Hassell on JND

“John Nelson Darby, of London (1800-82), at first a lawyer, and then an Episcopalian preacher, started in 1827 at Dublin, Ireland, and in 1830 at Plymouth, England, a religious assembly, afterwards developed into a sect called “Darbyites” or “Plymouth Brethren” (their greatest success being at Plymouth), and calling themselves “Brethren.” They unchurch all ecclesiastical communities, both Catholic and Protestant, holding each and all to be a Babel; and they do away with all church offices, holding that every believer has a right to preach and administer the ordinances. Their testimony is chiefly negative—their main positive doctrine being that the Lord is at hand, and, until His coming, the Holy Ghost is the sole and sufficient Sovereign in the church. Some practice and some oppose pedobaptism. They are generally strong Calvinists; are familiar with the Scriptures; and their preaching and writings are uncommonly spiritual. They are now divided into five sects; and they claim about 1,500 “meetings” in the world, of which half are in the British Isles, and about 100 in the United States, about 100 in Canada, and the remainder mostly on the continent of Europe.” ~ The Church of God from the Creation to ad 1885, Elder Cushing Biggs Hassell and revised by Elder Sylvester Hassell

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30 thoughts on “Hassell on JND

    • I believe, considering the historical timing of the work (1885), it was fair to point to Darby as the leader of the Brethren.

      • Elder Hassell was making American Primitive Baptists aware of PB’s and Darby. His comments are not meant to be “vast.” They are accurate for the time in which he was writing.

      • jm: My point is that there are many better statements about both “the Brethren” and JND! Oh yeah! The PB’s, and especially the Open Brethren have done much so-called “Evangelical” work in the late 19th, 20th, and even still in the 21st century! Their spread of Bibles and Tract/Pamphlet work is indeed part of God’s sovereign grace!

      • This is simply not true! Note, there are few if any good and critical Bio’s on JND, at least in public print now. I have myself several of the now classic books on the PB’s themselves, perhaps one of the best is by Harry or H.A. Ironside’s book: An Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement. I have an old hardback copy, (Zondervan..1952). But, no doubt the most critical, and especially of J.N. Darby is the book by F. Roy Coad: A History Of The Brethren Movement, Its Origins, its Worldwide Development and its Significance for the Present Day. I have the hardback here also, (The Patenoster Press, 1968). Considered one the most critical works historically on Darby, at least in places. I have also the book by G.H. Lang on Anthony Norris Groves, which is also critical on JND. I have too ‘The Origins of The Brethren’, 1825-1850 – by Harold Rowden, (Pickering & Inglis LTD., 1967). I mention just a few of these classic books, which I have myself. The point here, is that JND is hardly “KIng” among many of the “Brethren” themselves! (Past & present) Though, he is certainly somewhat respected.

        I have one of the largest one-line publishers of Brethern materlal on my blogroll, STEM Publishers.

      • OK. I’m thinking of ‘Darby’ as representative of the dispensational system. I see you are speaking of ‘Darby the man’. I think the light of Scofield and the DTS folks in the US eclipsed the light of Darby.

        The Brethren are not very popular here (US), at least from what I have observed. Their teachings, however, have won the day.

  1. Looks like a pretty accurate statement based on what little I know of the Brethren…

    The following line particularly struck me as being very consistent mith much of modern American Evangelicalism:

    Their testimony is chiefly negative—their main positive doctrine being that the Lord is at hand…

      • I met F.F. Bruce in the library at the University of Manchester, and we actually chatted about “the Brethren” movement. He used to go the the library after he retired, to just work and read. We chatted several times. My greatgram (died when I was 15), was among the so-called ‘Kelly Brethern’ (for William Kelly). I went to Brethren “Meeting” with her many times. Early in her life she was baptised in Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, by A. T. Pierson. She later also lived and died in England, where she was with the Open Brethren.

      • Btw, few know FF was born in Scotland, he died in 1990. I have many of his early works. Check out his grand book, The Spreading Flame, the rise and progress of Christianity, to the Conversion of the English.

      • Of course the PB’s, and the Open Brethren really don’t have an official “liturgy”. But they do have their “form” or lines of worship, which are within their history. I would leave you to check that out for yourself. But, it is also historical that in both the early “Brethren”, as the Open Brethren, they have had many an Anglican at their ‘Lord’s Table’. As I too have celebrated among them, and have even been the one (at times), to speak and pray over the elements of bread & wine. A very blessed “Eucharist” and worship, surely! But their theological position would be somewhat Zwinglian with the elements, but they do have a doctrine of the Lord’s “Presence” among them at such a time, see Matt. 18:20…Christ walks among them, both collective, and individually! Of course here it is more of the Spirit, but somehow also Christ Himself personally among them!

