Chapter Seven "Playing Church"

The thirty years following the Bethesda break were, as we have seen, the flood-tide for the Exclusive section of the Brethren. The ebb was bound to come but few expected it to come so soon. Yet keen observers inside the fellowship had, for long, predicted disaster as they saw the ever-increasing evidences of weakness, — the growing ecclesiastical pretension, spiritual pride, and scarcely-concealed contempt on the part of many for less-instructed believers; all of which had resulted slowly but none the less surely in a gradual narrowing-down of the fellowship and restricting of communion. .Mr. Darby’s early thought that he only desired to see “what would serve as an available mount of communion where all godly believers could meet,” had, despite his frequent protests, been superseded by a system of teaching that the fellowship of saints was largely a fellowship of meetings governed by the same principles and recognizing one another’s disciplinary acts.

Mr. R. T. Grant told me in 1898 that G. V. Wigram, ere he died in 1879, bitterly lamented the fact that Brethren had been “blowing ecclesiastical bubbles” and “playing church,” and that he felt God could not go on with them in such folly. He passed away just as his prophetic words were in course of fulfilment.

It is noteworthy that Dr. Cronin, the first of the Brethren so-called, was the one who unwittingly brought about the crash. In the year 1876 the exclusive assembly at Ryde in the Isle of Wight, fell into a most grievous state as a result of bickering and strife over the question of the rightfulness of marrying a deceased wife’s sister. According to English law, such a marriage was within the prohibited decrees, and condemned alike, at that time, by church and state. (The ban has since been removed.) In France such a marriage was recognized as honorable and in every way legal. One in the {p. 84}Ryde assembly, whose wife had died, crossed the Channel and married his sister-in-law. Upon his return to England a storm of protest was raised. It is needless to dwell upon the details, but as is ever the case when the unruly members gets its unhallowed work in, the assembly was soon in a wretched state. So bad was its internal condition that Mr. Darby refused to visit it and emphatically described it as “rotten.”

In Ryde there was an English Church clergyman, Finch by name, a friend of Dr. Cronin’s, who was deeply interested in and exercised by the teachings of the Brethren. Attending a convention or conference in London he was received at the communion, and returned to Ryde fully determined to leave the establishment and take the Brethren’s position. But he found that most of his congregation were prepared to take the same step so all withdrew together from the established church, and were ready to begin meeting simply as Brethren. Immediately a difficulty arose. It seems that it was one rule of the solemn game of “playing church,” to use Mr. Wigram’s expression, that there could be only one church in a city. There might be many meetings, as in London and elsewhere, but all must be recognized as one, and it was held necessary that Mr. Finch and his friends should all disband and apply individually for fellowship in the already-recognized Ryde meeting.

This Mr. Finch firmly refused, knowing well the condition of the local gathering. One wonders how any true under-shepherd, with a real heart for Christ’s sheep and lambs could have done otherwise than to refuse to be a party to the bringing of a company of earnest believers, anxious to walk in New Testament truth, into a meeting almost torn in pieces by unseemly gossip and un-Christlike wrangling. Accordingly they broke bread as a separated company as all brethren had done at the first. In this they had the counsel and advice of Dr. Cronin who doubtless recalled early days as he saw the way these saints were being led on. He visited Ryde and tried to help the local assembly but felt it was impossible, and so he notified them that he was perfectly free to break bread with the new company, which he did; an action that was looked upon as a fearful sin in the eyes of those who put the new game above the souls of saints.

Upon the aged doctor’s return to his home assembly at Kennington, he learned that his act had been construed by many as a definite overt attack on “the ground of the one body.” Kennington, it was said, {p. 85}was one body with the “rotten” assembly at Ryde. It could not be one body with the new gathering, however godly and fragrant with Christian love and devotion. But many saw otherwise and for about six months it was impossible to get concerted action at Kennington. Finally the patriarchal offender was excommunicated and for months set back with the tears streaming down his face as his brethren remembered the Lord, and he, the first of them all was in the place of the immoral man or the blasphemer. Finally he promised that, although unable to confess his act as sin, he would not offend in the same way again out of deference to the consciences of his brethren but still he was kept under the ban. Is it any wonder that some critic said of the Brethren that they are “people who are very particular about breaking bread, but very careless about breaking hearts”?

