This article was first published in Salt Shakers, a bi-monthly magazine published by the youth of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, Singapore. It is reproduced here with permission. The author of this article, Lisa Ong, is a member of that church.
This year from 26th July to 2nd August, I was given the privilege to attend the British Reformed Fellowship Conference. The theme was “Be Ye Holy (1 Peter 1:16): The Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification” and the main speakers were Prof. Herman Hanko and Prof. David Engelsma.
Held every two years, the BRF Conference is a spiritual treat for people in the British Isles (England, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales), America (USA and Canada), and more recently, continental Europe (Hungary) and Asia (Singapore!). All in all, there were eight countries were represented by 126 attendees at Gartmore House, Scotland. No hostile negotiations took place, only sweet fellowship and the partaking of God’s Word.
It was my first time going halfway around the world alone. I waved goodbye to friends and family who saw me off, and catching the last glimpse, I felt ambivalently adventurous and apprehensive. Thankfully, I reached the Conference site without any hiccups. Yet, being in a new setting, there were some things I had to adjust to over the eight days at the conference.
1. The chilly (about 10-15°C) and occasionally damp weather, even though it was summer! Although it rains quite frequently in Singapore, the environmental temperature seldom goes below 23°C. Nevertheless, the fellowship was very warm in contrast to the weather. I fondly recall the moments when I had hour-long conversations with other ladies on the bus to/from day trips; there were just so many things to talk about – the different cultures, raising children, struggles in the Christian life and so on.
2. The time difference between Singapore and Scotland, together with the 17-hour daylight (4:30AM to 9:30PM). It was all the better; there were longer waking hours to enjoy the communion of the saints. At 10:00PM every night, except on Saturday, the night was young for the young at heart as they sang Psalters in parts and participated in social games – Murderer and Psychiatrist (you have to attend to find out what this is!).
3. Being away from family and church in Singapore. But there was no other better place than to be with Christ’s family gathered from different nations. I had a blessed time with Prof. Hanko and Aunty Wilma, and Prof. Engelsma and Aunty Ruth, the spiritual grandparents to many young people. Also, I bunked with two sisters in Christ—Stephanie Adams (USA) and Christina Perkins (England)—we were a multi-continental sisterhood.
4. Getting to know the hundred odd persons I was meeting for the first time. (Thanks to the organisers for nametags, they were really helpful for the first few days!) It was remarked that the BRF Conference is a foretaste of the fellowship in Heaven, where people of different lands gather to worship and praise God. Although I was meeting almost everyone for the first time, yet due to our common love for God, we were no strangers. It was a special experience.
5. Drinking in the beautiful sights and sounds of Scotland, which are so different from the city concrete-jungle of Singapore. Big thanks again to the organisers for the five day-trips to Loch Katrine, Edinburgh, Stirling, St Andrews and Loch Lohmond. I was constantly mesmerised by God’s creation and got to appreciate the sites of Reformation History. This appreciation was reinforced by the speeches Pastor Stewart gave on John Knox and James Fraser.
6. Playing badminton almost everyday and participating in the European league futsal (Northern Ireland vs. the Rest). I gladly adapted to this as I enjoy sports and not to mention, my futsal team won! Plus, sports were a great way for me to break the ice as I was a newcomer.
7. Scottish food is obviously different from the Singaporean diet. Although I missed my Singaporean food very much, I was content with fresher milk that Scotland offered. This is not surprising, given that cows are next-door neighbours to many Scots. By any means, the sincere milk of the Word was even more desirable. Through the speeches, I learnt what it means to be sanctified—to be consecrated to God by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1). One must not confuse sanctification with justification, whereby God declares that we have no sin, for instance when God said “(I have) not beheld iniquity in Jacob” in Numbers 23:21. Sanctification comes after justification as we are able to do good and live lives consecrated to God only if we have been declared righteous by God.
