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The Early Centuries and the Truth
The early leaders of the Brethren Movement
and their understanding of the Mystery.
pp. 7 - 12
In 1870 Richard Holden, a leader in the Brethren movement, wrote a work entitled
The Mystery, the Special Mission of the Apostle Paul. The Key to the Present
Dispensation. In it we find the following:
"To make all see what is the dispensation, or in other words, to be divinely appointed
instructor in the character and order of the present time, as Moses was in the dispensation
of law, is that special feature in the commission of Paul in which it was distinct from that
of the other Apostles . . . . . If then it shall appear that, far from seeing `what is the
dispensation of the Mystery' (Eph. 3:9 R.V.) the mass of Christians have entirely missed
it, and, as the natural consequence, have almost completely misunderstood Christianity,
importing into it the things proper to another dispensation, and so confounding Judaism
and Christianity in an inexpressible jumble; surely it is a matter for deep humiliation
before God, and for earnest prayerful effort to retrieve, with God's help, this important
and neglected teaching."
This writer evidently saw clearly the distinction between Israel and the great Secret
made known by God through the prison letters of the Apostle Paul concerning the Body
of Christ. Would that the present day followers in this movement could see things so
clearly and give such a testimony!
Perhaps the most striking of all of the original founders of the Brethren is the witness
of 100: H. Mackintosh. In the last chapter of volume five of his Miscellaneous Writings
(this has been republished by Loiseaux Bros. Of New York and is obtainable now in this
country and we quote from this edition), he gives a remarkable testimony to the
dispensational character of the Acts of the Apostles, and the revelation given through
Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for us Gentiles (Eph. 3: 1) as follows:
"Every system of doctrine or discipline which would connect the Church with the
world, either in her present condition or her future prospects, must be wrong and must
exert an unhallowed influence . . . . . the doctrine of the Church's heavenly character was
developed in all its power and beauty by the Holy Ghost in the Apostle Paul. Up to his
time and even during the early stages of his ministry, the divine purpose was to deal with
Israel . . . . . the thought of a church composed of Jew and Gentile, `seated together in the
heavenlies', lay far beyond the range of prophetic testimony . . . . . John the Baptist . . . . .
told the people what they were to do in that transition state, into which his ministry was
designed to conduct them, and pointed to Him that was to come. Have we anything of
the Church in all this? Not a syllable. The Kingdom was still the very highest thought."
Coming to the ministry of Peter to Israel in Acts 3:, he quotes the exceedingly
important speech recorded in verses 19-26 and then writes: