[2]
A Wall of Fire Round About

On the first Lord's Day of the New Year I announced the Motto Text, of the Martyrs Memorial Church, to be "For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her", Zechariah 2 and verse 5.

Little did I think, when I announced that text, that I would see it vividly fulfilled on Friday of the incoming week, for on Friday of the incoming week I believe it was definitely planned by Republican terrorists that I should die along with some of my congregation at the Prayer Meeting on the morning of that day.

Spurgeon's evening reading for that day was, "I have prayed for thee",

Luke 22:32. And he points out how God overrules the desires of Satan and nips them in the bud. He says, "O, Jesus, what a comfort it is that Thou hast pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies; countermined their mines and unmasked their ambushes!"

On Friday morning all things being equal I would have been at the early morning Prayer Meeting in the Martyrs Memorial Church. During the first full week of January we always have a week of prayer, with an early morning prayer session at 7 in the morning and the prayer session at night at 8 o'clock. I have now got evidence that the car which was seen in the Church car park on Friday morning had been there on a previous morning of the week, possibly doing a dummy run for a planned ambush on Friday morning.

Usually our Presbytery Meeting meets on a Friday night and not on a Thursday night, but because we had a week of prayer in Kilkeel we decided to have the Meeting on the Thursday when all the ministers were in that locality. The ministers of the Church met for a week of prayer during that week as well. They were joined by the Students and also by our friend Dr. Guiler from Marietta, and other ministerial colleagues from the United States of America. It was a great and profitable time of prayer.

Usually the Presbytery Meeting is rather lengthy, but on Thursday night the business was over early, and if I had got away early from the Presbytery I would then have been at the early morning Prayer Meeting on Friday. It was suggested, however, that the Rev. Alan Cairns should address us after we had our tea break. This he did, and then afterwards I did some business about a Sunday School Teachers' Conference which is to take place in the

(Continued. on p. 30)

[3]
"MOTTO TEXT FOR 1985" A Sermon by Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley

Zechariah 2:5. "For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her."

I have taken for our Motto Text for the incoming year, Zechariah chapter 2 and the verse 5, "For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her."

This week the world was startled by a most interesting and intriguing piece of news. A lost tribe of the Jewish people had been found in Ethiopia, and the Israeli Government mounted a tremendous operation to bring that lost tribe back to the Promised Land. This, of course, is true to the prophetic Scriptures, and is in keeping with the great promises which God has made to His earthly people in the Book of God.

The Context

Now when we come to examine the context of my text we have a similar situation. The Jews had been in exile in Babylon. There their fathers had spoken of the wonders of the Lord's Zion, beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth. They had been told of the magnificent Temple built by Solomon. They had been told of the wonders of David's dynasty and of David's reign, and how those wonders were eclipsed in glory by the majestic and powerful reign of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived on earth.

Then an opportunity came for a remnant to return to Jerusalem; for a remnant to go back to their own land; for a remnant to return to their Father land. When however they returned how disappointed and disillusioned they were! The land flowing with milk and honey no longer flowed with milk and honey, because it had a long forsaking, and as a result the weeds were growing and the land was desolate. When they arrived at the City, the walls were broken down, and the glorious Temple of God was a heap of burned rubble and rubbish. Yes, and these people who had in their minds the glory, all they could look upon was the shame. They anticipated the wonder, but all they could behold was the reproach.

God's Man

Then we have God's man. God has always a man for the hour, and God has always the hour for the man. When they were disillusioned and [4] disappointed, and when their feeble efforts to build again God's House had stopped by the command of the King of Babylon, God sent them Zechariah the prophet. Zechariah was the man amidst the darkness who had the vision. The man amidst the disappointment who saw a star of hope. The man who amidst the night saw the dawning of a perfect day.

Thank God for men of vision in the night time. Thank God for those who expect the dawn in the darkest night. Thank God for those with eyes to see a star of hope when all around is nothing but hopelessness and despair. In one of his visions in this second chapter of his prophecy he beheld a young man. This young man had a measuring line, and he was going to measure the measurements of the city which the children of Israel were about to rebuild. But the angel of God ran after him, stopped him, and said to him, "You cannot measure with the measurement of man the work of God".

That is a lesson we all need to learn. The yardstick of man cannot measure the work of God. It cannot be done. This is an Age of statistics. This is an Age of computer science. This is an Age when people say, "We want the facts. We want the figures". You cannot measure God's work by statistics. You cannot measure God's work by the measuring yardstick of man. God's work cannot be measured, for ft is the work of the most High God.

Then Zechariah gave this promise. Look at it. "For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her."

Five Things About God

Five things about God. Of course, five in Scripture is the great number of grace, and every time it occurs it spells out with trumpet blast the grace of Almighty God.

Notice, first of all, God's Person. It is God that is going to do it. "For I", not Zechariah, nor Zerubbabel, nor Joshua, nor Ezra, nor Nehemiah who are going to do this work, "I am going to do it". If you are going to live 1985 in victory, get your eyes off man and get your eyes on God. Man will fail this year but Jesus never fails. Man will let you down and disappoint and depress you and disillusion you, but the God of Heaven is the Father with Whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. God's Person!

Then we have God's Promise, "Saith the LORD". The Word of God, the mighty Immutable Word of God! His Promise is Yea, and His Promise is Amen in Jesus Christ.

Then we have God's people, a precious picture of the church. He says, "I will be unto her". God has only one interest in this world, and that interest is His Son's church. Who did Jesus love? He loved the church and gave Himself for her.

Then we have God's Protection, "A wall of fire round about". "You are worried building a wall, you remnant exiles. You are worried young man [5] about putting a yardstick to the wall. You do not need to have a wall." Look at the previous verse, "You shall be inhabited as towns without walls." You don't need man-made armour, I'm going to be a wall of fire round about you. Your walls can be broken down, the King of Babylon broke them down. Your walls can be breached. Your walls can be burned, but the wall of my fire is an unpenetrable protection. There is not a devil in Hell can get through it, and there is not a man who ever walked can get through that wall. I will be a wall of fire round about you". God's protection!

Then, finally, God's Presence. "My glory will be in the midst of her". "I will be with you every step of every day".

One, God's Person

Let us go back to God's Person. The Being of God baffles us all. The Being of God humiliates us all. The Being of God is beyond human speculation or comprehension. If God had not revealed Himself in this Book, we would be seekers but we would never be finders.

Who is God? He is a Spirit, Infinite, Eternal, Unchangeable in His Being, Wisdom, Power, Holiness, Justice, Goodness and Truth. He is before all things. He always was and always will be. There is no past - future with Him. He is the Eternal now. He is not the "I Was" or "I will be". He is the Great I AM. Our God forever and forever! Put your trust in Him. Lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge this God and He shall direct your paths.

William Carey, the shoemaker, going out to be a missionary in India, said to his brothers in his poverty, "Hold the ropes, I'm going over the edge". As he left, to the scorn of thousands of religious people, who said, "What doeth this shoemaker, going to open foreign missions in India?" he replied, "I expect great things from God, therefore I will attempt great things for God". He became the father of modern Christian Missions. He not only opened India to missionary work, he opened the world to missionary work. Why? Because he knew God. Those that know God shall be strong, and they shall do exploits. God - His Person.

