“Glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen,” Luke 2:20.
Read Psalm 80.
Stream or download Sacred Memories of God’s goodness, Pt3
We come to the early 1960s in this our final message and we will seek to conclude with some references to the present day.
It is at this juncture that I became personally involved in the history of the Free Presbyterian Church.
I was saved on 5th April 1964 and the following Lord’s Day evening, April 12th, I went along with my father and mother to Ravenhill Free Presbyterian Church.
My parents had been attending for some time, since earlier in 1963. Their lives were beginning to show evidence of their sitting under the pure Word of God. They had been saved many years before, my father in 1919 as a 15-year lad and my mother in the mid-1930s. But there was no lively gospel witness for them to attend in the Lisnaskea area where the family lived at that time, and consequently they did not grow and advance as Christians should. However, in the wonderful providence of God, my father was brought under the sound of Dr Paisley’s voice while he was on patrol as a ‘B-Special’ sergeant in the Donegal Pass area of Belfast. What little he heard, listening outside an old cinema in Sandy Row, which had been closed but which Dr Paisley had obtained the use of for a mission, made my father determined to be in Dr Paisley’s church the next Sabbath. He and my mother did seek out Ravenhill church and they attended there until they went to be with the Lord., my father in 1991 and my mother in 2007.
From that first attendance on April 12th, I immediately became involved in the work and witness of the congregation. I was at a meeting there on Monday 13th and on Wednesday 15th and took part in the Young People’s open-air witness which was led by Mr Noel Stephenson, on Friday 17th, when I testified.
In the month of May or early in the month of June, I visited my Uncle William in Lisnaskea. While I was with him I gave my testimony in a portable hall used by an American evangelist, Mr Norman Worth, to conduct missions in the area. The hall was erected on the old railway line at Lisbellaw. It was within yards of the building, then a shop and store, in which some 3 years later I would begin my labours as an ordained minister of the gospel.
In September 1964, in a little mission hall in Foundry Street in East Belfast, Dr Paisley was having a mission. On the first Tuesday night of that mission I received a blessing from the Lord which had a great impact upon my Christian life. Just two months later, I resigned from my employment in Ulster Television and applied to the Presbytery to be received as a student for the gospel ministry. I was interviewed in November, when I was 21, and given a text to preach upon at the next Presbytery meeting which was on the first Friday evening in December. That I did and was accepted as a student and began my studies in the first week of January, under the tutelage of Dr Paisley and his father, Pastor James Kyle Paisley. William Beattie, James McClelland and James Beggs were my fellows students at that time.
Shortly after I commenced as a student, Dr Paisley decided that it would do me good if I was to move into the manse with his family, since he felt that my total lack of any real knowledge or experience of practical Christian living required such supervision! So for six months I was a ‘lodger’ in the old Beersbridge Road manse. I was very well fed and looked after and saw first hand the busy lifestyle of the Paisley household with visitors arriving at all hours seeking the help of Dr Paisley who was more and more becoming a household name in Protestant evangelical circles.
Of course, I attended and took part in many protests against the growing “Ecumenical Movement”. In those days, such was the confidence of the ecumenists that they were very open and bold in their pushing the aims and purposes of ‘Church Unity’! Leafleting and picketing such meetings were a regular feature of life in those days.
It was in February 1965 that I began preaching regularly each Lord’s Day. My first Sabbath was in Whiteabbey FPC where some 15 people would gather to worship. A month or so later I was placed there as a student minister with the duties of visitation and outreach and conducting the regular Sabbath services and the mid-week prayer meeting.
On the political front, the then Prime Minister, Terence O’Neill, was leading a campaign which was born of Ecumenism. He sought to introduce the deceitful principles of Ecumenism into the political affairs of Ulster. Irish Nationalism and Republicanism were the implacable twin opponents of the very existence of Northern Ireland. O’Neill, encouraged by his ‘Ecumenical Minders’, sought to change their disposition by compromising with them and offering them involvement in the political structures of Northern Ireland.
Many were dismayed at this approach for history had taught our forefathers that Romanism, the very heart of Irish Nationalism and Republicanism, could not be induced to forgo its undying hatred of all things Protestant. Experience had taught Ulster Protestants of old that “Romanism in the minority was a meek and gentle lamb; in equality, it was a crafty, duplicitous fox but when in the majority it took on its true nature and became a ferocious tiger!”
