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500 years (1517-2017)

The Protestant Reformation

Special Anniversary Issue


90 years (1927-2017)
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church
The Evangelical Presbyterian is published quarterly by the Presbytery
of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

For more information on the Evangelical Presbyterian Church,
including details of our various congregations, please visit our
denominational website at

The views expressed are those of the editor and contributors and 03
are understood to reflect generally the theological position of the
Evangelical Presbyterian Church, unless otherwise stated. First Word
Unsigned articles are by the editor. 04
Articles Martin Luther - His Life and Work
The editor is willing to accept articles for publication on the
understanding that the submission of an article does not guarantee 08
its publication. Contributors should recognise that all articles are also
liable to editing and alteration without consultation.
The Luther Timeline
No material can be published unless the full name and postal address 09
of the contributor is supplied. The preferred method of submission is
electronically as a Word document. Five Truths that Shook the World
Theme verses
Philippians 1:9-11 The 95 Theses
Editor 14
Andy Hambleton
37a Largy Road,
Reformation: Overview and Legacy
Crumlin 17
BT29 4RN
Quotations from Luther
Phone: 07828 726130
Email: 18
Sub Editors:
Marcus Hobson 20
Jeff Ballantine
Heather Watson Luther on Justification
Book Reviews
The Importance of Justification by Fai th
Colin Campbell 23
The Evangelical Book Shop The 1927 Stand
Belfast 24
Five Years Ago and Today
Phone 028 9032 0529
Email: 26
Website: When is Separation a Necessary Duty?
Subscriptions 2017 28
Collected: 6-00
By post inside the UK: 10-00 A Personal Reflection
By post outside the UK: 22-00
Enquiries to the Evangelical Book Shop Added to the Church
Finance 35
Anyone wishing to help the churchs work may send their gift to the
Finance Committee C/O: Some 1927 Lessons
Rev J S Roger
16 Huntingdale The Evangelical Book Shop
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donations. Please ask for details. 40
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by Wallace Thompson, Moderator of Presbytery

In Northern Ireland, we are in a decade of centenaries.

We dont live in the past, but it is important to
remember. Indeed, collective remembrance features
much in the bible.

This year as a church, we mark two very significant

spiritual anniversaries. Neither is a centenary, but
both are of considerable historical and contemporary
significance, and it is imperative that we not only mark
them but seek to deepen and expand our understanding Yes, 1517 and 1927 were very different. However,
of them. I refer, of course, to the 500th anniversary of as we examine them, we will conclude that they have
the start of the Reformation and, of particular relevance far more in common than that which separates them.
to our own denomination, the 90th anniversary of the Both stemmed from the growth of spiritual error and
heresy trial and the birth of what was to become the darkness. Both were battles for the truth of Gods word
Evangelical Presbyterian Church. against the enemies of that word. In dealing with the
issues that confronted them, the reformers and our
I am delighted to have been asked to contribute to this founding fathers repeatedly asked the question, What
special edition of the magazine which includes a series saith the Scripture? (Romans 4.3). That was the test.
of articles on both events.
In the case of the Reformation, the church had
In many ways, the two events are quite distinct. become deeply and fundamentally poisoned by the
They occurred in different parts of the world and are encroachment of a wide variety of heresies over many
separated by 410 years. In terms of scale and impact, it centuries. Martin Luther grew up in this thick darkness
might seem that they have little in common. and was immersed in a religion of works which offered
him no hope. When the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to
The Reformation started in medieval Germany in 1517 see the glory of the Gospel, Luther became a Christian
when God moved in the life of Martin Luther, and it and, for the rest of his life, he dedicated himself to the
subsequently spread throughout Europe and beyond. Its defence and proclamation of the word of God.
effect was immense, radical and widespread. It changed
the spiritual, political, cultural and social landscape to In the years leading up to 1927, Ulster had been blessed
such a degree that historians regard it as synonymous by the preaching of W P Nicholson, but it became clear
with the birth of modern Europe. It is not surprising, to faithful and godly men such as Rev. James Hunter
therefore, that the 500th anniversary has been the and W J Grier that doctrinal error was creeping into the
subject of much interest and debate. Historians and theological college of the Irish Presbyterian Church.
theologians have opined at length. There have already They sounded the alarm and, like Luther, their aim
been some excellent radio and TV programmes as well was to defend and proclaim the inerrant word of God,
as a plethora of new books on Luther. Even the Pope whatever the cost. Martin Luther and our founding
has expressed great interest in the Reformation. And, fathers loved the word, they loved the person and work
of course, Luther was the subject of our own Sunday of the Lord Jesus Christ and they proclaimed him as the
School project! only saviour of sinners.

By contrast with Luther and 1517, the events of 1927 in As we reflect upon these anniversaries, let us give
Belfast might seem localised and fairly minor. They did thanks to Almighty God for those who took their stand
not have the impact of the Reformation, and the main in their day. Through that stand, error was challenged
characters and key issues would not be that well known by truth, and darkness by light.
beyond our own church circles. While there are many
books on the Reformation, there is a paucity of literature We live in days when error and darkness appear to be
on 1927. It features in some academic histories, but it in the ascendancy. In modern secular society, issues of
has only been with the publication of Ernest Browns doctrine and theology are dismissed as irrelevant, and it
excellent book By Honour and Dishonour that we have is easy for heresy to develop and grow. It is incumbent
a detailed account of the heresy trial and the events upon us to take our stand. May we do so, For the
surrounding it. This book should be compulsory reading truths sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us
for all members of the EPC! for ever. (2 John 2).

An abridged version of the lecture given at the Shaftesbury Reformed Conference, Belfast 15 February 2017 by Gareth Burke

T heir Martin Luther figure has been such a success that Playmobil has declared it the fastest selling figurine ever! So who
is this man who so intrigues people over 500 years after his birth? After a biographical introduction, we will examine his
ministry and then his relevance for us today. The finer points of his theology we will leave to others.

Who was he?

Martin Luther was born on 10 November 1483 in Eisleben, Germany. When he was just weeks old the family moved to Mansfeld
where his father, Hans, worked in a mine and became a manager. Biographers are divided over whether his parents had genuine
faith in Christ, but they brought Martin up strictly he recalled numerous occasions when he was beaten for misdemeanours,
one of them for stealing a hazelnut, when his mother drew his blood!

Monastery Life
After early schooling Luther left home in 1501 for the University of Erfurt. His father had ambitions for him to qualify as a
lawyer and Martin took the preparatory General Arts curriculum. But in 1505 his life changed dramatically when he was struck
by a bolt of lightning during a thunderstorm on route to Erfurt. Fearful for his life he cried: Saint Anne, help me. I will become a
monk. He appears to have been wrestling with the question, How can I be right with God? which suggests that it was not the
thunderstorm that instigated his thoughts of monastery. In that age monasticism was seen as the way to heaven and a logical
step towards peace with God. As a boy at school in Magdeburg he had seen an altar piece depicting the church and its teaching
as a great ship:

Alone in the prow with the Holy Ghost hovering above them were the Pope, the cardinal and the bishops, while at the oars
along the sides of the ships were the priests and monks As for the laymen they were swimming in the water round the
ship; some were drowning; some were holding on to the ropes thrown by the monks (who out of pity made over to them
their own good works) and were hoping in this way to stay with the ship and so make heaven of it with the others.1

So, days after crying to the miners saint, he presented himself at the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. His father, with his
low view of monastic life, was enraged, and relationships between them were strained for many years. Luthers diligence in
monastic life undermined his health to the extent that he almost died. In 1507 he was ordained as a priest and when he was
celebrating his first mass he was shocked to find his father present. However this was nothing to his spiritual conflict. As he
came to the words in the introduction to the mass, we offer unto thee, the living, the true, the eternal God he felt an inner

At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror stricken. I thought Who am I that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my
hands to the divine Majesty? For I am but dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the one living, eternal and
true God.2

The University of Wittenberg and Conversion

In 1508 Luther moved to the University of Wittenberg, established in 1502 by Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. In the
providence of God the move brought him under the wing of Frederick who was very protective of his new University and very
impressed by his new controversial professor of theology. And it was there that he met the Vicar General of the Augustinian
Order, Johann von Staupitz. He encouraged Luther to preach regularly and gave him a bible with the advice, Let the study of the
Scriptures be your favourite occupation. So Luther studied the Scriptures with a new diligence, particularly Psalms and Romans.

Von Staupitz also sent him on an official visit to Rome in 1510. Steven Lawson remarks:

Luther hoped to find peace there but instead he discovered the gross abuses and masked hypocrisies of the priests.
He became disillusioned Yet worse, it was claimed that the Scala Sancta (the Holy Stairs), the very steps that Jesus had
descended from Pilates judgment hall, had been moved to Rome, and that God would forgive the sins of those who crawled
up the stairs on their knees, kissing each step. Luther dutifully climbed the stairs in the appointed manner But when I
came to the top step, the thought kept coming to me. Who knows whether this is true?3

The great turning point in his life, normally considered to be his conversion to Christ, came some years later in the tower room in
his Wittenberg home (the Augustinian monastery):

I greatly longed to understand Pauls Epistle to the Romans but always came to a standstill at that expression, the
righteousness of God because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the
guilty... At last I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that the just shall live by his faith. Then I
understood that the justice of God is that righteousness by which God, quite freely and in sheer mercy, justifies us through
faith... The whole of the Scripture took on a new meaning... so that this expression of Pauls became to me in very truth a
gate to heaven.4

Throughout his life he maintained a strong work ethic and in October 1516 he wrote:

I do almost nothing all day but write letters. I lecture in the cloister, read at meals, preach, direct the students studies,
supervise eleven monasteries, inspect the fish ponds at Leitzkau, settle the quarrel at Torgau, expound St Paul and the
Psalms and, as I said, see to my mail. Add to that the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. See how much
spare time I have!5

The 95 Theses
On top of it all Luther became embroiled in The Indulgence Controversy. The sacrament of penance was a church remedy for
sin. After contrition and confession came penance a punishment to atone in part for sin, but it could be part-remitted by the
purchase of an indulgence. By the 16th century indulgences could buy off years in purgatory not only for the purchaser but also
for deceased relatives or friends. In 1517 Pope Leo X authorised indulgences in Germany to fund the construction of St Peters
Basilica in Rome. Steven Lawson again:

The chief agent in the peddling of these indulgences was an itinerate Dominican named John Tetzel... As a crowd gathered,
Tetzel preached Do you not hear the voice of your wailing dead parents and others who say, Have mercy upon me, have
mercy upon me, because we are in severe punishment and pain... Open your ears... We created you, fed you, cared for
you and left you our temporal goods. Why are you so cruel and harsh that you do not want to save us, though it only takes a
little? You let us lie in flames so that only slowly do we come to the promised glory.6

Tetzel, with his famous jingle, As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs, brought Luthers
disillusionment with the Roman church to the boil. On 31 October 1517 he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church
in Wittenberg. The church door was often a notice board for issues for debate, but some of Luthers students used the new
printing press to create a wide circulation. The theses addressed indulgences, church abuses and general theological issues, eg:

1 When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, Repent, (Matt 4. 17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of
36 Every truly repentant Christian has a full remission of penalty and guilt even without indulgences.
62 The true treasure of the church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.
82 If the Pope has the power of releasing anyone from purgatory, why does he not, holy as he is, abolish purgatory altogether
by letting everyone out? This would be a far more worthy use of his power than freeing souls for money. And for what,
moreover? A building!

Excommunication and Wartburg

The Roman authorities were incensed and at Augsburg, October 1518, told Luther to recant. He refused, and in 1520 the Pope
issued a Papal Bull of excommunication. Luther burnt it publically and in January 1521 was excommunicated. The Holy Roman
Emperor, Charles the Fifth, summoned him to appear before the Diet of Worms where he was confronted with his writings on 17
April. He was asked to recant but the next day responded famously:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils
alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have
quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor
right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me. Amen.7

When Luther was condemned as a heretic with a price on his head, his friends kidnapped him and secured him in the Wartburg
Castle. There he translated the New Testament into German which was published on 21 September 1522.

Work, Controversy, Family and Death

On his return to Wittenberg he faced hectic activity, lecturing, preaching and pastoring, with controversies marking the rest of his
life. During the Peasants War, 1524-25, whilst sympathetic to peasant grievances, he wrote a pamphlet, Against the Murdering
Thieving Hordes of Peasants, calling for the insurgents (not the peasantry) to be put down quickly with the sword as the best hope
of containment. In 1529, at the Colloquy of Marburg, he differed sharply with the Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, on the presence
of Christ in the Lords Supper. But of great significance was his marriage to Katherine von Bora in April 1525.

On January 23, 1546 he travelled to his home town of Eisleben to arbitrate between two brothers. There he took ill and died, 18
February 1546, aged 62. He was buried below the pulpit of the Castle Church in Wittenberg where he had often preached. In his
last moments Justus Jonas asked: Do you want to die standing firm on Christ and the doctrine you have taught? He answered
emphatically, Yes! His last words were: We are beggars. This is true.8

What did he do?

He wrote tracts, books and commentaries, some of them still valued today, eg, On the Bondage of the Will and Commentary on
Galatians. He used colourful titles such as The Babylonian Captivity of the Church in which he attacked the sacramental system of
Rome, denied the efficacy of the mass and asserted that there were not seven sacraments but two Baptism and the Lords

He also composed a small and a large catechism for children and youth. In 1523 he produced a pamphlet, That Jesus Christ was
born a Jew, encouraging Christians to be good neighbours to the Jews to build Gospel bridges. However, his 1540s work, On the
Jews and their Lies, was tragically used by the Nazis as anti-semitic propaganda in the 1930s and 40s. In Gods providence the
development of the printing press enabled the swift dissemination of Luthers thinking. He also loved music and composed
some hymns A mighty fortress is our God is well-known, although his authorship of Away in a Manger is seriously questioned.

Luther believed in the power of Gods word. He completed the German New Testament at Wartburg in 1522 and working with
others on the Old, enabled the publication of the German bible in 1534.

Preaching was his primary calling: If I could today become King or Emperor, I would not give up my office as preacher. John

... Luther would often preach twice on Sunday and once during the week. Walther von Loewenich said in his biography,
Luther was one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christendom... Between 1510 and 1546 Luther preached
approximately 3,000 sermons. Frequently he preached several times a week, often two or more times a day.9

He did not rely on his intellect or natural gifts but cast himself on God and His Spirit. Every task, especially preaching, was
bathed in prayer: Dear Lord God. I want to preach so that you are glorified. I want to speak of you, praise you, and praise your
name. Although I probably cannot make it turn out well, wont you make it turn out well.

Luther was a people man. The home, Lutherhaus, which he established with Katie in the old Augustinian monastery in
Wittenberg was a buzz of activity. Students lodged there and their jottings at meal times became Luthers Table Talk. He
established friendships such as with Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas and Johannes Bugenhagen, pastor of the Wittenberg town
church. Luther was generous, often, to Katies despair, giving away items and money.

Family Man
Luthers marriage to Katherine von Bora, after an unusual courtship, was tempestuous but close and affectionate. He first met
her in April 1523 when his friend Leonhard Koppe arrived in Wittenberg with a cart carrying nine of the nuns who had escaped
from Nimptschen convent. Husbands were found for all but Katie. It was suggested to Luther to marry her but: I was not in
love with Katie at all, but God wanted me to take pity on the forsaken one. As a middle-aged bachelor, settled in his ways,
condemned as a heretic and living with the threat of death, he felt it would be unfair to take a wife. However, he married Katie
on 13 June 1525 and a huge public celebration in Wittenberg followed on 27 June. Martin was 41 and Katie 26. God blessed
them with three boys and three girls. Katie was a strong woman who managed the household well and Doctor Luther too!
During one of his dark times Katie appeared one morning dressed in black. Are you going to a funeral? No. But since you are
acting as if God is dead I wanted to join you in the mourning.

