Human Accuracy in Divine Things; How to Read the Bible; the Bride; Diligence in Business; Occupation With Evil; Forgiveness of Non-Imputation; Literalism; Proverbs; Repentance; Self Knowledge; Combining an Occupation With Service; Fruit of Sifting; Divine Truth; Imperfect Expressions as to Truth; Parable of the Virgins; the Word as Cream on the Surface; Study of the Word; Details of Controversy; Darby Commending Reading Not According to His Own Thoughts; Darby's Attitude Towards Differences

Proverbs; Psalm 45:14; Matthew 24:45-51; Matthew 25:1-13; Romans 3:24-26; Romans 5; Hebrews 10:1-2; Hebrews 10:12; Revelation 7; Revelation 11:3; Revelation 14:1
Dearest brother,
I apply myself to the critical questions in order. I see no proof whatsoever that either Elijah or Moses is one of the two witnesses; I see that the two witnesses are in the same moral position as these two saints, but no proof that they are identical. Besides, if John the Baptist was not Elijah, he never can be literally. That the same person should be "angel of his presence," and afterward be man, is indeed possible; but one who is not a certain individual can never become so literally. "In the spirit and power of Elias," well and good, but we are speaking of personal identity.
I believe that the 144,000 of Rev. 7 are the twelve tribes as a whole; the mystical number of the elect of Israel in its totality; the 144,000 of chapter 14., the special remnant which will have suffered intelligently in the times of trouble at Jerusalem, and which, having been in the same position as Jesus on the earth (according to the thought of grace) will be with Him in the earthly royalty, although they will not be in heaven. They understand and learn the song, being more associated with heaven than any other. They form a part necessarily of the whole; this is the reason I said not absolutely.
Again, as to Heb. 10:1212But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (Hebrews 10:12), you are mistaken in supposing that there is transposition, for there is none; on the contrary,
I say, that to connect εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς with προσενέγκας neither order nor sense, and that a person who in some measure seized the habits of expression could not connect them. Μίαν...προσενέγκας θυσίαν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς is not, I take it upon myself to say, without pretending to be very learned, which I by no means am, a Greek expression, nor is it even intelligible; whilst εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς ἐκάθισεν as the effect of this sacrifice is perfectly natural, and follows, and connects itself with the train of reasoning; and that no other way of taking the words is admissible. Besides, εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς is not the same thing as εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα; it is used in contrast to the business of the Jewish priest, who got up, and remained standing, being a priest, and in order to renew the sacrifice, whilst Christ is seated continuously. This force of the word becomes so much the more manifest because the use of the word with sacrifices has quite a different sense in this chapter even, and to attach to it the sense that you suppose in connection with the sacrifices would overturn the whole reasoning of the apostle. In the sense that I attach to it, all is simple (and it is its true sense). Look at verse 1. You have there sacrifices offered continuously εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς. Give to the word in this passage the sense that you desire to give it in verse 12, and the apostle cuts the ground from under his feet before beginning his reasoning. The priests offered them continually-nothing more simple. Εφάπαξ is the word to express what you desire to attribute to εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς. I take εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς (ver. 14) in the same sense; there is no interruption in their perfection which demands a fresh sacrifice. (Apply this to the question of forgiveness.) This implies perpetuity, because if the sacrifice is not renewed, its efficacy is perpetual; but the conclusion that the apostle draws from it is οὐκ ἔτι προσφορὰ περὶ ἁμαρτίας.There are many of these things about which I have deliberate convictions, and of which I am more or less ready to give an account, but on which I do not insist when I do not see that the profit of souls is involved in it; and about which in any case I do not like to enter into a contest, because this very seldom tends to profit. Here, for example, I do not admit that the original bears any other translation than that of the English version....
As to myself, you should never consider it a reproach to have thought differently from me. In general, I like better reading what is not according to my own thought, because one always gains (if there is piety, and the foundations are solid) something by reading it. Divine truth is of such vast extent, and is so many-sided, taking up the nature of God, His dispensations, His ways with men, their responsibility, the positive revelations of His counsels, the moral and eternal relations which flow from what He is, and from what other beings are; that on all points the truth may be looked at in many ways, and one fills up the gap left by the others. I see this even in the apostles. John speaks of the nature of God; Paul of His counsels; Peter of His ways. All have the same truths; only as one goes on everything becomes increasingly absorbed in Christ; and if even there were mistakes in what the man writes, one eliminates them through grace, and one takes what is given of God, which is not according to one's own way of looking at things. So that it does not trouble me to find in your work ideas different from my own. Besides, if the foundations are well maintained, I like that there should be great breadth amongst brethren, and not a party formed upon certain views, provided also that devotedness and separation from the world, and the truths that lead us to this, be also maintained in all their energy, because the blessing of souls is in question in this.
