The GOSPEL TRUTH
The Pilgrim Church
by E. H. Broadbent
BEING SOME ACCOUNT OF THE CONTINUANCE-----
THROUGH SUCCEEDING CENTURIES----
OF CHURCHES PRACTISING THE PRINCIPLES TAUGHT----
AND EXEMPLIFIED IN ----
THE NEW TESTAMENT
Methodist and Missionary Movements
Condition of England in the 18th century--Revivals in Wales--Temporary schools--Societies formed--The holy club at Oxford--Mrs. Wesley--John and Charles Wesley sail to Georgia--John Wesley returns and meets Peter Boehler--Accepts Christ by faith--Visits Herrnhut--George Whitefield--Preaches to the colliers at Kingswood--John Wesley also begins preaching in the open air--Lay preachers--Strange manifestations--Great revivals--Charles Wesley's hymns--Separation between Moravian and Methodist Societies--Divergence in doctrine of Wesley and Whitefield--Conference--Separation of Methodist Societies from the Church of England--Divisions--General benefit from the movement--Need of missionary work--William Carey--Andrew Fuller--Formation of Missionary Societies--Difference between Mission Stations and churches--The brothers Haldane--James Haldane preaches in Scotland--Opposition of Synods--Large numbers hear the Gospel--A church formed in Edinburgh--Liberty of ministry--Question of baptism--Robert Haldane visits Geneva--Bible Readings on Romans--The Lord's Supper in Geneva--A church formed.
Infidelity and indifference to matters of religion and morals prevailed in England in the 18th century, to an extent, and with consequences, that arrested the attention of all careful observers. With the upper classes it was fashionable to be irreligious and immoral, while the lower classes were plunged in the grossest ignorance and sin. The clergy were, with few exceptions, no better than the people, literature was atheistic and impure, drunkenness was considered no disgrace, violence and crime were rampant. The effort to restrain crime and preserve property by savage punishments increased recklessness, the condition of prisons was abominable, the oppression of the poor and helpless was without mercy. There remained a strong undercurrent of religion and faith, but it was hidden by the popular indulgence in sin and mockery of all that was good. The companies of believers were few in number compared with the bulk of the population and a certain langour had crept over many of them which showed that they were in need of reviving.
[Awakenings in Wales]
It was in these circumstances that a spiritual revival was given of extraordinary extent and fruitfulness. Wales was as dark as England, and suffered the additional disadvantage that many of its clergy were English and out of touch with the people in sentiment and language. There were, however, some Welsh clergymen of the Established Church who were notable exceptions. William Wroth, rector of Llanvaches, suddenly converted, had a message of life which the hungry people crowded to hear, so that his church would not contain them; he preached in the open air and even outside his own parish, and when punished for such doings by the loss of his benefice, he founded an independent church of believers in Llanvachery, in 1638.
His influence led Walter Cradock, expelled from his curacy in Cardiff, to travel about and preach the Gospel to the crowds who were eager to hear, and to attach himself to the Congregational churches. Rees Pritchard was another who had the message of salvation, which such numbers gathered to hear that he also preached in the open air. He was summoned before the Ecclesiastical Court for this, but influence was used which enabled him to continue his preaching and still remain in the Church of England.
Another clergyman, Griffith Jones, also a Welshman, early in the eighteenth century prepared his country for the greater work that was to come. As he preached and taught in his parish he saw how great was the disadvantage from which the people suffered in being unable to read the Bible for themselves, so, with the help of friends, he employed teachers to travel from place to place and hold temporary schools. Later, the lack of suitable teachers led him to open a training-school where only persons of religious principles were accepted, most of them being Nonconformists. People of all ages attended his schools, in spite of the opposition of the clergy, glad of an opportunity they had never had before, and a great reformation was wrought in the character and conduct of the nation. At the death of Griffith Jones, twenty years after he began his schools, there had been about three thousand five hundred of them at work and a third of the population of Wales had passed through them.
About the same time a young man, Howel Harris, was refused ordination on the ground that he had begun to preach before receiving it. Undeterred, however, and remaining still a member of the Established Church, he continued his preaching apart from it, in the open air, in houses, and any other available buildings. The Gospel was effectual; large numbers were converted, many lives were changed, and in homes formerly godless family worship was established. Other workers joined Harris, both clergy and laymen, and in order to encourage those affected by the Word societies of religious people were formed.
As was to be expected, opposition was excited; riotous mobs, led by the civil authorities and the clergy, subjected the preachers to every kind of indignity and abuse. One of the most gifted of them was Daniel Rowlands, also a clergyman, dismissed from his curacy for preaching outside the bounds of his own parish. To Llangeitho, where he preached, thousands used to come, travelling from all parts of the Principality to hear him, there being a power in his ministry which those who heard him found it impossible to describe.
This movement in Wales soon came into touch with a similar movement in England. The whole character of the Welsh people was changed. Nor was this change transitory, for Wales at the present day, instead of being, as formerly, irreligious and spiritually dead, is renowned for the widespread working and depth of its spiritual life.
[The "Holy Club" and Beginnings of Methodism]
A little group of students in Oxford began to meet in 1729 for the purpose of helping one another in the common object that was before them, that of saving their souls and living to the glory of God. Their ways soon brought upon them the ridicule of their fellow students and of some of the officers of the colleges, for they differed completely in their manner of life from most of the students; they lived according to a careful and ascetic rule, visited prisoners and sick people, and helped the poor. They were styled "the Holy Club" or "the Godly Club", the "Enthusiasts", or "Methodists". Among their founders were John and Charles Wesley, and they were soon joined by George Whitefield.
[The Wesley Family]
The mother of the Wesleys was a woman of such unusual character and ability that it is evident that the extra ordinary career and influence of her sons owed much to her and to her early training of them. Her husband was a clergyman, they had a large family and a considerable household. She was not only most careful in the bringing-up of each one of her children, but, during the frequent absences of her husband on duty she felt it right to gather her whole household together at stated times and to read the Scriptures and speak and pray with them. Through the servants present these gatherings were spoken about and others begged to be allowed to come, so that, at times, as many as two hundred crowded in and some had to go away for lack of room.
Complaints were made to her husband that she took a part unbecoming in a woman. Replying to him, when he wrote to her on the subject, she said:"As I am a woman, so I am also mistress of a large family; and ... in your absence, I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my care, as a talent committed to me under a trust, by the great Lord of all the families both of heaven and earth.... I cannot conceive why any should reflect upon you, because your wife endeavours to draw people to church, and to restrain them from profaning the Lord's Day, by reading to them, and other persuasions. For my part, I value no censure on this account. I have long since shook hands with the world; and I heartily wish I had never given them more reason to speak against me. As to its looking particular, I grant it does. And so does almost anything that is serious, or that may any way advance the glory of God, or the salvation of souls.... But there is one thing about which I am much dissatisfied; that is, their being present at family prayers. I do not speak of any concern I am under, barely because so many are present. For those who have the honour of speaking to the great and holy God, need not be ashamed to speak before the whole world; but because of my sex. I doubt if it is proper for me to present the prayers of the people of God. Last Sunday I would fain have dismissed them before prayers; but they begged so earnestly to stay, I durst not deny them."
After their ordination, and still seeking their souls' salvation, John Wesley, his brother Charles, and two others, sailed for Georgia. On board they met a party of Moravians and John Wesley describes the deep impression made on his mind by the meekness and peace and courage they showed under all circumstances. His is stay in Georgia, in spite of the practice of severe self-denial and conscientious work, was a failure, and he soon returned to England, in a state of spiritual wretchedness. "I went to America" he cried, "to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me!"
[Conversion of John and Charles Wesley]
On reaching London (1738) he again came into contact with Moravians, and on "A day much to be remembered" met Peter Boehler, just landed from Germany. With him he had much conversation and by him, he says, "in the hand of the great God I was ... clearly convinced of unbelief; of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved." Should he then leave off preaching, he asked Boehler: "No", he replied, "preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith." So Wesley offered salvation by faith only to all whom he met, but still he could not apprehend that salvation could be immediate. Searching through the Acts of the Apostles to find whether there were any such cases recorded there, he found, to his astonishment, that nearly all were converted in this way. Then he took refuge in the thought that such things might happen in the early days of Christianity, but that times are changed now. He was, however, driven from this refuge by the testimony of many about him to their own experience of immediate salvation on believing. So at last he accepted Christ by faith as his Saviour.
His brother Charles and others were angry with him for saying that he, who had done so much, had never been saved until now, but soon afterwards he records: "My brother had a long and particular conversation with Peter Boehler. And it now pleased God to open his eyes; so that he saw clearly what was the nature of that one true living faith, whereby alone 'through grace we are saved.'"
A society was formed, to consist of little bands of members who should meet weekly to confess their faults to one another and for intercession. As John Wesley preached diligently in many of the London churches "free salvation by faith in the blood of Christ" he was officially informed in one after another that this was the last time he would be allowed to preach there.
He now visited the Moravian settlement at Herrnhut and also Count Zinzendorf, and was much helped in intercourse with those he met. Then he returned to England and began once more to preach and to visit, and going to Bristol he met again his old friend George Whitefield.
[George Whitefield 1714-1770]
Whitefield was born at the Bell Inn, Gloucester (1714). Some time after his mother became a widow and was much reduced in circumstances, so that her youngest son's ambition to become a clergyman was only fulfilled with difficulty by the help of friends, who enabled him to get a post as servitor at Pembroke College and so to study. There he passed through an experience of great spiritual anguish as a seeker after salvation. He joined the "holy club" and by fasting and other mortifying of the flesh reduced himself to serious weakness. He then became a student of the Scriptures and records: "I got more true knowledge from reading the Book of God in one month than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of men".
Having thus learned and experienced justification by faith, he was anxious to preach, and as soon as he was ordained began to do so; with such startling effect that it was commonly reported that his first sermon drove fifteen persons mad. His gift as a preacher was, from the beginning, so remarkable that crowds pressed to hear him. A sermon he preached in Bristol, "On the Nature and Necessity of our Regeneration or New Birth in Christ Jesus" was the beginning of the great awakening that followed in Gloucester, Bristol and London. For a short time he was away in Georgia, where he founded an orphanage.
Returning to England, he found that his habit of going from house to house where he was invited and expounding the Scriptures, so incensed the clergy against him that almost all the pulpits were closed to him. Some of his friends had suggested to him that as he had been out to America to preach to Indians he might as well preach to the rough, neglected colliers at Kingswood, near Bristol. Here is his response:"Finding that the pulpits are denied me, and the poor colliers are ready to perish for lack of knowledge, I went to them, and preached on a mount to upwards of two hundred. Blessed be God, that the ice is now broken, and I have now taken the field.... I thought it might be doing the service of my Creator, who had a mountain for His pulpit, and the heavens for His sounding-board: and who, when the Gospel was refused by the Jews, sent His servants into the highways and hedges."
The next time he preached ten thousand people came together; his marvellous voice reached them all as he spoke to them for an hour. He tells how "the first discovery of their being affected was to see the white gutters made by their tears, which plentifully fell down their black cheeks as they came out of their coal-pits. Hundreds and hundreds of them were soon brought under deep conviction, which, as the event proved, happily ended in a sound and thorough conversion."
It was here that Whitefield sent for John Wesley to come and help in the work. Wesley, who was a devoted churchman, says:"In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church. In the evening (Mr. Whitefield being gone) I began expounding our Lord's Sermon on the Mount (one pretty remarkable precedent of field preaching, though I suppose there were churches at that time also) to a little Society which was accustomed to meet once or twice a week in Nicholas St. At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile, and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city to about three thousand people."
In this way the barriers were broken down and unrestricted preaching of the Gospel spread over the country. It was accompanied by a power of the Spirit that nothing could resist. The crowds that came together to hear numbered sometimes tens of thousands. Not only were the lowest of the people converted to God in vile gaols and filthy slums, but when the Countess of Huntingdon threw herself and her influence into the work the aristocracy was reached and many of its members became disciples of Christ.
The lack of clergy for the work overcame the strong scruples of John Wesley so that he was obliged to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit had sent numerous laymen to preach the Gospel, some of them, as John Nelson, unlettered, but having that spiritual experience and power which fitted them to be powerful and effectual witnesses for Christ.
In the early days there were strange manifestations in the meetings. Hearers would be smitten to the ground in convulsions, cry out in an agony of repentance or fear, sometimes in wild blasphemies, before they obtained deliverance of body and soul. Most violent opposition assailed the preachers from all sides. Riotous mobs attacked them and those who with them had confessed Christ, doing grievous injury to persons and property, but all this was met by a courage and meekness which the adversaries were not able to withstand.
The journeys of Wesley and Whitefield and others were incessant. Mostly on horseback, in all kinds of weather, they constantly traversed all England and Wales; one of the greatest revivals was through Whitefield's preaching in Scotland; in Ireland, North and South, the results were the same; Whitefield repeatedly visited New England, and the same power was manifested there. It was while preaching there that he died, in 1770. John Wesley, however, continued his indefatigable labours until his 88th year in 1790, feeling, almost to the end's "none of the infirmities of old age". Dying he gathered his remaining strength, and, lifting up his arms and voice among those who surrounded him, cried out twice: "The best of all is, God is with us".
Charles Wesley, though not equal to his brother in ability as a preacher, fully shared his labours. His greatest and lasting service to the Church is in the hymns he wrote; they exceed six thousand in number, and many of them are of a poetic beauty and a spiritual value which place them among the best that have ever been written. They contain, in beautiful and arresting form, sound expositions of many of the principal doctrines taught in Scripture, and they express worship and the inward experiences of the spirit in a way which make them continually suited to give utterance to the longings and praises of hearts touched by the Spirit of God. The Wesleys, finding that most people take their theology more from hymns than from Scripture, wrote hymns with the definite purpose of teaching doctrine by them.
Among the many workers for the Kingdom of God at this time it is not to be wondered at that differences of view developed on various points. Laying hold afresh of neglected truth revealed in the Word of God, some apprehended more fully one aspect of it, some another; while each was inclined to emphasize what he had seen and to suspect danger in the vision of the other. Though the Holy Spirit is given to lead into all truth, yet not all receive this fulness; indeed, the very magnitude and variety of the Divine revelation often leads to partial and differing apprehension of it.
Although so greatly helped by the Moravians at the beginning, Wesley gradually came to differ from them on various points. Their historical connection with the Bohemian Brethren gave them tendencies which he regarded as mystical and quietist, unattractive to his practical, aggressive nature. The gathering in Fetter Lane where both Moravians and Methodists had met together divided in 1702, the Moravians remaining there and the Methodists moving to a place called the "Foundry".
Wesley and Whitefield diverged early in doctrine, Whitefield holding Calvinistic views with regard to election, which Wesley strongly repudiated, and when Whitefield returned from America in 1741 he preached openly against "General Redemption", not refraining from doing this even when preaching at the Foundry and in the presence of Charles Wesley. The sympathies of the Countess of Huntingdon were with Whitefield rather than with Wesley, and the Methodist Societies which spread over England were Wesleyan and Arminian, while those in Wales were Calvinistic as were also those of the "Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion".
These differences did not personally alienate Wesley and Whitefield, and it is noticeable that the preaching of justification by faith whether by the one or the other was equally effectual in the conversion of sinners. The styles of preaching, too, of Wesley and Whitefield were entirely different, but the same truths preached produced the same results. Whitefield's preaching was eloquent, impassioned, so dramatic that people seemed to see the scenes he depicted; he would sometimes break into weeping as he saw the need of the souls before him. Wesley was clear and logical, his preaching largely expository, yet he captured the attention of the roughest audiences.
Wesley's determined adherence to the Established Church prevented him from seeing those principles which are taught in Scripture regarding the churches of God, and he never attempted to follow up his Gospel preaching by forming churches, on the New Testament pattern, of those who believed. Yet in 1746 he wrote, "On the road I read over Lord King's account of the Primitive Church. In spite of the vehement prejudice of my education, I was ready to believe that this was a fair and impartial draught; but if so, it would follow that Bishops and Presbyters are (essentially) of one order; and that originally every Christian congregation was a church independent on all others!"
He organized what seemed to him practical methods of giving permanence to the work; his "Bands" and "Societies" did not profess to be companies of believers, but rather of seekers. Their basis of fellowship was experimental more than doctrinal, the condition of admittance was a desire to flee from the wrath to come and to be saved. Members were free to attend such places of worship as they preferred and to hold their own opinions on different points, but they were not allowed to make of them subjects of discussion or contention. In 1740 a member was excluded because he insisted on arguing about election and reprobation.
From time to time Wesley purged the societies of unworthy members, as he saw fit. As long as he lived he controlled the organization, and the "Conference" which he established to take control after him was an entirely clerical body. His efforts to keep the movement within the Church of England failed, partly because the Established Church disowned and systematically opposed it, partly because it was not possible for the new life and energy to be confined in such bonds; the time inevitably came when formal separation had to take place.
The Conference was not able to hold the Wesleyan Methodist Societies together. Being a clerical body it was, like all such bodies, jealous of privilege, and its resistance to an effort to bring in lay representation led to the formation of the Methodist New Connexion. Later, its attempt to control open-air preaching and its expulsion of some who held "camp meetings" without its permission, gave rise to that very active and devoted body, the Primitive Methodists. In the course of further conflicts and divisions Conference gradually came to accept some of the innovations it had at first resisted.
The formation and remarkable growth of these vigorous denominations was not, however, the only, nor even the principal result of the spiritual awakening of the 15th century. That is found in the powerful influence it exercised on the English-speaking peoples, on the character of the British Empire and of the United States, stirring large numbers of people to devote themselves to removing abuses, to working righteousness, and to delivering the oppressed. It gave an impetus to better legislation, to liberty of conscience, to the abolition of slavery, to prison reform, and to missionary activity. The Established Church also gained greatly by it, becoming the scene of evangelical and other revivals in which the gross evils that had so long prevailed disappeared. The churches, whether Baptist or Congregational, also derived benefit from the general reviving, and their activities were enlarged.
[William Carey 1761-1834]
The fact that, after so many centuries, the Lord's command "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature" remained unfulfilled, and that many millions of men had never had the opportunity of hearing the Gospel, had weighed on the consciences of Christian people at various times, and there had been some who had devoted themselves to reaching out to needy parts of the world. A great revival of this sense of responsibility and of love to Christ and to mankind was brought about through William Carey, a village shoemaker, who was also pastor of the Particular Baptist church at Moulton, where he with difficulty maintained his family, studied languages and collected information as to the state of the heathen world. In his work-room might be seen a large map, made of sheets of paper pasted together, on which every country in the world was shown and on which he entered all he could ascertain as to the condition of each. This map was his prayer-book and subject of conversation and preaching.
At a meeting of ministers at Northampton, an opportunity being given for younger brethren to suggest some subject for discussion, Carey proposed: "whether the command given to the Apostles to teach all nations was not obligatory on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world, seeing that the accompanying promise was of equal extent." This was set aside as a wholly unsuitable subject, the extreme Calvinism of most in that circle preventing their seeing the necessity of active obedience to this command of Christ.
The sermons of Andrew Fuller helped to overcome this hindrance. Carey published "An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Farther Undertakings, are considered by William Carey". After stating the principles involved and referring to the work already accomplished by some, he deals with a number of difficulties that might be raised against such action. Among these is the "uncivilized and barbarous way of living" of some of the heathen. He argues:"this can be no objection to any, except those whose love of ease renders them unwilling to expose themselves to inconvenience for the good of others. It was no objection to the apostles and their successors, who went among the barbarous Germans and Gauls, and still more barbarous Britons! They did not wait for the ancient inhabitants of these countries to be civilized before they could be christianized, but went simply with the doctrine of the cross"; they "found that a cordial reception of the gospel produced those happy effects which the longest intercourse with Europeans without it could never accomplish."
He suggests that two at least should go together, preferably married men, and that they might be accompanied by some who would soon be able, by agriculture or in such other ways as experience might indicate, to earn sufficient for the needs of all. The necessary qualifications, spiritual and otherwise, are dwelt upon, and he adds: "It might likewise be of importance, if God should bless their labours, for them to encourage any appearance of gifts amongst the people of their charge; if such should be raised up many advantages would be derived from their knowledge of the language and customs of their countrymen; and their change of conduct would give great weight to their ministrations."
[Modern Missionary Movement]
The ministers' meeting of 1792 was held in the house of a widow, Mrs. Wallis, in Kettering, and there a Society was formed to forward the spread of the Gospel in other lands. A brief account of its aims was drawn up and signed by twelve persons and a few months later Carey was on his way to India, while Fuller, to the utmost of his ability and zeal, was arousing the Christians of Great Britain to an understanding of the responsibility laid upon them for the spread of the Gospel in the whole world.
Difficulties which appeared to be insuperable were patiently overcome and eventually the success of the enterprise was assured in the blessings it brought both to India and to Britain. It was not until after seven years of work and prayer that the firstfruits among the Indians began to be seen; Krishna Pal, with his family, confessed Christ, and he became an effective preacher of the Gospel as well as a hymn-writer.
The interest thus aroused led to the formation, in 1795, of the London Missionary Society, at first undenominational, but becoming later Congregationalist, while in 1799 the Church Missionary Society was organized. The Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society enlarged the scope of its activities and others followed.
The devotion and ability directed by these organizations have borne abundant fruit in many parts of the world. Their records contain some of the most inspiring histories in the annals of mankind. Of necessity, however, this manner of carrying Christianity to those outside has brought the divisions and the religious historical developments of Europe among heathen and Mohammedan peoples, so weakening the testimony of the Gospel, and has tended to establish Mission Stations representing and depending on the various Missionary Societies, rather than independent churches, spreading by their own testimony among their own people as was the case with the churches founded in apostolic days.
[Robert and James Haldane]
Two brothers, Robert and James Alexander Haldane, belonging to a wealthy and well-connected Scottish family, who, as young men, served with distinction in the navy, were converted and became diligent students of the Scriptures.
The younger, James, relates how, after his marriage:"When I first lived in my own house, I began family worship on Sabbath evenings. I was unwilling to have it more frequently, lest I should meet with ridicule from my acquaintance. A conviction of duty at length determined me to begin to have it every morning, but I assembled the family in a back room for some time, lest anyone should come in. I gradually got over this fear of man, and being desirous to instruct those who lived in my family, I began to expound the Scriptures. I found this pleasant and edifying to myself, and it has been one chief means by which the Lord prepared me for speaking in public.... I began secretly to desire to be allowed to preach the Gospel, which I considered as the most important as well as honourable employment. I began to ask of God to send me into this vineyard, and to qualify me for the work. This desire continued to increase, although I had not the most distant prospect of its being gratified, and sometimes in prayer my unbelieving heart suggested that it could not be. I had no idea of going to the highways and hedges, and telling sinners of the Saviour. However, I entertained some distant hope that the Lord would direct."
Soon after this he and some others became interested in meetings for preaching the Gospel in a neglected colliery village and, as it was not always possible to get an ordained minister, sometimes laymen would speak. One evening the preacher expected did not come, so James Haldane took his place and preached his first Gospel sermon. This was in 1797, and led on to his undertaking, with others, itinerary Gospel preaching, which in the following years took him all over Scotland, and beyond.
The preachers travelled in a carriage and were well supplied with tracts which they themselves wrote, printed, and distributed. They spoke in churches, when these were lent to them; in schools and other buildings, but chiefly in the open air. Hundreds--sometimes thousands--gathered to hear them; there was much power with their testimony and large numbers were converted. The spiritual needs of the country at that time were great but the idea of laymen's helping was resented by many; though, on the other hand, the strangeness of it often attracted hearers, who were then affected by the earnestness and sincerity of the speakers.
The Synod of the Established Church of Scotland, meeting in Aberdeen, passed acts against "vagrant teachers and Sunday Schools, irreligion and anarchy"; unlicensed preachers and unauthorized Sunday School teachers were forbidden. The General Synod of the Anti-burgers condemned Missionary Societies and warned their members against "attending upon, or giving countenance to, public preaching, by any who are not of our communion" and excommunicated those who disregarded this decree, including one of their most gifted ministers. The Cameronians acted in the same way, and the Relief Synod agreed "that no minister shall give, or allow his pulpit to be given, to any person who has not attended a regular course of philosophy and divinity in some of the Universities of the nation, and who has not been regularly licensed to preach the Gospel". These injunctions were disregarded by many and indeed often served to increase the interest of hearing the Scriptures preached and expounded by men who really believed them.
In justifying himself and his fellow workers James Haldane said:"We would not ... be understood to mean that every follower of Jesus should leave the occupation by which he provides for his family to become a public preacher. It is an indispensable Christian duty for every man to provide for his family; but we consider every Christian is bound, wherever he has opportunity, to warn sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and to point out Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. Whether a man declare these important truths to two, or two hundred, he is, in our opinion, a preacher of the Gospel, or one who declares the glad tidings of salvation, which is the precise meaning of the word preach" ... "We deemed the low state of religion a sufficient call for us to go to the highways and hedges, and endeavour to compel our fellow sinners to lay hold on the hope set before them in the Gospel".