Luther had to adjust: You wake up in the morning and find a pair of pigtails on the pillow that were not there before. Katie
disapproved of his not airing his straw bed for a year. But she got Luther interested in the garden and they grew cabbage,
lettuce, peas, beans, radishes, melons, cucumbers, strawberries and more. In an October 1535 letter to Justus Jonas, he said:

My lord Katie greets you. She rides, drives, plants our fields, buys our cattle and pastures them and over and above she has
a bet of fifty gulden that she will read the whole bible by Easter. She is hard at it and has begun the fifth book of Moses.10

Carl Trueman notes Luthers engagement with wife and family despite his hectic busyness:

Today, visitors to the Augustinian cloister in Wittenberg (a gift from the elector to the Luthers on their wedding day) will
see that the door frame has a little stool built into it on each side. The door frame was a present from Katie to her husband,
made at a time when she felt they were not spending enough time talking to each other. Thus, at the end of a busy day,
Martin and Katie could sit on either side of the door and talk to each other. Inside and upstairs, there is a window frame with
a similar arrangement This in itself speaks eloquently of the love and the happiness that marriage brought into the life of
the reformer.11

Patient in Tribulation
Luther knew trial. He was attacked verbally, in print and sometimes physically. He suffered variously from catarrh, kidney
stones, constipation, insomnia, dizziness, and a buzzing not a buzzing but a roll of thunder in his head.12 He and Katie knew
the heartache of bereavement Elizabeth died when she was eight months and Magdalena when she was 13. Luther wrote an
Here I, Magdalena, I was a child of death
Doctor Luthers little maid For I was born in sin
Resting with the saints But now I live, redeemed Lord Christ,
Sleep in my narrow bed By the blood you shed for me.13

Perhaps Luthers greatest trial was what he called Anfechtungen deep darkness of soul and turmoil of mind. He wrote to Philip
Melanchthon from Wartburg, 13 July 1521:

I sit here at ease, hardened and unfeeling It comes to this: I should be afire in the spirit; in reality I am afire in the flesh, with
lust, laziness, idleness, sleepiness. It is perhaps because you have all ceased praying for me that God has turned away from
me... I really cannot stand it any longer Pray for me, I beg you, for in my seclusion here I am submerged in sins.14

And again to Melancthon six years later, 2 August 1527:

For more than a week I have been thrown back and forth in death and Hell I almost lost Christ completely, driven about on
the waves and storms of despair and blasphemy against God. But because of the intercession of the faithful, God began to
take mercy on me and tore my soul from the depths of Hell.15

What is he Saying?
What is Luther saying to us? We must be cautious and avoid hagiography. Carl Trueman warns of the evangelical propensity
to reinvent heroes of the past as modern day evangelicals. He was redeemed, but a man of his age. We do not endorse his
conviction that James was an epistle of straw, we distance ourselves from his anti-semitism and we reject his flawed doctrine
of consubstantiation. Nevertheless there are at least six Doctor Luther lessons:

1. His Usefulness to God

God is pleased to use us warts and all. We do not have sinless perfection, yet God, in his grace, uses us in his service. Whilst
Luther reveals things about himself that we do not approve, God used him.

2. His Engagement in Christian Warfare

He was especially conscious of his warfare with the devil. Visitors to Wartburg are still shown a mark on the wall reputedly
caused by an ink well Luther threw at the devil for tormenting him as he translated the New Testament. He said once:

I do not believe that it is one devil that is attacking me but the very prince of devils. So great is his power of assailing me
with Scripture that my own knowledge of the bible is not enough to protect and help me but I must be strengthened by
words of Scripture out of the mouths of my friends.16

3. His Devotion to Wife and Family

Luther challenges us, especially ministers, about time with our wives and families. Family enriched Luthers life, and
conversation with Katie strengthened him: There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion or company
than a good marriage.

4. His Commitment to Work

Luthers workload challenges us to stop complaining and get on with the work of Gods kingdom. Therefore, my beloved
brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Cor 15.58)

5. His Dependence on God

Luther reminds us that we must depend fully on the Lord in serving Him. His dying words, we are beggars, expresses his two-
fold awareness that before God we are poor and needy, and utterly dependent upon Him for spiritual effectiveness.

6. His Captivity to the Word of God

Luther was, above all, a man of the word, his conscience captive to it. Everything must be brought to Scripture. He heeded the
advice of von Staupitz to, Let the study of the Scriptures be your favourite occupation. May God give us grace to do likewise.
Luther and his Katie, Dolina MacCuish, Christian Focus Publications, pp 5-6.
Ibid, pp 10-11.
The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, Steven J Lawson, Reformation Trust Publishing, 2013, pp 7-8.
MacCuish, pp 15-16.
MacCuish, p 18.
Lawson, pp 8-9.
Lawson, p 18.
Quoted by Lawson, p 23.
Martin Luther: Lessons from his Life and Labor, John Piper, 1996, Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, p 5.
MacCuish, p 42.
Luther and the Christian Life, Carl R Trueman, Crossway, 2015, p 185.
MacCuish, pp 42-43.
MacCuish, p 67.
Piper, p 14.
Piper, p 14.
MacCuish, p 47.

1415 Martyrdom of Czech reformer John Hus
1438 Gutenburg experiments with printing press
1467 Desiderius Erasmus born in the Netherlands
Martin Luther born in Eisleben, Germany 1483
1484 Huldrych Zwingli born in Switzerland
1498 Thomas Cranmer born in England
Luthers decision to become a monk 1505
1509 John Calvin born in France
Luther is awarded his Doctor of Theology 1512
Lectures on Psalms, Romans, Galatians, Hebrews 1513-17
His tower experience : exact timing disputed 1513-18
1514 John Knox born in Scotland
1516 Erasmus publishes Greek New Testament
Luther nails his Theses to the Castle Church door in
Wittenberg 1517
Philip Melanchthon appointed Professor of
1518 Greek at Wittenberg University age 21
Luther composes three critically important
pamphlets setting out his views 1520 The Pope condemns Luther
Luther defends his views at the Diet of Worms and
flees to Wartburg Castle 1521
Luthers New Testament translation into German 1522
1523 Zwingli defends his Sixty-Seven Articles
Luther marries Katharina von Bora 1525
Luther publishes his On the Bondage of the Will in
response to Erasmus 1525
Luthers Catechisms published 1529 Zwingli and Luther debate the Lords Supper
The Confession of Augsburg (mainly by
Melanthchon) summarises Protestant belief 1530
Zwingli killed in battle between Protestant and Catholic
1531 Swiss Cantons
1533 Calvins conversion has to flee Paris
Luthers Old & New Testaments published in German 1534
Calvins Institutes first published
1536 (1559 edition regarded as definitive)
1536 William Tyndale martyred
Luther dies after spending many years consolidating
the new church 1546
Katharina dies age 53 1552 Cranmers Protestant Prayer Book published
1553 Edward VI dies and Mary I becomes Queen
1556 Cranmer martyred in Oxford
1559 Knox returns to Scotland from Geneva
1564 Death of John Calvin
1572 Death of John Knox

The Luther seal or Luther rose (English version shown) is a recognized symbol for Lutheranism. The seal
was designed for Luther at the behest of John Frederick of Saxony in 1530 while Luther was staying at
the Coburg Fortress during the Diet of Augsburg.

Post tenebras lux is a Latin phrase translated After Darkness Light. The phrase became the Calvinist motto
and was subsequently adopted as the motto of the entire Protestant Reformation. It was used by John
Calvins adopted city (Geneva) on its coins. As a mark of its role in the Calvinist (Reformed) movement,
the motto is engraved on the Reformation Wall in Geneva and the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek,
South Africa.

An abridged version of the lecture given at the Shaftesbury Reformed Conference, Belfast 15 February 2017 by David McKay

A nniversaries usually mark significant events but there is the danger of living in the past to an unhealthy extent. We need
to learn when to remember and when to let go. Churches too can focus on past glories and successes, overlooking the
weaknesses and failures. To forget history, however, cuts us off from the valuable lessons of the providence of God. 2017 is an
anniversary year. On 31 October, 1517, the German Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed a document to the door of the Castle
Church in Wittenberg, the accepted way of raising issues for academic debate. These radical Ninety-five Theses went to the heart
of the Gospel and marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Luther was not alone in raising vital questions,
but God used him powerfully to shake the foundations of established theology and ecclesiastical life in Germany and much
further afield.

Many historians explain the Reformation in terms of historical and sociological circumstances, and some have value, but we do not
understand the Reformation unless we see it as a mighty, primarily spiritual work of God. It was a revolution that took the church
backwards to a rediscovery of great biblical truths obscured by the catholicism of the Middle Ages. In it the Holy Spirit transformed
communities as they experienced the spiritual liberation that comes through the saving application of the word of God and an
undiluted Gospel.

Luther had weaknesses and, like most things Luther, they were on a fairly large scale. On some issues, such as the Lords Supper,
he was beyond listening to contrary views and his positon on some matters represented a half-way house between roman
catholicism and biblical truth. There was in some of his writing a streak of crudity that forbids quotation. We are not Lutherans
but we acknowledge that he was by grace a mighty man of God who was instrumental in revolutionising the spiritual life of a
significant part of Europe and ultimately the world. A lesser man would not have been up to the job.

But what were the great truths rediscovered during those momentous years? The Reformation cannot be reduced to justification
by faith alone, although that was a crucial, much debated issue. The Reformation touched on every significant area of Christian
doctrine. A key methodology for understanding it is what has come to be known as the Five Solas sola being Latin for alone.

Sola Scriptura
The five are: Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone and Gods Glory Alone.

Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura)

For some years now I have read through the bible twice every year. If you picture the bible to be a mighty tree and every word a
little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant. (Luther, Table
Talk, October 21, 1532; No. 1877)1

The foundation of the Reformation was Scripture Alone and many debates focused on biblical authority. A critical question was,
What is the source of Christian theology? Rome relied on a combination of written Scripture and unwritten tradition, interpreted
by the churchs magisterium. In response to Romes appeal to unwritten apostolic tradition and to the Anabaptists inner light, the
reformers asserted that all theology must derive from Scripture Alone as the only infallible rule of faith and practice. They drew
heavily on the study riches of the churchs past, but would not allow any other source to be placed above or alongside the bible or to
supplement it.

The reformers understood that in the bible we have a unique revelation. In the Europe of their day, although theologians differed
over biblical interpretation, the view that the bible was the word of God was largely unchallenged. The reformers understood too
that in the bible we also have a unique authority. This follows from its God-breathed nature. If God speaks uniquely in it, then it
has absolute authority in all it teaches. Submission to Gods word is evidence of submission to God himself. Christ said, If you love
me, you will keep my commandments (John 14.15).

In our day, pluralist culture has brought to our doorsteps other religions which also claim divine revelations, sometimes in addition
to the bible. We also face philosophers and theologians who assert that the very idea of words from God is incoherent and

Rome still appeals to tradition and to papal authority. Charismatics appeal to new revelations of the Spirit and words from the
Lord. Many Christians in practice depend on their feelings as their authoritative guide. One major danger of our digital world is
the ease with which an authority is set up. All kinds of authorities are cited, often centred on human reason, science and experts.
We meet the challenge, Who says so? with its implication that one view is as good as another.

Against this we need to keep asserting the unique authority of the bible and to defend Scripture Alone. In this book God has
given us all we need to know. In the bible alone we have the word of God written, given by the miraculous work of the Holy
Spirit who carried along the authors of its books (2 Peter 1.21). We must demonstrate our love for the Lord in obedience to his
authoritative word in every area of life, including every area of life in the church. We stand on 2 Timothy 3. 16 All Scripture is
God-breathed. All Scripture the Old Testament and also the New, then in process of production. No other authority must be

Solus Christus
allowed to usurp its place in theory or practice.

Christ Alone (Solus Christus)

But Christ took all our sins upon himself, and for them he died on the cross. Therefore it was appropriate for Him to become a
thief and, as Isaiah says (53.12) to be numbered among the thieves. (Luther on Galatians 3.13)2

To say that salvation is by Christ Alone says that in Christ we have a unique saviour. The reformers wrestled mainly with
conflicting understandings of precisely how Christ saves sinners. Today we face a pluralism in which any assertion of a unique
way to God is met with amazement or hostility. How, it is asked, could anybody today believe that there is only one way to be
right with God and, worse still, that they have a monopoly of it? It is taken as a sign of our bigotry. The politically correct view is
that, if there is a God at all, there are many ways to him: Christ may be fine for one, yet entirely inappropriate for another. Many
assent to the postmodern abolition of the very notion of absolute truth. If we are faithful to God and to Scripture, however, we
assert with Peter that there is salvation in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we
must be saved (Acts 4.12). In John 14.6 Jesus Christ makes the absolute, unequivocal claim, I am the way, and the truth, and
the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus Christ as God incarnate is not one among many saviours and we
must not be ashamed to assert his uniqueness, although we will be portrayed in a very negative light.

Christ Alone also speaks of a unique salvation. The uniqueness of Christ relates not only to who he is but equally to what he has
done. The biblical account of the life, death and resurrection of Christ declares that this is the only and the God-given way to
deal with our natural state as sinners: we are dead intransgressions and sinsby nature children of wrath (Eph 2.1,3). Christ
addresses every aspect of that terrible plight. As man he atones for mans sin; as God he saves a vast multitude. The reformers
understood increasingly how comprehensive Christs work must be and is.

Christs life of perfect obedience supplies what we lack the keeping of Gods law in its entirety. His death in obedience to the
Fathers commission pays the price and takes the punishment for our sin God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us
(2 Cor 5.21). This unique saviour is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4.10), thus turning aside Gods righteous wrath. His
resurrection as the firstfruits (1 Cor 15.20) guarantees the resurrection of his people to share in his glory. Every dimension of
the sinners need is addressed by Christs redeeming work. The more we understand the true nature of our situation as sinners,
deserving only condemnation and punishment, the more we will appreciate the necessity for the rich saving work of our saviour.
If we are spiritually dead, a miraculous work of Almighty God is the only way of restoring life. Christ Alone testifies to a unique
saviour who has secured a unique salvation. The Reformation understanding of the person and work of Christ recaptured the

Sola Gratia
essence of the biblical Gospel.

Grace Alone (Sola Gratia)

For if grace comes from the purpose or predestination of God, it comes by necessity and not by our effort or endeavour
Moreover, if God promised grace before the law was given, as Paul argues here and in Galatians, then grace does not come from
works or through the law; otherwise the promise means nothing. (Luther on Romans 4.1-3)3

A vital emphasis of the Reformation was salvation by Gods grace alone: by grace you have been saved through faith (Eph
2.8-9). Grace is Gods favour to those who deserved condemnation and is both the source and the guarantee of the sinners

The pre-Reformation church did speak about salvation by grace, but tried to combine an element of grace and an element of
works, believing that God infused grace to strengthen those who made their best effort towards salvation.

The reformers, however, realised that the biblical view of salvation was by Grace Alone. Grace excludes works entirely and there
is no contribution a sinner can make. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer
be grace (Rom 11.6). Some Christians seem to think that having had past sins forgiven by grace they must then stay in Gods
good books by their own spiritual efforts. That is a deadly misunderstanding. Salvation begins and continues by grace. Anyone
who depends in any way on works to secure Gods favour has to face the question, How do you know when you have done
enough? You never can, and the results are spiritually devastating. The saviour, as the substitute of his people, provides full
salvation for all who belong to him by the divine decree of predestination. God made us alive together with Christ. (Eph 2.5)
In saving union with Christ we have justification, adoption, sanctification and eventually glorification. We are justified by his
grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom 3.24) At every point the explanation for what we have as
Christians is the grace of God.

Such an understanding of salvation is profoundly humbling and wonderfully liberating. There is nothing left for which we can
take credit. Salvation by grace alone lifts from our shoulders a crushing burden we cannot bear that of establishing our own
righteousness by our own efforts. This was one of Luthers great (re)discoveries. When he read of the righteousness of God
in a text like Romans 1.17, he first saw it as righteousness which God demands that sinners produce and by which he judges
them. He knew he could not produce it, having tried all that the church recommended. Then the Lord graciously opened his
eyes to the wonderful truth that texts like Romans 1.17 speak of a righteousness that God gives as a free gift of grace, the very
righteousness of Christ. He described the discovery in the preface to his Latin writings: Here I felt that I was altogether born
again and had entered paradise through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me.4
He was free at last!

The truth of grace alone flows from the sovereignty of God in salvation. He did not have to save any, yet he has fully provided for
the salvation of a vast multitude of sinners (note Revelation 7.9). This Reformation assertion of Grace Alone echoes the truth of
Jonah 2.9 Salvation belongs to the Lord. It is a truth that exalts God and humbles men and women. A further consequence of
the sovereignty of God in salvation is the certainty that God will complete the work he has begun: I am sure of this, that he who

Sola Fide
began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1.6).

