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J. N. Darby (1800-82)
– Part One


Memorandum: JND
Letter: JND
Note: Walter Scott
Extract: F. W. Newman
  + Sale of JND's library
JND As I Knew Him: Willam Kelly
An Unexpected Testimony


J. N. Darby, 1800-82

A web site such as 'My Brethren' – devoted to the history and ministry of the early 'exclusive brethren' (so-called) –


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The following is a Memorandum on the article
in Appletons American Encyclopædia
on the Plymouth Brethren – 1868, 'Letters of JND', 1: 515-6

We began in Dublin, Ireland, 1827–28 … It was not dissatisfaction with the apostolic succession of the English national episcopal body.

It did not begin at Plymouth till 1832, where I went at Mr. Newton's request, then a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. There were never more than seven hundred there.

After that I began to work there; then in France; then in Germany, where the work had already begun by another person; then in Holland.

The coming of the Lord was the other truth which was brought to my mind from the word, as that which, if sitting in heavenly places in Christ, was alone to be waited for, that I might sit in heavenly places with Him.

B. W.Newton

I have merely stated the facts and dates as they occurred. Mr. Newton remained Fellow of Exeter for some time after we began to meet at Plymouth.

G. Müller

Mr. Müller's was a close Baptist church: when the brethren began to make progress in Bristol he gave this up, and took in measure the form of the brethren.

There never was any seminary with us for training missionaries. I had a dozen young men staying with me at Lausanne for a year.

I am not aware of any other material fact, to state or correct, which is the only object I have now.

What I judge to be essential to brethren is the possession of the Holy Ghost on earth, as come down on the day of Pentecost, and His forming the saints into one body.

It is already stated in the article that we insist on the great fundamental doctrines of Christianity, so I do not speak of them; only the full assurance of faith I judge to be the only normal christian state, the spirit of adoption.

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This letter to Professor Tholuck, found amongst the
papers of JND, had not been sent to his correspondent.
185–,  Letters of JND, 3: 297–305
There is reason to suppose that the author,
reluctant as having the appearance of speaking of himself
and his work, had given up the thought of forwarding it.

Dear Sir and Brother in Christ,

Since I saw you, I have been continually on the move, so that it has been difficult for me to prepare the account which you desired to receive.

  • It seems to me that the best way will be for me simply to mention the various circumstances as they transpired, in as far as I was personally concerned, at the time when this work of God first commenced.

  • You will easily understand that numbers of others have laboured in that field, and many with much more devotedness than I, and with far more marked result as regards the blessing of souls.

  • But my concern now is with the work of God, and not our labours; so that you may gather from the account what will suit your purpose.

I was a lawyer; but feeling that, if the Son of God gave Himself for me, I owed myself entirely to Him, and that the so-called Christian world was characterised by deep ingratitude towards Him, I longed for complete devotedness to the work of the Lord; my chief thought was to get round amongst the poor Catholics of Ireland.

  • I was induced to be ordained. I did not feel drawn to take up a regular post, but, being young in the faith and not yet knowing deliverance, I was governed by the feeling of duty towards Christ, rather than by the consciousness that He had done all and that I was redeemed and saved; consequently it was easy to follow the advice of those who were more advanced than myself in the christian world.

As soon as I was ordained, I went amongst the poor Irish mountaineers, in a wild and uncultivated district, where I remained two years and three months, working as best I could.

  • I felt, however, that the style of work was not in agreement with what I read in the Bible concerning the church and Christianity; nor did it correspond with the effects of the action of the Spirit of God.

  • These considerations pressed upon me from a Scriptural and practical point of view; while seeking assiduously to fulfil the duties of the ministry confided to me, working day and night amongst the people, who were almost as wild as the mountains they inhabited.

  • An accident happened which laid me aside for a time; my horse was frightened, and had thrown me against a door-post.

  • During my solitude, conflicting thoughts increased; but much exercise of soul had the effect of causing the Scriptures to gain complete ascendancy over me. I had always owned them to be the word of God.

When I came to understand that I was united to Christ in heaven, and that, consequently, my place before God was represented by His own,

  • I was forced to the conclusion that it was no longer a question with God of this wretched "I" which had wearied me during six or seven years, in presence of the requirements of the law.

  • It then became clear to me that the church of God, as He considers it, was composed only of those who were so united to Christ;

    • whereas Christendom, as seen externally was really the world, and could not be considered as "the church", save as regards the responsibility attaching to the position which it professed to occupy – a very important thing in its place.

  • At the same time, I saw that the Christian, having his place in Christ in heaven, has nothing to wait for but the coming of the Saviour, in order to be set, in fact, in the glory which is already his portion "in Christ".

    The following extract, taken from a pamphlet which he wrote about this time, or shortly after, gives us a glimpse of the depth of conviction and trust in God's word which he then experienced. See Collected Writings, 1: 38.   Anonymous.

    As I have spoken of myself (always a hazardous thing), I add that at the same period in which I was brought to liberty and to believe, with divinely given faith, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I passed through the deepest possible exercise as to the authority of the word:

    • whether if the world and the Church (that is, as an external thing, for it yet had certain traditional power over me as such) disappeared and were annihilated, and the word of God alone remained as an invisible thread over the abyss, my soul would trust in it.

    • After deep exercise of soul I was brought by grace to feel I could entirely. I never found it fail me since. I have often failed; but I never found it failed me.

    • I have added this, not, I trust, to speak of myself – an unpleasant and unsatisfactory, a dangerous thing – nor do I speak of any vision, but because, having spoken of the presence of the Holy Ghost, if I had not brought in this as to the word, the statement would have been seriously incomplete.

The careful reading of the Acts afforded me a practical picture of the early church, which made me feel deeply the contrast with its actual present state, though still, as ever, beloved by God.

