2 Peter 2:18 “For when they speak great swelling words of vanity,
they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness,
those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.”
John N. Darby and C. I. Scofield have exercised this verse profusely and are guilty of ensnaring those who were clean escaped from their example of living in error. If you just cannot or do not want to believe this, the proof is easily found in the biographical history of these men’s lives as well as through men who lived contemporary with them. Charles H. Spurgeon printed the following excerpt in his publication of The Sword and the Trowel.
Mr. Grant on “The Darby Brethren”1
By C.H. Spurgeon
June 1869 The Sword and the Trowel—vol. 2
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. 0n 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.
“The same sentiments are expressed in various other portions of Mr. Darby’s writings; and even in some respects in language more objectionable still. That part of his theory, that Christ suffered much and long on the cross before there was anything of an atoning nature in his agonies, and simply as lying under the wrath of God in his character as King of Israel, is brought out more fully and more plainly than in the extract I have given. This is, in effect, to say that Christ actually had sins of his own in virtue of the relation which he sustained to the Jewish nation, as their king or head. There is something inexpressibly painful in the idea that our Lord suffered on the cross in any other capacity than as the Substitute or Sin-bearer for us. There is not a sentence in the word of God which gives the slightest sanction to it, but the contrary:—’While we were yet sinners Christ died for us;’ ‘He was made sin for us who knew no sin.’ Mr. Darby says he did know sin as the King of Israel. ‘He died for our sins and rose again for our justification; he died for our sins according to the Scriptures;’ ‘Who gave himself for our sins;’ ‘He is the propitiation for our sins;’ ‘Who bore our sins in his own body on the tree;’ ‘Who washed us from our sins in his own blood,’ etc.
“The effect of this fearful theory of Dr. Darby, believed in and taught, be it remembered, by all the Brethren of his party, would be (?) as is well remarked by the author of a pamphlet written in reply to the theory, in the following words:—’Let the reader distinctly notice that in place of the single view of Christ’s obedience unto death which the apostles set before us, who see God in the cross only as the smiter of his own fore-ordained Lamb, the sufferer is, by this teaching, placed under a triple necessity of dying under the hand of God. He kills him as Messiah; he smites him as the companion of others on the cross, and apart from atonement; and he makes him also an atoning substitute.’ What a strange theological jumble, to say nothing of its pernicious tendencies wherever adopted.
“To say that our Lord suffered on the cross in any other way than as our sin-bearer, or as paying for us the debt which we owed to the justice of God, would be, to the poor law-condemned and self-condemned sinner, to divest the sufferings of Christ on the cross of much more of the grace and glory of his atoning sacrifice than language can express; while it would be to deprive the believer in them, in a corresponding measure, of that supreme comfort which he derives from looking back to the cross, and feeling that all that Christ suffered on the cross was solely for his disciples. . .
“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 which he wrought out for those for whom he became surety; in other words, that believers are in nowise interested in his obedience. Until Mr. Darby advanced this astounding doctrine, I am not aware that the notion was ever before even hinted at. The fathers, in the second, third, and fourth centuries, did entertain doctrines which were equally novel, astounding, and pernicious; but I am not aware that any of their number ever dreamt of advancing the notion that we had no interest whatever, directly or indirectly, in the obedience of our Lord when on earth. Yet there is not one single follower of Mr. Darby that does not unhesitatingly—I might almost say indignantly—repudiate the idea that our Lord obeyed for a single individual that ever lived, or now lives, or that will hereafter live, till the end of time. Were they right, the obedience, or the spotless life of Christ would, so far as relates to believers in him, be no part of the work which his Father gave him to do, and which he himself came to accomplish. This extraordinary notion involves an entire and lamentable misunderstanding of the whole scheme of man’s redemption. The law demanded obedience to its requirements, just as inexorably as it exacted the infliction of penalties because of its violation. And, therefore, it behoved him, who became our Substitute, to render obedience on our behalf, as well as to suffer in our stead the punishment to which we had, because of our violation of the law, rendered ourselves liable. . .
“In connection with the Plymouth Brethren’s rejection of the doctrine—most surely believed by all evangelical denominations in every age of the church’s history—of the vicarious purpose of Christ’s obedience, there is the equally unreserved rejection of another doctrine which the great bulk of believers regard as one of vital importance. I allude to the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Not contented with pronouncing this doctrine as entirely unscriptural, the Plymouth Brethren seem to regard it with special aversion. . . .
“With the deadly heresies entertained and taught by the Plymouth Brethren, in relation to some of the most momentous of all the doctrines of the gospel, and to which I have adverted at some length, I feel assured that my readers will not be surprised at any other views, however unscriptual and pernicious they may be, which the Darbyites have embraced and zealously seek to propagate. Among these, is the doctrine that the moral law is a thing with which believers in Christ have nothing to do, not even as a rule of life. This doctrine pervades the writings of the Darbyites, as well as their oral ‘teaching.’
“As the Plymouth Brethren will not use the Lord’s Prayer because it contains the expression ‘forgive us our trespasses,’ so they make no confession of their sins in the sense in which the words are usually understood. In acting thus, they are, at least, entitled to the credit of consistency. If one has no sins to be pardoned, it logically follows that he can have none to confess. The Brethren will, it is true, admit in general terms that we are all ‘poor weak creatures,’ but when they do so, they attach no definite meaning to the phraseology. It was but a few weeks ago that I had some conversation on this very point with one of the most intellectual and spiritually-minded lady members of the Darbyite party. In answer to my statement that the Brethren did not make any confession of sin, she said, ‘Where is the use of always looking at or confessing our sins, when we have Christ to look to?’ If, indeed, we had not Christ to look to, there would be no ‘use in looking at and confessing our sins,’ but it being our mercy to have Christ to look to, we shall all the more clearly discern his preciousness the deeper our sense of our sins and sinfulness. And unless we have vivid perceptions of the greatness of our guilt, we shall never sufficiently appreciate the merits of the Savior, to lay hold of his finished work for our salvation. Job and Moses, and David and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and all the most eminent Old Testament saints of whom we read, had views on this point which were the opposite of those of the Plymouth Brethren, as is abundantly testified by the frequency and depth of their confessions of sin. Job could say, ‘Behold! I am vile, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ And David had such a sight and sense of his sin that his Psalms are full to overflowing with heartfelt confessions of them. ‘Mine iniquities,’ he says, in one place, ‘have taken hold on me, so that I am unable to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth me.’ In another place we hear him saying in his address to the throne of grace, ‘I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.’ No Plymouth Brother would adopt this language of either Job or David. Nor is that of Isaiah ever heard in their assemblies, as applicable to those who compose them, when he says:—’Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips.’ Neither did Paul’s sentiments accord, in relation to this point, with those of Mr. Darby and his disciples. Paul could say from the depths of his soul, in the overwhelming sense which he had of his guilt in the sight of God, notwithstanding the abundance of grace given him: ‘I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this sin and death?’ I cannot doubt that if the question were put to Plymouth Brethren, they would admit that Paul was at least as good a Christian as they. And yet no one ever heard a Darbyite employing this language as being applicable to himself.”
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. Take the sect called Bible Christians, for example. Their numbers in this country exceed 20,000, if, indeed, they be not considerably more; and yet for once that the name Bible Christian meets the eye we see that of the Brethren half-a-dozen times. 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. And yet they have no missionary institutions, no organized propaganda of any kind; but what, I have no doubt, they find answer their purpose much better—they have their individual aggressive agents. 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.’
