Have the Brethren got Something Special?

Darby said ‘I do believe the Brethren have something special. But what is important is, not ‘the Brethren,’ but the truth they have. Darby says that God, though full of gracious patience, could set the Brethren aside – if they are not faithful – and spread His truth by others. Their place is to remain in obscurity and devotedness, not to think of ‘Brethren’ (it is always wrong to think of ourselves), but of souls, in Christ’s name and love, and of His glory and truth. Their place is not to press Brethrenism, but to deal with each soul according to its need for Christ’s sake.’

This is based on part of a letter written by JN Darby from America to a Mr J Leslie. The original is in his Collected Writings Volume 31 (Doctrinal 9) entitled Correspondence on recent matters. It is also in JND’s letters Vol. 51 page 339.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

 

Darby thought that Brethren were entering into a new phase of their existence, which increased their responsibility, bringing greater dangers to them. It arose from the general feeling that Brethren have something that other Christians have not got.

What they have is often refuted, hated and opposed. It may be also often be a matter of curiosity, or there may be genuine inquiry. May there be more!  But this feeling is real. Worldly people feel it, and would use it to show the inconsistency of the public profession, citing Scripture inaccurately. Other Christians, still clinging to the professing church with partial apprehension of the truth and holding much error, boast that they can have what the Brethren have, without leaving the systems they are in.

The Brethren probably do have something special. But what is important is, not ‘the Brethren,’ but the truth they have. Darby says that God, though full of gracious patience, could set the Brethren aside – if they are not faithful – and spread His truth by others. Their place is to remain in obscurity and devotedness, not to think of ‘Brethren’ (it is always wrong to think of ourselves), but of souls, in Christ’s name and love, and of His glory and truth. Their place is not to press Brethrenism, but to deal with each soul according to its need for Christ’s sake.

But if, through grace, they possess more of the truth, they have greater responsibility. Therefore, if they are not more devoted, they would be a stumbling-block to others. Unworldliness, nonconformity to the world, self-denial, and love to others, is called for: The end of what is enjoined is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. (1 Tim 1:5). Let brethren walk in love, in the truth, humble, lowly, unworldly, holding all for Christ. May they be as little as when they began, and be content about it. Then God will bless them. If not, their candlestick may go – and, oh, after such grace, what sorrow and confusion of face that would be!

Let there be no mixing with the church-world. May the brethren show grace toward it, as beacon-lights, taking the precious from the vile. Then they will be as God’s mouth. May they be a testimony against it, with that earnest gospel of God’s free love to souls that Christ has for His own. May they do the work of evangelists, humble, lowly, devoted, and simple in ministry, devoted in heart and separated to Christ.

Brethren should rejoice in evangelical activity outside of themselves: it is one of the signs of the time. God is sovereign, and can work in love where and how He pleases, and they should rejoice in it.   But in general there is no separation from evil in many places. Indeed there is so much indifference to the truth, especially in America. They even exchange pulpits with infidels.   For a year or two, at the beginning, Darby and others would preached wherever they were invited. Though the trumpet was giving an uncertain sound, the gospel was fully preached and some were brought out. Now the testimony has to be clearer, but still the fullest preaching of the gospel and of the assurance of salvation must continue.

We should not be on the attack, but to be superior, in grace, for the truth. Peter never attacked the chief priests, but went on his own way. The high ground of the truth and a full gospel preached in grace should distinguish us.   The testimony against evil should be in our own walk and ways. Patience, truth, holiness, and love in the truth and for the truth’s sake, characterise Christ’s revelation of Himself. He influences us in the last days.

God has no need of us, but He does have need of a people who walk in the truth in love and holiness. In the Old Testament it says, ‘I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of Jehovah’ (Zeph 3:12).  The same spirit is in Jude, who speaks of the mixture which would bring on judgment: ‘But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’ (v. 20-21) We may, and must, rejoice in the gospel. That only makes the testimony of Brethren outside the camp more necessary than ever – but the testimony must be real. May we be waiting and watching for Jesus, because we do so love Him!

      Original letter written by John Nelson Darby, New York, April 8th, 1875.

      Edited for easier reading by Sosthenes, September 2014.

Establishing, or Planting Churches

The object to be desired is the gathering of all God’s children.

2. The power of the Holy Spirit can alone effect this.

3. There is no need to wait till that power produces the union of all, because we have the promise that, where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, He will be in the midst. Two or three may act in reliance upon this promise.

4. The idea of ordination for the administration of the Supper appears nowhere in the New Testament. Christians came together on the Lord’s Day to break bread; – see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 23.

 

Based on a Paper by J N Darby – ‘On the Formation of Churches’

JND Collected Writings Volume 1 (Ecclesiastical 1) p 138 –

For the original Click Here 

churchIn the town where I live there are several churches – three Church of England, one Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Salvation Army. There is a Gospel Hall, a ‘Free Evangelical’, a ‘Gospel Mission Church’ as well as evangelical groups gathering one in a shop and another in a local school. There may be more. Then an old CofE church was taken over by mostly Afro-Caribbean believers, and you can hear their music when we come from our meeting on Lord’s Day morning 150 yards away! They must take Psalm 150 literally. Then on Sunday mornings there is a sign outside of a community hall – ‘Peace and Love Assembly’ – whatever that is. Of course there may be more. And of course there is the little meeting room where I go.   I am sure there are many devout Christians in each one.

