JEWELS from JAMES
(Choice devotional selections from
the works of John Angell James)
God's hatred of sin
The death of Christ, apprehended by faith, presents
the strongest motives to holiness—by setting forth
in the most vivid and striking manner . . .
the holiness and justice of God;
His determination to punish transgression;
the immutable authority of the Divine law;
the evil nature of sin; and
the fearfulness of falling into the hands of the living God.
Not all the judgments God ever inflicted—nor all the
threatenings he ever denounced, give such an
impressive warning against sin, and admonition
to righteousness—as the death of Christ.
The torments of the bottomless pit are not so
dreadful a demonstration of God's hatred of sin,
as the agonies of the cross!
"Therefore, since we have been justified through
faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1
Justification is the opposite to condemnation.
Justification is act of God's boundless mercy in
forgiving all the transgressions of the penitent
believer, for the sake of atoning sacrifice of His
beloved Son; and restoring the once guilty
transgressor to the favor of God, and the
hope of eternal life.
The ground on which justification proceeds, is the
death of Christ as an atoning sacrifice for sin.
The the source from which justification flows,
is the mercy of God.
The instrumental cause or means of justification,
is faith in Christ.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done
—but according to His mercy He saved us." Titus 3:5
Of little use
"Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by works,
is dead." James 2:17
True religion begins in right believing and goes on to
right doing; and right believing must, through the
whole of the Christian life, be the guide of right doing.
Faith is the root, out of which grows the whole tree
of our godliness—its trunk, its branches, its leaves,
and its fruit. It is faith which, striking its fibers into
the Word of God as its proper soil, draws up the
moisture which nourishes it, and which has first
come down from heaven. It is only as we understand
this, that we can begin or continue in a course of
true, practical, and experimental religion.
To merely understand the grand truths of Scripture,
is of little use—unless they produce . . .
That is not right faith which does not lead to practice; and
that is not a right practice which does not spring from faith.
A robust and healthful piety
There is such a thing as the spiritual life. A religious profession
is nothing apart from it. Without life, however correct may be its
outward form and expression, it is but a picture or a statue. It
may be a beautiful one, but it is dead! Faith is the expression
of spiritual life, or rather it is the principle of life itself which
develops in all other expressions of it. The spiritual life is subject
to all the varieties which mark the course of our physical vitality;
and hence the reality of what is called 'experimental religion' or
'religious experience'. There is perhaps no subject less
understood, or more abused, than this.
Man is a being possessed of the various faculties of intellect, will,
passions, and conscience. True religion is designed to influence
all these, for it takes the whole soul under its guidance, influence,
and impulsion. A robust and healthful piety gives . . .
light to the intellect,
determination to the will,
emotion to the heart,
tenderness to the conscience, and
purity to the imagination.
True piety brings out the effect of this joint operation of the
soul in all the beauties of a holy life. It falls from heaven
upon the whole soul like the solar ray upon the prism, which
divides and distributes the distinct and separate colors over
the whole glassy substance. But men are apt to distort this
beautiful consummation, and represent religion too much as
consisting only, or in the predominance, of one color.
In true godliness, there must be some great truths received
in the exercise of intelligent faith upon the mind. These must
be felt in their influences upon the affections, and carried
out in practical and visible operation in the life. It is the glory
of Christianity that it addresses itself to all our faculties; it
meets us in all our changeful circumstances; and is adapted
to all our conditions of existence.
Preach louder than a thousand voices
There is nothing now so much needed by and for Christianity,
as an earnest exhibition, demonstration and manifestation of
Christ's own teachings in His Sermon upon the Mount, founded
on the apostle's doctrine of justification by faith. This, exhibited
by the church in the sight of all the world, would . . .
preach louder than a thousand voices;
be more eloquent than ten thousand volumes;
carry a deeper conviction than the most conclusive logic;
do more to recommend true Christian doctrine than the
most powerful and attractive rhetoric.
The unbroken peace of our churches
What we need to preserve the unbroken peace of
our churches, is a more distinct recognition and a
more powerful influence of the principles of the gospel;
more humility, more spirituality, more zeal for the
We often carry into the sanctuary, and into the church,
our pride, our self-will, our personal taste. That spirit
of mutual submission, brotherly love, and surrender of
our own gratification to the good of others which the
Word of God enjoins, would keep the church always
happy and harmonious. But instead of seeking the
good of the whole, the feeling of too many of our
members may be thus summarily expressed, "I will
have my way!" Such a spirit is a source of all the evils
to which our churches are ever exposed, and of which
it must be confessed they are but too frequently the
Cherishing a viper in its bosom!
To allow sin to be committed, without being noticed and
removed, is displeasing in the sight of God. Nothing can
be conceived of, more likely to grieve the Holy Spirit, or
to induce Him to withdraw his gracious influence from a
church, than a neglect of scriptural discipline. When
the church neglects to discipline its sinning members . . .
backsliders are encouraged to go farther astray;
hypocrites are patronized in their self-delusion;
the ruin of men's souls abetted;
the church is corrupted; and
the honor of Christianity is compromised.
When a church neglects Scriptural discipline,
it is cherishing a viper in its bosom!
He has some secret source of happiness
It is highly incumbent upon Christians, to take care
against a worldly spirit. They are in extreme peril
of losing the power of godliness from their hearts, and
joining the number of those, of whom it is said, in the
expressive language of Paul, that "they mind earthly
Such earthlings look upon the possession of wealth as "the
one thing needful." Wealth is their chief object of pursuit,
the chief source of happiness. Nothing modifies or mitigates
their desire for riches. They are of the earth, earthly!
Now certainly a Christian is, or ought to be, of another spirit
than this! He should be industrious, frugal, and persevering
in his attention to the concerns of this world. But still there
should be in his mind, an ultimate and supreme regard for
the possession of everlasting life. He ought not to be slothful
in business; but then he must be fervent in spirit, serving the
Lord. He should be seen to unite the 'diligent worker' and
'sincere Christian'—and to be busy for both worlds.
The men of this world should be constrained to say of him,
"This man is as attentive to business, and as diligent in it
as we are; but we can perceive in all he does, an inflexible
regard to morality, and an invariable reference to piety. We
can discover no lack of diligence or prudence; but it is perfectly
evident, that his heart and highest hope are in heaven. He is
neither so elated in prosperity, nor so depressed in adversity,
as we are. He has some secret source of happiness, of which
we are not possessed! His eye is upon some driving force,
which we do not recognize."
What a testimony!
Who can obtain a higher one?
Who should seek less?
No prevalence of 'custom' can make that
right, which in itself is wrong. The standard
of a Christian is the Bible; and whatever is
opposed to that, he must avoid and abhor.
Young Christians should be very watchful against
the sins to which the ardor and inexperience of
their years may expose them. They should flee
youthful lusts, and be very cautious to abstain
from vanity and self-conceit.
That Cain-like spirit!
"Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:9
This was an inquiry suitable enough in the lips of a
murderer—but most unsuitable and inconsistent from
a Christian. Love should induce us to WATCH over one
another. We are brought into fellowship for the very
purpose of being keepers of each other. We are to
watch over our brethren—and admonish and reprove
them as circumstances may require.
I do not mean that we should pry into each other's
secrets, or be busy-bodies in other men's matters—for
that is forbidden by God and abominable in the sight
of man. Much less are they to assume authority over
each other, and act the part of proud and tyrannical
inquisitors. But still we are to "exhort one another
daily, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness
of sin." We are not to allow sin to be committed, or
duty to be omitted by a brother, without affectionately
admonishing him. What can be more incumbent, more
obligatory, than this? Can we indeed love anyone, and
at the same time see him do that which we know will
injure him—without entreating him to desist? "Brethren,
if any man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual
restore such a one in the spirit of meekness."
