21 August, 2008

Annual Free Church of Scotland Family Conference

The beginning of August marked the annual family conference hosted by the Presbytery of the United States of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). Beyond the spectacular setting in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the wonderfully stockpiled book table of the finest of Reformed literature, the conference remains a time of spiritual renewal and encouragement.

Those in attendance represent different backgrounds, denominations and even countries. Each year we are thankful to have a minister from Scotland to share in the Gospel labour. However, not only were we blessed to have a minister from Scotland, this year we also had two families who drove from Mexico City to be in attendance! What makes this all the more exciting is that the fellowship is centered on Jesus Christ. How exciting it is to have a foretaste of heaven, where there will be those from all different backgrounds worshipping the Lamb of God! Oh how we long for that day!

The unifying theme of the conference was that of experimental religion. The phrase is certainly strange to modern ears. We no longer speak of such a thing; moreover, experimental is typically used only with reference to Science or prototypes. However, such a phrase used to be something of a watchword to former generations steeped in the piety of the Reformation. Two excellent addresses were given by Rev. Sherman Isbell, both defining what is meant, and explaining why experimental religion has been all but lost by those indebted to the Reformation. Those who find themselves wondering at the marked differences between Puritan emphases and modern Reformed emphases would benefit greatly from these addresses. You may find these addresses, and all others from the conference at a link posted below. There is also a helpful article written by Rev. Joel Beeke on experimental preaching available in PDF: http://www.frcna.org/Data/StudentSocietySpeeches/The%20Lasting%20Power%20of%20Reformed%20Experiential%20Preaching%20-%20Dr%20Joel%20R.%20Beeke.pdf.

Rev. David Murray, formerly of Stornoway and now professor at Puritan Reformed Seminary, gave four addresses on the doctrine and attainment of assurance. These were especially helpful as words of guidance and encouragement. These are fine examples of well-crafted, orderly, orthodox and heart-affecting addresses. In a day where many presume that a simple profession of faith is a warrant for assurance, these addresses are very needful. Moreover, the weak believer struggling with assurance will do well to listen and give much meditation to these words.

Rev. McCurley of Greenville's congregation gave two addresses on communing with Christ at the Lord's table. Much of the Reformed world is split into two extremes today over this issue. Many see communion as a bare remembrance of Christ's work on the cross. While no one would undermine the great benefits that come from meditating upon our Savior's work, Paul's letter to the Corinthians demands that we recognize a true communion with the living Jesus at the Lord's table. Thus there are many who have reacted to a mere remembrance and embraced a form of high Sacrementalism closely akin to that of Lutheranism or even Roman Catholicism. Rev. McCurley's addresses needfully and pastorally steer us into the Scripture's teaching of a true, but Spiritual and faithful communing with Christ. Very helpful and refreshing to the soul of the believer!

Lastly there were four sermons preached by Rev. William Macleod, principal of the Free Church Seminary, editor of the Free Church Witness and minister of a congregation in Glasgow. These were heart-stirring, convicting and edifying sermons. As a believer by God's grace, I must testify that these addresses did much to awaken me from a slumbering walk. I left stirred up to turn from my sin and pursue the will of Christ Jesus with more vigor and dependence upon the grace of God. Such addresses are needed for believer and unbeliever alike.

The Lord willing, the Presbytery of the United States hopes to host the family conference during the week of August 10-14, again in the Shenandoah Valley. For more information you may visit the conference website at http://members.aol.com/rsiworship/2009.html.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or Rev. Isbell whose information you may find at the link above.

Free Church Conference 2008 Addresses:

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