[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Monday, May 15, 2006

J.N. Darby on a Sad Story

John Nelson Darby wrote a paper entitled Reflections on Mixed Marriages. It was prompted by the story of a Christian girl who had accepted an offer of marriage from a worldly man. She owned that the engagement was wrong but persisted in it. She became ill with a violent fever and died before the wedding. Darby took this to be the chastening of the Lord on a wayward child.

J.N. Darby wrote:

"There is another remark which the history of this young person leads me to make. The first start of a converted soul, however sincere it may be, produces anything but the judgment of self and the flesh, which, by unveiling to us our weakness, causes us to lay our burden at the feet of Jesus. We then seek for strength only in Him and we confide in Him alone. The confidence which a soul that knows and distrusts itself has in Jesus what gives it a lasting and solid peace, when it has understood, not only as a doctrine, but by the acceptance of the heart, that He alone is our righteousness. But we only arrive at this when we have been in the presence of God and have there made the discovery that we are only sin, that Christ is perfect righteousness, and God perfect love. From that time we distrust ourselves, we fight against ourselves, and the flesh and the enemy have no longer the same power to deceive us.

I do not think that the young person of whom these pages speak had been stripped of self. There are many Christians in this condition, and although we may all be exposed to the same dangers, yet such have more particularly to dread the wiles of the enemy, because they have not learnt how far the flesh deceives us, and do not know with how terrible a traitor we have to do. When we have come to a knowledge of this, although there may be a lack of watchfulness, yet Christ has a larger place in the heart, and there is more calm, and less of self.

Observe how deceitful the heart is, and how it looses all self-command when it departs from God. That poor young girl(when she was getting farther and farther into the slough, on the borders of which she had been trifling, to use her own expressions) asked her mother's friend to do all she could to remove every obstacle; and she, who was a woman of some piety, was surprised that A. should be disposed to unite herself with a worldly man.

How wily and deceitful is our heart! What slaves does an idol make of us. For although we may endeavour to escape the danger, yet we take means to secure the accomplishment of the thing that we desire, even while we flee from it. What a terrible thing it is to get away from God! This young person before she was entangled through this affection, would have shrunk with horror from the idea of such an action. When the heart has abandoned God, it dreads man even more than God. The God who loved A., and who was really beloved by her, must needs take her away from this world where she had not the courage to return to the right path. God took her to Himself. She died in peace, and through pure grace she triumphed. The Christian, whilst enjoying peace in his last moments, should always feel that it is God whose hand is there. What a solemn lesson for those who wish to depart from God and from His holy word, in order to satisfy an inclination which it would have been easy to overcome at first, but which, when cherished in the heart becomes tyrannical and fatal! May God grant to the reader of these lines, and to all His children, to seek His presence day by day."

Taken from Reflections on Mixed Marriages in Collected Writings, vol.16


  • Is he saying that death is better than marrying an unbeliever?

    How representative is this story? How many Christian young ladies have married wordly men without receiving any chastening (other than perhaps the strife and heartache that comes from such a "mixed" marriage) like this? How many Christian young ladies have fallen ill and died after becoming engaged to very godly men? (Sorry, this is the historian in me coming out - every case study must be placed in context within the bigger picture, or so they tell us.)

    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at Monday, May 15, 2006 10:43:00 AM  

  • Angie, the Scripture's are clear that God may cause a believer to die as a result of their sin (Acts 5:1-11, 1 Cor 11:29-32, 1 John 5:16-17, etc.)

    God is sovereign and may deal with each individual case as He pleases. If He does not deal so severely in some cases, He has reasons known to Himself. However, if we transgress His will, we may face dreadful consequences.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, May 15, 2006 11:47:00 AM  

  • Matthew,
    Stop the presses. I essentially agree with your last comment and point.


    By Blogger jazzycat, at Monday, May 15, 2006 4:17:00 PM  

  • Yes, I agree, certain sins are punishable even unto death. We must keep in mind that the Lord is the righteous Judge and He does that which is Just.

    We never know the full story, maybe this girl's disobediance goes even deeper. God is the perfect Judge.

    You make an excellent point with your comment to Angie.

    By Blogger Redeemed, at Monday, May 15, 2006 4:44:00 PM  

  • Matthew,

    Surely you are aware of the story of Joseph Scriven, who twice lost a Christian fiance, once to drowning and the next time to illness.

    He was a PB from Ireland, but living in Canada and he required that his second fiance be baptized before they marry. However, Cananda being the way it is and the season being whatever it was, she died of pneumonia.

    Then he wrote the hymn "What a friend we have in Jesus" and was famous, but unhappily so, the rest of his life.

    This story has been kept alive ever since, among the PB youth of Canada, as a warning not to get baptized by immersion outdoors in the Canadian winter.

    And especially it was a word of caution for women, not to be rushed into marriage with someone unwilling to wait a few months.

    But I am telling you the story as we heard it here, where Scriven lived a long time ago. Maybe she would have died of pneumonia anyway for some other reason.

