Grace Gems for OCTOBER 2005
The devil's sin
(John Angell James, "The Olive Branch and the Cross")
Pride is the parent sin. Pride is the original sin, both in
heaven and on earth. Pride is the devil's sin, and that
by which our first parents fell. We have all more of this
hateful disposition than we either know or suspect.
An ice house, instead of a hot house!
(J. A. James, "Earnestness in Personal Piety" 1847)
It appears quite clear then, that great numbers of
Christian professors are but very imperfectly acquainted
with the requirements of "pure and undefiled religion,"
and need to be led to re-study it in the pages of Holy
Scripture. We have lost sight of the 'divine Original', and
have confined our attention to the 'imperfect transcripts'
which we find on every hand in our churches. We have
by tacit consent reduced the standard, and fixed our eye
and our aim upon an inferior object. We are a law to each
other, instead of making the Word of God the law to us all.
We tolerate a worldly-minded, diluted, and weakened
piety in others—because we expect a similar toleration
for ourselves. We make excuses for them—because we
expect the like excuses for our own conduct in return.
We have abused, shamefully abused, the fact that
'there is no perfection upon earth,' and converted it
into a license for any measure and any number of
Our highest notion of religion requires only abstinence
from open immorality and the more polluting worldly
amusements; an attendance upon an evangelical
ministry; and an approval of orthodox doctrine. This,
this, is the religion of multitudes! There may be . . .
no habitual spirituality;
no life of faith;
no communion with God;
no struggling against sin, Satan, and the world;
no concern to grow in grace;
no supreme regard to eternity;
no studied and advancing fitness for the eternal world;
no tenderness of conscience;
no laborious discipline of our disposition;
no cultivation of love;
no making piety our chief business and highest pleasure;
no separation in spirit from the world.
In short, no impress upon the whole mind, and heart,
and conscience and life—of the character of the
Christian, as delineated upon the page of Scripture.
We all need to be taken out of 'the religious world',
as it is called, and collected again around the Bible
to study what it is to be a Christian! Let us endeavor
to forget what the bulk of professors are, and begin
afresh to learn what they ought to be.
It is to be feared that we are corrupting each other,
leading each other to be satisfied with a 'conventional
piety'. Many have been actually the worse for attending
church. They were more intensely concerned and earnest
before they came into church fellowship. Their piety
seemed to come into an ice house, instead of a hot
house! They grew better outside the church—than in the
church. At first they were surprised and shocked to see . . .
of many older professors, and exclaimed, with grief
and disappointment, "Is this the church of Christ!"
But after a while, the fatal influence came over them,
and their piety sank to the temperature around them!
Constant multiplication of corrupted copies
(J. A. James, "Earnestness in Personal Religion" 1847)
Our idea of the nature of earnest individual piety must be
taken, not from the conventional customs of the age—but
from the Word of God. Once give up the Bible as the only
true standard of personal piety, and there is no rule left
but custom, which is ever varying with the opinions and
corruptions of the times.
Yet how prevalent is the disposition to conform ourselves
to the prevailing religion of the day and of the church to
which we belong, and to satisfy ourselves with the average
measure of piety around us! "I am as good as my fellow
members!" is the shield with which many a professor
wards off the allegation of his being below his duty.
This has been the fatal practical error of the church
through every age of its existence, by which . . .
its beauty has been disfigured,
its power weakened,
its usefulness impeded!
Professing Christians, instead of looking into the perfect standard
of Scripture, and seeing themselves reflected from that faithful
mirror, and adjusting their character and conduct by its infallible
revelations—placed before themselves the standard of the Christian
profession as it was found in the church of the day, and regulated
their behavior by what they saw in the prevailing character of their
Thus a constant multiplication of corrupted copies has
ever been going on! And religion, as seen in the conduct of its
professors, compared with that which is described in the pages
of its own inspired rule—have been quite different things!
Let us turn away from the religion we see in the church—to the
religion we read in the Bible! Let us not go to the imperfect and
blurred copy—but to the perfect and unspotted original! The
Bible's representation of the nature of true piety is intended
for us as our guide, and is obligatory upon us!
The inspired, unalterable, and infallible standard of Scripture is . . .
"Deny yourself, and take up your cross, and follow Me!"
is still the stern, unbending demand of Christ.
(J. A. James, speaking of the power of the press in 1848)
"I don't want Satan to outwit us. After all, we are not
ignorant about Satan's scheming." 2 Corinthians 2:11
The press has a great power for evil. Infidel and immoral
writers are pouring forth a deluge of skepticism and vice,
which are depositing a pernicious and pestiferous slime
over the minds of the people.
Let it be imagined, if imagined it can be, what must be
the state of multitudes in this country, when millions of
pestiferous publications are annually going out among
the masses of our population. Let the minds of all
Christian people dwell upon . . .
the insult offered to God,
the ruin brought upon souls,
the injury done to morals, and
the mischief perpetrated in the nation,
by such a state of things!
These ungodly publications originate from Satan's
workshop, and reflect the scenes of that dreadful
laboratory of mental poison! These authors, printers,
publishers, booksellers, vendors, by myriads, are all
busy and indefatigable—to do what?
To destroy the Bible,
to corrupt the mind,
to pull down the cross,
to dethrone God,
to subvert true religion,
to turn man into a speaking brute,
to overturn all morality,
to poison the springs of domestic happiness,
to dissolve the ties of social order,
to involve our country in ruin!