Were these assemblies formed as a result of Godly concern as to evil working in a gathering from which it was necessary to separate, and to find other believers with whom to walk, or were they formed through Christians uniting behind a particular cause or person?

In his essay, summarised below, John Nelson Darby looked at the various church organisations amid the confusion that is Christendom. Many churches have adopted the title ‘Church of God’ formally or informally, seeking to strike a balance between keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3), and separating the precious from the vile (see Jer. 15:19).

The Lord’s Purpose in the Gathering of the Saints on Earth

The gathering together of saints into one was the immediate object on earth of Christ’s death. Salvation had always been in place; saints of the old dispensation were saved through the death of Christ. Now by the Spirit we are gathered as well as saved. That is what forms the church.

Hypocrites and evil men have crept into the church, but for that there must have been a church for them to creep into.

National Systems

National churches ensued from the Reformation. Whilst the Reformation brought out more clearly the doctrine of salvation, it did not touch the question of the true character of God’s church. Instead of restoring things to their original state, it made the state the supreme authority, replacing the pope.   By definition, all citizens of a country were regarded as Christians, and automatically members of the national church.

Any serious believer must realise that a national church (the Church of England for example) cannot be regarded as the complete assembly of God. People refer to a visible and an invisible church, the national church being the former and the true church encompassing all believers the latter.   But scripture says, Ye are the light of the world. A city set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matt 5:14).   Of what use is an invisible light?   To say that the true church is invisible, is to say that it has lost its original standing and departed from the purpose of God.

Non-Conformist, or Dissenting Congregations

Can any of the dissenting Protestant churches (Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal etc) attain to what God has in mind in the gathering together in one of His children – universally or locally?

In scripture, believers were gathered in various localities. The Christians in each town or city formed one body:- the Assembly of God in ‘X’. At Corinth, for example, a letter addressed to the church of God would have found its way to a known body. There may have been many physical gatherings in private homes and other places, but they formed one body in the place. God raised up shepherds and teachers in the assembly, but they served the whole. So we have the union of all the children of God universally, and the union of all the children of God in each city or town.

According to Scripture the sum of all the churches here on earth composed the whole church; and the church in any given place was no other than the regular association together of whatever formed part of the entire body of the church on earth; and he who was not a member of the church in that place , was not a member of Christ’s church at all.

Now the unified state that we see in the Bible has ceased to exist. What should Christians do when the condition of things set before us in the word no longer exists?

Maybe we should reform it?  That presupposes:

  1. That it is God’s will.
  2. That we are capable and authorised to restore it.

We recognise that we have sinned. If we set about doing what was right, by being upright out of a sense of duty, that would be self-righteousness, and not pleasing to God. Apply the same logic to the church. We, as Christians, have departed from the original state, and are guilty of that sin. If we undertake to re-establish it ourselves, it would be in the same spirit of self-righteousness, and we would not have God’s support.

Now if we set up another body, taking the name of the church of God, by definition, we would have to regard all non-members of that body as schismatic strangers to God’s church.   So what we now have is a large number of partial voluntary churches in different places, with tight hierarchical centralised organisations at one end of the spectrum and loose affiliations of independent assemblies at the other. The practice of making churches with various forms, has in itself led to the separation of the thoughts of universal and local church. The idea of God’s complete church, has been lost sight of.

 

Can Man Restore the Fallen Condition?

The church cannot fail. The Lord said, The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matt 16:18). The salvation of the elect is secure; the glory of the church will be seen in resurrection, with Satan defeated. Meanwhile God will maintain the confession of Jesus here on earth until the church has been taken away. That is not in question. Popery would maintain that it has not failed publicly, and that it is the whole church. But that line is leading to apostasy.

Publicly, the dispensation is in ruins, and in a condition of entire departure from its original standing. Persons are trying to set it up again, without any warrant to do so.

Because of man’s sin, believers have been scattered. Has there been anybody who has undertaken the apostolic office of re-establishing things on their original footing, and in so doing, re-establish the entire dispensation, apprehending the divine will, having by the Holy Spirit the power to accomplish the task? Of course not. He may have desired to, but like David in building the house was not able to do so.

What can be Done?

Bless God that the Word and the Spirit still remain in the church. May the church lean on that.

I do not have the competency to re-establish the first condition of the church. I humbly feel the real condition of the church, and this preserves me from activities which are unauthorised by the word.

I have to accept that the condition of the dispensation at its close will be just the reverse of what it was at its opening. Sadly, the wild olive tree which had been grafted in, has now been cut out (See Rom. 11:22). But there can be a revival. Nehemiah saw the fallen condition of Israel, and that they were in great distress. He did what he was authorised to do – not more. He did not re-make the Ark or the Urim and Thummim, or imitate the Shekinah. Neverthless we are told in that he had blessing such as had not been ‘since the days of Joshua’; (Neh. 8:17) because he was faithful to God in the circumstances in which he stood.

God has left faithful Christians sufficient directions for us to follow. And the Spirit of God is with us to strengthen us in the path of true obedience.

 

How it Can be Done.