Because of this, many felt that O’Neill was deceived by his ecumenical mentors and by the two-facedness of popery.
Dr Paisley was to the fore in opposing him. Thus the battle against the evils of Ecumenism and its attempts to overthrow the work of the Protestant Reformation was fought on two fronts.
In June 1966, the Irish Presbyterian Church decided to invite a representative of the Irish Republic’s President to its annual General Assembly in Belfast. Eamon De Valera was the Irish President. He was a hardline republican who had taken part in the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and in subsequent IRA terrorism. He was an ardent Romanist and the invitation to his representative, and that just a few years after the end of last IRA terror campaign, 1956-1962, was seen as an act of betrayal, not only of those who had lost their lives in that terror campaign, but above all, a betrayal of the Truth of God and the principles of the Protestant Reformation.
Our fathers had encapsulated their opposition to Rome succinctly in the words of the old slogan: “No Peace with Rome until Rome Makes Peace with God!” The overtures by Ecumenism to Romanism involved an abandoning of that truth!
On Monday, 6th June, Dr Paisley led a protest march from his church to the General Assembly in Howard Street in the centre of Belfast, a distance of just over one mile. Police permission had been obtained. As the protest march was assembling, word came through that a crowd of Romanists was assembling in the vicinity of Cromac Square through which the parade must pass. The police were informed of this but it was explained that they were already observing that gathering.
Dr Paisley led off his parade and followed the main route into the centre of the city. As we drew near to Cromac Square, we could see that trouble had broken out in Cromac Square, visible to the Free Presbyterian parade as it descended from the Albert Bridge toward Cromac Square.
The police, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, as they were then called, forced the crowd of Republicans back off the main road in order to allow the legal parade to pass. When Dr Paisley’s parade reached Cromac Square, the Republicans began to shower down stones, bottles, railways bolts and just about anything that could be thrown at the Free Presbyterians. I recall looking up into the sky in order to try and avoid being hit by the missiles and seeing the sky filled with objects descending upon us. It is an absolute miracle that not one of the members of the Protestant parade was hit. It was later discovered that the rioters had availed themselves of the salvage that came from the demolishing of an old section of railway nearby and had used the heavy railway bolts as ammunition to throw at the parade. Thrown with force and descending from quite a height each bolt was capable of killing anyone it hit! But to this day, those who were in that parade bless God for His sparing mercy!
The protest parade continued, not stopping at all, even during the height of the missile throwing, and proceeded up May Street to Howard Street and the General Assembly buildings. It continued on past the buildings, turned right into Fisherwick place and then right again into Wellington Street and continued on until it came to the City Hall where it turned right once more until it came back on to May Street when it turned right once again and started toward the Assembly Buildings once again. That was the planned circuit of protest and it was walked at least twice before it was discovered that the police had erected a rope across Howard Street just at the Assembly Buildings. This is important to note for we had been given permission to parade this route but now the parade was forced to stop by the police erecting that rope.
The news of the attack upon the parade in Cromac Square had quickly spread to the nearby Protestant areas of Sandy Row and the Shankill Road. Consequently, many hundreds of concerned people had come down to the centre of the city to investigate and the original parade of maybe 200 Free Presbyterians had swollen to a crowd of many hundreds of people!
The ‘enforced’ stoppage of the parade resulted in a very large assembly of people just outside the entrance to the Presbyterian Headquarters from which a procession of local ‘dignitaries’, led by the newly inducted Moderator, one, Dr Alfred Martin, better known amongst us as ‘Daft Alfie’, and including the Governor of Northern Ireland, Lord Grey and his wife. Belfast humour at its best was directed toward the Moderator in his quaint apparel of breeches which were gathered at the knee and tied with bows and his frilly lace cravat. There was no violence whatever directed toward the individuals and the police felt that they were safe from any attack and so the procession of Presbyterians and their guests took place. The only ‘abuse’ was that of booing and shouting against the betrayal of the Protestant faith by the Presbyterian church and its ecumenical endeavours.