The preachers laid great stress on justification by faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, without works. Visiting many places, they found religion at a low ebb everywhere but also a desire to hear the Word. As far north as Orkney, where they preached at the fair at Kirkwall, three to four thousand listened daily, and on Lord's Day some 6000 gathered together to hear.
A hearer, invited to attend a meeting and going out of curiosity because of the pressing invitation he received, thus describes his impressions:"Captain Haldane arrived on horseback at the place where the people were assembled to hear him. He dismounted, and gave his horse to the charge of another gentleman who stood by. He was then a young man, under thirty years of age, and had on a blue great-coat, braided in front, after the fashion of the times. He also wore powder, and his hair tied behind, as was then usual for gentlemen. I can never forget the impressions which fell on my heart as he, in a distinct, clear, and manly tone, began to address the thoughtless multitude that had been attracted to hear him. His powerful appeals to the conscience, couched in such simple phrase, were so terrifying that I never closed an eye, nor even retired to rest that night. The impression produced by what I heard was never effaced from my mind, for though I did not fully embrace the Gospel for years after, yet I never relapsed again into my former state of carelessness and indifference to eternal things".
This work of conversion, and the reviving of many who were already Christians, awakened questions as to what was the further course they should take in following out the teachings of Scripture. The brothers Haldane as well as a number of those with whom they worked came to be oppressed by the union with manifestly unconverted people in which they found themselves in the Established Church, so they separated from it, and began to meet with those only who gave evidence of being children of God. They formed a church in Edinburgh, which began with some 300 members and grew very rapidly. One of their first acts was to ordain James Haldane as pastor. Robert Haldane provided large meeting places, or "Tabernacles" not only in Edinburgh but also in other centres where churches were gathered. Following the principle that the New Testament contains the teaching and example which it is the duty of the Lord's disciples to observe to-day, these churches began to take the Lord's Supper each first day of the week; they also ceased to make collections of money from the general congregations, but the members of the church contributed what they were able.
This came about gradually. Robert Haldane wrote:"I began with practising the Lord's Supper monthly. Afterwards I became convinced that on the principles I held, I ought to observe it weekly.... I began with a few individuals ... who erected themselves into a church; and I am now convinced that any set or number of Christians, where there is no church of Christ, may act as we did.... I began with being persuaded that churches should not hold fellowship with the world, except in the contribution of their money. I now blush when I think of such an exception".
Little by little they came to understand that the Holy Spirit, if not hindered by human arrangements, will give variety of ministers and ministry, and as they gradually became accustomed to His working freely through whom He would, they found much joy and power in the experience.
For some years James Haldane was troubled by doubts as to infant baptism, but put the question aside, partly because he felt that occupation with it might lead to a diminution of his usefulness. There came a time, however, when conscience obliged him to refuse to baptize infants, and, later, to submit himself to baptism, as did also his brother and others whose study of the Scriptures had led them to the same conclusion. They did not see any ground for separation from their brethren when they decided on this step. They believed and taught that believers should practise forbearance towards one another in the matters in which they differ and earnestly desired that their action should not lead to division in their happy circle. In spite of their efforts to maintain unity, however, division took place. The greater number remained together, some of them baptized, others not, but all united as to the principle of forbearance with one another in such matters; some formed a congregation on the same lines as before but rejecting baptism by immersion and practising the baptism of infants; some went back into the Established Church and others joined other denominations.
This division was a cause of sorrow, and difficulties that arose were accentuated by the fact that so many of the meeting places were the property of Robert Haldane; while efforts to train young men in Bible Schools as evangelists and pastors proved to be a source of much difficulty and disappointment. The church which remained after so many had left, though grieving on account of its diminished numbers, continued its testimony, in which it continued to be blessed.
Robert Haldane, in the midst of his various activities, had long had a desire to make known the Word of God further afield, and in 1816 he and his wife crossed to the Continent. They knew no one there and could form no plan; did not even know whether their visit would only be for a few weeks or be much prolonged.
In Paris they made a few acquaintances which led to their going to Bern and Geneva. They were about to leave the latter city again, finding no opening there, when what appeared to be a chance meeting with a young student of divinity led to their remaining two years. This student was so deeply impressed by the conversation they had together that he came again next day bringing another with him. They both proved to be in utter darkness, without hope of salvation or knowledge of the Scriptures, which they had never studied, as their studies had been directed rather to the writings of heathen philosophers. Being awakened to see their ignorance of Scripture and of the way of salvation they greatly desired instruction and this decided Robert Haldane to stay.
The burning of Servetus had not prevented the persistence of some of the doctrines he taught and the theological professors and ministers of the Church of Geneva had fallen under the influence of Socinian and Arian doctrines, with deadening consequences to spiritual life.
Taking lodgings in the Place Maurice, where two large rooms could be thrown into one, Robert Haldane held regular Bible Readings to which, in spite of being forbidden by their professors, twenty to thirty students came, who sat round a long table, with Bibles in different languages, while Haldane, speaking by interpretation, expounded the Scriptures and answered questions.
He went through the Epistle to the Romans, explaining its teaching in detail and comparing it with other Scriptures. It was new to his hearers and they were attracted by his knowledge of Scripture and entire belief in it. These readings were the means of abiding spiritual blessing to the students; many of them proved to be gifted and devoted men and became distinguished and influential in wide circles, so that the fruit of those studies and of that intercourse was far-reaching and of incalculable value.
From among them Malan the hymn writer, Merle D'Aubigné the historian, and, later, Adolph Monod, Félix Neff and others carried what they had learned there to the French-speaking world and even further. All this was not allowed to pass without opposition, and though it proved impossible to silence Robert Haldane, those ministers and students who accepted and acted upon what they had learned from the Scriptures through him, were made to suffer for it. Some were deprived of their positions, some driven out of the Church, and some even obliged to leave the country.
Robert Haldane left Geneva without having progressed beyond the doctrines of the Gospel or taught those which concern the Church. Though some knew that he had been baptized, he did not speak of it. Possibly his experience in Scotland had discouraged him. He went into France, to do at Montauban, where pastors were trained for the Protestant Church, a similar work to that which he had done in Geneva, the continuance and carrying forward of which latter was left to others. One of the young ministers in Geneva who had to suffer for following the truth was César Malan.
Malan was one of the company of ten believers who, at this period, took the Lord's Supper together for the first time outside the Established Church. Another of these, Gaussen, describes the meeting, mentioning the names of Pyt, Mejanel, Gonthier and Guers, as being also present. "It reminded us", he says, "of another Supper, that which, in 1536, another disciple of Jesus, M. Jean Guerin, distributed to some pious souls, assembled in the garden of Étienne Dadaz, at Pré l'Evêeque, and which was the first communion of the Protestants of Geneva."
The church now formed met later, among other places, in a street near the Cathedral, La Pélisserie, and the Gospel testimony which went out from it was the means of the conversion and gathering in of many. Guers, Pyt, Gonthier and others had meetings also in the same building where Froment had formerly held the school which was the beginning of the Reformation in Geneva. Another student, Du Vivier, preaching in the oratory of Carouge, proclaimed the Divinity of the Lord, the corruption of human nature, and the Atonement. This was pronounced scandalous, and to guard against any further such disorder it was enacted that no student should preach unless his sermon had first been passed by three professors of Divinity.
"A History of the Free Churches of England" Herbert S. Skeats.
"John Wesley's Journal"
"George Whitefield A Light Rising in Obscurity" J. R. Andrews.
"The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley. Reprinted from the Originals, with the last corrections of the authors; together with the Poems of Charles Wesley Not before published Collected and arranged by G. Osborne D.D."
"The Life of William Carey Shoe-maker and Missionary" George Smith C.I.E., LL.D.
"Lives of Robert and James Haldane" by Alexander Haldane.
"Letters to Mr. Ewing respecting The Tabernacle at Glasgow etc." By Robert Haldane. Edinburgh, 1809.
Thomas Campbell--A "Declaration and Address"--Alexander Campbell--Church at Brush Run--Baptism--Sermon on the Law--Republican Methodists take the name "Christians"--Baptists take the name "Christians"--Barton Warren Stone--Strange revival scenes--The Springfield Presbytery formed and dissolved--Church at Cane Ridge--The Christian Connection--Separation of Reformers from Baptists--Union of Christian Connection and Reformers--Nature of Conversion--Walter Scott--Baptism for the remission of sins--Testimony of Isaac Errett.
A minister of one of the Seceder branches of the Presbyterian Church, Thomas Campbell, left his home in the North of Ireland, on account of his health, and came to America (1807). He was well received by the Synod then sitting in Philadelphia and sent to Western Pennsylvania, where his unusual gifts and spiritual character made him acceptable. Some, however, doubted his loyalty to the "Secession Testimony" as he taught that the Scriptures alone provide the true basis of faith and conduct, and deprecated the prevailing party spirit in the churches.
Being sent to visit in a sparsely populated district in the Alleghany Mountains he received at the Lord's Supper believers who, though Presbyterians, did not belong to this particular circle. For this he was censured, and, defending his action as being in accordance with the teachings of Scripture, he was treated in so hostile a spirit as to induce him to withdraw from the Seceder body.
Many Christian people of different denominations continued to attend his ministry, being dissatisfied with the divided state of religion and sympathizing with his teaching that union could only be obtained by a return to the Bible, and that a better understanding of the difference between faith and opinion would lead to a forbearance likely to do much towards checking divisions.
In a house between Mount Pleasant and Washington a meeting was held (1509) where those present conferred as to the best means of putting these principles into practice. Thomas Campbell spoke of the evil of divisions, showing that they are not inevitable, since God has provided in His Word a standard and guide sufficient for the needs of the churches in all times. It is by building up religious theories and systems outside of the Scriptures that strife and dissension have come in, therefore it is only by a return to the teachings of the Word that true unity can be regained.
As a rule for their guidance he proposed that "where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." A Presbyterian present said, "If we adopt that as a basis, then there is an end of infant baptism," to which Thomas Campbell replied, "If infant baptism be not found in Scripture, we can have nothing to do with it." Another rose and under strong emotion, moved even to tears, exclaimed, "I hope I may never see the day when my heart will renounce that blessed saying of the Scripture, 'Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'" A prominent Independent said, "In the portion of Scripture you have quoted there is no reference whatever to infant baptism."
In spite of this immediate evidence of their divergence of view, most of those present joined in forming "The Christian Association of Washington" and appointed Thomas Campbell to prepare a statement of their aims. This, to which they all agreed, took the form of a "Declaration and Address," in which they expressed their persuasion that since no man can be judged for his brother so no man can judge for his brother, each must judge for himself and must give account of himself to God. Each one is bound by the Word of God but not by any human interpretation of it. Tired of party strife they desired to take and recommend such measures as would give rest to the churches. They despaired of finding this in a continuance of party contention or discussion of human opinions; it can only be found in Christ and His unchanging Word. Let us therefore return (they wrote) to the original pattern and take the Word of God alone as our rule. They had no intention of forming a church, but only a society for the promotion of Christian unity and of "a pure evangelical reformation, by the simple preaching of the gospel, and the administration of its ordinances in exact conformity to its Divine standard."
[Alexander Campbell 1788-1866]
When Thomas Campbell came to America he left his family behind to follow somewhat later. His wife was of Huguenot descent, and their son Alexander was preparing for ordination as a minister in the Seceder Presbyterian Church. While staying in Glasgow Alexander Campbell came into contact with the teaching and work of the brothers Haldane. These raised doubts in his mind as to the scripturalness of the control of churches by Synods and led him to accept the Congregational system as being in accordance with apostolic teaching and practice. His attachment, however, to the Seceder Church and his respect for his father's wishes kept him from any outward expression of his thoughts, but inwardly he separated from the Presbyterian system and when the time came for the half-yearly communion of the Seceders, although he passed the required examination and received the token authorizing him to partake of the Lord's Supper with the large number of communicants, he abstained from doing so, feeling that this would indicate approval of a system he could no longer accept.
When the time came for Thomas Campbell's family to cross to America, Alexander took charge of his mother and her younger children; they reached New York and travelled inland by waggon, staying at the large, commodious inns on the way. Thomas Campbell, hearing of their approach rode out from Washington to meet them. They met on the road and, travelling then together, related to each other all that had happened to them during their separation.
Neither Thomas Campbell nor his son knew that the other had left the Seceder body and each was concerned to know how the other would receive the news. When they learned that each separately and by different ways had come to the same conclusion they were strengthened, and filled with thanksgiving for the Lord's manifest leadings. When Alexander saw the "Declaration" which his father had written and heard the principles on which he was acting he found that they expressed the very convictions to which he himself had come and he determined to devote himself to the great cause of bringing about the unity of the Church by a return to the Scriptures.
Fearing that the "Christian Association" might develop into a new party, or become a church, Thomas Campbell decided to try whether the members of the Association would be allowed the privileges of Christian and ministerial communion among the Presbyterians. The Synod of Pittsburg was due to meet in October 1810 and Thomas Campbell brought before it an application, at the same time explaining the principles of the Association, and asked whether the Synod would agree to "Christian union upon Christian principles." The suggestion was refused and the activities of the Association were severely condemned. Alexander Campbell made this the occasion of a much fuller explanation and a defence of the objects of the Association. It had become clear to him that to join any party would be contrary to the principle of return to the teachings of Scripture.
In 1811 Alexander Campbell married and joined his father-in-law in farming, in which he was active and successful. Thomas Campbell also left Washington and took a farm near the village of Mount Pleasant. His farm was chiefly managed by his friendly neighbours as his own time was occupied in visiting and preaching, but his son's energies and abilities were so unusual that he could earn sufficient by farming without ceasing his spiritual labours.
The hostility of all the religious bodies to the "Christian Association" gradually convinced its members that they could not have the advantages nor perform the duties of a church unless they themselves took the position of a congregation of believers, a New Testament church. As they were not able to transform the existing churches they hoped that the example of a church outside of all parties and exhibiting the principles of the New Testament would give further effect to the truth of unity by a return to the Scriptures in which they believed.
[Church at Brush Run 1811]
This church was solemnly formed (1811) at Brush Run. An elder, an evangelist and deacons were chosen. The Lord's Supper was taken on the first day of the week, and this was done each week. There were about thirty members. Rejecting all claims to apostolic succession, they found that in each of the New Testament churches there were several elders (or bishops, or overseers) and deacons (or servants) for the building up of the church, and there were evangelists sent out to preach the truth in the world. The form of ordination was not regarded as conferring authority but as a testimony that those ordained had authority. There was no distinction of clergy and laity.
The question of baptism had been shelved. Both Thomas and Alexander Campbell thought that infant baptism had obtained such a position that it might be left. Why should those already in the church go out of it "merely for the purpose of coming in again by the regular and appointed way?" They baptized by immersion those believers who desired it. But the birth of Alexander Campbell's first child brought the question to a practical issue, and now he examined the Scriptures carefully as to this matter. He came to the conclusion that nothing else is taught in the New Testament than the baptism of believers by immersion and that this is a command of the Lord and was the apostolic practice and of such importance that it should not be set aside.
In a deep pool in Buffalo Creek, where already several members of the Brush Run church had been baptized, Alexander Campbell and his wife, his father and mother and sister, and two others were baptized (1812).
This course, while increasing the enmity of most of the religious denominations, gave pleasure to the Baptists, who proposed that the church at Brush Run should be associated with them. The Baptists in the district had formed themselves into an Association of Churches, called "Redstone," and in spite of their principle of independent congregations, their pastors, who controlled the action of the associations, exercised so great an influence that the church at Brush Run feared that its independence might be jeopardized by closer union. Also, the Baptist Association had adopted a Confession of Faith issued in 1747 by a Baptist Association in Philadelphia, which contained theories unacceptable to the Brush Run church. The Baptists themselves, however, were godly people, lovers of the Word and insistent that Alexander Campbell should come among them and minister. The Brush Run church, after consideration, put before the Redstone Association a full account of their position, their "remonstrance against all human creeds as bonds of communion or union among Christian Churches" and expressed willingness to co-operate with them if they were left free to teach and preach whatever they learned from the Holy Scriptures. This proposition was accepted by a majority of the Association. Those, however, who dissented formed a distinct opposition.
This opposition became more manifest when at a meeting of the Association at Cross Creek (1816) Alexander Campbell preached a "Sermon on the Law" in which he showed clearly the differences of the dispensations and that we are no longer under the Law but under Christ, Who is the "end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." He showed how many practices in Christendom are derived from the Old Testament, which led up to and is superseded by the New, in which latter we have the Gospel and teaching for our present age. This was so contrary to much of the teaching current among the Baptists that some of their pulpits were closed to Alexander Campbell.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were a number of spiritual movements actuated by a desire for deliverance from the theological systems and traditional practices which had so long prevailed, and by the belief that a return to the Scriptures would prove them to contain all that is needed for faith and conduct, both for the individual and for the churches.
One of these movements developed among Methodists. American independence had released them from control from abroad and as they considered the question of church government most of them agreed in establishing an episcopal system. Others argued in favour of the congregational system and desired that their churches should be according to the pattern of the New Testament. These were a minority and unable to carry through what they believed, so separated from the larger number (1793). James O' Kelly and other preachers in North Carolina and Virginia were leaders in the formation of these churches, which at first took the name of "Republican Methodists" but soon abandoned this and decided to take no name but that of "Christians". They acknowledged no head of the Church but Christ, formulated no creed or rules, but accepted the Scriptures alone for their guidance.
Soon after this a similar movement originated among Baptists. A doctor, Abner Jones and a Baptist preacher, Elias Smith, founded churches in the Eastern States, where faith and godliness were made the Basis of reception and not membership of any particular sect (from 1800). Other preachers from among the Baptists joined them and gifted men were raised up in the new churches who carried the Gospel far afield. All these took the name of "Christians" only and accepted the Scriptures alone as their sufficient guide.
[Barton Warren Stone 1772-1844]
At Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in the last decade of the eighteenth century, the early Presbyterian settlers put up a log building as their Meeting House. In 1801 their minister was Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844). Relating his own experience he wrote:"About this time my mind was continually tossed on the waves of speculative divinity, the all-engrossing theme of the religious community at that period ... I at that time believed, and taught, that mankind were so totally depraved that they could do nothing acceptable to God, till his Spirit, by some physical, almighty and mysterious power, had quickened, enlightened and regenerated the heart, and thus prepared the sinner to believe in Jesus for salvation. I began plainly to see that if God did not perform this regenerating work in all, it must be because he chose to do it for some and not for others, and that thus depended on his own sovereign will and pleasure ... this doctrine is inseparably linked with unconditional election and reprobation.... They are virtually one; and this was the reason why I admitted the decrees of election and reprobation, having admitted the doctrine of total depravity. They are inseparable....
"Often when I was ... persuading the helpless to repent and believe the gospel, my zeal in a moment would be chilled at the contradiction. How can they believe? How can they repent? How can they do impossibilities? How can they be guilty in not doing them? ... On a certain evening, when engaged in secret prayer and reading my Bible my mind came unusually filled with comfort and peace. I never recollect of having before experienced such an ardent love and tenderness for all mankind, and such a longing desire for their salvation ... for some days and nights I was almost continually praying for the ruined world ... I expressed my feelings to a pious person, and rashly remarked, 'So great is my love for sinners that, had I power, I would save them all.' The person appeared to be horror-stricken, and remarked, 'Do you love them more than God does? Why, then, does he not save them? Surely he has almighty power.' I blushed, was confounded and silent, and quickly retired to the silent woods for meditation and prayer. I asked myself, Does God love the world--the whole world? And has he not almighty power to save? If so, all must be saved, for who can resist his power? ... I was firmly convinced that according to Scripture all were not saved; the conclusion, then, was irresistible that God did not love all, and therefore it followed, of course, that the spirit in me, which loved all the world so vehemently, could not be the Spirit of God, but the spirit of delusion.... I prostrated myself before God in prayer, but it was immediately suggested, you are praying in unbelief, and 'whatsoever is not of faith is sin.' You must believe or expect no good from the hand of God. But I can not believe; as soon could I make a world. Then you must be damned, for 'he that believeth not shall be damned.' But will the Lord condemn me to eternal punishment for not doing an impossibility? So I thought ... blasphemy rose in my heart against such a God, and my tongue was tempted to utter it. Sweat profusely poured from the pores of my body, and the fires of hell gat hold on me ... in this uncommon state I remained for two or three days.
"From this state of perplexity I was relieved by the precious word of God. From reading and meditating upon it, I became convinced that God did love the whole world, and that the reason why he did not save all was because of their unbelief; and that the reason why they believed not was not because God did not exert his physical, almighty power in them to make them believe but because they neglected and received not his testimony given in the Word concerning his Son. 'These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.' I saw that the requirement to believe in the Son of God was reasonable, because the testimony given was sufficient to produce faith in the sinner, and the invitations and encouragement of the gospel were sufficient, if believed, to lead him to the Saviour, for the promised Spirit, salvation and eternal life. This glimpse of faith, of truth, was the first divine ray of light that ever led my distressed, perplexed mind from the labyrinth of Calvinism and error, in which I had so long been bewildered. It was that which led me into rich pastures of gospel liberty".
[Revivals in Kentucky and Tennessee]
At this time Stone went to see for himself something of the revival which he heard was going on in Kentucky and Tennessee. People were struck down and came into great spiritual anguish or joy; all classes were affected. After abundant and careful examination of the circumstances he was convinced that it was an awakening given by God. When he returned home to Cane Ridge and preached, the same things happened. At one meeting some 20,000 people were assembled and the meeting lasted for days. Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist preachers preached at the same time in different parts of the camp. Party spirit disappeared. About 1000 persons of all kinds experienced these strange manifestations. Good results remained after the great excitement had passed. Slaves were liberated, churches increased in numbers and in zeal.
Several Presbyterian ministers, with Stone, at this time preached the sufficiency of the Gospel to save men, and that the testimony of God was designed and able to produce faith. Stone records, "the people appeared as just awakened from the sleep of ages--they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that the refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin."
Party zeal began to revive after a time and the Presbytery of Springfield, Ohio, brought one of these preachers before the Synod at Lexington. This led to the secession of five ministers, who formed the Springfield Presbytery and declared their abandonment of all confessions and creeds and their acceptance of the Scriptures alone as the guide to faith and practice.
Stone gathered his congregation together and told them that he could no longer support any religious system but would work henceforth for the advancement of Christ's kingdom and not for any party. He gave up his salary and worked hard at his little farm, while continuing to preach.
After a year, during which he acted in unison with the Springfield Presbytery, they all came to see that such an organisation was unscriptural, so gave it up. Their reasons are recorded in a document entitled "The last Will and Testament of Springfield Presbytery." They took the name of "Christian", which they believed to have been given by Divine appointment to the disciples at Antioch.
This company, meeting thus at Cane Ridge in 1804, thought that it was the first church that had met on the original Apostolic principles since the great departure from them in the time of Constantine.
Similar churches soon multiplied and each congregation was considered as an independent church. Believers' baptism began to be taught among them and was accepted and became their practice.
[The "Christian Connection"]
The movement spread rapidly through the Western States and coming into touch with the two others in the East and South, combined with them to form the "Christian Connection," all being of one mind to leave the bondage of human creeds, take the Scripture only as their guide and walk in the simplicity of the primitive churches. These movements, arising independently of each other and only later discovering one another, had much in common with those churches where the Campbells were prominent. The churches of the "Christian Connection" were more active in preaching the Gospel and so increased more rapidly; the others were more occupied with teaching, so made more progress in knowledge.
The unusual ability and tireless activity of Alexander Campbell as editor, author, teacher, preacher, in public disputations, in educational work, in New Testament revision, and in other directions, led to a wide acceptance of his teaching.
The Baptist communities were greatly influenced by it, but those who were not prepared to accept the reform, gradually organized opposition which began to show itself in different places by a separation between the Baptists and the Reformers, and eventually the action of one of the Baptist Associations in excluding several prominent Reform preachers who worked among them, and further, in advising churches to exclude all Reformers from their communion, brought about a general separation (1832).
At the same time congregations and individuals connected with Alexander Campbell, and others associated with the older movement in which Stone was active, becoming acquainted with each other, found that their aims and principles were in most essentials alike. Where they differed they were rather complementary to each other than opposed, so that they began to coalesce. Both thought that a formal union, as between two bodies of believers, would be harmful, but in 1832 the fellowship of all these churches was acknowledged.
There had long been in these circles discussion as to the nature of conversion. It bad been generally held that man is incapable of doing anything toward his own salvation, cannot even believe except by an operation of the Holy Spirit. Therefore there was much waiting for some inward spiritual experience which would be evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Then some began to point out that man's will must be exercised, that when he bears the Gospel he is responsible to accept it by faith, and that the responsibility for refusing or neglecting it, with consequent abiding loss, also lies upon him.
