"Take Heed what Ye Hear."
Plymouth Brethrenism Exposed to the Inhabitants of Lerwick.
Lerwick: Printed by Stephen Brothers. 1873.
Several lay-preachers have of late appeared in your midst, and the question has often been asked, who are they? what do they teach? "Few know anything of them. The writer of this tract has made it his business to get at their doctrines, and knows both by reading their history and personal experience what are the results of their false teaching. He writes simply to inform the inhabitants of Lerwick regarding them, with a view to putting Churchgoers and others on their guard, lest they beled away from the churches to which they may belong, perhaps unwittingly, and find, as many have done who have become their followers, that they have gained nothing, but on the contrary that their religious beliefs have become confused and distracted.
Well, these laypreachers do not call themselves Plymouth Brethren. They say they are simply "evangelists" (?) come to preach the gospel, thus assuming that the gospel is not preached where they go, which, so far as Lerwick is concerned at least, is simply a falsehood. When pressed for a definite answer they acknowledge that the world calls them Plymouth Brethren. The truth is they are known all over the country to go under the names of "Brethren," "Plymouth Brethren," and "Darbyites." It is fair to state, however, that there are Plymouth Brethren who are not Darbyites, those known as such holding slightly different views.
It is the policy of the Plymouth Brethren not to reveal their distinctive beliefs until they have drawn away people from the different churches to which they may belong, for their converts almost exclusively consist of those whom a pastor, perhaps after years of faithful labour, has added to his church. Any one going to hear them for the first time may not hear anything to which he can conscientiously object, but after a little they tell their hearers that the existing churches are rotten; that the ordained ministry and its stated support are unscriptural, and advise their hearers to come out of the churches of which they may be members and join their sect if they would not commit the sin of being "unequally yoked with unbelievers."
That their doctrines are highly dangerous, notoriously unsciptural, on many points, and in many respects injurious to your best interests, you may judge from the following brief statement of their views which has been taken from the most authentic sources.
They profess to abhor sectarianism in every form, yet they are a distinct sect, and seek to increase it by disaffecting the minds of members of the existing churches regarding the teaching they listen to. Can any sectarianism be worse than that?
If they really wish to save souls, why do they not try and get hold of the page 3 utterly godless instead of stealing members from the churches around them, and throwing out uncharitable insinuations respecting the ministers of the place where they go to preach, as they have done and are doing here.
There is scarcely an instance on record in their history of a thorough change of heart and life, but there are many instances of churches having been rent asunder, and very great mischief done to the interests of true religion through the instrumentality of their teaching.
If they should seek "to creep into your houses do not admit them, for depend upon it they will sow the seeds of dissention and strife in your families. You will live to repent that you ever had anything to do with them.
Do not go to their meetings. Let them alone, and they will soon leave the town. Show that you refuse to be led away by people who profess to have discovered a "New Gospel," by adhering to what you already know to be true that no new gospel can possibly be preached to you, and remaining connected with the churches to which you may belong.
Please read the following attentively, and you will know something of these socalled revivalists who are presumptuous and impertinent enough to assert that they alone are inspired, and that no one can be saved except they believe their gospel. They say:—
1st. That the Moral Law is not a rule of life to believers.
What does Christ say? Never that those who believe are relieved from the moral law as a rule of life—but that having believed they sustain a new relationship to it.. What does Paul say? "Do we then make void the "Law through faith? God forbid, yea we establish the law."
2nd. They deny the rightfulness of a stated ministry. Scripture contradicts them on that point, when it says "God hath set some in the "church, first apostles, secondarily teachers," &c. (See. 1. Cor. xii. 28, 31.)
3rd. They object to a fixed support given to the ministry. Christ says "The labourer is worthy of his hire," and Paul says "They who preach the "gospel are to live by the gospel." Moreover the Plymouth Brethren do not object to receive support if it comes privately, and in no stipulated proportion. They profess to live by faith, and at the same time very quietly hint that they are dependent upon their adherents for a bit of bread. They thus practically give the lie to their faith in Providence for their support.
4th. They deny that the Christian Sabbath is of Divine Authority, and that all the seven days are equally secular or equally sacred. We reply, "The Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and hallowed it." It is therefore of Divine institution. In the 4th Commandment man is enjoined to rest on the Sabbath because God blessed and hallowed it. As to the question of the change of the Sabbath, from the seventh to the first day of the week, the Apostles made the change, and the Plymouth Brethren must therefore settle it with them.
5th. They assert that the church had no existence till the day of Pentecost, and that the Jews were not a church. Answer: Stephen speaks of the church in the wilderness (Acts vii, 38), and the Hebrew word translated "congregation" in the Old Testament exactly corresponds to the Greek word translated "church" in the New Testament.
