J N Darby – French Letter No. 141 – The Present State of the Church

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

141[1]

London – 22nd November 1870

To Mr B

Dear Brother

You ask me for some words on the apostasy. I do not hold to the word apostasy. It expresses rather the public denial of Christianity, which abandons the principles by those who make profession of it. But fundamentally, the matter itself is of all importance for the heart and for the conscience. As long as this word is not applied to Romish sectarians, there would be no trouble in using it, but when it is realised that, if this decline of Christendom has come about, the consequence of it would be universal, one begins taking exception to the use of the word. The open apostasy has not yet come, but rather the abandonment of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit, the substitution of the clergy’s authority over the immediate rights of the Lord over the conscience; the degeneration of justification by faith, the efficacy of sacraments in place of the work of the Holy Spirit. In a word, the full development of the mystery of lawlessness is preceded by an abandonment of the first estate of the church and the principles on which it is founded, which is a moral apostasy. John says, “ye have heard that antichrist comes, even now there have come many antichrists, whence we know that it is the last hour”[2]. Thus, the apostasy has not come in the sense of a public renunciation of Christianity, [but rather] of the Word, and of Christ Himself, which characterises the majority of the population of Western Europe. It is rationalism properly speaking, and the spirit of rebellion that accompanies it. Men’s minds have no place for the word of God, the authority of which is no longer accepted; the will of man no longer desires the authority of Christ. If the antichrist is not already there, antichrists have existed for a long time; if the apostasy is not there, the spirit of the apostasy has already taken over the minds of men a long time.

I say that the thing is serious. If the assembly – for the word church confounds us a lot, since it begs the question what the church is – if the assembly of God does not keep its first estate, if it has said: “My Lord delays to come”[3], and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and to drink and to be drunken; there has been a long time, centuries, when it has done this, and it will be cut in two and have its part with the hypocrites. It is said that Christ built His assembly on the rock, and that the gates of hades will not prevail against it. I believe it, thanks be to God, with all my heart. But that has nothing to do with our question. Certainly, what Christ built will not be overthrown by the enemy; but it is a matter of what man has built. It is not the same there. Paul says, “as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation, but another builds upon it. But let each see how he builds upon it”[4]. Here the responsibility of man comes in for something – in a certain sense for all – into the question of the building. It is indeed God’s building, as the apostle says, but put up under man’s responsibility; a present thing on the earth. It is not about the salvation of individuals, but of the state of the system in which these individuals are found. When the end of Judaism under the first covenant had come about, pious souls, believers, were transferred into the church – God had finished for ever with the first system. At the end of the Christian system, the faithful will be transported to heaven, and judgment will come finally on the system from which they have previously come; nothing is simpler. The old world has perished: Noah and his own were saved. The judgment of a system does not affect God’s faithfulness; it is only to put it into evidence in showing that He keeps His own, even if all that encircles them collapses under the weight of His judgment. But can there be anything more serious than the judgment of what God established on the earth, for it is a hard thing to His heart; if Jesus could weep over Jerusalem, how much should His own not be moved at the sight of the approaching judgment of what was even more precious than Jerusalem. It is thus that Jeremiah, instrument of the groaning of the Spirit of God under the old economy, shows in words of a touching beauty, his deep sorrow at the ruin of what belonged to God. “And he hath violently cast down his enclosure as a garden; he hath destroyed his place of assembly … The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath rejected his sanctuary” (Lam 2: 6, 7). See the spirit in which the faithful had to think of the ruin of what is called by the Name of Christ. But it will be said to me: ‘Yes, that is understood, when it was a matter of Judaism, but this cannot happen to Christianity.’ This is exactly what the unbelieving Jews said in Jeremiah’s time: “for law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor word from the prophet” (Jer 18: 18): false confidence which brought ruin on the people and on the holy city. But there is more than this. It is precisely against this false confidence that Paul, in Romans 11, solemnly warns Christians among the Gentiles, that is to say ourselves, in establishing the parallel between the Jews and Christianity. “Behold then the goodness and severity of God: upon them who have fallen, severity; upon thee goodness of God, if thou shalt abide in goodness, since otherwise thou also wilt be cut away”, that is to say that the Christian system in the midst of the Gentiles is subject to the same judgment as the Jewish system. If the Gentiles who are only standing by faith alone, do not persevere in the goodness of God, they will fall away in the same way as the Jews. Is Romanism perseverance in the goodness of God? Are the “difficult times” the fruit of perseverance in the goodness of God, or indeed this form of piety which denies the power of it, and from which the Christian must separate? (2 Tim 3). If the apostle can say that all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ[5], is that persevering in the goodness of God? If Paul foresaw that after his departure evil would come in straightaway[6], the powerful hand of the apostle not being there to hold the door shut against the adversary; if Jude had to say that already those who were the objects of judgment had slipped into the church; if John has said that they had forsaken the Christians, being gone out from among them[7], a step further than what Jude spoke of; if he has said again that there were many antichrists and that it was recognised from this that it was the last times; if Peter announces to us that the times were come for judgment to begin at the house of God[8]; does all this lead us to believe that the Gentiles have continued in God’s goodness, or rather that the Christian system, established among the Gentiles, will be terminated by judgment, the terrible judgment of God? – that, as outward profession, it will drink the cup of His wrath unmixed, or will be spewed out of His mouth like something nauseously lukewarm[9]? This is solemn for our consciences. Do we go as a system before the judgments of God? Assuredly, the faithful will enjoy a more excellent part; a heavenly glory, but the Christian system, as a system on the earth, will be cut off for ever.