Let us then take heed against that Cain-like spirit
which is too prevalent in our churches, and which leads
many to act as if their fellow-members were no more
to them than the stranger at the ends of the earth.
I know no duty more neglected than this. It is one
of the most prevailing defects of Christians. Many a
backslider would have been prevented from going far
astray, if, in the very first stages of his declension,
some brother, who had observed his critical state, had
faithfully and affectionately admonished and warned
him. What shame, and anguish, and disgrace, would
the offender himself have been spared, and what
dishonor and scandal would have been averted
from the church—by this one act of faithful love!
I am aware it is a difficult and self-denying duty, but
that cannot excuse its neglect. Neglect of it violates
the law of Christ. Love will enable us to perform it.
The cardinal virtue
"So now I am giving you a new commandment:
Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you
should love each other. By this all men will
know that you are My disciples, if you love
one another." John 13:34-35
Love is enforced by our Lord as the identifying law
of His kingdom. By this we learn that the subjects
of Christ are to be known and distinguished among
men—by their mutual affection.
The dispensation of Jesus Christ is a system of most
wonderful, most mysterious grace! It is the manifestation,
commendation, and perfection of divine love. It originated
in the love of the Father, and is accomplished by the love
of the Son. Jesus was an 'incarnation of love' in our world.
He was love living, breathing, speaking, acting, among
His birth was the nativity of love!
His teachings were the words of love!
His miracles were the wonders of love!
His tears were the meltings of love!
His crucifixion was the agonies of love!
His resurrection was the triumph of love!
Hence it was natural, that love should be the
cardinal virtue in the character of His people,
and that it should be the law which regulates
their conduct towards each other.
Jesus has made His love to us, not only the
motive of our love to each other—but the
pattern of our love to each other. "My command
is this: Love each other as I have loved you."
We bound to love one another, in spite of all
those little infirmities of character and conduct
which we daily discover in our fellow Christians.
Let your light shine!
"Let your light shine before men, that they may
see your good deeds and praise your Father in
heaven." Matthew 5:16
In order to comply with this, we must . . .
act consistently with our profession;
excel in the observance of social duties;
abound in mercy;
be most exact in performing all our promises;
live in a most peaceable and neighborly manner;
perform every office of kindness which can please or benefit;
and set an example of industry, honesty, and generosity.
Frigid zone, or torrid zone?
The fact is, that some people's religion is of that
weak, unhealthy kind.
Those who have only 'head knowledge'—dwell in
the frigid zone of Christianity; and those who
have only 'feeling'—occupy the torrid zone. The
former are frozen amid mere cold and heartless
speculation; the latter are scorched amid wild
How much more real enjoyment of the truth is
possessed by him who clearly and comprehensively
understands it! Every Christian should endeavor to
unite the knowledge of a good theologian with
the experience of a real believer. In order to
accomplish this, we should set apart time not
only for reading—but studying the Scriptures.
The most hopeless of all human undertakings
"Now the natural man doesn't receive the things of God's
Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can't know
them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor. 2:14
The hearts of men are fully set to do evil. We find
them taken up, occupied, influenced, and governed,
by the palpable and visible things of the present life.
And our business as Christians, is to engage them in
constant resistance to the undue influence of seen
and temporal things, by a vigorous faith in the things
that are unseen and eternal. Our aim and labor are,
by the power of the unseen world to come, to deliver
them from the spell of the present state, with whose
pageantry they are enamored, and under whose
fascination they are well pleased to continue. And
all the while they are so occupied by the pursuits of
business, so engrossed by the cares, comforts, and
trials of life; and are in such breathless haste to
pursue, such distracting bustle to possess, and
such ardent hope to enjoy—the various objects
of their earthly desires, that when we call their
attention to serious godliness, as the one thing
needful, we are deemed intrusive, audacious,
Even when we have succeeded in gaining a hearing
and arresting attention, we have to contend not only
with an indisposition to receive the truth—but a
determined hostility against it.
To those who are naturally disposed to think well
of themselves—we have to produce a sense of utter
worthlessness and depravity!
To those who will only admit only a few imperfections
and infirmities—we have to displace their feeling of
self-esteem, by one of self-condemnation and
To these carnal minds and hearts, we offer salvation
upon terms which leave not the smallest room for
self-congratulation, or the operation of pride.
Indeed to carry such a message as frequently excites
disgust, calls forth the bitterest enmity of the human
heart, and arouses all its self-love in determined
The salvation exhibited in the gospel is not only
opposed to the pride of sinful man, but also to
the evil passions of fallen man. It requires the
excision of sins dear as our right hand, the
surrender of objects which have enamored our
whole soul, the breaking up of habits which
have grown and strengthened with age.
Who can pluck the worldling from the whirlpool of
earthly-mindedness, which sucks down so many?
Who can rescue our hearers from the ruinous
fascinations of Mammon? Who can make inroads
upon the money-loving, money-grasping spirit of
this ungodly age?
To carry on the ministry of the gospel in this revolted
world, with the intention and desire of recovering its
carnal inhabitants from sin and Satan—must appear to
every reflecting mind the most hopeless of all human
undertakings—apart from the aid of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit alone, can induce us to continue in
the ministry another hour. Without His agency, we
would retire in utter despair!
Eternal, immutable truth!
The God of truth Himself has placed the Bible on
the seat of majesty in the temple of truth, and has
called upon all systems of philosophy to fall down
and do it homage.
This is our subject—eternal, immutable truth!
Truth given pure from its Divine Source, and bearing
with it the evidence and impress of its own Omniscient
Author. O what, compared with the truths of Scripture,
are the loftiest and noblest of the sciences?
Chemistry, with its beautiful combinations and affinities;
or astronomy, with its astounding numbers, magnitudes,
distances, and revolutions, of worlds; or geology, with its
marvelous and incalculable dates of bygone ages? What is
matter, inert or organized, however diversified, classified,
or combined with its laws of necessity, compared with minds
and souls, and the laws of moral truth by which their actions
are regulated? What is nature, compared with the God of
nature? What are the heavens and the earth, compared with
the 'marvelous mind' which looks out upon them through
the organ of vision, as from a window commanding the
grand and boundless prospect? What is the fleeting term
of man's existence upon earth, with its little cycles of
care, sorrow, and labor, compared with the eternal ages
through which the soul holds on her course of deathless
existence? The works of creation are a dim and twilight
manifestation of God's nature, compared with the grandeur
and more perfect medium of redemption.
"Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we
persuade men." 2 Corinthians 5:11
Though a careful analysis of the text should form
the basis of almost all our sermons, there must be
something more than mere exegesis, however clear,
correct, and instructive.
We have to do not only with a dark intellect that
needs to be informed—but with a hard heart that
needs to be impressed, and a torpid conscience
that needs to be awakened! We have to make our
hearers feel that in the great business of godliness,
there is much to be done—as well as much to be
known. We must impart knowledge, for light is as
essential to the growth of piety in the spiritual world,
as it is to the growth of vegetation in the natural one.
The analogy holds good in another point, we must not
only let in light—but add great and vigorous labor to
carry on the culture. We must therefore rise from
exegesis into—exhortation, warning, and admonition.
The apostle's manner is the right one, "Whom we
preach, warning every man and teaching every man
in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect
in Christ Jesus." We must not only direct—but impel
They all know far more than they practice of the Bible;
the head is generally far in advance of the heart; and
our great business is to persuade, to entreat, to beseech.
We have to deal with a dead, heavy, lethargic mind!
Yes more, we have to overcome a stout resistance,
and to move a reluctant heart! When we find every
sinner we address, acting in opposition to the dictates
of his judgment, and the warnings of his conscience,
as well as to the testimony of Scripture; sacrificing the
interests of his immortal soul to the vanities of the
world, and the corruptions of his heart; madly bent
upon his ruin, and rushing to the precipice from which
he will take a fatal leap into perdition; can we, in that
case, be satisfied with merely explaining, however
clearly, and demonstrating, however conclusively,
the truths of Scripture? "We implore you on Christ's
behalf—Be reconciled to God."
Our teaching should . . .
be perspicuous and impressive,
command the attention,
instruct the judgment,
engage the affections, and
awaken the conscience.
The Christian minister
The Christian minister is the spiritual shepherd of
the flock. He has to increase not their knowledge
only—but also their holiness, love, and spirituality.
He has to aid them in performing all the branches
of duty, and in cultivating all the graces of
A lack of powerful, eloquent, yet simple and
sincere exhortation—is among the greatest
deficiencies of the modern pulpit.
The mainspring of all our power in the pulpit
We are weak in the pulpit, because we are weak in
the closet. An earnest pastor will discipline his heart
—for there, within, is the spring of energy, the seat
of impulse, and the source of power. If the heart
beats feebly, the whole circulation must be sluggish,
and the frame inert. So it is with us ministers—our
own personal godliness is the mainspring of all our
power in the pulpit. We are feeble as preachers,
because we are feeble as Christians. Whatever
other deficiencies we have, the chief of them all
lies in our hearts. We have too much forgotten
that the fount of eloquence is in the heart; and
that it is feeling which gives to words and
thoughts their power.
Lukewarmness can excite no ardor, originate no
activity, produce no effect—it benumbs whatever
it touches. If we enquire what were the sources
of the energy, and the springs of the activity, of
the most successful ministers of Christ, we shall
find that they lay in the ardor of their devotion.
They were men of prayer and of faith. They dwelt
upon the mount of communion with God, and came
down from it like Moses to the people, radiant with
the glory on which they had themselves been
intently gazing. They stationed themselves where
they could look at unseen and eternal things, and
came with the stupendous visions fresh in their
view, and preached under the impression of what
they had just seen and heard. They drew their
thoughts and made their sermons from their
minds and from their books—but they breathed
life and power into them from their hearts, and
in their closets!
Trace Whitfield in his career, and you will see how
beaten was the road between his pulpit and his closet
—the grass was not allowed to grow in that path. This
was in great part the secret of his power. He was mighty
in public, because in his retirement he had clothed
himself, so to speak, with Omnipotence. He reflected
the luster he had caught in the Divine presence; and
its attraction was irresistible.
If then we would see a revival of the power of the
pulpit, we must first of all see a revival in the piety
of those who occupy it!
What is meant by an earnest ministry?
In the first place then, earnestness implies the selection of some ONE object of special pursuit, and a vivid perception of its value and importance. It is next to impossible for the mind to be intently employed, or the heart to be very deeply engaged, on a multiplicity of objects at once. We have not energy enough to be so divided and distributed. Our feelings to run with force must flow pretty much in one channel—our attention must be concentrated, our purpose settled, our energy exerted—upon one thing, or we can do nothing effectually. The earnest man is a man of one idea, and that one idea occupies, possesses, and fills his soul. To every other claimant upon his time, and interest, and labor, he says, "Stand aside! I am engaged, I cannot attend to you; something else is waiting for me." To that one thing he is committed.
There may be many subordinate matters among which he divides any surplus water—but the current flows through one channel, and turns one great wheel. This "one thing I do," is his plan and resolution. Many wonder at his choice, many condemn it—no matter, he understands it, approves it, and pursues it, notwithstanding the ignorance which cannot comprehend it, and the diversity of taste which cannot admire it. He is no double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, whose preference and purpose are shaken by every cross gale of opinion. It is nothing to him what others do, or what they say as to what he does—he must do that, whatever else he leaves undone. No one can be in earnest who has not thus made up his mind; and he who has, and is resolutely bent upon an object, keeps it constantly before his mind. His attention is so strongly and tenaciously fixed upon it, that even at the greatest distance, "like the Egyptian pyramids to travelers, it appears to him with a luminous distinctness, as if it were near, and beguiles the toilsome length of labor and enterprise by which he must reach it." It is so conspicuous before him that he does not deviate a step from the right direction, he ever hears a voice calling him onward, and every movement and every day brings him nearer to the end of his journey. Break in upon him at any moment, you know where you will find him, and how he will be employed.
This is the first part of the description of an earnest minister—he too has selected his object, and made up his mind concerning it, and insulating it from all others, sets it clearly and distinctly before his mind.
Earnestness implies that the subject has not only been selected—but that it has taken full possession of the mind, and has kindled towards it an intense desire of the heart. It is something more than a correct theory and logical deductions; more than mere exercise of the intellect, and the play of the imagination. Earnestness means that the understanding having selected and appreciated its object, has pressed all the faculties of both mind and body to join in the pursuit of it. It urges the soul onward in its career of action at such a speed that it is set on fire by the velocity of its own motion. The object of an earnest man is never for any long period of time absent from his thoughts. He meditates on it by day, and dreams of it by night—it meets him in his solitary walks as some bright vision which he loves to contemplate, and it comes over him in company with such power that he cannot avoid making it the topic of his conversation, until he appears in the eyes of those who have no sympathy with him, as an enthusiast.
His ministry is sought with the obligation of a principle, and the ardor of a passion. It is impressed upon his whole character, and is inseparable from his conduct.
The great difficulty
The great difficulty in the Christian ministry, is that we
have to deal with those who are unwilling to be saved, and
to persuade the sinful, proud, and stubborn hearts of men,
to surrender to holiness and grace. The faithful pastor carries
the offer of infinite and ineffable blessedness, but it is to men
who have no taste for that species of felicity. His would be an
easy office, did he find men everywhere predisposed to close
with the proposals of infinite benevolence. But wherever he
goes he meets with hearts not only indifferent, but hostile,
to his message. The parable which represents the excuses
made for not coming to the marriage feast, is still applicable
to men in reference to the invitations of the gospel—men
are as they ever were, too busy, or too well satisfied with
their enjoyments and possessions, to care about salvation.
They are madly set upon the objects of the present world.
They are asleep, and need to be roused.
They are careless, and need to be interested.
They are indolent, and need to be stimulated.
And it is with the greatest difficulty we can engage
their attention to the invisible realities of eternity.
No one who leaves out of view the desperate
wickedness of the human heart, can form a true
estimate of the nature, design, and difficulties
of the pastoral office. And the reason why there
is so little of hard labor, and intense earnestness,
and beseeching entreaty, in the ministers of the
gospel, is, that there is the lack of a deep conviction,
or proper consideration, of the resistance to their
endeavors in the sinner's heart, which is perpetually
Time is ever rolling on, and carrying us upon
its rapid and resistless torrent towards eternity.
This heavenly light of truth"All Scripture is inspired by God, and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training
in righteousness, so that the man of God may
be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17
The word of God is the sword of the Spirit
by which He slays our corruptions, and the
fire by which He purifies our souls.The doctrines of Scripture are facts, which involve
corresponding emotions and principles of action,
and must, from their very nature, if believed, be
operative upon the heart and the life.
If the doctrines of Scripture . . .
exert no influence,
carry with them no practical weight,
exert no moral power,
they are not truly believed.
The doctrines of Scripture are at once . . .
the source of consolation, and
the means of sanctification.
The doctrines of Scripture . . .
come into the mind as knowledge,
produce peace and love in the heart,
spread the beauties of holiness over
the character and conduct.
The doctrines of Scripture are light; and like the
rays of the sun, they sustain life at the root of
the vine, and produce fruit on its branches.
This heavenly light of truth gives . . .
spiritual vitality to the soul,
and holy conduct to the life.
