Considered by many to be the "father of dispensationalism," John Nelson Darby's distinctive premillennial teachings and systematized notion of the secret rapture has had a lasting impact on eschatology. Educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Dublin, Darby first entered his professional life as a lawyer, but found that career to be in conflict with his religious beliefs. Soon after, he was ordained as a deacon, and then a priest. After several years of ministering in the Church of England, Darby joined a multi-denominational group of dissenters and was one of the founding members of the Plymouth Brethren. He would spend the rest of his life traveling extensively and teaching his unique perspective of the Bible, establishing his reputation as a leading interpreter of biblical prophecy.
The Collected Writings of John Nelson Darby (47 vols.) brings together John Nelson Darby's massive output of writings: essays, articles, sermons, tracts, translations, and more. Darby's longtime friend and editor, William Kelly, systematically arranged Darby's works into eight distinct categories:
Plus, this collection contains three volumes of his personal correspondence, a volume of hymns authored by Darby, Andrew Miller's book covering the origins of the Brethren movement, and more!
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Darby left a lasting legacy for us today.
—Conservative Theological Journal
To see classical dispensationalist theology at its best, one must read Darby. . . .
—Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Darby was a brilliant man. . . .
—Moody Handbook of Theology
Born in London in 1801, John Darby attended Westminster School and Trinity College, where he graduated in 1819. Darby became a lawyer, but practiced law for only one year, since he felt the nature of his profession was incompatible with his religious beliefs. He was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1825, and became a priest in 1826.
As a priest, Darby became quickly disenchanted by what he perceived as the empty ritual and corrupt bureaucracy prevalent in the Church of England. He resisted the necessity of clergy, asserting that their role contradicted New Testament teaching, and claimed that the presence of clergy implicitly denied that the Holy Spirit speaks to laypersons. He gathered with other like-minded dissidents to form the movement which later became known as the Plymouth Brethren, and he formally left the Church of England in 1832.
Darby’s ecclesiological pessimism gave way to a new perspective on scripture, which later became known as dispensationalism. In Darby’s view, the scope of history is divided into seven separate dispensations, each comprising a new stage of God’s revelation. Darby advanced the following dispensationalist scheme:
Since the church finds itself in the sixth dispensation, Darby used a literal interpretation of apocalyptic literature to predict the events of the seventh dispensation. In doing so, he systematized the notion of the secret rapture and developed an extensive pre-millennial eschatology, in which historical events can be used to predict the advent of the Millennium—the seventh dispensation.
Later in his lifetime, Darby traveled extensively. He delivered a series of lectures in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1837, and made seven visits to the United States and Canada, where he influenced individuals such as Dwight Moody and A.J. Gordon and initiated the Bible conference movement. Darby’s influence is also found in the writings of C.I. Scofield, Charles Henry Mackintosh, and William E. Blackstone, whose writings contributed to the rise of fundamentalism in America during the early twentieth century. More recently, Darby’s impact can be felt in books by Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry Jenkins.