Have these Things Always in Remembrance (2 Peter 1:15)

January 2019

Dear Christian Friends

I trust that you proved God’s mercies over the Christmas period (however you did, or did not, celebrate it), and hope that He will give you health and happiness in 2019, as you enjoy Christian fellowship.

As we start a new year, I thought it might be a good idea to remind one another of those things which motivated Darby and others in the early 1800’s, and their relevance to us now.

  1. A reminder that the Lord’s coming even closer now.  Paul wrote, ‘It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light’ (Rom 13:11-12).  Paul was, I believe, looking forward to the rapture – the salvation of our bodies which will be changed.  As we look around we see the darkness of the world, getting even darker as God’s honoured relationships are discounted.  At the same time the public sphere is becoming more and more confused – in the UK, USA and in the Rome-backed EU, with oppressive regimes and wars elsewhere). The love of the many may have grown cold, but the light shines even brighter amongst Christians who have the hope of our Lord’s coming, and amongst those enduring persecution.

 

  1. A reminder that the calling of the church’s mission is heavenly.  It’s sad: so often we hear that striving to be better Christians we can make this world a better place.  We cannot; we never will.  Jesus said, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:14), while Paul wrote, ‘For our conversation [or ‘commonwealth’ – Darby or ‘citizenship’ – NIV, ASV etc.] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself’ (Phil 3:21) .

 

  1. A reminder that Christians are called to be apart from religious organisations which are based on the principles of the world – human organisation with one person in charge of an assembly be it a pastor, vicar, priest or whatever, and human performances with beautiful music and liturgical rituals on one hand emotional excitement on the other, all pandering to the flesh.

 

So, what do we see?  Small Christian companies which are unattractive outwardly, and if we are honest somewhat struggling.  You ask  ‘How will they grow and spread, and what is the future?’  If the Lord’s coming is just round the corner, why be worried about the future?  Maybe our faith is being tested – meanwhile let’s just obey the Lord  – ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12).  ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:35).

 

God’s blessings in 2019.

 

Sosthenes

 

 PS – A thought about Corinth

Thinking about the above, last week we had a meeting for ministry meeting and I was moved to give a word on what constitutes a good local assembly:

Not Corinth – Good numbers, gifted speakers but factions and politics

Not Ephesus – Absolutely correct teaching and well ordered – but no love

Just ’the poor of the flock’ – like Philadelphia – just a little power but as the city’s name implies – brotherly love

A brother followed speaking about Corinth and orderly meetings (1 Cor 14).  You could imagine a large hall: I guess they didn’t have seats, but a several (men and women?) speaking simultaneously  People gathered round the speaker they liked.

 

 

 

What is the Heavenly Vision or Call of the Church?

Recently a brother wrote to me needing to answer the following question:
What is the heavenly vision or call of the church?   People I speak to want to know what is the purpose of the church?  I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking about this question, but what is the best approach or angle to take when answering?  I believe it’s a very important question that I should be able to answer when I’m asked.
This question affects a lot of things. What should be our focus as a local church? The gospel, soup kitchens, ending poverty (social gospel), trying to change culture, etc.

My answer: The true Church – and what it is in the Sight of Men

I have been giving more thought to this question.  We need to see what the church is in the sight of Christ – which is the true Church – and what it is in the sight of men – a religion here.
Before starting, Christians must realise that their calling is a heavenly one.  ‘Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus’ (Heb 3:1).
The Greek word ἐκκλησίᾳ /ekklēsia/Strong 1577 .  The word implies people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church or assembly comprised of all believers formed into one by the Holy Spirit. It is viewed as the body of Christ and also the habitation of God.  In a more general sense. it meant simply assembly – e.g. calling together for a civil function.  Incidentally, the English word ‘church’ or German ‘Kirche’ comes from the Greek word κυριακός/kyriakos/Strong 2960, ‘belonging to the Lord’ (kyrios), the French ‘église’ from ‘ekklēsia’.  The Hebrew word ‘קָהָל/qahal/Strong H6951’ has a similar meaning.
We must recognise the direct role of the Spirit of God.  It has been said that the Holy Spirit ‘is here; but He has taken a lowly place, . . .and has been here on earth for over 1,900 years in that lowliness. He maintains what is due to God according to what God is in heaven; there is a perfect answer to that in the presence of the Spirit down here, and the Spirit is here in the assembly; and that brings out the greatness of the assembly’s place too, but nevertheless the assembly is never part of the Deity.’  and ‘The assembly is nearest to Deity in the whole realm. What is sovereign is seen in the assembly.’ [*]  That being the case what has the assembly to do with the things of this world?

