What a find! Especially if you’re a fan of Spurgeon’s writings.
In this he writes concerning what he refers to as ‘Darbyism‘ and the influence which the teachings and doctrines of John Nelson Darby were having upon the Church. Its very interesting.
Author: Charles Haddon Spurgeon (June 1869 Sword and Trowel)
MR. GRANT HAS with very great diligence collected much valuable information as to that section of Plymouth Brethren who follow Mr. Darby.
As on all hands, with a diligence never exceeded, and a subtlety never equaled, they are laboring to seduce the members of our churches to the subversion of the truth and the overthrow of the needful order and discipline of our Zion, it may be well to disseminate information concerning their sentiments and tactics. There is nothing which they have so much to dread as being thoroughly unearthed and exposed; for their grosser errors are not generally made known to their dupes until they are fairly in their meshes. Mr. Grant has done real service to the churches by his treatise on “The heresies of the Plymouth Brethren,” which we trust he will publish in a separate form.
It is almost impossible for even his heavy hand to press too severely upon this malignant power, whose secret but rapid growth is among the darkest signs of the times. Our large extracts are meant to stimulate a desire for the entire work.
On their errors, Mr. Grant says:—
Mr. Darby maintains that a part of Christ’s sufferings on the cross, were what he calls ‘non-atoning,’ that is, that in ‘smiting’ him as the shepherd on the cross, God did not do so with a view to an atonement for our sins, until a particular point of time, while Christ was hanging on the tree, and that then the wrath of God, in its atoning character, coalesced with his legal wrath.
In association with the doctrine that much of the sufferings of Christ on the cross were without any atoning object or effect, Mr. Darby, advancing a step farther, denies that the atonement for our sins consisted even in Christ’s death. But as it is probable some persons will find it difficult to believe that any man, professing to hold evangelical principles, and especially the leader of an important religious sect, also professing to be sound in the faith, could entertain such notions, and that I must have misunderstood Mr. Darby’s meaning—it is due to him, and may be desirable for the reader, that I should quote his own words. They are given, in substance the same as in his monthly organ, ‘The Present Testimony,’ for August, 1866, a later date than that in which his other publication, ‘The Sufferings of Christ,‘ made its appearance, and, therefore, notwithstanding all the remonstrances addressed to him by some of his followers against that dreadful doctrine, they are proved to have been without effect. He then stands before the religious world as still adhering to these fearful doctrines:—
‘There was, too, to him,’ says Mr. Darby, ‘in addition to the pain of the death, the legal curse appended, by God’s righteous judgment as King of Israel, to the form of the death; as it is written, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth upon a tree.’ But this curse of the law was not the same thing as the wrath, when he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’ The thieves bore it as he did; that thief, too, who went with him to paradise the same day, and who could go there to be with his Lord, because he, the Prince of Life, had borne the wrath due to sin in his own body on the tree. But the cross had been endured by many an unrepentant rebel against man and God; and the cross in itself would not take away sin. Yea, more, while the time in which he endured the cross was the period in part of which the wrath came on him (when he endured the wrath of God’s judgment against sin), he only of the three that were crucified together, could or did bear the wrath; and the agony of that wrath, if his alone of the three then and there crucified, was distinct from, though present to him at the same time as the agonies (infinitely lesser) of the cross of wood!’
The italics are not mine; they are those of the Rev. W. H. Dorman, who was for twenty-eight years the friend and admirer of Mr. Darby, and resigned the pastorship of a Congregational church in Islington to join his section of the Plymouth Brethren.
Moving on to Spurgeon’s response..
As to their modes of action and general spirit Mr. Grant writes largely, and we believe from correct data. Many facts which have come under our notice are confirmatory of Mr. Grant’s severe criticisms; we only hope none of our brother ministers may experimentally have so clear a revelation of the Darby spirit as has occurred to us. “Let me, then, first of all mention that, though as I have before stated, their numbers in London and the suburbs do not exceed 1,600, and their numbers throughout Great Britain do not exceed 20,000, they are so very active in their endeavors to make proselytes, and are so continually involved in controversies and quarrels among themselves, that they are more frequently before the public than sects of Christians who are more numerous.
The Plymouth Brethren, meaning the Darby section, are, indeed, at once the most active and most noisy sect of Christians of which we have any record in the annals of Christianity. (LOL!!)