But lest my account seem to be prejudiced and one-sided I think it best to permit one of Dr. Cronin’s opponents to tell the story as it appeared to him, so I quote here from a pamphlet, published anonymously, and widely-circulated after the division had actually been consummated. It may seem to be anticipating to use a part of this document here, but I want to make clear the results of Dr. Cronin’s act in participating in the sacred observance of the Lord’s Supper with what was considered an independent meeting, by brethren who had all been looked upon as independent by other godly believers a few years back:

Is not a True Judgment of the Independency at Ryde,
and the Conduct of Kennington Essential to
Discovering a Right Path as to Ramsgate?

There would have been no division amongst us, on this matter surely, if we had been adequately sensible of the real character of the attack made three years ago on the testimony of God as to the “one Body—one Spirit,” and if there had been faithfulness to Christ in dealing with the offender. How many of us were not clear about it. Strange to say, the attack was not merely schismatic (in this case, fellowship with a meeting not recognized), it undefined undefined undefined undefinedwas also the usurpation by a single brother (in a place far removed from the sphere of his local responsibilities) of the Lord’s authority (only rightly exercised) in and by the Assembly (Matt. 18:18-20; I Cor. 5:4, etc.).

The attempt was virtually to excommunicate a whole Assembly {p. 86}gathered on divine ground, with which brethren were avowedly in fellowship, and have remained in fellowship to this hour; and, in the same town, to form another Assembly in opposition, without the fellowship of brethren.

If the Assembly sought to be dealt with had deserved excommunication, it would not have affected the principle involved in the attack.

This being so, we need not repeat here the charges brought against the Ryde Assembly and the answers to them.

The instrument used of the enemy was well calculated to darken our vision—a venerable and greatly esteemed brother, one of the earliest identified with this testimony of God!

The motive, too, was the deliverance of saints by an exercise of power alleged to have been used for God in righteousness. For a time even some long known as spiritual, intelligent, and godly were deceived (Prov. 9:15). Their love and veneration for this brother surely it was which blinded them.

His previous career, and recognized position, gave additional force and importance to his course, and it really acquired a deeper character of evil, causing wider disaster in consequence (Lev. 4:22; Acts 20:17 and 30). After more than five months’ delay at Kennington, he was excommunicated; but have we even yet fully seen what his assumption really involved?

Our endeavor to clear ourselves of his act and course cost us dearly.

What contentions there were, disintegrating us to the very core!...

