J N Darby – Love Divine – Father, Thy sovereign Love has sought Captives to Sin, gone far from Thee

FATHER, Thy sovereign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee

Hymn by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)


FATHER, Thy sovereign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee;
The work that Thine own Son hath wrought
Has brought us back in peace and free.

And now, as sons before Thy face,
With joyful steps the path we tread,
Which leads us on to that blest place
Prepared for us by Christ, our Head.

Thou gav’st us, in eternal love,
To Him to bring us home to Thee,
Suited to Thine own thoughts above,
As sons, like Him, with Him to be

In Thine own house. There Love divine
Fills the bright courts with cloudless joy;
But ’tis the love that made us Thine
Fills all that house without alloy.

Oh, boundless grace! What fills with joy
Unmingled all that enter there,
God’s nature, Love without alloy,
Our hearts are given e’en now to share.

God’s righteousness with glory bright,
Which with its radiance fills that sphere –
E’en Christ, of God the power and light –
Our title is that light to share.

O Mind divine! so must it be,
That glory all belongs to God.
O Love divine! that did decree
We should be part, through Jesus’ blood.

Oh, keep us, Love divine, near Thee,
That we our nothingness may know;
And ever to Thy glory be –
Walking in faith while here below.

J N Darby 1880

Edited version in Little Flock Hymn Book  (1962, 1973) – No 87, 88

Edited version in Hymns for the Little Flock 1962 and 1973 Nos 87 and 88 and in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1978 – No 331


J N Darby – The Father’s Grace – Father, in Thine Eternal Power,

FATHER, in Thine eternal power,
Thy grace and majesty divine,
No soul, in this weak mortal hour,
Can grasp the glory that is Thine!

Hymn by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

FATHER, in Thine eternal power,
Thy grace and majesty divine,
No soul, in this weak mortal hour,
Can grasp the glory that is Thine!

E’en in its thoughts of sovereign grace
It leaves us all far, far behind;
The love that gives with Christ a place
Surpasses our poor feeble mind.

And yet that love is not unknown
To those who have the Saviour seen;
Nor strange to those He calls His own –
Pilgrims in scenes where He has been.

In Him Thy perfect love, revealed,
Has led our hearts that love to trace
Where nothing of that love’s concealed,
But meets us in our lowly place.

But grace, the source of all our hope,
From Thine eternal nature flows;
Could to our lost condition stoop,
And now through Christ no hindrance knows;

Has flowed in fullest streams below,
And opened to our hearts the place
Where, in its ripened fruits, we’ll know
The eternal blessings of that grace.

And here we walk, as sons through grace,
A Father’s love our present joy;
Sons, in the brightness of Thy face,
Find rest no sorrows can destroy.

Nor is the comfort of Thy love,
In which we “Abba, Father” cry,
The only blessing that we prove:
Because that love is ever nigh,

A holy Father’s constant care
Keeps watch, with an unwearying eye,
To see what fruits His children bear,
Fruits that may suit their calling high;

Takes ever knowledge of our state –
What dims communion with His love,
Might check our growth or separate
Our hearts from what’s revealed above.

Oh, wondrous Love, that ne’er forgets
The object of its tender care;
May chasten still, while sin besets,
To warn and guard them where they are;

But ne’er forgets, but feeds them still
With tokens of His tender love;
Will keep till, freed from every ill,
They find their rest with Him above.

Oh, wondrous, infinite, divine!
Keep near, my soul, to that blest place,
Where all those heavenly glories shine
Which suit the brightness of His face.

Oh, lowliness, how feebly known,
That meets the grace that gave the Son!
That waits, to serve Him as His own,
Till grace what grace began shall crown!


Edited version in Little Flock Hymn Book  (1962, 1973) – No 120

How to Know the Father’s Will

Finally “the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps 25: 9).
I have given you all that comes to mind at this moment, and little satisfaction, I fear. But remember only that the wisdom of God conducts us in the way of God’s will. If our own will is in activity, God cannot be the servant of it; that is the first point to discover. It is the secret of the life of Christ. I know no other principle that God makes use of, however He may pardon and overrule all. You have asked me for direction: God leads the new man who has no other mind than Christ, and who mortifies the old man. He purifies us thus that we may bear fruit.