As to the quotation made by Mr B, it is entirely false. The Scriptures speak of the assembly as being God’s habitation down here: the whole question lies here. In a house, it is not a matter of union, but of dwelling.

As to the body of Christ, there could be no dead members. One can deceive men, but he who is in fact united to the Lord is one Spirit with Him. The body is formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12). Then Christ builds a house which will only be realised when the last stone is put there; it increases to be a holy temple in the Lord. But we have seen down here the building being confided to men, it may be that the building is ill-built and attract the judgment of God on what has been done. As the church has been established as the pillar and base of the truth, it will always be responsible to maintain this position; it is another thing to say that it has maintained it.

The first epistle to Timothy depicts for us the order of the house of God, and how man must conduct himself in this house. Does he conduct himself so? That is the question. If yes, whence comes Popery? The second epistle to Timothy regulates the conduct of the faithful when disorder has been introduced. Already, things in Christianity were no longer in the state in which they were found beforehand. At the beginning, the Lord added each day to the church those who were to be saved. They were manifested and added under the eyes of the world, a body well known. But when the apostle wrote to Timothy his second epistle, all was already changed. What he can say is that the Lord knows those who are His; it could well be that they remained hidden to man, as the 7,000 faithful to Elijah. But with this there is a rule for the faithful, that is, whosoever names the name of the Lord withdraws from iniquity[10]. Then comes the thought of the great house. One must expect to find in a great house vessels to dishonour as well as vessels to honour. But here again is a rule for the faithful: it is necessary to purify oneself from vessels to dishonour, and not only that, but one must pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. In this state of disorder, I cannot know as at the beginning all those who are God’s; but as to my personal walk, I must associate myself with those who have a pure heart. Moreover, in chapter 3, the apostle teaches us that, in the last days, difficult times will be there, where there will be a form of piety while the power of it is denied. Not avowed apostasy, for there is the form of piety, but real, moral apostasy since the power of it is denied. Mr B says that I must stay there and content myself. The apostle tells me: “From such turn away”. Who must I obey? When Mr B tells me that it is impossible to distinguish the true faithful from those who make profession of Christianity, while the apostle says that he who invokes the name of the Lord should withdraw from iniquity, that I must purify myself from vessels to dishonour, to seek the Christian graces with those who invoke the name of the Lord, out of a pure heart; how can I listen to him who tells me that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other? If he tells me that there may be many souls that the Lord knows that we do not recognise, I answer, ‘Without doubt, the Lord knows those that are His, but I have directions for my conduct in this state of things, which contradict yours’. I must recognise those who invoke the name of the Lord out of a pure heart and associate myself with them, and thus to distinguish them; to purify myself from vessels to dishonour, and thus to distinguish them, and to avoid those who have the form of piety while denying the power of it. It is therefore very necessary to distinguish them. However, it is a frightful principle to say that one cannot distinguish between the children of God and the people of the world. It is not true that it cannot be done. I have said, ‘a frightful principle’ for it is said: “By this shall all know that ye are disciples of mine, if ye have love amongst yourselves”[11]. For if I cannot discern them, I can no more love them, and the testimony that God wants is lost; then, it is not true in practice that one cannot discern them, for one enjoys brotherly fellowship, and every faithful Christian makes the distinction between a child of God and those who are not so. That there are others that are not discerned, but whom God knows, is not denied; but the passages that I have cited in 2 Timothy direct us as to this … What would become of a family’s affections if a father said to his children: You cannot know who are your brothers and who are not; you must associate yourselves with everybody without any distinction whatsoever? I do not look in the dictionaries, as we are told to do, but into the consciences and hearts of those who love the Lord, in taking the word of God to see what the state of the church is at the beginning, and what it is now. What does this Word say to us to make us know what the church has become in the last times? The word could not be clearer on the decadence of the church, on the character of these last times, and on the setting aside of the Christian system. The word is clear enough on the unity which must subsist as testimony rendered to the world that He lives (John 17). If a letter was addressed by the apostle to the church of God which is in Turin, who would collect the letter from the post, unless those of the Romish system? The church as it was at the beginning no longer exists. Call it what name you want, provided that the heart feels it and provided that they take to heart the glory of the Lord trodden underfoot by men. If the church, in its present state, is not yet the harlot sat on the beast, of which the Revelation speaks, the indifference of conscience which can make a squabble about the use of a word is the most sensitive proof of lukewarmness which results, at the end, in Christ spewing the church out of his mouth.