They are first-rate tacticians. They have an intuitive perception as to who ‘among those who are without,’ to whom they have access, are likely to make the best ‘Brothers’ or ‘Sisters,’ and that conclusion come to, all their appliances are brought to bear upon them. And they are singularly happy as to the way in which they go about the work of proselytizing.
But before I proceed farther, I ought to remark that, with very few exceptions, the women are the great propagandists of Plymouth Brethrenism.
And, as a natural consequence, women are almost invariably the parties whom they seek to ‘convert.’ They are wise enough in their generation to know that if a man’s wife is got over, she will give her husband no rest until she has made a resolute effort to prevail on him to join the ‘gathering’ along with her. Of course, it will be understood that I do not mean it to be inferred that there are no exceptions to this, but I do say—and I speak with no small knowledge of the philosophy and history of Plymouth Brethrenism—that the exceptions are rare indeed. In fact, I will go so far as to affirm that it would be almost incompatible with Plymouth ‘Sisterdom’ not to be a zealous and unwearied laborer in the field of proselytism. It is as true of them as a body as it was of those women to whom Paul in his Second Epistle to Timothy alludes when he represents them as creeping into houses. Their favorite plan is to single out the best members of other evangelical churches, and endeavor to get them over; and when they have succeeded in inoculating them with Brethrenism, they are advised not at once to leave the church of which they are members, but to remain for a time, in the hope of being able to convince others of the error of their way in ‘sitting under such teachers.’
The new convert to Darbyism is carefully instructed as to the way in which he or she is to proceed. They are not to seem to obtrude their denominational views on those at whose ‘conversion’ they aim, but to appear deeply grieved that so few ‘excellent Christians’ see, because they have never been taught by their ministers, the whole truth; and that this is all the more to be deplored because if they—the parties addressed—saw the truth in all its blessedness and fullness ‘they would be able to teach others also.’
What I have said will give some idea of the stereotyped way in which the Plymouth Brethren proceed to work in their mission of seeking to make proselytes to Darbyism. Other plans, varying according to circumstances, are resorted to. No one outside their circle can have any idea of the zeal and ingenuity which they display in their endeavors to bring other Christians over to Darbyism. The words of our Lord may, in a sense, be applied to them—‘They would compass sea and land to make one proselyte.’
It matters not to them that, by going into churches or chapels in this way, in parts of the country where the minister, owing to the smallness of the number of his congregation, has the greatest difficulty imaginable to continue to maintain the Christian ministry. That does not cause them the slightest compunctious visiting, even though he may be a man eminent for his personal piety and his devotedness to the cause of Christ. The minister, with his wife and family, may he thrown destitute on the world. The minister’s heart, indeed, may be literally broken—still that will not cause them to experience a momentary pang.
No amount, indeed, of misery they may have brought on God’s faithful ministering servant will give them even a moment’s uneasiness. On the contrary, they will rejoice at the ruin they have wrought in breaking up a church, because believing they are thereby doing God service.
A Congregational minister in the country, writes to me on this matter as follows:
‘What the Plymouth Brethren have done in country towns no one but those who are intimate with the life of country churches can tell. There is no Congregational minister, either Baptist or Independent, who is not ready to denounce them as the greatest troublers of the peace of Israel since the days of Ahab. Much in these days is said about the Jesuits, but the Plymouth Brethren will compare with them, both in respect to stealthy slyness and persistent effort to make converts. There are always in every church a few disaffected spirits, who only need the voice of the tempter to make them cantankerous. These are so much tinder to the spark of the Plymouth Brethren’s tongue of fire, and straightway we have the following results:—The minister does not preach the gospel—the poor people are perishing for lack of food—another minister in the town cannot give it them; only let us get away from all this, and have no church, but just read the Bible for ourselves. A division ensues, and soon, instead of reading the Bible for themselves, one man gets the whole thing into his own hands, and another church is formed, virtually where there was to be no church and no minister.’
This witness is true, and his testimony will be endorsed by hundreds of other ministers of the gospel in the country, all, like him, speaking from what they have seen and felt. . . .
Plymouth Brethren have no feeling wherever their principles are concerned. I know indeed of no sect or denomination so utterly devoid of kindness of heart. It is the most selfish religious system with which I am acquainted. It is entirely wrapped up in itself.
