Grace Gems for JULY 2005

Like a ball and chain around his ankle!

(John Angell James, "Christian Progress" 1853)

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the
 sin which so easily besets you
." Hebrews 12:1

Besetting sins are powerful hindrances to Christian
progress. In the case of most people, there is some
one sin
to which, either from their situation, taste,
constitution, or other circumstances—they are more
powerfully tempted than to others.

Satan knows very well what in every case this is, and
skillfully adapts his temptations to it. He is an expert
, and never chooses his bait, or throws his line,
at random! Independently, however, of him, the very
tendency of the heart is in that direction.

That one sin, whatever it is, while indulged, will hold
you back! You cannot make progress in holiness, until
it is mortified. Even its partial indulgence, though it
may be considerably weakened, will hinder you!

Study then your situation, circumstances, and constitution.
You cannot be ignorant which temptation and sin, you are
most liable to succumb to. You must know in what way
you have most frequently wounded your conscience, and
occasioned to yourself shame and sorrow.

Is it an unsanctified temper?

Is it an impure imagination?

Is it a proud heart?

Is it a vain mind?

Is it a taste for worldly company?

Is it a proneness to envy and jealousy?

Is it a love of money?

Is it a tendency to exaggeration in speech?

Is it a fondness for pleasure?

Is it a disposition to censoriousness and backbiting?

Study yourselves! Examine your own heart! You must
find out this matter, and it requires no great pains in
order to know it. It floats upon the surface of the heart,
and does not lie hidden in its depths. There, there, is
your danger! As long as that one sin, be it what it may,
is indulged, you cannot advance in the Christian life!

Other sins are like unnecessary clothing to the racer.

Besetting sins are like a ball and chain around his ankle!

Is this your religion?

(John Angell James, "Christian Love")

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all
 mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith
 that can move mountains, but have not love,
 I am nothing!
" 1 Corinthians 13:2

LOVE is a grace which many professing Christians
think far too little about; but it is of infinite value
in the eyes of God. Love is the most characteristic
feature of Christ's image in a renewed man. Love is
the most precious fruit of grace; and yet the fruit
which too many of His professed followers seem to
think themselves hardly under any obligation to

Christian love is that benevolent disposition
or kindness, which consists in good-will to all
creatures, and which leads us, as we have
opportunity, to promote their happiness.

The apostle has given us a description of the
exercises of this noble and god-like principle.

"Love is patient" and forbearing under injuries
and annoyances—and does not revile, revenge,
or retaliate.

"Love is kind," not harsh or crude—but ever ready,
willing, and pleased by looks, words, and actions,
to promote the comfort of others.

"Love does not envy." It does not pine and grieve
at the sight of another's superior possessions, fame,
happiness, or piety—and dislike him on that account.

"Love does not boast. Love is not proud." It neither
boasts its own gifts, achievements, and possessions,
nor despises others, nor makes insulting comparisons
—but is humble and gentle.

"Love does not behave unseemly." It modestly keeps
its place, and does nothing to offend by what is
unfitting its rank, station, or circumstances.

"Love seeks not her own." It does not selfishly want
to have its own way, or promote its own interest—to
the neglect of others.

"Love is not easily provoked." It governs its temper,
controls its passions, and is not soon or unreasonably
irritable or petulant.

"Love thinks no evil." It is not censorious, nor forward
to impute a bad motive to a doubtful action—but is
disposed to put the best construction on the actions
and words of others.

"Love rejoices not in iniquity—but rejoices in the truth."
It does not delight in the sins—but in the excellences
of an opponent.

"Love bears (or covers) all things." It does not divulge,
proclaim, aggravate faults—but hides them as far as it
can, and it is right to do so.

"Love believes all things," that are to the advantage
of another.

"Love hopes all things," where there is not sufficient
evidence to authorize belief.

"Love endures all things," bears hardships, sustains
labor, makes sacrifices—in order to accomplish its
purposes of good-will.

Such is love in exercise and act. This is benevolence
—this is a regard to the happiness of others. Whoever
acts thus, must promote happiness. He must bless all
around him. All things smile in his presence.

Beautiful description! Heavenly temper! Godlike mind!

Now, dear friends, look at love! Gaze upon . . .
  its lovely form,
  its beautiful countenance,
  its graceful actings.

Observe its seraphic glow, its divine temper, until you
are all enamored with its charms. But look at it not only
as something to be admired—but to be possessed and
practiced. Unless this is your temperament, you are not
Christians. I do not say you cannot be Christians unless
you have love in perfection. But you must have the
principle of love, and must be living in its exercise. You
are Christians no further than you live under its influence.

No matter what knowledge you may have of the doctrines
of the gospel; what seeming faith you may possess; what
zeal you may manifest; what liberality you may exercise;
what regularity, and punctuality in attendance upon the
means of grace, you may maintain—if love is lacking, all
this is of no avail.

Nothing can be a substitute for love.

Christianity is love . . .
  not a slavish attendance on ceremonies;
  not receiving the sacraments;
  not zeal for orthodoxy;
  not a form of church government;
  not belonging to any particular church.

God's eternal thoughts and purposes in election,
Christ's redeeming work upon the cross,
the Spirit's omnipotent agency in regeneration,
are not merely to bring us under a particular
ecclesiastical regimen—but to deliver us from
the dominion of selfishness, and place us under
the reign of love—and thus make us like God!

If an individual is destitute of love, he has no
saving religion. He may be zealous for the forms
of Christianity, but he is destitute of its living spirit.

And now, my dear friends, let me entreat you to
examine yourselves concerning this great essential
of the Christian character. Are you experimentally
acquainted with this disposition? Is this your
Is your temperament thus molded? Is
that one word 'love' characteristic of your spirit?
Has God's love to you, changed you into its own
likeness? Do you know what it is to have pride,
passion, envy, malice, selfishness—subdued,
repressed, resisted—by a meek, gentle, lowly,
forgiving, forbearing, generous, self-denying
temper? Are the harshness, hardness, asperity
of the fallen nature, displaced by the softness,
sweetness, and kindness of true love?

They shall not swoon, nor halt, nor turn back

(John Angell James)

How full of encouragement is the language of the
prophet Isaiah, "But those who hope in the Lord will
find new strength. They will fly high on wings like
eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will
walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

This beautiful passage contains a promise of continued
supplies of grace and strength
to all who really desire to
serve the Lord with integrity and simplicity. In the image
of the eagle, the prophet alludes to the strength of wing
and of vision possessed by this noble bird—whereby it
ascends to a lofty height, untired and undazzled—soaring
even above the fogs and mists of the lower regions of the
air, mounting above the very clouds, undeterred by the
lightning, and floating in the pure azure above!

Thus shall all who hope in the Lord rise higher and higher,
upon the mighty wings of strong devotion, and with the
unblinking eye of faith—into the regions of heavenly
mindedness; and shall approach nearer and nearer to
God—the sun of our spiritual day.

"They will run" in the heavenly race, for the crown of
immortal glory, "and not grow weary." Their strength,
instead of being exhausted, shall, contrary to what
occurs in bodily effort—be increased by exertion. No
length nor greatness of labor shall be too much for
them. God shall pour into their souls, fresh energy
for every fresh effort

"They will walk and not be faint." Their pilgrimage
may be arduous; the road may be long and rugged;
often up steep ascents, and down into deep and rocky
crags, where every step is a labor—but they shall not
lose heart or hope; they shall not swoon, nor halt,
nor turn back
—but go forwards, sustained by a
power greater than their own!


Dethroned—but not destroyed!

(John Angell James, "Christian Progress" 1853)

"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no
 good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to
 perform that which is good I find not." Romans 7:18

A Christian is truly regenerated—but at the same
time only partially sanctified.

Sin is dethroned—but not destroyed!

His predominant taste and disposition are holy—
but godly principles may not yet have struck
their roots very deep into his soul.

His holy purposes are somewhat vacillating, and
his inclinations to evil sometimes strong.

We have the burden of our fleshly corruptions to
carry, which without great labor and effort, will
sadly retard us in our Christian lives.

We are like a traveler who is on a smooth road, has
fine weather, is intimately acquainted with the way,
and has agreeable and helpful companions—but who
at the same time is very lame, or has a load to carry.
His lameness or his load will be a great delay to him.
His attention must be directed to these things. He
must cure the one or lighten the other, or he will
make slow progress.

A poor, weak, and trembling creature

(John Angell James, "Christian Progress" 1853)

"He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry
 the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His
 heart." Isaiah 40:11

Dwell upon the love and tenderness of our Lord Jesus!

Notice who are the objects of His care—"the lambs,"
which means not only those of tender age—but also
those who have been newly converted; those who are
young in Christian experience; and also those whose
temperament is naturally timid, whose strength is
feeble, and whose danger is great.

Yes, you are the objects of Christ's special attention,
care, and solicitude!
You are those whom He takes up
in the arms of His power—and lays on the bosom of His
love! He knows . . .
  your weakness,
  your timidity,
  your dangers!

He will exert for you . . .
  His tenderest sympathy,
  His greatest vigilance,
  His mightiest power.

This expression however not only conveys the idea of
great care of the weak—but the exercise of that care
with a view to their preservation and growth. It means
not only that He cordially receives them, will provide
for their safety, be concerned for their comfort, and
will accommodate His conduct to their needs—but He
will also nourish them through their infant existence,
and raise them up to maturity and strength.

Let every lamb of the flock of Christ, therefore, go to
Him by faith and prayer, and say, "Blessed Jesus, I
come to you as a poor, weak, and trembling creature,
doubtful of my own continuance, and alarmed at my
numerous difficulties and enemies. I am but a lamb,
and often fear I shall never be anything better. But
was it not in regard to such weakness that You have
been pleased to utter these gracious and tender words?
I flee to you as the helpless lamb to its shepherd—when
hungry, to feed it—or when pursued by wild beasts, that
he may defend it. Lord, take me in the arms of Your power
and lay me on the bosom of Your love—though I am so
poor and helpless a creature. I will hope in your nurturing
power and love, that I shall continue to grow, and that
You will one day rejoice in me, as one of the flock which
You have purchased with Your own blood!"

This pleasure-loving, pleasure-seeking,
and pleasure-inventing age

(John Angell James, "HINDRANCES to Christian Progress")

A taste for worldly amusements will inevitably prove,
wherever it is indulged—a powerful obstacle to growth
in grace.

Man is unquestionably made for enjoyment. He has a
capacity for bliss—an instinctive appetite for gratification;
and for this, God has made ample provision of a healthful
and lawful kind. But "a taste for worldly pleasure" means
that this God-given capacity is directed to wrong sources,
or carried to an excess.

Now there are some amusements which in their very
nature are so utterly incompatible with true godliness,
that a liking for them, and a hankering after them, and
especially an indulgence in them—cannot exist with real,
earnest, and serious piety.

The dissolute parties of the glutton and the drunkard;
the fervency for the gambling-table; the pleasures of
the race-course; the performances of the theater—are
all of this kind. A taste for them is utterly uncongenial
with a spirit of godliness!
So is a love for the gay and
fashionable entertainments of the ball-room, and the
wanton parties of the upper classes. These are all
unfriendly to true religion, and are usually renounced
by people intent upon the momentous concerns of

We would not doom to perdition, all who are at any
time found in this round of worldly pleasure—but we
unhesitatingly say, that a taste for them is entirely
opposed to the whole spirit of Christianity! They are
all included in that "world" which is overcome by faith
and the new birth.

True religion is, though a happy, a very serious
thing—and can no more live and flourish in the
uncongenial atmosphere of those parties, than
could a young tender plant survive, if brought
into a frigid zone!

But in this pleasure-loving, pleasure-seeking, and
pleasure-inventing age
, there is a great variety of
amusements perpetually rising up, which it would be
impossible to say are sinful, and therefore unlawful.
Yet the 'supposition of their lawfulness' viewed in
connection with their abundance, variety, and constant
repetition, is the very thing that makes them dangerous
to the spirit of true religion.

A taste for even lawful worldly amusements, which
leads its possessor to be fond of them, seeking them,
and longing for them—shows a mind that is in a very
doubtful state as to vital piety.

A Christian is not to partake of the pleasures of the
world, merely to prove that his religion does not debar
him from enjoyment. But he is to let it be seen by his
"peace which passes understanding," and his "joy
unspeakable and full of glory," that his godliness
gives far more enjoyment than it takes away—that,
in fact, it gives him the truest happiness!

The way to win a worldly person to true religion is not
to go and partake of his amusements; but to prove to
him, that we are happier with our pleasures—than he
is with his; that we bask in full sunshine—while he has
only a smoking candle; that we have found the "river
of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the
throne of God and the Lamb"—while he is drinking of
the muddy streams which issue from the earth!

"Many are asking, 'Who can show us any good?'
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy than
when their grain and new wine abound!" Ps. 4:6-7

After all, it is freely admitted—
1. That true religion is not hostile to anything
which is not hostile to it.
2. That many things which are not strictly pious,
though not opposed to piety—may be lawfully
enjoyed by the Christian.
3. That what he has to do in this matter is not to
practice total abstinence—but "moderation".
4. Yet the Christian should remember how elastic
a term "moderation" is, and to be vigilant lest his
moderation should continually increase its latitude,
until it has swelled into the imperial tyranny of an
appetite which acknowledges no authority—and
submits to no restraint!

Growing worse?

(John Angell James, "Christian Progress" 1853)

One of the last lessons we effectually learn, is
that true godliness is a constant conflict in a
believer's heart—between sin and holiness.

Some sincere believers mistake a clearer view, and
deeper sense of their depravity, for an actual increase
of sin. The Christian seems sometimes to himself, to
be growing worse, when actually it is only that he
sees more clearly what in fact he really is!

In the early stages of our Christian life, we have
usually but a slender acquaintance with the evil
of our sinfulness, and the depravity of our heart.
The mind is so much taken up with pardon and
eternal life, that it is but imperfectly acquainted
with those depths of deceit and wickedness,
which lie hidden in itself.

At first we seem to feel as if the serpent were killed.
But we soon find that he was only asleep—for by the
warmth of some fiery temptation, he is revived and
hisses at us again!

Nothing astonishes an inexperienced believer more
than the discoveries he is continually making of the
evils of his heart. Corruptions which he never dreamt to
be in him, are brought out by some new circumstances.

It is like turning up the soil, which brings out worms
and insects, which did not appear upon the surface.

Or to vary the illustration, his increasing knowledge
of God's holy nature, of the perfect law, and the
example of Christ—is like opening the shutters, and
letting light into a dark room, the filth of which,
the inhabitant did not see until the sunbeams
disclosed it to him.

As your Biblical knowledge widens

(John Angell James, "Christian Progress" 1853)

There are many who regard an increasing acquaintance
with the text of the Bible, as an evidence of growth in

Ask yourselves the solemn question. In proportion as
you store your minds with biblical texts and biblical
ideas—are you all the while seeking to have your
filled with biblical feelings, and your life with
biblical actions?

