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.