It recognizes no other denomination, whether the Church of England, or either of the Nonconformist denominations, as a church of Christ. Mr. Darby has again and again said in print, as well as written in private, that those who belong to his party in the metropolis, constitute the only church of Christ in London. . . .
No one ever saw a Darbyite at any of our Bible, or Missionary, or other Evangelical Society meetings. The Brethren look upon all other denominations, however evangelical in sentiment, and however high their standard of personal religion, as so largely infected with error in doctrine, as well as wrong in relation to church government, that they believe it would be sinful to associate with them for the promotion of religious ends. And this conviction, which is never absent from their minds, naturally has the effect of puffing them up with spiritual pride. Believing that they alone of all religious bodies have attained to the knowledge of the truth, it could hardly be otherwise than that they should look down on every other Christian sect with supreme pity, mingled, even according to the admission of some of their own number, with contempt. . . .
With this feeling is naturally associated an amount of arrogance in the assertion of their own views, which those who differ from them often find to be unbearable. And in this respect their leader, Mr. Darby, sets them an example.
In his case it assumes the form of infallibility.
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; and therefore very naturally declines to argue with those who controvert the soundness of his views. How, indeed, could it be otherwise?
If Mr. Darby holds, which he does, with a firm grasp, the principle that whatever conclusions he and those acting in conjunction with him may come to, express beyond all question the mind of the Spirit; and if those Darbyites who gather together in London, can go so far as to exclude all other denominations, even the most godly 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 within the domains of Darbyism?. . .
I have before glanced, but barely glanced, at the intensely controversial spirit which is a universal characteristic of the Plymouth Brethren. I say universal, because though I know much of them personally, as well as through the testimony of others, I know not a single instance where this controversial spirit did not exist in greater or less force. It is not for me to say that there are no exceptions to this rule; but I do advisedly say, that I am unacquainted with any single case to the contrary. This controversial feeling, often degenerating into something resembling regular quarrels, is the chronic condition of Plymouth Brethrenism. They are in a state of constant antagonism with the Bethesda party;** and a minister of the gospel, who has seen much of them, seriously assures me that when they have no one of the opposite party to quarrel with, they will disagree among themselves. I can verify this statement, to a certain extent, from my own personal knowledge. . . . So great, indeed, is their disposition to engage in controversy, often ending in something like a quarrel, that it would be a thing quite new to see two of their number remain together for many minutes without a decided disagreement on some one point or other.
Their quarrels, too, occasionally acquire an intensity which bring them before the public.
..late as March last one of the most extraordinary scenes of religious discord ever witnessed took place…
Between four and five hundred Brethren were asked to come from all parts of the country to hold a conference together. The Darbyites and Bethesdaites were equally invited. Those who invited them did not mention for what special purpose they were to come. It was simply said it was desirable they should assemble together, and that the Holy Ghost would direct them as to what they should say and do when they met together. The expenses of the poorer Brethren were paid by some unknown and wealthy Brethren. They had only been met an hour or so before they were found controversially fighting with each other with a fierceness which could hardly be believed.
And this state of things lasted four or five hours for three successive days. It by-and-by transpired that the real purpose for which the Conference was called was to endeavor to bring about a reconciliation between the Darby and Bethesda sections of Brethrenism. The very idea was enough to plunge the Darbyites into a state of something more than indignation. Scenes of indescribable uproar, mingled with expressions of the very worst feelings, took place on each of the three days. And I am assured by one who was present, who does not belong to either the Darbyite or Bethesda section of the Brethren, that not only the prime, but the sole movers in these most unseemly scenes were the Darbyites. What the exhibitions were which occurred may be inferred from the fact that a lady who was present said she could have wept tears of blood at what she saw and heard; and a gentleman of education and social position, who also witnessed these lamentable scenes, remarked to me that it was enough to have made even angels weep. This may seem incredible, but it is nevertheless the fact.
But the saddest of all in connection with these deplorable scenes is that they are actually, in effect, represented as the results of the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
There is no principle which the Darbyites more firmly hold, or to which they give greater prominence in their ‘teaching,’ than this—that the Holy Ghost is with them in all their assemblies, and that whatever conclusions they come to are the result of his special guidance. . . .
The effect of Darbyism upon family life is perhaps its most awful feature. With a passage upon that point we close our extracts…
More and complete message HERE