The Church in the Sight of Christ

The church is a perfect vessel (for the want of a better word), formed exclusively of saints worked on by the Spirit of God, apart from sin.  It has been said that it is of heaven in origin and destiny.  It is here in the body of Christ and its hope is totally towards Jesus – as a bride is towards her bridegroom.  Her desire is to be with Him – and therefore has no part here.  But she does care for His interests here.  His interests are what is for Him, His glory and to worship the Father, and for the members of His body to point to Him.  The church’s view is God-ward, not man-ward.
Ministry is for those of the church universally (as there is only one church) – ‘we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness’. (Romans 12:5-7)
The fact that it is ‘called out’ is important.  If it is ‘called out’ it cannot be ‘part of’.  Over the centuries Christians have been called out of every other religious organisation – in the earliest days Judaism and paganism, later Catholicism, later nationally established churches, later clericalism, and more recently social liberalism, charismatic Christendom or systematic legalism.  Importantly, if we are called out of something, we cannot reform it.  It is in the attempt to reform the old lump that Christians have become unstuck.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 makes this clear ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.’
This brings me to:

The Church in the Sight of Man

This is something different, and different people will have different ideas.
1.     A group of disparate organisations with common central beliefs and many interpretations, grouped together loosely for example in the World Council of Churches – sometimes preaching the gospel.
2 A humanitarian force for good, seeking to make the world a better place, while preaching a gospel, but not always the gospel.
3.     A place of religious exhilaration and excitement with rousing music – usually with the gospel but this is sometimes distorted – or a liberal ‘inclusive’ community – no matter what the bible says.
4.     Beautiful buildings, ornate robes and trained choirs, with or without the gospel
5.     A system of contention and oppression, having a form of piety but denying the power of it.
Many Christians see their role and that of their ‘local church’ in terms of no 2 above, preaching the gospel, having a good church community engaged in the support of local and other needs.  But think of it – it is an earthly Christianity.  Whilst there are many genuine believers, sorry to say that in some places the gospel has been corrupted to salvation (if such a thought exists) through works and presenting Jesus just a Model.  This is hardly Christian. I see it differently, as should all true lovers of our Lord Jesus.

So where does that leave true Christians?

Christians should do good works – towards the Lord, towards each other and towards their fellow human beings.  They do this because they love their Lord and that is what He would have them to do.  They are not interested in politics – national politics, charity politics or church politics. They do what the Lord gives them to do:  However, they don’t do this as part of the Church, they do it as individuals.
Admittedly, Christians can work with others (informally or in registered charities) to humanitarian ends – the relief of poverty, helping those who are sick or mentally unstable, being of support to victims of crime or raising funds for such activities.  Some of those with whom they might co-operate with may not be believers – so this cannot be part of the Church activity.  Some might be shocked at the thought, but if it is the function of a church community, it might be a misguided one or not even a Christian one.  It is not a function of the body of Christ.
Of course, it is better if those who are working together have confidence in one another.  If they gather regularly from the same Christian assembly, they will no doubt know one another well and be able to work together better.  They may even use their meeting hall (what is a building anyway? – a person or a trust has provided a place for saints to gather)– but this is not the local assembly doing it, and should never be thought of as such,
I could go further, and this might be a bit difficult to grasp. When it comes to testimony the church’s service is heavenward, not earthward (indeed if we look at the testimony of the public church it is ruin and confusion).  Paul wrote ’in order that now to the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the assembly the all-various wisdom of God’ (Ephesians 3:10 Darby).  It follows that preaching the gospel, or teaching (indeed what I am doing now) comes into the individual service – the Lord commissioned His disciples to out individually.  As they did the church grew.
The church doesn’t preach; the church doesn’t teach.  Christians do both.
I trust this helps.  I am conscious that not all will agree totally with what I have written.  However I do believe sincerely that it is accordance with scripture (which is infallible), and also the teachings of that servant of God, John Nelson Darby (not infallible) please feel free to write your comments below (or email me directly if you prefer). sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com  or my personal email.

