Sunday, April 30, 2006

J.N. Darby on Denominations

By John Nelson Darby

"In the first place, it is not a formal union of the outward professing bodies that is desirable; indeed it is surprising that reflecting Protestants should desire it: far from doing good, I conceive it would be impossible that such a body could be at all recognised as the church of God. It would be a counterpart to Romish unity; we should have the life of the church and the power of the word lost, and the unity of spiritual life utterly excluded. Whatever plans may be in the order of Providence, we can only act upon the principles of grace; and true unity is the unity of the Spirit, and it must be wrought by the operation of the Spirit. In the great darkness of the Church hitherto, outward division has been a main support, not only of zeal (as is very generally admitted), but also of the authority of the word, which is instrumentally the life of the church; and the Reformation consisted not, as has been commonly said, in the institution of a pure form of church, but in setting up the word, and the great Christian foundation and corner stone of 'Justification by faith', in which believers might find life. But further, if the view that has been taken of the state of the church be correct, we may adjudge that he is an enemy to the work of the Spirit of God who seeks the interests of any particular denomination; and that those who believe in 'the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ' ought carefully to keep from such a spirit; for it is drawing back the church to a state occasionrd by ignorance and non-subjection to the word, and making a duty of its worst and antichristian results. This is a most subtle and prevailing mental disease, 'he followeth not us,' even when men are really Christians. Let the people of God see if they be not hindering the manifestation of the church by this spirit. I believe there is scarecely a public act of Christian men (at any rate of the higher orders, or of the higher orders, or of those who are active in the nomminal churches), which is not infected with this; but its tendency is manifestly hostile to the spiritual interests of the people of God, and the manifestation of the glory of Christ. Christians are little aware how this prevails in their minds; how they seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ; and how it dries up the springs of grace and spiritual communion; how it precludes that order to which blessing is attached- the gathering together in the Lord's name. No meeting, which is not framed to embrace all the children of God in the full basis of the kingdom of the Son, can find the fulness of blessing, because it does not contemplate it- because its faith does not embrace it.

Where two or three are gathered together in His name, His name is recorded there for blessing; because they are met in the fulness of the power of the unchangeable interests of that everlasting kingdom in which it has pleased the glorious Jehovah to glorify Himself, and to make His name and saving health known in the Person of the Son, by the power of the Spirit. In the name of Christ, therefore they enter (in whatever measure of faith) into the full counsels of God, and are 'fellow-workers under God.' Thus whatever they ask is done, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. But the very foundation on which these promises rest is broken up, and its consistecy destroyed, by bonds of communion not formed on the scope of the purposes of God in Christ. I say not, indeed, that they may not find a feeble measure of spiritual food; which, though generally partial in its character, may be suited to strengthen their personal hope of eternal life. But the glory of the Lord is very near the believing soul, and in proportion as we seek it, will personal blessing be found. It puts me in mind indeed (as all doubtless have some separate portion of the form of the church) of those who parted the Saviour's garments among them; while that inner vest, which could not be rended, which was inseparably one in its nature, was cast lots for whose it should be; but in the meanwhile, the name of Him, the presence of the power of whose life would unite them all in appropriate order, is left exposed and dishonoured. Indeed, I fear that these have fallen too much into the hands of those who care not for Him, and that the the Lord will never clothe Himself with them again, viewed in their present state. Indeed, it could not be when He appears in His glory. I say it not in presumption or dislike (for the reproach of it is a grievous burden, it is an humbling, most afflicting thought): but that second temple that had been raised by the mercy of God after the long Babylonish captivity, we have learned to trust in too much as 'the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these'; we have been haughtybecause of the Lord's holy mountain; we have looked at it as adorned with goodly stones and gifts; and have ceased to look to the Lord of the temple- have ceased almost to walk by faith, or to have communion in the hope of the return of the messenger of the covenant to be the glory of this latter house. The unclean spirit of idolatry may have been purged out; but the question remains, Is there the effectual presence of the Spirit of the Lord, or is it merely empty swept and garnished? If we have been at all blessed, are we not disregarding Him from whom it came, by pride, and self-complacency, and seeking to turn it to our own instead of to His glory? Let us then pass, brethren beloved of the Lord- ye who love Him in sincerity, and would rejoice in His voice- to the practical exigency of our present situation. Let us weigh His mind concerning us. The Lord has made known His purposes in Him, and how those purposese are effected. 'He hath made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath puposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he should gather together in one all things in Christ,whether they be things in heaven or things on earth, even in him, in whom we have also received an inheritance'- in one and in Christ."

The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ in Collected Writings of JN Darby volume 1, p.24-26

J.N. Darby on the Evil of Clericalism

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"In the statement which I make here, I make no rash or hasty expression of feeling, but what I believe the Lord would press upon the minds of Christians, and that which they must receive: that, the converse of which He might bear with in practise, while it did not interfere with and oppose the purposes of His grace, winking at the ignorance, but cannot when it does.

The statement which I make is this, that I believe the notion of a Clergyman to be the sin against the Holy Ghost in this dispensation. I am not talking of individuals wilfully committing it, but that the thing itself is such as regards this dispensation, and must result in its destruction: the substitution of something for the power and presence of that holy, blessed and blessing Spirit, by which this dispensation is characterised, and by which the unrenewedness of man, and the authority of man, holds the place which alone that blessed Spirit has power and title to fill, as that other Comforter which should abide for ever.

If the notion of a Clergyman has had the effect of the substitution of anything which is of man, and therefore subject to Satan, in the place and prerogative of that blessed Spirit exercising the vicarship of Christ in the world, it is clear, that however the providence of God may have overruled it, in the ignorance which He could wink at, it does, when stood upon and restedin against the presence and work of the Spirit, become direct sin against Him- pure, dreadful, and destructive evil- the very cause of destruction to the church. I must be observed to say nothing whatever against offices in the church of Christ, and the exercise of authority in them, whether episcopal or evangelical in character. It were a vain and unnecessary work here to prove the recognition of that on which the Scripture is so plain. But they are spoken of in Scripture as gifts from on high: 'He gave some apostles' Eph.4:5, 7, 11; so in 1 Corinthians 12, they are known only as gifts. My objection to the notion of a Clergyman is, that it substitutes something in the place of all these, which cannot be said to be of God at all, and is not found in Scripture. Now, I believe the whole priciple of this to be contained in this dispensation in the word clergyman, and that this is the necessary root of that denial of the Holy Ghost which must, from the nature of the dispensation, end in its dissolution.

