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Early Men Among the Brethren

Dr. Edward Cronin (1801-1882)

Dr. Cronin was born in Cork, Ireland in 1805 and became a believer in his late teens. He received his medical training in Dublin. While there he applied for communion with some of the dissenting churches and was refused. He was informed he could not participate in the communion of any of the independents without special membership with some of them.

After much prayer and reading the Bible he believed that all believers already belonged to the church so they didn't need to apply for special membership. This situation made a deep impression upon him and was no doubt used by God to turn his attention to the unity of the "One Body" of believers. Subsequently, in 1825, he and a Mr. Edward Wilson began meeting together on Sundays for communion and prayer.

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

J.N.Darby was born in 1800 near London, England. He was educated at London and then at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland where he graduated in 1819 as Classical Medalist. He was called to the Irish Chancery Bar, but soon afterwards, in 1825, became a priest in the Irish Church of England.

Darby first met some of the early men of the brethren through attending prophecy conferences held by Viscountess Powerscourt at her mansion near Bray, outside of Dublin. In 1827, Darby, through his study of the Bible, broke with the Church of England and began meeting with other like minded brethren for communion and prayer.

Darby first traveled abroad to Switzerland where he had established several French speaking assemblies by 1840. It was here that he produced his "Synopsis of the Books of the Bible". He established assemblies in France in the early 1840's and after 1853 he spent considerable time in Germany establishing many assemblies there. After 1859 he ministered in Canada, the United States, the West Indies, and New Zealand. He also spent time in Holland and Italy.

During his ministry everywhere, at all times and under all circumstances, Darby was writing deep theological material in the form of personal and pastoral letters, published and unpublished papers, tracts, magazine articles, and book manuscripts. His books are still in print today: 44 volumes averaging nearly 400 pages each. A number of hymns were composed by Darby which are still outstanding for their beauty and rich biblical content. Over and above all this he accomplished scholarly work in translating the entire Bible into English, French, German, and the New Testament into Italian. 

Although a born leader and of considerable wealth, he lived a simple lifestyle. He was transparent and trustful. There was nothing petty about him. As occasion arose he would throw off religious conventions. His ministry was always in close touch with his pastoral visitation, in which he engaged every afternoon. His strength of judgment came from the depth of his moral anchor to the Lord and His word. He lived in the Bible and recommended "thinking in Scripture."

J.N.Darby has had an immense impact on the life and teachings of the church for over 150 years. He is considered as one of the most outstanding biblical scholars in the history of the Christian church whose impact was at least equal to that of Luther.

Anthony Norris Groves (1795-1853)

Born in 1795, and having studied medicine and dentistry in London, Groves became the first missionary sent out by the young brethren movement. He came from a wealthy entrepreneurial family but rather than loving this life and amassing wealth, he was content with throwing his life and money away - as it seemed to others. One of his ventures was to take into his care a poor handicapped young boy named Kitto who he took with him on many of his missionary ventures. In later life, Kitto wrote his famous "Kitto's Pictorial Bible" was made a Doctor of divinity and later given a lifetime pension by Queen Victoria.

Groves took the gospel to St. Petersburg, Russia, and then to Baghdad where his beloved wife, Mary, died. From there he traveled to India and with the help of other missionaries carried the gospel through large regions of that country. He applied all his inherited ingenuity to improving the lot of native Christians in India. Silk farming, coffee planting, and other industries were tried involving the outlay of much of his own money. But after many years of difficulties he finally returned to England and went to be with the Lord in 1853.

John Gifford Bellet (1795-1864)

John Bellet was born in Dublin in 1795 and became a Christian in his teens. He was educated in Exeter England and called to the Bar in London. Shortly thereafter he went to Trinity College in Dublin, and after graduation devoted himself as a layman in the church. While at Trinity College he became acquainted with J.N.Darby. He attended the same prophecy conferences at Powerscourt House that Darby attended and this contributed to their growing friendship. In 1828 Bellet started meeting for communion and prayer with several others who did so in Dublin.

