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"And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him." (Gen.22:2-3)
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Br. Samuel Babu, Believers Brethren Assembly, (BBA), Majlis - Bahrain For the last few days, we have been relentlessly praying for Br. Samuel Babu, who suffered Cardiac Problems and was admitted in Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain. It was well pleasing for our Lord to call HIS child to the Eternal Home, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no tears, no sickness and no death. He went to be with the LORD around 10:30 PM Bahrain Time today (Friday 23rd 2015). Let us uphold the grieving family members to the Throne of Grace. May the Lord bestow upon them heavenly Grace, Peace and strength and console them with the word of God.

Beginning of the Brethren

Assemblies worldwide

and in India


Dr. Johnson George, Toronto



“Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith”. Hebrews 13:7 (NIV)


The following is a short summary of how Brethren assemblies started in Europe and in India. Historians record that there have been at least 8 different Christian groups that held the name ‘Brethren’. They are the following:


Moravian Brethren…………… 1457   

Hutterian Brethren…………...1528    

Schwarzenau Brethren………1708    

United Brethren……………….  1767   

Brethren in Christ…………….  1780   

Plymouth Brethren……………1825    

Mennonite Brethren…………..1860    

Lutheran Brethren…………….1900


The group we are part of is called Plymouth Brethren. Our founder fathers didn’t prefer this name, they simply wanted to be known as Christians, but it’s the historians who started calling them Plymouth Brethren. In different places they might be known by different names, such as assemblies, Gospel Hall, Bible Chapel, Exclusive group, Open group etc.


The name ‘Plymouth Brethren’ makes people wrongly conclude that the Brethren movement started in Plymouth (a city in England). Actually the Brethren movement started in Dublin, Ireland in 1825. Since Plymouth became a major centre of Brethren activities in 1830s, historians started calling them ‘Brethren from Plymouth’.


Plymouth Brethren has no connection with any other groups mentioned above. To know more about the above churches please go to www.cob-net.org/docs/groups.htm 


The History


The history of the Brethren movement starts in Dublin, Ireland. Dr. Edward Cronin came to Dublin as a medical student and got saved while he was there. He was happily received as a visitor in many of the Independent churches for communion. But when he decided to stay in Dublin permanently, he was asked to apply for a ‘special membership’ in one of the churches. Because he understood that he was already a member of the body of Christ (Universal Church), he didn’t want to apply for the special membership. Finally, one of the churches, of which Rev. William Cooper was the pastor, publicly excommunicated this young student from all the independent churches. A deacon of this church, Mr. Edward Wilson, disagreed with Cooper’s decision and joined Dr. Cronin. In 1825, these two men gathered in Mr. Wilson’s house for breaking of bread, believing the promise of Lord Jesus that where two or three are gathered in His name He is there. This was the first time when two believers broke bread without the blessing of a priest. This was the first Brethren gathering. Soon this group started growing. In 1827, F. Hutchinson, J.N Darby and John G. Bellet joined them. John Nelson Darby was the most influential among them who travelled extensively preaching and establishing Brethren assemblies worldwide.


By 1830, Brethren movement spread to England too, and many assemblies started. One such place was Plymouth, where a meeting started at Ebrington Street by Benjamin Wills Newton. By 1845, there were 1200 people in the Ebrington Street Assembly. George Muller (famous for his orphanages) was another Brethren leader who went to Bristol, England and began working at the Bethesda Chapel in 1832.


The first division


Darby was ministering elsewhere most of the time, but early in 1845 it was brought to his attention that all was not well in the Plymouth Ebrington Street assembly. Upon examination it was evident that Newton had been attempting to establish his large group as an independent church with himself as a pastor. This was shocking. To further complicate the matter, Newton came out in open, expressing disdain for Darby’s dispensationalism and distinction between Israel and the church. Darby confronted Newton with many debates and writing papers. Finally, in 1847 Darby and a few others withdrew from the Plymouth Ebrington assembly. Most Brethren assemblies in England rejected Newton’s teachings and considered his assembly to be ‘leprous’. When a few people left Newton’s assembly and wanted to join Muller’s Bethesda assembly in Bristol, Darby objected to this, fearing that this would open Bethesda to doctrinal contamination. But Muller had no problem in accepting people from Newton’s assembly. This created a big controversy, and is called the ‘Bethesda Question’ (1848). In this issue, those who sided with Mr. Muller and Bethesda became known as ‘Open Brethren’, while those who sided with Mr. Darby and against Bethesda became known as ‘Exclusive Brethren’.


Contributions of John Nelson Darby


J. N. Darby was the most influential among the Brethren leaders. He is considered to be the greatest Christian teacher that ever lived since the Apostle Paul. To spread the Brethren doctrine he travelled extensively from 1832 to 1845 and visited Germany, France, Italy, New Zealand, Caribbean Islands, Canada and USA. He established 1400 assemblies. His writings have been gathered in 44 volumes. He translated the entire Bible into English, French and German and the New Testament to Italian. He was a prophetic scholar. His most significant theological contributions are the following doctrines


  1. Difference between church and Israel
  2. Dispensationalism
  3. Imminent and pre-tribulational rapture.
  4. Futurist interpretation of the book of Revelation


Until Darby’s time, some Christians believed that the church was the continuation of Israel, which gave them the reason to justify the priestly system in the church. Darby taught that Church is not the continuation of Israel, but a new body built on the day of Pentecost (Matthew 16:18). Some others believed that church replaced Israel and now Israel has no place in God’s plan (known as Replacement Theology). Darby explained that Church hasn’t replaced Israel. Israel has still place in God’s plan. What is happening with the Nation of Israel now is, she is going through a partial hardening (Romans 11:25), and when the church is raptured from the earth, God’s attention will be back on Israel again (during the tribulation period and thereafter). Essentially the church is now between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel chapter 9.


Darby also taught that God deals with people differently in different dispensations (ages). Now we are in the Dispensation of Church/Grace. The Church will be taken out of the world before the Dispensation of Tribulation. He taught that chapters 6-22 of Revelation deserves futurist interpretation, meaning the things mentioned there are actually going to happen in future after the rapture of the church, such as the rise of the Antichrist, Armageddon war, millennial kingdom of Christ etc. are going to take place literally.


Restoration of first century church practices


The leaders of the Brethren movement were particular in going back to the church pattern of the first century. They rediscovered the following truth from the Bible:

  1. Breaking of bread on every Sunday. ………..Acts 20:7
  2. Unstructured and non-liturgical meetings…1 Cor 14:26
  3. Lack of clergy/laity distinction………………..1 Pet 2:5
  4. Ministry based upon the call of God rather than the ordination of men………………………………………………......Eph 4:11-12

                                                       To be continued.........

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