I am quite aware that people will say, that this is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, that it may amount to resisting the Holy Ghost, but sin against the Holy Ghost is quite another thing. It is not so much another thing as people would suppose. At any rate the cause of the destruction of the Jewish system was this very thing: 'Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.' And I am perfectly satisfied, however this dispensation may be prolonged in order to the gathering of souls out of the world, of God's elect, it has sealed its destruction in the rejection and resistance of the Spirit of God. But I go a great deal farther, and I affirm, though that were sin enough, that the notion of a Clergyman puts the dispensation specifically in the position of the sin against the Holy Ghost, and that every Clergyman is contributing to this. The sin against the Holy Ghost was the ascribing to the power of evil that which came from the Holy Ghost: and such is the direct operation of the idea of a Clergyman. It charges the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, which the Spirit gives by the mouth of those whom He chooses, whom they are pleased to call laymen, and the rigteousness of conduct which flows from the reception of that testimony, with disorder and schism. Now, God is not the author of confusion or disorder, nor of schism, but the enemy of souls is; and to charge the plain testimony which the Holy Ghost gives concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, and the effects which it produces, with disorder and schism, is to charge the work of God with being evil, and from the evil one. But if clergyman have the exclusive privilege of preaching, teaching, and ministering communion, which they claim, and which is the very sense and meaning of their title, then must it be all evil. That is, the notion of a Clergyman necessarilly involves the charge of evil on the work of the Holy Ghost, and therefore, I say, that the notion of a Clergyman involves the dispensation, where insisted upon, in the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Sinners are converted to God, souls called out of darkness, the truth preached with energy an love to souls, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, in constraint and constancy (in whatever weakness) of the Redeemer's love: men are gathered from evil and wickedness (for I will put the fullest case my adversaries could wish) into the communion of the Lord's love, to bear witness to their sole dependence on His dying love; and this is producing confusion and schism- of which God is not the author, but Satan- because they are not, nor are brought together, by clergymen! What is this but to charge the work of divine grace with proceeding from, and having the character of, the author of evil, which is blasphemy? and this is the immediate and direct effect, the necessary effect, of the notion- the exclusive notion of a Clergyman."

Taken from The Notion of a Clergyman Dispensationally the Sin against the Holy Ghost in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.1, p.39-40

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Shoes Off at the Door, Please: Shoes still Need to Come Off in Summer

Shoes Off at the Door, Please: Shoes still Need to Come Off in Summer

Extract from a Reading on the Seven Churches with J.N. Darby

Q. What would answer to Balaam now?

J.N.D. Drawing the saints of God into the world, and corrupting tham, and teaching error for reward. See Jude as to this.

Balaam was an extraordinary character; he had this revelation of the name of Jehovah, and he was connected with Satan's power. He says, "I could not go beyond the commandment of Jehovah, my God," and yet he sought for enchantments. See Numbers 23:4, 16; chap.24:1. Balaam was using the name and authority of Jehovah, and taking guidance of the devil. And this is what the professing church is doing. When Balaam cannot curse Israel, he tempts them to fornication; and then he gets them to worship Baal. The whole of it is Satan's power in Popery. When one gets into Papal countries, one finds plenty of winking Madonnas, and such things, which it is impossible to account for.

Not that the full corruption was there as yet, but it was coming in as plain as could be in many ways. Later on, heathen practises were Christianised, the tombs of the martyrs took the place of that of Hercules. They used holy water at the idols' temples; the practise was then transferred, and the Christians sprinkled themselves. It is a curious thing that as soon as the council of Ephesus decided that Mary was the mother of God, the heathens came in en masse. In Switzerland alone, seven great temples became Christian at once. The great body of worshippers came in; instead of having the nother of the gods, it was the mother of God, that was all. Nobody denies it. When they came over to convert England, directed by Pope Gregory to do so, they were not to pull down the temples, but only to change their use, and to change also their feasts in the same way. This was in the seventh century. It was all done deliberately and systematically. And then they worked miracles at these places. If one goes into a church dedicated to Mary, one will find a holy well, and a bush covered with bits of rag- votive offerings- just as it used to be to Escalapius. A great deal of it is ignorance, but Satan is in it.

Q. Satan?

J.N.D. Do you think if I go to the mother of God and worship her, it is not of Satan? I do not believe that Mesmerism is all imposture. Nor do I limit spiritual fornication to Popery; the religious world is in its measure.

In chapter 17, the woman has a golden cup with which people get intoxicated. Ritualism is this, in principle, but without the Pope.

Q. Do you expect the miraculous power to be largely put forth?

J.N.D. On the devil's side, I do, especially after the church is gone; there will be "signs and lying wonders."

The same words are used in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 as to antichrist as are used by Peter in Acts 2:22, to shew that Jesus was a man approved by God; these three words are: "miracles and wonders and signs". Another thing that makes it the more striking is, that what Elijah did to prove thatJehovah was God of Israel, is done also in Revelation 13, where antichrist, the second beast,makes fire come down out of heaven. Satan will do the same, in a lying way, of course. Mesmerism is more connected with infidelity.

When Satan is cast down from heaven, he gives up his anti-priestly character, and then there is only left to him to be anti-king and anti-prophet. This second beast merges then into the false prophet. And he has two horns like a lamb.

Q. Why do you call Satan anti-priest?

J.N.D. This is his character as the accuser of the brethren.

When cast out he resuscitates the first beast.

There are two almighty powers of God- justice and mercy. Of these two, the Romanists put justice into Christ's hands, and mercy into Mary's. (See Ligouri's "Glories of Mary") I believe it is this which stopped Pusey; he says he cannot get over this, and I believe it is because he loves Christ that he cannot. The whole Romanist theory is, that Mary is the mediator of mercy.

(J.N. Darby 'Notes and Jottings, p.366-368)

J.N. Darby on the Nephilim

by John Nelson Darby

"I can understand two distinct classes here, but they seem to have subsisted together. though the first may have, in the first instance, preceded the second. They may have been Cain's progeny; another offspring of the unholy mixture of the sons of God and the daughters of men. Certainly the two are brought out as bringing about the Flood, they both characterised the epoch which brought about the Flood-'those days.'

The principle is the mixture of those who are of God with evil, but I am not aware that B'ney ha-Elohim (Sons of God) is ever used for men. Job 38:7, they are surely not men, but angelic; so Job 1:6. B'ney ha-El khay (sons of the Living God) in Hosea 1:10 (in the Hebrew 2:1) is surely different. Judges are called 'Elohim', but not B'ney ha-Elohim (sons of God). But there is no question of that here; so that the usage is certainly for beings angelic, not human, in nature; see Jude. I cannot for a moment doubt the force of this B'ney ha-Elohim (sons of God), and b'noth ha-Adam (daughters of man); and Jude quite confirms it. It seems to me also that akharey ken is not 'afterwards' but 'after that'; i.e. the consequence of this alliance; they were Titans and such like. All these traditions had a source. It may be questioned if the nephilim (giants) and gib-bo-rim (mighty ones) are identical.