  • At that time I had to use crutches when moving about, so that I had no longer any opportunity for making known my convictions in public; moreover, as the state of my health did not allow me to attend worship, I was compelled to remain away.

  • It seemed to me that the good hand of God had thus come to my help, hiding my spiritual weakness under physical incapacity.

  • In the meanwhile, there grew up in my heart the conviction that what Christianity had accomplished in the world in no way answered to the needs of a soul burdened with the sense of what God's holy governmental dealing was intended to effect.

In my retreat, the 32nd chapter of Isaiah taught me clearly, on God's behalf, that there was still an economy to come, of His ordering; a state of things in no way established as yet.

  • The consciousness of my union with Christ had given me the present heavenly portion of the glory, whereas this chapter clearly sets forth the corresponding earthly part.

  • I was not able to put these things in their respective places or arrange them in order, as I can now; but the truths themselves were then revealed of God, through the action of His Spirit, by reading His word.

What was to be done? I saw in that word the coming of Christ to take the church to Himself in glory.

  • I saw there the cross, the divine basis of salvation, which should impress its own character on the Christian and on the church in view of the Lord's coming;

  • and also that meanwhile the Holy Spirit was given to be the source of the unity of the church, as well as the spring of its activity, and indeed of all Christian energy.

As regards the Gospel, I had no difficulty as to its received dogmas.

  • Three persons in one God, the divinity of Jesus, His work of atonement on the cross, His resurrection, His session at the right hand of God,

    • were truths which, understood as orthodox doctrines, had long been a living reality to my soul.

  • Not only were they truths, but I knew God personally in that way.

    • I had no other God but Him who had thus revealed Himself, and Him I had.

    • He was the God of my life and of my worship, the God of my peace, the only true God.

The practical difference in my preaching, when once I began to preach again, was as follows:

  • When a parson, I had preached that sin had created a great gulf between us and God, and that Christ alone was able to bridge it over;

    • now, I preached that He had already finished His work.

  • The necessity of regeneration, which was always a part of my teaching, became connected more with Christ, the last Adam.

  • I understood better that it was a real life, entirely new, communicated by the power of the Holy Spirit;

    • but, as I have said, more in connection with the person of Christ and the power of His resurrection, combining the power of a life victorious over death, with a new position for man before God. This is what I understand by "deliverance".

  • The blood of Jesus has removed every stain from the believer; every trace of sin, according to God's own purity.

    • In virtue of His blood-shedding, the only possible propitiation, we may now invite all men to come to God, a God of love, who has given His own Son.

  • The presence of the Holy Ghost sent from heaven to abide in the believer as the "unction", the "seal", and the "earnest of our inheritance",

    • as well as being in the church, the power which unites it in one body and distributes gifts to the members according to His will;

  • these truths developed largely and assumed great importance in mine eyes.

  • With this last truth was connected the question of ministry. From whence came this ministry?

    • According to the Bible, it clearly came from God by the free and powerful action of the Holy Ghost.

At the time I was occupied with these things, the person with whom I was in Christian relation locally, as a minister, was an excellent Christian, worthy of all respect, and one for whom I have always had a great affection.

  • I do not know if he is still living, but since the time I speak of, he was appointed to be archdeacon.

It was, however, the principles, and not the persons, which acted on my conscience; for I had already given up, out of love to the Saviour, all that the world could offer.

  • I said to myself: "If the apostle Paul were to come here now, he would not, according to the established system, be even allowed to preach, not being legally ordained;

    • but if a worker of Satan, who, by his doctrine, denied the Saviour, came here [as an ordained man], he could freely preach, and my Christian friend would be obliged to consider him as a fellow-labourer;

  • whereas he would be unable to recognise the most powerful instrument of the Spirit of God, however much blessed in his work of leading multitudes of souls to the Lord, if he had not been ordained according to the system".

  • All this, said I to myself, is false. This is not mere abuse, such as may be found anywhere; it is the principle of the system that is at fault. Ministry is of the Spirit.

  • There are some, amongst the clergy, who are ministers by the Spirit, but the system is founded on an opposite principle; consequently it seemed impossible to remain in it any longer.

I saw in Scripture that there were certain gifts which formed true ministry, in contrast to a clergy established upon another principle.

  • Salvation, the church, and ministry, all were bound together; and all were connected with Christ, the Head of the church in heaven, with Christ who had accomplished a perfect salvation,

  • as well as with the presence of the Spirit on earth, uniting the members to the Head, and to each other, so as to form "one body", and He acting in them according to His will.

In effect, the cross of Christ and His return should characterise the church and each one of the members.

  • What was to be done? Where was this unity, this "body"? Where was the power of the Spirit recognised? Where was the Lord really waited for?

  • Nationalism [the Established Church] was associated with the world; in its bosom some believers were merged in the very world from which Jesus had separated them; they were, besides, separated from one another, whilst Jesus had united them.

  • The Lord's Supper, symbol of the unity of the body, had become a symbol of the union of this latter with the world, that is to say, exactly the contrary of what Christ had established.

  • Dissent had, no doubt, had the effect of making the true children of God more manifest, but they were united on principles quite different from the unity of the body of Christ.

  • If I joined myself to these, I separated myself from others everywhere. The disunion of the body of Christ was everywhere apparent rather than its unity. What was I to do?

  • Such was the question which presented itself to me, without any other idea than that of satisfying my conscience, according to the light of the word of God.

  • A word in Matthew 18 furnished the solution of my trouble: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them".

  • This was just what I wanted: the presence of Jesus was assured at such worship; it is there He has recorded His name, as He had done of old in the temple at Jerusalem for those who were called to resort there.

Four persons who were pretty much in the same state of soul as myself, came together to my lodging; we spoke together about these things, and I proposed to them to break bread the following Sunday, which we did.

