The Origins of the Church

From an Article written by Pastor Seaton

The origins of the Reformed Baptist Church of Inverness are embedded, to some degree, in a measure of controversy. From 1966 - 1969 I had been the Pastor of the Inverness Baptist Church, which was in association with the Baptist Union of Scotland.

The Baptist Union, in turn, was a member-body of a grouping of churches then known as the Scottish Churches Council. Up to that point the activity of this grouping had been fairly low-key, but in 1969, it began to make very definite "ecumenical" strides. It was proposed that an invitation be extended to the church of Rome to send "observers" to future meetings of the council with an eye to better relationships being established with that religious system. Needless to say, the church of Rome was more than happy to accept this invitation, but to our own heart and mind, this raised a question of association that had to be dealt with. The clear statements of God's word declare that there is but one saving gospel - justification by faith alone in Christ alone. The word of God is also very definite as to our action with regards to any who deny that: "from such withdraw thyself," (1st Tim. 6:5.) The church of Rome is the epitome of the denial of the gospel of justification by faith alone, and I could see no way of being associated to any degree with that system and still retain a conscience void of offence to the Saviour who was crucified to grant us the gospel.

Accordingly, a protest was made to the Baptist Union Assembly in October 1969 that the Union forthwith withdraw from the Scottish Churches Council. This was roundly defeated, and although the Baptist church of Inverness resigned its membership of the Union the resignation, at best, was only half-hearted. This was shown to be the case at a later date when the church returned to the fold of the Union once again. With such an unsatisfactory state of affairs, then, there seemed no alternative but for me to resign the pastorate of that church; this took place in December 1969, when we moved, as a family to Edinburgh.

The immediate purpose of the resignation was an attempt to allow the Inverness church to settle into its previous mode of working and thinking. In spite of this, however, the following months were to see some other resignations by a number of people who had come to the same convictions regarding any form of ecumenical involvement, and who had also come to embrace the "doctrines of grace" as the true expression of the gospel of God in the scriptures. Following a meeting in May 1970 with a small group of this number, it was decided that, with God's enabling, a church of "Reformed" and "Baptistic" persuasion be constituted. The necessities of such a move were seen to, and for our own part we returned to Inverness in the November of that year, when I took up the pastoral office of the church

Just how wise, or necessary, those actions were, came under scrutiny by some at the time, and have done so ever since. All we can say is that the passing of the years has only made these actions all the clearer. Compared to the present day, the ecumenical scene of twenty years ago was but a little acorn. Then, it was the question of R.C. "observers" etc.: now, it is full-blown "action together" in the so-called "work of the gospel." Then it was a "Protestantism" that allowed within its ranks men who questioned the vitals of the saving truths of the Bible; now, it is the acceptance of openly avowed Sodomites within the "ministry" of some of the participating churches of the ecumenical movement. Then, it was a proposed world church of all professing "Christian" churches; now, it is the vision of a "multi-faith" organisation comprising every religious system that the fallen heart of man ever concocted.

We would not be begrudging towards the Baptist Union of Scotland in its recent withdrawal from the Scottish Churches Council - now known as Action of Churches Together in Scotland, and including the Roman Church in full membership. This we acknowledged in an earlier edition of the magazine. But, in reality, it does little to alter the real state of affairs, and could never answer the burning issues of our own hearts that caused us to act in the way we did those many years ago. Regardless of any "majority" decision taken at Assembly level by the Union, at local level a full-blooded ecumenical programme is engaged in by numerous Baptist churches in Scotland, and the question of being in association with those who deny the gospel is an open question and an un-addressed question within the ranks of Scottish Baptists. As things stand at present, each passing year only confirms the necessity of having heeded the Bible's call for withdrawal and separation. When someone can convince us that there are two gospels, two ways of salvation, two Saviours and that we safely mix the two and present them as one, then we may reconsider what we did and continue to do. Until such a time the die is cast.

Some words of a saint of a bye-gone day are often upon our lips and in our hearts - that the religion of the Bible is "Jesus only, and only Jesus." That means, "not only nothing apart from Him, but also, nothing along with Him!" It is "Jesus only, and only Jesus." Those are the only permissible grounds for gospel association and united endeavour. Here we must stand always.

If there should ever come a time when this is not the sole ground, or the sole reason for this church's existence, may the Lord come speedily and reform it And if at such a time it will not be reformed, may the Lord remove it, that it be not a blot on the true gospel whatsoever. The Lord keep us from that "Anathema" that is pronounced on those who preach "any other gospel."

Following the Withdrawl

Our own return to Inverness took place in November 1970, but prior to this the church had already been constituted, in the July of that year, and had begun to formally meet together. Articles of Faith had been drawn up and subscribed to, and this intervening period presented many challenges.

When it had first been decided to commit unto the Lord the possibility of forming an independent reformed witness in Inverness, two needs were faced: a place to gather to worship for the church, and a home for myself and family. Under the Lord's hand, the Town Council of Inverness met the latter, and a local undertaker met the former, providing us with the use of his funeral parlour! This was, no doubt, something of a unique meeting place for a company of the Lord's people, but as we were persuaded that God was going to do a "new thing" for us, we were not to be surprised at any of the strange turns that events were possibly going to take in the days Old picture of the building that was to become the churchahead. We accepted the offer of the Chapel of Ease with gratitude and began services there in November. At this time, the church met under the name of the Inverness Independent church, but this was later changed to the present name of the Reformed Baptist church of Inverness.

Although grateful for the use of the funeral parlour premises it was apparent that we must search out a "settled place" to carry on the church's work and testimony. Again, we were forced to turn our eyes away from the "obvious" (perhaps a vacant church building, etc.) to what the Lord, in His determinate counsel and foreknowledge had reserved for us. That, in fact, turned out to be two very old and dilapidated wooden bungalows, sitting amidst high, overgrown grass and bushes: (see picture). As we paced-out the dimensions of the larger of the two structures we discovered that with all the interior walls taken away we could renovate it into a meeting-house to accommodate over a hundred people.

The incidents involving the provisions and providence of the Lord over this period of time - beginning from when we first looked at the buildings, eventually purchased and renovated them, and began our worship there - are legion. One such occurrence, right at the outset, was a great encouragement to us, and well-remembered.

As stated, the one thing necessary to begin the conversion of one of the houses into a church building was the removal of all the interior walls. We had consulted various people about this and all had given a rather hesitating "Yes - it could be done," provided we were ready, with pillars, to shore-up the roof if the need arose. Church in 1972We decided to go ahead. One night as we were engaged in the work, an old gentleman called in to see what was going on. He turned out to be the man who had actually erected the house some thirty-six years previous; hence his interest. As he went on to relate how he had constructed the building, our hearts rejoiced in the goodness of the Lord. He told us that he had not, in fact, built it as a house, but as a hall-structure - spanning the roof from wall to wall, and setting up the room partitions only after the whole thing was completed. Our task was simply to remove the wall partitions, strengthen the existing beams, and turn the "house" back into what it had been some thirty-six years previous in that determinate counsel and foreknowledge of our God.

In July 1972, after much labour, and numerous tokens of God's grace and sufficiency, we moved into the buildings, with much thanks giving to the Lord. Over the years, we have endeavoured to improve the premises in various ways, but above all things, looking to that which goes beyond the four walls, to the building up of the "spiritual house," which is the "habitation of God through the Spirit." Please pray for that.