Moreover Isaiah represents the Jewish Church as enlarging itself for the reception of the Gentile converts (see Isaiah liv. 2, 3 and lx. 3, 5, and Amos. iv. 11) quoted by James at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts xv. 15) represents the Christian church not as the erection of a new tabernacle, but as the setting up of the tabernacle of David which had fallen down. Paul says to the Gentles "Thou bearest not the root, but the root thee," showing that it is Israel's old olive tree on which the gentile church has been grafted. This cannot refer to the invisible church, for no branch was ever broken off page 4 from it, but to the church as an organised and visible community. Christ says of Jews and Gentles "There shall be one fold and one Shepherd." And when Peter calls Christians a "Royal Priesthood" he is using words first applied to Israel.
The identity is clearly established i, l Cor. x. chap., which see.
6th. They hold that the visible church consists of none but converted people, and that believers should hold no religions fellowship or pray with unbelievers. Now 1st. They assume that they and they alone are the visible church. That is simply the Phariseeism of old which said "stand by for I am holier than thou" which Christ condemns in the severest terms. 2nd. A common rejection of error does not afford a centre of union. Romanists and Protestants equally deny the affirmation of the atheist that "there is no God," but can that or does that u ite them? The idea leads to mischievous and divisive consequences; it separates true brethren for one brother sees evil, where another sees none. It makes each man his brother's judge; and it makes one holier and wiser than the Lord who Himself said "ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man."
Moreover to be consistent, no Plymouth Brother should have family worship as it is generally conducted. He ought to exclude the members of his family when they are not believers of his doctrines. Does not that shock the sense of every Christian parent, and open the door to schism and rancour in the sacred circle of the family? It is wellknown that a Plymouth Brother will not say grace if all at the table are not believed to be converted. The Plymouth principle divides not only in public gatherings, but even in family relationships, sister refusing communion with sister, and child with child.
7th. They assert that the Holy Spirit did not exist before the day of Pentecost, and that being once given it is wrong for believers to pray for the Spirit. That is untrue. The angel said unto Mary the Mother of Jesus, "The Holy Ghost shall Come upon thee and the power of the Highest "shall overshadow thee." It is apparent therefore that the Plymouth Brethren deny one of the most fundamental doctrines of Scriptures; viz., that the sinless human nature of Christ was begotten by the Holy Ghost.
The ministry, miracles, death and resurrection of Christ are all spoken of in connection with the Holy Spirit (Acts x. 38. Hebs. ix. 14. 1 Tim. iii. 17.) This was all before Pentecost—see also John xx. 22. "He breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." The Spirit existed before the day of Pentecost, for Peter says "Holy men of old spake as they were "moved by the Holy Ghost." (1 Peter i. 21,) and he speaks of "the Spirit "of Christ" in the prophets when he mentions that the Spirit testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. (See also Heb. iii. 7, ix. 8; Mark xii. 36; Luke iii. 22; Pealm li. 11.) It is no reply to quote Christ's words, "If I go not away the spirit will not come to you," because it was not the existence or the coming, but the extraordinary effusion of the Spirit which was the burden of Old Testament prophecy. The Spirit was to inaugurate a new dispensation with remarkable signs, viz., speaking with tongues, working of miracles, and multitudinous conversions. When Joel spoke of the "Spirit being poured out on all flesh," he was not ignorant of the Spirit's existence and work, for how was he or could he be inspired to prophesy save by the Holy Spirit in common with the other prophets?
8th. They say, further, on this subject that it is a mockery to ask God to repeat the gift of the Holy Ghost since it has already been given in Christ. But Christ says "If ye being evil know how to give good gifts "unto your children, how much more shall your Father give the Holy "Spirit to them that ask him." Moreover, if it is wrong to ask for the Holy Spirit it must be wrong also to ask any spiritual blessing and gift, for they wore all given in the gift of Christ. The conclusion is inevitable that the Plymouth Brethren should never pray at all since they have nothing to pray for.
9th. They deny commentaries and their use, sneeringly calling them page 5 human productions. But the Plymouth Brethren write commentaries tracts, and treatises of their own. One of them has written a commentary on Leviticus, and these they call Divine. What are all Plymouth tracts but commentaries on Scripture? A commentary from the lips of a preacher does not become false by being printed in a book. Why are the treatises of Darby, Macintosh, and others styled inspired, and those of Matthew Henry, Barnes, &c., styled human productions; on what authority, and how proved?
10th. They say that the atonement actually paid every sinner's debt "to the last farthing," so that all his sins "past, present, and future" were "put away" or forgiven when Christ died. In answer we say the atonement of Christ is not the payment of a debt; the Scriptures nowhere teach that it is. If it were, it must be either the payment of the debt of the sins of the Elect, or of the sins of the whole world. If of the forme., not one save the Elect can possibly be saved; so that from this rigid Calvinistic standpoint, it is simply a mockery to preach a full and free salvation to all men, their bills and bellringings announcing the preaching of the gospel as revealed in the Scripture are therefore worse than useless. If of the latter, it is equally impossible for any one of the human family to be lost. What is this we ask but the rankest universalism!
