Written by John C. Murphy
The Ministers, and other Messengers composing the Warwick Baptist Association, to the Churches whom they represent – Send Christian Salutation: -
Dear Brethren in the Lord, - In presenting to you our annual epistle we solicit your attention to a few remarks on the subject:
By a recurrence to the inspired Volume, we learn that this is a subject of great importance. Hence Paul said, (in giving directions to Titus, respecting his public ministry) “This is a faithful saying; and these things I will that thou affirm constantly; that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.” Titus iii. 8.
On this subject we remark,
1st. That genuine faith is an indispensable pre-requisite to the performance of good works, for it is written, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Heb. xi.6.
For the want of faith (which is a gift of God), wicked Cain’s offering was rejected, and no offerings are acceptable to God, where the subject is destitute of this vital principle.
2nd. Good works are those (and only those) which God has required in His word, and works within His people. This book is an infallible and universal standard, not only of faith, but also of practice (which is equally of importance;) therefore, it is divinely called the “Scriptures of Truth,” and that, because it contains “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;” thus regulating the faith, practice and order of true believers.
See the declaration of Isaiah, “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah viii, 20. See also the prohibition, “Add not to His word, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” From these passages we learn that, should any person attend to the practice of any ceremonies, more or less – however zealous and sincere that person may be, if there is not a “thus saith the Lord” requiring the same, that person subjects himself to the reproof – “Who hath required this at your hands?”
3rd. Much care is necessary in order to maintain good works; care to search the Scriptures daily, like the noble Bereans.
That we may understand their precepts: care also, that neither the temptation of Satan – the influence of the world – the traditions of men, nor the corruption of our own nature leads us aside to embrace error, and neglect the practice of Truth.
4th. It is not only necessary that we should believe what Christ has commanded: and recommend it to others by our words: but as believers we are bound to maintain good works. This implies constant warring against the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, and an unreserved obedience to all the precepts of our common Lord and Lawgiver.- We now solicit your attention to some reasons why those who believe should maintain good works:
1st. They were chosen in Christ, and predestinated before the foundation of the world, “that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.” - “For whom He did foreknow (with approbation and delight), He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Eph. 1. 4,5; Rom. viii. 19.
2nd. God has commanded it, as it is written, “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” and this holiness implies an obedience to all divine precepts. Is the Most High our King? As subjects we are bound to obey; - is He our Master? Our interest requires obedience; - is He our Father? Obedience is our greatest privilege of sonship.
3rd. The example of Christ. He is in all things a pattern for His children. We are informed by the inspired penman, that He went about “doing good.” The Apostle Paul, said to one of our Churches, “be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” To another he said, “be ye therefore followers of me, as I am of Christ.”
How truly honorable to be followers of Him who left us an example that we should follow His steps! To us He says, “deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me.” May we earnestly endeavor to be of that number of whom it is said, “these are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.”
4th. That we may be an example to others. Mankind are subjects of imitation: hence, example has an important influence on society at large, and in this sense, (as well as others) one sinner destroys much good. So the good example of believers has a restraining influence on the ungodly, and is calculated to encourage weak believers as well; hence, Ministers of the Gospel, ought above all things, to walk as examples of the flock. See the exhortation,- “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. v. 16.
5th. Christ to show that we are the saints of God, has established good works by which His children are to be distinguished from the world; hence, said He, “by their fruits ye shall know them;” again, “by this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” By this standard we are divinely warranted to form our opinion of others, inasmuch as there is an inseparable connection between genuine faith and good works, that being the cause, and this the effect; and we apprehend that it is in this sense, that James speaks of justification as manifesting the goodness, or godliness of an individual when he says, “ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” James ii. 24.
6th. Good works promote our own happiness. “In keeping Thy commandments there is great reward.”
“Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, that man shall be blessed in his deed.” “The willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land.” - We apprehend that this idea is in perfect accordance with the daily experience of every soul that is born of God.
7th. The practice of good works, is for the benefit of our fellow creatures in general, and the saints in particular: Hence, said Paul, “these things are good and profitable unto men: Hence, the command, “do good to all men, but especially to the household of faith.” And when by us the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, the sick visited, and relieved, the persecuted comforted, and the poor have the Gospel preached freely unto them, Christ says, “in as much as ye have done it unto the least of My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” And while we reflect on the declaration, that “whosoever shall give a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise lose his reward. We feel the most pleasing encouragement to be found in the constant practice of all those acts of benevolence to mankind, which are enforced by our Lord and His apostles, both by precept and example.
And now dear Brethren, we exhort you to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure. May you abound in the work of the Lord, and thus confound the gainsayer, show forth your love to Christ, and one another, and adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
Finally, Wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, we subscribe ourselves, yours, in the Gospel of the free grace of God. Amen.
John C. Murphy, Moderator.
Leonard Fletcher, Clerk.
Transcribed by Stanley Phillips – April 2009