Covenant PRC Ballymena, Northern Ireland
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
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church Ballymena, NI
16 June, 2016
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
Covenant Reformed News
April 2016 • Volume XV, Issue 24
Fearing Man and Forgetting God (1)
“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).
The practical importance of these inspired words rests upon three facts. First, we are tempted to fear, to fear man. Second, we are sinfully inclined to forget, to forget God. Third, we are tempted to fear man and forget God because of Babylon. Over a century after Isaiah’s prophecy, Israel was taken captive to Babylon. We too live in the Babylon of this evil world, which in 1,001 ways encourages and commands us, “Fear man! Forget the Lord!”
We also need to understand that the verses quoted above constitute part of Jehovah’s response to Israel’s earnest prayer for God to “awake” and wield His mighty arm to redeem His people, as He did when He destroyed the Egyptians at the Red Sea (9-10). Not only does Jehovah promise to ransom His beloved church (11) but He also addresses their fears. Our gracious Father is very practical here, showing His care for His children. He knows that His people’s request for deliverance is mixed with some sinful fear of man, for He sees the hearts of all.
Thus God provides Israel with a twofold comfort. First, He promises to redeem them (a direct answer to their stated request). Second, He addresses their fears (an important response to their unstated struggle).
Various lessons arise out of this for us today. We see here that true believers can and do struggle with the fear of man, to varying degrees and at certain times. You must not think like this: “There is some fear of man in my heart. Therefore, I am not a Christian.” Just look at Israel here. In Isaiah 51, the saints make a powerful and persuasive prayer (9-10), yet God detects some unbelieving fears in their hearts (12-13).
We also learn from this passage that our prayers, even godly prayers, may arise in connection with our fears. So do not think like this either: “There is some sinful fear in my heart. Therefore, God will not hear my prayers.” For what do we learn regarding Israel in Isaiah 51? That Jehovah answered their requests (11-16), despite the fact that their prayers were mixed with some fear of man.
All this encourages us to go to our heavenly Father when we are troubled and fearful. Jehovah alerts Israel to her fears and helps her against them (7-8). Israel prays for redemption (9-10). God promises to ransom her (11) and reasons with her about her fears (12-13). He works in a similar fashion with us too!
When we are afraid or anxious, we must not be reticent in approaching His face or in admitting our unbelieving fears to Him (and seeking His forgiveness and strength to overcome our fears). By His grace, He pardons us and sanctifies us and comforts us. From your reading, singing and meditating upon the Psalms, you know of the many times the Psalmist did this and found relief in his God. We must heed the blessed exhortation: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16)!
It is easy to understand how the Jews were tempted to fear ancient Babylon. Theirs was the army that destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. Babylon was possessed of military power, an imposing legal system and hugely impressive buildings. Babylon was confident in, and proud of, its achievements and abilities. This ethos was evident throughout its mighty empire. This is not unlike the modern Babylon of the world in our own day!
Yet the prophet’s question to Israel is devastating: “who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die” (Isa. 51:12)? For all his pomp, man, even at his best and his most powerful, is mortal. All men have died or are going to die. The great Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has mouldered for over 2,500 years. Likewise, the grave awaits all those who frame ungodly laws to advance their sins and their power. Even the richest and most outwardly prosperous children of Adam are subject to weakness and sickness, pain and ageing—the precursors of death and the everlasting hell that awaits all those who remain impenitent in their sins, and do not seek mercy and forgiveness in the cross of Christ alone.
From the playground bullies to the leaders of our age who misrepresent or mock the Christian faith, and all the wicked who are so highly praised and extolled in our day, as well as the ungodly legislators and rulers of our wicked world—all are mortal and will one day have to stand before the glory of God manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be judged for every thought, word and deed.
Isaiah 51:12 adds that they “shall be made as grass.” The ungodly are fragile and transient, like grass which is cut down and withers away in the desert heat (Ps. 90:5-6), unlike the Word of our God which stands for ever (Isa. 40:6-8).
This is man, fallen and frail man, who is a “son of man” (51:12), just like his father and his father before him: weak, mortal and under God’s wrath. So do not fear him, even if he is rich, attractive and powerful. “Fear God” instead (Ecc. 12:13)! Rev. Angus 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.
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
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
13 April, 2016
Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,
The CPRC catechism season ended recently (Monday, 4 April) with tests for most of the twelve students. The children did well, with the encouragement and help of their parents.
After 44 classes over almost a one-year period (literally 364 days), we finished our Tuesday morning classes on Hosea. As well as introducing the prophet and his background in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, we covered his teaching on harlotry, children, agriculture, earlier Old Testament history, Jehovah's law, the covenant, and the knowledge of God. Our new subject is the Mosaic law in Exodus-Deuteronomy, with our first few classes considering the food laws.
Our Wednesday night doctrine class on Belgic Confession 27, after detailed study of the church's four attributes of unity, catholicity, holiness, and apostolicity, covered the election and gathering of the church in our last two meetings. Tonight, we will focus on the preservation of the church. These classes also attract a lot of interest by way of the audios on-line. When we first started our studies on the Belgic Confession, almost five years ago, we did not receive that many hits. Now they are regularly among our most listened to audios (www.cprf. co.uk/audio/belgicconfessionclass.htm).
