Chapter 12



THE little school at Putney went through a long discipleship before the system of mutual criticism was instituted. The process was perfectly natural. Love for the truth and for one another had been nurtured and strengthened till it could bear any strain. We could receive criticism kindly and give it without fear of offending. Association had ripened acquaintance so that we knew one another's faults. We had studied the Bible systematically for ten years, and were trying to express our conclusions in appropriate external forms.

The year 1846 was known among us as the year of revival. There was a spring-like awakening of the affections and a baptism of unity that were new and supernatural. They were the precursors, as it proved, of the spirit of judgment. This spirit was invited by our new ordinance of criticism. In one of our evening meetings Mr. Noyes spoke of the possible rending of the veil between us and the Primitive Church. Were we prepared to make music with this glorious company? Our hearts might be in tune, but in outward expression we were unpractised. There was however one chord of sympathy between us and them in which we could make music even now, the spirit of improvement. That spirit animated all heaven, and would put us in sympathy with every good being in the universe. With this for a beginning we must increase our points


of harmony and make ourselves attractive by all the refinement of which we were capable. As one measure he proposed mutual criticism. The plan was received with enthusiasm, and one of our most earnest members offered himself immediately as the subject of the first experiment. The others engaged to study his character, and at the next meeting tell their whole mind "witbout partiality and without hypocrisy," "in naught extenuate nor set down aught in malice," but hold up to him as perfect a mirror as possible.

When the affair transpired we were not prepared for its solemnity. Jf some of us were sportively disposed in the beginning, we were serious enough before the surgery was over. There was a spirit in our midst that was like the word of God, "quick and powerful, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." All that winter we felt that we were in the day of judgment. Criticism had free course and it was like fire in the stubble of our faults. It was painful in its first application, but happy in its results. One brother says, that while he was undergoing the process he felt as though he were being dissected with a knife, but when it was over he said to himself:

"These things are all true, but they are gone, they are washed away."


As oxygen combined with nitrogen is the very breath of life while pure oxygen is destructive, so criticism must be combined with love to be wholesome and healing. Christ was qualified to be the judge of this world by the love he showed in laying down his life for it. Criticism bathed in love wounds but to heal; bathed in personal feelings it leaves poison in the wound.

There must be not only love but respect. Whatever a person's faults, Christ is in him if he is a believer, and there is a sense in which it may be said: "Who shall lay anything to the charge


of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?" Criticism should carry no savor of condemnation. There should be discrimination between a person's superficial character and his heart where Christ is. The object of criticism is only to destroy the husk which conceals his inward goodness.

A third qualification is sincerity, which comes right to the point and tells the plain truth without fear of offending. Sometimes a person carefully mixes so much praise and extenuation with his censure as not seriously to disturb self-complacency. This is ineffectual.

Patience and meekness are important qualifications. Meekness is the spirit in which we wish persons to receive criticism, and we must give it in the same spirit. Pride provokes self-justification; censoriousness provokes retaliation; combativeness provokes resistance.

Love, patience and meekness do not exclude a just indignation against wrong. Vehemence and godly anger are often necessary to give execution to the shaft of criticism. Paul instructs Titus to rebuke the obtuseness of the Cretans "sharply."

Wisdom as to procedure is essential. In some cases private criticism is preferable, in others open rebuke before all. In general it is best to wait until criticism is cordially invited. Constant chafing against a person's faults is unprofitable. We should not criticise under the compulsion of personal annoyance; the true motive is to edify the body of Christ. In the case of a person who lacks ambition for improvement it may be good to say the worst that can be said with truth, so that he will if possible hate himself. But when a person is eager to improve, he does not much need to be told his shortcomings. Your best way to help him is to show him the very thing that he can do now to improve.

The feeling is natural that it would be hypocrisy to criti-


cise an evil in others unless we are free from it ourselves. This is wrong. If we are trotibled with a particular fault, that may be a reason for showing it no favor in others. Let giver and receiver look simply at the evil under criticism and demolish it.

