A Summary Of God's Testimony
[Correspondence adapted for ministry and to avoid names]
It was nice to hear from you. I appreciate your comments, and I agree we would do well to resist more of the world. I will enclose some papers which may speak for themselves, but if you have other questions, please write me anytime. I want to help the saints everywhere and honor the Lord.
The church was established as in Acts 2, as you surely know, and every "born again" child of God (as John 3; John 14; 1 Jn. 5:11-12; etc.) from that time is a church member thereof (for there is "one body"). After the Apostles departed the history shows a degeneration in the universal testimony, and Judaizing of it about A.D. 500 (adding Jewish rituals, ceremonies, activities, a priestly hierarchy, etc.), which gave rise to the ROMAN CATHOLIC RELIGION. God called upon some faithful saints in AD 1400's and 1500's, such as the well-known Martin Luther who protested boldly against the RC Pope, to begin revival of the gospel truth of JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH (Gal. 2:16) without religious works. Much persecution followed, and since the Word of God was not available to all, the protest and reform attempt left many saints with denominations and sects similar in practice to the RC religion. There is no scriptural authority for these innovations. You might review Miller's Church History and Foxe's Book Of Martyrs, etc. which can be obtained through BIBLE TRUTH PUBLISHERS, P.O. Box 649, Addison, IL 60101, USA (www.Bibletruthpublishers.com ---tel. 630-543-1441). They can also send you their catalog. They put out a nice magazine of ministry monthly, which I recommend.
In the early 1800's church truth was revived (taught again), including the truth of the "one body of Christ", church government and scriptural authority, the pre-tribulation translation (rapture) of the church, priesthood of believers, prophecy, sealing of the Spirit, the dispensations (ages), leading of the Spirit, etc. God disdains the sectarian spirit, "nicolaitanism", and religious ideas. The true church existed before, as you said, though in much darkness, until church truth was revived. It might help if one can also see church truth as distinct (not separate) from redemption way and spiritual life, though they are truly inter-related (John 14:6).
As to your specific questions about the "brethren movement" in AD 1827, I am convinced it was God's revival of Church truth. The Word of God began to circulate more after the 1600's when printing was developed. Then in the early 1800's God moved to revive CHURCH TRUTH beginning in Ireland, and set forth ministry by such as J. N. Darby, J. G. Bellett, G. V. Wigram, C.H. Mackintosh, W. Kelly, and perhaps one or two others. Most ministry since that time is paraphrasing that foundational truth (which also can help). We ought to see that this revival was a true work of God and value it, and not just think of it as some new sect.
As to the "exclusive (tight) brethren" you mention, many of us were called exclusives by the "open (loose) brethren" after they left the revival in 1848. When the man: Raven, went out later and started his own gathering, he and subsequent splinter groups (Taylors, etc.) became known broadly as "exclusives" (refer to paper on Brethren Divisions). Some other division groups also merged together their differences. The fellowship I am with continued without a name to follow the original line and resist the division groups. Some want to call us by a name, but the church should avoid that.
I don't know how much you already know about all this, dear sister, but I just want to add that God is not dependent on men. He has preserved His testimony in spite of divisions and the scattering of the saints through the years. That is to our collective shame, allowing Satan to stir up our flesh. I believe the worldwide fellowship I am with has endeavored to maintain that good work, though we all have failure. The enclosed paper on Brethren Divisions will show the major divisions we have survived. I do not concern myself with all the subsequent splinter groups that came out of these divisions. It is a sad picture, but we always have the flesh. We also had some divisions when I was with the Baptists years ago.
I cannot speak for others among us, except to say as a whole we are not legal or loose (though some individuals might be legal or loose, as Christians do everywhere), and we try to be faithful to the Word. Some things, too, are a matter of conscience (Rom.14). I hope you will prayerfully consider these matters and not hurry to get connected with some group. Every gathering has a history.
Well, there are lovely Christians everywhere as you say, sister, but the ground of assembly gathering is not about lovely Christians....rather, the "unity of the Spirit" and the truth of the "one body of Christ" (note 1 Cor. 12:25-27). One ought to find where that is ---and certainly seek also to be "lovely Christians" in "unity of the faith". I recommend you visit monthly at the sound site: www.biblecounsel.net to see much of what God intends for His testimony in the world.
Look up always, and write me anytime; and I will try to be of help. ---Sincerely in Christ, R. DeWitt: CL61; 08/02