83 Clarence Street,
Ballymena BT42 3NR, 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
16 February, 2017
Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,
Rev. and Sue VanOverloop (Grace PRC) and Sid and Lisa Miedema (Byron Center PRC) stayed with us at the CPRC manse from Friday 12-Saturday 21 January. It is especially enjoyable when our annual church visitors come with their wives!
As well as preaching at both Lord’s Day services, Pastor VanOverloop led a Tuesday morning Bible study on “Paul’s Prayers for the Ephesians” and gave a Wednesday night lecture on “Content With Who I Am in Christ.” The Ballymena Guardian and the Belfast News Letter carried articles promoting this speech. The congregation and visitors appreciated Rev. VanOverloop’s ministry.
Building the wall in Nehemiah 3 was the theme of this year’s official church visitation with the CPRC Council (Monday, 16 January). What a great example to the church of all ages: In Nehemiah’s day, everyone joined in the work despite the opposition of the ungodly!
Our congregational dinner in the Ross Park Hotel was a good night of fellowship (Friday, 20 January). Our thanks to William Graham for his fine work as the after-dinner quizmaster. Besides our four church visitors, most of the congregation, and a good number of friends, our nephew Travis Hanko (Grace PRC) was also present at the dinner, having flown to Northern Ireland for a couple of days during a university course in the Netherlands.
Alicia Prins and Dana VanDyke (Trinity PRC) were in Northern Ireland in late December, staying with David and Kirstin Crossett. Our thanks to them and the church visitors for bringing over a good number of books for our church.
The CPRC Bookstore has been getting out a lot of RFPA literature of late, including Prof. Hanko’s excellent book, Corrupting the Word of God: The History of the Well-Meant Offer.
Our current bestseller is Rev. McGeown’s Called to Watch for Christ’s Return (www.cprf.co.uk/bookstore/ calledtowatch.html). Apart from our BRF Conference books, which we sell at a very low cost, no other book has sold so many copies in such a relatively short period.
Our biggest difficulty lies in keeping up a stock of them through couriers travelling from Grand Rapids to the CPRC or the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF). For the present, I am holding off sending articles on Called to Watch for Christ’s Return to the Ballymena press because we are running low.
Three weeks ago, I e-mailed a piece to newspapers in the Cookstown area of Northern Ireland, where Pastor McGeown was brought up and where most of his family live. The Mid-Ulster Mail put it on their website and linked to it from their Facebook account. They also published it in full and prominently in their weekly printed version, along with two photos of the author and his book (2 February). This garnered more sales than any such article we have had published in any (secular) newspaper before. Hopefully, some of the new people reading this superb book on Matthew 24-25 and the end times will develop a spiritual taste for the truth of the biblical and Reformed faith, and will want other materials from the CPRC Bookstore in the future.
The ministry of the blessed Word continues in the CPRC in various forms. On Tuesday mornings, we have been tracing the Old Testament’s teaching on holy wars from the Pentateuch through the historical books, especially Joshua and Judges.
We recently concluded six Wednesday night classes on “The Government of and Offices in the Church” (Belgic Confession 30). We refuted Charismaticism, Episcopalianism, and Anabaptism by insisting on only and all the three permanent, ordinary, and biblical church offices: pastors, elders, and deacons. On this scriptural basis, we then considered church office-bearers in connection with the Spirit of Christ, good order, and broader assemblies (www.cprf.co.uk/audio/belgic confessionclass.htm). It was good to have with us in the class two visitors from the Republic of Ireland, one from Co. Wexford and one from Co. Limerick, Colm Ring of the LRF.
Last Sunday's services included the 31st sermon on “The Life of Jacob,” the longest series I have preached (www.cprf.co.uk/ audio/OTseries.htm). Stephen Murray has already produced two of the three box sets on Jacob (CD or DVD), covering sermons 1-12 entitled “Jacob’s Birth, Blessing, and Young Family” (Gen. 25-31) and sermons 13-22 on “Jacob’s Enemies: Laban, Esau, and the Canaanites” (Gen. 31-35).
The last two months have been very quiet on the translation front, with just 10 added to our website: 5 Spanish, 2 Hungarian, 2 Indonesian, and 1 Portuguese (www.cprf.co.uk/languages.htm). However, we have also received our first ever subtitled video. Tibor Bognár, who was at the 2016 British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference, added Hungarian subtitles to a YouTube video of my sermon on “The Sovereignty of God (I).” This video is atop our special Hungarian page, which contains some 185 translations (www.cprf.co.uk/ languages/hungarian.htm).
With 2017 being the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation, the CPRC is delighted that Prof. Engelsma has agreed to come to Northern Ireland to give some speeches in October and early November, and to preach on three Lord’s Days. We are holding a mini-conference on Saturday, 21 October, DV, the week before the PR Seminary conference in Grand Rapids. This also means that I am released to preach for the LRF on Sundays 29 October and 5 November, when Rev. McGeown is to be in the US to speak at Reformation conferences in Michigan and Colorado, respectively.
