The Irish Reformed Presbyterian Church

Since today we honor St. Patrick and all things Irish today, I thought it might be interesting to look at the history of the reformed church in Ireland:

The origins of the Reformed Presbyterian church in Ireland are bound up with the coming of Scottish settlers to Ulster in the early 17th century. Most were Presbyterians and they soon made a major impact on the religious life of the province. They were naturally sympathetic towards their co-religionists in Scotland, who drew up a National Covenant in 1638 in protest against the autocratic policies of Charles I and who, in 1643, entered into the Solemn League and Covenant with the English Parliament. One aim of this covenant was ‘to work for the reformation of religion in the three kingdoms’ and it was warmly approved and signed by many of the Ulster Scots.

The Revolution Settlement of 1690 was welcomed by most Ulster Presbyterians as a vindication of their struggle for religious freedom. A minority, however, objected to the disregarding of the Covenants and the absence of any specific recognition of the kingship of Jesus Christ. These ‘Covenanters’, ancestors of modern Reformed Presbyterians, stood apart from the Presbyterian Church and began to hold separate meetings for fellowship. They were dependent on visits from Scottish ministers from 1696 until 1757. In 1763 a ‘Reformed Presbytery’ was formed and rapid growth led to the formation of a Synod in 1811.

There are at present 37 congregations, 5 in counties Monaghan and Donegal and the remainder in Northern Ireland. These total approximately 2,500 communicant members, with up to 1,500 covenant children and adherents in addition. This is a stronger community than bare numbers might suggest, as most of those belonging to the church show a high level of commitment. In contrast to some larger bodies, there are few nominal members.

The distribution of Reformed Presbyterians (still often called Covenanters) has generally followed the pattern of the original Scots settlement, with most congregations in counties Antrim, Londonderry and Down. For much of her history, therefore, the church has been rural in membership and orientation. This has been changing in recent years, with significant numerical growth in the Greater Belfast area resulting in the formation of several new congregations. A recovery of confidence in the relevance of the church’s message is leading to a more active and fruitful church expansion program.

Church buildings are typically simple in design, with a central pulpit, under which is a communion table, symbolizing the supreme importance of the Word of God. A widespread building program has done a great deal to improve the range of classroom, hall and kitchen facilities.

Read more about the Irish Reformed Church here. . . .

The Story Of The Red Hand

John MacArthur

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1 Timothy 6)

From the desk of John MacArthur:

I remember years ago reading a…kind of a striking story in Irish history. There is a badge of barony in the history of…of Ireland called the Red Hand of O’Neill. The O’Neill’s, a ancient Irish family, and the Red Hand of O’Neill is the…the symbol of the O’Neill family. They…they got that sort of badge of barony in the most bizarre way. There was a time when an expedition to Ireland was allowed before it was fully settled. And the provision was made by those who had the authority that the first hand on the land possessed the land. One of the men was O’Neill, from whom, by the way, descended the princes of Ulster, now Northern Ireland, which is Protestant today. He was rowing as furiously as he could trying to get there and to claim the land. But another boat took the lead, and he fell behind. And the historian writes, and I quote, “With a grim look of mingled wrath and triumph at the rival boat, the strong-minded, iron-nerved O’Neill dropped the oars, seized a battle ax, chopped off one of his hands…hopefully not his throwing hand. I guess not…and threw it onshore so his hand was there first.” You say, “That’s pretty drastic action.” Got that right.

Jesus says something like that when He says, “If your right hand…offends you…what?…cut it off. If your right eye offends you, pluck it out.” People would do that in the pursuit of land. What drastic action would you take in the pursuit of holiness? Essentially what Jesus said. You have to deal dramatically. You have to deal drastically with sin. You can’t even be a pastor and can’t even be a man of God unless you’re blameless and above reproach. God helps, you know, along the way, brings trials into your life. My life, I mean in the process of…of shaping my life, you know, you go through all kinds of things. Patricia’s terrible accident…some years ago, and my son, one time with a brain tumor and all the issues of life that come and go. My own illnesses on occasion and struggles with people in the church. The Lord brings in enough trials to keep purging you. Criticism, persecution, hostility…rejection, defection…God does His part to humble us, to run stakes through our otherwise proud human flesh to keep us running after holiness.

Spurgeon, in his inimitable way, said it like this, “A graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing about light and vision, while he himself is absolutely in the dark. He is a dumb man, elevated to the chair of music, a deaf man fluent on harmonies and symphonies. He is a mole professing to educate eagles. Such is a graceless pastor.” Now, you may be a preacher. You may even be a pastor, but if you’re not running after holiness, you’re not a man of God. (“Identifying a Man of God”)

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