  • Others then joined us. I left Dublin soon after, but the work immediately began at Limerick, a town in Ireland, and then in other places.

Two years later – 1830) – I went to Cambridge and Oxford. In this latter place, some persons who are still engaged in the work, shared my convictions, and felt that the relation of the church to Christ ought to be that of a faithful spouse.

By invitation I went to Plymouth to preach. My habit was to preach wherever people wished, whether in buildings or in private houses.

  • More than once, even with ministers of the national church, we have broken bread on Monday evening after meetings for christian edification, where each was free to read, to speak, to pray, or to give out a hymn.

  • Some months afterwards we began to do so on Sunday morning, making use of the same liberty, only adding the Lord's Supper, which we had, and still have, the practice of taking every Sunday.

  • Occasionally it has been partaken of more often. About that time also some began to do the same in London.

The unity of the church, as the body of Christ, the coming of the Lord, the presence of the Holy Ghost here below, in the individual and in the church;

  • an assiduous proclamation of the truth, as well as the preaching of the gospel on the ground of pure grace and of an accomplished work, giving in consequence the assurance of salvation when received into the heart by the Spirit;

  • practical separation from the world; devotedness to Christ, as to Him who has redeemed the church; a walk having Him only as the motive and rule; and other subjects in connection with these –

  • all this has been treated of in separate publications as well as by means of periodicals; and these truths have been largely spread abroad.

A good many ministers of the national church left nationalism in order to walk according to these principles, and England became gradually covered with meetings, more or less numerous.

Plymouth, being the place where most of the publications originated, the name Plymouth brethren became the usual appellation given to such meetings [by others].

In 1837 I visited Switzerland, and these truths began to be known there. I returned there more than once.

  • The second time, I remained a considerable time at Lausanne, where God worked in conversions, and gathered a number of children of God out of the world.

  • There were already, in Switzerland, Dissenters who had suffered faithfully for the Lord during twenty years previously.

    • But their activity had declined considerably, and it even seemed that the movement was about to disappear.

  • The work of the brethren has, to a certain extent, by the goodness of God, filled the country; conversions having been numerous. In German Switzerland, the work spread to a much less degree.

On two occasions of my spending a protracted time in Lausanne, some young brothers who desired to devote themselves to gospel work, spent nearly a year with me in order to read the Bible.

  • We also partook of the Lord's Supper together every day.

At the same time, quite independently of what was going on in Switzerland, a brother who was labouring in France had awakened an interest in a considerable district where the people were, in general, plunged in infidelity and darkness.

  • Some also of the young brothers of whom I have spoken, and two or three others whose acquaintance I made, but who never stayed with me, went to work in France.

  • Other labourers, belonging to societies, believing that they would be happier working under the Lord's immediate direction, and not as subject to committees, gave up their salaries,

    • considering such arrangements to be unknown, both in fact and in principle, to the Scriptures, since their very existence attributed to money the right to direct the work of the Lord:

    • these began to work in simple dependence upon the Lord, trusting to His faithful care.

  • God raised up others also, though it still remains true that "the harvest is great and the labourers are few".

    • God has blessed these labourers by conversions, numerous, thank God, especially in the south of France.

  • From the beginning I visited these countries, and shared with joy the troubles and fatigues of these brothers; but it is they who have actually laboured at the work.

  • In some places, I had the first troubles; in others I have only visited, taken part and helped, when the work was, thank God, already begun.

  • He gave us to be of one heart and one soul, mutually to be helpers of one another, seeking the good of all, whilst recognising our individual weaknesses.

Almost about the same time, in the eastern part of France, a like work had begun, independently of this one.

  • It has also been visited, so that at the present time the work extends from Bâle to the Pyrenees, with a fairly large gap in the districts of which Toulouse forms the centre.

  • The country is more or less covered with meetings, and the work, by God's grace, is still going on.

I ought to say that I have never meddled in any way with the calling nor with the work of the brethren who studied the Bible with me.

  • As regards some, I have the conviction that they had not been called to it, and they have, in fact, gone back into the ordinary routine of life.

  • As to others, I only helped them in the study of the Bible, in communicating to them the light which God had given me, but leaving entirely to themselves the responsibility of their calling for the work of evangelisation or teaching.

We had the custom of gathering together occasionally for some time, when God opened the way for it, to study Scriptural subjects together, or books of the Bible, and to communicate to one another what God had given to each.

  • During several years, in Ireland and England, this took place annually in large conferences which lasted for a week.

  • On the Continent, and latterly in England, they have been less attended; and with fewer numbers, it has been possible to spend a fortnight or three weeks studying some books of the Bible.

My elder brother [Wm. H. Darby], who is a Christian, spent two years at Dusseldorf. He is engaged in the work of the Lord, wherever he may happen to be at the moment. He has been blessed to several souls, in the neighbourhood of Dusseldorf.

  • These, in their turn, have spread the light of the gospel and the truth, and a certain number of persons have been gathered in the Rhenish provinces.

  • Tracts and various publications of the brethren have been translated and largely distributed; and light as to the soul's deliverance, the true character of the church, the presence of the Holy Ghost here below, and the Lord's return, has been disseminated.

Two years later, helped, I believe, by the knowledge of these truths, but entirely independent of this work, a movement of the Spirit of God began at Elberfeld.

  • There was in that town a "Brotherhood" which employed twelve labourers, if I am not mistaken, whom the clergy sought to forbid from preaching or teaching.

    • Enlightened as to the ministry of the Spirit, and moved by love for souls, they would not submit to this interdict.

  • Seven of these labourers, I believe, and a few members of the "Brotherhood" detached themselves from it, and certain of them, with others whom God raised up, continued their gospel work, which spread from Holland to Hesse.

  • Conversions have been very numerous, and many hundreds assemble at the present time to break bread.