Was this attack “a mistake,” a “blunder” merely, as suggested by some? It was no single mistaken act of Dr. C. It was a deliberate course of unscriptural independency on his own individual responsibility on the lines mentioned, viz., disowning the Ryde assembly and setting up an independent Table. It extended over a period from May, 1877 (when, on his own individual responsibility, he judged and disowned the Ryde Assembly by not breaking bread, and going into their room at the close of the meeting, stating that he could not own the Table to be the Lord’s, and that “Ichabod” was written on it), to February and March, 1879 (when he consummated fellowship with the new meeting he had helped to start). All this was in violation of the remonstrances and consciences of the saints of God, and of the judgments expressed by those most esteemed amongst us for spiritual discernment. It is not the {p. 87}fact, therefore, that Dr. C. thought he had, or expected to have, the approval of his brethren. He admitted this himself. He knew he was acting in direct opposition to the principles of God for the rule of the church of God, owned by brethren, and ultimately said that, according to the principles, he ought to be declared out of fellowship. On his return from Ryde, after his first breaking bread with the new meeting on the 9th and 16th February, 1879, brethren in London remonstrated with him; but he told the brethren at Kennington, on the 10th March, that he knew he had acted contrary to brethren’s rules, but he did not own the cordon of brethren! At a meeting of brothers at Kennington on the 13th March, 1879, it was unanimously decided that they had no fellowship with Dr. C.’s act in setting up a Table at Ryde. Dr. C. had, in the meantime, again gone down to Ryde, so on the 14th March a leading and elder brother at K. wrote him and told him of the judgment of the brothers at K., and entreated him not to break bread again at Ryde, but he did so, in spite of this letter and of the judgment of his brethren. Again, when he called on Mr. F., at Ryde, on 8th February, preparatory to breaking bread with his meeting next day, he said, “I’ve come, without any letter, to be with you tomorrow.” Further, in his written statement of his proceedings at Ryde, prepared for a few brethren on his return, he says, “I felt free to cast my lot in with them, disorderly as it must have seemed, and disowned as it may be.” But he went to Ryde on 8th February for the express purpose of breaking bread with Mr. F.’s meeting, having beforehand written him that he should, if in Ryde, ask to break bread with his meeting, and he inquired the direction of the Johnstreet Room, where he thought Mr. F. was breaking bread. He had also previously written to Mr. F. to encourage him in starting the new meeting, whilst at the same time the Assemblies in the Isle of Wight and elsewhere still owned the Ryde Assembly, and they told Mr. F. that they had no confidence in his independent action. Individual brethren also wrote and warned him (Mr. F.) in the strongest way as to the result of independency. In Dr. C.’s letter to Mr. F. of 17th December, 1878, he says, “I have made a note of the direction of the Upper Room.” There were other painful features attending this matter, to dwell upon which would make this paper too long. No amount of gracious waiting and entreaty subsequently to confess the wrongness of his (Dr. C.’s) course — not the heart-rending state {p. 88}of things consequent upon it, not even the condemnation of his act by Kennington brothers on 13th March had any real weight with him.

It was therefore a deliberate intentional act, expressive for him of a principle, held at all cost, for which he claimed divine guidance and sanction.

A year ago, he scorned the suggestion that he should confess his act as wrong with a view to restoration, and (to adopt his own recent phrase) he does not consider himself as “excommunicate of God.” That is what he thinks of the solemn judgments of Assemblies everywhere excluding him. Those most friendly (if there is any difference amongst us towards him) say in extenuation that “he never saw the truth of the ‘one Body.’ “Well, if so, I Cor. 14:38 is surely the Word for us in such a case. Let us be clear at all cost.

But why dwell upon this now?

For two reasons: —

1. Because it is needful still to be clear as to the origin of our deplorable division, on account of the activities known to be going on to undermine the action of 1879.

2. Because much observation and long, anxious consideration has produced the deep conviction that, in proportion as we are now clear as to the Ryde attack in conscience before God (not an assent merely to the judgment of others), shall we be helped to a right judgment as to the Ramsgate sorrow. There is only one test. How does the Lord—the Head of the Body— the Church—view all this?

Do we consider the point involved vital, necessitating a faithful stand?

Without controversy, the cause of the present divisions lies here. But this is not said to ignore concurrent causes on which others have dwelt, though they have been sometimes referred to, as if this matter were not enough to demand a decisive judgment.

Have we the slightest doubt that what has been and is going on is a deadly assault of Satan on the precious truth of God— “One Body—One Spirit”? These words are often uttered as a formula, but alas how feebly held! That which is most precious to Christ in this world will be the object of the special malice of Satan. “It [a work of Satan] will be ever founded on practically setting aside the power of that truth which has been in any given case, the gathering principle, and the testimony of {p. 89}God to the world.” (J. N. D. copied in Bible Treasury Jan. 7, 1882, p. 7.) Do we think we escaped by our course in 1879? No: —Satan is our persistent foe. There is a continuity in the assault from 1879 to 1881.

The Lord’s prerogative in the Assembly, the “two or three gathered to His Name” is also again lightly called in question in another form. Hence confusion and every evil work, with a view to disintegrate and scatter that which we trusted the Lord had gathered. Surely what we are going through is unmistakably an attack of Satan.

Doubtless such pretentious words carried great weight with many, but read thoughtfully after the lapse of fifty years they seem almost grotesque, and would be actually so if they were not so bad, in their amazing declarations and reckless charges of wickedness and defiance of Scriptural principles.

