JEWELS from JAMES
(Choice devotional selections from
the works of John Angell James)
You will die this year!
This is what the Lord says: "I am going to remove you from
the face of the earth. You will die this year!" Jerem. 28:16
This may be the case with any one of the readers of the
present address, and therefore every one of them should
seriously reflect upon such a possibility.
This year you may die—for you must die some time—and
that time may as likely come this year as any other.
This year you may die—because you have no revelation
from God that you shall not.
This year you may die—because you are ever and
everywhere exposed to the causes that take away life.
This year you may die—because life is the most
uncertain thing in the world, and you have not
the assurance of a single moment beyond the present.
This year you may die—for it is all but certain that
many of the readers of this address will die this year
—and why not you?
This year you may die, although there is now no
indication of approaching death; for many during
the past year have been cut off, and many during
the present year will die, who may now seem very
likely to live—and why not you?
How many, then, are the probabilities that before
next new year's day, your place will be vacant in
the family, at the scene of your daily occupation,
and in the house of God! Ought not this to induce
a habit of solemn, pensive, devout, practical,
profitable, reflection. Bring home the thought. Take
up the supposition, and say, "Yes, it is possible, by
no means improbable, that I may die—this year!"
Are you really prepared for your latter end, by being
a partaker of genuine faith, the new birth, a holy life,
and a heavenly mind? Or are you a mere nominal
professor, having a name to live, while you are dead?
Do you recognize in yourselves, and do others see in
you, the marks of a state of grace? Put the question
to your own hearts, ask yourselves, "What am I? Am
I a spiritual, heavenly, humble servant of God? Am I
really crucified with Christ, dead to the world, ripening
for glory? Is there anything heavenly about me? Is my
temper sanctified, my walk consistent?"
Is your soul in that state in which you would desire
it to be found when death strikes? Are you, in your
devotional habits, your temper, your general behavior,
as you should be—with eternity so near? Would you
desire to die—just as you are now?
How many false professors will be unmasked this
year, and appear with astonishment and horror, as
self-deceivers, formalists, and hypocrites! How many
in reply to the plea, "Lord, Lord, I ate and drank in
your presence"—will hear the dreadful response,
"Depart from me, I never knew you!" and thus find
there is a way to the bottomless pit—from the
fellowship of the church! In whatever state you die
this year—that you will be forever! The seal of eternal
destiny will be put upon you! Your last words in time,
and your first in eternity, might be, "I must be what
The grand secret is about to be revealed, whether you
are a child of God—or a child of the devil! That next
moment after death—which imagination in vain attempts
to paint, is to arrive—and, waking up in eternity, you will
shout with rapture, "I am in heaven!"—or utter with a
shriek of despair, and surprise, the dreadful question,
"What! Am I in hell forever!"
Ever walking on the precipice of eternity!
Reader! Did you ever, in serious moments, and in
a serious manner, ask such questions as these:
What am I?
Where did I come from?
Who sent me here?
What is my business in this world?
What is to become of me when I die,
and leave this present world?
Does not reason press such inquiries on your attention?
You find yourself in existence, possessing a rational soul;
you know you cannot remain here long, and must soon
go and lie down in the grave with your forefathers. But
does your history end there? Is there no world beyond
the tomb? There is! You are not only mortal, but immortal.
Immortality! What a word! What a thing! Did you ever
ponder the idea? A deathless creature—with an everlasting
existence! Such is your soul. You are ever walking on
the precipice of eternity—and any moment you may
fall over it!
Eternal duration alone, apart from the consideration
whether it is to be spent in torment or in bliss—is a
solemn idea. You are to live somewhere—forever!
Should this matter be allowed to lie forgotten among
the thousand unconsidered subjects? Should it be
treated with indifference, excite no reflection, produce
no concern? Ought you not to be concerned? Going on
step by step to eternity—should you not pause, ponder,
and say, "Where am I going?"
For a person to realize that he is immortal, and yet to
care nothing about where he is going to spend eternity,
is the most monstrous inconsistency in the universe!
Can any man know . . .
how holy God is,
how evil a thing sin is,
how great a blessing salvation is,
how glorious heaven is,
how dreadful hell is,
how solemn eternity is,
and not not be concerned about his eternal soul?
Astounding spectacle! A rational creature, anxious
about a thousand things, yet not concerned about
the eternal soul! Agitated, perplexed, inquisitive
about little matters of mere passing interest, which
the next day will be forgotten; and yet neglecting
that great subject, which swallows them all up, as
the ocean does the drops of rain that fall upon it.
Your health, your property, your prospects, your
friends, anything, everything, but your soul, and
your soul's salvation, seizes and carries you away!
Did you ever weigh the import of that most awful
of all words—hell?
Death is a dreadful monosyllable! From the cold touch
of that 'last enemy' all rational beings recoil with horror.
But death is only as the dark, heavy, iron-covered door
of the prison, which opens to, while it conceals, the sights
and sounds of the dungeon. Oh that first moment after
death! what disclosures, what scenes, what feelings
come with that moment! That moment must come—
and it may come soon!
Immorality, whether public or private, if it spreads through
society, and especially through the rising generation, will be
a canker to all that is great, glorious, and free, in this noble
nation; and England's flag, floating so loftily and proudly,
will be dragged down into the mud, and trampled
underfoot by a swinish generation!
Be thankful, be humble, be consistent, be watchful. There
is no logic so convincing, no rhetoric so persuasive, as the
power of uniform and conspicuous excellence. Add to
the substance of your moral worth, the brightest polish of
an amiable disposition, and all the kindnesses of life. Be
courteous, generous, benevolent, cheerful, active and useful.
One life to spend
"This one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind,
and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press
on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in
Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)
There are many secondary and subordinate ends of life, but
there can be only one that is supreme. The salvation of the
immortal soul, and a preparation for heaven, form the great
end of man's life upon earth.
Man has but one life to spend, and he should be careful,
anxiously careful, yes almost painfully careful, not to throw
it away upon an undeserving object. Think of his coming to
the close of his brief and troubled sojourn in this world with
the melancholy confession, "Life with me has been a lost
adventure!" We would help you to guard against this
catastrophe, and assist you so to select your object, and
lay your plan, that after a prosperous, happy, and useful
life, even death itself—instead of being the wreck of your
hopes, shall prove the consummation of your hopes, and
be your eternal gain.
Our one thing, our chief end of life, is the same as Paul's,
the pursuit of glory, honor, immortality; our hope is the
possession of eternal life. There it is before you in all its
simplicity, and, we may add, in all its sublimity.
True piety will be the guide of our youth, the comfort of
our manhood, and the staff of our old age. If we succeed
in life, it will preserve us from the snares of prosperity.
