Welcome to Aberystwyth and to Alfred Place. There is a collection of documents in this envelope which I hope will be of help to you. This year especially we would like you to have a copy of my book on Daniel. These four addresses were originally given at the Evangelical Movement of Wales Conference here in Aberystwyth eleven years ago. The upstairs and galleries of the Great Hall were full of young people and these messages were particularly aimed at them. Reading them thoughtfully will surely help you in living a credible Christian life at the University.
The distinctive characteristic of Alfred Place is its combination of the Word and the Spirit in its worship and life. The church has undergone Christian renewal as it has committed itself to believing historic Christianity and ensuring that only those truths and practices that are in accord with it will be welcomed in the church. So there is no altar, and no sprinkling of babies with the words that they have now been made children of God. The officers wear nothing to encourage the thought that they are priests, only in the sense that every Christian man and woman is a priest to God.
Christian renewal shows itself in a congregation committing itself to call a man who has been set apart and gifted by God to lead in worship and bring the Bible to bear on the life of the assembled people. The climactic aspect of each service, after we have spoken to God in prayer and sang to his glory, is when God speaks to us through his Holy Word. We pray, “Speak Lord, for your servants are listening.” I go through the Scriptures systematically all the year round. At the moment on Sunday mornings we are considering the life of our Lord Jesus in Luke’s gospel, one of the greatest books every written.
We would have the Holy Spirit at the centre of our worship. He regenerates, illuminates our minds and sanctifies us in serving God and one another. Jesus prayed that his people would be sanctified by the truth; “your word is truth,” he said. So we come to church not to have our prejudices rearranged but where we will be exposed to the searching truth of God to be changed by the word of God, to be taught, corrected, rebuked, instructed in righteousness and be made increasingly ready for the many good works that God calls us to do throughout our daily lives. The Holy Spirit has given the church a great weapon to fulfil that end. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and so we cry to God that we will feel its point deflating our pride and cutting the cancer of sin out of our lives.
We would not grieve the Spirit by ignoring what he has done throughout the two millennia since our Lord walked this earth. There have been many other renewals when the church has had to return to biblical faithfulness. There have been great champions whom God has raised up who have helped the church understand the truth, such as Athanasius, Calvin, Owen, Whitefield and Hodge. There have been great Confessions of Faith formulated defining the faith once given to the saints. Our own beliefs are summarized in the 1689 Confession of Faith. God has raised up psalm and hymn writers, Moses, David, Luther, Watts, Wesley, Toplady and others right up to our own day. We sing the greatest hymns from all eras of the church seeking always to expand the number we know and love. We would not grieve the Spirit by singing only those hymns that have been written by men alive today – as if God had not been illuminating and helping men to write hymns of praise at extraordinary times of reformation and revival in the past. Our Christian Book Shop, next door to the church, is full of splendid literature to help us serve God better.
From this church students have gone out into all the world to serve God. We have had them in Austria, Nepal and France, and today they are in Kenya, Latvia, Ecuador and Japan. We are a church committed to mission and aim to give up to 20% of the money we receive to the commission of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
May God give you a passion for study, a profitable time from the witness of the Christian Union at the university, and fellowship with other older believers in an ordinary church like our own. Do not hesitate to come to see me with any questions.