Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland


83 Clarence Street,

Ballymena BT43 5DR, Northern Ireland

Services: 11:00 A.M. & 6:00 P.M.


Pastor: Rev. Angus Stewart

7 Lislunnan Rd.

Kells, Ballymena, Co. Antrim

Northern Ireland BT42 3NR

Phone: (from U.S.A.) 011 (44) 28 25 891 851

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Covenant Reformed News - August 2016

Covenant Reformed News

August 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 4

God’s Longsuffering in the Psalms and Prophets

In the last issue of the News, we considered God’s longsuffering (or His being slow to anger) in the Old Testament historical books: Exodus 34:6-7, Numbers 14:17-18 and Nehemiah 9:17.

We turn now to three references in the Psalms: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (86:15); “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (103:8); “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy” (145:8).

These three texts have at least four things in common. First, they were all inspired by the Holy Spirit and penned by David, according to their headings, as the fruit of his meditation upon God’s law, especially Exodus 34:6-7 and Numbers 14:17-18. Second, only God’s “positive” attributes are mentioned in all three verses: His compassion, grace, mercy and truth are spoken of in connection with His longsuffering. Third, all three are references to Jehovah’s longsuffering to His beloved people (including us). Fourth, all three references to God’s longsuffering in the Psalms are found in songs of praise. There is a lesson here for us too!

Moving to the twelve minor prophets, we come first to Joel 2:13: “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”

Again, we notice, first, that only God’s “positive” perfections are here mentioned: His grace, mercy and kindness are spoken of in connection with His longsuffering or being slow to anger. Second, like the three passages from the Old Testament historical books (Ex. 34:6-7; Num. 14:17-18; Neh. 9:17) and the three verses from the Psalms quoted in the second paragraph, Joel 2:13 is addressed to God’s people, Israel. Third, this text is a call to repentance in which the prophet appeals to part of God’s earlier self-revelation to strengthen his exhortation. For us too, God’s longsuffering, both in Himself and to us, is an encouragement to confess our sins from our hearts.

The next minor prophet to refer to God’s longsuffering is Jonah: “And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil” (4:2).

A pattern is emerging! First, along with God’s longsuffering or being slow to anger, we read here of His grace, mercy and kindness. Again, they are all “positive” divine attributes. Second, the prophet is referring to God’s people, this time (elect) Gentiles. Third, Jonah knew God’s self-revelation at Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:6-7) and Kadesh-barnea (Num. 14:17-18), and so understood that, since Jehovah had sent him to preach to Nineveh, God had His people there to whom He would show Himself longsuffering, gracious, merciful and kind.

This is the reason why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh in the first place. He did not want to see the wicked Assyrians—Israel’s enemies—saved. Especially was this the case because Jonah knew, given the wickedness of the N. Kingdom, that God, in turning to the Gentiles, would turn away from the Jewish people whom the prophet loved.

Our third and final passage in the minor prophets is from the vision of Nahum: “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (1:3).

Like the two verses from the Pentateuch (Ex. 34:6-7; Num. 14:17-18), Nahum first mentions God’s “positive” perfection in saving His people (“The Lord is slow to anger”) and then His “negative” attributes (“The Lord is ... great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked”) in His mighty punishment of the impenitent wicked, as the One who “hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm.”

Though Nahum 1 mostly concerns the judgment of the Most High upon Assyria, verse 3a (“The Lord is slow to anger”) is not the only bright note for His elect people in the chapter. We read that “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him” (7). We hear the gospel in Nahum 1: “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off” (15).

Moving from the above three passages in the twelve minor prophets, we come finally to the only reference to God’s longsuffering in the four major prophets, Jeremiah 15:15: “O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.”

Here only one divine attribute is mentioned: God’s longsuffering. In this text, it is not towards Israel as a nation, for the elect’s sake. Instead of being exercised towards a corporate body, God is longsuffering to an individual believer: Jeremiah himself. The prophet’s prayer is this: “Do not, O Lord, in Thy longsuffering over me, allow my persecutors to destroy me.” God is not longsuffering towards the wicked who afflict Jeremiah for he asks the Lord, “revenge me of my persecutors.” Rev. Stewart


The Theodicy and “Like a Dove”

1) The first of the two questions in this issue of the News was prompted by my three recent articles on the theodicy, God’s public justification of all His actions, especially His just wrath against the wicked in sending them to hell and His great grace in taking His elect to heaven, though they are sinners. A reader asks, “Will you please show us in Scripture where it says that all our iniquities will be publicly revealed?”

The simple and short answer is Romans 14:10-12 and II Corinthians 5:10. According to these texts, “every one” will “appear,” “stand” and “bow” before Christ’s “judgment seat,” including believers (“we”). Each human being will “give account of himself [or herself] to God,” concerning all “the things done in his [or her] body,” “whether it be good or bad.” Thus the believer’s sins are included.

God’s people from the early days of the Reformation believed this to be true and Reformed people have taught it through the ages till the present. The Belgic Confession(1561), only a few more than forty years after Luther began the Reformation, states that at the coming of Christ “the books (that is to say, the consciences) shall be opened, and the dead judged according to what they shall have done in this world, whether it be good or evil. Nay, all men shall give an account of every idle word they have spoken, which the world only counts amusement and jest; and then the secrets and hypocrisy of men shall be disclosed and laid open before all” (37).

