- Samuel P. Tregelles, perhaps the most scholarly Plymouth Brethren, by the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, was ‘…next to Tischendorf in the importance of his critical labors…’. In 1864, Tregelles published his critical work, The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming: How is it taught in Scriptures? And Why? which states:
“…The only means that we have of learning anything respecting the coming of our Lord is from the teaching of Holy Scripture inspired by the Holy Ghost. Had the Scripture been silent we should have known nothing on the subject; on any points as to which Scripture is silent we do know nothing; but where the Scripture has spoken, we have as learners to receive what it teaches us; and if we shut our ears to this revelation, we are setters aside of the truth of God; or if we substitute our own speculations we are adding to what God has revealed. If there are points which the Scripture does not clearly reveal, there may be differences of opinion; but where the Word of God definitely speaks, there we have simply to listen and to learn.
‘…Before the first advent of Christ there had been the revelation concerning Him in promise and prophecy, and this, too, in very minute (microscopic) details: the family from which He should spring… His birth place …His miracles, His teaching …His crucifixion, death and burial; His vicarious sacrifice; His resurrection; His ascension… and His tarriance seated there until His enemies shall be made His footstool (Psa. 110:1; Heb. 10:13). All these leading incidents connected with His coming, as well as many that are more minute, were given in ancient prophecy.
‘…To those who hold as conclusive the words of the Lord Jesus, and the teaching of the Holy Ghost through apostles and prophets, I wish to address the inquiry, How is the second coming of Christ set forth in Holy Scripture? And Why? …Matthew 24 …The Lord Jesus on the Mount of Olives, a few days before He suffered …in that prophetic discourse applies the terms ‘ye’ and ‘you,’ not to the four disciples (Mark 13:3) who had questioned Him as individuals, but to the Church of the first-born as one body, and having one hope, of which those four were representatives. Thus when He says, ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15)’ …etc., He specially, of course, regards those to whom His words would be applicable from the age in which they should live… our Lord in the same discourse adds, ‘What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch (Mark 13:37).’
|Yes, Christ was not talking about the 4 disciples, for James died in about 44, Andrew about 60, and Peter died about 65AD; all these even before the fall of the Temple in 70 AD.|
Tregelles continues: “Now the questions put to the Lord Jesus by the disciples… They say, ‘What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world (or age; Matt. 24:3)?’ …We are called on to take heed to His reply. In His answer, He first tells His disciples of many and various intervening events; deceivers should arise; there should be commotions amongst the nations, persecutions of the faithful servants of Christ, and the preaching of the Gospel should be carried out as a witness amongst all nations: all this must precede the end, and, in fact, must continue up to the end. The words, ‘the end is not yet (verse 6)…’ and ‘then shall the end come (verse 14)’ …It is evident, on simply reading the inspired record of what our Lord taught, that it sets before the believing people of Christ the hope that He shall Himself come ‘in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory;’ that then ‘He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather together His elect (Matt. 24:30, 31)…’ and that before this coming there ‘shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time (Matt. 24:21)’ …and that the parable of the fig tree is given us that we may learn how to watch and wait. We have to expect the Lord as He has promised to come, and in no other way.
‘…His ascension took place, ‘while they beheld, He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9).’ But …He was mindful of them; the two in white apparel, who appeared to them, directed them onward to the day of His coming again: ‘This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).’ These words, with the previous mention of the cloud… (were) intended to lead them, and to lead us, to consider the definite promises and prophecies which had been given of His coming in the clouds of heaven. They might remember Daniel 7:13 ‘…behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds…’ and our Lord, in His discourse on the Mount of Olives, in speaking of what should be ‘immediately after the tribulation of those days,’ specifies the darkening of the sun and moon, etc. – ‘then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man coming in the clouds… (Matt.24:29-).’ …In the revelation given to the beloved disciple in Patmos, we again find the same accompaniments of the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus: ‘Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him (Rev. 1:7).’ It is to the testimony to this coming that the Apostle John responds, ‘Even so; Amen (1:7; as 22:20).’
‘…In the conclusion of 1 Thes. 4, the apostle comforts the Thessalonians …teaching them …that the whole ‘Church of the first-born (Heb. 12:23)’ shall be gathered together at the coming of the Lord; the dead being raised, and the living changed. He then tells them how the Lord shall come: ‘The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we …shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall ever be with the Lord. Comfort one another with these words.’
‘And this the most uninstructed Christian may do who simply accepts the words of the Apostle… The scene presented is the very reverse of secrecy: the Lord comes with a shout; His call shall wake the dead; but besides this, the voice of the archangel shall be also heard (see Rev.14:15) …and there shall be the sounding of the trump of God (Rev.10:7; 11:15; 1 Cor.15:52). This is just what Christ has promised in Matthew 24:31, when He comes with the clouds of heaven. To say that this triple sound shall not be heard by all, would be a mere addition to Holy Scripture of a kind that contradicts its testimony. We might as well say that ‘every eye shall see Him’ means that He shall only be visible to some few. …It may have been needful to teach the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord must still be waited for; that the falling away and the revelation of the man of sin had first to take place (2 Thes. 2:3); but even these things connect themselves with the same hope; for this Head of evil is he ‘whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and destroy with the brightness of His coming (2 Thes. 2:8).’ ‘It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed (2 Thes. 1:6,7).’ Thus, at the revelation of Christ from heaven, there shall be rest for His Church and destruction of their oppressors. The date …for both is the same. The Church is called to a ‘patient waiting for Christ (2 Thes. 3:5),’ and not to mere excitement of speculative expectancy.
‘…The evening before His crucifixion, our Lord contemplated His Church as being left here on this earth for a considerable period: the instruction then given for its guidance during such an interval, and the mission of the Holy Ghost, as the Paraclete (comforter; John 14:26), was for the right endowment of such to live and act in the circumstances. Jesus tells them …their hope, ‘I will come again… (John 14:3);’ so that every direction, every warning and every promise of support, would relate to persons thus waiting. …One thing especially which the Lord promised to His disciples was suffering: ‘If the world hates you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you …if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you (John 15:18, 20).’ ‘…The time shall come that whosoever kills you will think that he does God service (John 16:2).’
‘…Persecution is here one of the significant tokens; and this, too, had been specified particularly in Matthew 24: ‘Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake, and then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another… (24:9; see Matt. 10).’ ‘…I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).’ ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).’ ‘Ye shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses… (Acts 1:8).’ The Church was taught that she was called to a place of service and trial: the hope of the coming of her Lord was that by which she was to be animated in the one, and sustained in the other. She knew that certain signs should precede that coming… it was her calling to look onward, even though the interval were of necessity long.
‘…The Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ left in their epistles instruction for the Church in all ages. ‘Little children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come… (1 John 2:18).’ …The Church had been taught the coming of the Antichrist. …The Apostle James speaks of the evil characteristics of ‘the last days…’ saying, ‘be patient brethren unto the coming of the Lord…’. The Apostle Paul revealed that there would be evil days, both in the Church and in the world, before Christ’s second advent… ‘in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1);’ …also, that ‘in the lasts days perilous times shall come… (2 Tim. 3:13).’ ‘In Revelation 20 we read of the ‘first Resurrection.’ …This is in full accordance with other Scriptures: for instance, 1 Corinthians 15:23, where the order of the resurrection is taught: ‘Every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward, they that are Christ’s at His coming (singular).’
‘…But there is a very different theory of the coming of the Lord as the hope of His Church, which many teach, and which many more receive, as though it were unquestionable truth. It is said that there shall be a secret coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; that at this secret coming His believing people who are in their graves shall be raised, and that the living changed, and that a secret rapture of the Church shall then take place; that this secret coming and secret rapture are our hope, and not the manifested appearing of Christ in the clouds of heaven. It is said that after this secret removal of the Church, the full manifestation of human evil, for some years at least, will take place, during which time shall be the display of the Antichrist, the persecutions foretold in Revelation, the extreme trials of Israel, the unequalled tribulation; and that at the end of this will be the manifestation of Christ visibly coming with His Church… This doctrine of the secret coming of Christ which many now preach as if it were the acknowledged truth of God, instead of its being, as is really the case, that which at every point would require proof from the Scripture.
‘But not only is this doctrine of the coming of Christ not taught in the Word of God, but if, in what has been previously said, there is any point of truth, then this whole system stands in distinct contradiction of what the Scripture reveals. It is refuted by whatever speaks of the Lord’s coming in the clouds of heaven when every eye shall see Him… for which people of Christ are to watch and wait, and …after the last anti-Christian persecution, and not before. It is likewise contradicted by specific and individual Scriptures, which, in simple testimony or in legitimate deduction, would be conclusive to a mind subject to God’s Word.’