And if we fail, it will be our solace in adversity. Should
we be exposed to the temptations of bad company, piety
will be our shield; or, if we should dwell much alone, it
will be the comforter of our solitude. Piety will guide us
in the choice of a companion for life, sweeten the cup of
marital happiness, and survive the severance of every
earthly tie. It will refresh us with its cooling shade amidst
the heat and burden of life's busy day, be the evening star
of our declining years, and our lamp in the dark valley of
the shadow of death, and then rise with us as our eternal
portion in the realms of immortality.
True piety will guard you from the snares to which
youth are ever and everywhere exposed. It will . . .
comfort you in sorrow,
cheer you in solitude,
guide you in perplexity.
The low state of piety among professors
Ah, my friend, let me tell you in the beginning of
your career, that you cannot expect too little from
man—nor too much from God.
Many are discouraged by witnessing the low state of
piety among professors. They hear little from the lips
of many Christian professors, but, "What shall we eat
and drink? How shall we be adorn ourselves? What is
the news of the day?"
They see so much worldly-mindedness, so much
imperfection of temper, so many things unworthy
of the Christian character, that they can scarcely
believe there is reality in religion, and are sometimes
ready to give it all up as a mere name. Nay, from
some of these very professors they receive plain hints
that they are too concerned, too precise, too earnest
How far people may go
It is amazing, how far people may go, and not
be really converted. They may have many and deep
religious impressions, many and strong convictions;
they may have much knowledge of their sinful state,
and a heavy and burdensome sense of their guilt;
they may look back upon their past lives and conduct
with much remorse; they may be sorry for their sins;
and may desire to be saved from the consequences of
them, being much alarmed at the prospect of the
torments of hell.
Was not Judas convinced of sin, and did not he weep
bitterly and confess his sin, and was not he filled with
remorse? Was not Cain convinced of sin? I have known
many people, who at one time appeared to be more
deeply impressed with a sense of sin, and to have
stronger convictions and remorse, than many who
were truly converted—and yet they went back again
to the world and sin. Nor is a detestation of sin always
a true sign of conversion. Unconverted people may even
wish to be delivered from the fetters of those corrupt lusts,
which have long held them fast; for there are few notorious
sinners, who do not frequently hate their sins, and wish and
purpose to reform. Yes, people may sometimes desire to
be delivered from all sin; at least they may desire it in a
certain way, because they think that it is necessary in
order to be saved from hell.
And as conviction of sin may exist without conversion,
so may religious joy. The stony ground hearers "heard
the word, and with joy received it," and yet they had
"no root in themselves, and endured only for a while."
The Galatians had great blessedness at one time, which
the apostle was afraid had come to nothing. Multitudes
rejoiced in Christ when he made His entrance into
Jerusalem, who afterwards became His enemies. Many
take great pleasure in hearing sermons, and going to
prayer-meetings, and singing hymns, and frequenting
church meetings, who are not truly born of the Spirit.
So also do many people leave off sinful actions, and give
up many wicked practices, and seem to be quite altered
for a time, and yet, by their subsequent history, show
that they are not converted.
There may be considerable zeal for the outward concerns
of religion, as we see in Jehu, without any right state of
mind towards God. Many have had great confidence of
the reality of their conversion; they have had dreams
and spiritual impressions, as they suppose—and yet
too plainly proved, by their after-conduct, that they
were under an awful delusion. But it would be almost
endless to point out the various ways in which men
deceive themselves, as to their state. Millions who
have been somewhat, yes, much concerned about
religion, have never been born again of the Spirit.
Perhaps as many are lost by self-deception, as by
any other means. Hell resounds with the groans
and lamentations of souls which perished through
the power of deceived hearts!
Then hell itself is full of penitents
Repentance is more, much more than 'mere sorrow for sin'.
True sorrow for sin is a part, and only a part, of repentance.
If mere sorrow comprised the whole of repentance, then
Cain, Ahab, and Judas all repented! Then hell itself is
full of penitents, for there is weeping and wailing and
gnashing of teeth forever. Many, very many, grieve for
their sins, who never repent of them. Men may grieve
for the consequences of their sins, without mourning
for the sins themselves.
Repentance signifies an entire change of a man's
views, disposition, and conduct, with respect to sin.
The author of repentance is the Holy Spirit—it is the
effect of Divine grace working in the heart of man.
No man knows what sin is, and how sinful he is, who
does not clearly see that he has deserved to be cast
into "the lake which burns with fire and brimstone."
All sins in one!
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and
you shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Alarming representation! Have you thus loved God,
and your neighbor? Confounding and overwhelming
question! What a state of sin have you been living in!
Your whole life has been sin, for you have not loved
God! And not to love God, is all sins in one! Who
can think of greater sin than not loving God? To
love the world, to love trifles, to love even sin—
and not to love God!
But what is that misery?
When man was created, he was created holy—and
consequently happy. He was not only placed in a
paradise which was without sin—but he was blessed
with a paradise within him. His perfect holiness was
as much the Eden of his soul, as the garden which
he tilled was the Eden of his bodily senses—it was in
the inward paradise of a holy mind that he walked
in communion with God. The 'fall' cast him out of
this 'heaven upon earth' . . .
his understanding became darkened,
his heart became corrupted,
his will became perverted,
his nature became earthly, sensual, and devilish.
Not only was his conscience laden with guilt, but,
as a necessary consequence, his imagination was
full of terror and dread of that holy God, whose
voice and presence formerly imparted nothing but
transport to his soul. He became afraid of God, and
unfit for him. His whole soul became the seat of
fleshly appetites and sinful passions.
In his former innocence he had loved God supremely.
He had been united to God by a feeling of dependence
and devotedness. But now he was cut off from both
these feelings, and came under the domination of
an absorbing and engrossing selfishness. Such is
the sinful nature he has transmitted to all his posterity.
They are . . .
not only guilty—but depraved;
not only under the wrath of God—but robbed of His image;
not only condemned by God—but alienated from Him.
True it is, that hell will be some place set apart for the
wicked, where the justice of God will consign them to
the misery which their sins have deserved. But what
is that misery? An eternal abandonment of them to
themselves, with all their vices in full maturity! Hell
is not only the wrath of God suffered, but that wrath
coupled with an eternal endurance of all the tyranny
Hence, then, the design of the death of Christ is not
only to deliver us from the penalty of sin, but also
from the polluting consequences of sin.
One verse in Scripture
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the
word, that you may grow thereby." (1 Peter 2:2)
And as those infants thrive best who are fed from
the bosom of their mothers—so those Christians
grow most in grace, who are most devoted to a
spiritual perusal of the Scriptures.