As you grow in acquaintance with the character of God
do you reverence Him more? As your ideas brighten on the
person of Christ—do you love Him more? As you become
more acquainted with the perfection and spirituality of
God's Word—do you delight in it more? As you see more
clearly the evil of sin—do you hate it with a more intense

As your Biblical knowledge widens, do you become . . .
  more profoundly humble,
  more tenderly conscientious,
  more gentle,
  more spiritual?

Unless this is the case, you are in a fatal mistake by
supposing that you are making progress in the divine
life, merely because you are advancing in biblical

We live by faith

(J. A. James, "The True Christian" 1846)

"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 merely 'doing', 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 which looks at Christ.

Faith is the foot which moves to Christ.

Faith is the hand which receives Christ.

Faith is the mouth which feeds upon Christ.

It is not only by the activity of obedience, but by
the 'silent and passive power of dependence', that
the Christian is made strong and victorious.

"We live by faith, not by sight." 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, and are so almost wholly given up to a life
of sight
, that they have neither time nor inclination
to look at the things which 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 sight,
  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.

To live and walk by faith

(J. A. James, "The True Christian" 1846)

"The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of
, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal. 2:20

To live and walk by faith, is to come daily to Jesus in
the exercise of fresh dependence, fresh expectations,
and fresh devotedness.

To live and walk by faith
, is to see more of His glory and
grace continually, and to rejoice greater in His unsearchable
riches, and inexhaustible fullness.

To live and walk by faith, is in all our conflicts, sins, fears,
weaknesses, and woes—to resort afresh to Jesus, with a full
persuasion that we are welcome, and thus ever to derive
strength and courage from Him.

A little more comfort, luxury, or elegance

(J. A. James, "The True Christian" 1846)

"During supper, a woman came in with a beautiful
 jar of expensive perfume. She broke the seal and
 poured the perfume over His head." Mark 14:3

"She did what she could!" Mark 14:8

Have you, like your devoted sister of Bethany, done
what you could? Take an inventory of the means
which the Lord has put into your hands for honoring
Him, and then look over the list of your contributions.

What proportion does your annual giving to the
cause of Christ bear, compared to the cost of . . .
  your furniture,
  your wardrobe,
  your entertainments,
  your ornaments and decorations,
  your luxuries?

Jesus did not withhold from you His very precious
blood! What are you willing to do for Him? What
beautiful jar of expensive perfume have you
broken, will you break for Him?

It is sorrowful to see professing Christians wholly
taken up in getting wealth for themselves—either
hoarding it up—or spending it in the luxuries that
constitute "the pride of life."

Consider, I entreat you, the different results of the
money you spend upon yourselves—and that which
you spend upon Christ. The money you spend selfishly
perishes in the using. The money you spend for the
cause of Christ acquires an imperishable existence.

What you spend in the comforts and elegancies of
life—and what you hoard unnecessarily—dies with
you, when you die. But the wealth which, under the
influence of pure motives, we devote to Christ, will
never die. It is immortal and incorruptible.

Oh Christians! how is it that we can cheat ourselves
of such heavenly felicity and eternal honor, merely to
have a little more comfort, luxury, or elegance here?
Why do we impoverish ourselves in the eternal world,
to enrich ourselves in this present world?

Oh God! Bestow upon us Your grace, that when
we meet You in judgment, we may hear this
commendatory testimony from Your gracious
lips, "They did what they could!"

Our recreations and entertainments

(J. A. James, "The True Christian" 1846)

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
 do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Our piety should appear in our recreations and
, separating us from the follies
and amusements of the world; allowing neither
what is polluting, nor what is frivolous.

True piety should not only keep us from the
theater, the ball-room, and the public concert;
but should prevent us from turning our own
homes into the 'resorts of fashion', and the
scenes of light and dissipating entertainments.

A sublime fiction?

(J. A. James, "The True Christian" 1846)

"Their destiny is destruction . . . 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 and heart, as their
eternal destiny? We would be inclined to think, that to
them, 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 mind is on
 earthly things.
" Philip. 3:19


(J. A. James, "The True Christian" 1846)

"You ought to live holy and godly lives." 2 Peter 3:11

Holiness is a very comprehensive word, and expresses
a state of mind and conduct that includes many things.

Holiness is the work of the Spirit in our sanctification.

Holiness is the fruit of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Holiness is the operation of the new nature, which
we receive in regeneration.

Holiness may be viewed in various aspects, according
to the different objects to which it relates.

Toward God, holiness is . . .
  supreme love;
  delight in His moral character;
  submission to His will;
  obedience to His commands;
  zeal for His cause;
  seeking of His glory.

Toward Christ, holiness is . . .
  a conformity to His example,
  imbibing His spirit.

Toward man, holiness is . . .

Toward sin, holiness is a hatred of all iniquity,
a tender conscience easily wounded by little sins,
and scrupulously avoiding them; together with a
laborious, painful, self-denying, mortification of
all the known corruptions of our heart.

Toward self, holiness is . . .
  the control of our fleshly appetites;
  the eradication of our pride;
  the mortification of our selfishness.

Toward divine things in general, holiness is . . .
  spirituality of mind,
  the habitual current of godly thought,
  godly affections flowing through the soul.

