Sunday, October 22, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Dispensation of the Kingdom of Heaven

by John Nelson Darby

I state synoptically what has been followed out as the subject arose. The kingdom of heaven we have as a state of things during the period when the Son is sitting on the Father's throne. During this period the children are in the Son's, but heirs of the Father's kingdom- a period during which the world is not ordered according to the righteous judicial power of the Son of Man's kingdom- the interval between the rejection of the Son of man upon earth abd His reigning upon earth, in which the saints are sustained by the Spirit, in the midst of the world, by the Spirit sent of the the Son by the Father, the witness of His exaltation there. Of this state of things, this chapter (Matthew 13) is full of prophetic announcement. The external character which it assumes in the world being depicted in the first three; the real blessing and value and the judgment of its results, its internal character in God's sight, in the last three of the six parables. It closes in the setting up of the Son of man's kingdom upon the earth, and the assumption of te righteous, during its continuance, to the Father's kingdom in the heavenlies. The first parable is the world of the kingdom. The expositions and internal view of the church or kingdom are given to the disciples; the judicial blindness of the Jews is declared, and the special privilege of the saints; and the parables are spoken distinctively as the 'utterance of things hidden from the world,' which the Spirit reveals to those 'who have ears to hear.'

Taken from The Dispensation of the Kingdom of Heaven in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.2, p.63

(This is an extract from one of Darby's early writings. These are quite exciting to read, because we see the Dispensational system being outlined for the first time.)

Key Words: John Nelson Darby, Plymouth Brethren, Bible Prophecy, eschatology, parables, kingdom of heaven, mysteries, mystery, dispensation, Dispensationalism, Second Coming

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church

by John Nelson Darby

We may take notice in all this that it has nothing to do whatever to do with the dwelling in an individual. It was a distinct thought altogether. The serious question is, are we worse off now as to this? There were then also operations of the Holy Ghost in the way of prophecy and testimony, but it was a distinct thing. We may expect this to be modified in many ways when the Holy Ghost was sent down from heaven; because in Christ, where our proper acceptance is, we are characterised rather as dwelling with God- in His house. Still the other is true by the Holy Ghost sent down. What we have to inquire is, whether the presence of God in the midst of His people is spoken of in the New Testament, and that distinct from His gracious presence in the individual. If there be any material modification of it, this may also claim our attention. It would be difficult to suppose that there was less real presence of God in the midst of His people now than under the Old Testament. It is true we look for His presence in glory; but surely meanwhile the main doctrine, as to the actual condition and existence of the Church, is the presence of God sent down from heaven, as truly and really the presence of God in the midst of His people as the Shecinah of glory. If God was in His holy temple then, God is in His holy temple now- most truly, though after another manner: not merely in individuals, the aggregate of whose individual blessing is the blessing of the whole, but in His spiritual temple, the Church of the living God. And here I would remark further, that His personal presence as acting in any power in the Church is wholly denied. It may not be in words(this I should think much lessof; the faith of simple saints might at once meet it); but it is undermined and taken from us without our being aware of it. It is vain to cry out about its not being fair to impute to a person what he denies. Are the saints to be robbed of their heritage and blessing, because he who does so denies he is doing it? It may be through ignorance, but it is much fairer to detect than to deny it, if the thing be so. Man may speak of the Spirit, may use Him, may act under His gracious influence, but He, the Holy Ghost does not act. That would be impulse. No one pretends to inspiration in the way of new revelation, but simply that the Holy Ghost acts in leading, guiding, filling and using the vessel. That is, He acts by us. The distinction, however, is wholly unscriptural. The Holy Ghost speaking by a man and a man speaking by the Holy Ghost are used as equivalent terms; as Acts 1:16; ch.6:10; ch.20:24; ch.21:4, 11; compare chapter 11:28, ch.28:25; Mark 12:36; compare Matthew 22:43. The difference of the expression most clearly amounts to the lowest Arminianism as to the Holy Ghost. That is, man acts by it, but the Holy Ghost does not act by man. And I beg the attention of brethren to this- it is just simply not believing in the personal presence and actings of the Holy Ghost. I am satisfied that it is simply unbelief in the presence and actings of the Holy Spirit.