There is a danger in confusing the order of sanctification and justification. One example is the Roman Catholic belief that sanctification is prior to justification; thus man is able to do good and earn his justification. To understand the relationship between sanctification and justification rightly, we must acknowledge that the sin of Adam, Man’s federal head, was passed down to all men and killed them all spiritually. But when Christ, the federal head of His people, died to redeem them from their sins, He made them legally righteous before God and sends the Holy Spirit to sanctify them (Romans 5: 12-19).
Yet, sanctification is a work-in-progress in this life due to our fleshly nature (Galatians 5:17) and our battle against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). This causes our sanctification to be a painful process. However, this will make us grow more sincere in prayer for thee forgiveness of sins and all the more yearn for Heaven. Furthermore, Romans 8 encourages us to endure in fighting against sin as the enemy will be overcome. This victory is certain because it is not dependent on us, but Christ has won the battle over death and sin for us. We can experience blessed communion with God forever. What a comfort!
Looking forward, the next conference will be held at Castlewellan Castle, Northern Ireland, from 16th to 23rd July 2016. The theme is “Behold, I Come Quickly”: The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End, and the main speakers are Prof. Engelsma and our very own beloved Pastor Lanning.
I have told some of the BRF Conference attendees (all non-Asians), to come to the churches in Singapore and the Philippines in one trip to South-East Asia, and if possible to attend CERC’s church camp. Likewise, I hope that we Singaporeans can do the same: attend the Conference and travel the Irish Isles, and worship and fellowship with the saints in Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland, and the Limerick Reformed Fellowship in Ireland. This way, we can have more opportunities to enjoy the wonderful catholicity of the church of God.
So come 2016, I strongly urge members of CERC to consider seriously their attendance at the BRF Conference—keep the dates free, start saving money, and express interest promptly when registrations open. Let us desire to learn about the end times and fellowship with the saints from this part of the world.
Conference programme now available here!
When: Saturday 16 - Saturday 23 July 2016
Where: Castlewellan Castle, County Down, Northern IrelandRead More
"Zealous of Good Works" (Rev. Martyn McGeown)
“The Divine Work of Sanctification” (Prof. Engelsma)
“Sanctification and Justification: Relation and Differences” (Prof. Hanko)
“The Role of the Law in Sanctification” (Prof. Engelsma)
“The Imperfection of Sanctification in This Life” (Rom. 7) (Prof. Hanko)
“The Threat of Antinomianism” (Prof. Engelsma)
“The Victorious Christian Life” (Prof. Hanko)
Lord's Day Sermons
- "The Calling to Work Out Our Own Salvation" (Prof. Hanko)
- "Only the Holy Shall Inherit the Kingdom" (Prof. Engelsma)
- "John Knox: Scotland's Reformer" (Rev. Angus Stewart)
- "A Scottish Classic on Sanctification: James Fraser of Alness' 'Explication' of Romans 6:1-8:4" (Rev. Angus Stewart)
MP3 Audio Files:
1 Declaring God's Glory Among the Gentiles - Rev. Angus Stewart
2 By the Spirit of the Lord - Prof. Herman Hanko
3 The Martyr Church's Witness to the Ascended Lord - Prof. David Engelsma
4 The Divine Calling to Witness - Prof. Herman Hanko
5 The Content of the Witness - Prof. David Engelsma
6 The Official Witness of the Church - Prof. Herman Hanko
7 The Personal Witness by the Word - Prof. David Engelsma
8 The Personal Witness of a Godly Life - Prof. Herman Hanko
9 The Manner of a Christian Witness - Prof. David Engelsma
Mission Work: Message and Methods - Rev. Martyn McGeown
6 Towards a One-World Government - Prof. Herman Hanko
5 The Sexual Revolution - Prof. David Engelsma
4 The Reformed Believer and Money - Prof. Herman Hanko
3 The Abolition of Truth - Prof. David Engelsma
2 The Organic Development of Sin - Prof. Herman Hanko
1 The Reformed World and Life View - Prof. David Engelsma