Satan, and all his emissaries upon earth,
are in earnest in ruining men's souls!
We have an evil to contend with—
so gigantic in its strength,
so diffused in its influence all around us,
so infectious and malignant in its effects!
The enemy is coming in like a flood!
Infidelity and immorality are invading us!
The alarm bell must be rung!
(Editor's note. In 1848, when J. A. James wrote this
article, the press was the only media available. What
would he say today, with the deluge of ungodly media
from Satan's workshop pouring into Christian
homes and minds!)
Every one of those little creatures
will be either in heaven—or in hell
(John Angell James, "Parental Earnestness" 1847)
"Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
Fond mother, look at that babe hanging on your bosom,
and those other children sporting around your knee. And
you, the father of the family, watching them indulge in
joyous emotions and playful expressions—pause, ponder,
reflect—millions of ages from that moment of domestic
ecstasy, every one of those little creatures will be
either in heaven—or in hell; will be a seraph—or a
fiend; will be enduring inconceivable torment—or enjoying
ineffable felicity; will be be an associate with the devil
and his demons in everlasting fire—or a companion with
the innumerable company of angels in everlasting glory!
How tremendous is the responsibility of a parent! The
immortal destiny of your children should be your one
great, commanding, controlling, absorbing object!
But you are dead!
(John Angell James, "Earnestness in Religion")
"I know your works; you have a reputation for
being alive, but you are dead!" Revelation 3:1
One most impressive lessons which is taught here,
is that churches may have a reputation for being
in a flourishing condition—and yet be all the while
in a state of progressive decay!
How many churches are flattering themselves that they
are in a flourishing condition! The place of worship may be
commodious, elegant, and free from debt. The minister may
be popular, and approved by his flock. The congregation
may be large, respectable, and influential. The finances may
be good, and even prosperous. In short, there may be every
mark of external prosperity—until the church flatters itself
into the idea of its being in a high state of spiritual health.
But examine its internal state! Inquire into its condition as
viewed by God! Inspect the private conduct of its members
—and what a different aspect of things is seen then!
How prevalent is the spirit of the world in their social
fellowship! Games and parties, scarcely differing from
the fashionable circles of the worldly and the mirthful, are
kept up at much expense, and with every accompaniment
of frivolity and levity! Let a godly person of devotional taste,
spiritual affections, and tenderness of conscience, enter into
the parties of such a congregation—and what a destitution
of vital piety, and what prevailing worldliness would he find!
Let us look beneath the illusive covering of external
prosperity—and examine whether disease and decay
are lurking underneath!
There is often a strange contrast between the
'heavenliness' which a church professes—and the
'worldliness' of her conduct.
"For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need
nothing; not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable,
poor, blind, and naked." (Revelation 3:17)
Observe the holy virtues
(John Angell James, "Elizabeth Bales—a Pattern
for Sunday School Teachers & Tract Distributors")
"In all things see that you are an example of good
works—holy in your teaching, serious in behavior."
Never was there . . .
a more pure and sincere creature;
a more dutiful daughter;
a more harmless and inoffensive being,
than she was! And yet how did she confess
and bewail her sinfulness in the sight of God;
how entirely did she renounce all dependence
upon her own good doings, and how exclusively
did she rely upon the righteousness of Christ!
Observe the holy virtues which clustered
in her character . . .
how profound was her humility
how gentle her demeanor,
how striking her meekness,
how uncomplaining her submission,
how exemplary her patience,
how exquisite her benevolence,
how ardent her zeal,
how tender her attachments,
how intense her piety!
And, to crown all, how unmixed was all
this with any spiritual pride, or any sense
of superiority, or any sanctimonious airs.
How much is there for all of us to learn and
to copy! Be stimulated, encouraged and
guided by the example of Elizabeth Bales!
"You should be an example to the believers in
speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."
(1 Timothy 4:12)
The damnation of one soul
(John Angell James, "Queries for Self Examination")
"For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole
world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man
give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)
One soul is of more value than the whole world!
The salvation of one soul is a greater blessing than
the temporal deliverance of an empire!
The damnation of one soul is a greater calamity
than the misery of a kingdom for a thousand ages!
"He will also drink the wine of God's wrath, which is
mixed full strength in the cup of His anger. He will
be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the
holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, and the
smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever."
Piety and morality
(John Angell James)
True religion consists of two parts—piety and morality.
By piety, I mean a right state of heart towards God, that
is, the existence of supreme love, arising out of faith in our
Lord Jesus Christ, manifested by delight in God's nature,
reverence for His character, obedience to His commands,
gratitude for His services, and all those acts of worship
which He has enjoined in His word. True piety is the real,
intelligent and cordial submission of the whole man, to
the will of God as revealed in Scripture.
By morality, I mean all those moral duties which we owe
to our fellow-creatures and to ourselves.
True religion is a right state of the soul, not only towards
God, but also towards man. It must follow us everywhere,
and influence us in all things, and at all times.
True religion gives an elevation and dignity to the whole
character, and exalts even the commonest duties of life
into acts of piety.
Hammer, anvil, file and fire!
("A Song Concerning Lovingkindnesses" #1126,
delivered on August 10th, 1873 by C. H. Spurgeon)
"I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,
that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Ps. 119:75
O, my brethren, how much we owe to the hammer
and the anvil and the file and the fire! Thanks be to
God for the little crosses of every day; yes, and for the
heavy crosses which He sends us at certain seasons. He
does not gather the twigs of His rod, on the 'mountains
of wrath'—but He plucks them in the 'garden of love'!