This was the subject of a letter, originally in French (JND French Letters No 436) and translated by myself.  The translation has been reviewed by another brother.  It is an alternative translation to that in JND’s Collected Writings.  How to Know the Will of the Father  vol  16 (Practical 1) p19
DJR Translation

Dear Brother

You could not suppose that a child who habitually neglected its father, and was always wholly indifferent to his mind and will, would not know what would please its parent when a difficult circumstance presented itself.   There are certain things which God intentionally leaves in generalities, in order that the state of a soul may be proved.  If, instead of the child, a wife was found there, there would probably be no hesitation in her mind; she would know immediately what would please her husband; even where he had expressed no positive will about the circumstance in question. Now you cannot escape this trial; God will not allow His children to escape it. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be fun of light.” (Matt 6: 22).  This easy and comfortable means of knowing God’s will does not exist without reference to the state of our own soul.
There is something else.  Very often we are of too much importance in our own eyes and we imagine, however wrongly, that God has some will for us in the circumstances in which one is working.  In fact, God has nothing to tell us thereon, and all the agitation provoked in us by the thing which concerns us is only evil. The will of God is that we should know to take our place quietly, an insignificant place.  At other times, we seek to know God would have us to act in circumstances in which His only will is that we should not be found there at all, and the first thing to which our conscience would lead us, if it were really in activity, would be to make us leave them.  Our own will has set us there, and we would like nevertheless to lean on the hand of God and to be directed by Him in the path of our own will. Such is a very common case.

Be assured that, if we kept ourselves near enough to God, He would not leaveus in ignorance of His mind.  In a long and active life, God, in His love, may make us feel our dependence when we have a tendency to act according to our own will, and does not immediately reveal His own; but the principle remains, whatever it is: “if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light”.  Whence it is certain that, if the whole body is not full of light, the eye is not single.  You will say to me, That is poor consolation.  No, it is sweet and precious consolation for those whose desire is to have the eye single and to walk with God – not only to delivered objectively, so to speak, by the knowledge of His will, but to walk with Him. “If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (John 11: 9-10).  It is always the same principle. “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8: 12).  You will seek in vain to exempt yourself from this moral law of Christianity: the thing is impossible.  “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing by the knowledge of God” (Col 1: 9-10).  The connection between these things is of incalculable value for the soul.  We need to know the Lord to walk in a way worthy of Him; and we grow in the knowledge of God.  “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Phil 1: 9-10).  Finally, “the spiritual discerns all things and he himself is discerned of no man” (1 Cor 2: 15).
It is then the will of God, and a will of grace, that men should be capable of discerning His will other than according to their own spiritual state, and, in general, when we think that we are carrying a judgment of the circumstances, it is God who is judging us, us and our state.  Our only business, I repeat, is to keep ourselves close to God.  It would not be the love of God to leave us to discover His will without that.  Such a thing might be convenient to a director of consciences; but the love of God cannot allow us to be spared the discovery and the chastisement of our own moral state.  Thus, if you seek how you may discover the will of God in the details, and apart from this state, you are seeking evil; and this is seen every day.  You will find a Christian in doubt and perplexity, where another, more spiritual, sees as clear as the day, surprised at what is making no difficulty, and understanding that it is quite simply the other’s state which hinders him from seeing it. “He that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off” (2 Pet 1: 9).