Two, God's Promise

What about His Promise? In this evil day men in religion have lost any sense of real authority, and are grouping and trying to set up authorities. The Pope pontificates from Rome, he says, "I am the Authority". Canterbury mumbles from Lambeth, "I am the Authority". Last night when I was studying, I said to myself, "Well, why have the monkey when you can have the organ-grinder himself? Why have the ape when you can have the pape himself."

No wonder the ecumenical movement is geared to unity with Rome. The [6] Professors with their scholarship and mortar boards on their heads, come along and say, "We are the Authority".

I am glad I have got the Authority. I have got it in my hand today, the Word of God. This year, when the night is dark, this Lamp will not go out. This year, when the going is hard, this Staff will not break. This year, when the opposition is fierce, this Weapon will always prove victorious. "IT IS WRITTEN". I have got the Promise of God.

Arthur Pearson said rightly, "While kingdoms have been dismembered, thrones have crumbled and nations dropped out of history, the Word of God, firmer than the eternal hills, has survived them all." And so it will, for heaven and earth will pass away, but God's Word shall never pass away.

I read a few lines that blessed my heart this week:

"The Bible stands like a Rock undaunted,
'Mid the raging storms of time,
Its pages burn with the Truth Eternal,

And they glow with a Light sublime.

The Bible stands like a mountain towering,
Far above the works of men,
Its Truth by none ever was refuted,
And destroy ft they never can.

The Bible stands and it will forever,
When the world has passed away,
By Inspiration it has been given
All its precepts I will obey.

The Bible stands every test we give it,
For its Author is Divine,
By grace alone I expect to live it,
And to prove ft and make it mine.
"

May God help us to make this text our own this year, for it is founded on the Impregnable Written Word of God!

Three, God's People

Let us turn to God's people. The people of God! The greatest people in the world are the people of God! You know why? Because God chose them for Himself. Why did God choose them? I don't know. Knowing myself I don't know why God chose me, but He did.

Pastor Willie Mullan once told me a story, and when I think of God's choice I always remember it.

There was the daughter of a very wealthy man, and alongside his beautiful home was a small farm and a poor farmer who had one adopted son. The son of the poor man and the daughter of the rich man got acquainted, and their acquaintance became more than acquaintance, it became affection [7] and deepened into love. There is a saying, and I think there is a degree of truth in it, 'True love never runs smooth.' One day they had, what we would call a tiff. They had a bit of a dispute and it got very rough indeed. The girl got mad and she said to him, "Well I want to tell you anyway, you are not even the son of the farmer, you are just an adopted boy".

The lad was very wise, and he smiled and he said, "That is right, but I want to tell you something. I was in an Orphanage. There were 400 boys in that Orphanage. One day my adopted father came down to pick one of the 400. We were all lined up. My adopted father walked down the rows of all the boys, and out of them all he picked me. But your Da had to take what he got when you were born!"

I want to tell you, friend, God knew us but He still chose us in His Beloved. I will never understand that. People say to me, "I don't understand that verse, 'Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated'." I always reply, "You don't understand how God could hate anybody. There is a far greater difficulty for me in that verse than that. My difficulty is, how God could love a twister like Jacob. Was there ever a dirty twister like Jacob revealed in the Bible?" Mr. Nicholson said he was so twisted he couldn't hide behind a corkscrew.

I want to tell you, God loved him. God has chosen His church. I am not talking about an organised ecclesiastical structure. I am not talking about bricks and mortar. I'm talking about the invisible church of the redeemed, the Blood-washed church of Heaven.

God will protect that church, and God will build it, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. God has only one interest, and His interest is in His people. God has put at the disposal of the church all His power. The whole arsenal of Heaven's armoury is at the disposal of the church, Hallelujah; Every angel in Heaven is at the disposal of the church. He has made his angels ministers and flames of fire. What to do? To serve the church of God. In yonder Heaven the Lord Jesus is praying today. Who is He praying for? He is praying for His church, spreading His hands, and supplicating His Father for the church.

Four, God's Protection

Let us come to God's Protection, "A wall of fire". The first mention of fire in the Bible, or suggestion of fire is a flaming sword. Did you ever notice what it was to do? It was to keep the way to the tree of life. That was the beginning of the shining fire of God. That fire appeared again, it appeared again in the Book of Exodus - And God put a pillar of fire in front of the children of Israel, but when their enemies pursued them, that pillar of fire took the rear of the army and was a pillar of darkness to the Egyptians, but was a pillar of fire to the Israelites.

When the Tabernacle was erected, you remember that fire - the Shekinah Glory of God came down on the Tabernacle. It also came down [8] upon Solomon's Temple. Aye, Moses saw that fire one day when the bush burned and the bush was not consumed. Yes, and one day that Holy fire tabernacled among men, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. When He rose from the dead, thank God after forty days the fire fell on the day of Pentecost. Did not those men on the day of the Resurrection going on their journey who met the Saviour say, "Our hearts burned within us while He talked to us by the way?"

God will protect His people, and He will put a wall of fire around the church. He put a wall of fire around the church in the Reformation, and although the Inquisition of Rome tried to stamp out and exterminate every believer, the church was preserved. Why? Because God put a wall of fire around her. I tell you, God will still erect His wall of fire around His people. I can enter 1985 in the blessed confidence that God's fire will be round about me.

A wall of fire about me,
I have nothing now to fear,
With His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.

Then sweeping up to Glory,
We'll see Him face to face,
Where rivers of delight shall ever flow,
He's the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,

Glory to God, He's the Fairest of ten thousand to my soul!

God's Protection. "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise up in judgment, Thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. "

Protection! Oh, this church will be attacked and attacked viciously in the incoming year. Thank God for every attack of the Devil. I'm always glad when the Devil's attacking. It shows that he is really sore. You are never making any inroads among the Devil's crowd until they are mad. Mr. Nicholson said to me, "Ian, throw a stone among a pack of dogs, the one that yelps the loudest is hit the hardest". I tell you, that is good common-sense philosophy. I trust we will hit the ecumenists and the system of Popery hard this incoming year. That these Jesuits will know that there are people who know what they really are about, and who will resist their machinations, their falsehoods, their idolatry, their priestcraft, and their tyranny, in Jesus' Name!

Five, God's Presence

But there is something else, there is not only the wall of fire around, but there is God's Glory in the midst of her.

Did you ever study that expression, "In the midst"?

Study it in connection with the Life of our Lord Jesus. Where did Mary [9] and Joseph find Him? They found Him, at the age of twelve, with the wise men and the great men in their midst, hearing and asking them questions. They were bamboozled and confused that the Child Jesus had more knowledge than them all. I would have loved to have eavesdropped on that great conference between the Wisdom of God and the fools of the ecclesiastical establishment of the Temple!

Do you want to know this Book in 1985? Set Jesus in the midst. Make every text a road to Christ. Make every Word a mirror to see the Son of God. Make every chapter a well beaten path to the Person of the Lamb. That will be the Glory in the midst.

Then when we come a little farther in the Life of Christ, He says, "Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst". In all our circumstances let us put the Lord Jesus in His proper position. Some people, when they are in trouble, get on the telephone to ring a friend. When I am in trouble I use the Heavenly Telephone, I get on to Heaven. That is the first thing I do. You can know a man, you can know a woman when he is in trouble. If he is a true man of God he will run to the Throne of grace, that is where he will go. Where can I go but to the LORD. Put Jesus Christ in the midst of circumstances in 1985, and He will be the Glory in the midst.

Then I go to the Cross and on that Cross of shame, "On either side one, and Jesus in the midst". You will have to carry a cross this year. You would not be a disciple of Christ if you didn't. As you carry that cross, put Jesus in the midst and sufferings will become a sanctuary, and distress will become sweet honey, and you will realise the truth of that Holy Perfect Book which says, "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth".

Then you remember, the disciples met in the Upper Room in bitter disappointment, Christ had been Crucified; their hopes had been buried, and then came JESUS and stood in the midst. Thank God we can put Him in the middle of our disappointments. When you are disappointed in 1985 do not turn your eyes to circumstances, put Jesus in the midst. He will be your glory amidst the shame of disappointments.

Then there was a weeping apostle, his name was John. You know why he wept? Because the Book was sealed, and no man could open it. An angel came and touched him and said, "Weep not, Behold, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the Book", And he lifted his eyes to see a lion, and he saw a Lamb in the midst of the Throne.

Amidst your tears, see Jesus, fellow believer, and He will be the Glory in the midst.

"The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of Heaven breaks,
The summer mom I've sighed for,
That fair, sweet mom awakes.

Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But Dayspring is at hand,
The LAMB is all the Glory
In Immanuel's Land.

"I will be the Glory in the midst of her."

"BUT I, SAITH THE LORD , WILL BE UNTO HER A WALL OF FIRE ROUND ABOUT, AND WILL BE THE GLORY IN THE MIDST OF HER."

God grant we will take this text, and that it will become part of the very fibre of our being in 1985. A Sword to chase our enemies. A burning fire to warm our cold hearts. A Staff to lean on,. A Rod for support. A Star of hope midst every dark night.

I said to the man that stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that might tread safely into the unknown. He said, 'Go out and put your hand into the hand of God, that shall be better to you than any light and safer than any known way'.

May we put our hand in the hand of the God Who never fails, for Jesus' Sake!

AMEN AND AMEN!

Protestant and Catholic Encounters!

Every year, at this time, there is a proliferation of services at which Protestants and Roman Catholics meet together for worship. Ostensibly the purpose is to sing carols and celebrate the wonderful birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

On the face of it, it seems quite a harmless exercise, even a worthwhile one. But is it right? By that I mean, is it acceptable in the sight of God; the One who is professed to be worshipped?

Furthermore, can Protestants safely meet in worship with Roman Catholics without doing injury to their faith and undermining their Protestant heritage? Surely, they cannot. The very word 'Protestant', was coined at a time when the unscriptural errors Of Romanism were being highlighted. The Protestants were those who raised their voices against those errors. To join in worship now with that same unchanged, erroneous system is, surely, a denial of the very word 'Protestant'. This must be true regardless of the reason for worship.

It seems quite clear that this special season of Christmas is [11] being used, rather abused, by Roman Catholic and Protestant clergymen to break down the natural and historical barrier that exists between the two churches. Thus, the senses of the Protestant people are being dulled and their resistance to the errors of Romanism weakened.

It's not the fault of the people that this situation exists; it's the fault of those untrustworthy clerics, but it's the people who will eventually suffer.

Now to answer the question of whether Protestants and Roman Catholics should worship together a number of things must be taken into consideration.

First - what do we mean by and what is involved in the term 'worship'?

Worship is defined in the Oxford dictionary as "reverence paid to a divine being". The worship of God is one of the oldest and most important elements in man's make up. It has to be said, then, that if worship itself is so important, true worship is vital and essential. There is no point, surely, in worship unless it is conducted aright. Let's illustrate the point like this.

We all realise the necessity of breathing to stay alive. Furthermore, we realise and appreciate the importance of breathing pure air. The number of 'clean air' acts which are in existence procure and guarantee for us this benefit of pure air. Agents and agencies have also been appointed to act as watchdogs to ensure that the clean air acts are complied with and to guard against impurities getting into the air we breathe.

I put it that, in the spiritual realm, just as much trouble should be taken to ensure purity of worship. Let's remember, we are not worshipping a man, a church or a religious system; but the God of eternity, the creator of the universe.

Now for worship to be pure it must have a proper basis and that basis must be common to all participants. We can only meet for worship on common ground. In this respect worship is no different to any other aspect of our lives.

For example, a proper marriage cannot be effected unless the two people who are party to it agree on and comply with the basis for such a marriage: love, trust, fidelity and respect. Similar arguments could be advanced with respect to every other avenue of our lives; business and commerce, the law, education, sport and recreation and a host of others. In all these a set of basic rules applies and if we go outside them, problems arise.

The worship of God is no different - common ground is essential and must be found. Even the ecumenists recognise this. For years they have been working together to achieve agreement on certain fundamentals of worship: for example, the eucharist.

But where do we go to find this common basis and what rules do we employ in this search for purity of worship?

Is it enough to say "We are all worshipping the same God perhaps in slightly different ways - but still, the same God?"

Obviously, it is not enough. This [12] was the position taken by the first man ever to offer improper worship to God - Cain. Cain professed to be worshipping God but brought an offering which was unacceptable. God refused his worship and judged Cain's action as sin.

Well then, is it enough that we be sincere? Surely if we mean well that makes whatever we do all right.

Again, the answer must be sincerity is not enough! It's not the first time a man has drunk poison from a bottle which he sincerely believed to contain lemonade. His sincerity, however, did nothing to alter the deadliness of the poison or the danger to his life.

Then again, is it enough that we be all agreed? "There's safety in numbers", some would say. "Everybody's going this way. Does that not make it a fairly safe bet?"

Once more the answer must be "No"! The fact that all are agreed about a certain policy or course of action does nothing to make that position the right one. The little Norwegian lemmings are all agreed. They are all going the same way, yet they just as surely plunge to their death.

But some would ask, "Is it not good for us all to get together to sing carols and worship God? Everybody seems so happy. The unity and fellowship is really wonderful. This course we are on has all the appearances of being the right one; it's so peaceful and calm"

Again it must be pointed out that what seems to be all right is, quite often, far from it.

The passengers were having a wonderful time aboard the Titanic on that fateful night in April 1912. The sea was flat calm. The destination - New York - was assured; for were they not sailing the safest and most modern ship in all the world. Peace and serenity reigned supreme. Everything appeared perfect. Yet they perished just the same. What appeared to be the most wonderful voyage ever turned out to be one of the most infamous catastrophes!

From all this it is quite clear that we are not to be guided by considerations of unity, sincerity, convenience or appearance. There is only one reliable guide in this matter; that is the Word of God the Bible.

Now God, in His Word, gives us clear, explicit instruction on the matter of worship. He says, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24) Underscore the word "truth". In the Bible "truth" may be defined as "revealed reality". In other words God is saying; those who worship him must do so as He has revealed they should in His Word!

Inevitably, this brings us to a consideration of the fundamentals of the faith. Fundamentals are, simply, foundational truths over which there can be no degree of interpretation. Just as we must agree that the Bible is the Word of God, so we must agree that certain things taught in that Word are foundational, or fundamental to faith in Christ.

Creeds, catechisms and confessions are all attempts by men to put down, in simpler form, [13] what they believe the Bible teaches on particular matters of faith.

Now it so happens that the creeds and confessions of the Protestant (sometimes called reformed) churches agree on these fundamental matters. It also so happens that they all disagree with the Roman Catholic church.

Consider, for example, the central act of worship in the Roman Catholic Church - the Mass.

The Roman Catholic Council of Trent, which met periodically between 1545 and 1563, and which confirmed the doctrines of the Roman church as distinct from those of the Reformed church, made this declaration concerning the Mass: "The sacrifice in the Mass is identical with the sacrifice of the cross, inasmuch as Jesus Christ is a priest and victim both. The only difference lies in the manner of offering, which was bloody upon the cross and bloodless on our altars."

How different that is from the plain teaching of the Bible which states that "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many", and that "he has offered one sacrifice for sins forever" (Hebrews 9:28; 10: 12).

Clearly, there is absolutely no need for any further sacrifice of the Saviour; the sacrifice of Calvary was enough. How dare, then, the Roman church suggest and teach otherwise?

Furthermore, in the Mass, the Roman church teaches that the host, upon the words of consecration spoken by the priest, becomes the literal, actual body and blood of Christ. This is the Roman doctrine of "Transubstantiation" or literally - "a change of substance".

Again, how different this is to the simple teaching of the Bible on the matter. Nowhere is there any indication that the bread becomes anything other than bread; or the wine anything other than wine. They, in fact, do not change! When Protestants receive the bread and wine in communion they receive them only as the emblems of Christ's body and blood, nothing else, nothing more.

There is, therefore, a distinct difference between Roman Catholic and Protestant teaching on this matter; a difference which is fundamental and cannot be ignored or glossed over.

Anyone who practices or takes part in the Mass as taught by the Roman Catholic church is in grave error and in disobedience to the plain teaching of scripture, It is, therefore, impossible for any true Protestant to meet in worship with such a person.

In conclusion and to summarise; Protestants and Roman Catholics can, and should, be good neighbours. They can work side by side in the factory or at the workbench. They can conduct affairs of business or commerce and involve themselves in sport and recreation, for in all these things, and many others, there is common good.

However, in the matter of joint worship they can never meet in a manner which is acceptable to God, for between Romanism and Protestantism there is no common ground.

Rev. James McClelland

[14]
The Sunday School Teacher's Teacher

Subject: The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Lesson V - The Birth of Jesus Christ
Lord's Day 3rd February 'Unto us a Child is born.'

Read - Luke II. 1-20; Learn - Isa. ix. 6; 2 Cor. viii. 9.

SKETCH OF LESSON

If you were at Jerusalem, you might take a beautiful walk over the hills towards the south, and six miles off you would come to a pretty little town, standing on one of the hills, and having a wide view eastward over the wildereness of Judaea (show map). Who used to live there? Ruth i.; 1 Sam. xvi.

Bethlehem full of people - come from all parts - many happy meetings. What come for? (Read ver. 1-7.) The Emperor of Rome is taking a census of his subjects, and people have to go and be numbered at the place where their forefathers lived. Those who have no friends to take them in seek shelter in the great building intended for travellers, and it is soon full.

Then come a man and woman who have journeyed all the way from Galilee to be registered here. Why? ver. 4. There is no room for them, except where the horses and asses are put up - dark, crowded, noisy, uncomfortable. And there, in the night, is born a little baby. There is no cradle for it where has it to lie?

WHO WAS THAT BABY? (Refer to Lesson 1.) Did any one know it was God the Son come down into the world?

1. Joseph and Mary Knew. How did they know? Who told them? What were they told? (Refer to last lesson.) No one else on earth knew. But -

2. The angels in heaven knew. How they must have wondered! Their King, so great and so high, whom they could scarcely look at (Isa. vi. 1-3; comp. John xii. 41), made 'a little lower' than themselves (Heb. II. 9)! They did not fully understand it (1 Pet. i. 12); yet they could rejoice and sing. Why? Look at their song, ver. 14.

(a) They knew it would bring 'Glory to God' - by showing His power, wisdom, love (Ps. lxxxv. 10; Cor. I. 24; 1 John iv. 9). They loved God - wished Him to be glorified - so rejoiced.

(b) They knew it would bring 'peace on earth' - peace between men and God (Rom. v. 1) - Peace in men's hearts (Phil. iv. 7) - peace among men (Eph. iv. 32). They knew the enmity to God (Rom. viii. 7), the misery of soul (Isa. Ivii. 20, 21), the 'envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness' (Rom. I. 29-31), in the world. They longed to see peace everywhere - so rejoiced.

(c) They knew it would bring 'good will to men'. Has God ever had a bad will to men? see Ezek. xxxiii. 11. But now God's love would be seen and felt (1 John !v. 9; Rom. v. 8) - so they rejoiced.

3. There were men whom God sent to tell. How the angels would have liked to have proclaimed the birth of Jesus throughout the world! There were great men living then: the Emperor at Rome, able generals, wise statesmen, clever writers some whose books we read now; but would they have believed? Jesus must live, die, rise again first - then to be proclaimed; now only to a few, to those who would listen to and believe God's messages. Who were the first to be told?

(Read ver. 8-20.)

It is night in the fields near Bethlehem. Here are men not gone home - why are they out? To guard their flocks - from [15] what? (1 Sam. xvii. 34, John x. 10, 12). It is dark - they can dimly see the outline of the hills - perhaps a distant light in the town it is very quiet - they only hear their own voices and the flocks bleating. (With town children explain further - no rattling of wheels - no lamps.) Suddenly - a dazzling light - what? ('the glory of the Lord') brighter even than the sun (Acts xxvi. 13). No wonder they are 'sore afraid'! How gently God's angel speaks! What has he to tell? - nothing dreadful - 'good tidings' for them ('to you'). What is there for them? 'A Saviour'. No doubt they were men who longed to be saved from their sins, and this is just what the angel meant (Matt. i. 21). And who is He? He is 'Christ' - the Messiah, promised of old, come at last; He is 'the Lord' - not a mere man not even an angel - not a subject at all but 'the Lord of all,' 'the Lord from heaven' (Acts x. 36, 1 Cor. xv. 47). And then they hear that song. They really hear -

'the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!'

They will go and worship Him at once (comp. Ps. xxvii. 8, cxix. 60). Where shall they find Him? Surely in the greatest house in Bethlehem. No - 'Lying in a manger'. Can it be? They do not doubt a moment 'Let us go and see this thing which is come to pass'. And so they find the Child - the worst lodged of any child in the town! Then see what they did - (1) praised God - (2) told others. What an example!

SEE THE CONDESCENSION OF THE SON OF GOD

1 . How does this history show His condescension? He condescended -

(a) To be born to poverty. Can children choose whether they will be born of rich or poor parents! But He could. Do not be discontented if you are what He chose to be.

(b) To be born just when and where there were no comforts for the mother or child.

(c) To be welcomed to the earth, not by the great and rich, but only by poor shepherds.

2. What was His motive and aim in such condescension?

His motive - what made Him do it? Love for us sinners.

His aim - what did He do it for? - 'That we through His poverty might be rich' (2 Cor. viii. 9).

