About the time that our early pioneers were examining their views after the 1844 disappointment, John N. Darby and his followers in England were enunciating teachings that came to be known as Plymouth Brethrenism. They developed views on prophecy that were adopted by many Evangelical Anglicans, fundamentalists in many Protestant churches, the Keswick Movement (and similar movements in America), et cetera. They were strong on the Second Advent, the deity of our Lord, the atoning death on the cross, the bodily resurrection of Christ, His priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, justification by grace, and kindred doctrines. They did much to keep alive the Advent hope in England during dark decades after the Napoleonic wars.
But in the 1830's the Plymouth Brethren launched some new prophetic ideas on the world. They averred that the second coming takes place in two stages, the first for the church at the beginning of "the apocalyptic Week of Daniel," the second for Israel and the world at the close of the week, when the millennium will begin. The first stage is known as the Rapture of the Church.
Then came a deluge of ideas on prophetic interpretation, and with it, sad to say, great division and controversy among the believers. Some great names and good men were involved—S. P. Tregelles, Edward Irving, Kelly, B. W. Newton, George Miller, Dan Crawford, G. H. Pember, E. W. Bullinger, Robert Anderson, J. A. Seiss, Hudson Taylor, D. W. Panton, W. E. Blackstone, J. M. Gray, A. C. Gaebeleim, C. I. Scofield, to name but a few in England and America. J. N. Darby inspired Henry Moorhouse, who inspired the great D. L. Moody, and to this day some elements of Darbyism remain in Moody Bible Institute circles.
Opposing views appeared on the Remnant, the 144,000, the millennium, the gifts of the Spirit, church government, et cetera. The result was that there came into existence church groups known as the Open Brethren, the Exclusive Brethren, and every shade of Brethrenism in between these two, the one disfellowshiping the other as they developed their aberrations on sin, holiness, separation, et cetera.
The cleavages progressed apace, and Darbyists have divided and proliferated with a good deal of unfortunate publicity.
Recently some 8,000 members broke from the Exclusives over a definition of evil. "Faithfulness to the Lord" was made to mean separation from one's own family, from workmates, from playmates, and even separation from husband or wife. "A case was reported in the press of a young man who was driven to suicide on being forbidden to eat with his parents. The list of things forbidden to Exclusives includes membership in the Automobile Association and in professional bodies, and having meals with business colleagues. Students who belong to the sect are required to leave training colleges and universities."—The Christian Newspaper (London), July 20, 1962.
The lesson in all this dogmatic cleavage and fanatical proliferation? You have surely seen it by now!
H. W. L.
What 15 wrong with numbers?
Was the Master any less faithful when He conversed with the woman at the well? Did Philip do a more thorough job with the Ethiopian than Peter did with Pentecostal thousands? Gentlemen, the root of disturbance lies not in large numbers but in who gets them. You never hear a man who has had large baptisms complaining about the influx. He has worked too hard to get them. Whence, then, the sour note? Has it anything to do with sour grapes?
But there are those who are genuinely concerned with the quality of the present-day convert. Is he genuinely converted or only swept along in the tide of mass decision? The fact is that with an adequate staff, one hundred can be indoctrinated as easily as one. And further, no one has produced any statistics indicating that few converts apostatize less, percentage wise, than the many.
Miserly results are not indicative of thorough procedures nor do large ones indicate laxity. Carelessness may characterize either or both or neither. But isn't it a fact that as churches experience numerical strength, members tend to grow spiritually cold? True, but so do small congregations that do not grow. Our argument, then, is not against growth but against spiritual laxity.
The numerical growth of the church is the clear prediction of prophecy. Those who "fret" now will collapse later when "thousands" are converted in a day. Many pine for "the good old days" of the "little flock." In all honesty it should be noted that those days (of smallness) are gone forever. The flock was not spiritual because it was small, nor is the present church Laodicean because it is large. There is little relationship between spirituality and size. Therefore, in your evangelistic planning, "reach for the stars." How many? All of them!
E. E. C.