It is plain that, if I have a mote in my eye and you have one in yours, 1 can see to get yours out better than I can to get out my own. Each can help the other. But to have a beam in my eye is another thing. If I have something in my eye that stops my sight altogether, I must first pull that out before I can see to cast the mote out of your eye. When one is blind he should not criticise.

Our hearts should be tender and genial toward those we criticise. We should always remember that the purpose of criticism is not to unload grudges, but to bring the person criticised nearer to God and give him a new happiness.


The difference between a right and a wrong spirit in receiving criticism is the difference between manliness and childishness. A childish spirit frustrates the operation of truth in two ways. In one form it meets criticism with indifference; hears and forgets; is not pricked to the heart and stirred to action. In another form it is too sensitive, too anxious for results; it either becomes discouraged or rushes into ineffectual action; its eye is on escape from suffering rather than on improvement. A manly spirit not only takes pleasure in the accomplishment of a good change in himself, but in the process by which it is brought about. He not Only likes the meat, but likes to crack the nut.

Submitting effectually to criticism is like threading a needle. You cannot do it if your eyes are full of tears nor if you are


all in a bustle. You can do it only by being coolly and quietly in earnest.

Some temperamental qualities must be repressed and others aroused, if criticism is to be profitably received. Large self-esteem makes a person resist criticism as a false charge. Large hope may be compared to soil that is too rich; its productions shoot up rapidly, but they are not strong-rooted and hardy. Small self-esteem and small hope niake a soil that is too damp and wants the sun. As the best soil is deep, sunny, receptive to dew and rain, so a spirit that is constantly replenished by the quickening elements of patience, conscientiousness and enthusiasm for improvement is the best for criticism.

We may stand and take criticism as the fire of an enemy, and so feel wounded; or we may join those that fire at us, in which case we shall feel unhurt. If we are members of Christ, criticism does not touch the real J. It takes effect on the external character, and that we can bear to have washed as we do our clothes. The secret of going through the judgment comfortably is to help judge ourselves.

A determined purpose of improvement will nourish itself for years to accomplish a desired change. The Bible speaks of men who "lie in wait to deceive." We must lie in wait to improve. Look at the cat lying in wait for the mouse. Not a muscle stirs, but her eyes are shining with a keen flame. The flame shows her purpose, the stillness her patience. Nothing pleases God more than to see us lie in wait for improvement with a bright eye and without flurry.

If we should suggest to a group of children the building of a house, some would begin to hurry around, thinking they could easily do it in a short time. Others would think the job so hopeless they would refuse to try. But an experienced, determined man would lay his plans, gather his materials, and press forward with an unwavering purpose, knowing that it


would take years to finish, The great works of architecture and eugineering may justly inspire our reverence as exponents of purpose stretching through years. We must learn from them to form immortal, self-sustaining purposes of personal improvement. We shall then appreciate the criticism that helps us toward our end.



Critic No. I -Mr. B.'s earnestness and strength of character make him a valuable member of society, but he needs cultivation and refinement.

Critic No. 2.-Mr. B. has all the solid qualities, firmness, uprightness and sincerity. He intends to deal justly with every one.

Critic No. 3.-He is warm-hearted, and a man of tender, delicate sensibilities. He is governed by the spirit of truth more than most men. But his mind and manners do not fairly represent his heart.

Critic No. 4.-He is an unselfish man, free from envy and jealousy. He needs outward refinement. The inward beauty of his character is working out, and will eventually overcome all external defects.

Critic No. 5.-He is a philosopher, a man who thinks and reasons deeply, but he lacks simplicity in the expression of his thoughts.

Critic No. 6.-The interior of his character is excellent, but the exterior is faulty. In order to do him the good we wish by this exercise a severe criticism ought to be leveled at his external faults. Criticism of the external character should not be

1. The Community was not in the practice of reporting criticisms until after the migration to Oneida. These examples are drawn from shorthand reports made during the Oneida epoch. - G. W. N.


neglected because the internal is good. Instead of being contented with inward beauty, he should aim to have also an outward manifestation of it. His utterance is labored, tedious and awkward. He has in him the soul of music but he is no singer. Again, in his business character he has perfect honesty, but there is a lack of science and tact, which has brought him into many difficulties.