The Unbreakable Scripture - Prof. David Engelsma
Cleanse Yourselves as God's Covenant Children - Prof. Herman Hanko
Special Lecture: The Preservation of the Text of Scripture [notes] - Dr. David Allen
7 Special Lecture on Charismaticism - Rev. Angus Stewart
6 The Holy Spirit and the Church - Prof. Herman Hanko
5 The Holy Spirit and Assurance - Prof. David Engelsma
4 The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth - Prof. Herman Hanko
3 The Holy Spirit and the Covenant of Grace - Prof. David Engelsma
2 The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit - Prof. Herman Hanko
1 The Person of the Holy Spirit - Prof. David Engelsma
6 Keeping God's Covenant and the Antithetical Life - Prof. Herman Hanko
5 Keeping God's Covenant and the Exercise of Discipline - Prof. David Engelsma
4 Keeping God's Covenant in the Home - Prof. Herman Hanko
3 Keeping God's Covenant in Marriage - Prof. David Engelsma
2 Keeping God's Covenant in the Church - Prof. Herman Hanko
1 The Covenant We Must Keep - Prof. David Engelsma
6 Assurance and its Benefits - Prof. Barry Gritters
5 Assurance and the Believers Struggle with Doubt - Prof. David Engelsma
4 Assurance and the Holy Life - Prof. Barry Gritters
3 Assurance and the Holy Spirit - Prof. David Engelsma
2 Assurance and Election - Prof. Barry Gritters
1 Assurance, Gods Will for All His People - Prof. David Engelsma
6 The Life of the Kingdom - Prof. Herman Hanko
5 The Kingdom and Civil Government - Prof. David Engelsma
4 The Kingdom, Gospel and Law - Prof. Herman Hanko
3 The Kingdom and the Church - Prof. David Engelsma
2 The Coming of the Kingdom in History - Prof. Herman Hanko
1 The Nature of the Kingdom - Prof. David Engelsma
6 The Church: Its Sacraments - Prof. David Engelsma
5 The Church: Its Marks - Prof. Herman Hanko
4 The Church: Its Institutional Form - Prof. Herman Hanko
3 The Church: Its Nature - Prof. David Engelsma
2 The Church: Gathered by the Gospel - Prof. Herman Hanko
1 The Church: Elected in Christ - Prof. David Engelsma
6 Sovereign Grace and Circumstances of Life - Prof. Herman Hanko
5 Sovereign Grace and Application of Salvation - Prof. David Engelsma
4 Sovereign Grace and The Development of Sin - Prof. Herman Hanko
3 Sovereign Grace and The Preaching of the Gospel - Prof. David Engelsma
2 Sovereign Grace and The Cross of Christ - Prof. Herman Hanko
1 Sovereign Grace and Predestination - Prof. David Engelsma
7 The Training and Rearing of Covenant Children - Prof. Herman Hanko
6 The Covenant as a Pattern for Marriage - Prof. David Engelsma
5 The Covenant Calling of the Antithetical Life - Prof. David Engelsma
4 The Covenant Children of Abraham - Prof. Herman Hanko
3 The Cosmic Character of the Covenant - Prof. David Engelsma
2 The Covenant with Adam, a Covenant of Works - Prof. Herman Hanko
1 The Source of the Covenant in the God Triune - Prof. David Engelsma
2014 Conference Booking Forms Now Available
Get them here.
Sat. 26 July - Sat. 2 Aug. 2014 at Gartmore House, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Scotland.
For the list of speeches, click here.Read More
Speakers: Prof. David J. Engelsma & Prof. Herman Hanko
Date: Saturday 28th July - Saturday 4th August 2012
Venue: Lorne House, Co. Down, Northern Ireland.
For more pictures, click here.
The BRF holds a family conference every 2 years on a pertinent biblical topic. In the right-hand menu you can obtain more information about past conferences, including conference reviews, pictures, audio & books published from them by clicking on Past.
Theme and Speeches
“Ye shall be witnesses unto me,” declared the risen Lord to His eleven disciples, just moments before He ascended into heaven. According to Christ's command, prophecy and promise, His gospel, church and kingdom have spread from Jerusalem to Judaea to Samaria and “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Today, the Christian church is “more global” than ever before but the church's official work in its missionary labours and the believer's personal witness are as necessary as they have ever been. But what must we say as Christ's witnesses? How must we witness? Where and when? We need direction from the Word of God, plus wisdom and courage!