First, it must be shown that God alone is the author of salvation and that the vast difference between those in heaven and those in hell is due to nothing but His electing grace. God accomplishes this by showing that eternity in hell for the wicked displays His fury against man’s sin. And God will publicly show His wrath against sin so that His infinite holiness is shown to all. Those who deny hell lose God’s holiness that demands punishment of sin.

Second, the Arminian will not be able to brag in heaven that he is there because he accepted Christ. If he could do that, the Arminian would take away from God His glory. The Arminian will show (if he could) his notebook full of all his good works and point out to everyone willing to look that he earned salvation and helped God along in the work of saving him. Then God does not receive all the glory that is due His name for He must share it with man (Eph. 2:8-9).

Finally, a light can be seen only in the darkness. Turn on the world’s most powerful light in the dazzling brightness of noon and one sees no light. Turn on a small torch in pitch darkness and the light is visible to all. The dazzling light of God’s grace, mercy and love can be, and will be, seen against the background of our dreadful sinfulness and the darkness of evil into which we plunged ourselves. It will be the brilliant light of God’s grace against the dark background of our terrible sin. That light will be seen by us and the entire world, because our sins will also be revealed and the great power of grace will be shown to have saved us from the pit of hell. God’s grace will be magnified. That is also the idea of the antithesis. It is more important that God be glorified than that our sins be hid in the judgment day.

2) A reader asks about a possible revision of Belgic Confession 9: “For when our Lord was baptized in Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard, saying, This is My beloved Son; the Son was seen in the water; and the Holy Ghost appeared in the shape of a dove.” The reader proposes to make this more in harmony with Scripture, with the last part reading, “The Holy Spirit appeared in a bodily shape like a dove.”

Before I answer this question, I want to go on record as being strongly opposed to any changes in the confessions of the Reformed churches, unless they are clearly shown to be contrary to Scripture and concern an important change in doctrine.

If changes in the confessions are allowed, even minor and insignificant changes, there are many within Reformed churches who would pounce on the opportunity and, with smooth words, propose major changes in doctrines with which they do not agree.

This change, suggested by the questioner, seems to me to be a minor change.

The reader’s argument is as follows. “Like a dove” is not the same as the expression “as a dove” or, its equivalent, “in the shape of a dove.” “Nowhere in Scripture has the Godhead revealed Himself in the form of an animal—this actually is a pagan thought,” the reader adds. Luke writes, “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him” (3:22).    The questioner is asking, therefore, if it would not be better to use the language found in Luke.

I have not been able to ascertain the difference between “as” and “like.” Both words introduce a comparison. “As” introduces a simile or a comparison between two things, usually one thing from the creation and another thing that belongs to the spiritual world. “Like” often introduces a metaphor. Similes and metaphors are very much alike: a metaphor is an extended simile, such as in Christ’s parables. Matthew, in speaking of this event, uses a Greek word that literally means “as if.”

I do not entirely agree with the statement: “The voice of the Father was heard ... The Son was seen in the water and the Holy Spirit appeared in a bodily shape like a dove.” In this remarkable incident in the life of our Lord, the Triune God (not the First Person of the Trinity) was speaking of His Son, the eternal God in our flesh, and publicly gave Him the Spirit to qualify and ordain Him for His work of accomplishing salvation for us. The voice of the Triune God, saying almost the same words, was heard twice more in our Lord’s ministry. Also, Christ was baptized with water that He might “fulfil all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). It indicated that He took our sins upon Himself so that He might earn for us everlasting righteousness. That the Spirit came upon Christ in a visible form was to demonstrate publicly that the Lord Jesus Christ was indeed the Servant of Jehovah anointed to do His Father’s will, as Isaiah had prophesied. The dove was a symbol of peace of which Isaiah spoke (Isa. 54:13; 55:12).

It is interesting that in his marvellous book, Noah’s Ark, Rien Portvliet notes that the dove that left the ark and did not return was not seen again until the baptism of Christ.

Taking all these things together, a change our creeds is not necessary. Whatever words the narrative of the three gospels use, they mean the same thing.  Prof. Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - August 2016

BRF group pic 2016

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

BRF Conference

The fourteenth biennial British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference was definitely the biggest (and many would say the best). A total of 125 people stayed at the conference centre at least one night, with the vast majority of them there for the whole week (16-23 July). On top of that there were a record 47 day-visitors. Some came for a lecture or two or more, with one family camping only a few hundred yards away for five days of the conference.

This was also our most international conference, with saints from Northern Ireland (44), USA (41), Singapore (12), England (6), Wales (6), Australia (4), Republic of Ireland (4), Canada (4), Hungary (3), and the Philippines (1). Does this make it the most catholic meeting led by Protestant Reformed ministers?

The subject was a great one: “‘Behold, I Come Quickly’: The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End.” Prof. David Engelsma's three main speeches treated the Lord's second coming and the precursory signs, the Antichristian kingdom and the beast from the sea (Rev. 13), and the two witnesses in Revelation 11. Rev. Andy Lanning covered the rapture and Antichrist, Christ's coming as a thief and the great apostasy, and living in the light of the final judgment and life eternal. Our two main speakers also delivered the Sunday sermons: “The Hope of Creation for Christ's Coming” (Rom. 8:19-22) and “Methuselah” (Gen. 5:25-27), respectively.