While the matter was still up for discussion at Kennington, other assemblies were greatly roused and were trying to hurry them to definite action.

At Ramsgate a majority party, led by a fiery zealot, Mr. Jull, proceeded to excommunicate the entire Kennington Meeting for its dilatoriness in dealing with the “wicked old doctor.” Because the minority refused to go with them in this hasty action they disowned them in like manner and went out to start a new meeting “on divine ground.” The majority met in Guildford Hall and the minority at Abbott’s Hill, and these two names were destined to become well known in the months and years that followed. Owing to an oversight about procuring the key to the Hall, the Abbott’s Hillers did not get in to break bread the first Lord’s day after the division and so were later considered off church ground altogether. This is an important point to bear in mind in view of what happened in Montreal a few years later.

The whole matter was referred to London when a letter was presented at a London assembly from Guildford Hall. This was held to necessitate an investigation to decide whether Guildford Hall or Abbott’s Hill was in schism. A course of meetings were held at Park Street, London, and the whole matter was thoroughly canvassed. It soon turned out that William Kelly was not likely to acquiesce in any extreme measures. He had long viewed with alarm the encroachments of ecclesiasticism, and he could see no wickedness {p. 90} in Dr. Cronin’s action. Mr. Darby, now in his 81st year and a very sick man, pleaded vainly that no ultra severe measures be taken, and declared that if questions like these were made tests of fellowship he “would not go with such wickedness.” Particularly did he plead that nothing be done that would result in a separation from Kelly, the man whom Spurgeon said had “a mind made for the universe, narrowed by Darbyism.” But another question had for a long time caused friction between W. K. and many on the other side, namely, his open and pronounced opposition to infant-baptism, or as they preferred to call it, household baptism. The result could therefore readily be anticipated.

At the last meeting the London leaders upheld the seceders at Ramsgate, though not endorsing all their acts and declared Abbott’s Hill out of fellowship, because they refused to own the others unless they came back individually confessing their sin. As J. B. Stoney and others left Mr. Darby’s bedside to go to this meeting he pleaded that grace be shown and begged that Kelly be not turned out.

But things had now gone so far it seemed impossible to avert division, and when they returned they told him that Kelly had refused to act with them in regard to Ramsgate and was now outside! Darby was greatly agitated, but too feeble to resist. He muttered, “It must be the will of the Lord!” and made no further protest. Stoney, and the “high church” party had triumphed. All who refused to accept the Park street decision were henceforth looked upon as schismatics and refused the privilege of communion. Andrew Miller, J. A. Von Poseck, Dr. Neatby, and many other well-known leaders, together with a large number of assemblies in the British Isles and many in the West Indies, were “off the ground of the church of God.”

The reader will, I judge, be interested, if he has followed me thus far, in William Kelly’s own statement, showing why he refused to bow to the London decision. It is entitled,

Why Many Saints Were Outside the Park Street of 1881

While Dr. Cronin’s matter was before Kennington, Park Street sent out (in 1879) an independent and sectarian Declaration, on which Mr. Jull and others left the Ramsgate meeting. {p. 91}The rest there waited for London’s decision, declining as in duty bound to prejudice a case still pending. The Jull party went out, several brothers “one by one declaring that they withdrew from the assembly as then constituted.” It was they who sought to reconstruct or revolutionize. The rest were content to act like as all others, save a very few small meetings full of the same fanaticism which actuated the seceders. This was ecclesiastical independency, a breach of unity subversive of the church.

Not content with groundless secession of itself demanding repentance and of course condemned by all the meetings that did not so act, the seceders after one day’s interval set up a counter meeting outside recognized fellowship, and gave plain proof of “new-lumpism” by rejecting summarily and clerically some of their own following. This was what Scripture calls “heresy” or “sect” (I Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20). He who was thus active is (in Titus 3:10, 11) branded as “heretical” and self-condemned.’’