"The Word of God is living and active!
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it
penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts
and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary
the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking
whom he may devour." 1 Peter 5:8, 9
What a description of your adversary! One who . . .
for power is a "lion,"
for cruelty and rage, a "roaring lion,"
for activity, "walking about,"
for diligence, "seeking" out his prey,
for destructive purposes, "seeking whom he may devour."
Satan's power, though limited and restrained, is very
great. His trickery is equal to his power. His malignity
is not inferior to either. The very idea that this cunning
foe that may be near us at any moment, unseen, and
therefore unnoticed, and may be preparing some new
kind of attack, is indeed sufficient to alarm us, and to
put us upon the best means of averting the danger.
"Be vigilant!" Watchfulness is an essential duty of the
Christian life—none is more necessary—none is more
frequently or more solemnly enjoined. Who that is
asleep can defend himself against a lion? How cautiously,
would we walk, if we were in a country where wild beasts
are common, and saw the footprints, and actually heard
the roar of a lion! Such is our situation! See to it, then,
that you do walk vigilantly—looking all round, watching
every object, lest it conceal the enemy! Be vigilant over . . .
your besetting sins,
and especially, watch your hearts with all diligence!
An unwatchful Christian is sure to be an unsuccessful one.
One of Satan's masterpieces
"This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the Devil,
or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown
down to the earth with all his angels." Revelation 12:9
It is one of Satan's masterpieces to induce men to take
some one truth of Scripture, and to magnify its importance
beyond all due bounds, and to exalt it not only above all
other truths—but to the utter exclusion of them, thus
founding error upon truth, and heresies upon the sacred
"He was a murderer from the beginning and has always
hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies,
it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and
the father of lies." John 8:44
Gratified by genius, eloquence, and oratory?
"Take heed therefore how you hear!" Luke 8:18
Let us never forget that to have our souls profited,
that is, to be spiritually improved in knowledge, faith,
holiness, joy, and love—is the proper end of hearing
sermons—and not merely to have our taste gratified
by genius, eloquence, and oratory.
A right end and object in hearing the Word of God
is necessary, for our souls to be in a healthful state.
We live in an age when talent is idolized, and genius
adored. With too many it is not the truth of God that
is thought of, valued, and delighted in—but the talent
of man with which it is set forth.
To constitute a man a Christian
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus." Philip. 2:5
Jesus Christ is the only Teacher who ever made
a 'similarity of disposition to Himself'—a test and
badge of discipleship. He is not only the teacher,
but the pattern of His own religion. His example
is an essential part of His system.
To constitute a man a Christian, he must not only
receive the doctrines of our Lord—but must imbibe
His very spirit. He must not only believe all He
taught—but he must live as He lived, think as He
thought, and feel as He felt. Christ's mind must
be in his mind, as far as he can contain it, and
Christ's heart must be in his heart.
To be a Christian, it is not only necessary we should
adopt Christ's doctrines,
comply with His ordinances,
observe His sacraments,
associate with His church,
espouse His cause,
conform outwardly to His conduct;
but we must have His very mind in us! The prevailing
spirit and disposition of His mind, must be ours also.
Unless the eye of man sees the image of Christ upon
our character, and the eye of God sees the mind of
Christ in our soul, we are not acknowledged as
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus." Philip. 2:5
And what was the mind of Christ?
How holy was his mind! Not the shadow of sin, nor
the least taint of moral evil ever passed over it, to
becloud or pollute its immaculate purity. His mind
was the seat of the most ineffable benevolence.
His heart was the very temple of love—nothing
malevolent, vindictive, or cruel, ever found a
All His actions, words, and feelings were the
workings of incomparable love.
His humility was equal to His purity and benevolence.
Where and in whom, is to be seen the union of
holiness, benevolence, and condescension, which
formed the character of the Savior?
Is His holiness to be found in those professors who,
though they are free from external vice and immorality
—allow the corruptions of their heart to go unmortified;
and who indulge, instead of crucifying—the passions
and lusts of the flesh?
Is His benevolence to be found in those who are so
fond of the world, so grasping, and so hoarding, that
little or nothing can be extorted from their reluctant
hands for the salvation of sinners, and the glory of God?
And then where is His humility to be seen in His followers?
Is it to be found in those who will have their rights, and
all their rights, at whatever cost of principle or peace; who
will not tolerate the least offense, without all the boilings
of wounded pride, and mortified vanity?
Oh, is this the mind that was in Christ?
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus." Philip. 2:5
The most difficult lesson
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in
humility consider others better than yourselves." Phil. 2:3
The design of this passage is to enforce the injunctions to
repress all selfish considerations of our own rights, interests,
and dignity—and in the exercise of a kind and condescending
regard to the welfare of others—to forego for their advantage
what we might claim for our own.
The disposition which the apostle enjoins is that particular
species of Christian virtue which which consists of a meek
humility, and benevolent condescension for the sake of
promoting the comfort and interests of our fellow Christians.
And because this is the most difficult lesson for our proud
and selfish hearts to learn in the school of Christ, he
enforces it by the power of the most cogent and splendid
example which the universe contains—that of our Lord
Jesus—in His striking condescension, and profound humility.
The most sublime doctrines
The seat of all true religion is in the soul. The
soul forms the character and guides the conduct
by the power of an inward principle of spiritual life.
There is an intimate connection between Christian
truth and Christian practice. The truth is employed
by the sacred writers to enforce Christian practice.
The most sublime doctrines of our holy Christian
religion, are all practical in their design and
tendency. They are not mere theory or academics,
but are "the truth which is according to godliness."
The religion which God demands
Never forget, my dear friends, that the religion which
God demands of you, and delights in and will accept,
is a religion of the heart—a religion of . . .
penitence and faith in Christ,
love to God,
hope of heaven,
hatred of sin,
charity to man;
all existing in the soul as so many godly affections,
called forth in the actions of a holy life, and rendered
vocal in words of prayer and praise.
The palm tree!
"The godly will flourish like palm trees." Psalm 92:12
The palm tree is indigenous to tropical and other
warm climates. It grows to a considerable height and
size, and presents a beautiful appearance. Its fruits
are much valued and are eaten both fresh and
preserved, and are also pressed for syrup and wine.
But it is not for its fruit alone that the palm tree is so
valuable. From the boughs, which are yearly lopped
off from the lower parts of the stem, are made baskets,
cages, ropes, and sacks; from the leaves are made
mattresses, sandals, etc. It is an evergreen, and
lives to an extreme old age—the wood is durable
and much used.
How striking an emblem of a godly man. He shall
flourish like the palm tree!
Not how many tears we can shed
The emotional part of true godliness may be, and is
by many, overestimated. The question is not merely
what we can feel—but what we can do, for Christ;
not how many tears we can shed—but how many
sins we can mortify; not what raptures we can
experience—but what self-denial we can practice;
not what happy frames we can enjoy—but what
holy duties we can perform; not simply how much
we are pleased at the sermon—but how much we
can exhibit of the mind of Jesus in our communion
with our fellow-men; not only how far above earth
we can rise to the bliss of heaven—but how much
of the love and purity of heaven we can bring down
to earth. In short, not how much of rapt feeling we
can indulge—but how much of godly principle we
can bring to bear on our whole conduct.
The Scriptures should not be read
Some prescribe to themselves the task of reading
so many chapters of the Bible every day. But the
Scriptures should not be read, merely for the
sake of being read.
It is not the quantity of Scripture read, but the
quantity studied, understood, and applied, that
does us good. One verse pondered upon, felt,
and applied, is better than a whole chapter or
book, read negligently, thoughtlessly, and
A real, devout, and intelligent study of the Scriptures,
is essential to great progress in godliness. SEARCH the
Scriptures daily. Meditate on the Word of God day and
night—and put it into practice. Study the Word of God
with prayer for divine teaching. Take up David's petition,
"Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in Your law."
