AFTER THE REFORMATION
The purpose of my speaking concerning this is for you to know that before the Reformation led by Martin Luther, even during the time the Bible was locked up by the Roman Catholic church, there were still some raised up by the Lord to know the Bible. By this we see that there were three periods: from the apostles to the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), from the Council of Nicaea to about 590 A.D., and the centuries during which the Bible was locked up by the Catholic church. After the Reformation, the Bible under the Protestant churches was made public, being freed from the chains of Catholicism. However, very few had opened this book; it still remained closed. Today in the United States, for example, the book of Revelation is, for the most part, still a closed book. Nevertheless, after the time of Luther, people continued to study the Bible. They discovered not only justification by faith but also sanctification by faith. Out of this discovery came the holiness groups. In the 1690s Bible readers discovered that in the Bible baptism does not mean washing or sprinkling but “dipping into.” The Greek word baptizo means “to dip into.” From this discovery came the Baptists. At approximately the same time, Bible scholars also found that it is the elders who should oversee the church. They saw according to the Bible that it should not be as in the Catholic church where the pope is the highest bishop, with cardinals, archbishops, and bishops under him. This kind of organization came into being as a result of the influence of a church father named Ignatius. He considered a bishop to be different from an elder. To him, an elder’s administration is local, whereas a bishop’s administration is regional. Therefore, the bishop’s office is higher than that of an elder, and he can rule over an elder. This was the root of a tragedy that is still spreading today. Not only the Catholics have bishops, but the Church of England also has bishops. Those who saw the biblical principle of the eldership concerning the church forsook the practice of having bishops and considered that in each locality there should only be elders. Thus they established Presbyterianism.
THE BRETHREN BEING RAISED UP
At that time a group of people in Europe received light from the Bible to see that there should be no rank among believers in the Lord. Therefore, they called each other brother. These brethren suffered a double persecution from both the Catholics and the Protestants. Later, Zinzendorf was raised up by the Lord in Bohemia, in southern Germany. He received those brothers from the north who were being persecuted. The main group came from Moravia and became known as the Moravian Brethren. Zinzendorf also saw from the Bible that all the brothers should gather together in one place for meeting and should also go out to preach the gospel. Therefore, they practiced the church life and lived a life of migration. The number of their migrations was great, especially from Europe to America. Today there are still churches of the Moravian Brethren in the United States.
John Wesley, George Whitefield, and the master hymn writer Charles Wesley—all contemporaries of Zinzendorf— were also gained by the Lord. In the 1820s the Lord suddenly raised up the Brethren in England. Their condition was very strong. Many of them were knighted and held important government positions, yet they were absolute toward God and totally forsook the world. The greatest and most powerful teacher among them was J. N. Darby. He was a minister of the Church of England before he was thirty years of age. After attending a home meeting of the Brethren, he was immediately caught. He became the most gifted Bible expositor and is called “the king of Bible exposition.”
(The Full Knowledge of the Word of God, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)