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Dear Christian Friend
I really would like to get A Day of Small Things out to a wider audience.  Please feel free to pass this on – better still give me a name and email address and I will write to them and invite them to be on our emailing list.  Tell me if you want me to mention your name (and give any background that you feel would be of use in writing individually).
In our Lord’s service
Sosthenes
November 2018
[*] Quotations from the Ministry of James Taylor (1870-1953) Volume 36 page 409 and Volume 61 page 176

F E Raven – God never rebuilds what has failed but rather falls back on His promises

While many were claiming to have the Lord with them, I just longed for the experience through contrition and repentance, of being with Him in what He is doing currently.

Frederick Raven

The position that confronts each one of us now is what are we to do as involved in the sorrowful scattering and breakdown of a testimony we had so learned to value and love.  To find a way out of it, I cannot.  I am part of it and contributed to it.  But to find a way through it is my whole concern and that Christ may be my object and motive.  While not wishing to speak of myself, my experience found me quite alone and cut off from my brethren – my beloved wife and family…I had nothing.  But, thank God, in His sovereign mercy and exceeding grace I had Christ – my Lord and Saviour.  It is easy to say it, but it has to be proved that therein lies the precious inward secret that alone can make one superior to the most testing of circumstances.  It is just, “Thou remainest when all else is gone”…I then remembered that from the divine side there is no failure – the unity of the Spirit remains.  Does not F E Raven say that God never rebuilds what has failed but rather falls back on His promises?  While many were claiming to have the Lord with them, I just longed for the experience through contrition and repentance, of being with Him in what He is doing currently.

(Extracted from a letter by Brian Deck, NZ  1979)

Golden Nugget Number 19

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JN Darby Simplified – Am I Gathering to the Lord as a Member of the Body of Christ, or as a Member of a Sect?

In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, and those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.

 

J N Darby

J N Darby – Sect or One Body

In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, from those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation.  The latter is based on held opinions.

J N Darby – Sect or One Body

The Greek word for ‘sect’ is αἵρεσις/hairesis/Strong 139.  Strong says that the word signifies a strong, distinctive opinion and was used in the New Testament to differentiate parties (sects) in Judaism.  The term stresses the personal aspect of choice – Sadducees and Pharisees were such by choice  (See Acts 23:8).  In Acts 24:14, Christianity was described by some as a Jewish sect.  Of course, Paul did not own this.

Darby defines the word as signifying adherence to a doctrine or system of philosophy or religion.  It is used as describe Christians departing from the truth – ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies’ (2 Peter 2:1). ‘There must also be sects among you, that the approved may become manifest among you’ (1 Cor 11:19 DBY).  The Catholics assumed what they held to be ‘universal’, and censured all other believers by branding them as ‘sects’.

 

The Unity of the Body

The unity of the Church of Christ is seen in the Lord’s prayer in John 17 – ‘that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (v 21).  When the Holy Spirit came (see Acts 21 Cor. 12:13),  Christians became one in thought, word, and deed.  And in this there was testimony to the unity.  Satan spoilt that.  In the scriptures the Holy Spirit compares the church on the earth to the human body, Christ being the Head (see Col 1:18).  So if ‘one member suffer, all the members suffer with it’. (1 Cor 12:13).  We members of Christ’s body.

Divisive Sects

When Christians unite outside this of unity, around a particular opinion, their unity is not founded on the principle of the unity of the body.    They form an ecclesiastical corporation, and recognise each other as members of that corporation.  This constitutes a sect.  The communion service becomes an expression of the union of a church’s members.  When a corporation of Christians assumes a right to admit members to it, it forms a unity opposed to the unity of the body of Christ.  Being a member of a such a church is not according to scripture.