May the Lord be with all His believing children, the children of the Reformation,
Rev. & Mary Stewart
In the last five issues of the Covenant Reformed News, we have been setting forth the Bible’s teaching concerning the divine attribute of longsuffering. Now we shall consider this perfection of God in connection with the impenitent wicked.
We start with the founder and first ruler of the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam I, whom Scripture repeatedly calls the man who “made Israel to sin” (e.g., I Kings 14:16; 15:26, 30, 34; 16:2, 26; 22:52; II Kings 3:3; 10:29; 13:2, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28). This wicked man rebelled against the house of David and, hence, against Jesus Christ, the sole king and head of the church, whom David typified. Jeroboam forsook Jerusalem (a picture of the true church), its temple (where Almighty God especially dwelt), its altar and sacrifices (which pointed to Christ’s satisfaction for sin) and the Aaronitic priesthood (which God had ordained). Instead, Jeroboam began a new dynasty over the northern tribes and established idolatrous shrines at Dan and Bethel, where non-Levitical priests offered sacrifices to the two golden calves that he had made, in keeping with his new religious calendar (I Kings 12:28-33).
Given the height of Jeroboam’s abominations, why did not the Holy One of Israel cut him off sooner? It was certainly not that there was any divine love for him!
One factor is that God willed the development of the false church in the Northern Kingdom over against the true church in the Southern Kingdom, also called Judah. This served to heighten the antithesis and to provide New Testament Christians with an Old Testament example of the true church and the false church existing side-by-side at the same time (Belgic Confession 29). Another reason is that Jeroboam had to live long enough to have a regenerate son, Abijah, of whom was “found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel” (I Kings 14:13).
Our second example is King Ahaz, ruler of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (rather than the Northern Kingdom of Israel, established by Jeroboam). You can read about Ahaz’s gross idolatry at God’s temple in Jerusalem in II Kings 16 and II Chronicles 28. Again the question arises, Why did God not slay him earlier? It was not that God was longsuffering towards him and desperately tried to convert him! Rather, Ahaz must be succeeded by the son of his own loins, the pious Hezekiah, who would begin cleansing the pollutions of the temple on the very first day of the first month of the first year of his reign (II Chron. 29:3, 17).
Our third individual is found in the New Testament Scriptures: Jezebel, that wicked woman in the church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29). She was a false prophetess, who promoted fornication and idolatry in the church, which she defended by her antinomianism. Her deceitful claim was that, unless one knows “the depths of Satan,” one can never fully appreciate the greatness of God’s rich grace of forgiveness (24)!
Concerning Jezebel, Christ declared, “I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not” (21). Was this because God loved her and was longsuffering to her and her reprobate followers? No! The Lord Jesus promised to “cast her into a bed [of sickness]” (22), adding, “I will kill her children with death,” so that “all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts” (23).
Turning from these three individuals (Jeroboam, Ahaz and the prophetess Jezebel), we will next consider a group of people: the false teachers mentioned in II Peter 2 and Jude. Do either of these holy men speak of those reprobate church leaders (Jude 4) as the recipients of God’s longsuffering or grace? No! Instead, they stress the certainty of their punishment (II Pet. 2:1, 3-6, 9, 12-13, 17; Jude 5-7, 13-15). God will execute His severe judgment upon these false teachers in accordance with His eternal plan! As Moses says, “their foot shall slide in due time” (Deut. 32:35).
Our last biblical example is Judas, whose eternal reprobation is underscored by Scripture (John 6:64, 70-71; 13:18, 21, 26-27; 17:12). Judas was a thief; he had the bag and was pilfering all along (John 12:6; 13:29)! So why did God not cast him into hell even then? First, Judas’ betrayal of Christ was predicted in the Old Testament (Ps. 41:9; 55:12-14, 20-21; 109:6ff.) and so in the providence of God this had to come to pass. Second, God had appointed Judas’ treachery as a crucial part of the way in which the Lord Jesus would go to the cross, where He would die for all the sins of His people.
Christ did not speak of any divine love or longsuffering for Judas that desired his salvation. Instead, the Son of God proclaimed regarding the traitor, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24). This is true of all who die in impenitence. All those in hell wish that they had never existed!
Christ declared this judgment upon Judas (and all who lead others into sin): “It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:1-2; cf. Matt. 18:6; Mark 9:42).
God does not immediately cut off the reprobate not because He is longsuffering to them but because, in His inscrutable justice, He is giving them more time and opportunity to heap up wrath unto themselves (Rom. 2:5). Jehovah’s purpose with the impenitent ungodly is “to shew his wrath, and to make his power known” (9:22).
Whereas God puts up with or forbears or “endure[s] … the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” He does this “with much longsuffering” towards His elect “that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (22-24). Reprobation and forbearance serve God’s election and longsuffering towards His beloved people in Jesus Christ! Rev. Angus Stewart
16 December, 2016
Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,
2016 marked the 400th anniversary of the birth of John Owen (1616-1683), perhaps the greatest theologian ever produced in the British Isles. His excellent book, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ,” is the most significant treatise in the history of the Christian church on the particularity of our Lord's atonement. Interestingly, while refuting Arminianism and Amyraldianism on the cross, Owen also superbly confounds their arguments for a desire of God to save the reprobate.
