“Hear the Right”
For nearly forty years I have been in frequent contact with the dear saints of God residing in Alnwick and Glanton, and therefore from personal knowledge am able to write regarding them, and this I now do at the earnest entreaty of numbers of my brethren at a distance, who have written asking for information as to the causes of the present difficulty connected with these localities.
The Document of Excision
For several years previous to 1905 a very sad condition of alienation, personal feeling and disorder, culminating in two opposite parties, had existed in the Alnwick meeting. Open rupture was consummated on Lord’s Day, 1st January, 1905. During the previous week, Mr. T. Pringle and three other Alnwick brothers met in a private house and drew up a document which they, and subsequently five other brothers, signed, deciding to “put away” four brothers of the opposite party, on the ground that “for about eighteen months they had been guilty of creating pronounced division and confusion in the gathering, which was evidenced in the establishment by them of opposition meetings.” This document of excommunication, prepared without any reference to the assembly of the saints gathered together before the Lord, but purporting to be its act, was read before the breaking of bread on Lord’s Day, 1st January, in the Green Bat Hall, where all had hitherto met.
The effect was only confusion, but as a matter of fact all present broke bread together that morning. The same day, T. P., the recognised leader of the party, sent to Glanton, and to eleven other Northumbrian meetings, including Newcastle, copies of the document of excommunication, accompanied by a letter intimating that he and fourteen others would “break bread elsewhere” in future. During the week he locked up the Green Bat Hall (of which he was the proprietor), and thus locked out the four brothers proposed to be “put away,” along with fifteen fellow-saints, and on 5th January sent another notice to the Northumbrian gatherings, stating that he and his party would break bread in the Town Hall. On 4th January the locked-out nineteen also sent letters to Glanton and surrounding gatherings, stating their case, and asking advice how to proceed.
On Lord’s Day. 15th January, Glanton, one of the nearest meetings, wrote thus to both parties:—
Glanton’s Letter to Alnwick
Dear Brethren,—We decided last Lord’s Day that in view of the sorrowful division at Alnwick, we cannot at present break bread with either party, but would ask you in love to seek the Lord’s face, that He may put you right with Himself and with one another. We send this now (15th January) as we did not want to be in haste. As gathered to the Lord, we are ever yours in Him.
(Signed) A. STEVENSON. J. CURRIE.
W. CUIRIE. J. RUTHERFORD.
Glanton thereafter notified the other meetings in Northumberland to which, so far as they knew, the Alnwick circulars had been sent, stating what they had done. What they did the Northumbrian gatherings (with one exception, Embleton, a small meeting which was then divided in judgment, but now is going on with Glanton) generally approved, and the three Newcastle meetings in particular wrote on 18th January to each party in Alnwick thus:—
Newcastle’s Letter to Alnwick
“Having received a copy of the letter sent you by our brethren of Glanton, we wish to say that we are one with them in what they wrote to you on the 15th, and trust that truth and grace will work, to your being found together in love according to God’s will.”
On 6th March, 1905, the nineteen who had been locked out of Green Bat Hall, and had consequently ceased to break bread wrote to the meetings at Glanton, Thropton and Amble, saying that they were “wishful to break bread in fellowship with you in the truth of the one body, and seek your fellowship before we break bread.” This overture to obtain recognition the three gatherings declined.
The state of affairs at Alnwick now pressed deeply on the spirits of the Glanton brethren, and on 1st June they sent to every meeting that had received the Ahiwick January circulars the following letter:—
Glanton’s Letter to Northumberland
Glanton, 1st June, 1905.
Dear Brethren,—As many brethren are feeling the need of coming together for prayer and humiliation on account of the sorrowful state of things in Alnwick, and as Glanton has been suggested as the best centre for meeting, we have arranged (D.V.) for such a meeting on Saturday, 10th June, and counting that you, with others and us, feel the urgent need for thus coming before God and waiting upon Him, we very heartily invite you.
That meeting (only for prayer, not discussion) was very well attended, some fifty brethren from as many as nineteen meetings coming together, and the sense of the Lord’s presence was very distinctly realised.
It would seem as if the Lord had heard this intercession, followed as it was by constant supplication at the weekly prayer-meetings in the district, for on 3rd October, 1905, the nineteen party thus wrote to T. P. and those with him:—
Letter of the Nineteen seeking Reconciliation
“Our great desire is that reconciliation may be brought about. Now for the sake of our Lord and Saviour, and for the benefit and blessing of us all, and to reach this, we earnestly desire you to stop breaking bread. A meeting could then be arranged for reconciliation.”
Second Attempt at Reconciliation
To this appeal no answer was deigned. Thereafter two of the nineteen called on T. P., only to find their desire for reconciliation declined, the knowledge of which refusal gave much deep exercise in the surrounding meetings, to which each party had at first appealed. After this failure, the Glanton brethren advised that another attempt at reconciliation should be made, and three brothers, Mr. Liddell, Mr. White and Mr. Roger Turnbull met Mr. Pringle, Mr. G. Murdie and Mr. J. Y. Thompson at Mr. P.’s house to endeavour to effect a healing of the breach. The first question Mr. P. asked them was, “Are you prepared to own the document as being a righteous act?” To this the three brothers had to reply that they could not own that act to have been righteous. In response they were met with the reply, “Then that settles it.” Mr. P. stated that it was absolutely essential that the act which “the document of excommunication “intended should be acknowledged as righteous to commence with, and, moreover, that if acknowledged as righteous, they (Mr. P. and party) would receive “whom they liked “ and “when they liked.” Mr. Liddell then inquired, “Can no thought be entertained of reconciliation unless the document is owned as a righteous act?” Mr. P.’s reply was emphatic and absolutely conclusive: “None whatever!”
The Fifteen Cease to Break Bread
Early in 1906, as the result of some pastoral visitation on the part of two Newcastle brethren, the nineteen saints, who had taken a room for prayer and the reading of the Word, gave it up that they might avowedly abandon all appearance of a party. About the same time (February, 1906) Mr. Fred. Silk and Mr. J. Y. Thompson, who had signed “the document of excision,” becoming exercised about the matter, intimated to Mr. P. and his party that they could not any longer go on in a position in which they felt the Lord was not with them, and urged that the document of 1st January, 1905, which they had hitherto upheld, should be absolutely withdrawn, as they judged they had been wrong in producing it. They then determined to cease breaking bread with Mr. P. and party, whereupon, on 11th February, 1906, the whole company ceased to break bread. They, however, still continued to attend meetings for prayer until the end of May, when Messrs. F. Silk and J. Y. Thompson definitely withdrew and sought reconciliation with the nineteen, honestly confessing their faults to them, and receiving their forgiveness.
The nineteen, it should here be stated, though much desiring it, had never broken bread since the catastrophe of 1st January, 1905, which produced the scattering of the saints, and, at the same time, in the judgment of the Northumberland gatherings, the complete dissolution of the Alnwick assembly.
During 1905 over a dozen saints from other parts had come into the Alnwick district, and finding at Alnwick no meeting for the breaking of bread, travelled to Glanton to break bread. A few also of both parties frequently went to Glanton and sat behind.
Third Attempt at Reconciliation
Early in 1907 a further attempt at reconciliation took place. Mr. R. Turnbull, hearing that Mr. T. P. was ill, called to inquire for him. Mr. T. P. received him graciously and then said, “I feel the time has now come when we should be together.” Eventually it was arranged to meet on Wednesday 30th January, at the Green Bat Hall those who had been locked out two years before. Seven of these met T. P. and three of his party, but F. Silk and J. Y. Thompson who had left them, received no notice of this meeting. The question of withdrawing the “document of excision” was at once raised, and Mr. P. emphatically stated that that would never be done, They would be prepared to go on with the others, and to sink the whole of the past, but the document must remain unwithdrawn.
The obdurate determination on the part of T. P. and his party not to withdraw this universally condemned, because unrighteous and really spurious, document (since it professed to be the judgment and voice of the assembly, which it most certainly was not), was the manifest barrier to reconciliation once more. At the commencement of this meeting prayer was proposed, but T. P. was for settling matters first and then praying. The refusal to withdraw the document immediately caused a deadlock. At the close of the meeting Mr. P. announced their usual meetings for prayer on Sunday at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
This has led to the impression and assertion that an arrangement was come to by all present to so meet. Mr. R. Turnbull and those with him affirm that no such arrangement was entered into, nor could be with the objectionable document still maintained. Later in the week Mr. Liddle, meeting Mr. George Murdie, discovered such was the impression on his mind, and on the following Saturday this letter was written to Mr. Murdie:
Second Letter of the Nineteen
2nd February, 1907.
My dear Brother,—In consideration of Mr. Pringle’s health we write you. We have unanimously agreed to wait until you and those with you see your way to withdraw the document and seek the fellowship of surrounding gatherings. We will then be glad to arrange a meeting.
(Signed) RORT. TURNBULL. S. WHITE.
JAMES LIDDLE. W. HAMILTON.
One can easily see the reason for such a letter, and how hopeless all efforts toward reconciliation proved with the fateful barrier so stoutly maintained by the originators thereof.
Individuals Turn to Glanton
Up to this time—though certain individuals had applied—Glanton declined to receive any to break bread, desiring fuller evidence of real repentance for the past, and mutual reconciliation amongst the Alnwick saints. About this time, however, several of those hitherto divided manifestly judged themselves for their bygone course, and owned their faults to each other, and became happily reconciled. Owing, however, to the irreconcilable attitude of T. P. and those remaining with him, and shrinking from essaying to come together in Alnwick itself to break bread, for which they then had not faith, and lest in the spot where the Lord had been so dishonoured they should seem to be forming a new party, these repentant ones individually turned to Glanton with the request to be received to break bread there.
Two and a half years having now elapsed since the complete collapse of the original gathering, and all attempts at healing having utterly failed, the Glanton assembly, as the fruit of much exercise, began to consider whether these repentant and reconciled individuals might be received to the Lord’s Supper. Desirous, however, of maintaining unity, they would not act alone, and accordingly, after conference with surrounding meetings, wrote as follows to the assemblies that had been addressed in the first circular letters of the fifteen and nineteen, in January 1905:—
Glanton’s Second Letter to Northumberland
Glanton, 18th April, 1907.
Beloved Brethren,—In fellowship with surrounding meetings we have arranged for a meeting here at Glanton on Saturday, the 27th. to consider the case of those of our brethren at Alnwick who have applied for fellowship, and we think, in common with other brethren, that the time has come to consider individual cases, and we think it well for all the meetings who have been involved in it to come, counting on the Lord’s guidance and the maintenance of the unity of the meetings according to the truth “there is one body.” Meeting to commence at 4.30. A prayer meeting at 4 for those who can be forward. All or any brethren are invited to come.
Glanton’s Action in the Lord’s Name
After prayer the first question put in this meeting was, “Has all been done that could be done in Alnwick to bring about healing there, that the saints restored in soul might be encouraged to come together in Alnwick to break bread?”
The various fruitless efforts for this end were detailed. All present on that occasion expressed full confidence in Glanton or any other assembly who, after careful inquiry and satisfaction as to moral state, decided to receive, as individuals, these hungry and way-worn sheep of Christ. Thereafter, one by one, Glanton received to the breaking of bread certain individuals both from the original fifteen and nineteen, being first satisfied that they had repented before the Lord of their bygone misdeeds, judged themselves, and become reconciled to each other. This action, it should be noted, was done in assembly as gathered to the Lord, and, as they believed, with His sanctions and authority.
Between May and September, 1907, Glanton’s action in thus sheltering and receiving these sheep of Christ in a day of storm and confusion was generally acquiesced in, if not approved by all, and intercommunion with Glanton and other gathering to the Lord’s name was maintained without question.
London’s Agitation versus Glanton Commenced
In the autumn of 1907 agitation against the action of Glanton was commenced at Heaton, Newcastle, by a brother-in-law of Mr. T. P.’s, backed up by certain letters of Mr. S. Hutchinson and Mr. D. L. Higgins of London, widely spread among the saints, which alleged that the scriptural principle of “local responsibility” had been infringed by Glanton’s action, and thereafter certain individuals at Heaton and South Shields ceased to break bread. Being deeply grieved personally with these latter tidings, and not then very well acquainted with the details given in the foregoing pages, I visited Glanton on 16th November, 1907, and had a long interview with a number of the Glanton brethren, being then doubtful as to the rightness and wisdom of their action in relation to these Alnwick saints.
My Visit to Glanton
The spirit of Christ which I found amongst them relieved my anxiety as regards them, and rendered me quite content not to oppose their action, which I could perceive they had taken, with no party spirit whatever, in the interests of the Lord and of, His beloved sheep at Alnwick. On the same day I visited my oldest friend in the district, Mr. T. P. of Alnwick, discussed the situation, and most earnestly implored him to withdraw the “document of excommunication,” which I saw clearly was the insurmountable obstacle to reconciliation with his brethren in Alnwick. This, to my unfeigned and expressed regret, he flatly and absolutely refused to do in the one word, “Never.”
Visit of D. L. H., T. O. and W. T. P. W. to Glanton
The agitation and confusion among saints now becoming more widespread through various influences, Mr. T. Oliver of Croydon, after deep exercise of soul, was led to visit the Glanton and Alnwick saints, and he thereafter invited Mr. D. L. Higgins and myself to meet him at Glanton to endeavour to solve the difficulty, and remove, if possible, the cause of a now threatened general division amongst saints over Glanton’s action. What then transpired is simply and accurately stated in the following summary, prepared at the same time by D. L. H. and signed by each of us, and subscribed also by three Glanton brethren with a remark or two of their own. At the close of that meeting D. L. H. told the Glanton brethren that though he judged differently to them as to their act, he “could not cease to walk with them.”
Account of our Meeting
Brief Account of Meeting held at Glanton, 22nd January l908. Present 21 local Brothers, D. L. H. (London), T. O. (Croydon), W. T. P. W. (Edinburgh).
