JEWELS from JAMES
(Choice devotional selections from
the works of John Angell James)
We must learn it by painful experience!
The death of Christian friends should impress us with, even
as it shows us—the vanity of the world. All that poetry ever
wrote, even the most mournful, beautiful, and pensive of its
strains—all that philosophy ever argued—all that morality ever
taught, conveys no such view, and is calculated to produce
no such impressions, of the emptiness of the world—as the
desolate chamber, the vacant place, the deserted chair, the
picture—of some dear object of our heart's affection!
It is at the tomb of that loved, lost friend, the world stands
stripped of its false disguise, and is presented to us as a
shadow! Gloom now covers everything. Scenes that once
pleased, please no more. Favorite walks are shunned, or
re-trodden only to remind us of the dear companion that
once shared their beauties with us. Seasons return, but
not to bring with them the delights with which the presence
of one beloved object associates them. We go about in the
bitterness of our spirit, crying, "Vanity of vanity—all is vanity
and vexation of spirit!" We are ready to sigh for death to
relieve us from the tedium of existence, and the sense of
Be it so! It is all true! The world is empty! And it was intended
by God that it should be! The world contains no satisfying bliss!
It is a cistern, a broken cistern, which can hold no water. God
told us so, but we would not learn this by His word—so now
we must learn it by painful experience! If we cannot be
taught by 'faith', since we must learn—we are in mercy taught
by 'feeling' it to be empty!
Oh let us go to the fountain that is full, flowing, open! Let
us go to the fountain of living waters! If there is emptiness,
nothingness, in the world—there is fullness in God! Is there
enough in Him to satisfy millions of millions, and not enough
to satisfy us? Let us crucify the world. There is more
happiness in a crucified world, than in an idolized one!
If our hearts cannot die to the world anywhere else—let
them be crucified at the tomb of those we love!
The plough and the harrow
In some people we discover a striking and beautiful
mellowness of character, as the result of God's
chastening hand. The roughness, harshness,
arrogance, and haughtiness of their conduct, which
once rendered them annoying and offensive, are
scraped off—and a sweet gentleness, humility,
meekness, and softness of manner, and a tenderness
of spirit have come in their place. There is now . . .
a gentleness in their speech,
a mildness in their look, and
a kindliness and cautiousness in their manner,
which tell us how the haughty spirit has been broken,
and the proud loftiness of their mind has been brought
down. An unusual loveliness has been spread over their
character, a holy amiableness has been infused into their
temper, and a stubborn self-will has yielded to a kind
consideration of the wishes and feelings of others;
which convince all around them, how much the Spirit
of God has done in them, and for them, by the afflictions
they have endured. How the plough and the harrow
have broken up the hard soil, and pulverized the rough
clods of their stubborn nature, and prepared it for the
growth of the precious seed of the kingdom.
"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)
These predominant sins
Almost all of us have 'favorite pet sins'—which there is not
ordinarily that concern and labor for putting them away,
which there should be. They are indulged, instead of being
resisted. Thus they gain strength by such indulgence, and
most sadly disfigure our character and disturb our spiritual
Prosperity, like sunshine upon weeds, often causes them to
grow rapidly! And then God in great faithfulness, love and
mercy sends adversity, like frost, to kill them. Upon a bed of
sickness, and in other severe trials—they are often remembered,
understood, and seen in all their sinfulness. They are then
lamented, confessed, and mortified.
Nothing can be a darker sign than for a professor's conscience
to be so dull and drowsy during a time of trial, as to leave him
unadmonished respecting these predominant sins.
It is sometimes a blessed fruit of tribulation, that these
predominant sins have been weakened, if not eradicated.
It is worth any amount of suffering to secure this result.
Happy the Christian who comes out of the furnace, with
his dross removed by the fire! No matter what he has lost
—he has gained freedom from these inward enemies of
his peace and purity.
We all know more than we do; and we should be
more solicitous to reduce to practice what we already
know, than to acquire still more of 'mere theory'.
One characteristic of Whitefield's manner which deserves particular attention, was his solemnity. He never degraded the pulpit by low humor and low wit; abounding in anecdote—but he was uniformly solemn. His deep devotional spirit contributed largely to this, for his piety was the inward fire which supplied the ardor of his manner.
He was eminently a man of prayer; and had he been less prayerful, he would also have been less powerful. He came into the pulpit from the closet where he had been communing with God, and could no more be trifling, merry, or humorous at such a time, than could Moses when he came down from the fiery mount to the people! Happily the age and taste for pulpit buffoonery is gone, I hope never to return.
It was the stamp and impress of eternity upon his preaching that gave Whitfield such power. He spoke like a man who stood upon the borders of the unseen world, alternately enrapt in ecstasy as he gazed upon the felicities of heaven; and convulsed with terror as he heard the howlings of the damned, and saw the smoke of their torment ascending from the pit forever and ever. His maxim was to preach for eternity. He said if ministers preached for eternity they would act the part of true Christian orators.
We need pastors imbued with his spirit, his piety, his dependence upon the Spirit of God, his love for souls, his devotedness, and his earnestness!
And tell me, my brethren, what are all the prettinesses, the beauties, or even sublimities of human eloquence; what are all the similes, metaphors, and other garniture of rhetoric which many in this day are aiming at, to move, and bow, and conquer the human soul—compared with "the powers of the world to come?"
The great moral magnet
"As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will
draw all people to Myself." (John 12:32)
So said the Savior of men. The cross is for all ages and
all countries the great moral magnet to draw men . . .
from barbarism to civilization,
from sin to holiness,
from misery to happiness,
and from earth to heaven!
"One thing I do!" Philippians 3:13
Human life is so short, and the faculties of man are so limited,
that he who would do some great thing, must do but one; and
must do that one with such a concentration of his forces, as, to
idle spectators who live only to amuse themselves, looks like
enthusiasm, and almost draws upon him the charge of fanaticism.
It is never to be forgotten, amidst all the fluctuations
of opinion, all the vicissitudes of earthly affairs, and even
the advance of civilization, science, and social improvement
—that human nature, in its spiritual condition and its relation
to God, remains unchanged. The lapse of ages will never
improve our natural corruption, nor will the progress of
science and advance of civilization eradicate it. Man as he
is born into the world in sin, and grows up in it, will still,
as ever, need both the redemption and the regeneration
of the gospel of Christ.
The great stream of the population is dashing in one
mighty cataract over the precipice of impenitence and
unbelief—into the dreadful gulf below!
Oh wonderful, ineffable, inconceivable exchange!
The SUDDEN DEATH of a real Christian, is an
unspeakable blessing. Such a one is spared . . . .
the languors of sickness,
the racking pain,
the anguish sometimes almost intolerable,
and all the other terrible harbingers of death protracted
through wearisome nights and months of vanity! To be
exempt from the heart-rending pangs of separation at
the last faltering adieu; to be saved from those gloomy
apprehensions which sometimes arise in the minds of the
strongest and holiest of believers when contemplating
the portals of the tomb; to be carried through the iron
gates of death before we knew we were drawing near
to them; to wake up in a moment, as from a dream, at
the sound of the seraphim's song—and exchange in an
instant of time the sights of earthly objects for the
glorious realities of heaven—and the society of friends
below for the innumerable company of angels; to find
ourselves suddenly in the presence of God and the Lamb,
and see the smile of welcome upon the countenance of
the Savior—and with a burst of astonishment and
gratitude to exclaim,
"And is this heaven? and am I there?
How short the road! How swift the flight!"
Oh wonderful, ineffable, inconceivable exchange!
"In vain our fancy strives to paint
The moment after death,
The glories that surround the saint,
When he resigns his breath!
"Thus much, and this is all we know—
They are completely blessed,
Are done with sin, and care, and woe,
And with their Savior rest!"