… Besides, there is nothing in this ruin of the assembly which is not in accordance with the history of man since the beginning. As soon as man has been left to himself, he has fallen; unfaithful in his ways; he has cast off his primitive state and never returned to it. God does not re-establish it, but He gives salvation by redemption, and brings man into an infinitely more glorious state, in the second Man, Jesus Christ. When Noah had been saved in the ruin of the whole world, the first thing that we read after his sacrifice is that he got drunk; when the law was given, before Moses had descended from the mountain, Israel had made the golden calf; the first day after the consecration of Aaron, his sons offered strange fire, and entry into the holiest of all was forbidden to Aaron, save on the day of atonement; he never wore his garments of glory and beauty. The first son of David, Solomon, type of the Lord, fell into idolatry, and the kingdom was immediately divided. In all these cases, the patience of God has been gloriously manifested, but the system that God had set up as a system in relation with Himself has been set aside. This is least evident in the case of Noah because a formal relationship did not exist in the same sense. The confusion of Babel having terminated the order of the world, the tyranny and wars came about, but for what concerns man, Israel, the priesthood, the kingdom, whatever had been God’s patience, man has fallen immediately, and the system has never been re-established on its old footing. It is not surprising that this is found again in the history of the church, as being placed under man’s responsibility. It has said: My Lord delays His coming, and has begun to beat the servants and unite itself with the world. It will be cut off. The great principle of Romanism and other systems which are like it more or less, and which makes them essentially false, is that they attribute to Christianity, to the assembly organised by means of ordinances, the stability and the immutable privileges which only belong to what Christ builds, and what is wrought by the Holy Spirit. All sorts of false doctrines are the result of this error. One is born of God, member of the body of Christ, this is what an article says in The Christian Look-out[12]; this is what the passage cited by Mr B says. He forgets one of two principal characters of the church according to the Word, precisely that where man’s responsibility comes in, that of being the habitation of God on the earth. He presents us the state in which the church is presently found, and certainly it is not composed of true members of Christ, without giving us an account, without giving us any particulars whatever on this subject, so that we may know if this state is good or bad, where it comes from or where it will end, and how the Word judges it. The expressions which he makes us of are equivalent to those of the unbelieving Jews in the times of Jeremiah. We are free of all these abominations. Nobody can say that the state of the church, of Christendom, resembles in any way what characterised it at the beginning according to the Word; there was not in any way either Romanism, or the National church, or dissidents. There was the church of God and nothing else. It corrupted itself very quickly, one will say; very well, but was this a good thing? There was then a church to corrupt, an assembly where certain men had slipped in. Was this corruption a good thing, or does it lead to judgment? Has there not been frightful progress since then? Is the church of God re-established on the earth? Must I suffer its state? Must I not seek in the Word how this will end, and take care with it? We have cited the Word, may each judge before God what it says. If we find ourselves in difficult times, does not the Word give us some rules so that we can trace the way in which we must walk?

If someone has the conviction that we are in these times, let him read 2 Timothy 2 and 3, and place himself before God who has given these instructions, with an entire confidence in Christ. The result as to these instructions is not doubtful. May he know to walk with God. Let us remember that, in every position in which the first Adam has failed, man is gloriously re-established in the second. But that is a subject, very interesting though it be, into which I cannot enter here.

Make use, dear brother, as you see fit of these pages; I have written them in haste. From 7 o’clock in the morning to midnight, I have always to work; I have meetings every day, then other work of every kind, I have still the correction of the new edition of the English New Testament, and often the French also at the same time.

The brethren are well.

I did not know who had sent me the Look-out until the arrival of your letter. My response came a bit late, but that has not mattered much; the subject remains important. Only present the gospel more than the controversy.

I have written on the epistle to the Romans, you will find something there perhaps; this is not yet prepared.

Yours very affectionately

[1] a different version of this letter also appears in JND’s published Letters – vol 3 p94

[2] 1 John 2: 18

[3] Luke 12: 45

[4] 1 Cor 3: 10

[5] Phil 2: 21

[6] See Acts 20: 29; Jude 4

[7] 1 John 2: 19

[8] 1 Peter 4: 17

[9] See Rev 14: 10; 3: 16

[10] See 2 Tim 2: 19 et seq

[11] John 13: 35

[12] JND gives the Italian title – la Vedetta Cristiana – a Christian publication commenced in 1870 by Teodorico Pietrocola Rossetti, a preacher and a patriot of the Italian Risorgimento – a 19th-century movement for Italian unification that culminated in the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861

 

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.

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 – French Letter No. 131 – Feeling for a Brother gone astray

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

131[1]

Bristol – 27 July 1862

To Mr B

Beloved Brother

You are mistaken if you think that I consider you to be a lazy person. Such an idea has never come into my mind. I have sometimes thought that you lacked courage. I do not doubt that the judgment which you carry of yourself is exact. As to G, I ignore the details of what has passed there. Mr K, who visited me the other day, told me about some [of them]. All this history has pained me profoundly, for the family, but also for him who has caused the scandal. He has been devoted; he has suffered sometimes for the Lord. This must be a weight on the spirits of all who think about it. I had no idea at all at that time of what has led to the catastrophe, as the iniquity came about, or how the affair became public But whatever the instruments, it is necessary to look higher. If the hand of God is upon us, it is His hand, in love no doubt, but His hand. I do not think that the evil which has been judged in this poor brother would be the only thing which has obliged God to put His servant under the iron rule, for it has been His servant. His inflexible character has made discipline necessary, at least so it seems to me. God would never have allowed it to be before the whole world as it has been. How He has handled fallen Christians, and treated them with a gentleness which man perhaps would have said he did not deserve, and which they themselves have said and felt they did not deserve, for He does not like to injure or break us. Why has this poor brother been dragged in public for his faults? It could be that such and such has been the instrument, and others have been embittered against him; but it is God who holds all our hearts in His hands. What I hope is that God in His grace, God who always acts in love, will act by these means, however sorrowful they are, to lead this brother to be softened, to commit to judge himself, to humble himself before God; then surely God will bless him, and I desire this with all my heart. It could be that God has judged it necessary to treat this evil hardly, for fear that it should take root; whatever it be, we have to consider His ways.

I do not have any view regarding your relocation; where the wisdom of man fails, God leads us and directs the affairs of His dear church through our weaknesses and even by means of our weaknesses, if our heart is right. I hope that you will be blessed in V, and I do not blame you at all for what you give as lessons.

I desire with all my heart that God will send out workmen into His harvest[2]; but nobody can exceed his gift, and what is done beyond can only be dangerous to himself and perhaps to all. Yes, I ask that God may raise up workmen; and that there will be faith and devotion. I ask it with all my heart, but I do not pretend even to have an opinion on all the cases that arise. I am profoundly interested in the work, you can well believe. In consequence, the activity of workmen touches me closely, but I believe that God has the upper hand in everything; and my confidence is in His goodness and in His faithfulness. Naturally, when one is much interested in a thing, one thinks of all that happens. I am accused of letting too much go, but it seems to me that I rely on God, for the work is His. If I could be useful in this work, it is a grace which He confers upon me, but I see that often when one wants to govern and direct too much, it is faith in God which is lacking.

As to my journey to Canada, family business has stopped the brother who knows the country and who would have had to escort me ….

Greet the brethren affectionately. If I am not bound for Canada, I have a little hope of seeing them.

May God keep and bless your wife

You ever affectionate brother

PS – I have just had excellent meetings the provinces, and the brethren are generally going on well.

 

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] a different version of this letter also appears in JND’s published Letters – vol 1 p324

[2] See Luke 10: 2

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 – Receiving into Christian Fellowship

The question of reception is often badly stated. We are not a body by voluntary association, but in the measure that we can be, we come together as members of the body of Christ, a gathering of His own, the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not receive persons amongst us to take the supper with us; Christ must have received them:

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

Dublin 1861

To Mr P
Beloved brother

Then, the question of reception is often badly stated. We are not a body by voluntary association, but in the measure that we can be, we come together as members of the body of Christ, a gathering of His own, the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not receive persons amongst us to take the supper with us; Christ must have received them: we recognise them, being responsible to guard the holiness of the Lord’s table and the truth of God. To recognise them, it is a matter of confidence, and it depends on the witness that we have of their lives. It is not a matter of deliberation as to whether to receive them or not, once their Christianity has been established, not excluding holiness and truth, for the Spirit who leads the children of God is the Spirit of Truth and the Holy Spirit. They have a right, in this case, to the table. Discipline still remains.

In dubious cases, it is good to desire that the conscience of the whole assembly be clear about it; but if the person is a Christian, and is known as such, or known well enough that by the testimony of a serious person who can guarantee the Christianity of the person who wishes to take the supper, in my opinion nothing else is needed. Only it is good to name the person before the assembly, and in any case to mention it to several responsible members of the meeting if there is not a better opportunity of speaking about it. It is a matter of sufficient testimony, since it is a matter of maintaining a spirit of confidence amongst all. If the one who introduces a soul is a young or shallow Christian, it would be better that his testimony was supported by a few Christians with more discernment. We should rejoice to see new souls coming, but at the same time we need to see that the truth and holiness is safeguarded.

Continued …

 

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.

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Corinthians

In first Corinthians, we have the internal responsible ordering of the church by the guidance and power of the Spirit of God. In the second epistle he explains the power of life in Christ, connecting His work, so as to bring in the righteousness of God. He contrasts it with law in chapter 3, showing its supremacy over death in every way.

Outline of Bible cover1 Corinthians

In first Corinthians, we have the internal responsible ordering of the church by the guidance and power of the Spirit of God. Paul acts with it, asserting his own authority in case of need. He begins by owning the power of the Spirit amongst them in gift, and recognises the grace that would keep them to the end. In chaps. 1 and 2, he presses the power of that Spirit in contrast with the wisdom of the flesh, asserting that we, as believers, have the Spirit to search what the eye has not seen nor the ear heard. These things are revealed by the Spirit to whomsoever God pleases, communicated by the Spirit, and received through the Spirit. We thus have revelation, inspired communication, and reception. Also an important thing is that we have the mind of Christ.

