Book Reviews -- By: Mark R. Stevenson

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 18:1 (Summer 2009)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Mark R. Stevenson

Book Reviews

Mark R. Stevenson


Gathering To His Name: The Story Of Open Brethren In Britain And Ireland

By Tim Grass, Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2006, 589 pages, sewn softcover, $49.99.

It has been about forty years since I read the histories of the Brethren by Roy Coad and Harold Rowdon.1 Both volumes were very helpful in giving me an understanding of the personalities and principles that gave rise to this thrilling work of God in the early 19th century. Neither book neglected the unfortunate events that led up to the division of 1848 and the sad aftermath.

Since the publications of Rowdon and Coad there has been an abundance of scholarly works (monographs, dissertations, theses, and articles) on various facets of Brethren history that have needed to be incorporated into a more up-to-date work. In addition, the Christian Brethren archive at the University of Manchester has continued to grow. This collection contains the papers of a wide variety of Brethren writers and workers as well as complete runs of most of the Brethren periodicals published in Britain, Ireland, Europe, and North America. In addition, there is an archive at Chapter Two publishers in London of which Edwin Cross served as custodian until his recent death.

In 2006, in response to the need for a fresh treatment of the subject, Paternoster published the book here under review, the most complete work to date on the Brethren. Timothy G. Grass, Associate Lecturer of Church History at Spurgeon’s College in London, has done a superb piece of original scholarship

in the primary sources and has availed himself of the most recent research on the subject. The result is what is sure to be the definitive history of the Brethren in England and Ireland for many years to come.

The book has twenty-four chapters, six appendices, as well as a thorough bibliography and index. Grass divides his narrative into four parts:

  • Part 1 covers the period from 1825 to 1849 in which the movement began, spread throughout Great Britain and Ireland, and finally divided in the controversy between J. N. Darby and Benjamin Wills Newton. Chapter 5 is a discussion of the distinctive principles of the Brethren, including separation from the world, the doctrine of the church, the adoption of dispensationalism, and early thinking about world missions.
  • Part 2 covers the period from 1850 to 1914 in which the movement expanded rapidly and developed its own distinct identity (Brethren publishers, periodicals, hymnody, conferences, and lists of assemblies). Particularly important for an under...
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