Sudden death to a real Christian—is one mighty bound
from earth to heaven! Sudden death to an unconverted
sinner—is one dreadful stumble into hell. Oh, unutterable
horror—to be surprised, overwhelmed, confounded in a
moment—by exchanging the pleasures, the friends, the
possessions, the prospects of earth—for those doleful
shades, where peace and hope can never dwell.
You, too, may die suddenly. Are you ready, quite prepared
by repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,
and a holy life—for death—for speedy death—for sudden
death? Prepare to meet your God! Prepare for death, for
judgment and eternity! Prepare! Prepare!
You will certainly die!
"But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you
will certainly die!" (Genesis 2:17)
Every dying groan,
every tolling death-bell,
every funeral procession,
every opened grave,
proclaims the evil of sin, and is a warning against it!
"For the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23)
Death is the dreadful gate, the dark passage to eternity!
True believers pass through this solemn scene uttering
the song of triumph, "Thanks be to God, who gives us
the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Old age, apart from moral excellence, is an object of
detestation and loathing. A wicked old man is the most
shocking spectacle upon earth—with the exception of
a wicked old minister!
"Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier"
Some people seek the pastoral ministry, as an office which
provides a good income—while they disregard all its duties
and its obligations. Such doubtless there are, men who seek
the ministry for the indulgence of a literary taste, or for the
gratification of a propensity to idleness. It is too true that all
sections of the church are cursed with some ministers of this
description, who are each looking for his gain. "His watchmen
are blind, all of them, they know nothing; all of them are dumb
dogs, they cannot bark; they dream, lie down, and love to sleep.
These dogs have fierce appetites; they never have enough. And
they are shepherds who have no discernment; all of them turn
to their own way, every last one for his own gain." Is. 56:10-11
But look at the true, the good, the faithful minister,
as described in Scripture. He is . . .
all terms that employ toil, vigilance, effort, perseverance,
and enduring self-denial. There are some men, whose lives
and exertions justify the employment of such figures of
speech. They do labor . . .
in the closet by wrestling supplication;
in the study by intense application;
in the pulpit by earnest preaching;
in the church by pastoral oversight;
in the houses by counsel, reproof, and warning;
by their pens as well as their tongues;
on week days and on Sundays;
at home and abroad.
The faithful minister must be classed among those who
have no leisure. As he maintains a holy, blameless and
consistent life, many are . . .
impressed by his example,
enriched by his beneficence,
blessed by his prayers, and
instructed by his principles.
Truth and love are the two most powerful things
in the universe! It is by the 'silken cord of love',
united with the 'golden thread of truth', that the
church must draw the world to Christ.
The Bible is the central luminary around which all true
Christians revolve, in nearer or remoter orbits, reflecting
the splendor of its beams, and governed by the power of
See how well the world goes on without them!
(John Angell James, "The London Missionary Society" 1849)
Christ can do much by the weakest instrument; and He can do altogether without the strongest. He that could do without apostles and prophets, after he had removed them by death, can dispense with us! This should check the inflation of some proud men's minds, and repress that overweening conceit by which they destroy in part their own usefulness.
It would surprise and mortify many, could they come out of their graves ten years after they had entered them, and still retained the ideas they once entertained of their own importance—to see how well the world goes on without them!
If the death of ordinary individuals be but as the casting of a pebble from the seashore into the ocean, which is neither missed from the one nor sensibly gained by the other; the death of the more extraordinary ones is but as the sinking of a larger rock into the abyss beneath—it makes at the time a rumbling noise and a great splash; but the wave which it raises soon subsides into a ripple, the ripple itself as soon sinks to a placid level, the tide flows, ships pass, commerce goes on, and shore and ocean appear just as they did before the disruption!
Ah! my brethren, let us seek to have our record in heaven, where it will be engraved in characters which will stand forever on the Rock of Ages! For it will soon be effaced here on earth, where it is only as a footprint upon the sand, which the next wave will speedily and entirely obliterate forever!
A censurable, disgraceful, and destructive habit!
"That you not become slothful, but imitators of those who
through faith and patience are inheriting the promises."
Slothfulness, in every aspect in which it can be viewed, and in
every relation to human affairs, is a censurable, disgraceful,
and destructive habit! With that incalculable source of energy
which every rational and healthy mind carries about within itself,
and with the many occasions and demands for its exercise, which
in this busy world surround us—it is a sin and a shame for any
man to "stand idle all the day long."
Indolence, in reference to the concerns of this world, is bad
enough. But where shall we find language sufficiently strong to
describe the present guilt and future misery of indolence and
sloth in reference to the soul and the soul's concerns? Of all
the instances of folly, sin, and misery, which the inhabitants
of earth present, the most astounding must be the sight of an
impenitent sinner, slumbering in careless security over the
over the bottomless pit!
One would be led to imagine, did not experience testify to the
contrary, that there is enough in that one word 'eternity' to
rouse all men to the most intense concern, and to the most
Could that happy spirit who has lately left our world be
permitted to address you from her throne of glory, with
what an emphasis would she say, "Beloved friends, with
whom on earth I took sweet counsel, and walked to the
house of God in company, could you conceive of but a
thousandth part of the glory which now surrounds me,
you would account that world which so sinfully engrosses
your attention scarcely worth a passing glance, or a
momentary thought! Do not be slothful, when heaven
or hell hangs upon your life! Do not be slothful, when
eternity is before you! Do not be slothful, when infinite
joy, or endless woe, attends on every breath!"
How perilous to yourselves,
how corrupting to others,
how discreditable to religion,
how displeasing to Christ,
is slothfulness in the Christian profession!
The highest class in the school of Christ
"So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who
through faith and patience inherit the promises." Heb. 6:12
By patience, we mean a quiet waiting, amidst sufferings
and sorrows—for the heavenly kingdom. Patience is an
uncomplaining willingness to remain any length of time,
and amidst any tribulation, for the glory to be revealed.
No circumstances of life, (and let the sufferer hear and drink
in the soul-comforting thought,) no circumstances of life seem
to ripen the Christian so fast or so perfectly for heaven—as the
experience of sorrow and affliction. Oh! then let our comforts
go, then let our eyes weep, then let our hearts bleed—if our
Father is thus ripening us for everlasting fruition and
"But patience must do its complete work, so that you may
be mature and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:4)
James intimates, that when we are enabled to exercise the
grace of patience, we have reached the highest class in the
school of Christ, have nothing more to learn upon earth, and
are ready and fit to depart, and to be with Jesus—and have
then obtained as much grace as can be possessed, short of
Patience, then, sufferer, patience! The first moment, and the
first glance of heaven will be an infinite recompense for all you
suffer—for all you lose on earth! If every step on earth is a step
of suffering—then let each be a step of patience!
Weep you may—murmur you must not.
Nature may pay the tribute of a groan—but grace must
pay it with a smile.
The shower of your tears may fall—but in the rays of the
Sun of Righteousness must reflect the beauteous rainbow
of the promise.
Christian, you make your way to glory along the path of
patient resignation, which, if it is like the Valley of Weeping,
and has its briars and its thorns—has also its refreshing
rain-pools of heavenly consolation!
The base cares and the petty enjoyments
of the present world
Sin is raging all around us!
Satan is busy in the work of destruction!
Men are dying!
Souls are every moment departing into eternity!
Hell is enlarging her mouth, and multitudes are
continually descending to torments which knows
no mitigation and no end!
Heaven expanding above us!
Hell yawning beneath us!
Eternity opening before us!
How astounding is it sometimes to ourselves, that,
favored with a certain, though distant, view of the
celestial city, living almost within the sight of its
glories and the sound of its music, the base cares
and the petty enjoyments of the present world
should have so much power over us, as to retard us
in our heavenward course, and make us negligent
and indolent, heedless and forgetful.