Since we typically choose a historical subject for the annual Reformation Day lecture in the CPRC, I spoke on “John Owen and the Death of Christ” (28 October), summarizing Owen's eventful ministry and setting forth his arguments for Christ's laying down His life for His elect sheep alone. We advertised this meeting through articles placed in Chatterbox (October) and the Ballymena Guardian (27 October), a trailer after our Sunday morning Reformed Witness Hour broadcast, flyers, etc.
We used similar methods, including a piece in the Portadown Times, to get the word out when this speech was given in Portadown (11 November), about an hour south of Ballymena. Though a number of people had told us that they were planning to attend, they and others were put off by a day of very heavy rain. Though they were few, the saints listened attentively and were encouraged by the truth of Christ's efficacious redemption.
The lecture on “John Owen and the Death of Christ” was given for the third time in South Wales (8 December). Earlier that day, Mary and I made three visits with some of the Lord's people—a young family, an elderly couple, and a young man—making the flight to mainland Britain even more worthwhile.
After the third delivery of the speech, we put it on-line on audio ( www.cprc. co.uk/owenlecture2.mp3 ) and video, along with the slides (www.youtube.com/watch? v=7avtiihk_xw ). Already a lot more people have watched or listened to the lecture on the internet than were at all of the three meetings!
Our Tuesday morning classes this year have been dealing with the Old Testament law. Recently, we treated the ashes of the red heifer (Num. 19) which were used in the Mosaic dispensation to cleanse those who had been in contact with a dead human body—the worst form of ceremonial uncleanness! This is the powerful New Testament argument from the lesser to the greater: “if...the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14).
Belgic Confession 29, “The Marks of the True Church, and Wherein She Differs From the False Church,” was the subject of nine Wednesday night classes in the CPRC. We began with the unavoidability of a test for churches and our calling in this regard, before looking at each of the three marks (faithfulness in preaching, sacramental administration, and church discipline) in turn and collectively. After treating the marks of a true church, we looked at the marks of a true Christian and the marks of a false church. Such teaching is so important in our day! One visitor to our classes went through seminary training for the ministry and he said that he had never even heard of the three marks! Many professing believers have little or no idea as to what they should be looking for in a church and so are confused or easily led astray. These nine CDs on “The Marks of the True Church” are the latest CPRC box set. The recordings of our Belgic Confession classes are the most listened to audios on our website ( www.cprf.co.uk/audio/belgicconfessionclass.htm ).
We have been enjoying “The Life of Jacob” in the book of Genesis over the last few months (www.cprf.co.uk/audio/ OTseries.htm). The patriarch has now fled from Haran, wrestled with Christ at Peniel, embraced his formerly murderous twin, experienced the shame of Shechem, returned to Bethel, and been bereaved of three of his closest friends (Gen. 31-35). Now, with the installation of a hearing loop in our sanctuary, any physical impediment to hearing the Word of God has been lessened!
We have found Facebook to be a free and helpful means to circulate our online material, whether written or on audio or video. In the last few weeks, the CPRC Facebook page has increased by some 28% ( www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC ) and it has been used to gain about 120 new subscribers to the Covenant Reformed News.
By God's rich grace, the congregation is enjoying unity and fellowship with God. We are very thankful for the support we receive from all of you in the Protestant Reformed Churches and, indeed, from other saints around the world. Below are just two of many such encouragements:
“We’ve enjoyed a couple of your live [Sunday evening] services which we watch here at noon [ www.cprf.co.uk/live.html ]. The a cappella psalm singing is particularly beautiful in worship. The sermons on Colossians 2 are well received and we are learning much from them. The learning curve for Reformed theology is so large that I think sometimes my brain will melt...”—Minnesota, USA
“As an Augustinian Calvinist, but a ‘poor lonesome Calvinist’ in a country dominated by apostasy in the major so-called Protestant churches and, of course, in the ‘Satan synagogue’ (the Roman Church) and atheism in the governing bodies, I am very interested by the CPRC website. I should be glad if I could receive your Covenant Reformed News.”—France
The English Churchman (14 & 21 October) carried a report on this summer's British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) conference (http://britishreformed.org). The Belfast News Letter published a letter I sent in explaining that the false ecumenism of the Lutheran World Federation with the Church of Rome is due to the awful apostasy of the former and not the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, as a Roman priest had claimed (www.cprf.co.uk/articles/lutheransandrome.html)!
The last two months have been something of a lean period with regard to new translations on the CPRC website with just 12 additions: 6 Hungarian, 3 Marathi (ecumenical creeds in this Indian language), 2 Portuguese, and 1 Spanish. However, this section of our website is still growing and gets a lot of hits (www.cprf.co. uk/languages.htm).
Our thanks to all those who send us cards or letters! Because our work already includes a lot of mailing, I trust that you will all understand that we are unable to send replies and that you will be satisfied with this note of appreciation.
This is the confession of the child of God: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Ps. 23:6). May the Lord be with you all in 2017!
Pastor and Mary Stewart