Question: “Who was John Nelson Darby?”
Answer: John Nelson Darby (1800–1882) was a founder of the Plymouth Brethren Church, an author, and an influential proponent of a dispensational view of Scripture.
Darby was born in 1800 to a prominent family in London. He received his education from London’s Westminster School and Dublin’s Trinity College. He initially became a lawyer, but that career only lasted four years before he became a priest in the Church of Ireland in the diocese of Dublin, Ireland. Darby attributed the career change to his desire to devote himself entirely to the work of God. Following his decision, Darby became concerned over the prevailing condition of the church, which he saw as deadened by formality, and he left the Church of Ireland in 1827, just over two years after being installed as a priest. “The style of work,” he wrote, “was not in agreement with what I read in the Bible concerning the church and Christianity; nor did it correspond with the effects of the action of the Spirit of God” (Letters of J. N. Darby, Oak Park, IL: Bible Truth Publishers, 1971, III, 297–298).
Darby joined Edward Cronin, John Bellett, and Francis Hutchinson to form a non-denominational group they called the Brethren. The first meeting was held in Dublin, and other meetings followed. Soon there were assemblies gathering in several locations. The most well-known group was in Plymouth, England, and the name “Plymouth Brethren” has since become a default name. One of Darby’s goals was to restore simple church practices in which every member was serving as a minister.
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