  • More recently the work has begun to get established in Holland, as also in the south of Germany. By means of other instruments, two meetings in Wurtemberg already existed.

Gospel preaching in Switzerland and England has led to the formation of some meetings amongst emigrants to the United States and Canada;

  • the evangelisation of negroes led to others in Jamaica and Demerara,

  • as also amongst the natives of Brazil, through a brother who went there and has since died. I am not aware of any other who knows the language sufficiently to continue this work, which has been blessed.

  • The English colonies of Australia [and New Zealand] have also meetings. But this sketch will be sufficient for you.

Brethren do not recognise any other body but the body of Christ, that is to say, the whole church of the firstborn.

  • Also, they recognise every Christian who walks in truth and holiness, as a proved member of Christ.

  • Their hope of final salvation is founded on the Saviour's expiatory work, for whose return they look, according to His word.

  • They believe the saints to be united to Him already, as members of the body of which He is the Head, and they await the accomplishment of His promise, expecting His coming to take them to Himself in the Father's house, so that where He is, there they may be also.

  • His person is the object of their faith, His life the example which they have to follow in their conduct.

  • His word, namely, the Scriptures inspired of God, that is to say, the Bible, is the authority which forms their faith; it is also its foundation, and they recognise it as that which should govern their conduct. The Holy Ghost alone can make it effectual both for life and practice.

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Walter Scott, author of 'Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ',
departed to be with Christ, November 2, 1933, aged 95

John Nelson Darby was the youngest son of John Darby, of Leap Castle, King's County, Ireland, and a nephew of Admiral Sir Henry Darby, Commander of the Bellerophon in the battle of the Nile.

It has been the experience of most men brought into personal contact with Mr. Darby, that the influence exercised over them has been almost overwhelming.

  • His marvellous power in grappling with principles and tracing their application to their legitimate results;

  • his simple and unaffected piety, combined with the ripest scholarship and unequalled ability in expounding the Word of God,

  • accompanied by a generous appreciation of the good and excellent outside the ecclesiastical sphere in which he moved,

  • fitted him to become, as he undoubtedly was, a recognised leader in the church of God.

Mr. Darby's polemical writings in English, French, and German are numerous, cover a large field of enquiry,

  • and are characterised by an intimate and scholarly treatment of their respective subjects.

Mr. Darby was a keen and able controversialist. His critical acumen in detecting principles where others, perhaps, would have dealt only with details, was truly marvellous.

  • This character of mind led him on all controversial subjects treated of to lose sight of his opponent, and shun personalities, in order to present the subject on hand, in a broad, full, and comprehensive manner.

  • The weakness of an opposed argument was soon apparent, and the truth got more firmly established.

  • The strength of that mind consecrated to the defence and maintenance of Christianity is never more powerfully exhibited than in his Examination of the Essays and Reviews and in other works of a similar character.

In private life he was kind and gracious and characterised by a simplicity which endeared him to the young, and especially to children.

  • His habits were simple. He was an indefatigable worker and traveller, and bore in his spirit and ways the distinct mark of a stranger here.

  • His personal love to Christ was intense. But no more need be said. His record is on high.

W. Scott

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The following is an extract from Francis William Newman's 'Phases of Faith', written after his apostasy from Christianity. For a full examination of that book, see 'The Irrationalism of Infidelity' in 'Collected Writings of J.N.D.', 6: 1-358.

The Irish Clergyman – F. W. Newman

This [John Nelson Darby] was a young relative of his, a most remarkable man, who rapidly gained an immense sway over me. I shall henceforth call him the Irish Clergyman.

  • His "bodily presence" was indeed "weak". A fallen cheek, a bloodshot eye, crippled limbs resting on crutches, a seldom shaven beard, a shabby suit of clothes, and a generally neglected person, drew at first pity, with wonder to see such a figure in a drawing-room.

  • It has [been] reported that a person in Limerick offered him a halfpenny, mistaking him for a beggar; and if not true, the story was yet well invented.

This young man had taken high honours at Dublin University, and had studied for the bar, where, under the auspices of his eminent kinsman, he had excellent prospects; but his conscience would not allow him to take a brief, lest he should be selling his talents to defeat justice.

  • With keen logical powers, he had warm sympathy, solid judgment of character, thoughtful tenderness and total self-abandonment.

He, before long, took holy orders, and became an indefatigable curate in the mountains of Wicklow, Ireland.

  • Every evening he sallied forth to teach in the cabins, and roving far and wide over mountains, and amid bogs, was seldom home before midnight.

  • By such exertions his strength was undermined, and he so suffered in his limbs that not lameness only, but yet more serious results were feared.

  • He did not fast on purpose, but his long walks through wild country and amongst indigent people, inflicted on him much severe deprivations;

  • moreover, as he ate whatever food offered itself (food unpalatable and often indigestible to him), his whole frame might have vied in emaciation with a monk of La Trappe …

I was at first offended by his apparent affectation of a careless exterior, but I soon understood that in no other way could he gain equal access to the lowest orders,

  • and that he was moved, not by asceticism, nor by ostentation, but by a self-abandonment fruitful of consequences.

He had practically given up all reading but the Bible; and no small part of his movement soon took the form of dissuasion from all other voluntary study.

  • In fact, I had myself more and more concentrated my religious reading on this one book; still I could not help feeling the value of a cultivated mind.

  • Against this my new eccentric friend (having himself enjoyed no mean advantages of cultivation) directed his keenest attacks.

  • I remember once saying to him: "To desire to be rich is absurd; but if I were a father of children, I should wish to be rich enough to secure them a good education".

  • He replied: "If I had children, I would as soon see them break stones on the road as do anything else, if only I could secure to them the gospel and the grace of God".

  • I was unable to say Amen; but I admired his unflinching consistency, for now, as always all he said was based on texts aptly quoted and logically enforced.

