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When I was about five years old, Jesus touched my heart during a gospel preaching, and I trusted him simply to be my Savior and Lord.  He died and shed His precious blood for my sins, then He rose again, and He is alive for evermore.  Hallelujah!  Have you come to Jesus yet?

"Jesus lingers still, 'tis for you He waits,
And He's waited for you long;
He waits that heav'n with its fadeless joy,
May yet to you belong.
Come and welcome, welcome whosoever will,
'Tis the Saviour's gracious call;
He is able, willing, waiting now to save;
Simply trust Him, that is all."

I was born in 1948 and was raised among Christians who regarded the Holy Bible as God's word and who also appreciated the teachings and godly exercises of devout men such as John Darby, Charles Mackintosh, James Stoney, and Charles Coates, among others.

However, during the first half of the 20th century, these brethren had gradually come to overly depend on the leadership of one brother, James Taylor ("JT"), who was born in Ireland in 1870, migrated to Canada in 1888, and moved to New York City the following year.  Brother JT ministered extensively in the USA and elsewhere for over 50 years; during this period the gospel was preached effectively – both on street corners and in meeting rooms – and God saved souls and added to their numbers.  Although difficulties arose from time to time, these brethren had a real sense of God's blessing.  However, during the latter part of JT's lifetime, brethren in London, England disfellowshipped brethren halfway around the world in Shanghai, China on account of their less "exclusive" approach to Christian fellowship1, baptism of infants in brethren households became common practice, and James Taylor's daughter divorced her husband after being married for many years.  (In the years that followed, the practice of separating husbands and wives from their disfellowshipped spouses became commonplace among those who followed James Taylor Jr's teachings.)

After JT fell asleep through Jesus in 1953, underlying problems and fault lines began to surface that would lead to serious division and scattering over the next 40 years.  In the accompanying paper, entitled My Story, I review my experiences growing up in the New York metro area among these brethren and my impressions as to several conflicts that arose.

We gather to the name of the Lord Jesus in Manahawkin, New Jersey; in the ordering of God, I have made acquaintance with many persons in various parts of the so-called Plymouth Brethren movement and have learned a fair bit about our history.

I desire, with God's help, to be faithful to His Word in what I publish here and in our "Showers of Blessing" periodical, but I realize that some have different viewpoints as to certain doctrinal issues and the grievous divisions that have arisen over the years.  Surely we all need to prayerfully consider what the apostle Paul wrote to the assembly of God at Corinth nearly two thousand years ago:

"For we see now through a dim window obscurely,
but then face to face;
now I know partially,
but then I shall know according as I also have been known.
And now abide faith, hope, love; these three things;
and the greater of these is love."
— 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 —

And I suppose we all tend to forget 1 Corinthians 8:2:  "If any one think he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know it"!

It is easy to jump to conclusions about a doctrinal issue or conflict, perhaps after reading one verse of Scripture taken out of context or hearing one report about an incident, but if we weigh what we have learned in the presence of the Lord, He often sheds more light on the question, by bringing other scriptures to mind or by providing further witness as to something that has occurred.  May the truths of Psalm 37 and Isaiah 40:28-31 be engraved deeply on our hearts.

If you are looking for other Christians to meet with, do pray earnestly to God for His direction.  You may also find these articles helpful:  God's Way and How to Find It by Charles Mackintosh and Following the Man with a Pitcher of Water by Charles Coates.

Stephen Hesterman
101 Campbell Blvd, Unit 5104
Manahawkin, NJ 08050
USA

1 In 1926, Charles Coates proposed a more "exclusive" approach to Christian fellowship, in a letter that states in part:  "It is true that J.N.D. or J.B.S. would have received to break bread 'a godly clergyman,' or 'a person known to be godly and sound in the faith who has not left some ecclesiastical system ... as to which his conscience is not enlightened, nay, which he may think more right.'  And the question is now raised as to whether brethren still do so, or whether they are on sectarian ground if they do not."  He goes on to compare conditions in Christendom during the preceding century with those extant during the 1920s, concluding the comparison with this statement:  "We cannot now say that we are free to receive Christians without raising any question as to their associations."  (From Letters of C. A. Coates, pages 125-131).  The article Watchman Nee Rejected the Exclusive Way reviews this topic from another perspective.

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The publishers of this website assemble as Christians (Acts 11:26), but are not connected with those who are sometimes known as "Exclusive Brethren", "Open Brethren", or "Plymouth Brethren Christian Church".
Hymn credit:  W. Lawrence.
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