Walter Scott, one of the most devoted and successful evangelists working in connection with Thomas and Alexander Campbell, and who, before them, came into close intimacy of service in the Gospel with friends of Barton Warren Stone, was strongly affected by this question. He felt that much preaching is apparently ineffectual because it is not sufficiently impressed on the hearers that they are responsible to accept Christ by faith as their Saviour on the testimony of Scripture and apart from any feelings in themselves which they might consider were evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit. He noticed in the New Testament that those who believed were baptized, they were not afraid to take that definite action. Also he considered Peter's words recorded in Acts 2. 38, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost"; and began to appeal to his hearers to come forward and be baptized "for the remission of sins", adding these words, when he baptized, to those commanded by the Lord in Matt. 28. 19. This came to be a usual practice. Scott described conversion as: (1) faith, (2) repentance, (3) baptism, (4) remission of sins, (5) receiving the Holy Spirit.
This effort to make the Gospel clear by tabulating its processes as described in Acts 2. 38, when Peter first preached to Jews and Proselytes in Jerusalem at Pentecost, certainly helped many to faith and obedience. Still, had Peter's first preaching to Gentiles at Caesarea been chosen as the example, the order might have been (Acts 10.43-48): (1) faith, (2) remission of sins, (3) receiving the Holy Spirit, (4) baptism. The mutual reactions of the Holy Spirit and of the human will, bringing about conversion, are difficult to reduce to a formula.
The fellowship of so many churches and their occupation with the Scriptures quickened the preaching of the Gospel. Many men of all classes were raised up and fitted for service. They preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and their word was effectual. Thousands were converted and added to the churches, which grew and increased with great rapidity. Their opponents liked to call them "Stonettes" or "Campbellites," but they rejected these and all sectarian names. They spoke of themselves as "Christians", "Disciples", "Churches of Christ".
[Isaac Errett 1820-1888]
One of their leaders in the second generation, Isaac Errett (1820-1888) describes them thus:"With us the divinity and Christhood of Jesus is more than a mere item of doctrine--it is the central truth of the Christian system, and in an important sense the creed of Christianity. It is the one fundamental truth which we are jealously careful to guard against all compromise. If men are right about Christ, Christ will bring them right about everything else. We therefore preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. We demand no other faith, in order to baptism and church membership, than the faith of the heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; nor have we any term or bond of fellowship but faith in the divine Redeemer and obedience to him. All who trust in the Son of God and obey Him are our brethren, however wrong they may be about anything else; and those who do not trust in the divine Saviour for salvation, and obey his commandments are not our brethren, however intelligent and excellent they may be in all beside.... In judgments merely inferential we reach conclusions as nearly unanimous as we can; and where we fail, exercise forbearance, in the confidence that God will lead us into final agreement. In matters of opinion that is, in matters touching which the Bible is either silent, or so obscure as not to admit of definite conclusions--we allow the largest liberty, so long as none judges his brother, or insists on forcing his opinions on others, or making them an occasion of strife."
These churches spread widely in Australia, were established in the United Kingdom, and reached many other countries. Tendencies towards the development of a denominational system naturally showed themselves in time. Some came to advocate drawing "missionary" work into dependence on a central organisation. The influence of the popular rationalism of the day was felt in some quarters. At times discussions as to the interpretation or application of Scripture issued in divergencies of practice. All these experiences continue to illustrate the importance of the original "restoration testimony" as to the fact that a return to the Scripture is the one way to true unity of the churches and to their power to spread in the world, by giving to it the whole Word of God.
"Memoirs of Alexander Campbell" Richardson. The Standard Press, Cincinnati, Ohio.
"Autobiography Of B. W. Stone" (The Cane Ridge Meeting House, James R. Rogers). The Standard Publishing Co., Cincinnati, Ohio.
1788-1914, 850-1650, 1812-1930, 1823-1930, 1828-1930
Mennonite and Lutheran emigration to Russia--Privileges change the character of the Mennonite churches--Wüst--Revival--Mennonite Brethren separate from Mennonite Church--Revival of Mennonite Church--Meetings among Russians forbidden--Circulation of Russian Scriptures allowed--Bible translation--Cyril Lucas--Stundists--Various avenues by which the Gospel came into Russia--Great increase of the churches--Political events in Russia lead to increased persecution--Exiles--Instances of exile and of the influence the New Testament--Decree of the Holy Synod against Stundists--Evangelical Christians and Baptists--General disorder in Russia--Edict of Toleration--Increase of churches--Toleration withdrawn--Revolution--Anarchy--Rise of Bolshevik Government--Efforts to abolish religion--Suffering and increase--Communists persecute believers--J. G. Oncken--A Baptist church formed in Hamburg--Persecution--Tolerance--Bible School--German Baptists in Russia--Gifts from America--Nazarenes--Fröhlich--Revival through his preaching--Excluded from the Church--The Hungarian journeymen meet Fröhlich--Meetings in Budapest--Spread of the Nazarenes--Sufferings through refusal of military service--Fröhlich's at teaching.
[Mennonites Emigrate to Russia]
The descendants in Holland of those churches that had been revived by the labours of Menno in the 16th century prospered much when the power of Spain there had been broken under the leadership of the Prince of Orange and its tyranny replaced by an unprecedented liberty of conscience and freedom of worship. By the 18th century they had become a wealthy body. In Prussia, however, partly because of their refusal to do military service, they were subject to such disabilities that they became poor and dejected, so that, when an offer came from the Empress Catherine II of Russia, of land in the newly-occupied regions of South Russia, with liberty of worship and freedom from military service, it was welcomed as a God-given deliverance.
The poorest were the most ready to go, and in 1788 there took place the first exodus of 228 families or some 1500 souls, who were established by the following year in the Province of Ekaterinoslav, in the Chortitza District, on the river of the same name, which flows into the Dnieper. At first they had a struggle for mere existence, but other parties followed them, including some who were better supplied with means, and diligence soon brought prosperity. The expectation of the Russian Government that these farmers would raise the standard of agriculture and of living generally, was soon fulfilled. As the rich black soil yielded its abundant harvests of grain, orderly villages grew up, their wide straight streets lined with well-built homesteads; and the surrounding Russians and Tartars saw possibilities of wealth from the land of which they had never previously dreamed. Nor were these the only immigrants. Large numbers of Lutherans, chiefly from persecuted Pietist circles in Württemberg, also came to till the land and build villages over the country.
These were the beginnings of a colonization which increased greatly. In course of time the settlements spread over the south of Russia, into the Crimea, especially along the lower reaches of the Volga, to the Caucasus, and then away into Siberia and even to Turkestan and as far as the borders of China. Unabsorbed by the surrounding populations, the colonists kept their own language, religion and customs--compact bodies scattered like islands in the sea of Orthodox Slavs and other peoples of the vast Empire.
The privileges given by the Government quickly changed the character of the Mennonite churches, for in order to share these privileges the children had to become Mennonites, and so they were received into the church, not, as before, on the ground of their confession of faith in Christ and of giving evidence of the new birth, but were baptized and became members when they reached a certain age, or married. Thus the church became a National Church, having both converted and unconverted members. Speedily the moral tone degenerated. Families which, when they came, had been distinguished by their sobriety and piety, sank into open sin of all kinds, so that drunkenness, immorality and covetousness soon prevailed. There was always a godly remnant which protested against these evils and for themselves and their people deeply repented the failure of their testimony.
Their prayers were heard and it was from an unlooked-for quarter that help came. The keeper of an inn in Murrhard, Württemberg, had a son, Eduard Hugo Otto Wüst, whom he sent to study theology. In spite of a sinful life at the University of Tübingen the young man passed the requisite examinations, and, in 1841, entered on his clerical functions in the Württemberg National Church at Neunkirchen and Riedenau. He threw himself into his work with all his natural energy, became intimate with Pietists, Moravians and Methodists, and some three years after ordination experienced a change of heart and was enabled to put away the sinful habits which still clung to him. He received the full joy of the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of being a child of God, while awaiting the dawn of the year 1845.
His preaching and Bible readings, both attractive and effectual, not only drew many around him but also aroused the envy and hatred of his fellow clergy. He was being subjected to vexatious and humiliating hindrances in his work, when through Pietist influence he received a call to a "Separatist" church at Neuhoffnung in South Russia. At the age of 28 he preached his first sermon in the church there. He was a big, strong man, with a powerful and pleasant voice and his warm sympathies attracted those with whom he came into contact. In his preaching he showed from the Scriptures what he had in his own heart experienced, the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ and the assurance of salvation those may have who put their trust in Him.
To an already overcrowded church came additional hearers from all the various circles, among them Mennonites. Wüst allowed no difference of denomination to limit his activities, so was soon holding Bible readings in Mennonite houses and preaching in their meeting rooms. A great awakening resulted. Sinners were brought to repentance and numbers of souls found peace through believing; there was a mighty turning from sin to godliness. Opposition soon showed itself. Wüst was forbidden the use of the Mennonite meeting rooms, but this did not check the progress of the revival. Difficulties arose through some who yielded themselves to excited and extravagant expressions of joy, mistaking their feelings for the leadings of the Spirit, but this feature of the movement, which could lead only to folly and sin, was eventually overcome and the good work persisted in spite of both inward and outward attacks. In 1859 Wüst died, being only in his 42nd year. In his lifetime some of the converted Mennonites took the Lord's Supper in his church with members of his own congregation.
After his death, in the same year, a number of Mennonite believers, feeling it to be no longer possible to take the Lord's Supper in their church together with the unbelievers, began to take it from time to time in private houses, with those only who confessed faith in Christ. This aroused great resentment, and although they had wished to avoid divisions, several were obliged to separate from the Mennonite church. Others soon followed and in 1860 a separate congregation of Mennonite brethren was formed.
[The Mennonite Brethren]
The old Mennonite Church now acted towards the newly-formed churches of Mennonite Brethren in the same way as the state churches had acted in former times towards their own ancestors; they condemned them and handed them over to the civil authority for punishment, asking that they might be deprived of all their rights as Mennonites, and even threatening some with banishment to Siberia. For years this question was a subject of constant negotiation with the Government, during all which time the "Brethren" suffered severely; at last the Government granted to all Mennonites their original privileges, apart from any question as to their belonging to a particular church.
The meetings of Mennonite Brethren steadily increased, and, with their growth, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were abundantly manifested among them. In their endeavour to follow the New Testament teaching and pattern in their churches they saw that the method of baptizing in the Mennonite Church, by sprinkling, was not that of the Apostles, so they introduced the baptism of believers by immersion. Later some understood that fellowship should be with all saints and not only with Mennonites, and, though they were not all of the same mind in this matter, some of the churches had liberty to receive all whom they believed to belong to Christ. Visits from ministering brethren from abroad, from different bodies, helped in this.
One result of these events was a great change in the Mennonite Church. Although it continued to include believers and unbelievers in its membership, yet the reviving which had brought so many out from it proved effectual among many who remained in its fellowship. The Gospel was preached by its ministers with saving power, the godly life of those who were converted was a constant testimony to those around, so that sin was rebuked and the general tone of society, even among the unconverted, was raised. The bitterness, too, between the "Church" and the "Brethren" gradually softened and the believers in both branches were able to enjoy fellowship in Christ in spite of their divergences of view.
The vast need of the heathen world and the responsibility of taking the Gospel among those who had not heard it began to weigh upon many hearts, with the result that missionaries were sent out to India and other parts. The rapidly increasing wealth of these colonists became a temptation to many of them to be too much occupied with material things, but there were also those who used their wealth in the fear of God and for the advancement of His kingdom. Large numbers of them had emigrated to America, so that, in various ways, their interests stretched out far beyond their first limited circle into distant parts of the world.
Along with the privileges which the Mennonites received from the Russian Government there were also obligations and limitations. In place of military service, their young men were employed a certain number of years in forestry. It was altogether forbidden to them to hold meetings among the Russians or in any way "make propaganda" among members of the Greek Orthodox Church, and this condition, on which their own liberty of meeting was granted, they accepted and observed. There was remarkable spiritual activity and blessing in their villages scattered over the wide Russian steppes. Many Russian workpeople were employed by the Mennonites; some of these were present at the family worship daily held in the homes of the believers and there heard the Word of God. In the daily intercourse of men meeting each other on the farm or at market, and of women coming together in the house or on the fields, the Gospel became the subject of conversation.
The Russians did not know the Scriptures, read in their churches in the ancient Slav tongue no longer understood; as there was no preaching, only the ritual regularly gone through, and the beautiful singing, they remained, with their priests, in comparative ignorance of the Divine revelation. The Orthodox Church, however, did not oppose the circulation of the Scriptures, but taught the people to regard the Bible as a holy book, the book of God. There was therefore an eager interest on the part of these Russians--a naturally religious people--to hear the unknown contents of the book they revered, and as the wonderful Gospel story reached them it was gladly received in many hearts.
[Old Slavonic Bible Translations]
As with many other nations, so among the Slav peoples also, the Bible was the beginning of literature. It was in order to bring the Bible to them that Cyril, in the 9th century, devised the Cyrillic alphabet, combining some Greek with the old Glagolitic characters in order to express the sounds of the Slavonic languages, and translating a great part of the New Testament. His companion, Methodius, laboured to preserve the right to use it when it was threatened by the advocates of Latin. From Moravia, where it originated, this old Slavonic Bible language spread, and became, rather than Greek, the church language of most of the countries of the Greek Orthodox Church. As the various branches of the Slav languages developed, the old language was no longer understood by the people, but in the 11th century the Russian ruler of Kiev, Yaroslav, translated parts of the Bible into the language spoken by his people.
It was the study of the Scriptures which led a shepherd and a deacon in the 14th century to preach at Pskov and afterwards in Novgorod, where crowds gathered to the fair. They showed that the priests of the Orthodox Church did not receive the Holy Spirit at their ordination and that there was no value in the sacraments they administered; that a church is an assembly of true Christians which can choose its own elders; that the members may take the Lord's Supper among themselves and baptize, and that every Christian may preach the Gospel. As usual in Russia, the Scriptures might be read but not acted upon, so their followers were suppressed and scattered.
In 1499 the Archbishop of Novgorod collected various Slavonic translations and published the whole Bible, which was printed in a complete form in Ostrog in 1581.
[Cyril Lucas (Lucar) 1572-1638]
The Greek Orthodox Church differed from the Roman Catholic Church in that it had not gone through any experience comparable to the Reformation, but an attempt to introduce the principles of the Reformation into it was made, and that in the highest quarters. Cyril Lucas (1572-1638), a native of Crete, was known as the most learned man of his day. He was made successively Patriarch of Alexandria (1602) and Patriarch of Constantinople (1621). It was he who discovered on Mount Athos a fifth century M.S. which was then the oldest Greek Bible known. He sent it from Alexandria to Charles I, King of England, and it is in the British Museum, known as the Codex Alexandrinus. While still Patriarch of Alexandria Cyril began a careful comparison of the doctrines of the Greek, Roman and Reformed churches with the Scriptures and decided to leave the Fathers, and accept the Scriptures as his guide.
Finding the teaching of the Reformers more in accordance with the Scriptures than those of the Greek or Roman churches he published a "Confession" in which he declared himself in many respects one with the Reformers. "I can no longer endure", he said, "to hear a man say that the comments of human tradition are of equal weight with Holy Scripture". He vigorously denounced the doctrine of transubstantiation and the worship of images. He taught that the one true Catholic Church must include all the faithful in Christ, but, he said, there are visible churches in different places and at different times; these are capable of error and the Holy Scriptures are given as an infallible guide and authority to which we must always return; so he commended the constant study of Scripture, which the Holy Spirit will enable those who are born again to understand as they compare one part of it with another.
Such teachings coming from such a source excited great discussion, and Cyril Lucas was involved in strenuous conflict. Five times he was banished and as often recalled. The Sultan's Grand Vizier trusted and supported him, but this, while enabling him to keep his position, injured his testimony, as it was felt to be incongruous that a Christian teacher should depend for support on a Mohammedan politician. At a Synod of the Greek Church held in Bethlehem a general confirmation of the old order in the Orthodox Church was reached, deprecating reform. But the most effective opposition to this Greek Reformer came from the Latin Church, which through Jesuit intrigues repeatedly hindered his work, and at last by misrepresenting him in his absence to the Sultan Amurath, as this latter was marching on Bagdad, obtained a hasty order for his death and he was strangled with a bowstring in Constantinople and his body cast into the sea. After his death Synod after Synod condemned his doctrines.
In 1812, the Czar Alexander I encouraged the establishment of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Russia, giving it special privileges, and a large number of branches were opened extending to the remotest parts of the Empire. There was an eager desire to obtain the Scriptures in the various languages spoken in the Empire, especially among those who spoke Russian, and the sales continually increased. The effect of this reading was wonderful, great numbers being turned from ignorance and sin to become diligent and whole-hearted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. This naturally aroused opposition and the Holy Synod became active in hindering as far as possible the spread of the Scriptures, but until the establishment of the Bolshevik Government there remained many facilities for supplying a longing people with the Word of God.
The meetings of the German colonists were called in their own language "Stunden", and as the Russians began to meet together for reading the Scriptures and prayer, they were called by way of reproach "Stundists" that is, those who forsook their church for the "meeting". They did not themselves use this name but called each other brethren.
Reading the Scriptures was for these Russians an extraordinary revelation and power. They saw that the religious system in which they had been brought up had held them in ignorance of God and of His salvation in Christ. Repentance for their sins, which were many, was complete and unreserved. Their acceptance of Christ as their Saviour and Lord was in fulness of faith and love. Seeing the entire disagreement between the Russian Church and the teachings of Scripture, they left the former and attached themselves to the latter to the full extent of their knowledge.
Baptism was practised in different ways by the German colonists, but at the first none of them baptized by immersion; in the Greek Church baptism was indeed by immersion but was administered to infants. The Russian believers went to the Word and, uninfluenced by the practices that prevailed around them, came straightway to the conviction that the New Testament teaching and pattern was the baptism of believers by immersion, and in their thorough consistency immediately put this into practice, so that it became universal among those who believed. They apprehended, too, that the breaking of bread was the Lord's command and was for believers only, and on this apprehension they also acted. The clerical system of the Orthodox Church disappeared as they understood from the Scriptures the constitution of the Church and the churches, the priesthood of all believers, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the gifts and the liberty of ministry He gives for rule in the churches, for edifying the saints, and for spreading the Gospel among all men.
This movement, called Stundist by those outside, rapidly became so extensive, each group of converts becoming at once a church and centre from which the testimony radiated further, that it was evident the work of the Spirit wrought among the foreign colonists had been but the introduction and beginning of a far greater work having hold of the masses of the Russian people. But the liberty of worship granted to the colonists was not accorded to the native citizens of the country, and the Russian churches had from the very beginning to endure persecution, which yet could not check their patient enthusiasm.
[Bohnekamper and Russian Churches]
Although the Mennonites were so important a means of introducing the Gospel which was to prevail throughout wide areas of Europe and Asia, yet they were not the only agency employed. Bohnekämper, sent by the Basic Mission to the Caucasus and expelled from that country, took a position as pastor in a German colony near Odessa, where he held Bible readings in Russian for the workpeople who came from many parts to work in the harvest and then carried back to their homes the Word they had received.
Members of the Society of Friends, as Étienue de Grellet, William Allen and others, visited St. Petersburg and had intercourse there with the Czar Alexander I, influencing him in favour of the completion of the translation of the Bible into Russian. The Czar related to these Friends how he had never seen a Bible until he was forty years of age, but when at that time he was directed to it he devoured it, discovering there the expression of all his troubles as though he had described them himself; that from it he had received the inward light he possessed and had found it to be the unique source of the knowledge which saves. This experience made him willing to support the suggestions made by the Friends and to give facilities for the introduction and sale of the Scriptures in Russia, which were of incalculable value.
["Vassilij Ivanovitch" Melvile]
A Scotchman, Melville, known in Russia as Vassilij Ivanovitch, an agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, devoted sixty years of his life to the circulation of the Scriptures in the Caucasus and South Russia, and not only to the distribution of the books, but also to the application of their contents to the consciences of those who bought them. He remained unmarried and made the spread of the Word of God in those countries his one object, in which he was a leader and example to many devoted colporteurs who followed in his footsteps.
The coming of a New Testament into a district has often been the means of the conversion of souls, the formation of a church and the further spread of the Gospel, before the existence of other brethren carrying out the Scriptures has been discovered. Examples of this have been met with in many places from Northern Siberia to the Southern shores of the Caspian.
From another side came Kascha Jagub, a Nestorian from Persia, who, by the help of the American Mission, came into Russia, developed a great gift for evangelization, especially among the poor, and, under the Russian name of Jakov Deljakovitch, travelled and preached throughout Russia and Siberia for nearly thirty years in the latter part of the 19th century.
[Lord Radstock and Col. Paschkov]
Another class was reached by Lord Radstock, who, setting out from England in 1866, visited many lands, making known the Gospel, and came to St. Petersburg. There he held Bible readings in the houses of some of the aristocracy and a mighty work of the Spirit was manifested. Numbers belonging to the highest circles were converted as they listened to his simple, straightforward expositions of Scripture, enforced by illuminating illustrations. Souls were affected even in the Imperial family and household. These believers carried out the teachings of the Word as consistently as the farmers and workpeople in the South, with whom they were soon in brotherly communion; they were baptized and observed the breaking of bread, and in their palaces the poorest and most ignorant Christians sat side by side with the highest in the land, united by the bond of a common life in Christ.
Among those converted was a wealthy landowner, Colonel Vassilij Alexandrovitch Paschkov. He gave the ballroom of his palace for meetings and himself preached the Gospel everywhere, in prisons and hospitals as well as in meeting-places and houses. He used his great wealth in distributing the Scriptures, publishing tracts and books, helping the poor and in every way furthering the kingdom of God. Paschkov was forbidden to hold meetings in his house (1880). As he continued to do so he was banished, by the influence of the Holy Synod, first from St. Petersburg and later from Russia, and much of his property confiscated.
The German Baptists had spread into Russia from Germany and become numerous in Poland and many other parts, but had liberty only on condition that they confined their ministry to Germans or others not of the Orthodox Church. Their influence, however, led in time to the establishing of congregations of Russian Baptists which also spread with great rapidity. The chief difference between these and the other churches was that the Baptist churches belonged to a definite federation or organization of churches, while the others looked upon each church as an independent congregation in direct dependence on the Lord, the communion between the different churches being maintained by personal intercourse and the visits of ministering brethren. Also, among the Baptists each church had, as far as possible an appointed pastor, while among the others there was liberty of ministry and the elders were chosen among themselves.
So through various avenues the Gospel came into those immense territories, but, once received, it was taken up by the Russians themselves, and was never a "foreign mission" or a foreign institution among them. They apprehended from the first that the Word of God was for them, immediately, without the intervention of any Society or Mission, and that the responsibility of the ministry of reconciliation was committed to them. This responsibility with all its cost and all its suffering they undertook with a whole-hearted zeal that nothing could quench. On this account the Gospel spread, and continues to spread, over those continents in a way altogether different from what is possible where the work is maintained and controlled by a foreign Missionary Society. The churches in Russia are now to be counted by thousands and their members by millions.
From their early beginnings these churches had been subject to irregular persecution but this became more general and more severe owing to developments in the political situation. The autocratic form of government, with its harsh suppression of individual liberty, led to the formation of secret societies, the aim of which was to break the existing tyranny by any means, however ruthless, and the murders and outrages of these Nihilists terrified the ruling class into still more drastic measures of repression. The Czar, Alexander II, was personally desirous of reform though he did not realize the gravity of the gathering storm of resentment and indignation caused by centuries of unrestrained oppression. Yet he was seriously occupied in bringing in important changes in this direction when, in 1881, he was blown to pieces by a Nihilist bomb in the streets of St. Petersburg, and a violent reaction to the most complete absolutism resulted. His successors, with their advisers, set themselves to crush, not only the desperate revolutionaries, but also every kind of divergence from their ideal of a Holy Russia with absolute autocratic government in State and Church. Political dissenters, the non-Russian elements in the population of the Empire, especially the Jews, the Universities, too, and many others came under the rod, and it was evident that the churches of believers outside the Orthodox Church would not be spared.
[The Rising Persecution of Believers]
In Pobiedonostsef, the head of the Holy Synod, they found a bitter and consistent adversary. Imprisonment, fines and exile were their lot, while the priests incited the people to attack and maltreat them and to destroy their homes and their goods. Their meetings were forbidden, and when they were found coming together secretly for prayer and reading the Scriptures their gatherings were forcibly broken up and arrest and punishment followed. Increasing numbers, especially of the elders and leaders of the churches, were banished to Siberia or the Caucasus. This proved to be a means of spreading the testimony, for wherever these exiles went they were witnesses for Christ.