There is much corruption in your heart generating a false
bias, and beclouding your judgment—and likely therefore
to lead you to misconception and error. Beseech of God
to send forth His Spirit into your heart to purify it from
depravity, that you may be better preserved from error.
We must give up all preconceived ideas, all prejudices,
all pride of intellect, and go in humility to the Scriptures
Guard your heart!
"Above all else, guard your heart; for out of it
are the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23
The heart is . .
the great vital spring of the soul,
the fountain of actions,
the center of principle,
the seat of motives
The heart is the center of the thoughts and
feelings—out of which conduct comes.
The heart must be the first, chief, constant object
of solicitude to the Christian. It is this which God
sees, and because God principally looks at it, the
heart must be ever uppermost in our concern.
To keep the heart must mean exerting ourselves
with great earnestness, in dependence upon Divine
grace, to preserve it in a good state; laboring to
preserve its vitality, vigor, and purity.
The heart is the citadel of the soul. If this is
neglected, the enemy at the gates will soon be
in and take possession. Set a watch, therefore,
upon the heart. Let the sentinel be never off
duty, nor sleeping at his post.
Keep out evil thoughts, and unholy affections, and
vile imaginations. Without great vigilance they will
elude observation. As soon as an enemy of this kind
is detected, he must be seized and made captive,
until every thought is brought into subjection to
As the state of the heart is, so is the man in
reality—and before God. Guard your heart!
Christians should have a clear understanding, a deep
conviction, and a very powerful impression, that they
are called not only to holiness and happiness—but
also to usefulness. Yet they are sometimes so much
taken up with the enjoyment of their own personal
religion and Christian privileges, as to sit down in
luxurious ease and indolently enjoy the happiness
to which they are brought. But let them know and
remember, that one of the strongest evidences
of our own salvation, is a deep concern and a
vigorous activity for the salvation of others.
The concentrated nutriment of the divine life!
In Scripture, there is no knowledge which is purely
academic—all, all is practical. Every part is "a doctrine
according to godliness." The design of the Bible, is
"that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly
furnished unto all good works."
Truth is but a means to an end, and that end is holiness.
Everyone of us ought to study our Bibles with that prayer
upon our lips, "Sanctify me by Your truth; Your word is
truth." We should grow in our understanding of the
example of Jesus—that we might be more like Him.
A desire to know merely to know, is curiosity.
A desire to know in order to do, is godliness.
Never was there an age when Bibles were more widely
circulated, and never an age when they were less read!
Magazines, periodicals, and books of all kinds have
come in upon us like a flood, which in many cases has
almost swept away the Bible. It is Bible truth from its
own source, which is the 'concentrated nutriment' of
the divine life! It will be found that they are usually the
strongest, healthiest, and most rapidly growing of the
children of God, who live most upon the sincere, that is,
the pure and "unadulterated" milk of the Word of God.
The writings of men are very useful in their place when
they lead us to the Word of God. But too many people
allow themselves to be kept away by these writings,
from the fountains of pure truth—the sacred Scriptures!
Scriptural joy makes . . .
temptations powerless, and
worldly amusements insipid.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace as you trust in Him." Romans 15:13
"We live by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7
Faith is the root of all true piety. Christians need faith
for sanctification, consolation, and perseverance. Every
act of the spiritual life is an act of faith; every step in
the spiritual walk is a step of faith. The Christian's
course is not one of doing merely, but of believing.
His prayers are the breathings of faith;
his works are the actings of faith;
his penitence is the tear of faith;
his joy is the smile of faith;
his hopes are the anticipations of faith;
his fears are the tremblings of faith;
his strength is the confidence of faith;
his submission is the acquiescence of faith.
Faith is . . .
the eye that looks at Christ;
the foot that moves to Him;
the hand that receives Him;
the mouth that feeds upon Him.
It is not only by the activity of obedience, but by
the silent and passive power of dependence, that
the Christian is strong and victorious.
Here is the reason why so many professors are so
worldly and so weak; why they make such little
progress, and such small attainments—they are
so much under the dominion of sense, are so
almost wholly given up to a life of sight, that
they have neither time nor inclination to look
at the things that are unseen and eternal.
There is in them no habitual looking to Christ, no
abiding in Him, no vivid consciousness that all their
springs are in Him, and that it is from His fullness
they are to receive necessary grace.
We must prefer the invisible realities of eternity,
to the visible things of time; and amid all that is . . .
dazzling to sense,
gratifying to appetite,
and dear to passion,
by faith, spend a life of . . .
mortification of sin, and
separation from the world.
Be this then your sincere and earnest prayer, my dear
friends, "Lord, increase our faith!" Be willing to have the
world displaced from your soul, to make room for the
objects of faith! Be ever ready to come from the dazzling
glare of earthly scenes, to dwell in the calm and holy light
of faith. Study the Scriptures, and meditate much upon their
contents. Frequent and devout converse with the objects of
faith, is the best way to have it increased.
Watch diligently against the influence of those objects
which have a fatal tendency to eclipse faith's light, to
obstruct its operation, and enfeeble its life—namely
sensual pleasure; eager pursuit of the world; and a too
intimate converse with those who mind earthly things.
An active, powerful, and craving principle
"We live by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7
Do not the great bulk of those who call themselves
Christians appear to be living far too much by sight
—and not by faith in eternal realities?
Not indeed that they are immersed in vice or amusing
gaieties; but how deeply sunk in worldly care, how taken
up with worldly comforts! No matter how pure, and how
innocent the things may be in themselves, if they hide
scriptural objects from the eye of faith—they are
unlawful, as to their influence, when they do this.
Our profession implies a disposition, and a habit of seeking
our highest objects of interest and delight, in things unseen
and eternal—a daily converse of the soul with God and Christ;
with heaven and eternity. He who is thus walking will not
allow himself to be long out of sight of the cross. He will not
wander far from God in quest of happiness. He will not shut
himself up amid terrestrial pleasures, however rational or
innocent. He has a new principle in his nature, beside sense
and reason—for he has faith. And faith is an active, powerful,
and craving principle, which aspires after something higher,
and better, and more enduring—than anything he can see, or
touch, or taste!
He is the subject of wants and woes, which only faith can
relieve and mitigate. Neither sense nor reason can assist
him to throw off his load of guilt, or give satisfaction to
desires, which the world is too poor to gratify.
Here, therefore, on this terrestrial globe, he finds himself
a prisoner, sighing for escape from the dark and limited
region which he inhabits—and it is only faith that can open
for him the doors, and make way for his excursion into the
invisible realities of eternity!
Alas! how small are our attainments in this divine life of
faith! How much are we occupied and engrossed by things
of time and sense.
What do you know of this life of faith?
You are all living by faith or sight; either upon
heavenly things—or earthly things.
On what is your soul living?
What is it that supplies your comfort?
Where does your spirit go daily to quench her thirst
after happiness—to the breaking cisterns of 'earthly
good'—or to the fountains of living waters?
Sooner or later, the fullest store of the joys of earthly
delights will be exhausted. Pleasures, profits, honors
—what are they? The whole form only a kind of 'imaginary
world', a sort of 'splendid show', like that in a dream,
which when you awake—all is gone!
To grasp it—is to grasp a shadow!
To feed upon it—is to feed upon the wind!
Christ and His salvation—heaven and eternity—are the
only substantial realities! And these are the objects for
which faith lives, and toward which it is perpetually walking.
How precious is the privilege of prayer!
How precious is the privilege of prayer! We
are at freedom to pour out the utmost secrets of
our hearts, whether of sin, sorrow, or anxiety.
