Updated comment on The Exclusive Brethren web site in May 2007:-
One of the most significant things on the site is the list of leaders given on the left hand side of the page marked Gospel. The list is as follows:-
J. N. Darby
F. E. Raven
J Taylor, Sr
J Taylor, Jr
J. H. Symington
J. S. Hales
B. D. Hales
There is the same list on the Peebs.Net website, though sometimes Christian names are inserted.. It is quite clear that in the mind of the Exclusives the list is a succession of leaders maintaining the so-called recovery of the truth as to the assembly. They are regarded as men of God whose word must not be challenged and whose life-style must not be criticised. See their comments on leadership. When I was young the leadership list was said to be: Mr. Darby, Mr Stoney, Mr. Raven and Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor Jnr was not at that time in the picture, that is, back in the 1950's. Subsequently, Mr. J. B. Stoney’s ministry was described simply as a supporting one; similarly that of Mr. C. A. Coates.
The idea of an authoritative line of ministry was purveyed quite strongly by Mr. Stanley MacCallum in his address, published as “Features of Authority in the Ministry” (Barnet, April 18th, 1953). His list included Mr. Stoney. The consequence of what he taught rebounded on him in 1970, so that he found himself thrown out because he had fallen out with Jim Taylor. The successional line was also purveyed by Mr. James Taylor Jnr in his 1959 address “The King and his men” and has since been maintained by his successors. His list did not include Mr. Stoney (J. T. Jr. Vol. 8 page 385). However, the original thought of Brethren was that they had no overall leader on earth. Christ was the leader in heaven (Hebrews 12:2). Mr Darby was not a man who went about pontificating on this and that matter. He stated: “ I have no pretension to impose my way of seeing things on any one” (Letters Vol. 1 page 374). Again he said: “If the foundations are well maintained, I like that there should be great breadth amongst brethren, and not a party formed upon certain views” (Letters Vol. 3 page 256). He opposed Mr. Benjamin Newton at Plymouth because he had effectively made himself the ruling brother there: “God was practically displaced and man set up in his stead” (Letter by Mr. W. Trotter dated July 15th, 1849). Had he and other brethren not taken issue with what was going on at Plymouth and in that area Brethren would have become what they are today - a fanatical religious clique based upon the views of one man. Read Mr. Darby’s Narrative of Facts (Collected Writings Vol. 20). If this literature is not easily accessible contact me by E-mail or phone in the UK (01264 771028) and I will supply free of charge a copy of my booklet “Why it has become necessary to separate from the Exclusive Brethren”. This lists quite a number of similarities between conditions at Plymouth in Mr. Darby’s time and conditions amongst Exclusives today. Mr Darby was by no means infallible. Maybe some made too much of him. He wrote a good deal and most of this is found in his Collected Writings, perhaps giving some the impression that he was the overall leader. He was a teacher, but as Mr Stoney said: “Clericalism is the assumption of rule in a teacher” (New Series Vol.2 page 122). Mr. Darby indicated that discipline was not a strong point with him: “I ought never to touch matters of discipline; for I believe the first person, brother or sister, that tells me about things. It is quite out of my line.”(Unknown and Well Known, Revised Edition 2006 page 72). Mr. Taylor Sr did not regard Mr. Darby’s views on any matter as final “Resting on Mr. Darby’s view... will not suffice when you are called upon to answer to the Lord as to what you hold” (Letters Vol.2 page 140).
Regarding Mr Raven: many separated from him because of his teaching as to eternal life. He did not instigate the separation. He did not see the need for separation over the meaning of a word “I was always unable to understand why a difference of judgment as to the force of a Scripture term should necessitate separation”(Letters page 194). His teaching as to the person of Christ was also objected to. The problem was that many were leavened with the teachings of the Church of Rome on this subject, as Mr. Stoney said: “You may say, None of us is a Romanist. Yet there is not one of us who has not been leavened with it ” (New Series Vol.2 page 398). Mr Raven sought to go by Scripture whereas many read Scripture with blinkers (blinders) on, that is, they only accept Scripture provided it does not upset their received dogmas, which are the creeds of the Church of Rome as to the person of Christ. Again, Mr. Raven was by no means infallible and I am sure he would never have accepted that he was. He once said: “I would be extremely glad in regard of what one puts out, if people would go to the Scriptures to find out if things were so” (New Series Vol.17 page 120).
