[His Theory of The "Church in Ruin"]
"According to scripture the whole sum of the churches here on earth compose the Church, at least the Church on earth; and the Church in any given place was no other than the regular association together of whatever formed part of the entire body of the Church, that is to say, of the complete body of Christ here on earth; and he who was not a member of the Church in the place in which he dwelt, was no member of Christ's Church at all...." "The Church is in a state of ruin ... If the professing body is not in this state of ruin, then I ask our dissenting brethren, Why have you left it? If it be, then confess this ruin--this apostasy--this departure from its primitive standing...."
"How, then, will the Spirit work? What will be the acting of such an one's faith? To acknowledge the ruin; to have it present to his conscience, and to be humbled in consequence. And shall we, who are guilty of this state of things, pretend we have only to set about and remedy it? No; the attempt would but prove that we are not humbled thereby. Let us rather search in all humility what God says to us in His word of such a condition of things; and let us not, like foolish children who have broken a precious vase, attempt to join together its broken fragments, and to set it up in hopes to hide the damage from the notice of others."
"I press this argument on those who are endeavouring to organize churches. If real churches exist, such persons are not called on to make them. If, as they say, they did exist at the beginning but have ceased to exist, in that case the dispensation is in ruins, and in a condition of entire departure from its original standing. They are undertaking in consequence thereof to set it up again. This attempt is what they have to justify; otherwise the attempt is without anything to warrant it.... To go about remaking the Church and the churches on the footing on which they stood at first is to acknowledge the fact of existing failure without submitting ourselves to the witness of God, as to His purposes with reference to such a state of ruin....
"The question before us is not whether such churches existed at the period when the word of God was written; but whether, after they have, by reason of man's sin, ceased to exist, and believers have been scattered, those who have undertaken the apostolic office of re-establishing them on their original footing, and in so doing, to set up again the entire dispensation, have really apprehended the Divine will, and are endued with power to accomplish the task they have taken upon themselves.... I am enquiring what the word and the Spirit say of the state of the fallen Church, instead of arrogating to myself a competency to realize that which the Spirit has spoken of the first condition of the Church."
"What I complain of is, that the thoughts of men have been followed, and that which the Spirit has recorded as having existed in the primitive Church has been imitated, instead of searching for what the word and the Spirit have declared concerning our present condition.... Obedience, and not imitation of the Apostles, is our duty in such circumstances.... When we are told that all the directions for the churches are for all times and places, I venture to ask if they are for times and places in which churches do not exist? and we are brought back to the enquiry--If the dispensation is in ruins who is to make churches?..."
"If I am asked what the children of God have to do in the present circumstances of the Church, my answer is very simple. They ought to meet in the unity of the body of Christ outside the world.... As regards details, take heed to the promise of the Lord 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them' (Matt. 18. 20). That is what the heart needs that loves God and is tired of the world. Reckon upon that promise of the Lord, you, children of God, disciples of Jesus. If two or three of you meet together in His Name He will be there. It is there that God has put His Name, as of old in His temple at Jerusalem. You need nothing else but to meet together thus in faith. God is in your midst; you will see His glory.... Remember also, that when the disciples came together, it was to break bread.... If God sends us or raises up among us some one who can feed our souls, let us receive him with joy and thankfulness from God, according to the gift that has been vouchsafed to him.... Never make any regulations; the Holy Spirit will guide you.... As to discipline, remember that cutting off is the extreme resource.... To preserve the holiness of the Lord's table is a positive duty.... We owe it to Christ Himself. Cases may present themselves, where we repel with fear the manifestation of sin (Jude 23); but, on the other hand, beware of a judicial spirit, as of fire in your house ...! 'Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them'. If the whole corporate system has come to naught, I get back to certain unchangeable blessed principles from which all is derived. The very thing from which all springs, to which Christ has attached, not only His name, but His discipline--the power of binding and loosing--is the gathering together of the 'two' or 'three'".
As to leaving an assembly, or setting up, as it is called, another table, Darby writes:
"I am not so afraid of it as some other brethren, but I must explain my reasons. If such or such a meeting were the Church here, leaving it would be severing oneself from the assembly of God. But though wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ's name He is in the midst, and the blessing and responsibility of the Church is, in a certain sense also, if any Christians now set up to be the Church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them, as being a false pretension, and denying the very testimony to the state or ruin which God has called us to render. It would have ceased to be the table of the people and testimony Of God at least intelligently.... But, then, on the other hand united testimony to the truth is the greatest possible blessing from on high. And I think that if anyone, through the flesh separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, but he would necessarily deprive himself of the blessing of God's presence."
There is much to ponder herein. jmo