Having shown that he had rightly laid the foundation, in chap. 3, the apostle puts the building of God’s building on the responsibility of those who carry it on. He defends his own ministry and authority (chap. 4), and then faces the matter of purity and their conduct, insisting on their exercising discipline on the wicked man. He also covers going to law, marriage, and eating things offered to idols (chaps. 5-8). He again defends his own ministry, and calls their attention to the fact that they may be partakers of sacraments and be lost after all. In connection with the Lord’s supper, he presses the point of not mixing themselves up with idolatry (chaps. 9, 10). Then, in chapter 11, he treats of comeliness in spiritual service, praying or prophesying, Christ being the Head of all men, and men subordinate. From verse 17, we have order in the assembly, especially at the Lord’s supper. He contrasts God’s discipline with condemnation.

The subject of spiritual manifestation follows: the place that gifts hold, the unity of the body, and individual membership of it (chap. 12). Note that gifts are of the Spirit; administration by them is under the Lord; the operations are of God. He shows the more excellent way – love is better than the best gifts, (chap. 13). In chapter 14, he returns to the gifts, and shows that those who have gifts and understanding are subject to one another. So all are edified. Then in chap. 15 we have resurrection, Christ’s glory, an our place in it. Lastly, chap. 16, he refers to the collection for the saints. At the close we get, in the diverse salutations, the abiding liberty of individual ministry – the principle of some giving themselves up to the Lord’s service among the saints, and that all such are to be respected and submitted to.

 

2 Corinthians

Paul had received news from Titus that his first epistle had its effect. He had just been in danger of his life, and, now speaking freely to the Corinthians, he opens up his heart at about it, and explains why he did not come to them on his way to Macedonia. In the first five chapters he explains the power of life in Christ, connecting His work, so as to bring in the righteousness of God. He contrasts it with law in chapter 3, showing its supremacy over death in every way.  In chapter 4, he shows that the practical power of life may be in earthen vessels and that this power of God. The vessel is held to be dead under the cross. Hence only eternal things are looked at; and we do not know Christ after the flesh. The Lord helps His own. Chapter 5 gives us deliverance from judgment as an occasion of fear, while it urges by the love of Christ to deal with men’s souls. We have the ministry of reconciliation, and are to be ambassadors for Christ, saying, “Be reconciled to God.”

In chapter 6, he urges entire separation from the world in order to have a relationship with the Father. He presses their perfecting holiness in the fear of God, while recognising their integrity and their repentance, the news of which had comforted his spirit (chap. 7). He next enlarges upon the collection for the saints (chaps. 8, 9), and is then, against his will, forced to legitimise his ministry by speaking of himself (chaps. 10, 11). He closes that part by reference to his being caught up to the third heaven. His strength, though, did not flow directly from that, but from the power of Christ working in his weakness. He was a little uneasy lest not all should be right, and he be forced to be what they might not like (chap. 12). Lastly, in chapter 13, he appeals to their own certainty of their being Christians as proof of Christ’s speaking by him.

 

 

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes, July 2014

– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible  for the original

Establishing, or Planting Churches

The object to be desired is the gathering of all God’s children.

2. The power of the Holy Spirit can alone effect this.

3. There is no need to wait till that power produces the union of all, because we have the promise that, where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, He will be in the midst. Two or three may act in reliance upon this promise.

4. The idea of ordination for the administration of the Supper appears nowhere in the New Testament. Christians came together on the Lord’s Day to break bread; – see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 23.

 

Based on a Paper by J N Darby – ‘On the Formation of Churches’

JND Collected Writings Volume 1 (Ecclesiastical 1) p 138 –

For the original Click Here 

churchIn the town where I live there are several churches – three Church of England, one Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Salvation Army. There is a Gospel Hall, a ‘Free Evangelical’, a ‘Gospel Mission Church’ as well as evangelical groups gathering one in a shop and another in a local school. There may be more. Then an old CofE church was taken over by mostly Afro-Caribbean believers, and you can hear their music when we come from our meeting on Lord’s Day morning 150 yards away! They must take Psalm 150 literally. Then on Sunday mornings there is a sign outside of a community hall – ‘Peace and Love Assembly’ – whatever that is. Of course there may be more. And of course there is the little meeting room where I go.   I am sure there are many devout Christians in each one.

Were these assemblies formed as a result of Godly concern as to evil working in a gathering from which it was necessary to separate, and to find other believers with whom to walk, or were they formed through Christians uniting behind a particular cause or person?

In his essay, summarised below, John Nelson Darby looked at the various church organisations amid the confusion that is Christendom. Many churches have adopted the title ‘Church of God’ formally or informally, seeking to strike a balance between keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3), and separating the precious from the vile (see Jer. 15:19).

The Lord’s Purpose in the Gathering of the Saints on Earth

The gathering together of saints into one was the immediate object on earth of Christ’s death. Salvation had always been in place; saints of the old dispensation were saved through the death of Christ. Now by the Spirit we are gathered as well as saved. That is what forms the church.

Hypocrites and evil men have crept into the church, but for that there must have been a church for them to creep into.

National Systems

National churches ensued from the Reformation. Whilst the Reformation brought out more clearly the doctrine of salvation, it did not touch the question of the true character of God’s church. Instead of restoring things to their original state, it made the state the supreme authority, replacing the pope.   By definition, all citizens of a country were regarded as Christians, and automatically members of the national church.