Faith Alone (Sola Fide)

But here the point at issue is how we are justified and attain eternal life. To this we answer with Paul: We are pronounced
righteous solely by faith in Christ, not by the works of the law or by loveSo since we are now dealing with the topic of
justification, we reject and condemn works; for this topic will not allow any discussion of good works. (Luther on Galatians

Could not the five solas be taken in any order? No! It matters very much where each fits into the sequence and this is especially
clear when we consider grace and faith. Faith Alone after Grace Alone recognises the biblical order of the elements of salvation,
the ordo salutis. Thus we see that sinners believe on the Lord Jesus Christ because of grace. To reverse the order would suggest
that sinners receive grace because they have believed, an unbiblical idea that ignores spiritual deadness: For by grace you have
been saved through faith. And that is not your own doing, it is the gift of God (Eph 2.8). Paul includes our faith under the idea
of a gift by the grace of God. This protects against the danger of turning faith into a kind of work, something that God accepts
in the place of the good works we are unable to perform. Unwittingly this allows works in by the back door, a fatal mistake. We
have nothing to offer God that has any merit, not even our faith.

Sinners must still believe in order to be saved. When asked by the jailer in Philippi, What must I do to be saved? Paul
answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved and your household (Acts 16.31). Sinners cannot avoid the
responsibility of believing on Christ. But a sinner believes only because of Gods enabling. In Acts 16.14 we read of Lydia: The
Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. It was not a merely outward listening but a response in
saving faith, as a result of grace. The believers in Jerusalem responded similarly to Gods work in the life of Cornelius: Then to
the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life (Acts 11.18).

What kind of faith saves? The reformers were clear that biblical faith involves more than head knowledge or acceptance of
whatever the church might teach. Crucially it entails trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord. Believe in the Lord Jesus (Acts 16.31),
declares a movement away from self to a resting in him for salvation. The faith by which those who are saved are united to Christ
is nothing more than the God-given instrument, through which to receive the gift of salvation. There is a temptation to believe
that, in some tiny way, our efforts contribute to our salvation. Faith plus anything destroys the Gospel. Faith Alone humbles our
pride. And so we are back to Christ Alone - these five truths are inextricably interwoven.

The reformers insisted that all of salvation is by Faith Alone, emphasizing that our justification is granted freely when the
righteousness of Christ is counted as ours: justification by faith alone is the main hinge on which religion turns (Calvin)6. One is
justified by faith apart from works of the law (Rom 3.28). But the faith does not remains alone it leads to a life devoted to God,

Soli Deo Gloria

doing the good works he has prepared for us (Eph 2.10). It is a life lived to the Glory of God Alone the last of our five solas.

Gods Glory Alone (Soli Deo Gloria)

As I have said, therefore, Paul is describing the whole of the Christian life in this passage: inwardly it is faith toward God, and
outwardly it is love or works towards ones neighbour. Thus a man is a Christian in a total sense: inwardly through faith in the
sight of God, who does not need our works; outwardly in the sight of men, who do not derive any benefit from faith but do derive
benefit from works and from our love. (Luther on Galatians 5.6)7

It is hard to rid our minds of the conviction that salvation is all about us. Why has God gone to such lengths to provide salvation
for unworthy sinners? In eternity he set his love upon us, choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1.4). That
is an uplifting and a humbling truth but it induces us to conclude that its ultimate purpose is our wellbeing, our enjoyment of
the blessings of the new creation. Not so! Although we rightly delight in the blessings of salvation, like everything else in Gods
universe, it ultimately serves Gods glory. He says, about the refining of his people, For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for
how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another (Is 48.11).

Sin robs God of his glory. Sinners have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (Rom 1.23) and thus all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3.23). The chief goal of the redeeming work of Christ is the restoration of the glory of God.
In Christ, sinners are placed in a position to glorify God. God is then shining into his heart the light of the knowledge of the glory
of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4.6). Saved sinners reflect, albeit imperfectly, the glory of God into a dark world. Thus
God is glorified in the fruit of evangelism which gives us the supreme motivation to evangelise. The Shorter Catechism is exactly
right: Mans chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever (Q1). We cannot do the latter unless by grace we do the former.

Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone will issue in a life of increasing holiness and God-centered good
works. Pauls prayer for the Philippians concludes with the desire that they will be filled with the fruit of righteousness that
comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil 1.11). We do good works because we have been saved, not in
order to be saved (Eph 2.10). This is a profoundly transformative understanding of our Christian calling, embracing the whole of
life. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10.31). Even the most mundane activities
are aimed at the glory of God, and performed by his enabling grace. Grace does not just bring us to the point of entrance to the
kingdom of God. Salvation is by grace from beginning to end.

At the last day every creature will see that all things glorify God alone: every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the
glory of God the Father (Phil 2.11). The Son and the Holy Spirit will share equally in that glory, as our trinitarian theology teaches
us. It will be Christians joy and privilege to give all glory to God as they begin to experience the full fruits of Gods grace in Christ.
Gods eternal plan of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, revealed in Scripture alone, all to Gods glory
alone, cannot fail. Having begun a good work in us he will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1.6).

LW 54:165. Quotations from Luther are taken from volumes of Luthers Works, edited by J Pelikan and HT Lehman, 55 volumes (Philadelphia: Fortress Press and
St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955-75), cited as LW and the volume and page number.
LW 26:277
LW 33:272
LW 34:337
LW 26:137
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1559 edition, translated by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), III.xi.i.
LW 27:30

W hen Martin Luther declared his points of debate in Latin, he was simply inviting fellow
academics to a Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. The debate was never
held because the theses were translated into German and distributed widely.
An uproar was created. God willing Luther had exclaimed of Tetzel, the peddler of indulgences,
I will beat a hole in his drum. He did exactly that.


Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the
Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred
Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg,
intends to defend the following statements and to dispute
on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who
cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in
their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

1 When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent (Mt 4.17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one
of repentance.
4 The penalty of sin remains, as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our
entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
27 They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul
flies out of purgatory.
32 Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be
eternally damned, together with their teachers.
36 Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
37 Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is
granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
62 The true treasure of the church is the most Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.
75 To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and
had violated the mother of God is madness.
79 To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal
in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
94 Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.
95 And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security
of peace (Acts 14.22).

from Geneva between 1538 and 1541

REFORMATION: due to the shifting political climate of

the city, Calvin returned and continued

OVERVIEW AND LEGACY his ministry with much far-reaching

effectiveness. Christopher Catherwood,
in his excellent book Five Leading

I n this quincentennial year, our

thoughts naturally turn to Martin
Luther as we look back on the famous
The King of France at that time being
opposed to Protestantism, Calvin had
Reformers, writes,

Geneva became the centre for

events that sparked the Protestant to flee France for his own safety in a massive campaign of evangelism
Reformation. Indeed, the articles in 1533, heading to the Swiss town of designed to bring the doctrines of
the earlier pages of this magazine Basel, before officially breaking with the the Reformation to a nominally
have focused, rightly, on the life and catholic church the following year. catholic France. Scores of French
teachings of Luther... However, the exiles were trained as pastors in
Reformation of course grew to be much By the mid-1530s, Calvin had started Geneva and the surrounding
larger than Luther himself. In this work on his magnum opus, his Institutes countryside and sent as missionaries
article we will focus upon some of the of the Christian Religion. The first edition back into France.
other people and events that played was published in 1536, though was
an integral role in the spread of the considerably shorter than the enormous The influence of Calvins ministry was
Reformation across Europe. 1559 edition with which we are familiar felt far beyond France, though. In
today! Calvins Institutes has had an 1559, Calvin set up an academy in
John Calvin immeasurable influence on the church, Geneva (which would later become the
(1509-64) for which we must be greatly thankful. University of Geneva), at which many
Historian Timothy George writes that Reformed Christians from all over
all in all, Calvin presented more clearly Europe were able to come and study,
and more masterfully than anyone before moving back to their native
before him the essential elements of lands to proclaim Gods word there,
Protestant theology. Similarly, Alister meaning that Calvins contribution to
McGrath comments: the Reformation was felt far and wide,
as it is to this day.
The originality, power and influence
of Calvins religious ideas forbid us to Thomas Cranmer
speak of him merely as a theologian (1489-1556)
though that he certainly was in
much the same way as it is
inadequate to refer to Lenin as a
mere political theorist. Through his
remarkable ability to master
languages, media and ideas,
his insights into the importance
John Calvin is certainly one of the most of organization and social structures,
well-known (and most controversial!) and his intuitive grasp of the
figures of the Reformation. Born in the religious needs and possibilities
French town of Noyon in 1509, Calvin of his era, Calvin was able to forge
moved to Paris at the age of 14 to begin an alliance between religious
his university studies there initially thought and action which made
studying theology before moving to calvinism a wonder of its age.
Orleans to study law, prior to returning
to Paris in 1531 to study Greek and In 1536, Calvin arrived in the city-state
Hebrew. of Geneva, the place with which he is
most commonly associated. Geneva One of the key figures in the
It was around this time (though we do had recently embraced Protestantism, Reformation in England was Thomas
not know when precisely) that Calvin and it was here that Calvins ministry Cranmer.
experienced what he would later as a pastor and theologian had its The story of Cranmers contribution
describe as a sudden conversion greatest impact. Though being exiled to the Reformation is set against the

backdrop of the reign of Henry VIII. truth which I thought in my heart, Within two years, Knoxs ministry had
Wishing to divorce his Spanish wife, and writ for fear of death, and to gathered much momentum. Now in the
Catherine of Aragon, Henry was save my life, if it might be: and that town of St Andrews, Knox became the
prevented from doing so by Pope is, all such bills, which I have written most prominent Protestant preacher in
Clement VII. In Cranmer, however, Henry or signed with mine own hand, since Scotland, and his Reformed preaching
found an ally who suggested that he had my degradation; wherein I have ministry in St Andrews became well
the right to divorce Catherine. Cranmer written many things untrue. And known.
was made chaplain to the King, and in forasmuch as my hand offended in
1533 took up the role of Archbishop writing contrary to my heart, This period of success was, however, to
of Canterbury. The Act in Restraint of therefore my hand shall first be be short lived. Mary of Guise (the widow
Appeals, which was passed in that same punished. For if I may come to the of James V of Scotland) summoned
year, effectively transferred the power fire, it shall be first burned. armed forces from her native France,
of the catholic church to the king, Henry which in turn came to bombard the
VIII and his advisors and government, Moments after uttering these words, garrison in St. Andrews. The Protestant
such that all appeals regarding spiritual Cranmer was seized, taken outside, and rebellion was crushed, and John Knox
matters were to be heard in England. burned at the stake. True to his word, himself was taken into custody and
Cranmer was thus able to convene a he thrust his right hand into the flames became a galley slave in a French fleet
court in Dunstable which proclaimed so that it might be destroyed first. for the next 19 months.
that Henrys marriage was void, and Cranmer died with the words of Stephen
Henry was therefore able to marry Anne on his lips: Lord Jesus, receive my After his release, it was still far too
Boleyn, as he wished. spirit. I see the heavens open and Jesus unsafe for Knox to return to Scotland,
standing at the right hand of God. where pro-French, catholic rule was in
Despite the break with Rome, Henry the ascendancy. Knox, thus, moved to
himself remained wholeheartedly John Knox England, initially becoming a preacher
Roman Catholic in doctrine. However, (c1514-72) in the garrison town of Berwick, close
after his death in 1547 his young to the Scottish border, before moving
son, Edward VI, came to the throne. slightly further south to the city of
Edwards maternal uncle, Edward Newcastle in 1551. Here, he was also
Seymour, took power as Lord Protector. appointed as a royal chaplain under King
Strongly Protestant, Edward VI desired Edward VI.
to bring the Church of England more
into line with the continental Reformed Once more, however, the changing
church. This allowed Cranmer, and political environment brought an end to
other Protestant bishops, much greater Knoxs ministry. The accession of Mary
freedom in bringing reform. New Tudor in 1553 reversed the progress
prayer books were introduced in 1549 that Protestantism had seen under
and 1552, which were increasingly the reign of Edward VI. Knox, along
Protestant, and in 1553, Cranmer with many others, fled to continental
produced his (very Reformed) forty-two Europe. After arriving in Geneva, Knox
articles of official doctrine for the Church was then sent by Calvin to minister to a
of England. Reform was moving ahead. congregation of English exiles based in
However, in 1553, Edward VI died, The spiritual leader of the Reformation
and Bloody Queen Mary came to in Scotland was John Knox, born in In 1559, after the death of Mary Tudor
the throne. It was under her reign 1514 in the town of Haddington, near the previous year, Knox returned to his
that many Protestants were killed. In Edinburgh. Though from a family native Scotland, though the situation
1556, Cranmer was condemned to of farmers, Knox was ordained as a there was still precarious due to the
death by burning at the stake. Initially, catholic priest in 1540. Five years later, ongoing influence of Mary of Guise
Cranmer recanted of his Protestantism, though, Knox was working as a tutor seeking to suppress Protestantism.
before denouncing his recantation at in the households of two gentry in The fully armed, pro-Reformation
the last minute. Speaking of his prior East Lothian, both of whom happened movement known as the Congregation
recantation, he said: to be Protestants, and it was around was able to take the city of Edinburgh,
this time that he himself converted to and further help came from England,
I renounce and refuse, as things Protestantism. when Elizabeth sent 10,000 English
written with my hand contrary to the troops to aid the scottish Protestants.

It was during this period of Protestant Parliament, therefore, called the
ascendancy north of the border that The Westminster Assembly Westminster Assembly, which has
Knox made some of his greatest (1643-53) been described as perhaps the greatest
contributions to the church in Scotland. gathering of theological minds since
He, along with other reformers, the days of the apostles. The assembly
presented the First Book of Discipline met from 1643 to 1653, during which
before the Scottish Parliament, and time the so-called Westminster
Knox produced a Book of Common Order Divines grappled with what it means
(Knoxs liturgy). The Book of Discipline to be a Reformed church, and were
outlined the criteria for leadership in able to reach a consensus on what the
the church. church should believe.

However, these days of progress were Since the days of Elizabeth I, there had The fruit of their labours was a
again to be cut short. When Mary, been ongoing controversy concerning collection of around 150 documents,
Queen of Scots, returned to Scotland the authority of the monarch over the including a Directory for Public Worship
in 1561, following the death of her church in England; the signing of the and the Form of Church Government. By
husband (King Francis II of France), Act of Supremacy in 1559 affirmed the far the most well-known documents,
she dismissed all of her advisers with rights of the crown over the church, however, are what we now commonly
Protestant leanings within 3 years. forcing Presbyterianism underground. refer to as the Westminster Standards:
The latter years of Marys reign were Later, during the reign of James I of the much loved catechisms (shorter
marked with much turmoil and ongoing England, English Puritans began to and larger), and the Westminster
tensions with Protestants in general struggle with the Kings power over the Confession of Faith. (Strictly speaking,
and Knox in particular. In 1567, she church. the Westminster Standards comprise
was deposed, making Scotland safe all of the Assemblys documents,
for Protestants until civil war broke We move forward now to the reign though in common usage the phrase
out again in 1571. Knox himself fled of Charles I, who occupied the throne is normally used to refer to the
to Edinburgh, where he was to die the from 1625 to 1649. Charles was pulled Confession and Catechisms of the
following year. into conflict with parliament in 1640 assembly).
regarding the Kings divine right in
both state and church. Civil War broke These Westminster Standards
out two years later, and amidst this are cherished by Reformed and
maelstrom parliament felt the need to Presbyterian Christians for their clarity
find a legal (and theological) foundation and succinctness in articulating the
for the church, and to show that the distinctives of the Reformed faith.
Church of England was in alignment They are held as the subordinate
with the Reformed churches both in standards of our own denomination,
Scotland, and in mainland Europe. and provide us with a helpful summary
of the beliefs for which men such as
Calvin, Cranmer and Knox laboured.
Christians today can be greatly edified
by turning to these documents,
familiarising themselves with them,
learning them, and teaching them to
their children.

This article draws heavily on

Christopher Catherwoods Five Leading

----- On sin ----- ----- On the Righteousness of God -----

Nothing is easier than sinning. Learn Christ and him crucified; learn to pray to
Him despairing of yourself, saying: You, Lord
I am more afraid of my own heart than of the Jesus, are my righteousness and I am your sin.
Pope and his Cardinals. I have within me the You have taken on yourself what you were not,
great pope, Self and have given to me what I am not

Free-will brought us sin and death every part

of us suffers corruption
----- On Prayer -----
The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the
lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love To be a Christian without prayer is no more
and grace of Christ and must take matters into possible than to be alive without breathing.
our own hands.

