J N Darby – French Letter No. 132 – Local Administration

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

1862

To Mr B

Beloved Brother

I have just received your letter. I bless God with all my heart that He has strengthened you in body and soul. He is always faithful, always God; one can always count upon Him, whatever may be. His love does not change; He always thinks of us – a marvellous thing, but true – and counts the hairs of our head. It is marvellous indeed that the God of glory enters into all the details of our life, and always in view of our blessing. “He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous”[1], and everything contributes good to those who love Him[2].   I ask you to greet Mrs B affectionately. May God also bless your little boy; it is a worry no doubt in this world, but a worry that God, if we confide in Him, can take, and take in fact as an occasion to prove anew His faithfulness and His goodness. May God accord to you both to be faithful and to know to look up to Him.

As to what concerns the history of St, I see it a little differently to what I have been told. Our dear brother F has told me some details of what has taken place. I do not envisage the position of these sisters as an excommunication. The assembly alone could excommunicate; but when they said to some that they do not want to come to the assembly, they were free to state their feelings and those of other people, if they authorised them to say so. I do not say it was a wise thing according to God, but they were free to express their feeling as being their feeling; if it is the flesh which has produced this feeling, it is clear that it was not according to God. But I believe that it is not [within] the competence of a brother or a sister to withdraw from the assembly and to come back at their whim. The assembly must have its word to say about this. It may be that the one who has absented themselves has committed all sorts of sins during their absence. Thus as to those who stand apart, the assembly must say if it can receive them, as also an individual who may want to return. I hope, I would like to say I have good hope that this will happen, that the assembly will be blessed and restored by grace; it will be if it walks in humility and in a spirit of dependence on grace. If grace acts in the heart of these sisters, they will judge what has been the flesh in them. It may be that N having had the habit of directing a lot, there has been a lack of spiritual know-how with him.

Your part, I am sure, is to work according to grace and to communicate to souls what God gives you for them, while nourishing your own soul. Besides, it is what is much more useful for the assembly itself. I doubt that it would be the will of God to deny a souls the Supper because they are in a bad state. The word says that one examines oneself and eats; but if I saw a soul in a state of conscience that sin would have produced and did not know what it was, I could, it seems to me, imagine the case where I could counsel the person to abstain until it was clear. However, as a general rule, one cannot exclude souls provisionally, and it would only be in a particular case that I could even give such counsel. Pastoral care is the remedy which a soul in a bad state must have, and not temporary exclusion. This care is lacking a little sometimes among the brethren, and often expedients are turned to. I think that strangers were people who were not of the locality, principally brethren and in particular the Lord’s workmen (perhaps others too), towards whom the assembly exercised hospitality. Diotrephes would not do it[3]. You can see that the second epistle of John warns the elect lady not to receive those who did not bring sound doctrine as to the Person of Christ; the third encourages Gaius in his hospitality. I think that these are Christians in general (as approving hospitality in general – cf Heb 13: 2) because of what follows. The “who have given testimony” in v 6 applies to v 5 in general – (some read it: the brethren and even those [among them] who come from outside); vv 7 and 8 show that he had the workmen principally in view, for thus they worked together with the truth. Diotrephes did not want to receive them, desiring to have the assembly for himself, and broke the link with the apostle and all the brethren.

As to the word ‘Gentiles’ – your Diodati[4] links these words: “are gone out” with “from among the Gentiles”. He translates thus: “They are gone out from among the Gentiles for His Name, without receiving anything”.

This translation is not received by the majority; however there are some very acceptable names that accept it. I think that John, like Peter, was still much attached to the Jewish cradle of Christianity. Thus, in 1 John 2: 2 he says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours alone, but also for the whole world”. Paul himself often speaks [thus], as in Galatians 3 and Ephesians 3, where “we” refers to the Jews, “you” to the Gentiles” and “we” afresh of Christians. I think it is more often a matter of Gentile believers than of unbelievers, but it could well be that these men had not wanted to receive anything from their parents. The apostles considered the Jews (even unbelievers) as brethren, not in the Christian sense but nationally; Paul spoke thus in his discourses. The Gentiles were only Gentiles; it could well be that Diotrephes did not want to receive workmen from among them. The workmen had to be received, and it was a title accorded to Christians of the Jewish race who had not wanted to receive anything from the Gentiles, or their parents, unbelievers or otherwise.

