John Nelson Darby and His Views on Israel -- By: Paul R. Wilkinson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 166:661 (Jan 2009)
Article: John Nelson Darby and His Views on Israel
Author: Paul R. Wilkinson


John Nelson Darby and His Views on Israel

Paul R. Wilkinson

Paul R. Wilkinson is Associate Minister, Hazel Grove Full Gospel Church, Stockport, Cheshire, England.

As an “indefatigable curate” ministering in the Dublin diocese of County Wicklow, John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), the theological founder of Plymouth Brethrenism, searched for and found many “lost sheep” among the poor Roman Catholic peasants who inhabited the desolate hills of southern Ireland. Darby wrote that at one time Roman Catholics were converting to Christ “at the rate of 600 to 800 a week.”1 After receiving the assurance of salvation during a period of convalescence in 1827-1828, Darby devoted himself wholeheartedly to the Lord Jesus Christ and to those who were wandering like sheep without a shepherd. During his convalescence he also became aware for the first time of another flock, a forgotten flock, for whom few shepherds in the church seemed to care. This flock was Israel.

A Consecrated Life

John Nelson Darby was born at 9 Great George Street, Westminster, London, on November 18, 1800. He was the youngest child of John Darby, of Markley, East Sussex, England, and of Leap Castle, Offaly (then King’s County), in Ireland. His mother was Ann Vaughan, the daughter of Samuel Vaughan, a sugar plantation owner from Philadelphia and an acquaintance of George Washington. Darby was christened at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, on March 3, 1801, and he was given the middle name Nelson “in

compliment to England’s naval hero,”2 who agreed to be his godfather. Darby’s uncle, Admiral Sir Henry D’Esterre Darby, had served under Admiral Lord Nelson as commander of the Bellerophon at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, when the British naval fleet defeated the French.

On February 17, 1812, Darby enrolled in the Westminster Public School. Three years later, on July 3, 1815, he entered Trinity College, Dublin. Founded in 1592 as a divinity school, Trinity became “a bulwark of English and Protestant influence.”3 Shortly after graduating as a Classical Gold Medallist on July 10, 1819, Darby was admitted to King’s Inn in Dublin to study law, and on November 9, 1819, he entered Lincoln’s Inn in London before being called to the Irish Bar in 1822. Much to his father’s displeasure, Darby forsook a career as a barrister, choosing instead the path to ordination. This decision cost him his inheritance. He later explained his change of mind in a letter to Professor Tholuck. “I w...

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