Of course, many pious Christians find themselves ignorantly in sectarian positions: they have never truly apprehended the unity of the body.  They believe they are in that position through the will of God.  But, in fact they are in a sect, a denial of the unity of the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 10:17).

 

Calling on the Lord’s Name

Darby said that his desire was to recognise all Christians as members of the body of Christ, and from an enlarged heart, ‘receive them, from an enlarged heart, even to the Supper, supposing that they are walking in holiness and truth, calling upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart’ (see 2 Tim 2:19-22).  He would join with other brethren to take the Lord’s supper as members of nothing else but of the body of Christ, not as members of a church or sect.  Unfortunately though, he could not gather with all the children of God, because not all were walking according to the principle of this unity of the body of Christ.  They were sectarian.

Although the practical difficulties may appear great by reason of the state of the Church of God, the principle is very simple.  However, Christ is sufficient for all.  If we are content to be little in the eyes of men, things will not be so difficult.  We can cite Matt 18:20 – ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’.  This is a precious encouragement in these sad times of dispersion.  We are told ‘Youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart’ ( 2 Tim 2:22 DBY).  This directs us in the path of the Lord’s will, despite the confusion around us.

 

Based on J N Darby’s paper ‘What is a Sect’Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362.

Summary by Sosthanes

May 2017

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F E Raven: I am not a Member of any Company

Summary of a Reading on Matthew 13, Led by Frederick Raven

 

F E Raven

In Matt 13:31-46 we have two parables as to the kingdom of heaven, the mustard tree and the leaven.

 

The Mustard Tree

The mustard tree represents a conspicuous, hierarchical system. People shelter under it. It is a false kingdom, ruling over the kings of the earth, a religious system dominating the political, and its end is Babylon. Christ never intended the church to be like that, with clergy, sacramentalism and the like. When Christianity assumed a form and character which God never intended, it was morally a ruin.

 

The Leaven

The Leaven represents a mass corrupted by wrong doctrine and the adaptation of Christianity to human ideas. It is what the Colossians were warned of: ‘Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ’ (Col 2:8). It is also like the fig tree in Matthew 21:19. The fig tree has been cut down for good: it represents man’s culture, and it is cursed.

 

Where we stand

Raven felt that we are apt to hanker after both of these, but we are to be apart from them morally. Every one who takes a place outside the great world order is a witness to the ruin, which has come upon Christianity as a whole. When asked whether our collective position is a witness to the ruin, Raven replied, ‘I do not understand a collective position. I do not mind who it is, it is anybody who calls on the Lord out of a pure heart… If you get two people walking in righteousness they will naturally be drawn together.’ Somebody in ‘Bethesda’ (Open Brethrenism) cannot be said to be in the fellowship of the truth. A lawless man cannot be a witness to the ruin, he is in the ruin. The mystery of lawlessness already works, and it is only as we are apart from it that we can be a witness to the ruin.

People speak about ‘our fellowship’. Our fellowship can only be the whole Christian fellowship. We must go on without any pretension or any idea of a ‘corporate witness’. We cannot claim to be an ecclesiastical company in any sense. When someone said, ‘We are in danger of becoming a tree,’ FER’s reply was, ‘Well, a small tree!’ I am sure that produced some smiles!

The truth is our bond. We are not an association of like-minded Christians operating on scriptural lines. As we stand aside and, through grace, we find others who are waiting too, and we can break bread together, not forming anything.

When asked whether there was any company who could act with authority, Raven answered ‘No!’ We cannot put away, we can only depart from evil. We cannot act as the assembly, only according to the principle of it. Two or three acting in Christ’s name cannot claim to be the assembly.

FER said ‘I cannot recognise a company. If I were asked to what company I belong, I should say, “To none”.’

 

Summary by Sosthenes

August 2015

The original reading is in ‘Ministry by F.E. Raven, Volume 15 – page 357’. This may be obtained from Kingston Bible trust or downloaded by clicking here.