Of course, in many cases this ingenious mode of propagating Plymouth Brethrenism fails, but in many it succeeds. And the proselyte, fired with a zeal, which is proverbial in new converts, to bring others to embrace the new views which he or she has just adopted, applies him or herself at once to the task of bringing over others to the new fold which he or she has just entered. The new ‘Sister’ commences with certain stereotyped phrases in endeavoring to bring over the party aimed at, by remarking that the pastor of the particular congregation is a good man—a very excellent man according to the amount of his knowledge of the truth—but that he is not sufficiently taught of the Spirit on certain important points of doctrine. His deficiencies are specifically pointed out. On the next Sunday the device is to say to the party whose conversion to Brethrenism is sought to be accomplished, something to this effect: ‘That was, in some points, a very good sermon of Mr. Smith’s yesterday morning, but there was something wanting. At any rate, I was not fed. Mr. Smith has not got the same clear view of the truth which Brother Black at the gathering at Blank Street has. I should like you to hear him a few times.’ The other agrees; and the chances are that in a month or so she comes out a full-fledged Darbyite, accompanied by expressions of wonder that she should have been so blinded as not sooner to have seen such important truths, mingled with thanksgivings at being now mercifully brought into the light of the glorious gospel—as, of course, understood and taught by Mr. Darby. And, while the process of proselytism is going on, the kindest words are spoken, and the most winning manners practiced, on the part of the domestic missionary. A minister of the gospel, who knows from painful experience what these proselytizers are, assures me that he was personally cognizant of one instance in which a Plymouth ‘Sister,’ in her anxiety to make another ‘Sister,’ spoke to her within a few minutes of their meeting, though they had never seen or heard of each other before, in terms of endearment as strong and as frequently employed as if they had been sisters in the flesh. ‘Oh, yes, my dear sister;’ ‘oh, no, my dearest sister,’ were phrases spoken in the most tender tones, and were among the weapons which were liberally employed with the view of ensuring another recruit to the Darbyite army.
“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.’ That one object consecrates every expedient to which they resort, no matter what it may be, to accomplish it. They may not be able to deny that a particular person is an eminent Christian, but still the party is not a Darbyite, and that is enough to justify whatever means they may have recourse to bring the particular party within the fold of Brethrenism.
“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. Many a provincial minister’s heart have they literally broken, while hundreds of others have been made miserable for life by the dissensions which these ‘troublers in Israel’ have occasioned in their churches, and the dissatisfaction they have caused in the minds of many members who have not left, with the same kind of preaching to which they had for years before listened with pleasure and profit.
“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;2 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. In the year 1860, they had what they call a Conference at the London Bridge Hotel, met together for the purpose of examining certain charges preferred by Mr. William Kelly, ‘pastor of the assembly’ in Guernsey, against a Mr. Havent, of the same island. Many of the ‘Brethren’ came from all parts of the country to this Conference. Referring to this great gathering, in connection with the leaders of the Darby party, by whom it was called, and by whom it was carefully packed, Mr. Culverhouse, a man of standing among the Brethren, says in his published ‘Statement of the Guernsey and London Case:’—’It is impracticable to describe the true state of things, either in the gatherings or at the Conference. Every remonstrance is unheeded; and the simple fact of the services being conducted chiefly by these Brethren is of itself appalling. Insinuations, slanders, insolence, threats, and violence are resorted to for the maintenance of their position. At a meeting of Brethren, held at the Hoxton Assembly on the 25th instant, our brother, Mr. Lean, publicly avowed, in answer to inquiries by myself, that the London Bridge Conference is a ‘private’ meeting. This being so, and regarding the character of its acts and usurpations, I designate it an ‘Inquistion.’ At the meeting of the 21st instant, the doors were guarded and locked. A Brother, on applying for entrance, was seized by the throat and thrust back. The fact of the doors being guarded and locked excludes, as you see, even the ordinary excuse of ‘excitement.’ Surely, ‘these things ought not so to be.’ Do you sanction, my Brethren, such a state of things? Will you, my Brethren, submit to be governed by an Inquisition?’
“‘Behold,’ says David, ‘how good a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ Behold a picture of the unity of Plymouth Brethren as drawn, printed, and published by one of themselves! It is a sorrowful description of the spirit and conduct of men who call themselves Brethren. Certainly this is not ‘Brethrenism’ according to what is usually understood as the scriptural meaning of the word. . . .
“So late as March last one of the most extraordinary scenes of religious discord ever witnessed took place in the Freemasons’ Hall. 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. . . .
