The Word on the Week

The Bad Baptists

This week brought to a conclusion the double murder case which occurred in 1991. The long drawn out saga ended in Coleraine court with the conviction of Hazel Stewart who will follow her accomplice Colin Howell to prison. It is hard to find words to describe the devastation wreaked by the murder of their respective spouses to their families, their relations and friends and the Baptist communities to which all four belonged. In court on the final day the police Ombudsman summed up the scene when he said, “I don’t think I have really felt such tension or such emotion in a court with the deliverance of the verdict,” he added. It shows how deeply this has scarred absolutely everybody that is involved.” Their attempt to pull off the perfect crime might have succeeded if Colin Howell’s conscience had not been awakened by some personal crisis including the untimely death of his son. He confessed his crimes to his church elders in January 2009. The matter was subsequently reported to the police. Apparently he had previously convinced himself that, like King David who had been involved in murder, he would be forgiven overlooking the fact that public confession of his guilt was first required. What does the Bible have to say about all this. It seems that Howell was delusional in thinking that King David could be forgiven without confessing his sins. In addition there were consequences to forgiveness in that the King’s son, a product of their illicit union, did not live. Howell’s conscience may have been touched in 1998 when he confessed to his American wife who advised him to go to the police. Instead of obeying her instructions he claims to have had a “religious conviction” which enabled him to conceal his actions and quieten his conscience. When you ‘get away with murder’ there is no end to the multiplication of sin. A hardening of the hearts of both accomplices appears to have taken place as predicted in Saint Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy chapter 4, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith….speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” A calloused conscience is no longer tutored by the word of God and is silenced by the sinful nature. Fortunately for Howell and Stewart their deeds have been exposed. Their punishment, however inadequate it may seem, is a nothing when compared to an eternity in hell. Only the grace of God can save them. Should He grant repentance, and Howell’s daughter believes He has, then there is no sin however heinous that cannot be covered by the blood of Christ. (1 John chapter 1). The Gospel is not that I present God with a good record but that my faith is totally in the work of Jesus Christ in bearing my sins (all of them) on the cross and dressing me in His righteousness so that on the judgement day I am fit to appear before the living God. Every repentant sinner is a debtor to His mercy. His justice was satisfied at Calvary. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John chapter 3 verse 16).