The Spirit of God, foreseeing all that would happen in the church, has given us help and warnings. He tells us that there would be perilous times, and tells us that we should turn away from certain men. (See 2 Tim 3:1-5) We cannot break bread with all – maybe just with two or three gathered to His name. Indeed the Spirit gives us even more precise directions: he that names the name of Christ should depart from iniquity. Where I find iniquity, I must leave it – I am in the great house (the Christian profession) but I must purge myself from vessels to dishonour so as to be a vessel made to honour, fit for the master’s use. And the man of God is exhorted to follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. See (2 Tim 2:19-22)

 

Planting of Churches

There is an expression that is current now (not in Darby’s time) as to the planting of churches. Those involved draw on Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus as to church order and see it in terms of choosing elders, deacons etc, even buildings. Pastors, teachers, and evangelists are gifts which have their places in the unity of the body, and are exercised wherever God has graciously given them.

So a ‘planted church’ from another nearby one presumes that there was no assembly of God in the target locality. This is almost never the case.

 

How are we to meet then?

To do nothing is not an option. But before doing anything we must feel deeply the ruined state of the church, and act with less presumption and more diffidence.

You say , ‘I have separated myself from evil , because my conscience disapproves what is at variance with the word’ That is good: now assemble together. Jesus aaid, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ (Matt.18:20). However, if you organise a church, choosing a president or a pastor, and by implication claim to be the Church of God of the place where you live, I question your commission to do this. I see no trace in scripture of the churches having elected presidents or pastors. It is said that such appointments are necessary to maintain order. Such order, being constituted by the will of man, will soon be seen to be disorder in the sight of God. If there are but two or three who meet together in the name of Jesus, He will be there. Otherwise the appropriate scripture is, ‘He that gathereth not with me scattereth’ (Matt 12:30). If God raises up pastors (that is persons who shepherd, not an official position), it is a blessing. But ever since the day when the Holy Spirit formed the church, we have no record of the church choosing pastors.

We must acknowledge our weakness and dependence upon God. God is sufficient for His church. Despite the ruin, power is available. Call upon Him. He can raise up whatever is needed for the blessing of the saints. He will do that – have no doubt about it. Acknowledge the authority of Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep. He rules as Son over His house, whose house are we, and the Spirit of God is the sole power in the church. Anything else is pretence, and is under the domination of man. There is no promise in favour of the system by which men organise churches, but there is the promise of the Lord’s presence for those who ‘assemble together’.

We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, as we separate from that which we know to be evil, bearing with those persons who continue ignorantly as to the evil, though I may have to leave them.   We must lean upon Him who is able to do all that is necessary, without assuming to do more, ourselves, than the word authorises us to do. Such is the position, humble it may be, but it is blessed by God, even if it is despised by men

 

Conclusions

1. The object to be desired is the gathering of all God’s children.

2. The power of the Holy Spirit can alone effect this.

3. There is no need to wait till that power produces the union of all, because we have the promise that, where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, He will be in the midst. Two or three may act in reliance upon this promise.

4. The idea of ordination for the administration of the Supper appears nowhere in the New Testament. Christians came together on the Lord’s Day to break bread; – see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 23.

5. A commission from man to preach the gospel is a thing unknown in the New Testament.

6. The choosing of presidents or pastors by the church is also altogether without warrant in the New Testament. The choosing of pastors is an encroachment on the authority of the Holy Ghost, who distributes gifts according to His will.

7. It is clearly the duty of a believer to separate himself from every act that he sees to be not according to the word.

The Spirit in which we should be when the Church is Forced to Exercise Discipline

We ought to remember what we are in ourselves, when we talk about exercising discipline – it is an amazingly solemn thing. When I reflect, that I am a poor sinner, saved by mere mercy, standing only in Jesus Christ for acceptance, in myself vile, it is, evidently, an awful thing to take discipline into my own hands.

Excerpts from a Paper by J N Darby entitled ‘On Discipline’

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

We ought to remember what we are in ourselves, when we talk about exercising discipline – it is an amazingly solemn thing. When I reflect, that I am a poor sinner, saved by mere mercy, standing only in Jesus Christ for acceptance, in myself vile, it is, evidently, an awful thing to take discipline into my own hands.

But the church may be forced to exercise discipline, as in the case of the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5. I believe there is never a case of church discipline but to the shame of the whole body. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul says, “Ye have not mourned,” etc.: they all were identified with it. Like some sore on a man’s body, it tells of the disease of the body, of the constitutional condition. The assembly is never prepared, or in the place to exercise discipline, unless having first identified itself with the sin of the individual. If it does not do it in that way, it takes a judicial form, which will not be the ministration of the grace of Christ. Its priestly character in the present dispensation is one of grace.

All discipline until the last act is restorative. The act of putting outside, of excommunication, is not (properly speaking) discipline, but the saying that discipline is ineffective, and there is an end of it; the church says, “I can do no more.”

As to the nature of all this, the spirit in which it should be conducted, it is priestly; and the priests ate the sin-offering within the holy place, Lev. 10. I do not think any person or body of Christians can exercise discipline, unless as having the conscience clear, as having felt the power of the evil and sin before God, as if he had himself committed it. If that which is done is not done in the power of the Holy Ghost, it is nothing.

It is a terrible thing to hear sinners talking about judging another sinner, sinners judging sinners, but a blessed thing to see them exercised in conscience about sin come in among themselves. It must be in grace. I no more dare act, save in grace, than I could wish judgment to myself. “Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” Matt. 7:1, 2. If we go to exercise judgment, we shall get it.

