AT one of his last sermons in his beloved Martyrs Memorial church, the Rev Ian Paisley spoke of preparing for the afterlife and the day of “everlasting rejoicing”.
The veteran preacher has suffered heart problems in the past — most recently when he took ill following a meeting at the House of Lords in February last year.
Created a life peer as Lord Bannside in 2010, the former DUP leader and moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church had been fitted with a pacemaker and has appeared in relative good health since then.
Looking well and in good spirits, the veteran preacher gave his last sermon at the Martyrs Memorial on Belfast’s Ravenhill Road less than two weeks ago. He is 85 and has been a christian minister for 65 years.
Back in 2004, Dr Paisley was reported to be seriously ill and had undergone tests for an undisclosed illness. The following year his son, Ian junior, confirmed his father’s bout of ill health.
Dr Paisley himself then admitted he had been extremely unwell and described himself as having “walked in death’s shadow.”
In a pre-Christmas sermon, Dr Paisley told his faithful congregation he was looking forward to life after death.
“Thank God I’m nearer home today than I’ve ever been; home sweet home where Jesus is, where the great Apostles are, where the mighty angels are, where all our blood-washed friends are,” he said.
As his pre-Christmas address continued, Dr Paisley said: “We leap not into darkness, we Christians, and the shadow of death. We leap, rather, into the light and the burning sunshine of the light that will never go out .”
He added: “Our day of fighting is about to close. Our day of everlasting rejoicing is about to begin.
“I rejoice in the simplicity of the gospel. I rejoice in the sweetness of the cross. I rejoice in the glory of being Christ’s for ever.”
Although he has officially retired from the ministry, Dr Paisley has vowed to preach occasional sermons as a guest at churches both in Northern Ireland and further afield.
Reflecting on his own mortality, the former political leader told his Ravenhill Road congregation that “our day of fighting is about to close; our day of everlasting rejoicing is about to begin”.
Dr Paisley told the packed hall: “We’re all hastening on. We’re all coming nearer to death’s day. We’re all coming nearer to eternity’s day. We’re all coming near to the parting of the roads forever.”
The posed the question: “Which way will the road part for you?”
At the end of the December service Dr Paisley and Baroness Paisley shook hands with the congregation in front of the pulpit — a scene repeated less than two weeks ago at a tribute service in the same church.
The large congregation was there to wish the church stalwart well in what promised to be a busy retirement.
With family commitments from five grown-up children, ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren, Lord Bannside to the News Letter recently: “We are nearly more busy than we ever were.”
Baroness Paisley the paid tribute to her hard-working husband pointing out that he had carried on two decades past the age of 65 when many men retire.
In the same interview, Lord Bannside said he needed the rest after being minister since he was 20-years-old — a total of 65 years