----- On the Cross -----

----- On Substitution -----
This one thing preach the wisdom of the cross.
For I know one suffered and made satisfaction
on my behalf. His name is Jesus, Son of God, When satan tells me I am a sinner he comforts me
and where He is, there I shall be also. immeasurably, since Christ died for sinners.

----- On the Church -----

----- On Faith -----
Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the
We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that church. How could anyone know where Christ is
saves is never alone. and what faith is in him unless he knew where his
believers are?
Faith is a living, daring confidence in Gods
grace, so sure that a man could stake his life To gather with Gods people in united adoration of
on it a thousand times. the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as

Justification is the article on which the church

stands or falls.
----- On Scripture -----

The bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet,

it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of ----- On the Gospel -----
The Gospel cannot be truly preached without
There is no greater mercy than when God offense and tumult
sends forth his word
We need to hear the Gospel every day, because
I am bound by the Scriptures... my conscience we forget it every day
is captive to the word of God.
The true treasure of the church is the most Holy
Gospel of the glory and the grace of God

----- On Catechising Children ----- I must listen to the Gospel. It tells me not what I
must do, but what Jesus Christ, has done for me
I havent progressed beyond the instruction of
children in the Ten Commandments, the Creed The law says do this and it is never done.
and the Lords Prayer. I still learn and pray Grace says believe in this and everything is
these everyday with my Hans and little Lena. done already

By Heather Watson

T he truth of the bible was being rediscovered, Reformed

theology was sweeping across Germany and the
Roman Catholic church was enraged. At the same time, a
Reformation was taking place in Martin Luthers own life.
Repudiating the churchs teaching of salvation by works and
embracing Christ, Luther now realized that he was saved by
grace to do good works. Nowhere is that practical outworking
of faith seen more than in his marriage.

Katharina von Bora was born in Saxony in 1499, into a poor

but noble family. She was six when her mother died. Her
father remarried and found himself unable to support his
now extended family. And so, still reeling from her mothers
death, Katharina entered the Benedictine Cloister school in
Brehna. She would remain behind convent walls for 18 years.
At Brehna, she received a good education in aristocratic
company until her father transferred her to a Cistercian
convent in Nimbschen. His reasons may well have been
financial; the entrance fee to the convent was considerably
lower than the dowry needed to attract a husband of suitable
social standing. By committing her to a nuns existence for
her remaining days, Hans von Bora effectively relinquished all We can only speculate as to how the arrangements for this
responsibility for his daughter. dramatic venture were communicated in the silence of an
isolated convent. What we do know is that on the evening
At the wishes of another, Katharina began a life regulated of Saturday 4 April, 1523, a group of nuns, trusting Christ,
by bells and set prayers (beginning at 2am) and sustained fled their cells and boarded the merchant wagon of Leonhard
by a diet of the most basic fare. It was a life where self- Koppe who delivered herring to the convent. On the Monday,
deprivation (of sleep and food) was a mark of holiness and now attired as typical 16th century women, they travelled to
where, aside from reciting Scripture and prayers, no talking Wittenberg.
with the other nuns was allowed. When the time came,
Katharina took her three-fold vows of obedience, chastity and The decision Katharina had taken was not an easy one.
poverty. Looking back at those years, she tells us that she Rejected by her family and of too noble birth to be allowed
prayed fervently, diligently and frequently. But we know to consider employment, how was she to support herself?
that events from then on were not to follow the expected Besides, standard opinion was that a woman had to be cared
path for the young nun. for by some male authority or a guardian be assigned to
manage her business. Katharina, still single at the age of 24,
Meanwhile, 31 miles away in Wittenberg, Dr Martin would have been viewed as a threat to the accepted social
Luther was immersing himself in Scripture and becoming structure. Marriage offered the best solution. But with no
increasingly uncomfortable with the teaching of the Roman dowry and not having spoken to a man for years, finding a
Catholic church. By 1522 he was openly attacking the husband would be challenging. Luther, the great liberator
monastic vows taken upon entry to cloistered life. To Luther, of cloistered women, now found himself with a burden of
they smacked of works, not grace. He was especially irritated responsibility for Katharina and the other former nuns. He
by the vow of chastity which he believed could rarely be discharged his responsibility by becoming Wittenbergs
honoured in body and certainly not in thought. It seems that matchmaker.
Katharina, now a nun for 13 years, was also realising that she
was living a sham, a mere appearance of human holiness. Katharina soon had a suitor but was heartbroken when his
Somehow the radical writings of Martin Luther, spreading parents snubbed the match. He eventually married someone
like wildfire across Germany, penetrated even the convent else, but time had passed and options were running out for
walls at Nimbschen and a plan was hatched. About 12 Katharina. Luther had one last idea- Kasper Glatz, an eligible
disenchanted nuns declared themselves done with cloistered bachelor of standing and pastor of a parish. It seemed ideal,
life and, ignored by their families, appealed to Martin Luther except that Katharina didnt like him and refused to accept
to help them escape. Moved by their plea, he vowed to aid him as a suitor.

The young woman, whose life until now had been determined vision of the redeemed Christians relationship to God and
by others, was showing a strong will of her own. the couples marriage reflected that relationship. Onlookers
Not only did she refuse Glatz, she let it be known that there observed Katharinas positive impact on Luthers physical and
were others she would not refuse, including Luther himself. mental health. Even their critics had to admire Katharinas
For a while, Luther, despite his verbosity on the subject ability as a nurse and as manager of the family finances.
of marriage, was reluctant to take the plunge. As far as Students and professors may have been surprised to find
Katharina went, he wrote that he was neither romantically that Katharina brought not only food, but also intellectual
nor physically attracted to her, although he cared about her. stimulation to the table. Her strong character equipped
When they married in June 1525, he claimed it was to please her to manage her husbands volatile moods and difficult
his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh and the personality. More significantly, the Holy Spirit was applying
devils to weep. A more fundamental explanation is that the word of God to sinners to make them more Christ like;
Luther married out of love for Christ flowing from his faith they were devoted to him and to each other.
towards the person in his midst needing compassion. Years
later he said, I didnt love my Kathe at the time. . . But it The Luthers had six biological children and as many as 11
pleased God who wanted me to take pity on her. As for the foster children. Life was often hectic, but both parents
bride, Luther, 16 years her senior, was the most promising out praised child-rearing as a holy and delightful endeavour
of a very limited number of options. despite its challenges; they enjoyed their children, sought
their salvation and loved each one deeply. Elizabeth died
And so began the unlikely marriage of two when eight months old. Less than a year later, Magdalena
was born, a gift from God. When she too died, age 13, her
independent and stubborn individuals, parents were nearly destroyed by grief, yet comforted by
each accustomed to a quiet cloistered life, Magdalenas declaration of faith in God.
brought together by the providence of a
Less than a year later, Luther was away from home for a
gracious God. month in the town of Eisleben. Katharina was concerned
about his health and wrote numerous letters expressing her
In practical terms, Katharina found herself mistress of the
anxiety. Luther replied with humour and tenderness and in
Black Cloister, the former monastery which was Luthers
optimistic mood. Yet, on 18 February 1546, within days of his
home. It was a shambles. Her first project was to whitewash
last letter, Luther died.
the walls before tackling the overgrown vegetable garden.
Cows, poultry, fish, orchards, vineyards, bees, preserving
In the midst of her anguish, Katharina was plunged into a
and brewing all came under her oversight, with Katharina
precarious social and financial position, at risk of losing her
undertaking much of the work herself. Laundry was done in
livelihood and custody of the children. There were plenty
the river and cooking over an open fire. Soon every one of
of people ready to make life difficult for her as she fought
the 40 monastic cells was occupied by a house guest, with
to retain possession of the Black Cloister and gardens. Her
relatives, students, professors, political and religious refugees
determination brought success, but more difficulties followed.
and escaped nuns and monks all enjoying Katharinas
Twice within a year, Katharina and her family had to flee
hospitality. The morning star of Wittenberg (one of Luthers
Wittenberg to escape the threat of military attack; when she
many nicknames for her) rose daily at 4am in order to
returned it was to the utter destruction of crops, livestock
complete her days work by 9pm.
and farmhouses. Impoverished and in deep debt, she was
forced to rely on her late husbands famous name and beg for
Harder than the physical rigours were the malicious rumours
and public slander which the couple had to bear. According
to the Roman Catholic church, their marriage was a capital
It was in 1552, during another forced flight from Wittenberg,
offense. In particular, Katharina was considered a traitor of
that Katharina took a tumble from a horse drawn wagon and
Christ who had broken her lifelong vow of chastity to seduce
never recovered. As she gave up her last breath to the Lord,
a monk. Some viewed her first pregnancy as blasphemy and
Katharina avowed, I will cling to Christ as a burr clings to a
sacrilege, a double breach of monastic vows. These vicious
coat! She died on 20 December, age 53.
attacks on her character must have been hard for Katharina
to endure.
Katharina Luther is remembered as the wife of a famous
reformer, but we do well to remember that Reformation is not
Although she frequently wrote to her husband, none of
only intellectual, but the love of God in Christ transforming a
Katharinas letters has survived. From Luthers pen, however,
flawed and broken life. We see that Reformation in the life of
we learn of growing love and respect for Katie, my rib. We
find fulsome praise alongside playful affection; we read of
tender concern, spiritual companionship and mutual delight.
Truly this marriage was proving to be a perfect match. This article draws heavily on Katharina & Martin Luther by
Luthers decision to marry had sprung directly from his new Michelle DeRusha.

by Carl R Trueman

L uthers mature understanding of justification by grace

through faith emerges clearly in his 1520 treatise, The
Freedom of the Christian Man. In a manner reminiscent of the
cross, where outward appearance contradicts inward reality,
Luther builds his argument in this treatise on the notion that
human beings can be considered both as outer and as inner.
This allows apparently contradictory things to be asserted
about one and the same person. Thus, a man may appear
outwardly righteous (before the world) but in reality be
inwardly unrighteous. Likewise, he may appear outwardly
unrighteous and indeed despicable but inwardly be perfectly
righteous before God. This distinction is absolutely basic to
Luthers understanding of justification, for it is the basis upon
which he asserts that no external thing (in terms of works
righteousness) can actually affect standing before God.

For Luther, therefore, what makes the difference between

the one who is justified and the one who remains in a state of
sin is not infusion of grace or a slow transformation of moral
being through the sacramental tutelage of the church. Rather
it is grasping the word of God by faith. Luther in 1517, and
even on into 1518, was committed to seeing humility as the
key that made someone a passive recipient of Gods grace.
By 1520, humility had been absorbed into, and transformed
by, his broader understanding of faith as trust in Gods word.

Such faith assumes humility, in that the Christians life

involves despair of ones own righteousness and repentance
toward God; but it also involves the positive grasping of
Gods revelation of his Gospel in the Lord Jesus Christ and
trust in the promises that Christ embodies. One thing only
is necessary for righteousness, Luther declares near the
start of the treatise, and that thing is the word of God. This
means that Luthers understanding of the Christian life is
very different at a practical level from that of late medieval
catholicism. The centrality of the word has implications for
how the Christian life is understood and then lived.

Luther uses dramatic language to speak of the power of faith

in the matter of justification. When faith grasps the word,
the power of the word is imparted to the believer as heat
is imparted to an iron placed in fire. Then, faith gives the
greatest honour possible to Christ by ascribing to him trust
and worthiness. Finally, and supremely, faith in Gods word
unites the believer to Christ and thus provides the context for
what Luther calls the joyful exchange, whereby the believers
sins are passed to Christ and Christs righteousness is passed
to the believer.

Using his favoured image of the bride and groom, Luther gives remained a process by which the Christian became more and
a famous description of this in The Freedom of the more actually, intrinsically, righteous over time.
Christian Man: For Luther, however, faith is the instrument, and there is no
place for merit, either before or after the individual comes
The third incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites to trust in Gods word and be united in Christ. Justifying
the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her righteousness is alien righteousness, and justification is
bridegroom. By this mystery, as the apostle teaches, always the extrinsic declaration of God, not based upon
Christ and the soul become one flesh [Eph. 5:31-32]. any intrinsic quality. Further, while Luther does regard the
And if they are one flesh and there is between them a sacraments as important, they are not strictly speaking of
true marriage indeed the most perfect of all marriages, necessary for salvation, since faith is the one thing needful
since human marriages are but poor examples of this in this regard. Luthers theology of justification led him to a
one true marriage it follows everything they have they fundamental reconstruction, theology and liturgically, of the
hold in common, the good as well as the evil. Accordingly sacraments.
the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever
Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the Simul Justus et Peccator
soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these
and we shall see inestimable benefits. Christ is full of One phrase that Luther used to characterize his
grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, understanding of justification is simul justus et peccator,
and damnation. Now let faith come between them and Latin for simultaneously righteous and a sinner. The
sins, death, and damnation will be Christs, while phrase plays off the classic Lutheran opposition between
grace, life, and salvation will be the souls; for if Christ is a outward appearance and inward reality. The cross is again
bridegroom, he must take upon himself the things which the supreme example of this: outwardly, Christ appears to be
are his brides and bestow upon her the things that are his. a sinner and cursed, though inwardly he is actually the only
If he gives her his body and very self, how shall he not give perfect man who ever lived and is blessed by the Father. By
her all that is his? And if he takes the body of the bride, contrast, the religious rulers who gather at the cross that day
how shall he not take all that is hers? are outwardly righteous (they are, after all, the religious elite)
but inwardly sinful (they are responsible before God for the
This joyful exchange indicates that Luthers thinking on death of the Christ).
justification is in one sense driven very much by the late
medieval notion of divine declaration. As the one who did This notion is crucial to ones understanding of Luther. All
what was in him was extrinsically declared by God to have human beings, the Christian and the non-Christian, are
merited grace even though intrinsically he did not merit it, simultaneously righteous and sinners. The non-Christian,
so the one who has faith receives Christs righteousness as the theologian of glory, is righteous in his own eyes and,
an extrinsically declared reality parallel to Christs reception quite probably, in the eyes of the world around him. Any
of the believers sin. As Christ died on the cross not because who are confident that, though not perfect, they will still be
he was intrinsically sinful but rather because our sins were found acceptable by God on the day of judgment would be
imputed to him, so the believer is declared righteous not great examples of such. Christians, by way of contrast, know
because he is intrinsically righteous but rather because that they stand as sinful and condemned already, and that
he receives Christs righteousness by imputation. The there is nothing in them that will lead to anything other than
whole matter is rooted in the external declaration of God, condemnation when they stand before Gods throne. There
based upon the union of Christ and the believer. Luther is also a sense in which all Christians are people divided
calls this justifying righteousness, received by faith, alien against themselves: clothed in the righteousness of Christ
righteousness. and yet always striving to justify themselves by their own
righteousness. That inner conflict is part of the very essence
There are, however, significant differences between Luthers of what it means to be a Christian in a fallen world this side of
position and that of his medieval teachers. For them the glory.
instrument of justification was ultimately the sacraments. It
is true that late medieval theology, with its emphasis upon We are grateful to Dr Trueman for his willingness for
the pactum, might be seen to have weakened that point: this section of his book, Luther on the Christian Life, to be
the necessity of the sacrament seemed thereby to have reproduced here.
subordinated to Gods decree and to the individuals effort;
but even in the circles of the via moderna, the importance of Taken from Luther on the Christian Life by Carl R Trueman,
the sacrament was still maintained, however inconsistently. 2015, pp. 68-71. Used by permission of Crossway, a
Further, medieval teachers regarded Gods declaration that publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL
a person was in a state of grace as the foundation for actual 60187,
consequent meritorious righteousness; thus justification

This doctrine [justification by faith] is the head and the
cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves,
and defends the church of God; and without it the church of
God cannot exist for one hour. . . For no one who does not
hold this article or, to use Pauls expression, this sound
doctrine (Titus 2.1) is able to teach aright in the church or
successfully to resist any adversary. . . this is the heel of the
Seed that opposes the old serpent and crushes its head. That
is why Satan, in turn, cannot but persecute it.