He made me more and more ashamed of political economy and moral philosophy, and all science, all of which ought to be "counted dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord".

  • For the first time in my life, I saw a man earnestly turning into reality the principles which others professed with their lips only …

Never before had I seen a man so resolved that no word of the New Testament should be a dead letter to him.

  • I once said; "But do you really think that no part of the New Testament may have been temporary in its object? For instance – What should we have lost if St. Paul had never written, "The cloke that I left at Troas bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments …"?

  • He answered with the greatest promptitude, "I should have lost something, for it was exactly that verse which alone saved me from selling my little library.* No! every word, depend upon it, is from the Spirit, and is for eternal service".

In spite of the strong revulsion which I felt against some of the peculiarities of this remarkable man, I, for the first time in my life found myself under the dominion of a superior.

  • When I remember how even those bowed down before him who had been in the place of parents – accomplished and experienced minds – I cease to wonder in the retrospect that he rivetted me in such a bondage.

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W.  Kelly
W. Kelly, 1820-1906 An anonymous note to the following account says:

A friend of Mr. Darby's, who was for many years on intimate terms with him, has kindly forwarded the following interesting account of a most interesting career.

The author, William Kelly, edited the 34 volumes of the 'Collected Writings of J. N. Darby'.

Reference to R. M. Beverley

As you wish for some personal reminiscences of the late JND, I go back to my first intercourse with him in the summer of 1845 at Plymouth.

Mr. Darby was then bringing out in numbers the perhaps most valuable critique he ever wrote, in exposure of Mr. B. W. Newton's 'Thoughts on the Apocalypse';

    • wherein the main object was to oppose, slyly but with set purpose, every truth which was distinctive of the movement, and all-important in our convictions of God's truth and glory in Christ.

  • Nor was the revolutionary effort confined to the retrograde party in Plymouth.

  • Mr. Chas. Hargrove, an Irish ex-rector, Mr. J. Parnell – was he yet Lord Congleton? – with others, had committed themselves on various grounds to the reaction.

  • Mr. Darby had replied to them all, with an earnest trenchant ability which earned the dislike and resentment of such as love compromise, rather than truth.

  • Though grieved to the heart at schism, which must if unjudged lead to what the apostle calls "heresy" or sect, it was clear to me which cared for Christ, and which did not rise above self or their friends.

To established and non-established, it was just what many leaders of Christendom were desiring; for like the chief priests of old, they doubted whereunto this would grow.

    • As no mean one among them wrote, they began to breathe freely when the Newtonian rent came.

  • But a little matter of a private kind will interest you and your readers, as it gave me – some twenty years or so his junior – a practical lesson.

When dining with Mr. Darby, he by the way said, "I should like to tell you how I live. Today I have more than usual on your account. But it is my habit to have a small hot joint on Saturday, cold on Lord's day, cold on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, and on Thursday. On Friday I am not sorry to have a bit of chop or steak; then the round begins again".

  • I too, like Mr. Darby, had been ascetic as a young Christian, and had been reduced, by general indifference to outward life, so low that the physician prescribed as essential what had been discarded in self-denial.

  • How uncommon to find a mind endowed with the rarest power of generalisation, able to come down like the apostle, and impress on a young disciple, eating, drinking, or whatever is done, to do all unto God's glory!

  • At that time Mr. Darby had not a whit of asceticism, but liberty and his heart bent on pleasing the Lord as to necessary food.

  • To me, however small it might seem to some, it was a hint of daily value, and through me to others;

    • for many a saint, when "cleansed from leprosy", forgets or neglects, in Levitical phrase, to shave off all his hair, and to wash his clothes, though he may duly bathe.

  • So natural is it, as one of that class said, to retain and give to the Lord his "gentlemanship" – a gift abhorrent in His eyes; for it is worldly to the core.

Mr. Harris, Mr. Newton, Mr. H. Soltau, and many more I of course saw, and found full of kindness, even then when party spirit was doing its deadly work.

  • For in brighter days did not Edward Irving call it a "swamp of love", when his own mind was carried away by pretensions to miraculous power, and to a ritual beyond the Ritualists?

But such is the power of spirituality and devotedness, that Mr. Darby was the only one there to whom I felt free to tell confidentially the sad tale of an ex-clergyman's sin, and to join with me in prayer respecting it.

  • As the evil had come to my knowledge unsought and far away, it devolved on me in faith and love to seek him out, and lay what none perhaps suspected upon his soul before God.

  • As he had already withdrawn from communion, one could leave all else with Him. No doubt he is long departed, and as no one is alive to guess the one meant, I venture thus to speak.

It was at a much earlier date – 1831, I think – that F. W. Newman invited Mr. Darby to Oxford:

    • a season memorable in a public way for his refutation of Dr. E. Burton's denial of the doctrines of grace, beyond doubt held by the Reformers, and asserted not only by Bucer, P. Martyr, and Bishop Jewell, but in Articles IX-XVIII of the Church of England.

    • With a smile he said to me, "That is the only pamphlet by which I ever made money".

  • The same visit of his acted more privately – not on Mr. W. E. Gladstone, who saw and heard him then – but on G. V. Wigram, Sir L. C. L. Brenton, B. W. Newton, and W. Jarrett, as well as others too halting in faith to make a decided stand and endure the consequences.

  • It was characteristic of those young men that, when once at a conversazione someone remarked, "May the Lord give me a living in a beautiful country" – and he had more than his desire in a Scotch Bishopric –

    • Mr. Wigram immediately exclaimed, "May He give me to follow and serve Him at all cost!" He too had his heart's desire.

  • Sir Chas. Brenton hardly quite appreciated JND, if one may judge by his rather severe saying, "I never knew a man in whom the two Adams were so strong".

    • Sir Charles was rather legal, and suffered from it; so much so that JND called a few, not long before the former died, for special prayer on his behalf, and not in vain.