Bellet ministered mainly in Ireland. He was known for a gentle public teaching gift. His main influence was in reconciling differences among the brethren. It was said of him that, so far as is known, nothing that he said or did led to any dissension, but everything he did tended towards removal of man made barriers and to the restoration of fellowship amongst brethren.

His most well known books are the "Patriarchs", the "Evangelists", the "Son of God", and the "Moral Glory of the Lord Jesus". He has an excellent summary of the early days of the brethren movement.

Henry Craik (1805-1866)

Henry Craik was born near Edinburgh, Scotland in 1805. He pursued literary, language, philosophy, and religious studies with great zeal and distinction. By his own pen he acknowledged that even though all these years he had read the Scriptures yet he had been living without God. He was a religious man without God. In 1826 at age 21 he clearly heard the gospel of the savior and was born again.

In that same year he received a proposal to become a tutor for the family of Mr. A.N. Groves in Exeter England which proposal he accepted. During the two years spent with the Groves family he specialized in the study of the original languages of the Bible. In 1831 he moved to Devonshire and became pastor of a Baptist church there. Two years earlier he had become acquainted with George Muller and in 1832 Mr. Craik accepted an invitation to preach with Muller in an assembly in Bristol. It was evident that this was where the Lord wanted Muller and Craik and so they jointly ministered there for many years.

Mr. Craik was a man of true humility and exceedingly affectionate and approachable. He could hold an audience spellbound for an hour with his clear and exuberant exposition of the Scriptures. He would readily draw alongside to comfort and encourage any who were suffering difficulties.

George Muller (1806-1898)

George Muller was born in Prussia in 1806 and spent his youth in sin and folly. He became a Christian at age 20 and subsequently gained an interest in reaching Jews. Traveling to London to join a Jewish missions society he became acquainted with A.N.Groves and Henry Craik who had been Groves tutor. He developed a close lifelong friendship with Craik.

In 1832 he gave up his Baptist pastorate to become a co-worker with Henry Craik in ministering to a brethren assembly in a rented hall known as Bethesda Chapel, in Bristol, England. This assembly thrived and had over 500 in fellowship by the early 1840's.

It was in 1835 that Muller's world-renowned orphanage work commenced, but that tremendous faith responsibility did not deter him from ministering at Bethesda Chapel for the following thirty-four years.

Robert Cleaver Chapman (1803-1902)

R.C. Chapman was born of English parents in Denmark in 1803. Because his family had recently fallen on hard times, he studied law and became a solicitor so as to secure their financial affairs. He did very well in the legal profession but God had another profession for him. At age 20 he heard and embraced the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and attached himself to an assembly of Christians in London.

He felt he was called of God to give himself to the ministry of the word, even though many of his friends told him he would never make a preacher. However, he spent the next 70 years of his life faithfully preaching the Scriptures. He became very well known for his open-air preaching in the regions where he lived. But he is primarily known for his devotion to the Lord and it was the life he lived that spoke to the people. It is said of him that he never once spoke an unkind word. During his lifetime he wrote a number of hymns some being sung to this day.

George Vicesimus Wigram (1805-1879)

G. V. Wigram was the 20th child born, in 1805, to Sir Robert Wigram. He became a believer as an army officer and in 1826 entered college in Oxford intending to become a cleric in the Anglican Church. During this time he met a number of men who eventually joined with J.N. Darby in the formation of the Plymouth assembly. One of these early friends was B.W. Newton who was at the center of the controversy which split the brethren in 1847.

Wigram started a number of assemblies in the London area. He was the individual who pressed for some organization of the assemblies so that they could act in one accord, and in 1838 a London weekly administrative meeting was begun to coordinate the affairs of the London assemblies. Eventually all of the assemblies formed a closely knit inter-dependent company of churches.

Wigram was instrumental in producing tools which would aid Bible students in their studies. These were the Englishman's Greek and English Concordance to the New Testament, in 1839, and the Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldea Concordance to the Old Testament, in 1843. These became the reference and pattern for later scholars. In 1856, he produced a hymn book, "Hymns for the Little Flock," which was used for many years in the assemblies.