Any serious believer must realise that a national church (the Church of England for example) cannot be regarded as the complete assembly of God. People refer to a visible and an invisible church, the national church being the former and the true church encompassing all believers the latter.   But scripture says, Ye are the light of the world. A city set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matt 5:14).   Of what use is an invisible light?   To say that the true church is invisible, is to say that it has lost its original standing and departed from the purpose of God.

Non-Conformist, or Dissenting Congregations

Can any of the dissenting Protestant churches (Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal etc) attain to what God has in mind in the gathering together in one of His children – universally or locally?

In scripture, believers were gathered in various localities. The Christians in each town or city formed one body:- the Assembly of God in ‘X’. At Corinth, for example, a letter addressed to the church of God would have found its way to a known body. There may have been many physical gatherings in private homes and other places, but they formed one body in the place. God raised up shepherds and teachers in the assembly, but they served the whole. So we have the union of all the children of God universally, and the union of all the children of God in each city or town.

According to Scripture the sum of all the churches here on earth composed the whole church; and the church in any given place was no other than the regular association together of whatever formed part of the entire body of the church on earth; and he who was not a member of the church in that place , was not a member of Christ’s church at all.

Now the unified state that we see in the Bible has ceased to exist. What should Christians do when the condition of things set before us in the word no longer exists?

Maybe we should reform it?  That presupposes:

  1. That it is God’s will.
  2. That we are capable and authorised to restore it.

We recognise that we have sinned. If we set about doing what was right, by being upright out of a sense of duty, that would be self-righteousness, and not pleasing to God. Apply the same logic to the church. We, as Christians, have departed from the original state, and are guilty of that sin. If we undertake to re-establish it ourselves, it would be in the same spirit of self-righteousness, and we would not have God’s support.

Now if we set up another body, taking the name of the church of God, by definition, we would have to regard all non-members of that body as schismatic strangers to God’s church.   So what we now have is a large number of partial voluntary churches in different places, with tight hierarchical centralised organisations at one end of the spectrum and loose affiliations of independent assemblies at the other. The practice of making churches with various forms, has in itself led to the separation of the thoughts of universal and local church. The idea of God’s complete church, has been lost sight of.

 

Can Man Restore the Fallen Condition?

The church cannot fail. The Lord said, The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matt 16:18). The salvation of the elect is secure; the glory of the church will be seen in resurrection, with Satan defeated. Meanwhile God will maintain the confession of Jesus here on earth until the church has been taken away. That is not in question. Popery would maintain that it has not failed publicly, and that it is the whole church. But that line is leading to apostasy.

Publicly, the dispensation is in ruins, and in a condition of entire departure from its original standing. Persons are trying to set it up again, without any warrant to do so.

Because of man’s sin, believers have been scattered. Has there been anybody who has undertaken the apostolic office of re-establishing things on their original footing, and in so doing, re-establish the entire dispensation, apprehending the divine will, having by the Holy Spirit the power to accomplish the task? Of course not. He may have desired to, but like David in building the house was not able to do so.

What can be Done?

Bless God that the Word and the Spirit still remain in the church. May the church lean on that.

I do not have the competency to re-establish the first condition of the church. I humbly feel the real condition of the church, and this preserves me from activities which are unauthorised by the word.

I have to accept that the condition of the dispensation at its close will be just the reverse of what it was at its opening. Sadly, the wild olive tree which had been grafted in, has now been cut out (See Rom. 11:22). But there can be a revival. Nehemiah saw the fallen condition of Israel, and that they were in great distress. He did what he was authorised to do – not more. He did not re-make the Ark or the Urim and Thummim, or imitate the Shekinah. Neverthless we are told in that he had blessing such as had not been ‘since the days of Joshua’; (Neh. 8:17) because he was faithful to God in the circumstances in which he stood.

God has left faithful Christians sufficient directions for us to follow. And the Spirit of God is with us to strengthen us in the path of true obedience.

 

How it Can be Done.

The Spirit of God, foreseeing all that would happen in the church, has given us help and warnings. He tells us that there would be perilous times, and tells us that we should turn away from certain men. (See 2 Tim 3:1-5) We cannot break bread with all – maybe just with two or three gathered to His name. Indeed the Spirit gives us even more precise directions: he that names the name of Christ should depart from iniquity. Where I find iniquity, I must leave it – I am in the great house (the Christian profession) but I must purge myself from vessels to dishonour so as to be a vessel made to honour, fit for the master’s use. And the man of God is exhorted to follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. See (2 Tim 2:19-22)

 

Planting of Churches

There is an expression that is current now (not in Darby’s time) as to the planting of churches. Those involved draw on Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus as to church order and see it in terms of choosing elders, deacons etc, even buildings. Pastors, teachers, and evangelists are gifts which have their places in the unity of the body, and are exercised wherever God has graciously given them.

So a ‘planted church’ from another nearby one presumes that there was no assembly of God in the target locality. This is almost never the case.

 

How are we to meet then?

To do nothing is not an option. But before doing anything we must feel deeply the ruined state of the church, and act with less presumption and more diffidence.