Time is short, life uncertain, death at hand, and
immortality is about to swallow up our existence
in eternal life—or eternal death!
Love of deception
They are a rebellious people, deceptive children, children who do not obey the Lord's instruction. They say to the seers, "Do not see," and to the prophets, "Do not prophesy the truth to us. Tell us flattering things! Prophesy illusions! Get out of the way! Leave the pathway. Rid us of the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 30:9-11)
A wish to be deceived is a state of mind by no means uncommon. This was the case with the Jews at the time when this prophecy was delivered. Their national crimes were bringing destruction nearer and nearer. Their political horizon was perpetually becoming darker, and signs of the accumulating vengeance of Heaven were multiplying around them. The prophets, bearing the burden of the Lord, represented him as a holy Being, whom their transgressions insulted, and whose justice must necessarily be roused to avenge wrong. One denunciation followed another, until the people, alike unwilling to be reformed and to hear of the punishment which would come upon them for their impenitence, were anxious to change the tone of the prophets' faithful ministrations. They could not bear the pungent warnings of those holy men; they trembled under the solemn and impassioned appeals of Isaiah and his fellow-prophets, and endeavored, either by threats to silence, or by bribes to corrupt, the oracles of heaven.
The holiness of God was a subject peculiarly offensive to them—hence the exclamation, "Rid us of the Holy One of Israel!" They wanted to hear only of his mercy. They would have disrobed him of his garments of light, and silenced, if they could, the song of the seraphim, uttered in praise of his unsullied purity. The deity they wanted to hear of, was an indulgent being, who would overlook sin, and never punish the transgressor. They wished to hear no more of the rigid and strict requirements of the law—but to listen only to the soothing sounds of promise; they were anxious that the terrible thunders of justice should die away midst the soft whispers of mercy. They were determined to go on in sin, and therefore desired, whatever might be "right things," to hear only smooth things, and to be left to go on unmolested in their career of iniquity.
Happy would it be for multitudes, if this love of deception had been confined to the Jews—if this demand for "smooth things" had been made only by them. But, alas! they have many, very many followers under the present dispensation. The faithful ministers of Jesus Christ meet with the same reception from many of their hearers, as did the prophets of the older economy.
There are not lacking in our age many who are anxious to save their own souls and those that hear them; who, in their solicitude to be clear from the blood of all men, shun not to declare "the whole counsel of God." Their aim is not to please men—but to profit their hearers; not to satisfy their taste, or amuse their fancy, or lull them into a false peace, or wrap them up in unfounded security—but to save them from the wrath to come. Hence, they are anxious to convince them of sin, and by "the terrors of the Lord to persuade" them to urge the all-important enquiry, "What shall I do to be saved?" They know that without previous conviction, alarm, and penitence, there can be no true comfort and therefore their aim is, like that of the skillful surgeon, to probe the wound before they attempt to heal it. This many of their hearers cannot endure; they want smooth things, not right things; they cannot bear to have their consciences roused, their fears alarmed, and their minds rendered uneasy. They wish the preacher to avoid all harsh themes, and confine himself to more agreeable and palatable topics. The people to whom I here allude, are those people in our congregations, who, though they attend an evangelical ministry, have never yet been converted by the grace of God—but are still living either in open sin, or predominant worldly-mindedness; who know that if religion is indeed what they hear it often described, they can make no pretensions to it; who have no intention of altering their course, and who wish, therefore, to be left to pursue it, without being disturbed by the voice of ministerial faithfulness.
Churches should be purified as much as possible
from all secularity, and conducted as much as
possible in simplicity and godly sincerity, without
the admixture of that fleshly wisdom which guides
the affairs of this world. They should be divested
of earthly pomp, guided by men of piety, and most
cautiously preserved from that self-importance and
self-dependence, which all imposing organizations
of numbers, wealth, and influence, are apt to
True religion is . . .
a principle of the heart;
an element of the character;
the habit of thinking, feeling, and acting
aright in all our social relations;
the basis of every virtue;
the main prop of every excellence;
the fear of the Lord, by which men depart from evil;
faith working by love;
such a belief in the gospel of Christ, as leads
to a conformity to His example.
True religion, though founded on a belief of doctrines,
and nourished by the exercises of devotion—diffuses
its influence over the entire character of man.
True religion is the belief, the love, the worship,
the imitation of Jesus.
True religion is sound morality, animated and
sanctified by the spirit of true devotion to Christ.
True religion prescribes, not only homage to God,
but follows him into the domestic circle.
Imagining we are going on to heaven
"The human heart is more deceitful than anything
else and desperately wicked!" Jeremiah 17:9
Oh, the idea of imagining we are going on to
heaven—when step by step we are advancing
Is this possible? It is! And the very possibility
should awaken our alarm.
Is it common? It is! And this should carry our
solicitude to the highest pitch.
What did Christ say on this matter? Read with awe
and trembling. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord,
Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he
who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we
not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive
out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will
tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me,
you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:21-23.
Read, I say, this passage in which our Lord with His
own hand, sounds the alarm through the whole church.
Ought you not to examine? Is not there need of it? Is it
not all but madness to go on without it? Mistake! What
in such a matter as salvation? Mistake! What in a matter
in which an error will require an eternity to understand,
and an eternity to deplore it!
Very many know the theory of divine truth, without
feeling its influence on the heart, or exhibiting it in
the conduct. They often see the right way; without
walking in it. Only those who are renewed and
sanctified by the truth, will be eternally saved.
A holy, moral, useful, happy man
Explain to them the moral attributes of the great GOD. . .
His holiness as opposed to all iniquity,
His truth as manifested in the accomplishment of His word
His mercy which inclines Him to pity the miserable.
Endeavor to make them understand the exceeding sinfulness
of SIN, as breaking through all the obligations imposed upon
the conscience by the majesty and goodness of God. Strive
to lead them to a knowledge of the total corruption of their
nature, as the source and spring of their actual transgressions.
Unfold to them their situation, as under the wrath of God on
account of their sins. Show them their inability, either to
atone for their guilt or renovate their nature.
Lead them to CALVARY, and develop the design of the
Savior's death as a sacrifice for sin, and teach them to
rely upon His merits alone for salvation.
Direct them to the HOLY SPIRIT as the fountain of
grace and strength for the renewal of their hearts.
Lay before them all the branches of Christian DUTY;
those which relate to God, such as faith, repentance,
love, obedience, and prayer; and those which relate
to man, as obedience to parents, honesty to their
employers, kindness to all. Enforce upon them the
obligations of public worship.
Particularly impress upon them, that genuine religion,
while it is founded on a belief of God's word, does not
consist merely of abstract feelings, or occasional duties,
but in a principle of submission to the revealed will of
Jehovah, implanted deep in the human heart, pervading
the conduct, and spreading over the whole character,
so as to form a holy, moral, useful, happy man.
The impious mask of a cowardly heart
A man says there is no God, because he wishes there
were none. He scorns spiritual religion, because spiritual
religion condemns him. He is an infidel because he is a
sinner. He is a scoffer because he is an infidel.
The true and ultimate source of scoffing at true religion
is an unrenewed, unsanctified mind—a heart that hates
God, and abhors his image.
The religion of the Bible is . . .
too humbling for the pride of their intellect,
too holy for the corruptions of their heart,
too strict and too rigid for their indulgent lives,
and they cannot endure it. And being unable to
confound it by logic, or overwhelm it by eloquence,
they treat it with derision.
In some cases the scoffing may be traced up to fear,
united with dislike. The scorner secretly trembles at
the idea of a God, and of a judgment to come. He
fears that there may be a reality in religion, and if
there is—what is to become of him! The poor creature,
like a scared child whistling as he passes through a
graveyard to keep up his courage, or laughing at the
story of a ghost, to conceal the palpitations of his
heart, ridicules true religion to allay, if possible, the
rising alarms of his conscience, and to avoid the
terrors of his affrighted imagination.