And, toward the objects of the unseen world,
holiness is heavenly-mindedness, a turning away
from things seen and temporal, to things unseen
and eternal.

Oh, what a word is holiness! How much does
it comprehend! How little is it understood, and
how much less is it practiced!


(Joseph Williams)

"It was good for me to be afflicted!" Psalm 119:71

I find afflictions to be good for me. I have always
found them so. Afflictions are happy means in the
hands of the Holy Spirit to subdue . . .
  my corruptions,
  my pride,
  my evil passions,
  my inordinate love to the creature.

Afflictions . . .
  soften my hard heart,
  bring me to my knees,
  increase faith,
  increase love,
  increase humility,
  increase self-denial.

Afflictions make me poor in spirit,
and nothing in my own eyes.

Welcome the cross!

Welcome deep adversity!

Welcome stripping Providences!

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but
 now I obey Your word." Psalm 119:67

Honor, wealth, and pleasure lose their charms

(James, "The Widow Directed to the Widow's God" 1841)

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your
 word. It was good for me to be afflicted!" Psalm 119:67,71

Afflictions tend to wean us from the world—and to fix
our affections on things above.

We are all too worldly!

We gravitate too much to earth!

Our feet stick in the mire, and we do not soar aloft on the
wings of faith and hope into the regions above, as we ought.

We are like moles—when we should be like eagles!

Hence the need, and the benefit too, of afflictions.

How differently things look, when seen from the chamber
of sickness—or the grave of a loved one! Honor, wealth,
and pleasure lose their charms
then, and present no beauty,
that we should desire them. We then seem to regard the
world as an impostor which has deceived us, and turn from
it with disgust!

The loss of a loved one, does more to prove the truth of
Solomon's description of the 'vanity of everything beneath
the sun', than all the sermons we have ever heard, and all
the volumes we have ever read!

The divine Craftsman

(James, "The Widow Directed to the Widow's God" 1841)

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may
 share in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10

God does not afflict His children willingly. He takes
no delight in seeing our tears—or hearing our groans.
But He does take delight in . . .
  doing us good,
  making us holy,
  conforming us to His own image, and
  fitting us to dwell in His own presence.

He treats us as the sculptor does the marble under
his hand, which from a rough unsightly mass, he
intends to carve into a splendid statue—a glorious
work of art. Every application of the chisel, every
blow of the mallet, is to strike off some bit of the
stone, which must be removed to bring out the
figure in perfection, which he designs to form.

In our case, how much is necessary to be struck off
from our corrupt nature, before we can be brought
into that form and beauty which it is the intention of
the divine Craftsman
that we should bear. How much . . .
  earthly dependence;
must be removed by each blow of the mallet, and
each cut of the chisel, before the beauties of . . .
and all the graceful proportions and features
of His own image, can be exhibited in us.

The design of the divine Artist

(James, "The Widow Directed to the Widow's God" 1841)

"And we know that all things work together for good
 to those who love God, to those who are the called
 according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

In this present world, you may never see how the death
of your husband is for good. Many go all their lives without
having the 'mystifying characters' of the sad event deciphered
—and the secret workings of God's love laid open. They die
in ignorance of His plans—though not of His purposes.

The 'finished side' of the embroidery may never be turned to
you here; and looking only at the tangled threads and dark
colors of the 'back part'—all now appears to be in confusion!

But when the 'front view' shall be seen; and the design
of the divine Artist
; and all the connections of the finely
embroidered piece shall be pointed out; and the coloring
shall be shown in the light of eternity—with what adoring
wonder, delight, and gratitude will you exclaim, as the
'whole picture' bursts upon your sight, "O the depth of
the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are His methods! How unfathomable are
His ways! All things have worked together for my good!"

You shall trace together the providential events of your
earthly history. You shall learn why you were united—and
why separated. You shall see the wisdom and goodness
of those events, which once appeared so dark, and drew
so many tears from your eyes. You shall indulge in
reminiscences, all of which will furnish . . .
  new occasions of wonder;
  new motives to praise; and
  new sources of delight!

You shall point one another to the vista of everlasting
ages opening before you, through which an endless
succession of joys are advancing to meet you! And
then, filled with a pure, unearthly love for each other,
you shall fall down before the throne of the Lamb,
and feel every other affection absorbed in supreme,
adoring love to Him!

Such a scene is before you! And since it is—then bear
your sorrows, afflicted widow—for in what felicities
are they to result—and how soon!

"And we know that all things work together for good
 to those who love God, to those who are the called
 according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

A lamb with a wolf's head!

(John Angell James, "Christian Fellowship" 1822)

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ
 Jesus." Philippians 2:5

Christians should excel in the manifestation of Christ's
character. The mind which was in Jesus, should be in
them. They should consider His character as a model
of their own; and be conspicuous for their . . .
  poverty of spirit,
  and love.

It is matter of surprise and regret, that many people
seem to think that Christianity has nothing to do with
character! And that provided they are free from gross
sins, and have lively feelings in devotional exercises,
they may be as petulant, irritable, and implacable as
they please! This is a dreadful error, and has done
great mischief to the cause of God!

