Brethren Archive
circa 1900

The Gathering and Receiving of the Children of God

by J. R. Caldwell

Deploring the tightening process among 'Open Brethren'.
29 Pages
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Tom said ...
One of the key documents in the history of OB's; JRC initially dallied with tightness, which lasted till the Needed Truth segment emerged as a discrete group.
Friday, Mar 1, 2013 : 17:51
Isaac Solomon Gold said ...
Spelling correction please thanks.
Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023 : 13:02
Mark Best said ...

A J Holiday wrote his “The Churches of the Saints” in response to this. He was a co-editor and a contributor to “Needed Truth” magazine. However, when “the separation” took place, he remained with the “Open Brethren”, but continued to disseminate the same teaching. Similarly, W H Hunter. 

Alas, the “Needed Truth” notion of the perceived distinctions between the “church which is [Christ’s] body” and “a church of God” has spread throughout the “open” meetings, the only distinction between the “Needed Truth” churches of God and OB being the refusal, quite rightly, of the hierarchical oversight structure by the latter. 

Added to this feature OB share in common with “NT” is the denial that the church, the body of Christ, is on earth, and that only those saints who are gathered according to the “New Testament pattern” are in churches of God. All the other saints, they say, are in the body but not in a church of God. They need to join one of these churches of God and be in both! 

The response from one when sent an extract from Mr Caldwell’s book “The Charter of the Church” where he wrote, “The Church of God in Corinth, moreover, embraced every sanctified one in Corinth,” was that it was "exclusivism, JND, not Scripture!"  

I suggest rather that it is inclusivism! What JRC wrote here is “Scripture” of course, but see the resort to name calling to silence any who might question the teaching! 

However, there had arisen those among OB who were not happy with so-called "Open Brethrenism" and who developed their own ecclesiology, though one very different to JND and the "Exclusive" brethren. 

Thursday, Dec 28, 2023 : 07:43
Samuel said ...

In direct response to AJ Holiday's "The Churches of the Saints", J H Burridge wrote a refutation in 1904. Burridge, Joseph Henry. "Church Theories: or, Edification [or, What is the Church of God?]". Glasgow: Pickering and Inglis 1904.  I don't think this Burridge booklet has made it onto the website yet. It's interesting as so far as I remember, it doesn't mention the name of A J Holiday or the pamphlet under attack, yet a collation of the two pamphlets makes it clear that it's Holiday's pamphlet that is in the crosshairs. 


Thursday, Dec 28, 2023 : 22:25
Samuel said ...
@Rodger, No it's not the same. the one you've linked above is a later and shorter work that covers much the same ground, and as Mark Best (as I recollect) has commented in another entry on this site, the "Church Theories among Brethren" was dealing with similar ideas that were gaining popularity through W E Vine and others, decades later.
Friday, Dec 29, 2023 : 08:02
Rodger said ...

Good to know. That is interesting that Mr. Burridge would use such a similar title for two different booklets that he wrote. It would be good to see the earlier one on this site.

Looks like Chapter Two has a copy in their used book list.

Friday, Dec 29, 2023 : 14:39
Mark Best said ...

I did suggest that W E Vine's book "The Church and the Churches" would have been the most influential in making these supposed distinctions between "the church which is His body" and "churches of God" become the basis of the church doctrine accepted among the "Open Brethren" assemblies. 

That this forms a dual church system is denied by those who take this line but a couple of examples show that it exists. 

"The inauguration of the church, the body of Christ, was a unique event. There would only ever be one body of Christ, only ever one bride. But there was another entity that came into existence on the day of Pentecost, which was only the first of many ... 

"Scripture describes them as the "churches of God" (1 Cor. 11.16; 1 Thess. 2.14; 2 Thess. 1.4) and the "churches of Christ" (Rom. 16.16). The local church in Jerusalem was the first of many, and it set the pattern for countless others down through the centuries." 

(The Believers Magazine, March 2014.) 

Hence, according to this, there were two churches that commenced at Pentecost. 

'1 Corinthians 14:25 states clearly that some believers in Corinth were not in the “whole church.” The unbelievers were neither in the Body nor the “whole church” which met in Corinth; the unlearned are in the Body, but not the Church of God (they are not unbelievers, but not part of the “whole church”); “the whole church” describes those in both the Church of God and the Body (presumably).' 

(Truth and Tidings, May 2003) 

Notice that some are neither church, some are only in one, and some are in both. Thus, according to this teaching, believers are supposed to be in two churches. 

1 Corinthians 14:25 does not clearly state any of this. It is based on the supposition that the unlearned, since here distinguished from unbelievers, are believers who have not yet learnt the truth about the local assembly, the church of God, as the place where the Lord is in the midst, the assumption being that they fulfil all the requirements that make them the local assembly. 

Friday, Dec 29, 2023 : 17:26
Syd said ...


By whom and when initially, did the divergence between "the church which is His body" and "churches of God" become an issue among the “Brethren”?  Vine’s book, “The Church and the Churches” became a reference for the “OB” in the early 20th century. Earlier, as you know, there were writings refuting the idea of a local “church of God.”