As regards circumstances, I believe that a person may be guided by them; and Scripture has pronounced on that, whatever it may be called: to be “held in with bit and bridle”; “I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Ps 32).  Such is the promise and privilege of faith which keeps near enough to God to know only His mind towards him; He being faithful to direct thus and promising to do so.  God exhorts us not to be as the horse and the mule which cannot receive intelligently from their master the communication of his mind and his desires; they need to be held in with bit and bridle, which is better than to stumble, to fall or to run counter to the one who leads; but this is after all a sad state.  That is therefore what it is to be guided by circumstances.  God is full of goodness in concerning himself thus with us but it is a sad on our part.
Here, however, we must distinguish between judging circumstances, and acting in the midst of them; he who is led by them always acts blind as to knowing the will of God.  There is absolutely nothing moral in that direction; it is an external force that exercises a control.  Now it is very possible that I may have no idea beforehand of what I shall do, and that: I do not know the circumstances in which I may be found, and cannot consequently make any resolution in advance; and yet,the instant they present themselves, I judge with the clearest divine judgment what is the path of God’s will, what is the mind and power of the Spirit in the midst of these circumstances, and this demands precisely the highest characterof spirituality; instead of being led by circumstances, on is led by God in them, being near enough to God to be able to judge what is suitable, as soon as it is presented.  ‘Impressions’ are not everything,  God can suggest them no doubt, and by His Spirit, He does suggest a thing to the mind; but when it is perceived, its moral character will be as clear as the sun at noon-day. In response to prayer, God can remove from our heart certain carnal influences, and so leave their power in the spirit to certain spiritual influences which give importance to a duty, which had been perhaps entirely obscured by preoccupation caused by some object of our desire.  This may be even be seen between two individuals: one may not have the spiritual discernment to discover what is right; but if another shews the good to him, he sees it clearly himself.  All are not highway engineers, but a waggoner knows well enough a good road when it is made. Thus the impressions which come from God do not always remain simple impressions, but they are usually clear at the same time as they are produced.  I do not doubt, however, that if we walk with Him, and if we listen to Him, God often produces this clarity in the soul.

If Satan, as you put it, raises obstacles, it only shows that they are only obstacles (allowed God) for a good reason, obstacles raised by the accumulation of evil in the circumstances which surround us by the power of evil over other people.

Your third question supposes a person acting in ignorance of God’s will, which should never be the case.  The only rule that can be given as to this is, never to act when we do not know this will.  If you act without knowing it, you will be at the mercy of circumstances.  God overrules all, for this is the case supposed by your question; But why act in such a way as would be if I were ignorant of the will of God?   He will stop me perhaps, because, if I do not walk sufficiently near to God in the sense of my nothingness, I will perhaps lack the faith to accomplish what we have faith enough to discern.

If we are doing our own will or are negligent in our walk, God in His grace may warn us by a hindrance if we pay attention to it, whilst “the simple pass on and are punished” Prov 22: 3).  God may permit, where there is much activity and labour, that Satan should raise up hindrances, in order that we may be kept in His dependence; but God never permits Satan to act otherwise than on the flesh.  He does evil, if we leave the door open between us and him, because we are away from God; but otherwise God uses it only as an instrument to test us to take us away or correct what would be a danger to us, or something that would tend to exalt us.  God allows Satan to cause suffering, and the flesh and the outward mind, in order that the inward man may be kept clean and safe.  If it is a question of anything else, we have only to take our “buts” and open the door to the enemy to trouble us by doubts and difficulties as if they were between God and us, because we no longer “see far”, for “he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not”.

Finally, the question is wholly moral. If any particular question is raised which at the first blush we cannot solve, we shall find very often that it would not have arisen, if our position were good, if spirituality had guarded and kept us instead of making us err.  In such a case, we have only one thing to do, which is to humble ourselves as to matter which it is about, then to examine whether Scripture does not present some principle suitable to direct us. Here evidently spirituality is everything.  Where it can be applied, the principle of looking at what Jesus would have done in such and such a case is excellent, but how often we are not in the circumstances in which He would be found.
It is often useful to ask ourselves whence comes such a desire with us, or the thought of doing this or that; I have found that this alone decides more than half of the difficulties in which men can be found.  The rest of those which remain are the result of haste, or of a former evil.  If the thought is of God and not from the flesh, then we have only to wait on God as to the manner and means by which we shall soon be directed.  There are cases we need direction without motives, as when we hesitate about whether to make one or another.  A life of more ardent charity, or a charity exercised in a more intelligent way, or set in activity in communion with God, will clear the motives of charity which were not but selfishness.  And if, you ask, charity or obedience are not in question?  Well!  Then it is for your first to give me a reason, a motive, for acting in whatever way it is.  If it is your own will that you are pressing, you cannot make the wisdom of God te servant of your will; this is another numerous class of difficulties that God will never solve.  In these cases, He will in grace teach us obedience, and will show us how much time we have lost in our own activity.