  2. Robert, I don’t really understand the problem with Hassell’s comments. It was just a short mention of the Brethren and Darby. Nothing more or less. Darby’s piety is much to be admired but I do disagree with his theology.

    • It is this older kind of statements, made by those who are “outside” of Brethrenism, that perpetrate the myths of JND and ‘the Brethren’. Perhaps, the best of the Open Brethren, at least in America, is at DTS (Dallas Theo.), i.e. those who fellowship from there with the “Open” Brethren. There really MUST be an understanding between the Exclusive Brethren (history, etc.), and the Open Brethren! Simply too much ignorance here! And yes, I have spoken at the Open Brethren conferences, even as an Anglican a few times.

      • Note, I am close to the best of “Brethrenism”, which is always simply Christ, Savior, Lord.. the eternal Son of God, and their better part of “biblicism”! But I also know very well their weakness and errors too. But, we all have feet of clay!

      • You seem to have great affection for the Brethren. If you don’t mind my asking, isn’t it unusual for an Anglican to associate with a Brethren? Or, perhaps, I would be more correct to phrase that the opposite way?

      • As I have mentioned, with jm, my greatgram was a PB, and I went to ‘the Brethren’ “meetings” with her at times. (I was then a Roman Catholic, so I just sat back and watched, but they were mostly grand people and devout Christians). So yes, I have an “affection” for the PB’s, certainly. But, I also know their weakness and history too. Not to mention my more modern or my own personal history and connection with the Open Brethren. I am not a PB strictly, but again, I do value some of their doctrine, theology, and even history! And I do confess to reading many of their historical people…JND, William Kelly, etc. I have JND’s full Collected Writings, as too many of Willam Kelly’s. Here we have Calvinism, at least somewhat.. with many older “Brethren”, preaching Free Grace! (See my own blogroll with Stem Publishing…that’s irishanglican.wordpress). Note, I am myself Historic Pre-Mill, but post-trib, but I also like “some” of the PD, or Progressive Dispensationalism (see, Bock and Blaising’s classic book, as too, Robert Saucy’s classic book: The Case For Progressive Dispensationalism, etc. Both written back in the early 9o’s.)

    • Here is also a fair e-note on John Nelson Darbys life and doctrine…

      http://www.enotes.com/topic/John_Nelson_Darby

      And btw, we should note that among the early Brethren, there was a deep consciousness of the divided condition of the Church and Christendom! Today, this problem causes many Anglicans to move toward Rome. But, this is simply not exceptable for the true Evangelical minded and Biblical Christian! JND said in the 1850’s…”The division of the body of Christ was everywhere apparent rather than its unity.” Sadly, in many ways things have not changed much even today. We live in a time when the Church, especially in the West, is divided and certainly distracted, but we really need a biblical and theological ecumenical state. An Open church, but always a conservative biblicism! And for myself, this is still found in historical Anglicanism, with the Thirty-Nine Articles! To the quote the Scripture, as the “Brethren”, this is a “day of small things”…”And who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zech. 4:10)

  3. jm: Thanks to moderate my few thoughts! Oh how we need a biblical, theological, and yes a revival or renewal of the doctrine of God, first in the church, then towards the culture! But, I fear the latter will not happen again in the West? I am not “Darby-ist” (though I am a Darby! 😉 ) And the best of Open Brethrenism is a good thing to my mind. But, we need the Visible Church Catholic, which is well beyond any one historic Church, unto the People of God themselves, which Augustine called both the Visible and the Invisible Church of God!

  4. Btw, I forgot to mention, that FF Bruce wrote the Foreward for F. Roy Coad’s book, on the history of the Brethren. Again, this is a classic book, and perhaps the first definitive and critical look at JND and the Exclusive Brethren. This book is very rare today, I think it is now OP? My copy is a first edition 1968. Coad was an ‘Open Brethren’.

    Yes, I am something of PB history guy, though not in any official way – but of course there is nothing “official” with Brethrenism. 😉

  5. Pingback: New comment worth reading. « Feileadh Mor

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