To help us in this vital calling—whether in far-off climes or in our own families or neighbourhoods—the 2012 British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Family Holiday Conference at Lorne House, N. Ireland (28 July – 4 August) has chosen as its theme “Ye Shall Be My Witnesses.” Profs. David Engelsma and Herman Hanko are to develop this subject in the six main speeches:
- The Divine Calling to Witness
- The Content of the Witness
- The Official Witness of the Church
- The Personal Witness by the Word
- The Personal Witness of a Godly Life
- The Manner of a Christian Witness
Also Rev. Martyn McGeown of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (LRF) in the Republic of Ireland is to give a special lecture on missionary work.
Fellowship and CPRC Building
Lord willing, saints shall be present from all parts of the British Isles: England, Wales, Scotland, Republic of Ireland and N. Ireland; plus friends from various parts of continental Europe and further afield, including brethren from the Protestant Reformed Churches in the US and Canada. Do come and join us! In short, members of Christ's one, holy, catholic and apostolic church shall come from near and far, and from north, south, east and west, to learn about witnessing and to enjoy fellowship with each other and with the Triune God, for “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3).
On the Lord's Day during the conference (29 July), we plan to hold two services at both the conference centre and at the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) in Ballymena. This way, we provide Sunday worship services for members of the CPRC not at the conference and unable to journey to Lorne House, and for those at the conference who do not fancy the hour and a half round trip to Ballymena. Also this arrangement will enable those from the British Isles or Europe or the rest of the world who would like to see the new CPRC building to do so—provided they have rented a vehicle or can get a lift/ride with someone to one or both of the services in Ballymena!
Venue and Activities
Lorne House is a beautiful old building with lots of character—complete with a solarium and free wireless internet access!—set in a 20-acre estate just 5-10 minutes walk from Belfast Lough with beautiful coastal walks both east and west. These will make for excellent strolls after, say, evening lectures! The grounds of Lorne include a camp site (where some have already told us that they will be staying in tents for the week of the conference), a games room, woods, two fine children's play parks, a stream (where some can go on the river run), an archery range and a bungee trampoline. These last three activities are instructor-led and paid for when at the conference.
For those who would like to spend some of their free time off-site, a train station is nearby, with frequent service to Belfast (the capital of N. Ireland) just 8 miles to the west and Bangor (a seaside resort) only 5 miles to the east.
The BRF is arranging two day trips. One is to the new Titanic museum which will open in the spring of 2012 in time for the centenary of the launch and sinking of the famous Belfast-made RMS Titanic, the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time. As the Titanic T-shirt says, “It was all right when it left here!” The captain rammed it at speed into a large iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York!
The second trip is along the beautiful east Antrim coast. This will include the impressive Carrickfergus Castle, built by the Normans in the twelfth century, plus a lighthouse, walled garden, harbour, waterfall, etc. (DV).
by Samuel Watterson
Unlike the writer in this publication two years ago (Mr. Ed Bos), this writer had not been to a BRF conference before 2010, and indeed, was brought by the sovereign grace of God to believe the biblical and Protestant Reformed faith not much more than two years ago. Nevertheless, God's timing is impeccable, and all His glorious providence is perfect, regardless of how much one would feel the desire to have been to many such conferences after having attended in 2010. We were reliably informed however, that this year's BRF conference was again, possibly the best yet.
We were magnificently hosted in Hebron Hall, a grand old conference centre just outside Cardiff, and conveniently near to the airport. The general opinion of the eighty-seven attendees (plus some day-visitors) was very much in hearty approval of the facilities, apart from perhaps the steep hill at the entrance which proved difficult for some of the more elderly saints. Aside from the delicious food, en-suite bathrooms, comfortable mattresses, and sporting facilities, the venue was also well-situated for day trips to historical places such as Bath in England, Caerphilly Castle, and Tintern Abbey. Some also took trips to Cardiff, and some others even went white-water rafting. Other activities included tennis, football (soccer), basketball, volleyball, swimming, ping-pong, pool, snooker, and for the even less physically active, a board-game, a psychiatric game, a Sicilian game, and a zoological game. These activities, along with mealtimes, helped people to “break the ice” and get to know each other better.