3. For whom did He so condescend? For all men, 1 Tim. ii. 6, 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. But all do not get good from that condescension. Who do? See to whom it was given to know the Son of God even in His infancy. It was to those who, when God sent messages to them, listened, believed, obeyed - see Matt. i. 24, Luke i. 38, ii. 15. Do we care for God's messages to us? Are they 'glad tidings of great joy' to us? If so, see how the Lord Jesus will condescend to us, Rev, iii. 20, John i. 11, 12, xiv. 23. Are we too poor and humble? What were Joseph and Mary and the shepherds? See Isa. lxvi. 2, Jas. ii. 5, 1 Cor. i. 26-29.

Lesson VI - The Circumcision and Presentation
Lord's Day 10th February 'Obedient to the law for man.'

Read - Luke II. 21-38; Learn - 2 Cor. v. 21; Rom. v. 19.

SKETCH OF LESSON

I. THE CIRCUMCISION

When little boys were born in Judaea, something done to them which God had commanded - what? Look at Ga. xvii. 9-14. See how Abraham obeyed this command when Isaac was born, Gen. xxi. 4. And so ever afterwards with little boy babies. The Jews were very proud of this custom (Phil. iii. 4, 5), and used contemptuously to call other nations 'the uncircumcised', e.g., David (1 Sam. xvii. 26), and the early Christians at Jerusalem (Acts xi. 2, 3). Why? It was a sign of the covenant between them and God - a token that they were God's peculiar people. Are not all men God's people? By creation, yes - but what separates them from Him? - sin. So Circumcision to signify putting away sin. [16]

Is it so now? see Gal. v. 6, vi. 15. But we have instead, for all children, girls and boys - what? Baptism, like Circumcision, is the 'outward and visible sign' of an 'inward and spiritual grace', viz., our adoption into God's family, to be His peculiar people: signifying the putting away of sin, and also how it can be put away (by washing). Who instituted Christian Baptism, just when Circumcision was going to be done away? see Matt. xxviii. 19.

So when the Child Jesus was eight days old, what was done to Him? (Read v. 21.) But why? Had He any sin to put away? 1 John iii. 5. Did He, God's own son, need to be admitted into God's family? Why then circumcised? Look at Heb. ii. 17 ('in all things like His brethren'), Gal. iv. 4, ('made under the law'). He would be as a sinner, like other sinners, bearing their sins; would do all that the law told them to do.

Now your names are - (John, Mary, etc.) 'Who gave you those names?' ('Godparents at my Baptism.') So with Jewish boys at Circumcision, see Luke i. 59. What was the name given to the hold Child at Bethlehem? By whose order? What did it mean?

II. THE PRESENTATION

But if Jesus was to be 'under the law', there was something else to be done. He was a first-born son. Look and see what God had said about eldest boys, Exod. xiii. 2. When the destroying angel came to Egypt that dreadful night, who were slain? So it was the Hebrew first-born who were specially 'passed over' and left alive. (Comp. Exod. iv. 22, 23.) And God said first-born boys must always belong to Him, for His particular service. But afterwards God chose one whole tribe instead (Numb. III. 12, 13), and the first-born of the other tribes, had only to be 'presented to the Lord'. So when Jesus was about six weeks old (Lev. xii. 1 -4), Joseph and Mary had to carry Him to Jerusalem (six miles from Bethlehem). (Read v. 22-38.)

(1) It is not a great day at the Temple - no grand ceremonies, no crowds. Just one or two priests are there, to receive any offering that may be brought, to attend to the daily sacrifice, etc. Here comes a man in humble dress, with his wife, and a little baby to be 'presented to the Lord' - why? And they have got an offering for God - what? If they had been rich what would they have offered? (Lev. xii. 6-8) - but they were poor. One of the priests takes the birds, and dedicates the baby to God. He sees nothing strange in this - he is doing it every day he little thinks who that Child is! Yet what a prophecy is being fulfilled! (see Mal. iii. 1).

(2) Just then an aged man comes in his name? - his character? For years he has been looking out for something, and God has told him that before he 'sees' death, he shall 'see' - what? That 'Christ', Messiah, King, Redeemer, who had been promised 'by the mouth of all God's holy prophets'. Were any other Jews looking out for the coming King? how many? (see Acts xxvi. 7). What sort of king were most of them expecting? (refer to Lesson 111). Yet Simeon comes into the Temple - sees the poor man and woman with the little baby - feels God's message in his heart, 'That is the promised King' - doubts not a moment takes the Child - and bursts into a song of thankfulness. He is ready to die now - he has 'seen' what he waited for. Think of Joseph and Mary's wonder - an utter stranger knowing at once who the Child is! And another surprise now - who else comes in and recognises Him too? Here is an aged widow knowing what priests and rulers knew nothing of. And there are others also, humble people waiting for God's promise - to them Anna tells the good news.

(3) But now mark what Simeon said particularly two things which the Apostles themselves were slow to learn: -

(a) That the Child should not be merely a Jewish king, 'the glory of Israel. Others the despised 'circumcision' - should share in the blessings of salvation; dark and ignorant as they were, Jesus should be 'a light to lighten the Gentiles'.

(b) That the glory should not be yet something first - humiliation and suffering. Jesus should be 'spoken against' - was He not afterwards? Something should happen which should pierce Mary's heart like a sword - what was that? see John xix. 25.

Last Sunday we talked of the 'Condescension of Christ'. How is it shown again here? (Recapitulate.)

What did we say last Sunday was His aim in this condescension? So here - 'obedient to the law for man.' (Recapitulate.) But why 'for man'?

1. As our Substitute. God requires all to obey His law perfectly - if not, what then? But do we? can we? How then will God accept us? Jesus came to be 'our Righteousness', Jer. xxiii. 6; to give to God, for us, what we could not give ourselves, that we might stand before God as - what? Rom. v. 19; Eph. i. 6.

2. As our Example. People say, 'I do what God commands in some things - why must I do this? why be so strict? Suppose I don't, what harm? But Jesus did what He need not have done. Imitate Him - 'Is this commanded? then I will do it'.

Are we trusting in Him as our Substitute following Him as our Example? Are we like Simeon and Anna, seeking to see and know Him, not ashamed of Him, praising God for Him, telling others of Him?

Lesson VII - The Wise Men from the East
Lord's Day 17th February 'A light to lighten the Gentiles.'

Read - Matt. 1- 12; Learn - Isa. xlix. 6; Ps. cxix. 105; Heb. iii. 14

SKETCH OF LESSON

What did old Simeon say that the Child Jesus should be? (Refer to last Lesson.) Among other things, 'a light to lighten the Gentiles'. Soon after the return to Bethlehem this began to be fulfilled.

(1) Let us go to a country distant from Judaea, to the far East, the country (probably) where Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus reigned, where Daniel prophesied, where Esther was queen. Very wise and clever men there - fond of watching the motions of the stars, and knowing a great deal about them (although no telescopes then). One night they see a new star, very bright - what can it mean? People used then to think the appearances of the stars had to do with the birth of great kings. This generally a mistake, but was it true this time? Who sent this star? and who told the Wise Men that Judaea was the place to look for the new-born King?

(2) Shall they go all that long weary journey? Yes, they start at once. Think of them on the road - a long string of camels bearing themselves and their treasures (ver. 11) - crossing wide deserts, fording swift rivers, ascending steep mountain paths never stopped by fatigue, heat, robbers never doubting God, never inquiring 'what good is it?'

