Unity

Maintaining peace among believers

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On Sunday morning we looked at the third Fruit of the Spirit - peace. We saw that in the context of Galatians 5, this is a reference to peace with other people, and particularly peace with other Christians.

That’s something Satan wants to destroy. In the book Precious Remedies against Satan’s devices, the Puritan Thomas Brooks lists some of these ‘devices’ of Satan, along with remedies to help us avoid them.

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According to Brooks, Satan’s ‘one great device that he hath to destroy the saints’ is,

By working them first to be strange, and then to divide, and then to be bitter and jealous, and then ‘to bite and devour one another,’ Gal. 5:15

In order to counter this strategy, the Brooks lists twelve remedies. Stephen mentioned four in the sermon - here is the full list:

  1. To dwell more upon one another’s graces than upon one another’s weaknesses and infirmities.

  2. Solemnly to consider, That love and union makes most for your own safety and security.

  3. To dwell upon those commands of God that do require you to love one another.

  4. To dwell more upon these choice and sweet things wherein you agree, than upon those things wherein you differ.

  5. To consider, That God delights to be styled Deus pacis, the God of peace; and Christ to be styled Princeps pacis, the Prince of peace, and King of Salem, that is, King of peace; and the Spirit is a Spirit of peace.

  6. To make more care and conscience of keeping up your peace with God.

  7. To dwell much upon that near relation and union that is between you.

  8. To dwell upon the miseries of discord.

  9. Seriously to consider, That it is no disparagement to you to be first in seeking peace and reconcilement, but rather an honour to you, that you have begun to seek peace.

  10. For saints to join together and walk together in the ways of grace and holiness so far as they do agree, making the word their only touchstone and judge of their actions.

  11. To be much in self-judging: ‘Judge yourselves, and you shall not be judged of the Lord,’ 1 Cor. 11:31.

  12. Above all, Labour to be clothed with humility.

Puritan Reformed Fellowship

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Last month Stephen attended a new gathering of Scottish ministers called the Puritan Reformed Fellowship. The conference was attended by like-minded men from the RPCS, Free Church of Scotland, Free Church Continuing, International Presbyterian Church and Associated Presbyterian Churches, as well as by one brother from the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC).

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The conference was held in the Macdonald Crutherland House Hotel in East Kilbride. It was a good, central location, and with a number of men coming from the Inverness area and the Western Isles, relatively close to Stranraer!

Eating and talking together was one of the highlights of the conference

Eating and talking together was one of the highlights of the conference

Proceedings began on a Monday night a talk by Malcolm Watts (Emmanuel Church Salisbury) on 'What is a Reformed Church?' (he has a book by the same title). The next morning he spoke on 'Five Solas of the Reformation', before an interesting lecture on the Lord's Supper by Malcolm Maclean (Greyfriars Free Church, Inverness). Dr Maclean reminded us that Reformers like Calvin thought the Lord's Supper should be held far more frequently than it is today - and questioned the helpfulness of the traditional Highland Communion Season in this regard.

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In the afternoon Joel Beeke (Heritage Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids), who had just arrived from America, spoke on 'Puritan Worship' and 'Puritan Preaching'. He spoke twice again that evening at a Scottish Reformation Society meeting that was open to the public.

The next morning, Dr Beeke gave his final talk on 'Puritan Evangelism', before Dr Donald John Maclean (an elder in Cambridge Presbyterian Church and author of James Durham and the Gospel Offer in its Seventeenth Century Context) spoke about the life of Durham, a Covenanter minister and author who died at 36. Dr Maclean challenged the divided Presbyterian denominations in Scotland to unity:

It's at this point that we have fallen furthest from our Reformed heritage. Durham simply would not recognise, could not comprehend, the multiplicity of orthodox Westminster Confession, Presbyterian denominations. He could not understand three psalm singing churches in a small village, struggling to support ministers, while towns with tens of thousands of people have no basic Reformed witness. He would quite simply say that we are, taken as a whole, in a state of sinful division

Perhaps by God's grace this conference will be a first step towards healing these divisions and changing the Confessionally Reformed church scene in Scotland.