Rev. McGeown provided the opening address: “Disorderliness and the Second Coming of Christ” (II Thess. 3). Pete Adams, East Side's retired Christian school principal and an elder at First PRC in Grand Rapids, delivered a Sunday afternoon speech on “The Renaissance and the Reformation,” highlighting their eschatological implications. I delivered the special lecture on “Dispensationalism, J. N. Darby and Powers-court.”

BRF Conference Chairman, Brian Harris, introduced the meetings; various brethren led the morning and evening devotions; and BRF Treasurer Ivan Reid delivered the concluding remarks and gifts to our two chief speakers and their wives.

There were also the two day-trips. First, we had a guided tour of the Queen's official residence in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough, plus the gardens, fort, lake, and village. The second day-trip marked the first BRF conference trip to the Republic of Ireland, which took in the Battle of the Boyne (1690) site at which William III, Britain's only Dutch king, was victorious, and the largest Norman castle in Ireland at Trim, dating back to the 1170s. Those on one of the coaches for the latter trip learned about the 99-foot granite obelisk erected in Rostrevor to Major-General Ross, the Northern Ireland man who burned down the White House two centuries ago.

The conference centre itself was beautiful: a Victorian castle above an 80-acre lake in about 1,300 acres of forest. The gorgeous view out the main lecture room also included the Mourne Mountains in the distance. To crown it all, the weather was glorious: sunny and warm (at least, for us!). Especially in the first part of the week, people were buying and applying sun lotion! The Lord gave us the best weather of our summer.

But I have only provided you with the “bare bones” of the conference. The fellowship, the friendships, the discussions at meal times, the singing of Psalms in the evening—all and more were important parts of the week.

At the Biennial General Meeting, Prof. Engelsma and Rev. Lanning were unanimously voted back to be our two main speakers at the 2018 conference. The chosen subject is the family. The venue is to be Hebron Hall in South Wales. Brian and Sian Harris, who live in that area of the United Kingdom, will arrange the two day-trips. You are warmly invited to join us in the principality of Wales on 21-28 July, 2018!

Before and After the Conference

The evening before the conference, we hosted a barbecue at the manse, as a sort of welcome to the international visitors to the conference and a get-together including the saints in the CPRC and friends of the congregation. With people from as far west as Virginia Beach and Spokane and as far east as Manila and Brisbane, there were 99 people present.

 Be Ye Holy book 2016Several visitors from the Grand Rapids area brought with them copies of the two new RFPA titles (God's Goodness Always Particular by Herman Hoeksema and A Spiritual House Preserved edited by Cal Kalsbeek) plus the excellent new BRF book, Be Ye Holy by Profs. Hanko and Engelsma. This work consists of the speeches of the previous BRF conference in Scotland on sanctification. We sell it for £5 and, though we have had it in stock for only about a month, it has already become our best-selling title in 2016.

Most of the people at the conference stayed in the Ballymena area for at least a couple of days afterwards, either with members of the CPRC or in other accommodation. The saints here did not have enough spare beds and air mattresses for everyone!

The church building was well filled for the two Lord's Day services led by Rev. Lanning (24 July). This was the first time the minister from our sister congregation, the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, has preached for us. It was good for our people to fellowship
with him and his family and other saints from Singapore, as well as with our sister churches in North America. After the evening service, we had tea upstairs.

The videos of all the speeches and the question and answer sessions can be watched on the CPRC YouTube channel ( com/cprcni). They have already received a good number of hits. At the time of writing, the audios of the lectures should be online very shortly. Both the videos and the audios will soon be available via the BRF website (www.

Attractive box sets of the conference are being produced in both CD and DVD. Including postage, the cost is £12 for those in the British Isles and £15 for everyone else. E-mail me if you are interested in buying the box sets (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


The youngest member of the CPRC is now Sophie Lyn Crossett, the daughter of David and Kristin. Four members of Kristin's family and Trinity PRC were present for the happy occasion of the baptism (10 July).

Mrs. Callender, our oldest member, recently had open heart surgery to replace a leaky valve. The operation has been successful and she is recovering well by God’s grace.

The last couple of months have seen 23 new translations added to our website (www.cprf., including 9 Spanish, 8 Indonesian, 5 Hungarian, and 1 Portuguese. The last is a translation by a Brazilian of Prof. Engelsma's fine book Christ's Spiritual Kingdom, published by Hope PRC in Redlands, CA. This is an important work to get online to set forth the truth regarding the end times against the postmillennial reconstructionist ideas which swirl around in parts of Brazil.

The Bible's teaching on leprosy is the subject in our current Tuesday morning classes. Recently we concluded a 10-sermon series on “Complete in Christ” (Col. 2)—a beautiful and comforting subject!

Though we have been very encouraged by all of the visitors and the activities, it is im-portant always to remember that the service of the Lord is not about numbers and admits of no triumphalism. He is the God of the still, small voice who dwells with him who is of a humble and contrite spirit. May our covenant God be with you all!