 

The full paper is published in JND’s Collected Writings Vol. 1 Ecclesiastical 1 page 338.

 

Clericalism. – A Cautionary Tale

Well, he seems to have strong views on some things. But don’t talk to me about clericalism. He may not have the title of pastor or minister, but he clearly runs his little meeting, and is very pleased with the way he has it!’

A few years ago I was with a Christian colleague, visiting a client a few miles from his home.  My colleague, a real lover of the Lord, was preparing to become a Baptist minister.  I had had conversations with him about the principle of clericalism.  He said that in his church all were involved, the principle that one man should be in charge were probably not right, but that is how things were, and there was nothing one could do about it.

There was a respected, well taught brother in the town we were visiting, and, though I did not know him well, I thought he could be of help to my friend, so I called on him, with my colleague in tow.  We had a good talk, maybe not as I had planned, certainly nothing on clericalism.

After we left I said to my colleague ‘How did you get on?’  His answer ‘Well, he seems to have strong views on some things.  But don’t talk to me about clericalism.  He may not have the title of pastor or minister, but he clearly runs his little meeting, and is very pleased with the way he has it!’

Oh dear!

When and how should I leave a Company?

Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst.
If anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, he would … deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence.
If the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil?

I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity.

If any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension.

 

A Letter by J N Darby on Separation

I am not so afraid of leaving an assembly, or setting up another table, as some other brethren

Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst.

If any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

I write rather because of the importance of the point than for any immediate occasion of circumstances: I mean leaving an assembly, or setting up, as it is called, another table. I am not so afraid of it as some other brethren, but I must explain my reasons. If such or such a meeting were the church here, leaving it would be severing oneself from the assembly of God. But though wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst, and the blessing and responsibility, of the church are, in a certain sense also, if any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension, and denying the very testimony to the state of ruin which God has called us to render. It would have ceased to be the table of the people and testimony of God, at least intelligently. It might be evil pretension or ignorance; it might call for patience, if it was in ignorance, or for remedy, if that was possible: but such a pretension I believe false, and I could not abide in what is false. I think it of the last importance that this pretension of any body should be kept down: I could not own it a moment, because it is not the truth.

If anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, he would … deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence.

But then, on the other hand, united testimony to the truth is the greatest possible blessing from on high. And I think that if anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, but he would necessarily deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence. It resolves itself, like all else, into a question of flesh and Spirit. If the Spirit of God is in and sanctions the body, he who leaves in the flesh deprives himself of the blessing, and sins. If, on the contrary, the Spirit of God does not sanction the body, he who leaves it will get into the power and liberty of the Spirit by following Him. That is the real way to look at it. There may be evil, and yet the Spirit of God sanction the body (not, of course, its then state), or at least act with the body in putting it away.

 If the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not?  Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil?

I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity.

But if the Spirit of God, by any faithful person, moves in this, and if the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil? That is precisely the delusion of Satan in popery, and the worst form of evil under the sun. If the matter, instead of being brought to the conscience of the body, is maintained by the authority of a few, and the body of believers despised, it is the additional concomitant evil of the clergy, which is the element also of popery. Now, I believe myself, the elements of this have been distinctly brought out at [Plymouth?]; and I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity. I do not want unity in evil but separation from it. God’s unity is always founded on separation, since sin came into the world. “Get thee out” is the first word of God’s call: it is to Himself. If one gets out alone it may require more faith, but that is all; one will be with Him, and that, dear brother, is what I care most about, though overjoyed to be with my brethren on that ground. I do not say that some more spiritual person might not have done more or better than I: God must judge of that. I am sure I am a poor creature; but at all cost I must walk with God for myself. . . .

 Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong.

I should not break bread till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all.

Suppose clericalism so strong that the conscience of the body does not act at all, even when appealed to; is a simple saint who has perhaps no influence to set anything right, because of this very evil, therefore to stay with it? What resource has he? I suppose another case. Evil goes on, fleshly pretension, a low state of things on all sides. Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong. Now this often happens. Now the Lord in these cases is always over all. He chastens what was not of Him by such a separation, and shews the flesh in detail even where, in the main, His name was sought. If the seceders act in the flesh, they will not find blessing. God governs in these things, and will own righteousness where it is, if only in certain points. They would not prosper if it were so; but they might remain a shame and sorrow to those they left. If it be merely pride of flesh, it will soon come to nothing. “There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest.” If occasion has been given in any way, the Lord, because He loves, will not let go till the evil be purged out. If I do not act with Him, He will (and I should thank Him for it) put me down in the matter too. He loves the church, and has all power in heaven and earth, and never lets slip the reins.

I should not break bread till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all. I should think worse of them than of sectarian bodies, because having more pretension to light. “Now ye say we see.” But I should not (God forbid!) cease to pray continually, and so much the more earnestly, for them, that they might prosper through the fulness of the grace that is in Christ for them . . . .

 

Lightly edited by Sosthenes

 

For original please see: STEM Publishing: J. N. Darby: A Letter on Separation

Published in JND’s Collected Writings vol. 1 (Ecclesiastical 1) p. 350.

J N Darby – Nearness to Christ and Its Effect (Humility)

We need to watch ourselves, lest, after having been preserved from the corruption of the age by the very precious truths revealed to us in our weakness, we should be taken in the net of presumption, or thrown into insubordination. These are things which God can never recognise or tolerate, since we are called to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

This article by John Nelson Darby was published in JND’s Collected Writings Miscellaneous 5.