Meditate on what you read. If we would gain knowledge
from books, we must not only see the matters treated of,
but steadily ponder them. Nothing but meditation can enable
us to properly understand or feel. In reading the Scriptures
and pious books, we are, or should be, reading for eternity.
Our profiting depends not on the quantity we read, but the
quantity we understand. One verse in Scripture, if
understood and meditated upon, will do us more good
than a chapter, or, even a book, read through in haste,
and without reflection.
"Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." Isaiah 25:9
What a blessing is salvation! A blessing that includes . . .
all the riches of grace;
all the greater riches of glory;
deliverance from sin, death, and hell;
the possession of pardon, peace, holiness, and heaven!
Salvation is a blessing immense, infinite, everlasting;
which occupied the mind of Deity from eternity, was
procured by the Son of God upon the cross, and will
fill eternity with its happiness.
Oh, how little, insignificant, and contemptible is the
highest object of human ambition, to say nothing of
the baser matters of men's desires, compared with
salvation! Riches, rank, fame, and honors, are but as
the small dust of the balance, when compared with the
"salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
"My mouth will tell about Your righteousness and Your
salvation all day long, though I cannot sum them up."
"He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold;
I will not be shaken." Psalm 62:6
Eternity, vast eternity, incomprehensible eternity
Reader! You are an immortal creature, a being born for
eternity, a creature that will never go out of existence.
Millions of ages, as numerous as . . .
the sands upon the shore,
the drops of the ocean,
the leaves of all the forests on the globe,
will not shorten the duration of your existence.
Eternity, vast eternity, incomprehensible eternity,
is before you! Every day brings you nearer to everlasting
torments—or felicity. You may die any moment—and you
are as near to heaven or hell as you are to death.
Reader, whoever you are, you will remember the contents
of this small treatise, either with pleasure and gratitude in
heaven—or with remorse and despair in hell!
We need to re-study our Bibles
We need to re-study our Bibles, and learn
what real Christianity is—how holy, how heavenly,
how spiritual, how loving, how morally and socially
excellent a matter it is.
What separation from the world,
what intense earnestness,
what enlarged benevolence,
what zealous activity,
what seeds of celestial virtue—
our profession of godliness implies.
Having examined this, and obtained an impressive
idea of it, let us survey our own state, and ask if
we do not need, and ought not to seek, more of the
prevalence of such a piety as this, which, in fact, is
Is our spiritual condition what it ought to be, what
it might be, what it must be—to fulfill our high
commission as the salt of the earth and the light of
the world? A Christian, acting up in some tolerable
measure to his profession, walking in the holiness
of the Gospel—is the strongest and most emphatic
testimony for God to our dark revolted world, next
to that of Christ himself.
I would ask
I would ask, what there is among you . . .
of 'living by faith';
of the spiritual and heavenly mind;
of the victory over the world;
of devotional habits;
of Bible meditation;
of the practice of self-denial;
of Christian charity;
of the meekness and gentleness of Christ;
of the stamp of immortality;
of the anticipation of eternity;
of the patient waiting for the coming of our Savior,
all of which are enjoined in the word of God, and
implied in our profession of Christianity
Do we not see, almost everywhere, instead of these things,
a superficial, secular, and temporizing kind of piety; a piety
without any depth of feeling, any power of principle, or any
distinctness of character; a cold, spiritless orthodoxy, united
with a heartless morality; a mere exemption from gross vice
and fashionable amusements; an observance of forms and
decencies—but a lamentable destitution of love, of Christian
temper, and tenderness of conscience?
Enter the social spheres of professing Christians, listen to their
conversation, witness their entertainments, observe their spirit.
How frivolous, how worldly, how different from what might be
expected from redeemed sinners, from the heirs of immortality,
from the expectants of everlasting glory!
Follow them home to their domestic circle, and behold their
pervading temper—how irascible, how worldly, how destitute
of spirituality! Witness the cold and lifeless formality—the late,
hurried, irregular, and undevout seasons of their family devotions,
together with the shameful neglect of the pious instruction of
their children! Witness the shortness and inconstancy of their
times for private prayer, and think how little communion with
God, how little study of the Scriptures, how little self-improvement,
can be carried on during such fragments of time, snatched from
the greedy and all-devouring passion of earthly-mindedness!
The spirit of prayer is expiring amidst the ashes of its own dead
forms, and the Bible reduced, in many houses of professing
Christians, to the degradation of a mere article of furniture,
placed there for show—but not for use.
Who will deny that this is but too correct a representation
of modern piety; or admitting it, deny the need in which our
churches stand of a revival?
Ah! are we prepared to say this?
"As the One who called you is holy, you also are to
be holy in every aspect of your life; for it is written—
Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16)
If we would increase in holiness, we should pray, "O God,
let my soul prosper and be in health, at all events! Improve
my personal piety, my Christian temperament and spirit,
though it be at the sacrifice of my temporal comfort. Supply
my deficiencies, mortify my corruptions, increase my spirituality,
and enkindle in my heart the flame of holy love, though it be
necessary, in order to accomplish this purpose, to diminish
my worldly ease and enjoyments."
Ah! are we prepared to say this?
A languid and feeble plant
I come now to the state of piety in your own hearts. Is it so lively, so vigorous, so elevated, as it should be? Consider what our profession amounts to, what our principles are, what our creed includes.
We believe that we are immortal creatures, going on to eternity, and that we shall exist through everlasting ages in inconceivable torment or felicity; that we are sinners by nature and practice against God—and as such, under the sentence of the divine law, which sentence is eternal death, an everlasting sense and endurance of the wrath of God; that we have been delivered from our state of condemnation through the sovereign, rich, and efficacious grace of God, granted to us through the mediation of Jesus Christ; that we are pardoned, and in a state of favor with Jehovah; that we are going on to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life, and shall dwell forever with Christ and his saints and angels, in glory everlasting; that we are redeemed by Jesus Christ and purified from iniquity to be a peculiar people, zealous for good works, and designed to show forth the praise of God by the beauties of holiness.
Are not these our principles and profession? Think, then, what kind of people ought we to be, in all holy conversation and godliness; how dead to the world, caring but little about its profits and losses, its pains and pleasures; how heavenly in our anticipations and aspirations; how spiritual in our thoughts and feelings; how devotional in our habits; how self-denying in all our gratifications; how fond of the Holy Scriptures, and devoted to the perusal of them; how given to meditation and contemplation, to private prayer and self-communion; how devoted to communion with God, and how impressed with a sense of the unutterable, inconceivable love of Christ; how replete with love to our brethren, and benevolence to the whole family of man!
