PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. A religious sect which sprang into existence in the British I-lands during the first half of the nineteenth eentury, and has extended itself throughout the British dominions and in certain parts of the Continent of Europe, particularly among the Protestants of France, Switzerland. and Italy, a ml in the United States of America. They do not use the name themselves. preferring to be called simply Believers, Christians. or Brethren. Their origin seems to have been due to a reac tion hgainst exclusive high-church principles in the Church of England and similar tendencies in other churches, and against a dead formalism associated with •unevange]ical' doctrine. While several conmunitic•s appeared almost simultane osuly in various places, the foundation of the body is generally ascribed to the labors and in fluence of John Nelson Darby. from whom on the Continent of Europe they are c•ommonly known as Darbyites. Darby was born in London in 1800; he was graduated B.A. at Trinity College. Dub lin. in 1819, and was called to the bar in 1S25. Ile withdrew from the Church of Ireland because of conscientious scruples regarding the seripturalness of church establishments: he also believed that denominational distinction: and a regular ministry should be discarded. He found others who shared his views, notably Anthony Norris Groves, a student at Trinity College. and an association was formed in Dublin in 1828.
Another was soon organized in Plymouth, and the fact that Providence Chapel in that tcmn was the first regular place of meeting gave rise to the name Plymouth Brethren in 1830. Darby continued to labor as an evangelist, with any Church, in England and on the Conti nent, until his death in 1882. He preached in English. French, and German. wrote voluminous ly, and edited a quarterly periodic-al, The Chris tian Witness, which for a number of years was the official organ of the Brethren. this collected writings have been published in 32 volumes (London, 1867-83).
The doctrines of the Plymouth Brethren are Calvinistic. They emphasize original sin, pre destination, the eflicaey of Christ's sacrifice, the merit of His obedience, the power of His inter cession. the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification. Mil lenarian views are also generally entertained. They practice the baptism of adults without re gard to previous infant baptism. They hold meet ings for Bible study and prayer, and observe the Lord's Supper weekly on Sunday. Their most distinctive peculiarity is their refusal to recognize any form of Church government or any ((dice of the ministry; they insist on the equal right of every male member of the Church to prophesy or preach. They do not build churches, but meet in halls or private houses. A great schism took place among them during Darby's lifetime because of doctrines preached at Ply mouth and Bristol concerning the human nature of Christ, and they have been frequently divided on narrow lines. There are four divisions in the United States (consult Carroll, The Religious Forces in the United States, New York, 1893). They number about 300 meetings in the United States and 100 in Canada. Consult the biogra phies of eminent members of the sect, as that of A. N. Groves (by his widow, London, 1856) ; Henry Craik (by Taylor. ib.. 1806) ; the writings of 11. W. Newton and W. Kelly; Guinness. Who the Plymouth (Philadelphia, 1861 ) ; Dorman. The close of .?8 Years of Asso ciation with J. N. Darby ( London. 1866) ; Henry Groves. Darbyism, Its Rise and Develop ment (ib.. 1866). For hostile criticism, con sult Carson, The Heresies of the Plymouth Brethren (ib., 1S62) ; Reid, Plymouth Breth renism Unveiled and Refuted (Edinburgh, 1S75) ; Croskery. Plymouth Brethrenism. a Refutation of Its Principles and Doctrines (London, 1879). Consult also Teulon. The History and Teaching of the Plymouth Brethren (ib., 18S3) ; Neat ley, .1 History of the Plymouth Brethren (ib., 1901).