‘Chapter 9: The ‘Secret Rapture:’ Its Origin: When a new doctrine is taught as if it were a revealed truth, it behooves every Christian to inquire on what Scripture testimony it rests; and unless this is satisfactorily set forth, what is taught ought not to be accepted. This will apply very definitely to the system of the secret rapture and secret coming. …The apostles taught intervening events, the corruption that should take place in the Church from false teachers, etc… (But twisting scripture) led to the adoption of theories by which definite points of revelation were explained away.
‘…But still it seems as if it were some time before a secret advent of the Lord and secret rapture of the Church had a definite and systematic place. It was rather as it the coming of Christ had been divided into two parts …He would appear in glory …take the Church …and cease until He came to crush …evil, and then reign. This would be virtually a second and third coming; it would err in the fact of addition to Holy Scripture, as well as in that of contraction to its testimony. (Tregelles footnoted: ‘in 1863, I heard it publicly …that the secret coming is the second coming and …the manifest appearing of our Lord is His third coming.’)
‘…Thus the doctrine held …that believers are concerned not with a public and manifested coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, not with His appearing when every eye shall see Him, and when He shall sever the wicked from among the just, but with a secret or private coming, when the dead saints shall be secretly raised, the living changed and both caught up to meet the Lord in the air; that the shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, do not indicate anything of publicity, for the ear of faith alone shall hear them, that the Church shall meet the Lord, not at His visible coming, but in order to remain with Him, at least for years, before His manifested advent, that after this secret coming there shall be in the earth a full power of evil put forth amongst both Jews and Gentiles that there shall be a time of unequalled tribulation and great spiritual perils… and that this condition of things shall end by the manifest coming of the Lord.
‘…Chapter 10: ‘The Jewish Waste-paper Basket.’ …But if things are so, to whom would the Scriptures apply which give warning of perilous times? This consideration has led to the Jewish interpretation of Scripture. Whatever has been felt to be a difficulty has been sent aside by saying by saying that it is ‘Jewish’ and …that it has nothing to do with the Church. On this principle the application of very much of the New Testament has been avoided. If Jewish circumstances of any kind are found in a passage, or if the persons addressed were Jews by nation, these particulars have been relied on as showing that it does not apply to the Church. But it must ever be borne in mind that, however differing in external circumstances, the Church is one body, dwelt in by one Spirit: the Jew and the Gentile, alike brought near to God by the blood of Christ, are one in Him; so that Jewish circumstances or Gentile circumstances do not affect the essential unity.’
‘…If the application of the Jewish theory of interpretation of definite New Testament prophecies be carefully examined, it will be found to refute itself; for it will give to Jews as Jews what most certainly belongs to the Church of Christ, and it will assume that Jews in their unbelief are found using the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ as a teacher. Thus, when Matthew 24 has been used as teaching how we are to expect the Lord, it has been repeatedly said that it is entirely ‘Jewish.’ …But what then? Who are to use it, or to take heed to its warnings? No one can acknowledge Jesus as a teacher without owning Him as the Christ: ‘Many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ’ and shall deceive many.’ The persons who will use the warnings, and who will expect the manifest appearing of Christ …must be believers in His divine mission… believers in His name …they must be a part of the Church of the firstborn, to which all belong who now accept the Lord Jesus.
‘…In order to avoid applications of certain Scriptures to us, doctrines have been called Jewish: thus it has been said that Covenant, Priesthood, and Mediation, are altogether Jewish. To this it has been added that the Church, ‘the body of Christ,’ stands altogether above everything of the kind; even ‘above dispensation,’ whatever this may mean. …It does not make the New Covenant a merely Jewish thing. Just as the Lord Jesus said the night before He suffered, ‘This is My blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remissions of sins (Matt. 26:28).’
‘…The Lord gives a warning of unequalled ‘tribulation’ which shall ‘immediately’ precede His ‘…coming in the clouds of heaven… (Matt. 24:29).’ Some have said, ‘What a fearful prospect it is if the Church shall be in this tribulation!’ ‘Can we suppose it possible’ …And thus any theory is judged admissible which shall exclude the Church form sharing at all in suffering, or from being on earth at the time. But we cannot draw conclusions in this transcendental manner. Thus Peter argued and spoke when his Master foretold ‘that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer …and be killed, and be raised again the third day.’
‘It was nature, and not spiritually, that led him to think thus of the sufferings of his Lord, rather than of the promise of His resurrection: ‘Be it far from Thee… (Matt. 16:22).’ Should not our Lord’s rebuke to Peter check all such reasoning? …Is suffering and trial so strange a lot for the people of Christ? ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation… (John 16:33).’ How continually did apostles teach ‘that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).’ ‘No man should be moved by these afflictions for you know that we are appointed thereunto; for verily, when we were with you, we told you that we should suffer tribulation… (1 Thes. 3:3,4).’ If certain tribulations are to be expected as the common experience of the faithful servants of Christ, why should it seem strange that they be instructed respecting the great and final tribulation?’
‘…What are these that are arrayed in white robes…? These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb… (Rev. 7:13, 14).’ These are ‘a great multitude, which no man can number…’ In this last tribulation, Christ is very mindful of His people: ‘for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shorted (Matt. 24:22);’ and besides this, they are warned of that time…’
‘…Now, it is quite true that the Scripture does speak of two remnants in Israel: First, ‘The remnant shall return …of Jacob unto the mighty God (Isa. 10:21).’ This …is the spared Israel who, after the judgments of the Lord, shall be the earthly people. Second, ‘At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace (Rom. 11:5).’ This remnant of Israel …is that portion who, during this dispensation, believe in Christ; but in the Church they form no separate body; believing Jew and Gentile are one in Christ… (see Rom. 2:29; 3:22; Gal. 3:28).’
‘Chapter 15 …I the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13) Christ gives us some very simple instruction. The result of the sowing of the seed is that there is much wheat in the field: an enemy sows tares amongst them; and from that day until the harvest there is no point of time in which the field does not contain some of each. ‘Let both grow together until the harvest… and I will say to the reapers, ‘Gather ye together first the tares …to burn them; but gather the wheat into My barn (Matt. 13:30).’ ‘…So shall it be in the end of this world… (Matt. 13:40).’ Thus the removal of the Church, as set forth in the secret rapture theory, is impossible: for, from the moment of the first preaching of the gospel, until the angels are sent forth to sever the wicked from among the just, both classes are found mingled in Christendom. …This contradicts also the notion of a body of Jewish believers being formed after the rapture of the Church. …There is no such break or interval allowed in Scripture up to the harvest.’
‘…Watch, for ye know not what hour your Lord does come (Matt. 24:42).’ …Does not this passage show that the momentary expectation that our Lord may come is that which we should rightly cherish? …Some say it is ‘Jewish,’ …but it …is a groundless assumption …to quote a few words from such portions in defense of a supposed secret advent… (from) the same passages which speak of our being called to watch… He who looks for promised events as indications of the Lord’s advent, will not rest for a moment in the events themselves: their value is, that they lead on the thoughts and affections to Him for whom the Church is called to watch and wait, and who has Himself promised these signs to His expecting people. To watch unscripturally is really not to watch at all, but to substitute something of emotion and sentiment for the patient waiting for Christ. …The Lord has promised signs (Luke 21:25) …and these signs can only be for His believing people. They are closely connected with our watchfulness. We wait for the budding of the fig tree; ‘when these things begin to come to pass, then look up …for your redemption draws near (Luke 21:28).’
‘Chapter 19: Secret Rapture – Scriptures contradictory. …Now, it is very remarkable that those who have the Scripture, and who read it with some measure of attention, can have adopted or received a system which contradicts some of the simplest statements of our Lord and His inspired apostles… Our Lord has promised that He will return in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and that then He will send forth His angels to gather His elect. The secret advent doctrine teaches that He will come privately, and that then He will raise His sleeping saints and change the living, taking them up to Himself a good while before His manifestation. The Scripture warns the saints of perilous times (2Tim.3:1) and of evils in the later days before the coming of Christ. The secret advent theory maintains that no such events can be known as would interpose an interval between the present moment and the coming of the Lord. The Scripture speaks only of Christ’s second coming, until which He remains at the right hand of God the Father. The secret advent is a notion entirely opposed to this; for it represents our Lord coming in a private manner to take the Church to meet Him, and then at a future period coming in glory; and this some call His third coming. The Scripture teaches the Church to wait for the manifestation of Christ. The secret theory bids us to expect a coming before any such manifestation. Our Lord says that the wheat and tares shall be together in the field until the harvest (Matt. 13:30). The doctrine of the secret rapture affirms that at some time considerably before the harvest, all the wheat shall have been removed, leaving only tares. Our Lord bids us look for certain signs, and use them in our watching. The advocates of the secret advent contradict this, saying that the signs are not for us.’