The sneering countenance is often the impious mask
of a cowardly heart and of a trembling conscience.
The abominable adage!
"Exhort the younger men to be sober-minded."
There are many things which tend to nourish the
love of sensual pleasure in the youthful bosom. At
their age care sits lightly on the heart, the passions
are strong, the imagination is lively, the health is
good, the social impulse is felt in all its energy, the
attractions of friends are powerful; and this they
imagine is the ideal time for them to take their fill
of pleasure. They think that they shall settle down
by and by, when the season of youth is past; and
that sobriety, morality, and religion will all come
in the proper order of nature.
Worldly pleasure, decked in the voluptuous attire
and the gaudy ornaments of a harlot, appears to
their heated imagination, with all the attractive
charms of a most bewitching beauty. They yield
themselves at once to her influence, and consider her
as abundantly able to afford them all the happiness
they desire. Their great concern is to gratify their
senses. The soul and all its vast eternal concerns
is neglected for the pleasures of fleshly appetites!
We frequently hear the abominable adage,
"Youth is the time for pleasure,
manhood is the time for business,
and old age is the time for religion."
It is not possible for language to utter, or mind to
conceive, a more gross or shocking insult to God
than this!—which is in effect saying, "when I can
no longer enjoy my lusts, or pursue my gains—
then I will carry to God a body and soul worn
out in the service of sin, Satan, and the world!"
The monstrous wickedness and horrid impiety
of this idea is enough, one would think, when
put clearly to him, to shock and terrify the most
confirmed and careless sinner in existence!
Thoughtless and sensual young man, who has
no idea of happiness but as arising from fleshly
indulgence, and who is drinking continually the
intoxicating cup of worldly pleasure—pursue your
course if you are determined on this mode of life;
gratify your appetites; indulge all your passions;
deny yourself nothing; eat, drink and be merry;
disregard the admonitions of conscience, trample
under foot the authority of Scripture—but do not
think that you shall always prosper in the ways of
sin, or carry forever that air of jollity and triumph.
The day of reckoning is at hand, when for all these
things, you will be called into judgment! God now
witnesses, and takes account of all your ways, and
will one day call you to His judgment, and repay you
according to your doings! "For God will bring every
act to judgment, including every hidden thing,
whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
"I exhort the elders among you: shepherd God's flock."
(1 Peter 5:2)
The flock which is committed to their care is the God's flock
—which is thus denominated to teach us that believers are the
special property of Christ, which He owns, loves, and protects
—in distinction from the wicked (who, are a kind of wild beasts
in whom He has neither peculiar property nor pleasure). They
are thus denominated also, to teach us that Christians are not
to live solitarily and unconnected, but are to unite themselves
with each other in visible communion and brotherly love, and
are to submit to the guidance and directions of their great
Shepherd, and in all things to manifest the simplicity,
harmlessness, and innocence of which the sheep is the
Concerning Handel's "Messiah" with what sentiments
may it be supposed the Son of God beholds the scenes
of His suffering life, atoning death, and final appearance
in judgment—blended with all the hilarity of a musical
festival, and sung by graceless men and women—for
the entertainment of the multitude!
Let those whose spiritual vision is not quite obscured by their
musical taste, compare the scenes of an oratorio when "the
Messiah" is being performed—and those of the house of God
when the Lord's supper is celebrated—and remembering that
the subject is the same in both, let them ask if both can be
right? Is the cross on which the Savior loved and died rightly
appropriated—when it is used for the purposes of amusement,
gaiety and fashionable vanity?
The subject of the "Messiah," as revealed in the Holy
Scriptures, is given for the purpose of bringing men to
repentance, faith and salvation; to be the great means,
through faith, of overcoming the world with all its lusts
of the flesh, lusts of the eye, and the pride of life; to
give a death blow to the love of the world in the heart
of man; and to subjugate the senses and the imagination
to unseen and eternal things.
While in Handel's "Messiah", the cross of Christ,
instead of crucifying us to the world, and the world
to us, is employed as an amusement to add new
attractions to earth, and to yield new gratifications
to sense, and thus to make man more effectually
the captive of that world—of which he should seek
by faith to be the conqueror.
For what purpose is this 'sacred music' performed?
It is for amusement! Purely for amusement! Is it, then,
done, for the glory of God—to convert the most solemn
and sacred topics of divine truth into a source of public
entertainment? No! It is done to draw people together
to hear the sufferings of the Messiah set forth for much
the same purpose as they are called to be entertained
by a dramatic representation of the sorrows of Hamlet
He will carry them in His bosom
"He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the
lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:11
He will carry them in His bosom—where He could not
only hear, but feel every bleat they uttered; and have all
the tenderness of His own heart excited by the anxious
and fluttering pulsations of theirs!
See Him in the midst of his disciples . . .
how feeble were their perceptions,
how weak their faith,
how worldly their expectations,
how slow their growth!
Yet how kindly did He bear with their dullness,
and how gently did He chide their imperfections.
The responsibility attached to wealth seems to be poorly
It should ever be borne in mind that the exercise of mercy
and charity is represented by our Lord in his description of
the judgment day, as one of the principal topics of scrutiny
in that season of final retribution. What a spectacle of horror
and amazement will the rich man then present, who lavished
in selfish extravagance that princely fortune which was
entrusted to him for the benefit of society. Let such men
read the parable of Dives and Lazarus—its salutary and
impressive warnings were delivered expressly for them!
Wealth, considered as a means of sensual gratification,
ranks but one step above the acorns of the swine; while
as a means of relieving misery, wealth opens sources of
felicity, as lofty and sublime as the joy of angels!
Exhibit in their conduct
Those who profess to believe in the truth of Christianity,
should be careful to exhibit in their conduct . . .
the meekness, and
humility of the gospel.
Let every Christian embody in his own character and
conduct, the evidence of Christianity, and prove that it
is from heaven, by showing that it makes him heavenly.
The ungodly should consider their dreadful situation,
hastening . . .
from sinning to dying,
from death to judgment,
from judgment to the bottomless pit, and
then from age to age of torment without end or
mitigation! They are kindling for themselves a fire
which shall burn to the lowest hell.
An unholy minister
An unholy minister is the most dreadfully guilty, and
the most fatally mischievous person in existence! He is
a living curse, a walking pestilence, diffusing a savor of
death around him wherever he goes; from whom, as to
any voluntary association, every godly person should flee
with greater horror than from a person infected with the
plague. His name is Apollyon—his work destruction.
It is dreadful to reflect what multitudes are now in
the bottomless pit, who were conducted there by the
damnable heresies of such men's lives; from whose
imprecations, envenomed by despair, the guilty authors
of their ruin will find neither escape nor shelter through
everlasting ages, but feel the guilt of blood forever upon
their wretched souls!
A mere pedestal for the preacher's fame!
"We preach Christ crucified!" 1 Corinthians 1:23
From the cross, as the tree of life, hang in maturity
and abundance—all those fruits of grace which are
necessary to the salvation of the soul.
Are we guilty—here is pardon.
Are we rebels against God—here is reconciliation.
Are we condemned—here is justification.
Are we unholy—here is sanctification.
Are we agitated with conscious guilt—
here is peace for a wounded spirit.
My brethren in the ministry—the pulpit is intended to
be a pedestal for the cross. But alas! even the
cross itself, it is to be feared, is sometimes used as
a mere pedestal for the preacher's fame! We
may roll the thunders of eloquence, we may dart the
coruscations of genius, we may scatter the flowers
of poetry, we may diffuse the light of science, we
may enforce the precepts of morality from the pulpit
—but if we do not make Christ crucified the great
subject our preaching, we have forgotten our
purpose, and shall do no good.
