Letter From Mr. Darby

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I feel, in undertaking to say a few words here, on the one hand a great responsibility, but on the other a real joy of heart, when my mind turns towards that which, I believe, the Spirit of God calls for.
That we have passed through a time of humiliation, pain, and exercise of heart, every one feels, no one denies. The state of the brethren required it, for He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men; but whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. But then He does receive us- a very great mercy and blessing. Think what it is to be received as His testimony and witness on the earth, poor and unworthy as we are. Nor, immense privilege though it be, do I speak of it, as such, as acquired privilege. "Ye are my witnesses," says Jehovah to Israel. That is the position and responsibility they were placed in. Every Christian is such in his place, "that the life of Jesus may be manifested in their mortal bodies."
The seven Churches have been so widely introduced into this subject, that it will be well to inquire a little into their true character. There can be no doubt, I think, of their presenting a rapid but most perspicuous sketch of the course of Western Christendom, when through the operation of God it had come into the position of human responsibility. First its full ecclesiastical character till it comes, after time is given it to repent, under God's judgment; and the kingdom, and the Morning Star- Christ in heavenly character- are substituted for it. Thereupon you have a collateral picture of Protestantism running on coincidently after the reformation, till it be rejected. That part of Christendom had been cleared of its Paganism, and there was much activity connected with this; but Christ had not His place in the heart of Christendom. It had a name to live, but was dead. It is treated as the world, and the Lord comes on it at an unexpected hour, which is the world's portion.
Every one will have remarked the condition given in each assembly, as the ground of special blessing- to him that overcometh. But remark, it applies to the difficulties and dangers that tend to hinder faithfulness in the position in which the particular assembly finds itself. Some special reward may then be the recompense. But there is more in these churches to remark which characterizes them. The character: here it is Christ's holiness and truth, however great His love, (as it is infinite and unchangeable,) His active goodness- what characterizes our knowledge of Him, is His holiness and truth- what we want of Him and characterizes our testimony. This is of all moment. That in spite of the power of evil, He it is who holds the door open or shut as He pleases. This is not operation of gift and grace in the laborer, but that He can open the door of access to souls. But this was not all. In the midst of all that was going on He knew their work, and He had set before them an open door, and no man should shut it. His eye was on them for good. The testimony of grace was to be borne, and should not be hindered. Those who set up for traditional religion, would be forced to recognize them, and own that Christ had loved them. Further, the danger is not becoming Laodicean, but apostasy. Laodicea has its own dangers for Laodicea. But, through grace, they had not only kept fast hold of the believer's hope, but of Christ's patience as to its accomplishment, kept the word,—Divine authority, in that book. Christ, to whom all the promises belonged, and to whom it had been said, "Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool," seemed to have sat very long expecting till His enemies were made so. But these saints waited, as He had waited, the accomplishment of the promises. God was not slack, but long-suffering. It is very remarkable to notice that Christ never puts His coming beyond the life of the person He is speaking of or to. The five wise and foolish virgins were the same who slept and wake. So in every case, with one exception, which makes it stronger- that Peter should die. But He is not speaking of His coming. Now, centuries have passed, generations succeeded each other, are we with present earnest desire waiting for God's Son from heaven? He abides God's time: are we firm in hope and present faith while doing so?
This was a condition- not to be fulfilled, but that was- by the faithful of Philadelphia; and they would accordingly escape the hour of temptation, which would come on all the world. But the Lord said more, He was coming quickly, they were to hold fast what they had that none took their crown.
What certainly chiefly characterizes the saints in Philadelphia is the analogy of their position to that of Christ, at the close of a dispensation; no apparent strength, but the door held open to him by the porter. They keep His word, they do not deny His name, and specially they keep the word of His patience.
The way they are identified in the glory cannot but strike every one- blessed thing too. What characterizes Him- most important for us to note- is truth and holiness, truth, and as a girdle of the loins, for it is the truth that sanctifies.
There is no specific Laodicean characteristic in Philadelphia. Each has its own. Nor Philadelphian faithfulness in Laodicea. Each belongs to each. The danger we have seen was quite different. And now, what I would beg brethren is, not to be occupied with evil, but if the Lord has set before them an open door- and He graciously has- their part is to profit by it; to hold steadfastly by truth and holiness, by which Christ characterizes Himself, and be ever as men that wait for their Lord, keeping the word of His patience. And God will assuredly bless them. It is not merely doctrine, but activity guided by doctrine, and a path formed on that of Christ.
The above was found as it is, without a signature, but in Mr. Darby's own hand-writing, in a drawer in the sitting-room at Lonsdale Square, and was written shortly before he left for Bournemouth. C. MCADAM, July, 1882. F. C. CLOSE.
9, Ladbrook Road, Notting Hill.
[The above is a reprint, a few accidental oversights having been corrected.]