But then, afterwards, only the general state of the race of Ha-Adam (Man) is spoken of. The sons of Anak are called nephilim; elsewhere giants are 'Rephaim'; the connection with the traditions of giants, Titans, etc., seems evident.

I cannot help thinking of giants, Titans (mythology), and the details referred to in them, are direectly connected, not merely with the fact of the deluge, but- though mixed up with the original desire and temptation, 'ye shall be as gods'- with the apostasy of angels, and the frightful oppression, war and corruption and open rebellion against God. No doubt Scripture- the Spirit of God- has clothed all this dreadful evil with a veil of brief words, and pious minds will see the divine wisdom, and perfectness of this, yet enougth, as in so many cases, to explain all the traditions of the heathen world as to it, and that is all we want. The tartarosas of 2 Peter, and the sinning angels of Jude; the genealogy of Titans, and their end are too closely connected not to give a character to the history of the world before the Flood, which accounts for its being passed over. It is curious that these poor slaves of the enemy while worshipping the gods who they alleged destroyed the Titans, yet honoured these as illustrious, and the origin of creation; and how Satan had suceeded in making the righteous Noah and his family, who were spared, into fallen gods, though they owned the judgment on apostasy which had spared them. But such is man, if not kept of God."

From Notes and Comments vol.1, p.50-51

J.N. Darby on the Anti-Christ and Christendom

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"We learn, then, from these scriptures to which we have been referring, that the immediate occasion, object and inner spring of all the terrible judgment which is coming, is the professing church itself. It ought to have been God's witness on the earth, Christ's epistle known and read of all men; but, having been corrupt, it is this professing church that primarily and definitely brings down the wrath of God. Oh! beloved friends, there cannot be a more solemn subject than this, that not only will Israel and the beast fall under judgment, but, according to God's own word, the professing church will come under the same condemnation. I apply the word 'church' here to Christendom, that which professes to bear the name of Christ. There is the same testimony in John's epistle, 'Even now are there many Antichrists.' I have no doubt but that the Antichrist will arise among the Jews, and he will be a full manifestation of the spirit of Antichrist which even now denies the Father and the Son, and also denies that Jesus is the Christ. It is indeed most fearful to think of that apostasy bearing a religious character as it does; that which characterises the many Antichrists is the denial of Christian truth, and though there will be full apostasy, still it will be an apostasy from the doctrines of Christianity. How soon did the spirit of it come in! how very soon was there cause to say that 'all men seek their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ!' May the Lord graciously open the eyes of His saints, to see the tone and real character of these last evil days, and to remember that though He has long patience while He is gathering out souls for salvation, and in this sense to 'account that the long-suffering of the Lord is salvation'- that His judgment, though delayed is not changed; for the word is gone forth out of His mouth, and the only remedy for the present evil is in judgment."

Addresses To The Seven Churches in Collected Writings vol.5, p.374

Friday, April 28, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Book of Ruth

Ruth, a stranger, and the grace of God in the midst of evil

"The Book of Ruth tells us also of the days of the judges, when there was no king in Israel; but it shews us the fair side of those days, in the operations of the grace of God, who (blessed be His name!) never failed to work in the midst of the evil, as also in the steady progress of events towards the fulfilment of His promises in the Messiah, whatever may have been the simultaneous progress of the general evil.

Ruth, a stranger seeking shelter by faith under the wings of the God of Israel, is received in grace, and the genealogy of David, king over Israel according to grace, is linked with her. It is the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Himself after the flesh.

The typical character of the book

This book appears to me to set before us in type, the reception in grace of the remnant of Israel in the last days, their Redeemer (the kinsman, who has the right of redemption) having taken their cause in hand.

Eli-Melech (which signifies God the King) being dead, Naomi (my delight, my pleasure) becomes a widow, and eventually loses her children also. She typifies the Jewish nation, who, having lost her God, is like a widow and has no heir. Yet there shall be a remnant, destitute of all right to the promises (and therefore prefigured historically by a stranger), who will be received in grace (similarly to the Gentiles and the assembly [1] )—who will faithfully and heartily identify itself with desolate Israel; for Ruth clave to her and to her God (see chap. 1: 16). God will own this remnant, which, poor and afflicted itself, will in heart obey the commands given to the people.

Naomi, who in her destitution is a type of the nation, acknowledges her condition: she calls herself Mara (bitterness).

He who was nearest of kin, who would willingly have redeemed the inheritance, refuses to do so, if Ruth must be taken with it. The law was never able (nor the assembly either) to re-establish Israel in their inheritance, nor to raise up in grace the name of the dead.

Boaz, the Kinsman-Redeemer

Boaz (in him is strength), upon whom the remnant had no direct claim (and who typifies Christ risen, in whom are the sure mercies of David), undertakes to raise up the name of the dead, and to re-establish the heritage of Israel. Acting in grace and in kindness, and encouraging the patient humble faith of the remnant, the meek of the earth, he shews himself faithful to fulfil the purpose and the will of God with respect to this poor desolate family. Nothing can be more touching and exquisite than the details given here. The character of Ruth, this poor woman of the Gentiles, has great beauty.

"Naomi took the child that was born to her, and laid it in her bosom"; and they said, "There is a son born to Naomi." In fact the heir of the promises will be born unto Israel as a nation, although the fulfilment of the promise affects the remnant only, which, fully identifying itself with the interests of God's people, has sought neither the rich nor the poor, but, in faith and obedience, has kept the testimony of God amongst the people in the path appointed by Him.

The contrast between the books of Ruth and Judges

Thus, if on one side the Book of Judges shews us the falling away of the people of Israel, and their failure under responsibility, even when God was their helper, on the other side this touching and precious book sets before us, as the dawn of better things, grace acting in the midst of difficulties, securing the fulfilment of promise, and embellishing this scene of misery and sin by lovely and beautiful instances of faith, precious fruits of grace, whether in weakness and devotedness, or in strength and kindness, and always in accordance with the perfect will of God, and assuring by this touching history, as a type, the full restoration of Israel to blessing according to promise. It is a refreshing and lovely picture in the midst of the hard-mindedness and sorrows of Israel.

Ruth as the intermediate link between Israel's fall and prophecy

In the succeeding books we shall see prophecy, and the history of God's dealings, developing the body of events which tended to the fulfilment of His designs, the first principles, the elements, of which are laid down in that which is shewn us in this. For Ruth furnishes a kind of intermediate link between the fall of Israel under God's immediate government, and the future fulfilment of His purposes.

Prophecy, which unfolds these purposes and gives moral proof of this fall, begins with Samuel: we learn this from the apostle Peter, and that Christ is the object of prophecy (see Acts 3: 24).