The meeting opened with prayer by seven brothers, four of these being local saints. All expressed themselves as only desirous to do the will of the Lord, and that His glory might be secured at all cost. We may have had nearly half an hour’s prayer together, of a very encouraging nature, as showing that no one wanted the will of man to prevail
On rising to our feet, T. O. proceeded to explain that we were there entirely as individual brothers, and in no sense as representing others.
D. H. L. then explained the difficulty, which he himself had felt very strongly, which he was desirous of submitting to his Glanton brethren, in the hope they would weigh before God what he might say, and he, on his part, assured them he would similarly weigh anything they might submit to him. He spoke of the principle of local responsibility, which appeared to him and many others to have been seriously infringed. He knew that it had been said that all accepted the principle, but that, in the case in question, the meeting at Alnwick had, in their judgment, so utterly collapsed that there was nothing left which the Lord could recognise. He would, however, plead that all the elements were still there, the saints, that is, who composed the meeting. None of them had gone out of communion with their brethren elsewhere, of wished to do so, and, furthermore, the saints at Glanton were themselves witnesses that the Lord had worked repentance in many of them, showing that He had not given them up. He urged that had these been left to their own faith before the Lord, there might have been, and would have been, those who were considering His interests, with whom His name would have been connected.
The Glanton brothers, however, protested that their knowledge of the saints at Alnwick led them to judge that there were still many who had party feelings and personal questions, and they were convinced they could not have come together, with the Lord’s approval, in the state in which they then were. This applied, too, to the time when, in January, 1907, they bad almost become reconciled, and when T. Pringle’s refusal to withdraw the document of excision had upset the whole thing.
D. L. H. urged that there was evidence of the Lord’s gracious work, which they admitted, and that it was obvious the Lord had not given these saints up.
As to the reception of the individuals at Glanton from Alnwick, they protested very earnestly that they had cried to the Lord to guide them in regard to what they ought to do, and that, as the Lord had given His authority to two or three gathered to His name, they believed, and still believe, He guided them to do what they did, and they felt they could not yield on this point.
Long discussion took place in regard to this question, and it became evident that the Glanton brethren held tenaciously to their belief that they had the Lord’s mind in receiving the saints from Alnwick individually, while they also affirmed that, had they not been persuaded there was nothing there for the Lord, they would never have consented to their reception, believing as they did that the principle of local responsibility was of all importance to be maintained.
Seeing that there was a difference of judgment as to the application of the principle in question, while all were agreed as to the importance of it, the point arose whether the Glanton brethren were prepared to say to the Alnwick saints that they thought they would do well in remain at Alnwick, and act on their own faith before the Lord in future.
It was now stated by one of the brothers that a few weeks ago some of these Alnwick saints had expressed the wish to get together at Alnwick take a room there, but he had dissuaded them from it, and he now felt he had done wrong in so doing. It was admitted by all that the Alnwick saints who had gone to Glanton to break bread were quite competent to maintain together what was due to the Lord, and in view of the widespread disruption of the saints it was strongly felt that it would be right to remove at once the immediate cause of the difficulty.
It was therefore finally understood among us that while Glanton still adhered to the belief that they had the Lord’s mind in what they had done, they were anxious not to hinder the removal of the difficulty which they recognised had affected many of their brethren elsewhere, and they cordially agreed to these Alnwick saints doing what some weeks ago they expressed themselves ready to do.
It was felt that the question of divergence of judgment as to the application of the principle in this case must be left to the Lord to make clear.
(Signed) D. L. HIGGINS.
W. T. P. WOLSTON.
Addendum by Glanton Brethren.
We would like to make one or two remarks as to the above report signed by D. L. H., T. O., and W. T. P. W., so as to make our own position perfectly clear. As said in the above paper, we still firmly believe that we were led of the Lord to receive these Alnwick saints, and while we hold as firmly as D. L. H. the truth of local responsibility, we do not believe that it has been infringed in this case, therefore the difference is in regard to its application, and we earnestly trust that the Lord may make it more clear to His saints. And as to the Alnwick saints beginning to break bread at Alnwick, we always had that in our minds. The present breaking of bread at Glanton being only temporary, as we trusted that the Lord’s work in them would lead to that end, and that we might see them happily together again, not as sent back by Glanton, but as led of the Lord and result of their own exercise and faith before God.
(Signed) ALEXANDER STEVENSON.
After leaving Glanton, D. L. H. and T. O. saw T. P. and urgently implored him to withdraw the document of excision, which they unhesitatingly condemned, as being not of God, and unjustifiable both in its production and its maintenance.
Breaking of Bread Recommenced at Alnwick
Subsequently to our lengthened interview with the Glanton brethren, the twenty saints from Alnwick who had been going to Glanton and there breaking bread, ceased to take this journey, and on Lord’s Day, 23rd February, 1908, they commenced to break bread at Alnwick. At the date of writing this there is now in Alnwick a happy and united company of about thirty saints breaking bread, with the fellowship of the neighbouring meeting of Glanton, and, generally speaking, of the other northern meetings. This number is made up of twenty-one brothers and sisters out of the original Alnwick meeting (which Glanton and other Northumbrian meetings regarded as having been absolutely broken up by its own internecine conflicts and unchristian behaviour), and nine saints who have gone to reside in Alnwick since the break up in January, 1905, several of whom, for over two years have broken bread at Glanton as being their nearest meeting.
After thus recommencing to break bread in Alnwick these saints felt they ought to make a united attempt to reach those with T. P. still holding aloof, and to each and all of them they handed the following joint letter, taken personally by two of their number to each brother or sister still maintaining an unyielding position:—
Fourth Attempt at Reconciliation
Alnwick, 3rd March, 1908
Dear Brother,—We desire to commit to writing an expression of sorrow as to the sorrowful state of things which led up to the disastrous breakdown in January, 1905. We hope through grace you may do the same, that is, confess it to one another, judge it, and bury it for ever, so that we may all go on in love and peace with one another before God. Yours affectionately in Christ.
(Signed) F. SILK. J. LIDDLE.
S. WHITE. ROGER TURNBULL
The effect of this last attempt at reconciliation was, also, unsatisfactory.
The two brothers who handed this letter to Mr. T. P. were met by another rebuff to the effect that he and those with him were prepared to meet the four they attempted to “put away,” but they would not meet Mr. Silk, who had been one of those who originally drew up the document of excision, and later on left Mr. P.’s party, as already narrated.
Notwithstanding this, a fortnight later Mr. P., yielding to pressure from other quarters, issued and sent to several meetings the following letter:—
Document of Excision Withdrawn
Green Bat Hall, 15th March, 1908.
Dear Brethren,—Annexed find copy of circular issued by us on 2nd February last withdrawing the document of 1st January, 1905, Kindly make this widely known.
Yours affectionately in Christ.
(Signed) THOMAS PRINGLE.
(On behalf of those meeting at the above hall.)
