that.
Now Jesus laid down in this very chapter that we had this morning the importance of love in the attainment of eternal life. You can't attain eternal life unless you have this love first of God and then of man. "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength," you see the foursquare there, that is love to God, "and thy neighbor as thyself." ("Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." Luke 10:27 Am. Rev.) Now is that not a perfect balance? Love first to God, then love to man.
And what are some of the fruits according to Paul? and we take Paul because he summed up this wonderful faculty in mind more fully than anybody that has ever written, at least. And here are the twelve manner of fruits that I discerned in studying Paul's exposition. First, patience, then kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, good temper, purity, joyousness, unresentfulness, trustfulness, and endurance, twelve manner of fruits.
Now these twelve manner of fruits can be expressed in man or suppressed, just according to the man. You have got, every one of you, this wonderful dynamo of love, and you let it express itself either in the positive fruit or the negative fruit. How every fruit has its opposite. There is the sweet apple and the sour apple. There is love and the opposite — you all know what that is.
Now Paul shows how those real fruits of love can be expressed through man, and he goes into detail, and in our social relations if we would follow these simple laws, the simple law of life, the simple law of love, it would solve all our questions. Love, the law of love, would bring labor and capital together. It would smooth out, iron out all the wrinkles in our human relations. We would not require laws to make men honest. The profiteers in the world today would be glad to observe the law of love if they knew what it was, if they knew it was the greatest thing in the world, the great thing in the world is love. Now we have heard that talked about, but have we ever tried eating some of the fruit of the tree that grows on love?
Now let us take for example, love as patience, "love suffereth long." Think of the infinite patience of the mother with the ungrateful, wayward child. Now in the mother you find that example of patience more fully brought out than in any other avenues. Patience is not merely submission, it is not that that causes the heart to be bowed down with grief, but it is a steady, quiet confidence in the Divine law of love that finally shall become uppermost in the life of that child. That is scientific patience, and that is the patience we should all cultivate. Know that this thing you have within you called love can do all things. Love never faileth if you know how to handle it. You must handle it as though it were the greatest thing in the world, and the greatest thing in the world is love.
And then kindness. "Love suffereth long and is kind." Now after one who has gotten that eating out of his heart, that other side of love — hate — after that has been patient so long, he all at once flies off, he is not kind, he becomes cruel. Why? Because he really has not found love. Love is kindness, gentleness, tenderness. And men have thought that that indicated a certain weakness, it is all right for women to be gentle and kind and tender, but it is not becoming to a gentleman. But do you agree? Does a gentleman have love? If you have not real love in your heart you are not a gentleman.
Burns was said to be immortal. People marveled at the kindness, gentleness, and the tenderness of Burns who came out of a hut in Scotland, who had none of the training that a gentleman has, and yet he associated with all kinds of people, and yet he was a gentleman, and why? Because he was so gentle he loved the field and the flowers; he loved all Nature. He bubbled over with love and that made him courteous, made him kind, and made him generous. If you cultivate, the real essence of love and will let it express in you, you will be a gentleman and a lady, no difference what your education has been you will follow that innate courtesy which always follows love.
"Love envieth not." If you have love in your heart you will know that the whole world is yourself. Everything belongs to man when he knows himself. If you had a consciousness in you that God was expressing through and through that drawing to you everything that you needed. Now the fact is that this dynamic center is not in the solar plexus, yet it has a place in our body. That is a great nerve center and when that place is vibrating with love you will draw like a magnet everything to you. The time is coming when we as men and women are going to express this love in our hearts and are not going to have to do a lick of work, and we will sit and love, and lo and behold, people will bring everything that you need, and you say, "I don't want people to serve me," but those people in serving you will get a consciousness they never had before, and it is through this law of love that we are going to solve all the economical problems of the world, because not only will people bring things to you, but if you are developed in love to the spiritual point, you will draw out of the spiritual atmosphere everything you want and it will not be necessary for people to bring things to you at all, as you see love is progressive, it goes right on from the material to the soul consciousness and then to the spirit where all things are provided.
"Love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." (I Cor. 13:4) When you have this expression of love you are not proud, you are not stuck up, you don't draw comparisons between people and yourself and others, you know that the Jew and the Gentile, the white and the black races on the earth all come from one blood, and that blood — the Light — the Divine Light. There is one Father of us all, and when we know this we are humble in the spirit of love. Why, we do not have to meet people who are not in harmony with us, not spiritual, but the very conditions we most desire will come to us through a divine law — receptivity. Now in Spirit humbleness is receptivity, opening the mind to that which really belongs to us.
And love is courteous, "doth not behave itself unseemly."(I Cor. 13:5) When you let this fruit of love express itself on the great tree of love in you there will be a divine courtesy, a divine relation established between man and man.