Eli, the last judge and priest, departs; his family is to be cut off; the ark of the covenant is taken by the Philistines; and Samuel, consecrated to God in a new and extraordinary manner, comes in with the special testimony of the Lord."

(Synopsis Vol.1)

J.N. Darby- 'The Children of God have Nothing to do but to Meet Together in the Name of the Lord'

"With what design then am I writing? Is it that Christians should do nothing? No! I have written from a desire that there should be less presumption and more diffidence in what we undertake to do: and that we should feel more deeply the ruined condition to which we have reduced the Church.

If you say to me, 'I have separated myself from the evil that my conscience disapproves, that which is at variance with the Word'- it is well. If you urge that God's word requires the saints to be one and united; that it tells us that, there where two or three are gathered together, Jesus is in the midst of them, and that therefore you 'assemble yourselves' together, Isay again it is well. But if you go on to tell me that you have organised a church, or combined together with others to do so; that you have chosen a president or a pastor, and that having done this, you are now a church, or the Church of God of the place you inhabit- I put this question- My dear friends, who has commissioned you to do all this? Even according to your principle of immitation (although to immitate power is an absurdity: and the kingdom of God is 'in power'), where do you find all this is in the word? I see no trace of churches having elected presidents or pastors. You say that for the sake of order it must be so. My answer is, I cannot get off the ground of the word- 'He that gathereth not with me scattereth.' To say that it is necessary that it should be so, is to reason after the manner of men. Your order, being constituted by the will of man, will soon be seen to be disorder in the sight of God. If there are but two or three met together in the name of Jesus, He will be there. If God raises up pastors from amongst you, or sends them among you, it is well; it is a blessung. Bu ever since the day when the Holy Spirit formed the church, we have no record in the word that the church has chosen them.

What then, it will be asked, must we do? That which faith ever does- acknowledge our weakness and take the place of dependance upon God. God is sufficent in all ages for His church. It is of the last importance that our faith should hold fast the truth, that whatever the ruin of the church on earth, there is ever in Christ all the grace, and faithfulness, and power needed for the circumstances in which the Church is. He never fails. If you are but 'two or three' who have faith for it, meet together: you will find that Christ is with you. Call upon Him. He can raise up whatever is needed for the blessing of the saints; and doubt not He will do so. The blessing will not be ensured to us through a pretension on our part to be something when we are nothing. In how many places has not blessing to the saints not been hindered by this choosing of presidents or pastors? In how many places might not the saints have assembled together with joy in the strength of that promise made by Christ to the 'two or three' if they had not been scared by the pretended necessity for organisation, and by charges of disorder (just as if man were wiser than God), and if their fear of disorder had not persuaded them to continue a state of things which they confess to be wrong? Nor does the continuation of these organised bodies by man hinder the dommination of a single individual, or a struggle between several. It tends rather to produce it.

That which the church specially needs is the deep feeling of her ruin and necessity, a feeling which turns for refuge to God- with confession, and keeps clear from all known evil- acknowledges the authority of Christ, as He who rules as Son over His own house, and the Spirit of God as the sole power in the church; and by so doing, acknowledges every one whom He sends, according to the gift such a one has received, and that with thanksgiving to Him, who by such gift constitutes such brother a servant of all under the authority of the great Head, the great Shepherd of the sheep. To acknowledge the world to be the church, or to pretend to again set up the church, are two things equally condemned and unauthorised by the word.

If you say, what then is to be done? I rejoin- Why are you ever thinking of doing something? To confess the sin which has brought us where we are, to humble ourselves low before the Lord, and separating from that which we know to be evil, to lean upon Him who is able to do all that is necessary for our blessing, without assuming to do more, ourselves, than the word authorises us to do- such is the position, humble it is true, but proportionately blessed by God.

A point of the uttermost importance, which they who wish to organise churches seem to have altogether lost sight of, is that there is such a thing as POWER, and that the Holy Spirit alone has the power to gather and build up the church. They seem to think that, as soon as they have certain passages of scripture, they have nothing to do but to act them out; but under the garb of faithfulness, there is in this a fatal error- it consists in leaving aside the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We can only act out the word of God by the power of God. But the constituting the church was a direct effect of the power of the Holy Ghost. To leave aside that power, and still hold to the pretension of immitating the primitive church in what flowed from that power, is strangely to delude ourselves. Only I remark must that, where a direct act of obediance is concerned, the Christian has not to wait for power: the constant grace of Christ is his power to obey the word. In what precedes, I speak of the power to do a divine work in the Church.

I know that those who esteem these little organised associations to be the churches of God, see nothing but mere meetings of men in every other gathering of God's children. There is a very simple answer on this matter. Such brethren have no promise authorising them to set up again the churches of God when they have fallen, whilst there is a positive promise that, where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, He is in their midst. Thus there is no promise in favour of the system by which men organise churches, while there is a promise for that 'assembling together' which so many of the children of God despise.

And what do we see to be the consequence of the pretensions of these bodies? Those who contrast these pretensions with the reality, are disgusted and repelled: while multitudes of them are formed apart from each other, on the various views and opinions of those who formed them; and thus the desired object is hindered, namely the union of God's children. Here and there the pastor's gifts may produce much effect; or it may happen that all who are Christians may be living in unity, and there will be much joy; but the same thing would have resulted though there should have been no pretension whatever to be the church of God."

JN Darby, 'On the Formation of Churches' Collected Writings vol.1 p.149-152

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

J.N. Darby on Revelation 13

J.N. Darby wrote:

"In chapter 13 we have the clear and full development of Satan's instruments of evil. They are two- the ten-horned and the two-horned beasts. To the first the dragon, who swept with his tail a third part of the stars to earth, Satan under the form of the Roman Empire, gave his throne and much authority. [See Footnote #15] The second not only wielded the first power administratively before him, but was the active power of evil to lead men to recognize the first, and therein the dragon. The beast is the original Roman Empire, but largely modified and in a new character. It has perfect completeness in its forms of government or heads but is composed of ten kingdoms, indicating also, I doubt not, imperfect administrative completeness. It has not twelve horns; it is incomplete. Seven would be completeness of a higher kind. The Lamb had seven horns; the woman, twelve stars on her head. One is perfectness in itself; the other administratively in man. Seven is the highest prime number (you cannot make it); twelve, the most perfectly divisible, composed of the same elements, but multiplied, not added as a simple number. So four is finite perfection, as is a square and still more a cube, perfectly the same all ways but finite. But the beast had names of blasphemy. It was the open enemy of God and His Christ. It absorbed the previous empires and represented them. The dragon, Satan's direct power in the form of the heathen Roman Empire, gave his throne and power to this new beast. It was not of God. God owned no power on the earth now the assembly was gone, till He took His own. The earth was at war with Him.