 

Frederick Edward Raven

Frederick Edward Raven was born September 9, 1837 at Saffron Walden, Essex. His parents were active members of the Church of England. In 1865 when he was 28, FER left the Church of England and broke bread at the Priory meeting in north London, where J N Darby was also local.

Among other matters, FER’s valuable ministry opened up the truth as to eternal life and the Person of Christ – which made him the object of attack to this day.

He worked at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, becoming Secretary in 1873. It is understood that he was offered, but refused, a knighthood for services rendered to the British Admiralty.

Mr. Raven departed to be with Christ on Lord’s Day, August 16, 1903.

 

Source MyBrethren.org

 

 

 

 

How are we to regard other Christians

We are called to stand apart from what is evil. But how do we act practically when it comes to our fellow believers, whatever their background or history. I believe that there are several considerations.
1. Do what the Lord would have done
2. Glorify the Lord yourself
3. Cause others to glorify the Lord
4. Go by scripture
5. Do not cause offence
6. Do not get into a dangerous situation – physically, mentally or spiritually.

walking-in-assemblyA most important part of our Christian life is the testimony that we give to others, believers or not. As to other Christians, Paul tells us ‘Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves’ (Phil 2:3). That applies to all – to one strong in the faith and well taught, down to one who, though the Lord’s, is not even sure of salvation.

It has been said that Christians who seek to be faithful to the Lord should be the humblest people in Christendom, especially if they have been well taught, but have failed in their practical Christianity. The writer can look back to times when he has flaunted his superior knowledge of Christian doctrine and possibly the scriptures, giving the impression of being a ‘superior’, even if not a ‘better’ Christian. He was no better than a Pharisee in the Lord’s time, and even a hypocrite. Indeed, on occasions, he was rebuked by simple believers for what he said or did.

It is not for this booklet to say what one should, or should not do, whether as to general relationships or as to specific instances such as social, family or religious events. To do so would be legality. It will, I trust give the reader some thoughts to consider prayerfully before being confirmed as to what the Lord’s mind is. One of the scriptures that should be considered is 1 Cor 10:28, ‘All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: … Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: … If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

Of course the guidance that Paul gives us in scripture is in relation to unbelievers. Our fellow believers are different, and it is wonderful if we can share our common appreciation of the Lord and God’s goodness with them, even if there are differences of interpretation and practice. In apostolic times there were no denominations or sects, as we know them today. But these thoughts should be relevant to all our relationships with our fellow human beings, believers or unbelievers.

We are called to stand apart from what is evil. But how do we act practically when it comes to our fellow believers, whatever their background or history. I believe that there are several considerations.

  1. Do what the Lord would have done
  2. Glorify the Lord yourself
  3. Cause others to glorify the Lord
  4. Go by scripture
  5. Do not cause offence
  6. Do not get into a dangerous situation – physically, mentally or spiritually.

The Lord’s actions are well known. He went to a wedding, and it was clear that the hosts did not appreciate whom He was. A tax gatherer was a ‘child of Abraham’ and when the Lord accepted his hospitality, He was criticised for it. ‘The Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them’ (Luke 15:2). Put simply the Lord socialised with others, but was totally undefiled by the environment.

We are told to do all things to the glory of God. That is a simple test. Can I glorify God in the company or place where I am invited? If so then I will affect others – wherever you are. On this line is the help I can be to others – practically as well as spiritually. We are told, ‘Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith’ (Gal 6:10). Such help can take many forms.

Scripture does not give us rules, but 1 Cor 10 above is a guide. Some might ask, ‘Why would you be minded to go?’ I would be cautious about going to something religious, where I might be found in a position that I would find compromising. My friend or relative who invited me would understand it if you said, for example, ‘I do not feel I should go because I would be expected to take communion.’ But if I said, ‘I cannot go because the Christians I meet with don’t do this’, then I shouldn’t be surprised to receive the answer, ‘So you think you’re better than us!’   My friend could well have pre-conceived ideas of the sad history of the company I am with, and sees me as marked by the same attitude, even if less extreme than others. One is never going to help others as to the truth of the assembly if one behaves in a supeior way. It is not the Lord’s way. Do not give offence.