Should it not be seen by others, as well as felt by ourselves, that we look not at the things which are seen and temporal—but at the things which are unseen and eternal? that our eye, our hope, our heart, are upon eternity?
But is this, indeed, our state, or the state of Christians in general? Do they indeed live the life of that faith, and painful mortification, and habitual restraint, and aspiring spirituality, and heavenly-mindedness—which are so often inculcated in the Word of God, as the very essence of vital and experimental Christianity?
What do we know in this age, when profession is easy and piety generally safe from persecution. We abstain from immoralities, and public amusements, and from many private engagements which are the symbols of love to the world—and to these things we add an attendance upon an evangelical ministry, and the forms of domestic and private piety—and all this so far is well. But as to the real culture of the heart; the mortification of the corrupt and earthly affections of the soul; the deep sense of the love of Christ; the withdrawal of our affections from the world, to set them on things above; the high communing of our spirits with God; the blissful anticipation of an eternity to be spent with the Lord Jesus; the conflicts and the triumphs of the fight of faith—of these things, alas! we know little but the names, and are ready, in some cases, to wonder what they mean. Yet are they all continually alluded to in the Scriptures.
I am well convinced that the piety of the present day is a languid and feeble plant, it has run up to a great height, perhaps, under the influence of a long season of unclouded sunshine; but it lacks depth and tenacity of root, strength of stem, and abundance of fruit—and that, were the wintry season and frosty nights of persecution again to return, it would droop its head, and shed its leaves, and give full proof of its sickly and delicate constitution.
It is greatly to be feared, that in these times of peace and prosperity in the church, many have entered her gates, and joined her fellowship—who know nothing at all of spiritual religion, and whose example and spirit exert a deadening influence upon others.
A self-indulgent, ease-loving spirit
I now mention, as a second fault—a self-indulgent, ease-loving spirit; an cowardly, weak disposition which shrinks from those duties, occupations, and engagements which require a sacrifice of bodily repose and comfort. The words of our Lord are still the standing-rule of discipleship, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." If there be meaning in words, these must imply that the true Christian spirit is self-denial. This was not intended to apply exclusively to that time, or to any age of persecution, or to any peculiar external condition of the Church. It is the perpetual law of Christ's kingdom for all ages, all countries, all people. We can no more be Christians without a spirit of self-denial, than we can be without repentance and faith, or truthfulness, justice, or chastity. It is a state of mind and a course of conduct essential to personal godliness. We must all, in one sense or other, be cross-bearers.
But in what does self-denial consist? Not in the self-imposed austerities of Catholicism or hermitism; nor in the self-inflicted penances of superstition—nor in the privation of the sober and moderate enjoyment of the lawful gratifications of our compound nature. Grace is not at war, any more than Reason, with the instincts of humanity; the Creator has not implanted these in our nature to be violently torn up by the Redeemer and Sanctifier. All that piety does with them, is to keep them in due subjection to itself; not to eradicate them—but so far to crop their excessive growth as to prevent their overshading and chilling our virtues. To the wearer of sackcloth, the wallower in filth, the half-starved abstinent, the recluse of the cell, God says, "Who has required this at your hand?" This is not self-denial—but self-degradation, a disgusting caricature of the virtue recommended by our Lord. It is self-gratification under a hideous form; self-pleasing in a way of self-torture; the worship of self in a Moloch shape.
Self-denial means the subjection of all the promptings of self-love to the will of God. It is the surrender of ourselves to God, to do his will and please him in the way of his commandments, rather than ourselves. In other words, it is to prefer known and prescribed duty, to selfish gratification. This state of mind will develop itself in various ways. If anyone has injured us, Christian duty says, "Freely forgive him." Sinful self says, "Retaliate." The maxim of the devil says, "Revenge is sweet;" and sinful self affirms the same. Revenge is self-indulgence—forgiveness, with our corrupt hearts, is self-denial. So also, in a different case, if we have injured another, reason, piety, conscience, all say, "Confess your fault." The evil heart says, "No, I cannot thus humble myself." Self-denial requires confession—self-indulgence resists it.
So again, the whole business of internal sanctification, in our present imperfect state, is a course of self-denial. We are to "mortify our members," to "crucify the flesh," to "keep under our body." All this implies and requires self-denial—for it is a resistance rather than a gratification of our sinful nature. Indeed, the whole course of the Christian life is one continued habit of self-denial, or the subjection of our sinful self to our renewed and holy self.
Self-denial requires often the sacrifice of personal and relative gratification for the benefit of others and the good of Christ's cause.
Mere catacombs filled with these lifeless forms
"Having the appearance of godliness, but denying
its power. (2 Timothy 3:5)
Are not the doctrines of the gospel calculated by their
nature, and intended by their design, to produce a spiritual
frame of mind? Ah! but how much of dull, dormant, dead
orthodoxy—is there in the bulk of modern professors! What
a discordance between their beliefs and their practice!
Ah, what are some churches—but mere catacombs filled
with these lifeless forms of Christian professors! I am
speaking of the bulk of professors, and of them I do not
hesitate for a moment to declare that there is an obvious
and lamentable deficiency of spirituality of mind. Their
affections are in a languid and lukewarm condition.
Sound doctrine, if it is destitute of spirituality and heavenly
mindedness—is but the lifeless statue of godliness.
Oh, professing Christians, without holy and heavenly affections,
what is your religion but a mere name? Attend then to the
exhortations of the apostle, and "set your affections on things
which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God."
Cultivate a spiritual frame; acquire habits of pious thinking and
feeling. Like the secret source of a spring of water, deep in the
earth, yet continually welling up to the surface, and gushing
out in sparkling ebullitions—let religion be in your soul, an
inward source and spring of living piety, which, by its own
force, is perpetually sending forth spiritual thoughts and
heavenly aspirations; so that a stream of devout thought
and feeling, deep and full, is more or less continually
flowing through your life.
Better than a ton of gold!
A grain of saving faith is better than a ton of gold,
for it secures an inheritance in all the unsearchable
riches of Christ, of grace, and of glory! It justifies,
sanctifies, and eternally saves!
Learn to think less and less of the wealth of this world,
and more and more of the unsearchable riches of Christ!
Lower the estimate which pride and vanity form of the
importance of worldly distinctions.
How dim, how worthless, does everything earthly
appear when seen in the sunlight of the cross!
It is by losing sight of Jesus, by living so far from
Him, by forgetting Him—that we let the world get
so much the upper hand of us.
We must meditate more upon the cross.
We must dwell more upon Calvary.
We must be more familiar with the crucified One.