One of the beast's heads (I doubt not the Imperial) was seen as wounded to death, but healed. The Imperial head was restored and the world was in admiration; and they worship the dragon as giving the beast his power. Nothing in their eyes equals the beast; but God is wholly thrown out in the earth. The beast is given to have the greatest pretensions in his language and outrage against God. He blasphemed God, His name and dwelling-place, and the heavenly saints-all Christianity, and the God of it. The dragon had been cast out from heaven; the raptured saints had been received there. He blasphemed, but could only blaspheme them.

As regards those who dwelt on earth (for the division was not merely a spiritual one now), all worshiped the beast, save the elect-those who had been written from the foundation of the world in the Lamb's book of life. Human resistance by force was not the path of obedience. Here the patience and faith of the saints were shewn. He who took the sword would perish by it; it is never Christ's way, but unresisting patience; but the beast who did would perish. This then was the imperial power, a blasphemous power set up by Satan, with the place of the old Roman Empire, which represented all four, modified in form, but the imperial head restored.

But there was a second beast; it rose not out of the mass of peoples (the sea) to be an empire, but out of the already formed organization with which God had to say as such. It had the form of Messiah's kingdom on earth, two horns like a lamb; but it was the direct power of Satan. He who with a divinely taught ear heard it speak heard the voice of Satan at once. All the power of the first beast it exercises before it; is, with its power, its minister, and makes the earth and the dwellers on it worship it (that is, the Roman Empire restored to its head). It is Antichrist, the false Christ of Satan, who subjects the earth to the Satanic Roman Empire. He does great wonders, as to give men as good proof of the beast's title before men, as Elijah did of Jehovah's. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2, where the man of sin gives the same proofs if lying ones, that Jesus did of being the Christ. He deceives the dwellers on earth by his miracles, making them set up an image to him. This image he gives breath to; so that it speaks and causes those to be killed who do not worship it. All likewise were obliged to take the stamp and the mark of the beast's service in their work, or open profession, and no man was allowed to traffic who had not the name of the beast as a mark.

Such is the power which has the character of Messiah's kingdom in its form, is animated with the fullest energy of Satan, and, recognizing the public power which Satan had set up in the world, will have every one bow to it, none to traffic without acknowledging it. And all will, save the elect. The anti-priestly power of Satan in the heavens is over; royalty and prophecy as yet remain to him, in opposition to Christ who has not yet appeared. These he assumes but he does not and cannot set aside the power of the Gentiles-that remains for Christ to do- but sets it up as his delegate; and, as the apostate Jews of old, so now that people, save the elect remnant, as his instruments bow to it and minister to it. Thus you have all Satan's power exercised. But, in setting up his Messiah, he is obliged to deceive; and advances by his miracles of deceit what he cannot set aside-the Gentile power; and subjects the Jews to idolatry and to the Gentiles; and all the Gentiles themselves dwelling on the earth to the depository of Satan's authority -the first beast.

This is a singular state of things, far from Jewish feelings and modern Gentile hopes; but the unclean spirit of idolatry is to return to his house. Signs, not truth, will govern the superstitious mind of man; they will be given up to believe a lie. Here, though he takes the character of Christ in his kingdom, it is chiefly his action on the Gentiles which is spoken of; the Jews are mixed up with them, as we see in Isaiah 66 and Daniel. It is a liberal time, but one of most complete tyranny as regards all who do not bow to Satan's power and the ordinances established by him. What characterises it is the absence of truth.

As regards the number of the beast, I have no doubt that it will be very simple to the godly, when the beast is there, and the time of spiritually judging it comes, and that name will practically guide those who have to do with him. Till then, the speculations of men are not of much value; Irenaeus's old one of "Dateinos" is as good as any."

'Footnotes for Revelation 13
15: We are not to be surprised, therefore, if the beast at the end had only local empire, though originally God had given universal empire to the beats: how widely exercised we know.'

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

J.N. Darby on Church Membership

J.N. Darby wrote:

"There is another thing as to which our brother admits a principle, which tells all that I could wish on the subject. 'If I am a member of the whole body,' he says (p41), 'I am a member of the parts of that body.' I insist on this. A Christian does become a member of a local church (if, however, one can admit this expression of 'member of a church', for it is now owned to be unscriptural); he is a member of the parts of the body, if he is a member of the body.

Nothing more simple; we cannot become what we are already; and according to Mr. Rochat, if I am a member of the whole body, I am a member of the parts of this body, which meet in divers places: it is not aquestion of becoming such- I am such already. This is the priciple I have always maintained, and on which I have always acted. By the very fact that I am a Christian, I have all the claims of a member of the body, wherever I may be found. It is not aright I acquire by joining a particular body; it is a right which I posess as any member of the body of Christ. Let brethren weigh well this priciple, which Mr. Rochat asserts, and on which I insist. Practically the whole qustion between us is thereby decided.

Mr. Rochat also admits that the expression of 'a member of a church' is not scriptural. We know how much the habits of brethren have been formed from that expression, and how much it has guided their conduct; so that in many localities, if a person did not declare himself member of a church, he was not admitted among brethren to partake of the Lord's supper. It was not enough to be a member of Christ, a faithful Christian, owned of all."

Remarks on the State of the Church Collected Writings vol.1, p.241

"The Holy Ghost was upon earth to establish the closest and most formal union between the members of the body; they were members one of another. This unity was recognised among them. All knew that a Christian was not of the world, because he was of the Church. If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it. This unity was truly and distinctly manifested in each locality. There was the church of each place, as the very addresses of several epistles shew. But this local unity proved the universal unity. Any one member of it was theby a member of the universal unity. Teachers, evangelists, apostles, Timothy, Titus, Paul did not belong to one church more than another. The gifts were members of the body. The idea of a church is not found in the Bible. The thought there is very different; it is that of members of thr body of Christ. But these 'joints and bands', which might exercise their activity in local churches, proved the unity of the whole body, and made it visible and perfectly perceptible to the world."

What is the Church? Collected Writings vol.3, p.390

"Nevertheless, if we speak of those at Corinth, he says 'Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.' If a Christian member of Christ's body went from Ephesus to Corinth, he would have been equally and necessarilly also member of Christ's body in this latter assembly. Christians are not members of a church, but of Christ. The eye, the ear, the foot, or any other member which was at Corinth, was equally such at Ephesus. In the word we do not find the idea of members of a church, but of Christ."

What is the Church as it was at the Beginning? And What is its Present State? Collected Writings vol.14, p.83

"Member of a church is a thing unknown to scripture. The words, the thing, the idea are unknown there. Christians are members of Christ, and if you please, one of another, and of nothing else. And membership of anything else is only schism, and denying the true meaning of the word.