And now to the statements of the New Testament on the subject. That the presence of the Comforter is the distinguishing truth of this dispensation, founded on the work of Christ, I ought not to be obliged to insist on. Suffice it to say, that it is on the fact of this presence that the Lord grounds the advantage of His going away. 'If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will send him unto you.' And all the blessing, communion, and testimony (save the personal testimony of the disciples as living with Him, and that was by His bringing all to their remembrance), if founded on the presence, personal presence of this other Comforter. This is evidently of the last importance. Here it is well to remark on the force of this word 'Comforter.' He was One who, by being down here, was to take the place of Jesus when He went away; and was to take up and carry on the cause of the disciples as Christ had done, only more powerfully in a certain way because of Christ's work and exaltation. It is the same word as is said of Christ, 'we have an advocate with the Father'- one who is charged with and maintains our cause. This the Holy Ghost was to do, and to guide, comfort, sustain and direct the disciples as Jesus had done, with the difference noted. And further, He was not to leave them as Christ had; He was to abide with them for ever. This name of One come down to take Christ's place, and abiding for ever is of all moment in this case; for as the Holy Ghost, come as the Paraclete, who was to be among them in His stead (though glorifying Him), and to act among and for, and by them; and lead, and guide, and correct, and direct and sustain them, and to be with them for ever. This was not merely natural qualities sanctified by grace, and man acting by the Spirit; it was a living divine Person acting for them, and by them. That, He being grieved (an dwithal in the sovereign counsels of God), much of that in which He shewed His power is lost, is true; but to say, because man has abused this grace, and feebleness has followed, because God has not honoured those who did not honour Him, or because the flesh has abused the doctrine, that He does not dwell amongst us, is merely that kind of unbelief hateful to God, which is called in Scripture, 'tempting God.' The palce was called Massah and Meribah, 'because they tempted God, saying, Is the Lord amongst us or no?' And here I will remark on the 'with us,' and the 'in us.' The distinction is perfectly scriptural. The Lord said (John 14:25), 'These things I have said unto you, being yet present with you'- the exact phrase of in Greek which is used concerning the Holy Ghost, translated 'He dwelleth with you.' Christ was yet dwelling with them, but another Comforter was to come whom they would know (though the world would not, because it di dnot see Him) because He dwelt with them; and then He adds, as to the manner (which was not so of Jesus come in the flesh) a new thing, and therefore put in the future tense, 'He shall be in you.' This new paraclete was to be their Counsellor, Guide, Orderer (as Jesus had been), manage their cause and affairs as dwelling with them. Hence we see the importance of distinguishing this living presence and acting of a Comforter from a man's using his talents in a sanctified way by grace.

But, further, this is fully brought out in Scripture as a distinct thing from being in individual members. Both are spoken of to different purposes in Scripture. 'Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, whcih ye have of God; and ye are not your own?' etc. (1 Cor. 6:19). Here accordingly it si applied to personal sanctification. 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are,' 1 Cor.3:16,17. Here it is clearly the Church of God, the building of God whcih some might corrupt by false doctrine. They were God's building. The Spirit of God does then clearly distinguish the dwelling in the body. And this is so much the same thought and connected with the idea of the presence of God in Israel, that in 2 Corinthians 6:16 it si distinctly introduced. 'For ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people.' And now I would ask, What is there debasing in the blessed doctrine that God dwells in His holy temple? We might perhaps say (were it not for that precious blood of Christ which has cleansed us) that it was a debasing idea that the Holy Ghost should dwell in our poor wretched bodies as His temple. But His testimony is to the value of that precious blood as cleansing us, so that His presence in the believer is a glorious testimony to the infinite presciousness of Christ's work, and His presence at the right hand of the Father. But His presence in the Church as His temple, though no doubt founded on the same great truth, is at least more easily apprehended. Because when I think of the Church, I do not think of the flesh, but only of the redeemed people of God on earth. Here my soul says easily, the Holy Ghost can dwell. It belongs to Christ, whom the Spirit glorifies. Both, we have seen, are true; but when I think of a man, I think readily of what he is in his infirmity; and (though it would be wrong) might be easily led to say, Can the Holy Ghost dwell in such poor vile creatures? But when I think of the Church, I do not think of the first Adam state. I think of the fruit of Christ's redemption. Here, my heart says, the Holy Ghost ought to be.

