J N Darby – French Letter No. 152 – The Positive Results of Persecution


England – 23rd September 1846

To Mr B R

Beloved Brother

I hasten to answer your good letter, especially since I see a little spiritual discouragement there. As for the translation[1], I had pursued it in all simplicity, to add what I could for the common good, even if the specialities of epistles demanded more positive gifts as to co-operation. The answer says nothing about what I asked for in this respect. I shall do the will of the Lord, thereupon as much as I shall be able. What had given rise to my question was that there are particular difficulties because the spirit of the French language does not answer much to Greek abstractions. If it was refused to face up to this difficulty, by acknowledging the bearing of this circumstance, I would have been a bit disheartened in this attempt; the work would have been useless, because, for the idiom of the French language, it is obvious that I must depend in some measure on other people. In the end, I left the thing there without adding anything.

As for the dangers about which you speak, they are possible, but the One who has kept his people before grape harvests, will keep them afterwards. He does not change. The enemy can roar and grind his teeth, but the hair of the head of each of the faithful is counted. I fear rest just as much as persecution for the dear and precious children of God, though I bless God when He grants us this rest. Only let us know how to walk in the fear of God, and it will be in the consolation of His Spirit. It is very natural that the respite, after the tension of persecution, brings a little of spiritual slackening and that the enemy should seek to profit from it, but, by seeking His face, His grace will be enough for us; His power will be perfected in our weakness. It is for each of us to be held near the Lord, not for themselves only, but being there by grace for others. A man of faith often disconcerts (by grace) the enemy in an astonishing way. It is what God desires. He intervenes and He is acknowledged. However hidden it is, the instrument will not lose its reward. It is the hidden work which is the most beautiful, most near God and His heart, most entirely for Him, and He will acknowledge it as such in the day when He will manifest what He will have given and approved.

As for the assemblies, dear brother, apart from what I have just said, it is necessary to trust to the Lord and to seek much to cultivate a true spirit of love, of brotherly affections flowing from the charity which takes nothing into account, so that God is glorified in His own. As for your difficulties which you feel on the subject of your prayers, it is a serious and hard thing, I admit, but God’s grace is not lacking to you. I do not doubt, beloved brother, that the flesh is the reason, negligence, false confidence, the lack of smallness and of poverty of spirit. Alas! I only know it too well. However, there is something to say here. The Lord makes us feel our dependence in the thing which is the easiest to us, in which we prove a certain satisfaction, in which the flesh does not fail to find its worth. I do not say that this incapacity happens to us without there being some fault, some spiritual negligence, for the flesh that takes pleasure in it cannot be active in the presence of God, and does not seek it. Thus, we relax inwardly; there is not the same intensity, the same need; the presence of God is no longer as before the source of joy for us; it does not feel needed in the same way. Our love towards the church is the love of God towards the church, and it is the only object in God’s view according to the love of which He is the source. It no longer carries the same character in our opinion; the motive of prayer lacks in the measure in which the link with the source is weakened. – but at the same time, dear brother, all this makes us make the discovery of the flesh in us, and we understand thereby even more profoundly that everything is grace. In the state about which I speak, having no consciousness of the love of Jesus for the church, we see more easily His sorrows, and these sorrows in a more painful way, less as objects of His solicitude, the more as hard things for us, and, having no trust which inspires His love, we are discouraged by it.

You have spoken of quite an important subject, responsibility and its relationship with grace. I believe that one can very well insist on devotion in a spirit of grace. I desire that you should abound in this grace also, as the fruit of love in us. It is thus that one is encouraged in these things. Devotion is not produced in blaming weakness in devotion, for it is the fruit of grace. Devotion which flows [from this blame] is only an imitation, a bad basis. In reading the epistles, you will easily find this distinction. Besides, if God gives it to me, I will tell you a word on the link between responsibility and grace, or rather between grace and responsibility. Room fails me to do it here.

Whatever it be, beloved brother, draw near to the Lord, our infinitely precious and faithful Head. The grace which is in Him suits all our circumstances, all our states of soul. It is the remedy and more than this, for our sorrows are only the occasion of knowing its fulness and perfection. “I have seen the affliction of my people”[2]; there were indeed other things to see. For the rest, God is faithful. Faith acts individually, although it produces common effects, while there is a common faith to which God answers. It is to Him that I commit you, beloved brother.

I believe that “the end of the Lord” in James 5: 11 signifies the end in contrast with the way. For us, the way is patience, but the end which is in the Lord’s hands is always mercy, as is seen in Job.

Your affectionate brother

[1] Notes for the Version of Lausanne

[2] Exod 3: 7

N Darby – French Letter No. 123 – Darby unwell

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

London – 16th February 1881

To Mr P

Dear Brother,

I have indeed been ill, not exactly ill, but absolutely exhausted following too much fatigue: two meetings a day, often more, and local conferences; then the effect of a very heavy fall on the flagstones in Scotland. My heart did not work, and I have had hardly any breath; I was forbidden to go upstairs. Perhaps my heart will stop completely. I have not been able to lie on my bed for weeks; and I am more than 80 years old! For four or five days, I remained stretched out all night; I also had to eat once or twice in the night; now not more than once. I have again attended the meeting twice for the breaking of bread.

