Archives for the month of: November, 2013

By: John N Darby

These first thirteen discourses were delivered without any thought of extending them beyond the immediate congregation to whom they were addressed. They were taken down by one of the congregation, and are now at the desire of a brother made public, with the permission, but without any revision of the preacher. Dublin, 1838.

[The Editor would say here, once for all, that the contents of this volume in general being mere notes, he has taken the liberty of correcting the more obvious slips, most of which are perhaps due to such a means of transmission. The author is not justly responsible save for the substance, though no doubt the words are often his own; if he corrected, he would assuredly do so much more freely than another would feel free to do.]

The whole of this Psalm evidently contains the words and experience of the Lord Jesus Christ. It begins with one of His most momentous sentences, as if a direct quotation from prophecy: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and gives the very words of the infidel Jews, when the Saviour was expiring on the tree, in the eighth verse: “He trusted in the Lord, that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”

The whole Psalm is an accurate scene of our Lord’s sufferings. In the verse preceding the text, His agony of soul is described: “Save me from the lion’s mouth!” the intenseness of which agony is thus described in Hebrews 5:7: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears”; and of which we have witnessed the facts in the garden of Gethsemane, where His soul was “sore amazed,” and He prayed, if it were possible, to have this cup pass from Him. And in the concluding part of verse 21 (“Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns”), we have Him brought to the crisis of extreme suffering, on the very horns of the altar, as describing the sacrifice bound and laid on. We have His delivery thence, “Thou hast heard me,” as in Psalm 40: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry: he brought me up also from out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and ordered my goings.” The very next verse describes Him thus: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation [or church] will I praise thee.”

Here we read our Lord’s testimony after He had been heard, after He had come out of the horrible pit, after the agony, and suffering, and woe, and death had been past; in short, at His resurrection. It is just at that time this verse describes Him: and in it we see, first, the office He has taken in declaring God’s name to His brethren; and, secondly, we see Him as He stands in the midst of His church, as its Head.

And who is it that thus testifies, “I will declare”? Who it is we cannot mistake, from the entire tenor and express words of the Psalm. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. And what does He declare? “Thy name”: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren”; the name of Him to whom He appeals as His God. And that, brethren, is the only way we know anything of God; when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself reveals Him and declares Him. It is God’s appointed way of communicating anything of Himself; and without a knowledge of God through Christ we never can know peace. In declaring God’s name, Christ declares His own: He testifies what He has done for man, and the consequences of it. Immediately after the work is finished, He communicates it to His brethren: “Save me from the lion’s mouth; for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” And immediately after His delivery, He exclaims, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren.”

121 The Psalm, throughout, gives us the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, and also His strength, and comfort, and trust in God in the midst of them, which prophecies meet their fulfilment so accurately and fully in His life: “I knew that thou hearest me always”; “I am not alone, for the Father is with me” But there was one hour, one period of darkness, and of agony, when Satan was let loose to buffet Him, but not yet able to turn Him aside – to take Him off from His high trust in God, when He was brought so low as to say, “The waters have come in even unto my soul”: “My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” The very height of His trouble was the hiding of God’s countenance.

The Suffering of Christ…..

By: John Nelson Darby

One of the great efforts of the enemy in these days is against the written word of God. Ecclesiastical office and orthodoxy is in its nature no barrier against this inroad. In its most pretentious forms and highest claims it is injurious to true confidence in scripture, because the authority of the Church, not that of the word, lies at the root of these pretensions. Divinely given authority is its first principle; not divine truth from God.

If its true principle be scrutinised beneath conventional habits and fears, it will be found that the authority of the word is founded, according to this system, on the authority of the Church — that is, the word has none properly divine in itself. I say this, not with a view to controversy with that system, but as a warning that, in the struggle which is going on, such a barrier against unbelief is not to be trusted to.

The confidence in man and his intellectual powers and progress, which characterizes another considerable portion of the professing Church, is surely no security against man’s assuming to judge what does and will surely judge him. The word has its authority from God; and God will make good and prove that authority in judgment, as He blesses us with it now in grace. The word, if it be the word of God at all, calls for submission. It forms, as a means, the link of renewed connection with God, granted to us by sovereign mercy when sin and flesh had separated us from God. It is sent out from Him, as was the living and eternal Word, as a point of contact in mercy and power for man with God; which comes to him where he is, deals with man exactly in the state man is in, and reveals God — and as He is pleased to reveal Himself — to man in that state. But for this God must be its author — none but God can rightly reveal Himself. Otherwise that word cannot bear witness of the love, the purpose of love, which is in God.