You say , ‘I have separated myself from evil , because my conscience disapproves what is at variance with the word’ That is good: now assemble together. Jesus aaid, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ (Matt.18:20). However, if you organise a church, choosing a president or a pastor, and by implication claim to be the Church of God of the place where you live, I question your commission to do this. I see no trace in scripture of the churches having elected presidents or pastors. It is said that such appointments are necessary to maintain order. Such order, being constituted by the will of man, will soon be seen to be disorder in the sight of God. If there are but two or three who meet together in the name of Jesus, He will be there. Otherwise the appropriate scripture is, ‘He that gathereth not with me scattereth’ (Matt 12:30). If God raises up pastors (that is persons who shepherd, not an official position), it is a blessing. But ever since the day when the Holy Spirit formed the church, we have no record of the church choosing pastors.

We must acknowledge our weakness and dependence upon God. God is sufficient for His church. Despite the ruin, power is available. Call upon Him. He can raise up whatever is needed for the blessing of the saints. He will do that – have no doubt about it. Acknowledge the authority of Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep. He rules as Son over His house, whose house are we, and the Spirit of God is the sole power in the church. Anything else is pretence, and is under the domination of man. There is no promise in favour of the system by which men organise churches, but there is the promise of the Lord’s presence for those who ‘assemble together’.

We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, as we separate from that which we know to be evil, bearing with those persons who continue ignorantly as to the evil, though I may have to leave them.   We must lean upon Him who is able to do all that is necessary, without assuming to do more, ourselves, than the word authorises us to do. Such is the position, humble it may be, but it is blessed by God, even if it is despised by men

 

Conclusions

1. The object to be desired is the gathering of all God’s children.

2. The power of the Holy Spirit can alone effect this.

3. There is no need to wait till that power produces the union of all, because we have the promise that, where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, He will be in the midst. Two or three may act in reliance upon this promise.

4. The idea of ordination for the administration of the Supper appears nowhere in the New Testament. Christians came together on the Lord’s Day to break bread; – see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 23.

5. A commission from man to preach the gospel is a thing unknown in the New Testament.

6. The choosing of presidents or pastors by the church is also altogether without warrant in the New Testament. The choosing of pastors is an encroachment on the authority of the Holy Ghost, who distributes gifts according to His will.

7. It is clearly the duty of a believer to separate himself from every act that he sees to be not according to the word.

The Spirit in which we should be when the Church is Forced to Exercise Discipline

We ought to remember what we are in ourselves, when we talk about exercising discipline – it is an amazingly solemn thing. When I reflect, that I am a poor sinner, saved by mere mercy, standing only in Jesus Christ for acceptance, in myself vile, it is, evidently, an awful thing to take discipline into my own hands.

Excerpts from a Paper by J N Darby entitled ‘On Discipline’

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

We ought to remember what we are in ourselves, when we talk about exercising discipline – it is an amazingly solemn thing. When I reflect, that I am a poor sinner, saved by mere mercy, standing only in Jesus Christ for acceptance, in myself vile, it is, evidently, an awful thing to take discipline into my own hands.

But the church may be forced to exercise discipline, as in the case of the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5. I believe there is never a case of church discipline but to the shame of the whole body. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul says, “Ye have not mourned,” etc.: they all were identified with it. Like some sore on a man’s body, it tells of the disease of the body, of the constitutional condition. The assembly is never prepared, or in the place to exercise discipline, unless having first identified itself with the sin of the individual. If it does not do it in that way, it takes a judicial form, which will not be the ministration of the grace of Christ. Its priestly character in the present dispensation is one of grace.

All discipline until the last act is restorative. The act of putting outside, of excommunication, is not (properly speaking) discipline, but the saying that discipline is ineffective, and there is an end of it; the church says, “I can do no more.”

As to the nature of all this, the spirit in which it should be conducted, it is priestly; and the priests ate the sin-offering within the holy place, Lev. 10. I do not think any person or body of Christians can exercise discipline, unless as having the conscience clear, as having felt the power of the evil and sin before God, as if he had himself committed it. If that which is done is not done in the power of the Holy Ghost, it is nothing.

It is a terrible thing to hear sinners talking about judging another sinner, sinners judging sinners, but a blessed thing to see them exercised in conscience about sin come in among themselves. It must be in grace. I no more dare act, save in grace, than I could wish judgment to myself. “Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” Matt. 7:1, 2. If we go to exercise judgment, we shall get it.

 

The full paper is published in JND’s Collected Writings Vol. 1 Ecclesiastical 1 page 338.

 

When and how should I leave a Company?

Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst.
If anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, he would … deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence.
If the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil?

I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity.

If any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension.

 

A Letter by J N Darby on Separation

I am not so afraid of leaving an assembly, or setting up another table, as some other brethren

Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst.

If any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

I write rather because of the importance of the point than for any immediate occasion of circumstances: I mean leaving an assembly, or setting up, as it is called, another table. I am not so afraid of it as some other brethren, but I must explain my reasons. If such or such a meeting were the church here, leaving it would be severing oneself from the assembly of God. But though wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst, and the blessing and responsibility, of the church are, in a certain sense also, if any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension, and denying the very testimony to the state of ruin which God has called us to render. It would have ceased to be the table of the people and testimony of God, at least intelligently. It might be evil pretension or ignorance; it might call for patience, if it was in ignorance, or for remedy, if that was possible: but such a pretension I believe false, and I could not abide in what is false. I think it of the last importance that this pretension of any body should be kept down: I could not own it a moment, because it is not the truth.

If anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, he would … deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence.

But then, on the other hand, united testimony to the truth is the greatest possible blessing from on high. And I think that if anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, but he would necessarily deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence. It resolves itself, like all else, into a question of flesh and Spirit. If the Spirit of God is in and sanctions the body, he who leaves in the flesh deprives himself of the blessing, and sins. If, on the contrary, the Spirit of God does not sanction the body, he who leaves it will get into the power and liberty of the Spirit by following Him. That is the real way to look at it. There may be evil, and yet the Spirit of God sanction the body (not, of course, its then state), or at least act with the body in putting it away.

 If the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not?  Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil?

I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity.

But if the Spirit of God, by any faithful person, moves in this, and if the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil? That is precisely the delusion of Satan in popery, and the worst form of evil under the sun. If the matter, instead of being brought to the conscience of the body, is maintained by the authority of a few, and the body of believers despised, it is the additional concomitant evil of the clergy, which is the element also of popery. Now, I believe myself, the elements of this have been distinctly brought out at [Plymouth?]; and I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity. I do not want unity in evil but separation from it. God’s unity is always founded on separation, since sin came into the world. “Get thee out” is the first word of God’s call: it is to Himself. If one gets out alone it may require more faith, but that is all; one will be with Him, and that, dear brother, is what I care most about, though overjoyed to be with my brethren on that ground. I do not say that some more spiritual person might not have done more or better than I: God must judge of that. I am sure I am a poor creature; but at all cost I must walk with God for myself. . . .

 Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong.

I should not break bread till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all.

Suppose clericalism so strong that the conscience of the body does not act at all, even when appealed to; is a simple saint who has perhaps no influence to set anything right, because of this very evil, therefore to stay with it? What resource has he? I suppose another case. Evil goes on, fleshly pretension, a low state of things on all sides. Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong. Now this often happens. Now the Lord in these cases is always over all. He chastens what was not of Him by such a separation, and shews the flesh in detail even where, in the main, His name was sought. If the seceders act in the flesh, they will not find blessing. God governs in these things, and will own righteousness where it is, if only in certain points. They would not prosper if it were so; but they might remain a shame and sorrow to those they left. If it be merely pride of flesh, it will soon come to nothing. “There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest.” If occasion has been given in any way, the Lord, because He loves, will not let go till the evil be purged out. If I do not act with Him, He will (and I should thank Him for it) put me down in the matter too. He loves the church, and has all power in heaven and earth, and never lets slip the reins.

I should not break bread till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all. I should think worse of them than of sectarian bodies, because having more pretension to light. “Now ye say we see.” But I should not (God forbid!) cease to pray continually, and so much the more earnestly, for them, that they might prosper through the fulness of the grace that is in Christ for them . . . .

 

Lightly edited by Sosthenes

 

For original please see: STEM Publishing: J. N. Darby: A Letter on Separation

Published in JND’s Collected Writings vol. 1 (Ecclesiastical 1) p. 350.

A Letter to those who might know me

I am therefore seeking, with God’s help to produce some simplified summaries of helpful articles, papers and ministry, presented in a way that is more intelligible to Christians in the 21st century, and accessible using current technology, and above all free of sectarianism, the ministry being for the whole Church of God. I seek humbly to keep to the essential message, and cover it adequately without introducing my own ideas and thoughts. The site is in its early stages www.adayofsmallthings.com. Please have a look at it.

Not the ruler of the synagogue but a brother
Sosthenes

Dear brother or sister in the Lord

Having retired I have been seeking direction from God as to how to use my time, abilities and resources to His glory, whilst recognising limitations, both physical and above all spiritual.

As some may know I have done some translation work on JND’s letters, so his ministry has been opened up to me more freshly.  For many years I had regarded it as beyond me in many ways, and I would still say that it is as Peter said of Paul ‘hard to be understood’.

If that is true of me, what of my fellow believers, most of whom have not enjoyed the privileges I have had of being under teaching, and able to participate in reading meetings where this ministry, and that of others, were valued and generally felt to be of the Spirit of God.

I am therefore seeking, with God’s help to produce some simplified summaries of helpful articles, papers and ministry, presented in a way that is more intelligible to Christians in the 21st century, and accessible using current technology, and above all free of sectarianism, the ministry being for the whole Church of God.  I seek humbly to keep to the essential message, and cover it adequately without introducing my own ideas and thoughts.   The site is in its early stages www.adayofsmallthings.com.  Please have a look at it.

In order not to draw attention to myself, I am using a pseudonym, Sosthenes (he just wanted to be a brother). Sosthenes Hoadelphos on Facebook; @BroSosthenes on Twitter.

The ministry itself of course is not infallible:  and my simplified summaries are certainly not.  Without getting into arguments I would value the comments as to content or style by any who feel I have not explained things well, or have missed the point.  Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness Psalm 141:5.

I look forward to your comments, either by e-mail (Sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com) or by making comments on the site.

With love and greetings in Christ.

Your brother

Sosthenes

August 2013