J N Darby – French Letter No. 102 – What Influences there are in America

To Mr P

Beloved Brother,

… As to Switzerland, I spoke of general needs. There are only three brothers in the work full-time, who do what they can, and various other brothers, each in his locality. Otherwise, it does not go badly. Along la Broye[1] there had been disagreements; at all times it was unhealthy there; but what was faithful became more solid than before. It is not less true there that they greatly need workers. I did not see the booklet of Mr G; he sent it to London and informed me of it, but this type of literature does not follow me here.

As to Bethesda, the matter is very simple. As Mr Newton had taught his blasphemies and had a chapel built, Bethesda received people who made a party of it, even people who held his doctrines, then had used all sort of fraudulent procedures to hide the fact, but preferred to see about forty faithful brethren leave their company, rather than not receive these people: it was a definite party.

But the principle went much further and one sees its effects everywhere. In America, it is a matter of the immortality of the soul. The neutrals, as one calls them in England, who come here, join themselves without difficulty to the meetings which deny the immortality of the soul, and basically as a consequence the value of the atonement. They say: ‘they are Christians’, and that suffices them. A person paid by Bethesda in Canada openly defended the doctrines of Mr Newton, and some here propagate them. They are not of Bethesda, but walk in their ways and approve of them. The question is this: Is the truth necessary as well as grace? One among them, a man active on this side of the Atlantic, and who is come from the neutrals in England, has said to me: What is the truth? There is no certain truth that one can require of others. He was in full communion with those who deny the immortality of the soul and who propagated this doctrine, while saying that he did not have part in their views – now he is gone to present himself to the brethren in Toronto as one of my friends, for this system is altogether the ruin of integrity and doctrine. I believe that Mr R has translated the pamphlet of Mr T, Bethesda in 1857[2]. For my part, I have never published anything on it. But Bethesda has gone back into the circle of worldly Christendom.

I have been in the West, where there are several good places; the doors are opened among those who speak French. The work makes some progress and the brethren begin to know one another; but it is a drop of water in a lake. However, the testimony is there and propagates itself.

Here in New York, all is bound up in commerce; Christians are all become worldly, some exceptions apart, and these complain. They openly approve of balls, theatres, and the members of churches go there habitually. It is a moral stampede of which one can have no idea. You have to be a member of a church, that is respectable, and it is no longer a matter of conversion whichever one it is. We have a small meeting at present, composed of faithful people, although feeble, perhaps twenty-five in all, but it is a resource for those who come, and a testimony for those who seek – weak and of little account, but where one walks apart from the world. In Boston, a meeting also exists; less numerous, but more American, and if I do not make a mistake, the doors a little more open; at least there are more relations with people of the place. I also develop this in New York, but I am only in transit there.

In Canada, in two or three places, there is some movement of the Spirit of God, among others, among the Red Indians; there are more than twenty breaking bread. Apart from this, things are stationary, but the brethren in general go on well. There also labourers are lacking. It is devotion which makes the lack everywhere. For my part, I am convinced that there are indeed hidden gifts, which would be exercised if there were more faith. In the end, it is to Jesus that one must look. Down here, all passes and changes, we know it; but we need to look to Him so that the heart should be confirmed in its walk. “In that I now live in flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me”[3]. With this, everything is simple, and soon the moment will come when the life of faith in Jesus, the life of Christ in us, will be all that we will remember to have been real. All the rest will have been only ‘walking by what concerns appearance[4]’. It is ever clearer that the Lord is our all, and soon, thank God, He will be definitely our all. In the meantime it is faith; only faith that works. He sometimes encourages us; He exercises our patience at other times. For faith, all is clear; then looking for self disappears. Besides, He feeds us and cherishes as a man his own flesh. Let us keep near to Him. All the great truths which He has taught us become ever more precious to me, and His Word has an infinite prize to me, the only true and divine thing in a world of lies, if it is not yet the life of Christ in His own, but often – alas! – mixed indeed!

I am not thinking of staying here longer. In remaining here, I would have opened doors, they open anew, but God calls me elsewhere.

Peace be to you, and communion – much communion – with the Lord

Your very affectionate brother

PS        I have very good news of the brethren in England.

[1] One of the seven districts of the Canton of Fribourg.

[2] W Trotter: ‘Bethesda in September 1857; or, An Answer to the Question, Why do you still stand apart from Bethesda?’ – York – 17th September 1857


[3] Gal 2: 20

[4] 2 Cor 10: 7

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