It cannot have the wise adaptation to the end which that love proposes to itself, and the gracious consideration for all the infirmities, all the varied circumstances, of those to whom it is addressed, so as to reveal divine love and truth, divine love and plans, to and in spite of those infirmities, if the purpose of doing so be not there — ἁρχὴ τῆς θεωρίας τέλος τῆς πράξεως. Now I meet a great deal which takes the form of condescension to believers in divine inspiration, while it really assumes human intellectual powers to be on superior ground on this question, and adapts its reasonings, with great deference to their claims, to the theory of inspiration, so as to save something for the more feeble-minded. Help is allowed on God’s part, the aiding the memory according to the Lord’s promise. It is thought much to rescue such points as these from the invading grasp of rationalism. Now I do not doubt that the Holy Ghost did help — did recall to the memory of the New Testament writers what our Lord had said. But who was the author of the New Testament? How came it to be written? Is there no purpose in the history and other writings of the New Testament? and if so, whose purpose was it? Whence do the writings flow? Is the existence of the New Testament an accident, which has its origin in the will or circumstances of four men (I speak particularly now of the Gospels, though the principles apply to the whole New Testament, and with increasing force when it is looked at as a whole) who were afterwards, when they thought fit to undertake the work, graciously assisted? Or is the scripture New Testament history the consequence of a purpose of God, a fruit of a divine intention and plan, of whose execution the Holy Ghost is the author?

360 We read in Peter, Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:21 Here we have the source — the motive power in this work. The word of the Lord came to them. I have no theory as to the manner in which the New Testament writers were inspired. I recognize, in the fullest way, the diversities of style and the stamp of individuality in the different writers. The Lord was pleased to use men. But when I say that, it implies that He used them. I see the Lord declaring that He would use their memories. I see the apostle preferring an inspired communication in which his understanding had a part. But it is evident that if God recalled, by the Holy Ghost, certain events to the memory of a writer, He could recall them in such a way and form as He pleased; or as it had particularly struck the writer at the time the event happened; or while the facts were presented anew to his memory, with such additional apprehensions as the spiritual state of the writer made him capable of at the time of writing, and according to that peculiar form of apprehension wrought by His power and presence in the writer. He might recall these events to the writer’s mind in the succession He thought fit, so as to produce a given order in the narration. But all this supposes the action and purpose — the will — of a divine Author, who acts with a plan and wisdom suited to its accomplishment. The wisdom of such an author might (by the combination of the events in a given order, and the selection of such as He recalled) produce a result from them, as a whole, which had a bearing and gave a witness to Christ entirely beyond the thoughts of the writer, though he might in every part be used according to the state of his own mind under the influence of the Spirit of God.

Inspiration of the Scriptures….

By: John N. Darby

In the last verse of this chapter we have, in fact, the summing up of the great principles and ways of God’s dealings with man in this principle of the gospel, “grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The result of what the apostle has been speaking of as to God’s dealings, dispensational and personal, is, that all is grace. “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,” v. 6. “God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” v. 8. It is grace that did everything; v. 15-21. “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,” and they may have gone on sinning and setting aside the authority of God; but by Christ’s obedience “shall many be made righteous.” “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” And in the sum of the whole matter grace reigns.

That which gave the apostle so much confidence in this was, that it was consequent upon the discussion of the whole condition of man, as looked at in every way and in every shape. The blessed result was, not something that came in, and the discussion after; but after the discussion of the whole condition of man (that having been gone through), God takes His own place, and manifests what He will be and is towards the sinner in Jesus Christ. Now that is properly speaking the gospel. The gospel is not what man is, or what God requires from man, but what God is after He has thoroughly revealed what man is. When received in simplicity it leaves no possible question in the mind. It is the revelation of God made after He has estimated all our need. The gospel, we repeat, is the revelation of what God is, when what man is has been thus fully revealed. “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Peace of soul is constantly hindered through our not recognising that God has taken full cognizance of what we are. The gospel begins consequent upon His having made a full estimate. He knew from the beginning what man was and would be; but after, in his history, He had brought out and demonstrated in ways and conduct what man was under all the possible circumstances in which he could be placed – when He had demonstrated him to be entirely lost, and that He could not trust him in any way or in any measure, He begins, and says, I cannot trust in you: you must trust in Me. Hence the reason there is often a long and painful conflict, because of our not being brought down, in conscience, to the point where the gospel begins. A man may acknowledge himself to be ungodly, but then he hopes to cease to be ungodly; and God perhaps lets him struggle on thus for some time, until in his own soul he is brought to the place where the gospel begins. It is not that the gospel is not simple, but that in conscience we are not in the conditions where the gospel sees us. The work must be in the conscience. We read (Matt. 13) of a man hearing the word, and anon with joy receiving it, yet of his not having “root in himself”; evidently no work in the conscience (it is not that he is insincere) but only in the intellect; he has never been brought in guilty before God; “for,” it is added, “when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by-and-by he is offended.” Whereas, if he knew that his own soul was lost without Christ, surely he would say with the disciples, “Lord, to whom shall be go? thou hast the words of eternal life!” (John 6:69). It is a great deal harder to believe that we are “without strength” than that we are “ungodly.” Many a soul believes the one, that has not as yet been brought to believe the other. God has given us His history of the world from Adam to Christ. There was a “due time” for the death of Christ, a “due time,” that is, in the history of the world. So is there the “due time,”* of the individual heart; not that the same feelings pass through the minds of all, but each must be brought to the result given us by the history of man previously to the death of Christ.