(3) Now come to Jerusalem. (Read ver. 1-8.) A great cavalcade is entering the city - foreigners from the far East. What do they inquire of the people? (ver. 2.) What would the Jews think? - 'A King born! - Herod is our king, a dying old man - his sons are grown men - what can these strangers mean?' But think what the Wise Men must have felt! all this way they have come, and now the Jews themselves know nothing of a King born in the land - surely the journey was in vain - surely they were deceived. Stay - a summons from King Herod - he tells them what the chief priests and scribes have said to him about it - when Messiah comes, he ought to be born - where? why? What a good king Herod seem! - if the Magi find the royal Child at Bethlehem, he too will submit to God's anointed One. What he really meant we shall see next Sunday.

(4) Will the Wise Men go on? Why should they? the Jews themselves know nothing about a King being born, and when told of it, do not believe it, or care nothing about it - why should it be left to them, who are not Jews, but strangers, to go and find Him? But they feel sure it was God who had spoken to them - they will obey Him - and, wondering that crowds do not come too, they start again - alone. (Read ver. 9-12.) And God rewards them - what do they see? (ver. 9) - the star once moral Think of their 'exceeding great joy'. And now - still greater wonder - the star 'goes before them', and leads them to the very house where Jesus is.

(5) What must they have thought of the house - of Joseph and Mary? This the new-born King! - not in a palace - in the humble dwelling of a carpenter - what an end to their journey! Yet do they doubt? See how they treat that Child in its mother' arms. Think of Mary's silent wonder - at the arrival of such a company - at the worship offered to the Child - at the costly presents.

IN THESE MEN WE SEE THE FIRST GENTILES BROUGHT TO CHRIST

This was His first 'Epiphany' - manifestation (i.e., appearance, in the sense of being shown or revealed) to the Gentiles. How many have 'seen' and worshipped Him since! See what God had said long before about it. Ps. lxxii. 10, 11; Isa. lx. 6. It often happened afterwards that Gentiles received the Gospel when Jews rejected it, see Acts [18] xiii. 42-48, xviii. 4-8, xxviii. 25-29; comp. Matt. viii. 10. And now, in our Gentile World, are those who ought to know most about Christ the most obedient to Him? Think of the many English boys and girls who know His great love, but care nothing for it. Think of the heathen children - some in the 'far East' - who give up everything for His sake.

CAN WE BE LIKE THESE GENTILES?

1. God gives us what He gave them DIRECTION - He called them to go guided them on the way - rewarded them with success. So with us. God gives us direction by His Word, the 'light to our path,' Ps. cxix. 105. The Bible calls us to go to Christ. It shows us the way. If followed, it brings us to Christ; shows us now His power, love, salvation; gives us a 'blessed hope' of His presence hereafter. (See John v. 39; Isa. lv. 6, 7; Acts xx. 21; Matt. vii. 21; Rom. viii. 31-39; John xvii. 24.)

2. Do we give God what they gave Him - DEVOTION? (a) They started. Have we started on the Christian journey? lb) They persevered despite difficulties within and without. So let us, Heb. xii. 1; Luke ix. 62. Let us seek Christ alone if need be, as they did (comp. John vi. 68; 2 Tim. iv. 16, 17). (c) They followed no human device, not their own devices, but the star only. Let us remember Ps. cxix. 9; Prov. iv. 25. (d) They gave their best to Christ. May it be our choice to do so (Rom. xii. 1; 2 Sam. xxiv. 24).

3. Shall we find what they did? They found less than they looked for, only a poor child. We, if we find Christ, shall say with the queen of Sheba (1 Kings x. 7), 'Behold, the half was not told me!' See Phil. iv. 7; 1 Cor. II. 9.

Lesson VIII - The Escape from Herod
Lord's Day 24th February 'The Lord saveth His anointed.'

Read - Matt. ii. 13-23; Learn - Ps. ii. 2-4, 6; Prov. xix. 21.

SKETCH OF LESSON

Let us today go back to Jerusalem. What were the feelings of the people when the Magi came inquiring about the 'now-born King'? Why 'troubled'? Perhaps because they knew King Herod would be alarmed, and feared lest he should be led into more cruelties. And we shall see it was not without reason.

I. THE CHILD IN DANGER

(1) Herod was troubled too. How strange! He had been thirty-eight years on the throne, had conquered all his foes had even put his own wife and sons to death for fear of their conspiring against him. He had tried to please the people by rebuilding the Temple, and filling Jerusalem with beautiful palaces. Yet now he is afraid of - a baby! But he knew that he, a foreigner, a hated Edomite, had no right to the Jewish crown - might not this child born King of the Jews have a better right? He knew of the promised Messiah - suppose this should be He! How did he find out where to look for the child? whom did he send? how did he deceive them? comp. Ps. lv. 21. (Refer to last Lesson.)

(2) Herod is getting alarmed - the Magi have not come back; then (he thinks) they must have found the new rival and joined his party - what is to be done now? The child shall die, whoever he is, - how? (Read ver. 16-18.) How foolish! if the child were not the Messiah, why fear? if it were, who could harm Him? It does not take long to do the cruel deed - the soldiers are soon back - Herod satisfied - 'that King is put out of the way.' But only a few weeks after that, the King of kings called Herod before His judgment throne.

(3) But come to Bethlehem. See the desolate homes, heart-broken fathers and weeping mothers - all the little children dead, cruelly murdered - no babies in all Bethlehem that night. If Rachel could rise from her grave close by (Gen. xxxv. 19, 1 Sam. x. 2), how she would weep! A slaughter and a lamentation, as when the Babylonians ravaged Ramah. Of that one Jeremiah spoke (xxxi. 15), but God meant his words to be a prophecy of the mourning for children who should, 600 years after, die for His Son; ver. 17, 18.

(4) Do you pity those children? Pity the bereaved parents - but is a dead baby to be pitied? It has escaped all the sin and sorrow it would have had in life; the lamb can never stray - no risk of being lost safe in the fold for ever. And these Bethlehem children were honoured - what St. [19] Paul was ready to do (Acts xxi. 13), they did - are among 'the noble army of martyrs', with Stephen, Polycarp, Ridley - their death commemorated by the Church on 'Innocents' Day'.

"Them the King of kings hath given
Glory lasting as His own:
Lord, it was Thy mercy free
Suffered them to come to Thee."

II. THE CHILD IN SAFETY

(1) But was the Child slain with the rest? (Read ver. 13-15.) Look again at Jeremiah's prophecy - not all slain at Ramah - some to be restored one day; so at Bethlehem - One saved - should one day return in glory.

(2) Think of Joseph's dream - his haste - Mary's hurried preparation - must go away quickly, secretly, by night - long journey - how anxiously Joseph must have looked back as he went, fearing his pursuers - how thankful when once in Egypt, beyond Herod's power.

(3) No Pharaoh in Egypt then - part of what empire? Many Jews lived there. Joseph might perhaps meet friends. But he was soon to return. (Read ver. 19-23.) Why was it safe for the Child to go back? Where was Joseph at first going to take Him? Why did he alter his plan? where did he go then? About the life of Jesus at Nazareth we shall talk next Sunday.