The circular referred to consisted of a copy of a six weeks’ old letter addressed to D. L. H., and thus runs:—
Green Bat Hall, 2nd February, 1908
Dear Mr. Higgins,—If you think the withdrawal of the document would accomplish a godly settlement, we have no hesitation in doing so. Of course, this is quite apart from the conduct that led up to it, which, as you said, remains to be settled between them and us. Affectionately yours in Christ,
(Signed) THOMAS PRIGLE.
(On behalf of those meeting in Green Bat Hall.)
This apparent withdrawal of the document of excision does not commend itself to any upright mind, inasmuch as notice thereof was not sent to each of the four brothers designed to be the subjects of the discipline. It has not, therefore, the appearance of being an honest desire to get right with the brethren against whom the document was directed. Had that been so, it would surely have been unreservedly withdrawn, with an expression of regret that it had ever been formulated and for three years maintained, spite of earnest entreaty on many hands for its withdrawal.
It had been generally hoped that the basis of peace had been laid by what took place at Glanton on 22nd January, 1908, when D. L. H., T. O., and W. T. P. W. met the brethren there, and then issued their paper. All moderate and unbiased men saw in that statement a godly basis of agreement, the more so when it became known that Mr. T. P. had at length, though in a very lame way, withdrawn the obnoxious and unrighteous document, the maintenance of which had most clearly been the cause of the impossibility of reconciliation. The fact, however, of its being privately withdrawn on 2nd February (see his letter to Mr. Higgins), but strange to say, not publicly circulated till 15th March, leads to the, impression that the withdrawal was only nominal and not real. That the document was never really judged by Mr. Pringle as wrong, seems clear. Had the withdrawal been genuine some expression of regret for its production would accompany it.
London’s Further Objections
When the saints who had been going to Glanton to break bread abstained therefrom, and on the Lord’s Day, 23rd February, commenced to break bread in Alnwick, D. L. H. and others in London at once objected thereto, on the ground that they had not approached Pringle and party before so doing. From that time the agitation became greater, and, it might be added, that the opposition to Glanton, and now to the company in Alnwick, became in some quarters very intense. Although when that which D. L. H., T. O., and I suggested, viz., that the Alnwick saints should cease breaking bread in Glanton, return to their own town, and there act on their own faith before God, had taken place, the fact of their not first approaching Pringle and party was made the ground of exciting saints in many quarters to stand apart and cease from breaking bread. It is indeed to be regretted that such a step was not taken, but another attempt at reconciliation was, however, made within a few days thereof, as has been narrated. This, like all others, alas, was quite ineffectual.
I need scarcely say that the saints gathered in Edinburgh, in common with all others, were greatly exercised over all the. confusion springing out of the seceders’ activities, and some brothers in three of the Edinburgh meetings, affected by letters from London leaders, were very desirous that intercommunion between Edinburgh and Northumberland generally should be absolutely suspended.
First Edinburgh Brothers’ Meeting
Brothers from the four gatherings met on 4th January, 1908, and again on the 11th, to discuss this question. Some pressed to close the doors absolutely on what they, termed “the affected area.” Others took the ground that we could not, if we desired to maintain the truth of the unity of the Body of Christ, and seek to keep the unity of the Spirit, refuse to the saints, with whom we were happily in fellowship, their privilege to take the Lord’s Supper with us if they presented themselves.
As it was known at that time that Mr. Oliver was endeavouring to get D. L. H. and other brethren to visit Glanton, and being hopeful of good results therefrom, it was suggested, and eventually a compromise was agreed upon to this effect, that saints coming from a gathering where any were standing apart, on .account of Glanton’s action, should be informed that a ,divided judgment existed in Edinburgh on the point, and the question of their breaking bread should be left for themselves to decide on their own responsibility. It was argued by the opposers to Glanton that those who in Northumberland ceased to break bread were still as much in fellowship, after they had ceased to break bread, as before. A novel idea certainly, and one which Scripture, I judge, would not sustain, since we read, “The Bread which we break is it not the communion (the same word as fellowship) of the Body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). It is the very act of breaking bread which is the fellowship, and those who refused so to do could not be regarded as in fellowship, having by their own act and attitude refused so to be.
Terms of Agreement come to
From notes of what transpired at that meeting, made at the time, I quote the following excerpt:—“In the meantime if any one came from any of the meetings where there is division over the matter, they should he told that we are not of one mind here in regard to it, and leave the responsibility with them to do as they thought fit in the circumstances. It was distinctly stated that we could not, and did not refuse fellowship.” This of course, it was made plain, referred to those still breaking bread.
Failure to Keep Agreement
This agreement was maintained faithfully by the gatherings in George Street and the South Side, with one exception, when on 21st June two saints presented themselves at Freemasons’ Hall, bringing with them a letter of commendation, which they placed on the table. The brother who had undertaken to be at the door of the meeting room did not observe them enter. It is well known that this brother’s sympathies were strongly with the London party and versus Glanton. Their letter, which was laid on the table, another brother opened, and, seeing it was from Newcastle, he went out and gave it to the door-keeper, and reminded him of the compact arranged. He, however, said, “We are not ultras here,” and inasmuch as the parties had taken their seat at the table, and the hour of meeting was already passed, he thought that to bring them out and acquaint them would produce confusion, and he judged the best thing to do was not to read their letter, and then inform them afterwards. As a matter of fact, the parties, previously to leaving Newcastle, knew perfectly well what our arrangement was, and had come with the determination of availing themselves of what was their privilege and right, i.e., to break bread, and they did so.
This failure on the part of our brother, who acted as porter, to keep the compact (though manifestly there was no design in it), one cannot but regret, as he himself now does.
This incident came to the ears of those who wished to absolutely close the doors on the Northumberland meetings, and they then desired a general meeting of brothers of the four gatherings to discuss this matter. This took place at No. 117 George Street on Saturday, 4th July.
Second Edinburgh Brothers’ Meeting
At that meeting a full explanation of this occurrence and all that transpired was given by the brother who took out the letter, and after such explanation no further discussion took place on that point. It was then urgently pressed that all corners from Northumberland should be refused, but the larger number of brothers present could not, with good conscience before God, refuse godly saints their place at that which they believed to be the Lord’s Table, and as much their privilege as ours. A suggestion to still continue the compact of 11th January met with no favourable response on the part of the minority. The majority, however, expressed their urgent desire to go on with all those with whom they had hitherto been in fellowship. At this meeting I was not present.
After this meeting the minority, without delay, called meetings of the local assemblies in Morningside, South Side, and West End, and as, at these meetings, they found that what they wanted could not be granted to them, they withdrew, immediately took a hail, in Merchiston Place, to hold meetings in, and on the 2nd August began to break bread, thus setting up a schismatic table upon entirely new lines, viz., that the refusal of Glanton’s action was the test of their fellowship.
The saints who composed the four meetings at that time met before the Lord, in assembly, and issued the following circular, giving their reasons for declining to refuse Glanton saints, since they could not make a divergence, of judgment, on such a matter, a test of fellowship:—
First Edinburgh Circular
Edinburgh, 29th July, 1908.