This is a more recent collection of papers by JND, and is available from Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, IL 
Lightly edited by Sosthenes
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.’ (Psalm 126:5); ‘
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.(Matthew 18:20)

 

Man’s pretensions and energy manifest themselves strongly,  But to learn to be still in a clay of grace, and know that God is God, is completely above the education of the flesh.

The spirit of the age affects many Christians, who labour to restore old things for the service of God.  They should be broken before Him with the sense of their downfall.

To confess openly that which we are in the presence of that which God is, is always the way to peace and blessing.  Even when only two or three are together before God, there will be no disappointments nor deluded hopes.  God’s word for the remnant is, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”  (1 Peter 3:15)  He is the only centre of gathering.

The Holy Spirit does not gather saints around mere views, however true they may be.  It is not q question of what the church on the earth is, or has been,  or may yet be;  He always gathers saints around that blessed Person, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matt. 18:20.

We need to be watchful against boasting, as people do in these days.  We need to be still, in the presence of God.  There is much independence and self-will almost everywhere.

If anyone speaks of separation from evil, without being humiliated, let him take care lest his position becomes simply sectarian, and produces doctrinal heresy. Sectarianism is the most natural weed of the human heart.  (Sectarianism is getting an interest in a little circle round ourselves.)   Nearness to Christ would keep us from that.

Now I know, at the present time, of no service which is worthy of Him, if it is not done in humiliation.  This is not the time to speak of a place for ourselves.  If the church of God, so dear to Christ, is dishonoured in this world; if it is scattered, ignorant, afflicted, the person who has the mind of Christ will always take the lowest place.  True service of love will seek to give according to the need, and because of the need, he will never think of slighting the objects of the Master’s love because of their necessity.

Men taught of God, for His service, go forth from a place of strength, where they have learned their own weakness and their own nothingness.  They find that Jesus is everything in the presence of God, and Jesus is everything for them in all things, and everywhere.  Such men, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, are real helps for the children of God, and they will not contend for a place, or a distinction, or for authority, among the scattered flock.   A man in communion with God about the church will show his willingness to be nothing in himself, and he rejoice in his heart to spend and to be spent.   He is faithful in the path of separation, in sorrow, and in the conflicts he is obliged to pass through.

When persons think of the church, they would rather think of the church in power.  We can learn from the conduct of Zerubbabel, recounted in the book of Ezra.  Also, despite the position Solomon had occupied, as heir,  in days of his prosperity and glory, he did not speak of either his birth or his rights.

If we speak of our testimony upon the earth, it will soon be evident that totally in weakness.   Like the seed by the wayside, the testimony will likewise ends in shame.

Neither the anger,  prudence, or pretensions of man can do anything, in the state of confusion in which the church is now.  I freely own that I have no hope in the efforts which many make to assure themselves an ecclesiastical position.  When the house is ruined in its foundations by an earthquake, it matters little how one tries to make it an agreeable dwelling place.  We had better remain where we first discovered of the ruin of things by man’s action – with our faces in the dust.  S uch is the place which belongs to us by right,  After all, it is the place of blessing.

I have read of a time when several were gathered together in such sorrow of heart, that for a long time they could not utter a single word; but the floor of the meeting room was wet with their tears. If the Lord would grant us such meetings again, it would be our wisdom to frequent these houses of tears. “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.” Psa. 126:5.

This is not just true for the earthly remnant;  it is also written for us.  I would willingly take a long journey to join these afflicted ones; but I would not go a step to to receive power from men, however excellent,  to overturn the present and reconstruct the future.

J.N.D.

Lightly edited by Sosthenes – May 2014

I am indebted to our brother Jeff in Illinois for bringing this article to my attention.  S.

The Love of God 1 John 4:9 
by J. N. Darby

God presents what He is to men, so we know that He is holy, righteous and love. He is love, and love draws me. Love is the divine nature.

I need to be separate from evil: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14). It is not said, ‘He is holiness’. Indeed I as a sinner would be repelled by mere holiness. He is holy. He is just, and He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. (Hab 1:13) He may be the God of judgment, but He blesses His own so that they might be eternally happy in holiness, for He is holy love.

A summary by Sosthenes

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

God presents what He is to men, so we know that He is holy, righteous and love.  He is love, and love draws me.  Love is the divine nature.

I need to be separate from evil:  “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14).  It is not said, ‘He is holiness’.  Indeed I as a sinner would be repelled by mere holiness.  He is holy. He is just, and He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity(Hab 1:13)  He may be the God of judgment, but He blesses His own so that they might be eternally happy in holiness, for He is holy love.

Whatever our state may be, God is perfect in His love, and He would make us learn, enjoy and walk in it now, not when we get to heaven.

Our selfish, unbelieving nature hinders us down here, but this only serves to magnify God’s grace and love.  In spite of all, He brings us to the knowledge of perfect love because “Perfect love casteth out fear, for fear hath torment” (v.18).   If, when thinking of God, we fear, we have torment.  That is the conscience.   Man may seek to bury his conscience, but only succeeds in hardening it.

If we seek peace in ordinances, it is not love but fear. The effect of true ministry is to put the soul in direct contact with God.  False ministry brings in something between the soul and God.