Satan trembles at nothing but the cross. And if we
would destroy his power, and extend that holy and
benevolent kingdom of Jesus, it must be by means
of the cross.
"For I determined to know nothing among you except
Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in
weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech
and my proclamation were not with persuasive words
of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and
power." (1 Corinthians 2:2-4)
The Holy Spirit is not only the efficient cause
and author of our spiritual life; but He is also
the sustainer of it.
We need fresh communications of His grace
every step of our course, to keep before us . . .
the glory of God as our center, rest, and end;
the loveliness, beauty, and preciousness of Christ;
the evil of sin;
the transcendent excellence of holiness;
the sublimity and importance of heaven, and eternal life.
The true believer . . .
seeks God as his supreme end,
enjoys God as his chief good,
obeys God as his Sovereign Ruler.
It is an act of amazing love that God should
not only give us his Son—but his Spirit also!
That God should make a temple for the Holy
Spirit in our hearts, is a display of infinitely
greater condescension, than for the greatest
monarch upon earth to take up his dwelling
in a mud hut.
One thing is certain—you are a sinner,
a poor, miserable, and perishing sinner!
The door of mercy is open, and you are
welcome to enter in! You can go to God
in no other way, but as a sinner. God meets
His repenting enemies, only at the cross!
"I have not come to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:32
No declension in piety
We are not to conclude that our piety is declining,
merely because our feelings are not so lively and
flashy as they once were. If there is a growth . . .
in humility and meekness,
in tenderness of conscience and self-denial,
in a sense of the value of Christ,
in dependence upon the Spirit,
there is no declension in piety, although there
may be less of vivid emotion than there once was.
Just as there is no decay of strength in the human
body, where the sprightliness and efflorescence of
youth are gone, if the grave robustness of manhood
remains. Nor should the aged believer mistake the
'decay of nature' for the 'decline of grace'. He hears,
he prays, he reads, he remembers, and enjoys with
less ability than he once did; but this is the effect
of old age, and not of backsliding.
Declension in piety
There are three stages of departure from God—
1. spiritual declension
2. actual backsliding
3. final apostasy
They are intimately connected, and lead on, unless stopped
by divine grace, from one to the other. There have been
many people in these states in every age of the church—
there are some now. Professors are continually falling away
from Christ, some only in heart, others openly in conduct;
some partially and for a season, others totally and forever.
The hopes of pastors and churches are continually receiving
the bitterest disappointment from the relapses of those who
"did run well." Like the blossoms in the spring, for a time they
excited the most pleasing anticipations—but a blight came on
—the blossom went up as dust, and the root appeared to be
Declension in piety, means a diminution of its vigor at the heart;
a loss of the power of godliness, or, to use a scriptural phrase,
"a leaving of our first love." There is no immorality; no open sin;
but an utter decay of pious affection. The whole amount of piety
that is left—is cold, heartless, dead formality. The fundamental
doctrines and precious truths of the Gospel, though not
renounced, are not relished and fed upon with that eager
appetite, keen relish, and exquisite zest which they once were.
The means of grace, though not neglected—are mere forms,
imparting no quickening power, and yielding no spiritual
enjoyment. Pious affections of peace, joy, love, delight in
God, and hope of heaven—are almost extinguished. The
vigor of watchfulness, spirituality of mind, and the severity
of mortification of sin are relaxed—under the idea that so
much strictness in religion is not necessary. The tenderness
of the conscience is blunted—and little sins of temper, of the
heart and the tongue, are committed with far less repugnance
than formerly. Besetting sins, once nearly subdued—acquire
fresh life and power. In short, piety has lost its hold upon the
mind, the heart, and conscience, as an elevating, sanctifying,
and satisfying reality. Delight in God, the love of Christ, the
joyful hope of heaven, have well near ceased!
Those in affliction
Those in affliction should restrain their grief, and not be
swallowed up of overmuch sorrow. An excessive degree
of distress, a refusal to be comforted, a disposition to
nourish grief—is a temper dishonorable to a Christian,
who, in the darkest and dreariest scenes of human life,
ought never to appear like those who are without God
and without hope.
PATIENCE must have its perfect work, that you
may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.
RESIGNATION must not only suppress the murmur,
but dictate words of confidence and peace. "Though
He slays me, yet will I trust in him," must be your
declaration, as well as your purpose.
FAITH—strong, steady faith—which cleaves closer
to Christ, in proportion as other things fail, must
be in exercise.
HOPE, as the anchor of your soul, must keep
your little bark safe amidst the storm.
MEEKNESS must put forth all its power and beauty in
preventing peevishness, and producing a sweetness
of temper in the midst of perplexing and ruffling
ASSURANCE that all things are working together for
good, should bear the soul above the low and cloudy
horizon of present trials, and enable it to spot eternal
sunshine beyond the storm; and rendered the brighter
by the gloom, from the midst of which it is contemplated.
While at the same time, a deep concern should be
manifested for a sanctified use of every affliction.
Concern should be manifested . . .
to glorify God in the fires,
to have every corruption mortified,
to have every grace strengthened;
to die to earth,
to live for heaven.
A showy and extravagant style of living!
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the
things that are above, where Christ is, seated at
the right hand of God. Set your minds on things
that are above, not on things that are on earth."
Avoid, I beseech you, a showy and extravagant
style of living! Do not be ambitious of obtaining . . .
a large, luxurious house,
fine, expensive clothing,
and a country residence.
What are these things to a man whose heart should
be set on things that are above, not on things that
are on earth?
The worm of pride feeds upon the root of piety!
Pride will prevent that deep humiliation before God,
that self-abhorrence, that self-annihilation, that entire
dependence, and sense of ill-desert which are essential
to the spirit of true piety; and, at the same time, pride
will call into active operation many tempers most
inimical to godliness.
"Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world;
they increase in riches." Psalms 73:12
Worldly-mindedness is a very common fruit of prosperity.
O how difficult is it to maintain this pure, spiritual, unearthly,
heavenly taste—in the midst of prosperity! How difficult is it
to help loving the world—when it puts on all its charms,
smiles upon us, and caresses us!
Many prosperous Christians are miserably low in spiritual
piety, have little enjoyment of God, and little communion
Prosperity, by multiplying the sources of earthly gratification,
tends to take us off from those which are spiritual and divine.
Prosperity tends . . .
to carnalize our affections,
to vitiate our holy taste, and
to wither our devotion.
Nothing is more beautiful in our world than the manifest
association of humble piety and temporal prosperity; it is
the temper of heaven united with the possession of earth.
The man who makes this attainment, is great in the
kingdom of God. His prosperity is maintained without
injury to himself. Let the prosperous Christian aim at
this beautiful combination.
"Keep vanity and lies far away from me. Don't give me either
poverty or riches. Feed me only the food I need." Prov. 30:8
"We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and
charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who
calls you into his own kingdom and glory." 1 Thes. 2:12
Multitudes have staked the truth of Christianity
on the conduct of its professors.
Inconsistent professors, therefore, are the abettors
of infidelity and irreligion. They are mere caricatures
of piety, which they represent with hideous and
distorted features, and commend to the ridicule
and disgust of onlookers.
Inconsistent professors are traitors in the camp, and
betray the cause which they profess to defend. They
are destroyers of other men's souls! No sins have so
much power to do mischief as theirs; and none have
been so destructive. Hell swarms with souls whom
inconsistent professors have hurried on to perdition!
The faith, and love, and holiness of believers, are one
of God's ordinances for the conversion of sinners, and
it is an ordinance that has been greatly blessed. The
beauties of holiness displayed in all their symmetry
and harmony, as they are embodied in the character
of eminent Christians, have been employed by the
Spirit of God to soften prejudice, and subdue enmity.