Finally “the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps 25: 9).

I have given you all that comes to mind at this moment, and little satisfaction, I fear.  But remember only that the wisdom of God conducts us in the way of God’s will.  If our own will is in activity, God cannot be the servant of it; that is the first point to discover.  It is the secret of the life of Christ.  I know no other principle that God makes use of, however He may pardon and overrule all.  You have asked me for direction: God leads the new man who has no other mind than Christ, and who mortifies the old man.  He purifies us thus that we may bear fruit.

What the Father has done in Grace for the Church’s Glory

Christ is exalted, sitting on the “right hand of the majesty on high”, waiting for the resurrection of the Church. The Church has already been reconciled to Christ, the earnest of this being in the presence of the Holy Spirit in us believers. Reconciliation of all things to Him is future.

In the dispensation that will start at the Saviour’s coming, the heirs will have the enjoyment of their inheritance. All things will be subjected to Christ, and to His church, united to Him and manifested with Him.

‘After These Things’ Chapter 4.2 – What the Father has done in Grace for the Church’s Glory

From our book ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy – and more…’ Compiled by Daniel Roberts. For more about this book click on the picture or CLICK HERE

The Name of the Father

A summary of the Second Lecture by J N Darby on the Present Hope of the Church – Geneva 1840 entitled ‘The Church and its Glory’

Our Inheritance

The Name of Father

Ephesians  1

The Resurrection of the Church

Jesus Exalted

Reconciliation of all Things to Christ

Heavenly Places


Our Inheritance

Christ is exalted, sitting on the ‘right hand of the majesty on high’, waiting for the resurrection of the Church.   The Church has already been reconciled to Christ, the evidence of this being in the presence of the Holy Spirit in us believers.  Reconciliation of all things to Him is future.

In the dispensation that will start at the Saviour’s coming, the heirs will have the enjoyment of their inheritance.  All things will be subjected to Christ, and to His Church, united to Him and manifested with Him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ…and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the assembly, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.’  Ephesians 1 (see the whole chapter)

The Name of Father

Our hope goes far beyond escaping the wrath to come).  It involves our participating in the glory of the Son, as it is said in John 17:22, ‘And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them’.  In this scripture, there is a message to the world that the Father loves us as He loves Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit, we are full of joy and intelligence as to those riches in glory.

Considering the Church and its glory leads us to the name of Father – how God has revealed Himself to us.  The Father has given the Church to Christ as His bride, with a view to its full participation in all His glory.  In adopting us as His children, the Father has bestowed on us nothing less than the dignity and glory of the Son, ‘firstborn among many brethren’ (Romans 8:29).  As the bride of Jesus, we enjoy all the privileges that belong to Him, because of His incomparable love to us.

Ephesians  1

God presents Himself as ‘our Father’ (v. 2), and ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (v. 3).  In v.4-8, we have salvation, ‘accepted in the beloved’.  We are predestined to be the Father’s children having redemption through Christ’s blood.  How great are the riches of God’s grace!

In v. 8-10, we see the actual power of grace, introducing us into the knowledge of the purpose (or decree) of God.  God treats us as His friends and calms our souls to see the end of all man’s agitated efforts.  God will ‘gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.’ (v.10).

Furthermore, we have the sealing by the Spirit and our future participation in the glory: ‘Sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory’ (v. 13).

The remainder of the chapter is a prayer for the faithful to understand their hope in an exalted Christ, to whom the church is united, and that they might appreciate the power that works towards them as believers.

The Resurrection of the Church

Christ is sitting on the ‘right hand of the majesty on high’ (Hebrews. 1:3), waiting for the resurrection of the Church. He does not even know (as Man) when this should take place since as a Servant He waits entirely upon His Father.