Once again, many tongues and tribes were represented at this British conference, including people from: Italy, Germany, Éire, Northern Ireland, Wales, England, Spain, Portugal, France, and even the USA, Canada, and China. The catholicity of the church was greatly manifested and celebrated, and the communion of the saints was greatly enjoyed, and practised. There was sweet fellowship in common confession of the truth, and in mutual edification and encouragement to love God more in thought, word, and deed. This was especially felt in the reverent singing of the God-breathed Psalms together, and in our other regular prayers together. It was also evident in the Bible studies which Rev. McGeown led towards the end of the conference, which even discussed some issues pertaining both to the topic of Prof. Engelsma's public lecture in Limerick the following Thursday, and to his recent pamphlet, “The Gift of Assurance”.
On the morning of the Lord's Day, after everyone had arrived the previous day, Prof. Herman Hanko preached on II Corinthians 7:1. He powerfully and practically expounded the truth about our certain, yet difficult sanctification, especially in its relation to the unconditional covenant of God. The same afternoon, a colloquium on baptism was held, chaired by Prof. Hanko, and opened by Mr. Michael Kimmitt. The discussion focussed predominantly on children in the covenant of God, and the conditions for a valid baptism in lieu of the myriad of complicated experiences which have become commonplace in the professing church world of today. Prof. David Engelsma brought us the Word of God in the evening from John 10:34-36. He thoroughly explained how Scripture is utterly unbreakable, directing us to the absolutely certain foundation upon which all the speeches which would follow were to be built.
The first conference address was given by Prof. Engelsma under the title, “The Reformed World and Life View”. The speech explained how the Reformed believer sees the world, from its beginning to its end. A case was argued for the Antichrist to be an enemy of everything supernatural, and in this vein, the Reformed world-view was contrasted with that of atheistic materialism represented by the views of the infamous misotheist, Richard Dawkins. While the misdirected dreams of post-millennialism were denied and refuted, believers were exhorted to be in the world, yet living as spiritually separate people. This particular speech led to many eschatological questions afterwards, but always underpinned with the certain knowledge of the absolute reign of Christ over all of history and all things for the good of His people.
On Tuesday, there were two speeches; Prof. Hanko on the organic development of sin, and Prof. Engelsma on post-modernism. The development of sin was explained as man's progressively greater manifestation of his total depravity, as a acorn growing into a oak tree. This development was traced through Scripture's history, and through Scripture's teaching about the time until the end. The means that man now has to express his ungodliness are far greater than in the beginning, and we expect this to increase until the end, and we can see this illustrated all around us. A somewhat more complicated speech was heard in the evening, as Prof. Engelsma outlined the sheer absurdity, and yet deceptive power of post-modernism. Denying the authority of Scripture, ungodly men invent their own authorities, create their own world-views (attempting to take the place of the only Creator), in order to live as they please. Their authority becomes driven by their own experiences and lusts, and language is employed (or rather abused) in order to communicate their world-view, and dominate others by it. Whereas modernism gloried in individual “freedom” (i.e. freedom from the authority of God's Word), post-modernism is totalitarian, and will not tolerate the intolerant Christians!
These heavy, but very worthwhile topics were followed the next day with a special lecture from the Trinitarian Bible Society on God's preservation of the text of Scripture. Many had not heard this significant material previously, which explained the difference between the biblical and Reformed doctrine of the preservation of Scripture, and the false doctrine that was formulated by the likes of B.B. Warfield. These men began to teach that only the first manuscripts actually penned by the very writers of Scripture were infallible, and denied the authority of the copies – instead claiming that some hypothetical end result of new methods of textual criticism would reproduce the infallible text. This was in response to certain professing textual critics who denounced the received text, in favour of incorporating the vastly different Alexandrian manuscripts into the text of Scripture which had been in use for hundreds of years. John Owen was quoted mightily condemning these anomalous texts against those who had desired to corrupt Scripture in his time too.
