Please allow me to give you a brief summary of some of my observations of highlights thus far of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).
The Assembly began on Monday evening with a gathering of Commissioners from the various Presbyteries throughout our Church. Our Presbytery of the United States is represented this year by Rev. Warren Gardner, Mr. Jonathan Mattull, and myself.
The Assembly was constituted with prayer by last year’s moderator. The principal clerk, Rev. John MacLeod introduced the moderator elect for this assembly. At this point Rev. Timothy J. McGlynn, the minister from Aberdeen, was elected moderator.
The outgoing Moderator, Rev. Kenneth MacDonald proceeded to conduct worship. This sets the stage and tone for the entire Assembly. We sang Psalm 63 and Psalm 31:21-24 and the Scripture reading included Hebrews 13.
The songs teach us that the true Christian arises each day with a thirst after those comforts which the world cannot give, and immediately turns by prayer to the Fountain of the water of life. The true believer is convinced, that nothing in this sinful world can satisfy the wants and desires of his immortal soul; he expects his happiness from God, as his portion. The question each must ask is, “Is this my conviction and experience?”
Christ Jesus is our hope in life and death. He is the light of the world. The Holy Spirit gives us power to live and teaches us to rejoice in tribulation and in hope. Christ will destroy all his, and our, enemies. This gives us encouragement that even when we suffer affliction, we suffer together with Christ. And then what glory it is to have the assurance of God himself that having suffered courageously with their Master, the Christian may triumphantly enter into his joy and glory.
Following prayer Mr. MacDonald preached on Hebrews 13:1: “Let brotherly love continue.”
He mentioned how difficult it often is to love others. Yet Christ tells us to love even our enemies. We are to love those especially of the household of faith. We can, all of us, be guilty of a lack of love, a reluctant love.
But if we are brothers and sisters in Christ then we are to love, and must demonstrate love tangibly for brothers and sisters in the Church.
What amazing grace that God has plucked sinners from the grips of hell. He showed love. He is elder brother, and that means each Christian also shares a common father. Would it not be unnatural should we fail to have this bond of love with our own family? If we fail to love one another we will offend our heavenly father, for we disobey his command. We have no right to ignore or pick and choose whom we love. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,” says Jesus, “if you have love one for another.”
Furthermore, how do we not love those for whom Christ has died?! If we lack in this there is no doubt we also lack in love for our Savior.
Why is love lacking? There may be many reasons. Pride can be a hindrance to brotherly love since pride is about self-love, not brotherly love.
Rev. MacDonald reminded commissioners that the General Assembly is not merely a business meeting in which we imitate the world. Yes, it is business, but it is spiritual business. It is the Lord’s business. Our adversary the devil seeks to sow discord. We are to beware of a partisan spirit in all the work for the Church is a brotherhood of believers.
On Tuesday a great deal of business was conducted. Various representatives from different churches brought greetings. Rev. Maurice Roberts made an impassioned appeal to the ministers and elders present at the GA to warn their people of the dangers of allowing their children untrammeled access to smart phones and various devices that access the internet. He believes it offers an unacceptable risk for their exposure to ungodly influence.
The psalmody committee, represented by Rev. Bill Scott, whom you will remember from a visit he made to our congregation in 2015, provided an exciting report. This year ends a twelve year project to provide psalms and tunes in 12 cds. This will become available before the end of the year.
Rev. Maurice Roberts rose to provide his practice as an encouragement to those who wish to memorize psalms for singing. He suggested reading about six verses immediately prior to laying down to sleep and then thinking on them. He ended by saying, “I am sure you will find it worthwhile.”
Today (Wednesday) was our Presbytery’s most active day. This morning a number of men, myself included, were asked to pray during our devotional exercises. I was glad for the privilege and honor to address our living God on the behalf of the Assembly.
The highlight of the day was unquestionably the debate attending an addendum to the Training of the Ministry report. Without going into detail I should say that the addendum proposed a way forward for the Free Church to make a pathway for students trained in American seminaries to be licensed to preach in our churches. Rev. Gardner proposed the addendum, and was seconded by Rev. Gavin Beers, Ayr. Our other commissioners, myself and Rev. Mattull spoke to the matter.
The motion carried by a large majority and we hope this will make it more practical in the future for us to raise up American ministers. We ought to give thanks to God for this welcome development.
This evening I presented our Presbytery report. And finally, it is my further pleasure to announce that the Mebane preaching station has been raised to a fully sanctioned charge.