A sour, ill-natured Christian, is like a lamb with a
wolf's head!
Or like a dove with a vulture's beak!

If there be any one word which above all others should
describe a Christian's character, it is that which represents
his divine Father; and as it is said, that 'God is love', so
should it be also affirmed, that a Christian is love—love
embodied, an incarnation of love! His words, his conduct,
his very looks—should be so many expressions of love!

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving
 each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be
 imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and
 gave Himself up for us!" Ephesians 4:32-5:2

The beauties of social virtue

(John Angell James, "Christian Fellowship" 1822)

A Christian should be very eminent for a right discharge
of all their social duties. Christianity, so far from loosening
the bands of society, adds to them incredible strength and
firmness, by motives drawn from the eternal world. One part
of the design of Christianity is to purify and strengthen the
social principle, and carry it to its greatest elevation and

A good Christian—and yet a bad husband, father,
brother, neighbor, or citizen—is an anomaly.

Professing Christians should excel all others in the
beauties of social virtue
. True religion should give . . .
  additional tenderness to the marital relationship;
  greater love to the Christian parent;
  loving obedience to the Christian child;
  fresh kindness to the Christian employer;
  diligence to the Christian employee.

The world should look to the church with this conviction,
"Well, if social virtue were driven from every other portion
of society, it would find a sanctuary, and be cherished with
care, among Christians." Then will Christianity have
attained its highest recognition upon earth, when it shall
be admitted by universal consent, that to say a man is a
Christian, is an indisputable testimony to his excellence
in all the relationships he bears to society.

"Beware of the dog!"

(John Angell James, "Christian Fellowship" 1822)

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient,
 bearing with one another in love." Ephes. 4:2.

There are some people whose feelings are like dry straw
—kindled into a blaze in a moment, by the least spark
which has been purposely or accidentally thrown upon it.
A word, or a look—is in some cases quite enough to be
considered a very serious injury! It is a common thing
for such people to excuse themselves on the ground that
'their feelings are so delicate'—that they are offended by
the least touch! This is a humiliating confession, for it is
acknowledging that, instead of being like the oak of the
forest, which laughs at the tempest, and is unmoved by
the tread of the wild boar—they resemble the sensitive
plant, a little squeamish shrub, which trembles before the
breeze, and shrivels and contracts beneath the pressure
of a tiny insect!

Delicate feelings!! In plain English, this means that they
are petulant, irritable and peevish! I would like to have a
sign hung around the neck of such people—and it would
be this, "Beware of the dog!"

We should never allow ourselves to be offended, until,
at least, we are sure that offense was intended; and
this is really not so often as we are apt to conclude.
Had we but patience to wait, or humility to inquire, we
would find that many hurtful things were done by mistake,
which we are prone to attribute to design. How often do
we violate that love which thinks no evil, and which
imperatively demands of us to attribute a good motive
to another's conduct—until a bad motive is proved!

Let us then deliberately determine, that, by God's grace,
we will not be easily offended. If such a resolution were
generally made and kept, offenses would cease. Let us
first ascertain whether offense was intended, before we
allow the least emotion of anger to be indulged. And
even then, when we have proved that the offense was
committed on purpose, let us next ask ourselves whether
it is necessary to notice it. What wise man will think it
worth while, when an insect has stung him, to pursue it
all day, in order to punish the aggressor?

OUR church?!

(John Angell James, "Christian Fellowship" 1822)

"I will build My church." Matthew 16:18

The power of a church is simply a right to put their
own interpretation upon the laws of Christ, and to
obey His laws, in the way which they think will be
most agreeable to Him.

This is neither understood nor remembered with as
much distinctness as it should be. Hence it is a very
usual thing for churches to consider themselves as
met to make laws, and set in order the affairs of
the spiritual kingdom. A great deal is said about
"our church," and "rules that we have established
in our church." OUR church?! When did it become
OURS? The church is Christ's! The rules WE have
established?! The sole right of making laws, is with
Him to whom the church belongs!

The church is a kingdom, of which Christ is sole
monarch! The New Testament is His spiritual code,
and all the power we have, is to execute the laws
which He has already established!

In the whole business of church government, we
are to acknowledge His authority, and consider
ourselves as doing His will. Nothing is left . . .
  to our will,
  to our wisdom,
  to our caprice;
but in all things we are to be guided by the
law of Jesus
, as laid down in His Word!

In the choice of officers, in the admission of members, in
the exercise of discipline—we are not to act upon views
and principles of our own. We are to be guided by those
we find in the New Testament. We have no power to
legislate; but merely to interpret the His law—and obey.

When we meet, Christ is in the midst of us, not only by
His essential presence—but by His revealed will. Every
authoritative voice is hushed—but that which speaks to
us from the sacred Word of God.

When a new member is proposed, we are not to ask,
"Is he such a one as we think will add respectability
to our church? is he of long standing in the ways of
God? is he peculiar in his habits?" Our only question
is, "Is he one who Christ has received as His child?"

When a new measure is submitted for our adoption,
we are not first to inquire into its policy; but whether
it is in exact accordance with the general principles
and spirit of the New Testament.