"But as for me, I will never boast about anything
except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through
whom the world has been crucified to me, and I
to the world." (Galatians 6:14)
If there is one thing which is more suited to our condition,
and more prompted by our necessities than any other—it is
If there is one duty which is more frequently enjoined by
the precepts, or more beautifully enforced by the examples
of Scripture, than any other—it is prayer.
If there be one practice as to which the experience of all
good men of every age, every country, and every church,
has agreed—it is prayer.
If there be one thing which above all others decisively
marks the spirit of sincere and individual piety—it is prayer.
So that it may be safely affirmed, where the spirit of prayer
is low in the soul of an individual, in a country, an age, or a
church—whatever it may have, of morality, of ceremony, of
liberality—the spirit of piety is low also.
Every sincere act of adoration—increases our veneration
for God's glorious character.
Every confession of sin—deepens our penitence.
Every petition for a favor—cherishes a sense of dependence.
Every intercession for others—expands our philanthropy.
Every acknowledgment of a mercy—inflames our gratitude.
Instead of the church permeating the world with its
own spirit—it is receiving the spirit of the world into
itself. Instead of directing, controlling, and sanctifying
the spirit and ways of the age—it is itself directed,
controlled, and contaminated by them.
A dark sign
It will be a dark sign of the approach of an evil day,
when our churches in choosing their pastors shall be
guided rather by a regard to talent than to piety; by
a love of eloquence, rather than of the gospel.
The great object of life to many professing Christians, seems to
be to become rich. Their chief end does not appear to be so much
to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever—as to obtain and enjoy the
present world. Wealth is the center of their wishes—the invariable
tendency of their desires. Jehovah is the God of their creed, but
Mammon is the God of their hearts! They are devout adorers of
the God of wealth.
The way to win the ungodly to piety, is not by showing
them that their pleasures are ours—but that our pleasures
are infinitely superior to any which they know!
All their secularities and fashionable follies!
Two consequences result from the reception of unsuitable people
to church fellowship. They not only are confirmed in their false
views of their own case; but by their low state of pious feeling,
or total destitution of it, by their worldly-mindedness and laxity,
they corrupt others, and exert a deadening influence upon the
whole church! Their example is a source of corruption to very
many, who are allured by it into all their secularities and
fashionable follies. One family of such worldly and lukewarm
professors is often . . .
a grief to the pastor,
a lamentation to the spiritual part of the flock,
a snare to many of the less pious, and
a reproach to the church at large.
Too many of this description find their way, in these days of
easy profession, into all our churches. We need a deeper sort
of piety in our churches, a more realizing sense of . . .
the claims of Christ,
the value of the soul,
the misery of men without the Gospel, and
the great ends and obligations of the Christian profession!
Some very good people have erred here; they have taught, entreated, and prayed—and then wondered that their children did not become truly pious. But their excessive indulgence, their injudicious fondness, their utter neglect of all discipline, the relaxation of their authority, until the children have been taught to consider that they, and not their parents, were the most important people in the household.
But there is another thing to be observed, and that is the mischief of EXCESSIVE INDULGENCE. Read the history of Eli, as recorded by the pen of inspiration. The honors of the priesthood and of the magistracy lighted upon him. He was beloved and respected by the nation whose affairs he administered, and to all appearance seemed likely to finish a life of active duty, in the calm repose of an honored old age. But the evening of his life, at one time so calm and so bright, became suddenly overcast, and a storm arose which burst in fury upon his head, and dashed him to the ground by its dreadful thunder bolts. Whence did it arise? Let the words of the historian declare, "I have told him, said the Lord, that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile—and he restrained them not!" Poor old man, who can fail to sympathize with him under the terror of that dreadful sentence, which crushed his dearest hopes and beclouded all his prospects—but the sting, the venom of the sentence, was in the declaration that a criminal unfaithfulness on his part had brought upon his beloved sons both temporal and eternal ruin! All this destruction upon his sons, all this misery upon himself, was the consequence of weak and criminal parental indulgence!
Doubtless it began while they were yet children; their every wish and every whim were indulged, their foolish inclinations were gratified; he could never be persuaded that any germs of malignant passions lurked under appearances so playful and so lovely; he smiled at transgressions on which he ought to have frowned; and instead of endeavoring kindly but firmly to eradicate the first indications of pride, anger, ambition, deceit, self-will, and stubbornness—he considered they were but the wild flowers of spring, which would die by themselves as the summer advanced. The child grew in this hotbed of indulgence—into the boy; the boy into the youth; the youth into the young man; until habit had confirmed the vices of the child, and acquired a strength which not only now bid defiance to parental restraint—but laughed it to scorn.
Contemplate the poor old man, sitting by the way-side upon his bench, in silent despair, his heart torn with self-reproach, listening with sad presages for tidings from the field of conflict. At length the messenger arrives, the doleful news is told. The ark of God is taken, and his sons Hophni and Phinehas are slain! His aged heart is broken, and he and his whole house are crushed at once under that one sin—the excessive weakness and wickedness of a false and foolish parental indulgence!
Parents, and especially mothers, look at this picture and tremble—contemplate this sad scene, and learn the necessity of judicious, affectionate, firm, and persevering discipline!
"Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
Parents! you are always educating your children for good
—or for evil. Not only by what you say—but by what you
do! Not only by what you intend—but by what you are!
You yourself are one constant lesson which their eyes are
observing, and which their hearts are receiving. Influence,
power, impulse, are ever going out from you—take care
then how you act! See the immense importance of parental
example. What example is so powerful as that of a parent?
It is one of the first things which a child observes; it is that
which is most constantly before his eyes, and it is that which
his very relationship inclines him most attentively to respect,
and most assiduously to copy. Vain, worse than useless, is
biblical instruction which is not followed up by godly example.
Good advice, when not illustrated by good conduct, inspires
disgust. There are multitudes of parents to whom I would
deliberately give the counsel never to say one syllable to
their children on the subject of religion—unless they enforce
what they say by a better example. Silence does infinitely
less mischief than the most elaborate instruction—which is
all counteracted by inconsistent conduct!
Would you see the result of parental misconduct—look into
the family of David. Eminent as he was for the spirit of
devotion, sweet as were the strains which flowed from his
inspired heart, and attached as he was to the worship of
the sanctuary—yet what foul blots rested upon his character,
and what dreadful trials did he endure in his family! What
profligate creatures were his sons! And who can tell how
much the apostasy of Solomon was to be traced up to the
recollection of parental example?
