‚ÄúKnow ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?‚ÄĚ (2 Samuel 3:38).
Upon his passing on Friday, Ian Paisley‚Äôs name has trended worldwide, propelled by the force of countless thousands of tributes and messages. Twitter and Facebook, along with the less recent and more conventional forms of media, our newspapers and television and radio stations, have served as platforms for people to reflect on his life and legacy.
But this platform ‚Äď the pulpit of Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast ‚Äď can never be as anonymous as Facebook or Twitter. Because it was here he stood since 1969 (and prior to that, since 1946) when this building needed to be constructed in order to house the colossal congregations that, Lord‚Äôs Day by Lord‚Äôs Day, crowded into these pews to listen to ‚ÄėThe Doc‚Äô preach.
And no wonder ...
‚ÄĘ He was a master preacher; a tremendously gifted orator whose words were fuelled by a heart full of passion as he proclaimed the one way of salvation through his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The Bible reference he always added underneath his signature was clearly an earnest, constant petition; Ephesians 6:19-20: ‚ÄúAnd for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.‚ÄĚ
While in Londonderry, on the occasion of Dr. Paisley‚Äôs retirement from the ministry, BBC Radio Foyle contacted me for an interview. They asked me if they could get hold of one of Dr Paisley‚Äôs sermons. I encouraged them to check out on the internet one of Dr. Paisley‚Äôs most famous messages ‚Äď ‚ÄėFive Steps to Genuine Revival‚Äô (1976). They came back an hour later, completely captivated by it! ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs powerful preaching,‚ÄĚ they said.
And all who heard him preach are agreed on this ... .
From this pulpit sounded out the Gospel message, under such striking titles as:
‚ÄėHow to Set a Church on Fire‚Äô (1970)
- ‚ÄėMan of Sorrows‚Äô (1970)
- ‚ÄėAn Alarm Clock at the Ears of the Saints‚Äô (1970)
- ‚ÄėThe Postman who did not Strike‚Äô (1971) (2 Chronicles 30:6)
- ‚ÄėThe Greatest Creed Born at the Wondrous Cross‚Äô (2001)
- ‚ÄėMeet Mr. Turn-Away from the Town of Apostasy‚Äô (2003)
‚ÄĘ He was a zealous evangelist, who covered multiple miles in the search for lost souls ‚Äď and one who taught his congregation / hearers to love the souls of men.
‚ÄĘ He was the ‚ÄėMr Valiant-for-Truth‚Äô in our day, prominently standing in the noble line of the men and women from Protestant Reformation times as he tackled the apostasy and false religion of these modern times (consider the numbers of times he gave lectures on the Protestant Reformers and their biblical stance against false religion; take a look around the corridors of this building that commemorates those noble men and women who gave their lives for the cause of Christ ‚Äď ‚ÄėMartyrs‚Äô Memorial‚Äô).
‚ÄĘ He was a stalwart in prayer; always encouraging ‚Äď and inspiring ‚Äď people to pray.
‚ÄĘ He was a big-hearted, generous man: I know he would often announce himself as, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm a Ballymena man,‚ÄĚ but his generosity knew no bounds ‚Äď to this particular church, to the denomination, to preachers and students for the ministry, to those who were going through the valley of tribulation or even death ... .
I treasure fond memories of Dr. Paisley ‚Äď of my visits to the Easter Convention meetings in this building when he was in full flow; he travelled to Londonderry in 1987 to ordain me to the ministry and install me as pastor in the Londonderry congregation; he was back within the year to officiate at my marriage to Gillian; 3 years ago when my father died, I took a phonecall from him during which he prayed with me over the phone.
‚ÄúHe, being dead, yet speaketh,‚ÄĚ is a Biblical phrase (first used of Abel) ... and, I am persuaded, this will be true of those high and halcyon days on Glentoran Street, in the Uslter Hall, on the Ravenhill Road (and all over the world) when ‚ÄėThe Doc‚Äô was in his prime.
And now that this good man has received his highest-ever promotion ‚Äď to heaven ... .
... In a sermon preached by Dr Paisley on 12 January 2003 ‚Äď ‚ÄėThe First Five Minutes After Death‚Äô (1 Corinthians 13:12 the text), he announced:
‚ÄúIf you hear in the press that Ian Paisley is dead, don‚Äôt believe a word of it. I‚Äôll be more alive than ever ‚Ä¶ I‚Äôll be singing as I sang never before.‚ÄĚ
In the same message he spoke of those who, ‚Äú... pass over triumphantly into the eternity of the blessed.‚ÄĚ
This morning, 12 September 2014, he found himself among that number. We extend our deep sympathy to his wife Eileen and family, Sharon, Rhonda, Cherith, Ian and Kyle (and their families) and assure them of our prayers.
A verse that Dr. Paisley penned and added to one of our most famous hymns ‚Äď ‚ÄėRock of Ages, Cleft For Me,‚Äô ‚Äď summarises his current situation:
Then above the world and sin, Through the veil, drawn right within, I shall see Him face to face, Sing the story saved by grace, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me ever be with Thee.
The challenge that comes to each of our hearts today is this: are we ready to meet God? Are we saved? Have we been to Jesus for the cleansing power, are we washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are we ready to hold the torch of truth in our hands for the spiritual and eternal benefit of this generation?
Rev Ian Brown
Ian Brown succeeded Dr Ian Paisley as minister of Martyrs Memorial in August 2013. Prior to this he pastored the Free Presbyterian congregation in Northern...