Christ’s Cross, and God’s Time….

The Man of Sorrows
“A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”
Isa. 53:3

O Lord! Thy wondrous story
My inmost soul doth move;
I ponder o’er Thy glory —
Thy lonely path of love!

But, O divine Sojourner,
‘Midst man’s unfathomed ill,
Love, that made Thee a mourner,
It is not man’s to tell.

Twenty-Seventh Week

“Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well.” . . . Oh! to think of the Lord Himself, whom none of the princes of this world knew, but who was the Lord of glory, sitting weary on the well, thirsty, and dependent upon this world for a drink of water — the world that was made by Him, and knew Him not!

He was the display, at all cost to Himself, of divine love to man.

I adore the love that led Him to be made sin for me. There was the full testing of the love that carried Him through all. It is deeply instructive, though very dreadful to see there what man is. What do I expect of my friends if I am on trial? At least that they will not forsake me. They all forsook Him, and fled! In a judge? I expect him to protect innocence. Pilate washes his hands of His blood, and gives Him over to the people! In a priest, what do I expect? That he will intercede for the ignorant and for them that are out of the way. They urge the people, who cry, “Away with him, away with him!”

Every man was the opposite of what was right, and that one Man was not only right, but in divine love He was going trough it all!

His sorrows must ever be a depth into which we look over on the edge with solemn awe. . . . It exalts His grace to the soul to look into that depth, and makes one feel that none but a divine Person (and one perfect in every way) could have been there.

He looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but found none. . . . He was tested and tried to the last degree of human suffering and sorrow, standing alone in this, praying in an agony and alone . . . none to sympathise with Him; Mary of Bethany was the only one, but for the rest never one had sympathy with Him; never one that wanted it that He had not sympathy with.

None of us can fathom what it was to One who had dwelt in the bosom of the Father to find His soul as a man forsaken of Him.

In the measure in which He knew what it was to be holy, He felt what it was to be made sin before God. In the measure in which He knew the love of God, He felt what it was to be forsaken of God.

He is the resurrection and the life. Wonderful that He, such in this world, Master of death, steps then into death Himself for us!

He has purchased us too dearly to give us up.

The traits of that face, Lord,
Once marred through Thy grace, Lord,
Our joy’ll be to trace
At Thy coming again.

With Thee evermore, Lord,
Our hearts will adore, Lord;
Our sorrow’ll be o’er
At Thy coming again.

John Nelson Darby

A former lesbian shares her testimony – very powerful

My Train Wreck Conversion
As a leftist lesbian professor, I despised Christians. Then I somehow became one.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

