Letter on the confession of error by some.

J. N. Darby.

<20011E> 198

Beloved brethren,

Most if not all of you are aware of the existence of certain papers, such as the "Narrative of Facts," and "Account of Proceedings in Rawstorne Street," which I have circulated relative to the circumstances which have taken place at Plymouth, and containing certain charges against different brethren. There was also a "Summary of Proceedings at Rawstorne Street," which however has not been on sale for some time, and a part also of a notice of the retractation by Mr. Newton which referred to the same subjects, the last* urging that the confession of error did not set aside the original charges. These with the abridged account, "What Investigation has there been at Plymouth?" are all I recollect which contain or insist on the charges made against the brethren who for a long time supported Mr. Newton, but have now ceased to do so. I write to apprise you that, as regards the brethren who have acknowledged the evil in which they were involved, all these papers are entirely withdrawn, and I do so in order to give the fullest efficacy to the act of withdrawal. If anything remains which has escaped me in other tracts, I beg it to be understood as equally withdrawn as to them. The evil being given up, I withdraw all charges as against them.

{*I have withdrawn this tract from sale as containing charges all of which I now bury. The great body of the tract (which is a discussion of Mr. N.'s "Statement and Acknowledgment of Error") is maintained in its full force, and I should use as heretofore.}

And in saying this, beloved brethren, you will of yourselves understand me that, as regards these brethren who have acknowledged the evil, the whole matter is entirely buried and set aside. When God forgives, He remembers no more; and though it be not a question of my forgiving, for I take it as no wrong done to myself, yet as on confession God forgives, so our part is then to act in full love. I desire also further to explain some points respecting it. I have withdrawn the tracts from sale because (as far as confession has been made) I desire to give the plainest testimony of my putting it all aside. It is this which makes some explanation necessary; because, where confession has not been made, all remains as it stood.* Further I wish it to be distinctly understood that my judgment of the evil is entirely unchanged unless it be to think still worse and worse of it. But so far as others have judged it too, I consider them as free from it as I am. If in anything even I found any evil influence remaining unconsciously where sincere confession has been made, it would not remain in my mind as a charge, but as any other evil in myself to be corrected.

{*Having been forced to look over many of the tracts in consequence of inquiries made of me by persons whose minds were opening, I feel the character of the facts demand that this should be understood very distinctly; but in saying so I wish it of course equally to be understood that it would be my joy to be able to withdraw everything as to all. It is merely their standing out against the confession and holding fast to the evil which maintains any charge.}

199 Brethren at large will excuse me for saying that, so far from judging more lightly of the evil, I think the moral tone of their judgment has not yet been brought to judge it as they ought, and I fear and feel anxious as to their own position before God in this respect. I judge they owed it to God, and that it was want of moral tone on their part - their not judging it much more simply, and I fear the Lord may yet have it in a measure as a controversy with them. They ought to have forgotten persons more for the Lord's sake in the matter. I do not speak now of the brethren who have confessed it, but of others. Of course there are exceptions. I beg to press this on their consciences. Further, as to the time of withdrawal, up to the Bath meeting it would have been out of the question withdrawing anything.

On the confession of doctrinal error I had proposed, trusting the Lord was working, to go through the matters charged with those concerned in them, and, as I hoped all would be satisfactory, say so and leave it. This all did not agree to, and an opportunity was claimed of proving my charges unfounded and false. That was no time for me to withdraw them; it would have been unworthy of any one to do so. The Bath meeting was accordingly held, where my statements were thoroughly sifted for two days in the presence of brethren from various parts, and everything that could be thought of in them, by those who objected to them, sought to be invalidated. Those who were present know that the attempt entirely failed. My statements were fully substantiated. After what passed there, I am entitled to consider them as indisputable in everything affecting the substance. Only I add that, if any one shew any personalities in the "Narrative" so often accused as written in a bad spirit, I shall gladly retract them, no matter against whom: while indignation against the evil I do not.