    By Blogger Suzanne McCarthy, at Monday, May 15, 2006 5:52:00 PM  

  • I make no attempt to deny that God punishes, even unto death, but I guess I don't like taking an example of someone who admittedly is not choosing a biblical path for her life and saying that her death is judgment for that particular decision. Would she have gotten the same illness had she refused the man? Not all suffering is due to sin (Job would be an excellent example) and all have sinned so we all deserve the death that is appointed to us. Sure, she died because of sin, but can anyone say with great certainty that this particular sin is what caused her immediate death?

    I make no argument with the principle, my argument is with the application of this kind of principle to a situation. I think it is a bit presumptive. Had it been a hypothetical situation I would have no problem with it because in a hypothetical the "creator" of the situation is able to take on omniscience that we can never have with a real situation. Then again, a hypothetical example can never really carry the weight of a true story with the listener/reader. I suppose some sense of "possibility" - her death might have been judgment - would also remove my reservations.

    (I hope you all know by now that I ask questions to "tease out" the issue, not necessarily because I disagree with something!)

    Jazzycat, Matthew has some excellent thoughts and beliefs, regardless of how much we may disagree on a number of issues. Give him a chance - he's got a lot of good things to say that I think you will find edifying and encouraging!

    The LORD bless and keep you all!


    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at Monday, May 15, 2006 5:58:00 PM  

  • Jazzycat, I am glad you agree.

    Sarah, thanks.

    Suzanne, thanks for visiting and sharing that story.

    Angie, I find it hard to see any reason to doubt that her death was the judgment of God. She had willfuly acted in disobediance and died an untimely death. Those circumstances merit the presumption that her death was God's judgment.

    If I knew a Christian man was using pornography and he developed some sickness, I would not doubt for a moment that his illness was the Lord's chastening.

    So many ministers these days are keen to deny a connection between sin sickness, despite the scriptural teaching of chastening.

    If wilfull sin and sickness coincide, there ought to be a presumption that it is the Lord's discipline.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 1:16:00 AM  

  • Thanks for this post, Matthew, very helpful. I would have to agree with you that I would strongly lean toward assuming this as chastisement since the situation was so overt. I say this because I see in the OT that God tends to take things more personally than man does. Humanity ironically tends to try to see things "objectively", while God "owns" his emotions and point of view and reacts to man's betrayals.

    Another thing is that this seems to be God's reaction to people who have in some way "drawn near" to Him, like the sons of Aaron and Ananias and Sapphiras.

    (I'm sure Angie will come around on this ;)

    But also, I think it may be God's way of pulling out of commission someone who has pleased Him and perhaps even protecting them from loosing out in some way at the Judgment Seat of Christ. He makes the shame temporal instead of having eternal repercussions. I really see this as God's mercy and grace!

    Jodie :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:30:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Jodie. Good points.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:22:00 AM  

  • Is it just me or is anyone else confounded by Jodie’s incessant reasonability, good nature and generally kind approach with everyone??? Where do you hide your emotions??!! (hehe)

    I have to agree the tendency is to assume this is God’s way of dealing with the circumstance but I really would prefer to avoid assumptions as they nearly always lead to judgments. I suppose that’s why I favor Eastern Orthodoxy (grin).

    By Blogger Kc, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 3:30:00 AM  

  • Matthew,
    I don't really know what to say about this. I think I go along with this thought from kc:
    I really would prefer to avoid assumptions...

    Every Blessing in Christ

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 8:00:00 AM  

  • If you try to avoid assuming that such a case was God's judgment, you would actually be amking a bigger presumption, that is that God had some reason for overlooking sin.

    I think the facts of this case justify the presumption of chastening.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 8:33:00 AM  

  • (I'm sure Angie will come around on this ;)

    I saw this when I was under my vow of blogosilence (and wasn't supposed to be here reading comments anyway) and it was so tempting to respond! So why is it that I am the one who has to come around on things? What if this falls in Matthew's 2% of error? ;)

    We must presume that God will do what is best, and that is something that only He knows. Sin has consequences, there is no doubt, but I think that the Bible speaks enough about the issue that we don't need to make examples out of people. You don't have to prove to me that what the Bible says about sin is true. I am more than willing to take that on faith.

    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 2:15:00 PM  

  • Angie, I do not think Darby was trying to make an example out this girl.

    The circumstances of her death had probably become known to quite a few people in the close-knit Exclusive Brethren. He probably felt it was appropriate to take the opportunity to deal with some of the issues her death raised in this paper.

    I think this was a very edifying paper.

    I am pretty sure that this is not within my 2% error margin, as even Jazzycat agrees.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 2:36:00 PM  

  • Putting the paper in that context does help, I admit. :)

    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 6:26:00 PM  

  • You are very reasonable, Angie.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 12:48:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Matthew. I'm glad you think that.

    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 7:16:00 AM  

  • If you're shock-proof, visit Google and enter "The Unoriginal John Darby," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Famous Rapture Watchers," and "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 10:54:00 PM  

  • Sounds like a re-hash of Dave MacPherson's theories, anon. I agree that Thomas Ice has not shown much intellectual honesty in his use of historical support for the Pre-Trib rapture doctrine.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, May 19, 2006 12:13:00 AM  

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