Some of your happiest, holiest seasons on earth
have been spent in prayer. There you have
communed with God! In prayer . . .
your cares have been lightened,
your sorrows alleviated,
your fears dissipated,
your souls invigorated.
In prayer you have . . .
conquered the world,
subdued your foes,
mortified your corruptions.
O what hours you have spent,
what discoveries you have made,
what joys you have experienced!
"We put no stumbling block in anyone's path."
2 Corinthians 6:3
Be very careful not to throw stumbling blocks in a
Christian's path, even in little things. I do not now
allude to immoralities and vice. But I refer to the
lesser violations of Christian propriety; such as . . .
the indulgence of bad dispositions;
offences against love, gratitude, and humility;
the practice of dishonorable business artifices;
indifference to the cause of Christ;
conformity to the world in . . .
I beseech you to abstain from such things!
Do not give the 'sanction of your example', or the
'aid of your influence' to the spread of a diseased
religious profession, in which such leprous spots
as these are continually breaking out! "Abstain
from all appearance of evil."
You should be the first to set the example, and
to give out a pattern of self-denial! You should
be the leaders of the cross-bearing company!
You should be advanced in the virtues of . . .
separation from the world!
You should lend your example and aid in training the
new converts to that hardy, enduring, self-denying
religion, which is implied in the Christian profession.
"Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or
obstacle in another Christian's path." Romans 14:13
There is more real happiness in the believer's mind,
when in the very midst of poverty and trouble, he
exercises a lively confidence in God—than the richest
worldling on earth enjoys, when surrounded by all his
untold wealth, and incalculable possessions.
To feel our own poverty, emptiness, nothingness—and
yet at the same time to feel in all the confidence of
faith, our fullness in Christ and our title to that priceless
inheritance, which God has reserved for His children,
which is kept in heaven for them—pure and undefiled,
beyond the reach of change and decay—is one of the
most felicitous states of mind we can attain to in this
world! It unites the deepest humility—with the most
exalted and triumphant anticipations!
The life of faith
"We live by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7
The life of faith means to be habitually influenced in the
state of our minds and conduct, not by visible objects, but
by the invisible realities which are revealed in the Word of
God. It is said of Moses, "He persevered because he saw
Him who is invisible." This is the life and walk of faith with
respect to God—a realizing sense of His invisible presence
—such a persuasion as leads us to all that conduct which
He requires. This then is the life of faith—to believe that
we are ever surrounded by an all-seeing, holy, and merciful
God—and to conduct ourselves toward Him accordingly.
"The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of
God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal. 2:20
No exclusive time, or place, or sphere
Many professing Christians are far too limited in
their ideas of the nature, design, and extent of
practical religion. They act as if religion had
nothing to do either with business, with temper,
or with our domestic and social relations! They
act as if religion were a mere matter of opinion
or ceremony—a thing of the cloister, the closet,
or the sanctuary, which is to be confined to its
own retreats, and never to be allowed to
approach the scenes of worldly business,
and secular pursuits!
They act as if religion were a mere rule to direct
us how we are to behave ourselves in the house
of God, and to regulate our worship; and which,
having done this, has accomplished its object!
Is not this, I say, the view which if we may
judge by their behavior, many take of religion?
But can anything be more inaccurate?
True religion is a permanent, all-pervading,
unchanging principle, possessing a kind of
universality of nature! It must go with us,
not only into the sanctuary of God, or into
the closet of private devotion, but into all
places! It must regulate our conduct, not
only toward the church, but toward the world!
It must operate upon us and influence us,
not only on Sundays, but at all times! It
must dictate, not only how we pray, and
read the Bible—but how we buy, and sell,
and get gain.
True religion has no exclusive time, or place,
or sphere, of its own—but is a matter of all
times, places, and scenes. Though heavenly
in her origin, her nature, and her destiny—she
is not so thoroughly ethereal as to turn away
from the scenes of this mundane sphere, as
beneath her notice and unworthy of her control.
Practical religion must be seen in everything!
If we are unamiable at home
The influence of religion must be seen, and its power
felt, in making a happy home. Religion ought to give
strength, tenderness, and sanctity—to all the
relationships of life. It should make . . .
husbands and wives more affectionate and devoted,
parents more kind, judicious, and vigilant,
children more dutiful, respectful, and attentive.
If we are unamiable at home, there must be
something essentially defective in our profession.
Fearful instances of self-deception
The man who assured he is saved, while he is
habitually living in the habitual neglect of known
duty, or in the indulgence of actual sin—is one of
the most fearful instances of self-deception in
The great design of the gospel, is to establish a
God-like frame and disposition of spirit, which
consists in righteousness and true holiness in
the hearts of men.
He who has the most confident persuasion of
his being a Christian now, and of his going on
to heaven hereafter, and whose confidence
rests on good ground, will be the holiest man.
A heavenly-minded man
Heavenly-mindedness means the spontaneous,
frequent, delightful, practical bent of our reflections
toward eternal life. A heavenly-minded man is one
who considers himself as a pilgrim and stranger upon
earth. He regards heaven as his native country, and
as instinctively turns his thoughts to it. Scarcely a day
passes during which no thought of his mind, no glance
of the eye of faith, turns to the glory to be revealed.
Precious to him are those parts of Scripture which
speak of the life to come, and exhibit to him, amid
the darkness of his way—the distant lights of his
father's house. Sermons that represent the holiness
and happiness of heaven are delightful to his heart;
books that describe it are congenial with his taste;
and the songs of Zion, which sounds like the echo
of its divine harmonies, excite all his hallowed
sensibilities, and elevate his spirit to catch some
of the falling rays of the excellent glory.
The beautiful symbols of heavenly bliss, seize and
fix his imagination; while his enlightened judgment
and his holy heart, repose upon . . .
the presence of God,
the vision of the Lamb,
the sinless purity,
the eternal rest,
the communion of the blessed,
the fellowship of angels.
A heavenly-minded man not only employs his
thoughts, but sets his affections on things above.
A heavenly-minded man goes farther than this, and
prepares for future glory. Grace is the preparation for
glory, and he who has most grace, is most fitted for glory.
The man who is going to occupy a place in the palace,
endeavors to acquire courtly manners, and to provide
himself with a court dress. So the eminently spiritual
Christian considers himself as going in to dwell in the
palace of the King of kings, and his great business
upon earth is to prepare himself with the qualifications
and dress of the celestial court. And as he clearly
perceives that the prevailing dispositions of heaven
are purity and love, he labors to grow in holiness and
charity. If asked, in any situation or circumstance, or
at any period, what are you engaged in or employed
about? his answer is, "I am dressing for heaven;
making myself ready to go in and dwell with Christ!
Having a post to fill in the divine palace, I am
preparing for it by the mortification of sin, and
a growth in grace."
Such is heavenly-mindedness—but, alas! where is it
to be found? I know where it ought to be found—in
every professing Christian. His principles demand it,
his profession requires it, his prospects justify it.
But alas, how disgusting it is to witness the earthly
mindedness, and to hear the worldly conversation
of the great bulk of professing Christians—as if
heaven were nothing more than a splendid painting
to adorn their temples of religion, and to be looked
at once a week; but not a glorious reality to be
ever before their eyes . . .
to form their character,
to regulate their conduct,
support them in trouble, and
furnish their chief happiness!
Men's hopes always affect their conduct
"Everyone who has this hope in him purifies
himself, just as He is pure." 1 John 3:3
A heavenly-minded man is a holy man.
Heaven, being a holy state, yes, the very perfection
of holiness; does, by a natural process, render those
holy, who meditate upon it, believe it, hope for it, and
long for it. Men's hopes always affect their conduct,
and transform their characters into a likeness to the
nature of the objects of their desires and expectations.
