Saturday, March 11, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Evil of Clericalism

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"In the statement which I make here, I make no rash or hasty expression of feeling, but what I believe the Lord would press upon the minds of Christians, and that which they must receive: that, the converse of which He might bear with in practise, while it did not interfere with and oppose the purposes of His grace, winking at the ignorance, but cannot when it does.

The statement which I make is this, that I believe the notion of a Clergyman to be the sin against the Holy Ghost in this dispensation. I am not talking of individuals wilfully committing it, but that the thing itself is such as regards this dispensation, and must result in its destruction: the substitution of something for the power and presence of that holy, blessed and blessing Spirit, by which this dispensation is characterised, and by which the unrenewedness of man, and the authority of man, holds the place which alone that blessed Spirit has power and title to fill, as that other Comforter which should abide for ever.

If the notion of a Clergyman has had the effect of the substitution of anything which is of man, and therefore subject to Satan, in the place and prerogative of that blessed Spirit exercising the vicarship of Christ in the world, it is clear, that however the providence of God may have overruled it, in the ignorance which He could wink at, it does, when stood upon and restedin against the presence and work of the Spirit, become direct sin against Him- pure, dreadful, and destructive evil- the very cause of destruction to the church. I must be observed to say nothing whatever against offices in the church of Christ, and the exercise of authority in them, whether episcopal or evangelical in character. It were a vain and unnecessary work here to prove the recognition of that on which the Scripture is so plain. But they are spoken of in Scripture as gifts from on high: 'He gave some apostles' Eph.4:5, 7, 11; so in 1 Corinthians 12, they are known only as gifts. My objection to the notion of a Clergyman is, that it substitutes something in the place of all these, which cannot be said to be of God at all, and is not found in Scripture. Now, I believe the whole priciple of this to be contained in this dispensation in the word clergyman, and that this is the necessary root of that denial of the Holy Ghost which must, from the nature of the dispensation, end in its dissolution.

I am quite aware that people will say, that this is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, that it may amount to resisting the Holy Ghost, but sin against the Holy Ghost is quite another thing. It is not so much another thing as people would suppose. At any rate the cause of the destruction of the Jewish system was this very thing: 'Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.' And I am perfectly satisfied, however this dispensation may be prolonged in order to the gathering of souls out of the world, of God's elect, it has sealed its destruction in the rejection and resistance of the Spirit of God. But I go a great deal farther, and I affirm, though that were sin enough, that the notion of a Clergyman puts the dispensation specifically in the position of the sin against the Holy Ghost, and that every Clergyman is contributing to this. The sin against the Holy Ghost was the ascribing to the power of evil that which came from the Holy Ghost: and such is the direct operation of the idea of a Clergyman. It charges the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, which the Spirit gives by the mouth of those whom He chooses, whom they are pleased to call laymen, and the rigteousness of conduct which flows from the reception of that testimony, with disorder and schism. Now, God is not the author of confusion or disorder, nor of schism, but the enemy of souls is; and to charge the plain testimony which the Holy Ghost gives concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, and the effects which it produces, with disorder and schism, is to charge the work of God with being evil, and from the evil one. But if clergyman have the exclusive privilege of preaching, teaching, and ministering communion, which they claim, and which is the very sense and meaning of their title, then must it be all evil. That is, the notion of a Clergyman necessarilly involves the charge of evil on the work of the Holy Ghost, and therefore, I say, that the notion of a Clergyman involves the dispensation, where insisted upon, in the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Sinners are converted to God, souls called out of darkness, the truth preached with energy an love to souls, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, in constraint and constancy (in whatever weakness) of the Redeemer's love: men are gathered from evil and wickedness (for I will put the fullest case my adversaries could wish) into the communion of the Lord's love, to bear witness to their sole dependence on His dying love; and this is producing confusion and schism- of which God is not the author, but Satan- because they are not, nor are brought together, by clergymen! What is this but to charge the work of divine grace with proceeding from, and having the character of, the author of evil, which is blasphemy? and this is the immediate and direct effect, the necessary effect, of the notion- the exclusive notion of a Clergyman."

Taken from The Notion of a Clergyman Dispensationally the Sin against the Holy Ghost in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.1, p.39-40


Kc said...

Darby may have had good points on this but to charge others with such a grevious sin seems questionable to me. I need to read it again to be certain I'm clear on all he's written.

I appreciate you isolating these sections that are relevant. ;-)

Redeemed said...

I had to read this a few times over, but I think his title sums it all up. Clericalism is evil. That I agree with. Thanks!


Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Kc and Sarah, thanks for reading this portion.

I think Darby's logic may be flawed here.
Surely, one could hold that having a clergy is a supeirior way of organizing the Lord's work, while still maintaining that those ministering outside this system are doing the Lord' work, even if in an infeirior fashion. Darby seems to overlook the fact that some Evangelical Anglican ministers had good relations with Dissenting ministers. Perhaps Darby held that such an attitude was not characteristic of the dispensation as a whole.

Every Blessing in Christ