Claiming that “they broke bread together on the alone divine ground of one body, one Spirit,” they quickly ceased nevertheless. Too self-confident to see or judge the real evil of their proceedings, yet finding out their mistaken policy, they seized on flaws in their Brethren who remained, both to deny their standing and to reintegrate their own pretensions. Hence (in. 1880) they repeated their party effort, with the bold assumption that “the Lord would own and protect” their second table. This the Lord did not; nor was it long before they themselves dropped it.

Then came their third and too successful renewal (in 1881) after private encouragement. It was Brethren now who sunk low enough to ask if they were never to break bread. Was this a right or godly question then? Had they truly condemned their party work throughout, all would have rejoiced; but justifying themselves as they did in the main, how in this state could it be allowed without compromising the Lord’s honor and Word?

The Park Street meetings followed. It is idle to say that no other course was open. Who can gainsay that Scripture teaches us to localize mischief by dealing with evil on the spot of its outbreak? It was the enemy’s snare to precipitate division, long sought by fiery zealots everywhere, of whom H. J. Jull was one. Park Street then intervened, where was a known predisposition, not to say determination, to at length endorse the seceding {p. 92}party, still impenitent as to their gravest offenses, though ready to own other failures—a blind for themselves and their supporters. It is false that they there cleared away, as was pretended, their open wrongs against the Lord’s name in the assembly. “Haste and errors of judgment” were confessed, but neither independency nor heresy, of which thousands of saints knew them to be guilty; nor were they asked to confess either, as far as was shewn. But chief men among Brethren, who of late lent secret countenance, led Park Street into public sanction of their third start; and other subordinate men were glad to push it on: yet these knew that J. adhered to the Park Street Declaration which led him into the ditch, though J. N. D. had got it withdrawn. For he thought it independency, as he told J. H. B. who at once reported this to J.

This was the evil deliberately committed by Park Street in the Lord’s name, and sought accordingly to be imposed upon all. Its acceptance was not left as usual for the Lord to vindicate if sound, or disannul if wrong. It was speedily required on pain of forfeiture of fellowship, in the face of known, wide, and deep disapproval. This meant nothing short of separation forced through on a question of discipline. What could those do who were sure that the entire procedure was unscriptural and a party snatching a triumph for party? They could not agree to what they judged unrighteous and untrue, cleaving the more in their weakness to His name and Word, as all once used to do together. They neither went nor sent to Park Street or its allies, but were in sorrow, humiliation, and prayer, if per-adventure the Lord might purge through sense of a false position, and of the previous evil that brought it about. We at Blackheath acted as was done at Plymouth in 1845-6, when a small minority left Ebrington Street, after it got wrong ecclesiastically as well as morally, before the heterodoxy of B. W. N. when known gave it a far darker character; we did not reject souls from Park Street, though not going there. Crying to the Lord for His gracious interference, we had suspicion and insult for our forbearance. We wrote plainly when challenged for receiving several of Lee, our neighbors, who could not more than ourselves subscribe a decree we believed to be sinful.

Some blame us, notwithstanding our common and solemn convictions, for not refusing those despised little ones. We think it would have been justly despicable, as well as error, if {p. 93}we had not received saints suffering for a godly protest, in order to retain a fellowship no longer true to the Lord’s name. By letting them break bread with us, we well knew that our adversaries rejoiced to have the occasion they desired. Surely our Lord has said, when the preliminaries are done in obedience, “Hear the church”; but is this His voice when they were not? Has He not also called him that has an ear “to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches?” To idolize assembly judgments as necessarily right is condemned by His Word.

But we may come still closer. The more that episode of sin, shame, and sorrow is weighed, the clearer it will be that ecclesiastical independency had unconsciously and extensively infected those, who talked loudly of “one body and one Spirit.” This was evident in the discredited Park Street Declaration. This carried away, not only H. J. J. and his companions in their secession and even worse, but the numerous party that might blame but aided and abetted them, at last bent at all cost on having them back without confession of their evil acts which betrayed false principles. Had they honestly been ashamed of their heretical or party ways the third time more than the first or the second? They themselves strenuously denied their guilt in this kind; yet no intelligent believer acquainted with the facts, and without strong personal predilection, can doubt it. Therefore, till repentance for those public wrongs was known to give them the right hand of fellowship was both to become partakers of their sins, and to part from all unprepared to join in that universally imposed unrighteousness. Far from penitence on that score, they indignantly and uniformly repudiated every charge of independency, or even schism, to say nothing of heresy. Yet it is as certain as can be that they were thus guilty, and that those who knew it as surely as ourselves joined at Park Street to condone it in their reception.