Whoever departs from the article of justification does not

know God and is an idolater. . . For when this article has
been taken away, nothing remains but error, hypocrisy,
godlessness, and idolatry, although it may seem to be the And on this article all that we teach and practice is based,
height of truth, worship of God, holiness, etc. against the pope, the devil, and the world. That is why we
must be very certain of this doctrine and not doubt; otherwise
If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is all is lost, and the pope and the devil and all things gain the
lost at the same time. And all the people in the world who victory over us and are adjudged right.
do not hold to this justification are either Jews or Turks or
papists or heretics; for there is no middle ground between The article of justification must be learned diligently. It
these two righteousness: the active one of the Law and the alone can support us in the face of these countless offenses
passive one which comes from Christ. Therefore the man and can console us in all temptations and persecutions.
who strays from Christian righteousness must relapse into For we see that it cannot be otherwise: the world is bound
the active one, that is, since he has lost Christ, he must put to be offended at the doctrine of godliness and to cry out
his confidence in his own works. constantly that nothing good comes of it, since the natural
man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are
When the article of justification has fallen, everything has foolishness unto him.
fallen. Therefore it is necessary constantly to inculcate and
impress it, as Moses says of his law (Deut. 6.7); for it cannot In short, if this article concerning Christ the doctrine that
be inculcated and urged enough or too much. Indeed, even we are justified and saved through Him alone and consider
though we learn it well and hold to it, yet there is no one who all apart from Him damned is not professed, all resistance
apprehends it perfectly or believes it with a full affection and and restraint are at an end. Then there is, in fact, neither
heart. So very trickish is our flesh, fighting as it does against measure nor limit to any heresy and error.
the obedience of the spirit.
There is this about the article of grace that if one diligently
The article of justification and of grace and sincerely remains loyal to it, it keeps one from falling
into heresy and from undertaking anything against Christ
is the most delightful, and it alone makes or his christendom. For with it comes the Holy Spirit, who
a person a theologian and makes of a enlightens the heart by it and keeps it in the true, certain
understanding, so that it is able precisely and plainly to
theologian a judge of the earth and of all distinguish and judge all the other articles of faith and
affairs. Few there are, however, who have forcefully to sustain and defend them.

thought it through well and who teach The papacy is shaken and shattered nowadays, not through
it aright. these tumults of the sectaries but through the preaching of
the article of justification, which has not only weakened the
Of this article [justification] nothing may be yielded or kingdom of Antichrist but has also till now sustained and
conceded, though heaven and earth and whatever will not defended us against its power.
abide, fall to ruin; for there is none other name under heaven
given among men whereby we must be saved, says St. Peter Selected from What Luther Says, an anthology compiled by
(Acts 4.12); and with His stripes we are healed (Is. 53.5). Ewald M. Plass, Vol. 2, pp.702-704, 715-718.

T he history of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church is deeply
rooted in the history of Irish Presbyterianism, which traces
its ancestry to the Scottish Reformation. It was not until
1927, however, that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church
emerged as a distinct denomination.

In the early years of the 20th century, higher criticism of the

bible and modernist theology became firmly established
in the Presbyterian Assemblys College in Belfast. This
departure caused great concern among people of evangelical
and Reformed thinking and as a result the Bible Standards Rev. W J Grier Rev. James Hunter
League came into being to contend for the old theology. One
of the leading exponents of the new theology was Professor
J E Davey. A group of evangelical ministers and laymen, women to the eldership was approved in 1926 and in 1973
deeply troubled by the effect of Professor Daveys views, felt the General Assembly agreed that women should be eligible
compelled to bring charges against him, alleging that what for ordination.
he was teaching and writing was contrary to the standards of
the Irish Presbyterian Church. Five specific charges were laid There have been voices within the Presbyterian Church in
against him, namely: Ireland sounding an alarm over the intervening years; we
are thankful that these voices are increasingly being heard.
1. a denial of the doctrine of imputation of our guilt to However, there is some way to go before the mindset of
Christ and His righteousness to us 1927, with its subsequent decisions, is annulled.
2. a denial of the impeccable character of Christ
3. a denial of the infallibility of the Bible As to ourselves, we are convinced that our present separate
4. the view that, in some way, God was responsible for existence is required by what the bible teaches. Though we
mans sin can fully vindicate our position, we deplore schism. Schism
5. the view that the doctrine of the Trinity was not taught rightly understood, is not the act of disaffiliation itself, but
in the Word of God. the departure from the truth that makes such an act become
Despite evidence from Daveys own published works and
notes taken in his classes, both the Belfast Presbytery and The Evangelical Presbyterian Church seeks, by Gods grace, to
General Assembly found him not guilty on all five charges. remain loyal to revealed truth. Our ultimate standard of faith
The Presbytery proceeded to ban all discussion of the subject and practice is the bible, the word of God written. We confess
and a commission, armed with Assembly powers, was formed the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and full sufficiency of the
to subdue protest from within ranks of the Church. Some bible. As a Presbyterian church we hold to the Westminster
however could not keep silence; the struggle for orthodoxy Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms as
had to be maintained, cost what it may. our subordinate standards. These we accept as founded on
and agreeable to the word of God. We adhere to traditional
Anticipating disciplinary action by the commission, Rev. Presbyterian church government, having both elders and
James Hunter, retired minister of Knock Presbyterian Church deacons. Within the office of elder we distinguish between
and a leader of the Bible Standards League, resigned his ruling and teaching. Our ruling elders have equal governing
membership of the Irish Presbyterian Church in July 1927. In authority with our teaching elders (our ministers). Each local
October of that year the Irish Evangelical Church came into congregation elects its own office bearers and calls its own
being. The name of the church was changed in 1964 to the minister. The local kirk session nominates representatives
Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a title which was a more to the denominations central body, known as Presbytery. In
accurate reflection of the denominations stance. both our worship and our witness, we desire all our activities
to be regulated by the word of God.
Events since 1927 vindicated the decision of such men as
James Hunter and W J Grier. The trajectory taken by the Looking back we are very thankful for the many, both men
Irish Presbyterian Church in the early 1900s and reinforced and women, who took a stand in 1927 and throughout the
in 1927, in many instances produced little biblical Gospel in subsequent years. We acknowledge with gratitude their
pulpits and nominal Christianity in the pew. Many Gospel commitment and fervour for the glory of God in the work of
Presbyterians found their spiritual life in para-church the Gospel and maintenance of biblical truth. Their zeal for
movements such as the Christian Workers Union Halls God is a challenge to us today. And none more so than Revs.
and local Mission Halls. Within the main denomination, James Hunter and W J Grier who bore the brunt of ridicule
unbiblical ecumenism often dominated the agenda, and and opposition, but who remained faithful and true. We are
critical theology prevailed in the college. The ordination of charged with continuing this witness.

other who volunteered to come forward they cross-examined

FIVE YEARS AGO with the severity that Judge Jeffreys employed. There is not
a court in civilised christendom where this distinction would

AND TODAY have been drawn. Before bringing the matter to a regular
trial I gave all the publicity I could to the evidence by issuing
sheets which I called SOS circulars. The college committee
Rev. James Hunter - The Irish Evangelical July 1932 grew irate over this, and ordered me to go before them with
the charges. As the committee had no authority over me, and

I t had been known for a long time that things were not right
in the Assemblys College. One godly young man gave up
attending the classes in revulsion from the teaching and
I knew they were out-and-out modernist I did not choose to
do this. They then proceeded to examine into the evidence
against one of the professors, and issued a long report which
emigrated to America. Another whom I knew continued to they sent to the newspapers, declaring my charges to be
attend under compulsion from his father. A young minister baseless, and that the professor taught the infallibility of the
intimated to his congregation that he intended to go to the bible. As a matter of fact I held in my hands the type-written
Mission Field, but not in connection with the Presbyterian sheet given by this professor to all his students in which he
church. A leading minister went by train and endeavoured to gave a series of reasons against believing the bible to be
persuade him to alter his mind and to go out in connection infallible.
with the Presbyterian church, but he was immovable, and
gave as his reason the teaching that was countenanced in
the college. When I heard this I wrote asking for information,
What part hath he that
remarking that unless evidence were forthcoming the evil believeth with an infidel?
could not be corrected. He answered with samples of
the false doctrine of several of the professors, I saw that The Belfast Presbytery then passed a vote of censure on
corroborative evidence was necessary if the matter were me because I had not gone before the committee with
to be pursued, but my efforts to procure this were fruitless. the charges, and against this censure I appealed to the
Somehow it had got out that this minister had been in assembly. The assembly confirmed the censure passed
communication with me, and when he was leaving a certain by the presbytery and ordered me not to circulate any
Presbyterian establishment one day, the head of it called out more SOS sheets. Like a dutiful son, I then went before
after him, You low, mean fellow. This shewed the spirit of the college committee with charges against another of the
modernism. professors, and the committee handed them back to me with
the statement that they had no jurisdiction in a matter of
that kind! Then I went to the presbytery in the beginning of
Be ye not unequally December, 1926, and after two months delay the trial began.

yoked together with

After fourteen sederunts the five charges were dismissed,
and the professor found not guilty. The professor was

charged, on evidence taken from his published writings and
from notes of students, the substantial accuracy of which he
himself admitted, with denying the doctrine of imputation,
After the lapse of a number of years a student waited to see the moral finality of our Lords character, the infallibility of
me at the end of a meeting which I was conducting. He told the Scriptures, the scriptural authority for the doctrine of
me that in one of the classes the professor had said that the the Trinity, and with pantheistic teaching concerning Gods
Lord Jesus on the cross thought He had let God down. The responsibility for sin.
blasphemy was so shocking that I resolved to do what I could
to expose this infidelity. I succeeded in getting the notes of a To put a fair face on the trial, the presbytery paid a lawyer to
second student which confirmed the statements of the other. act as assessor to the moderator. When the lawyers decision
Soon, however, I received a letter from this second student did not suit them, however, they refused to be guided by him.
refusing to allow me to make use of his notes. I replied that The first charge was entered into at length, but the other
soul-murder was worse than body-murder, and that I would four charges were not entered into. The professor claimed in
make use of any true evidence I could procure. When the trial these to enter a plea of justification. The lawyer gave it as his
did come on, the presbytery drew this distinction between decision that the circumstances did not allow of such a plea,
these two witnesses: the one who wished to withdraw his but the moderator and the presbytery ignored this decision;
evidence they rewarded by never examining him at all; the fear drove them to this injustice.

A record of the Trial was published, but this record was he would not have used the expression let God down. Mr.
seriously defective. Of the four last charges all that is Corkey evidently sees nothing wrong in all this, but to me it
published is the four long addresses of Professor Davey. is blasphemous infidelity. Six weeks after that assembly I
When the first of these addresses was finished the wrote to the clerk of presbytery, sending my resignation as
moderator turned to me and said that I could reply if I chose; minister and member of the Presbyterian Church. In due
and when I answered that I thought it very unfair to call upon course this came before the presbytery, but I received from
me at a moments notice to answer the long statement that them no acknowledgement, good, bad, or indifferent. Some
had been made, he simply said that there was no need to time afterwards, however, this paragraph appeared in a
speak if I did not like. Not wishing the matter to go by default prominent place in the papers: At the meeting of the Belfast
I took the opportunity that was offered and four addresses Presbytery held on 4th October, the following communication
of mine were given in reply to those of Professor Davey. Not was submitted: At the meeting of the Commission of the
a single word of these addresses was printed, nor one word Assembly held on 3rd October, 1927 the following resolution
of the statements of the professor in reply to those given was unanimously adopted: That as the Rev. James Hunter
by me. When all was over in the presbytery an inhibition has, by his own action, severed his connection with this
was imposed on the accusers not to speak one word on the Church, his name be now removed from every roll of the
subject, not even in public prayer till after the assembly. I General Assembly, that the Presbytery of Belfast be directed
answered on the first public opportunity, that I would speak to remove his name from its roll, and that the session of the
before the assembly and after the assembly, and as long as I congregation with which he was connected be directed to
had strength to do so. remove his name from its roll of membership.
The course of the trial before the higher court was of the
same unfair character. My brother asked me what I thought was the meaning of
this strangely worded resolution, and I said I believed they

Wherefore come out wished the public to think that I had been guilty of some
grave immorality. He replied that that was his opinion also.

from among them, and When the Rev. Thomas Connellan quitted the Roman Catholic
church, he left his clothes beside a lake, and so, thinking that
be ye separate, saith the the poor man was drowned, the romanist church gave him
a really good testimonial. If I had acted similarly the Belfast
Lord, and touch not the Presbytery might have shewn a little, heathen courtesy.

unclean thing; and I will One consequence of the trial was that rationalism got fresh

receive you, and will be courage. At an opening lecture of the Assemblys College, on
conversion, Professor Davey instanced four men as genuinely

a Father unto you, and converted Christians, and men of God. Who were these four?
They were antagonists of the Christian faith, two of them not
ye shall be My sons and even believing in a life after death.

daughters, saith the I have been asked why I did not stay in the Presbyterian

Lord Almighty
Church and try to reform it from inside. I answer that our
forefathers left the church of Rome when many urged
them to remain and try to purify it. The superstitions of
The only individual who rose to criticise the heresies of Rome are not worse than the unbelief that is harboured in
the professor was my own brother, since deceased, and the Presbyterian Church. When a theological professor is
they howled him down. The Rev. Wm. Corkey speaking on permitted to teach his students that the doctrine of the
behalf of the professor charged me with going about the Trinity is not found in the New Testament, that is quite
country and telling what was untrue, that Professor Davey enough for me. Be ye not unequally yoked together with
taught his students that Jesus let God down on the cross. unbelievers. What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
The falsehood was Mr. Corkeys and not mine. I told, and Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate,
tell, what was admitted to be true, that the students were saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will
taught that Jesus thought on the cross that he had let God receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My
down. And the professor did go so far as to admit that had sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
he known that publicity would have been given to the lecture


Rev. W J Grier The Evangelical Presbyterian November 1967 directly involved in the ecumenical movement or are largely
under non-evangelical leadership.

W e have been celebrating the 450th anniversary of

Luthers action in nailing his 95 theses on the door of
the Castle Church at Wittenberg. This event led on to the
Those against separation argue that, no matter how great the
declension and departure in Israel of old, the prophets did not
great Reformation movement and the break with Rome. In seek to establish a separate worship. Prof. Runia points out
ecumenical circles this break is often deplored, though in that this argument is completely untenable, for it loses sight
actual fact the Reformation was a mighty work of the Spirit of the peculiar situation of Israel as the theocratic people of
of God resulting in a return to the faith of the early church. God, and he adds: The application of the national church idea
In our day there is a great departure from the bible, and in to the New Testament church by the reformers of the 16th
many pulpits, particularly in the larger denominations, there century and by many defenders of the established church
is a great dearth of Gospel preaching. So it has come to concept in our own day has led to an externalization of the
pass that a fresh call is being sounded to leave these larger church.
denominations and make a new beginning. This is a serious
step we must beware of the sin of schism. It is a step that Prof. Runia declares that every application of the Old
can only be taken on adequate grounds. Testament idea of the faithful remnant (within unfaithful
Israel) to the New Testament church, and in particular to
Two articles on the topic When is Separation a Christian the true believers in a corrupted church, reveals a historical
Duty? appeared in the well-known journal Christianity misunderstanding.
Today, in June and July, 1967; and these were reproduced in
The Christian in July, 1967. The writer is Prof. Klaas Runia, Dealing with the New Testament teaching, Prof. Runia rightly
vice-principal and professor of Systematic Theology at the insists that the New Testament condemns all unnecessary
Reformed Theological College, Geelong, Victoria, Australia. schism throughout the whole New Testament there is a
He begins by defining schism and separation and separatism. tremendous emphasis on the unity of the church. But he
Schism occurs when the separating party leaves a church points out:
that is itself still faithful to the Gospel. Separation is different
often those who leave are forced out by the parent body. 1. that the New Testament church gradually separates
This was so at the Reformation, and such separations are itself from the Jewish Church.
among the most glorious events in the churchs history. 2. that while 2 Corinthians 6.14-17, in forbidding the
Separatism, on the other hand, is often the result of a factious unequal yoke, is primarily referring to compromises with
spirit and approaches to schism. the heathen, it also forbids compromises of every kind.
3. that there is a clear commandment that heresy is not to
In England in the past years there has been much argument be tolerated in the church.
for and against separation, especially since Dr Lloyd-Joness
clarion call at the National Assembly of Evangelicals in Prof. Runia begins his second article by emphasising that
October, 1966, to leave those denominations which are the church is not primarily the organization and certainly not