Beloved Brethren,—It has been thought desirable to state clearly to our brethren our position in this city regarding the present trouble, and on this account the following statement is issued.
We remain where we have always been, and desire to go on with all those whom we have hitherto been in fellowship.
We deeply regret that some have withdrawn from us on account of our refusal to close the door on meetings where a difference of judgment existed regarding the Glanton-Alnwick matter.
We see no scriptural warrant for the “shutting up” or isolation of assemblies where such difference exists; and further, judge it wrong to make either the acceptance or rejection of Glanton’s action a test of fellowships seeing neither unsound doctrine, evil practice, nor evil association is in evidence.
We hope and earnestly pray that those who have withdrawn may be led to see that it is wrong to make such difference of judgment a cause of division amongst saints, and we heartily assure them that the door is open for their return.
We entreat our brethren everywhere to pause before they finally consummate a division, and thereby bring fresh dishonour on the Lord’s name.
We own the rebuking hand of God in this sorrow, and would turn to Him who never fails His own, and never forsakes them, and in spite of all loves them with an everlasting love,
Signed on behalf of the saints gathered together on this date,
HOBART J. W. BARLEE. For those meeting at
JOHN M’CULLOCH, Freemason’ Hall
THOMAS R. DALE, 98 George Street
ROBERT FERGUSON. For those meeting at
ALEXANDER ROSS. 140 Morningside Road.
FRANK L. HARRIS, For those meeting at
WILLIAM PURVIS, 36 Lauriston Pl.
GEO. WEATHERBURN, (South Side).
JAMES M’INNES. For those meeting at
JOSEPH M’QUEEN. Angle Park, (West End).
Edinburgh Seceders’ Letter Incorrect
On the 4th August, 1908, the seceders issued a circular giving their reasons for their action, among others, the statement that at the meeting of 11th January “it was decided that any coming from disaffected gatherings should be asked not to break bread so as to respect the consciences of their brethren here who were in a divided opinion as to the question at issue.” The incorrectness of this statement, which in no way expressed the agreement come to, led to our issuing the following notice:—
Second Edinburgh Circular
Edinburgh, 13th August, 1908.
Beloved Brethren,—Our attention having been drawn to a letter issued 4th August, 1908, from 12 Merchiston Place, and signed by F. Fentiman, R. Lyons, J. M’Bride, H. Harris, R. A. Mitchell and F. W. C. Williamson, who have separated from us, we find it necessary to correct the misleading and, we are sorry to say, in some instances, the inaccurate statements made therein.
The basis of the circular is the interpretation they put upon an arrangement come to at a brothers’ meeting on 11th January last, held in No. 117 George Street.
The arrangement then come to at the close of a long meeting, in which there was a strong and manifest difference of judgment on the Glanton and Alnwick matter, was as follows, viz.:—
That, in the meantime, anyone coming from Newcastle or South Shields, where some had ceased to break bread, should be made aware of the divided opinion here with regard to the Glanton and Alnwick matter and that it should be left to their own responsibility to break bread or not, as they thought fit.
The statements in the Merchiston circular differing from this are not correct and are most misleading. It is untrue to say that “it was decided that any coming from disaffected gatherings should be asked not to break bread?”
Further, as to the statement, “that if any knew of saints coming from such meetings, they should write and advise them not to come.” This was suggested on 11th January, but not accepted.
The arrangement agreed on was maintained in its spirit, for, as a matter of fact, no one did break bread in Edinburgh from these districts in ignorance of our position, but on one occasion, as was explained at the brothers’ meeting on 4th July, we regret that a technical failure was committed in not, at the moment, informing a brother and sister from Newcastle of our position. They, however, were personally well aware of it, and broke bread in their own responsibility, having come with that intention.
Regarding those brethren who went to Richmond, it was also explained that this was an act of individuals, and in no way a departure from the arrangement, above referred to. At the meeting held on 4th July last, Mr. R. Lyons (who was not present to the end of the meeting on 11th January, when this arrangement was come to) gave his own interpretation of it, and so did Mr. H. Harris,3 but Mr. S. M’Bride3 corrected them both, and admitted that our statement the agreement was the right one.
The real issue causing our brethren to withdraw from us was, as stated in paragraph 3 of the circular issued by the four meetings, our refusal to close the door on meetings where a difference of judgment existed regarding the Glanton and Alnwick matter. Our ground for refusal to accede to this is stated in paragraph 4, viz., that we see no scriptural warrant for the “shutting up” or isolation of assemblies where such difference exists; and further, judge it wrong to make either acceptance or rejection of Glanton’s action a test of fellowship, seeing neither unsound doctrine, evil practice, nor evil association is in evidence.
Our brother, Dr. Wolston, who was present at the 11th January meeting, but has been absent from Edinburgh since, concurs with us as to the accuracy of our statement of the agreement.
T. FORBES. R. FERGUSON.
F. L. HARRIS. W. T. P. WOLSTON.
A great deal depends upon the terms of the agreement made on the 11th of January. The quotation I have given from the notes of that meeting, then made, make it abundantly plain to any ordinary reader; and, as I was present and heard all the discussion, I can most emphatically say that the decision was simply and only to inform any saints coming from Northumberland, who had not gone out of fellowship, of our divided judgment and leave the question of partaking of the Supper to their own settlement. As to the seceders, a desire for breaking of bread on their part was stated to be unlikely and inadmissible, since they had ceased to do so in their own locality. If they could not break bread in their own locality they certainly could not here.
The Richmond Meeting
If what is now alleged by the Merchiston party be true, viz., that they should be asked not to break bread (i.e., in plain language, refused their right and privilege), then it was manifestly wrong for the Edinburgh brothers to have broken bread at Richmond in the way they did. It would have been a decided infringement of the compact, but the arrangement was what I have stated, and the brethren who went to Richmond believed that to be the arrangement For them, therefore, to break bread with brethren who would have been received amongst us, if they had come to Edinburgh, and desired to break bread, was no infringement of the compact. The wisdom, or otherwise, of the Richmond meeting is another question altogether.
Much has been said against that meeting, and in the most unmeasured terms it has been denounced as “loose and lawless.” The facts regarding it are these:—For several years at Easter, brothers (mostly in business taking advantage of the holiday) from various parts of England and Scotland, all in fellowship, have met at some central point to specially wait on God in prayer, and also with the object of preaching the gospel. In some cases there has been no recognised company of saints, gathered to the Lord’s name, in the town where they have met; sometimes there has been such a company. If there has been no recognised breaking of bread pre-existing in the town, those who arranged the meetings have always intimated to the nearest gatherings the fact of their intended meeting, and sought the fellowship of those gatherings in respect of the breaking of bread.