It was, if I err not, before 1830 that, filled with the sense of the Christian's union with Christ, JND visited London, and laid it before one regarded as among the most mature of the Evangelical clergy.

  • But his own indifference to worldly appearances seemed to render that precious but little understood truth a dead letter to this divine, who confounded it with the new birth, as ill-taught saints commonly do.

  • His tone was pompous and self-complacent. He evidently regarded his visitor as a poor curate airing as a wonder what all knew.

  • But the well-appointed carriage from Westminster, with coachman and footman, came to take Mr. Darby to his father's house, and happened to catch the clergyman's eye, when his manner changed to servility.

  • This disgusted my friend, who could make allowance for ignorance, but was pained by a worldly spirit in a Christian, especially in a Christian minister.

  • He well enough knew that the clergyman was of humble extraction; but this was nothing in his eyes if there had been spiritual feeling.

  • Nor did the clergyman grow in grace any more than truth, when he became a bishop, and a metropolitan one.

  • There was a worm at the root of his theology; for he betrayed unsoundness as to divine inspiration, both before his elevation to the episcopal throne, and after it. Such men cannot be expected to have ears to hear.

I was unable to attend the Conference at Liverpool in the forties, but was present at that which was held in London in 1845.

    * R. M. Beverley [see "Memorabilia" for more details] is the author of a very full 'Examination of the Scriptures on the subject of Ministry'.
    My copy is a reprint of the 100+ page booklet and has the imprint "Publisher, J. E. Dickens, 811 Avenue D, Brownwood Texas'. The contents are:

    • 1. The relation of Sects to Clerisy and Romes
    • 2. The Popular Idea of Ministry
    • 3. The Scriptural Idea of Ministry
    • 4. The "Churches" tested by Scripure
    • 5. Examination of Scriptures concerning Ministry
    • 6. Ordination and the Imposition of Hands
    • 7. The Object of Ministry in the Church
    • 8. Rule in the Church
    • 9. Conclusions
    • CONCLUSIONS – 50
    • APPENDIX – Re John Wesley and Martin Luther

Considerate and kind as JND was to F. W. Newman, before Newman's active mind rebelled against "the doctrine of Christ", he had no real sympathy with the character either of him or of his brother the Cardinal.

    • Men, and not God, governed them both, though in a different way.

  • The younger of the two had been much the most distinguished throughout his academic career. The elder became a master of style in English writing, but a mere slave of tradition.

    • Mr. Darby cared supremely for Christ and the truth to the glory of God the Father.

  • Both brothers began as Evangelicals; but they diverged, as time went on, and were quite estranged, till the one became a Papist, and the other an infidel; then they "renewed happy intercourse".

  • Anything like this was sorrow and shame to Mr. Darby, who could not respect, even as a man, him who wrote and justified No. 90 of the Oxford Tracts; for from beginning to end it is a barefaced and jesuitical plea, to construe in a Romanist sense the Protestant Thirty-nine Articles.

    • More shocking still that Pusey and Keble etc., should endorse its deceit.

  • Also what could JND feel but grief and indignation at the blasphemer, who at length could compare J. Fletcher's as a life more perfect than that of Jesus the Son of God?

  • It is my judgment, that if Professor H. Rogers, in his 'Eclipse of Faith', crushed [F. W. Newman's] 'Phases of Faith' on its own ground, much more did Mr. Darby, on a Christian basis, in his 'Irrationalism of Infidelity';

    • just as he also laid bare the dishonesty of J. H. Newman's 'Apologia pro sua Vita'. Even their logic was anything but immaculate.

Mr. Darby was deliberate and prayerful in weighing a Scripture; but he wrote rapidly, as thoughts arose in his spirit, and often with scarcely a word changed.

  • He delighted in a concatenated sentence, sometimes with parenthesis within parenthesis, to express the truth fully, and with guards against misconception.

  • An early riser and indefatigable worker, he yet had not time to express his mind as briefly and clearly as he could wish. "You write to be read and understood", he once said playfully to me; "I only think on paper".

  • This made his writings, to the uninitiated, anything but pleasant reading, and to a hasty glance almost unintelligible; so that many, even among highly educated believers, turned away, because of their inability to penetrate sentences so involved.

  • No one could be more indifferent to literary fame; he judged it beneath Christ and therefore the Christian.

  • He was but a miner, as he said; he left it to others to melt the ore, and circulate the coin, which many did in unsuspected quarters, sometimes men who had no good to say of him, if one may not think to conceal the source of what they borrowed.

  • To himself Christ was the centre of all, and the continual object before him, even in controversy; nor is anything more striking, even in his hottest polemics, than his assertion of positive truth to edification.

  • He was never content to expose an adversary, where not only his unfaltering logic, but instant and powerful grasp of the moral side, and above all of the bearing of Christ on the question, made him the most redoubtable of doctors.

  • Yet the same man ever delighted in preaching the glad tidings to the poor, and only paid too much honour to those whom he considered evangelists more distinctively than himself.

  • Indeed I remember one, who could scarcely be said to be more so than he was, happening – to his own discomposure – to preach in his presence at one of the Conferences in the past – Portsmouth –

    • and for months after, this dear simple-minded servant of the Lord, kept telling brethren in private, and not there only, "Ah, I wish that I could appeal to the people as So-and-so does!"

That he exercised large and deep influence could not but be; but he sought it not, and was plainspoken to his nearest friends.

  • To one whom he valued as a devoted man, he said, "Come, —, not so much of the gentleman."

  • Another, dear to him from an early day and an admirable pastor, a good teacher and preacher, had got married to a worldly-minded lady – his second wife – though an Evangelical of the Evangelicals.

  • This brother – an ex-clergyman – grieved him by running down the simple few gathered to the Lord's name in the village where he lived.