200 Any supposition of withdrawing on my side these papers because other parties had withdrawn theirs, as if it was a personal question and controversy, I repudiate altogether, or concession on one side met by concession on the other, and (I am bound to add) so did Mr. S. It would be in my judgment an immorality in a question of right or wrong. Further, I do not admit that, having a matter to prove, I made the worst of things. I did nothing of the kind. On the contrary I omitted everything that made against individuals if it did not bear on the general point. I refused all through to search out any evil. I acted on what the Lord thought fit to bring before me. A long course of small circumstances often proved more than anything what was going on. I was quite aware of the difficulty this put in my way. I faced it with my eyes open because I trusted God, and never allowed myself to put in any evil that merely dishonoured persons without bearing on the public facts in question. Further, without pretending to have been perfect in manner or in anything, I never had any other motive whatever in publishing the "Narrative" but the good of the church of God; had I, I surely should not have done it. I was as fully aware as I am now of all it would bring upon me. I did so because it was attempted to introduce the Plymouth evil system into a district where there were a large body of newly converted souls; and, as it was thus active, I felt the saints must know what it was. A considerable time had elapsed after matters had closed at Plymouth.

And I beg to repeat that instead of approving or acquiescing in the judgment of those who would speak of concession, or retracting when others retract, I judge such a thought as proceeding from a very deplorable state of mind and low tone of moral judgment, though perhaps in some cases from want of courage. But on the other hand I beg to say or repeat that as regards those who have confessed the evil, they are as free in my mind from every charge as I am myself, and I should meet them everywhere and at all times on this ground. I consider the whole thing entirely at an end, and I thank God for it with all my heart and rejoice more than I can say to receive them in cordial brotherly love; and I beg as to the past to recall as a relief to their hearts and others, how often even in what is now withdrawn I referred to Satan's power as taking away the imputation of evil motives, and even mentioned some by name as esteeming them just as honest as myself, however deluded. So I did and so I do. I do not doubt God has seen other things in me for which He has mixed trial, and so far chastisement (however tenderly, which it surely has been in every way), with this; but in this matter I am conscious of no motive and no principle but one, and can honestly affirm I have never had one unkind or vindictive feeling towards a single person.

201 I have contended against evil and Satan's work with all my best energies. I shall with God's help continue to do so wherever I meet it with the same or increasing decision. I have recently informed the brethren of Bethesda Chapel in Bristol, that I should not go there as they deliberately received those who have been engaged in the evil and have not renounced it. I rejoice with my whole heart and shall still do so as to others when any are delivered from it.

Further, as to the time of withdrawing the tracts, after the Bath meeting it is well known I was in Dublin at another, which left no time for thinking of this point. Subsequently, though urgently occupied, I did; but it was uncertain whether there would not be a meeting at Plymouth for those who have left Ebrington Street lately, and Mr. H. fell dangerously ill, and I thought it better to wait and let all this have its full course on one hand, and on the other I preferred fully weighing the whole position in which things were. I was in conflict with the power of the enemy in this matter, and I felt I ought to do nothing rashly which would compromise matters. It was a serious thing, and my withdrawal of any charges against some was complicated with the position of others who had not confessed. And I was perfectly settled in my mind that it should not have even the appearance of withdrawing my paper because others had withdrawn theirs, as a personal matter. It never was such nor will be, the Lord helping on my part. I felt it ought to be done as a matter of spontaneous unreserved grace, which in us is but justice so to speak when the occasion for it arrives. I have come to the conclusion of withdrawing all from sale that they may not be outstanding against those who have confessed. Those who possess the tracts will consider all contained in them to be wholly void as regards such.

202 This leaves the facts and moral judgment on them untouched as regards those still in the evil or who have not confessed it: save that, after what has passed, they are doubly warned. Anything which is a duty to God as regards them can be equally done when called for, though the tracts are now withdrawn. But in saying this I am anxious that it should be fully understood that I do not mean by it to modify in any way the complete and total withdrawal of the papers as regards the beloved brethren who have acknowledged in simplicity the evil. What I do in this, I do as thoroughly as possible.