Though He sometimes makes blue marks upon us as
He smites us heavily—yet His strokes are fewer than
our crimes, and lighter than our guilt.
Love bathes all the wounds which it makes—and kisses
away the hurt. Blessed be a chastening God! Set down
your chastenings among your choicest mercies!
"The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises
every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:6
Who can wonder?
(J. A. James, "Religious Education of Children" 1846)
"You should be an example to the believers in speech,
in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12
Look into some families of professors; follow them
through the history of only one week, and see . . .
their worldly mindedness,
their unsanctified tempers,
their worldly reading,
their homage to talent,
their low esteem of holiness,
their negligence of family prayer,
their neglect of godly instruction to their children
—and who can wonder that young people, brought
up amidst such scenes, do not become pious—but go
off to the world or to sin?
Too often the children are like their parents,
and bring into the church no higher or better kind
of religion than what they have learned at home!
And thus a low tone of piety, a lukewarm Laodicean
spirit, is extended and perpetuated.
There must be a revival of piety in the parents!
It is vain to expect that a worldly-minded father,
whose spirituality, if he ever had any, has been
utterly evaporated by the exclusiveness of concern
about business and politics; or a frivolous, pleasure
loving mother, who thinks far more about adorning
the bodies of her children, than about saving their
souls—should be at all concerned about the pious
education of their children.
Recollect what a solemn thing it is to be a parent!
What a weighty responsibility attaches to those who
have the immortal souls of their children committed
to their care!
"You fathers, don't provoke your children to wrath,
but nurture them in the discipline and instruction
of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
Take the following maxims for your guide:
(John Angell James, "An Address to the Children" 1855)
1. True piety will be your best friend—for both worlds!
2. The eye of God is always upon you, and
He is present when no one else is near!
3. Godliness is the best of all things, for it makes
bitter things sweet—and sweet things sweeter!
4. What a boy would be as a man, let him seek to be
that while a boy. The boy is the father of the man!
5. Sin is deceitful as well as wicked, leading you to
commit great sins by first tempting you to little ones;
and leading you into habits of sin by asking for only
one sin at a time. "Only this once!" is Satan's way
of beguiling you into a course of sin. What ought
not to be done at all—should not be done once!
6. Avoid the first wrong step!
7. There are three things, which if lost, can never
be recovered—time, opportunity, and the soul!
8. A holy and useful life is more to be desired
than a long or a prosperous one!
9. To live wholly for ourselves is a poor, base,
10. "When all has been heard, the conclusion of the
matter is: fear God and keep His commands. For God
will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden
thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
There is wondrous power in it!
(John Angell James, "Happiness")
Saving faith has a great influence on all one's
feelings, actions, and character. Though there is
no merit in faith—there is wondrous power in it!
Faith is the inlet both of happiness and holiness
to the soul. To believe that the eternal God . . .
is reconciled to us,
pardons all our sins,
receives us to His special favor,
gives us a title to eternal life,
must from necessity be a source of ineffable
delight, and the cause of an entire change in
all our tastes, pursuits, and character!
True faith in Christ is . . .
the foundation of the believer's happiness,
the means of his holiness,
the spring of all his actions,
the true basis of his character.
(John Angell James, "Happiness")
Many are saying, "Who can show us anything good?"
Look on us with favor, Lord. You have put more joy
in my heart than they have when their grain and
new wine abound. (Psalm 4:6-7)
There is certainly some pleasure in the gratification of the
appetites—in the enjoyment of health, friends, property,
and fame. Even sinful objects have their pleasures.
There could be no power in temptation, if sin yielded no
enjoyment. But viewing man as a rational, moral, and
immortal creature; as a sinner subject to the stings of a
reproachful conscience, and under the displeasure of the
God he has offended; as liable to all the vicissitudes of a
tearful existence, and ever exposed to the fear and stroke
of death—he needs something more for his happiness,
than can be found in the objects of this world. He has . . .
needs which they cannot supply;
cravings which they cannot satisfy;
woes which they cannot alleviate;
anxieties which they cannot dispel.
For each one that is even tolerably successful in gaining
felicity from visible objects, there are many who utterly fail.
Their schemes are frustrated; their hopes perish; their air
castles vanish as they journey on in life. And each
ends a course of worldly-mindedness, by adding another
to the millions of examples which have proved this present
world to be vanity.
In some cases, abundance and unobstructed enjoyment
produce revulsion. Tired of old pleasures, they look about
for new ones, and plead the oft-repeated inquiry, "Who will
show us anything good?" Novelty perhaps comes to the
relief of their discontented, restless, and dissatisfied minds;
but novelty itself soon grows old, and still something new
is wanted. There remains an aching void within, a craving,
hungry appetite for bliss—unsatisfied, unfed. They hunt for
enjoyment . . .
in endless parties of pleasure,
in every place of amusement,
in every scene of diversion;
in the dance, and in the game;
in the theater, and in the concert;
amidst the scenes of nature, and
in the changes of foreign travel.
But happiness, like a shadow ever flitting before them,
and ever eluding their grasp, tantalizes them with its
form, without yielding them its substance; and excites
their hopes—only to disappoint them!
What are all the pleasures of time and sense, all the
objects of this visible world—but as the dropping of
pebbles into a deep chasm, which, instead of filling
it up, only tell them how deep it is—by awakening the
dismal echoes of emptiness and desolation.
