Extracts From Letters of J.N.D.

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Dearest B-, I was, for some days back, waiting the moment to write to you, moving about from meeting to meeting in the Jura, moved by the same motive which brought me yours, for which I heartily thank you, and am so glad that mine was delayed, as I had yours without even one from me. If your strength be spared a little I hope to see you. I purpose on my way to Canada, instead of sailing from Liverpool to go and see you in Dublin and get on board at Cork. I trust the Lord may so order it, but His way I am sure is best. Oh, how truly I feel that! You can hardly think how I feel that, and myself a stranger here. I have ever found in you, dear brother, everything that was kind; nor be assured was it lost upon me, though I am not demonstrative. Besides the value I had for you, it was not a small thing to me that you, with dear C. and H., were one of the first four, who with me (through God's grace, the fourth) began to break bread in Dublin- what I believe was God's own work.
Much weakness I own in carrying it out, little faith to make good the power which was and is in the testimony, but God's own testimony I am assured, in every respect, even as to the gospel to sinners, what He was doing. I knew for myself in no wise, the bearing and importance of what I was about, though I felt in lowliness we were doing God's work. The more I go on, the more I see of the world, the more of Christians, the more I am assured that it was God using us for His testimony at this time. I never felt it as I do, but it is not my purpose to dwell on it now, and I fully own our weakness. It is to you, dear brother, my heart turns now, to say how much I own and value your love, and to return it; I rejoice that, while I have been the object of many kindnesses on your part down here, it is one which will never cease, which has had Jesus our Master for its bond, though with many human kindnesses. But oh, what joy to know ourselves united to Him! It adds a joy to every sweetness: it is the source of good. Surely He is all.
For me, I work on until He call me, and though it would seem a strange Dublin without you, yet I go on my way, serve others, say little and pass on. Not that I do not dearly love others, but this will come out in its truth in heaven, perhaps on one's death-bed; but I have committed my all to Him till that day. My hope is still to see you, my beloved brother; should I not, be assured there is none who has loved you more truly and thankfully than myself: it can hardly be unknown to you, though with me there is more within than without. Peace be with you. May you find the blessed One ever near to you; that is everything. Faithful is He withal and true. In His eternal presence, how shall we feel that our little sorrows and separations were but little drops by the way, to make us feel we were not with Him, and when with Him- what it is to be there. Oh, how well ordered all is I ever long more to be in heaven with Him before the Father, though I desire to finish whatever He has for me to do; and if it keeps me awhile out, it keeps me out for Him, and then it is worth while, and grace.... I am glad to have a moment to finish my letter. I am full 500 or 600 miles from where I began it, and somewhat with a child's joy embrace unexpected leisure.
I have thought too of little fruit. I find that while specially happy in evangelizing, my heart ever turns to the church's being fit for Christ. My heart turns there. God knew, I suppose, that I was too weak and cowardly for the other; but I reproach myself sometimes with want of love for souls, and above all for want of courage, and love would give that- it always does; but in the consciousness of my shortcoming I leave all with Christ. He does, after all, what He pleases with us, though I do not seek to escape blaming myself through this; and if He is glorified I am heartily content with anything, save not to love Him.
May His joy and peace be with you, dearest B-, and again thanking you for your letter, which was a true delight to me, ever yours affectionately in our blessed Master, J. N. D.
1864. "Him no words can rightly praise."
I was very glad to hear you were better, for we were uneasy about you, though sure the Lord is right, and to have accounts of the work and of the beloved brethren in Canada, to whom I am greatly attached. God knows whether I shall ever see them again.
As to your question as to the manna; the color is nothing. It was a yellowish-white which Bdellium is said to be. It had an oily taste, but was sweetish.
Matt. 18:1616But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. (Matthew 18:16), &c., offers no difficulty at all. Call it an assembly, which is what the word is, and all question disappears. The Roman Catholic does not hear the church: he forms part of the church (all the faithful do to make up the church). He hears the clergy, but they are not the church. As to the passage itself nothing can be more simple; if I am wronged I seek to make my brother feel it; if that fails I take two or three more, so that it may not rest on my word merely. If that fail, I tell it to the whole assembly; if that be refused, I disown the offender. What has the clergy teaching a doctrine to do with my telling something to the assembly? They pick out three words from the passage quoted; and even so it is not the church they hear.
"The times of the Gentiles " is the time during which, from the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar till the beast is destroyed, Jerusalem and the throne of God in it has been set aside and the Gentiles been in power.
The "fullness of time" in Galatians, is when the responsibility of man having been fully tried, the due time has arrived for Christ to come and accomplish redemption. The "dispensation of the fullness of times," is when all ages having rolled round, and all being ready, all things in heaven and in earth are put under the authority of the second Man as Head.
The kingdom of God is general and embraces all the rest. The kingdom of heaven is God's kingdom when the rule is in heaven- when the king is there. This results in a special division, the full heavenly part which is the kingdom of the Father, and the subject earthly part- the kingdom of the Son of man.
There was no gift by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, but by the laying on of Paul's. It was an apostolic prerogative. The Holy Ghost was given by the laying on of the Apostles' hands; it is with as to the presbyters: they were associated, as approving witnesses of Timothy. Hence in modern imitations, or tradition, they are ordained by the bishop, but two or three presbyters join in laying on hands as a sanction but cannot ordain. The presbytery was the company of elders who doubtless knew Timothy, and thus testified of it: compare Acts 16:22Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. (Acts 16:2). These are all your questions.
The Lord willing, we start for the West Indies November 17. The desire to hear is very great here; constantly people cannot get in, and a majority of men, and I trust the brethren are getting on, as to numbers rapidly. Scotland is greatly opened and meetings formed, indeed in Ireland too. But all things are loosening up in every way and there is a good deal of religious action, very independent, but godly souls getting dissatisfied with looseness. We have just closed our laborers' conference here, I hope with blessing. Peace be with you. My kindest love to the brethren at Quebec and Montreal. The Lord graciously lead them on and bless them, and gather many into the paths of peace. 1869. J. N. D.
Most glad I was to get your letter, and doubly so from its contents. The Lord has been indeed blessing you, nor have we been without some droppings of the shower. Barbadoes was very interesting; numbers came, earnest, attentive, and many declared they had never heard the real gospel before; and considerable numbers found peace. Some were added every Lord's day we were there, and a good many have now to decide between taking up their cross and following Christ, or accommodating themselves to the world, and religious error and false doctrine, which they know to be wrong. The Lord give them grace to be faithful.
However we had to come on to Jamaica, where there is scarce one to labor and not much spiritual life, but some nice brethren as far as we have seen, glad to profit by what we are enabled to afford them. How far the door may open is in the Lord's hands, at Barbadoes there was no mistake as to this. It helped, too, dear ____ who had been laboring under reproach, a lowly man, distrustful of himself, but whom the Lord has blessed there much; treated as a bringer of strange doctrine and folly, but many saw now "we charged him with wrong doctrine but now we see it was we who were wrong," and the rumor of it spread through the place. The brethren are in much union and harmony here; there are a good many scattered small gatherings in rather inaccessible places- no roads or means of communication. I suppose I shall have, as people do, to buy a carriage and horses, and sell them again on leaving, riding when a road ceases, lodging where one can.
We want laborers. Oh, that the Lord would raise up single-eyed devoted workmen, coming direct from Christ to those around, enduring hardness too by times, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. He has raised up some, His name be praised, but we need many more. We have to pray the Lord of the harvest, and may He grant them. I suppose I shall have to go back to Europe from this; France and Germany claim a visit. I thought I had done with them. And I have some London work. But I am so used to the Atlantic and so well on it, if God preserves my strength, I may yet see the States and so, the Lord willing, Canada. What effect has the new work in Western Canada? But it is the Lord's work, and He only wakens and arouses.
______ has suffered a little, otherwise we are all well. No doubt it tends to destroy exertion, but people are needlessly frightened about the West Indies. The land is magnificent, full of misery, and like all the West Indies degraded in morals, but temporally has seen its worst.