(4) This sojourn in Egypt predicted too, ver. 15, Hos. xi. 1. Hosea meant that God brought 'His son' Israel (see Exod. iv. 22) out of Egypt. What had this to do with Jesus? Who was the true 'seed of Abraham,' the 'glory of God's people Israel'? Gen. xxii. 18; Gal. Ill. 16. (Refer to Lesson 11.) So Messiah, like his kindred according to the flesh, should 'sojourn in the strange land' of Egypt, and be called up from thence by God; and Hosea's words should be true in both the past and the future.

Is not our text true? 'Many devices . . . BUT - the Counsel of the Lord, THAT shall stand'.

The 'devices' do not always fail; but if they succeed, it is that God's purposes may be worked out. The day came when the plots against that Child did succeed - but what then? See how the Apostles understood our other text, Acts iv. 25-28 ('whatsoever Thy counsel determined before'). Where is that 'new-born King' now? how long will He reign? 1 Cor. xv. 25. One day all - willing or unwilling - in joy or terror will do what Herod pretended (ver. 8) he would do, Phil. ii. 10.

Are you Persecutors of Jesus? You are shocked; but see Acts ix. 5 (who had Saul been persecuting?), Matt. xxv. 40, 46. How do you feel towards school-fellows who are 'religious'? Are there not 'many devices' against such? What will come of it? You gain nothing, and make God your enemy.

Are you persecuted as Jesus was? All His servants will be, John xv. 18-201; 2 Tim. iii. 12. But if infants who knew nothing 'glorified God by their death (Collect for Innocents' Day), how much more those who suffer for Christ (even in little things) willingly and patiently? And what will come of it? We are on God's side, and can say Ps. cxviii. 6; Rom. viii. 31. His 'counsel shall stand' - and what is it? Luke xii. 32. [20]

Things I have learned from the Bible by Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley

Judges ch. 2 v. 17: "And yet they would not harken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so". They turned quickly out of the way. How quickly a Christian can back-slide, how quickly a church can apostatise and how quickly a nation can go to hell.

Judges ch. 3 v. 7: "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves". Forgetfulness of God is characteristic of depraved man.

Judges ch. 3 v. 10: "And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war:" The infilling of the Holy Spirit must come before judgment of self and effective service.

Judges ch. 3 v. 13: "And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees". The city of the palm trees was Jericho, a city with a bad history, yet where sin abounded grace did much more abound. In II Kings ch. 2 we have recorded the miracle of Elisha the prophet in bringing a blessing to Jericho. And in verse 22 we read, So the waters were healed unto this day according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.

Judges ch. 3 v. 15: "But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man left-handed:" A man left-handed. Left-handed things in the Bible are worthy of study. It occurs first in the Bible in Genesis 13:9. There are three other mentions of the left-hand and in Judges these occur in chapter 7 where the men who joined Jerubbaal or Joshua at verse 20, held the lamps in their left hands. And then over in chapter 16 we read in verse 29, and Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. The final mention in the book of Judges is Judges chapter 20 and verse 16. "Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left-handed, every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss". Dinsdale Young has a great sermon on this subject which he has entitled "The Gospel of the Left Hand". [21]

Mark ch. 4 v. 27: "And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how". He knoweth not how. Man who cannot explain the natural pretends he can explain the spiritual.

Mark ch. 4 v. 33: "And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it". In Heaven, no doubt, we will be able to study the parables of our Lord not recorded in the Bible. This must be what John had in mind when he finished off his gospel and he wrote the words, verse 25 of John 21, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written". Amen.

Mark ch. 4 v. 39: "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm". The wind, a satanic storm, rebuked. The sea disturbed by that storm calmed by the word of peace. Christ rebukes the devil but calms the heart of peace disturbed by hell.

Judges ch. 5 vs. 4, 5: "Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchest out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel". Note the march of God, Seir, Edom, Sinai. Seir was Esau, Edom's country (Genesis 32:3). Compare this with Isaiah 63 verse 1, Who is he that cometh from Edom with dyed garments from Bozrah? Bozrah was the capital of Edom. Sinai is the mount of God.

Acts ch. 6 v. 10: "And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake". verse 11: "Then they suborned men which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God". When men cannot answer the preacher they lie about him.

Judges ch. 2 v. 5: "And they called the name of that place Bo-chim: and they sacrificed there unto the Lord". The word 'Bo-chim' means weepers. If there were more weepers in the church there would be a lot less wailers.

Judges ch. 2 v. 10: "And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel". Second generation Christians are to be watched, second-hand religion, like anything second-hand, is always deteriorated.

Judges ch. 2 v. 16: "Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them". God never utterly forsakes his people. From time to time He raises up champions.- Oh for another champion in our day to champion the cause of God and truth. [22]

CHRISTMAS PROTEST IN LIMAVADY

On Christmas Day, three of our Ministers led a protest in Limavady. Revs. Wesley McDowell, George Whyte and James McClelland with about forty Free Presbyterians from Garvagh, Londonderry, Coleraine and Limavady protested outside First Limavady Presbyterian Church. Suitable placards were carried and the leaflet, "Why Were Our Reformers Burned", was distributed. As Rev. David Armstrong, Minister of First Limavady, entered his church, Rev. McDowell challenged him to a public debate on the issue of ecumenism. Armstrong ignored the challenge and ran into his church. The protestors continued to remain outside the church. The RC service in the chapel ended at 11.15 a.m. and they witnessed our protest, some pouring scorn upon us, others laughed. At 11.20 a.m. the local priest, Kevin Mullan crossed from the chapel to First Limavady. Rev. McDowell presented him with the above mentioned leaflet and stated the reason why the protest was taking place. At this point also, the priest was confronted with a young converted RC. He was told that this young man was being hounded by a priest and persecuted by his family because he had been saved and was attending the church of his choice.

It was pointed out to the priest that if his church was in control, the very protesters before him, in all probability, would not be afforded the legitimate right they were now exercising.

The priest was welcomed with open arms into the Presbyterian Church.

Meanwhile, three Free Presbyterians had entered First Limavady Church earlier to observe the proceedings. At the end of the Service, when the priest was called to the front to speak, our brethren stood up, one of which, Mr. Paul Olphert, Londonderry, read a few verses, of Scripture (11 John 9-11) and then accused Rev. Armstrong of treason before God. Upon this, a number of men made for our brethren. Mr. Olphert was dragged by the hair out of the pew and down the aisle, and kicked between the legs. A medical examination later confirmed this. Our brother had a severe bruise about one foot long on the inside of his upper right leg.


The two other Free Presbyterians were similarly treated, being punched and kicked when the service ended and people gathered at the door of the church, Revs. McDowell and McClelland went to complain to Armstrong about the treatment doled out to our brethren. He ran like a scared rabbit into his church, and his members began to push us back. Rev. McClelland was struck on the face and subjected to abusive and foul language. It must be noted that in all this, not one Free Presbyterian retaliated, and as Rev. McDowell informed the police at 8.30 a.m. that morning that the protest [23] would be peaceful - so it turned out to be, ON OUR PART.

A complaint was lodged with the police that day, and whilst doing so, Rev. McDowell was subjected to cheek and abuse by one of the officers in the station.

A subsequent talk with an officer indicated that in all probability the R.U.C. would try to get something on the protesters. The officer tried to dissuade Rev. McDowell from taking any action, suggesting that charges might be brought re disruption of a religious service and obstruction of a clergyman. It was pointed out that if it had been Free Presbyterians who had used violence, the last drop of blood would be wrung out of them. Subsequently Armstrong, in the Newsletter, adamantly denied that there had been any violence in his church. This man is prepared to lie to save his public face, but God knows the truth, and in the final analysis, that is what matters.