Look at the worldling. Does he succeed in his quest for
happiness? Is he satisfied? Let him possess all he seeks,
all he wishes, all that earth can furnish; let rank be added
to wealth, and fame to both; let a constant round of
fashionable amusements, festive scenes, and elegant
parties, follow in endless succession, until his cup is full
to overflowing. What does it all amount to? "All that my
eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself
any pleasure. When I considered all that I had accomplished
and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to
be futile and a pursuit of the wind! There was nothing
to be gained under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 2)
Have not multitudes since Solomon's time, made the same
melancholy confession? Is it not a general admission, that
the pleasure of worldly objects arises more from hope and
anticipation—rather than possession? They are like beautiful
bubbles, which, as they float, reflect the colors of the rainbow
—but dissolve and vanish when grasped! Tell me, votaries of
earthly good, have you realized what you expected? Are not
the scenes of festivity and amusement resorted to, by many
with aching hearts? Does not the smiling countenance often
conceal a troubled spirit; and is not the laugh resorted to in
order to suppress the sigh?
Even if it were granted, that the possession of wealth, the
gratifications of taste, and the indulgence of appetite, could
give happiness in seasons of health and prosperity—they
must inevitably fail in the day of sickness and adversity. If
they were satisfying for a season—they are all fragile and
uncertain! All the enjoyments of this life are like gathered
flowers, which are no sooner plucked, than they begin to lose
their beauty and their fragrance while we look at them and
smell them; and which, however mirthful and beautiful they
appeared while they were growing—begin to wither as soon
as they are in our hands!
Fiendlike, beastlike, manlike, Godlike
(John Angell James, "The Man Who
Killed His Bad Neighbors by Kindness")
"Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you."
To return evil for good, is fiendlike.
To return evil for evil, is beastlike.
To return good for good, is manlike.
But to return good for evil, is Godlike.
This is true practical Christianity.
"Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer
evil with good." (Romans 12:21)
The religion of this poor Hottentot woman
(John Angell James, "The Path to the Bush")
It is the practice of some of the Christian Hottentots, in
order to enjoy the privilege of secret prayer with greater
privacy and freedom than they could do in their own
confined and incommodious dwellings—to retire among
the trees and bushes, that they may carry on their devotions
without being intruded on by others, and also derive all that
tranquilizing influence which would be produced by a spot,
with which no other occupations, thoughts, and feelings are
associated, than such as are holy. Each individual selects for
his own use a particular bush, behind which, and concealed
by it, he may commune with his heavenly Father in secret.
By the others, this bush is considered as sacred to the one
by whom it had been appropriated; and which, therefore,
is never to be violated by the foot, or even by the gaze of
another, during the season it is occupied by its proprietor.
The constant tread of the worshipers, in their repeated
visits to these hallowed spots, would, of necessity, wear
a path in the grass which lay between their huts, and
the sylvan scene of their communion with God.
On one occasion, a Christian Hottentot woman said to
another member of their little community, "Sister, I am
afraid you are somewhat declining in piety." The words
were accompanied with a look of affection, and were
uttered with a tone that savored nothing of accusation,
nor of reproachful severity—but was expressive of tender
concern, and the meekness of wisdom. The individual thus
addressed, asked her friend for the reason of her fears.
"Because," replied this good and gentle spirit, "the grass
has grown over your path to your bush." Nature
carrying on its usual progress, had disclosed the secret.
The backslider could not deny the fact. There, in the
growing grass, was the indisputable evidence that
the feet which had once trodden it down had ceased to
frequent the spot. She did not attempt to excuse it, but
fell under the sweet influence of this sisterly reproof, and
confessed, with ingenuous shame and sorrow, that her
heart had turned away from the Lord. The admonition
had its desired effect—the sinner was converted from
the error of her ways, and her watchful and faithful
reprover had the satisfaction and reward of seeing the
wanderer restored—not only to the path to the bush,
but to the renewed favor of that God with whom she
there again communed in secret.
Note the value of private prayer, and the connection
between its regular and spiritual performance, and a
healthy state of the soul. When the bush was neglected,
and the path to it forsaken—then did the religion of this
poor Hottentot woman begin to spiritually decline. And
how could it be otherwise? Who ever kept up a vigorous
piety—when secret prayer was neglected?
It is in the closet of private devotion, that . . .
our cares are lightened,
our sorrows mitigated,
our corruptions mortified,
our graces strengthened, and
we shake off the dust of the earth!
Men may see something of God in me!
(John Angell James, "Forgiveness of Injuries")
"For I have given you an example that you also should
do just as I have done for you." (John 13:15)
It has long been my conviction, that there is a great
deficiency in evangelical churches—of the practical
enforcement of Christian duties in detail; especially of
what may be emphatically called the Christian virtues
—the passive graces of the Christian character, the
exercise of brotherly kindness and love.
It is not so acceptable to have all the special and difficult
duties of the Christian's life, or man's conduct to his fellows,
set clearly before the understanding and enforced upon the
conscience. Men do not like to be followed through all the
labyrinths of the heart's deceitfulness, beaten out of every
refuge of lies, and made to feel the obligation to love where
they are inclined to hate; and to forgive where they desire
And we ministers pander too much to this taste. The pulpit
has not done its duty. We have preached to the intellect, to
the imagination, and to the taste—but not enough to the
heart and to the conscience. In our endeavor to please, we
have not been sufficiently intent upon the greater object—to
profit. We have not preached justification too much—but
sanctification too little. We have urged faith—but not love. We
have descanted upon the evil of licentiousness, and falsehood,
and dishonesty, and covetousness—but have said far, far
too little about malice and bitterness. We have urged men to
zeal and liberality—but not enough to humility, forbearance,
and forgiveness. We have rightly led men to view the cross of
Christ—but we have not sufficiently urged them to take up their
own cross. We have properly entreated them to view Jesus as
their Righteousness—but not sufficiently as their Example.
