The original article by J. N. Darby was entitled ‘Reflections on Mixed Marriages’ and is in Darby’s Collected Writings, vol. 16 (Practical 1) p.171)
A young Christian lady, Miss A., accepted an offer of marriage from a worldly unbeliever. She tried to hide this from both her family and the Christian assembly she attended. However a brother from that assembly heard about the attachment, and spoke kindly to her, warning her of the sorrow that could ensue from such an unequal yoke. She persisted with the course she was on, and left home to live with a Christian friend. The friend was surprised at her request to facilitate the relationship, knowing that her fiancé was an unbeliever. However, shortly thereafter she fell ill with a violent fever, and admitted that this was the chastening of the Lord. She died three days later, having been convicted of what she had been doing. She died full of joy, and in complete self-judgment.
The following might have been from a word given at her funeral by JND. I don’t know. Here is a summary.
God can interfere in discipline to free His children from the sad spiritual consequences of their unfaithfulness. This young lady clearly knew she was acting against the will of God. But she did not know how, or have the strength, to stop. God was forced to take her away from this world, to keep her from a sin which she did not desire to commit, nor which she had not the strength to resist.
God knows the influence that the world has over the Christian’s heart – it appears amiable. Those, who are near Christ, are shielded in grace from its influence. Satan is at war with the believer, surprising us when we are not on our guard. He transforms himself into an angel of light, appealing to our worldly feelings and desires. When we are clothed with whole armour of God, resisting the devil is not the problem, because Christ has already overcome him. But he snares us, and we have to know our hearts, and discover the traps that he has set. A heart that is simple and occupied with the Lord, escapes many things which trouble the peace of those who are not near Him. But the troubled and tormented soul finds complete joy and restoration in the saving grace of the One that he has so foolishly forgotten. The Lord knows how to deliver as well as having compassion on us.
Two principles regulate the ways of God with regard to us.
- God keeps our hearts to cause them to see what His purpose is.
- Christ intercedes for us with respect to our infirmities.
You have to understand the big difference between weakness and will. Both hinder us, but God distinguishes one from the other. “The word of God … is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12). Nothing, not one thought, is concealed from Him. His word is simple, plain, and clear; it speaks in your conscience: do you hear it? Or are you foolishly deluding yourself, feeding upon the illusions that you cherish? Are you resisting God, and provoking Him to jealousy? You cannot escape: He has a hold over your conscience, and will never give it up.
God could have left you to yourself. He could have left you to experience very humiliating failures. With Israel God said, ‘Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone’ (Hosea 4:17). What punishment! What chastening it is to be left alone by God. But our God does not deprive us of the light of His countenance and the sweetness of His communion. He reaches us by His word, in order that our consciences may see things as He sees them. Christ has loved us so much that He humbled Himself even to death for us. Stop, poor soul, and ask yourself if your proposed intention is agreeable to Christ, the One who gave Himself for you to save you? He has your salvation at heart; He loves you, and does not desire that you should suffer the terrible discipline consequent on the folly of following your own will. God desires that you should not lose the enjoyment of His communion. He is full of mercy and has compassion on us and on our weaknesses. However, He is tender and pitiful in His ways; but remember that if we are determined to follow our own will, God knows how to break it. God is not mocked, and what a man sows he will reap; see Gal. 6:7. The worst of all God’s chastenings is that He should leave us to follow our own ways.
He warns His children by His word. If they do not listen, He intervenes in His power to stop them. He can then bless them. See Job 33:14-30. There was a bad state in Corinth; some of them were sick and others had even died. But Paul says, ‘If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.’ (1 Cor. 11:31). God is a consuming fire, and, when the moment of judgment is come, it begins at His house. (See 1 Peter 4:17). I do not doubt that a large part (not all) of the sickness and trials of Christians are chastenings sent by God because of things that are evil in His sight. We have neglected our consciences, and God has been forced to produce in us the effect which self-judgment ought to have produced. Things may need to be corrected so that we may live more in communion with God and glorify Him in all the details of our lives.
So as to our sad matter, it is absolutely impossible that a Christian should allow him or herself to marry a worldly person, without violating every obligation towards God and towards Christ. If a child of God allies himself to an unbeliever, it is evident that he leaves Christ out of the question, and that he does so voluntarily in the most important event of his life. He has chosen to live without Christ; he has abandoned Christ and refused to listen to Him. He has deliberately preferred to do his own will and exclude Christ, rather than to give up his own will in order to enjoy Christ and His approval. What a fearful life-long decision it is, to settle to choose an enemy of the Lord’s for a companion! The influence of such a union will draw a Christian back into the world. The end of those things is death. (Rom 6:21). The fact is, that unless the sovereign grace of God comes in, the Christian man or woman will always yield and enter little by little upon a worldly walk. Nothing is more natural. The worldly man has only his worldly desires. The Christian, besides his Christianity, has the flesh. Now he must abandon his Christian principles, and please his flesh, if he is to unite himself to one who does not know the Lord. And it cannot be a happy union; they will have nothing but quarrels – ‘How can two walk together except they be agreed?’ (Amos 3:3). He will have sacrificed his conscience, his Saviour and his soul to honour and/or money. His will is unrestrained, and he will have given up communion with his Saviour.
We see in the sad case of our young friend, that the discipline brought her to a judgment of self and the flesh. In her weakness, she laid down her burden at the feet of Jesus. She sought strength in Him alone. She accepted in her heart that she was only sin, that Christ was perfect righteousness, and God was perfect love. Though she distrusted herself, I do not think that the young lady had been stripped of self. Many Christians are in this condition. When we come to a knowledge of how deceitful and treacherous the flesh is, Christ has a larger place in the heart, and there is more calm, and less self.
Before she was entangled in her affection, our young friend would have shrunk with horror from the idea of the action she planned. Her heart had abandoned God; it dreaded man more even than God. God loved Miss A. and she really loved God. But God had to remove her from this world, because she did not have the courage to return to the right path. God took her to Himself. She died in peace, and through pure grace she triumphed.
What a solemn lesson it is for those who wish to depart from God and His holy word, to satisfy an inclination which it would have been easy to overcome at first, but which, when cherished in the heart, becomes tyrannical and fatal! May God grant to the reader of these lines, and to all His children, to seek His presence day by day.