The full mind of God has opened itself out to me more largely than ever in these latter times, but I am not satisfied with myself as to my love to souls. I bow to filling up the little niche I may have been allotted, but still envy (not with an ill-feeling) more active evangelists and sometimes ask myself whether cowardice and want of zeal does not hinder one. Fully occupied and laboring, the question is whether a simple love to souls would not put me in another place.
I am content with and thankful for any the Lord will allow me to have, unworthy as I am of any. I ask if the exposition of scripture is the task allotted me. I see the church's need as to it and am content with anything, but I have ever loved evangelization. I have gone out on that work. The church is at my heart perhaps more than souls; yet I trust I love them. But Christ's glory must connect itself with evangelizing for me. Some much prized, though I heartily rejoice in it, falls cold on my heart for this reason; but all is in His hands, only I would not avoid my responsibility. Well, enough of myself.
Give my kindest love to the brethren. May they be kept very near the Lord, and truly waiting for His Son from heaven. My heart is with them in their blessing. May they know how, through grace, to keep it. Kind remembrances to Mrs. ____ and your boys too: the Lord graciously keep them from the world and by His own gracious power. 1870. J. N. D.
He had been written to with reference to the general work of the gospel, and the connection of "Brethren" (so called) with it.
It is the greatest joy to me, that the hearts of the saints have been turned to souls, not surely from the word, but charity thinks of souls. I remember often in olden times saying to you, Remember the people have souls.
As to the work, I heartily and with deepest thankfulness delight in it. No doubt, human infirmity may accompany its effect and working amongst men. Does that make one turn away from the manifest hand of God? There may be in given cases accompaniments which make it impossible to join in particular meetings or acts, but where God is free, where the spirit is, there I ought to be; and if I cannot join, as I could not when Christ is preached of contention, I rejoice, for all that, that He is preached, and brought to souls.
I see that it will be a judgment on the professing church because it seeks the credit of God's work and does not own the presence of the Holy Spirit, and I have no desire that the truths which have made us own that, and our place in the last days, should be in any way enfeebled, but if full and happy liberty were left anywhere to the Spirit of God, nothing that grieved Him maintained, this consideration would lead me rather to cultivate intercourse.
I judge it would be a deplorable sign if brethren could not freely rejoice where God evidently works, but I have no desire in having my heart large, and tender too as regards the Lord's work, to have my feet out of the narrow path.
It is a very great joy to me to know these dear young _____ are converted. Give my kind remembrance to their father and mother, and tell them how heartily I sympathize with them. I was greatly rejoiced too in _____. Surely I remember him, for in two or three weeks I had become greatly attached to him. I never saw, I think, a soul receive Christ and the gospel as he did, a soul open under its influence as his did. The Lord grant his wife may follow his path. I trust the _____ may be in testimony there also, and that they may remain humble, serious, simple, and unexcited; but I say cultivate these droppings of divine grace, this springtime of the soul.
There is need of building by the word, but the earliest fruit of an awakened soul will be feeling, not knowledge, and this will become feeble and unhealthy if not fed by Christ and the word. But this process went on at first, and has given the epistles, but we see the weakness which may accompany it; they would have given their eyes, but did not hold fast justification by faith. All this needs the continual work of the ministry, not to make a fuss about the first feelings, the flowers which precede the fruit; but to labor therein to feed the soul.
As to conversions in singing, there is nothing at all unscriptural. If the truth is in the hymn spoken of, with divine affections or souls' affections expressed respecting a truth already outwardly admitted, it is quite within the ways and operation of the Spirit of God to act on the soul in a quickening way by it, not without truth, but by truth so addressed to the soul.
I do not say that the work will be there as deep, or the foundation as solidly laid at the moment for after exercises, as if it was the direct application of the word by the Holy Ghost to the conscience; but the heart receives Christ convincingly and lovingly so as to live. I have ever said that the smallest atom of Christ suffices for the Holy Ghost to quicken by, if it be really He. No doubt a profound conviction of sin by the word casts off a mass of imaginings of the flesh by a deeper inward work, which such a conversion leaves undiscovered. But if God works, He will do His own work, and bring it to a good issue.