  • The complainant was no longer the labourer he had once been among the poor, but was as a half-squire and half-parson drawing back to a long abandoned social intercourse with country folk.

    • "Ah! —," said Mr. Darby, "it is not the brethren but the wife". That this was true made it the less palatable; and the wife did not fail to make it a rupture never healed.

Nor was it only such cases that gave him pain. A lady I knew, when he paid a visit to Guernsey, invited a company to meet him in private, but exclusively of those who were in a good position.

  • Had it been an Anglican Christian, or one with Denominations, he would have made allowance and expected nothing else;

  • but he was vexed that one in fellowship should be so far from the word and will of the Lord as to fail in giving an opportunity to lowly saints, rich in faith, who would have enjoyed it exceedingly.

  • When asked to give thanks, he begged me to do so, meaning it as a quiet sign that he was displeased.

It was my privilege, being actively engaged, to hear him very seldom, and this at great meetings in which he ordinarily took a large part; but I remember once hearing him preach – on Romans 5: 20, 21 – to a small company of the very poor;

    • and to a more powerful and earnest discourse I never listened, though in the plainest terms, exactly suited to his audience.

  • The singing was execrable; and he did his best to lead them, for his voice was sweet, and his ear good; but the barbarous noise of others prevailed, with which he bore in a patience truly edifying, going on with his message quite unmoved.

Yet was he anything but self-confident. Being asked once to preach in the open air, he begged the younger man to take it; for said he, "I shrink from that line of work, being afraid of sticking in the midst, from not knowing what to say".

  • He ungrudgingly delighted in the bold preacher with a heart full of the love of souls.

  • He overlooked many faults, where he credited anyone with devotedness – sometimes at their own valuation.

  • An intense admirer of his used to say that in this respect and others too, "he was the most gullible man in England".

    • This of course was extreme exaggeration; nevertheless it occurred often enough to embarrass his fellow-labourers.

  • I remember once in Bath remonstrating with him, because of his apparently unbroken confidence in a brother who was behaving very ill to his own mother and sister, whom he drove out of the meeting as a veritable "Diotrephes", to gratify his mad and unbelieving father.

  • Mr. Darby soliloquised as we walked along, "Strange thing, that my pets should turn out scamps".

  • I fear that so it evidently was with this person; for not long after he furnished the most defamatory scandal ever written, printed and circulated, against his blindly generous benefactor.

The upshot of this case is instructive. The railer, who of course vanished, not only from fellowship but to another land, had great kindness shown him by a Christian man there, an Irish gentleman.

  • Having occasion afterwards to visit Ireland, he enquired if any of his friends knew of one, Mr. Darby. Oh, yes to be sure! Everyone knows of Mr. Darby.

  • "Well", said he, "I received — and his large family for a long time; during which he was habitually abusing Darby.

  • "But I found him out to be worthless; so I came to the conclusion that the object of his abuse must be a very good man."

  • It smacks rather Hibernian; but it was a sound instinct, and true in fact.

The same readiness to believe the best, even of untoward souls, showed itself not seldom when persons drew on his purse, or, what was of more moment, sought fellowship through his mediation.

  • Not a few even now will recollect an excessively turbulent man, who espoused the cause of one who had to be put out of fellowship; and being himself no less guilty, he fell under the like sentence.

  • This man never appeared till Mr. Darby returned to London from his long journeyings, but repaired to him forthwith on his arrival.

  • Then followed the renewed appeal: "How is it that – is still outside?" Thereon a dead silence ensued, easily understood; for everyone would have gratified Mr. Darby, had it been possible.

  • At last a brother – now deceased – noted for his downrightness, said, "Mr. Darby, we know —; but you do not".

  • Yet were some weak enough to call him a Pope who would have his way, and bore no contradiction.

A similar case, only more disreputable, of one ex-communicated for outrageous profanity, etc., occurred much later.

  • Mr. Darby's heart somehow was touched, because he came to the meetings, and indeed forced himself to the front, and tried, while unrestored, to appropriate the Lord's Supper.

  • Yet our beloved friend looked leniently on what was very painful to most.

He was as far as possible from the ogre which so many fancied, but inflexible against those who assailed Christ.

  • So he himself used to say, "I ought never to touch matters of discipline; for I believe the first person, brother or sister, that tells me about things. It is quite out of my line".

  • So much was this felt, that I used to pray the Lord that only a true account might first reach his ear.

But every considerate Christian must be aware that the faithful were as slow to spread evil tidings to gain a point, as the light and party-spirited were quick to plead for those they favour, and especially with one so influential as JND.

  • Also, when one of his position and character took up a cause in this one-sided way, as might and did happen, all can conceive how difficult it was for others to convince, or for himself to revise.

  • Do any blame me for giving these amiable drawbacks? I humbly think that even in a brief sketch it is hardly truthful to omit what has been here touched with a loving hand, and what he himself would have frankly owned.

  • It is not for me to say one word of what is best left in the grave of Christ, where my own failures lie buried.

No man more disliked cant, pretension, and every form of unreality.

  • Thos. Carlyle loudly and bitterly talked his detestation of "shams", JND quietly lived it in doing the truth.

  • He often took the liberty of an older Christian to speak frankly, among others to a brother whose love, as he thought, might bear it. But sometimes the wound however faithful only closed to break out another day.

  • "What were you about, —, hiding among your family connections, and not once seeing the brethren around?"

  • On the other hand reliable testimony is not wanting of his ready love in so lowly a way as to carry him where few would follow, especially where known.

  • In early days, among the few at Plymouth a barber brother fell sick; and as no one else thought of his need, JND is said to have gone in his absence and served as well as he could in the little shop.

Thoughtful for others he was indifferent as to comforts for himself, though he did not mind buying costly books, if he believed them of value for his work.