Many who turned with disgust from religion as it was
seen disfigured and deformed in some inconsistent
professors; have, by a more pure and lovely
manifestation of holiness, been charmed into
admiration, affection, and imitation.
The influence of one lively, ardent, active Christian,
is a blessing to the whole church of which he is a
member. His prayers at the meetings, and his
conversation in the companies of Christian friends,
tend not only to stop the spreading lukewarmness
of many others; but to kindle a similar spirit to his
own, in the hearts of those with whom he associates.
He keeps up the spiritual atmosphere of the church,
and makes it amiable, spiritual and heavenly.
While on the other hand, the influence of one worldly
minded, convivial professor, whose spiritual affections,
if not wholly extinguished, are smouldering under a
heap of earthly cares and tastes—depresses and chills
the piety of all who come near him. He is . . .
a hindrance to pious conversation,
an interruption to the fellowship of the saints,
an extinguisher upon the devotion of the church.
However profitable the fellowship may have been
before he entered the room, he soon contrives, by
anecdotes, politics, or business, to turn the current
into some low and earthly channel.
It is of immense consequence that we should all
consider the effect which our influence has upon
others. Our influence is always acting upon others;
and their influence is always acting upon us! This
is a solemn consideration, which we should never
forget for a single hour. This applies universally.
We are all perpetually sending forth, and receiving
An incarnation of love
Jesus Christ was an incarnation of love in our
world. He was love living, breathing, speaking,
acting among men!
His birth was the nativity of love.
His sermons the words of love.
His miracles the wonders of love.
His tears the meltings of love.
His crucifixion the agonies of love.
His resurrection the triumph of love.
A stronger and a holier affection
Christian! Would you be crucified to the world, and
have the world crucified to you? Would you indeed,
and in truth, have the spirit of the world cast out of
you? Would you cease to be characterized as
'minding earthly things'?
Go daily by sacred meditation, to Mount Calvary,
and while all the mysteries of redeeming love, as
concentrated in the cross, there meet the eye of
faith—and as the visions of celestial glory, seen
most distinctly from that spot, attract and fix the
transported gaze of hope—you will see the beauty
of the earth fade away before you, amidst the
splendor of a more excellent glory, and feel the
love of the world die within you, under the power
of a stronger and a holier affection.
The neglect of domestic piety
There is probably scarcely any deficiency of the church
in the present day, more apparent than the neglect
of domestic piety.
Family prayer is not performed with that constancy,
solemnity, and fervor, which is calculated to interest
and to edify.
Parental authority is not maintained with that
steadiness which is adopted to inspire respect, and
that affection which is likely to secure obedience.
As to the judicious, diligent, and engaging Biblical
instruction, which is necessary to inform the mind, to
enlighten the conscience, and to form the character;
it is in some families almost entirely neglected.
Far more solicitude is felt, and far more pains are taken
by many, to educate their children for this world than for
the future eternal world; and to fit them to act their part
well for time, than to prepare them for the scenes of
In many Christian homes, family piety is but the
form of godliness—without its power.
The religion of today has lost something of its
steadiness, its seriousness, and its dignity; and
has acquired too much of the flutter and the
vanity of a thing of fashion and excitement.
True religion ought to be sustained, in all its
exercises and habits, with an appropriate
seriousness, dignity, and conscientiousness.
A substitute for personal piety?
Zeal in Christian service cannot be a substitute for personal piety. The attendance at the committee cannot be an excuse for neglecting the closet. The financial support of a church can be no apology for neglecting to mortify a corruption. Yet there is a tendency in this day to forget this. There is an imminent danger of losing sight of religion as a personal, private, and individual concern. We are too much drawn away from our closets and our own hearts, as we lose the habit of silent meditation.
We are so accustomed to excitement, that there is a dullness in solitude. Private prayer is neglected for that which is social; the Bible is neglected for the sermon; and the closet is neglected for the committee-room. The great system of revealed truth is not sufficiently brought before us in its grandeur, glory, and demands—as a matter for our individual contemplation, reception, and application.
The evidence of genuine piety is to be found in . . .
hungering and thirsting after righteousness,
sorrow for sin, and
a continual effort to regulate your thoughts,
feelings, and conduct by the Word of God.
Genuine piety will not thrive and increase without
effort—but is of so tender and delicate a nature as
to require great, constant, and persevering concern,
watchfulness, and care.
He will not forget the lambs
(John Angell James, "The Christian Professor")
"He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will gather
the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom."
Are you alarmed at the difficulties and dangers of
the wilderness way? Consider that you enjoy the
notice, the love, intercession, and the support of
the Great and Good Shepherd, who gathers the
lambs in His arms, and carries them in His bosom.
He will not forget the lambs—their feeble bleat
attracts His notice, their helplessness draws His
attention, and for them he puts forth all His
pastoral kindness and skill.
Cunning artifices, deep devices, artful machinations
It is one of the cunning artifices, the deep devices, the artful
machinations of Satan—to lead men into self-deception, when
he can no longer hold them in careless indifference; to ruin
their souls in the church, when he cannot effect it in the world;
to lull them asleep by the privileges of church fellowship, when
he cannot continue their slumber amidst the pleasures of sin.
O how many is he leading captive this way? How many is he
conducting to perdition, whom he has first blindfolded with
the bandage of a false profession? How many are there in all
our churches, who are in this dreadful state!
"Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a
heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle
and high priest of our confession." Heb 3:1.
Jesus was so dead to this world, that He renounced
wealth, rank, ease and fame.
Jesus was so holy that He could appeal to the most
malignant of his foes for the sinless purity of His conduct.
Jesus was so submissive to the divine will, that
He drank the deepest, fullest, bitterest cup of human
woe, without a murmur.
Jesus was so meek and lowly, as to bear the greatest
injuries and insults with unruffled serenity and placability.
Jesus was so full of benevolence, as to pray for His
foes, to die for them, and save them.
Yes, we say to the world, "Look at Jesus of Nazareth in
His holy and beneficent career, or in his ignominious and
agonizing death—see him whose whole character was a
compound of purity and love—there is our model."
We confess that the salvation of immortal souls is
the most momentous interest in the universe; and
that our time, influence, talents and property—are
at Christ's command.
We profess that we have received Christ as the end
of our very existence.
We profess that we have ceased to live for wealth,
ease, or reputation, as the supreme object of pursuit.
We profess that we receive Christ as our pattern and
example, and that we are determined, as God shall
assist us—to conform ourselves to Him in our spirit,
temper, and conduct.
Let your light shine!
"You are to live blameless and pure lives, as children of God
without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which
you shine like stars in the universe." Philippians 2:15
There is an ineffable beauty in the Christian character, as
delineated by our Lord Jesus Christ in His personal ministry,
and by His holy apostles.
A Christian ought to be a character of universal loveliness
and holiness. He not only seeks freedom from and abhorrence
of greater sins, but adds a sensitiveness to lesser sins, and a
studious effort after universal purity. Perfection should be
our wish and our aim. A Christian is not to allow himself to
practice any degree of any sin; and is to seek every possible
degree of every holy virtue.
"You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before
men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your
Father in heaven."
Oh, that dreadful future!
There are three questions which every considerate man will
propose to himself in reference to his present state of being.
What am I?
Where did I come?
What is my purpose here on earth?
And there are three more which he cannot help
sometimes asking concerning the future.
Where am I going?
What will I be there?
How shall I prepare for eternity?
There, before us, at no great distance, is the grave—into the
solemn and mysterious obscurity of which, neither sense nor
reason can dart one illuminating ray; nor can they extort
from its sullen silence one whisper of information.
Oh, that dreadful future!