Critic No. I -He has large hope, and often promises more than he fulfills; disappoints folks. His financial accounts are always at loose ends. He needs to carry his conscientiousness into business.

Critic No. 7.-He is what I should call an outline character. He makes excellent plans, but is careless in executing details.

Critic No. 8.-He is not as neat in his personal habits as good taste requires. He should pay more attention to outward adornment.

Critic No. 6.-Every member of our personality has its rights. Because the external senses are subordinate in the body politic, are they to be trampled under foot? Let us carry out the principle of democracy, and give to all our different faculties, even those most inferior, a wise and generous attention.


Critic No. 1.-Mr. A. is impetuous and positive in his manner, and is deficient in persuasiveness. He takes a position that you are not prepared for, and announces it without any circumlocution whatever, and, though you are not sure but that he is correct, you naturally resist being jerked into the admission of it. He has a kind of honesty that strips everything of romance, and this is apt to revolt you. He might have the same independence and honesty with more tact.

Critic No. 2.-The prevailing trait in Mr. A.'s character, amounting almost to idiosyncrasy, is directness. He is direct


in everything he does-in his religious pursuits, his thought, his speech and his actions. This is in general a good quality, giving intensity, singleness of eye, and consequent success. But in our social intercourse this trait needs some modification. It will not do in conversation to drive straight at a topic and think of nothing else. There are many side-considerations growing out of our personal relations and the demands of social harmony. Mr. A.'s excessive directness sometimes causes him to forget everything but his subject, and leads him into unnecessary discord.

Critic No. 3.-Mr. A. should make it more of an object to think and speak harmoniously with others. Suppose that he forms an Opinion which he wants to express, but has reason to think that it will not fall pleasantly into C.'s mind. In such a case true consideration requires not that he should suppress his Opinion, or that he should agree with C., but that he should broach his Opinion moderately, make some stairs for C. to descend on and not drop him right down with a jolt. All our speech should have the most delicate reference to harmony. With a quick ear for harmony and a heart that values it as God does Mr. A. might be just as independent as he is now and yet always find a way to express himself musically.


E. is remarkably outspoken and impulsive; consequently her faults are decided and well known. She is a fine specimen of the vital temperament, has great exuberance of animal spirits, would live on laughing and frolic, is ardent in her affections and lively in her antipathies. In the circumstances of ordinary life she would not have been corrected of her faults; simply parental authority would not have been sufficient. She would have ruled all around her, and henpecked her husband to the


last degree. But the Community is too much for her, especially as she is wise enough to give herself up to its criticism.

The elderly people criticise her for disrespect and inattention. She will fly through a room perhaps on some impulsive errand of generosity, leave both doors open and half knock down anybody in her way.

Her laughing propensity was criticised. Some thought she could dispense with half her usual indulgence, while one recommended as a compromise, that she should cease laughing at others' calamities.

She has a touch of vanity; likes to look in the glass, and plumes herself on her power of charming.

She indulges in unfounded antipathies and whims of taste, while she is likely to be carried out of bounds by her attractions.

Her wonderful exuberance of life, gayety and impetuosity are her gift, the inheritance of her youth and constitution, and no one would have these qualities changed. Like many another good passion these would be bad if allowed to act under the influence of selfishness, but of themselves they are much to be prized in society.

Though E. is zealous, industrious and useful, we should miss her more for what she is than for what she does. We must cure her of her coarseness, and teach her to be gay without being rude, respectful without being dull.


Mr. R. is honest and has a sincere ambition to be a right kind of character. He is faithful in work, unselfish in the disposition of his time and muscles. He is not a fault-finder nor pleasure-seeker. The Community has perfect confidence in his central union with Christ. Yet he is in difficulty; he does not find himself in the current of inspiration.


The trouble is that he lacks the balance of character which a sound mind gives. He is narrow-minded, illogical and mystical. He has a tendency to fanaticism and alternations of high and low spirits. He has lived without a proper appreciation of the cultivation of the intellect, thinking that it had nothing to do with his spiritual character. In the absence of other subjects of interest his own individual experience occupies all his thoughts.