O, Christians . . .
study that wondrous character,
contemplate that illustrious pattern,
dwell upon that beautiful model,
until the frosty incrustations of your cold, hard
heart have all melted, like icicles before the sun!
How wonderful and how ennobling is the conception, and
what an ambition should it raise in the mind of the Christian,
to consider and say, "Men may see something of God in
me!" Yes, we can teach them what God is, as to His moral
character, and let them see in 'our merciful disposition' a ray
of the infinite sun of His own glory. These sweet relentings of
our nature, these soft and genial currents of our soul, these
effusions of love—these, we can remind them, are but the
overflowings of His goodness, His own love, into our hearts,
and the reflection of His infinite mercy to us.
"The one who says he abides in Him should walk
just as He walked." (1 John 2:6)
"Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example,
so that you should follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:21)
Casting all our sins into oblivion!
(John Angell James, "Forgiveness of Injuries")
"Who is a God like You, removing iniquity and passing
over rebellion for the remnant of His inheritance? He
does not hold on to His anger forever, because He
delights in faithful love. He will again have compassion
on us; He will vanquish our iniquities. You will cast all
our sins into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:18-19)
Wonderful language! This is one of the finest images to
represent the completeness of God's pardoning mercy to
be found in all the Bible. He casts our sins not into a brook
nor a river where they might be found again; no, nor into
the sea near the shore where the tide might wash them up
again—but like a stone cast into the depths of the sea,
where they can never be fished up again, but lie forever
buried and forgotten at the bottom of the ocean! This is
divine forgiveness—casting all our sins into oblivion!
The most inhuman people in the world
(The following remark is by an infidel)
"Christians, if they are not the most inhuman people
in the world, cannot believe what they profess—that men
without repentance and faith must perish eternally—or they
would be more earnest in endeavoring to save them. If I
believed what they profess to believe—I would scarcely
cease day or night to warn others of the wrath to come."
Infected and enfeebled
(J. A. James, "Papal Aggression and Popery" 1850)
The church is infected and enfeebled with worldliness.
"Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver
us from this present evil world." Galatians 1:4
"And the world is passing away along with its desires, but
whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17
Do you indeed ACT as you pray?
(John Angell James, "Prayer and Practice")
I need not prove to you that prayer, as a duty, is
essential to Christian conduct; and, as a privilege,
is equally indispensable to Christian enjoyment. All
Christians give themselves to this devout exercise.
Their petitions are copious, comprehensive, and
What solemn professions they make to God!
What ardent desires they express!
What numerous blessings they seek!
What strong resolutions they form!
If we so pray—how ought we to live? What kind of
people must we be—to live up to the standard of our
prayers? And ought we not, in some measure at least,
to reach this standard? Should there not be a harmony,
a consistency, a proportion—between our practice and
Do you indeed ACT as you pray? Do you understand
the import, and feel the obligation of your own petitions?
Do you rise from your knees where you have asked and
knocked—to seek? Do you really want, wish for, and
endeavor to obtain an answer to your prayers? Are you
really intent upon doing, and being—what you ask for
Our prayers are to act upon ourselves; they have,
or ought to have, great power in the formation of
character and the regulation of conduct.
It is plain, therefore, that much of prayer is mere
words. We either do not understand, or do not
consider, or do not mean—what we say.
Do we go from praying—to acting, and to live for
salvation, for heaven, for eternity?
How common is it for professors to pray for victory
over the world; to be delivered from the lust of the
flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; to be
enabled to set their affections on things above, and
not on things of the earth; and to be dead to seen
and temporal things. And yet all the while they are
as obviously eager to amass wealth, to multiply the
attractions of earth, and to enjoy as much luxurious
gratification as possible!
'Spirituality of mind' is the subject of innumerable prayers
from some who never take a step to promote it! But, on the
contrary, who are doing all they can to make themselves
carnally minded! How many repeat that petition, "Lead us
not into temptation," who, instead of most carefully keeping
at the utmost possible distance from all inducements to sin,
place themselves in the very path of sin!
How often do we pray to have the mind of Christ, and to
imitate the example of Jesus. But where is the assiduous
endeavor, the laboring effort, to copy this high model, in . . .
its self-denying condescension,
its profound humility,
its beautiful meekness,
its indifference to worldly comforts,
its forgiving mercy,
its devotedness to God?
How often do we pray to be delivered from evil tempers
and irascible feelings. And yet we indulge them on every
slight provocation, and take no pains to subdue them!
It is unnecessary to multiply the illustrations of the
inconsistency between our prayers and our practice.
So hideous and so dreadful is the offspring!
(John Angell James, "Sorrow for the Death of Friends")
How dreadful is the nature of sin! Sin is the parent of death.
Death the first-born of sin. What must be the parent—when
so hideous and so dreadful is the offspring! Who can
have watched the harbingers of death—the groans, the pains,
the dying strife—without being struck with the fearful nature
of man's revolt from God?