Sometimes the disciples were brought before courts and formally condemned and sentenced, often they were exiled by administrative order, and then no accusation or trial was required. Banishment was an especially cruel punishment. Heavy chains were fastened on the hands and feet of those condemned, those on the feet being so long that the prisoner had to lift and carry them in his hands in order to walk. The hundreds of miles to the places of banishment were, in the earlier years, covered on foot; later, many were sent by rail in waggons into which air and light entered only through a small, closely barred opening. If means were available, the wives and children of the exiles might accompany them into exile. All were at the mercy of the rough and brutal soldiery which drove the wretched train of criminals, mingled with political and religious dissenters, adding to their misery with the cruel knout and anything else caprice suggested.
The prisons on the way were the halting places. There different bands were collected until the order for the further march was given, waiting sometimes hours and sometimes months. These prisons were terribly overcrowded; often at night there was not room for all to lie upon the floor so that they had to lie one on top of another. There was no sanitary accommodation nor any means of washing, while the lice and other vermin swarming over the prisoners, who were often covered with sores, added to their wretchedness. The food was of the worst, nor was there refuge for any man, woman, or child, from any injustice or outrage those in charge of them might like to inflict. There were some humane men among the officials, but they could do little against the crushing system of which they formed a part.
In the distant places of their banishment the exiles had to maintain themselves as best they could. They were not allowed to leave the town or village allotted to them, where sometimes they did not understand the language spoken. Large numbers died of the privations and cruel treatment they received on the way and never reached their destination. When banishment was not for life a term of years was set, but frequently, when this had expired and the captive looked for liberty, a further term was added. In countless Russian villages and in all the towns, year after year, the conflict was carried on.
On the one side, an ever-increasing number of people, of all classes, who through the Scriptures had found in Christ their Saviour and their Lord and were set on following Him and on making the Word of God their guide in all things; on the other side, all the resources and power of the vast Russian Empire used to make this impossible, to compel these Christians to deny the faith and to return to the dead forms and idolatries from which Christ had set them free. All these powers, Imperial and Orthodox, failed before the indomitable patience and burning zeal of the saints.
[Frederick Baedeker 1823-1906]
At the very time that these persecutions were going on the sale of the New Testament was favoured and there were instances where, through personal influence in the highest quarters, permission was obtained to visit the prisons and distribute the Book, Dr. Baedeker being one who was devoted and untiring in this service; but those who acted on its precepts were treated as criminals and suffered accordingly.
Among countless incidents on record a few may give some faint impression of the whole. In Poland a young man attended meetings where he heard the Gospel preached and was converted to Christ from his careless, sinful life. He could not help telling others of the salvation he had found and a number of sinners turned to God. He became one of a group of fourteen young men who were exiled to a place beyond Irkutsk in Siberia. Of these, seven died on the way, the remainder were kept three and a half years in prison and then liberated. Six of them died very soon of consumption contracted in prison. The one who was left, having lost all touch with his people in Poland (though he had been married there and had left his wife and baby son behind) and being without means for accomplishing the long journey back, got work as a blacksmith and remained in Siberia. He did not cease to witness for Christ and a church was founded and grew and prospered in the place where he was.
A young woman living with her parents, well-to-do farmers, was converted and was diligent in speaking to her friends and neighbours of the Saviour. She was sentenced to life-long banishment to Siberia. It was made possible for her to take the journey by rail. When the prisoners' wagon in which Maria was known to be, came to the station nearest to her home, a large crowd of relations and sympathizers gathered round. Only a glimpse of her face could be seen as she pressed it to the thick bars of the small opening, but she could better see them. "I love you", she said, "Father, Mother, brothers, sisters, friends, I shall never see you again, but do not think that I regret what I have done; I am glad to suffer for my Saviour's sake, who suffered all things for me". The train moved on, she was not heard of again, but a boy in the crowd went home weeping and soon decided to follow Christ himself. He grew up to be an effectual preacher of the Gospel through whom many were brought to the obedience of faith.
A peasant living in a village some distance north of Omsk where the openings in the great forests of larch and silver-birch give room for cultivation, was called up for military service and took part in the Japanese war. From a comrade he obtained a New Testament, in reading which he became a new man. His former drunken and wicked habits were changed into the sobriety and honesty and peace becoming a Christian. When he returned to his native village the change was noticed, but his friends were less struck by his altered conduct than by what seemed to them to be his loss of religion, since he took no part in the ceremonies of the Orthodox Church nor did he keep the usual ikons or holy pictures in his house. He took to reading his Testament with a neighbour, who also accepted Christ by faith and showed it in his changed life. This alarmed the priest, upon whose advice the second farmer was caught and beaten by his father and brothers until they supposed that he was dead. His wife, however, dragged him into their hut and nursed him back to life. In the meantime others, hearing the contents of this Testament, followed Christ, and those that believed met on every possible occasion for the reading of the book. They found as they read that it was the practice of the early disciples to baptize those that believed, so they went to the river Irtish which flowed past their village of disorderly scattered huts, and there the ex-soldier began to baptize, and he and others continued this as occasion required. They understood as they read, from the beginning, that they were a church, such as is described in the Scriptures, gifts of the Holy Spirit were evident among them, there were elders, fitted to guide, teachers, evangelists indeed each was in some way helpful to the whole. Each first day of the week they met and remembered the Lord's death in the breaking of bread, having found this also as they read.
The priest and his sympathizers took such measures as seemed to them suitable to check the movement. Windows and doors of the believers' houses were broken, they themselves were beaten, their cattle were driven away, all kinds of injuries were inflicted and were borne with patience and courage and made a constant occasion of prayer. When about half the inhabitants of the village had been added to the church such violence could not be continued. Then the priest had recourse to asserting that the new religion was only the idea of an ignorant Russian moujik, or peasant, that no intelligent people believed such things.
One day four strangers drove into this remote village and were surprised when their carriage was surrounded by the people, who drew them out and into their houses, plying them with questions more quickly than they could answer them. Soon the whole village was gathered together and each of these strangers, one after the other, declared that he had been saved by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that his aim now was to act in all things in obedience to the Word of God. This gave great joy to the brethren in the village, they would not have been turned aside had these visitors spoken otherwise, but it was a confirmation of faith to find that they were brethren, and many who had still hesitated confessed Christ. A further supply of Scriptures was brought in and as long as these brethren stayed Bible study was the eager occupation of the church almost continually, day and night.
A working man in South Russia was a diligent and faithful helper in the congregation of believers in the place where he lived. On this account he had much to suffer, and one night his hut was surrounded by armed police who broke into it and brutally ill-treated him and his wife and children. He was arrested and taken away. The wife gave birth to a child and died, the child also. There were four children left, the eldest a girl of about 13. They had now only one object in life, and that was to find and rejoin their father. They learned that he had been banished to Vladikavkas in the Caucasus, and determined to follow him there. Slowly they crossed the wide steppes, sometimes helped by the brethren and sometimes begging as they went.
On reaching Vladikavkas they found that their father had been forwarded to Tiflis. The believers kept them and refreshed them, and then set them out on the fine mountain road up the valley of the Terek; they saw the great massif of Kasbek and descended the sunny southern slopes of the Caucasus range to Tiflis. Here they were kindly received by the brethren, Russian, Armenian and German, but were told that their father had just been sent further to a remote part, among the Tartars, near the Persian frontier. They could go no further, but, seeing their distress, two brethren undertook to follow the father, carry supplies to him, and assure him that his children would be cared for. They reached the town just after his arrival, only to learn that having at last come to his place of exile, broken in health and heart, he had lain down and died.
[Families broken up, Decree of 1893]
In 1893 a decree was published giving regulations arrived at some time before by the Holy Synod, meeting under the presidency of Pobiedonostsef, according to which the children of Stundists were to be taken away from their parents and given over to relatives in the Orthodox Church, failing whom, they were to be put under the charge of the local clergy. The names of the members of this sect were to be made known to the Minister of Communications who was to post up the lists of names in the offices and workshops of the railways, so that they might find no employment there. Any employer having a Stundist in his service would be liable to a heavy fine. Stundists were forbidden either to rent or purchase land. It was forbidden to all "sectaries" to remove from one place to another. They were declared legally incapable of carrying on banking or commerce. Leaving the Orthodox Church was to be punished by the loss of civil rights and with exile, at the least with a year and a half in a Reformatory. Preachers and authors of religious works were to be punished with 8 to 16 months' imprisonment; in case of a repetition of the offence, with 32 to 48 months in a fortress; the third time with exile. Anyone spreading heretical doctrines, or assisting those who did so, was to be punished with banishment to Siberia, Transcaucasia or some other distant part of the Empire.
The Baptists, being an organized body, received at times a measure of toleration not granted to those often called "Evangelical Christians", among whom each congregation was an independent church. These latter, having no earthly head or centre, could not be brought under Government influence or control even to the limited extent possible in the case of the Baptist federation. Increasing pressure was put upon them to organize and to appoint some representative with whom the Government could treat; some yielded in order to obtain relief; but others refused on the ground that such a course would draw them away from direct dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ and responsibility to Him.
Repressive measures in Russia generally grew, and were answered by further outrages. The Japanese war did not arouse enthusiasm and its failure awakened hopes of successful revolution. Strikes and rioting broke out in many places, and a general strike of railway workers paralyzed communications. Small, insufficient reforms only increased the irritation, and attacks of Tartars on Armenians fomented in the Caucasus, or of Russian mobs on Jews, or of the Baltic peoples on the German-Russians there, led to dreadful massacres while in no way checking revolutionary activities, and soon Russia was in disorder from end to end.
Compelled by events, the unwilling Government yielded large measures of reform and among these an edict of the Czar in 1905 granted liberty of faith and conscience and also freedom of meeting. Pobiedonostsef retired and the Metropolitan of the Russian Church declared: "True faith is obtained by the grace of God, through instruction, humility and good examples; on this account the use of force is denied to the Church, which does not count it needful to hold erring children fast against their will. Therefore the Orthodox Church has nothing against the rescinding of the law forbidding to separate from the Orthodox Church."
[Liberty Given and Withdrawn]
Large and immediate use was made of the new liberty. Meetings were held everywhere--crowded with hearers who seemed as though they never could hear enough of the Word. Great numbers confessed Christ. The preaching was often punctuated by the responses of the hearers; many would fall on their knees or on their faces; when there was prayer they could not wait for each other, but many would be praying aloud at the same time, and this was intermingled with responses, confession of sins, thanksgiving for salvation. Many hidden companies of believers came to light and it became evident that the number of the Lord's disciples was far larger than had been supposed. Hindrances to the study of the Word being removed, Bible readings and expositions of Scripture increased on all hands. There was the same desire as before to carry out the Word of God in every way, and gifts of the Spirit for the ministry were manifested among the believers, and that from all classes and positions.
This liberty did not last long. As the Government and the Orthodox Church regained power the concessions wrung from them were withdrawn, persecution began again in the accustomed way, and in a short time the believers and the churches were suffering as before. When, in 1914, the war broke out which was to involve so great a part of the world, a number of elder brethren among the "Evangelical Christians" and of Baptist pastors were banished to Siberia and to the shores of the White Sea. In 1917 the Revolution began, before which, in so short a time, the Czar and his Ministers, the Orthodox Church and all the old Russia fell, and a new era made its stormy entrance.
[The Russian Revolution]
At the beginning of the Russian Revolution religious liberty was proclaimed, but the country, after such long oppression and suffering, added to now by the losses of war, was thrown into further disorder by the struggles of conflicting parties striving for rule. In large districts there was absolute anarchy, armed bands of ruffians subjecting the helpless people to frightful outrage. As the Bolshevik party gained control, the introduction of its principles was accompanied by wholesale murder, robbery and destruction. Famine soon appeared and this vast country, once so rich in food supplies, became a veritable sepulchre. The Bolshevik Government set itself to destroy utterly all religion of every kind, so that the Orthodox Church, once the persecutor, became now the persecuted. The Roman Catholics, too, and the Lutherans, had to suffer in their turn, and the congregations of believers with the rest.
In South Russia bands of brigands sometimes grew to the size of armies; they were attracted by the wealth of the Mennonites, who suffered so terribly from them that many of the men, in spite of their traditions, followed the example of others and joined the companies formed for the protection of the women and children. The experiences of the brethren were as in the early days. As, then, James was killed "with the sword" while Peter was delivered from prison, so, now, some had miraculous deliverances while others were allowed to suffer all that the wickedness of men could inflict upon them. Many thought they were living in the days of the "great tribulation".
[Blessing in spite of Anarchy]
Yet there was great power with the Gospel; large numbers were converted, including the most desperate sinners, soldiers of the Red Army, so degraded that they had ceased to take pleasure in anything but shedding blood. Suffering saints were greatly sustained; it was often said by those who had passed through every extremity of misery and outrage: "Do not pity us, we have rather reason to pity you, for we have learned things about God that you cannot know".
When the first rage of murder was over, and people began to accommodate themselves as best they could to the new form of tyranny which had replaced the old, the churches of those that believed found themselves face to face with new forms of trial. Greatly increased in numbers, they had at times, and in some places, considerable liberty, and they increased more rapidly than ever before, though always liable to a return of ruthless repression. The anti-Christian propaganda of the Government called for special gifts and ability on the part of the evangelists and others who had to meet it, and these were abundantly given to them. The unorganized congregations were pressed by promises and threats to join in a "Soviet" or Federation with which the Government could deal in a way that it could not with a multitude of independent churches; many yielded, but many chose to continue in the way they saw to be according to the teaching of the Word and Apostolic example, accepting the deprivations and losses that accompanied it.
Rationalism already showed itself a persecuting power in Wurttemberg when the Pietist pastors were driven out. But a much greater development was exhibited under Soviet rule, where atheism was imposed upon the people by force; violence and cruelty were used to compel them to profess the belief that there is no God. Then the devastating German invasion (1941) and the resistance to it brought about rapid and fundamental changes and developments which had an important part in moderating religious persecution, and an increasing measure of toleration and liberty of conscience was obtained. The vast extent of Russia and the character of many of its inhabitants give special importance to these developments. Multitudes who were illiterate now read; an agricultural people has seen a feverishly rapid introduction of industry; and to give spiritual liberty to such is likely to unleash energies of immense and salutary importance.
What has passed current for history has been so successful in confounding those godly men who practised the baptism of believers only with the authors of the sinful extravagances of Münster in the 16th century, that when in 1834 some ten men and women living in Hamburg were baptized as believers, by immersion, in accordance with what they believed to be the teaching of Scripture, the prejudice against it was so strong that the baptism had to take place secretly, at night, in order to avoid menacing interruption.
[Johann Oncken 1800-1884]
One of those baptized was Johann Gerhard Oncken, and his inclusion in the company was of unforeseen importance, for he originated Baptist churches, which, after early struggles against bitter prejudices, spread rapidly through Germany and adjacent lands, into South--Eastern Europe and into vast Russia, so that their members came to be counted by hundreds of thousands.
Oncken's life covered most of the 19th century; he was born in 1800 and lived until 1884. He was a native of the little Duchy of Varel, ruled by the Bentinck family, a branch of which crossed to England with William of Orange and became famous here. Oncken's father was concerned in one of the patriotic risings against Napoleon and had to escape to England, where he died, never having seen his son Johann Gerhard, who was born just after his father's flight.
The Lutheran church in Varel had come at this time under the influence of Rationalism and the young man grew up without the knowledge of the way of salvation. When he was 14 a Scotsman doing business in Varel liked the lad and asked him whether he had a Bible. "No", said he, "but I have been confirmed". The Scotsman gave him a Bible, and also took him with him to Scotland. There, in a Presbyterian church, he first clearly heard the Gospel, and was impressed. Later, in London, living in a godly family, he was further affected, especially by their family worship and by the preaching in the Congregational church to which they belonged; and at last, listening to a sermon in Great Queen Street Methodist chapel, he found assurance of salvation and a joy in the Lord which led him from the first day to be a witness for Christ and to try to bring others to the Saviour.
In 1823 he returned to Hamburg, appointed as their missionary to Germany by "The Continental Society" founded shortly before in London for evangelical work on the Continent of Europe. He soon showed gifts as a preacher which attracted increasing numbers, and conversions took place as he announced the Gospel in rooms and various places up and down the city. Opposition to what people called "the English religion" involved him in fines and imprisonments, but his activities continued. He opened a Sunday School; and, having always been active in distributing the Scriptures, in 1828 he also became agent for the Edinburgh Bible Society, a position he occupied for fifty years, printing and distributing in that time two million Bibles.
Studying the Scriptures himself, Oncken gradually came to the conviction that the New Testament teaches the baptism by immersion of believers, and as he considered the numbers of converts and of friends with whom he was associated the thought shaped itself in his mind that these should be gathered into churches on the New Testament pattern, by which he understood that none but believers baptized by immersion should be admitted as members. Although several, after studying the Scriptures together, had decided to be baptized they were hindered in carrying out their project by the difficulty of finding anyone to baptize them. Some of their number suggested that they should organize churches in the meantime without baptism and take the Lord's Supper together. Oncken, however, thought this would be a bad beginning and likely to spoil the whole movement from the first. After waiting five years they came into touch with an American Baptist, Professor Sears, who baptized them, and on the following day those baptized formed themselves into a church and chose Oncken as their pastor, whom Sears then ordained.
The civil authorities in Hamburg soon announced their intention not to tolerate this new "sect" in their city, and Oncken and others had to undergo fines and imprisonment. One place where they were imprisoned was the Winserbaum, a prison building washed on two sides by the water, an unhealthy and evil-smelling place.
Capable fellow-workers joined Oncken, among them Julius Köbner, the son of a Jewish Rabbi in Denmark, a hymn writer and preacher, also Gottfried Wilhelm Lehmann, baptized in Berlin with five others, by Oncken, who then organized them as the first Baptist church in that city. The work spread rapidly, accompanied by persecutions, chiefly fines and imprisonment imposed by the authorities, but also at times violence of the people. Gradually the confidence of the authorities was gained and persecution lessened. In 1856 the Hamburg church was given full toleration, and in 1866 all religious denominations were declared to be on an equality in that city.
Oncken and Köbner began to give short courses in Bible study to young men in order to prepare them to become pastors of the churches that were springing up. From this beginning the Hamburg Baptist College developed, giving a four years' course of training to those about to become pastors. The growing movement was organized in the different countries to which it spread, annual conferences of delegates were held and committees of "managing brethren" appointed to attend to various business. Large financial help was given from America. Oncken was made a missionary of the American Baptist Missionary Society, and so enabled to travel extensively, support being given to the College and other organizations and to the work generally. At the same time the converts of different nationalities took their share in the burdens.
As churches of German Baptists grew up among the large German population of Russia they came into touch with older companies of Russian believers who also practised believers' baptism, and in many instances the German Baptists succeeded in absorbing these into their organization, so that the numerous Russian churches came to be divided into two great streams. The original Russian churches maintained the independence of each congregation, whereas the Baptists formed a federation affiliated with Churches in Germany and America. The Baptists aimed at having a pastor over each church, and the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper lay chiefly in his hands; the older Russian churches had elders in every church and emphasized the priesthood of all believers and liberty of ministry. The experiences of the different congregations were affected by these points. The Government favoured the Baptist system, because it was easier to deal with pastors locally, and with an organization generally which had a visible centre and head, than with the brethren who maintained their independent, congregational principle, for they were less easily influenced by pressure from without. On this account the authorities, who often imposed on the latter the name "Evangelical Christians", tried in various ways to oblige them to organize and appoint a central Committee and President.
The question, too, of the acceptance of large gifts from American Baptists was diversely judged. It was evident that the Russian Baptists were greatly helped in their work by these gifts, and a proposal was made that they might be extended to those congregations of Brethren who did not take the name Baptist. The liberal and kindly offer was made that, should such gifts be accepted, no name would be imposed upon them nor any change required in their church government or in any other way, only they would be counted in the World Union of Baptist Churches.
A section of the brethren and of the meetings they belonged to was in favour of accepting this important help, but the greater number declined it, because, while they recognized and appreciated the love and generosity that prompted the gift, they felt that the acceptance of it would place them under an obligation, would alter their circumstances in a way that could not fail eventually to exercise an influence on their course, would tend to draw them away from their entire, manifest dependence on God, and would give colour to the accusation that they represented a foreign religion and a foreign power: whereas they believed that the principles of Scripture are applicable to all countries alike and to all circumstances, as much to the poverty of Russia as to the wealth of America.
The traveller through Central and Southern Europe cannot but be struck by the number of villages he passes, and may sometimes wonder what is going on in these groups of human dwellings, often so uncouth in appearance, differing so completely from the better known surroundings of the town dwellers. They are often the scene of vivid spiritual experiences, and here also are many who are seriously affected by the importance of personal and corporate obedience to the Word of God.
In Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Roumania are numerous congregations of people who call themselves "Nazarenes". They live so quietly, so much to themselves, that they would hardly ever be heard of except for their constant conflict with the various Governments, due to their absolute refusal to bear arms.
Of themselves they write:"The Apostles preached repentance and faith; such as believed were added unto the people of the Lord.... Their brothers in the faith were to be found throughout all the centuries--here and there.... To-day there still exists a people--God's own--whose members are dispersed all over the world, living quietly and in seclusion, far away from politics, far away from the pleasures of the world.... Although they are not bound together by race, by origin, or by speech, nor by economic, political, or any other kind of bond, they are firmly united among themselves by a mighty spiritual bond, by divine love.... They too became members of this people, God's own, by a spiritual re-birth.... They are wedded to their Redeemer and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and they serve Him with soul and body, because He has bought them with His own blood from the world.... His divine teaching is their guidance for life.
"The bright glory of Christ's teaching dimmed.... Then it was that God awakened in Switzerland, in the year 1828, a true and faithful witness in the person of the preacher S. H. Fröhlich, who entered into the 'new life in Christ' by his re-birth.... It was he who re-lit the candles with the bright light of the Gospel. On that account he was dismissed from his office or parsonage, in 1830. He began to preach the pure Gospel and brought together many believers in congregations. He evangelized from Switzerland up to the city of Strasburg, where he died in the year 1857, a true and faithful servant of the Lord.... The Jews called the Apostle Paul 'a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes' ... the 'believers in Christ' are called 'Nazarenes' in Austria, in Hungary and in the Balkans, to this very day".
Born in Brugg, Aarau, in the year 1803, Samuel Heinrich Fröhlich studied theology in Zürich and Basle and became a Rationalist. Unbelief led to sin and made him an opponent of the Moravian Brethren and of such as held Bible readings for the study of the Greek New Testament; indeed of all who aimed at spiritual reviving. But when about 22 years of age he was awakened; he now realized his unfitness for his calling as a preacher. He vowed faithfulness to God and endeavoured to overcome sin, yet only found himself involved the more in failure and misery. In the woods and on the mountains he prayed and cried to God for help, but found none, until he was able to look to Jesus and found peace in Him. In his father's house he prepared himself diligently for his examination. His evangelical leanings displeased his examiners, and delayed his ordination, which, however, took place in 1827.
During short periods in different parishes his study of the Scriptures led him into greater spiritual liberty. He was sent to a godless congregation in Leutweil and there his preaching of Christ crucified caused a revival to break out. This aroused the opposition of the clergy. He was now compelled, before delivering his sermons, to submit them to his church elders as well as to the surrounding clergy. These struck out all such passages as referred to man as being "dead in trespasses and sins", or justified only in Jesus Christ through faith. These teachings were bringing life and deliverance to burdened souls, but they were folly and stumbling to the wise.
In teaching his catechists he received light as to baptism according to the New Testament. In spite of constant persecution he continued his labours for two years, till in 1830, with the support of the Government, the ecclesiastical authorities removed all the old religious books, replacing them by others of a rationalistic character. Refusing to accept these books, he was brought up before the authorities both for this offence and for other behaviour in which he had been displeasing to them. This resulted in his condemnation and deposition on the ground that he had acted contrary to law.
Two Hungarian journeymen locksmiths, Johann Denkel and another, in the course of their travels came from Budapest to Zürich, where they met Fröhlich and were converted and baptized. Returning to Budapest, Denkel was diligent in speaking to his fellow-workmen of the Gospel. Among those who believed was Ludwig Hencsey, who became a most active and successful worker, founding many congregations of the "Nazarenes". One whom he was early able to lead to Christ was a nobleman, Josef Kovacs, who corresponded with Fröhlich in Latin (1840). A widow, Anna Nipp, gave a room in her house in Budapest as the first meeting place. Hencsey wrote books explaining the principles of the faith, which, being copied out and distributed by the converts, were the means of adding many to their number (1840-1). A band went out from Budapest in different directions to carry the faith, the congregations spreading as far as the frontiers of Turkey; while in America also many were founded.