It must be noted that this affair is not merely about Christmas Greetings. During Christmas week, Armstrong was welcomed by R.C. Bishop in Londonderry, Edward Daly to St. Eugene's Cathedral, and the Presbyterian clergyman preached there. The same night after a torchlight procession through Londonderry, Kevin Mullan spoke in St. Columb's Cathedral. This was organised by a group of French origin - Taze - whose declared aim is to obtain unity around the chair of St. Peter.


Armstrong was also at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in Limavady. It has also been made known that Armstrong and Mullan will be going to a St. Patrick's Day Parade in U.S.A. The theme of that parade is to be reconciliation.

The situation in the Limavady Presbyterian Church is but a reflection of the situation in the Presbyterian Church as a whole. There are those in First Limavady who disagree with Armstrong's exploits, but he rides roughshod over them and even more disturbing, over the express Biblical teaching on the matter of ecumenism. A compromise has been reached in the Irish Presbyterian Church whereby such sinful activities as those taking place in Limavady, are tolerated. As in the case in Limavady, those who oppose ecumenism will soon be outnumbered and any resistance to the blasphemous and idolatrous dogmas of Rome will be weakened. The only Scriptural action to take is to, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate", 11 Cor. 6:17. [24]

FOR BOYS AND GIRLS - 'Rise Early'

1. It is healthy to rise early - it is scarcely possible to find a healthy person, very old, who has not been habitually an early riser. Sickly and infirm old people I know there may be, who have been in the habit, through life, of late rising; but not many healthy ones. The following are the names and ages of several men, most of whom were eminent and remarkably healthy, who were distinguished for early rising. Some of them rose as early as four o'clock in winter and summer; and one or two of them as early as three in summer.

Dr. Franklin, eighty-four; John Wesley, eighty-eight; Buffon, the naturalist, eighty-one; Stanislaus, king of Poland, eighty-nine; Lord Coke, eighty-five; Fuseli, the painter, eighty-one; Washington, sixty-eight; Matthew Hale, sixty-eight; Bishop Burnett, seventy-two; James Mason, one hundred; Lewis Cornaro, over one hundred.

2. It is delightful to rise early - Can any one entertain a doubt on this point? None can, I am sure, who have tried it. All the early risers I have ever seen, find early rising agreeable.

3. It is good for the mental or thinking powers to rise early - Solomon says, "Let us get up early to the vineyard; let us see if the vines flourish; if the tender grape appears; if the pomegranates bud forth." The wise man takes it for granted here that the mind is active at this hour in observation, as it truly is. There is not a little reason to believe that Solomon devoted this sacred season, as some have called it, to the study of "the hyssop," the "cedar", and other plants and trees; and that it was his morning studies that enabled him to become a teacher of all the kings of the then known world.

4. It is economical to rise early - The old proverb says: "Early to bed, and early to rise, Makes men healthy, wealthy and wise." Exercise of the body, whether in recreation or at labour, is worth a great deal more in the morning than at any other time of the day. An early walk is much more agreeable, as well as more useful, than a later one. The labour of the farmer [23] and the mechanic is also more agreeable in the morning than at any other time, to say nothing of its usefulness. The lesson of the school or of the family is easier studied, better understood, and more readily retained than at any other time. Devotion, too, is morespiritual at this hour than at any other part of the day.

5. t is rational to rise early - To lie snoring in the morning after the sun is up, or even after early dawn, not only renders us like animals, but like animals of the most stupid sort - the woodchuck, the bear, the marmot, and the swine!

[25-29 & 19 MEDITATIONS FOR THE MONTH]

[30]
A Wall of Fire Round About
(continued from page 2)


Dungannon Church later on in the month. After doing this business with the Rev. Ken Elliott, the Convener of that Conference, I was as late as usual and did not get back to my home until about 2 o'clock in the morning.

Having had a heavy day, being in London on the Thursday as well, I was tired and did not go to the early morning Prayer Meeting. We read in the Scriptures, "So He giveth His beloved sleep", and certainly I got sleep that day in the will of the Lord.

A car afterwards identified by the Police to be a vehicle in possession of the RC terrorists for their bombing and assassinating work was identified in the car park. There were three men in the car and one of them had his door opened, possibly ready for action. If we had come out of the Prayer Meeting by the side door, both our escorts and myself and those attending at the Prayer Meeting could have been easily massacred by automatic fire. I believe that they had planned another Darkley massacre.

Security Forces have made good success against terrorism in the past weeks. There has been a considerable lull in their activity, and the I.R.A. and the I.N.L.A. know that they must prove to the world that they are in business. How better to prove it than to murder me in circumstances that would cause a propaganda coup throughout the whole world. Then the enemies of Ulster who have hardened themselves against all sort of sympathy for anyone would use it with all their might to bring about a situation in Ulster which could lead to very serious implications indeed.

I was not present however at the Prayer Meeting. Those who planned this attack were surprised by the presence of a passerby, and as a result the whole ambush was foiled. As Spurgeon says, "God countermines their mines and unmasks their ambushes".


When I consider how these things circumstantially all worked out to prevent me from being present on that occasion my heart records its gratitude to God. The assurance of being in God's will and being guided by Him and protected by Him is a real thrill to my soul. The promise that "No weapon that is formed against us can prosper" is true and will be fulfilled to God's own people. Also the other promise of the great Psalm, "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." Halielujah!

In many an hour, when fear and dread
Like evil spells have bound us,
And clouds were gathering overhead,
Thy providence hath found us;
In many a night when waves ran high,
Thy gracious presence drawing nigh,
Hath made all calm around us. [31]

Then, O great God, in years to come,
Whatever fate betide us,
Right onward through our journey home
Be Thou at hand to guide us;
Nor leave us till, at close of life,
Safe from all peril, toil and strife,
Heaven shall receive and hide us.

AMEN AND AMEN!

The following appeared in the news media:

INLA ADMITS PAISLEY MURDER BID

The Irish National Liberation Army was behind an attempted assassination of DUP chief Ian Paisley.

The murder bid went wrong when the Free Presbyterian leader failed to keep an appointment at a prayer meeting in his church at Belfast's Ravenhill Road.

A six-man team of assassins armed with pistols and Finnish Zig rifles planned to riddle the Loyalist leader in his office at the church after luring his two RUC bodyguards away.

Details of the plot have been given by a top source in the INLA. He added they will be trying again to kill the DUP leader. He said: "Paisley is high up on our hit list".

GUNMEN

"He has been one of the main causes of sectarianism. We know he has close connections with Loyalist paramilitary groups.

"We are determined to get him".

INLA gunmen were at Dr. Paisley's Ravenhill Road Martyrs Memorial Church at the wrong time. The 8 am Friday service was being conducted without him. Dr. Paisley - out late on church business the previous night - was still in bed as his would-be killers lay in wait.

He claimed: "I was saved by divine intervention".

INLA gunmen pulled into the church car park and opened the tailgate of a gold coloured saloon.

POLICE

But they roared away when a passerby told them the prayer meeting had finished. But three other gunmen remained in position until it became obvious that the Free Presbyterian leader was not going to turn up, say INLA sources. The INLA source says the vehicle was hijacked but not reported.