The work in Ireland has confirmed me largely in the truth of all I have learned connected with brethrenism, so called, but it would be deplorable if I could not rejoice in God's acting wherever His own blessed sovereign goodness is pleased to do it. I do so with my whole heart, and if one is not ready for Him. There may be first last, and last first, without the truth being weakened. Salvation was of the Jews; alas, it was in result more for others than for them; the fields were whiter for harvest elsewhere than there.
May the brethren be found with their hearts free, and their feet firm; and they may be of the largest blessing to the church of God at this moment.
Here, God be thanked, God has largely blessed my visit; and the brethren, I may say, are in peace. J. N. D.
It is not the first time that our beloved brother has been exercised on this subject. I once exchanged a letter with him on the subject. But where it is a process going on in the soul it is impossible, as far at least as I can say, to give counsel as to it, but many collateral questions come in. I should be greatly grieved if brethren ceased to be an evangelizing set of Christians. Indeed they would fade in their own spiritual standing, and get probably sectarian, not in theory but in practice, because the enlarging principle of love would not be there. Thank God, it is not as yet so. But grace alone can maintain the testimony.
I confess I feel a sort of envy of those whom God has called to evangelize. My want of courage keeps me humble, but it would be better to be humble without it; but our part is to be where God calls us, and I trust I am ready to feed, if it be given me, the weakest of the flock and count it a privilege. To souls getting peace and liberty, God has blessed me, but comparatively little in awakening, though He has where I have served in this way.
I have said there are collateral questions. God is not always awakening souls in a marked way. It is done in a place and ceases, though souls may be converted afterward. An awakening may again occur through other means, another layer being reached, and by those morally nearer their state. The evangelist may have to go on elsewhere. I have known it cease and go into a neighboring village.
At the beginning, brethren were engaged, and pretty much alone, in the roughest evangelizing,—fairs, markets, races, regattas, and everywhere in the open air. Gatherings grew up and the care of them became needful, though evangelizing went on and was blessed, and in a measure is in many places. Others since have occupied the field who are really their followers under God. If even contention mix itself with this, if Christ be preached, we ought to rejoice.
But the care of the scattered gatherings is most precious work, not altogether neglected, but the laborers are few. There is no reason why _____ should not exercise this local care for a time, and there is large room for it. If God still calls him to evangelize he will find the craving after souls forcing him out to do that work. At all times in a general way we have to do it, as Paul says to
Timothy. Often those nearer the state of the unconverted are more apt for it. This may be imperfection, but so it is, and if then they go on holding to that, they grow little and meet little the spiritual wants of these last days.
As to dear _____, I should say let him, while in the kind of retreat he is in, while evangelizing everywhere he can look after these small gatherings, a thing I have greatly at heart, and visit them elsewhere; and, I repeat, if filled somewhat with their company, he will feel urged out, if God so call him, to seek souls among those without, but in nearer and more untouched places, or in large towns where there are always masses unreached. Mere evangelizing does not cause to grow, though God may allow and bless it. Thank Him that He does, but see what was taught the Thessalonians at starting.
But evangelizing in Christendom is different from doing it in heathenism. A full salvation does give a basis for growth, but in Christendom it is necessarily separative, and hence the need of wisdom in that work, but sorry indeed should I be if it was given up. I see joy and gladness in conversions even in heaven. It is the making a fuss about them and writing up the people I dread. But God bears with many things. Still the feebleness of work is felt afterward. Hitherto we have got on happily; here and there is some life and progress.
If younger, I should look to a longer sojourn if spared; as it is I am the Lord's servant, desiring only His will, and when my work finishes there is its end, and He will gather His own people, in which I shall rejoice in that day. The Lord be with you and keep you near Himself, humble and serving, but having more of Him than you spend in service. I am very thankful for the blessing He gives you. We are His, and may we so walk.
There is another point, in passing from the love of God in mercy to sinners filling the soul, and the love of God to the saints as such, when we have become interested in them through the other. It requires both distinct gift, and being very near Christ in consecration of heart, to carry on both.
J. N. D. 1875.