Death in itself, and by itself—is horrid and revolting! To see
all this inflicted upon a Christian, a child of God, an heir of
glory; to see no way even to the kingdom of God, to the
realms of immortality—but this dark valley of corruption,
earth, and worms—this gives us a most impressive idea
of the dreadful nature of sin! How such scenes should
enlarge our views of the malignity of sin, and embitter
our hearts against it!
O sin, sin—what have you done!
Like water to the flame of joy
(John Angell James, "Spiritual Joy")
"I have spoken these things to you, so that My joy may
be in you, and your joy may be full." John 15:11
One of the reasons why so little spiritual joy is experienced
by the majority of Christian professors, is because of SIN.
Sin weakens spiritual joy—and ought to do so! I do not now
mean immorality—for that extinguishes joy! I mean . . .
the lesser workings of our corruption,
the sins of the heart,
the sins of the tongue,
the sins of the character,
sins known only to God and conscience,
sins of omission,
sins of defect.
I mean sins that do not unchristianize us, any more
than they excommunicate us from the church. Such
sins unopposed, unmortified—do, and must, prevent
or diminish our joy. They may not put out the light of
our piety altogether—but they surround it with an
impure atmosphere, a thick fog—which prevents its
light from shining upon the heart!
The religion of many is altogether too feeble. They are
too worldly, too lukewarm, live too far from God—to
derive much joy and peace from their piety. Spiritual
joy, is joy—in God, in Christ, in holiness, in heaven!
And when, therefore, the professor lives so little in
the closet, communes so little with his Bible, and
lives so far from God—it can be no wonder that his
religion does not make him happy!
My dear friends, let me now entreat you to avoid these
hindrances, and to seek after more of that heavenly,
holy, happy frame of mind. Pray for it, for it is a fruit
of the Spirit. Be much in converse with your Bibles, for
it comes in the way of understanding, believing, and
experiencing the truth. Find time for private, silent
meditation, for the truth will not be seen, so as to affect
the heart, by a hasty glance at Scripture. Seek to have
your faith strengthened, for your joy must ever be in
proportion to your faith.
Watch against sin, for sin is like water to the flame
of joy. Cultivate all the branches of holiness; for holiness
is happiness. You must have eminent piety, if you would
have spiritual joy. Spiritual joy is the oil to the wheels of
obedience. It is this which braces up the soul for action,
and carries it forward through difficult and self-denying
How can we best vanquish the world, that ever present,
and every where present foe, which comes in so many
forms—and with such golden pleas? How, but by a heart
already well pleased with its own happiness in Christ.
Spiritual joy is the world's vanquisher! The heart by holy
joy rises above the world—sees it below, covered with
smoke and dust, and finds itself in a brighter, purer,
happier region, with the cloudless sun above, and all
around filled with glory. What has the world to offer
comparable to that which a rejoicing faith has found in
Christ? What has 'worldly ambition' to offer, which can
vie with this? He may spurn the favor of the crowned
prince, and put his crown aside as a bauble—who is
rejoicing in hope of an incorruptible crown of life and
"The joy of the Lord is your strength!" Nehemiah 8:10
But for the special and unceasing grace of God
(Letters of J. C. Philpot)
It is a most rich and unspeakable mercy, that
those whom Jesus loves, He loves to the end,
and that His sheep shall never perish, neither
shall anyone snatch them out of His hand.
This is the grand security of the saints of God; for . . .
their inherent sinfulness and weakness are so great,
Satan is so crafty and so strong,
sin so powerful and deceptive, and
the world so entangling and alluring,
that but for the special and unceasing grace of
God, they must perish, and concerning faith make
sure and awful shipwreck.
"I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever!
No one will snatch them out of My hand!" (John 10:28)
Though we mourn—we must not murmur
(John Angell James, "Sorrow for the Death of Friends")
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will
leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes
away. Praise the name of the Lord! (Job 1:21)
"See, I am the only God! There are no others. I kill,
and I make alive! I wound, and I heal, and no one
can rescue you from My power!" Deuteronomy 32:39
When a holy and beloved object of our affection is removed
by death, we ought to sorrow. Humanity demands it; and
Christianity, in the person of the weeping Jesus, allows it.
The man without a tear, is a savage or a Stoic—but not a
Christian. God intends when He bestows His gifts—that they
should be received with smiles of gratitude; and when He
recalls them—that they should be surrendered with "drops
of sacred grief." Sorrow is an affection implanted by the
Creator in the soul, for wise and beneficent purposes; and
it ought not to be ruthlessly torn up by the roots—but
directed in its exercise by reason and piety.
The work of grace, though it is above nature—is not against
it. The man who tells me not to weep at the grave—insults
me, mocks me, and wishes to degrade me! Tears are the
silent, pure, sincere testimony of my heart to the excellence
of the gift He gave in mercy; and in mercy, no doubt, as well
as judgment, He has recalled.
But, then, though we mourn—we must not murmur.
We may sorrow—but not with the violent and uncontrolled
grief of the heathen, who have no hope.
Our sorrow must flow, deep as we like, but noiseless and still
—in the channels of submission. It must be a sorrow so quiet,
as to hear all the words of consolation which our heavenly Father
utters amidst the gentle strokes of His rod. It must be a sorrow
so reverential, as to adore Him for the exercise of His prerogative
in taking away what and whom He pleases. It must be a sorrow so
composed, as to prepare us for doing His will as well as bearing it.