A Wise Guide
The lawfulness of this is questioned. The late J. N. D. than whom I know no wiser guide, nor one more instructed in the mind of the Lord, thus wrote: “A few might go to an isolated one, and break bread with him, if it is done in the spirit of unity; but if done in a party feeling, it would be wrong. It need not be named first if there is confidence; but if there is distrust, it should be named. We have no rule as to breaking bread oftener than every Lord’s Day, but I took the Lord’s Supper with the young men who were reading with me every day for a whole year. So the early Church did.” Again, “If three women were on a desert island, I do not see why they should not break bread together, if they did it privately. A man and his wife being alone, I see no objection to their breaking bread, if they themselves feel free and are disposed.”* This expression of spiritual judgment by so weighty a servant of God is worthy of remembrance, and, so far as I am aware, it has always been the way of saints from different localities, who are happily in fellowship, should they meet, say on shipboard, or in some place where no regular meetings existed, to gather together and take the Lord’s Supper in the acknowledgment of the unity of the body of Christ, of which they are members, as much from home, as at home. To deny saints this privilege and charge them with “lawlessness and looseness,” savours too much of human organisation, and certainly has no warrant in Scripture.
Edinburgh Prayer Meeting in 1902
Why special meetings for prayer should be stigmatised as loose and lawless I am at a loss to perceive. In October, 1902, fully one hundred brothers from various quarters gathered in Edinburgh, specially for prayer, confession, and humiliation before the Lord. Never in my history have I been at such meetings as those, the sense of the presence of the Lord, and the power of the Spirit of God eclipsing anything I have known before or since. So at the time said all who were present, and D. L. H. said to me in my own house, “One thing is certain, God has called us together at this time.” By certain London leaders—J. H. and S. H.—it has been alleged that those meetings were the commencement of grave departure from divine principles, and the late F. E. R. is now reported to have severely condemned them, and signified that if persisted in, they would lead to “the parting of the ways.” It is well that brethren should know exactly what he himself wrote regarding the Edinburgh meetings, to which he was affectionately invited. His reply to me to the invitation sent him was as follows: —
F. E. R.’s Letter
10 Crooms Hill, Greenwich.
15th September, 1902.
My dear Brother,—Just a line to acknowledge the receipt of the notice of the meetings proposed to be held in Edinburgh in the coming month. I am leaving for Canada on Thursday next, and shall therefore be debarred from being present. However, I thank you for sending me the notice, and I can say that if there be any distinct result of the meetings in increased devotedness to the Lord’s interests and unworldliness, I for one shall unfeignedly rejoice. With love in the Lord,
Your affectionate Brother,
(Signed) F. E. RAVEN.
Reading between the lines I should gather from that letter that the writer would have been with us had he been in England, and I was informed by our brother, Mr. T. H. Reynolds, when here then, that such was his intention, he knew, had he been in England. I name these facts, because so much has of late been said in opposition to special meetings for prayer—prayer, the atmosphere in which every Christian should live, and in which only he is safe, as the expression of dependence on God.
“The Parting of the Ways”
“The parting of the ways” has, alas, come for those once happily walking together, but I do not believe that the prayer meetings, either in Edinburgh or Richmond, have been the cause of that present sorrowful division. We must go deeper than that, or the action of Glanton, for the root of the sad rending now taking place amongst Christ’s beloved sheep.
A New Ground of Gathering
But to return to my narrative, division having thus commenced in Edinburgh it has been followed by the same sad procedure in many other parts, and of course London soon came in for it also. A sister in the Lord, commended by the seceders in Edinburgh, presented her letter of commendation to the meeting at Stoke Newington, and London had thereon to settle the question with whom they would walk—either those who, like the George Street assembly, refused to give up the truth of the Church of God, by making Glanton’s action a test of fellowship, when no question of evil doctrine, evil ways, or evil association was in evidence, but merely a divergence of judgment, or those meeting at Merchiston Place, who, taking a new ground of gathering, made the rejection of Glanton their test of fellowship.
Another has very well stated the case thus:—
It has been put that there are two companies at Edinburgh and elsewhere, between which election must be made, and that these are divided thus:—
(1) Those gathered as insisting on the acceptance of Glanton’s action as right.
(2) Those gathered as insisting on the rejection of Glanton’s action as wrong.
Now in what is said as to the first of these companies the differing ground of gathering is not correctly stated, and the point is of vast importance. The facts are thus:—
On the one hand there is a company gathered (as for many years past) to the Lord’s name on the ground of the Church of God, and affording communion as freely to those whose private judgment is adverse to Glanton, as to the saints whose judgment goes heartily with Glanton’s action. They go on just as they have all along, refusing to make a particular view regarding a particular action, whether favourable or otherwise, any term or test of fellowship.
It is admitted, of course, by all that nothing is alleged against Glanton in the nature of moral evil or unsound doctrine.
On the other hand, there has lately been formed a seceding company who have taken new ground, making the rejection of Glanton’s action a test of their fellowship. They deny communion to any but those who agree with their particular view of the Glanton and Alnwick matter.
The first position is the simple Christian position so long insisted on by J. N. D. and others.
The second is essentially and unmistakably sectarian.
Here we stand at the parting of the ways.
Which is it to be? The maintenance of the truth of the Church of God, or the formation of a sect?
Brothers’ Meeting at Park Street, London
At a large meeting of brothers gathered in Park Street on 16th August, 1908, the London leaders, who have figured so largely in this matter from the outset of their interference just a year ago, strenuously urged their brethren to refuse Glanton on the ground that it had usurped the rights of Christ in His own house, and transgressed the Divine principle of “local responsibility.”
If London is to set itself up as the judge of the action of a company of saints, three hundred miles off, gathered to the Lord’s name, with His presence in their midst, it may with propriety be asked, Is not that transgressing “local responsibility,” and at the same time taking up the most “open” and “independent” ground? Where is the truth of the One Body seen in this? At Park Street it was alleged against Glanton that it took upon itself to “dissolve the Alnwick assembly.” The careful reader of the foregoing paper will. I trust, not be carried away by such casuistry. That the Alnwick assembly was dissolved is unmistakable, and but illustrates the truth of another wise saying of J. N. D., “Its own folly may dissolve an assembly as a fact.”
J. N. D. on Assembly Action
As to Glanton’s competency to touch the matter, it must not be forgotten that they, as the nearest gathering, were appealed to by their fellow saints, and then in the exercise of shepherd care for the Lord’s people they, as gathered to His name, and having His presence in their midst, acted as they judged He guided them. But what if they were wrong? The late J. N. D. thus expressed his sober judgment as to that. This question was put: —“If an assembly acted and made a mistake in their action, what is our course to be?” “Bow and leave the Lord to set that mistake right,” was the answer. “But if one or two were right about the matter and the whole of the rest of the assembly wrong, what are the one or two to do—divide, or go out?” “Certainly not, bow to the judgment, and leave the Lord in His own time to set the matter right—always supposing it is not a question of evil doctrine, or evil practice.”
All through the controversy which has raged now for nearly twelve months, Glanton has very wisely in no way sought to justify its action. Always ready to answer inquiry, it has abstained from any defence of its action, leaving the matter entirely in the Lord’s hands. When the London brothers, however, met on the 18th of August at Park Street, a letter from Glanton was read, which I feel it right to here quote, since it shows the spirit of company which London—following the sectarian course of some in Edinburgh—has so ruthlessly condemned and to whom it has unscripturally denied Christian fellowship.