The soul must have the blessed consciousness of perfect peace with God.  God brings you into the joy of His perfect love in His presence; “Who shall separate us? … More than conquerors.” (Rom. 8:35)

The family character of the children of God is light and love.  It is God’s nature, and seen in both in Christ and in all God’s children.  I must have the new nature to know this; but how do I get it?  Where is it found?  In Jesus Christ Himself, image of the invisible God. (Col 1:15).   In Christ I find a perfect manifestation of His love. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us(v10).

There is no mention of anything required of us, but the simple fact of what we were “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1)

Though He is a God of judgment, He brought out the means of our approach: through Christ’s sacrifice.  Abel’s faith testified how man was to approach to God, so from Abel downwards God showed mercy.

Man as man refuses to come to God “none righteous.”  (Rom. 3:10) When Christ comes, it is another thing altogether.  God now approaches man in grace; not man approaching God.  He visited men in their sins, “that they might live through him.” (v.9)  All around was darkness, degradation, and idolatry. God took them out of that condition that they might live through Christ. “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”  (1 John 5:10). Thus we are brought into His presence.

We live through His only-begotten Son. He is bringing us into His presence, before the One in whom all His delight was from eternity.  It is the eternal enjoyment of it to know eternal life in the Son; but down here we often question it, because we do not see this love in us. He is “a propitiation for our sins.(1 John 2:2)

God has loved me not only when I wanted it, but because His knew what I wanted.  He has not mistaken my case; Christ on the cross made the propitiation for my sins.  So I can say, “Herein is love.” (v.10)  I have found God, and my soul rests there. The cloud has been taken away for ever. If you say, ‘I have committed such and such a sin’; I answer, ‘It is for the sins you had or still have that Christ died; for He died for your sins.’

He cannot bear sin, and therefore He must put the sinner in his sins away, because He cannot bear the sins.  I learn to judge sin according to God, because I am brought into the light.  I find many sins in myself. He is the propitiation for my sins. I believe this, and then I enter into communion with Him. Why do I find fear and torment when I find sin in myself?   Can I not trust that love?  Have I not believed the love God has towards me?

God does not expect fruit from man, but His grace produces fruit.  We should feel sin, and know it has been blotted out.  We are told that  “The glory thou hast given me I have given them, that the world may know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:24)  “There is no fear in love.” (v.18).   It is a matter of communion and we live through Him. “… Perfect love casteth out fear.”

I am not honouring God, if I do not trust the work of Christ in love on the cross.  I come to Him just as I am, and then I know God.  He enables me to trust in blood of Jesus Christ His Son – the perfectness of His work in putting away sin.

 

The Bethesda Circular – JN Darby

This is the text of a letter, written by J N Darby in regard to the ‘Open Division’ of 1848. It refers to the action of several prominent brothers including George Müller and Henry Craik, who met at the Bethesda Chapel in Bristol. It specifically referred to their action in receiving some from the meeting in Plymouth where B W Newton taught heretical doctrine as to the person of Christ, and from which Darby and others had to withdraw.

 

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

This is the abridged text of a letter , written by J N Darby in regard to the ‘Open Division’ of 1848.  It refers to the action of several prominent brothers including George Müller and Henry Craik, who met at the Bethesda Chapel in Bristol.  It specifically referred to their action in receiving some from the meeting in Plymouth where B W Newton taught heretical doctrine as to the person of Christ, and from which Darby and others had to withdraw.

Beloved brethren,

I feel bound to present to you the case of Bethesda. It involves to my mind the whole question of association with brethren, and for this very simple reason, that if there is incapacity to keep out that which has been recognized as the work and power of Satan, and to guard the beloved sheep of Christ against it — if brethren are incapable of this service to Christ, then they ought not to be in any way owned as a body to whom such service is confided: their gatherings would be really a trap laid to ensnare the sheep. But I will not suppose this, my heart would not; nor will I suppose that the influence or reputation of individuals will induce them to do in one case what they would not do in another. I press therefore the position of Bethesda on brethren. It is at this moment acting in the fullest and most decided way as the supporter of Mr. Newton, and the evil associated with him, and in the way in which the enemy of souls most desires it should be done. The object of Mr. Newton and his friends is not now openly to propagate his doctrine in the offensive form in which it has roused the resistance of every godly conscience that cared for the glory and person of the blessed Lord, but to palliate and extenuate the evil of the doctrine, and get a footing as Christians for those who hold it, so as to be able to spread it and put sincere souls off their guard. In this way precisely Bethesda is helping them in the most effectual way they can: I shall now state how. They have received the members of Ebrington Street with a positive refusal to investigate the Plymouth errors. And at this moment the most active agents of Mr. Newton are assiduously occupied amongst the members of Bethesda, in denying that Mr. Newton holds errors, and explaining and palliating his doctrines, and removing any apprehension of them from the minds of saints, and successfully occupied in it.…

I do not charge Mr. Müller with himself holding Mr. Newton’s errors. He declared that he had said there were very bad errors, and that he did not know to what they would lead. Upon what grounds persons holding them are admitted and the errors refused to be investigated, if such be his judgment, I must leave every one to determine for themselves. I only ask, Is it faithfulness to Christ’s sheep? … Members of Ebrington Street,[Newton’s meeting in Plymouth], active and unceasing agents of Mr. Newton, holding and justifying his views, are received at Bethesda; and the system which so many of us have known as denying the glory of the Lord Jesus (and that, when fully stated, in the most offensive way) and corrupting the moral rectitude of every one that fell under its power — that this system, though not professed, is fully admitted and at work at Bethesda. This has taken place in spite of its driving out a considerable number of undeniably godly brethren, whose urgent remonstrance was slighted. …