the buildings. It is rather, as the Belgic Confession says, a of the church. The church-within-a-church solution has
holy congregation of true Christian believers expecting all shown itself to be impossible.
their salvation in... Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, 3 The proper course. Says Prof. Runia: All means have to
sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This church, though be used, not only those of preaching, writing and prayer,
in essence spiritual, and therefore hidden, is also visible but also those of fighting heresy in the church courts One
There is no contrast between the two. The one church should not easily leave ones church but when the church
is hidden and visible at the same time. Unfortunately in by its decisions and actions has shown its refusal to reject
evangelical circles the two have time and again been divorced. heresy, the time has come to leave. In other words. . . the
To many the church is the invisible church. The visible church final and full responsibility will always rest with the church
is thought almost a necessary evil, at best the external hull. or denomination that refuses to be Reformed according to
the word of God. Personally, I believe that this approach to
As to the unity of the church, there is throughout the New Reformation is most in conformity with the New Testament.
Testament the existing unity of the church in Christ (John 17.
20-21), and, on the other hand, there is the constant call Prof. Runia mentions some situations where separation is
to realise this unity in the actual life of the church (Eph 4. justified:
3,15). Says Prof. Runia: Because believers are one in Christ,
being members of the one body, they must always strive 1 The church itself in its official doctrinal statements may
to manifest this unity in the world There is the danger of oppose the Gospel and refuse to repeal its errors. This was
unnecessary schism. There is the danger of heresy. The the case at the Reformation.
New Testament emphasises heresy in particular, because the 2 The church may compel the believer to believe or do
unity in Christ is no indifferent, colourless unity, but always a things that are clearly contrary to the word of God. An
unity in the truth. Prof. Runia quotes Louis Berkhof as saying: example here is found in the Roman mass.
The New Testament is not interested in unity as such. Unity 3 The church may no longer give freedom to believe or to
can be of all sorts; it can be purely human, even satanic. All do what is clearly demanded by the word of God.
depends on the centre round which it is being formed... The 4 The church in its official capacity may refuse to deal
unity of the church consists in the fact that together we with notorious heretics in spite of protests or charges.
conform to the apostles witness about Jesus Christ, as this
has been transmitted to us in the New Testament. Some believers in these situations stay put. They do not
seem to realise that they have a solemn responsibility
Prof. Runia adds: The relation between unity and truth can a corporate responsibility for evils that prevail in
become so full of tension that a rupture is unavoidable. In their church for heresy, for the unscriptural practice
the New Testament itself, this rupture means the expulsion of more or less indiscriminate baptism and more or less
of the heretics. The New Testament does not know the indiscriminate admission to the Lords table. THERE IS A
situation of a church in which error has obtained an official JOINT RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT IS GOING ON IN OUR
place. Yet it speaks to our situation, for it makes it abundantly CHURCHES.
clear that not all unity is naturally scriptural and that not all
separateness is sinful. Prof. Runia concludes these splendid articles thus: Only
those who have seriously tried to bring the church to
Everything depends on the answers to Reformation, and have found that the church not only
refuses to reform but continues to protect error and heresy in
the questions: is it a unity in the truth? fundamental areas of the Christian faith only these persons
Is it a separateness for the sake of the have the right and the duty to separate.
clear testimony of the word of God?
In the face of the situation in our day, evangelicals are taking
three courses:
1 The course of separatism. Prof. Runia deplores the method
of separatism which would simply mean leaving a church
without any serious effort to drive out heresy.
2 Staying in. The attitude of those who stay in the
corrupted church to the bitter end. Those who take this
course share in the responsibility for the presence in the
church of heretics who deny the fundamentals of the faith
and who nevertheless are protected (and even honoured)
by the church. It is not really enough, says Prof. Runia, to
denounce error and heresy in preaching and writing only; it
is also our duty to fight against it in the councils and courts


By David Watson In 1927 there were concerned evangelical ministers who

disagreed with the J E Davey liberalism/modernism and

W hat would I have done had I found myself in the

same position as Rev. James Hunter, W J Grier and
a few others in the summer of 1927? These people were
probably voted against the J E Davey position, yet seemed
comfortable to remain in an avowed inclusive and pluralistic
church. Their mindset did not contemplate any reason to
loyal mainstream Presbyterians and anxious to uphold the separate or secede a serious stumbling block for me. Or,
teaching of Scripture on vital truths, particularly in Assemblys moving to the 1970s, the CCW movement (the Campaign
College. To onlookers they had for Concerted Witness) within PCI was another stay-in
been trounced in the church movement. In that instance the immediate aim succeeded,
courts and faced severe church with PCI withdrawing from the World Council of Churches.
discipline. They left before the Stay in and change from within has remained the tactic for
likelihood of excommunication. many years. However to quote J G Vos: the position is only
Could they have taken a possible to men holding a low view of the church. If they held
different approach? Should the high view of the visible church, they would at once feel a
they have handled things corporate responsibility for conditions in their denomination.
differently? So what would I
have done? PCI by its own admission
remains a broad church
I profess to be a Confessional which means it is able to
Westminster Confession of accommodate a variety
Faith and Catechisms (WCF) of views and beliefs
person. Each year at our even though the WCF and catechisms are its sub-ordinate
September presbytery I affirm standards. I cannot accept that position. There is evidence of
that I have read the WCF and remarkable latitude in PCI: the ordination of women as elders
subscribe to it as my Confession of Faith, without reservation. and ministers; the toleration of liberals and the possibility
This is a very serious matter. Subscription does not of indiscriminate infant baptism and unconverted elders (I
guarantee denominational orthodoxy, but it commits me to realise that God alone knows). PCI evangelicals justify this
seek developing knowledge of the Confession and Catechisms position by pointing out the Confession states a true church
and by that to biblical teaching, learning, discipline and will always be subject to both mixture and error and that
Christian living. there is no such thing as a perfect church on earth. True, but
it does not mean that error should be accommodated; rather
In 1927 I would have wanted to see the Presbyterian Church a Reformed church should endeavour to be as doctrinally pure
in Ireland (PCI) take a clear stand on the WCF as historically as possible, certainly sorting out practices clearly at variance
understood, but that issue was fudged. The beliefs with the Scriptures. The WCF, though a consensus document,
propagated and accepted, ensured that liberal theology, not is quite specific and does not at all sit comfortably with
Westminster theology, prevailed. Hence the main protestors pluralism.
were effectively silenced within the church. What could they
do but start afresh? I cannot see any alternative if one takes a Evangelicals within PCI today point to progress made
high view of the doctrine of the church. towards a purer church a fact I accept. The number of PCI
evangelical pulpits has increased from the 1927 days.

The teaching in Union Theological College appears to be and that is sad. Indeed, many see the debate as academic,
increasingly undertaken by Reformed men, the number of serving little to help the cause of the Gospel. I would argue
evangelical moderators in the recent past and the stalling in that it has everything to do with Gospel truth and so is vitally
the number of women entering the ministry are rightly cited important. The J E Davey way of Gospel truth and mine are
as evidence of progress. But I look for more than this, indeed different. Some may dispute that, stating that J E Davey used
more than the broad evangelicalism prevalent in churches Gospel language, but the Humpty Dumpty words, when I use
today. Good as that may be, we are committed to preaching a word it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor
the Gospel within the context of the Reformed faith crucially less, come to mind; and many ministers over the years have
something often not understood or applied in Confessional done the same thing.
churches today, including PCI.
So what is my stand today and what are the alternatives
Then there is the argument about size and effectiveness. The open to me as a Presbyterian, for Confessional and corporate
entire EPC constituency could fit into one large evangelical worship? There are five denominations in Ireland that have
PCI church. The obvious question is posited: does our Presbyterian in their name - the Presbyterian Church in
size demonstrate success and rightness, or failure? But is Ireland, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the
this the proper question to ask? EPC is concerned about Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, the Non-Subscribing
size, but truthfulness, faithfulness and obedience are the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and ourselves, the Evangelical
biblical requisites that please God. In the book By Honour Presbyterian Church.
and Dishonour (Pages 379-380), Ernest Brown deals with
the question of smallness. He also says: In an age when I have insurmountable problems with the Non-Subscribing
churches are assessed by what they offer and by the level Presbyterian Church (NPC). NPC refuses to impose
of comfort they provide, small Confessional churches today compulsory subscription to any man-made creeds in respect
lose out in public perception because of their demands of a persons faith. Its ethos is faith guided by reason and
for a high level of committment and shortage of facilities. conscience and it advocates liberal and tolerant Christianity.
More than anything else, the church has always borne the I could never reside in this camp.
cost of separation, Confessional adherence and the biblical
administration of the sacraments. These factors have The Free Presbyterian Church
deficit popular appeal (page 380). This certainly has been of Ulster (FPC) is a solid Gospel
my experience; yet, paradoxically the EPC influence greatly and bible believing church. The
exceeds its size. fundamentals of the faith are
not in question, but FPC takes
Are separation or secession ever justified? Scripture a very firm separatist stand
repeatedly teaches that we are not to tolerate false teaching in relationships with other
but turn aside from those who teach it. Was secession Christian churches. In essence
justified in 1927? Were the charges against J E Davey in the this becomes an isolationist position, a position which I do
toleration of error in key doctrines of sufficient magnitude not hold. Also, even though the FPC in its code permits both
to justify a parting of the ways? I would strongly argue that paedo-baptism and adult baptism, the denomination is in
they were. EPC has been accused of being schismatic, which practice baptistic. As far as I am aware, the FPC permits only
is plainly untrue. All separation is not schism. Again Ernest the AV translation of the Scriptures to be used in the pulpit.
Brown on the matter of schism says: Biblically it is one
of the most serious charges that can be brought against a EPC has close and warm
church and churches should not do it without due diligence relationships with the Reformed
and self-examination. (page 378). Yet we must never Presbyterian Church of Ireland
forget that loyalty to Christ always comes before loyalty to (RPC). In fact a number of our
a church or denomination. EPC is far from perfect - we have ministerial students, past and
great problems and weaknesses. But we seek to ensure a present, have been trained in
converted ministry, eldership, diaconate and communicant the RP Theological Hall. Yet
membership within a biblical church order. there are differences between
us. The first relates to a very
To most onlookers EPC has lost the separation/secession strict interpretation of The Regulative Principle, sometimes
debate. I have not convinced many PCI people of the summarised as what is not prescribed in the Scriptures is
rightness of our cause. PCI folk may ask: Why should I leave prohibited. In practice this is seen in the worship of God,
mother church and identify with such a small cause? Does where the RPC sing only unaccompanied Psalms. I do
it matter that the PCI mindset is broad? Can we not just get not hold to such a strict interpretation of the regulative
on with the work of the Gospel, after all no-one is stopping principle, singing hymns as well as psalms. My reasons are
me evangelise? These arguments are persuasive, yet do for another day. The second difficulty relates to the church
not invalidate the EPC position which I believe has biblical and state debate, where the RPC holds that any repudiation
warrant, and that to me is paramount. I acknowledge that of the covenants signed in Scotland in 1638 and 1643, is
the separation/secession debate is complex. But often sin. I do not take this line. However, I have friends in, and
important, relevant scriptural passages on the purity of the have fellowship with, the RPC. I can readily worship in their
church are not given sufficient thought, nor taken seriously congregations.

So what do I consider the EPC relationship with PCI should be must demonstrate biblical life throughout its constitutency
or could be? This is the denomination from which we seceded. and provide a clear trumpet sound in a very mixed up
Yet while I recognise that evangelicals within PCI see it as christendom generally, and a confused Presbyterianism in
a work in progress, the acceptance of the broad church/ particular.
pluralism still holds sway and because of its practical out-
working I remain far removed. Many years ago, Rev. James If someone asked me: What does EPC stand for and why do
Hunter made this pertinent comment in relation to PCI: no we exist? The answer must be something like:
one is afraid of heresy; all are afraid of schism. In 1927, for
those in control in PCI, any condenmation of J E Davey was 1. We seek to be a Confessional church holding to and
impossible to contemplate. Was it because he was preceived upholding the Reformed faith enshrined in the Westminster
to be an able theologian, up to date, intellectual, courteous Confession of Faith and Catechisms, in practice as well as
the modern face of the church? Perhaps; but today, Reformed in name. It far from guarantees the perfect church (we are
Confessional evangelicals within PCI would take the view fully aware of our sins), but it seeks to ensure the word of
that J E Davey was let off the hook. They disagree with his God is central and taken seriously in all aspects of work and
theology and acknowledge that. But such an admission does witness.
not involve any thought of separation or secession. So often
the desire for outward peace can be the controlling factor. If 2. We seek to ensure a converted ministry, eldership,
that is so then the famous warning of Charles Hodge in 1869 diaconate and communicant membership.
calls out: if truth be lost, all is lost. Our numbers, wealth and
influence will avail nothing. 3. We believe in the primacy of preaching. This preaching
must be truthful, with passion, warmth and to the honour
What would it take to make me go back to PCI? I cannot of our God, with the expectation that God will work in
ignore this question the calls for the unity of the church in conversions and give Christian growth. We want to be
Scripture are numerous and striking. Answer: a thorough- known as a church that preaches a full orbed Gospel and
going reform in PCI is needed in a number of key areas. honours God in thoughtful worship.
Does this mean I can have no contact with Confessional PCI
men? No, there may be and have been individual contacts. 4. We seek to be clear in the area of church discipline.
Yet care is needed as potentially the guilt by association A credible profession of faith for communicant church
argument surfaces. In my view progress along formal lines membership is sought and only children of believing
of discussion are not presently viable as there is too large a parents are baptised.
gulf between us; but informal chat with Confessional PCI men
might be useful and perhaps not a bridge too far. 5. We do not believe the broad church concept is biblical.
Yes all churches (including EPC) are far from perfect,
I believe that EPC has an important role to play today. If we but toleration of deviations from Scripture cannot be
cease to promote Confessional Presbyterianism then we have acceptable.
no reason to exist. We must stick to this task with integrity,
truthfulness, prayerfulness and love, serving in vibrant 6. We are not isolationists in our attitude towards Gospel
congregations propagating the Gospel of the grace of God churches.
in Christ. We must test all our enthusiasm for Gods work
against Gods word. This is my Christian duty and witness. I Is this identity persuasive? Rather, the proper question is
am challenged by the final paragraph in Ernest Browns book: Am I pleasing, loving and being obedient to our Lord Jesus
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church is called to safeguard Christ, to His word, His Gospel, in His church and for His
diligently what God has given to it and is expressed in its glory?
supreme and subordinate standards. . . It cannot remain
faithful without this diligence, but it must ever do so in
acknowledgement of its full dependence on God. Only his
divine power working through the church can ensure it (page
431). Ours is a minority position, a position often questioned.

In practical terms how can EPC spread its convictions? How

do we do this in an age of branding and marketing, concepts
which have filtered into church life? We are beset with things
You have given a banner to those
like church logos, symbols, websites, strap lines, mission who fear You, That it may be
statements, creative advertising and facebook pages. It may
not necessarily be wrong for Reformed churches to use this
displayed because of the truth.
type of approach, so long as what is promoted is truthful and Selah Psalm 60v4
honouring to God. But that is not really where we are or what
we are talking about, it is so much more. It is in the prayerful
and powerful preaching of Gods word declared in the power
of the Holy Spirit. It is in the demonstration of changed lives
lived to the glory of God day by day. EPC as a living organism

(ACTS 2:42-47)
This article is an abridged form of a lecture given by Stephen
Roger, at the EPC Autumn Evening Lectures, 1998.

The Biblical Marks of a

Church Member

W hat will a biblical church membership look like? To

answer that question I want to turn to Acts 2, and in
particular to verse 42, where we read of that early church:
Committed to the Word
And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine, in
Notice firstly that they were committed to the word. Were
fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Let me
told that those who became Christians and were added to
begin by noting verse 41, where we read: Then those who
the church had a commitment to the word of God. There
gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about
are a number of things that we can say here. They had
three thousand souls were added to them. And then in verse
a continual commitment to the word of God and they
47: praising God and having favour with all the people. And
continued steadfastly. They were enduring not enduring
the Lord added to the church daily those who were being
the preaching, I hope, but enduring in the preaching. They
were there to soak the preaching up. They were there to
take the preaching on board. They were there to learn. They
Notice how the church in Jerusalem came about. It was
were there to grasp what God was saying to them. They had
because God worked in hearts; it was because conviction
a commitment to the word of God. They wanted to hear;
came upon souls; it was because the Lord added to the
they wanted to know. Being fed the word of God wasnt
church. The people were clearly not isolated Christians. They
something that had to be rammed down their throats. They
were individuals, they were families, yes! But they were
didnt have to be dragged screaming to church. They had a
added to the church. God himself joins them to the church.
lively interest in the word of God. They wanted to know what
We dont have the concept of Christians floating around in a
it was that God was saying. It was the Apostles doctrine that
sea of unattachment.
they were coming to hear, something that was revealed not
by men, but was the very word of God as the Lord Jesus Christ
The tragedy is that this isnt the case so often in the day
had promised.
and age in which we live. We see the break-up of the family,
we see people unable to live with each other, we see the
At the same time it was a very practical teaching that was
fragmentation of so much that claims to be the church, and
given. It went to the knuckle. It spoke to the heart. It had
we see much that is non-committal. Indeed we see people
dealings with the soul. It demanded a response. Paul, writing
floating around in a sea of non-committal; people who
to the church at Thessalonica, rejoices with them that when
come and go, people who are free and easy. But when we
that word of God had been brought to them they had received
look at that New Testament church, we see folk set into
it as the word of God. For this reason, he says, we also
the church. Those who became Christians belonged to the
thank God without ceasing, because when you received the
church. And thats a very important factor in beginning to
word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not
speak of what is a biblical church member. A biblical church
as the word of me, but as it is in truth, the word of God (1
member will, I believe, recognise that fact and will see that
Thess. 2:13). And the biblical church member, I suggest to
the church is not some human institution, but is indeed a
you, is going to be the person who receives Gods word as it
divine institution, and will therefore recognise that to this
is, the word of God, and who takes it to heart. It may hurt, it
church they must have a commitment. To this church they
may search, but he goes out of the church door and he takes
cant afford to be indifferent. To this church they must
it home with him, and he wants to ponder, and he wants to
belong, and that this whole idea of non-committal is simply
think out what he has heard, and he comes to respond.
not permissible.

