It is a Wonderful Thing that Believers can be Maintained in the Power of the Holy Spirit in spite of the Power of the Enemy

It is to my mind a wonderful thing that believers can be maintained in the power of the Holy Spirit in spite of the power of the enemy, the power of death, and the lawlessness of man; ma

Frederick Raven

intained in all the good of God’s kingdom, which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, even while the outward conditions of things remain unchanged, and will remain until the coming of the Lord. Righteousness, peace and joy are things that characterise heaven; righteousness is in heaven, peace reigns in heaven, and joy is found in heaven. They are brought down to us in the power of the Holy Spirit, and are thus established in our hearts in spite of everything we see around us.

(F E Raven, NS vol.15 p260.)

Golden Nugget Number 381

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Darby and the Wesleyans’ Free Will

From a letter written in 1861 published in the collected Writings volume 10. Doctrinal 3.  Page 185.

The Wesleyan Doctrine

J N Darby (1800-82)

J N Darby maintained that the Wesleyan doctrine of free will was a consequence of a failure to appreciate the fact that man is entirely lost. He went as far as saying that those who believed in free will could not have a full conviction of sin. Such an idea is a perversion of Christianity

Free will belongs to the natural man. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God’ (Rom 8:7-8).

Man’s heart is so corrupted and his will so obstinate that nothing can induce him to submit to God, to receive the Lord and  abandon sin.  A godly Wesleyian feels that he must please God in his own power: he does not recognise the total fall of man, something incompatible with pure grace.

So, the question is: is the old man changed, instructed, and sanctified? or do we receive a new nature in order to be saved?


The truth is that God has shown that man is wicked, without remedy, and the cross of Christ condemns man — sin in the flesh.  Through redemption accomplished by Christ, we have a new life, eternal life, come down from heavenin His Person.  Redemption, the accomplished work of Another, loses its force when one entertains ideas of improving the old man.  Arminianism[1], or rather Pelagianism, pretends that man can choose a practical deliverance from a moral state, rather than redemption.

Philosophically and morally speaking, freewill is a false and absurd theory.  Free will is a state of sin. Acting in free will follows sin.  What cruelty it would be to propose a duty to man who has already turned to evil!

[1]The following are the main points of Arminianism according to Wikipedia:

  1. Salvation (and condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the graciously enabled faith (or unbelief) of man.
  2. Atonement is qualitatively adequate for all men, “yet that no one actually enjoys [experiences] this forgiveness of sins, except the believer …” and thus is limited to only those who trust in Christ;
  3. “That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will”, and unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will;
  4. The (Christian) Grace “of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of any good”, yet man may resist the Holy Spirit; and
  5. Believers are able to resist sin through Grace, and Christ will keep them from falling; but whether they are beyond the possibility of ultimately forsaking God or “becoming devoid of grace … must be more particularly determined from the Scriptures.”

Pelagianism is a heterodox Christian theological position that holds that the original sin did not taint human nature and that humans have the free will to achieve human perfection without divine grace. Pelagius (c.  355 – c.  420 AD), a British ascetic and philosopher, taught that God could not command believers to do the impossible, and therefore it must be possible to satisfy all divine commandments. He also taught that it was unjust to punish one person for the sins of another; therefore, infants are born blameless. Pelagius accepted no excuse for sinful behaviour and taught that all Christians, regardless of their station in life, should live unimpeachable, sinless lives

Who can I Break Bread with?

Principles of Gathering

J N Darby (1800-82)

Entitled ‘Principles of Gathering,  this is the substance of a letter by JND as to the question of who should read and her should not.  It is published in Collected Writings Volume 7 (Doctrinal 2) page 349. 

The Reception of Saints to Partake in the Table of our Lord

JN Darby raised the question is as to the reception of saints to partake in the table of our Lord with us: whether any can be admitted who are not formally and regularly amongst us[1].