And the unselfish "seeketh not its own," says Paul, "seeketh not its own." You know we are constantly seeking things that do not belong to us. We get them and get tired of them. We think we want things and that desire to attain things, that selfishness in us leads us into so many by-paths, it piles up a great something that corresponds to love, we quicken the desire for something, and trying to get it in the external, we load up with things that are not righteous in the law of attainment, and they become burdens to us because of their materiality, because they occupy too much space. Now we find In our Bible examples of this selfishness, desire for things. Ahab, the king, had a palace and Naboth's garden was close to it and Ahab wanted that garden. He wanted everything in sight and he sought it. Naboth had inherited it from his father and would not part with it. Jezebel saw Ahab in his sorrow and she said, "What is the trouble?" And he said, "I can't get Naboth's garden," and she said, "I will fix that." And she had Ahab stoned to death and he got the garden. But there was the prophet of God, Elijah, the prophet, and he called him to time and Jezebel was stoned to death and the dogs licked the wounds of Ahab, as the result of a selfish desire for things. David, another one of the perfect men of God, had that selfishness in lust, and Bathsheba was made his wife through the death of Uriah. He fixed things so he might fulfill that desire, that selfish desire of love. Well now we see from this that we must be wise in our love. We must know what love is and what its relations are. The unselfish seeketh not her own. Love seeketh not her own. If you develop love do not try to get things, get more love, and getting love you will get everything.
Now love is good temper, it "is not provoked," says Paul. This good temper of love is one of the most desirable qualities. If you can cultivate the good temper and carry it into every relation in life, I will guarantee success for you. You know ill temper defeats us more than any other quality. That irritability which you express at home you may control it when you are out, but the people in the house know when you are cross, especially if it is the head of the house, the father. When he is cross everybody knows it, they feel it, the air is full of it. And then there is that quick temper that stands for its rights, as we say, that feels that it is being imposed upon and is resentful, real anger sometimes. You know that more men are held down from high position through the free exercise of their rights through temper or through quick impulse than any other one thing.
I remember in my early life I thought I was free to express my rights. Well through a little bit of anger, and I never cultivated the love element, I never thought that it was part of my life to be unprovoked, and the majority of us never think of those things. I remember I was employed in a railroad office in Texas, a large transfer station. I had charge of the transfer of freight from ____________ to Denison. It was a long time ago, but it comes to me clear today, that experience I had with the superintendent one day. The agent was away and left me in charge and he and the superintendent did not get along very well, and whenever the agent was away the superintendent took advantage of that to find fault. He came in this time and began to complain of our not getting trains out on time, that our bill clerk was holding _______________. I knew that was not true and that quick temper in me boiled out and I told him a few things and ended up by telling him to go to hell. Of course that ended my career with the railroad. I was put on the flat list and it changed the whole character of my life, it is true, because I had to leave the rail-roading. I never went back, but I have thought a great deal of that since. It was not necessary for me to do that, it was not a tactful way, it is a negative expression of the love side. That was a good man and I could have gotten along with him nicely if I had only expressed myself in a divine way.
Now love is pure,"taketh no account of evil." If we had the consciousness of Divine love there will be a purity, the very purity of God. God is too pure to behold iniquity. I sometimes have that experience of centering my attention there at my heart and thinking about Divine love, like a stream of purity going out, going out, it seems to me, everywhere, and a purifying condition seems to set in throughout the whole system and I am sure one can purify the blood by holding to that stream of pure love proceeding out of the throne of God. The kingdom of God is within you, and here is the throne of God at the heart. In the Scripture it is called Jerusalem, and when you let your consciousness rest at the Jerusalem center and the river going out from the throne, you send out dynamic currents, and those currents not only purify the elements of your body, they go into the atmosphere surrounding you, go into the minds, hearts, and bodies of all those people you come in touch with.
And love is joyous, "rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth." (I Cor. 13:6) Just think of the joy of love, of love. You have noticed little children filled with the joy of love, filled with that quickening joy.
Un-resentful, "beareth all things." Do not resent any condition. It does not make any difference how much pain you may be having, do not resent, just know that through the Spirit of Infinite love it has no power, it does not exist in Divine Mind. All these conditions that seem so antagonistic, so resentful as are nothing in love.
And love is trust, believeth all things. Now those people think that it is a part of Infinite wisdom for them to be discerning, to see right through the design of the people that they come in touch with. They, in other words, are foxy. Well that is not true of Divine love. Love is really credulous, "believeth all things," trusts everybody, trusts everything. Jesus said if a man asks for your coat give him your cloak also. If he wants anything you have give it to him. Trust everybody, trust everything. But you say, "I would soon part with everything I have got and would never get it back." That is it exactly, but love does not think that way, and if it gives it knows it comes back to it multiplied. So you have to know the law of love. That is the greatest thing in the world and has all power.
Now love is all enduring. Love never faileth, endures all things. Now it is absolutely essential in this consideration of the twelve manner of fruits growing on this tree of love that we know that it endures. Paul ends up that wonderful exposition by stating that love "never faileth." It never fails, it does not make any difference what may come to pass, love never fails, love never faileth. Imprint that upon your mind and let it go down into your heart, let it rest there, and know that through this law, through living and the twelve manner of fruits you will accomplish everything that you set out to accomplish, I do not care what it is, but you must practice these principles, not that you practice to develop, but simply to let that which is, that which belongs to you, that which exists in you express itself.
Sermon transcribed by Mark Hicks
UNITY SCHOOL OF CHRISTIANITY