Wherever the Nazarenes are found they have acknowledged the constituted authorities and have served them loyally, but in respect of bearing arms and of taking oaths they have been inflexible in their refusal. Despite their willingness to serve in any non-combatant capacity, no consideration has been shown them by the military authorities. Moreover, their very numerical strength has but intensified the efforts to break down their opposition. They have been treated with great severity; always large numbers of them have been in prison, where many have spent the best part of their lives under wretched conditions, separated from their families and friends. Their patient submission as they have been brought into Court in batch after batch and condemned to long terms of imprisonment--seldom less than ten years--has won the admiration of many who do not share their convictions. Yet their martyrdom continues, many have been savagely ill-treated in addition to their imprisonment, and there are cases where, having almost served their term of punishment, they have been granted (without asking for it) a pardon, with restoration of their civil and military status, then immediately required to bear arms, and, upon their renewed refusal, been condemned to the full term of imprisonment over again, no account being taken of what they had already suffered.
Owing to his own experiences, Fröhlich wrote with unmeasured condemnation of the formal religion prevailing in the great Churches, Catholic and Protestant, and the Nazarenes generally are unsparing in their denunciation of what they believe to be contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. Among them a Lutheran church may be described as a "den of thieves", while many of them seem hardly to believe in the possibility of salvation outside their own circles. This exaggeration shows itself in Fröhlich's teaching.
Writing on "The Mystery of Godliness and the Mystery of Iniquity" (1 Tim. 3. 16; 2 Thess. 2. 7), he says that what mankind now suffers under is not the result of Adam's transgression, which was put away by the death of Christ; but that on account of man's unbelief towards Christ, Satan has been allowed to bring into the world a second deception and second fall, through which the members of the so-called Christian Church have come to count their Christianity as something they are born into, which they ground on their infant baptism and other forms, without being truly converted from sins and idols and the power of Satan. The imitated forms of Divine service and of piety, without power, are the second and worse deceit of Satan, which brings after it the second death. Only those called of God, who have made their calling and election sure through entire sanctification, are delivered from it.
These brethren scattered over the wide valley and plains of the middle Danube and stretching far into the Balkans, are distinguished among their neighbours by their gravity and quiet diligence. Persecution has hammered them into a hardness of resistance not to be overcome, yet, in spite of a strain of hard legality, they exercise patient forbearance under harsh and unrighteous treatment, not resisting evil; and by the simplicity and Scriptural character of their worship and of their church life are a testimony to those around them.
"Geschichte Alt-Evangelischen Mennoniten Brüderschaft in Russland" P. M. Friesen
"Russland und das Evangelium" Joh. Warns.
The following four incidents are taken from the author's personal knowledge.
"Johann Gerhard Oncken. His life and Work" John Hunt Cook.
"To the Members of the Sixth Assembly of the German Evangelical Churches held in Berlin 1853. Subject, 'How the church should act in Reference to Separatists and Sectarians Viz. Baptists and Methodists'" G. W. Lehmann.
"Nazarenes in Jugosiavia" Apostolic Christian Publishing Co. Syracuse N.Y., U.S.A.
"Einzelne Briefe und Betrachtungon aus dem Nachlasse von S. H. Fröhlich."
"Das Geheimniss der Gottseligkeit und das Geheimniss der Gottlosigkeit" S. H. Friölich,, St. Gallen 1838.
Groves, Müller, Chapman
Churches formed in Dublin--A. N. Groves--Leaves with party for Bagdad--Work begun--Plague and flood--Death of Mrs. Groves--Arrival of helpers from England--Colonel Cotton--Removal of Groves to India--Objects to his stay there--To bring missionary work back to the New Testament pattern--To reunite the people of God--George Müller--Henry Craik--Church formed at Bethesda Chapel, Bristol, to carry out New Testament principles--Müller's visit to Germany--Institutions and Orphanage carried on for the encouragement of faith in God--Robert Chapman--J. H. Evans--Chapman's conversion--His ministry in Barnstaple and travels--Circles accepting the Scriptures as their guide.
In the early part of the 19th century a number of people were impressed by the importance as well as by the possibility of a return to the teachings of Scripture, not only in respect of questions of personal salvation and conduct, but also as regards the order and testimony of the churches. A serious attempt was made to put such convictions into practice.
[A. N. Groves 1795-1853]
Anthony Norris Groves, a dentist living in Plymouth, was visiting Dublin in 1827 in connection with studies at Trinity College. In conversation with John Gifford Bellett, a barrister and native of Dublin, with whom he was associated in Bible study, Groves remarked that it appeared to him from Scripture that believers meeting together as disciples of Christ were free to break bread together as their Lord had admonished them; and that, if they were guided by the practice of the apostles they would set apart every Lord's Day for thus remembering the Lord's death and obeying his parting command. Not long afterwards they found a group of believers in Dublin who were already meeting in this way.
[Meetings in Dublin 1820s]
One of the earliest members of this group was Edward Cronin. Originally a Roman Catholic, he had become attached to the Independents. Realizing the essential unity of the people of God, he was in the habit of taking the Lord's Supper from time to time with different bodies of Nonconformists. Settling in Dublin, he found it was required of him that he should become definitely a member of one of them, otherwise he would not be allowed to break bread with any. Seeing that this was a contradiction of the very unity he sought to recognize, Cronin refused compliance, whereupon he was publicly denounced from one of their pulpits. Against this a protest was raised by one of the workers of the Bible Society and eventually he and Cronin began to meet in one of his rooms for prayer and the breaking of bread. Others were added and they moved the meetings to Cronin's house, but soon afterwards (1829), their numbers increasing, Francis Hutchinson, who was one of them, lent them a large room in his house in Fitzwilliam Square.
Another such group was formed about the same time, also in Dublin. About 1825 John Vesey Parnell (afterwards Lord Congleton) and two friends, being troubled by the fact that their fellowship with one another during the week was obscured by their separating on Sundays to their different denominations, tried to find some circle in which their differences of view on ecclesiastical points would no longer prevent the expression of their unity as children of God. Failing to find any company such as they sought, and being clear that they needed no consecrated building nor ordained minister, they began to meet and break bread in one of their own rooms.
Shortly afterwards one of their number going out on a Sunday met a member of that circle where Bellett was, whom he knew as a Christian. In a brief conversation they were struck by the fact that, though one in Christ, they were going different ways, and this led eventually to the bringing together of these two groups. Groves had left for England, but Bellett and those with him had been joined by a young clergyman, John Nelson Darby. These soon began to meet with the company in Francis Hutchinson's house, holding their meetings at such hours as did not interfere with any who might wish to attend the usual services at the churches or the dissenting chapels.
As their numbers increased it became inconvenient to have the meetings in a private house, so a large auction room in Aungier Street was taken, where the meetings were held and there was great joy in a sense of the Lord's presence and blessing. Cronin writes of this time: "Oh the blessed seasons with my soul, which John Parnell, William Stokes and others knew, while moving the furniture aside and laying the simple table with its bread and wine on Saturday evenings, seasons of joy, never to be forgotten, for surely we had the Master's smile and sanction in the beginning of such a movement as this was!"
From time to time they found that companies of believers were meeting together in other parts of the British Isles and elsewhere, unknown to each other, believers on whose hearts and consciences it had been impressed that the Lord's people should return to a literal obedience to His Word, making that alone their guide, in so far as they understood it. There were also many individuals, who, as soon as they found that others were carrying out what they had, as yet, only desired, willingly associated themselves with them.
Anthony Norris Groves, whose words in Dublin had proved so fruitful, though still quite a young man had prospered greatly in his profession. He was happily married, had three little children, a pleasant home in Exeter and a congenial circle of friends and relatives. Before his conversion, as a boy in his teens, he had felt that to be a missionary was the ideal way for a Christian, and when he was converted he devoted himself to the Lord with this in view. His young wife, however, who was converted about the same time and to whom he was devotedly attached, was opposed to any thought of their becoming missionaries, though she was of one mind with him in the desire to serve the Lord and they agreed together to give a tenth of their income and distribute it among the poor. This was soon increased to a quarter, and after a time they saw that they and all they had belonged to the Lord so gave up all idea of saving money or putting aside for their children, and, reducing expenses by simplifying their own manner of life in every way possible, they gave away all the rest.
Groves refrained from saying anything further to his wife of his unquenched desire for missionary work, seeing her set against it, but she had her own experiences, quickened by coming in contact with the poor and suffering in her distributions, and after some years she came independently to the conclusion which her husband had reached already.
Now it seemed to them that the right thing would be for him to be ordained and that they should go abroad in connection with the Church Missionary Society. It was with this in view that he went from time to time to Trinity College, Dublin, and on one of these occasions had the conversation with his friend Bellett which led to their meeting, with others, for the breaking of bread. On a later visit, his reading of the Scripture having shown him the liberty the Spirit gives for the ministry of the Word of God, he saw that there was no need for him to be ordained by the Church of England, and, speaking with Bellett on this he said: "This I doubt not is the mind of God concerning us--we should come together in all simplicity as disciples, not waiting on any pulpit or ministry, but trusting that the Lord would edify us together by ministering as He pleased and saw good from the midst of ourselves".
Bellett relates: "At the moment he spoke these words, I was assured my soul had got the right idea, and that moment I remember as if it were but yesterday, and could point you out the place. It was the birthday of my mind...."
Still desiring to go abroad under the Church Missionary Society, Groves went to London to arrange for going as a layman, but finding that he would not be allowed to celebrate the Lord's Supper, even should no ordained minister be available, he withdrew his application. He had been baptized in Exeter, but when it was said to him: "Of course you must be a Baptist now you are baptized", he replied: "No, I desire to follow in all those things in which they follow Christ, but I would not, by joining one party, cut myself off from others".
In 1829 Groves and his wife, with their two boys of nine and ten, and Kitto, the boys' tutor (afterwards renowned as a Biblical scholar), as well as several others, set out and travelled by way of St. Petersburg and Tiflis to Bagdad.
[Groves and Group move to Baghdad]
As their waggons traversed South Russia they met some of the Mennonite believers. Travelling through the mountainous country of Transcaucasia they saw in the distance, on the commanding summit of one of the countless hills, the well-built city of Shusha. They climbed the steep ascent and a large house, one of the first they came to, on the confines of the city, opened its doors to them and they were received by the missionaries of the Basle Missionary Society, Pfander and Count Zaremba, who did an important work in those parts until they were expelled from the country.
Pfander accompanied the party to Bagdad and stayed with them there for a time, his experience and knowledge of languages enabling them to begin work there earlier than would otherwise have been possible. The needs of the journey were supplied in various ways and Groves writes: "I feel I am happy in having no system to support, in moving among either professing Christians or Mohammedans; to the one, a person so situated can truly say, I do not desire to bring you over to any church, but to the simple truth of God's Word, and to the others, we wish you to read the New Testament that you may learn to judge of God's truth, not by what you see in the churches around you, but by the Word of God itself".
The little household was established in Bagdad and the study of language begun, while the treatment of sick people gave access to many and a school was opened which prospered from the first. The Armenians were found accessible, and there were openings among some of the Jews and Syrians; Mohammedans were often hostile, but intercourse with some was possible.
"The two great objects of the Church in the latter days", Groves wrote, "seem to me to be the publication of the testimony of Jesus in all lands, and the calling out the sheep of Christ who may be imprisoned in all the Babylonish systems that are in the world".
[Plague and Flood]
The second year of their stay was entered upon with much to encourage, but rumours of war and plague were increasingly threatening, and when plague actually entered the city the question of leaving or remaining became urgent. Many were leaving, but considering the promising work begun, and the school, seeing also that a party of helpers on the way out from England had already reached Aleppo, they decided to stay. The plague began to spread, crowds who could get away fled, but the advance of a besieging army cut off the retreat of many. Water became scarce and robbers took advantage of slackened authority to pillage. Rapidly the plague increased, and although half the population had fled, among the 40,000 remaining the mortality soon reached 2000 daily. Then the river rose and after days of anxious hope that it might yet be stayed, the water began to trickle into the city. Walls were undermined and fell, and then a great inundation swept away thousands of houses. The plague-stricken people were crowded into narrowed areas; food failed; in a month 30,000 souls had perished in the utmost misery. The harvest, ready to be reaped, was destroyed for 30 miles round.
As to the little missionary household, their hearts were rent at the sight of the indescribable horrors going on around them, yet Groves was able to write at this time:"the Lord has allowed us great peace, and assured confidence in His loving care, and in the truth of His promise, that our bread and our water shall be sure; but certainly nothing but the service of such a Lord as he is would keep me in the scenes which these countries do exhibit, and I feel assured will, till the Lord has finished His judgements on them for the contempt of the name, nature and offices of the Son of God; yet I linger in the hope that He has a remnant even among them, for whose return these convulsions are preparing the way.... The Lord has stopped the water just at the top of our street by a little ledge of high ground, so that as yet we are dry; and all free from the sword of the destroying angel".
Considering the ruin of the hopeful work begun, he wrote,"it requires great confidence in God's love, and much experience of it, for the soul to remain in peace, stayed on Him, in a land of such changes, without even one of our own nation near us, without means of escape in any direction; surrounded with the most desolating plague and destructive flood, with scenes of misery forced upon the attention which harrow up the feelings, and to which you can administer no relief. Even in this scene, however, the Lord has kept us of His infinite mercy in personal quiet and peace, trusting under the shadow of His Almighty wing, and has enabled us daily to assemble in undiminished numbers, when tens of thousands have been falling around us. Neither is this all, for He has made us know why we stayed in this place, and why we were never allowed to feel it to be our path of duty to leave the post we were in".
The waters diminished; the virulence of the plague was spent. Then Mary, the wife and mother, the guide of the household, whose love and grace and unfailing faith had been a support on which all had leaned, sickened--as the anxious watchers soon realized--of the plague. Her husband and a faithful nurse cared for her. She had been entirely confident that they should stay in Bagdad, and now, faced with the prospect of leaving her husband and sons and the little baby born there, in such a place, she said: "I marvel at the Lord's dealings, but not more than at my own peace in such circumstances."
She died. Her husband cried in mingled grief and worship:"How hard for the soul to see the object of its longest and best grounded earthly affections suffering without the power of affording relief, knowing too that a heavenly Father who has sent it can relieve it and yet seems to turn a deaf ear to one's cries; at the same time, I felt, in the depth of my soul's affections, that, notwithstanding all, He is a God of infinite love. Satan has sorely tried me, but the Lord has shown me, in the 22nd Psalm, a more wonderful cry apparently unheeded, and the Holy Ghost has given me the victory, and enabled me to acquiesce in my Father's will, though I now see not the end of His holy and blessed ways".
Then the baby was stricken and, in spite of her father's utmost devotion, was taken from them. He himself was the next to be attacked, and had the prospect of leaving his children desolate, but he recovered.
As plague and flood abated the enemy without advanced, the city was besieged and mob rule prevailed within. Groves' house was repeatedly attacked and robbed, but though unarmed and helpless, those in it suffered no bodily harm. Shells passed over the roof on which they slept and the building was struck by cannon balls. Violence prevailed in the streets, the children of the Christian population especially suffering abominable treatment. At last the city was taken; its captors behaved with unexpected moderation, so that quietness and order were restored.
[Helpers arrive from England]
In the summer of 1832 the long looked-for helpers from England arrived. They were Dr. Cronin, now a widower, with his infant daughter and his mother, John Parnell and Francis W. Newman (whose brother, later, became the well-known Cardinal). Groves and all with him were greatly cheered by this arrival, and the whole of the increased company entered on a period, not only of activity in study and work, but of happy, helpful union and fellowship among themselves, and advanced into fuller knowledge of God and of holiness. They had all things common; on Fridays they fasted and prayed together. There was much study of the Word; conversions took place. These were times some of them could never forget and from which several, of different nationalities, dated the beginning of a new life in God.
Cronin's sister had been married to Parnell on the way out, at Aleppo, but had been quickly taken from him by death, and now her mother died also. In this same year Newman and Kitto went to England to seek further helpers, and the following year those in Bagdad were visited by Colonel Cotton, whose engineering skill, and Christian care for the people of India, abolished the dreadful periodic famines of the Godaveri Delta and brought prosperity to its vast population. Groves went on with him to India, leaving the others for a time in Bagdad.
[Groves moves to India]
One object in going to India, Groves wrote, was "to become united more truly in heart with all the missionary band there, and show that, notwithstanding all differences, we are one in Christ; sympathizing in their sorrows, and rejoicing in their prosperity". The deep experiences through which he had passed made him peculiarly capable of this, also his remarkable and unaffected humility, which rendered him quick to see whatever was good in others, slow to condemn. Also his knowledge of Scripture and practical acquaintance with the work fitted him to give wise counsel, so that he did not merely travel praising all he saw, but could well point out possibilities of improvement.
He saw so vividly the need of the vast multitudes that remain without the Gospel that he preferred almost any effort to reach them, however faulty, to none at all. Moreover he was hopeful that, if anywhere, it would be in a country outside of Christendom, such as India, that it would first become possible for true believers to cast aside their denominational differences and exhibit the essential unity of the churches of God in obedience to the Scriptures and in the forbearance of love. This would remove the chief hindrance to the spread of the Gospel. It was a great undertaking and worth attempting at any cost.
Whether in extensive travels all over the country, visiting many missionaries of various confessions, or when he settled in some particular district, the grace and power of Groves's ministry, and his unselfish love, won many hearts and bore abundant fruit in the lives and service of many. When, however, it came to applying the principles of the Word to persons and organizations that had in some ways departed from them, opposition was aroused, and he suffered keenly as his loving desire to serve was misunderstood by missionaries and societies and construed as criticism and affectation of superiority and as threatening the stability of existing organizations.
His own words are:"How slow we are to learn really to suffer, and to be abased with our dear Lord (Phil. 2. 3-10). However, I think we are generally much more able to take up cheerfully any measure of bodily or mental trial than that which degrades us before the world. To see that our abasement is our glory, and our weakness our strength, requires extraordinary faith: wherever I go, I perceive the evil influence of contrary principles. I am persuaded that not following our Lord, and going down among the people we wish to serve, destroys all our real power; by remaining above them, we have power, but it is earthly. O that the Lord would raise up some to show us the way! When the truth is impressed upon a person's mind in India, it seems to seize it with a more powerful and tenacious grasp than generally in England, people are often left with God's word alone, the professedly religious circle being very small, and thus the views they entertain are much more scriptural. Never was there a time when it was more important than now, to make every effort that they do not rivet on this land the evils of ecclesiastical dominion, viz., the pride and earthliness under which the established churches in Europe have groaned".
Again he writes:"Never was there a more important moment than the present for India; up to this time everything in the Church has been as free as our hearts could wish. Persons have been converted, either by reading God's Word, or through one another, and have drank the living waters wherever they could find them full and clear; but now the Church of England is seeking to extend its power, and the Independents and Methodists are seeking to enclose their little flocks.
"My object in India is two-fold, to try to check the operation of these exclusive systems, by showing in the Christian Church they are not necessary for all that is holy and moral; and to try and impress upon every member of Christ's body that he has some ministry given him for the body's edification, and instead of depressing, encouraging each one to come forward and serve the Lord. I have it much at heart, should the Lord spare me, to form a Church on these principles; and my earnest desire is to re-model the whole plan of missionary operations, so as to bring them to the simple standard of God's Word. The encouragement the Lord has given me is great, beyond all I could have hoped; I cannot tell you how lovingly I have been received, not by one party only, but by all".
On another occasion he writes:"The farther I go, the more I am convinced that the missionary labour of India, as carried on by Europeans, is altogether above the natives nor do I see how any abiding impression can possibly be made, till they mix with them in a way that is not now attempted. When I think of this subject of caste, in connection with the humiliation of the Son of God, I see in it something most unseemly, most peculiarly unlike Christ. If He who is one with the Father in glory emptied Himself, and was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, and became the friend of publicans and sinners, that He might raise them, it is truly hateful that one worm should refuse to eat with, or touch another worm, lest he become polluted. How strikingly the Lord's revelation to Peter reproves it all, 'what God hath cleansed that call thou not common'".
In making plans for living in India he says:"We purpose that our domestic arrangements should all be very simple and very inexpensive, and our plan strictly evangelical. Our great object will be to break down the odious barriers that pride has raised between natives and Europeans; to this end, it would be desirable for every evangelist to take with him wherever he went from two to six native catechists, with whom he might eat, drink, and sleep on his journeys, and to whom he might speak of the things of the kingdom, as he sat down and as he rose up, that they might in short be prepared for ministry in the way that our dear Master prepared His disciples, by line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, as they could bear it, feeling from beginning to end, that our place is not to set others to do what we do not do ourselves, or to act on principles on which we do not, but that we are rather to be examples of everything we wish to see in our dear brethren. And I do not yet despair of seeing in India a church arise that shall be a little sanctuary in the cloudy and dark day that is coming on Christendom".
[Another Group Comes to India]
After visiting England, where he married again, Groves returned to India, bringing with him a missionary party, which included the brethren Bowden and Beer and their wives from Barnstaple, who began work in the populous Godaveri Delta. He himself settled in Madras where he was rejoined by the party he had left behind in Bagdad. Having long depended for his supplies on such gifts as the Lord sent through His servants, he felt that now, in Madras, the circumstances were such that it would be better for the testimony that he should follow the example of Paul, who was ready, according to circumstances, either to live from the gifts of the churches, or from his own labour and earn his own living. He therefore took up practice again as a dentist and was successful in this.
His efforts to help the different Missionary Societies led in time to his being opposed by some, excluded from their circles and spoken against as an enemy and a danger to the work. This he felt keenly and it was one reason for his leaving Madras and moving to Chittoor, which soon became a centre of activity and of blessing.
[Groves' Tactics in the Gospel]
In order to encourage those engaged in the Lord's work to earn their living also, when possible, and those engaged in business to be active likewise in spiritual work, he took land, and carried on, first silk cultivation, afterwards sugar growing, thus giving occupation to many. At times this prospered, but there were also losses, and the acceptance of a loan offered on one occasion for extending the business involved him in much work and anxiety before it could be repaid. A letter written to England at this period explains his purpose:"That which renders your bounty doubly precious is, that it proves the continuance of your love to us individually, but above all, to the work of the Lord in these desolate and neglected lands. I think we all feel an increasing interest in that plan of missions which we are now pursuing; either labouring ourselves, or being associated with those who profess some 'honest trade' ... and also set an example to others that, by so doing they may support the weak. We have lately heard from several missionaries, who express the deepest interest in the prospect of our success. That dear young native, by name Aroolappen, who went from us some months since, has, amid many discouragements, and many allurements, remained faithful to his purpose. He has determined to commence his labours in a populous neighbourhood, near the Pilney Hills, in the Madura district, a little south of Trichinopoly; and he has the prospect of being joined by a native brother, who is prepared to go forth to build, with the spade in the one hand and the sword in the other--the way in which the wall will, I believe, be built in these troublous times. Dear Aroolappen has declined any form of salary, because the people, he says, would not cease to tell him that he preached because he was hired. When he left me, I wished to settle something upon him monthly, as a remuneration for his labour in translating for us; but, unlike a native, he refused any stipulated sum. The two others of whom I wrote, are an Englishman ... and a native bookbinder, who are determined to pursue the same course".
Of the Englishman he writes further:"He is inured to the climate and can walk forty miles a day without fatigue. He reads and writes Tamil and Telegoo freely, and gives up thirty-five rupees a month, a horse and a house, that he may do the work of God. He goes through the Tamil and Telegoo country, in a little cart filled with books, tracts, and things for sale, preaching the gospel to the natives in their own tongues, as he passes on, and in English to all the soldiers in the military stations. He has already been blessed to the conversion of two natives; one is ... the bookbinder, the other, a servant of ours. I assure you we all feel that, had we seen no other fruit of our labour than these two or three brethren, acting on these principles of service, we should have said, truly our labour has not been in vain in the Lord.
"I think, therefore, we may consider that, under God, our residence in India has been the means of setting up this mode of ministry among the native Christians and the heathen, and our continuance will be, I trust, by the grace of God, the means of establishing and extending it. Those who know the natives will, I am sure, feel with me, that this plan of missions, whereby the native himself is thrown on God, is calculated to develop that individuality of character, the absence of which has been so deeply deplored, and the remedy for which has so seldom been sought. The native naturally loves a provision and ease, and thereby he is kept in dependence on the creature: the European, on the other hand, loves to keep the native in subjection and himself in the place of rule. But, it must be obvious to all, if the native Churches be not strengthened by learning to lean on the Lord instead of man, the political changes of an hour may sweep away the present form of things, so far as it depends on Europeans, and leave not a trace behind.