I can also give offence to those I meet with. I might feel free to go to something, but know that others would be offended. This is what Paul talked about in Romans 14. This was on the subject of vegetarianism, but it can apply to many situations. ‘Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost’ (v.13-16).

Finally we should not put ourselves in a situation where we might suffer harm – even in the company of other Christians. I guess in this I am mainly addressing myself to my younger brethren. Sadly there are able teachers who teach false doctrine. They might start with what is outwardly the gospel, but are really intent on getting a personal following ‘speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’ (Acts 20:30) – you will find them calling for money, promising a better life here, telling you what to do to be a better person or a better Christian, or being carried away by emotional responses, not of the Holy Spirit. So if you are being invited to something like this (you can easily find out what they are like from the internet), you can respond with a polite, inoffensive, ‘No’. Your Christian friend will respect your feelings, especially if you can explain, using scripture, why you cannot go the way he or she would like you to go.

See that there be no one who shall lead you away as a prey through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the teaching of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ’ (Col 2:8 Darby).

 

 

Sosthenes

 

July 2015

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. 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. 102

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

New-York, 1867

A M. P.

Bien-aimé frère,

…Quant à la Suisse, je parlais de besoins généraux. Il n’y a que trois frères entièrement à l’œuvre, qui font tout ce qu’ils peuvent, en outre divers frères, chacun dans sa localité. Autrement, cela ne va pas mal. Le long de la Broye il y avait eu des dissentiments ; de tout temps on y était maladif ; mais ce qui était fidèle est devenu plus solide qu’auparavant. Il n’en est pas moins vrai qu’on a grandement besoin d’ouvriers. Je n’ai pas vu la brochure de M. G. ; il l’a envoyée à Londres et m’en a averti, mais ce genre de littérature ne me suit pas ici.

Quant à Béthesda, l’affaire est très simple. Quant M. Newton a enseigné ses blasphèmes, et qu’on lui a bâti une chapelle, Béthesda a reçu les personnes qui en faisaient partie, même les personnes qui retenaient ses doctrines, puis a usé de toute sorte de procédés frauduleux pour cacher le fait, mais a préféré voir sortir de son sein une quarantaine de frères fidèles, plutôt que de ne pas recevoir ces personnes : c’était un parti pris.

Mais le principe va plus loin et l’on en voit les effets partout. En Amérique, il s’agit de l’immortalité de l’âme ; les neutres, comme on les appelle en Angleterre, qui viennent ici, se joignent sans difficulté aux réunions qui nient l’immortalités de l’âme, et au fond par conséquent la valeur de l’expiation. Ils disent : “ce sont des chrétiens” ; et cela leur suffit. Une personne payée par Béthesda, dans le Canada, défendait ouvertement les doctrines de M. Newton, et quelques-uns ici les propagent. Ils ne sont pas de Béthesda, mais marchent dans ses voies et l’approuvent. La question est celle-ci : Est-ce que la vérité est nécessaire aussi bien que la grâce ? L’un d’entre eux, homme actif de ce côté de l’Atlantique, et qui est venu du milieu des neutres de l’Angleterre, m’a dit : Qu’est-ce que la vérité ? Il n’y a pas de vérité certaine qu’on puisse exiger des autres. Il était en pleine communion avec ceux qui niaient l’immortalité de l’âme et qui propageaient cette doctrine, tout en disant qu’il ne partageait pas leurs vues ; – puis il est allé se présenter à Toronto, aux frères, comme un de mes amis, car ce système est partout la ruine de l’intégrité et de la doctrine. Je crois que M. R. a traduit la brochure de M. T. « Béthesda en 1857». Pour ma part, je n’ai jamais rien publié là-dessus. Mais Béthesda est rentré dans le cercle de la mondanité chrétienne.

J’ai été dans l’Ouest, où il y a en quelques endroits du bien ; des portes se sont ouvertes parmi ceux qui parlent le français. L’œuvre fait quelques progrès et les frères commencent à se connaître les uns les autres ; mais c’est une goutte d’eau dans un lac. Cependant le témoignage est là et se propage.

