Thousands of Orange Order brethren gathered in Hillsborough on Wednesday for the South Antrim Combine’s annual Twelfth demonstration.
Members of around 70 lodges from seven districts - Aghalee, Ballinderry, Glenavy, Lisburn, Magheragall, Derriaghy and Hillsborough - paraded through the picturesque village to mark the 327th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
Orangemen, women and juniors were accompanied by around 50 bands for the colourful occasion, which attracted a large number of spectators.
Huge crowds of people lined the streets to watch the procession as it made its way from Sloan’s field to the demonstration field on the Carnreagh Road.
Platform speakers at the field included Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Rev David McCarthy and Rev Dr Stanley Gamble.
During his sermon, Rev Gamble spoke about the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
“In 1517, an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittinberg in Saxony, Germany. Luther was Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Wittenberg at the time. His 95 theses, or propositions, questioned the suspect practices of itinerant preachers such as Johann Tetzel who sold plenary indulgences for the remission of sins. Luther argued that only God could forgive sins and that a person was justified by faith in Christ, and not through their own religious works or efforts. For him St. Paul couldn’t been any clearer: ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast.’ (Ephesians 2.8-9)
“The actions of Luther in 1517, and the rediscovery of the Gospel of Grace throughout Europe, lead to a reexamination of Christendom and called into question the most basic of Christian teaching and practice. It rocked the medieval Church, divided Europe along denominational lines, and gave birth to what we now know as Protestantism.”
He continued: “As we look back and rightly give thanks for the Reformation and the ministry and witness of Martin Luther, it is important that we live in the present and look to the future while at all times fixing our eyes on ‘the Author and Finisher of our faith’, Jesus Christ.
“Luther would have been nothing without the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. He was far from perfect, and readily admitted his failings. God gave him a wonderful insight into the good news of Jesus Christ – that we are loved unconditionally from beginning to end by a good and gracious God, who wants us all to come to a place of faith, forgiveness and freedom.
“If Luther was here today he would be the first to acknowledge that it is God who gives us wisdom and understanding in life. It is God who gives us light in the darkness of our lives, in the darkness of our world.
“We live in a different time to Martin Luther. But in our day and generation, there is still a great need for wisdom and understanding. There is still a great need for leadership and direction. And this wisdom and understanding, this leadership and direction must be grounded in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for humanity and his saving grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”