‘The Scripture tells us that the ‘first resurrection’ of the saints will be when the Lord has come forth as the conqueror, add that those will share in this resurrection who have suffered under the final Antichrist. The teachers of the secret doctrine say that the resurrection of the present Church will take place long ‘before the first resurrection,’ and before the manifestation of Antichrist. It is not surprising that men with their Bibles in their hands, can be led to adopt a theory of doctrine which not only adds to Scripture, but contradicts it at all points? This is just the simple and natural consequences of the acceptance of the one leading addition to Scripture, that there shall be a secret coming of the Lord and a secret rapture of His Church. When Christ distinctly states a truth, it might have been expected that at least those who profess to be His believing people would receive those words as conclusive; and thus it might have been thought that those only who avowedly reject His authority would deny the force of what He said. Now our Lord has expressly taught us that His coming shall not be secret: He has told us this, not only by saying that it will be manifest, but also by warning against any supposition of secret coming as suits some of the ‘Jewish’ notions.’
‘After speaking of the unequalled tribulation, He says, ‘Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo here is Christ, or there, believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets …with great signs… if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. …For as the lightening cometh out of the east …so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be… (Matt. 24:23-27).’ No man with these words in his Bible ought to accept the doctrine of any secret coming without feeling that he is casting off, in so doing, the authority of the Lord; for this is done, virtually, when the warning of Christ is treated as if He had taught the very reverse…’
‘…A supposed distinction has been made between the coming of Christ and the day of the Lord, as if the one could be a secret hope before the other which is manifest; but in 1 Cor. 1:8, ‘the day of our Lord’ is the hope of the Church; so too, in 2 Cor. 1:14 …Phil.1:6, 10 …1 Thes. 5:2 …2 Thes. 2:1,2 …In 2 Peter 3:12, believers are spoken of as ‘looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God,’ this is the ‘day’ as our hope contradict all theory of secrecy. Could the ‘Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2) arise’ without the day beginning? …The teachers of the ‘secret’ doctrine act in very contradictory ways with regard to the Apocalypse. Some of them say that it is not for our instruction… others say that the epistles to the seven churches are our potion …but that when a door is opened in heaven (Chapter 4) the Church is caught up. Others maintain that the whole book is future …after the secret removal of the present Church. …Let it be again noted that the coming of the Lord is set forth in the opening of the book: ‘Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him…’ and to this coming the Apostle responds, ‘Even so, Amen (Rev.1:7).’
No supposition that the Church is found in resurrection glory prior to such a coming can be admitted… nor can any symbol be rightly interpreted as setting forth the Church as actually in resurrection glory at a point of time previous to the first resurrection of Chapter 20, and that is after the last anti-Christian persecution, in which the faithful are beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus. …If the manifest coming of our Lord in glory be not our hope, it would be indeed strange that the apostles should have so habitually taught such a coming. …If the secret advent and secret removal of the Church be true, how can the advocates of this theory show that the secret event did not take place long ago?’…”
|Note: Tregelles does not add all of the Old Testament uses of the ‘Day of the Lord.’ He does however note at the end of this chapter: ‘A maintainer of the secret rapture, in publishing a text of the Revelation, gave a few readings professedly from the Codex Sinaiticus, in which he prints …some strange hallucination …later copied by Dean Alford in his Greek Testament, and in …Stuart’s useful work …so that the error has become widely spread. But Codex Sinaiticus reads (Tregelles quotes some Greek here) exactly like the common text (KJV). I have seen the passage in the MS itself, and anyone can verify it in the two editions of Tischendorf.’|
In an ‘Appendixes’ to his book, Tregelles wrote: ‘This responsibility is a very heavy one. It is no light thing to undertake the instruction of others in the truth of God. The words of St. James are very solemn: ‘My brethren, be not many of you teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.’ And i add another passage from James, ‘Be patient …brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.’
Also in the Appendix Tregelles writes: ‘…Of the Lord’s coming as ‘a thief in the night,’ which, we are constantly told, prove that the Lord intends His true saints to regard His advent as momentarily imminent. Such passages occur at Matt 24:43; Luke 12:39; 1 Thes. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; and Rev. 16:15 (Joel 2:2,9). With regard to them all… the emblem of a ‘thief’ is obviously used to indicate not merely the unexpectedness of the coming, but its unwelcome ness! Further, this emblem implies the advent of one who comes to take away, not to give something to those whom he visits, for ‘the thief cometh not but for to steal, to kill and to destroy (John 10).’ Lord’s coming in its relation to the true believer, to him who ‘loves His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8),’ and to whom ‘grace shall be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13),’ ‘ye …are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief (1 Thes. 5:4).’
|‘That day’ is singular, for the Lord does not speak of another rapture ‘day’ for the faithful, but only of salvation to ‘he that endures to the end (Matt.24:13; Mark. 13:13).’ i am not one for reading fiction, and rightly so is the ‘the Left Behind’ series filed under ‘fiction;’ yet, Tolkien’s fiction was is more accurate in displaying a type of the coming of the Lord – while ‘good’ forces fought in fierce battle amidst great tribulation, from the east the deliver came and with the brightness of His coming the ‘evil’ forces were destroyed (Matt. 24:27; 2 Thes. 2:8).|
Tregelles concludes, “Error is always inconsistent. It should be remembered, as a warning, that those who speak thus have formulated the theory of the secret coming of the Lord as distinguished from His public appearing, founded upon the supposed distinction between the use of two Greek words! …Nothing could be more palpably incorrect than to set the ‘letter’ and ‘spirit’ of Scripture in contrast… It is worthy of remark, ‘how often the supporters of extravagancies in theology have manifested an instinctive dread of exact learning – Rev. T. S. Green, M. A., On the Grammar of the New Testament Dialect; 1842’.”
Now, i am not a Greek scholar, but i do understand that when the Lord warns ‘if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city… (Rev. 22:18, 19)’ that, at that warning, one should not approach the revelation, nor any of our Lord’s teachings, as some do with great self-confidence of insight and revelation and with boldness of proclamation of their own commentary, but one should rather seek humbly for guidance from the spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and counsel (Isa. 11:2) for that which Rev. Green called ‘exact learning;’ then with great care teach the perfect Scriptures, which when properly offered, need little aid.
2. The second work i present against Darby’s methods and teaching is by J. Grant. The Dictionary of National Biography (1890), Vol. 22: ‘James Grant (1802 – 1879), journalist, born at Elgin (Scotland) …founded his own paper at 25; and from 1850 to 1871 …was editor of the Morning Chronicle in London. …Grant conducted several other London periodicals’ including the Christian Standard. Grant wrote 36 books which the Dictionary listed; among his last were, in 1869, The Religious Tendencies of the Times, or How to deal with the Deadly Errors and Dangerous Delusions of the Day; and in 1875, The Plymouth Brethren: Their History and Heresies. In his book: The Plymouth Brethren… Heresies, Grant writes:
“…The bulk of this publication appeared …in Two Volumes, entitled, ‘The Religious Tendencies of the Times.’ It attracted great attention …but the price – 12 shillings (in 2010 dollars: about $ 25) – of the volumes prevented many …from reading the work. …(This) having a profound persuasion that Plymouth Brethrenism, as taught and practiced by the Darby section of that body, is essentially at variance with the spirit and doctrines of the religion of Christ, and that it is working great mischief wherever it has got a footing…
‘…Plymouth Brethren are a sect of whom we hear a great deal, but of whom the public know but a little. …The Plymouth Brethren, so far as respects several of their doctrinal views, existed for some years before they were called by that name. Their origin …took place in Ireland …between the years 1828 and 1834. …It chiefly arose from the pulpit ministrations and published works of Rev. Edward Irving and his expulsion from the Scotch Church. …Irving had embraced Millenarianism, which at that time had found its way into but very few pulpits… But the simple fact of inculcation the doctrine of the personal reign of Christ on earth for 1,000 years, would not of itself have caused the excitement produced by Mr. Irving’s pulpit… The sensation which he created arose chiefly …(from) his preaching on his newly adopted belief, that Christ might come to our world any day, and at any hour, but would most certainly come in that generation…’
‘…In association with these novelties in doctrine, there was another. Mr. Irving fully believed that the gifts of working miracles and speaking with tongues were not withdrawn from the Church. I myself have repeatedly heard Miss Hall, who was believed to be more largely endowed with the gift of speaking in tongues than anyone else, exercise that gift in Mr. Irving’s church in Newman Street. …On a particular day I was one of from 2,000 to 2,500 persons present… Miss Hall rose from her seat and in tones which no one that heard them could ever forget, shouted aloud, ‘He’s coming, He’s coming, He’s coming! Behold, He is at the door. He is here.’ …I should here observe that the speaking with tongues in Mr. Irving’s congregation was not in unknown tongues, as most people… supposed …(it) was in plain English.’ (Note: This was not the case with Margaret MacDonald and certain others in the late 1820’s, who spoke on occasion in Irving’s church with unknown sounds.)