Therein ensued the strange and grievous fact of Park Street, judging for itself, and leading each company in London to judge for itself, independently of others. Thus through influence were enticed many with a conscience defiled, as also the fear of being “cut off” alarmed no fewer into acquiescence. For the advocates of division, without check somehow from those that knew better, applied to an ecclesiastical question the extreme measure, which we in obedience to Scripture had hitherto confined to Antichrists and blasphemies. Who could anticipate a great and good man, that had written “I shall never be {p. 94}brought into such wickedness,” drawn by inferiors into that very stream? We know how strongly he resisted it for years, alas! beguiled at length into what he had ever hated when left to himself with the Lord. Witness, only a little before, his letter to Jull, which it was sought to hide; as they did shamefully a postscript of his on a critical occasion previously.

It would have been evil if (not Park Street and other self-isolating fragments, but) the assembly in London had acted independently of a known widespread conviction elsewhere, that its proposal was utterly wrong, and must if confirmed demoralize, or repel, saints all over the world. How much worse when the independency of Park Street gave the signal to every other part of the same city, and then to the country meetings, as well as everywhere, to follow that fatal course! In the new departure truth was forgotten, and grace prevailed quite as little. Nor (apart from the wrong change of venue to London, perhaps above all to Park Street for a reason already given) was there the least excuse for failing to act in the unity of the Spirit and obedience of the Word. A proposal might have been submitted to all the gathered saints, and action taken or refused, as judged due to the Lord. It was the more to be heeded when passion was letting in disorder. But dissolving for the time, and for this matter only, into independent assemblies, each judging for itself, was to adopt the human device of a voluntary society, and to ignore the ground of God’s church, abandoning for the nonce our divine relationship and its duty. God thus allowed an evil movement of party to fall into a flagrant contradiction alike of his principle and of our own cherished practice in faith. Could it be for anything else but the worldly and rather vulgar end of catching votes? A sad fall for saints who for many a year walked together in faith, if but “two or three” here and there, and rejoicing to suffer for the Name, whatever the show or scorn of enemies! It caused heart-breaking to not a few that were hustled out, and that for the Lord’s sake rather than their own: has it ever been matter of grave self-judgment to many prominent in those days, when good men were too often swayed by the more unworthy?

Nor can plea be more hollow than claiming heaven’s sanction of a measure so begun, carried on, and completed. A commendatory letter to one meeting or another was no valid reason for shifting the place Scripture indicates for a decision without prejudice or favor, even if all had to wait in our weakness ever {p. 95}so long. How shocking to take it up hotly where partiality was rife, notorious, and violent—where was the expressed desire for a division to get rid of all but “the spiritual” i.e. their own sort! Acts of the assembly done in obedience, without bias or connivance, all are bound to accept, even if individually one regretted over leniency or over severity, as may be sometimes. Just before indeed was a case in London, closely related to the Ramsgate rupture, by which the party of division hoped through unprecedented rigor toward one in error but greatly beloved, to drive out largely of their Brethren. But grace prevailed. Almost all bowed, though in grief. The ill-wishers were sorely disappointed, and grew more relentless and overbearing. So Park Street took up the Ramsgate question; with what character and result we too well know. Since then God has permitted many an object-lesson, last and worst of all in the heterodoxy as to Christ and eternal life,7 before which even party is comparatively a small thing. Some there are who, if they had been entangled more or less by the divisionist party in the past, have by grace cleared themselves from that worst evil. But if they can neither deny nor justify the fact here stated (and I believe truly), are they not in an unsound ecclesiastical position? May faith and love work deliverance to the praise of the Lord’s name. W. K.