However, the pride of this once great pillar of Ulster’s establishment was deeply wounded indeed. Immediately calls were made for retribution and the punishment of those who took part. The person of Dr Paisley was especially targeted. Calls were made in the Stormont Parliament for severe action to be taken against him and the Free Presbyterian Church and many leading politicians gave vent to the most outrageous statements.
Action was soon forthcoming. In Stormont, a government minister gave an undertaking to the Presbyterian Church leaders that such a protest would never be allowed again and those who took part would be dealt with! Summons were issued against Dr Paisley, Rev John Wylie, myself and some others who were picked out, including a Protestant Unionist councillor, Mr James McCarroll. The summons were issued on 5th July, one month after the protest.
I have always said that the reason I, a mere second year student and licentiate minister, was picked out was because former colleagues in Ulster Television, filming the protest for their news broadcasts, focused on me because they knew me! Others felt that I was particularly vociferous and loud in my shouts but anyone who knows me will immediately dismiss such a notion as unthinkable!!!!
The court case took place on July 18th. There are reports of the scenes at the court found elsewhere so I will not dwell on it. We were sentenced to be bound over to keep the peace for a period of two years or go to jail for three months and were also fined a sum of £40, if I recall correctly. We were given three days to consider what we would do. It was immediately decided that we would not sign any rule of bail and thereby sign away our right to engage in such a protest again within a period of two years. That meant jail.
Dr Paisley was arrested on his way to his Wednesday night prayer meeting on 20th, Rev Wylie, who was on holiday in Newcastle, was arrested the next day and late on the same evening I surrendered to the police. Because it was past the hour of admitting prisoners to Crumlin Road prison, I was kept overnight in Musgrave Street police station, where the arrested drunks were brought! It was not a pleasant night trying to sleep on a mahogany mattress with a mahogany pillow! Apparently, such material makes the cleaning of the cells easier in the morning, not with a vacuum cleaner but a hose, after housing its usual guests!
It may seem difficult for some to comprehend how such events could in any way be linked to a time of revival blessing. We would do well to remember the occasions when the Lord made the battlefield a birthplace of revival blessing. Was it not on the battlefield of the Valley of Elah, where David killed Goliath, that the Lord visited His people Israel and aroused and revived the army of Israel? We are told of the cowardly, frightened state of the army before David’s fight. “And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid,” 1 Samuel 17:24. From such a state God was pleased to deliver them and that by David engaging the giant in battle and killing him! “And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents,” verses 49-53.
Of course, that was not the only time God was pleased to visit and revive His people in the midst of battle. David said: “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight,” Psalm 144:1. Moses rejoiced in the fact that the Lord was a man of war! “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name,” Exodus 15:1-3.
The first prophecy of Christ in the Bible is one in which He is linked with a state of war between His people and the devil and his people and which was instituted by the Lord. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” Genesis 3:15. Calvary was a battlefield and all that flows from it, every blessing and favour are ever linked to war and strife! Were not the days of Pentecostal blessing days of war and strife? Was not the great Reformation a time of war and upheaval? Yes, those days were and it is not surprising that the blessing into which God was pleased to lead the Free Presbyterian Church in the mid-60s were days of contention and combat!
We might also mention how that just some 40 years earlier, W P Nicholson saw revival in a Northern Ireland gripped by terror and murder as the IRA sought to destroy the infant state of Northern Ireland.
What of George Whitefield and the times of revival he witness which were often times the target of civil disorder? However, civil disorder amongst degenerate ‘Protestants’ in England hardly amounted to much more than throwing rotten fruit and stones and brickbats at God’s servants whereas in Ireland, the Roman Catholic populace, urged on by their priests, readily resorted to murder and terror in their opposition to anything Protestant!
There are records of the impact of the imprisonment upon the Protestant people of Ulster and the springing up of a lively interest in the work and witness of the Free Presbyterian Church and the message it was preaching, so I need not go into that matter. When the three ministers were released toward the end of October, they found themselves in great demand and people organised rallies and meetings in Orange Halls, Town Halls and any large hall that was available. The ‘agenda’ was for me to preach first, Rev John Wylie to give a report of the three months in jail and then Dr Paisley to preach.