Once a week, I have a large meeting of labouring brothers; and I have not missed it once. It seems to me that I am always better the next day. At last there was a moment when I knew again that it was God’s mind to raise me up. This has been useful to me. I was very restful, and could consider the thing close up with delight. The goodness and affection of the brethren has abounded towards me. At present, I am much better, my breathing is still embarrassed, but it is better.

Salute the brethren affectionately

Your affectionate brother in Christ

Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.

J N Darby – French Letter No. 122 – Peace be with you

Malvern – 12th April 1880

To Mr P

… Peace be with you, dear brother; keep yourself near to the Lord in the consciousness that you are nothing. This is our safety, and it is there that we find the strength and a support which never fails.

Your 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.

J N Darby – French Letter No. 120 – In the Charente

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

Pau – March 1879

To Mr P

Very dear Brother,

You must not be surprised if I have taken so long to answer your letter, not only because I have not a moment to myself, but sometimes my head can hold no more; but, thank God, our work advances, I hope. The majority of the Bible is translated, and I hope with a care which will leave only little to be desired: not that I am content – I am rarely content; there are passages which embarrass everybody, but the reader will hardly notice it.

We were all with you in your illness; I fear that you also lacked care. As for me, I can testify that our good friends in Nivernais[14] and the Dauphiné[15] that they all were, and still are, disposed to do all that they could, and all that the most brotherly hospitality could suggest; I will always remember it with much recognition and affection.

We have had a very good conference here; the brethren happy together, and I fully hope that, by grace, effects will be retained in the work which is done around us.

In la Charante[16], things go on well, with conversions among the Roman Catholics.

In la Haute-Loire also there has been blessing. In Italy it seems that the work is, although slowly, making progress.

There is in France quite a general movement in the spirits of the Catholics to hear the Word; it is a drop of water if one takes account of the number, but this has not been at all for some years.

I write these things to you because I think that you like to have some news of this country. God acts in the world. We have His Word – what grace! – We have His Spirit – what grace again! The earnest of a grace yet better, His eternal presence; holy and blameless before Him in love[17], like Christ and with Christ; what more could one desire! And it is revealed to us now; He sheds abroad His love in our hearts[18]. We have everything except the glory itself, but still in an earthen vessel; only the veil becomes thinner and thinner. Soon there will be no obstacle, but the exercises here below are the opportunity for much tender solicitude of love. He never fails.

Mr and Mrs S are very poor in health, but He makes everything work together for those who love Him[19].

Peace be to you, dear brother, and may God lead you and keep you.

In Europe, the winter has been harsh and everywhere there is distress as to temporal things. Here we have rain, storms and floods. I have suffered from lumbago and I hobble a bit, but I am always working.

Salute the brethren.

Yours ever affectionately in Jesus

purchasing power.

[11] Rome, GA was founded in 1834 ; badly affected by the Civil War, the population would have been around 3,000 when this letter was written.

[12] Presumably Lord A Cecil

[13] Phil 3:13

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. 118 – Meetings in Germany

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

Elberfeld – 4th May 1878

To Mr P

Very dear Brother,

I will not rush to break bread at X. As long as you are there, this can continue, but young as they are in the faith, when you are gone, the lack of experience will be felt. It is not like old Christians exercised as to their walk. I do not doubt that, if they were simple, God would keep them; He is always faithful, but His ways must be followed. Then, all the same you are there, to break bread is to enter at once into conflict, and although one must not shirk the testimony in order to avoid conflict, it would be to be unfaithful to do this, and be in danger of losing the blessing. However, it is when the seine is full that one draws it to the shore, and begins to put the good fish in vessels[8]. But God will lead you in this. The bad fish have to be left on the shore after all, one will never have the world with you if one is faithful. Only, God has His time for everything. As to the hour for the service, I do not believe that this makes any difference. At the beginning, it appears it was generally in the evening.

I am quite at ease that God has led you there where He has prepared a blessing for you and an opened door. At this time, He acts everywhere. We are in the last time. Unbelief abounds, but at the same time, God sets out His standard and works everywhere. Here in Germany, there are numerous conversions. On the borders, and even in the Russian interior, it is so too. Perhaps I will see the brethren in France. I am here for a conference, but naturally, in waiting, I take part in the work and I read the Word with those who have come before the date fixed for the meeting.