I think, indeed, dear brother, that, as you say, you have studied too much, and read the Bible too little. I always find that I have to be on my guard on this point. It is the teaching of God and not the labor of man that makes us enter into the thoughts and the purpose of God in the Bible. We search it without doubt, but the cream is not found through much labor of the mind of man. I do not think that any one will believe that I do not wish that it should be much read, but I do wish that it should be read with God. It seems to me that there is too much labor in your way of reading it; but in this, as in all else, man learns himself, and purifies himself. I doubt whether the literal application which you sometimes make is warrantable, and whether the ways and the scope and the purposes of God bend and limit themselves to human accuracy, to what man divines as to accuracy. I am perfectly sure that all is divinely accurate, but the subject being vast, and seen only in part, to reduce it to human accuracy is, at times, simply to falsify everything I see two ends of an immense rainbow, I suppose that they never meet. Were I able to see the whole, I should only deem that my parallel line has only destroyed the bow; that not only are the beauty and the unity lost, but that which was in the nature even of the refraction which is necessary to the existence of the phenomenon. The word of God is the communication of divine things to the understanding (rendered capable by the Spirit) of man; but we know in part, and the whole not being communicated as God knows it, as indeed it could not be, and ought not to be, we often lose it by attempting to put it into a frame.
After this long, but as to its principle, important preface, I come to the wise and foolish virgins. I think that the virgins who accompany the queen (Psa. 45) are probably the cities of Judah; but the use of the same figure to signify the same thing (a thing common enough among students of prophecy) often betrays the one who uses them thus into serious mistakes; and there is still less ground for this when the nature and the moral order of the writing is entirely different. That the virgins in Matt. 25 should be the cities of Judah, is a thought that never crossed my mind till I saw it in your letter, and it seems to me that the passage would not allow of it for an instant. I have never had any other thought than that which interprets them as Christians, from the rejection of Christ till the rapture of the church. Bellett, for a moment, wished to make it the Jewish remnant. I did not deny the analogies, but he gave it up himself. I am fully and perfectly assured that it is disciples during the Lord's absence, not the church as a body, but those who take the place of professors in the responsibility that attaches to it. Up to the end of verse 30 in chapter 24, we see what concerns the Jews and Israel as a body complete and entire: all His elect are gathered from this whole people. He resumes (chap. 25 31) to show the judgment of the Gentiles; between the two the Lord gives the instructions needed for His own during His absence. This is why the bride is not named. I admit that chapter ¨24:32 to 44 looks at the judgments in relation to the earth, and does not speak of the rapture of the church; but from verse 45 the Lord considers the conduct of His people as to their responsibility during the whole time of His absence. In the parable of the talents it is so unquestionably; in this (24:45-51) that of servants. The thing is clear in principle. Now, when responsibility is in question for any one, it is always a. question of the manifestation of Jesus. This is what takes place here. The conduct taken account of is during His absence. When Jesus appears the effect of this conduct; will appear; thus the τότε is but the time of the application of the manifestation of Jesus to the conduct which preceded it. Now the conduct here is the conduct of professors, I do not at all doubt. All the elements of the parable confirm for me the application that I make of it. I do not see in the case of the Jewish remnant, or of the cities of Judah, anything resembling the going forth of the virgins to meet the Bridegroom, the sleep during the delay of His coming, the awakening afterward which causes them to rejoin the Bridegroom before He reaches the bride- such as takes place in the case of the virgins. Nothing is more simple than the application of it to professors. Going out to meet Jesus is the calling of the faithful; alas! they have fallen asleep. The cry of the Bridegroom awakes them, because they accompany Him when He comes to Jerusalem. In the parable they have nothing to do with the bride. The heavenly bride is never the relation of the members of the church in their responsibility; the bride enjoys without fail her privileges in heaven. The Bridegroom does not enter, as you make Him do, into His earthly kingdom before the marriage at Jerusalem: it is there that He is king. There is no question of the Son of man in the parable; the passage where the expression is found (ver. 13) is rejected by all the editors.
As to your remaining explanations, I consider them without foundation, because when Christ will be at Jerusalem, Antichrist will be destroyed. It seems to me that you seek for details too much, instead of seizing the bearing of the passages. You say, dear brother, "that it is certain that the word of the Lord tells me that when the Lord shall descend with the church, then the kingdom shall be likened unto the virgins." Allow me to tell you that the word of the Lord does not say so at all. You think, I do not doubt, that you can prove that this is what the passage means, but the word of the Lord does not say it. I admit that the Church is not presented here as the heavenly bride, but the virgins are not presented as friends of the earthly bride, or in any relation with her whatsoever, but exclusively of the Bridegroom, which is the place of the church alone, that is, of its members, for we are not speaking here of angels.