After the 11-sermon series on the three chapters of the ninth minor prophet, “Zephaniah and the Day of the Lord,” we are now on “God's Communicable Attributes.” We have admired His longsuffering, grace, mercy, love, and wisdom. This Lord's Day, we will rejoice in Jehovah's righteousness, D.V.
“Our Identity in Christ” was the subject of the last special lecture in the CPRC (Friday, 18 March) (www.cprf.co.uk/audio.htm#identity). Despite paid advertisements in a local paper, a trailer after our Reformed Witness Hour broadcast, an article in the Ballymena Guardian (17 March), the distribution of hundreds of flyers in the area, etc., it was the worst attendance for any speech in the six years we have been in our church building! We generally find that we have larger audiences for lectures which are more distinctive and/or have an historical aspect.
The day before this lecture, the CPRC had a stall at the annual St. Patrick's Day climb at Mount Slemish, a few miles east of Ballymena. Julian Kennedy, Tommy Duncan, and Marco Barone helped distribute Christian tracts to the hikers.
Last week, we were in South Wales for a speech on “Who Is in the Image of God?” (7 April). Discussions with the saints afterwards were good and the lecture is now on-line (www.cprf.co.uk/audio. htm#identity). As a follow-up, I am planning on “Are Unbelievers in the Image of God?” as the title for the next speech in S. Wales. The false notion that everybody is in God's image is being used to proclaim a love and desire of God for the salvation of all men absolutely, and/or to deny total depravity and eternal punishment, and/or to promote homosexuality and ecumenism with false churches and pagan reli-gions. The imago dei is an important subject also because of the errors involving it!
The CPRC uses the Internet in its witnessing. We are getting almost 2,000 people every day on our main website (www.cprc.co.uk) for written materials. This figure excludes those who listen to our many on-line audios.
The last two months saw the addition of 22 translations to our website (www.cprf.co. uk/languages.htm): 10 Hungarian (by our two trans-lators from Hungary, one of whom, Balint, is coming to this summer's conference in Northern Ireland with his wife, Kati); 5 Czech (by a new translator, Rev. Petr Kulik, who got in touch with us through ordering Herman Hoeksema's Reformed Dogmatics); 3 Spanish (chapters from Rev. Ron Hanko's Doctrine According to Godliness); 2 Italian (Covenant Reformed News articles); and 2 Indonesian (including Prof. Engelsma's pamphlet, “As a Father Pitieth His Children: Reformed Child-Rearing”).
There are now 1,800 videos on our YouTube page (www.youtube.com/user/CPRCNI), thanks to the many hours of work by Stephen Murray putting them on-line. Soon we should reach 200,000 views. The number of people joining us for the live webcasting of our Sunday services and lectures is also growing slowly (www.cprf.co.uk/live.html).
Those of you who have made it to the United Kingdom for all but the most recent British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) conferences will have met Michael Kimmitt. Michael has been a major part of the BRF from its earliest days and served as editor of the British Reformed Journal (BRJ) before Rev. McGeown. Our brother went to be with the Lord (13 February), so Mary and I flew over to North Wales to attend his funeral. The next BRJ will contain a memorial to Michael written by another former BRJ editor, Lind-say Williams.
Chester Mansona of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF) has recently added about 15 articles from past issues of the BRJ to the BRF website (www.britishreformed.org). New subscribers are al-ways welcome.
The new BRF book, Be Ye Holy: The Reformed Truth of Sanctification, consisting of the speeches at the last BRF conference, is currently being formatted and proofed for publication in the next few months. Any PR church or evangelism committee who would be interested in pre-ordering significant numbers of the book will be offered the work at cost price. Something to bear in mind! I will be sending an e-mail about this to the relevant parties in some weeks' time when we have more facts and figures available, D.V.
Meanwhile, the BRF has been placing advertising, for both the 2016 BRF conference in Northern Ireland on “Behold, I Come Quickly: The Reformed Biblical Truth of the End” and the BRJ, in various British Christian papers. Sadly, the Evangelical Times refused to accept our paid ad for the BRJ and declared that they will no longer accept ads from the BRF or the CPRC. The reason? Because we do not believe that the ever-blessed and omnipotent God earnestly desires to save the reprobate! Faithful creedal Reformed bodies who hold the classic Augustinian position on Jehovah's simplicity and immutability are outside the pale as if they were hyper-Calvinists! Evangelicalism is declining in the UK in numbers, doctrine, and conviction, yet one of the few things they can reject is the truth of God's absolute sovereignty!
Planning for the BRF conference this summer (16-23 July) in Castlewellan Castle is progressing well (http://brfconference.weebly.com). On Monday, 28 March, when driving back after a Lord's Day with the saints in the LRF, Mary and I stopped in at Trim, northwest of Dublin. Though it had come highly recommended, we had not actually checked out this lovely town and its 800-year-old Norman castle before. We were very impressed. It will make an excellent part of one of the conference's two day trips! We are looking forward to seeing both familiar and new faces at the conference in July.
May the Lord be with you all!
Rev. and Mary Stewart
- Covenant Reformed News - February 2016
- Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - February 2016
- Covenant Reformed News - January 2016
- Covenant Reformed News - December 2015
- Covenant PRC-NI Newsletter - December 2015
- Latest Issue of Covenant Reformed News - November 2015
- Latest Covenant PRC, N.Ireland Newsletter - October 2015
- Covenant Reformed News - October 2015