We have been occupied with the difference between the Red Sea and the Jordan, along with the epistle to the Romans and those to the Ephesians and the Colossians, and the Word has opened up marvellously, at least for me. In the epistle to the Romans, we have essentially the work of God, in response to the needs of sinful men: then all is grace. The Holy Spirit reasons in deducing everything from the grace, which results in consequences in life and justification. Man is in Christ and Christ is in man so we are dead to sin. Only, man is envisaged as still living in this world, but reckoning himself dead to sin. In Ephesians, it is all a new creation; one is not in Christ for salvation but in Him by virtue of the place where He has entered. These are the counsels of God, and the relationships in which we are found according to those counsels. We are in Christ where He is. Christ is envisaged as risen from among the dead, and we as dead in our sins, so that there is nothing more morally, and all is new creation. The responsibility of a living man is not in question here. In the Colossians, it is not us in Christ, but Christ in us. We are made fit subjectively for the inheritance, but we wait for it; we are dead and raised, we who otherwise would live in sin, circumcised by the true circumcision of the Christ, dead to the elements of this world, which is not said in the epistle to the Romans. In Colossians, the question remains, will man remain good until the end? Because he is not yet in heaven, that is to say in the position described by the epistle. In the epistle to the Romans, it is the work of God, and He who has begun it will complete it. In Colossians, it is our resurrection life down here, and it remains to know if we are truly such. The position in the epistle to the Romans is the effect of the Red Sea, deliverance by the salvation of God, salvation perfect in itself. The position in the Colossians is a somewhat like that in which Christ was found after His resurrection during the forty days; for us, death, resurrection, circumcision, with Him (chap 2: 11, 12); then the dead made living, but the consequences are not followed as far as heaven. The Holy Spirit is not found in this epistle (save chap 1: 8), but life more than in the others.

In the Ephesians, it is the Holy Spirit and the contrast between the new and old creation.

In Romans we must give ourselves to God as men alive on the earth; in Colossians, to have, as dead and raised, our affections fixed on heavenly things where Christ is found; in the Ephesians, to go out of the presence of God to manifest His character down here as love and light, as Christ has done.

Having a tired head, I only indicate the points which can give you to reflect, for all this has been quite developed here.

I think I have said to you that the wilderness does not form part of God’s counsels (Exod 3, 6, 15); but God’s ways (Deut 8). The history is given up to the end of Numbers 20, this links with what I have come to say about the three epistles.

I have good news of Béarn[9]; life takes root with the brethren.

My banker has failed and I have lost a little close to 9,000 francs[10], but that is alright; I have kept more than I thought.

Yours very affectionately in Christ


[8] See Matt 13: 47, 48

[9] a province of France located in the Pyrenees

[10] at that time, when both currencies used the gold standard, a pound sterling was worth about 25 French francs; the sum lost is equivalent to about £30,000 ($48,000) in 2013 purchasing power.

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. 109 – Hard going in the USA

Chicago – 1873

To Mr P

Beloved Brother,

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

I was not deceived about the localities in the West. There is everything to do; every false opinion imaginable to remove by the Word, but at least there is the desire to study it.

We have two meetings a day for lectures; the gentlemen who are active in the city come there; it seems to me that there is more attention and more sobriety than at the beginning, and I believe that there are indeed truths which penetrate into their spirits. Grace is little, or hardly known, and, when it is preached, in general it is a manner which is false. The difficulty lies in this that the first fundamental truths are false: what would be in general a point of departure still requires scriptural proofs; all is to be remedied. The truth in the beginning only confuses, because it is mixed with false ideas already received; a passage is cited to show something; it is used it to fantasise; and it has first to be made clear. All the same, progress has been made under this condition; one is more subject to the Word, and one feels that there is a power in the truth which is different from opinions.

At Springfield[1], thirty or forty people propose to meet and to allow themselves to be led by the Lord. I hope to go there soon. Other difficulties will be found there, but the Lord suffices for everything.

Here, we have had to abandon the Ephesians and take up the epistle to the Romans; there was not yet enough establishment on the foundation of the truth.

The brethren go on well, save one or two among them, come here to make their way. The world has taken possession of their hearts; there still, the Lord’s grace suffices, but they must have their experiences.

Salute the brethren affectionately.

Your affectionate brother

_hat heartbreak, what a humiliation, what a disgrace it is to the Lord! I am surprised at His goodness, I may say, in not judging, because if God does not keep us, we are all capable of doing this too; but it gives us to think much of the danger in which the Lord’s workmen are, and particularly when, by having superior light, they are put forward. My consolation is that the Lord manifests His government here: it is a sorrowful way to learn but the thing that one learns is very precious.

Pinkerton[2] has found much encouragement; he is now in Syria; he has imported with him a press to print tracts in Arabic; a local person is able to work with him. I have blessed God indeed. In Haifa also, he has found opened doors, this will also tend to enlarge the brethren’s horizon, although it is in a certain sense still within the kingdom.

Everywhere here where Christ is fully announced one finds a numerous and attentive audience, souls everywhere are famished. The Nationalists[3] have been compelled to begin a kind of mission in the churches, which has equally attracted a lot of the world. The floods of evil rise, but evidently God works; the Lord is waited for more. There must be much to encourage in the work here, for one can only suffer here; but He who does all will do His work …


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.