Clearly, a person who is not sound in faith or ungodly in practice should be excluded. However, should a godly and sound person, not associated with a system with an ordained ministry be shut out?  Should he be excluded simply because his conscience has not been enlightened as to such wrong practices?  Simply put, sects meet on their principles, Baptist, Congregational etc.  If a believer belongs formally to such, you do not admit such.

No Membership of ‘Brethren’

There is no membership of ‘Brethren’. Membership of an assembly is unknown in Scripture.  Every case must be treated on its own merits – on the principle of being members of Christ’s body – the unity of all members.  If you say, ‘You do not belong to us, you cannot come’, the whole principle of meeting is gone.  Such a path is not of God.

Darby said that he had heard persons talking about communion services as being the table of devils. They may be sectarian, but they are not heathen alters.  This is monstrous nonsense and shows the bad state of the person who says such things.

A local assembly should always receive a person who is a true believer, and who has dissociated himself from that which is not of God. There cannot be too much care as to holiness and truth: the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of truth; but ignorance of ecclesiastical truth is not a ground of non-reception or excommunication when the conscience and walk are undefiled. 

However, if one insisted on his right to break bread with two divergent companies, he would not come in simplicity in the unity of the body. It is evil: he has no right to impose any condition on the church of God.  Such a person cannot have a pure heart.

Satan is busy, seeking to lead us one side or the other — to destroy the largeness of the unity of the body, or to make it loose in practice and doctrine.  Reception of all true saints is what gives its force to the exclusion of those walking loosely.  If a local assembly excludes those walking godlily, power is lost, for those who are godly are shut out too.

[1] I always have a little difficulty on anything that refers to ‘us’. What do we mean by ‘us’?   Applying ‘us’ to a particular group of Christians is blatantly sectarian.


James Butler Stoney (1814-1897)

I think we little comprehend what Bethany was to the Lord.  He was not only at home there because they rested in His love, but because He was understood.  Mary does two things most pleasing to Him.  She sits at His feet, hearing His word, and she anoints Him for the burying.  The one shows she appreciates His mind – what He had to unfold; the other, that the most fragrant thing in her possession goes into the tomb with Him.  This is devotedness of a double kind; it is on the one hand to receive only from Him; to have no thought, no mind but His; on the other, to declare plainly that what would distinguish me most in nature, I pass over to Him who died here.  It fills the house at Bethany with fragrance.

Golden Nugget Number 376

(J B Stoney, NS vol.12, page1)

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A Word Left on Record


It is worthy of note that the Apostle John, who was a father in a peculiarly blessed way, in addressing a word to each of the gradations in the family of God, namely, “fathers,” “young men” and “babes,” not only gives a present word to each, but also places a word on record. He says, “I write to you, fathers,” then he says, “I have written to you, fathers” (1 John 2: 13-27), suggesting to us that we need to be reminded of what has been written, as well as to take heed to the ministry of the moment.

It is a cause of deep thankfulness that in these last days of the Church’s history upon earth, God in His infinite goodness has been pleased to revive much truth that was lost to the saints during the middle ages. Some of the best of this ministry has been preserved for us in the printed page, and is still available to us. As in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the original features of the assembly, long lost, have been recovered in the power of the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of faithful men raised up for the purpose and specially sustained in the midst of severe opposition. For more than a century the Lord’s voice has been heard in ministry of a most powerful character, separating many of His own from what is unsuitable to Him both in the world and in the religious sphere, and presenting Himself as the great Head of His body, the Assembly. Truth after truth has been recovered through the living activity of the Head in ministry, using vessels qualified by Himself for this precious service. Every truth thus recovered has been challenged and bitterly opposed, for the enemy always has his servants ready for this deadly opposition. But the Lord has stood by His beloved servants and supported them, so that one position after another has been won and consolidated.

In this process of recovery, it would appear that, speaking generally, the Lord has not been pleased to go over the same ground twice, but has given a gradual development of the truth. This principle is also in accord with the Lord’s activities in the early days of the Church’s history, as recorded for us in the Acts, where a gradual and orderly development of assembly features are seen, culminating in Ephesus in chapter 20, where the full light according to all the counsel of God is announced. The Lord pursues thus His gracious activities on the assumption that previous ministries have taken effect and builds upon that. Thus, in present ministry we get the Lord’s present mind for His own, making known that which is peculiarly suited to the present movements of the testimony. Never for one moment weakening what He has previously brought to light, but rather strengthening it and adding to it.