It must be a sorrow so meek and gentle, as to justify Him in His
dispensations. It must be a sorrow so confiding, as to be assured
that there is as much love in taking the mercy away—as there was
in bestowing it. It must be a sorrow so grateful, as to be thankful
for the mercies left—as well as afflicted for the mercies lost. It must
be a sorrow so trustful, as to look forward to the future with hope.
It must be a sorrow so patient, as to bear all the aggravations that
accompany or follow the bereavement with unruffled acquiescence.
It must be a sorrow so holy, as to lift the prayer of faith for Divine
grace, to sanctify the stroke. It must be a sorrow so lasting, as to
preserve through all the coming years of life, the benefit of that
event, which in one solemn moment changed the whole aspect
of our earthly existence.
These are the idols of the heart!
(John Angell James, "Spiritual Idolatry")
The first commandment of the decalogue says, "You shall
have no other gods before Me." The meaning of this precept,
which is the foundation of all religion, is not merely that we
shall not acknowledge any other God besides Jehovah—but
also that we shall treat Him as God! That is, we . . .
must love Him with all our hearts,
serve Him with all our lives, and
depend upon Him for our supreme felicity.
It is obvious that whatever we love most, and are most
anxious to retain and please—whatever it is we depend
most upon for happiness and help—whatever has most
of our hearts—that is, in effect, is our God! It does not
matter whether it is friends, possessions, desires—or
our own selves!
These are the idols of the heart!
SELF is the great idol which is the rival of God, and which
divides with Him the worship of the human race. It is
surprising and affecting to think how much SELF enters
into almost all we do. Besides the grosser form of self-
righteousness, which leads many unconverted people
actually to depend upon their own doings for acceptance
with God; how much of . . .
there is in many converted ones!
How covertly do some seek their own praise in what
they professedly do for God, and their fellow-creatures!
How eager are they for the admiration and applause
of their fellow-creatures! How much of self, yet how
little suspected by themselves—is seen by One who
knows them better than they know themselves, at
the bottom of their most splendid services, donations,
and most costly sacrifices!
In how many ways does self steal away the heart from God!
How subtle are its workings, how concealed its movements,
yet how extensive is its influence. How SELF . . .
perverts our motives,
lowers our aims,
corrupts our affections, and
taints our best actions!
How much incense is burned—and how many
sacrifices are offered on the altar of this idol!
"Little children, keep yourselves from idols!" 1 John 5:21
The prevailing sin of Christians
(J. A. James, "Evidences & Results of Sanctified Affliction")
Increasing deadness to the world, and growing spirituality
of mind, are sure results of 'sanctified affliction'.
The love of the world is the great snare of the church
in every age! Worldly-mindedness is now the prevailing
sin of Christians. We see them on all hands too eager to
make themselves happy on earth, and seeking their enjoyments,
if not in the sinful amusements of the world—yet in its 'innocent
and home-bred comforts'. They look not at unseen and eternal
things, but at seen and temporal things. Theirs is too much a
life of 'sense', refined it is true from its gross sinfulness—but
still a life of sense, rather than a life of faith.
Hence there is "a needs be" for severe trials, if not to separate
them and keep them separate from open and gross sins—yet
to lift up their affections to things above, and to lead them to
seek their happiness . . .
from God, the fountain of life;
from Christ, the Redeemer of their souls; and
from heaven, the object of their expectations.
When the world has been crucified to us, and we have been
crucified to the world; when we have been taught its vanity
and emptiness as a satisfying portion for the soul; when we
have lost much of our anxiety to obtain its possessions, and
of our dread of losing them; when we have turned from the
folly of hewing out broken cisterns which can hold no water,
and led more to the fountain of living waters; when we have
lost our dependence on our comforts and possessions for
happiness, and feel and rejoice in a glorious independence
from 'created good' for bliss—when there is really and truly
a conscious elevation of soul towards God and divine things
—there is the evidence that we are sanctified by our trials.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your
word. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might
learn Your statutes. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments
are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted
me." (Psalm 119:67, 71, 75)
Painted pageantry to go to hell in!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Secret Sins" February 8, 1857)
If I must be a wicked man—give me the life of a reveling sinner,
who sins before the face of day. If I must sin—let me not act as a
hypocrite and a coward. Let me not profess to be God's—and spend
my life for the devil!
That way of cheating the devil is a thing which every honest sinner
will be ashamed of. He will say, "Now, if I do serve my master Satan,
I will serve him out and out—I will have no sham about it. If I live in
sin, I am not going to gloss it over by cant and hypocrisy."
One thing which has hamstrung the church, and cut her very sinews
in twain, has been this most damnable hypocrisy! Oh! in how many
places have we men whom you might praise to the very skies, if you
could believe their words; but whom you might cast into the
nethermost pit if you could see their secret actions. God forgive
any of you who are so acting!
I can forgive the man who riots openly, and makes no profession of
being godly. But the man who fawns, and cants, and pretends, and
prays—and then lives in sin, that man I cannot bear. If he will turn
from his ways, I will love him. But in his hypocrisy, he is to me,
the most loathsome of all creatures!
A 'mere profession' is but painted pageantry to go to hell in!
Take heed of a 'waxed profession' that will not stand the sun!
Take heed of a life that needs to have 'two faces' to carry it out!
Be one thing—or else the other!
If you make up your mind to serve Satan—do not pretend to serve God!
And if you serve God, serve Him with all your heart!
