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Plymouth Brethren

by C. H. Spurgeon
From the February 1867 Sword and Trowel


E HAVE been requested to reply to a small tract which has been given away at the door of the Tabernacle, by one of the "Plymouth Brethren," but it is so devoid of all sense, Scripture and reason, that it needs no reply. We have not learned the art of beating the air, or replying to nonsense. The only meaning we could gather from the rambling writer's remarks was a confirmation of our accusation, and a wonderful discovery that a long controverted point is now settled; the unpardonable sin is declared to be speaking against the Darbyites. Our portion must be something terrible if this be correct, but we have so little faith in the spirit which inspires the Brethren, that we endure their thunderbolts as calmly as we would those of the other infallible gentleman who occupies the Vatican. Another of this amiable community, having detected an error in one of our printed sermons, has most industriously spread the tidings that Mr. Spurgeon is a blasphemer. At the doors of their meetings and by enclosures in letters this sweet specimen of Christian charity is abundantly distributed; more to their shame than to our injury. We are persuaded that neither the writer of that cowardly anonymous fly-sheet, nor any other Plymouthist, believes in his heart that Mr. Spurgeon would knowingly blaspheme the glorious name of Jesus, and therefore the issue of the pamphlet is, we fear, a wickedly malicious act, dictated by revenge on account of our remarks upon their party. Our name and character are in too good a keeping to be injured by these dastardly anonymous attacks. Neither Mr. Newton* nor Mr. Muller** would sanction such action; it is only from one clique that we receive this treatment. It is worthy of note that even the printer was ashamed or afraid to put his name to the printed paper. Our error was rectified as soon as ever we knew of it, and being fallible we could do no more; but these men, who pretend to be so marvellously led of the Spirit, have in this case deliberately, and in the most unmanly manner, sought to injure the character of one who has committed the great sin of mortifying their pride, and openly exposing their false doctrine.

NOTES (added by The Spurgeon Archive)

* This is a reference to Benjamin Wills Newton, whose home-group Bible study (in Plymouth, England) was the birthplace of the Plymouth Brethren movement. The movement began when John Nelson Darby was invited to join the ministry there. Darby's incipient dispensationalism (particularly his premillennialism and the doctrine of the Rapture) took root in the group and remains to this day one of Brethrenism's distinguishing features. (Many consider Darby the founder of Brethrenism.) Newton and Darby later parted company when Darby decided Newton had become too dominant in Plymouth's Ebrington Street Assemply (during one of Darby's absences), and Darby accused Newton of returning to clericalism. (The Darbyite Brethren did not believe there should be a single dominant elder taking the traditional pastor's role in the Assembly.) Newton and Darby had other high-profile doctrinal disagreements in the ensuing years, and Newton may have later disassociated himself from the Brethren movement completely. See John Cox's letter to the editor in the March 1867 Sword and Trowel. [Back to text.]

**George Muller, famous founder of the Bristol orphanage, was one of the best-known early Plymouth Brethren figures—as well as a friend and contemporary of Spurgeon. Mr. Muller also had a public falling-out with Darby. The two of them disagreed over the fellowship status that should be accorded Newton's Ebrington Street Assembly. Those who sympathized with Darby became the "Closed Brethren" and those who sided with Muller were known as "Open Brethren." The two strains of Brethrenism endure even today. A group of Darby's "Closed Brethren" were apparently the source of the tract Mr. Spurgeon was responding to here. [Back to text.]

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