J N Darby – French Letter No. 117 – Universalism and Annihilation

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

London – 2nd March 1878
To Mr P

Very dear Brother,
I bless God with all my heart that those to whom you have been a blessing are standing firm. It is a true subject of joy, especially in these times when there is so much seed that falls into the stony ground and, I fear indeed, where the seed itself does not grow well. It is a time when we have to be much before God so that he may take care of the work Himself, and act in souls so that the work should be solid. However, it is a time of blessing. The desire to hear the Word is striking, and conversions too are not lacking. Ecclesiastical institutions are shaken, and there is unrest everywhere, but the work of God develops, and the unrest makes more seek God and the truth. The shaking of everything also turns hearts more towards the coming of the Saviour, but unbelief takes the high ground. However, I have a slight feeling that there is a certain reaction in the spirit of good people, but this open unbelief invades every country.

I have examined the pretensions of its promoters; I have found them to be based on a bottomless quagmire of doubts. The two principal points are the denial of inspiration, and either annihilation or a fresh upsurge of universalism; annihilation being the game of the mind of man who does not submit to the word of God. This is reproduced in a way to capture the light and lazy minds of women, people disposed to please themselves and to take away the authority of the word of God, or even to appear amiable towards those who are formally opposed. Universalism is fundamentally a question of the estimate which we make of sin, and in consequence of redemption and what it has cost the Lord to make take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; in this way, Christianity is entirely taken away, responsibility in its true character, repentance, expiation. An animal, whatever intelligence it has, has no need of expiation; it does not have a nature which hates the Lord. Universalism, like annihilation, equally destroys Christianity and the conviction of the evil of sin in the soul. The important thing for us, dear brother, is that we should be more with the Lord as to the work; then the work goes from Him in the soul and it is for Him. Let us not be frightened by the progress of evil; He is above all, He has been there in His humiliation; He is there now that He is glorified; only He exercises our souls through the difficulties that we have to pass through. I desire much to see souls exercised before the Lord. They may not walk badly, but the soul is not exercised before Him, there is something superficial; they are always in danger, temptations even are not resisted which may arise, they do not know the Saviour very much; they do not depend much on Him in a practical way. I always say there are three men in me; Christ at bottom, otherwise I am not a Christian; then an outward walk where there is nothing to reproach me; but between these two things, what occupies me all day inwardly, that is to say where my motives are, my thoughts? Is my heart a beaten path, trodden by all the comings and goings, even by the follies of my own heart? It is there that the real state of the Christian is found. Oh! that we may occupied of Christ! May He dwell in our hearts by faith , and that, in our discussions with others, this may flow from its source. Thus also we are rooted and founded in love. Things are happy, there is communion one with another; an assembly may even suffer, but they find patience and support there; hearts refer to Christ in everything; they consider one another for provoking to love and good works .

Remember, dear brother, that there is a work of self-knowledge which is absolutely necessary for rest of soul; a work where it is not a matter of redemption, although things are often mixed in experience; but, assuming that the redemption is known, it is always necessary to know oneself, and while showing, as in the case of the thief, that the blood of Christ has made us fit for the inheritance of the saints in light , in general God leads us through the wilderness to humble us, to prove us, to make us know what there is in our hearts . If redemption is not clearly realised, this work is mixed with the thought of acceptance; if it is realised, it is a painful sounding of the heart so that all should be brought into the light. If one is always manifested to God, as one will be before the judgment seat of Christ, then the atmosphere of the soul is clear, the air serene without cloud. His loving kindness is better than life . It may be that God chastens us along the way if, when we fail, we do not judge ourselves. Sometimes, one sees a soul labouring deeply on a death bed, when Satan draws near to torment them, in making them look over their whole life in which motives have not been judged, but that is a matter of God’s ways, not of His own settled purpose (see Exod 3, 6, 15). These understand the redemption and glory as Christ and with Christ, according to His sovereign grace, at the end of the wilderness. He did not see iniquity in Jacob, nor wrong in Israel . But Moses saw nothing else. It is a question of self-judgment, being always manifested to God, walking in its presence, having the consciousness of it, this is what holds our conscience on the alert.
… Salute the brethren affectionately on my behalf
Yours affectionately in Jesus
______________

Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.

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