I do not desire in the smallest degree to diminish the respect and value which any may feel personally for the brethren Craik and Müller, on the grounds of that in which they have honoured God by faith. Let this be maintained as I desire to maintain it, and have maintained in my intercourse with them; but I do call upon brethren by their faithfulness to Christ, and love to the souls of those dear to Him in faithfulness, to set a barrier against this evil. Woe be to them if they love the brethren Müller and Craik or their own ease more than the souls of saints dear to Christ! …

It has been formally and deliberately admitted at Bethesda under the plea of not investigating it (itself a principle which refuses to watch against roots of bitterness), and really palliated. And if this be admitted by receiving persons from Bethesda, those doing so are morally identified with the evil, for the body so acting is corporately responsible for the evil they admit. If brethren think they can admit those who subvert the person and glory of Christ, and principles which have led to so much untruth and dishonesty, it is well they should say so, that those who cannot may know what to do. [Darby’s emphasis]. I only lay the matter before the consciences of brethren, urging it upon them by their fidelity to Christ. And I am clear in my conscience towards them. For my own part I should neither go to Bethesda in its present state, nor while in that state go where persons from it were knowingly admitted. I do not wish to reason on it here, but lay it before brethren, and press it on their fidelity to Christ and their care of His beloved saints.

Ever yours in His grace, J.N.D.

Click here for the full text.

JN Darby and the so-called Plymouth Brethren

I am often asked about John Nelson Darby and his relationship with the so-called Plymouth Brethren or Exclusive Brethren. This is a subject I can speak of only with sadness, humility and ‘eating the sin-offering’

Darby was totally opposed to sectarianism, so anything that smacked of a humanly organised church was anathema to him. He did not ‘found’ the Plymouth Brethren as such.

Why John Nelson Darby would have left the Exclusive Brethren Sect

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I am often asked about John Nelson Darby and his relationship with the so-called Plymouth or Exclusive Brethren.  This is a subject I can speak of only with sadness, humility and ‘eating the sin-offering’

Darby was totally opposed to sectarianism, so anything that smacked of a humanly organised church was anathema to him. He did not ‘found’ the Plymouth Brethren as such.

In the 1800’s a lot left the establishment and other sects and the those Christians came together in simplicity.  The term ‘brethren’ – small-B  – was used among them, and at that time Darby who was the most prominent, was in Plymouth –  hence the name.  In the course of time the Plymouth Brethren developed and what did that become?   Another sect!  I have read letters (in French) of JND in his latter days and he talked about leaving the brethren.

Taylor Hales Exclusive Brethren – the Plymouth Brethren Church

If you have read anything about the brethren you will now see a microcosm of Christendom.  At one extreme there are the Taylor-Hales Exclusive Brethren, who frankly have every feature of a sect – some say even a cult, though I would not go that far, since fundamentally they believe the simple gospel.  They have a public profile in which they now call themselves the ‘Plymouth Brethren Christian Church’ (PBCC) with hierarchical leadership, strict rules, central organization, their own schools and businesses.  They practice an extreme level of separation, for example, forbidding normal relationships between split families. Sadly money and alcohol feature widely, and they have made headlines for the wrong reasons.   This trend developed during the 1960’s when I was a boy, and I can be thankful to God to have been delivered from it in a crisis in 1970.  My wife was too.  This sect is relatively strong in UK, Australia (where it is headquartered), New Zealand, and parts of USA/Canada and West Indies. What makes me sad is to think of the number of sincere lovers of the Lord caught up there, some of whom I knew in my earlier life.  I am sure John Darby would have been heart-broken – but with his knowledge of man after the flesh, not surprised – to see what that sect has come to.  I am absolutely certain that Darby would have had nothing to do with the Plymouth Brethren Church.

Open Brethren and Others

At the other end are the Open Brethren, which in many ways are similar to the Baptists but without pastors.  Meetings are independent of one another, some stricter than others; some have embraced the charismatic movement.  They are heavily involved in missionary work.

Then sadly there are a few dozen little groups in between!  Some groups Kelly-Lowe-Glanton/Continental and Tunbridge Wells groups are quite strong in America, and the former in Continental Europe. It has been due to man’s failure that there are so many –  “I don’t agree with you so I’ll leave – and I’ll take some with my views” and division spreads with a lot of personal feeling.  That is not of God.  Oh that there could be healing!  But if we tried humanly to put groups together that would not be of God either.

Where I Stand

I can be thankful therefore, that in the goodness of God, I can enjoy happy normal Christian fellowship a few of the Lord’s people, many of which have come from other brethren groups, scattered through several countries with:  no headquarters (other than heaven), no leader (but Jesus), no written statement of beliefs (other than the Bible), and no name – (Can’t use Plymouth Brethren any longer, thank God).  I can say, that there is a general desire to be faithful to the Lord working things out simply.  Of course Satan is ever active to get us on the old human paths of human effort, legality or looseness, but the power of the Holy Spirit is felt, restraining what is wrong, and causing saints to enjoy a living ministry and amazing experience in the Service of God.

