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
Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,
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!
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.
Several 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 (www.youtube. 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. britishreformed.org).
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. co.uk/languages.htm), 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!
Rev. and Mary Stewart
Covenant Reformed News
July 2016 • Volume XVI, Issue 3
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: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851
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:
Dates: 16-23 July 2016
Venue: Castlewellan Castle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
Provisional Information on speeches and sermons:
Six Main Speeches
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.
Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,
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)!
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 (www.cprf.co.uk/bookstore.htm).
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 (www.cprc.co.uk) 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 (www.cprf.co.uk/languages.htm).
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 (www.cprf.co.uk/audio/boxsets.htm). 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