A flock other than God's flock is equally unknown. God's flock alone is known in scripture, of which Christ is the chief shepherd. There is one flock, and only one, meeting it may be in different localities, and elders belonging to these localities; but all the faithful there at any time were of it, because they were of God's flock. A pastor and his flock, in the modern sense, is wholly unknown to scripture, and an utter denial of its contents, if it be not of the words 'I am of Paul, and I of Apollos,' etc. These statements I leave for every honestminded saint to see whether they are according to scripture or not."

Review of a Sermon by the Rev GM Innes Collected Writings vol.14, p.255

J.N. Darby Rejected Mary's Perpetual Virginity

I was pleased to discover today, while reading John Nelson Darby's 'Notes and Comments' volume 3, that he rejected the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, our Lord's mother. I had thought it possible that Darby might have held to this unscriptural idea, like many of the Protestants of the 19th century. I have absolutely no idea why so many Protestants clung on to the idea that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Christ.

J.N.Darby wrote:

"As regards Church traditions, it is wonderful what futile things they are. Beausobre has, I think, clearly shown that, in large measure, they come from Apocryphal writings, invented to promote some devilish object or another, particularly the famous Leucius Charinus's. The virginity of Mary is treated by the Fathers on wholly other ground, and quite different stories invented at first to maintain it than the bold ground, taken at last, of Church authority. I have very little or no doubt, she had a family by Joseph."

Notes and Comments vol.3, p.303

Interestingly, Darby maintained that James, the brother of our Lord, was the same person as James, the son of Alphaeus and a cousin of Jesus (Notes and Comments, vol.6, p.375). Nevertheless he hastens to add:

"This does not affect the question as to Mary's having a family after the birth of Christ, nor her living with Joseph, of which the Scripture leaves no doubt."

The Scofield Reference Bible also identifies James the Lord's brother as James, the son of Alphaeus.

J.N. Darby on Education

J.N. Darby wrote:

"We are bound to do good to every man, whoever it is; but the pretension of men is, that at bottom there is something good in a man, and so ultimately you can make anything out of him. And so they are working education for one great thing. Of course, everybody has to learn something, but the common idea of education now is an infidel idea. They give everybody votes, and then it follows that they must be educated in order to know how to use their vote. The whole thing is nonsense- a mere question of the passions of the flesh. In some states they compel education. God has committed children to parents, and the parent is bound to care for the child. No state can come in between God and the parent. If the state come in, you will have to leave the state. It is from no resistance to the power that I say so, for that would be wrong directly; but it is the word of God that gives the state its authority, and therefore I submit or go. If you were compelled to be a soldier, if it is against your conscience, you must be shot, or something else: that is all."

Collected Writings vol.26, p.361

I love the way that guy put things.

How Many Members of the Exclusive Brethren does it take to Change a Light- Bulb?

You must have heard countless variations on the light bulb joke. Here is my version.

Q. How many members of the Exclusive Brethren does it take to change a light-bulb?

A. None. There is no longer power in the Church to change the light-bulb, due to its ruin and apostasy. All that remains for believers to do is to await the coming of the Lord in the darkness, with humility; not thinking that we have power to change that which the Lord has allowed to fall into ruin.

The Plymouth Brethren and Baptism

Though the Open Brethren are firm supporters of Believer's Baptism, the majority of Exclusive Brethren divisions practise Household Baptism, which involves the baptism of infants.

It has always been a principle of the Brethren that the age and mode of baptism should not be a barrier to fellowship and participation in assembly life. Both George Muller of Bristol and Robert Chapman of Barnstable had been Baptists, but quickly came to believe that those who upheld Infant Baptism should not be excluded from fellowship. Likewise on the Exclusive side, J.N. Darby, a Paedobaptist and G.V. Wigram, a baptist had close fellowship. Darby was once asked what Wigram thought about baptism. Darby replied 'He knows how to keep his mouth shut.' This is not the most polite of Darby's remarks, but it does reflect the refusal of the Brethren to allow baptism to generate controversy.

The Brethren hold that baptism is a matter for one's conscience. If one believes that the Scriptures teach one position, then one should be a t liberty to maintain it. To force the conscience of the saints by making one position compulsory would be considered a denial of the unity of the Body, for the Church is united by Christ not by doctrinal agreement.

Ironic? What Would Darby Have Thought?

In the 1840s there was much tension in the Brethren movement between John Nelson Darby and a younger man, Benjamin Wills Newton. This conflict reached it's climax when Newton was condemned by the entire Brethren for his peculiar views on Jesus Christ's moral position prior to the cross. Initially the conflict between Newton and Darby had concerned eschatology. Darby introduced the Pre-Tribulational rapture, which Newton regarded as erroneous. Newton was Post-Tribulational Premillennial and disliked Dispensational departures from Covenant theology.

Rather strangely, modern Pre-Tribulational Dispensationalists have adopted aspects of Newton's eschatology which Darby disagreed with. These include:

- A heavy literal approach to the interpretation of prophecy.

- The identification of the Anti-Christ as the first, rather than the second beast and the identification fo the False Prophet as a character distinct from the Anti-Christ and the Beast.

- Viewing the Anti-Christ as a Gentile, rather than a Jewish figure.

- The expectation of a re-built Babylon in the Middle East.

- A tendency to downplay the role of Roman Catholicism in Bible Prophecy.

These can be seen in the popular Left-Behind books. I suspect that part of the reason for these departures from Darby in modern Dispensationalism result from a desire not to seem Anti-Semitic or excessively Anti-Catholic.

Shoes Off at the Door, Please

Shoes Off at the Door, Please

The IBEX Scribe has now become a member of this blog. It is no longer a solo project.

Monday, April 24, 2006

J.N. Darby on Romans 11

Darby wrote in his Synopsis of the Books of the Bible:

Romans 11

'Hereupon the question is immediately raised, has God then rejected His people? To this chapter 11 is the answer. The apostle gives three proofs that it is by no means the case. Firstly, he is himself an Israelite; there is a remnant whom God has reserved, as in the days of Elias-a proof of the constant favour of the Lord, of the interest He takes in His people, even when they are unfaithful; so that when the prophet, the most faithful and energetic among them, knew not where to find one who was true to God besides himself, God had His eyes upon the remnant who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Secondly, the call of the Gentiles, and their substitution for Israel, was not the definitive rejection of the latter in the counsels of God; for God had done it to provoke Israel to jealousy. It was not, then, for their rejection. Thirdly, the Lord would come forth out of Sion. and turn away the iniquities of Jacob.

That which the apostle, or rather which the Holy Ghost, says on this point requires to be looked at in more detail.