How effectually guarded from temptation to lust, worldly
mindedness, and malice—is he whose affections are strongly
fixed upon a state of purity, spirituality, and love! Who that
is drinking happiness from the crystal river that flows from
the throne of God and the Lamb, can take up with the filthy
puddle of worldly amusements?
What mortification of sin,
what conquest of besetting corruption,
what eradication of evil tempers,
what suppression of unholy disposition goes on,
when the soul fixes the 'eye of faith' on unseen and
eternal realities! Yes, what discoveries of hidden and
unsuspected sins are made, when the light of heavenly
glory is let into the soul!
A sublime fiction
"Their mind is on earthly things." Philip. 3:19
This is the description given by the apostle, of the
predominant taste and pursuits of the men of the
Sadly, this also describes a large proportion of those
who have 'professed' to come out from the world, and
to be a people separated unto God. How engrossed are
they, not only in the business, but in the cares, the love,
and the enjoyment of earthly vanities. Who would imagine,
to see their conduct, to hear their conversation, to observe
their spirit—so undevout, and so worldly—that these were
the men, who have heaven in their eye, their heart, their
hope? Even to them, we would be inclined to think, that
heaven is nothing more than . . .
a mere name,
a sublime fiction,
a sacred vision,
which, with all its splendor, has scarcely power
enough to engage their thoughts and fix their
regards. How little effect has heaven . . .
to elevate them above a predominant earthly-mindedness,
to comfort them in trouble,
to minister to their happiness,
to mortify their corruptions.
Can it be that they are seeking for, and going to glory,
honor, and immortality—who think so little about it, and
derive so small a portion of their enjoyment from the
expectation of it?
"Their destiny is destruction,
their god is their stomach, and
their glory is in their shame.
Their mind is on earthly things." Philip. 3:19
Spirituality of mind
"For to be carnally-minded is death; but to be
spiritually-minded is life and peace." Rom. 8:6
True spirituality is a living principle in the soul;
yes, a divine life, a holy taste—whose seat and
center is in the mind.
Spirituality of mind is the beginning of heaven upon
earth. What is heaven, but the absence of all that is
carnal, and the presence and perfection of all that is
spiritual? It is by the habitual recurrence of holy
thoughts that the lineaments of a heavenly character
are impressed upon the soul, and by the ardor of holy
affections, that they acquire an unfading beauty and
an enduring form!
Spirituality of mind is a most blessed condition
of the soul, much spoken of in conversation and
in sermons; often discussed in books; frequently
prayed for—yet little understood, and too rarely,
at least in any high degree, possessed.
The Christian loves to think on divine things;
they suit his taste, are congenial with his
desires, and are productive of his happiness.
Spirituality of mind means the habitual and godly
employment of the thoughts and affections on divine
subjects. It is something more than . . .
morality of conduct, however pure and exemplary;
attendance on the means of grace, however punctual;
liberality, however diffusive;
zeal, however active.
Spirituality of mind means, in addition to all this, a
habitual devotional state of mind. It is such a minding
of spiritual things as arises from interest and delight in
them; such a proneness to meditate upon them as is
produced by a strong attachment to them. The true
indication of this state of mind, then, is to be found in
the prevailing character and complexion of the thoughts.
Thoughts are the springs of feeling, the elements of
action, and of character. The object of our thoughts in
this state of mind is not merely future glory, it is not
a mere looking up into heaven, a longing and craving,
amid the sorrows of life, after immortality and eternal
repose; but a devout and habitual reflection on the
whole range of divine truth . . .
the glorious character of God;
the person and offices of Christ;
the wise and gracious care of a superintending Providence;
the covenant of grace;
the exceeding great and precious promises of the word;
the second coming of Christ,
with all the other varieties of spiritual subjects.
Among all the objects to which the thoughts and
affections of the spiritually-minded are directed,
the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ stand
preeminent . . .
His perfect righteousness for justification,
His spotless example as the rule of their sanctification,
His offices of prophet, priest and king
—are all themes which have irresistible
attractions for their thoughts.
Nothing more decidedly indicates spirituality, than
this habitual tendency of the thoughts to Christ!
The degree to which our thoughts and feelings are
drawn to the Redeemer, is the precise amount we
possess of true spirituality of mind. To those who
believe, Christ is precious! Jesus is the specific
object and center of their devotional reflections.
The thoughts of the truly spiritually-minded always
kindle religious affections and lead to corresponding
actions. Spirituality of mind is not mere silent
contemplation, inactive sentimentality, passionless
quietism. No! it is habitual and delightful thinking,
producing habitual and delightful feeling, and
ending in habitual holy actions!
How would such spirituality of mind . . .
lighten your cares,
alleviate your sorrows,
sweeten your comforts,
sanctify your trials,
elevate your devotions,
How many otherwise cheerless scenes would it
enliven—and how many gloomy seasons would it
irradiate! What a source of perennial delight would
it open, where all else besides, is a desert of the
soul. Blessed state, day and night to be conversant
with holy, heavenly, peaceful thoughts!
It is a 'spurious spirituality', and one of the artifices
by which Satan deceives and destroys unwary souls—to
indulge in godly thoughts, and luxuriate in devotional
feeling, while the temper is unsubdued, the corruptions
of the heart unmortified, and the actions of the life are
in little conformity with the word of God.
When there is no disposition or tendency to indulge in
holy thoughts, but the whole character and complexion
of the mind are worldly; when the domestic and private
duties of devotion are little better than heartless forms;
when the taste in regard to sermons is rather for talent
and elegance, than for sound evangelical truth; when the
society of worldly men is preferred to the company of the
godly, and their discourse is more relished than that of
the eminently godly; when cheerfulness degenerates into
levity, and there is no pleasure in spiritual conversation
—in all these cases there is a sad indication of a lack of
true spirituality of mind.
"For to be carnally-minded is death; but to be
spiritually-minded is life and peace." Rom. 8:6
Mortification of sin
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified
the flesh with its passions and desires." Gal. 5:24
We are too apt to be satisfied if the life is free
from visible sins—forgetting that God sees and
searches the heart.
As to mortification of sin, we must carry
on a more determined crucifixion of . . .
all evil thoughts,
all evil feelings.
"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the
sin which so easily besets us." Hebrews 12:1
Direct your attention more fixedly, and your aim
more constantly, to the destruction of besetting
sins. You know what they are, whether . . .
lusts of the flesh, or
lusts of the mind, or
bad tempers toward man, or
sinful dispositions toward God, or
violations of piety.
Let us be distinguished by a great mortification of
besetting sins, which, more than anything else . . .
disgrace us, and
hindered us in our progress heavenward.
No sins require . . .
such severe mortification,
such incessant labor,
such earnest prayer,
such strong faith
for their destruction as besetting sins. But all
this is necessary, for if they are not destroyed,
they will probably destroy us.
The kind hand which smote so deeply!
(Letter to a friend who had lost a near relative)
Our hearts have bled. The wound inflicted has been
deep. We have felt that the stroke was full of anguish,
that it went to our very souls. We will not deny that
this is all true. We will not please ourselves with the
delusion that the deep, deep wound which the hand
of God has inflicted, can ever cease to bleed. But, O
my friend! 'is there not balm in Gilead? Is there not
a physician there?' Is not that physician our Savior;
wise to discern, prudent to manage, strong to save?
Has not the kind hand which smote so deeply,
accompanied the stroke with many softening,
Oh yes! I trust we both feel that it is so. It is God who
has afflicted us, the infinitely wise, compassionate, and
faithful Jehovah, the Lord our God. And does it not argue
great lack of confidence in Him—if we sink into despondency
when He chastises us? Does it not show, either that we
think we could manage things better than he can, or that
there is something which we have not cordially submitted
to His disposal?