Now if the character of previous ministry was essential for the recovery of the Assembly according to the mind of God, it is also necessary for the education of the individual saint today if he is to be intelligent as to the scope of the truth. If we are to be well balanced in the things of God, we must take heed to the word left on record as well as listen to present ministry.

  • If God has been pleased to give His children today such a legacy of edifying ministry contained in books, and seeing there are so many of them, it becomes a question of selection. In the world they have their works of record known as “classical” and “standard” works, and the classics occupy the preeminent place in the world’s libraries. Can it not be said that among the written ministry of the past century or so there are books answering to the classical works, that is, those of superlative value? I believe there are such and l think the Spirit of God would help us to select from the many books of ministry available, those which are of exceptional worth to the church of God. A spirit of honest inquiry among those who are more experienced would doubtless lead to a wise selection, the prayerful perusal of which would aid greatly to the establishment of souls.

Paul exhorts Timothy to have an outline of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13), and we would do well to take heed to this exhortation.

Scripture frequently speaks of building, for instance, “building up yourselves on your most holy faith.” (Jude 20) Building is a methodical work — first the foundation, then the principal walls and joists, then the roof, then the internal construction, and lastly the details and finishing. And cannot we gather from this the manner in which the Lord has been pleased to recover the truth in these last days? Fundamental truths were brought to light which meant a rigid separation from the world and religious evil. The great basic principles concerning the gospel and the Assembly and the future ways of God. Then the great constructive truths affecting the saints in their relations together, and now to complete this wonderful work the adornment of the house is going on.

In speaking thus, one would not for a moment lose sight of the fact that divine work in our souls is always accompanied by a suitable state. There must be individual history with God; conscience and heart must be in exercise if we are to prosper spiritually, but ministry has a great place in our spiritual development.

Before leaving this subject one word might be added; namely, that the fierce opposition of the enemy is mainly directed against anything fresh or new in ministry. Previous ministries have been established and are now beyond conflict, but the enemy is ever ready to hinder and oppose every onward movement of the testimony. One would therefore seek not only to treasure every dedicated thing which already has a place in the house of God, but be ready to stand for what the Lord may be giving in this our day.

H. W. Ellis


The Light of Another World

In the sanctuary, you get the light of another world, of which Christ is the Centre.  The apostle speaks of it, and he says, “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen” (2 Cor 4:16).   That is the holiest.  The apostle lived in the light of another world, and he held fast to it.  You learn in the sanctuary what to hold fast to.  Do you not see that what you are in touch with down here must come to an end?  You are down here in natural life, and you can thank God for all the mercies you partake of in this life, but the whole question is whether you see another world where there is no failure or decay.  Everything in this world is marked by decay, but there is not a trace of death in the holiest.  You have passed death, and you have got the sense in your souls that you belong to another scene where no death can be…It should be that you see you belong to that world, that blessed scene, in which Christ is…Christianity proposes to put you in present touch with what abides, with what will not decay, and with what we shall never lose.

(William Johnson,  Addresses and other Ministry, page 341)                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Golden Nugget Number 374                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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What is the Church, and in what sense is it now in ruin?

or, the Church cannot be Reconstructed

Based on a reading with J N Derby, London September 1847

Scriptures read: 1 Timothy 3:15, 16; 2 Timothy 2:19-22

J N Darby (1800-82)

Many dear brethren have understandably been troubled at the expression “the ruin of the church”. They jealously hold that the church cannot fail, and in one sense this is correct.  However, we must distinguish between God’s purposes and the present situation where a man is placed in responsibility. As regards the purpose of God the church cannot be ruined, a testimony for God on earth it is in ruin.

We may ask, ‘Is there a church now on earth or not?’