Of course, it was Mr Paisley that the people chiefly wished to hear. They were not disappointed as the Lord helped His servant preach out the word of God for the hour, denouncing the wickedness of ecumenism and its plans for reunion with Rome and issuing, as only he could, a strong gospel appeal. The meetings lasted often to nearly midnight, with many standing since there was never enough seating. I do not believe that I am inaccurate when I say that hundreds were saved during the four or five months that those meetings took place, nearly every weeknight, all around Ulster. These rallies were followed by a time of intensive evangelism, which again saw Dr Paisley to the fore. Areas in Ulster where Dr Paisley had for many years been conducting occasional Sabbath afternoon gospel meetings now were stirred to have him for a prolonged period of gospel preaching in a hall or in a tent. Other ministers were also active but all would wish it to be known that Ian Paisley was God’s man in that hour of blessing.
Lurgan, Portadown, Armagh, Dungannon, Cookstown, Omagh, Tandragee, Kilkeel, Banbridge are but some of the churches which owe their birth to the times which followed the imprisonment. Rev William Beattie was involved in the commencement of Hillsborough and he and Dr Paisley conducted a mission which gave birth to our Lisburn church in 1968. Rev John Douglas pioneered Moneyslane. Magherafelt came into existence also and soon Rev William McCrea was engaged in labouring there.
We are commemorating the founding of the Free Presbyterian witness in Co. Fermanagh 52 years ago in this week of meetings so I will say a little about events there. Early in December, 1966, my Uncle William Foster approached Dr Paisley about an opening in Lisbellaw. During the imprisonment, there had been a protest rally organised by him and others in Lisnaskea. Rev Alan Cairns, one of those ministers who preached at the rally, told me that it was one of the liveliest of all the rallies!
Dr Paisley, one Sabbath evening, in company with Rev William Beattie, who drove him down, and I went down to Lisbellaw and had a brief ‘flashlight’ inspection of the shop and store belonging to a relative of a Mr Lionel Weir who met us that night and took us into the property. He was the father of Miss Edna Weir, the much loved Bethel’s children’s evangelist who has gone to be with the Lord.
After returning to Belfast, it was agreed to buy the property at a cost of £800. The womenfolk of Dr Paisley’s church raised the money, with one lady giving £1 for every other £1 that was given. A plaque was erected and unveiled at the opening of Bethel Church in Enniskillen in August 1972 commemorating their generosity.
When the property in Lisbellaw was brought, renovations began whereby it was turned into a hall which held about 140 people. My fellow student, Rev James McClelland, a skilled electrician, with a little help from me, rewired the property!
On Saturday, 11th February at 3.30 pm, Dr Paisley declared the hall open. He and Rev John Wylie preached at that afternoon service. In the evening time, Rev William Beattie and I preached. The hall was packed to overflowing for the afternoon meeting and filled again for the night meeting.
The next day, the first Sabbath service took place and Dr Paisley preached the opening message in a gospel mission. He was not able to be there every night so I also preached at some of the services as did Rev William Beattie.
So rapidly did the work advance that just over one month later Rev Alan Cairns preached at the Constituting of the congregation. I was placed as the Student Minister in charge under the supervision of Dr Paisley.
The years 1967 to the early 1970s were years of revival blessing in the area. The little hall was packed to overflowing with some travelling from across the border, from Co. Cavan and Co. Monaghan to the evening services. Missions were held twice in Springfield and also in nearby Monea. Other missions were held in Tresna, Fivemiletown, Coragarry, Co. Monaghan and Redhills, Co. Cavan, Lisnaskea, Killycat between Letterbreen and Springfield, Tullychurry near Boa Island below Kesh and in Kesh itself. There may have been one or two more that I cannot recall.
As well as the missions in the local area, I conducted over 20 missions in other parts of Ulster and the UK in churches, Orange halls and in tents. We even had two missions in the USA!
From the missions in the local area, Clogher Valley (1970), Coragarry (1971), Kesh (1976) and Kilskeery churches were formed, the latter being constituted in 1977.
The congregation that met in Lisbellaw made an early start upon erecting a permanent church building in the nearly county town of Enniskillen. As already stated, it was opened in August 1972.
Those were busy but blessed times. At one time, 1970-72, we were engaged in building Bethel church, supervising the newly formed congregations in Clogher valley and Coragarry as well being engaged in gospel missions as far away as Larne!