Glanton’s Latest Letter
Copy of letter from W. Fairbairn to H. Nunnerley, read at Park Street meeting, 18th August, 1908. This letter is thoroughly endorsed by Glanton brethren.
Glanton, 16th August, 1908.
We appreciate and value what you and others are seeking to do for the peace of God’s people. We have carefully and prayerfully weighed all suggestions made to us.
We should deplore a difference of judgment as to our action being made a ground for division or a test of fellowship.
We firmly believe in the all-sufficiency of Christ to guide His gathered saints in every difficulty. It is as true to-day as ever that God can and does guide His people. We prayerfully sought His guidance and did not act in haste.
We also sought the counsel and fellowship of the surrounding meetings in all we did.
No facts have since come to light to shake our conviction that no meeting existed in Alnwick after the break up. Had there been a company to which the Lord’s name could be attached, we should not have acted as we did.
We received those coming to us as repentant saints desiring to escape from evil.
We are also free to say we are sorry if (in the judgment of some) we have departed from divine principles.
We count upon the spirit of grace and forbearance in those who differ from us. We trust they will not seek to force conscience or set it aside.
God alone is infallible: We shrink from any such thought as our judgment being infallible.
With all lowliness we would say we believe Christ is both Head and Lord. According to this we acted and desire to abide. We believe the whole question hinges on this.
Whilst maintaining a good conscience we are endeavouring to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace.
No Meeting at Alnwick
This letter speaks for itself as to what were the convictions that led the Glanton brethren to act as they did, viz., that no meeting to which the holy name of the Lord could be attached existed in Alnwick, and therefore they judged, after much waiting on Him, and seeking His guidance, that they were doing their Lord’s will in receiving His scattered sheep to the fellowship of His Supper. It is contended by London that the “elements” of a meeting were still there and that Glanton was interfering with the rights of Christ as Head over God’s house in receiving saints from Alnwick. What were the features of T. P.’s meeting? Its very origin was the outcome of an attempt at high-handed discipline in the house of God for party purposes. Its first act was schismatic in spreading a table, as we have read, and its very continuance depended on the obdurate maintenance of an universally condemned document which, at the end of three years, for obvious purposes, was withdrawn, not to effect reconciliation with the subjects of the discipline—whose every attempt at reconciliation it had spurned—but at the solicitation of a London brother, D. L. H. For declining to recognise that company as “in fellowship,” and for receiving those who had purged themselves from such manifest evil, Glanton, and all who will walk with it, are to be cut off. They who do so assume a terrible responsibility.
Why now so decided a departure from that which has always obtained among saints in days gone by in relation to similar cases? Hitherto it has always been regarded as the right thing to leave such cases to neighbouring gatherings to inquire into, and their judgment before God has been quietly accepted. H. N. has well written:—
Then and Now
Twenty-eight years since at Ryde a similar difficulty to the present existed. Details vary, but in two points they are similar.
Then some maintained that a schismatic table and those who set it up were to be recognised as “in fellowship.”
Now it is said Mr. Pringle must still be recognised as “in fellowship,” notwithstanding a schismatic table started on party lines, after an excommunication of his brethren and years of unbrokenness.
Then it was urged that Ryde should be disowned because of wrong ecclesiastical procedure.
Now we are urged to disown Glanton because of wrong ecclesiastical procedure.
At a meeting called to consider the matter in London, Mr. Darby maintained that London had no competency to decide the question, being out of its jurisdiction as to whether Ryde was in or out by its act.
He pointed out that the neighbouring gatherings owned Ryde and concurred in its judgment, so the responsibility rested with them; consequently, London brothers had no other course open than to acquiesce and leave matters in their hands.
Private convictions were as diverse then as now, but we felt that we must bow to J. N. D.’s mature judgment. Leaving the matter in the hands of the neighbouring meetings stayed division then.
Does not Deuteronomy 21 furnish us with a similar principle? An uncertain matter had to be investigated in the nearest city. God’s servants were to visit the locality. The city nearest to the murder alone were held responsible. Israelites elsewhere simply acquiesced.
Principle of Glanton’s Action
Glanton acted in a similar way. Some fifty brethren from surrounding meetings conferred with Glanton on the question of receiving from Alnwick. Facts, known only to local brethren, were investigated and discussed on the spot.
After conferring together and waiting upon God in prayer, they concluded all were actually out of fellowship in Alnwick, also that Mr. Pringle’s schismatic table could not be owned. They therefore saw no reason why any individual saint, who was repentant and desired to be clear of evil and party spirit, should not be restored and sheltered at Glanton.
We do not feel called upon to pronounce upon their conclusion. We simply bow to a judgment solemnly arrived at in God’s presence, and in which brothers from a number of gatherings concurred.
We agree with J. N. D. that neighbouring gatherings are the proper judges in such cases.
The same principles governed the following cases.
About seven years since, gatherings in Torquay and Crediton, in Devon, each ceased breaking bread, admitting they could not go on longer together. At Torquay an effort was made by one party to start again without the other. Paignton and Newton Abbot, the two nearest meetings, remonstrated, and they Leased. Then individuals from Torquay sat behind at Paignton, and after a time were individually received there. The same line of things was pursued at Exeter, with regard to Crediton, and after a lapse of upwards of two years they began again, at each place, to break bread together. Most were recovered at each place.
So that which has happened at Glanton, is by no means a new departure. If accepted as right, and no agitation resulting therefrom, on former occasions, why this agitation in the present case
The Root of the Matter
This question may not be very easy to answer, for, though Glanton’s action is presented as an issue on which saints are invited to form a judgment with regard to their fellowship in the future, it is not the real issue. There has been something wrong with the body corporate, and the controversy on Glanton’s action is the boil on the surface which shows that the Constitution is affected. For several years there has been, as is well known, a divided spirit amongst those outwardly walking together. On one hand were those whose energies and affections found vent more in the direction of the testimony of the, gospel to the unsaved and fervent desire for their salvation. On the other hand were those before whose minds that which pertained to the Church—its privileges, its blessings, its destiny—loomed much more distinctly, while points of ecclesiastical procedure held great sway. Each perhaps thought, though they would scarcely say it, they could do without the other—and in some instances perhaps even desired to be quit of the other. This was utterly wrong, but this state existed. Along with this, and markedly during the last four or five years, a system of doctrines, diverse and strange, as compared with that in which most of our souls had been reared and nurtured, has come upon the scene.
The Chicago Notes
In 1905, Notes of readings and meetings at Chicago containing very questionable statements about the Church appeared, were circulated largely, and by some applauded highly. Sober men like T. H. R., J. A. T., and G. C. were greatly distressed with these teachings, as also was J. B., who paid a visit to America, that he might see Mr. J. Taylor of New York, who was very largely responsible for the utterances. The result of that visit led J. B. at first to think no vital error lay in the Notes, but after a while his judgment was altered and he then regarded them with great gravity.