The word Jesus stuck in my throat like an elephant tusk; no matter how hard I choked, I couldn’t hack it out. Those who professed the name commanded my pity and wrath. As a university professor, I tired of students who seemed to believe that “knowing Jesus” meant knowing little else. Christians in particular were bad readers, always seizing opportunities to insert a Bible verse into a conversation with the same point as a punctuation mark: to end it rather than deepen it.
Stupid. Pointless. Menacing. That’s what I thought of Christians and their god Jesus, who in paintings looked as powerful as a Breck Shampoo commercial model.
As a professor of English and women’s studies, on the track to becoming a tenured radical, I cared about morality, justice, and compassion. Fervent for the worldviews of Freud, Hegel, Marx, and Darwin, I strove to stand with the disempowered. I valued morality. And I probably could have stomached Jesus and his band of warriors if it weren’t for how other cultural forces buttressed the Christian Right. Pat Robertson’s quip from the 1992 Republican National Convention pushed me over the edge: “Feminism,” he sneered, “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” Indeed. The surround sound of Christian dogma comingling with Republican politics demanded my attention.
After my tenure book was published, I used my post to advance the understandable allegiances of a leftist lesbian professor. My life was happy, meaningful, and full. My partner and I shared many vital interests: aids activism, children’s health and literacy, Golden Retriever rescue, our Unitarian Universalist church, to name a few. Even if you believed the ghost stories promulgated by Robertson and his ilk, it was hard to argue that my partner and I were anything but good citizens and caregivers. The GLBT community values hospitality and applies it with skill, sacrifice, and integrity.
I began researching the Religious Right and their politics of hatred against queers like me. To do this, I would need to read the one book that had, in my estimation, gotten so many people off track: the Bible. While on the lookout for some Bible scholar to aid me in my research, I launched my first attack on the unholy trinity of Jesus, Republican politics, and patriarchy, in the form of an article in the local newspaper about Promise Keepers. It was 1997.
I was a broken mess. I did not want to lose everything that I loved. But the voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world.
The article generated many rejoinders, so many that I kept a Xerox box on each side of my desk: one for hate mail, one for fan mail. But one letter I received defied my filing system. It was from the pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was a kind and inquiring letter. Ken Smith encouraged me to explore the kind of questions I admire: How did you arrive at your interpretations? How do you know you are right? Do you believe in God? Ken didn’t argue with my article; rather, he asked me to defend the presuppositions that undergirded it. I didn’t know how to respond to it, so I threw it away.
Later that night, I fished it out of the recycling bin and put it back on my desk, where it stared at me for a week, confronting me with the worldview divide that demanded a response. As a postmodern intellectual, I operated from a historical materialist worldview, but Christianity is a supernatural worldview. Ken’s letter punctured the integrity of my research project without him knowing it.
Friends with the Enemy
With the letter, Ken initiated two years of bringing the church to me, a heathen. Oh, I had seen my share of Bible verses on placards at Gay Pride marches. That Christians who mocked me on Gay Pride Day were happy that I and everyone I loved were going to hell was clear as blue sky. That is not what Ken did. He did not mock. He engaged. So when his letter invited me to get together for dinner, I accepted. My motives at the time were straightforward: Surely this will be good for my research.
Something else happened. Ken and his wife, Floy, and I became friends. They entered my world. They met my friends. We did book exchanges. We talked openly about sexuality and politics. They did not act as if such conversations were polluting them. They did not treat me like a blank slate. When we ate together, Ken prayed in a way I had never heard before. His prayers were intimate. Vulnerable. He repented of his sin in front of me. He thanked God for all things. Ken’s God was holy and firm, yet full of mercy. And because Ken and Floy did not invite me to church, I knew it was safe to be friends.
I started reading the Bible. I read the way a glutton devours. I read it many times that first year in multiple translations. At a dinner gathering my partner and I were hosting, my transgendered friend J cornered me in the kitchen. She put her large hand over mine. “This Bible reading is changing you, Rosaria,” she warned.
With tremors, I whispered, “J, what if it is true? What if Jesus is a real and risen Lord? What if we are all in trouble?”
J exhaled deeply. “Rosaria,” she said, “I was a Presbyterian minister for 15 years. I prayed that God would heal me, but he didn’t. If you want, I will pray for you.”
I continued reading the Bible, all the while fighting the idea that it was inspired. But the Bible got to be bigger inside me than I. It overflowed into my world. I fought against it with all my might. Then, one Sunday morning, I rose from the bed of my lesbian lover, and an hour later sat in a pew at the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. Conspicuous with my butch haircut, I reminded myself that I came to meet God, not fit in. The image that came in like waves, of me and everyone I loved suffering in hell, vomited into my consciousness and gripped me in its teeth.
I fought with everything I had.
I did not want this.
I did not ask for this.
I counted the costs. And I did not like the math on the other side of the equal sign.
But God’s promises rolled in like sets of waves into my world. One Lord’s Day, Ken preached on John 7:17: “If anyone wills to do [God’s] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine” (NKJV). This verse exposed the quicksand in which my feet were stuck. I was a thinker. I was paid to read books and write about them. I expected that in all areas of life, understanding came beforeobedience. And I wanted God to show me, on my terms, why homosexuality was a sin. I wanted to be the judge, not one being judged.
But the verse promised understanding after obedience. I wrestled with the question: Did I really want to understand homosexuality from God’s point of view, or did I just want to argue with him? I prayed that night that God would give me the willingness to obey before I understood. I prayed long into the unfolding of day. When I looked in the mirror, I looked the same. But when I looked into my heart through the lens of the Bible, I wondered, Am I a lesbian, or has this all been a case of mistaken identity? If Jesus could split the world asunder, divide marrow from soul, could he make my true identity prevail? Who am I? Who will God have me to be?
Then, one ordinary day, I came to Jesus, openhanded and naked. In this war of worldviews, Ken was there. Floy was there. The church that had been praying for me for years was there. Jesus triumphed. And I was a broken mess. Conversion was a train wreck. I did not want to lose everything that I loved. But the voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world. I weakly believed that if Jesus could conquer death, he could make right my world. I drank, tentatively at first, then passionately, of the solace of the Holy Spirit. I rested in private peace, then community, and today in the shelter of a covenant family, where one calls me “wife” and many call me “mother.”
I have not forgotten the blood Jesus surrendered for this life.
And my former life lurks in the edges of my heart, shiny and still like a knife.

“This Man (Jesus) suddenly remarks one day, ‘No one need fast while I am here.’ Who is this Man who remarks that His mere presence suspends all normal rules?’” (C.S. Lewis)