Taken from The Presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.3, p.346-350

Key words: John Nelson Darby, Plymouth Brethren, ecclesiology, church, Holy Spirit, Pneumatology, indwelling

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

J.N. Darby on Separation and Holiness

by J.N. Darby

Holiness, then, is separation to God, if it be real, as well as from evil; for thus alone we are in the light, for God is light. This is true, in our first sanctifying- we are brought to know God, brought to God. If we come to ourselves it is, "I will arise and go no farther." If it is restoration, "If thou wilt return, return unto me." Indeed a soul is never restored really till it does; for it is not in the light so as to purge flesh, even if the fruits of the flesh have been confessed; nor is sin seen as it is in God's sight. Hence love comes in, in all true conversion and restoration, however dimly seen, or through however dark workings of conscience. We want to get back to God; there is forgiveness with Him that He may be feared; otherwise it is despair which drives us further away. Indeed, what would or could restoration be if it were not to God. But, in the full sense of gathering, that is to common fellowship, it is clearly the blessed object which reveals that in which we are to have fellowship, which so gathers. We are to have fellowship in something, that is, with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. This, then, must draw hearts to itself, that in their common delight in it their fellowship may exist. The principle of the tract is this, that in doing this it must separate from evil. It is 'this-then-is-the-message' part of the statement. So Christ says, 'If I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.' Now here was perfect love, entire separation from all sin and condemnation of it. 'In that He died, He died unto sin once'- separation from the world, and deliverance from the whole power of the enemy and the scene of it. It is perfect love drawing from everything to itself; shewing all was evil, absorbing the soul into what was good, in a saving way from it. But when we follow Him into life, all is gone from which He separated. 'In that he liveth, he liveth unto God'; that is His whole being, so to speak. Now He is, in this life, made higher than the heavens- the divine glory I do not hear enter into, but the life. It is a heavenly place He takes, and our gathering through the cross is to Him there, in the good where evil cannot come. There is our communion- entering into the Father's house in spirit. And this, I apprehend, is the true character of the assembly, of the church, for worship in its full sense. It remembers the cross, it worships, the world left out, and all known in heaven before God. He gave Himself that He might gather into one. But here I anticipate a little, for I am speaking as yet of the object, not of the active power. I apprehend that what separates the saint from evil, what makes him holy, is the revelation of an object (I mean, of course, through the Holy Ghost working), which draws his soul to that as good, and thereby reveals evil to him, and makes him judge it in spirit and soul: his knowledge of good and evil is, then, not a mere uneasy conscience, but sanctification; that is, sanctification is resting, by the enlightening of the Holy Ghost, on an object, which by its nature, purifies the affections by being their object- creates them through the power of grace. Even under the law it had this form, 'Be ye holy for I am holy'; though I admit, it there partook necessarilly of the character of the dispensation. In the cross we have these two great principles perfectly brought out. Love is clearly shown, the blessed object which draws the heart; yet the most solemn judgment of and separation from evil; such is God's perfectness- the foolishness and weakness of God. Divine attraction in love, evil in all its horror and forms, perfectly abhorred by him who is attracted and attaches himself to that. The soul goes with sin, as sin, to love, and goes there because love thus displayed has shewn him that it is sin, in being made sin for us. This is the power objectively that separates from evil, and ends all connection with it; for I die then to all the nature I lived to. Evil ceases to be, through faith, as I live hereafter in blessed actvity in love. But I have, perhaps, dwelt long enough on what ojectively gathers and gives fellowship; and surely, our fellowship, communion, is in that which is good- and as heavenly by no evil being there. Imperfectly realised no doubt here, but so far as it is not, fellowship is destroyed, for the flesh has none. Hence it is said: 'If we walk in the light as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.' But we cannot walk out of darkness but by walking in the light, that is, with God: and God is love, and were He not, we could not walk there.

Taken from Unity and Gathering in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.1, p.372-373

Key words: John Nelson Darby, ecclesiology, Exclusive Brethren, Plymouth Brethren, separation, sanctification, church