Parents, beware, I beseech you, how you, act! O let your
children see piety in all its sincerity, power, beauty, and
Rouse, Christian professors, from your slumbers
and your dreams! Multitudes of you are perishing in
your sins—you are going down to the pit with a lie in
your right hand! Your profession alone will not save
you, and that is all that some of you have to depend
upon. There are millions of professors of religion in
the bottomless pit, who while they lived brought no
scandal upon religion by immorality. But the life of
God was not in their souls, they had a name to live
—but were dead! They looked around upon the low
standards of the day in which they lived, instead of
studying the Bible for their standard of piety; and
went to the judgment of God, saying, "Lord, Lord,
have we not been called by Your name?" and then
they met with the dreadful rebuff and rejection,
"I never knew you, depart from Me!"
We live in a busy age, when Christians find little time for
private prayer, reading the Scriptures, and meditation.
Perhaps there was never so little private prayer among
professors as there is now. A few hasty expressions or a
few broken thoughts, poured out without solemnity or
without coherence, or else a short form learned by rote,
and repeated at night or morning, or perhaps both,
constitutes, it is to be feared, all the private prayer
which some offer to God.
Closet prayer means a person's selecting some suitable
time and place to be alone with God, to pour out into
His ear with freedom and enlargement, all the cares,
the sorrows, the desires, and the sins of a burdened
heart and a troubled conscience. It signifies the act
of a child going to commune with his Divine Parent,
to give utterance to the expressions of his adoring
gratitude, praise, and love. It is but too obvious that
there is comparatively little of such closet exercises in
this day of engrossing worldliness. What spirituality,
what heavenly-mindedness, can you expect in the
habitual neglect of the closet?
If asked to point out the specific and prevailing sin of the
church in the present day, I cannot hesitate to reply—a
prevailing worldliness of mind, heart, and conduct. The
church is fearfully secularized in the spirit and temper
of her members. The love of the world is become the
master-passion, before which other and holier affections
have grown dim and weak.
The determination, as well as the concern, to be rich, has
crept into the church! Those who profess to have overcome
the world by faith, appear almost as eager as others, in all
schemes for getting wealth, and by almost any means.
This worldly spirit is also seen in the general habits
and tastes of professing Christians.
Their style of living,
their conversation—evince . . .
a conformity to the world,
a minding of earthly things,
a disposition to adapt themselves to the world around,
a desire to seek their happiness from objects of sense,
rather than from those of faith—which proves the extent
to which a secular worldly spirit is dominating the spirit
of piety in the church.
I am the servant of Christ
Are you taken up with getting and enjoying
wealth, grandeur, and worldly ease?
How deeply are the great bulk of professing
Christians sunk in the love and pursuit of the
world—and how almost entirely occupied by
its cares or its enjoyments! They are absorbed
in seeking selfishness, avarice, worldliness,
indolence and luxuriousness.
I am not to consider myself as sent into the
world merely to get wealth, and enjoy myself.
I am the servant of Christ, and must do my
Master's work. I am bought with a price, and
am not my own, and must yield myself up
to my Divine owner.
Worth nothing in themselves
True religion is not merely an outward observance of
ceremonies, nor an attendance upon ordinances; these
things are worth nothing in themselves—and are
not acceptable to God. They are profitable only as they
spring from the inward principle of a renewed, holy,
and humble mind.
True religion begins in deep conviction of sin, a sense
of our fallen and ruined state as exposed to the wrath
of God; and then goes on in a simple faith in the Gospel,
leading to an entire, thankful, and peace-giving
dependence on the blood and righteousness of Christ
for acceptance with God.
From this faith there arises love to God, to His people,
to His ways, and to holiness. In proportion as faith is felt,
it makes its possessor humble, meek, and benevolent;
full of pity for man and zeal for the glory of God.
Oh, where is the compassion for souls?
"For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the
whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall
a man give in exchange for his soul?" Mark 8:36-37
Nothing can be more momentous than eternity!
Ponder the worth of a soul! Weigh the solemn
significance of that word, damnation! Measure,
if you can, the height of salvation!
What would you not do—to save your children
from falling into the water or the fire? Oh, think
of the bottomless pit—and the fire which is never
quenched! Take a proper aim in all you do. Look
as high as heaven, as deep as to the mouth of
hell, and as far as eternity!
The world is perishing around us! Sinners are going
down to the pit before our eyes! Immortal souls by
countless millions are crowding to the regions of
How little are we affected by the terrific scene! How
little are we pierced by a sense of the ignorance, sin
and misery which appeal to our very senses! Oh,
where is the compassion for souls?
It is a distressing spectacle in such a world as ours,
where evil of every kind so much abounds—to observe
the disgusting and odious selfishness of many of the
rich, who are wholly taken up with their own luxurious
gratification, as if born only to pamper their appetites
and indulge their tastes—without bestowing a thought
or a care upon the misery which prevails around them.
True religion makes you holy, kind, gentle,
good-tempered and happy.
The whole system of the gospel is a system of love,
God is love. Redemption is a manifestation of His love.
Christ is love incarnate. His religion is love. All who
make a profession of such a religion should therefore
be distinguished by its characteristic feature—and
shine forth in the mild beauty of holy love.
Keep your heart!
"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the
wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:2
"I the Lord am the searcher of the heart, the tester of the
thoughts, so that I may give to every man the reward of
his ways, in keeping with the fruit of his doings." Jer. 17:10
It is the heart which is the constant object of divine notice
and omniscient scrutiny. Man looks at the conduct—and
conjectures the motive from the action. God looks at the
heart—and determines the action by the motive. What our
heart is—that are we in the judgment of the All-wise. The
heart influences the conduct—"for out of it is the wellspring
of life." As in the physical body, the heart is the fountain of
that vital fluid which according as it is healthy or impure,
carries vigor or feebleness, pain or ease, activity or torpor
to the whole body—so is it also in the spiritual frame. Let
us keep the heart—and the heart will keep the life.
Why are Christians not more attentive to this duty? In some
cases, there is too little real concern about spiritual things,
too much lukewarmness of soul, too much absorption of mind
in secular concerns. Then, also, there is real difficulty in heart
work—it requires painstaking, retirement, resistance of the
encroachments of the world. Many are afraid to have dealings
with the heart. A careful examination would discover much
that is evil, and much that they would rather not know, and
which they would not like to put away.
And where are they now?
My dear children, I would think it probable that during my
fifty year pastorate here, nearly 20,000 children have been
in our Sunday schools. And where are they now? Many
are in eternity! Some, we hope, in heaven—others, we fear,
During my pastorate I have witnessed multitudes of children
that have grown up to be their parents' comfort and joy; and
others breaking their parents' heart by their misconduct, and
bringing down their grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. To
which of these classes do you belong?
Imagine what would be the results
Imagine what would be the results, if the Bible
were circulated through the whole earth, its dictates
everywhere obeyed, and its spirit generally imbibed.