‘…(Not before 1828 were) …Darby or …Newton, Craik or Muller …heard of. …Mr. Darby went to Plymouth …either in 1832 or 1833. He had not been long there before he joined Mr. Newton, as the leading teacher in the ‘gathering’ in that town, numbering, according to statements made to me by some of those who belonged to it at the time, not less than 1,200 or 1,400. Of course, Mr. Darby had by this time separated from the Church of England, believing that it was practically wrong in its doctrinal teachings… While in Ireland, and before he had been to Plymouth at all, he objected to Christians of the various evangelical denominations being called by any distinctive designation… He said …the apostles always addressed the saints of God as ‘brethren…’. For several years Darby and Newton worked in the large gathering at Plymouth, harmoniously and successfully; but circumstances transpired – I speak from the testimony of a friend who was personally cognizant of the fact – which proved that Mr. Darby was seriously wrong of some doctrinal points… However, he did not bring these dangerous doctrines before the church, nor mention them among his private friends, it was fondly hoped that he had abandoned them… Nor was Darby alone in this case to be blamed …for the church (elders) in Ebrington Street were also to be blamed for keeping silence for so long a period in relation to Mr. Darby’s errors. It was their duty, as men professing to be faithful to the truth as it is in Jesus, to have conversed with Mr. Darby on the point…
‘…Mr. Darby …separated from Mr. Newton and the church in Ebrington Street… The second ‘reason,’ as published in Darby’s Narrative of Facts, of Mr. Darby for separation relates to what the Plymouth Brethren term the ‘heavenly calling’ …the expression …I believe, because the Darby class of Brethren are firmly and fully assured that all believers in Christ, in the present dispensation …will, on His descending again to our earth …be caught up in the air to meet Him ‘at His coming,’ and to reign with Him in the air while His Millennial dynasty shall last …and possess a far greater amount of glory …than either the saints who lived in Old Testament times, or those who lived during the Millennium.’
‘In fact, the Darbyites do not recognize either …as belonging to the Church of Christ at all. They indeed make this abundantly clear; for they deny that there was any Church of God under the previous dispensation… Thus, the thief, for instance, converted on the cross, will have a higher place in heaven than Moses… Is it not truly deplorable that we should be called on to answer such astounding extravagances as these?
‘…The third ‘reason’ assigned by Mr. Darby and his friends for separating from the church in Ebrington Street, Plymouth, was his conviction that ‘unfeigned faith in the presence of the Holy Ghost to guide and to minister in the assembling of the saints, was undermined and subverted.’ It is not generally known among other denominations of Christians, that the Plymouth Brethren of the Darbyite section have views regarding the Holy Spirit which are particular to themselves. They are essentially the same as those of the Quakers. The only difference is, that whereas meetings of the Society of Friends occasionally take place in which not a word is spoken, but a perfect silence is preserved from beginning to end of what they would still call the service, it is not so with the Darby division of the Brethren. They never meet without one or more speaking, nor do they ever, Quaker-like, remain silent ever for a few minutes…’
‘…The fifth ‘reason’ for the separation …charges Mr. Newton… with claiming Omniscience and Omnipotence. These grave charges …would have been equally grave, though not more groundless, had they been brought against the loftiest archangel in heaven. …The sixth ‘reason’ …(Darby stated) was ‘the constant extenuation (underestimate) of the evil of Popery, and the decided absence of Christ from the teaching, while the saints were exalted almost into an equality with God.’ …It is hardly possible to believe that either Mr. Newton, or anyone else, occupied so high a place in the love or esteem of the church as to be ‘…almost …of equality with God.’
(Note: George Muller stood up at this point for Newton and against this absurd allegation.)
‘…The seventh and last ‘reason’ for separation was, ‘the exaltation …of a person Antichrist, in a way quite contrary to Scripture, so as to alarm and shake the minds of the saints.’ Until a comparatively late period, the almost universal belief among students of prophecy was, that the Church of Rome was the Antichrist that was to come… But early in the previous century, the notion begin to make some progress …that the leading writers on prophecy, for the last 250 years, had labored under a mistake in believing that the Papacy was the Antichrist of Scripture. They came to the conclusion that whoever Antichrist might be, he would be a person, not a system… Rev. R. Govett …believes the Antichrist is to be Nero; …Rev. M. Baxter believed till the last …that Louis Napoleon was the destined Antichrist. …But I have made a slight digression. What Mr. Darby means, when he charges Mr. Newton with exalting ‘and beautifying a personal Antichrist’ …I am unable to comprehend. …Mr. Newton believes just like Mr. Darby in a personal Antichrist.’
‘…Mr. Darby was not excommunicated …it was a withdrawal on Mr. Darby’s part, not an expulsion… Mr. Wigram …assigns a different ground for his withdrawal… (he said) ‘The cause of withdrawal was not difference of judgment upon the prophetic question, neither was it a question of doctrine. My act of withdrawal took place solely and simply because a new and a human church system had been introduced… They are all accredited as Christians …without any question.’ …Two important points are thus established by the testimony of Mr. Darby and Mr. Wigram, now the leading man, not only at the ‘gathering’ in North Row …but in London. Both concur in explicitly admitting that, up till this period, namely 1845, no charges were made of false doctrine prevailing among Mr. Newton and those who remained with him in the Plymouth gathering of Brethren…’
‘…By far the most numerous and still more influential for the gifts and graces of its principal members, was the gathering which held its meetings in Bristol, in a chapel named ‘Bethesda.’ The leading members of the church, Mr. Muller and the late Rev. Mr. Craik, where at that time two of the best known men in the religious world. Mr. Craik had been highly educated for the ministry in the Church of Scotland, but coming to look upon Presbyterianism as unscriptural, and Congregationalism as being in accordance with the Word of God, he withdrew from membership in the Church of Scotland and joined the Baptist denomination, whose views are the same on all points with those of the Congregationalists except on the one point of baptism. …Mr. Muller …German by birth, came to this country (England) and soon after… by faith, undertook to build and maintain, without knowing where one shilling of the necessary money was to come from, an institution for the children of the poor…’
‘…Muller …with the laie Mr. Craik …by 1845 connected themselves denominationally with the church under the superintendence of Mr. Newton, in Plymouth. …There were then no favorite ‘teachers’ or leaders… The churches of the Brethren are essentially based on the republican principle of any one ‘edifying’ the church, by addressing its members, who might deem himself fitted for the work. …But it was soon found that …Craik and Muller …became as paramount there as Mr. Newton and Mr. Darby had been in Plymouth. …Mr. Darby in the meantime formed a new church in Plymouth, consisting of those who had …with him left Mr. Newton’s church, or followed soon after… calling themselves ‘Darbyites,’ or …accepting the distinction from others… Mr. Darby in his new place of meeting became supreme in the ‘gatherings’ of his adherents. He had everything his own way, no one venturing to differ from him in relation to any matters that were brought for decision before the church. So that he was …practicing that very supremacy with which he unjustly charged Mr. Newton. …Until 1847, Mr. Darby remained in fellowship with the Bethesda party in Bristol… when circumstances occurred which compelled Craik and Muller, and the ‘gathering’ in Bethesda Chapel, to sever all connection with Mr. Darby and his adherents… Mr. Darby, unable to shut the door of Bethesda against the admission of members from Mr. Newton’s church, broke off at once all fellowship with Mr. Craik and Mr. Muller and the church over which they were practically, though not in name, overseers.’
‘…Mr. B. W. Newton charged with heresies (by Darby) …(was defended by Tregelles) …and who could be a better authority to the question than Dr. Tregelles? …The first charge was made in 1846… the second followed soon after… (to which Tregelles responded in 1849). …When, in order to uphold certain prophetic and dispensational theories, the Brethren, at first covertly and afterwards openly, were setting aside Covenant, Priesthood, and Mediation, as if they could not relate to the Church, and that …the Church did not include Old Testament saints, these erroneous doctrines were distinctly opposed by Mr. Newton.’
‘This led to the course of action carried on against him by Mr. Darby and his associates, at first privately, and from the year 1845 …publicly. When all their endeavors to traduce the character of Mr. Newton had failed, they had recourse to other measures. In 1835 Newton published a pamphlet against Irvingism, defending Christ’ spotless humanity, but in which, some of the relations in which our Lord stood to others, were inaccurately set forth. In 1847 these statements were eagerly seized by the Brethren. When the passages were brought before Mr. Newton, he attentively examined their bearing and seeing that they were mistaken …he published …a withdrawal of these statements expressing his sorrow that he had made them twelve years before. …But many of the Brethren …though chiefly Mr. Darby and his party, persisted for years in asserting that Mr. Newton’s retraction was not full and complete. I do happen to know, from special sources of information, that never in the world was a more complete retraction given of any error… But Mr. Darby and his confederates in the opposition got up against Mr. Newton …(who) had not for 12 years written or spoken a single word …of the subject.’
