[TO THE EDITOR OF THE SPECTATOR."]
SIR,—In a review of " Joshua Davidson " (Spectator, March 22), p. 376, the following remarks on Christian communism occur :- " That the first Christian society was more or lees a communistic society is certain, but it is equally certain that the communism was never regarded as of its essence," and after adducing the examples of Zaccheus and Ananias, the writer continues, "It is evident that from the very first the communism of Christianity was purely tentative and voluntary, the spontaneous result of a profound common faith, but never enforced as a necessary prin- ciple of Christian discipleship." Allow me, in confirmation of these statements, to recall attention to the fact so commonly over- looked, that in both the passages of the Book of Acts, chaps.
44-45, and iv., 34-55, the imperfect tense is used throughout, " They were [in the habit of] eelling and distributing as any were in need." " Selling " from time to time,—and how could they do this if they had already sold and thrown their all into one common stock? "They used to bring and place the proceeds," &c.
Is it not quite clear that whilst the early Christians were ready and willing to supply the need of their poorer brothers and sisters, they very wisely kept the control of such property as they had in their own hands? I would commend to the notice of Mr. Greg a reconsideration of the original statement in the Book of Acts. He would not then, I think, be inclined to say again, as he does in his paper, "Is a Christian life feasible in these days?" (Contemporary Review, p. 696),—" It is difficult to describe the sinking of all pri- vate property in a common fund in plainer language." Nor world he be obliged to maintain that "though the words are peculiar in the strange story of Ananias and Sapphire," they "can scarcely be held to invalidate " his conclusion. The other instance of Zaccheus, so much to the point, brought forward by the reviewer in the Spectator, escaped Mr. Greg's notice apparently.—I am, &c., Vicarage, IVeobley, April 2, 1873. H. B. PASTON.