Every act of church government must be an explicit
acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus, as King of
HIS church, and an act of obedience to HIS laws!

It is impossible for this sentiment to be stated too
frequently or too forcibly. It lays the axe to the root
of all the errors on church government, which have
crept into the world.


A sweet power

(Cudworth, 1647)

"Speaking the truth in love." Ephes. 4:15

When we would convince men of any error by
the strength of truth, let us additionally pour
the sweet balm of love upon their heads. Truth
and love are two of the most powerful things
in the world; and when they both go together,
they cannot easily be withstood. The golden
beams of truth
, and the silken cords of love,
twisted together, will draw men on with a
sweet power
, whether they will or not.

Let us take heed we do not sometimes call that
'zeal for God and His gospel' which is nothing else
but our own tempestuous and stormy passion.
True zeal is a sweet, heavenly, and gentle flame,
which makes us active for God—but always within
the sphere of love. It never calls for fire from heaven
to consume those who differ a little from us. It
strives to save the soul—but hurts not the body.
True zeal is a loving thing, and makes us always
active to edification, and not to destruction.

Our obstacles
(John Angell James, "An Earnest Ministry" 1847)

Incompetent ministers are the burden of the church.

Worldly ministers have been the dishonor of the
church, and the hindrance of the progress of the
gospel in the world.

The worldly spirit which has infiltrated the church,
threatens to eat out the very core of vital piety!

Our obstacles are . . .
  the debilitating influences of ease and prosperity;
  the insidious snares of wealth, extravagance and fashion;
  the engrossing power of business and secular ambition.

There is the image of Christ!

(John Angell James)

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in
 Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5

Press right home to your conscience the question,
"What do I have of the mind of Christ?" Does my
heart answer, does my disposition correspond, to
the holy, meek, humble, forgiving, benevolent,
patient, self-denying mind of Christ? Do men who
know the beauty and glory of the Original, as it is
delineated on the page of the gospel, when they
see me, say, "There is the image of Christ!"

Or do they look skeptically on, and after standing
in silence for some time, profess they can see little
or no resemblance? Oh, be satisfied with nothing
short of a copy of Christ's heart into yours!

A love for pleasure, diversion and recreation

(John Angell James, "An Earnest Ministry" 1847)

One characteristic of our age is an ever-growing taste
for elegance, refinement, and luxurious gratification.

But just in proportion as we multiply the 'attractions of
earth'—is the danger of our making it our all—and leaving
heaven out of sight. This is now affecting the church, and
the godly and self-denying spirit of our practical Christianity
is in danger of being weakened, and of degenerating into a
soft and sickly wastefulness.

Elegance, extravagance, luxurious entertainments
and expensive feasts, are beginning to corrupt the
simplicity that is in Christ. And amid our . . .
  sumptuous homes,
  gorgeous furniture,
  costly dress, and
  mirthful decorations,
professors of religion are setting their affections too
much upon things upon earth, and turning away from
the glory of the cross—to the vanities of the world!

Akin to this, is a continually augmenting desire after
amusement, for which droves are constantly yearning.
A love for pleasure, diversion and recreation, is an
ever-increasing appetite—and there are those who are
ever ingenious and ever busy to supply its demands.
Men are continually inventing new kinds of diversions
and endless devices, to blot from the mind all
considerations of eternity.

The people, it is affirmed, must have recreation.
Be it so—but let it be of a healthful kind—a taste
for wholesome literature, quiet home enjoyments,
and, above all, the sacred delights of true piety.

Who will call them off from these 'painted nothings',
and make them feel how vain are all these things?
Who will set up a barricade against the billows of
this ocean of worldly-mindedness, and guard the
piety of the church from being entirely swept away
by a flood of worldliness and ungodliness?

Low in the deep valley of humility

(Jeremy Taylor)

Jesus proposes Himself as our example, by
exhibiting in His own perfect character, the
twin sisters of meekness and humility.

His whole life was a great, continued descent . . .
  from the glorious bosom of His Father,
  to the womb of a poor maiden;
  to the form of a servant;
  to the likeness and miseries of sinful flesh;
  to a life of labor;
  to a state of poverty;
  to a death of a criminal;
  to the grave;
  to the intolerable calamities which we deserved!

It is but reasonable that we should be as humble in
the midst of our greatest imperfections and basest
sins—as Christ was in the midst of His holy and
perfect life, and most admirable virtues.

We have lost all ground for pride. Everything . . .
  our ignorance,
  our weakness,
  our sins,
  our follies
prescribe to us, that our proper dwelling
place is low in the deep valley of humility.

Humility glorifies God; pride dishonors Him.

Humility makes men like angels;
pride makes angels to become devils.

Humility is the temper of holiness;
pride is folly.

Humility is the way to glory;
pride is the way to ruin and confusion.

Humility makes saints on earth;
pride undoes them.

Humility beatifies the saints in heaven;
pride disgraces a man on earth.