In Christ,
Rev. and Mary Stewart


Covenant Reformed News - July 2016

CPRC News Header 

Covenant Reformed News

July 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 3

God’s Longsuffering in the Old Testament Historical Books

The very first use of the word “longsuffering” in Holy Scripture is found in the book of Exodus and on Mount Sinai. In this first biblical reference to longsuffering, God speaks of His own (not man’s) longsuffering: “And the Lord passed by before him [i.e., Moses], and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex. 34:6-7).

The divine perfections that are listed along with longsuffering are “positive” (e.g., mercy, grace and goodness) and exercised for the salvation of God’s elect (“keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”). The Lord then goes on to speak of His “negative” work towards the reprobate: “and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (7).

This profound, divine self-revelation occurred against the dark backdrop of Israel’s terrible sin of worshipping the golden calf, contrary to the second commandment. It also came in answer to the prayer of Moses, the Old Testament mediator: “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory” (33:18). Clearly, God’s “glory” includes His longsuffering!

Jehovah’s immediate response to Moses’ intercession reveals additional and important truths about His longsuffering: “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (19). First, God’s longsuffering is a revelation of His “name.” Second, God’s longsuffering is a manifestation of His “goodness.” Third, God is absolutely sovereign in His longsuffering for, since He “will be gracious to whom [He] will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom [He] will shew mercy,” He will be longsuffering to whom He will be longsuffering.

After the Lord’s beautiful self-revelation (34:6-7), Moses’ response is twofold. First, he worships: “Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” (8). Our adoration too should be prompted by God’s longsuffering with us!

Second, Moses prays: “If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance” (9). Organically and with respect to the elect in Israel, Jehovah, in answer to this petition, forgives His people and journeys with His inheritance towards the promised land.

The second biblical reference to longsuffering is also found in the Pentateuch. This time, it is Moses (not God) who speaks of Jehovah’s longsuffering. He appeals to this divine virtue in a prayer, after Israel’s wicked refusal to enter into the land of Canaan (Num. 13:1-14:10).

This is the part of Moses’ intercession (13-19) that is of special interest for our present subject: “And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (17-18).

Notice here two tie-ins with God’s self-revelation at Mount Sinai. First, Moses at Kadesh-barnea mentions similar divine attributes and works, and in the same order as in Exodus 34:6-7: “positive” and then “negative.” Second, Moses explicitly appeals to God’s words uttered at the holy mount: “as thou hast spoken, saying” (Num. 14:17). But notice which of Jehovah’s virtues is mentioned first here: “The Lord is longsuffering” (18).

Next follows the conclusion and central request of Moses’ prayer: “Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (19). This is swiftly followed by God’s gracious answer: “I have pardoned according to thy word” (20).

The third and final reference to Jehovah’s longsuffering in the Old Testament historical books is found in Nehemiah 9. This chapter contains the godly Levites’ review of Israel’s history, all the way from Abraham till after the return from the Babylonian captivity, with special reference to both Jehovah’s mercy and Israel’s sinfulness.

Nehemiah 9:17 reads, “And [they] refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger [i.e., longsuffering], and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.”

Unlike the two earlier historical references to Jehovah’s longsuffering, this text only speaks of God’s “positive” attributes and operations (“a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not”) and not His “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.”

Nehemiah 9 mentions the historical events that occasioned both of the earlier references to Jehovah’s longsuffering. God’s longsuffering at the end of Nehemiah 9:17 is sandwiched between Israel’s refusal to enter into the promised land (Num. 13-14) in the middle of verse 17 and the idolatry of the golden calf (Ex. 32-34) in verse 18. Here we see the glorious unity of Scripture, with the last text on God’s longsuffering in the Old Testament historical books alluding to the previous two! Rev. Angus Stewart

Three Questions

I have a number of questions sent in by our readers that, although only requiring a short answer, are important enough to be included in the News. I thought it good to answer three of them in this issue.

Question 1: “In Acts 21:24, it appears that Paul abandons his liberty in Christ and returns to Judaistic practice. I have found nothing so far to explain his behaviour apart from what he says in I Corinthians 9:20.”

The answer is simply that what the believing Jews asked Paul to do was a matter of Christian liberty. Christian liberty means that with certain things if a Christian does or does not do them he is not sinning. It is the motive that God judges. From the context, one learns that Paul did not budge on the question of circumcision but he did agree to take the vows of purification. These were in themselves innocuous; the motive for taking the vows is what counted. Paul’s motive was to avoid unnecessary strife in the Jerusalem church. It does seem from various parts of Scripture that the Jerusalem church was weak on the matter of Christian liberty in connection with Old Testament rituals. Paul chose not to offend the weaker brethren (Rom. 14:1).

Question 2: “Were the Donatists right regarding those who denied their faith under persecution, that they could not return to the Lord?”

The Donatists were a sect in early church history. They were numerous in N. Africa in the days of Augustine (354-430), who wrote against their position. They taught, as the questioner points out, that those who denied their faith to escape persecution could not, even after confession of sin, become members of the church again. They were forever excluded from the church and, presumably, from heaven.

This was a wrong position to take, for the Scriptures make clear that everyone who confesses his sin finds forgiveness (I John 1:9). God’s Word makes no exceptions, except those who have committed the unpardonable sin (Heb. 6:4-8; I John 5:16-17).