There is more about the Brethren on Wikipedia –with many inaccuracies.  Also on the site My Brethren , even if I do not concur with the editorship in everything!

All Preaching should be Lay Preaching

All preaching should be lay preaching, since scripture does not allow anything else. All men who are able, should speak in church, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Women have other ways of exercising their spiritual gifts.

On Lay Preaching

A summary of John Nelson Darby’s article On Lay Preaching – click for original.  Collected Writings Volume 1 (Ecclesiastical 1)

 

Summary

lay-preachingAll preaching should be lay preaching, since scripture does not allow anything else.  All men who are able, should speak in church, under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Women have other ways of exercising their spiritual gifts.

The Effect of the Gift of God’s Spirit

If God give His Spirit to laymen in order to preach, if the use of this gift is hindered, there is general loss and the Spirit of God is grieved.  Those who oppose lay preaching must maintain either that no laymen can have the Spirit of God in testimony, or if they have it, the sanction of man is necessary before it can be exercised.  No sanction can be proved to be necessary from Scripture; therefore, no such sanction can be granted.

The question is not, whether a layman might be qualified; but, whether as a layman he is disqualified, unless he has been, what is commonly called, ordained.   No such ordination was a qualification to preach in the early days of the church.

The question only arises as to their speaking in the church.  The only prohibition is . “Let your women keep silence in the churches” (1 Cor 14:34).  Not “Let your unordained keep silence”.  Paul says,  , “Every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.” (v.26).   Does he say nobody ought to speak except one who has been ordained? No!  He says, “For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn” (v.31).   So, women are not permitted to speak, and the rest are.   This is God’s plan of decency and order.  They are not to all speak at once, or every day, as God leads them, and gives them ability, for the edifying of the church.

Women have spiritual gifts, and directions are given for their exercise; but they are not to use them in the church.  That is out of order, and not comely.

The Early Church

It may be asserted that these were times of extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, but this is a false argument.   The Spirit of God does not break the own order that He has established.   It would be most mischievous to say He did.  Ordination breaks that order.   Indeed, I believe that the laity is the only real instrument for building up of the church:  “The Head, Christ, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, to the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph 4:16)

It was clear that in Corinth there were many teachers, all teachers in fact.  The Corinthians were warned about that, not belittling the office of teaching, but rather the effect of the imbalance; it would result in ‘greater condemnation’.  However, it was clearly not necessary to be ordained in order to teach.  Aptness to teach may be an important qualification for an elder or overseer; but it cannot be said from Scripture to be disorderly for a layman to teach in the church, if God have given him ability.

In the early days of Christianity the gospel spread rapidly.  All the Christians preached: they went everywhere preaching the word; Acts 8:4.  It was not just speaking, it was evangelising the word.” And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:21).  There was no consideration as to whether they were ordained or not.  They were all lay preachers; there were no others.

Later Apollos preached.  Far from being ordained before beginning to preach, he knew only the baptism of John.  Only later, Aquila and Priscilla took him, and expounded to him the way of God more perfectly.   In Rome, many of the brethren preached the word without fear.  And there were itinerant preachers in  2 and 3 John.

Darby said he was not attacking ordination, only the assertion that laymen ought not to speak in or preach out of the church.   He challenged any one to produce any scripture positively, or on principle, forbidding laymen to preach without episcopal, or equivalent ordination.

Even in the tabernacle system, where priestly authority was established, Joshua objected to Eldad and Medad prophesying in the camp, though they had not come up to the door of the tabernacle.  The Spirit rested upon them.  Moses said, “Would God, that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” (Num 11:29).   Subsequently, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram desired the kingship of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron.  This was their fault.   These things are typical of our dispensation.  In one sense Christ is alone as priest; in another we are all priests.  This is the dispensation of the outpouring of the Spirit, qualifying for preaching any who can do so – in a word, speaking of Jesus.

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

At Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out on the one hundred and twenty, who were assembled together, and they began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance.    Peter explained to the Jews, that it was the thing spoken of by Joel, the undistinguished pouring-out of the Spirit upon all flesh – upon people of all classes, servants and handmaidens, and their sons and their daughters prophesying.  And what has been the subsequent history?  The denial and loss of the only power of the dispensation.   The power of the Spirit, in which God would give competency to restrain evil, has been slighted; and human office has been relied on.  There has been the assumption of power, which had not been given to the church at all.   Episcopal appointment came in in order to protect orthodoxy.   However, if evil teaching exists, the remedy is not by hindering or rejecting lay preaching, but by the cordial co-operation of those who hold the truth; energetically sustained against those who do not hold the truth, whatever their office.   Thus the distinction is between truth and error, not between human office and the Spirit.  This is the most mischievous thing that the human mind could have devised.  Thankfully there are those who have been ordained who recognize the Holy Spirit, rather than their office in pursuing their ministry and do not prohibit those not ordained from exercising theirs.

Replacing the Spirit by Human Office is the most Mischievous Thing that the Human Mind could have Devised

The times call for decision; and the only thing which will withstand evil and error, is truth.  We, as saints acting under the Spirit, need to wield the truth as a common cause against error and self-will.   Then God can be with us. He must justify His own, when it is to His glory, and their blessing.   May He by His Spirit guide us into all truth!