‘…1848 …conferences took place with respect to the unsatisfactory state of Brethrenism, caused by the discord and divisions… Mr. Darby seems to have chosen a new course for himself after he had quitted Plymouth. He felt it to be his duty not to remain in London, except for brief periods at occasional intervals, but to travel through various parts of the world – in America …Europe… Chiefly in …France and Germany… (At this time) the entire number of the Darby class of Brethren in Great Britain, I should say it amounts to 15,000 …There are many of them in the south of France, in Germany, in Italy, in …Canada …United States… Darbyites are spreading in Australia…’
‘…In most of the Bethesda ‘gatherings’ or as some …prefer the word, ‘assemblies,’ derived from the phrase ‘forsake not the assembly of yourselves (Heb. 10:25)…’ They hold the class of opinions usually denominated Calvinistic. They are no less at one in the belief that the Antichrist who is to precede the second advent of our Lord, when He comes to inaugurate His personal reign, will be, not a system, but a personal Antichrist, who will last at least for 3 ½ years, that being 1,260 days, and not for 1,260 years, as prophetic writers, almost without exception, expected for the last two centuries and a half, would be the period of Antichrist’ supremacy…’
‘…I pass over various other errors entertained by the Darbyite class of Brethren, which though of a most dangerous as well as unscriptural character, do not with equal urgency claim a notice at my hands, because they are not so prominently brought forward, either in the oral ‘teachings’ or writings of the Brethren. But there is one of their doctrines which I regard as so vital that it appears to me it would, were it true, prove fatal to the whole scheme of man’s redemption.’
‘The doctrine to which I allude is, that Christ’s obedience to the law was not vicarious – was no part of the work with He wrought out for those for whom He became Surety… Until Mr. Darby advanced this astounding doctrine, I am not aware that the notion was ever before even hinted at… The Substitutional obedience of our Lord is so essential a part of the scheme of redemption, that without it, His sufferings as our Surety would have been of no avail to a single soul… But my space will not permit me to go fully into this subject, I would recommend those who would wish to examine it in all its bearings …consult …Dr. Tregelles’ Christ, the End of the Law for Righteousness…’
‘…(Concerning) the Plymouth Brethren, it was thought that no designation could be more appropriate in relation to them than that of ‘Sheep-stealers’ …because they not only carry off as many as they can of the Shepherd’s flock, but take care to carry off the best sheep – the best members of the churches from which they steal… Mr. Darby is, to all intents and purposes, a thorough Pope, though under a Protestant name. He will never admit that he is in error… Darbyites who gather together in London can go so far as to exclude all other denominations, even the most godly men among them ‘believing themselves to be the one, or only, assembly of God in London;’ how need we feel surprised that Mr. Darby, as the ‘prophet, priest, and king’ of the party, should exercise a perfect despotism (dictatorship) within the domains of Darbyism?’
‘…Plymouth Brethrenism changes the most kind, courteous, and winning manners into the opposite. …A gentleman of high rank in the army lived for years in as great happiness with his wife, as perhaps any husband ever did. They were both eminent Christians. In an evil hour, the wife, one of the most amiable of women, fell into the hands of a Plymouth sister, and the result …was, that in a few weeks she became a thorough proselyte to Darbyism. The very first fruit of her ‘conversion’ to Darbyism …she would no longer even kneel with her husband alone in prayer before retiring to rest, a practice which they never omitted from the day of the marriage until the unhappy hour in which she was entangled in the meshes of Brethrenism… Another illustration …a Plymouth sister, whose family do not share her views… she even turns away …when the head of the house asks the Divine blessing on the meals… Is not this sad? …I am also acquainted personally with another case, in which …a mother and daughter had adopted the opposite views on Brethrenism; the result was that the two would not sit down together at the same Lord’s Table… Another case …of a family who were all Plymouth Brethren, but one half belonged to the Darby party, and the other to the Bethesda, or Muller party. Their house was a perpetual scene of discord and …unhappiness…’
‘In 1874, several similar cases have been brought to my knowledge. One minister …a godly man, in Scotland, has been obliged to get a separation from his wife, owing to the fact that she had lately adopted Darbyite views, and literally tormented him so persistently and so relentlessly that he was unable to bear it any longer. I know of another case in which the wife …who before becoming a proselyte to Darbyism, was eminent for her piety and devotedness to every good word and work, will not only not now engage in the very holiest work in which a Christian can engage, but systematically absents herself form the dinner table when her husband invites some of ‘the excellent of the earth’ to the house, though the object of their meeting be …to promote the glory of God and the good of souls.’
‘…Before closing my volume, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that the cases to which I have referred, of the domestic misery caused in families by Plymouth Brethrenism, are of every-day occurrence. Thousands of formerly happy homes have been made the reverse by the simple fact of Brethrenism being brought into the domestic circle by some influential member of the household. Let me then ask, as my concluding words, can that be a Scriptural, can that be a system of real religion, which is productive of such lamentable effects as those which I have thus exposed, as springing from Plymouth Brethrenism? I feel confident there will be but one answer to the question. …The fruits of the Spirit are not enmity and discord: they are love, peace, union, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The End.”
III. The third work i present against Darby’s manners and teachings was also published in 1875. This work, Plymouth Brethrenism: Unveiled and Refuted, was written by William Reid, a former pastor of Lothian Road United Presbyterian Church, Edinburgh, Scotland. Before this book was distributed, Reid had published Things to Come Practically Considered. Charles Spurgeon said that the work was ‘composed of solid and sober teaching.’ The January 1872 issue of the United Presbyterian Magazine stated, ‘If Mr. Reid had followed the broad way of unbridled fancy, instead of the narrow road of revealed truth – if he had filled his book with idle and foolish and pernicious speculations, he would have been hailed by many as a wonderful genius; but as he feels himself bound to keep by the words of truth and soberness, he must be content to forfeit such an honour…’.
Shortly before his work on Plymouth Brethrenism was published, in 1874, his book, Everlasting Punishment and Modern Speculation was printed. Concerning this work, the British and Foreign Evangelical Review stated, ‘We regard Mr. Reid’s book as one of the most valuable contributions to our Christian apologetics which has appeared for a long time.’ In this work Reid fought against the doctrine of Annihilation then being accepted by ‘Unitarianism, liberal Christians, by many English Nonconformist, and Broad Church Episcopalians.’ In his preface, Reid noted that ‘frequent and persistent assaults’ were being ‘made upon this article of Christian belief’ with weak resistance by preachers.
Reid quotes ‘the Right Honorable W. E. Baxter,’ Parliament Member, in his preface saying, ‘The laity of Scotland, it appears to me are beginning to take much broader, larger and more liberal views in these matters. They regard creeds and catechisms, whatever good there may be in them, as much more immaterial than their forefathers did; and my thorough conviction is, that if the clergy do not keep pace with the times, but indulge in what is popularly called heresy-hunting, and in constant dissertations upon abstruse doctrines which may admit of many interpretations, there is a great danger of their losing a large portion of their influence, of the decadence (corruption) of which we see some symptoms already…’ And i add, the symptoms of that corruption, due to lack of proper pulpit procedures, have progressed into a perplexing disease which has produced offspring and spread across the earth infecting tens of millions. No wonder foolish doctrines, such as those which deny an eternal hell, thrive; first, because most ‘Christians’ do not ‘search the Scriptures’ and ‘perish for lack of knowledge;’ and secondly, because most shepherds of the flock know not how to go out to save even one that strays, much less than to ‘seek and save’ deceived masses.
Reid’s Plymouth Brethrenism: Unveiled and Refuted: “…Mr. Bellett, who afterwards became prominent in the movement, one day remarked to a lady, ‘Groves has just been telling me, that it appeared to him from Scripture that believers, meeting together as disciples of Christ, were free to break bread together, as their Lord had admonished them; and that, in as far as the apostles could be a guide, every Lord’s Day should be set apart for thus remembering the Lord’s death, and obeying His parting command.’ This suggestion of Mr. Groves was immediately carried out by himself and his friends in Dublin. Here, then, was the germ of the whole system of Brethrenism. Nothing, however, at this time, seems to have been further from the intention of the originators of the movement, than the formation of a new sect, and hence there was as yet no separation from their respective communions. In 1829 Mr. Groves left for Persia. On his return in 1836 he found that ‘the brethren’ had abandoned their original ground, and constituted themselves a distinct religious party. In a letter to Mr. Darby, he (Groves) deeply deplores this and predicts that ‘a step or two more in advance’ was all that was needed to ‘see all the evils’ among themselves, of the systems which they denounced.
‘…Chapter II: The Theological Opinions of the Brethren. …At first the movement consisted simply in a condemnation of ordinary church order, and an attempt to reconstruct the Church upon the apostles’ model, minus the elders and teachers whom the apostles ordained… On many points of belief they are at one with the great body of their fellow professors; but the witty remark of Sheridan is peculiarly applicable to their case: ‘They hold much that is both true and new; but the new is not true, and the true is not new.’