The questioner, in appealing to the Greek, points out that Jesus uses the future tense in such passages as II Timothy 2:12. But the future tense simply means that if someone denies Christ in this life, He will deny him in the judgment day when all men stand before the Lord Jesus, the universal Judge. That does not rule out his being restored in the way of confession and sorrow for sin.

The questioner adds in the same connection, “If that’s the case [i.e., that someone who denied Christ cannot be saved and restored to the church], then if someone repents and wants to come to Christ, since they were not actually a believer in the first place, according to Calvinism and predestination, can they have faith in him as Lord and Saviour after they have denied him?”

The questioner, sadly, has a serious misconception of Calvinism and biblical predestination. He should correct that. The fact is that anyone who is eternally predestined to be saved and is, in fact, saved in this life, nevertheless, can and often does fall into terrible sins. We must learn to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). Abraham and Isaac both left Canaan contrary to God’s will. David committed adultery and murder. Peter denied Christ out of fear of being killed by the same Sanhedrin that was condemning our Lord. All of these four men were true believers when they committed these awful sins. All later repented and were forgiven. Some Christians denied their Lord under the threat of persecution. When they confessed their sin, they were pardoned.

Behind the Donatist position was another error, serious and deadly. It is the idea that only true believers may belong to the church of Christ. And so the Donatists also denied infant baptism, for infants cannot believe. They basically deny the covenant.

Question 3: A Baptist asks, “Are you saying that we should teach all our children to believe they are God’s children, forgiven of their sins, etc., when in fact they may be the devil’s children and destined to eternal hell?”

The answer to this question is a most emphatic NO. Children of believers are born within the dispensation of the covenant. No Baptist can and will deny that this is true. This means that every child of believing parents comes under covenant instruction in the home, in the church and, where possible, in the Christian school. In all of these spheres, he is taught the truth of God’s Word: “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations” (Canons II:5). This is the heart of the instruction children receive.

Furthermore, the Scriptures teach that God, while saving His church from those born outside the church, also saves believers and their seed (Gen. 17:7). Children, as well as adults, are citizens of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:14; 18:1-6).

Therefore, godly parents teach their children, knowing that God saves children of believers and that He has not promised to save all of them. Believers are very conscious of Esau and the faithless Israelites. But they do not look at their children as a “nest of vipers,” as Jonathan Edwards did and as do all who believe in a conditional covenant. They teach the children to lay hold on the promise of God through faith in Christ. They teach these same children to repent and confess their sins to find forgiveness in Christ. God saves His elect and uses the means of covenant instruction. He saves those who believe in Christ. In other words, since faith is a gift of God, He gives elect, covenant children faith to believe in Christ and to confess their sins.

The trouble is that baptistic theology is independentistic—a grave weakness. They teach, so to speak, “Every man for himself.” God deals with every man in isolation from all others and as an individual. This inevitably leads to Arminianism. The Scriptures teach the organic unity of family life: God works out His salvation in families. He deals with people in all their organic relationships in life, and children in families.

Those interested in this question can read an extensive development of it in my book, We and Our Children, available from the CPRC Bookstore (£9.90, including P&P). Prof. Herman Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view

Be Ye Holy: The Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification

by David J. Engelsma & Herman Hanko
(180 pp, softback)

What is sanctification? How is it related to justification? What is the error of antinomianism? What is the role of the law in sanctification? This book covers all this and much more, and exhorts us all to holiness!

£5.50 (inc. P&P)

Order from the CPRC Bookstore
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851.
Or order this on-line from the
CPRC Bookstore.

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.” Thank you!

British Reformed Fellowship Conference Begins - July 16-23, 2016

Castlewellan NIreland BRF 2016The British Reformed Fellowship Conference got under way today (Saturday), and will run from July 16-23, 2016, at the beautiful Castlewellan in Northern Ireland.

The conference is attended by many members of our sister church in N.Ireland, Covenant PRC, the CPRC mission (Reformed Fellowship) in Limerick, PRC visitors from the U.S., and friends from other places.

Below is the conference theme and schedule as found on the BRF Conference website:

"Behold, I Come Quickly": The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End"


  • Prof. David J. Engelsma - Emeritus Professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament, Protestant Reformed Seminary, Michigan, USA 
  • Rev. A. Lanning - Pastor of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore

Dates: 16-23 July 2016 

Venue: Castlewellan Castle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

Provisional Information on speeches and sermons:
Six Main Speeches

  1. The Second and Quick Coming of Jesus Christ (as Indicated by the Signs) - Prof. D. Engelsma
  2. The Reformed Belief concerning Rapture and Antichrist - Rev. A. Lanning
  3. The Coming World-Conquest of the Beast from the Sea - Prof. D. Engelsma
  4.  Jesus' Coming as a Thief in View of Abounding Lawlessness and a Great Apostasy - Rev. A. Lanning
  5. The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 - Prof. D. Engelsma
  6.  Called to Live in the Expectation of a Final Judgment and in the Hope of Life Eternal - Rev. A. Lanning

Special Lecture -  Dispensationalism, J. N. Darby and Powerscourt - Rev. Angus Stewart

Special note: Links to daily pictures maybe found under the "Bulletins" tab (under "Current" menu) and in the "Sister Churches" folder.