The apostle, in quoting the case of Elias, shews that when Israel was in such a state that even Elias pleaded against them, yet God had not rejected them, He had reserved for Himself seven thousand men. This was the election of sovereign grace. It was the same thing now. But it was by grace, and not by works. The election then, has obtained the blessing, and the rest was blinded. Even as it was written, "God hath given them the spirit of slumber," etc.

Had they then stumbled that they should fall? No! But through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy-a second proof that it was not for their rejection. But if their diminishing and fall was a blessing to the Gentiles, what should not the fruit be of their restoration? If the first-fruits are holy, so is the lump; if the root, the tree also. Now, as to the continued chain of those who enjoy the promises in this world, Abraham was the root, and not the Gentiles; Israel, the natural stock and branches. And here is that which happened in the good olive-tree of promise in this world, of which Abraham was the root (God Himself the source of leaf and fruit), and Israel the stem and the tree. There had been some bad branches, and they had been cut off; and others from the Gentiles grafted in, in their place, who thus enjoyed the richness natural to the tree of promise. But it was on the principle of faith that they, being of the wild olive-tree, had been grafted in. Many of the Israelite branches, the natural heirs of the promises, had been cut off because of their unbelief; for when the fulfilment of the promises was offered them, they rejected it. They rested on their own righteousness, and despised the goodness of God. Thus the Gentiles, made partakers of the promises, stood on the principle of faith. But if they abandoned this principle, they should lose their place in the tree of promise, even as the unbelieving Jews had lost theirs. Goodness was to be their portion in this dispensation of God's government, with regard to those who had part in the enjoyment of His promises, if they continued in this goodness; if not, cutting off. This had happened to the Jews; it should be the same with the Gentiles if they did not continue in that goodness. Such is the government of God, with regard to that which stood as His tree on the earth. But there was a positive counsel of God accomplished in that which took place, namely, the partial blinding of Israel (for they were not rejected) until all the Gentiles who were to have part in the blessing of these days should have come in. After this Israel should be saved as a whole; it should not be individuals spared and added to the assembly, in which Israel had no longer any place as a nation; they should be saved as a whole, as Israel. Christ shall come forth from Sion as the seat of His power, and shall turn away iniquity from Jacob, God pardoning them all transgressions.

This is the third proof that Israel was not rejected. For while enemies, as concerning the gospel at the present time, they are still beloved for the fathers' sakes. For that which God has once chosen and called He never casts off. He does not repent of His counsels, nor of the call which gives them effect. But if the counsel of God remains unchangeable, the way in which it is accomplished brings out the marvellous wisdom of God. The Gentiles had long continued in the disobedience of unbelief. God comes in in grace. The Jews opposed themselves to the actings of grace. They lose all right to the promises through this unbelief, so that they must receive the effect of the promise on the footing of pure mercy and the sovereign grace of God, [See Footnote #52] in the same way as the poor Gentile. For He had shut them all up in unbelief, that it might be pure mercy to all. Therefore it is that the apostle exclaims, O depth of wisdom and knowledge! The promises are fulfilled, and the pretension to human righteousness annihilated; the Jews who have lost everything receive all on the true ground of the goodness of God. Their apparent loss of all is but the means of their receiving all from sovereign grace, instead of having it by virtue of human righteousness, or an unforfeited promise. All is grace: yet God is ever faithful, and that in spite of man's unfaithfulness. Man is blessed; the Jew receives the effect of the promise; but both the one and the other have to attribute it to the pure mercy of God. There is nothing about the assembly here: it is the tree of promise, and those who in virtue of their position have part successively in the enjoyment of the promises of earth. The unbelieving Jews were never cut off from the church, they were never in it. They had been in the position of natural heirs of the right to the promises. The assembly is not the Jews' own olive-tree according to nature, so that they should be grafted into it again. Nothing can be plainer: the chain of those who had a right to the promises from Abraham was Israel; some of the branches were then cut off. The tree of promise remains on the earth: the Gentiles are grafted into it in place of the Jews, they also become unfaithful (that is to say, the case is supposed), and they would in their turn be cut off, and the Jews be reinstated in the old olive-tree, according to the promises and in order to enjoy them; but it is in pure mercy. It is clearly not by the gospel they get the blessing; for, as touching the gospel, they are enemies for the Gentiles' sake; as touching election, beloved for the fathers' sake.

Remark further here an important principle: the enjoyment of privileges by position makes us responsible for them, without saying the individual was born again. The Jewish branch was in the tree of promise and broken off: so the Gentiles. There was nothing vital or real; but they were in the place of blessing, "partakers of the root and fatness of the olive tree," by being grafted in.

These communications of the mind of God end this portion of the book, namely, that in which the apostle reconciles sovereign grace shewn to sinners (putting all on a level in the common ruin of sin) with the especial privileges of the people of Israel, founded on the faithfulness of God. They had lost everything as to right. God would fulfil His promises in grace and by mercy.'

Footnotes for Romans 11
52: Verse 31 should be translated, "Even so these [the Jews] have now been unbelieving with regard to your mercy, in order that they should receive mercy" (or that they should be the objects of mercy)-"your mercy," that is to say, the grace in Christ which extended to the Gentiles. Thus the Jews were the objects of mercy, having forfeited all right to enjoy the effect of the promise. God would not fail to fulfil it. He bestows it on them in mercy at the end, when He has brought in the fulness of the Gentiles.

Excommunication and Marital Separation

The most disturbing thing about that Raven/ Taylor Exclusive Brethren is their rigid insistence on the separation of married couples in the event of one spouse being put out of fellowship. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses are not so rigig as to enforce marital separation in these circumstances.

This was not the position of John Nelson Darby, the foudner of the Exclusive Brethren:

Darby said:
'Take a wife who's husband is put out. It may seem awkward, but her action is not keeping company with him as a case of will; it is a matter of subjection to authority.' Notes of Readings on 1 Corinthians, Collected Writings Vol.26, p.220

Darby is typically opaque here. I take that to mean that a wife does not remain with her husband because she wants to and loves him, but because she is subject to his authority, which the excommunication does not cancel.

Darby is clearer in another set of readings in the same volume:

'The separation applies to everything. Not to those who are married; we have instruction elsewhere about such, not to leave the one the other: "for what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"' Notes of Readings on 2 Corinthians, Collected Writings, Vol.26, p.347

So, Darby does not appear to take the position that excommunication must lead to maritial separation.

John Nelson Darby and the Early Brethren

John Nelson Darby was born in 1800 to a wealthy Irish family who lived in Leap Castle in the Wicklow Mountains. His father was a merchant with business in Russia. He received an excellent education, excelling at Trinity College, Dublin in the study of Classics. He began a brief career as a barrister, but felt a calling to the Anglican ministry. His father disapproved of this and disowned him.