‘Prominent among the views professed by this new sect is the doctrine of Christ’s heavenly humanity. …It is maintained (by some) that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were not all-atoning, but that part of them were endured, that He might duly sympathize with a Jewish remnant, which it is asserted will be on the earth at His second coming; and that on the cross, He was at a moral distance from God, that …He suffered as a sinner; Equally peculiar are the views of the Brethren respecting Christ’ second coming. It is said, that there shall be a second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; that at this second coming, His people who are alive shall be transformed, and those who are in the graves, shall be raised and removed from dire calamities, which shall then come upon the wicked. According to this notion, it is not a public and glorious appearing of Christ …but a secret or private coming. …They have also embraced strange notions of the Church …its meeting for worship they designate the Assembly of God, and claim that it is to be found solely in their little ‘gatherings’ which are presided over, they allege, not by man-made ministers, but by the Holy Ghost; hence all that is uttered in the assemblies of the Brethren, is to be accepted as His infallible announcements… it is demanded that the work of reconstruction be …under the direction …of Darby, Kelly, and M’Intosh…’
‘…The Rev. Fredrick Whitfield, who was for many years associated with them, says – ‘They will tell you, as some of their principal teachers have told me, that all the New Testament is not for the Church; that the four gospels, excepting so far as spiritual principles may be derived from them, are not for the Church; the only the epistles are for the Church, and that there are portions even of these not for the Church. I have been told so repeatedly by their most eminent teachers.’ Dr. Tregelles corroborates this statement. He says – ‘The attempt was made by various individuals to draw as great a contrast as possible between ‘the Church’ and all things Jewish: thus the gospel of Matthew was said to present a Jewish aspect… though Matthew is the only one of the four gospels in which the name of Church occurs (Matt. 16:18; 18:17).’
‘Brethrenism …is the revival of heresies which have appeared of old, and which after bewildering and misleading thousands, have disappeared before the exhibition of truth. Mr. M’Intosh doubtless derived his notion of Christ’s heavenly humanity from the Eutychians of the sixth century; while for their other notions the Brethren are chiefly indebted to the Rev. John Walker, Edward Irving, and other erratic theologians. In 1804 Mr. Walker resigned his fellowship in the University of Dublin, and originated a sect bearing his name, some traces of which may still be found. He propounded the idea of the Church as the Assembly of God. …Irving, contributed the notion of the presidency of the Holy Spirit, justification in a risen Saviour, the pre-millennial advent, and the secret rapture of the saints… (Reid correctly says Irving contributed to Darby’s notions; yet Irving did not teach a pre-tribulation ‘the secret rapture.’).
‘…A denominational hymn-book may be regarded as the devout expression of the belief, and religious experience of those who use it. We have before us a hymn-book specially compiled for the use of the Brethren, but out of the 300 hymns… there is not one which expresses a sense of the need of the Spirit for the soul’s purification – the Holy Spirit is only once or twice incidentally alluded to… Another …hymn-book …340 hymns …there is not one addressed to the Holy Spirit…
‘…One false step in doctrine or practice generally leads to others, as the history of heretical sects show. Unitarianism, Universalism …Irvingism, and Brethrenism, each and all are governed by the same laws, and illustrate the same facts. …The Church of Rome claims to be the only true Church, and the Brethren declare that theirs is ‘the one Assembly of God.’ Their claim to ministry is equally exclusive; nor is their treatment of Scripture different: it is unhesitatingly set at naught when it does not suit their purpose. Hebrew, Greek, and English words are thrown into their critical crucible, and under the strange fire employed, come forth fashioned to any form required. The Lord’s Supper is exalted to the chief place in religious service, and the claim of infallibility is made with a confidence unsurpassed by Pope or Ecumenical Councils.’
‘…Mr. Darby gives ground for like suspicion. Instead of reading Acts 20:28 as it now stands in the common English version – ‘…Feed the Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood,’ Darby gives us in his translation of the New Testament – ‘Shepherd the Assembly of God which He has purchased with the blood of His own…’ which ignores the divinity of Him who so purchased the Church. ‘The blood of His own’ may mean (to the reader) the blood of any one… (yet, more so the statement) divests Christ of His righteousness…
‘…Proselytism (converting) is a recognized principle with the Brethren… What they mean by the success of the Gospel, is the conversion of church members to their peculiar views. This is obvious from the fact that their efforts are almost exclusively directed to such. When do their evangelists go down among the outcast and neglected, and seek to win them to Christ? …The Church, according to their view, is in ruins, and their mission is to gather together its scattered members under the banner of Brethrenism… (Note: some Brethren such as Muller, Tregelles, Groves, Caldwell, and Bewley did in fact evangelize among lost souls, though they did not follow Darby).
‘…Mr. Burnet (Alexander Burnet: Plymouth Brethrenism is Antichrist), in narrating the doings of the Brethren …says, ‘At the lonely village of Banchory-Ternan …they have got hold of a few Baptist …and have perverted them, having established a church there in the very same building… Here at Kemnay they have done the same, having almost annihilated a Baptist congregation… Inverurie… Braco… Aberdeen… and Portobello, small hand-bills have been seen week after week…’
‘…As to practical means for counteracting its error… no single means is adequate. In some instances the evil has been effectually suppressed, by the ministers …publicly exhibiting its unscriptural character, and exposing the Jesuitical methods by which the Brethren seek to promote their cause. Some prefer private dealings… In either case valuable …publications on ‘Plymouth Brethrenism’ (are available).
‘…Rev. Fredrick Whitfield tells us, ‘Circumstances threw me into connection with these people for many years. I resided with several of them (Plymouth Brethren) …and was very often at their meetings… nearly 12 years. Few people …saw more of them …than I did, although during this time I never …threw off …the Church of England. …They are continually making heartless attacks on every side, on our Church, and for the assiduous, persevering manner in which they are going about, not to brings sinners to Christ, but to draw away God’s people from our Church, and from other denominations…’
‘…Mr. J. E. Howard, a gentleman who has been connected with the Brethren from the origin, said, ‘All those who join the Darbyites are unknowingly and unintentionally making themselves parties to a condoning amount of evil of which they have no conception. …I learn that one of the chief reasons now leading some good men to join the Darbyites is that they think there is a power amongst them which they do not find elsewhere… Was there no power in Irvingism? Who is to say that there shall not be an outbreak …of some fresh delusion in this very quarter? Why else are we told, ‘Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God… (1 John 4:1)?’ …I do not condemn them as a lifeless mass. I do not say they are possessed by a seducing spirit… (yet) a sect thus cradled in fanaticism and fostered in hypocrisy, the appropriate end would seem to be to fall into strong delusion. The white flag of separation from evil is too neutral, and has, moreover, been dragged already too often through the mire to serve their purpose long…’.
‘…Mr. B. W. Newton, who was so long one of their leaders, says, ‘It is this system which I feel bound in conscience to oppose in every legitimate way. If in my speaking or writing, I make use of any harsh or ungracious expression, I am willing to ask the pardon of any brother whom I may have offended and to strive to avoid needless severity of expression; but beyond this I cannot go. I desire to produce in the minds of the dear Brethren everywhere the same strong sense that pervades my own of the evil of this system…’
‘Lord Congleton, the associate of Mr. Groves… asks, ‘Have you tried these Brethren, the Darbyites? I have tried them and found them false prophets – in every sense of the word, false. They are false in what they say of their brethren, false in doctrine, and they are false in their walk.’
‘…Mr. Stewart, who was made to feel the wrath of the Assembly, says, ‘No pen could describe how, for 14 years, the poor saints of God have been worried and perplexed in Jersey (Britain). …Whenever a dishonorable action is to be done, one has not far to go to find an agent. …Through the cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive …is it come to this pass, Brother Darby, that injustice, banished from the slaveholders of America, has found an asylum in the bosom of the Brethren? …I do not believe that any religious body could be found, unless it be the Mormons, where such a wanton outrage could be offered with impunity to truthfulness and honor.’
‘Mr. James Carson, in his …book on Plymouth heresies, gives the following extract from the letter of an excommunicated member: ‘On entering the meeting one Saturday night, I was seized by my throat by Mr. … and I bore for several days the marks …and yet this old gentlemen is allowed still to teach. …I am extremely glad that I have been delivered from the worst sect that a Christian man can meet with under the canopy of heaven…’
‘Dr. Tregelles gives the following… ‘Not only have bad and heterodox (heretical) tracts been written, but there have emanated from Dublin professed extracts from the writings of the Reformers and others, in which the liberty has been taken of altering their words and doctrines, so as to suit the taste and theology of the reviser …all appears under some known and venerable name; so that the doctrines are ascribed to some ancient writer, which really are those of some modern Brethrenite. I am informed that such tracts have been circulated by thousands…’.