Benjamin Wills Newton (1807-1899)

B.W. Newton was born into a Quaker family in 1807 and while at Oxford University became a believer at age 20. He and J.N. Darby were instrumental in starting the large assembly on Ebrington Street in Plymouth, England, whose leaders were himself, P.F.Hall, G.V.Wigram, with whom he had become friends at Oxford , J.L.Harris, and H. Borlase. At Plymouth he quickly gained a large and loyal following. Ironside said of Newton that “he was the man whose learning, ability and piety outshone all others in England.”

Newton is most well known for the doctrinal controversy which eventually split the Brethren movement in two. In 1845, with the blessing of his co-workers, he established the Plymouth assembly as an independent assembly with himself as pastor. This brought him into direct conflict with J.N. Darby over the principle of the unity of the one body and the inter-dependency of the assemblies.

Two years later in 1847 it was discovered that Newton was teaching heretical doctrine concerning the person and work of the Lord Jesus. This was widely condemned throughout the Brethren movement but the assemblies divided over what to do with his followers.

James Butler Stoney (1814-1897)

J.B.Stoney was born at Tipperary, Ireland in 1814 and although he had been moved by the savior's love as a boy it was not until age 17 that he was born again while on death's door with the plague. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, at age 15 and graduated in the Classics and Law at age 19. He went on to the Divinity Class at Trinity College but was prevented by the College from graduating until he was 24. He spent those four years in intensive study of the Scriptures.

As a result of his Bible studies he realized that it was the risen Christ who bestowed his gifts of ministry and not some clerical school. He thus abandoned his quest for a divinity degree, going instead into the highways and byways inviting sinners to trust in Christ. He spoke somewhere every day and traveled much. A fervent, impressive speaker, he carefully avoided anything like eloquence, feeling that the Spirit of God was the only power for holy things. He passed into the presence of the Lord in 1897 while telling another of the savior.

William Kelly (1820-1906)

William Kelly was born in the north of Ireland in 1820 and became a Christian in 1840. Shortly after that he associated himself with the brethren. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, and was recognized as a sound and formidable scholar.

He assisted Dr. S.P.Tregelles in his investigations to recover the earliest Biblical text from the manuscript evidence. Mr. Kelly, himself, published a textual analysis of the book of Revelation which a leading scholar of the time indicated was the best piece of work of its kind that he had ever seen. At one point the great preacher Spurgeon stated that Kelly was probably the greatest scholar the church has ever known.

He was a staunch defender of the faith in a day when many in the church were slipping into a liberal interpretation of the Bible. He has left a legacy of writings which are unsurpassed. He passed into the presence of the Lord in 1906.

Charles Henry Mackintosh (1820-1896)

C.H.Mackintosh was born in Ireland in 1820 and was reborn in 1838 through the witness of his sister and the writings of Darby. He entered business and then opened a school before giving himself completely to teaching the Bible. His most well known writings are his commentaries on the first five books of the Bible. His teaching was centered on man's complete ruin in sin, and God's perfect remedy in Christ both of which are fully and strikingly presented.

He later went to Dublin where he had an extensive public ministry. For many years he boldly stood forth in defense of the gospel proclaiming the truth of God's word. He was very active in the Irish revival of 1859-1860. Interestingly, his first tract published in 1843 was titled "The Peace of God" and his final tract before his death in 1896 was titled "The God of Peace".

F.W. Grant (1834-1902)

F.W. Grant was born in London in 1834 and became a believer through reading the Scriptures. He was educated in London and emigrated to Canada at age 21. There he was initially ordained a minister of the Church of England in Canada but shortly after through the study of the Bible came to the conviction that he should leave the religious system and join himself to like minded believers. He ministered in the assemblies in Toronto, Brooklyn, New York, and Plainfield, New Jersey. He was the leader of the so-called Grant party in North America.