Farewell, beloved brother, may our good and faithful Father, full of love, be with you, encourage you and sustain you near to Him. In the enjoyment of the love of Jesus, one is always well, always encouraged.

Greet the brethren affectionately everywhere you go – may those in St cultivate peace, being tranquil and seeking above all to grow in the grace of Jesus.

Your very affectionate brother

 

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.

[1] Job 36: 7

[2] See Rom 8: 38

[3] This is a discussion about 3 John – the strangers are those referred to in v 5, and Diotrephes is in v 9

[4] Giovanni Diodati or Deodati (6 June 1576-3 October 1649) was a Swiss-born Calvinist theologian and translator. He was the first translator of the Bible into Italian from Hebrew and Greek sources. He also undertook a translation of the Bible into which appeared with notes in 1644 – Wikipedia

J N Darby – Lettre No. 95

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

Dublin, 1861
A M. P.
Bien-aimé frère,
…J’en viens à vos questions :
1° Je crois qu’il est très fâcheux qu’un frère fasse part de ses pensées, en public, sur des questions ou des choses où il ne connaît pas la pensée de l’assemblée. Au reste, en général, à moins que cela ne soit nécessaire pour avertir, les questions ne devraient pas être amenées devant le public.
2° Ensuite, la question de réception est souvent mal posée. Nous ne sommes pas un corps volontairement associé, mais dans la mesure où nous pouvons l’être, un rassemblement des membres du corps de Christ, un rassemblement des siens, opéré par le Saint-Esprit. Nous ne recevons pas des personnes au milieu de nous pour prendre la cène avec nous ; Christ a dû les recevoir, nous les reconnaissons, étant responsables de garder la sainteté de la table du Seigneur et la vérité de Dieu. Les reconnaître, c’est une affaire de confiance, et qui dépend du témoignage que nous avons de leur vie. Il ne s’agit plus de délibération pour les recevoir, une fois que leur christianisme est constaté, sans en excepter la sainteté et la vérité; car l’Esprit qui conduit les enfants de Dieu est l’Esprit de vérité et l’Esprit Saint. Ils ont droit, dans ce cas, à la table. Reste encore la discipline. En des cas douteux, il est très à désirer que la conscience de toute l’assemblée soit au clair et ainsi au large; mais si l’homme est chrétien, connu comme tel, ou assez connu de quelque personne grave, pour que le témoignage de celle-ci soit une garantie du christianisme de celui qui désire prendre la cène, à mon avis il ne faut pas autre chose. Seulement, il est bon de le nommer devant l’assemblée, et en tout cas de le mentionner à quelques membres graves de la réunion, si l’on n’a pas de temps pour en parler davantage. C’est donc une affaire de témoignage suffisant, car il s’agit de maintenir un esprit de confiance entre tous. Si celui qui présente une âme nouvelle est un chrétien jeune ou léger, il vaudrait mieux que son témoignage fût appuyé par quelques chrétiens qui eussent plus de discernement. On devrait se réjouir de voir arriver de nouvelles âmes, mais on devrait veiller en même temps à ce que la vérité et la sainteté fussent sauvegardées.
3° Il me semble que, si quelqu’un qui ne rompt pas le pain parle dans l’assemblée où l’on rompt le pain, c’est un très grave désordre. Un homme qui se sépare à tort de l’assemblée de Dieu, n’est pas dans le cas de l’instruire quand elle est réunie. Cela n’empêche pas, personnellement en dehors de la réunion. Je reconnais ainsi son don comme membre du corps, mais lui renie cette position si, quand le corps est réuni, dans la mesure où cela peut se réaliser, il ne veut pas y prendre place.
Je ne trouve aucune difficulté en 1 Tim.1 v.13. Premièrement, ce passage n’affaiblit pas une foule de déclarations, voire même de préceptes, relatifs à l’exercice des dons, qui font de cet exercice un devoir pour celui qui possède le don. Ensuite, Timothée n’était nullement un ministre local, ce qu’on appelle un ministre établi ; il accompagnait l’apôtre, ou le remplaçait en des services exigeant quelqu’un qui fût pénétré de l’esprit de l’apôtre, et pleinement informé de ses voies. La prophétie, paraît-il, avait désigné Timothée (1 Tim.1 v.18) ; Paul lui avait imposé les mains (2 Tim.1 v.6) ; ensuite, le corps des anciens lui avait imposé les siennes, pour le recommander à la grâce de Dieu ; l’apôtre lui rappelle, comme motif, toutes ces choses, la prophétie par laquelle Dieu l’avait désigné, et la sanction des anciens qui, en ayant eu connaissance, l’ont ainsi recommandé à Dieu. Ainsi Paul lui-même avait été désigné par la prophétie, et ceux qui étaient les prophètes à Antioche lui avaient imposé les mains, afin de le recommander à la grâce de Dieu pour l’œuvre à laquelle il avait été appelé : telle est l’expression de la parole. Mais Timothée n’a jamais été un ministre établi sur un troupeau. Je crois pour ma part qu’il peut y avoir (et il y en a) des personnes consacrées à l’œuvre et qui exercent leur ministère régulièrement s’appliquant constamment à l’œuvre. Si quelqu’un était désigné par la prophétie pour cette tâche, je ne ferais aucune objection à l’imposition des mains des anciens, s’il y en a. Il est probable, si l’Esprit agissait de la sorte, que les anciens ne tarderaient pas à se retrouver. Je ne ferais même aucune difficulté à ce que, dans la pratique, les frères anciens le fissent – abstraction faite du clergé et de l’établissement des ministres qui est l’œuvre de l’ennemi. Je ne vois rien qui empêcherait de recommander un ouvrier à la grâce de Dieu, en lui imposant les mains en vue d’une œuvre particulière à laquelle il serait appelé. Cela pourrait se répéter chaque fois qu’il devrait entreprendre une œuvre nouvelle ; mais on en a fait une consécration pour arrêter la libre action du Saint-Esprit. Dès lors, c’est une abomination et de la rébellion contre Dieu.
Je ne suis nullement d’accord avec le Messager au sujet de 2 Cor.5 v.3, mais c’est une affaire d’interprétation, de sorte que cela ne me trouble pas. D’après ce que vous dites, l’auteur n’a pas compris le passage ; voilà tout. La force du passage est pour moi très claire. Le mot xxxx (mot en grec dans le texte) met en relief une condition, et le mot xxx y ajoute de la force : nous jouirons de ce dont nous avons parlé – pourvu que, bien entendu, nous supposions que, dans ce cas même où nous sommes revêtus [du corps], nous ne soyons pas trouvés nus [à l’égard du Christ], car dans ce dernier cas, ce serait tout autre chose que la gloire.
Dans ce pays, l’œuvre du Seigneur se poursuit d’une manière remarquable. A Dublin, le nombre des frères a beaucoup augmenté ; il y a un certain nombre d’aimables jeunes hommes, vivants et heureux, quelques-uns louent des chambres pour prêcher dans les mauvais quartiers de la ville (il y a 300’000 habitants), et il y a des conversions continuelles. Avant-hier soir, cinq auditeurs, sur une vingtaine, ont reçu la paix. Je tiens des réunions, souvent deux fois par jour ; une quantité de personnes, des messieurs et des dames aussi, sont profondément attentives ; des gens nobles et riches se convertissent à la campagne, et quittent souvent le nationalisme. Il y a un mouvement remarquable de l’Esprit de Dieu. Cela se fait en dehors des frères; mais partout les principes sur lesquels les frères ont insisté se reproduisent, et pour les grandes réunions où les âmes se convertissent, tout a été organisé sous sa forme actuelle par des frères, au moins par des personnes imbues de leurs principes, un peu trop relâchées pour être admises parmi nous, mais qui suivent en quelque mesure les mêmes principes tout en allant partout. Les livres des frères aussi sont lus. On s’aperçoit bien qu’il y a moins de ce qui est sûr et solide ; mais l’énergie de la vérité pénètre néanmoins et se fait jour.
Que Dieu nous garde près de lui, cher frère, heureux que Christ soit prêché partout, et fermes dans les principes et dans la marche que Christ enseigne, la parole de la patience. Il faut savoir être petit, et il en vaut la peine ; mais lui est toujours grand.
Saluez D. et tous les frères.
Votre tout affectionné.