"The late visit of Aroolappen to his family in Tinnevelly has led to the discussion of these principles among the immense body of labourers there; and though he has not taken up his residence among them, he is sufficiently near for them to observe both himself and the principles on which he is acting. Indeed we would commend these early buddings of the Spirit's power--for we trust they are such--to your very fervent prayers, that our brethren may be carried on in the spirit of real humility and dependence upon God. The fact that our position here puts pastoral work and fellowship on a simple Christian footing among the natives, is by no means the least important feature of our work. Until we came, no one but an ordained native was allowed to celebrate the Lord's Supper or to baptize; and when our Christian brethren Aroolappen and Andrew, partook of the Lord's Supper with the native Christians, it caused more stir and enquiry than you can imagine. The constant reference to God's Word has brought, and is bringing, the questions connected with ministry and Church government into a perfectly new position in the minds of many".
All this, however, did not prevent Groves from seeing that there are those who at times are called to give their whole time to the ministry of the Word, and he writes:"I have no question but that those whom God has called to minister should wait on their ministry and give themselves wholly to it ... recognised pastors and teachers are essential to the good order of all assemblies; and as such required and commanded of God; and though I should not object to unite with those who had them not, if it were the result of the Lord's providence in not giving them any, I should feel quite unable to join personally those who reject them as unnecessary or unscriptural".
He also wrote: "It is much my desire, if the Lord clears away difficulties, to give the rest of my short space to an uninterrupted ministry". Writing of two members of the Church of England who greatly helped the brethren Bowden and Beer in their work in the Godaveri Delta, he says: "Their system may be sectarian, but they are not so; and it is ten times better to have to do with those who are catholic in a sectarian system, than those who are sectarian with no system".
Visiting England in 1853 he was taken ill and passed away, suffering, but in peace, in the house of George Müller in Bristol, at the age of 58.
[George Muller 1805-1898]
Another who came to be impressed by the importance of a literal obedience to the Scriptures was George Müller. He was a native of Prussia, born near Halberstadt, in 1805. Although he studied for the ministry yet he grew up living a sinful, profligate life and was even imprisoned on one occasion for swindling. In a very unhappy state he was taken by a friend, when he was twenty years old, to a meeting in a private house in Halle where he heard the Bible read. Though he had studied much this was new to him; he was immediately and powerfully affected by it, and it was not long before the love of Jesus to his soul and the sufficiency of His atoning blood, won the response of the love and faith of his heart. From the time of this crisis he had much spiritual conflict, but his daily, regular habit of reading the Scriptures and of prayer brought him into a growing knowledge of the will of God.
He was strongly desired to become a missionary to Jews and was brought to England to study for such a position in the London Jews Society. Soon after reaching England he heard with delight of what A. N. Groves was doing in giving up a good income and going as a missionary to Persia, trusting in the Lord for the supply of his needs. Being sent to Teignmouth for his health he there met Henry Craik, who had been a member of the Groveses' household; this was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Here he received further spiritual blessing, especially in seeing more clearly that the Word of God is the believer's only standard and the Holy Spirit his only teacher. Further light raised difficulties in his mind as to his connection with the Missionary Society and eventually by friendly agreement with the Committee this connection was severed.
[He leaves the Missionary Society]
His reasons for leaving the Society were: he saw it was not according to Scripture that he should be ordained either in the Lutheran or Anglican Church; also that any such established Churches, being a mixture of the world and the true church, contain principles which must lead to departure from the Word of God, and the fact that they are establishments, prevents their altering their ways whatever fresh light they may receive from the Holy Scriptures. Also he had a conscientious objection to being directed by men in his missionary labours; as a servant of Christ he felt he ought to be guided by the Spirit as to time and place and though he loved the Jews he could not bind himself to work almost exclusively among them. A difficulty was that he had been some expense to the Society and was therefore under an obligation to it, but this matter he was able to arrange satisfactorily, the Society treating him with much consideration.
A further question was as to how his temporal needs could be supplied, but this did not trouble him, for he was able to rest on the Lord's promises, as in Matthew 7. 7, 8; 6. 25-34; John 14. 13, 14, and to see that if he really sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, these, his temporal supplies, would be added to him. At this time the minister of Ebenezer Chapel in Teignmouth having left, Müller was invited by the whole church of eighteen members to become their minister, at a salary of £55 a year, he accepted and ministered regularly among them, but also visited and preached in many places in the neighbourhood. He found his ministry was most effective when it took the form of expounding the Scriptures.
[Muller and Believer's Baptism]
Listening one day to a conversation among three sisters in the Lord on the subject of baptism, he saw that, though he had always been a strong supporter of infant baptism, he had never seriously and prayerfully examined the Scriptures on the subject, so set himself to do so, and became convinced that the baptism of believers only, and that by immersion, is the teaching of Scripture. Many objections to his now carrying out this command presented themselves to his mind, but being assured that it was the Lord's will that he should act literally upon His commandments, he was baptized.
Shortly after this he saw that, though it is not a command, yet the Apostles have given us the example of breaking bread every Lord's Day, also that it is according to Scripture that there should be liberty for the Holy Spirit to work through any of the brethren whom He pleases to use, so that all may benefit by the gifts which the Lord has bestowed among them. As these things were seen and considered by the church they were introduced into its practice.
[Muller Marries Groves' Sister]
The same year (1830) Müller married the sister of A. N. Groves, in whom he found a wife entirely of one mind and heart with himself in seeking to learn and carry out the will of God as revealed in the Scriptures. She was particularly concerned in the next steps which they took, for they saw now that it was not the right way for them that he should receive a fixed salary derived from pew rents and the regular contributions of members of the church, so this was given up.
[Total Dependence on God]
What actually cost them more than giving up the salary was the determination to act on a conclusion they had come to before God, that they should never ask for help, nor make known their needs to any man, but really go to the Lord and trust Him for the supply of all their needs. About the same time they received grace to act literally on the Lord's commandment: "Sell that ye have, and give alms."
Writing more than fifty years later he said:"We do not in the least regret the step we then took. Our God also has, in His tender mercy, given us grace to abide in the same mind concerning the above points, both as it regards principle and practice; and this has been the means of letting us see the tender love and care of our God over His children, even in the most minute things, in a way in which we never experimentally knew them before; and it has, in particular, made the Lord known to us more fully than we knew Him before, as a prayer-hearing God".
In 1832 the Müllers and Henry Craik removed to Bristol, where the two brethren acted for a time as pastors of Gideon Chapel, but they also rented Bethesda Chapel, at first for a year only. There one brother and four sisters united with them in church fellowship "without any rules, desiring" they said, "only to act as the Lord shall be pleased to give us light through His word". This church grew steadily and was from the beginning very active in good works.
After some five years a question arose which caused them much searching of Scripture that they might find a solution of it. When the church was founded all its members were baptized believers. Then three sisters applied for fellowship, as to whose faith and godliness there could be no doubt, but they had not been baptized as believers, nor, when the Scriptures were explained to them did they see that this was the right course for them to take. Most in the church, including Müller and Craik, thought they should be received, but several could not conscientiously receive unbaptized believers. After much discussion of the Scriptures the number advocating refusal was reduced to a few.
Some received help through the counsel of Robert Chapman of Barnstaple, a man of such saintly character, knowledge of the Word, and sound sense, that he gained the respect of all who came in contact with him. He put the matter in this way: either unbaptized believers come under the class of persons who walk disorderly, and in that case we ought to withdraw from them (2 Thess. 3. 6); or they do not walk disorderly. If a believer be walking disorderly we are not merely to withdraw from him at the Lord's table, but our behaviour towards him ought to be decidedly different from what it would be were he not walking disorderly, on all occasions when we may have intercourse with him or come in any way in contact with him. Now this is evidently not the case in the conduct of baptized believers towards their unbaptized fellow-believers. The Spirit does not suffer it to be so, but He witnesses that their not having been baptized does not necessarily imply that they are walking disorderly and hence there may be the most precious communion between baptized and unbaptized believers. The Spirit does not suffer us to refuse fellowship with them in prayer, in reading and searching the Scriptures, in social and intimate intercourse and in the Lord's work; and yet this ought to be the case where they walking disorderly. The conclusion was reached that "we ought to receive all whom Christ has received (Rom. 15.7), irrespective of the measure of grace or knowledge which they have attained unto". A few left the church in connection with this, but most of them returned and there was never afterwards any difference on this subject.
Questions as to elders and as to church order and discipline came later to exercise the minds of the brethren, and there was long and careful examination of the Scriptures on these subjects. They came to see that the Lord Himself sets elders in every church in the office of rulers and teachers, and that this should continue now, in spite of the fallen state of the Church, as in Apostolic days. This does not imply that believers associated in church fellowship should elect elders according to their own will, but they should wait on God to raise up those who may be qualified for teaching and ruling in His church. These come into office by the appointment of the Holy Ghost, which is made known to those thus called and to those among whom they are to serve, by the secret call of the Spirit, by their possession of the requisite qualifications, and by the Lord's blessing on their labours. The saints are to acknowledge them and to submit to them in the Lord.
Matters of discipline are to be finally settled in the presence of the church, being the act of the whole body. "As to the reception of brethren into fellowship, this is an act of simple obedience to the Lord both on the part of the elders and the whole church. We are bound and privileged to receive all those who make a credible profession of faith in Christ, according to that Scripture, 'Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God'". These and other conclusions were not rules of the church, but expressed what the members had seen and purposed to act upon until they might receive further light from the Scripture.
With regard to the Lord's Supper it was seen that --"although we have no express command respecting the frequency of its observance, yet the example of the Apostles and of the first disciples would lead us to observe this ordinance every Lord's Day". "As in this ordinance we show forth our common participation in all the benefits of our Lord's death, and our union to Him and to each other, opportunity ought to be given for the exercise of the gifts of teaching or exhortation, and communion in prayer and praise. The manifestation of our common participation in each other's gifts cannot be fully given at such meetings, if the whole meeting is, necessarily, conducted by one individual. This mode of meeting does not however take off from those who have the gifts of teaching or exhortation, the responsibility of edifying the church, as opportunity may be offered".
Visiting Germany in 1843, George Müller spent some months, by their invitation, among a company who were glad to have his ministry, but would not allow him to break bread with them, when the time came, because he was willing to do so with Christians in the State Church, or who had not been baptized as believers. They even tried to get him to give an undertaking that he would never break bread with believers who, though baptized themselves, yet did not refuse fellowship with those who were not.
Commenting on these events, George Müller says:"These children of God had been right in considering believers' baptism to be Scriptural, and in separating from the state church.... But upon these two points they had laid undue stress. Though believers' baptism is the truth of God; though separation from state churches on the part of children of God who know that a church is 'a congregation of believers' is right, because they see in state churches nothing but the world mixed up with some true believers; yet, if these points are made too much of, if they are put out of their proper place, as if they were everything, then there must be spiritual loss suffered by those who do so. Nay, whatever parts of truth are made too much of, though they were even the most precious truths connected with our being risen in Christ or our heavenly calling, or prophecy, sooner or later those, who lay an undue stress upon these parts of truth, and thus make them too prominent, will be losers in their own souls, and, if they be teachers, they will injure those whom they teach. That was the case at Stuttgart. Baptism and separation from the state church had at last become almost everything to these dear brethren. 'We are the church. Truth is only to be found among us. All others are in error, and in Babylon'. These were the phrases used again and again by our brother ...". "May God in mercy give and preserve to them and to me a lowly heart"!
[The Scriptural Knowledge Institute]
The two brethren Craik and Müller felt strongly that every believer is bound, in one way or another, to help the cause of Christ, but that any means required for this should be asked for, not from men, especially not from those who are unconverted, but from the Lord Himself in believing prayer. In pursuance of this conviction they established in 1834 "The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad", the object of which was to assist Day Schools, Sunday Schools and Adult Schools in which instruction is given on Scriptural lines; to circulate the Holy Scriptures, and to assist those missionaries whose proceedings appear to be most according to the Scriptures.
Their reason for forming a new Institution when so many religious societies already existed was that, while they acknowledged the good done by these, there were some points where they could not with a good conscience unite with them. The end, they said, which these religious societies propose to themselves is the gradual improvement of the world until at last it will all be converted; whereas the teaching of Scripture is that the conversion of the world will not take place until the Lord's return, that in this present dispensation the world will rather get worse spiritually, but that the Lord is gathering out a people from among the nations.
Further, these Societies have many connections with the world, so that by payment of a subscription an unconverted person may become a member; also the unconverted are often asked for money, and chairmen, patrons, and presidents are obtained by preference from among those who are wealthy and influential. These Societies also contract debts; all of which things are contrary both to the spirit and the letter of the New Testament.
They purposed, therefore, never to ask for money, though they would be free to accept it from any who gave it of their own accord; not to accept any unbeliever as a helper in managing or carrying on the affairs of the Institution; not to enlarge their sphere of work by going into debt, but in secret prayer to "carry the wants of the Institution to the Lord, and act according to the means that God shall give."
From this small beginning, without any initial means, without advertisement, there flowed a constant stream of blessing, growing continually in volume. The poor were relieved, schools were established and carried on in various countries, large numbers of Scriptures were sold or given, help was sent to missionaries in many countries, and that in such a way as not to control them at all or to limit their liberty, but only to minister to their needs and those of the work they were doing. All these extensive and increasing activities were carried on in simple dependence on God. Again and again they were without funds either for the various needs they were ministering to or for their own personal necessities, but always in answer to prayer supplies were sent at the right time, so that their own faith in God and communion with Him were exercised and strengthened, while others, too, were encouraged in the path of faith.
[Müller's Orphan homes]
In 1836 George Müller opened his first Orphan House, renting a house for a year in Wilson Street, Bristol, where he received 26 children. He states as his chief reasons for entering on this work: "(1) That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. (2) The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. (3) Their temporal welfare".
Seeing that so many of the Lord's people are oppressed by cares and anxieties he desired to give visible, tangible proof that, in our day, God hears and answers prayer exactly as He ever did, and that if we trust Him and seek His glory He will supply our needs. He had himself been greatly helped by the example of Franke de Halle in Germany, who, in dependence on the living God alone, had built and carried on so large an Orphanage; and he felt sure that such a work in Bristol would be the best way of witnessing to the faithfulness of God in this country. All his expectations were more than realized. Though he was often reduced to the utmost extremity of need, yet the increasing number of orphans never lacked. The work was continued to his death in his 93rd year and since then his successors have carried it on in the same spirit. The great number of orphans received, of whom very many have been converted, the immense buildings erected, the vast sums of money received and employed--all provide a striking example of the prevailing power of the prayer of faith.
In 1837 George Müller published the first part of his book, "A Narrative of some of the Lord's Dealings with George Müller", a book which has exercised an extraordinary influence on the lives of a very great number of people, encouraging them in faith in God.
[Robert Cleaver Chapman]
The Devonshire town of Barnstaple is connected with the name of Robert Cleaver Chapman, who ministered the Word there for some seventy years and died there in 1902, close upon a hundred years old. He was born in Denmark (1803) of English parents and his mother, to whom he was deeply attached, exercised a great influence on him. While still living in Denmark he was taught by a French abbé, and afterwards went to school in Yorkshire. He developed pronounced literary interests and abilities, becoming also an excellent linguist. Attracted to the Bible at the age of sixteen, he made a careful study of the whole book, being greatly impressed by it. Devoting himself to law he became a solicitor, and did well in his profession.
At this time James Harrington Evans was preaching in London, in John Street Chapel, Bedford Row, which had been built for him by a friend. He had been a curate, but becoming converted by reading some sermons which his rector had lent him, he began, with earnest conviction, to preach justification by faith. This was the means both of the conversion of sinners and the reviving of believers, but was resented by his rector, who gave him notice to leave. He now came to have difficulties as to the baptism of infants, and perceived that the connection of Church and State prevented holy discipline in the Church. Accordingly he left the Church. Soon afterwards he and his wife were baptized. Evans would not, however, become the pastor of a Baptist church, because that would have involved the refusal of church fellowship to many believers, among whom he thought there might well be better persons than himself.
In John Street Chapel the Lord's Supper was celebrated every Sunday evening and those who proved themselves gifted in any way for the help and edification of the church were encouraged to make use of their gift.
[Chapman Describes his Conversion]
It was into this church that, at about twenty years of age, Robert Chapman was brought. As he was walking one evening, in evening dress, near the chapel, one of the elders saw him and invited him to come in. This he did, and a few days afterwards he experienced the change of conversion. Describing this later he said:"Lord, I remember Thy dealings with me! When Thy hand at first arrested me, and Thy Spirit convinced me of sin, my cup was bitter with my guilt and the fruit of my doings ... all was dreary winter within. Sick was I of the world, hating it as vexation of spirit, while yet I was unable and unwilling to cast it out.... In the good and set time Thou spakest to me, saying, 'This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing'. And how sweet Thy words, 'Son be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee!' How precious the sight of the Lamb of God! and how glorious the robe of righteousness, hiding from the holy eye of my Judge all my sin and pollution! Then did the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb did sing. In Jesus crucified--in Thee my Lord, my soul found rest, and in the bosom of Thy love".
He was baptized and associated with the congregation of believers in John Street.
These steps cost him many friends and brought on him the disapproval of relatives, but from the beginning of his new life he gave himself entirely to the following of Christ. The Scriptures became his increasing delight, he entered on a life of believing prayer, and was careful to occupy himself with the needs of the poor and such as were in trouble. He felt himself called of God to devote himself to the ministry of the Word; some said he would never make a preacher, but he replied: "my great aim will be to live Christ." He never married, and in 1832 he settled in Barnstaple, ministering the Word in Ebenezer Baptist Chapel. Harrington Evans followed his course there with constant interest; saying of him: "He is one of my stars. I hold him to be one of the first men of the age. He has no ebbs or flows".
He disposed of all he possessed and lived in constant, immediate dependence on the Lord for the supply of his daily needs, giving away all he received beyond what was necessary for his own modest requirements. Of his early ministry in Barnstaple he wrote:"When I was invited to leave London and go to minister the Word of God in Ebenezer Chapel, then occupied by a community of Strict Baptists, I consented to do so, naming one condition only that I should be quite free to teach all I found written in the Scriptures. This I continued to do for some time with blessing from the Lord. A brother who visited me in those days urged me to set aside the strict rule that none but baptized believers should be allowed to break bread. I replied that I could not force the consciences of my brethren and sisters; and I continued my ministry, patiently instructing them from the Word. I well knew at that time that I could have carried the point with a large majority, but I judged it to be more pleasing to God to toil on to bring all to one mind.
"A little time after that some Christians resident in Barnstaple, who held the strict views which we had by then abandoned, demanded that we should give up the use of the chapel. I carefully examined the Trust Deed, and found that in not one particular did we set aside its provisions. Yet we gave them the chapel, just as I should give my coat to a man who demanded it. You will not be surprised when I tell you that ere long the Lord gave us a much better chapel".
It was about this time that Robert Chapman made the acquaintance of George Müller and Henry Craik and also of some of those believers who in Dublin and elsewhere were endeavouring to carry out the Scriptures.
The two simple houses, 6 and 9 New Buildings, Barnstaple, where Robert Chapman and his friend William Hake lived in unbroken fellowship for fifty-nine years until the death of the latter in 1890, became a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world, who came there for counsel and help in spiritual things.
[Chapman's Worldwide Influence]
Robert Chapman travelled in a number of countries. His visits to Spain led several servants of the Lord to devote themselves to the work of the Gospel in that country, with fruitful result. The influence of his saintly life seems to have affected all who came into contact with him. When, years after his visits to Spain, others worked in that country, they found one instance after another of persons who had been converted and were maintaining a good testimony for Christ, the result of conversation with him. A traveller met an Englishman settled in business in one of the Black Sea ports in Roumania. They conversed of spiritual things, and the Englishman related how he had been religious before coming to Roumania, but now he had given it all up and was convinced that all who professed to be Christians were hypocrites, "but", he added, correcting himself, "I have met with one genuine Christian, he used often to walk through the place where I lived in Devonshire, his name was Robert Chapman".
The traditions and instructions of the Church's early days before the Scriptures were completed, have in the New Testament received a permanent form intended for the literal and continuous guidance, both of the individual saint and of the churches of God, and the endeavour to act in accordance with them has never ceased, even though at times only few have continued it. Some examples of this, in modern times, are the congregation in Edinburgh where the brothers Haldane worked, those assembles in Dublin in which Groves, Cronin, Bellett, and others were concerned, the church in Bristol founded by Müller, Craik and those with them; the Mennonite Brethren in South Russia, and the Stundist gatherings in various parts of Russia. But these are only a few of many such movements in various countries, some limited to small groups, others extending to wide circles. In the most important principles they had strong spiritual affinity with those of the Baptist and Independent churches which resisted and remained unaffected by the popular Rationalism of the day.
MSS. of J. G. Bellett and Ed. Cronin."A History of the Plymouth Brethren" W. Blair Neatby.
MS. Ed. Cronin.
"Memoir of the late Anthony Norris Groves containing Extracts from his Letters and Journals" Compiled by his widow 1856
"Gen. Sir Arthur T. Cotton His Life and Work" Lady Hope.
"A Narrative of some of the Lord's Dealings with George Müller"
"Robert Cleaver Chapman of Barnstaple" W. H. Bennet.
Questions of Fellowship and of Inspiration
Meeting in Plymouth--Conditions in French Switzerland--Darby's visits--Development of his system--"The church in ruins"--August Rochat--Difference between Darby's teaching and that of brethren who took the New Testament as the pattern for the churches--Change from Congregational to Catholic principle--Spread of meetings--Letter from Groves to Darby--Suggestion of a central authority--Darby and Newton--Darby and the church at Bethesda, Bristol--Darby excludes all who would not join him in excluding the church at Bethesda--World-wide application of system of excluding churches--Churches which did not accept the exclusive system--Their influence in other circles--Churches on the New Testament pattern formed in many countries--Rationalism--Biblical Criticism--Increased circulation of the Scriptures.
[A Meeting in Plymouth England]
A meeting in Plymouth which had personal contacts with Dublin and with Bristol, early became influential, both by its numbers and by the striking gifts of some of its leaders and teachers. It was the importance of this meeting at that time which originated the name "Plymouth Brethren". Among its teachers the most eminent were Benjamin Wills Newton and J. N. Darby. The latter was connected with an assembly in London, but, devoting himself entirely to the ministry of the Word, travelled constantly and frequently ministered in Plymouth.
Darby, unlike most of his associates, still taught infant baptism, though he had left the Church of England. His doctrine of it differed, however, from that of the Anglican Church, resembling rather that of Pelagius, who considered it as introducing the one baptized into a circle where he was capable of receiving the grace of God.
While F. W. Newman, once associated with A. N. Groves in Bagdad, became a powerful exponent of Rationalism, and his brother, John Henry Newman, became a chief leader of the Tractarian or Oxford movement through which the Anglo-Catholic revival in the Church of England was begun, John Nelson Darby passed through phases of development no less remarkable.
In 1838 he accepted an invitation to French Switzerland. Spiritual conditions there seemed favourable to revival. The ministers of the National Church had mostly been captured by the Rationalism of the day. This had led to the Free Church movement, which nevertheless had not wholly satisfied the desires of its adherents. A hundred years earlier Zinzendorf and his band of helpers had formed a considerable company of serious seekers and witnesses, and some traces of their work still persisted. In the neighbouring Jura mountains there still existed Scripturally founded assemblies of believers, persecuted formerly as Anabaptists. In Geneva, the fruits of Robert Haldane's Bible readings remained. The principal leaders of the Free Church movement there had been influenced by them and one result was visible in the assembly called "The New Church", which met from 1818 in Bourg de Four and later in the chapel of la Pélisserie.
Other movements had taken or were taking place, both within and outside the National Church. That connected with S. H. Fröhlich had, from 1828, given rise to revival; Gaussen and Merle D'Aubigné had tried to bring back the National Church from Rationalism to the teachings of Calvin; others were combating the doctrine of Church and State and building up the Free Church, as Vinet, who with eight other theologians left the State Church in 1840, followed five years later by a large number of pastors.
In the midst of such excitement and change Darby with his great gifts found a ready ear. For some time he was associated with the church of Bourg de Four. His ministry was most acceptable as he spoke of the Lord's return, of the position of the Church, and of the believer as considered "in Christ", and as he expounded the prophetic Scriptures. His willingness to have fellowship with all believers irrespective of their church connections, attracted many. His meetings in Lausanne, which were largely attended and highly prized, gradually formed about him a special group--"the meeting"--where he further developed and formulated his particular views on the Church.
[J. N. Darby on the Dispensations]
With regard to the various dispensations or different periods of God's dealings with men, Darby taught that each had failed from its beginning" ... in every instance", he says, "there was total and immediate I failure as regards man, however the patience of God might tolerate and carry on by grace the dispensation in which man had thus failed in the outset; and further ... there is no instance of the restoration of a dispensation afforded us, though there might be partial revivals of it through faith".
Examples given of these failures at the beginning of dispensations are, Noah's drunkenness, Abram's going down into Egypt and denying Sara, the making of the golden calf by the people of Israel.
