John Nelson Darby is heralded by many as the "father of dispensationalism".
Darby saw history as a "progressive revelation," and his system sought to explain the stages in God's redemptive plan for the universe. There was nothing especially radical about dividing history into periods. What separated Darby's dispensationalism was his novel method of biblical interpretation, which consisted of a strict literalism, the absolute separation of Israel and the church into two distinct peoples of God, and the separation of the rapture (the "catching away" of the church) from Christ's Second Coming. At the rapture, he said, Christ will come for his saints; and at the Second Coming, he will come with his saints.
The Covenants. The giving of the Church to Christ before the worlds, and the consequent giving to us of the blessings therein involved, seem to me indeed to be most clearly declared in Scripture, as in 2 Tim 1:9,10. But little heed seems to have been given to that which is really contained in this covenant, as administered in dispensation, in its connection with the character and hope of the Church. Without weakening, then, the foundation whereon all rests, or pulling stones out of it to polish or carve for less needful and appropriate uses, while that whereon they should rest is gone, let us see the plain revelation afforded by the blessed word, on what, in their great branches, the covenants are founded.
Communion with God—communion with God in a new nature, being made, as the apostle teaches us, partakers of a divine nature, is both that in which eternal blessedness must have its spring, and the source of all true knowledge. Here God, through grace, can communicate with us in the intelligence of the same delights, and the communication of the same interests. The ultimate provision made for this is the incarnation; and the Lord instructs in grace (renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created us) in all those elements of the knowledge of good and evil, by which the value and excellence and the divine provision of the Lord Jesus are apprehended and adequately esteemed, at least in principle and desire.
I HAVE no pretension to learning or leisure, yet I have written and now present to my reader a book, the size of which, when I see it complete, alarms myself. It may be asked why I undertook such a task when I knew that I had neither. My answer is this: When any one loves, confides in, and is deeply indebted to another (and in this case the debt is infinite), he will seek to defend, if he has any heart, the beloved object when it is attacked, without perhaps exactly measuring his power to be fully successful in its defense.
Thus the hope of the church is not alone salvation, that is, to escape the wrath of God, but to have the glory of the Son Himself. That in which the perfection of its joy consists is the being loved by the Father, and by Jesus; and, in consequence of this love, the being glorified. But more than this, the Father would have us enter into the full intelligence of these riches, and has even given us the first fruits by the presence of the Holy Ghost in all those who are saved. Before we follow up these thoughts by other testimonies from the word of God, let us look into the chapter before us.
There were three things which the Lord Jesus had to encounter, and to triumph over, and which were ever before Him-death, guilt, and the power of Satan. The union of these against Him was the "power of darkness," which He acknowledges to the multitudes who came to apprehend Him" This is your hour, and the power of darkness." Now these were the three great enemies which were against us. We had sinned, and God had declared, "The wages of sin is death." We were guilty; and condemnation could not be put away but by the removal of the occasion of it; and Satan was manifestly against us, as an adversary to our final freedom. Now the Lord Jesus Christ had just to meet all these, and if they were overcome in Him, as the federal Head and representative of His people, then there was liberty-glorious and everlasting liberty.
I do not think coming forth from the bosom of the Father scriptural. The reason seems to me evident, because the expression is used to express a present apprehension of His love and favor which depends on His being in that place. To come forth from it would be at best the thought of memory, and this is evidently much stronger; it is the present being in, and in the enjoyment of, what the phrase expresses. He came forth from the Father and into the world, and left the world and went to the Father, but never, I think, is it said from His bosom. But it is evidently to express an idea like Abraham's bosom in another order of ideas, not a physical fact; and man, in expressing the love and joy He left for us, may have used it in a certain sense harmlessly, namely, with right affections, though not quite accurately seizing the force of the expression in John 1:18. I may have done so myself, for aught I know. Coming forth from the Father is the point de depart, not the intimacy of affection and position. Hence we have the only-begotten Son, He who concentrates in His own Person all the affection of Him in whose bosom He is.
THE ministry of John Nelson Darby is, by the Lord's mercy, so well known as to render comment unnecessary; it only remains to explain the circumstances under which the present writings are published.
His executors have found, amongst his papers, a number of note books, in his own handwriting, containing many comments, notes and meditations on various subjects of divine teaching, explanatory and otherwise edifying, and have decided to set them forth for the benefit of the Church of God at large, and in the interests of the truth.
It was Mr. Darby's habit to jot down, in such books, thoughts on Scripture and scriptural subjects as they occurred to him, not in any regular order, nor in view of publication; thus, the germ of thoughts, amplified elsewhere by him, will sometimes be found in the following pages, together with fresh and deeply interesting matter, such as might be expected to issue from the private study of one so richly taught in the Word.