Darby put great devotion into his work as a curate in the Church of Ireland. He spent much time fasting and lived a rather ascetic lifestyle. He was not during this time an Evangelical, rather he favoured Sacramental, High Church theology.

In 1827. Darby came into conflict with William Magee, the Archbishop of Dublin. Magee gave a charge petitioning Parliament for more protection for the Church against Catholic insurgency. He also demanded that converts to the Anglican Church from Catholicism should be required to take an oath of loyalty to the Crown. Darby was outraged by this nad wrote a letter of protest to Magee. He argued that the Church is an heavenly body that must be separate from the world. However, little notice was taken of Darby's protest.

The same year, Darby suffered a riding accident. During his recuperation, he began to re-asses his theology. He came to a realisation that Christ had sat down in Heaven and that he himself was identified wioth Christ, the Man in Heaven. Thus, he could be assured that his sins were forgiven. He became far more Evangelical and Calvinistic and abandoned Sacramentalist views. He also began to distinguish more strongly the true Church and Christendom, which he felt had fallen into apostasy.

Darby went to stay in Dublin in order to receive medical treatment. There he encountered several groups of Christians who met for prayer and Bible study. Some were Anglicans, others nonconformists. They included John Giffard Bellett, Edwin Cronin (an ex-Catholic) and Anthony Norris Groves (an ex-Anglcian missionary). They strongly believed in the unity of all Christians and they began to break bread together outside of denominational structures. These man were probably deeply concerned about the worldly state of the Established Church in Ireland. They were also likely dispappointed by the failure of Evangelicalism to bring about any change in this state of affairs.

The Dublin meetings were the nucleus of the Brethren movement that somehow (historians are baffled by this)exploded across Ireland and England with the formation of new assemblies for worship and the breaking of bread. In this movement, Darby adopted an almost apostolic role, writing many letters to the new assemblies giving them advise. Important new assemblies included the one at Plymouth (where we get the misleading name for the Brethren), Barnstable (the ministry of Robert Chapman) and Bristol (George Muller, founder of Bristol orphanage).

The leading Brethren took part in a number of conferences at the home of Lady Theodosia Powerscourt, a wealthy young widow, to whom Darby became briefly engaged during his thirties, though they never married. The Powerscourt conferences were intitially a non-sectarian affair, but eventually all but the Brethren dropped out of them. They gave Darby a space and a platform to develope his views on Bible Prophecy. He shifted from a conventional Historicism to a complex system that became known as Dispensationalism. He introduced the doctrine of the Pre-Tribualtional Rapture, a point which lead to some controversy within the Brethren.

Darby made his ministry international in 1837, when he went to Switzerland. There he became involved in controversies with the dissenting Churches there. He planted a number of Brethren assemblies there, and the Brethren still have a presence in Switzerland.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Working for an Exclusive Brethren Company.

The company I work for is a family business. The family that own it are members of the Taylorite division of the Exclusive Brethren. This is a very strict Fundamentalist Protestant sect. That I work for this company is incredibly conincidental (the Lord's blessings, I suppose), as the subject of my PhD thesis is John Nelson Darby, who began and lead the Exclusive Brethren in the 19th Century.

The faith of the owners does make a difference to its life. The rules of the sect forbid the use of computers; hence these cannot be allowed on the premises. However, the company makes use of a computer that is operated by the company's accountant in a separate premise. The reason for this rule is that it is believed such machinery is part of the Anti-Christ system.

Not everybody who works for the company is a member (for obvious reasons it will be apparent I am not). The Exclusive sisters who work there wear skirts and long hair and put on headscarves when they leave, in compliance with the sect's rules.

The family are nice people. I am unhappy with some aspects of the Taylorite Exclusives, but I greatly respect their zeal and commitment. I think Christians ought to be more separate from the world in general. I agree strongly with their insistence on long hair and skirts for women and their commitment to Biblical headcovering (though some of the Exclusive sisters wear headscarves that do not really cover their heads as 1 Corinthians requires).

J.N. Darby on the Signs of Apostasy in an Assembly

J.N. Darby wrote this when describing the disorders and errors that had entered the assembly in Plymouth. Darby renounced this congregation. The aftershocks of this lead to the schism between the Open and Exclusive Brethren.

'The first sign of weakness is the gathering itself becoming the object of attention, instead of their being a people enjoying the blessedness of their position by the relationship and fellowship it gave them with Christ, who had become and was their abiding object, revealing withal God the Father. But I would speak with more detail, for this is rather the occasion of Satan's power than the fruit of it as a positive word. Where this last is, you will find holy spirtual affections broken and set aside togive place to the claim of the institution. And so are even natural affections, whilst the latter are given all their force and weight in practise to hold persons in the institution, and even largely used for this purpose. In the same manner, people are won and brought undeer the influence that acts there by them. The activity and zeal will be for the system. It will be to make proselytes, and establish them in what will keep them there, not to save souls or to lead them to Christ. There will generally be a good deal of acting against or depreciation of others who even hold the faith of Christ.

Paramount importance will be given to the views which distinguish that institution, not to what saves or to what brings faith to the test by the revelation of Christ.

Good works will be found generally much pressed, and that in asystematic way in which it works for and into the system. Truth, I mean truthfulness, will ever be wanting. This I have always found where the work of the enemy is.

Connected with this will be the pressing of much certain doctrines, when it is safe, which form the bond of the institution, and denying in them the alleged meaning, or explaining them away, when they are pressed on by those who detect the evil. This anyone conversant with the subject cannot but have noticed. The denial of the
doctrine positively stated where the influence exists, as held in any such sense or its explanation, is the very such thing that marks the power of evil. With this will be found the attributing to those who hold the truth, every kind of doctrine they abhor, where there is influence enough to have their statements believed. Popery is the plain enough of this.

Another mark, whatever the apparent devotedness, yea, and real devotedness sometimes, is that the spirit of the world is acquiesced in. The poor will be nursed as instruments, and the rich (and so the clever) flatterd for support. Another mark is the extreme difficulty in fixing them to any definite statement, save as they have power to enforce it; and then it is bound on others; and there is the sternest rejection of all who do not bow. Calumny of the saints and of their doctrines has been known from the testimony of the blessed Lord Himself onward. The influence of females and of money will be found largely employed.'

It was later discovered that serious doctrinal error was being taught in this assembly. Namely the teaching that Christ had entered into the guilt of both Adam and apostate Israel as a result of the incarnation.

I think there are a lot of churhces today that would fit Darby's description here. Even some which claim to follow Darby's teaching.


I am carrying out doctoral research into the ecclesiology of John Nelson Darby. I created this blog to raise awareness of his theology and its relevance to today.

Most of the material posted here is also posted on my main blog or my Bible prophecy blog.