"And now, O God, You are the potter—and we the clay!"
O how this thought . . .
quells the murmurings of self-will;
settles the restlessness of the troubled spirit;
plucks the sting from the rod of affliction!
God knows best!
Precious truth! It is an anchor to the soul, sure and
steadfast, which keeps it from shipwreck, amid all
the storms and tempests of the troubled sea of life.
Oh, for a firm, unwavering faith! This is all that is
needed. By faith, we may rejoice when our beloved
Christian friends are taken . . .
from the stormy ocean—to the peaceful haven;
from the weary wilderness—to the happy home;
from the field of battle—to the crown of victory;
and trace with holy courage, our way through the
same difficulties, to the same glorious reward.
But, ah! this, a firm unwavering faith, is too often
lacking. We miss our dear friend. The heart which
sympathized in all our pleasures and pains, has
ceased to beat; the ear which was always open to
listen to our afflictions and wishes, is closed; the
kind voice of affection and unselfish love, is hushed;
the arm which supported us, is withdrawn. It is a
chilling thought. Cherished alone, we feel its freezing,
benumbing influence fastening upon all the springs
of comfort and hope, and turning every stream of joy
into one wilderness of cold and motionless despair!
But, my dear friend, we must not view our trials thus.
We must think much and often of the blessedness of
those whose removal we lament, of the perfection of
the divine government, of the certainty of the promise,
that 'all things shall work together for good to those
who love God,' of the rapid approach of that hour which
will unite us eternally to those in Christ whom we love,
of the danger of creature-comforts, and of the suffering
life on earth of our glorious High-priest and head, and
his assurance that it is through much tribulation we must
enter the kingdom. Oh, my dear friend, if we are Christians,
there is a glorious prospect before us—as much of the good
things of this life as an infinitely wise and kind Father sees
to be best for us—and hereafter an eternity of unmingled
and ineffable bliss!
God loves His children too well to keep them one
moment longer from His house and home above—
than is best for His glory—and their happiness!
You are the one who has done this!
"Be still, and know that I am God." Such is the admonition
which comes to you—and which comes from heaven. It is God
Himself who has bereaved you—through whatever second
causes he has inflicted the blow. Not even a sparrow falls to
the ground without His knowledge—much less a rational and
immortal creature. He has the keys of death, and never for a
moment entrusts them out of His hand—the door of the
sepulcher is never unlocked but by Himself.
Though men die and drop as unheeded by many, as the fall
of the autumnal leaf in the pathless desert—they die not by
chance! Every instance of mortality, which has reduced you
to your present sorrowful condition, is an individual decision
of infinite wisdom. Whether therefore the death of your
husband was slow or sudden; at home or abroad; by accident
or disease—it was appointed, and all its circumstances arranged
by God. Be still, therefore, and know that He is God, who does
His will among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of
earth, nor allows anyone to question Him.
Bow down before Him with unqualified submission—and find
relief in acquiescence to His wise and sovereign will.
Submission forbids all passionate invective; all rebellious
language; all bitter reflections on second causes; and all
questionings about the wisdom, goodness, or equity of
the God of Providence. You should not only suppress all
murmuring, and complaining language—but all thoughts
and feelings of this kind. Submission is that state of the
soul under afflictive dispensations of Providence, which
produces an acquiescence in the will of God—as just, and
wise, and good. It expresses itself in some such manner
as the following; "I feel and deeply feel the heavy loss I
have sustained, and my nature mourns and weeps; but as
I am persuaded it is the Lord's doing, who has a right to
do as He pleases, and who is at the same time too wise
to mistake, and too benevolent to put me to unnecessary
pain—I endeavor to bow down to His will."
"I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You
are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9
A humble and self-abased creature
The act of humbling and abasing ourselves before God,
is a duty of believers through every successive stage of
their Christian career. As long as we are the subjects of
sin—we ought also to be the subjects of contrition. Sin,
and not merely punishment, is the ground of humiliation.
It is the most detestable selfishness to imagine that
because we are freed from the penal consequences of
sin, we are under no obligation to lie low in the dust.
A pardoned sinner—and no believer is anything
more—should ever be a humble and self-abased
creature in the sight of God.
Who can contemplate it without horror?
"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped
and served created things rather than the Creator—who is
forever praised. Because of this, God gave them over to
shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations
for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned
natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for
one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men,
and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the
knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to
do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with
every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are
full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they
invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are
senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless." Romans 1:25-31
What a picture!! Who can contemplate it without horror?
Yet such is the state of society—such the aspect of the moral
world—such are the crimes that deform, and pollute, and torment
the human race under the reign of Paganism, which, wherever it
exists, converts earth into the vestibule of hell, a den of wild
beasts, a range of malignant demons—which educates men for
fiends amid the worst of excesses of depravity—and tortures its
victims in this world, preparatory to their execution in the next.
Who that pretends to carry in his bosom the heart of a man,
much more who that professes to have the spirit of a Christian,
which is the mind of Christ—but must mourn in bitterness of
soul over this frightful wilderness, and long to bring these
habitations of cruelty under the reign of Christian love?
Easy is the descent to hell.
The Scriptures everywhere represent true piety by
terms, allusions, and figures which imply the greatest
effort, and the most persevering labor. Hence we
are commanded to . . .
"strive to enter in at the strait gate,"
"run with perseverance the race which is set before us,"
"labor for the food which endures unto eternal life,"
"fight the good fight of faith,"
"mortify the deeds of the body,"
"crucify the flesh."
What terms! what ideas! what metaphors! Can
anything that is easily accomplished require
or justify the use of such language? If it were
an easy thing to be a Christian, could the sacred
writers with any propriety have employed such
strong and very expressive figures?
Nothing, surely, can more impressively teach
us the absolute and indispensable necessity
of incessant as well as vigorous effort.
The course of a sinner is down-hill.
Easy is the descent to hell.
A transgressor has nothing to do but to give
himself up to the indulgence of his corruptions,
and he will slide to perdition without effort !
Not so the true Christian. Heaven is represented
as on a high eminence, which cannot be reached
without constant and laborious climbing. We are
speaking of the Christian temper, of practical religion,
of sanctification, of going on through all the trials
and temptations of life, to the possession of that
crown of glory which Christ has merited for us; and
if this is easy work, there is nothing difficult!
Sinking daily in crowds!
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate
and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and
many enter through it. But small is the gate and
narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few
find it." Matthew 7:13-14
This alarming statement was given by the Lord Jesus!
It is indeed a melancholy and a painful reflection; for it
is saying in other words, there are but few who are saved.
Alarming, and truly dreadful is the idea—that the greatest
part of mankind are moving towards the bottomless pit, and
sinking daily in crowds to the miseries of eternal perdition!
Such a sentiment ought not to be uttered, except with
a view to lessen the havoc which it describes, by disturbing
the delusion which is the cause of this extensive ruin!
There are many more who perish—than are saved!
Dreadful, alarming idea!
I tremble as I write!
Reader! Let the dreadful announcement startle you like
thunder, from your slumbers, and lead you to institute
the most serious, and solemn, and impartial examination
of your heart! Do not rest satisfied with a mere general,
careless assumption that you are a Christian. Without
true religion, you must perish eternally!
You have, perhaps, been a professor of religion, and
have approved a gospel ministry, and have enjoyed the
light and advantages of gospel ordinances; but this will
only aggravate your guilt, and condemnation, and misery!
If you are not living under the influence of Christian love,
you are living without true religion, and must have your
doom with those of whom it is said, "The wicked shall
be turned into hell!"
We are struck with the singularity of the fact, that the
Bible resolves the whole of devotional piety into love
to God; and the whole of morality into love to man.