What was the early church like? We can say four things
just taking verse 42 in a very simple way.

Committed to Fellowship to be spurned. It wasnt something that they just missed. It
was something that they were obviously careful with.
The word for fellowship (koinonia) is well known. It was a
word that means commonality. It meant deep commitment Again, reflect on our own day. There are professing Christians
to other Christians in the church. That was evidenced who never take the Lords Table. There are many others
obviously and very clearly here in Acts chapter 2 by hands who manifest a careless attitude. And there is sometimes
that dipped deeply into the pocket to help to supply the to be seen a careless non-presence, even leaving before
needs of other Christians. This wasnt some loose kind of the communion, which is a difficult thing to understand.
a membership, this wasnt some vague unattachment. For Were not to read the heart but you could suspect at times
these people koinonia, commonality, fellowship, meant that there is a coming to the Lords Table without a due
something. And it was a meaning that went even into preparation and consideration of heart. That too is a serious
their pockets. There was a recognition of together being thing. The early church was committed to the Lords Table, so
the children of God. There was a recognition of their inter- much so that Luke can write that they continued steadfastly
dependence that flows from being the children of God at the Apostles doctrine, at fellowship and in this matter of
together. These people were there for each other. the breaking of bread.

Paul, we know, had a very tender heart for the church at The Lords Table is a meal, a spiritual meal, provided by the
Philippi. He loved them. His introduction is a very personal Father for his children. Now, we have a good little family of
kind of introduction and he is very thankful to them for the eaters and there is no problem in our family that when the
keen interest that they had taken in his ministry. They had shout goes up, Teatime! we all go running fairly quickly
sent on more than one occasion to help him financially, and because Mum has made tea. I wouldnt like to imagine if
you remember how he begins in that epistle: I thank my God we didnt turn up! I can imagine that there would be great
upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of disappointment on someones face. Well, the heavenly Father
mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in provides for us a spiritual meal at which he expects us to be
the Gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1.3-5) nourished. He expects us to partake. He wants to nourish
us. He wants to advance us in our Christian lives. He wants
Fellowship was something precious. It meant that they to bless us. Its a foretaste of that marriage supper of the
were attached. It wasnt merely friendship. Friendship Lamb. It looks ahead to heaven itself. Its a snippet. Its until
is a wonderful thing, isnt it? We love to have friends and he comes. The Lords Table will end when he comes, because
friends are very important to us. But I do think that there is well be gathered around that marriage supper of the Lamb.
a danger that friendship can supplant fellowship. Fellowship Its inconceivable that Christians could want to miss the
is something deeper than friendship. I know that we have marriage supper of the Lamb. It therefore ought to be a very
that description of a friend who sticks closer than a brother. difficult thing for Christians to miss the Lords Table.
And I realise that a friend that can have a deep meaning
in Scripture. But in our common way of thinking, I think
that fellowship really is on a higher level. There is that
recognition of together being the children of God. There is
that preparedness to put ourselves out. Fellowship means
commitment to one anothers troubles, one anothers needs,
within and even beyond the body of the local church.

Committed to the Lords Table

Were to be committed, thirdly, to the Lords Table: And they

continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship,
in the breaking of bread. . . Already we see that in the early
church baptism was taken seriously. Then those who gladly Committed to Prayer
received his word were baptised; and that day about three
thousand souls were added to them (Acts 2.41). There was Fourthly, there was a commitment to prayer. It is evident that
a clear commitment to baptism, no question, but also a clear these New Testament Christians had a commitment to prayer,
commitment to the Lords Table. Those early New Testament on an individual level, no doubt, but here on a corporate
Christians gathered carefully around the Lords Table for the level, to the prayer meeting. Certainly, this is a matter that
breaking of bread. They took it seriously. It wasnt something must concern us greatly. Tragically, it would seem to be the

norm that its the few at the prayer meeting, and anything day by the apostle Paul. He is told in 2 Timothy 4: Preach
different from that is the exception. We cant live easily with the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince,
that. Its a tragedy that there are folk involved in the work of rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. What
our churches whom we perhaps rarely, perhaps never, see was Timothys weaponry as a young minister of the Gospel
at the prayer meeting. That ought not to be. I realise that to be? It was the word of God! He was to preach, he was
we are moving to a twenty-four hour society and we have to herald, literally, the word of God. The word of God was
folk who work long hours, and there are those who have to to be communicated; truth was to be transmitted, Biblical
work evenings and other shifts. I realise that we cant be out principles were to be conveyed and in all their power and in
every night of the week. I dont try to advocate that. But I do all their practicality. I believe very strongly that we who are
think that the prayer meeting had a very important part in the ministers, we who are elders in the church of God, have to
life of that New Testament church, and ought to have a very seek to work through what it means to be a godly, consistent
important place if we claim to be Christians, and certainly if Christian, what it means to be part of the church. Thats
we claim to be members of Christs church. not a terribly popular thing to do. It is far easier to settle for
something less than that, but I do believe that its incumbent
The biblical marks of a church member are that he or she upon those who are the servants of God to strive to set that
is committed to the word, fellowship, the Lords Table, and before the people of God. We may face indifference and even
prayer. opposition from folk who dont want to see the relevance
of biblical church membership to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
How we can develop Biblical There must be a regular, practical conveying to the people of
Church Membership God what it means to be part of the church.

How might we seek to develop such a biblical church A godly membership criteria
membership? Well, what do we see in Scripture? I want to
suggest five things here: Thirdly, we are to have godly criteria for entrance into
membership. There has to be a clear explaining of what is
A clear biblical picture of membership expected of members. People need to know what it means
to be part of a church, and there has to be a recognition that
First of all, I want to suggest to you that its not unimportant membership involves commitment.
that we have a clear biblical picture of what church
membership is. Were prone to be conformed to this world Clearly Ruth, speaking with Naomi, had a clear understanding
instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds of what it would mean for her to come and join the people of
that we might prove what is the good and acceptable will of God. She says:
God. We see it again and again in the history of the people
of Israel. What was unacceptable became the acceptable
Entreat me not to leave you, or to
norm of the day, time and again. They fell into practices
that they should have been a million miles from. Gradually, turn back from following after you;
godliness ebbed away, and wrong practice entered amidst the For wherever you go, I will go; And
people of God. Thats a real danger for us, isnt it?
wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your
Theres need that we take stock, and theres need for us to people shall be my people, And your
know where were going. And theres certainly need for those
God, my God. Where you die I will
who are in the leadership of Christs church to have an idea
of where theyre going, and to have a strong concept of what die, and there will I be buried. The
church membership is all about. Its important that we keep Lord do so to me, and more also, If
before us those texts that set out the mind of God in this
area. This is something that we need to be thinking through. anything but death parts you and me.
We must never settle for a sub-biblical approach to church (Ruth 1.16-17)
She realised that she was taking on a very sober
Preaching the Word responsibility; she was joining herself to the people of God.
Naomi had said, No, dont do it! Is there hope of me having a
Secondly, we must preach the word in all its power and son tonight? No! She warned her! But Ruth understands the
practicality. Timothy is warned against the slide in his own principle and she comes to join the people of God.

God had worked in her heart and she recognised that it means to fall down there. Theyre still young and immature and
a commitment; it involves a joining to the people of God. theyre maybe in their teenage years, but they dont always
think things out. Oftentimes its like that with the people of
In this connection, we need to watch the numbers game. God too. The elders are there to shepherd the flock, to watch
There is perhaps the idea, O, wouldnt it be wonderful if after the sheep as they walk on those mountain footpaths
we had so many church members! We need to watch that and often get too near the edge, and even tumbling down into
mind-set, because all too often it can mean that people who the abyss. Theres need to help the people of God, and theres
are not really ready for the commitment of membership are need to warn the people of God.
brought into membership, and it is simply the gathering of
numbers. I realise the people of God may be encouraged by
seeing folk coming along and being joined to the church. And
there can be a real temptation to encourage things along,
but its a useless thing if there isnt the warrant present for
membership. And it only brings more discouragement in the
end, and brings confusion and causes more trouble.


Fifthly and finally, we need to emphasise love the love of

God to us sinners in Christ to take our sins away, and the
corresponding love of those who have been saved to the one
who first loved them. For me biblical church membership
Shepherding the flock comes down to love for God. If I love God I will be a biblical
church member. Its as simple as that as far as I can see.
Fourthly, we need to shepherd the flock. Again I realise that
Im speaking here in the context of being a minister and Were in the day of Christian entertainment, but I dont believe
speaking in terms of eldership. But Pauls instruction to the that entertainment makes for biblical church members.
Ephesian elders was that they should shepherd the flock of People may say, Well, it brings the people along! True, but
God over which God himself had made them overseers (Acts it doesnt make them biblical church members! It entertains
20. 28). Elders, I want to say, need to be amongst the people, them! On the other hand there are those who argue for
stirring them on in their struggles, watching for them as they regimentation. In dealing with the people of God there is a
walk the mountain footpaths of life, not recognising that at heavy-handedness from the top a power that brings the
times they come too near the edge. people along, a clicking of the fingers that tells people where
they should be and what they should do and so on and so
That is a heavy responsibility on elders - that were actually forth. I see that so often ending up in a bust-up. I believe
to watch the lives. Were there to watch; were there to see. that at the heart of biblical church membership lies love. Its
Were watchmen; were there to declare; were there with a the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. And I
message; but were there to watch what the people of God love him because he first loved me. Unconditional, sovereign,
are doing. Were there to warn and to counsel. Were there electing love that needs to grab the people. You see, if
to try and see before them. You do that with your children, weve been grabbed by that love how can we be anything but
dont you?! Your children go into different things in life, and biblical church members? Its when that truth truly grabs us
youre trying to think two or three steps ahead of them. You that we will be a long way towards being the kind of church
dont want them to fall down here, and you dont want them members that we ought to be.

The 1927 lesson? Our church was born out of


doctrinal controversy. We must never be afraid
of it even if that should require an internal battle
as it did over dispensationalism in 1933. We
By Ernest Brown must be watchful, prayerful, dependent on God,
never taking our doctrinal integrity for granted. And we must

I n 1927 The Evangelical Presbyterian Church was constituted be continuously thankful for our pedigree in contending for
following the Heresy Trial in The Presbyterian Church the faith. This is a primary element of our historic identity.
in Ireland. Both bodies have expressed their considered
perspectives on this significant event in subsequent THE REFORMED FAITH
publications. Other ecclesiastical bodies, historians,
sociologists and commentators have also registered levels of The 1927 controversy was essentially about the Reformed
interest. The lessons, however, have been less prominently faith the faith that the reformers re-discovered from
addressed, raising again Friedrich Hegels observation that Scripture in the 16th century and expressed in a succession
The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing of Confessions of Faith of which Westminster was the
from history. This would be a serious failure since Scripture climax. The local Presbyterian subordinate standards were
records for our instruction the extended history of Gods the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, and in
dealings with his people: For whatever was written in former line with this, the five heresy trial charges were of teaching
days was written for our instruction (Rom 15.4). This doctrines contrary to the word of God and the standards of
instruction is to stimulate our encouragement to endure in the church. Our founding fathers surprisingly began with a
Christian hope in our hostile world. brief set of Articles of Faith rather than with Westminster
but our Presbyterian journey followed. In 1933 we adopted
Different bodies will see different lessons from the 1920s but the Westminster Catechisms and in 1944 the Confession of
we should identify those that apply to ourselves. There are Faith. Since then each minister, elder and deacon subscribes
indeed lessons which arise from the succeeding stages of our the Churchs Westminster standards as his personal faith,
90 year history and currently from our engagement with the without reservation, as founded on and agreeable to the word
present and developing situations in which we are called to of God.
serve. But the focus of this article is the lessons which arise
from our coming into existence and relate to our identity and As the Reformed faith accounts for our existence, adherence
roots. to it will determine our ongoing faithfulness. We must love it,
spend time in it, study it, grow continuously in our knowledge
CONTROVERSY of it, even be obsessed with it. Our ministers and elders are
committed to teach and defend its doctrines against all error
Disagreement, dissention and dispute are of the very nature to the utmost of their powers. Our subordinate standards
of controversy but most people acknowledge that informed are not to be viewed as academic, uninspiring, insufficiently
controversies shape the outcome of issues. Controversy may practical and short on Gospel focus. Such thinking is poorly
disturb ecclesiastical peace but God states the need for it: I informed. The Confession and Catechisms direct us to
found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for Scripture as supreme, and expound it systematically. They
the faith (Jude 3). 1 John is a spiral of repeated attacks on unfold the Gospel, the way of salvation, and the person and
doctrinal, social and moral heresies which had disturbed the work of the mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance
church around Ephesus towards the end of the first century. unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be
It was by later controversy that the church established many preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of
of its key doctrines, eg, the Person of Christ, the deity of faith in Christ. (WCF 15. 1) So unflinching commitment to
the Holy Spirit, the Trinity and justification by faith alone. the Reformed faith is our greatest distinctive. It is the lesson
We remain in the debt of those who fought these battles. of 1927.
There was a huge controversy in the Presbyterian Church in
Ireland in the 19th century over Arianism, the anti-Trinitarian SECESSION
system that denies the deity of Jesus Christ and of the Holy
Spirit. The Arians were defeated and left the church. The Our controversy for the Reformed faith led to our secession.
Heresy Trial was the climax of a decade of engagement over Secession as a principle has never been more alive and well,
doctrinal concern. So doctrinal controversy is not by nature as evidenced by the explosion of secessionism in the 20th
undesirable. But it must be motivated by love for God and century and the development of formal theories around it.
obedience to his word and with the engagement of Christian But nearly all of this is in the field of international political
graces. philosophy.