He has a strong desire for the society of his superiors, and has battled with impediments for a long time but not in the right way. His method has only condensed his egotism and removed him farther from his object. We must go out of ourselves to find fellowship. We must meet in the medium of a third element toward which each is attracted. In communication with some you feel that their egotism would compel you into unwilling sympathy, and it is as natural as breathing to avoid them. No one can make his own experience interesting except as an exposition of general truth. Every new truth we learn is a new point of contact with other persons, and increases our power of giving and receiving happiness.

If Mr. R. would entirely forget himself, and apply his mind with perseverance for a long season to some study, he would become a better judge of his own experience, and would find himself in the very element of social freedom.


Mrs. C.: Miss M. is refined, and has a warm, loving heart. When she first came here, she had some ideas of women's rights which she will learn to be false.

Mrs. N. :I admire her gift of speech. But I think it is sometimes an injury to her; when in trial she talks at random.

Mr. S.: She has a strong intellect, and comprehends the


deepest truths. Her superiority to the world in this respect has made her egotistical. She acts up to the truth she has received.

Noyes: The greater part of the time I have been much pleased with Miss M. But there have been periods when a kind of evil possession which was distressing to me seemed to get the upper hand. She has presented two sets of characteristics, one of which she received from God and the other from the world. She had the qualifications of a splendid woman. But she was kept out of the place to which her natural gifts and refinement might have elevated her, and was held down and crushed by the machinery of worldly society. She might have ranked with the most honorable women, but the world received her only as a sempstress. She resisted her fate. We found her just in time to save her from self-destruction, and we will see what we can do for one whom the world has undone.

There are some things in her character which I particularly admire. First, she has an unusually pure mind. In spite of education she has preserved a taste that is simple, natural and unperverted. Another thing I like is her freedom of conversation. She is able to speak on any subject at any time and yet modestly. I consider her on this account a valuable addition to our Community. We have done a great deal to banish bashfulness, but it may yet be said that the children of this world are wiser than the children of light. I would be glad if our women would avail themselves of her skill in the art of conversation.

I have discovered in her a slight tendency to be disputatious. In the world, I know, the chief fun of conversation consists in resisting one another with the desire to beat, and dispute is almost considered essential to freedom. But in conversation, as in everything else, liberty is best secured by keeping the unity of the spirit. I believe that even these amicable games which are played among us will finally become distasteful, and


that the excitement of combativeness will not enter into our social pleasures at all.


Here was I who had been doing my utmost to lead a right kind of life; had been a laborer in churches, in religious meetings, in Sunday and Ragged Schools; had always stood ready to empty my pockets to the needy, and more than anybody else had been instrumental in improving the New York Young Men's Christian Association-I, who for months had been shaping my conduct and ideas into form, as I thought, to match the requirements of the Oneida Community. Yet I was shaken from center to circumference. Every trait of my character that I took any pride or comfort in seemed to be cruelly discounted. And after, as it were, being turned inside out and thoroughly inspected, 1 was metaphorically stood upon my head and allowed to drain till all the self-righteousness had dripped out of me. John H. Noyes wound up the criticism, and said many kind things. I don't know what they were. Perhaps it was Only the way in which he said them. Perhaps it was only his personal magnetism, or the magnetism of the spirit which he represented. But there was not a word or a thought of retort left in me. I felt like pouring out my soul in tears, but there was too much pride left in me yet to make an exhibition of myself. The work had only been begun. For days and weeks afterward 1 found myself recalling various passages of my criticism and reviewing them in a new light. The more I pondered, the more convinced I became of the justice of what at first my spirit had so violently rebelled against. In my subsequent experience with criticism I have


invariably found, that in points wherein I thought myself the most abused 1 have on more mature reflection found the deepest truth. Today I feel that I would gladly give many years of my life if I could have just one more criticism from John H. Noyes.


Chapter 13: Male Continence | Contents