Having reflected on the influence of Owen within the reformed churches in Northern Ireland with their inordinate emphasis on covenant children, there is surely a reason why this is the case. The reason might not be obvious to many people in the churches, but I think a stab at understanding this unfortunate state of affairs must be made. The fact that there is so little Gospel preaching within the denominations would suggest to me a possible explanation, and its this. Because the great Puritan theologian, Dr John Owen, did not have any reported conversions from his ministry but was deemed to be faithful to the Word/Gospel, that in some way justifies non-Gospel preaching that is clear and pointed and direct in those churches that have adopted Owen as their mentor, because God will bring the covenant children to faith in His own time. For them, being a covenant child equals being a Christian. Therefore, covenant children are not urged to come to Christ, to repent, to trust the Saviour, and the need to be 'born again' is not emphasised, nor is it welcome in many congregations - pure and mixed alike.
Because the great John Owen
was not a 'successful' evangelist like Baxter et al,
the position seems to be that so long as a man is faithful to the Word
of God, conversions do not matter (really). Good, mature and spiritual Christians are leaving their churches
because the Gospel is not being preached with clarity and conviction, the emphasis
being on the covenant children, an idea that is substituted for the Gospel of Grace. Many hearts are broken by this retrograde development within evangelical and reformed churches. How can any church claim to be a reformed church if it
does not preach the mighty Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes? Is it because
the preachers do not believe in their hearts the message they are preaching, therefore
it comes across as a cold lecture of sorts? Or is it because they do not
see the eternal danger of covenant children who die without Christ that
they decline to make the Gospel clear? Perhaps it could be termed in another way: these 'reformed' preachers have not themselves been gripped by the awfulness of the hell that awaits every unconverted sinner. In this way they are buttressing
the old theological liberalism of the major denominations which they
How sad and frightening is the church situation in
Ulster! What a judgement awaits those who have failed so dramatically
present Christ alone as the means and ground of salvation for all
repenting sinners! Unless God intervenes, Ulster churches will decline
even further, and be lost. Members are being fed a diet of clinically detached Bible
Studies which are passed off as sermons and messages from God. If the true
saving Gospel is not everywhere apparent in our sermons, they do not
honour God or glorify Christ.
The question arises: is the Gospel absolutely dispensable for the salvation of sinners? Is there another way of salvation apart from, and beside, the Gospel of God? Reformed evangelicals and Arminians are convinced that there is no other way of reconciliation with God except through faith in Christ alone. But the 'neo-reformed' men, why, they hold to a different Gospel which is no Gospel at all. They believe that the covenant alone, and membership in it, saves the sinner. There is no need for this 'new birth' business that Jesus and Peter and Paul preach.
For further information on issues that are germane to this subject, please visit here.