Ici, à New-York, tout est enseveli dans le commerce ; les chrétiens sont tout à fait mondains, à quelques exceptions près, et ces derniers gémissent. – On approuve ouvertement les bals, les théâtres, et les membres des églises y vont habituellement ; c’est une débandade morale dont on ne se fait pas une idée. Il faut être d’une église, c’est honnête, et il ne s’agit pas plus de conversion que de quoi que ce soit. Nous avons à présent une petite réunion, composée de gens fidèles, quoique faibles ; peut-être 25 en tout, mais c’est une ressource pour ceux qui viennent, et un petit témoignage pour ceux qui cherchent, – faible et de peu de valeur, mais où l’on marche en dehors du monde. A Boston, il existe aussi ; la réunion est moins nombreuse, mais plus américaine, et si je ne me trompe, les portes un peu plus ouvertes ; du moins y a-t-il plus de relations avec les gens de l’endroit. J’en forme aussi à New-York, mais je n’y suis qu’en passage.

Au Canada, en deux ou trois endroits, il y a quelque mouvement de l’Esprit de Dieu, entre autres, parmi les Peaux-Rouges ; ils sont plus de 20 à rompre le pain. Sauf cela, on est stationnaire : mais les frères en général marchent bien. Là aussi on manque d’ouvriers. C’est le dévouement qui fait partout défaut. Pour ma part, je suis convaincu qu’il y a bien des dons cachés, qui s’exerceraient s’il y avait plus de foi. Enfin, c’est à Jésus qu’il faut regarder. Ici-bas, tout passe et tout change, nous le savons ; mais nous avons besoin de regarder à lui pour que le cœur soit affermi dans la marche : “Ce qui je vis maintenant dans la chair, je le vis dans la foi au Fils de Dieu, qui m’a aimé et s’est donné lui-même pour moi.” Avec cela, tout est simple, et bientôt le moment viendra où la vie de la foi en Jésus, la vie de Christ en nous, sera tout ce que nous reconnaîtrons avoir été réel. Tout le reste n’aura été que « se promener en ce qui n’a que l’apparence ». Il est toujours plus clair que le Seigneur est notre tout, et bientôt, Dieu soit béni, Il sera définitivement notre tout. En attendant, c’est la foi, la foi seule qui fait marcher. Il nous encourage quelquefois ; il exerce notre patience à d’autres moments. Pour la foi, tout est clair ; puis la recherche de soi-même disparaît. Au reste, il nous nourrit et nous chérit comme un homme sa propre chair. Tenons-nous près de lui. Toutes les grandes vérités qu’il nous a enseignées me deviennent toujours plus précieuses, et sa Parole est d’un prix infini pour moi, la seule chose vraie et divine dans un monde de mensonge, si ce n’est encore la vie de Christ dans les siens, mais souvent, hélas ! bien mélangée !

Je ne pense pas rester longtemps ici. En y demeurant, j’aurais des portes ouvertes, il s’en ouvre de nouvelles, mais Dieu m’appelle ailleurs.

Paix vous soit, et communion, beaucoup de communion, avec le Seigneur.

Votre bien affectionné frère.

P.S. – J’ai de très bonnes nouvelles des frères d’Angleterre.

J N Darby – French Letter No. 102 – What Influences there are in America

As to Bethesda, the matter is very simple. As Mr Newton had taught his blasphemies and had a chapel built, Bethesda received people who made a party of it, even people who held his doctrines, then had used all sort of fraudulent procedures to hide the fact, but preferred to see about forty faithful brethren leave their company, rather than not receive these people: it was a definite party.

To Mr P

Beloved Brother,

… As to Switzerland, I spoke of general needs. There are only three brothers in the work full-time, who do what they can, and various other brothers, each in his locality. Otherwise, it does not go badly. Along la Broye[1] there had been disagreements; at all times it was unhealthy there; but what was faithful became more solid than before. It is not less true there that they greatly need workers. I did not see the booklet of Mr G; he sent it to London and informed me of it, but this type of literature does not follow me here.