“But I may be asked by some one incredulously, can it really be possible that the Darbyites should ascribe the distressing scene at the London Bridge Hotel as the result of the special guidance of the Holy Spirit? Deplorable as is the fact, it is even so. The question, as stated in Mr. Grove’s pamphlet, entitled ‘The Exclusive Brethren,’ meaning the Darbyite section of the Brethren, was put to some of the leaders of the Darbyite part in reference to this very meeting, and an affirmative answer was at once given. The question was put in various forms, that there might be no mistake in the matter, and the answer was in every instance unhesitatingly and explicitly in the affirmative. One of the forms in which the question was put was this: ‘Suppose an assembly err, what should then be done?’ The answer was, ‘Still, while you acknowledge it as an assembly, you must accept its action as that of the Holy Ghost.’ Then, continued the querist, ‘Is it the Lord’s mind that I should accept an error of judgment?’ Answer, ‘Yes.’ Again, ‘Then you would rather accept an official blunder, knowing it to be so, than act upon what you believe the Lord had shown you to be the truth?’ Answer, ‘Certainly.'”
The effect of Darbyism upon family life is perhaps its most awful feature. With a passage upon that point we close our extracts.
“There is just one point more to which I wish to advert for a moment before I conclude. It refers to the influence which Darbyism exerts on the social comfort of families. I shall be fully borne out, by the concurrent testimony of thousands of persons, all of them speaking from painful experience, when I say, that no tongue can tell what an amount of domestic unhappiness has been caused by the circumstance of some leading members of a family adopting Darbyite opinions, when the other members of the family were opposed to those opinions. I could unfold specific tales of this kind which could scarce be credited; but that would not be expedient. It might be attended with unpleasant consequences to individuals, even without mentioning names. Parties might be supposed to be pointed at in the cases in question, which I had not at all in my eye. Indeed, a greater or less number of persons, of whose names I never even heard, would imagine that either themselves or some members of their families were alluded to. I will content myself, therefore, with stating the broad fact, and giving three illustrations—that Darbyism, as a rule, changes one’s whole character, as regards the social relations of life, where a leading member of a family has plunged over head and ears into it. The former geniality, however great it may have been, disappears. The party, indeed, is no longer, as regards what is called amiability of manners, the same as before. It is a curious fact that a generous, open, agreeable Darbyite is very rarely to be met with. Plymouth Brethrenism changes the most kind, courteous, and winning manners into the opposite. And this is the case even where the family previously lived in perfect Christian harmony and happiness. I can testify from personal knowledge to an illustrative case of this kind which took place not, long ago. 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 of the intercourse was, that in a few weeks she became a thorough proselyte to Darbyism. The very firstfruit of her ‘conversion’ was her refusal to join in social worship with her husband and the other members of the family. Nor did the consequences of this lady’s ‘conversion’ to Darbyism end even there. 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 their marriage until the unhappy hour in which she was entangled in the meshes of Brethrenism. None but a truly godly man can form any conception of the misery of which this change in the opinions, the feelings, and the conduct of this lady, proved productive in a formerly happy household.
“Another illustration of the estrangement which Brethrenism causes in families, consisting with my own personal knowledge, presents itself at this moment to my mind. A Plymouth Sister, whose family do not share her views, cannot help expressing her dissent from any and every act of worship in the family. She even turns away her face when the head of the house asks the divine blessing on the meals of which they are all about to partake. Is not this sad? Does it not display a lamentable state of feeling on the part of the individual, and gives a deplorable view of the denominational system that could produce it.
“I am also acquainted personally with another case, in which it happened that 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. What an unhappy condition it must have been, for each to be living together in this state of antagonism in relation to religious matters!”
1 From “The Religious Tendencies of the Times.” By James Grant. W. Macintosh.
2 This party differs as much from the Darbyites as the day from the night. We do not admire their peculiarities, but they are usually a fraternal, evangelistic race, with whom communion is not difficult, for their spirit is far removed from the ferocity of Darbyism.