Written by Elder H.H. Lefferts
The Delaware Association of Old School Baptists, in session with the Rock Springs Church, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27, 1944, to the churches composing this association, and to the churches, meetings and associations with which we correspond, sendeth greetings in the Lord.
DEAR BRETHREN: - “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” 2nd Peter 1:5-7. This instruction belongs to those who have obtained “like precious faith” with the apostles of Jesus Christ, through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. A tree is known by its fruits, trees of righteousness which are the planting of the Lord distinguish themselves from the unbelieving world by the fruits of the Spirit which they bear. God's election of his people is proven by his giving unto them all things which pertain to life and godliness, and as these things be in them and abound in them, they are made fruitful in the knowledge of God and of Christ, and by these things they are given assurance to themselves that their calling and election of God are sure. By these fruits, not only to themselves, but to their brethren and to all believers, they make proof of the faith that is in them. Faith is justified by works, not in the sight of or before God, but before men. Faith is not an inactive principle in the lives of true believers, but proves itself by its fruits. Works of the creature never can bring about salvation, justification or faith; but where faith is, and where salvation has been made known, the fruits of regeneration will abound. God works in his people to will and to do according to his divine pleasure, thereby they work out or make manifest the salvation that is in them, thus making proof to their own comfort and to the satisfaction of fellow-believers of their having been called and chosen of God. It is not enough only to hear the word, there must be a doing of it. The natural man may look into the glass of the gospel and get a glimpse of what the gospel tells him he is by nature: lost and ruined and undone. But, like the wayside hearer which received unprofitably the seed sown, he turns away from the mirror and straightway forgets what manner of man he is; but not so those who have the light of the knowledge of God shining in unto them by the Holy Spirit. These carry the sentence of death in themselves that they may not trust in themselves, by sin's being condemned in them by the conviction wrought by the law of God in the hands of the spirit. Being a doer of the word as well as a hearer of it, means one has to be born of the Spirit, created anew in Christ Jesus. These new creatures are ordained to walk in the good works of the Spirit, which works are ordained of God for them. Therefore, if one who professes Christ is not seen walking in the works of the Spirit, what proof have we or has he, that he is a new creature? It is for this reason that Peter, by inspiration, exhorts us to add up our blessings which are given us by his divine power. For if these things are lacking, he declares us to be blind and that we have forgotten we have been purged from our old sins. The church is declared to be the bride of Christ. The bride has many wedding garments in her furnishings, bestowed on her out of the riches of her divine Husband who has redeemed her with his blood and who presents her to the Father without blemish. These bridal clothes are faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, etc. It gives us assurance that we are called and chosen of God when we are favored to see these things in us; and not only in us, but abounding in us. Wherever we are given to see these fruits in any believer, we can be convinced that such an one is a member of the bride of Christ. The natural man is not decked in this heavenly array, but the redeemed and regenerated children of God are thus clothed. Faith lays hold of this eternal, invisible things of God, it takes God at his word whether there is full understanding of godly things or not, it trusts implicitly in God where it cannot trace him, it awaits his pleasure to make his counsels known, not asky the reason why, but gladly leaving God to be his own interpreter and to make all plain and clear in his own time and way. There are thousands of true believers in these days of world upheavel, who are at rest and at peace in the midst of the storm, because their hearts and consciences have found that peace which garrisons the hearts and minds of those who are in Christ Jesus. Virtue is that heavenly grace which keeps the heart true to the heavenly lover and which enables the child of God to avoid entanglements in delusions, heresies and false religions, to be unspotted from the world. A virtuous wife is one who is faithful, true and devoted to her husband. This grace of heavenly virtue abounding in them that believe, keeps them true to him who has bought them with his own blood, having loved them from everlasting times. There follows knowledge, because it is the will of Christ, the head of the church, that his people should increase in the knowledge of his grace of his own blessed person. By this knowledge in which they increase by the work of the Spirit within them, they become more and more enamored and ravished with the beauty and excellence of him who is the chief among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely. How appropriate that this knowledge should be followed by or accompanied with, temperance! Temperance, scripturally speaking, means self-control. Greater is he who rules his own spirit than he that takes a city, says wisdom. If it were not for this grace of temperance, the knowledge in which the child of God increases would make him or her puffed up with a sense, perhaps of superiority over those not favored with such knowledge; one should then forget that the knowledge is not of ones' self but by divine unmerited favor. Temperance keeps the soul from being inflated over the abundance of revelation, much as Paul was kept humble by reason of the persisting thorn in his flesh. Then comes patience, and we cannot think of patience aside from the accompanying tribulation which works it. Patience is humble submission to the will of God no matter what his will gives or denies. Patience adjudges his will to be a right and perfect will for us at all times, patience kisses the rod that chastens knowing its strokes are in love, not anger. And thus arises the grace of godliness which is God-likeness, the recreating of the image of God in his regenerated people, the image so grossly marred by sin in the original fall of man. The reign of faith in a true believer, with its accompanying fruits of virtue and knowledge and temperance and patience, add up to a godly life shown publicly by a godly deportment which is an assurance, surely, of such an one's having been called and chosen of God unto salvation, and to all the blessings of the world to come. But godliness without brotherly kindness and charity would be a smug phariseeism without compassion for the infirmities of ones' fellow-believers. Such a smugness is not possible with true godliness. God-likeness is essentially imbued with brotherly kindness and that charity which is the love of God manifested towards men. All true godliness has a doctrinal basis, but doctrine without the fruits of faith is sterile. We are commanded to let our light shine in order that men may see the good works of the Spirit wrought in us, that they may glorify God on our behalf. This is substantially the same as adding up our graces to find the sum of our calling and election. Unless these things be in us, and abound in our lives, we are barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of God. And Christ has warned that the unfruitful branch, his Father takes away. Is that why many of our churches today are languishing in indifference to heavenly things? Is that why laborers are not being raised up and sent into our Lord's harvest? Is that why members are not being added to the churches only sparsely here and there a few? Is that why our preaching is for the most part surface-work with digging deep into the rich treasures of the word? Think on these things. Unless the Lord the Holy Spirit works in us repentance to the effectual turning of ourselves to a more devoted status toward him and his word, our light will go out. The gospel of the grace of God will be preached always, unto the end of the world, but it may be preached by others than ourselves, and the voices of our own churches may be silenced, and the candle of our witness removed, unless there comes into the lives of the ministry as well as into the lives of the members of the churches, a revival of the Spirit's work among us. Do we desire his work to be revived among us? Is there a prayer within us for him to revive us? If the Spirit is not breathing such a petition in us unto the Throne of Grace, such a reviving will not come. He always causes us to strongly and earnestly desire the blessings which he plans to give us; if, therefore, there is no life of prayer in us for the Zion of God, what evidence have we that he means to bless? It is not, at this time, known when and where the 1945 session of the Delaware Association will be held, we can make no plans with all things to-day so evidently impermanent as they are. Announcement of the holding of our next associational meetings will be given out later. Watch the Signs of the Times for such announcement. All things are in God's hand, and he will make it manifest in due time what we are to do, and where and how we are to do it. We await his divine pleasure. Should it please God that we meet next year, we shall hope to have with us then your ministers and messengers to meet with us. We trust that this present meeting in which we are now engaged has been to the glory and honor of God, to the adoration of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the love and fellowship of the Holy Ghost have prevailed among us; that the souls of the hearers have been edified and comforted in the gospel of God's free and sovereign grace.
(Elder) Douglas L. Topping, Moderator
Charles B. Osborne, Clerk
Signs of the Times
Volume 113, No. 2