‘…Tertius, writer of the pamphlet, Divers and Strange Doctrines, says ‘Alas, for the swift and sad decay of that once happy fellowship, which has indeed, through God’s rich grace, borne many a pleasant fruit that He has garnered, but which is now become little better than a burden of well-merited reproach! The Lord has indeed cast down …the crown of pride…’.
‘…The author of …A Refutation of Certain Charges made by the Brethren, says, ‘…I do not charge all the Brethren with these feelings of hatred toward Mr. Newton, but I regret to say that even where there is no direct opposition, there is the Jehoshaphat-like indifference which silently countenances the Ahab-like denunciations of the true servant of the Lord…’.
‘Mr. Henry Groves, says, ‘Would to God the solemn warning given had been effectual, in leading Mr. Darby and his party to retrace their steps at that early part of their career, and we should not now have to mourn over a brother on the awful pinnacle on which he now stands, helped on by those who, acting with him, have placed him there, a beacon to the Church at large; nor should we have had to mourn over many of the Lord’s disciples led away by the enemy unto a following of man rather than of God. …While grace was declining, dogmatism on both sides was on the increase… they came into church fellowship and found to their dismay …they found a heavy burden…’.
‘…Mr. Craik of Bristol, colleague to Mr. Muller, says, ‘Oh, what a terrible thing is party spirit! Am I not justified in discarding and avoiding it? The truth is, Brethrenism as such, is broken in pieces. By pretending to be wiser, holier, more spiritual, more enlightened, than all other Christians; by rash and unprofitable intrusions into things not revealed; by making mysticism and eccentricity the test of spiritual life and depth; by preferring a dreamy and imaginative theology to the solid food of the Word of God; by the adoption of a strange and repulsive phraseology; by the undervaluing of practical godliness; by submission of the understanding to leading teachers; by overstraining some truths and perverting others; by encouraging the forwardness of self-conceit; by grossly offensive familiarity of speaking of such sacred matters as the presence and teaching of the Holy Ghost; …by these and similar errors, the great Scriptural principles of church communion have been marred and disfigured.’
‘…Mr. Muller …withdrew …for the following reasons: ‘The end which these religious societies propose to themselves, and which is constantly put before their members, is, that the world will gradually become better and better, and that at last the whole world will be converted. To this end there is constantly reference made to …Habakkuk 2:14, ‘For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord…’. But these passages can have no reference to the present dispensation, but to the one which will commence with the return of the Lord… The present dispensation things will not become spiritually better, but rather worse… the whole world will not be converted, but only a people gathered out from among the Gentiles for the Lord…’.
‘…Part III …We have no more striking instance of the love of novelty, than in the Brethren’s substitution of Christ’s resurrection for Christ’s obedience, in the justification of the sinner. …They are never done speaking of justification in the risen Christ, and flaunting before us some dreamy, mystical notions of Christ’s risen life and of our participation in that life – notions for which there is not the slightest ground in Scripture. That the resurrection of Christ is a most blessed fact, no believer will deny; but in the economy of grace it has its own place… Nor is Mr. Darby alone in this view…’
‘…The history of the notion of Christ’s non-atoning sufferings forms perhaps the strangest chapter in the history of this peculiar people. Mr. B. W. Newton …was the first to broach (introduce) this dogma (doctrine; teaching). His views appear to have passed unchallenged for some years, till Mr. Darby, having differed with him as to the interpretation of prophecy …(acted in such a way that) Mr. Newton withdrew from fellowship with Mr. Darby …and Mr. Darby having …rid of a formidable rival, proceeded to invest himself in Newton’s discarded garments… Mr. Henry Groves says, ‘The doctrine is …that Christ is personally placed under the judgment of God, otherwise than atoning…’.
‘Part III, Chapter IX: The Secret Rapture of the Saints. …While the Brethren are generally …premillennialists, they are peculiar even in this belief, and hence their notion of the secret rapture of the saints. …One desirous of studying this notion will find ample scope for patient investigation in the writings of Mr. Darby and Mr. Bellett. ‘…No doubt the saints will be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, to give an account of themselves to God,’ says Mr. Darby, ‘but even this is not separation from privilege, for they arrive there, already like Himself. …This special association with Christ is made good, not by Christ’s appearing… but by His coming to receive them to Himself where He is… into His Father’s house, and in the kingdom placing them in the heavenly seat of government with Himself. This is effectuated by His coming and causing them, raised and changed, to come up and meet Him in the air. This is the rapture of the saints, preceding their and Christ’s appearing; at that they appear with Him; so that at their rapture He has not appeared yet. The moment of their rapture none can know …I will now …show our exemption from the tribulation predicted, a position in which the world will find itself, and in an especial manner the Jewish people restored to their land… (though) Revelation 7:14 could alone leave open the smallest question…’.
4. The fourth work i present against Darby’s methods and teachings is by James C. L. Carson, M.D. He was the son of Dr. Alexander Carson of Ireland, who changed from being a Presbyterian minister to that of an independent Baptist preacher as Robert Haldane who left the established church and become independent; Robert, who Carson respected, was brother to Alexander Haldane who attended the Albury Conferences. James Carson became a Medical Doctor and was featured in many journals such as the London Medical Gazette. Three years before his death, Carson completed his book, The Heresies of the Plymouth Brethren (1883), in which he wrote:
‘…Many parties imagine, because the Plymouths have no professed Confession of Faith, that they have no regular system of belief, but this is a great mistake. They not only have a very complete system, but they are as tyrannical as Rome in keeping their followers to it. Although the Christian public cannot divine what their system is, it is all perfectly understood by those who are thoroughly initiated into it. The great difficulty of getting at it, arises from the fact that it is always put forth in a completely Jesuitical form. It is entirely to this it owes its success. It is so thoroughly ‘guarded’ that Mr. Darby seems to be surprised I was able to unfold it, as he says, ‘the incriminated language, not one in a thousand would have noticed as anything particular.’
‘…In this enlightened age, and in this free country, every man has a right to promulgate his own views, provided he puts them fairly, plainly, and openly before the community, and can persuade the people to listen or read. But no man is justified in catching the unwary by small distillations of truth, whilst the opportunity is taken of gradually and almost imperceptibly slipping in the deadly poison. ‘The doctrine of reserve (holding back sacred doctrines until the teacher thinks the persons are ready to understand), says, Mr. Spurgeon, ‘so detestable in the mouths of Jesuits, is not one whit the less villainous when accepted by Protestants.’ The Plymouth Brethren come amongst us, as they say, to preach the ‘gospel of the grace of God.’ In their public addresses they produce very little beyond what the people already believe. In this way they gain a hearing and a position which they could not possibly attain to, if they would plainly and openly declare all their sentiments in the ears of the people. The public get the choice things, whilst the peculiarities are kept for the benefit of those who are gradually drawn into the mysteries of this most decided sect of all the sects. I ask, is this fair? Is this honest?’
‘…On different occasions, Mr. Mackintosh has given …directly contradictory testimony …(as) Darby. …Mr. Spurgeon cautions his pupils… ‘Those gentlemen who know the least Greek, are the most sure to air their rags of learning in the pulpit; they miss no chance to saying, ‘the Greek is so-and-so.’ It makes a man a inch and a half taller by a foolometer, if he everlastingly lets fall bits of Greek and Hebrew, and even tells the people the tense of the verb and case of the noun …These observations should be a warning to those …who are continually altering the test of revelation.’
‘…The author of The Ruined Condition of the Church (D. W. Piccadilly; 1841), says, ‘…The writer of the tract called ‘The Brethren’ says, ‘As to elders, then, an apostle chooses…’. This is entirely new light to me. As my Bible contains no such statement, there must be some version of the Scriptures which I have never yet beheld. It must be the Plymouth, or forged version. My Bible informs me that those companions of the apostle (Acts 15:22), and the apostle himself, ‘ordained’ elders in the churches, but it nowhere states that they ‘selected’ or ‘chose’ them and this makes all the difference in the world’ (Note: where churches were not established, Paul ‘set in order things,’ rarely ‘appointing’ as he did – Titus: 1:5).