The same is asserted of the Church. "There was", Darby taught, "a moral departure from God in the bosom of Christianity." Even in the lifetime of Apostles the "apostasy", "perilous times", "the last hour", "departure from the faith", the working of the "mystery of iniquity", were already present. The Apostles failed to carry out the Lord's commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature; and they remained in Jerusalem when they should have fled from it. A new Apostle, of the Gentiles, was raised up to supplement their lack. "Thus", writes Darby, " ... this dispensation as well as any other failed and broke off in the very outset ... it broke down in the commencement--no sooner fully established than it proved a failure."
[His Teaching on The Church]
He then asks whether believers are competent "in our days, to form organized churches after the model, as they suppose, of the primitive churches" and "whether the forming of such bodies is agreeable to the will of God?" His answer is "No", for "the church is in a state of ruin" ... "the first departure is fatal and the ground of judgement" ... "the Scripture never recognizes a recovery from such a state" ... "It alters", he points out, "the whole position of the soul to recognize that we live in an apostasy hastening to its final consummation, instead of a Church or dispensation which God is sustaining by His faithfulness of grace".
In Scripture, he wrote, we see:"(1) The union of all the children of God; (2) The union of all the children of God in each locality; ... this state of things, appearing in God's word, has ceased to exist, and the question to be solved is no other than this: How ought the Christian to judge and act when a condition of things set before us in the word no longer exists? You will say, 'he is to restore it'. Your answer is itself one proof of the evil. It supposes that there is power in ourselves. I would say, listen to the word and obey it, as it applies to such a state of declension. Your answer takes for granted two things: 1st, that it is according to the will of God to re-establish the economy or dispensation on its original footing after it has failed; and, 2ndly, that you are both able and authorized to restore it".
" ... Before I can accede to your pretensions I must see, not only that the Church was such in the beginning, but, moreover, that it is according to God's will that it be restored to its primitive glory; and, furthermore, that a voluntary union of 'two or three' or two or three and twenty, or several such bodies, are each of them entitled, in any locality, to take the name of the Church of God, when that Church originally was an assemblage of all believers in any given locality. You must moreover, make it clear to me, if you assume such a place, that you have so succeeded by the gift and power of God in gathering together believers that you can rightfully treat those who refuse to answer to your call as schismatics, self-condemned, and strangers to God's Church. And let me here dwell on a most important consideration, which they who are bent on making churches have overlooked. They have had their thoughts so fully engaged in their churches that they have almost lost sight of the Church."
[His Theory of The "Church in Ruin"]"According to scripture the whole sum of the churches here on earth compose the Church, at least the Church on earth; and the Church in any given place was no other than the regular association together of whatever formed part of the entire body of the Church, that is to say, of the complete body of Christ here on earth; and he who was not a member of the Church in the place in which he dwelt, was no member of Christ's Church at all...." "The Church is in a state of ruin ... If the professing body is not in this state of ruin, then I ask our dissenting brethren, Why have you left it? If it be, then confess this ruin--this apostasy--this departure from its primitive standing...."
"How, then, will the Spirit work? What will be the acting of such an one's faith? To acknowledge the ruin; to have it present to his conscience, and to be humbled in consequence. And shall we, who are guilty of this state of things, pretend we have only to set about and remedy it? No; the attempt would but prove that we are not humbled thereby. Let us rather search in all humility what God says to us in His word of such a condition of things; and let us not, like foolish children who have broken a precious vase, attempt to join together its broken fragments, and to set it up in hopes to hide the damage from the notice of others."
"I press this argument on those who are endeavouring to organize churches. If real churches exist, such persons are not called on to make them. If, as they say, they did exist at the beginning but have ceased to exist, in that case the dispensation is in ruins, and in a condition of entire departure from its original standing. They are undertaking in consequence thereof to set it up again. This attempt is what they have to justify; otherwise the attempt is without anything to warrant it.... To go about remaking the Church and the churches on the footing on which they stood at first is to acknowledge the fact of existing failure without submitting ourselves to the witness of God, as to His purposes with reference to such a state of ruin....
"The question before us is not whether such churches existed at the period when the word of God was written; but whether, after they have, by reason of man's sin, ceased to exist, and believers have been scattered, those who have undertaken the apostolic office of re-establishing them on their original footing, and in so doing, to set up again the entire dispensation, have really apprehended the Divine will, and are endued with power to accomplish the task they have taken upon themselves.... I am enquiring what the word and the Spirit say of the state of the fallen Church, instead of arrogating to myself a competency to realize that which the Spirit has spoken of the first condition of the Church."
"What I complain of is, that the thoughts of men have been followed, and that which the Spirit has recorded as having existed in the primitive Church has been imitated, instead of searching for what the word and the Spirit have declared concerning our present condition.... Obedience, and not imitation of the Apostles, is our duty in such circumstances.... When we are told that all the directions for the churches are for all times and places, I venture to ask if they are for times and places in which churches do not exist? and we are brought back to the enquiry--If the dispensation is in ruins who is to make churches?..."
"If I am asked what the children of God have to do in the present circumstances of the Church, my answer is very simple. They ought to meet in the unity of the body of Christ outside the world.... As regards details, take heed to the promise of the Lord 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them' (Matt. 18. 20). That is what the heart needs that loves God and is tired of the world. Reckon upon that promise of the Lord, you, children of God, disciples of Jesus. If two or three of you meet together in His Name He will be there. It is there that God has put His Name, as of old in His temple at Jerusalem. You need nothing else but to meet together thus in faith. God is in your midst; you will see His glory.... Remember also, that when the disciples came together, it was to break bread.... If God sends us or raises up among us some one who can feed our souls, let us receive him with joy and thankfulness from God, according to the gift that has been vouchsafed to him.... Never make any regulations; the Holy Spirit will guide you.... As to discipline, remember that cutting off is the extreme resource.... To preserve the holiness of the Lord's table is a positive duty.... We owe it to Christ Himself. Cases may present themselves, where we repel with fear the manifestation of sin (Jude 23); but, on the other hand, beware of a judicial spirit, as of fire in your house ...! 'Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them'. If the whole corporate system has come to naught, I get back to certain unchangeable blessed principles from which all is derived. The very thing from which all springs, to which Christ has attached, not only His name, but His discipline--the power of binding and loosing--is the gathering together of the 'two' or 'three'".
As to leaving an assembly, or setting up, as it is called, another table, Darby writes:"I am not so afraid of it as some other brethren, but I must explain my reasons. If such or such a meeting were the Church here, leaving it would be severing oneself from the assembly of God. But though wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ's name He is in the midst, and the blessing and responsibility of the Church is, in a certain sense also, if any Christians now set up to be the Church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them, as being a false pretension, and denying the very testimony to the state or ruin which God has called us to render. It would have ceased to be the table of the people and testimony Of God at least intelligently.... But, then, on the other hand united testimony to the truth is the greatest possible blessing from on high. And I think that if anyone, through the flesh separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, but he would necessarily deprive himself of the blessing of God's presence."
Among many in Switzerland who controverted Darby's views one of the most distinguished both in character and ability was Auguste Rochat. He, referring to the expression "the Church in ruins", showed that the Church as a united body cannot be in ruins though individuals may fall away. He pointed out that, while the Holy Scripture speaks of assemblies it does not call the groups of believers living on the earth separated from each other in different places, the Assembly or Church. Church, as general assembly, includes the believers of all times and places, those who are no longer living on the earth and those who are not yet born: the local assemblies are only bound together by love and brotherly fellowship. Darby taught that the Apostles alone, or their representatives, had had the right to choose or appoint elders in the church, but that in these days of apostasy those persons who are gifted by God for special service may be acknowledged, but not by any official designation. Rochat replied that there is no passage of Scripture that supports this but that on the contrary the assemblies had this right for they chose the men for certain offices in the church and placed them before the Apostles that they might acknowledge them and lay their hands on them.
Rochat refused to accept Darby's expressions, "ruin", "apostasy", as applicable to the Church. An order of things cannot apostatize, only an individual can do this. The true Assembly never apostatizes. The Word of God never speaks of the apostasy of the Church.
[Character of Darby's Teaching]
Darby's theory of the immediate failure of each of the dispensations, and especially of "the ruin of the Church", and the deductions he drew from it, placed him, in principle, in opposition to all those who, throughout the Church's history, have either kept to the teachings and pattern of the New Testament, or have returned to those Scriptures as to a sure and abiding guide.
His view that the churches ceased to exist almost as soon as the Epistles written for their guidance had been competed, would render a great part of the New Testament inapplicable to present conditions.
His teaching abolishes the independence of congregations of believers and their immediate relations with the Lord, bringing in a body, introduction into which, or exclusion from which, by any part, is binding upon the whole; the Congregational principle exchanged for the Catholic.
Although he condemned the formation of churches, yet the gatherings of two or three or more which he commended exercised disciplinary powers, not only in their own local circle, but extending to the whole system of which they formed a part.
In spite of these limitations a great measure of spiritual power and blessing resulted from that part of Darby's teaching which revived truths contained in Scripture. He not only indicated the weakness of existing denominations, but his ministry stimulated faith in God and occupation with His Word, quickened the expectation of the Lord's return, with its sanctifying influences, and emphasized the liberty of the Spirit, who gives gifts according to His will through the various members of the body of Christ. Much spiritual blessing was experienced in the meetings. They spread rapidly, not only in Switzerland, but also in France and Belgium, Germany and Holland, Italy, and beyond.
They formed a close circle of communion among themselves, and this soon led to separation from many with whom Darby had formerly associated. About 60 members of the assembly of Bourg de Four separated from it (1842) and attached themselves to Darby's meetings, and in the Canton de Vaud many left the Free Church and took the same step.
[Letter of Groves to Darby]
Darby's development was looked upon as having dangerous tendencies, by some who still regarded him personally with undiminished love and respect, as is seen from a letter written to him in 1836 by Groves, on leaving again for India after a visit to England. He wrote:" ... I wish you to feel assured that nothing has estranged my heart from you, or lowered my confidence in your being still animated by the same enlarged and generous purposes that once so won and riveted me; and though I feel you have departed from those principles by which you once hoped to have effected them, and are in principle returning to the city from whence you departed, still my soul so reposes in the truth of your heart to God that I feel it needs but a step or two to advance and you will see all the evils of the systems from which you profess to be separated, to spring up among yourselves. You will not discover this so much from the workings of your own soul as by the spirit of those who have been nurtured up from the beginning, in the system they are taught to feel the only tolerable one; that not having been led like you, and some of those earliest connected with you, through deep experimental suffering and sorrow, they are little acquainted with the real truth that may exist amidst inconceivable darkness; there will be little pity and little sympathy with such, and your union daily becoming one of doctrine and opinion more than light and love, your government will become--unseen perhaps, and unexpressed, yet--one wherein, overwhelmingly, is felt the authority of men; you will be known more by what you witness against than what you witness for, and practically this will prove that you witness against all but yourselves....
"It has been asserted ... that I have changed my principles; all I can say is, that as far as I know what those principles were, in which I gloried on first discovering them in the word of God, I now glory in them ten times more since I have experienced their applicability to all the various and perplexing circumstances of the present state of the church; allowing you to give every individual, and collection of individuals, the standing God gives them, without identifying yourselves with any of their evils. I ever understood our principles of communion to be the possession of the common life ... of the family of God ... these were our early thoughts and are my most matured ones.
"The transition your little bodies have undergone, in no longer standing forth the witnesses for the glorious and simple truth, so much as standing forth witnesses against all that they judge error, have lowered them in my apprehension from heaven to earth.... What I mean is, that then, all our thoughts were conversant about how we might ourselves most effectually manifest forth that life we have received by Jesus (knowing that that alone could be as the Shepherd's voice to the living children) and where we might find that life in others; and when we were persuaded we had found it, bidding them, on the Divine claim of this common life (whether their thoughts on other matters were narrow or enlarged) to come and share with us, in the fellowship of the common Spirit, in the worship of our common Head; and as Christ had received them, so would we to the glory of God the Father; and farther, that we were free, within the limits of truth, to share with them in part, though we could not in all, their services.... I would infinitely rather bear with all their evils, than separate from their good ... feeling assured in my own heart, that your enlarged and generous spirit, so richly taught of the Lord, will one day burst again those bands, which narrower minds than yours have encircled you with, and come forth again, rather anxious to advance all the living members of the living Head into the stature of men, than to be encircled by any little bodies, however numerous, that own you for their founder...."
That the idea of a central authority for the meetings was considered, is indicated in a letter from Wigram, one of Darby's closest adherents, in which he asks the question, regarding meetings in London:"How are meetings for communion of saints in these parts to be regulated? Would it be for the glory of the Lord and the increase of testimony to have one central meeting, the common responsibility of all within reach, and as many meetings subordinate to it as grace might vouchsafe? or to hold it to be better to allow the meetings to grow up as they may without connexion and dependent upon the energy of individuals only?"
[Darby and Newton's Teaching]
Returning in 1845 from a visit to the Continent, Darby went to Plymouth to deal with conditions there which he judged to be unsatisfactory because of the influence and teaching of Newton. There had long been divergence between these two able men. They differed in their views on dispensational truth and on prophecy and on points of church order. There had been no little controversy both by word and pen and a party spirit had grown up. Darby's visit brought matters to a crisis. At the close of the meeting one Sunday morning he announced his intention to "quit the assembly" and some weeks later he began to break bread in Plymouth with his supporters apart from the original assembly.
About two years after this some MS. notes--taken by a hearer--of an address given some time before by Newton, came into the hands of one of Darby's sympathizers. It contained comments on the Psalms, and Darby and his friends maintained that in these comments, Newton, explaining their typical application to Christ, had taught unorthodox doctrine with regard to the nature of the sufferings of Christ during His life on earth, and on the cross. The notes were published without reference to Newton in regard to their accuracy; their unorthodox character was pointed out, deductions were drawn and a charge of heresy fastened upon him.
Newton, while repudiating the doctrine deduced from these notes, and affirming his firm, unquestioning belief in Christ as truly God and truly man, untouched by sin, admitted having used expressions from which wrong conclusions could legitimately be drawn. He therefore published A Statement and Acknowledgment respecting Certain Doctrinal Errors, in which he confessed his error, acknowledging it as sin, and withdrew all statements, in print or otherwise, in which it could be found, expressed his grief at having injured any and prayed that the Lord would not only pardon him but also counteract any evil effects. This acknowledgment made no impression on Newton's accusers, who continued with unabated zeal to connect him with the heresy he denied.
When the division took place in Plymouth, the church at Bethesda Chapel, Bristol, where Müller and Craik were, took no side in the controversy, but acknowledged as fellow-believers those in both meetings.
[The "Bethesda Question" and Bristol]
In 1848 two brethren from the meeting in Plymouth which Darby had excommunicated, visited Bristol, where they were in the habit on such occasions of breaking bread at Bethesda. They were carefully examined as to their soundness in doctrine and freedom from the error attributed to Newton. All being satisfied as to this, they were received as they formerly had been. Darby now required that the church at Bethesda should judge the question of Plymouth, which they declined to do, on the ground that it was not a question that affected them, that they were not competent to judge a church, and that it would be harmful to introduce discussions on such a topic.
Eventually, owing to pressure also from within, the question was considered, and a letter written stating "that no one defending, maintaining or upholding Mr. Newton's views or tracts should be received into communion", but, they continued: "Supposing the author of the tracts were fundamentally heretical, this would not warrant us in rejecting those who came from under his teaching, until we were satisfied that they had understood and imbibed views essentially subversive of foundation-truth ..." Darby then wrote:"I feel bound to present to you the case of Bethesda. It involves to my mind the whole question of association with brethren, and for this very simple reason, that if there is incapacity to keep out that which has been recognized as the work and power of Satan, and to guard the beloved sheep of Christ against it--if brethren are incapable of this service to Christ, then they ought not to be in any way owned as a body to whom such service is confided: their gatherings would be really a trap laid to ensnare the sheep....
"I do not ... desire in the smallest degree to diminish the respect and value which any may feel personally for the brethren Craik and Müller, on the grounds of that in which they have honoured God by faith ... but I do call upon brethren by their faithfulness to Christ, and love to the sons of those dear to Him, in faithfulness to set up a barrier against this evil. Woe be to them if they love the brethren Müller and Craik or their own ease more than the souls of saints dear to Christ! And I plainly urge upon them that to receive anyone from Bethesda (unless in any exceptional case of ignorance of what has passed) is opening the door now to the infection of the abominable evil from which at so much painful cost we have been delivered.
"It has been formally and deliberately admitted at Bethesda under the plea of not investigating it (itself a principle which refuses to watch against roots of bitterness), and really palliated. And if this be admitted by receiving persons from Bethesda, those doing so are morally identified with the evil, for the body so acting is corporately responsible for the evil they admit. If brethren think they can admit those who subvert the person and glory of Christ, and principles which have led to so much untruth and dishonesty, it is well they should say so, that those who cannot may know what to do.... For my own part, I should neither go to Bethesda in its present state, nor while in that state go where persons from it were knowingly admitted"
Thus the church at Bethesda was excommunicated and all who might have fellowship with it. The ostensible ground was that of false doctrine, but this doctrine was never held by any at Bethesda. The real reason was that, while the church at Bethesda continued to do what Darby himself had done at the first, that is, to maintain the independence of each congregation and its right to receive any individual whom it had reason to believe was born again and sound in faith and conduct, Darby had shifted from that ground and adopted the "catholic" position of an organized body of churches, excluding all outside their own circle, and subject to one central authority, in this case himself and the meeting in London with which he was associated. Fellowship ceased to be based on life, rejection of Bethesda was also obligatory. No faith or godliness could atone for refusal to condemn Bethesda.
Even Darby's marvellous influence could not impose this great change on all, but, by untiring propaganda, a large number of churches were induced to accept as a necessary test of fellowship the condemnation of the church at Bethesda on account of a doctrine never held by it. By dint of constant repetition this circle of churches came to believe, in all sincerity, that Bethesda had been cut off for holding Newton's error, an error which he himself had repudiated, and which the church at Bethesda had never entertained. So consistently was this system carried out that Negro brethren in the West Indies had to judge the Bethesda question, and Swiss peasants in their Alpine villages were obliged to examine the errors attributed to Newton and condemn them.
Such a system could not fail to lead to further divisions. Even in Darby's lifetime, several such took place, the parties taking different sides excluding each other as rigorously as they had unitedly excluded Groves and Müller.
[Churches Following N.T. Teachings]
Those churches which did not follow Darby continued their endeavour to carry out the principles of Scripture. They varied in many ways, but as they did not believe in the right of one church to cut off another their differences did not necessitate division. Some of them, standing in fear of the criticisms of the followers of Darby (often called "Exclusives") became, in varying degrees, exclusive themselves, but others maintained fellowship with all saints. Though persistently calumniated and rejected by those who had separated from them, they did not cease to include these in the number of those whom they were willing to receive, recognizing them as brethren. Robert Chapman expressed their attitude toward them when, refusing to use the odious name "Exclusive", he called them "Brethren dearly beloved and longed for", and described them as "Those brethren whose consciences lead them to refuse my fellowship and to deprive me of theirs".
The churches which, with Chapman, maintained the original ground of fellowship were often called "Open Brethren", but while there must always have been some individuals and some churches among them which were sectarian at heart and so deserved a sectarian name, for there is an ever-present danger in any spiritual movement that it may crystallize into a sect, yet there remained many who might rightly claim every name that unites, while disclaiming every name that divides the Lord's people. They maintained an active Gospel testimony, reaching out also into most parts of the world.
[Loyalty to the Scriptures]
The influence of this movement has been important beyond the limits of the meetings more particularly associated with it. In face of the great prevalence of Rationalism, and its having captured to so large an extent the Theological Colleges, the pulpits of the principal Nonconformist bodies, and of a considerable section of the Church of England, these meetings have maintained absolute loyalty to the Scriptures as inspired by God and have defended this conviction with an ability and zeal that makes them valuable allies of the numerous believers who, in their different circles, suffer under those of their ministers and clergy who have no such faith.
Movements of a similar character, that is, of believers meeting in accordance with the New Testament teaching and example, are to be found in many parts of the world. They are free from the historic developments of ritual or organization that have drawn so many away from the pattern, and their simplicity makes them adaptable to all varieties of men and conditions. They do not publish, nor even compile, statistics, nor do they depend on publicity or appeals for help for carrying on their testimony, so that they are little known in the world, even in the religious world, and this gives their work a quiet effectiveness, the value of which is especially seen when they come into circumstances of persecution.
[Continuing and Expanding]
Such circles are continually being formed in our day among every kind of people, they contain in themselves the power for carrying the Word of Life farther afield, and go on increasing. Their histories are constantly reminiscent of the Book of the Acts, those who go among some of them--and none can know them all--see that their works are like those of their Lord, "if they should be written every one ... even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written".
Attention has been drawn to persons and to churches that have accepted the Scriptures as a Divine Revelation, suited and sufficient to show the way of personal salvation and conduct as well as to guide the churches of those who believe in regard to their order and their testimony.
[Ritualism and Rationalism]
It has been seen how a clerical body arose which gradually assumed dominion and developed a system of Ritualism which became the relentless enemy of those who continued to act upon the teaching of the Scriptures. A different form of attack upon the Scriptures, which may be described as Rationalism, was developed in the 19th century. Rationalism set aside Revelation, assuming the sufficiency of the mind, or Reason, to enable man to find out truth and to attain to the highest good.
The unprecedented progress made in scientific knowledge not only gave valuable insight into the works of God in Creation, but also stirred in some minds a desire to explain creation apart from God. This made it necessary to prove that the account of the Creation given in the book of Genesis did not spring from Divine inspiration, but from the ignorance of men, who, living before us, were presumed to have known less than we do. As fresh discoveries were made in the illimitable field of Nature, theories were founded upon them which were said to be incompatible with the Genesis history and therefore to prove it incorrect. As further facts came to light new theories had to be formed, each displacing its predecessor, yet each in turn accepted on the authority of the learning of the men of science who promulgated it. The "Origin of Species" published by Charles Darwin in 1859 is an important landmark in this development of thought.
Those who accepted the view that there had been no creation, of necessity lost the knowledge of the Creator. This involved the loss of all revealed knowledge, for the revelation of God through the Scriptures begins with Creation as the work of God, without which there could have been no Fall of His creature, Man; and neither need nor possibility of man's Redemption. Consequently, the new theories evolved from the minds of men discarded the Scripture teaching of the Fall, replacing it by constantly changing theories of the development of man from a lower form of life.
The experience of Salvation and the hope of Redemption became incredible on the basis of these teachings, and whatever vague promises might be held out to the race, the individual was left without hope.
Although in the minds of the multitude evolution has replaced God the Creator, so that many trace their ancestry from beasts rather than from God, and are ignorant of God as their Redeemer, yet not all, even among those recognized as the most eminent men of science, have followed this teaching. It would not be correct to say that increase of knowledge of the facts of Nature necessarily leads to disbelief in God or in the Scriptures. Many have found that the more they have learned of the works of God in Creation the more they have appreciated the consonance of this revelation with that contained in the Scriptures. Indeed, the assertion so often and so eagerly made that no modern, intelligent, educated man can believe the Scriptures, is without foundation. It is not a fact that the more people know the less they believe, nor yet that the more ignorant they are the more faith they possess.
[The Failure of Rationalism]
Rationalism is largely due to the failure to recognize that man is not only mind, but mind and heart, and that the mind always serves the heart. The heart, which is the character, will and affections, and is the seat of experience, uses in its service the mind, with its intelligence and reasoning powers. The heart of the natural man uses his mind in order to justify his unbelief in God and in Scripture by finding countless reasons for complaint against God, and contradictions and errors in the Scriptures; but if this same man has an experience which brings him to see his sinful state, his need of salvation, and Christ is revealed to him, then his heart--that is his will and affections--are captured; they go out to Christ in faith as Saviour and Lord, and the Divine and Eternal Life is communicated to him, as it is written: "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3.16). With that his mind, though neither more nor less capable, intelligent and instructed than before, enters into the service of a changed heart, finding truth and beauty and revelation in the very Scriptures which it formerly despised, and discovering in the ways of God constant reason for thanksgiving and worship. Saul the persecutor, changed to Paul the apostle is a striking illustration of this. The failure of Rationalism is due to its having put the wrong judge on the bench.
Another line of attack upon the Scriptures, also developed chiefly in the 19th century, took the form of Biblical Criticism. This, like the investigations of Science, is in itself good, but Rationalism pushed it into erroneous theories. The critical examination of the text of Scripture, including the study of the ancient manuscripts, has been of the utmost value, correcting errors and exhibiting more fully the content, force, and meaning of the written Word.
"Higher Criticism", taking into account the historical, geographical and other outward circumstances under which the different books were written, examining also their internal literary character, and deducing from all these what may be learned as to their date and authorship, has brought much of interest to light. Here again, however, the rationalistic method, the examination of the Scriptures apart from God, leaving out of account the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working through the human authors and in conjunction with them, has led to strange and varying theories.