"The Reformed Believer and Money” was the title of the fourth conference address, given by Prof. Hanko. The relationship of the things of this world with the elect, and with the reprobate was contrasted. All that is not consecrated unto the Lord is an accursed thing, and believers were exhorted to use all the good creation of God in the service of the kingdom of Christ. The error of asceticism was strongly condemned, as was all the abuse of God's creation. We must store treasures in heaven, not on earth, and we must live as pilgrims in this world, keeping only a loose grip on earthly possessions. In contrast, the wicked employ all the good things of God's creation in the service of sin, and the kingdom of Antichrist – therefore all their possessions are curses to them.
In the second last speech, Prof. Engelsma spoke about what he called, “The Sexual Revolution”. The positive truth about the institution of marriage was first set forward, against the backdrop of a world that is rampant with divorce and remarriage, and a world which exerts great efforts to promote all manner of fornication, and eliminate any possible undesired consequences – and it will not stop at murder, even the murder of defenceless children still in the womb. Many developments have already been made to increase fornication vastly, not least of which is the abuse of the internet and all kinds of other media by the pornographic industry. The rise of homosexuality was also remarked on, especially with regard to its forceful agenda to enact legislation to outlaw those who stand for the biblical truth about marriage. Again the recurring theme was that as this wicked world manifests its wickedness more and more, the saints will also face an increasing intensity of persecution. Along with grave warnings to keep us from all the filth around us, the blessings of a Christian marriage were lauded. The august Christian virtue of modesty was spoken about in the question time afterwards. As the world progresses towards its end, we must take all the more special heed to cultivate this virtue.
The final lecture (by Prof. Hanko) dealt with the rise of Antichrist, and the development of a one-world government under Satan's man. Again this development was traced through biblical history to the present time in which we can various movements, philosophies, and organisations aiming for this goal. There was Babel, at which time God smote down the ungodly kingdom and scattered the tribes by the confusion of languages. God will not allow this one-world government to develop before the appointed time, because every one of His elect must first be brought to repentance. We can see typical pictures of this kingdom also in the Old Testament, most notably, Babylon. And a case was made for the contention that this present time may be in the little season and the end of the millennium (that symbolic number for the time between Christ's ascension and second coming), in which Satan is loosed, so that he may deceive the nations once more, to bring them into a one-world government under him. The role of the false church in this endeavour was brought to light, as the whore with a cup full of abominations, drunk with the blood of the saints. Yet when Antichrist has used her, she herself will be destroyed by the government of this Antichrist.
Much more than all this was said in these speeches, and Lord-willing, there will be a book published to contain it all, but these are included to give readers a taste of what the speeches and the BRF conference was like. And this is in the hope that they may purchase the book and benefit greatly from it, and also consider coming to the next BRF conference to be as edified and strengthened by it as I have been. The audio and videos of the conference speeches will also (DV) be available online from the British Reformed Fellowship website (www.britishreformedfellowship.org.uk), which is soon to be revamped.
The next BRF conference is being planned (DV) for Ireland, with the same gifted speakers, around the end of July and beginning of August as usual. The topic for the conference will be “Ye are My Witnesses”, concerning how a Christian must be a witness in whatever situation that God has appointed for us. If it pleases the Lord to grant the means to travel, do consider attending this spiritually enriching conference. It is a very great encouragement to spend the week with like-minded believers, mutually edifying one another – especially for those who come from nations in which the Reformed faith is scarcely to be found in these last days.
“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.” – Proverbs 3:13. We are exhorted in Scripture to grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ, and the BRF conference is an excellent aid to this growth in finding wisdom and understanding, so that we would love God more and eschew evil, as the world around us waxes worse and worse. This year's conference was a testament to the inestimable blessing of being granted the grace to take heed to the “more sure word of prophecy” (the Holy Scriptures), until the day dawns.