God loves humility;
Satan solicits pride.

is the crowning grace, the finishing
stroke of beauty, and the brightest ray of glory,
in the Christian character. (John Angell James)

A godly ministry
(John Angell James, "An Earnest Ministry" 1847)

We can do nothing without a godly ministry. Of all
the curses which God ever pours from the vials of
His wrath upon a nation which He intends to scourge,
there is not one so fearful as giving them up to an
unholy ministry.

I trust our churches will ever consider piety as the
first and most essential qualification in their pastors,
for which talents, genius, learning, and eloquence,
would and could be no substitutes. It will be a dark
and evil day when personal godliness shall be
considered as secondary to any other quality in
those who serve at the altar of God.

No ministry will be really effective, whatever may
be its eloquence, which is not a ministry of . . .
  strong faith,
  true spirituality, and
  deep earnestness.

Dead things never grow!

(John Angell James, "Christian Progress" 1853)

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
 He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit,
 while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes
 so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2

Why is it that so many professing Christians make
no spiritual progress, and indeed make no efforts
to grow in grace? Why? Because they care nothing
about it! To take up a 'mere profession' is all they
desire; but to proceed from one degree of piety to
another; to grow in grace—is no part of their desire.

What! No solicitude to have more . . .
  experimental knowledge of truth,
  faith in Christ,
  likeness to God,
  fitness for heaven!

No desire to advance in such things! Is it possible
to be a Christian and yet destitute of this desire
to grow in grace? No, it is not! I tell you, it is not!

If you have no concern to grow in grace
there is no grace in you!

You are a piece of dead wood
—and not a living branch!

You are a spiritual corpse
—and not a living man!

In this state there can be no growth
—for dead things never grow!

This heavenly light of truth

(John Angell James)

"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 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 godly 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,
  and 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.

"For our gospel came to you not simply with
 words, but also with power, with the Holy
 Spirit and with deep conviction." 1 Thes. 1:5

"Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth."
    John 17:17

Snatched out of the very jaws of the devil!

(The following is an extract from a letter of George Whitefield, 1714-1770)

For many years, from one end of the large London fair to the other, booths of all kinds have been erected for performers, clowns, players, puppet shows, and such like. With a heart bleeding with compassion for so many thousands led captive by the devil at his will, on the day of the fair, at six o'clock in the morning, I ventured to lift up a standard among them in the name of Jesus.

Perhaps there were about ten thousand people in waiting, not for me—but for Satan's instruments to amuse them! When I mounted my field-pulpit, almost all flocked immediately around it. I preached on these words, 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up!' They gazed, they listened, they wept; and I believe that many felt themselves stung with deep conviction for their sins. All was hushed and solemn.

Being thus encouraged, I ventured out again at noon. What a scene! The fields, the whole fields were ready for Beelzebub's harvest! All Satan's agents were in full motion—drummers, trumpeters, singers, masters of puppet shows, exhibitors of wild animals, players, and so forth, all busy in entertaining their respective audiences. I suppose there could not be less than twenty or thirty thousand people. My pulpit was fixed on the opposite side, and immediately, to their great dismay, they found the number of their attendants sadly lessened.

Judging that like Paul, I would now be called as it were, to fight with beasts at Ephesus, I preached from these words—'Great is Diana of the Ephesians!' You may easily guess that there was some noise among the craftsmen, and that I was 'honored' with having a few stones, dirt, rotten eggs, and pieces of dead cats thrown at me, while engaged in calling them from their favorite, but lying vanities. My soul was indeed among lions—but the greatest part of my congregation, which was very large, seemed for awhile to be turned into lambs.

This encouraged me to give notice that I would preach again at six o'clock in the evening. I came, I saw—but what? Thousands and thousands more than before, if possible, still more deeply engaged in their unhappy diversions! One of Satan's choicest servants was performing, trumpeting on a large stage; but as soon as the people saw me in my pulpit, I think all to a man left him and ran to me. For a while I was enabled to lift up my voice like a trumpet, and many heard the joyful sound.

This Satan could not brook. The enemy's agents made a kind of roaring at some distance from our camp. At length they approached nearer, and one of the clowns (attended by others, who complained that they had lost much money on account of my preaching,) got up upon a man's shoulders, and advancing near the pulpit attempted to slash me with a long heavy whip several times—but always tumbled down with the violence of his motion.

Soon afterwards they got a marching band with drums, to pass through the congregation. I ordered that passage might be made for them. The ranks opened, while all marched through, and then closed again. Finding these efforts to fail, a large group assembled together, and having got a large pole with their flag, advanced towards us with steady and formidable steps, until they came very near the skirts of our hearing, praying, and almost undaunted congregation. I prayed to the Captain of our salvation for present support and deliverance. He heard and answered; for just as they approached us with fearful looks—I know not why—they quarreled among themselves, threw down their flag, and went their way—leaving, however, many of their company behind, who before we were done, were brought over to join the besieged party. I think I continued in praying, preaching, and singing, (for the noise was too great at times to preach) for about three hours.

We then retired to the Tabernacle, with pockets full of more than a thousand notes from people brought under concern for their souls, and read them amid the praises and spiritual acclamations of thousands, who joined with the holy angels in rejoicing that, in such an unexpected, unlikely place and manner—so many sinners were snatched out of the very jaws of the devil!