IRA terror campaign
Time would not permit me to relay many of the sad and tragic events in those years for the IRA terror campaign was just beginning back in 1968. Many brave men and women were done to death by the murderous cowards who lay behind hedges and waited for their targets to return home alone. Despite the wicked cruelty of the terrorists we may say with the Psalmist: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me,” Psalm 138:7. In spite of the forwardness of the voice of the Free Presbyterian Church in condemning most forthrightly the wickedness of Sinn Fein/IRA, the Lord spared our people and the number of victims of IRA cruelty was few, though the attempts made to kill members were many!
I come now to the final chapter of the story. I want to conclude with some comments upon the decline of the spirit of blessing amongst us, the going out of the tide of revival. When that was is reasonably easy to discern by those who lived through those days. Oftentimes when a people experience a withdrawing of the Lord’s blessing from their midst they fail to note that sad event because they are occupied with that which has caused the Lord to withdraw! Nevertheless, there were some who noticed the setting of the sun of blessing and the growing shadow that followed!
However, many failed to note the change. Remember what we read of Samson! “And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him,” Judges 16:20. Samson was so taken up with wiles of Delilah that he did not realise that his dalliance with this evil woman had offended the Lord and He had withdrawn His presence and power from him.
That, sadly, has been the experience of God’s people on many, many occasions throughout history. It happened I believe to the Free Presbyterian Church in the 1980s and we live today with increasing evidence that this is so! I have no doubt that there are those who will take offence at what I am saying, but who is there, who saw the days of God’s blessing in the 60s and 70s, who will say that we enjoy today the presence and power of God as we did then?
There is none!
I once wrote and also preached on many occasions that the future spiritual wellbeing of the Free Presbyterian Church lay in protecting its children from the ungodly state school system with its promoting of the God-denying notion of evolution, its encouraging of immorality through its literature and biology syllabuses, its embracing ever more the sodomite agenda until we have come today to the scandalously wicked situation where children in their earliest school days are encouraged to question their gender! And it must be said – Christians still send their children to such institutions to be influenced and corrupted!
It is not without significance that the Free Presbyterian Christian School movement stopped expanding with the opening of the last school in 1988! I believe that decline indicated a new spirit amongst us and a departure from the determination to be separate from the ecumenical, modernistic spirit of the age.
I believe also that politics and our increasing involvement with the political structures of Ulster played a very significant part. I freely confess the part I played for a time in that development. I fervently supported Dr Paisley’s entrance into the political arena as a challenger to the ecumenical politics of O’Neill and others that followed him. Indeed, I became a local councillor and then a member of the 1982-86 Stormont Assembly. But I did begin to question just where our political involvement was taking us!
It is one thing to stand as a protester in the political arena and quite another thing to begin to organise so as to become a major party in the political arena. To do that you must muster many votes and to do that you have to water down your principles in order to obtain the votes of those who do not share your spiritual views.
I recall a party meeting in Lisburn in 1985 where the manifesto for the coming local council elections was being ratified. It was believed that the DUP would gain the majority of seats in Ballymena Council, but the DUP leadership also believed that such would not come about unless the Party’s stand on the Sabbath and its opposition to children’s playgrounds and council-controlled places of entertainment being open on the Sabbath, was changed.
At that meeting the DUP leadership sought to remove references to opposition to what was called a ‘Republican Sunday’ in its traditional manifesto. This was to be replaced by a right to ‘local option’ in each council area.
Opposition was voiced to this departure from deeply held spiritual principles. It was argued that there was no option offered to mankind as to whether or not they should obey God’s Ten Commandments.
The Party leadership lost the vote to change the Party’s position on the matter. This caused great anger as was most obvious and the Party Chairman, who was opposed to any departure from Sabbath observance, was physically pushed aside and another vote demanded. This of course was totally against Party rules but that mattered little!! This time all at the meeting were to vote by going to one side of the hall or the other side, thus indicating that they were either ‘For’ or ‘Against’ the change.
The Party leadership again lost the vote.
I went home from that meeting greatly troubled by the spirit that had emerged. It was the beginning of the end for me! Another incident took place in Stormont which added to my alarm. I was to stand in for Dr Paisley, who was Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, in the reading out of a statement in one of the Assembly’s sittings. I was at that time one of the Deputy Chairmen of the Committee. The civil servant attached to the Committee brought me the prepared statement as was standard procedure. I read it over, but noticed some things that I did not consider accurate and objected. Attempts to minimise my objections were made but I stated that I would change the statement or I would not read it!