As to Bethesda, the matter is very simple. As Mr Newton had taught his blasphemies and had a chapel built, Bethesda received people who made a party of it, even people who held his doctrines, then had used all sort of fraudulent procedures to hide the fact, but preferred to see about forty faithful brethren leave their company, rather than not receive these people: it was a definite party.

But the principle went much further and one sees its effects everywhere. In America, it is a matter of the immortality of the soul. The neutrals, as one calls them in England, who come here, join themselves without difficulty to the meetings which deny the immortality of the soul, and basically as a consequence the value of the atonement. They say: ‘they are Christians’, and that suffices them. A person paid by Bethesda in Canada openly defended the doctrines of Mr Newton, and some here propagate them. They are not of Bethesda, but walk in their ways and approve of them. The question is this: Is the truth necessary as well as grace? One among them, a man active on this side of the Atlantic, and who is come from the neutrals in England, has said to me: What is the truth? There is no certain truth that one can require of others. He was in full communion with those who deny the immortality of the soul and who propagated this doctrine, while saying that he did not have part in their views – now he is gone to present himself to the brethren in Toronto as one of my friends, for this system is altogether the ruin of integrity and doctrine. I believe that Mr R has translated the pamphlet of Mr T, Bethesda in 1857[2]. For my part, I have never published anything on it. But Bethesda has gone back into the circle of worldly Christendom.

I have been in the West, where there are several good places; the doors are opened among those who speak French. The work makes some progress and the brethren begin to know one another; but it is a drop of water in a lake. However, the testimony is there and propagates itself.

Here in New York, all is bound up in commerce; Christians are all become worldly, some exceptions apart, and these complain. They openly approve of balls, theatres, and the members of churches go there habitually. It is a moral stampede of which one can have no idea. You have to be a member of a church, that is respectable, and it is no longer a matter of conversion whichever one it is. We have a small meeting at present, composed of faithful people, although feeble, perhaps twenty-five in all, but it is a resource for those who come, and a testimony for those who seek – weak and of little account, but where one walks apart from the world. In Boston, a meeting also exists; less numerous, but more American, and if I do not make a mistake, the doors a little more open; at least there are more relations with people of the place. I also develop this in New York, but I am only in transit there.

In Canada, in two or three places, there is some movement of the Spirit of God, among others, among the Red Indians; there are more than twenty breaking bread. Apart from this, things are stationary, but the brethren in general go on well. There also labourers are lacking. It is devotion which makes the lack everywhere. For my part, I am convinced that there are indeed hidden gifts, which would be exercised if there were more faith. In the end, it is to Jesus that one must look. Down here, all passes and changes, we know it; but we need to look to Him so that the heart should be confirmed in its walk. “In that I now live in flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me”[3]. With this, everything is simple, and soon the moment will come when the life of faith in Jesus, the life of Christ in us, will be all that we will remember to have been real. All the rest will have been only ‘walking by what concerns appearance[4]’. It is ever clearer that the Lord is our all, and soon, thank God, He will be definitely our all. In the meantime it is faith; only faith that works. He sometimes encourages us; He exercises our patience at other times. For faith, all is clear; then looking for self disappears. Besides, He feeds us and cherishes as a man his own flesh. Let us keep near to Him. All the great truths which He has taught us become ever more precious to me, and His Word has an infinite prize to me, the only true and divine thing in a world of lies, if it is not yet the life of Christ in His own, but often – alas! – mixed indeed!

I am not thinking of staying here longer. In remaining here, I would have opened doors, they open anew, but God calls me elsewhere.

Peace be to you, and communion – much communion – with the Lord

Your very affectionate brother

PS        I have very good news of the brethren in England.

[1] One of the seven districts of the Canton of Fribourg.

[2] W Trotter: ‘Bethesda in September 1857; or, An Answer to the Question, Why do you still stand apart from Bethesda?’ – York – 17th September 1857

 

[3] Gal 2: 20

[4] 2 Cor 10: 7