Well, we may say ‘Is there an army or not?’ Suppose an army is not destroyed but scattered to the four winds, there is still an army, but also there is not an army: it has lost its corporate character.

We might think that we cannot do anything about the ruin: we should just ignore it, satisfied that we are saved by grace.  We are content to live in the ruin.  That demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s promises.  I should feel it to be a very sad effect if the expression “ruin of the church” were to dishearten a soul about the operation of the Spirit in bringing blessing to the church.

God’s purpose is unfailing, so the Church cannot fail as it exists in God’s purpose.  It follows that there are the resources in God to meet the circumstances of every Christian.  Knowing this we can look beyond our failure and the simple application of faith to the working of God’s power and blessing to glorify Christ.  Having the Spirit of Christ I cannot rest in the thought that a Christian is secure in Christ, with a present relationship with Him: I must and endeavour to instruct and exhort him and lead him on.

Thankfully, the Lord is awakening in the souls of many saints everywhere the question – “What is the church of God, and what is its relationship with Christ?”  At the same time they are being awakened as to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Satan opposes this using past testimony to hinder the present.  We get tired; our minds get distracted but the Lord always has the upper hand.

There are many saints, sound in the faith, who are not prepared to accept what the church of God is as set forth in the word of God. If it is meant that all the saints ever saved will in the end be in company in glory, in redemption and life through Him, and they call that the Assembly of God, I have no objection. The second Adam will have all around Him in glory, as the first Adam had all around him in sin.  In our place we have both privileges and responsibilities.  The Church of the living God is brought into the testimony by the Spirit of God and has a special relationship to God.

The church of the living God is the body of saints formed on earth in unity with Christ in heaven as the Head, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven to form them into unity with Christ at the right hand of God.  Some say that this includes all saints since Adam. But the Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my church’ (Matt 16:18). If there is to be a testimony the church must be visible, so now it is formed of those who are alive at the present time.

We read in Ephesians that God has set Christ above all principality and power in the heavenly places, consequent on his death and humiliation. The church is in association with him in heaven.  Christ is the righteous One in glory. God has set up a people in union with Christ as their head by the power of the Holy Spirit, formed of Jew and Gentile.  We now have to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

When I look at the Church in glory, I look at it as a body securely and infallibly perfect in God.  When man fails, God brings in an alternative. Adam failed; God brought in Christ. Israel failed; God brought in the assembly.  The Jewish priesthood failed and we see the same thing in the public church. But God fulfils his thoughts in a kingly priesthood.  In the Church I see the bride of Christ engaging an affectionate relationship.

So what do we mean by the ruin of the church?  Who will shew me the manifestation of the unity of the body of Christ? I cannot find it; but I can find saints that will be saved, manifest tokens of His faithfulness, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst’ (Matt 18:20) – what blessing!  Israel failed before and after the captivity. Nevertheless, His attitude towards His people never changed.  He said, ‘Fear ye not’ (Isa 44:8).

Now bringing it down to our day we find divisions and disagreements among Christians. Does this mean that Christ loves the church less, or is less powerful?  That sorrows us, but we are not to be discouraged.  A truly humble man is not discouraged because he knows his nothingness.

Some years after my conversion I looked around to find where the church was, but I could not find it. I could find plenty of saints better than myself, but not the church set up with power on the earth.  Then I say the church as thus set up is ruined: I could not find a better word for it. The church was founded on the earth in the spirit of the new covenant, and if it fails, there is no judgment as there was with Israel as a nation. No judgment has been executed on the Church of God: we must not confound ruin with cutting off.

Obedience is the only thing in which a Christian should be rigid, it would keep us from latitudinarianism; and there should be nearness to Christ which would keep us from sectarianism.  Sectarianism is getting an interest in a little circle round ourselves

At home and abroad I find this question, What is the church of God? One says, The church is visible. What is its testimony?  Is it to Christ its heavenly Head, separate from sinners?  Another says, It is invisible. It is only invisible because in sin. The false church is visible; the true one invisible.