The Scriptures were given to the world through a chosen instrument, the people of Israel. Moses and the Prophets spoke by the Word of the Lord, and the different books containing their utterances, whether Law, Histories, Psalms, or Prophecies, were preserved by the Jewish people with a care and tenacity of which no other race would have been capable. Christ and the Apostles accepted and used the Old Testament to the full as the Word of God, completing it by the addition of the New Testament. In all times this Book, or Bible, has been accepted as divinely inspired, and by its working in the hearts and lives of men has proved its Divine power. There have always been those who denied its claims, but it was reserved for the 19th century to see so far-reaching a development of this denial.
Ritualism had long taught a development which added to Scripture and involved departure from it, but Rationalism, taking from it, has the effect of undermining it and destroying its credibility.
One of the earlier, more striking developments of the Higher Criticism was founded on the use of different names for God in the book of Genesis. From these differences it was argued that the book must be the work of different authors. Much ingenuity was then displayed in dividing this, and subsequently other books, into the different authorships, various critics having their varying schemes. Under this process the personality of Moses was obscured, and it soon became the fashion to deny the existence of Abraham and of other characters described in the earlier Scriptures, representing them as mythical personages, the product of legends concerning several heroes attached to one imaginary man. Further and more rapid progress was made on these lines when Eduard Reuss (1834) put forward a theory that the books of the Law were written after those of the Prophets, and the Psalms later still. This supposition gave rise to much speculation and fitting of the various parts of the Old Testament into the newly devised scheme.
At the same time the New Testament miracles were rejected as impossible, and it was laboriously explained how the narration of them grew up out of misunderstandings and legendary accretions.
The Gospel history was reconstructed; Renan's "Vie de Jesus" and the "Leben Jesu" of Strauss had a considerable vogue for a time. Criticism ran riot. The mere fact that anything was affirmed in the Bible was almost considered as a reason for doubting its truth. Such extremes led to a certain amount of reaction; much that had been rejected was readmitted. Archaeological research revealed the historical exactitude of much that had been pronounced fabulous.
The increasing occupation of many with the Scriptures, which these conflicts aroused, brought out more than ever their treasures of truth and wisdom. All the time they continued to be the means of bringing salvation to sinners of every sort.
As Ritualism owed it to the clergy that it became effectual as a means of keeping sinners from the Saviour, so Rationalism is indebted for its wide prevalence to-day, and its power to hold multitudes in unbelief, to the fact that it laid hold of the ministerial and theological mind, and seemed to make those who adopted it the intellectual leaders of the people. Its conquest of the theological colleges and training institutions for the ministry has been little short of complete, so that the spiritual guides of the people lead their often unwilling flocks where there is no pasture, showing them that they can no longer be considered intellectual, nor even intelligent, unless they accept the supposed proofs that there is no divinely inspired revelation, and consequently no Creator; no Son of God who for the sake of sinners became Man and, for us men, vanquished sin and death and opened the way of return to God.
The Rationalist teaching has reduced him to a good man, often mistaken, though a pattern for our imitation. Promises that these doctrines would bring about universal peace, prosperity and brotherhood, have been woefully belied by war and preparation for war, by strike and bankruptcy. The hope and expectation of the Lord's coming to reign are lost to those who do not know Who it was who came to suffer.
[C. H. Spurgeon 1834-1892]
Among many in all these bodies who resisted this teaching and continued to use the Scriptures with a power and effect which demonstrated the truth of their claim to be the inspired Word of God, none was more eminent than Charles Haddon Spurgeon. When nineteen years of age (1851) he was converted and received among the Baptists. Immediately he began to witness for Christ and a year later, setting aside any conventional theological preparation, became pastor of a Baptist church. His preaching even then was with such spiritual power that increasing numbers were attracted to hear him.
No available building was sufficient for such a preacher, so the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built to seat 6000 people, and there he not only preached the Gospel regularly throughout his lifetime, but expounded the Scriptures and took his part, with his great gifts and with unspoiled humility, in the building up of a church on New Testament principles, from which streams of life flowed to innumerable souls.
In preaching, Spurgeon adhered closely to the Scriptures, which he applied with genuine sympathy and emotion to his hearers, pointing his message with endless apt illustration and with a pungent humour that never failed. His sermons were as effectual when read as when heard; they were published as soon as preached and their circulation was immense, continuing after his death.
Feeling strongly the hindrance to the Gospel caused by the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, he took the bold course of preaching and publishing a sermon on the subject, which exposed him to attack from the large number of Protestant and Evangelical bodies which hold it. The conflict aroused led him a year later to withdraw from the "Evangelical Alliance."
As Biblical criticism developed along the line of undermining faith in the inspiration of the Scriptures and came increasingly to influence the "Baptist Union", Spurgeon withdrew from that association also (1887). This step cost him friends and involved him in controversy, but put heart into many who were in danger of doubting the foundations of their faith, and, in difficult days, encouraged that justification of the truth of Scripture which was soon to be so strongly reinforced by the further discoveries of both ancient historical and modern scientific research.
At the same time, the Scriptures were never so widely circulated, nor so much read as now, and their call to repentance and faith is as effectual as ever it was. The British and Foreign Bible Society, with others, not only continues, but continues to increase its translations and sales. Its colporteurs press in growing numbers into ever-widening spheres. New translations open up the treasures of the Word to the most remote peoples. If among some favoured peoples the gift of the free reading of the Scriptures, so dearly bought by the blood of their ancestors, is neglected, there are those, later called, who are pressing into the places of the first.
It has been reserved for the twentieth century to experience an unexampled acceleration in the course of events. As an avalanche begins its slow movement, which, from being almost imperceptible, gains in speed until it comes down with overwhelming power, so the slow development of earlier years has become the rushing torrent of our time. The powers hidden in the air are being uncovered--"And God said Let there be a firmament" (Gen 1. 6), and for long men were content to breathe it, but now it is found to be the carrier of light and heat and electricity, and of sound, so that the voice speaking may be heard round the world--and by millions of listeners. Its mass carries mighty machines and that at incredible speeds, so that distance diminishes and all the world is bound together.
The structure and qualities of material things are examined and found to contain complexities of form and action of unimaginable variety. In the midst of such wonders human intelligence has been quickened and knowledge has been put to uses good and bad, all of which tend to speed the pace at which our age presses on to its consummation. In this great stream of history the Scriptures remain unchanged and are found to be equally applicable to all the changing conditions of life. Those who walk in obedience of faith, whether gathered in churches or scattered through the world, find that this compass always points to Christ, of Whom God sent into the world "that the world should be saved through Him."
Those churches which still make the Scriptures their guide and pattern, and endeavour to act according to this rule, are entirely free from Rationalism, as they have always been from Ritualism. They therefore form a bulwark against unbelief and provide a refuge for souls seeking where they may act in obedience to the Word of God in fellowship with those like-minded. Their increase and their spread into many countries, as well as the fact that fresh churches keep arising spontaneously in parts where the Bible penetrates, is of the greatest importance.
It is also to be anticipated that, as many of the different denominations depart farther from the faith, there will be Christians among them who will find themselves obliged to do as so many have done before them, that is, form churches of those that believe, to carry out the teachings of the Word themselves and preach the saving Gospel to others. Members of the clergy have often been leaders in revivals following on some return to the principles of the Word of God, and this may be so again. Huss the chaplain, Luther the monk, Spener and Franke, both Lutheran pastors, and the Church of England clergymen, John and Charles Wesley, with George Whitefield, are but a few examples. The training and experience of such men become especially valuable when once they are freed from the fetters which hinder the obedience of faith.
"Collected Writings of J. N. Darby" Edited by William Kelly. Ecclesiastical Vol. I.
"Memoir of the late Anthony Norris Groves containing Extracts from his Letters and Journals" Compiled by his Widow, 1856.
"A History of the Plymouth Brethren" W. Blair Neatby.
ConclusionsCan churches still follow New Testament teaching and example?--Various answers--Ritualistic churches--Rationalism--Reformers--Mystics and others--Evangelical Revival--Brethren who throughout all the centuries have made the New Testament their guide--Spread of the Gospel--Foreign Missions--Revival through return to the teachings of Scripture--Every Christian a missionary, each church a missionary society--Difference between a church and a mission station--Difference between an institution and a church--Unity of the churches and spread of the Gospel--New Testament churches among all people on the same basis--Conclusion
The Church Question, that is to say, the question whether we can, and should, continue to carry out the New Testament teaching and example as to the ordering of churches, has been answered in various ways:--
1. The theory of "development" would make it undesirable to do so, because, as is claimed by the ritualistic churches, such as the Church of Rome, the Greek Orthodox Church, and others like them, something better than that which was practised in the beginning has been attained, and the Scriptures have been modified, or even supplanted, by tradition.
2. Rationalism gives the same answer, looking upon it as retrogression to go back to the original pattern, since it denies that the Scriptures provide an abiding authority.
3. Reformers of existing churches have tried to effect a compromise, returning in part, but not altogether, to the acknowledged pattern, as Luther, Spener, and others.
4. Some have abandoned the attempt, as the Mystics, who devoted themselves instead to the attainment of personal holiness and communion with God, examples of whom are Molinos, Madame Guyon, and Tersteegen; and the Friends, who set aside the outward ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and occupied themselves rather with the testimony of the inner Light than with the outward Scriptures; others, as Darby and his followers, repudiated the obligation and replaced it by a witness to "the ruin of the Church".
5. Evangelical Revival set it aside as unimportant, concentrating on the conversion of sinners and organizing what seemed suitable to meet practical needs, as Wesley's Methodist Societies, or the Salvation Army.
6. But there have in all times been brethren who have answered "yes" to the Question; though they have been called by many names, Cathars, Novatians, Paulicians, Bogomils, Albigenses, Waldenses, Lollards, Anabaptists, Mennonites, Stundists and others innumerable, many congregations also of Baptists and Independents, and assemblies of Brethren; they have been one in their faithful endeavour to act upon the New Testament and to follow the example of the New Testament churches.
Closely connected with the former question is another--Is it possible to-day to preach the Gospel as at the beginning and might not a much more rapid spread of the Gospel result from so doing? Indeed, the question enlarges and presses itself upon us--Is it not only by a return to the Scriptures that the unity of the children of God can be manifested and the evangelization of the world be accomplished?
In the beginning of the Gospel there was no distinction between "home" and "foreign" work. Gradually the spontaneous spread of the churches, irrespective of country and nationality, was modified by the change from primitive, Apostolic churches to the organization that developed from these, and "missions" began to be sent out representing the central authority that sent them. As organized Christian denominations multiplied, missions to other lands increased, each preaching Christ, but representing also its own particular scheme and development of Christianity, thus introducing among the heathen that confusion of conflicting sects from which Christendom suffers. The original way was not dependent upon material wealth but on the power of the Holy Spirit, and was always connected with poverty. The methods that have developed are expensive, because the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the newest believer and supplies the needs for testimony of the least company of disciples, are not recognized, a "Mission Station" being established to supply all needs. This has to be supported, and it becomes necessary to appeal for money at the "home base" or, where this is thought unworthy of faith, some reliance is placed for the awakening of interest in the work on the publication of moving incidents or distressing needs. In this way, too, the direction and support of the work "abroad" being largely in the hands of those "at home", or their representatives, it remains an alien institution in the land where it is carried on and the spread of the Gospel is impeded to an incalculable degree.
Following Christ and denying self may well include readiness to sever the most cherished ties that bind us to our different denominational organizations, and to find means of practising genuine fellowship with all the Lord's people, exercising that forbearance with one another which our present weakness would necessitate. If we ourselves kept the teachings of Scripture we might then put it into the hands of men of all nations and by precept and example show them that it is given for them as much as for us, in the sure belief that God would keep and guide them, and give them their place as independent churches and their inheritance among the saints.
We do not know what gifts the Holy Spirit may awaken in places outside the scope of modern missionary activities and in circumstances manifestly beyond our power to control. The persecuted Russian churches have experiences beyond ours and a zeal and devotion is quickened among them to which most professing Christians in easier circumstances are strangers; it may well be that in their midst miracles of unity and testimony will be wrought such as we have failed to accomplish.
Out of the heathen world leaders may be raised up, so filled with the Spirit that they will be able to leave behind both the divisions and the wealth of European and American Missions and will see conversions and the growth of churches of God among their own people, churches which may indeed have to learn from mistakes of their own, but will be free from ours. With God nothing is impossible, He might call, even out of Islam, submissive, devoted disciples of Christ whom He could use in His service among that people. All this does not leave out of account the value, beyond price, of the devotion and service that have so long flowed, and still flow, through Missionary Societies and Institutions, to the world, but it envisages the multitudes that are unreached (and will remain unreached at the present rate of progress), pointing out the one way of revival, which is a return to the way of the Word.
God is manifested in Christ by the Holy Spirit as the Lover, Seeker, Saviour and Keeper of lost mankind. There is no revelation more affecting than this, that God is of such a nature that the misery of fallen man has constrained Him to lay aside His heavenly glory, to become Man, to bear all our sin and more than all our sorrow, and by death vanquish death and give to dying sinners Eternal and Divine Life. Every one who by faith receives this Life is under the same necessity as He from whom he derives it, so that, on this account, every Christian is naturally a missionary. He hears in his soul as an impelling command, the words: "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature".
In the New Testament there is no distinction between clergy and laity, all the saints are priests; so also there is no distinction between missionaries and non-missionaries, every believer is "sent", or has a "mission", to be a witness for Christ in the world. The formation of a separate missionary class, grouped in missionary societies, supported by special mission funds, working through mission stations, though it has accomplished so much, is dearly bought while it contents the vast bulk of Christians to be non-missionaries and dims the vision of every saint as, in every circumstance, wholly the Lord's, and devoted first and last to His service.
The aim of the Gospel is the conversion of sinners into saints, and the gathering of these as churches. Since each member of a church is called to be a missionary, or witness for Christ, each church is a "missionary society", a society of persons who are collectively engaged in the testimony of the Gospel.
The difference between a mission station and a church is that a mission station, with the missionary society of which it is a branch, is the centre to which the natives of the country in which it is look for guidance and supplies. A church, on the other hand, in the New Testament sense of the word, is, from the moment of its beginning, when two or three are gathered in the Name of the Lord Jesus, on the same foundation as the oldest established church, having the same Centre, the same principles. Different it is true in gift and experience, it is yet partaker of the same Grace, and draws its supplies from the same Source. Moreover, it is the most suitable instrument for the furtherance of the Gospel among the people from which it has been called, and with whose thoughts, language, customs and needs, its members have perfect acquaintance. A mission station may be of great value, but should never be made the centre around which a church gathers: that centre is Jesus Christ.
There is also a difference between a church and an Institution, such as a hospital or school. These may be of the utmost value, commending the Gospel, gaining the confidence of the people; but if a hospital or school, of foreign origin, comes to be regarded as the centre around which the church is gathered, and upon which it depends, such a church cannot develop according to the New Testament pattern. It remains a foreign religion dependent on supplies from abroad. It may even develop a system of salaried "native evangelists", destructive of dependence upon God, hindering growth in learning to know Him.
Scripture does not lead us to expect that the Gospel will prevail so as to bring about the conversion of the world; on the contrary we are taught to look for increasing departure from God, bringing terrible judgements upon all the earth. The return of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory is the hope set before the Church. Awaiting that great event we remember the Lord's last prayer for His disciples: "That they all may be one.... That the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me."
These two things, the unity of the people of God, and the making known of the Saviour in the world, are the desire of all who are in communion with the Lord. The history of the Church shows that revival comes through return to obedience to the Word of God. This prayer of the Lord is certainly promise also; it will be accomplished as He prayed. Doubtless the full accomplishment of it will be when He comes, but it may be that the last great revival will be a foreshadowing, even here on earth, of that which is shortly to come to pass both in heaven and on earth.
When the disciples of the Lord repent and forsake ways that are ways of departure from His Word, and gather as churches in immediate dependence upon Him, free from the bondage of human federations and organizations, and free to receive all who belong to Him, they will experience His sufficiency, as those did who went before them in this path; being delivered, on the one hand, from fellowship with unbelievers, and, on the other, from separation from fellow-saints.
Moreover, in taking the Gospel to people of all nations and races, they will apprehend that the whole Word of God is for others as well as for themselves; that all who believe are brought into the same relationship to Him, and that no difference of nationality can affect the standing of a church in the sight of God. The work of the Spirit in all will manifest the truth that Peter had learned when he said:
"God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.... we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved even as they."
As we review the long path already traversed by the Pilgrim Church, certain salient points appear. Rising above the mass of detail, so poignant at the time to those whose lives made it up, they rightly claim attention, for they turn the experience of the way that lies behind into guidance for the track that stretches before.
1. The Pilgrim Church has possessed in the Scriptures a safe and sufficient guide for all the way from Pentecost to the present time, and has the assurance that it will suffice until that lamp shining in a dark place shall pale before the glory of the appearing of Him Who is the Living Word (2 Peter 1. 19).
2. The Pilgrim Church is separate from the World; though in it is not of it. It never becomes an earthly institution. Though a witness to the world and a blessing in it, yet, since the world which crucified Christ does not change, and the disciple is content to be as his Master, the pilgrims still exhort one another with the words: "Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come" (Heb. 13. 13, 14).
3. The Church is One. In so far as we know ourselves to be members of the Pilgrim Church we acknowledge as our fellow-pilgrims all who tread the Way of Life. Passing differences, however keen at the time, grow dim as we view the whole pilgrimage spread out before us. In deepest humility as we think of the littleness of our own part, and with heartfelt delight in our fellows, we claim them as such. Their sufferings are ours, their testimony ours, because their Saviour, Leader, Lord and Hope is ours. By enlightening of the Holy Spirit we have learned, with them, to rejoice with the Father when He says: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3. 17). With them, too, we rejoice in the prospect of that day when the Son will present to Himself "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5.27).
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Production notes:--*Both life-long and lifelong are used in the text. This has been retained. *Both anti-christian and antichristian are used in the text. This has been retained. *wide-spread changed to widespread
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List of Some of the Books
OF WHICH USE HAS BEEN MADE. OTHERS NOT INCLUDED HERE ARE REFERRED TO IN THE FOOTNOTES.
. "The Ante-Nicene Christian Library"
. "Marcion. Das Evangelium vom Fremden Gott" Ad. v. Harnack.
. "East and West Through Fifteen Centuries" Br. -Genl. G. F. Young C. B.
. "A Select Library of the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church" translated and annotated by J. C. Pilkington, M. A. edited by Philip Schaff.
. "Latin Christianity" Dean Milman.
. "Priscillian ein Neuaufgefundener Lat. Schriftsteller des 4 Jahrhunderts" Georg Schepss, who discovered the MS. in Würzburg University, 1886.
. "Priscillianus Ein Reformator des Vierten Jahrhunderts" Friedrich Paret.
. "Die Paulikianer im Byzantischen Kaiserreiche etc." Karapet Ter-Mkrttschian, Archdeacon of Edschmiatzin.
. "The Key of Truth A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia" translated and edited by F. C. Conybeare. Document found by the translator in 1891 in the library of the Holy Synod at Edjmiatzin.
. "An Official Tour Through Bosnia and Herzegovina" J. de Asboth, Member of the Hungarian Parliament.
. "Through Bosnia and the Herzegovina on Foot etc." A. J. Evans.
. "Essays on the Latin Orient" William Miller.
. "Le Christianisme dans l'Empire Perse sous la Dynastie Sassanide" (224-632). J. Labourt.
. "The Syrian Churches" J. W. Etheridge.
. "Early Christianity Outside the Roman Empire" F. C. Burkitt M. A
. "Das Buch des Synhados" Oscar Braun.
. "Nestorius and his Teachings" J. Bethune-Baker.
. "The Bazaar of Heraclides of Damascus" J. Bethune-Baker.
. "Cathay and the Way Thither" Col. Sir Henry Yule, Hakluyt Society.
. "Nestorian Missionary Enterprise. The Story of a Church on Fire" Rev John Stewart M. A., Ph.D. T. & T. Clark Edinburgh.
. "The Ancient Vallenses and Albigenses" G. S. Faber.
. "Facts and Documents illustrative of the History Doctrine and Rites of the Ancient Albigenses and Waldenses" S. R. Maitland
. "Die Reformation und die älteren Reformparteien" Dr. Ludwig Keller K. Staatsarchivar.
. "Life and Letters of Erasmus" J. A. Froude.
. "A Short History of the English People" John Richard Green.
. "England in the Age of Wycliffe" George Macaulay Trevelyan.
. "John Wycliffe and his English Precursors" Lechher. translated by Lorimer.
. "The Dawn of the Reformation the Age of Hus" H. B. Workman M. A.
. "Das Netz des Glaubens" Peter Cheltschizki. translated from Old Czech to German by Dr. Karl Vogel.
. "History of the Moravian Church" J. E. Hutton.
. "Das Testament der Sterbenden Mutter" J. A. Comenius. trans. into German by Dora Pe_ina.
. "Stimme der Trauer" J. A. Comenius. trans. into German by Franz Slam_nik
. "Unum Necessarium" J. A. Comenius.
. "A History of the Reformation" Thos. M. Lindsay.
. "Die Taufe. Gedanken über die urchristliche Taufe, ihre Geschichte und ihre Bedeutung für die Gegenwart" J. Warns.
. "Ein Apostel der Wiedertäufer" Dr. Ludwig Keller. Vorträge und Aufsätze aus der Comenius Gesellschaft 7ter Jahrgang 1 u. 2 Stück.
. "Georg Blaurock und die Anfänge des Anabaptismus in Graubündten und Tirol" Aus dem Nachlasse des Hofrates Dr. Joseph R. von Beck. Herausgegeben von Joh. Loserth.
. "Fontes Rerum Austriacarum" Oesterreichische Geschichts-Quellen. Abth. 2 Bd. 43.
. "Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn u.s.w. in der Zeit von 1526 bis 1785" Gesammelt, Erl_utert und Ergänzt durch Dr. Josef Beck. Archiv für Oesterreichische Geschichte. 78 Band.
. "Der Anabaptismus in Tirol u.s.w." Aus dem Nachlasse des Hofrates Joseph R. von Beck. Herausgegben von Joh. Loserth.
. "Geschichte der Wiedertäufer und ihres Reichs zu Münster" Dr. Ludwig Keller.
. "Geschichte der Alt-Evangelischen Mennoniten Brüderschaft in Russland" P. M. Friesen.
. "Fundamente der Christlichen Lehre u.s.w." Joh. Deknatel.
. "Vermanung u.s.w." Pilgram Marbeck.
. "Schwenckfeld, Luther und der Gedanke einer Apostolischen Reformation" Karl Ecke.
. "History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century" by J. H. Merle D' Aubigné D.D. translated by H. White B.A.
. "Life of William Farel" Frances Bevan.
. "The Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin" J. H. Merle D' Aubigné D.D.
. "The Huguenots, their Settlements Churches and Industries in England and Ireland" Samuel Smiles.
. "Un Martyr du Désert Jacques Roger" Daniel Benoit
. "Memoir of William Tyndale" George Offor.
. "A History of the Free Churches of England" Herbert S. Skeats.
. "A Popular History of the Free Churches" C. Silvester Horne.
. "Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" Richard Hooker.
. "Journal of George Fox"
. "Geschichte des Christlichen Lebens in der rheinisch-westphälischen Kirche" Max Goebel
. "Geschichte des Pietismus und der Mystik in der Reformirten Kirche u.s.w." Heinr. Heppe.
. "Geschichte des Pietismus in der reformirten Kirche" Albrecht Ritschl.
. "John Wesley's Journal"
. "The Life of William Carey Shoemaker and Missionary" George Smith.
. "Lives of Robert and James Haldane" Alexander Haldane.
. "Russland und das Evangelium" J. Warns.
. "Johann Gerhard Oncken, His Life and Work" John Hunt Cook.
. "Memoirs of Alexander Campbell" Richardson. The Standard Press, Cincinnati, Ohio.
. "Autobiography of B. W. Stone" The Standard Press, Cincinnati, Ohio. MSS. Ed. Cronin, J. G. Bellett, etc.
. "A History of the Plymouth Brethren" W. Blair Neatby.
. "Memoir of the late Anthony Norris Groves, containing Extracts from his Letters and Journals" Compiled by his Widow.
. "A Narrative of some of the Lord's Dealings with George Müller"
. "Robert Cleaver Chapman of Barnstaple" W. H. Bennet.
. "Collected Writings of J. N. Darby" Edited by William Kelly. Ecclesiastical Vol. 1.
. "Nazarenes in Jugoslavia" Apostolic Christian Publishing Co. Syracuse N.Y., U.S.A.
"Einzeine Briefe und Betrachtungen aus dem Nachlasse von S. H. Fröhlich"