And the speeches will also be made available shortly after the conference on Covenant PRC's website.


Covenant Reformed News - June 2016

Covenant Reformed News

June 2016  •  Volume XVI, Issue 2

Fearing Man and Forgetting God (3)

“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?” (Isa. 51:12-13).

Since the fall, fear is a part of human life in our disordered world for everybody, every day, in many different ways and to varying degrees. Scripture speaks of fear as especially involving the “heart.” “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear” (Ps. 27:3; cf. Deut. 20:3; 28:67; II Sam. 17:10; Isa. 7:4; 35:4). Since “out of it [i.e., the heart] are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23), we must keep it diligently from all misplaced fears. There are people who are, sadly, crippled by sinful fears. We need to get this issue of unbelieving fear straight, for expelling it is a vital part of Christian godliness and a major theme in the Bible.

In our day, the fear of man is practically institutionalized in the form of political correctness (PC). PC is against the freedom to witness boldly of Jesus Christ in all spheres according to the full revelation of His Word. PC is the fear of man writ large. PC is the fear of offending man with the gospel, and it encourages people to get offended very easily. PC involves the fear of law cases (and being sued) and the fear of losing your job or business for the sake of the truth, especially when Scripture opposes the secularist ideology and the popular sins of the day. PC, to use the language of Isaiah 29:21, “make[s] a man an offender for a word.”

“The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Prov. 28:25). The one whom you fear is your master, the one who controls you. Through embracing PC, one becomes a creature, and even a slave, of the anti-Christian elite. In the language of the book of Isaiah, one becomes a citizen and devotee of Babylon. Think of how awful it would be to have people with this carnal mind as ministers, elders, deacons and members of the church institute! Yet this is happening in more and more places, sadly.

First, in order to keep His people from fearing man and forgetting Him, Jehovah reminds us of His work as the Creator of the universe: “And forgettest the Lord ... that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth” (Isa. 51:13).

The Babylonians stretched out their empire in the Middle East (in accordance with God’s eternal decree) but Jehovah stretched out the entire heavens. Soon He would roll back their empire! The Babylonians laid the foundations of their transient empire (in God’s sovereign province) but the Lord laid the foundations of the whole earth! In little time, the Almighty would smash the foundations of their kingdom!

Second, in order to keep His people from fearing man and forgetting Him, Jehovah reminds us of His work as the Creator of Israel: “And forgettest the Lord thy maker” (13). Here the Most High declares, “I made you My people in accordance with My unconditional election of you. Yet you forget Me! How could you?” Likewise, in the New Testament, God’s true church witnesses, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Third, in order to keep His people from fearing man and forgetting Him, Jehovah reminds us of His work as the Redeemer of Israel: “But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name” (Isa. 51:15). The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob divided the Red Sea so that His ransomed people could pass through safely, whereas the Egyptians were drowned by the roaring waves. In answer to the prayers of the spiritual Israelites (9-10), Jehovah would redeem Israel from the Babylonian captivity, just as He did from the bondage of Egypt.

The result is described figuratively: “The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail” (14). The full, spiritual, gospel reality of this is redemption from the bondage of sin, Satan, death and hell through Christ’s blood. We must not be like foolish Israel in fearing man and forgetting God given the greatness of the Lord Jesus and His ransom!

All by themselves, the words of this article and those in the previous two issues will not enable us to remember the Lord our God or strengthen us against the fear of man. The great truths of God’s glorious names, His creation of heaven and earth, and His formation and redemption of the church will not console us apart from the glorious, inward work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ brings God’s Word to our hearts with power: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you” (12).

Our heavenly Father commissions true preachers of the gospel with these words, and the Spirit blesses His elect, according to His eternal purpose: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (40:1-2; cf. 61:2).

When Jehovah says emphatically, “I, even I, am he that comforteth you” (51:12), it is as if He is asking us, “Do you really think that I, the great Creator and Redeemer of the church, could really be asleep or forget you?”

By now you should feel the force of our text: “who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor? … But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name” (12-13, 15)!  Rev. Stewart


“Listen and Wake Up!” 10 sermons on Isaiah 51:1-52:12, in a handsome box set (CD or DVD), is available from the CPRC Bookstore for £12/set (inc. P&P). Free videos and audios of these sermons can also be found on the CPRC website and YouTube site.

“Ye Shall Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit”

A lady in England asks, “Why does the apostle Peter, in Acts 2:38, use the future tense when he says, ‘ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost’? I am puzzled because we must already have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit in order to repent and trust in Christ ‘for the remission of sins.’”

The questioner adds this to her question: “It [i.e., the text] is used here [in my local church] to imply that no one is saved until they are baptized—that they have to do something to contribute to their salvation, a thoroughly Arminian idea. The pastor and other preachers can be Reformed in preaching to Christians but they become Arminian when addressing non-believers.”