When the news of the division reached Canada and the United States it was generally accepted that Mr. Kelly was now in independency, and the assemblies on this continent went wholesale with Park Street. In Toronto about 50 persons whose consciences revolted against such pretentiousness, were declared out of fellowship. The letter setting forth the position of the majority follows:

Toronto, Canada,
October 2nd, 1882.

To the Saints gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus throughout Canada:

Beloved Brethren, — At a meeting of the Assembly in Toronto, on the 13th September, 1882, to consider our position with respect to the decision of Park Street, London, England, on the “Ramsgate Question,” after patiently waiting upon and remonstrating with a few Brethren who refused to accept the{p. 96}judgment, we were forced in deep sorrow of heart to withdraw from them, in order to affirm and maintain the principles of the Church of God (Eph. 6; 1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Tim. 2:19).

Our acceptance of the judgment of the Park Street decision is not based on a knowledge of the facts and circumstances connected with it, but upon the ground that “there is one body and one Spirit.” This decision we fully receive as having the sanction of the Lord, and must therefore be binding upon us, for “whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). We adopt this course in order to preserve fellowship with our Brethren who are “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”; otherwise we should deny the very foundation of the church of God, and the truth of the one body as a principle of gathering.

Among the many signatories to this amazing letter we find F. W. Grant, who was destined within a very short time to have a rude awakening in regard to the seriousness of the principle for which he here stood sponsor.

But there seemed to be a spell upon the minds of Brethren generally. Even the godly and enlightened C. H. Mackintosh (author of the “Notes,” etc.) wrote: “All we have to do is thankfully to accept the judgment of our Brethren gathered at Park Street. If that judgment be wrong, God in his own time and way will make it manifest.”

Henceforth there were two Exclusive parties, and, singularly enough, Mr. Kelly’s associates became, many of them, as stiff and rigid in their views as any they had separated from, despite the fact that their revered leader W. K. ever advocated the reception of all godly saints, except of course from other sections of Brethren!

The following extracts from his writings give his principles in no uncertain way:

“We receive every Christian walking as such, without reference to their connection with Nationalism or Dissent; we rejoice to have communion with them, whether privately or publicly. They may join us in worship and the supper of the Lord. They are as free as any of us to help in thanksgiving, prayer, or a word of edification, if so led of God; and this without stipulation either to leave their old associations or to meet only with us. Where is this done save only with ‘Brethren?’ With us {p. 97}on the contrary, if any godly Churchman or Dissenter thought fit to come when we remember the Lord together, he would be quite in order if he did any or all of these things spiritually; and this, not from any permission on our part, but as a matter of responsibility to God and His Word.”

Extracts from a letter on “Openness in Receiving and Freedom in Service”:

Blackheath, August 31, 1875.

My dear Brother… Individuals among Brethren may urge their private views on evangelists or others; but all such narrowness is censured by every wise man in our midst; and, what is more important, it is dead against that return to keeping Christ’s Word and not denying His name which characterizes the work. The question has often arisen as to fellowship as well as service; and as often those who are entitled to speak have resisted the tendency to a restrictive school. If some have sought to require intelligence in those received my own answer has been that it is vain and unscriptural; that they themselves when received were the very reverse of intelligent; that if intelligence is to be anywhere, it should be in those who receive; and that those who require it in the received fail in the intelligence they demand from others; else they would not expect it where it could not be… Hence Scripture knows nothing of keeping outside a godly-walking member of Christ.

As little does it countenance the church’s interference with the Lord’s work, and especially in the gospel. To set the servant in the simplest dependence on the Lord, to foster his immediate responsibility to the Lord, without the intervention of the church is what every brother holds as a sacred duty and principle… This maintains the evangelist intact in his liberty and responsibility to his Master. Ever yours, W. K.

But, alas, Kelly like Darby was not strong enough to control the zealots in his party! Soon the same rigid principles were seen in many of the so-called Kelly meetings as in those they had left.

7 This refers to the development of what came to be known as “Ravenism” which will be discussed later.