Ecclesiastically, secession could not have registered a 20th century and who brought us into existence in 1927. The
greater contrast. Even when it was a live issue locally in vital need continues today as we seek vision and the most
1927 it made very limited impact the Irish Evangelical effective way to discharge our responsibilities in the work of
Church did not begin life with the groundswell and elaborate Gods kingdom. Pray that God will call men into the ministry
organisation that secessions normally feature, but with one who are godly, giants in the Scriptures, gifted preachers of
retired minister, one licentiate, about 35 supporters and the word, fervent in prayer, men of Hebrews 11 faith, who,
with no material resources. Little is written about secession with servant hearts, will spend and be spent. Pray for it along
today and whatever debate it generated in former years with a continuous supply of ruling elders who join with the
has dissipated. Those of Reformed persuasion in pluralist minister in the government, nurture and discipline of the
denominations have a strong church identity and judge congregation, all bound together in singleness of purpose in
the demands of their Confessional Reformed standards to fulfilling their demanding ordination vows.
be compatible with a level of ecclesiastical broadness or
inclusivism. We want all our people of be theologians in that they pursue
the knowledge and likeness of our God and Saviour through
Secession is a serious ecclesiastical position to occupy so its grace and the means of grace that God has prescribed the
principles and practice are critically important for us today. word, sacraments and prayer. We want all our people to
The onus is on us to demonstrate the biblical requirement understand and share in our identity. But our potential will
for our separation and we cannot do this without studied not be achieved without biblical leadership which keeps watch
knowledge of our history and the arguments. If our grounds over souls as those who will have to give an account (Heb
are not clear historically or currently, it raises questions about 13.17). The focus of the 1927 leadership was controversy but
our right to be separate. Poorly defined justification of our they were men who loved the Lord and loved the lost.
position, or lack of interest in it, nudges us into the schism
debate where protagonists are ready and waiting. Schism CORPORATE ZEAL
is a corporate sin and some have already charged us with it.
We therefore have a duty to know, defend and expound our There was great fervour in the early days, as people prayed
stance. The critical issue is the nature of the church. and worked, driven by belief in what they were doing. Ten
congregations came into existence in the first five years.
We also need to face the issue of continuing secession. Perhaps it is easier to make progress with the momentum
Historically, secessions usually do not last and the bases for of a new start but it was never easy. It is still not easy but
re-alignment have often not been driven by adherence to the it is good to remind ourselves of this further lesson from
faith. It was happily otherwise locally when the Scottish- 1927 the need for zeal and willingness to accept reproach.
born Secession Church (1746-1840) united with the Synod Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the
of Ulster to form the General Assembly in 1840, subsequent reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.
to the expulsion of the Arians in 1829. W J Grier referred to (Ps 69.9, John 2.17)
this as a time of Returning Life. So what of ourselves? So do
we see the day when we could be re-united with our parent
body? Like our founding fathers we are open to that and So 1927 keeps before us lessons in which
we give thanks for everything that biblically increases that
our identity is rooted controversy, the
possibility. But leaving is one thing and joining is another.
We look to God for the future, but total denominational Reformed faith, secession, leadership and
compliance with the Reformed standards would be a sine qua
non. In making these points we wish to shun the impression
zeal. There is no suggestion that we are
that all needed reform is on some other side. We are very unaware of these lessons or that they are
conscious of our own shortcomings and of our potential for
failure even in the areas that are closely bound to our own
the only ones. We are thankful to the Lord
identity. for his enabling grace through the past 90
LEADERSHIP years, but we seek to attain new levels of
service, to excel in the future where we
God has made leadership a vital factor for organisational
effectiveness in family, church and state. The role of leaders have done well in the past, to be always
in the work of the Lord pervades the whole of Scripture. abounding in the work of the Lord.
It was men with leadership gifts who demonstrated
understanding of the times in the opening decades of the (1 Cor 15.58)

By Colin Campbell

T he bookshop has always been closely linked to the

Evangelical Presbyterian Church; indeed it preceded the
church. It is therefore appropriate to include something of its
Through the years the bookshop has held Autumn Lectures,
rekindled recently in 2016. We intend to continue these
excellent events, the next one due in November 2017.
story. Further details of the shop and its history are included in the
EPC history, By Honour and Dishonour.
The Early Years
The Ethos
The genesis of the Evangelical Book Shop was in the spring
of 1926 when the Presbyterian Bible Standards League The bookshop trustees and manager have a clear purpose
(founded by James Hunter) began to use 15 College Square and vision. We are here to benefit ministers, teachers,
East as its headquarters in the controversy within Irish leaders, and congregations by providing access to Christian
Presbyterianism. It was in the living room of this house that resources which are biblically faithful, Christ-honouring, and
tables were set up to display books and pamphlets to combat of theological and practical benefit to the church at large. Our
German Rationalism and Modernism, and other literature... objective is to stock bibles and books that are in accordance
at the book depot... (near Cooke Statue). W J Grier became with the Westminster standards.
manager of this book depot in October 1926, with the sale of
bibles and Christian literature a core element of the work. The Future

From these humble beginnings, the bookshop progressed Today Christian bookshops are finding trading conditions
and its influence grew. The war years were difficult for difficult in terms of viability. We praise God that He has
many businesses but leading up to this period W J Grier was enabled us to continue the witness thus far and are confident
rather optimistic in his ordering of Reformed books from in our continued calling to this work.
the States. Providentially, as these books became difficult
to acquire, the bookshop became a hub in distributing them In practical terms, the ground and first floors of the shop were
across the United Kingdom. John J Murray makes the point refurbished in 2011 giving it a more modern and spacious
in his book Catch the Vision that it is possible the bookshop appearance. It was also extended to provide an extra room
was at its most influential during the war years. The building for used books which remains a popular aspect of the work.
was purchased in the 1940s and is now, along with the shop The website was created in 2011 but replaced in November
assets, held in trust for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. 2016, resulting in an increase in the number of customers
using this service for online sales. The offer of free postage
The Steady Plod within the UK, coupled with competitive pricing, ensures
customers are rewarded for their loyalty.
The Reformed faith was not well known and certainly not
preached in evangelical circles in the mid-years of the last Finally
century, but the bookshop became a haven of fellowship
and support for men in all denominations who treasured We need to be wise in seeking to develop the work. Prayer is
and preached the doctrines of grace. This was before the requested for the trustees, manager and staff, that we would
advent of publishing houses like The Banner of Truth. Nor did serve with energy, faithfulness, and joy; and that the work of
external influences detract from this work. During the times the bookshop would continue to bless the church in Northern
of political turbulence (known to us as the troubles), even Ireland and beyond, influence many to walk with God and
when getting into the city centre was difficult, staff remained testify to the truths of Scripture. Pray also for increased
faithful. The bookshop was damaged twice by IRA bombs, opportunities for direct witness something that happens
once extensively, but continued to operate. occasionally.

From 1939-2008 the shop exhibited at the Balmoral It is a privilege to follow W J Grier, S G Shanks, Samuel Watson
Agricultural Show the largest of its kind in the province. and John Grier as manager. Collectively their consummate
This raised the profile both of the shop and EPC, and offered knowledge of Christian books has been immense over the
another opportunity for evangelism. In recent years our off- years and a help to many. So please visit, browse, buy, go
site focus has changed. We are now the largest provider of online and use the shop even ask questions, and it will do
Christian conference bookstalls in Ireland, with events being your soul good.
added each year. We provide bookstalls from Coleraine to
County Wicklow and occasionally to England and Scotland. Motto: Jesus Christ is the same
This is demanding work but is essential in expanding the
work, meeting the needs of the church and consolidating yesterday and today and forever
our influence. (Heb 13.8)
Trueman deals with Luthers theology, his break with Rome,

and his understanding of the Christian life, and in a scholarly
but accessible way teaches us much about the man we call
the father of the Protestant Reformation.

Title: Qualified, Commissioned, The book is full of fresh and wonderful insights into Luther
and Accountable - studies in and his theology. To give one example, there is an excellent
Eldership from Acts 20:28 overview of Luthers theology on the doctrine of Justification
Author: Ernest C Brown (see page 20) in which the author explains how, for Luther,
Price: 5 the believer is simultaneously righteous and a sinner. This
section leaves the reader with a renewed sense of joy and
There is nothing more important wonder at how our unrighteousness has been exchanged for
for a Presbyterian church than Christs righteousness through His work on the Cross.
the health of her eldership and
yet comparatively little is written Perhaps one of the most pleasing aspects of this book is
directly for elders to strengthen not so much the excellent appraisal of Luther the man,
them in their work. or even Luther the theologian, but the way in which the
author connects these, leaving us with a portrait of a man
This book began life in 1987 as a who practiced what he preached. In turn, this helps us to
series of brief addresses at the start of presbytery when its concentrate on how we apply our beliefs and convictions to
author Ernest Brown served as moderator. The addresses everyday life.
were so well received that they were put into a book which
was published in 1993. This version was revised in 2016. Luther on the Christian Life is an enjoyable learning curve
for anyone coming to Luther for the first time as well as a
Ernest Brown has served as an elder in the Evangelical satisfying read for the Luther enthusiast. It is both theological
Presbyterian Church of Ireland for over 40 years and his and practical, and helps us, as we grow in our understanding
wisdom shines through the pages of this book. of and appreciation for Luther, to consider our own positions
Taking Acts 20.28 as his foundation text he expounds what on many important issues still relevant to the 21st century
eldership should look like. There are 9 chapters all around 10 and how we apply the truth of Gods word to our own lives
pages each - Our Call, Qualifications, Order, Office, Affinity, and times. If you read one book on Luther this year, make it
Warnings, Flock, Motivation and two chapters on Our Charge. this one!
Each chapter ends with a series of helpful questions for
discussion. Title: By Honour and Dishonour:
The Story of the Evangelical
The temptation for church session is that it so easily becomes Presbyterian Church
business as usual, literally the same old, same old and Author: Ernest C Brown
sometimes elderships can become jaded and discouraged. Price: 15
This book drives us back to biblical foundations on eldership
and challenges us to think clearly on our role and how we can By Honour and Dishonour is
function better as shepherds in Christs church. It does not the story of the Evangelical
say everything about eldership but that is not its intention. I Presbyterian Church in Ireland. The
highly recommend this volume to those training for eldership denomination is now 90 years old
but also for all elders. Why not buy a copy for all your elders, and Ernest Brown has written a
read a chapter at the start of each session meeting, discuss it fascinating book chronicling the ups
and spend some time in prayer? It will not be time wasted. and downs of the church. I realise
its a hard sell to encourage people
There are lots of books on leadership and mainly from the US. to buy a 500 page book about a denomination they possibly
This book is specifically for elders on eldership written by an have never heard of. However I think there are three very
elder and to top it off it is written by a Brit. good reasons why this is an important book.

Title: Luther on the Christian Life Firstly, the EPC of Ireland grew out of the heresy trial in 1927
RRP: 15-99 Our Price: 10-99 of Prof. Davey in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. Its fair
Carl R Trueman to say those who stood for the truth got absolutely trounced
Publisher: Crossway by the denominational machine. They were left with nowhere
Pages: 203 to go other than to start their own denomination. There was
Published: 2016 a great cost to their separation. In our own day we are in
the midst of ecclesiastical meltdown. We have seen similar
It is appropriate for Rev. Dr results recently in the Church of Scotland, when evangelicals
Carl Trueman, himself a pastor- have sought to stand for the truth in their denomination
theologian, to write a book on and one can envisage in the next ten years evangelicals
Martin Luther, a pastor-theologian within the Church of England facing similar difficulties.
par excellence, and in this volume
the author has expertly brought this Secondly, the book traces the life of a small denomination in
colossus of a reformer to life! how it traversed its early years, set priorities for itself and
Within the historical context of the sixteenth century, sought to live out consistently its confession.

Ernest Brown is honest about the struggles and problems
that the denomination has gone through and yet also sees
the fruit of how God has blessed them.

Thirdly, the EPC has not gone on from one triumph to another.
Today it has around 600 in its constituency. Brown writes,
Does this suggest that the Lord has withheld his blessing at
a very basic level? Churches look for growth and interpret it
as evidence of Gods favour. Other local evangelical churches
have grown much more within the same period. But care is
needed in assessing smallness in the work of Gods kingdom.
page380. This book has reminded me that numerical growth
is not the only type of growth we are to look for.

The book is well written, meticulously researched, even

exciting in parts and is well worth the time and effort. Carl
Trueman commends it saying, This is a delightful book, of
interest beyond the bounds of the EPC. Evangelical Book Shop, Belfast
Paul Levy, International Presbyterian Church, Ealing
These books are available from the Evangelical Book Shop,
Belfast Autumn Lecture
The Legacy of 1927
We would like to thank all who have contributed to this Ernest C Brown
special edition magazine:
Author of By Honour and Dishonour
Wallace Thompson is moderator of presbytery of the
Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Clerk of Session in Knock
Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Belfast The Legacy of the Reformation
Rev. Gareth Burke is minister of Stranmillis Evangelical Professor Crawford Gribbon
Presbyterian Church, Belfast Queens University Belfast
Prof. WDJ McKay is minister of Shaftesbury Reformed
Presbyterian Church, Belfast and Professor at the Reformed
Theological College, Belfast
Monday 6 November 2017
at 7.30pm
Heather Watson is a member of Ballyclare Evangelical
Presbyterian Church and a sub-editor of the magazine
Knock Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Dr Carl R Trueman is a Christian theologian and church
historian. He is Professor of Historical Theology and Church Newtownards Road, Belfast
History and holds the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History
at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is a minister in the
Orthodox Presbyterian Church in USA.
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today
and forever. Hebrews 13v8
Rev. Stephen Roger is minister of Ballyclare Evangelical
Presbyterian Church

Colin Campbell is a member of Stranmillis Evangelical

Presbyterian Church, Belfast and Manager of the Evangelical
Book Shop, Belfast

Special thanks must go to Ernest Brown and David Watson

for the huge amount of work they have put in to the
production of this magazine.

Ernest C Brown is an elder of the Evangelical Presbyterian

Church and author of By Honour and Dishonour-The story of
the Evangelical Presbyterian Church

David Watson is an elder in Ballyclare Evangelical

Presbyterian Church
It has been well documented how, in the
providence of God, the invention of the printing
press became integral in the spreading of Luthers
this is a great video to share on social media as we
come up to the 500th anniversary. Check it out at:
ideas far beyond even his own intended scope. php?s=the-story-of-martin-luther
Today, we live in very different times, but the
contemporary church can also benefit greatly Lectures
from recent technological advances; the rise of the
internet and the ubiquity of the smartphone have Ligonier Connect is a fantastic resource offering
opened up to us limitless opportunities to grow in courses in theology taught by some excellent
our understanding of Gods word. But where on professors. The only drawback is that you have to
earth do we start?! Below are a few ideas of how pay for some of the courses, although a number
to make use of the internet to interact with the of them are available free. In the course on
Reformation in the 21st century. Justification by Faith Alone, Dr RC Sproul explores
this key doctrine from historical, theological, and
Blogs biblical perspectives. He defines each term in the
phrase justification by faith alone while pointing
This autumn, the Christian blogosphere will be to the imputation of a perfect righteousness found
awash with articles relating to the Reformation. only in Jesus Christ. I personally really enjoyed
Some recommended sites to keep your eyes on taking this course earlier this year. The video
are: lectures are only about 20 minutes long and are
easy to follow.
Reformation21 & Place for Truth
Both run by the Alliance of Confessing Alternatively, if youd like to go through Carl
Evangelicals, Ref21 and Place for Truth Truemans video lectures on the Reformation,
host a number of bloggers from either side of taught at the Masters Seminary, then you can
the Atlantic. Varied in terms of content, these do so for free! Ive not been through this series
blogs aim to provide thoughtful yet accessible (yet!), but I have heard they are excellent. All the
articles ranging over biblical theology, systematic materials have been helpfully pulled together at
theology, church history, and practical theology Justin Taylors blog:
emphasizing the continual need for the church to
maintain the gains of the Protestant Reformation. justintaylor/2017/02/17/take-an-entirely-
free-video-course-with-carl-trueman-on-the- reformation/
Pitched at a more pastoral level, Tim Challies blog
is always worth following. Tim is a blogger, author, Podcasts
and book reviewer. His daily A La Carte posts
draw together a number of noteworthy articles Im a big fan of podcasts, and there are some really
from across the web which keeps you up to date good ones out there. You can subscribe to them
with whats happening in the Christian world and and listen for free on your smartphone. Here are
beyond, and his own articles are well worth a read my top three:
as well!
Mortification of Spin. Most of our readers will be
Gentle Reformation familiar with the aforementioned Carl Trueman,
Im really enjoying the articles being put out by though less may have heard of his co-hosts
this relatively new site. Authored by a number Todd Pruitt (a PCA pastor) and Aimee Byrd (the
of Reformed Presbyterian pastors, this site aims Housewife Theologian). A casual conversation
to be persuasive rather than polemical, pastoral about things that count, this podcast generally
rather than pejorative, and aimed at people in the begins with banter and ends with a discussion of
pews rather than professors and pastors. Their matters relating to theology and the life of the
strapline is speaking truth gently, which nicely church.
sums up the tone of their content.
Theology on the Go is somewhat similar, but
Videos with fewer hosts, more guests, and less banter.
Host Jonathan Master conducts a brief interview
The people at Go Chatter have produced a great about an eternal truth with a well-known pastor,
little stop-motion animation video explaining theologian or author.
the story of Martin Luther using playmobil!
Narrated by Mike Reeves, the video sums up the The Jerusalem Chamber. Im really enjoying this.
events leading up to the conversion of Luther, Four friends and Reformed Presbyterian pastors
and subsequently the start of the Reformation. from America discuss the Westminster Confession
Designed to introduce the Reformation in an easy, of Faith, paragraph by paragraph. Meaty and
accessible way, whilst also explaining the Gospel, enriching well worth a listen.