There would neither be tyranny in the prince, nor
rebellion in the subject; there would be neither fraud
nor violence, neither injustice nor oppression, neither
war nor bloodshed.
In short, if the Bible were universally circulated, believed
and obeyed—every evil that renders man a foe to others
and himself would be removed—and the whole family
upon earth harmonized into order and happiness.
Sickness and disease
Christians, like others, are exposed to the attacks of
sickness and disease. "Wearisome nights, and months
of vanity, are appointed to them." But their religion
follows them into the sick chamber, and is their nurse,
their companion, and their comforter—giving patience
in the day, and songs even in the night. How soothing
are its consolations, how pleasant are its reflections,
how bright are its anticipations! It speaks to the sufferers
of the sources of their sorrows, and tells them that they all
proceed from their Father in heaven! It reminds them of . . .
His unerring wisdom,
His infinite love,
His unfailing fidelity,
His gracious presence in the scene of woe,
His merciful design in every chastisement of His hand,
the blissful outcome in which He will cause all to terminate.
They can bear confinement, for God is with them. Their
hours are not made heavy and irksome by the recollection
of the mirthful scenes from which they are cut off, and the
amusements to which they have no longer access. Their
entertainment has come with them; they have brought the
cup of their pleasure with them, and they can drink it amidst
the languor of disease, as a refreshing cordial, or an
The essence of heaven
This is heaven . . .
perfect knowledge of God,
perfect enjoyment of His favor,
perfect love of His infinite excellences,
perfect obedience to His commands,
perfect conformity to His image,
all this by a soul refined in its tastes,
enlarged in its capacity, and immortal
in its duration!
What other sources of enjoyment will be open to
the blessed in heaven, it is not for us now to know,
or even to conjecture; doubtless there are some
which it is impossible for us to understand. But the
fountain of delight will be God, and the essence of
heaven is the enjoyment of His love. He is the first
truth, and the chief good; beyond which nothing
higher remains to be known, nothing richer to be
The Gospel is the grand universal remedy
—the comforter of sinful and sorrowful man.
Can a man really believe . . .
that God loves him,
that the Eternal is favorably disposed towards him,
that all his sins are pardoned,
that heaven secured to him,
and not be glad, grateful, and happy?
This is a fearful picture!
Fearful is the death of the worldling! Oh, from what he departs—and to what he goes! What a parting! To leave all he loved and admired—and go to his eternal destiny! To have acquired nothing, and saved nothing—but what he can no longer keep! After crossing the dark waters of death, he will be set ashore in a vast and black eternity, naked and destitute, with nothing to relieve, support, or comfort him! And who shall describe the scene that follows? It is done by one whose solemn pencil was guided by an unerring hand.
"There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was left at his gate. He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man's table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hell, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 'Father Abraham!' he called out, 'Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!' " (Luke 16:19-24)
This is a fearful picture! Of what?
An infidel? No!
An immoral and profligate man? No!
A bloody tyrant? No!
A remorseless oppressor of the poor? No!
This is a picture of a worldling! Of a man whose sin was that he sought his happiness entirely from earthly sources. It was not our Lord's intention to describe a man of ill-gotten wealth, but one whose whole happiness was derived from his wealth—one who cared for nothing but what he saw, and tasted, and handled, and felt—who had what he sought, and then, having passed his time in a life of earthly gratification, went away to spend his eternity in a state of banishment from that God whose favor was never, in his estimation, essential to his happiness.
Such a termination of his sensual course is just what the worldling might expect and ought to expect; for if he slighted God's favor, and did not even seek for it; if he made himself, or strove to make himself, happy without it; if he valued everything more than God, and set his wealth, or rank, or fame, or pleasure, above God's love; if he cared not for salvation, and thought heaven of such little consequence, as not to be worth his pursuit; has he any reason to complain of being denied that which he never asked for, and which he is not fit for? In banishing such a man from heaven, God does but give him his choice. God does but leave him to himself. There ends the earthly course, and begins the eternal one—of him who seeks for happiness in earthly vanities.
Many are saying, "Who can show us any good?"
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 had proved this present
world to be vanity.
In some cases, abundance and unobstructed enjoyment
produce boredom. 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 him 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!
Many are saying, "Who can show us any good?" Psalm 4:6
What is it, that you are looking to and depending upon for happiness? Is HEALTH your idol, and the source of your happiness? How soon may we be smitten with disease—and doomed to wearisome nights and months of vanity in the chamber of sickness. Will riches smooth the pillow of sickness? Will the counting money or the surveying estates, when it can be done only in imagination, enchant the sleepless hours, and cheer the long sad days of ceaseless pain? Will the recollection of the parties you have attended, the pleasures you have enjoyed but cannot any longer enjoy—enliven the gloom of the solitary chamber? Will the sound of carriages at midnight, taking the votaries of pleasure to or from the scenes of fashionable resort, impart to your feverish frame any relief, or to your distressed mind any comfort? Oh, what, in that long, dark season of trial which may be coming upon you, will the pleasures and possessions of earth do for you?
What is it, that you are looking to and depending upon for happiness? Is WEALTH your idol, and the source of your happiness? How justly is it called in Scripture, "uncertain riches!" and "deceitful mammon!" "Riches," said the wise man, "make to themselves wings and fly away as an eagle towards heaven." And is it not most strange folly to stake your happiness on that which, like an uncaged bird, may at any moment be upon the wing, and soaring where we cannot follow? What changes have we witnessed in the circumstances of men; what rapid falls from wealth to poverty! How many do we know who, by those vicissitudes which are ever going on in this commercial country, and in this speculating age, have descended from the sunny heights of prosperity—to dwell the remainder of their days in the gloomy valley of poverty below! This may be your case. Your treasure, like the volatile quicksilver, may slip through your fingers when you think you hold it firmest. What will you do for comfort then? Your friends, like summer birds, will migrate when your winter has come upon you! You will no longer be able to have parties—and who invites the child of misfortune to theirs? Those who once shared your hospitalities, will forget you in the season of your humiliation, for your presence will no longer grace their circle. What, then, will you do, when the world frowns—and you have no one else to smile upon you?
What is it, that you are looking to and depending upon for happiness? Is PLEASURE your idol, and the source of your happiness? How soon may you be unfitted by sickness or change of circumstances for this, and have the sweet and intoxicating cup dashed from your lips! How soon may your place be vacant at the resort of the mirthful and the fashionable! And then with what melancholy feelings will you contrast the amusements of the ball-room, the concert, or the party—with the abode of poverty or disease!