Currently, Christ is glorified.  But as yet, all things are not yet subjected to Him.  We acknowledge His rights as Creator, as Heir of all things, as Head of the body, the Church.  He is both Firstborn of every creature and Firstborn from the dead.

Christ will take the inheritance of all things as a Man, so that the Church, bought with His blood, and purified, should inherit all things with Him.

There are two fundamental points:

  • Christ possesses all things.
  • The Church, the bride of Christ, participates in all that He has, and in all that He is, except in His eternal divinity.

Jesus Exalted

We see in Ephesians 1:23:

  • Jesus as the Head of the Church, His body.
  • Jesus highly exalted at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
  • All things under His feet.
  • The Church introduced into the same glory.

We see in 1 Corinthians 15:

  • The glorification of Jesus.
  • All things subjected to Him.
  • Head of a kingdom which He will possess as Man and which He will eventually deliver up to God the Father, with God all in all.
  • The time for His being invested with royal power will have arrived, God having put His enemies as a footstool under His feet.

Reconciliation of all Things to Christ

We see in Romans 8:19-23 that the deliverance of creation will take place at the same time as the manifestation of the sons of God.  Christ will be sitting at the right hand of God.  He becomes Possessor of the heavens and the earth in fact, as He is that now by right.  Were there, for example, a blade of grass that was not subjected to His power in blessing, Satan would have got an advantage over Christ, His rights, and His inheritance.  Clearly, ‘all things’ relates to things in heaven and earth, not to sinners in unbelief.

The things of earth and heaven will be reconciled later, by the efficacy of His blood.  ‘And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven. And you … now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh, through death’ (Colossians 1:20),

The present creation is in misery and bondage.  We sigh and groan because of that.  All may be in disorder here, but we know Him who has redeemed us and made us heirs of all things. He has introduced us into the enjoyment of the love of the Father, enjoying the privileges as heirs.

When He comes, Christ will be the source of joy to all creation.  All the righteous titles of Christ will be vindicated.

Heavenly Places

One of the spiritual blessings that we have now is to find our abode in the ‘heavenly places’. What we enjoy now in hope, though hindered in many ways, will be for us in actuality.  The earth will feel the effect of that.  ‘Wicked spirits in heavenly places[1] (see margin, Ephesians 6:12), will cease to be the continual cause of misery and chaos of a sinful world made by sin, the ruin and of the iniquity of the first Adam.  Their place will be filled by Christ and His Church, reflecting His glory.  She will beam upon the earth in blessing, and the nations will walk by her light.  She will be the worthy and happy instrument of His blessings, the living demonstration of their success.   God has done these things, ‘that in the ages to come, he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:7).  The earth will enjoy the fruits of the victory of the Christ, the last Adam.  The joy of joys will be the communion of the Father and the Bridegroom for ‘God is love.’


Darby concludes ‘I have detailed to you, briefly and feebly, what is the destiny of the church.   We live under the dispensation during which the heirs are gathered together.  In the dispensation which will start at the coming of the Saviour, the heirs shall have the enjoyment of the inheritance of all things.  All things shall be subjected to Christ, and to His church, united to Him and manifested with Him.

What is to follow that is not our business now.  In that last period, God will be all in all, and Christ Himself, as Man, will be subject to God; and Chief, of a family, eternally blessed in the communion of God.  God has loved that family, and His tabernacle will be in the midst of it – God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally blessed. Amen.

[1] The KJV translation is ‘spiritual wickedness in high places’, whereas the Darby version ‘spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies’.  I cannot find a reliable translation which says ‘wicked spirits’ but Darby and others (Stoney, Raven etc) use the expression ‘wicked spirits’ in ministry.  The Greek is ‘τὰ πνευματικὰ/ta pneumatika (spiritual things) τῆς πονηρίας/tes ponerias (of evil)  ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις/en tois epouraniais (in heaven, or the celestial sphere) – See Strong.  I cannot find the margin reference to which Darby refers.

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