For many years he diligently studied the book of Psalms. Not only did their contents attract him, but the form in which they were written - their divisions into a Pentateuch, the acrostic form of a number of them, their evident relation one to another in various groups - all these things impressed upon him the fact that God had written them with a distinct numerical plan. He then went on to see a similar pattern in the rest of the Bible. He then produced the multi volume "Numerical Bible" which was an outstanding achievement.

Henry Moorhouse (1840-1880)

Henry Moorhouse is known as the English Evangelist. Born in Manchester, England, after being in and out of jail and spending time in the army, he heard the gospel and was born from above at age 20. He immediately started preaching in public places.

He is known as "the man who moved the man who moved the world". D.L.Moody attributes his power and effectiveness in preaching to the instructions of this one man. During the last years of his life Henry Moorhouse sold Bibles from a portable carriage. In two years he sold over 150,000 Bibles and gave away millions of books and tracts.

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918)

Sir Robert Anderson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1841, to the son of the Dublin Crown Solicitor. He spent a short time in business with a large brewery but then entered Trinity College in Dublin from where he graduated in 1862. After further studies he was called to the Bar in Dublin in 1865 and spent the rest of his career in the Criminal Investigation unit of Scotland Yard, becoming Chief at the time of the "Jack-the-ripper" scare. He spent 35 years in government service. It was stated of him at the time "Sir Robert Anderson is one of the men to whom the country, without knowing it, owes a great debt."

He became a Christian in 1860 at age 19 through the testimony of his sister who had just become a Christian and through gospel services held in Dublin. He was associated with the assemblies in an on and off basis during his life but said his heart was always with the assemblies.

Believers of all ages owe a great debt to this Bible student for his careful analysis and explanations of the Bible. He wrote many great books which are still in print and used widely today. The two main strengths of his writings which made them readable and profitable were the strength and certainty of his own beliefs and the clearness of his expression.

One of his great achievements and the thing that he is most known for today is his analysis and exposition of Daniel's prophecy of the 69 weeks of years. He has shown the fulfillment of this prophecy down to the day and this work is recorded in many Biblical references to this day.

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-1875)

S.P. Tregelles was born in 1813 of Quaker parents and was educated in the Classics at Falmouth, England. He was employed in business and teaching until 1836 when he undertook the task of preparing a critical text of the New Testament from the original languages using the most ancient manuscripts and ancient versions.

His publications are very numerous, and all of them deal directly with the text of the Scriptures, especially of the New Testament, in an area of scholarship where he had few equals. His Greek text was issued between 1857 and 1879, 12 years before the Westcott-Hort text. There was very little difference in substance between his text and the later text of Westcott and Hort.

He was first affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren and in later years with the Baptists. He was in fellowship at the Plymouth assembly, and supported B.W. Newton when this assembly became independent of the other assemblies with Newton as pastor.

William Edwy Vine (1873-1946)

W.E. Vine was born in Southern England in 1873. He became a Christian at age 14 under the teaching of his parents and was received into fellowship in the assembly in Exeter. He taught in his father's school in Exeter and then obtained a University degree in Classics in London.

He became well known as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher of the Scriptures in and around Exeter and Bath, England. He was intimately involved in missionary work at home and abroad. He believed the true object of all missionary work was the planting of churches; and that missionaries were commissioned by the risen Head of the church and not by men. By 1946 he was involved in regularly writing to about 1,000 missionaries in all parts of the world.

He was a man of prayer and said we should have meetings for prayer and not prayer meetings. He deplored what he termed protracted, expository, and repetitive prayers, colloquial forms of praying, and especially prayers of innuendo and blamed these for the dullness of prayer meetings. He taught and encouraged others to develop spiritual gifts. He especially enjoyed conducting Greek classes which enabled many of very different educational backgrounds to understand the Greek New Testament.

He is best known for the books he wrote, the foremost being his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words - an invaluable aid to all who study the Scriptures. From his scholarship and expertise in ancient languages has come a legacy of spiritual blessing for succeeding generations of believers.

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