Into what will that one first step from the 'stage of earthly
existence' plunge us? To unaided human reason, the future
is an unbounded, mystifying, starless, midnight darkness
—without one luminous point through infinite space!
What shall we be in eternity? Who shall reply? Think
how profoundly this question, this mystery, concerns us
—and in comparison with this—what are to us all questions
of all sciences? What to us, are all the scientific researches
into the material nature? What to us, are all the investigations
into the history of past ages? What to us, are all the future
career of events in the progress of states and empires? What
to us, what shall become of this globe itself, or of all the
systems of the universe? What, where, shall WE be ourselves,
is the matter of surpassing, infinite interest. This an issue of
such great magnitude and solemnity, that it transcends and
overwhelms our utmost faculty of thought!
Man is a creature capable of happiness or misery, and tastes
much of each on earth—and is anxious to know which will be
his lot beyond the grave! He is conscious of sin, and feels
solicitous to be informed whether the consequences of his
sin will pursue him into an invisible state!
The world by its wisdom, knew not God, nor immortality,
nor heaven. Unaided human reason, we repeat, never did,
never can, assure us that there is a future state at all. If
it could ascertain this, it could not tell us whether it is a
limited or an endless duration. If If it could ascertain this,
and it were certain that there is to be everlasting existence,
it would be at a loss to tell us whether it were a state of
unmixed bliss, or misery, or a mixture of both. If it could
ascertain this, it would still be unable to inform us how
eternal felicity is to be obtained, and eternal misery
avoided. Unaided human reason fails at every step!
The whole world is longing for an immortality
to relieve them from the burden of . . .
their cares, and
"And now He has made all of this plain to us by the
coming of Christ Jesus, our Savior, who broke the
power of death and showed us the way to everlasting
life through the Gospel!" 2 Timothy 1:10
What are all the volumes which philosophy ever wrote,
compared to these few golden sentences! By the cross of
Christ, the dark screen that blocked our view, and hid the
realms of glory from our sight, is rent asunder, and the vista
of heaven and eternal ages is laid open to the eye of faith!
Immortality, seen only as a dim object of hope, amid the
midnight darkness of Paganism, and only as a dim object
of faith amid the twilight of Judaism—is beheld amid the
noontide splendor of Christianity in its magnitude and
grandeur, as at once the object of a strong and steady
faith and a lively and a saving hope.
It is hard to conceive that I, born after the manner of the
brute creation; and like them sustained by the earth—a
poor, frail, feeble creature of yesterday, and crushed
before the moth—who, after a few fleeting years at most,
shall return to the earth from which I sprang, and seem to
be utterly blotted out from existence—shall continue to
exist in some mode, and in some scene of existence, for
millions of ages! How utterly surpassing all this to reason,
and almost incredible to faith, when it contrasts this
wondrous eternal existence—with the present little,
insignificant, momentary creature—who flutters out his
tiny being in this present, temporal, earthly, little world!
Everlasting felicity is something so vast, so wondrous, so
magnificent—that unaided human reason never could have
concluded that this gift, so rich, so splendid, so extraordinary,
could be bestowed on a sinful child of dust!
The great mass of professing Christians, do not really believe
in eternal felicity. Their conduct is utterly at variance with
such a belief. Is the impress of immortality upon their
character or their conduct? Are they not infinitely more
swayed by the present time—than a future eternity? Has not
earth infinitely greater attractions for them than heaven?
Is not all their labor bestowed upon the present—while the
endless future is neglected and forgotten? Immortality is
not really believed by the great mass of professing
Christians! It is a mere name, an opinion, a speculation;
anything but a deep practical conviction!
There is a tearless world
Many are the afflictions even of the righteous. Though they
are the children of God and the heirs of immortality, even
they are not exempted from the common lot of humanity,
as described by the patriarch of Uz, where he says, "Man
is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards!''
There is a tearless world—but it is reached by a valley
of tears! As those who are exposed to such a variety
and such a constant recurrence of trials, we need some
principle to sustain us under them. We must find some
source of consolation.
We are in danger in times of trouble, of resorting to many
things that are inimical to our peace and to our holiness.
Afflictions are not only hurtful in themselves, but are likely
also, if care be not taken, to produce evil. They not only
always lead to sorrow—but often to sin. A wounded spirit
has frequently been the occasion of a burdened conscience.
The wormwood and the gall of sorrow have fermented into
the poison of iniquity, by impatience under the hand of
God, and by revengeful feelings towards the human
instruments of our griefs. How apt are we to sink into . . .
sinful distrust and
In the dark and gloomy night of tribulation, when the sun
of our prosperity has set; when the clouds of adversity
have so overspread the heavens that not a star twinkles;
and the tempest rages—how much do we need something
to cheer us, something to keep down those unbelieving
thoughts of God and His Providence which are then so
apt to rise, and to relieve that intense wretchedness
which then too often takes full possession of the soul.
"I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners
to repentance." Luke 5:32
"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!"
It is a sight . . .
for heaven to wonder at,
for angels to rejoice over,
for devils to hate,
for man to imitate,
for and God to delight in;
to see a poor creature polluted with almost every
sin, broken-hearted yet not despairing; penitent
and turning with loathing from his sins, and yet
confidently relying upon the mercy of God in
Christ, for a full, free, and cordial forgiveness!
"There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels
of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:10
Pleased or profited?
"The word preached did not profit them." Hebrews 4:2
What countless millions of sermons seem to be preached
in vain, so far as regards any appreciable result! What a
small amount of profiting in the way of increased holiness!
To be truly profited from the hearing of sermons, is to have
Scriptural truth deeply enstamped upon the heart and visibly
upon character; the transformation of the whole heart and
soul into the image of God and the mind of Christ; the
cultivation of a godly temperament; and a fitness for glory.
This, and this only, is profiting from the preached Word.
Multitudes are pleased by sermons, who are not in the
smallest degree profited by them!
The fault is partly to be ascribed to the preachers. Either
their aim is often something else than the profiting their
hearers, or else they know not how to accomplish this.
One would suppose it impossible to hear a great deal of
today's evangelical preaching of this age, without asking
the question, "Who can be profited by this? What is there
in all this, to instruct, sanctify, and comfort believers? It
is all very fine—there is much to please the intellect, to
gratify the taste, to exercise the imagination; but what
spiritual edification is there in it?" It is my sad and serious
conviction, that the evangelical pulpit is losing its power,
just because it is losing sight of its object and its aim.
A philosophized Christianity is finding its way into our
pulpits; which, aided by a rationalistic taste, and set off
by an aspiring intellectuality, is seducing the church
from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus!
The goal of most preachers is to please their hearers;
not to profit their souls.
May Christian parents pray for the salvation of their children?
We must consider what these prayers for their conversion imply.
They must proceed from a heart that really desires and longs for
their conversion. It should be an intense yearning—a longing in
some measure proportioned to the object itself. Their children's
conversion must be the first object concerning them, to which
all others must be subordinated. Their children's conversion
must be sought by all the appropriate means of godly training
and example. Everything must be done that would conduce to
their conversion to God, and everything kept away that would
hinder it. There must not only be instruction—but in the fullest
sense of the term, godly education. The character must be
formed; and in order to this, the parent must present a model
of exemplary piety in himself. And with these conditions, the
father may go and pray for his children's conversion, and expect
their conversion. Prayers so presented and so followed up, will
very generally be answered.
It is, no doubt, a fact that very many do pray and see little result
of their prayers—their children do not become godly. Why? I would
by no means suggest that it is in all cases to be traced up to parental
neglect. I would not pour vinegar upon the wounds of many a lacerated
heart, bleeding under the misconduct of a prodigal son, by asserting
that parental sins have led to this. But at the same time, there can
be little doubt of the general principle—that godly training, carried on
from the dawn of reason, through childhood and youth—with wisdom,
uniformity, consistency, and affection—enforced by an eminently holy
and consistent example—and sanctified by believing prayer—would be
followed, in most cases, with the blessed result of their conversion
God has no speechless children!