The civil servant, a very nice man, a Roman Catholic with whom I had had some good talks, said (his name was Tony McA), “Ivan, you should leave politics for you are not cut out for it.” He went on to explain that politicians had to be ‘flexible and bend with the way the winds were blowing!’ I told him that, as a Christian ‘bending with the winds of contrary opinions had no part in my make-up!’
In a way that man’s words were a message from the Lord to me. Other incidents occurred which also caused me to decide to leave the DUP in the latter part of 1980s. I am glad that I did, otherwise I could well have been caught up in the compromises and about-turns that took place in 2006 and in 2007 when the DUP went into power-sharing with the murderers of the IRA.
I recall being assured by a prominent Free Presbyterian DUP member, following a meeting with Dr Paisley and the DUP leadership, of which he was part, in November 2006. I was part of a Free Presbyterian delegation which voiced opposition to the planned power-sharing agreement. The Free Presbyterian DUP member stated to a number of us after the meeting that Dr Paisley would never be allowed by the elected MLAs in Stormont to enter such an arrangement with Sinn Fein/IRA.
The man who gave us that assurance, some six months later became a chairman of one of the power-sharing Assembly Committees at a very handsome salary indeed!
The decision by Dr Paisley and the DUP to enter power-sharing with murderer Martin McGuinness and his IRA cohorts caused deep division within the Free Presbyterian Church. Of course, many saw me as the cause of the division. I recall at a Presbytery meeting in Portadown early in 2007, being called a ‘divider of the brethren’ and that I ‘should be brought up on a charge’ and disciplined! One young minister even proposed in the next monthly Presbytery that I be charged with rebellion and his proposal was seconded by one of his elders.
In response I said that I would very much welcome such a trial as I would then surely have the opportunity to state why I was opposed to Dr Paisley’s involvement in power-sharing with the IRA in Presbytery, something in which I had been very much opposed when I attempted to voice my opposition!
The young minister’s proposal was ignored by the Presbytery Chairman, quite contrary to Presbytery rules. However, it was quickly seen that such a platform being given me would be very dangerous to the cause of those who wished to silence all opposing voices to Dr Paisley taking up the office of First Minster at Stormont.
However, the Lord had His say in the matter. Within one year, Dr Paisley was no longer the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church. By early 2008, he was no longer First Minister in the Power-Sharing Executive, despite his claim that he would serve out his four-year term. He was soon after replaced as leader of the DUP and shortly after that he was removed as minister of Martyrs Memorial congregation.
I have often wondered how different things might have been for David and Israel had Joab objected to what David was doing with regards Bathsheba and her husband Uriah rather than simply complying with his commands. Likewise, I think things would have been different all round in the Free Presbyterian Church and in Dr Paisley’s life had some senior ministers objected to what he was doing rather than supporting him or simply remaining silent!!
The Lord knows my heart when I say that I mourn over those developments. Ian Paisley was a mighty man of God in the earlier part of his life. The end of his life should not have been as it was. His should have been a glorious and honoured old age but it was not so for the reasons I have stated.
I grieve over that to this day and will to the end of my days!
What does the future hold for us? That depends very much on the ministers and members of the Free Presbyterian Church. God’s servants are called upon to explain to a people who have lost out with God just why it is so! “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. . . . . . And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, that the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice,” Judges 6:1, 6-10.
The Free Presbyterian Church needs men like that prophet, who will explain just where they went wrong and what it is they have to do in order to enjoy God’s blessing again! That will require humility amongst the older ranks of our ministers and boldness and courage amongst the younger men. It will require plain preaching rather than vague references to turning from sin and seeking the Lord. The wrong that has been done must be plainly stated for we are slow to see our sins and need them spelled out plainly. Of such a man we read in Micah 3:8. “But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.”
God raise men again of the spirit of Ian Paisley in his early days!
I earnestly trust that the God who made a handful of nobodies in the 60s and 70s mighty to the pulling down of ecumenical and modernistic strongholds, will work in like manner again amongst us and grant us, undeserving as we most certainly are, a mighty time of repentance, renewal and revival again.
I hope I live to see such a day!