‘…Mr. Mackintosh asks, ‘Why were not the churches at Ephesus …or Crete, directed to elect of appoint elders? …In the Scriptures …Timothy and Titus …got not instructions whatever to elect or choose, but they got instructions to ordain… The elder must be selected or chosen before he can be ordained. The rule of the Scripture is plain …the members of the church, who are to choose their office bearers …have received, very minute instructions regarding the necessary qualifications of candidates… and these should be chosen, or elected, by the church over which they are to be placed as rulers and teachers. The Church is to be ruled and taught, and the pastors must be capable of ruling properly, and be ‘apt to teach.’ …It is truly awful to think of the way in which the Plymouths deal with revelation. …Mr. Darby asks, ‘If God is there… and if He do, it is a manifestation of the Spirit in the individual who acts; it is a gift, and if you please, an impulse… he should not only not be appealed from, but his decision should, on no account, be questioned, because he is the direct and infallible mouthpiece of the Almighty. (Darbyites say) ‘To hinder any movement of the Spirit… is to quench the Spirit’.”
|If it is of the Spirit, then ‘quench not the Spirit (1 Thes. 5:19);’ and let ‘two or three’ prophets speak; but let ‘the other judge (1 Cor. 14:29),’ and let the elders ‘test the spirits whether they are of God (1 John 4:1);’ and ‘search the Scriptures whether those things are so (Acts 17:11);’ let them ‘try them which say they are apostles, and are not… (Rev. 2:2).’|
Carson continues, “…Mr. Govett, wrote ‘these not only claim inspiration for the interpretation of the inspired writings, but they go the whole length of claiming inspiration for all that is said at the meetings.’ …On their own showing, the Plymouths are as thoroughly inspired as were the prophets of ancient days. …They are far beyond the reach of the instructions given in the New Testament; ‘If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).’ Here it is the man who is to speak; but amongst the Darbyites the man is only to stand up for the Holy Spirit to speak through him. Here the man is to speak in accordance with the oracles of God; but every Darbyite is an oracle of the Holy Spirit. We are told the Jews had a great advantage, ‘because that unto them were committed the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2);’ but we of Great Britain have a far greater advantage, because we have Oracle Darby…’
‘…(Another former Plymouth Brethren) Mr. Culverhouse says, ‘Our brethren, Mr. Darby, Mr. Wigram, Dr. Cronin, and Mr. Lean are the chief and ruling members. …Was not the Priory (religious house; government of the denomination) literally reduced to a mere theatre? …Theatrical matters can only be expressed in theatrical terms, and this, brethren, is my excuse for such allusions. …I have been delivered from the worst sect that a Christian man can meet…’
‘…Mr. Groves, who was one of the chief founders of Plymouthism, foresaw the condition into which his party were certain to fall, and thus warned them in the year 1836: ‘Your government will soon become one wherein is overwhelmingly felt the authority of men. …The position which this occupying the seat of judgment will place you in, will be this – the most narrow-minded and bigoted will rule, because his conscience cannot and will not give way, and therefore, the more enlarged heart must yield.’ The truth of these observations has long since been fully verified.
‘…The following letter will explain itself. Mr. William Dorman (author of The Close of Twenty-eight Years of Association with J. N. Darby (1866) & High Church Claims of the Exclusive Brethren (1868); in 1866, he with Percy Hall, Thomas Newberry, Joseph Stancomb and others left fellowship with Darby) held an important and prominent position as one of the leaders amongst the Plymouth Brethren for more than a quarter of a century. …His letter runs thus: ‘December 1870; Dear Dr. Carson, I feel that I have no title to obtrude myself upon your notice, or to take up your time… but I have just read your book on the ‘The Plymouth Heresies,’ and on this account I venture to send you a line. In the first place, I may say that – if here and there I do not exactly agree with your statements – I think so highly of its force and purport that I heartily wish your book may gain all the attention from Christians that you can desire for yourself. …It puts its seal upon the judgment that I had come to 4 years ago – that I had spent 28 years of most energetic labor in building up what I now believe to be the worst sect in Christendom, instead of accomplishing the union of all Christians, apart from sectarian distinctions, …under guidance of God’s Spirit instead of under man’s appointment and control…’.”
|Understand that it is not my desire to make ‘Christians’ despise their leaders or fled from every denomination, though every one of them is in need reformation and though we should strive to all unified for strength. Yet, we will continue to schism and become more independent, liberal and non-denominational; for unification will remain impossible until the coming of the Lord due to many unyielding doctrinal errors and controlling men. Nevertheless, i pray that the elders will ‘strengthen the things which remain (Rev. 3:2),’ and ‘reproof and correct (2 Tim. 3:16)’ where needed.|
Many others wrote against Darby’s teaching, such as William Collingwood, in ‘The Brethren: A Historical Sketch (1899);’ or Henry Groves (eldest son of Anthony Norris Groves, co-founder of the Brethren) who wrote Darbyism: Its Rise, Progress, and Development (1866). In 1866, J. E. Howard wrote A Caution against the Darbyites warning against ‘the sickly existence of Darbyism’ which was ‘reinvigorated by young blood from the revival movement.’ William Blair Neatby, in his A History of the Plymouth Brethren (1901), notes that former Brethren F. W. Newman compared Darby to Ignatius Loyola. And after Darby’s tours in Toronto, certain protests followed; for example, E. H. Dewart wrote Broken Reeds, or The Heresies of the Plymouth Brethren Shown to Be contrary to Scripture and Reason (1869). And after a certain Darby tour in Toronto, Dr. Daniel Steele wrote This Theology of the So-called Plymouth Brethren, Examined and Refuted (1887).
In this book, Steele stated, “…Mr. Darby’s influence with the people is said to have been so great that the regular ministry was almost entirely ignored, and he became the accepted prophet. In fact, his publications had the effect to turn the people, as a whole from the ministry… When Darby had sufficiently drawn the people to himself, he was prepared …to make known to them his plans more fully… Several years ago, D. L. Moody learned his method of Bible-study and Bible-readings from the English Plymouth Brethren… he made …voyage to Europe… Hence they claim him as a product of their system. …Some, as Tregelles, are very scholarly; such men, as …Muller …are in strong sympathy with them. They have missionaries in India whose disorganizing influence has given our Methodist missionaries some trouble… Mr. Darby’s doctrine …has already spread widely in America, and their theological tenets are preached by leading ministers in Boston, New York, St. Louis and other cities, while their theories of Church organization are rejected. The Brethren, having no written creed and no Church discipline, are exposed to constant schisms… The anti-Darby party …has drawn the portrait of John Darby in 3rd John 9, 10. But in the worst of their theological tenets …we have heard Mr. Darby say that if any man had anything to do with the law of God, even to obey it, he was a sinner by that very act. …The doctrine of assurance is strongly emphasized by these Christians as the privilege of all who are in Christ… Both Calvinism and Arminianism have checks which deter believers from sin. The Arminian …that the holiest saint …may fall from grace and drop into hell. The Calvinist is restrained …by the consideration that no man may, beyond a doubt, know that his name is …chosen. The Plymouth Brethren drop both of these safeguards by uniting with eternal incorporation into Christ, a present and absolute assurance of that fact… John Wesley teaches the certain knowledge of justification by faith, with appropriate safeguards…”.
Darby said concerning his Pre-tribulation Rapture Theory, ‘Revelation 7:14 could alone leave open the smallest question.’ No doubt that it is difficult to quench the light of truth in such scriptures which speak of Christians ‘which came out of the great tribulation,’ or of ‘the Son of man appearing …immediately after the tribulation (Matt. 24:29, 30). And i offer another single verse which ‘could alone leave open the smallest question’ to both Darby’s theory of the Pre-tribulation Rapture and his ‘doctrine of assurance.’ Before His crucifixion, on the night in which the Lord allowed Himself to be taken by the Roman soldiers and officers of the Jews (John 17:12), He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and prayed to our Father God many words including this verse, ‘I pray not that Thou should take them out of the world, but that thou keep them from the evil one (John 17:15).’
Concerning the hope of being delivered from tribulation in this world, neither the Lord nor the apostles taught, but more so the Lord foretold them often ‘in the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).’ They knew that ‘death’ could not ‘separate us from …God’ but that ‘to die is gain;’ for then comes eternal life, and thus, for the Christian after the trials of life, it is written, ‘precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Rom. 8:39; Phil. 1:21; Psa. 116:15).’ The Lord did not promise the take His apostles out before His return in the clouds, nor anyone else, but He ‘sent them into the world (John 17:18)’ and said, ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).’ And concerning the doctrine of assurance or ‘once saved always saved,’ this verse shows that as the Lord taught us to pray, ‘Our Father …lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… (Matt. 6:13),’ the Lord prayed for His apostles, for the Lord to lead them from evil or to keep them from the evil one. This prayer would have made no sense if falling away into evil was not possible for His apostles who had ‘believed with their hearts and confessed with their mouths (Rom. 10:10),’ that Jesus ‘Christ is the Son of the Living God and hast the words of eternal life (John 6:68, 69),’
Now, many care not to debate or discuss these doctrines, nor to swell their gray matter with such things. Perhaps this is why the Lord prayed ‘sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth (John 17:17);’ because He knew how easily men and a great mainstream of ministers are ensnared in sin and how the truth is choked from them ‘with cares and riches and pleasures of this life (Luke 8:14; Heb.12:1);’ upon which they no longer ‘hear’ that truth to ‘preach (Matt. 10:27);’ but dear brethren, i pray you ‘hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.’