Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 26, 1970
NUMBER 46, PAGE 4-5a

"The Pulse Of The Brethren"


Robert C. Welch

All the papers circulated by brethren among brethren are constantly getting "the pulse of the brethren." The phrase comes from the practice of the doctor examining the pulse of his patients. It is done for many legitimate reasons. From this he may determine something of the general health and heart condition of the patient. He may be able to determine how the patient is responding or determine what treatment is advisable. And, while getting the pulse, he may be able to observe something else about the patient that he would not otherwise get. If he does it in order for the patient to tell him what his condition is and what treatment the doctor is to provide, that doctor should be banned from the association and from practice of his profession. There are many legitimate and useful purposes in editors' getting "the pulse of the brethren." There is also a wrong purpose.

Any preacher of the gospel who is worth his salt will not only know the word; but he will also determine, from the observed condition of the brethren and his audiences in general, what lessons should be preached. That is getting "the pulse of the brethren." If he is going to let the brethren tell him what to preach and what not to preach, he has sold out to Satan.

Godly parents want to know what their children are thinking and doing. This might be called "getting their pulse." From this the parents are aided in determining what teaching, training, disciplining, encouraging, sympathizing and nurturing are needed, for the best interests of their children. On the other hand, if they listen to their children with the disposition to let their children tell them what to do, and to give them everything they ask for, and to buy their favor, then those parents have deserted their post as responsible parents and are set upon a course of ruining their children.

Our law enforcement agencies and justice departments need to know of the purposes, thinking, practices, habits, connections and organizations of the criminals and would-be criminals. This will enable them better to enforce the law, restrain and punish the criminal, and protect society. This might be called "the pulse of the criminals." But if these agencies and departments decide to let the criminals tell them how to enforce the law and the limits of penalty for crime, then law and justice have abdicated their rightful office and have joined forces with the criminals.

Editors are to determine what goes into their papers. Those who are worthy of the title want to make their papers as useful as possible. This usefulness involves circulation, reading and results. One paper may unquestionably teach truth, but have no circulation, hence no useful results. Some paper may through various commercial schemes get circulation but no reading, an impure and immature motive. This does not bring results. It only fills the coffers of the journal and its publishers. Another may have both circulation and reading but get the wrong results, leading men to condone, and continue in, sin and error. Such a paper needs to be removed from circulation.

A religious journal may conclude what the thinking of brethren is by the mail response; by the increasing or decreasing circulation; by what is revealed in the teaching in, and response to, other journals; by what the preachers, teachers, leaders and schools are saying and doing; or by personal visits, contacts and consultation with brethren. All of this is obtaining "the pulse of the brethren." The motive in obtaining this information and the use which is made of it will determine the right or wrong. The mere fact of obtaining the information is not wrong. Every paper and editor, and every preacher and writer, gets "the pulse of the brethren," however right or wrong the motives and uses may be. Criticism has been made in recent articles of one publisher's making a tour and referring to it as getting "the pulse of the brethren." The publisher got "the pulse of those writing brethren" through their writings, without having to make a personal visit to them.

If the journal uses the information to determine what material needs priority in publishing, to most adequately meet sin and error and to build up in spiritual character and service, it is unquestionably a pure and legitimate motive. If the motive is solely to please the people and build up circulation it is a covetous purpose. If the information is to determine whether the reaction to certain editorial policies and content has been bad or good, it could help in determining the best course in the future. A man does not preach on baptism every time he gets before an audience just because some flattery has been given him for a sermon on the subject. Neither does he decide never to preach on it again because someone criticizes him for talking too much about it. But the comment and reaction does have a bearing on future preaching. So also will an editor and publisher be affected by "the pulse of the brethren." But they should not allow themselves to be told by the people what to do and say, what to print and not to print. They must determine that for themselves; that is, what is truth, what is right, what will get the largest and most responsive reading in what is needed today, in saving the lost and keeping the saved.

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