Nothing seems too hard or too difficult for prayer
to do. Prayer has a kind of omnipotence; for it
moves the hand which moves all things!
Faith and prayer are the two arms by which
the soul hangs upon the neck of infinite Love,
and grasps the hand of omnipotent Power!
Prayer is the homage of a dependent creature
paid to the author of its being, and the source
of its happiness.
Prayer has a moral reflex influence on the soul
of him who presents it, making him the holier
by his own devotions.
Prayer is a relief and comfort to the troubled soul.
Prayer is the communion of the regenerated
soul with its Divine Parent.
Prayer is God's own instituted means of obtaining
blessings from Him, the Fountain of life.
Prayer must be sincere—we must really be
desirous to obtain the blessings we ask.
Prayer must be holy—for if we "regard iniquity
in our heart, the Lord will not hear us."
Prayer must be pious—seeking to obtain blessings,
not for our own gratification merely—but for God's glory.
Prayer must be importunate—for it is the effectual,
fervent prayer of a righteous man, that prevails.
Prayer must be submissive—asking only for what
it is God's will to bestow.
Prayer must be in love—for if our brother has anything
against us, we must first go and be reconciled to our brother.
Prayer must be reverent—for our God is a consuming fire.
Prayer must be humble—for we are base, and sinful,
and unworthy to lift up our eyes to heaven.
Prayer must be persevering—for men ought
always to pray, and not to faint.
Prayer must be particular—for generalities
mean little or nothing.
Prayer must be universal—entering into everything,
all the concerns of life, all the means of grace.
Prayer must be of all kinds—social, domestic,
Prayer must be grateful—abounding in thanksgiving.
Prayer must be expectant—waiting and
watching for answers.
Prayer must be believing—we must ask in faith.
Prayer must be consistent with the Word of God
—we may ask for everything God has promised.
Singularly, solemnly, and perilously critical
"Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the
victory that has overcome the world, even our faith."
1 John 5:4
The situation and circumstances of the Christian during
his state of discipline and probation upon earth, are
singularly, solemnly, and perilously critical. His
attention is divided between two worlds. He is placed
amid the scenes, the duties, the possessions, the trials
of one world, all of which are ever appealing to the
senses, and urging their claims upon the faculties
and instincts of his nature; claims which he cannot,
dare not, altogether resist or neglect.
And yet amid these earthly objects always present to
him, he is supremely to value, pursue, and enjoy the
objects of another, eternal world, of which he knows
nothing but by report.
He must not omit the just and proper interests of this
present life, to which he is related by his both various
and tender ties; and yet he must regard, practically and
constantly, as his highest interest, the life that is to
come. He must, to a certain extent, attend to the things
on earth, and yet his affections must be set on things in
heaven. The visible must not be neglected, yet the
invisible must be supremely regarded. The temporal
must be attended to in due season and measure, and
yet the eternal must predominate.
Mortification and vivification
Mortification of sin is but half the work a Christian
has to do; for there is also vivification of graces,
which is the other half.
No man ploughs his field, or tills his garden, merely
to kill weeds—but to sow corn and to plant flowers.
A room may be clean—and yet empty.
It is not enough for our hearts to be swept of sin
—unless they be also furnished with graces.
A man may not in disposition be a tiger or a demon
—and yet he may not be a saint or an angel.
Now our religion requires not only putting away our
pride, our malice, our covetousness, and our injustice
—but also cultivating humility, liberality, and love.
True religion is of an aspiring nature, requiring us
to proceed from grace to grace . .
to faith adding virtue,
to virtue adding patience,
to patience adding temperance,
to temperance adding godliness,
to godliness adding brotherly-kindness,
and to brotherly-kindness adding love.
Thus ascending by degrees, until at length the top
of the lofty staircase reaches to heaven, and lands
the soul so qualified in the mansions of glory!
Nothing but faith can enable the soul to accomplish this;
and this it does, by obtaining through Christ that aid of
the Holy Spirit, by whom alone our good works can be
Earth would reflect the face of heaven!
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful
or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way.
Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it
has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but
rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives
up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures
through every circumstance." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
These few verses are worth incalculably more than all the
volumes the pen of moral philosophy ever wrote! What a
happy world, how nearly resembling heaven, we would live
in—if this were the rule of conduct everywhere, always, in
all things, and for all men. Earth would reflect the face of
heaven, even as in the mirror of a peaceful lake, the quiet,
noiseless, blue sky is to be seen.
We must love all for whom Christ died
"God is love, and all who live in love, live in God,
and God lives in them." 1 John 4:16
Realizing the love which Christ has towards His children,
viewing them as the purchase of His blood and the
objects of His tenderest affection—our hearts will by
a kind of necessity, be knit to them. Every fresh view
of the cross will endear them to our hearts.
How frequently, how variously, and how earnestly
are we enjoined both by our Lord, and by that
disciple whom Jesus loved, and who by leaning
on His bosom seemed to have caught most of His
spirit—to love our brethren.
Love to the brethren is the law of Christ's kingdom,
"This is my commandment, that you love one another."
Love to the brethren is the badge of discipleship,
"Hereby shall all men know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another."
Love to the brethren is the evidence of conversion,
"We know that we have passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren."
Love to the brethren is the grand inference from the
cross, "Beloved, if God so loved us—we ought also to
love one another."
Love to the brethren is . . .
the natural yearning of the renewed heart;
the instinctive promptings of the new nature;
the reaching forth of the arm too feeble and too
short to clasp the neck of the Divine Father, to
entwine around His image in His children!
Why is it that the children of God do not love one
another more, and allow such comparatively trifling
matters to alienate them from each other? How is it
that sectarianism gains such an ascendancy over the
members of the redeemed family, and introduces so
much coldness, distance, and even hostility?
We must love all for whom Christ died.
Did we more powerfully realize the fact that . . .
Jesus has died for us all,
Jesus loves us all,
Jesus claims us all,
Jesus delights in us all;
would not the effect of this persuasion be to
check the progress of alienation and draw us
closer to each other?
When the full power of the cross is felt in the hearts
of believers—when all the constraining influence of the
love of Christ is experienced—then will we be rooted
and grounded in love.
"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue;
but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18
Faith overcomes the love of worldly things
"Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the
victory that has overcome the world, even our faith."
1 John 5:4
Faith overcomes the love of worldly things. That eager
ambition after wealth and affluence, for the sake of the
luxuries and splendors which it enables its possessor to
command—is transmuted by faith, into a desire to give.
Instead of an anxiety to obtain . . .
expensive entertainments, and
all the other luxuries of taste and fashion;
the followers of Jesus should be distinguished
by an obvious simplicity of habit and living.
Many professors spend too much upon selfish luxuries.
Followers of Jesus should shrink their luxuries, that
they may enlarge their charities. Frugality of living,
should provide resources for liberality to those in need.
Nominalists, evangelical formalists,
and legalistic pharisees!
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the
kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my
Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day,
'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your
name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then
I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me,
you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:21-23
These are words solemn enough to fill the whole church
with anxiety and alarm. How prevalent, according to this
passage, is self-deception! MANY will say. How far it may
be carried—even to the judgment tribunal! How unlikely
are the subjects of it—professors, preachers, workers of
I tremble as I write! I tremble for multitudes all around!
Never, no never, were professors more in danger of self
deception than in this age. If the standard of true religion
is the New Testament, then a great proportion of the
members of all our churches cannot be true Christians
—but are merely nominalists, evangelical formalists,
and legalistic pharisees!