In the Dec 1878 issue of the Bible Treasury, Vol 12, page 190, a J.B.P. (who was he?) in his article, “The Church of God and the Two or three gathered together in [-to] My Name,” wroteThe idea of a church (or an assembly) of God is one foreign to scripture. We find in scripture ‘the assembly of God’ in a particular locality, and also as applied in a corporate sense to the totality of the church in the world—to the system which is built upon the profession of Christ’s name, admittance into which is by baptism unto His name. To these two ideas (facts as they were at first), and to nothing else, is the term ‘Church of God’ applicable. No assembly of Christian people can now be designated as ‘the assembly  of God’ in a locality; this would be to ignore the real and received condition of the church, and would be an unjustifiable and untenable assumption.

Mr F.W. Grant, in the June 1879 issue of the BT, in his article, “The ground of the church of God and what it involves” wrote—Let us mark, then, first, that it is the assembly of God which is Christ's body — of course no local thing, and but one body. This body is the organism, the only one — of right the only visible community into which we are baptised (by the Spirit of course), and in which we are members ..... On the ground of the church of God, then, we cannot be local bodies, whether confederated or independent, nor refuse to own in the fullest and most practical way the two or three on the same ground anywhere, nor to accept their binding and loosing as what has Christ's sanction.

So, is a line of prominent men and their writings on both sides, so to speak, clearly identifiable? I suppose some brethren, with time, shifted position some.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

Sunday, Dec 31, 2023 : 03:21
Rodger said ...

This is the central differentiation made by the Needed Truth company, Syd. Its history is best traced by Neil Dickson in his history of “open brethren” in Scotland. See pg. 196 and following here:

See also the writings of FA Banks on this site. 

That distinction having originally arisen within the bosom of "open brethren," it did not leave with the breaking away of the Needed Truth fellowship, but has continued to be propagated, especially by the "tighter" OBs.

Sunday, Dec 31, 2023 : 12:51
Mark Best said ...


J R Caldwell above mentions the year 1876. If you go to the link that Roger gives, open it, and read from page 196 as he suggests, you should find it helpful. To cite the relevant part: 

"J. R. Caldwell later dated the open emergence of the new thinking to April 1876 when, Boswell anonymously asked some questions in The Northern Witness and then answered them himself the following month. Boswell's questions and answers were based on the distinction between the Church as the body of Christ and a local church."  

(Neil T R Dickson, The History of the Open Brethren in Scotland, pages 200-201.) 

This question and answer strategy by J A Boswell went on for some time until JRC put a stop to it! 

It seems to have started in Scotland and the North of Ireland with some from the 1859 Revival finding OB the nearest best fit to their exercises, but then becoming dissatisfied with "Open Brethrenism" and not agreeing with that disparagingly called "Exclusivism" either. 

That many emigrated to North America and the Antipodes, means that their notions are very strong in those places. It has now generally become the norm also among OB in England and Wales with few really knowing its origins. 

The difference between so-called "tight-open" and "wide-open" assemblies is a result of this divergence in ecclesiology, each throwing these expressions with derogatory intent at one another! 

Sunday, Dec 31, 2023 : 22:40
Syd said ...
Thanks Rodger and Mark, this has been most helpful. There's still somewhat of a labyrinth in the multitude of writings on this subject since the later years of the 19th century. But expressions like "the Lord's assembly" that I recently heard, can now be better traced to its source.
Monday, Jan 1, 2024 : 05:24
Rodger said ...
On this same line, I’ve asked elsewhere on this site whether anyone knows when it was first suggested that the “great house” of 2 Timothy 2 was merely an illustration and not a representative metaphor for the professing church as a whole. This interpretation (which diverges not only from “exclusives” (so-called), but many Bible teachers outside of “brethren,” up to the present day) seems to have arisen in conjunction with the “body vs. church of God” distinction we are tracing here, and kept in circulation up to the present by those who believe that distinction (NT, and many OB). It is part of a whole doctrine.

I have suggested that John Brown was the first to interpret 2 Timothy 2:20 in that way, but if anyone knows of an earlier instance in print, I would be glad to know.
Monday, Jan 1, 2024 : 11:52
Mark Best said ...


Though getting away from the immediate subject here, I suspect that "the great house of 2 Timothy 2 [as] merely an illustration" came about among OB subsequent to Darby and those then known as "exclusives" withdrawing from Bethesda, Bristol, in 1848, and, therefore, would have arisen earlier than the "Needed Truth" divergence. 

Without going into details as to OB doctrine based on their understanding of 2 Tim 2, one brother among them in recent years taught that in a great house there are vessels for "honourable use" and others for "less honourable use" (!), this latter being how he understood the expression 'some to dishonour', so that all the vessels, including these, are supposedly fit for the Master's use. 

That those of the “body vs church of God distinction" view hold such an idea is a puzzle to me. Why the "back seat" therefore? Not that I think by any means that everyone who might come in should be permitted to partake. By reason of the corrupt state generally of the Christian profession, especially nowadays, indeed far from it.

Tuesday, Jan 2, 2024 : 18:51

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