"No man can serve two masters!" Do not try it, do not endeavor to do it!
The most subtle, stubborn, and tenacious foe
(John Angell James, "Self-Renunciation")
"Don't you know that your body is a sanctuary of the
Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?
You are not your own, for you were bought at a price;
therefore glorify God in your body." 1 Corin. 6:19-20
Recollect that the renunciation of SELF, as well as of SIN,
was one of the solemn transactions of that scene, and that
time—when you bowed by faith at the foot of the cross,
received mercy through Jesus Christ, and yielded yourselves
to God. You then abjured, not only self-righteousness, but
self-seeking, self-pleasing, and self-living. Self, as a
supreme object, was renounced.
Self, until then, had been your loftiest aim; self-love your
highest affection—but then you transferred your aim and
your affection to another object. The Christian has no right
to ask what he will do with himself; or to what he will give
himself; or how he will employ himself. He is no longer at
liberty to inquire how he shall spend his energies, his time,
his properly, his labor, and his influence; for he is not his
own—he is bought with a price.
He is not to live for fame—and please himself with the
applause of his fellow creatures.
Nor is he to live for riches—and please himself with
Nor is he to live for health—and please himself with
the glowing energies of a sound body.
Nor is he to live for taste—and please himself with
the pursuit of literature, science, or the arts.
Nor is he to live for social enjoyment—and please
himself with an agreeable circle of friends.
Nor is he to live for ease—and please himself with
In short, he is not to consider himself as his own
master—to please himself supremely in any way;
nor his own property—to employ himself on his own
account, and for his own benefit. He is not to imagine
that personal gratification is to be his end and aim—for
the accomplishment of which he may lay down his own
schemes, select his own course, and pursue his own
methods—as if he had an independent and sovereign
right over himself. Self is . . .
"the old man" to be crucified with Christ;
the body of sin to be destroyed;
the corrupt nature to be put away;
the law in our members to be resisted;
the lusts of the mind to be subdued.
Self is the enemy of God—to be fought against; the
rival interest with Christ in our soul—to be subdued;
the means by which the devil would hold us in
alienation from holiness—to be opposed.
Self is the most subtle, the most stubborn, the
most tenacious foe with which grace has to contend,
in the soul of the believer. SELF lives, and works, and
fights—when many other corruptions are mortified. Self
is the last stronghold—the very citadel of Satan in the
heart—which is reduced to the obedience of faith.
Why do believers murmur at the painful dispensations of
Providence, and find submission so hard an achievement?
Because self is disturbed in its enjoyment!
Why are they so easily offended, and experience such
difficulty in showing forgiveness? Because self-esteem
has been wounded!
Why are they covetous? Because self is gratified by its
What is vanity—but the indulgence of self-love?
What is ambition—but the exultation of self?
What is pride—but the worship of self?
Why are they so reluctant to give their time and labor
for the good of others, and the glory of God? Because
they want it for ease, and the enjoyment of self!
Why are they peevish, quarrelsome, and discontented
with the little annoyances of life, which are everywhere
and continually occurring? Because they want to settle
down in unmolested ease, and undisturbed quiet, to
But is this right? Is not this living as if we were our own?
Is not this living for ourselves? Is not this forgetting that
we are purchased property, belonging to another?
My dear friends, do consider this subject. Weigh well the
import of the condition of Christian discipleship, as laid
down by our Lord: "If any man will come after Me, LET
HIM DENY HIMSELF." Self-denial, not self-pleasing, is
your business! And the evidence of our being disciples
is in exact proportion to our disposition thus to take up
If we are coveting ease, quiet, soft indulgence, luxurious
gratification—and are dissatisfied, and discontented, and
contentious, and peevish, because we cannot please
ourselves, nor get others to please us, as the supreme
end of life—how can we dream that we are the disciples
of Him, of whom it is declared, "He pleased not Himself,"
especially since it is said, "Let the same mind be in you
which was in Christ Jesus?"
For whom then are we to live, and whom are we to
please, if not ourselves? Who is to come in the place
of self? GOD! And for this obvious reason—we are
God's! God's servants! God's property!
All others are walking to perdition!
(J. A. James, "The Character and Translation of Enoch")
"Enoch walked with God." (Genesis 5:24)
Walking with God! Is this our religion? Does this
aptly set forth our life? It makes no difference . . .
to which church we belong,
nor what creed we adopt,
nor what ceremonies we profess,
nor what zeal for religious things we have
—if we are not walking with God!
Reconciliation with Him through faith in our Lord Jesus
Christ; a habitual acting as in His sight and with a view to
His approbation, and a life of devotional communion with
Him—is true religion—in whomever or wherever found.
Walking with God! Is this religion ours?
Do we intelligently, experimentally, know the meaning
of that phrase—walking with God? Let us set it down
before us, look at it, ponder it, and never cease to
study it, until we know its meaning, and feel its force!
None are walking to heaven, but those who are walking
with God! All others are walking to perdition! We
hear a great deal about other things that are connected
with religion—its doctrines, its forms, its creeds—but
walking with God is true religion. If we know nothing
of this, we know nothing of true piety!
It is walking with God—and not any external matter,
that distinguishes the real from the nominal Christian!
And it is 'close walking with God' which distinguishes the
earnest Christian from the comparatively lukewarm one.
The earnest Christian walks closely with God, presses,
so to speak, to his very side; while the other, like Peter,
during his season of cowardice, follows afar off.
"Walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)