The Plymouth Brethren confuse atonement with pardon. The Scriptures never say they are identical, but that the atonement of Christ is the ground on which pardon may be procured on condition of faith. It is that, as every one who has read his Bible to any purpose knows, by which God "can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly who believe in Jesus." The Plymouth Brethren, by preaching that the atonement is the payment of a debt, pervert the teaching of the Word of God on the subject, and incite to the most presumptuous and impious assurances on the part of those who accept their views. An honest farmer in the King's 'County, Ireland, after hearing one of the Plymouth Brethren preachers speak, said, "Well, I "never understood the Gospel before; I shall give myself no trouble about "either repentance or faith, it is all nonsense. This gentleman has proved "to my satisfaction that Christ paid my debt before I was born, and what "ever time I go into the other world I will claim my discharge from all "legal consequences, as a matter of simple equity." Such are the converts of the Plymouth Brethren! What? we ask, would the state of this or any community be, if they were all converts of this type.
11th. They say that the atonement is the payment of a debt and at the same time say that faith is the condition of salvation. If Christ has paid every sinner's debt to the last farthing, how can faith be the condition of salvation? The payment of the debt is either a fact or a fiction of their imagination. If a fiction, then what becomes of the gospel? If a fact, unbelief cannot reverse that fact or affect it in any way. The sinner's debt Was paid before he was born; if this be a fact it remains true whether he believes it or not: It cannot by any possibility, make the slightest difference as to his final safety.
12th. They further assert that unbelief or the rejection of Christ is the damning sin. How utterly absurd is this in view of their belief that Christ paid the debt of every sinner to the very last farthing? "This payment "either included this sin of unbelief, or it did not. If it did not, how is this "sin of unbelief to be forgiven? If it did, the debt cannot have been paid "and also."
13th. They say, only believe that Christ put away all sin when he died, and you are saved You are a Christian. Now, that is simply asking assent to a statement—a statement moreover which is false. Can any man become a Christian by simply saying I believe that Christ put away all sin 18 hundred years ago? Does that change his heart? Is it not with the heart man believeth unto righteousness? Faith is not simply the exercise of the intellect, but the outgoing of the whole spiritual nature to Christ. What but personal relationship to Christ can enable a man to take up his closs daily, and bear it for Christ sake? and is not crossbearing one of the fundamental conditions of discipleship?page 6
The Plymouth Brethren would make people believe that there is a Cheap and easy way of getting to heaven. If that be true what do the Scriptures mean when they say, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way"—"Strive to enter in at the strait gate."
14. They say that unconverted men ought not to pray for mercy; and while believers only should pray, they must not confess sin or ask its pardon, as their sin has already been put away eighteen hundred years ago by the death of Christ.
Now, there are numerous passages of Scripture which show that it is the duty of unconverted men to pray (see Act iiiv. 21. 23. Isaiah lv. 6, 7. Psalm lxv. 21); and, further, that the neglect of prayer is charged as the sin of such (see Jeph. i. 6. Hosea vii. 7 Jer. x. 21. Psalms x. 4, lxxix. 6, and cxli. 2, 4.) Moreover, the Plymouth Brethren confess openly that they do not know how to deal with a believer when he falls into sin; showing to all thinking people that the doctrine, as stated above, is utterly untenable.
They will not use that part of the Lord's prayer, which says "Forgive us our trespasses," because they say it was given to be read only before the death of Christ. Nothing can be more absurd. On that principle they should not pray for "daily bread," nor not to be lead "into temptation," because the objection they urge against one part of the Lord's Prayer applies equally to the whole of it.
15th. They say that a sinner should not pray for salvation, but take it without praying, as if the things were inconsistent.
We would ask, Is it possible to take salvation without at any rate feeling a desire for it, and what is "feeling a desire" but inwardly asking:—and is not that a form of prayer? Did not Peter tell Simon Magus (an unregenerate man be it remembered) to "repent of his wickedness and pray God, if, perhaps, the thought of his heart might be forgiven him." Acts viii. 22. Was it not after the prayers of the publican and the dying thief that they were justified? And docs not Isaiah, speaking of the world at large, say "Call ye upon up the Lord while he is near."
If the prayer of an unregenerate man cannot be acceptable to God, how, in the name of possibility, can the faith of an unregenerate man be? Clearly the Brethren shut the doors of both faith and prayer in the face of the sinner, and, if so, what door is open to him?
