The Pilgrim Church, an invitation to read with me

Since I want to give you something of value, I decided to share things from a book I’m reading, The Pilgrim Church. Edmund Hamer Broadbent, a Plymouth Brethren travelling missionary, is the author. A native of Lancashire, England, he toured many European countries encountering and recording the stories of Christian groups whose desire was to assemble, worship, and be governed according to the standards of the Bible – that is, New Testament worship and governance alone.

Here is a picture of E.H. Broadbent – I’m sure it doesn’t do him justice, although he looks far happier and friendlier than many of the people in older photos I’ve seen.

Here are two excerpts from the hardback edition published under copyright by GOSPEL FOLIO PRESS, Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1999. The first is from the Foreword written by Dave Hunt:

“Edmund Hamer Broadbent (1861-1945) lived at a time when documents and books – many of them now lost or very rare – which told the true story of the Christian church could still be found. His scholarship is attested to by the scores of books in several languages available in his day, from which he drew much of the vital information he has passed on to us. The Pilgrim Church of which he writes so eloquently and accurately was persecuted to the death for a thousand years before the Reformation. The story has been almost lost to the present generation and desperately needs to be retold.”

The second is from the first chapter entitled “Beginnings”. As a Christian and a student of writing, I’m impressed beyond measure, even though I can’t agree with all that Broadbent says about the complete autonomy of individual churches. 

 “The New Testament is the worthy completion of the Old. It is the only proper end to which the Law and the Prophets could have led. It does not do away with them, but enriches in fulfilling and replacing them. It has in itself the character of completeness, presenting, not the rudimentary beginning of a new era which requires constant modification and addition to meet the needs of changing times, but a revelation suited to all men in all times. Jesus Christ cannot be made known to us better than He is in the four Gospels, nor can the consequences or doctrines which flow from the facts of His death and resurrection be more truly taught than they are in the Epistles.

“The Old Testament records the formation and history of Israel, the people through whom God revealed Himself in the world until Christ should come. The New Testament reveals the Church of Christ, consisting of all who are born again through faith in the Son of God and so made partakers of the divine and eternal life (Jn. 3:16).

“As this body, the whole Church of Christ, cannot be seen and cannot act in any one place, since many of its members are already with Christ and others scattered throughout the world, it is appointed to be actually known and to bear its testimony in the form of churches of God in various places and at different times. Each of these consists of those disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who, in the place where they live, gather together in His Name. To such the presence of the Lord in their midst is promised and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given in different ways through all the members (Mt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 12:7).

“Each of these churches stands in direct relationship to the Lord, draws its authority from Him, and is responsible to Him (Rev. 2-3). There is no suggestion that one church should control another or that any organized union of churches should exist, but an intimate personal fellowship unites them (Acts 15:36).”

I hope you enjoyed reading this and saw God’s grace at work in the intellect of this dear brother in the Lord who is now with Him. I hope to continue to post excerpts from his book.


38 thoughts on “The Pilgrim Church, an invitation to read with me

  1. Hey Maria, I like book reviews, so thanks.

    What were your concerns about the autonomy of the local church? The reason I ask it because I believe that myself, and that we only form associations basically for the purpose of conducting certain types of business, but that the associations have no authority over the local churches. Their only real control over a local church would be to withdraw fellowship with a church which turned in the wrong direction. I’m not looking for debate, just curious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Wally! I know you’re not looking for a debate but truly interested in church government. You make good points for the autonomy of a local church in order to protect its members.
      Broadbent’s description of Biblical churches is simply glorious – in a few words, Biblically, he demonstrated that their union is with Christ their head, not with a bishop or group of bishops (overseers). However, unless there is a plurality of elders, as in the Epistles and Acts, there is no accountability for a single elder (pastor and teacher) because the deacons are devoted to the care and comfort of the flock. So who is keeping the one elder accountable? The churches Paul wrote to, and in which elders (plural) were ordained, remained answerable to him or others in some ways. … ?
      Thank you for engaging on this! I’ve been thinking about it and don’t know what the answer is, except as Broadbent says to get as close as possible to the Biblical standard.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is very interesting. I will go you one better now Maria! We actually have a congregational style of church governance! We do have Deacons, but as you said, they are primarily about the care of the flock. They are, of course, expected to be leaders, just not formal leaders with vested authority.

        We do form committees and associations within the church for special things, however. As an example, a couple of years back we built a new building. Obviously, every detail could not be decided by a vote, so we appointed a group of trusted members to make many decisions. Then, poof, they are gone.

        It is all about the concept of Jesus as the head, and not any man or woman. So, maybe we go too far, but it seems to work for the most part. Although sometimes it takes a while to get things done, as sometimes a consensus has to be built informally before the Congregation as whole will do something.

        As far as accountability, approach your brother, then with 2 or 3, then to the church. Although we don’t really do church discipline very well overall. I sometimes get concerned about that, as lack of upholding standards is how churches slip into bad places.

        So, I can see points in both directions, as churches with governing Elders seem to do okay also.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Had to do dinner… Wally, I learned a lot from hearing how your church is governed, really. It is very familiar, with its strengths and weaknesses. So this is called congregational? In every church we’ve attended or been members in (that doesn’t sound too faithful, does it?) the congregation voted on important matters, that is, the members of the church voted. But democracy is something foreign to God’s Kingdom, isn’t it? However, so is the “rule” of man, and so is a hierarchy over “the laity”.
        My interests have been in other areas, so this is a new study for me. But it is important that we all try to understand and apply these things – very. It is more complicated topic than some – but when you really go into depth in anything, the End of the Age, for instance, it is always demanding.
        I’m so glad you showed up!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Check these out Maria, they are all right out of the Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association. They will kind of help you understand where I am are coming from. I am headed off to bed, because I am tired. I have enjoyed this!