As to the result of your researches, I do not see any harm in your having given it forth, but it is possible that you would have done better if you had kept your work for some time in order to weigh it in the presence of fresh light; but God makes all things work together to the greatest blessing of those who love Him. It is my habit scarcely to put one foot before the other in the study of the word, and to give forth nothing until I am able, in measure, to say (while still liable to make mistakes, of course), This is the mind of God. This makes me go on very slowly, but I seldom have to retrace my steps-a few details that I have adopted from others, without observing it, affecting sometimes, but rarely, the thoughts that I have received. And now I am about to make a confession to you which may perhaps annoy you; I have not read your work on the Revelation, except a part on the seven churches. I had more than one reason; amongst others, I do not like reading in fragments anything on which I have to form a judgment; I take the whole. I am waiting until the whole has come out, and I shall gain this by it, that the controversy will be over, and that I can with greater calmness make my own of what is good, and pass over the rest in silence. This is what I do when I have time to read works, which is seldom the case. We need to know how to use the word by the Spirit; without this the letter killeth; it is only a labor of which the mind of man is capable, nothing but a concordance is needed for it.... I own that I think that you rest in the letter in such a way as often to lose the purpose of God.... I do not doubt that I shall find useful things, and others that I can profit by in many ways, although I do not accept the conclusion to which they lead you. I often find brethren who have received ideas from the Spirit of God, and I profit by these; the conclusion which they draw from them, what they like as the system which they have formed from them, I totally reject; this is by no means an unusual case. A good many brothers seek edification, and are not able to suck the honey and leave the flower, however beautiful it may be, without further occupying themselves with it; sounding, comparing, judging between rival systems is not their part. This is the reason I have thought that perhaps it would have been better to devote Le Temoignage to what would not have required this kind of labor-but no matter. In short, when all has appeared, I hope to read it and examine.... A want of agreement about details is not for me a reason for controversy; it must be something essential.
As to repentance, God proposed it as a matter of government and of His ways with man, as a means of obtaining pardon; and if Israel had repented in this sense they would have been pardoned. In the end they will have received double for all their sins. In fact, God forgave His people individually, always in view of the work of Christ. (Rom. 3:25, 2625Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:25‑26).) We must never forget this; otherwise the foundations are shaken, and the meaning of all the sacrifices from Adam on. If man had received Christ, this would have proved that he was good, and there would have been no need of the sacrifices; but it was far from being so, as the rejection of Christ has proved.
As to the other point, it is impossible that our sins should be imputed to us; "once purged" we "have no more conscience of sins." God, as judge, sees the blood which has taken them away, and His unchangeable righteousness has now been manifested. It is here that we find the force of εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς.
Besides, when once sprinkled with the blood of Christ this sprinkling is not repeated, its efficacy lasts forever; but with the Father I seek forgiveness as from a Father whom I have offended. I am humbled before Jesus because I have dishonored Him, but I have no thought that anything can be imputed to me which demands the sprinkling of blood. The ashes of the red heifer, and the washing of the feet are the figures to apply here; the sprinkling of blood has been made, and it is not repeated. In the sense of imputation and sprinkling, forgiveness is not now sought; in the sense of having offended one's Father, it is. The confession of one's faults with humiliation is all right, if grace is fully maintained before the heart.
I beg you earnestly, dear brother, to be diligent about your temporal business. You know well that I am very far from wishing to see you leave your work, but what our hand finds to do we are to do it with our might. Limit your expenses at once, if they exceed your income, and arrange your business as a good steward of the Lord. Disorder in one's business is dishonoring to the gospel, as being careful to increase our wealth like the world dries up (one can do no more) the soul. The word has told us that it is the way and the root of every sort of evil. But the principles are simple; to live simply in order to be able to give of what one has, and to be faithful in one's own things, making use of them as having been entrusted to us to have in order to use them according to the Lord. The Book of Proverbs teaches us clearly in detail about these things.
There is a practical difference between oneself and one's sins. The renewed soul is much more pained at the discovery of the root which shoots up after the knowledge of the love of Jesus, than at the remembrance of past sins, the forgiveness of which it much more easily understands. Besides, you put the judgment of self before the judgment of sins, whereas sins committed generally act first on the conscience; after that comes the experience of what the flesh is, and this is so true that often in the early days of conversion one thinks that there is no more sin in one. That of which I have spoken as coming afterward is not exactly the knowledge of sin in oneself when judging it, but the fact of being in the presence of God—what we are in the presence of the light. To judge the flesh, myself, is a different thing from being in the presence of God in judgment, being such. What you quote from your letter to-is perfectly right. When he says that the knowledge of self is the business of the whole life, I think this a very sad idea. God makes us known to ourselves simply as a means; the object of life is to know Christ. Fathers in Christ have known Him who is from the beginning; and one does not even know oneself except by knowing Him. To be occupied only with evil (and there is nothing but evil in oneself) is a sad life, and it is not the thought of God. His desire is that for our happiness we should be occupied with Him. It is a thought as false as it is sad, and it means nothing but ignorance of the grace of our God. The truth is just the opposite of this, that I ought to be occupied only with Christ, and that this is the grace of God to me. Sometimes, when I have neglected to do this (so much the worse) to bring me back again He is forced to occupy me with myself; but I cannot say that the knowledge of myself is the first element of faith—the knowledge in general that we are sinners, and even that there is no good in us—be it so, but we know ourselves badly, very badly, and God causes us to pass through a spiritual eighth of Deuteronomy in order to understand our dependence on Him and His grace, a very difficult lesson for the heart of man to learn.
I must stop; I am called elsewhere. Greet warmly our dear brethren, and after all my severe criticisms receive, dearest brother, the assurance of my sincere affection.
Your brother in Jesus.
Pau, March 25th, 1850.