When I read these Chicago Notes myself, I was greatly distressed at their contents, and my convictions regarding them are detailed in the following extract of a letter, which I wrote in November, 1905, to Mr. Ashmore Mitchell of this town. My words were these:—
W. T. P. W.’s Letter thereon.
Extracts from Chicago Notes.
Personally, I never saw the Notes till last week, and their careful perusal, I must confess, filled me with amazement and horror. That such perversions of God’s truth could have been issued by those who regarded themselves as the recipients of great favour from God in respect of His truth, and therefore responsible to be its promulgators and expositors, I could not have believed, had I not seen the Notes themselves. It seems to me that any earnest Roman Catholic could quite easily have issued many of the statements, and were such to possess a copy of the Notes, I think he would gladly scatter them as confirmation, from quite an unexpected quarter, of that which he holds and believes as vital. With the Roman Catholic you and I know it is vital error; that even a semblance of countenance to Rome should appear (however unwittingly on the part of the authors of the Notes) is surely a most distressing thing. The statements:—“If you have not the building you have nothing to preach about. I mean you have nothing to present that is of practical help to men”—“there is no gospel apart front the house of God”—“What answers to the ark now? I think the Church in a way; as I said, the idea is there at any rate”—“I cannot conceive how anybody can think of salvation being available to men without the Church at the present time”—“If it were not for the saints you would not be saved, I mean practically”—“Every Christian can tell how salvation came to him. Christ has effected it for him, but through what He has established down here”—“the true idea of the gospel was to bring people into a sphere where they would be safe and at home”—“unless there is located for him a sphere where righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost are found, there is no present salvation for him”—“I would not pay any attention to a man’s gospel if he does not locate what I need Man is in need, and the person who preaches the gospel should locate what will relieve him”—“You said a little while ago that a person could not be saved apart from the saints”—“you also enlighten him in regard to what God has put down here for his benefit, that is the living water”—“the best thing you or I can do if we come in contact with a person who is in need, is to get him as close as we can to spiritual people”—“In this way he partakes of living water”—would delight the heart of a Romanist.
I do not for a moment believe that J. T. or those with him had such a thought in their mind, but no grave person who reads these Notes could come to any other conclusion after he quietly and fairly weighs them.
You know me well enough to know that I am not a critic, nor a heresy hunter, but such bold and unsound statements might well arouse any saint of God, nor should I call in question the wisdom of any servant of God who sought to arouse the promulgators and the readers of the Notes to their gravity and vital unsoundness. Evidently Mr. Boyd has been used of the Lord to open J. T.’s eyes, and his gathered brethren, to the gravity and evil of what was issued, and I fervently hope J. T. will act on the advice he has received (which was to withdraw them absolutely).
This advice was not taken by J. T., though afterwards the Notes were revised and re-issued somewhat pared down. The judgment I then formed of this American teaching has been but confirmed by all that has transpired since. Many have been imbued with this teaching. Naturally, the Church has been exalted; and a good deal of occupation with ourselves has been the consequence. Living and loving interest in the gospel, as going out to those who do not belong to the Church, has been conspicuous by its absence, while those who have gone in much for gospel work have been lightly regarded. All this is well known and cannot be denied.
Cleavage in many meetings and on these lines has, alas, taken place. When the Glanton trouble arose, it was easily seen what would be the result, and the result is, that today the most of those who accepted this so-called “high truth” and “high teaching” are found opposed to Glanton’s action, and with them undoubtedly are numbers of simple saints who know but little of what lies underneath.
A spirit of division has, alas, been amongst us. Had this not been the case, Glanton’s action would have been quietly accepted, as many very similar cases have been. But a pretext for division was wanted, Glanton’s action afforded it, and it has been seized and so used by London’s leaders. With them lies the responsibility of the most wanton and needless division that has ever taken place amongst God’s beloved people.
Stoke Newington’s Verdict
The advice given at Park Street on 16th August was acted on by the assembly at Stoke Newington early in September. They sent to the Cheapside meeting of brothers, and through them to the other seventeen London gatherings, a notice—by no means unanimous—cutting off the Glanton saints and all who walk with them, in these terms:—“We feel there is no other course open to us than to refuse fellowship with those who have thus in our judgment dishonoured Christ by usurping His authority, and entrenching on His prerogative.”
God’s Way of Acting
Whether the judgment seat of Christ, where all must come in review, will sustain that verdict remains to be seen. And what had Glanton done that usurped Christ’s authority? Received to His Supper some of His hungry sheep in a day of difficulty and dispersion. They acted really on the lines of God’s own action with Israel: “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick” (Ezek. 34:16).
I will conclude by quoting a few words from the pen of beloved George Cutting on this sorrowful subject:—
Words by George Cutting
If it were asked, What Scripture had Glanton for receiving such individuals? they might consistently reply: The same as for receiving any true believer who had separated himself from what denied the Lord His rights, and who desired association with those who sought to answer to His mind. If Scripture plainly instructs such individuals to find such a gathering, it points quite as plainly to the receiving of such individuals by such a gathering (2 Tim. 2:22).
I personally forbear making any comment for or against the action of Glanton in its own sphere of responsibility. In receiving or refusing individuals applying there, they were, and are, answerable to the Lord Himself, and to Him alone. Apart from complicity with evil, either in doctrine, or practice, or principle, as assembly judgment, honestly arrived at in seeking to carry out the Lord’s will, should be left with them (always leaving room for remonstrance), and not be over-ridden by private judgment elsewhere. If, while remembering the prayerful exercises of those at G., it is still considered that they acted hastily or unwisely, or that in any way they had mistaken the Lord’s mind, then instead of insisting on their bending to our judgment, it would surely be better pleasing to the Lord to prayerfully leave any necessary correction in His hands, and not cause division, with its attendant sorrow, by taking it into our own.
“The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (Jas. 3:18).
Our Resource Now
London has not taken this course, alas! But, as I have said, Glanton is not the real root of this division. It has been made the occasion. The root is a low moral and spiritual tone resulting in a divisive state that we should all deplore. Our only resource is the Lord, and our wisest course to humble ourselves individually and collectively before Him.
That the Lord has a controversy with us I am assured, and I seek to learn the lesson He would teach us by this deep sorrow. To condemn the guiltless is, however, not righteous, and to go with “a multitude to do evil” the Lord forbids us.
I fervently trust, my reader, that both you and I will be kept from such a path.
 One who signed the document of excision, and afterwards repented of it.
 Mr. Dale, who was the brother responsible for the failure, on 23rd June, of not keeping the compact, withdrew from our midst on 13th August, expressing his regret for his failure, and on 14th August a second issue of this circular was made, with the writer’s name affixed in lieu of Mr. Dale’s.
 Signatories of the Merchiston Place circular.
 (“Collected Writings of J. N. Darby,” vol. 26, pp. 388-389)
 “The Parting of the Ways,” by H. D. R. J.
 “Letters of J. N. Darby,” vol. 3, p. 156.