What is it, that you are looking to and depending upon for happiness? Are FRIENDS your idol, and the source of your happiness? Alas! alas! how soon may 'the spoiler' enter your earthly paradise, and convert that joyous scene into a desert, by the death of the most endeared objects of your affection! What! depend for your supreme felicity on the frail continuance of a beating pulse! Death enters, not only into the scenes of discord and strife, but also into those of the purest love and sweetest harmony—and, disregarding the entreaties of marital or parental love, bears off the object to which, more than all the universe besides, you looked for your bliss!
Where, then, will you find satisfaction? The finite has failed—and the infinite God has not been sought! The human and earthly has been taken away—and the divine and heavenly has not been acquired. That one death has covered earth with sackcloth, and has thrown a pall over all that it contains. Is happiness, then, to be found amidst such uncertainties?
"The meekness and gentleness of Christ"
2 Corinthians 10:1
Our Christian profession involves in it far more than an
orthodox creed, a regular attendance upon religious
ordinances, and an abstinence from gross immorality.
It involves the image of Jesus, yes His very mind and
spirit. The meekness and gentleness of Christ are to
be our badge of distinction, the token of our submission
to His authority, and the evidence of our sincerity.
We must mortify our pride, curb our rashness, allay
the heat of anger, and extinguish resentment. We
should be discreet, mild, and courteous, in all our
language and conduct, weighing the import of
words before we utter them, and calculating the
consequences of actions before we perform them.
One of the most difficult duties which ever our
proud hearts have to perform, is to say, "I have
done wrong, forgive me."
The true spirit of Christianity
Quarrels among Christians! Is there not a contradiction
here? Do Christians ever quarrel with one another? Does
not Christianity, where it is really possessed and felt in its
proper influence, imply all that is loving, and kind, and
peaceable? Certainly! And if every professor of it really
lived under its influence, there would be no such thing
as brother trespassing against brother. Christianity is,
in every aspect of it—a religion of love.
God is love.
Christ is love.
The law is love.
The gospel is love.
Heaven is love.
That one word "love," comprehends everything.
Perfect love not only casts out fear, but malice. In
heaven there will be no quarreling, because every
one of its inhabitants is perfect in love. The design
of Christianity is not only to conduct us to heaven,
but to fit us for it—and it does this by imparting to
us the spirit of love. The true spirit of Christianity
is that which the apostle has, with such exquisite
beauty, described in the thirteenth chapter of the
first epistle to the Corinthians.
This heavenly exotic
The church of God in general has yet failed to exhibit
in any considerable and attractive prominence, that
spirit of holy love, by which it was intended by its
Divine Founder to be characterized. The 'wolf and
the serpent' are too often to be seen, where only
the 'lamb and the dove' should be found.
Christianity has not yet left the impression of its
exceeding loveliness, as deeply stamped as it should
be on the characters of its professors. Of all its graces,
none is so faintly and imperfectly traced as Christian
love. It has been found more easy, at any rate more
common, to subdue the lustful disposition, than the
irascible disposition. And yet it is as much the intention
of Christ, that His people should be distinguished by
meekness and gentleness—as it is by purity, justice
Love is pre-eminently the Christian grace. Equity,
chastity, and veracity, have been found in the list
of heathen virtues—but not charity. These other
virtues have sometimes "shed their fragrance on
the desert air" of paganism. But where has love
been found—except in the garden of the Lord?
Alas, that even there this plant of Paradise, this
heavenly exotic, should so often look shriveled
and worm-eaten; and thus fail to procure for its
Divine Curator all the praise it should, and in its
more flourishing condition would do. My concern
is that Christian love should be cultivated with more
care, and be seen with admiration in healthful vigor
and in beauty.
It is a pity
We pray for the conversion of our children. What
fervent petitions are breathed out for them! Well,
and how are these prayers followed up? By the
serious, regular, and devout maintenance of family
prayer? By clear instruction, affectionate counsels,
faithful warning, and above all, a consistent exhibition
of the beauties of holiness in ourselves? Do our children
see in us, and hear from us, all that can recommend
true religion, and that is calculated to win them to piety?
Or, on the contrary, do they not place our conduct and
our prayers in contrast, and think, if they do not say,
that it is a pity their father does not act more as he
There is often a shocking inconsistency between
our prayers, and our actions.
The religion of some people
True religion is life—and it is a vigorous life—not
sickly, declining life.
The religion of some people is just enough to make
them miserable. It spoils them for the world, without
fitting them for the church. Their religious profession
is an encumbrance upon them, and is in the way of
their worldly enjoyment. These are the men who are
so taken up with the world, that they do not desire
the joy of true religion, and are unwilling to cast out
a single earthly care or enjoyment, though it were to
make way for all the consolations of the Spirit!
Oh! how numerous are the machinations of Satan to
keep God's people from being happy—when he cannot
keep them from being holy! How numerous and how
subtle are the methods by which he causes the children
of light to walk in darkness!
Many suppose that spiritual joy means something
mystic, ecstatic, almost seraphic. They are not
contented with the calm, sweet, serene enjoyment
Spiritual joy has nothing to do with frivolity,
merriment and lightness.
Nothing spectral in appearance,
nor sepulchral in tone,
nor ascetic in habit,
nor cynical in spirit,
should characterize a Christian.
He is a child of light, and should live, and act, and
speak as such. He should be like one bending his way
back to paradise, and bearing the trials of earth, with
the recollection of his happy destiny, and the prospect
of his future glory! He should have something of the
bliss of heaven—and much of its seriousness too.
By spiritual joy, I mean the joy produced by true
religion. It is that holy peace which is the result of
divine truth . . .
It is not mere exhilaration of the animal spirits,
the joyousness produced by good health, worldly
prosperity, friendship, or gratification of taste.
It is true, that his spiritual delight may blend itself, and
does, with his more common pleasures—sweetening,
sanctifying, and elevating them all—but still it is of a
different kind. It is the joy of faith, of hope, of love.
It is joy in God, in Christ, in holiness, in heaven.
Spiritual joy is ordinarily a calm, unruffled feeling; a
composed and serene state of mind. It is a tranquil
river which flows through the soul, noiseless in
proportion as it is deep. Spiritual joy is a sweet rest,
diffusing a feeling of joyous repose over the heart.
The springs of true happiness
The springs of true happiness gush out from the
foot of the cross! But how little do many who profess
to have drank the living water, appear as if they had
been at the crystal stream, and were satisfied with it!
Mere 'religious professors' do not desire this spiritual joy.
They certainly would have some kind of enjoyment; they
desire to be gratified. But it is only the joy . . .
of success in business,
of a comfortable home, and
a quiet fire-side that they long for.
They do not desire . . .
the peace of believing,
the pleasure of communing with God,
the delight of holiness and hope,
the felicity of a sense of pardoned sin,
the gratification arising from the exercises of devotion.