Let us have the text, Acts 2:38, clearly before us: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Before I answer the lady’s question, I want to make a few points about the e-mail that accompanied her question. I have received many such e-mails and letters over the years, and heard similar sorry tales on our many visits with saints in the British Isles. When I hear accounts from them of this sort of distortion of the Scriptures, it always fills me with sorrow. My wife and I literally wept when we left homes where we ministered to a few saints who faced similar problems to those of the questioner. There is no church in their area where the gospel of sovereign grace is faithfully preached. In the local churches, Arminianism is rampant and the doctrines of sovereign grace are corrupted by unfaithful shepherds who shear the sheep rather than feed them. We frequently pray for these scattered sheep who know not where to turn to hear the glorious gospel of free grace.

Godly saints who love the Lord, confess that their salvation is a gift of grace, and rely wholly on their Saviour, Jesus Christ. But, in many areas, the sermons in the churches are a mixture of Arminianism and God’s grace. No wonder they are, as the questioner is, “puzzled” by the preaching. Men who claim to be ministers of God’s Word trouble the hearts and minds of godly saints with confusion and contradiction.

Pentecostals interpret such a passage as this as teaching the “second blessing.” Though a man or woman is saved, they claim that the believer needs more to attain the second outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will enable him or her to speak in tongues (i.e., utter gibberish), prophesy, perform miracles and experience the constant bliss of unclouded communion with God.

While certainly, in the apostolic era, when the Scriptures were not completed, God gave special signs to some by which signs the truth of the gospel was verified, that is not the reference here.

Peter simply uses a very common biblical expression that explains the power of faith and its relation to salvation. You will find the future tense used repeatedly in Scripture where faith is set forth as the instrument of receiving salvation.

First of all, one does not need to be baptized to be saved, contrary to the impression the lady received in her church (“Acts 2:38 ... is used to imply that no one is saved until they are baptized”).

If one does require baptism to be saved, unborn babies cannot be regenerated and infants dying in infancy, even though born of believing parents, cannot be saved (contra Luke 1:15, 44; Canons I:17). If a minister preaches that baptism saves, then he has adopted the Roman Catholic and the “high church” Anglican heresy of baptismal regeneration.

However, I do not think that the people to whom the lady refers actually hold this. From her correspondence, it appears to me that their error springs from a more Baptist and Arminian approach to the text: baptism as a work that we do that adds or contributes to our salvation.

Second, Peter is using here the common expressions of Scripture to define the relation between faith and our conscious experience of that salvation. One can find instances of this throughout Scripture. God sovereignly begins the work of salvation in the hearts of the elect. This is regeneration, and God gives the gift of faith in regeneration.

But the efficacious calling is a part of salvation. This is the reference in the text, for Peter is preaching and God uses the external call in working His internal call in the hearts of His elect. By that sweet and irresistible call, God brings His people to conscious faith in Christ as He is set forth in the gospel. That gift of faith brings the child of God to the cross and Christ crucified, in whom our salvation is perfect and complete. By faith in Christ, we come to repentance and the assurance of our salvation, through the Holy Spirit.

The call of the gospel, heard in the preaching, demands faith in Christ from all who hear. The wicked refuse and are damned (John 12:48). God, by His Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, works faith in the elect so that they believe and are saved. Always “it is God which worketh in [us] both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Anything else is a damnable lie (Gal. 1:6-9).

Why do preachers not preach this simple and God-glorifying gospel? That way, they will not puzzle and disturb Christ’s saints but comfort and edify them! Prof. Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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British Reformed Fellowship Family Conference

16-23 July, 2016

at Castlewellan Conference Centre
N. Ireland

"Behold, I Come Quickly:" The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End

Prof. D. Engelsma, USA
Rev. A. Lanning, Singapore

Day visitors welcome!
More information available at

The Work of the Holy Spirit

by David J. Engelsma & Herman Hanko
(180 pp, softback)

This delightful book explains the Person and outpouring of the blessed Holy Spirit of truth and His role in the covenant of grace, the church and the believer's assurance. The two appendices expound two fascinating texts on the Holy Ghost: John 7:37-39 and Revelation 22:17.

£5.50 (inc. P&P)

Order from the CPRC Bookstore
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851.
Or order this on-line from the
CPRC Bookstore.

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.” Thank you!


Covenant PRC Newsletter - June 2016

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church Ballymena, NI
16 June, 2016

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

New Members 

baby 2016 1

The youngest CPRC member is now Keagan Jude Hall, born to Philip and Susan (8 May) and baptized on 22 May.  Though his grandmother, Marilyn Adams (First PRC), was over in Northern Ireland, her return flight was already booked for the day before Keagan’s birth.  Babies are very hard to schedule for!

Last Lord’s Day, Marina and Helen Mawhinney were received into membership (12 June).  These two ladies are the wives of two brothers:  Willie John and Ivan (respectively), who joined us three years before (16 June, 2013).  How often it is that enthusiastic church members are used by God to bring others into the congregation (cf. John 1:40-42)!

couples joined 2016

These recent additions mean that the CPRC now consists of 16 families, 37 communicant members, 14 baptized members, and 51 total members.  This is the largest we have ever been, though we are still a relatively small church. Our numerical growth has been slow but steady, with three steps forward and two (or two and a half) steps back.  Our testimony is that the Lord is faithful and that Jesus Christ alone builds His church.  