Regarding Mr. Taylor Sr: he in no wise regarded his ministry or anyone else’s as on a par with Scripture : “To make the teaching of uninspired men a standard is false and pernicious, as placing it on the level of Scripture, the only true standard ”(Letters Vol. 1 page 392). What he may have said towards the end of his life should be taken with a very large pinch of salt for his mind was not what it was in his younger days. Whether this was due to the effects of aging or alcohol or both one would not be prepared to assert with confidence. Read his ministry in the early 1950's if you doubt this. He died in 1953. Where the Peebs.Net people got the statement from that Mr Taylor taught that EB ministry was equal to scripture they do not say. A search engine using the words ‘equal to scripture’ applied to his published ministry and letters gives a nil result.
One would mention here that articles in the Daily Telegraph in 1979 (6th September and 16th October) indicated that heavy drinking could result in brain damage leading to impaired powers of reasoning. This is in addition to cirrhosis of the liver. The articles were based on the findings of a research team. Scripture warns against the dangers of alcoholic drinks. See, for instance, Proverbs 23: 29-35, particularly verse 33.
Regarding Mr. Taylor Jr. his ministry was clearly inferior to that of those who went before him. In an earlier piece regarding the Exclusives web site I mentioned the speed with which he remarried after the death of his first wife. My remarks were questioned by a descendent of Jim Taylor. Research since then has unearthed the following: his first wife went to be with the Lord on June 9th, 1950 and he married again on February 17th 1951 - just over 8 months later. I leave it to the judgment of my readers as to whether this was too soon after the death of his first wife. What was objected to at the time was the fact (difficult to prove or disprove now, I expect) that he was courting again within 3 months after his first wife was taken. (See the biography of Mr. Taylor on the ‘MyBrethren’ web site) One would not say more as one agrees with what is said on the Peebs.Net web site about him.
As regards Mr. James Symington and Mr John Hales one would not add anything as one was not in fellowship with Exclusives during their reigns.
As to Mr. Bruce Hales, John Hales’ Son (not to be confused with John Hales’ Brother, Bruce, now deceased) one has been led to believe that he has relaxed some rules. My guest book has been signed by someone purporting to be him, though one suspects the entry is bogus. No E-mail address or other means of communicating with the writer is indicated. One would suggest that, if anyone has information that would be reasonable proof as to the origin of the entry, they add an entry with appropriate comment. See my web site: www.Gsimmonds.com.
In broad terms one would say that Brethren showed what might be called signs of aging in the 1930's. Subsequently things went badly wrong. By the 1960's they were spiritually running a high fever - it was all chop and change - edict after edict. In 1970 Exclusives died spiritually. After that they went into a state akin to ‘rigor mortis’. (If anyone thinks that this is insulting one would say that this was a nickname given to me by some when I was doing my national service) However, a dead body does not stay in a state of ‘rigor mortis’ indefinitely, but corruption sets in and that best describes the state Exclusives are in today. The only way for Exclusives to get right is to do what the Ninevites did - don sackcloth and sit in ashes (real humiliation), stop eating (breaking bread) and seek the Lord’s mercy (Jonah 3:5-10).
If anyone asks me where I stand, I would say that I am probably not popular with any group. As I maintain the recovered truth as to the assembly I would not be happy to fellowship in the Lord’s things with the churches of Christendom. I believe that Exclusives teaching was generally right up to and including the teaching as to Christ’s sonship in 1929. This would not make me acceptable to the companies of Brethren that separated from Exclusives before that date. I reject the teaching as to addressing the Holy Spirit and God as Triune. This would mean that I would not be acceptable to Exclusives today or the groups which have separated from Exclusives since 1960. As I do not break bread because of the breakup of Brethren and advocate an attitude like that of the Ninevites I find myself walking alone, but at the same time keep in contact with as many of the Lord’s people as I can.
One would point out that if one has lost contact with the Head in heaven, one will do one of two things. Either, one will set up a head on earth as the Exclusives have done (and all the other coherent sects and cults in Christendom) or become fragmented as those who separated from Exclusives have (and also all those who maintain independent churches).
It has long been noticed that at the time of the Reformation, the Roman Church, like the prow in Paul’s shipwreck stuck fast, but the Protestant side became fragmented, like the stern which was broken by the force of the waves. Something similar has happened with Exclusives. The prow (the Taylor, Symington, Hales line) has stuck fast in the mud, but the stern (the Renton and other groups) have been broken up by the force of the waves.
I trust my readers will consider that the above is worth thinking about. My articles listed on the front page of this web site go into the whole matter at some length.