Letter on “Apostasy” – J.N. Darby
LETTER ON “APOSTASY”
The Collected Writings of J.N. Darby
Miscellaneous No. 1
Hebrews 10 : 23-25, 37
Let us hold fast the confession of the hope unwavering, (for he [is] faithful who has promised;)
and let us consider one another for provoking to love and good works;
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom [is] with some; but encouraging [one another], and by so much the more as ye see the day drawing near.
For yet a very little while he that comes will come, and will not delay.
Beloved Brethren and Sisters in Christ,
The day of the apostasy is hastening on with rapid strides, and also the day in which the Lord shall come to snatch His own away. The present moment is of so solemn a character that I feel constrained to address you this word of exhortation. Godly men everywhere, who watch the signs of the times, see the moment approaching which shall terminate the present actings of grace. The time has evidently arrived when one must speak plainly and decisively, and ask you where you are, and what you are about. You have by grace, which has shone brighter and brighter as it has approached its termination, been gathered out of the seething mass of idolatry and wickedness which now threatens Christendom and the world with an overthrow more awful than that of Sodom and Gomorrah of old; and the question is whether you are adequately impressed with the responsibility, as well as the blessedness, of the ground you are on, and walking like men and women whose eyes have been opened. Believe me, there has never been in the world’s history such a time as the present, and Satan is occupied with none as he is with you; and his occupation with you is the more to be feared because of the subtlety of his operations. His object is to withdraw your attention from Christ, while you suppose you are on safe ground and have nothing to fear. He would destroy you with the very truth itself. For mark the subtlety: you ARE on safe ground but ONLY while Christ is your all in all. Here is where Satan is drawing some away. Interpose anything between your soul and Christ, and your Philadelphia becomes Laodicea; your safe ground is as unsafe as the rest of Christendom; your strength is gone from you, and you become weak, like any ordinary mortal. Some of you are young, recently converted, or brought to the right ways of the Lord, and you do not know the depths of Satan. But you are hereby solemnly warned of your peril; and if mischief overtake you, you cannot plead ignorance. Again I say, Satan has his eye especially upon YOU, for the purpose of interposing the world in some form between your soul and Christ. He cares not how little, or in what form. If you knew but how little will answer his purpose, you would be alarmed. It is not by that which is gross or shameful; such is the DEVELOPMENT, not the BEGINNING of evil. It is not by anything glaring that he seeks to ruin you, but in small and seemingly harmless trifles—trifles that would not shock nor offend anyone as things go, and yet these constitute the deadly and insidious poison, destined to ruin your testimony and withdraw you from Christ. Do you ask what are these alarming symptoms, and where are they seen? The question does but shew what is the character of the opiate at work. Brethren and sisters, you are being infected with the spirit of the world. Your dress, your manner, your talk, your lack of spirituality, betray it in every gathering. There is a dead weight, a restraint, a want of power, that reveals itself in the meetings, as plainly as if your heart were visibly displayed and its thoughts publicly read. A form of godliness without power is beginning to be seen among YOU, as plainly as in Christendom generally. As surely as you tamper with the world, so surely will you drift away to its level. This is the nature of things. It must be so. If you tamper with the world, the privileged place you occupy, instead of shielding you, will only expose you to greater condemnation. It must be Christ OR the world. It cannot be—ought not to be—Christ AND the world. God’s grace in drawing you out of the world in your IGNORANCE is one thing, but God will never permit you to prostitute His grace, and play fast and loose, when you have been separated from the world. Remember you take the place, and claim the privilege, of one whose eyes have been opened; and if on the one hand this is unspeakably blessed (and it is), on the other hand it is the most dreadful position in which a human being can be found. It is to be at the wedding feast without the wedding garment. It is to say, “Lord, Lord,” while you do not the things that He bids. It is to say, “I go, sir,” as he said who went not.
Beloved, I am persuaded better things of you, though I thus speak; and I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will bless Him for these few faithful words. Nothing can be more glorious than the position you are called to occupy in these closing days. Saints have stood in the breach, have watched through weary days and nights these eighteen hundred years, and you only wait for the trumpet of victory to go in and take possession of the glorious inheritance. Other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours; and yet, forsooth, you are lowering your dignity to the level of the poor potsherds of the earth, who only wait for the rod of the Victor (and yours too) to be dashed into pieces. Oh, awake, then from your lethargy: slumber no longer; put away your idols and false gods; wash your garments, and get you to Bethel, where you will find God to be better than ever you knew Him, even in your best days. Lay aside your last bit of worldly dress; guard your speech, that it be of Christ and His affairs, and not, as you know it now often is, of anything but Him. Let your prayers mingle with those of other saints at the prayer meetings; they never were more needed. Neglect no opportunity of gathering up instruction from that word which alone can keep us from the paths of the destroyer, and let your life be the evidence of the treasures you gather up at the lecture, or the reading-meeting, or in secret with the Lord. If you want occupation, with a glorious reward from a beloved Master, ask that Master to set you to work for Him: you will never regret it, either in this world or in that which is to come.
Beloved, bear with me; I am jealous over you with godly jealousy. You belong to Christ, and Christ to you. Break not this holy union. Let not the betrothed one be unfaithful to her Bridegroom! Why should you be robbed and spoiled? And for what? Empty husks and bitter fruits, while you waste this little span of blessing! All the distinctions acquired here in the energy of the Spirit will but serve to enhance your beauty and render you more lovely in the eyes of Him who has espoused you to Himself. Can you refuse Him His delights in you? Can you refuse Him the fruit of the travail of His soul, who once hung, a dying man, between two thieves, on Calvary, a spectacle to men and angels, and for YOU—you who have FORGOTTEN (for you cannot have DESPISED) this devotedness for you. He could have taken the world without the cross, and left you out, but He would not; and now will you, having been enriched by those agonies and that blood, take the world into your tolerance and leave Him out? Impossible! Your pure mind did but need to be stirred up by way of remembrance.
Let us therefore take courage from this moment. We have lately been offering up prayers, confessing the lack of piety and devotedness. May we not take this word as the answer of our ever-gracious faithful Lord, to arouse us—to re-awaken our drooping energies? And then the more quickly He comes the better. We shall not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
(Hebrews 10 : 23-25, 37.)
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