          We believe that Jesus Christ established His church during His ministry on earth and that it is always a local, visible assembly of scripturally baptized believers in covenant relationship to carry out the Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ, and each church is an independent, self-governing body, and no other ecclesiastical body may exercise authority over it. We believe that Jesus Christ gave the Great Commission to the New Testament churches only, and that He promised the perpetuity of His churches (Matt. 4:18-22; Matt. 16:18; Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 1:14-20; John 1:35-51; Eph. 3:21).

          We believe that there are two divinely appointed offices in a church, pastors and deacons, to be filled by men whose qualifications are set forth in Titus and 1 Timothy.

          We believe that all associations, fellowships, and committees are, and properly should be, servants of, and under control of the churches (Matt. 20:25-28).

          Good night Sister

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post and good comments here. I also agree with Broadbent. I think some of the confusion arises from the fact that, in the NT, the church is considered both as an organism and an organization. The organism in the body of Christ and is composed of all believers from Pentecost until the Lord returns. However, it is expressed and shown in the local assembly, the organization of baptized believers. Confusion has also arisen because of the attempt to mold NT believers by an OT pattern. This has given rise to many errors, such as a state-church, in which one is a member by virtue of simply belonging to the nation, infant baptism, a priesthood which elevates some above others, and an organizational hierarchy in which the local church has little if any say.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Clarence, thank you for your insight about problems that occurred, such as, the state-church, from following an OT instead of a NT pattern. When I first was introduced to the history of the Reformation I learned about what people have called “the radical reformers,” such as, anabaptists, and that problems occurred with the rebaptizing of believers who had been baptized as infants, because an infant’s baptismal certificate was his identity paper, so if you rebaptized adults on their profession of faith, this was seen as a kind of sedition against the state. It’s been a long time since I read about this but I was struck by this. In many countries the Reformation led to the church-state all over again, after the escape from Romish domination. It is Christ alone Who can and is and will govern in His eternal Kingdom.
      As I said to Wally, the way the Church should be – its government – hasn’t been my focus. I will have a lot of thinking to do to think to be Biblical about these things as I read Broadbent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In response to both your comments here, the Reformed view of church history has pretty much be the standard view of history since the Reformation. While I truly believe that God used Luther and the others, still, there was a great deal that could have been done in a better way. For example, speaking of infant baptism – and the political ramifications that came with it, to say nothing of the spiritual and Biblical implications – I just recently came across a quote by Luther in a book written by a very good friend of mine, the brother who a long time ago introduced me to the doctrines of grace This brother went on to be a true Biblical scholar and wrote 17 books. Here’s his quote about Luther:

        “At first, he had no light struggle with infant baptism. On other subjects he had been forced, against his will, step by step, to abandon the Fathers, the Councils and Catholic tradition, being driven by the authority of the Scriptures. But when he found no authority for infant baptism, he assumed a new attitude. At that point he deliberately chose the negative turn. That is, he determined to abide by what the Scriptures did not forbid, instead of what they enjoined, as the law of ordinances. He saw at a glance where his rule of interpretation on other subjects must inevitably lead him on this point; and he dared not venture one step further in free thought, for fear of invoking a complete moral revolution. To take one step more was to let infant baptism go and the State Church with it, so that a regenerate Church only would be left. But this was not the sort of Church Luther wanted, and he said, ‘Where they want to go I am not disposed to follow. GOD SAVE ME FROM A CHURCH IN WHICH ARE NONE BUT THE HOLY.’ (emphasis added by me.) Neue Propheten p. 175, as quoted in Thomas Armitage, History of the Baptism 1, p. 358. Taken from W. R. Downing, Lectures on Calvinism and Arminianism, p. 37, footnote 46.

        Sorry this was so long, but I thought it interesting. I was dumbfounded by Luther’s statement at the end of the quote.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you for this explanation! It is important. So what will happen for Luther in Christ’s Kingdom? – only the holy through our Lord Jesus Christ will enter there – there will be no lie or any equivocation even. I understand his desire to cling to “Christendom”, a visible thing to belong to – for everyone to belong to – but we must let things go for His Kingdom.
          Perhaps he simply liked everyday people? That is the best take on this quote – that he liked people and didn’t want a Heaven full of people who were more like angels…? Just a thought, after all he liked to play cards and family music time, etc. Every person is weak on some point but this was major.


  3. Hey Maria
    This conversation is getting better and better! I have really enjoyed it so very much. All the discussion about Martin Luther has gotten me thinking more, though. I explained quite a bit about what I believe about the governance of the church, but there is more!

    Luther and the reformers did some great things, no doubt, but if you asked the average member of my church about the impact he had on our church, the answer would be…not a bit. You see, we don’t consider ourselves to be Protestant, as we don’t believe the True New Testament Church formed by Jesus on the shores of Galilee ever went away. Jesus promised to Peter the perpetuity of His Church, and I believe He kept that promise.

    You had mentioned folks like the Anabaptists and such, you know those folks and others like them were always around. They were just a remnant driven underground by persecution.

    Liked by 2 people

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