J N Darby – French Letter No. 95 – Extract – Christian Assembly Order

It seems to me that, if somebody who does not break the bread speaks in the assembly where the bread is broken, it is a very serious disorder. A man who separates himself wrongfully from the assembly of God is not in the position to instruct it as to its being reunited. That does not hindering his doing so outside of the meeting. I recognise what he has as a member of the body, but this position is disavowed to him if, when the body is reunited, as far as it can be reunited, he does not want to take his place in it.

Dublin 1861

To Mr P
Beloved brother

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

It seems to me that, if somebody who does not break the bread speaks in the assembly where the bread is broken, it is a very serious disorder. A man who separates himself wrongfully from the assembly of God is not in the position to instruct it as to its being reunited. That does not hindering his doing so outside of the meeting. I recognise what he has as a member of the body, but this position is disavowed to him if, when the body is reunited, as far as it can be reunited, he does not want to take his place in it.

I find no difficulty in 1 Tim 1:13. Firstly this passage does not weaken a load of statements, and even of principles relative to the exercise of gift, more it makes the exercise of the gift a duty to the one who has it. Then, in no way was Timothy a local minister, what you would call an established minister: he accompanied the apostle and succeeded him in the necessary services being someone who was imbued with the spirit of the apostle and fully informed as to his ways. Prophecy, it would appear, had predesignated Timothy (See 1 Tim 1:18) . Paul had placed his hands on him (2 Tim 1:6) , afterwards the body of the elders had put their own hands on him, to commend him to God. The apostle reminds him, with reason, both of these things: prophecy by which God had designated him, and the sanction of the elders, who knowing him, commended him to God. Paul himself was predesignated according to prophecy, and those who were at Antioch laid their hands on him, to commend him to the grace of God for the work for which he had been called: that is the expression in the word . But Timothy was never an established minister over a flock. I believer for my part that there can be (and there are) persons consecrated to the work and who exercise their ministry constantly applying themselves to the work. If someone were designated by prophecy for this task, I would have no objection to the laying on of hands by the elders, if there are any. It is probable that if the Spirit acted in this way that the elders would soon be found. I do not have any difficulty about that which in practice the older brothers do – disregarded by the clergy who establish ministers, which is the work of the enemy. I see nothing which hinders the commending of a labourer to the grace of God in laying on of hands with a view to the particular work to which he has been called. This could be repeated each time he had to undertake a new work; but if one has made a consecration to impede the free action of the Holy Spirit, then it is an abomination and a rebellion against God.

I do not agree at all with the Messager about 2 Cor 5:3, but that is a matter of interpretation, so that does not trouble me. According to what you say, the author did not understand the passage; that’s all. The force of the passage is very clear to me. The word xxxx(Greek word in text) puts a condition into relief, and the word xxx adds strength to it – we enjoy what we have spoken about, provided that, of course we suppose that in the state itself in which we are reclothed (the body) we are not found naked (as regards Christ), for otherwise that would be something other than glory.

In this country the work of the Lord pursues a remarkable course. In Dublin the number of brethren has increased a lot, there are a number of nice young men, lively and happy, some of them renting rooms in the bad parts of the city (There are 300,000 inhabitants) and there are continual conversions. The evening before last, five listeners out of about twenty received peace. I often have two meetings a day: quite a number of people – ladies and gentlemen -are very attentive. In the country some of the nobility and well-to-do have been converted and often have left the Church of Ireland. It is a remarkable movement of the Spirit of God. This is outside of the brethren, but everywhere the principles that the brethren have upheld are being reproduced, and in large gatherings where souls are being converted, things are being organised in the actual way the brethren do it, at least by persons who are embued with their principles – maybe a bit loose to be admitted amongst us, but they follow in some way the same principles whilst going anywhere. They read the brethren’s books. One perceives at lest that there is that which is sure and solid, but the energy of the truth is nonetheless penetrating and it is as light as day.

May God keep us close to Himself dear brother, happy that Christ is preached everywhere, and firm in the principles and walk in the way that Christ teaches. We must know what it is to be small – it is worth it – but He is always great.

Greet D and all the brethren

Yours most affectionately

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.