When in the early 1800s, a few exercised Christians separated from mainline churches, they did not take any official standing.”   Blessing followed and numbers increased. Then trouble came in, and so that their little group became their circle, not the church of the living God. People say, we have been too narrow, we must mix up a little. I cannot be that. ‘If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor’ (Gal 2:18). I desire the Church’s entire separation to Christ to whom she belongs – espoused as a chaste virgin. My feet in the narrow way – my heart as large as Christ’s.

The Church of God is responsible in walk and affection towards God, the conscience acknowledging the ruin. ‘I remember thee, the love of thine espousals’ (Jer 2:2).  Note that this is not love for Israel but the love of the state of the people. We have one sole object before our souls, Christ’s coming. If I have the spirit of the bride I shall desire the Bridegroom.  ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17).

The question arises as to how much one should  labour and pray for the restoration of the public church.  Ministry is not reconstruction.  I should feel disappointment at the thought of reconstruction: if I have the Spirit of Christ I should be sensible of the loss of suitability in the bride to Him, and wish to become fitted for Him.  The bride is looking for the Bridegroom and will seek to be purified for Him through “the washing of water by the word” (Eph 5:26), as she ought to ne.  We are for Him alone.

Reconstruction is not the object of pursuit. E man might have a desire to be in God’s service.  Howeever, if he has not entirely God’s object, he will succeed, but it will be something else, like the real thing, but quite another thing. Paul had to admit that he did not succeed when he said, ‘All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ (Phil 2:21).  When a man has God’s object, and is thoroughly working for God, he must be a man of sorrows. Paul never got the faith of his fellow labourers nor the church up to his own.

Now I must guard against any thought that I undervalue order. Subjection to the Spirit of God is shown in subjection to what the Spirit of God gives.  I am not pursuing that as an object; I am looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Still, I do not doubt but that all my service to the saints down here will come in as ministry.

The Christians’ place is to submit themselves to authorities which exist

Charles Coates 1862 – 1945.

  It is important to observe that there are no instructions to believers as to how they should exercise authority in the world. The Christians’ place is to submit themselves to authorities which exist. They have nothing to do with establishing the authorities; they recognise them as set up by God. We are exhorted to subject ourselves to the authorities and to pray for them (1 Timothy 2), but we have no instructions to vote for them. To vote is to take the place of deciding what the powers shall be; it is really to join with others in ruling the world. But the Christian is here to confess that all the rights of rule pertain to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to wait in patience for Him to come and take up His rights. And in the meantime to be in subjection to the powers that exist in the ordering of God, and to honour them as God’s ministers.

(C A Coates)

Golden Nugget Number 373

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I am old and I hope living more with Christ and in the Father’s love

I get on feeling I am old, and as to my body, worn out, but through mercy my mind is as fresh as ever, judging I trust all evil in me, past and present, more earnestly than ever, but finding unutterable goodness and mercy even there, and I hope living more with Christ and more in the Father’s love.  But I find intercession weak in me, though I know I love His people.  For Himself, He stands alone, and grace above us all.  Still, I should like to be more like Him, more with Him.  Even my work absorbs me too much.  The steam, so to speak, in propelling the vessel along.  Still, He helps and sustains; and I find when…a moment is there—oh! How sweet it is—the steam is there and rises up in unbounded thankfulness to unbounded grace, by grace revealed, and goodness that never fails. 

J N Darby (1800-82)

(J N Darby, aged 70, Letters Vol. 2 p64)                                                                                                                            

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The Knowledge of God

Frederick Raven (1837-1903)

No man can teach you the knowledge of God.  God may use teachers—apostles or what not—to guard and guide you in a way; but you can be confident that as to the true knowledge of God no one can teach you short of God Himself, that is, the Spirit of God.  Hence, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit has been pleased to take the place of the truth down here, not objectively like Christ, but subjectively, that the saints may have the gain of the revelation which God has given of Himself in the only-begotten Son.  Christ has communicated the Spirit to be living water in the believer—a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

(F E Raven,  NS vol. 15 p129