  • Then he was habitually a hard worker, from early morn devoted to his own reading the word and prayer;

    • but even when most busily engaged, he as the rule reserved the afternoons for visiting the poor and the sick, his evenings for public prayer, fellowship, or ministry.

  • Indeed whole days were frequently devoted to Scripture readings wherever he moved, at home or abroad.

  • But his clothes were plain, and he wore them to shabbiness, though punctiliously clean in his person, which dressy people are not always.

  • In Limerick once, kind friends took advantage of his sleep to replace the old with new, which he put on without a word, as the story went.

In middle life he trudged frequently on foot through a large part of France and Switzerland,

    • sometimes refreshing himself on the way with acorns, at other times thankful to have an egg for his dinner, because, as he said, no unpleasant visitors for certain could get in there!

  • In his own house, or lodging, all was simplicity and self-denial; yet if invited to dine or sup, he freely and thankfully partook of what was set before him.

  • Still he had a vigilant eye for the Lord, particularly with younger fellow-labourers; and I remember that when with me on first setting up house, he deliberately looked at a table-spoon or fork before him.

    • Happily I passed muster; and nothing was said: they were only plated! So he lived himself.

  • Even in such things he hated for Christians the pride of life, and justly felt that one little licence opens the way for many greater.

His largeness of heart, for one of strong convictions and of practical consistency, showed itself in many ways.

  • After he left the Anglican Establishment he preached occasionally at the call of godly clergymen who urged it; but he only appeared for the discourse and was not present at the previous service.

  • So in France afterwards he preached for pious ministers of the Reformed Church; nor did he refuse the black gown as an academic dress; but when they brought the bands, "Oh! no", said he: "I put on no more".

  • Again, he did not spare but warmly rebuked the zealots among half-fledged brothers, who were so ignorantly bitter as to apply what the apostle said of heathen tables to those of the various Denominations.

  • It was only fundamental error which roused his deepest grief and indignation. Then, as one of these – a heterodox teacher – said to me, JND writes with a pen in one hand and a thunderbolt in the other.

As a more public instance, take his letter from Barbados to Archdeacon Stopford, when cast down by Mr. Gladstone's disestablishment and spoliation of the Irish Protestant church, to assure him of his sympathy.

  • "If the Protestants trust God, this will remain their position. Let them, because of the word of God, and in honouring it and what is called Protestantism, as owning it cordially, coalesce with the Presbyterians, as you have noticed they did in the best times under Bramhall …

  • "Only be yourselves, and trust God. Have done with the State, reject it, making no terms for a little money and much subjection; if you do, you are lost".

But none the less, when the pious and learned Dr. O'Brien, Bishop of Ossory, who had married his niece, wrote a defence of Baptismal Regeneration, which he had long rejected,

  • Mr. Darby wrote a vigorous reply, and proved that the argument on the formularies as well as Scripture was simply and grossly a begging of the question.

Even in his own circle his forbearance towards prejudice was as great as his decision in momentous things.

  • He often worked with another, when he did not shrink from preaching in the open air so much as later.

  • Once his companion was a man of singular eloquence, but slow to learn fuller truth and addicted to form.

  • So the naval ex-commander read a petition from the Common Prayer selection, and the ex-clergyman made the gospel appeal. Perhaps one such experiment sufficed. Incongruities happened in those days.

  • At a later date he became more chary of preaching in so-called churches or "temples" – as they call them abroad – when superstition crept in and rationalism.

  • The recent indifferentism that prevails also curtailed in practice the readiness with which outside Christians were received, though the principle abode as ever;

  • but its application could not but be abridged, when some wished to break bread who were insensible to notorious and grievous error taught where they usually attended.

It will interest many to hear that his paper on the Progress of Democratic Power, and its effect on the Moral state of England, immensely struck the late Sir T. D. Acland, who was Mr. Gladstone's intimate friend from Oxford days till death.

This then is my conviction, that a saint more true to Christ's name and word I never knew or heard of.

A great man naturally, and as diligent a student as if he were not highly original, he was a really good man, which is much better.

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From: ‘Travels with a Donkey’ by Robert Louis Stevenson.

A step or two farther I was overtaken by an old man in a brown nightcap, clear-eyed, weather-beaten, with a faint excited smile.

'CONNAISSEZ-VOUS LE SEIGNEUR?' he said at length.

  • I asked him what Seigneur he meant; but he only repeated the question with more emphasis and a look in his eyes denoting hope and interest.

  • 'Ah', said I, pointing upwards, 'I understand you now. Yes, I know Him; He is the best of acquaintances'.

  • The old man said he was delighted.

'Hold', he added, striking his bosom; 'it makes me happy here'.

  • There were a few who knew the Lord in these valleys, he went on to tell me; not many, but a few. 'Many are called'. he quoted, 'and few chosen'.

'My father', said I, 'it is not easy to say who know the Lord; and it is none of our business. Protestants and Catholics, and even those who worship stones, may know Him and be known by Him; for He has made all'.

  • I did not know I was so good a preacher.

The old man assured me he thought as I did, and repeated his expressions of pleasure at meeting me.

  • 'We are so few', he said. 'They call us Moravians here; but down in the Department of Gard, where there are also a good number, they are called Derbists, after an English pastor'.

... this old man in a brown nightcap showed himself so simple, sweet, and friendly, that I am not unwilling to profess myself his convert.

  • He was, as a matter of fact, a Plymouth Brother. Of what that involves in the way of doctrine I have no idea nor the time to inform myself; but I know right well that we are all embarked upon a troublesome world, the children of one Father, striving in many essential points to do and to become the same.

  • ... And if ever at length, out of our separate and sad ways, we should all come together into one common house, I have a hope, to which I cling dearly, that my mountain Plymouth Brother will hasten to shake hands with me again.

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