An ice house, instead of a hot house!
(John Angell James, "Earnestness in Personal Piety" 1847)
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It appears quite clear that great numbers of Christian professors are very imperfectly acquainted with the requirements of "pure and undefiled religion," and need to be led to re-study it in the pages of Holy Scripture. We have lost sight of the 'Divine Original', and have confined our attention to the 'imperfect transcripts' which we find on every hand in our churches. We have by tacit consent reduced the standard, and fixed our eye and our aim upon an inferior object. We are a law to each other—instead of making the Word of God the law to us all.
We tolerate a worldly-minded, diluted, and weakened piety in others—because we expect a similar toleration for ourselves. We make excuses for them—because we expect the like excuses for our own conduct in return. We have abused, shamefully abused, the fact that "there is no perfection upon earth," and converted it into a license for any measure and any number of imperfections!
Our highest notion of religion requires only . . .
abstinence from open immorality and the more polluting worldly amusements,
an attendance upon an evangelical ministry,
and an approval of orthodox doctrine.
This, this, is the religion of multitudes! There may be . . .
no habitual spirituality,
no life of faith,
no communion with God,
no struggling against sin, Satan and the world,
no concern to grow in grace,
no supreme regard to eternity,
no studied and advancing fitness for the eternal world,
no tenderness of conscience,
no careful discipline of our disposition,
no cultivation of love,
no making piety our chief business and highest pleasure,
no separation in spirit from the world.
In short, there may be no impress upon the whole mind, and heart, and conscience and life—of the character of the Christian as delineated upon the page of Scripture.
We all need to be taken out of "the religious world" as it is called, and collected again around the Bible to study what it is to be a Christian! Let us endeavor to forget what the bulk of professors are, and begin afresh to learn what they ought to be.
It is to be feared that we are corrupting each other, leading each other to be satisfied with a 'conventional piety'. Many have been actually the worse for attending church. They were more intensely concerned and earnest before they came into church fellowship. Their piety seemed to come into an ice house, instead of a hot house! They grew better outside the church—than in the church. At first they were surprised and shocked to see . . .
of many older professors, and exclaimed, with grief and disappointment, "Is this the church of Christ!" But after a while, the fatal influence came over them, and their piety sank to the temperature around them!
"Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth!" Revelation 3:16