16. Repentance has no place in the preaching of the Plymouth Brethren.
They call it "trash," "legalism.," and "salvation by works," hindering the sinner from coming to Christ. Paul says "Repent and believe the gospel," and Christ says "Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish." We never read in Scripture of an impenitent believer or a penitent unbeliever. We have in the doctrine of the Brethren on this point but another of the many instances of confusion of things which differ. They mix up faith and repentance in such a muddle that they cannot be recognised as the things nor in the forms taught in Scripture; and yet they have the arrogance to say that they alone are inspired, and that their expositions of the Word of God are alone to be relied upon as correct and true. Truly might sinners pray "save us from our friends," if those who teach such doctrines are such.
17th. They hold that believers are justified from eternity, or from the time of Christ's death, and that faith has no more to do with justification than merely to bring the fact of it to our knowledge. They deny the imputed righteousness of Christ which is the ground of our justification; and though they hold that Christ suffered in our stead they deny that He obeyed the law in our stead. The whole argument of Paul to the Romans on the doctrine of justification is dead against the Plymouth Brethren on this head. If Christ did not fulfil the law for us, then what does Paul mean when he says "For by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Christ) shall many be made righteous." (Rom. v. 19.) He says that the very object of Christ's coming was that "the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," i.e. the righteousness which the law required of us. He says further in another passage that page 7 "Christ was born of a woman made under the law to redeem them who were under the law. If Christ's righteousness is not imputed to us by faith, then there is nothing on which any mortal being can rest for acceptance with God. If the Plymouth Brethren rest on their their own righteousness then there could not be a clearer case of justification by works which they emphatically condemn. Verily, how blind are some people to their own inconsistencies!
18th. The Brethren assert that we are sanctified as well as justified in Christ; that all believers are sanctified in Him, in a sense that excludes all personal and progressive sanctification; and that they are perfectly holy the moment they believe (i.e. say, they believe the false statement, that their sin has been all put away in Christ, when he died), and that they never become more holy. They quote in support of their view the passages "Christ is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. By one offering He hath perfected for ever, them that are sanctified." Here again is a confusion of things which differ—the Brethren confound "consecration" with "sanctification." When a man truly believes he consecrates himself to Christ, but he is not therefore completely delivered from the power of sin. Believers consecrate themselves to God that they may be purified inwardly by the Holy Spirit. The vessels of the ancient sanctuary were at once separated to God's service, but that did not imply that they did not need daily ablution. If sanctification is not a gradual process, Paul misleads when he says, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ," see also l Thess. v. 23. 2 Cor. iv. 16.
19th. They say that the design of the Spirit is not to improve or sanctify the flesh, or the old man—that the flesh in the believer is no better than in an unbeliever, and no better at the end of a saint's life, than at the beginning, and that the error of the churches has always been to try the mending of the old Adam—nature, which is not to be mended, but crucified. They thus deny all personal and progressive sanctification. In this case what does the Spirit sanctify? Not the old man, for he is buried with Christ in His death; not the new man, for he is perfect and sinless. They therefore deny the Spirit's sanctifying work, which is one of the fundamental doctrines of Scripture. Their views are besides, immoral, because they free the believer from all responsibility of sin committed. Can any teaching be more fallacious and nefarious than that? If people are once led to understand that they are not responsible for the sins they commit, they will soon defy all the restraints, not only of the Plymouth faith—which, in truth, would be but a small crime—but of every or of any code of morals ever revealed to man.
20th. They rebaptize all their converts for, they are usually Baptists in doctrine; they are therefore opposed to the baptism of infants, though that has been the practice of the church for eighteen centuries.
Into this question we cannot now enter, especially as in doing so we would come into collision with the Baptists, as such with whom at present, we have no controversy. To us, however, it appears a very harsh and unchristlike thing to say, as the Plymouth Brethren often do, that there is no reason to believe that any child dying in infancy goes to heaven. If they do not say that infants go to hell, they at any rate leave that impression with their hearers, by the way in which they speak of the subject.
A mother's heart is a truer criterion of truth, than the vague and distracting statements of the Plymouth Brethren on the matter; and we are sure that the best part of her human nature (if the Brethern believe in such a thing) will revolt against the horrible idea, that her innocent child will ever find a place in the outer darkness.page 8
The above comprises only a few of the doctrines of the Plymouth Brethren,—and the refutation of them we have given is necessarily of a brief and much less thorough character than we could have given, had our space and time allowed. We are not aware of having transgressed on, any point, the laws of criticism. While admitting that the object of the Plymouth Brethren may be good, in what we have said above, the reader will see how much calculated their teaching is to do his knowledge of, and faith in, the truths of Scripture as therein taught, perhaps an irreparable injury.
Reader before going to hear, or to cast in your lot with these Plymouth Brethren, reflect that you are giving countenance to one of the most church destroying and family-disturbing sects of modern times.