Family visitation began (9 May) after the end of the church “season,” concluding with Rev. McGeown of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF) when he was in Northern Ireland, and Hilary and Timothy Spence, after he returned to Northern Ireland from his first year’s study at Cardiff University in S. Wales (8 June).  In my fifteen years as minister in the CPRC, this year had the most visits (25) and was the most encouraging in terms of the spiritual condition and unity of the congregation.


Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place on Monday, 30 May.  Excellent reports were given by Stephen Murray (audio-visual), Julian Kennedy (financial), and Rev. McGeown (LRF), and I gave a presentation under the theme of “Progress.”  The AGM is always a good night of fellowship, and it helps inform the members of the various aspects of the work of the church, as well as being one way to provide accountability and opportunities to ask questions.  

The last financial year saw some very large one-off expenditures:  refurbishing two manse bathrooms (much needed after some 45 years), installing solar panels (on the roofs of the church building and the manse), and setting up a pension for the minister (required by the civil government).  Yet, by God’s grace, the offerings and donations were so good that our bank balance is still healthy.  

In the last year, our best-selling Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) books were (in order): In The Beginning God by Homer C. Hoeksema, Gottschalk: Servant of God by Connie Meyer, Faith Made Perfect by Prof. Hanko, Saved by Grace by Prof. Cammenga and Rev. Ron Hanko, and Doctrine According to Godliness by Rev. Hanko.  The other titles in the top ten were the five British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) books by Profs. Engelsma and Hanko: The Reformed Worldview, Keeping God’s Covenant, The Work of the Holy Spirit, The Five Points of Calvinism, and Ye Are My Witnesses (  

Our most popular sermon download in January - May, 2016 was “Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism” (Belgic Confession 16)!  The remainder of the top ten were (in order): “What Sort of a Man Is This Levite?” (Judges 19:1-21; the first in a sermon series on “The Outrage in Gibeah”); “The Psalms Versus Common Grace” (a 2007 South Wales lecture); “Five Attacks on the Holiness of the Church” (Belgic Confession 27); “Outside the Church No Salvation— Historical Teaching” (Belgic Confession 28); “Be Strong and Very Courageous” (Josh. 1:6-9; a sermon at confession of faith); “The Image of God” (a 2016 South Wales lecture); “Calvin on Justification” (a 2009 conference speech in Grand Rapids); “The Real St. Patrick” (a 2003 lecture in Northern Ireland); and “Why Heidelberg Catechism Preaching?” (a sermon on Lord’s Day 1 by Rev. McGeown). 

In 2015, we averaged a healthy 1,610 daily visitors on the written pages of our website (excluding the audios). The top ten countries on our main website ( so far in 2016 are (in order): USA, China, Indonesia, Brazil, UK, Peru, Italy, Germany, Russia, and Columbia. 

Our top countries not only reflect their populations, the number of their professing Christians, and internet usage but there is also a correlation with the number of articles we have in their languages:  536 Italian, 448 Portuguese (Brazil), 156 Hungarian, 154 German, 152 Spanish (Peru and Columbia), 138 Afrikaans, 125 Indonesian and 61 Russian. We now have a total of 2,324 translations on our website (  


Two new sermon box sets have been produced: “God’s Attributes of Goodness” (treating His long-suffering, grace, mercy, and love) and “Our Wise, True, Holy and Righteous God!” (covering four more divine perfections), bringing our total to 64 box sets of CDs and DVDs (  We recently produced our first audio-visual catalogue, which also includes our free pamphlets.  The box sets are classified in five categories: “Attributes of God,” “Old Testament,” “New Testament,” “Belgic Confession Classes,” and “Conferences.”  Hundreds of copies of this hardcopy catalogue will be mailed out with the next Covenant Reformed News and distributed by other means, D.V. 

The English Churchman carried a fine review of Gottschalk:  Servant of God (15 & 22 April), which brought some sales.  The May Chatterbox, a local free newspaper, printed the half-page article that I sent them, setting forth the various meetings and activities of the CPRC.  The CPRC had a stall with books, box sets, and free pamphlets at the Ballymena Show (27-28 May).  Bit by bit, these means of witness help to make our congregation and its bookstore— hence, more importantly, our biblical and Reformed message—better known.  

As well as Marilyn Adams, other visitors from North America have included Becky Wierenga and Christine Tolsma of Lacombe, Alberta; Hank and Barb De Vries (Randolph PRC); and Jason Berkenpas (United Reformed Churches) and David Diemer (Heritage Netherlands Reformed Churches) from Grand Rapids, who stayed with us at the manse for a couple of days.  

4,500 copies of Be Ye Holy:  The Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification, the new BRF book, by Profs. Hanko and Engelsma have been printed in West Michigan and are due at the RFPA building today. The RFPA are kindly assisting us by seeing that the pre-ordered copies go to various bodies in our circles in the United States, Canada, Singapore, and the Philippines. Some of the saints coming from Michigan to the BRF Conference in Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland are graciously helping us by bringing copies to the CPRC. 

The BRF conference begins exactly one month from today (16-23 July). Rev. Lanning from Singapore and Prof. Engelsma are our two main speakers on the theme, “Behold, I Come Quickly:  The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End.”  Bookings are almost finalized and a good body of believers are coming.  We are expecting a blessed week with the rich exposition of the Word and the sweet communion of the saints!  

 May the Lord be with you all,
In Christ, Rev. and Mary Stewart

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