Grace Gems for NOVEMBER, 2020

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Not our home

(David Harsha, "Immanuel's Land")

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"For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in Heaven, which is yet to come!" Hebrews 13:14

We are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. This present world is not our home. We are coming up from the wilderness with our faces Zionward; we are traveling to the Celestial City!

Our path is rough, but the Savior sustains us.

Our pilgrimage lies through a wilderness, but faith cheers us with a view of the glorious rest of the redeemed in our Father's house, in mansions of blessedness!

Let this consideration animate us amid the conflicts of life. In a little while we shall obtain a joyous entrance into the glorious rest above. The storms of life's ocean will soon carry us into the haven of peace, where there is no trouble.

The language of Scripture is, "Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place, because it is defiled, it is ruined beyond all remedy!" Micah 2:10

Your Savior, pilgrim Christian, has prepared for you a nobler rest than this polluted world!


In our Father's house are many spacious mansions, where your happy spirit, after tasting the bitter cup of life's sorrow, shall rest in eternal blessedness!

"For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in Heaven, which is yet to come!" Hebrews 13:14

"We would rather be absent from the body, and at home with the Lord!" 2 Corinthians 5:8

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Look at the King in His beauty!

(David Harsha, 1827-1895)

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"Your eyes will see the King in His beauty!
" Isaiah 33:17

Contemplate your blessed Redeemer, seated on His great white throne, encircled with heavenly glory. Look at the King in His beauty! It is the sight of a glorified Savior, that will make the Heaven of the believer.

Endeavor now, by the eye of faith, to behold the Lord Jesus in all His matchless beauty and excellence. Contemplate . . .
  His glorious character,
  His infinite mercy,
  His unparalleled condescension,
  and His boundless love!

There is enough in Jesus to employ the soul in rapturous meditation throughout a vast eternity! His excellence, His goodness, and His love can never be fathomed!

O keep your eye fixed on this adorable Savior, while you sojourn in this valley of tears; and in a little while you shall see Him as He is: face to face, and ascribe to Him unceasing praise!

"Yes, He is altogether lovely.
This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

 
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God's perfect wisdom in the management of our affairs!


(James Buchanan)

"The Lord reigns!" Psalm 97:1

The Bible lays a solid ground for our comfort when it assures us that all things are under the government of God. He superintends the affairs of this world, both as the provident parent and as the moral governor of His creatures.

The Bible declares that God created them, and that whatever beings He deigned to create—He does not disdain to care for. It assures us that no being is so great as to be exempt from His control—and none are so little as to be beneath His regard. And, in like manner, that His eye is directed to every event which may befall any one of His creatures—with no event being either so momentous, or so insignificant—as to be beyond His management or unworthy of His notice. The sparrow which falls to the earth—is not less an object of His regard than the seraph that stands before His throne!

That all His creatures in this world, and all the events of human life, of whatever kind they may be—are under God's regulation and control—is, of itself, fitted to banish that feeling of uncertainty and hopelessness which the aspect of events might otherwise awaken. And how important to know . . .
  that nothing happens by chance,
  that everything is ordained and appointed according to certain divine principles which are fixed and stable, and
  that these principles will continue to be developed, until the grand end of God's government shall have been attained!

But, however important this information may be, it could ill suffice to cheer the heart amidst its sorrows, or to inspire that living hope which alone can bear us up under their heavy pressure—were we not further assured that the government under which we live is conducted by . . .
  a God of infinite intelligence and wisdom;
  a being who cannot err—one who knows the end from the beginning; and
  is alike incapable of choosing an improper end, or of employing unsuitable means for its attainment.

A persuasion of God's perfect wisdom in the management of our affairs is the more needful, in proportion as we feel our own helplessness, and are taught by disappointments and trials—that our affairs are too high and too great to be managed by ourselves. And when assured of this precious truth, we shall the more readily submit to all God's appointments—satisfied, that although we know not the plan of His operations, yet it is known and approved of by One whose wisdom is the best guarantee of the universe.

And thus, too, will the idea of blind fate be excluded, not less than the idea of chance.

Still the heart desires something more. It is not enough that the world is neither left to the random vicissitudes of chance—nor governed by a blind and inexorable fate. It is not enough for our comfort to know that a God of infinite intelligence presides over its affairs, and that its laws are the emanations of His unerring wisdom. Great and glorious as these discoveries are, the heart longs to know the character, not less than the wisdom of that Almighty Being—and to be made acquainted, if not with His secret purposes, at least with the nature of His moral perfections and His dispositions towards ourselves. "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" Romans 5:8 

"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!"
Revelation 19:6

 
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You should consider from whose hand it has been sent to you!

(James Buchanan, "Comfort in Affliction" 1837)

"In the day of prosperity be happy—but in the day of adversity CONSIDER: God has made the one as well as the other." Ecclesiastes 7:14

In the day of adversity, you should consider from whose hand it has been sent to you! It comes direct from the hand of God!

Intermediate agencies may have been employed in inflicting it:
  a cherished family member may have been the messenger of disease;
  a treacherous friend may have been the cause of bankruptcy;
  an avowed enemy may have been the author of reproach and shame;
  Satan himself may have been allowed to smite you!
But through whatever secondary agency it may have been conveyed—adversity comes from God's hand!

"I form the light—and create darkness;
 I make peace—and create evil.
 I the Lord, do all these things." Isaiah 45:7

"Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?" Lamentations 3:38

"Shall we receive good at the hand of God—and shall we not receive evil?" Job 2:10

"Who gave man his mouth?
 Who makes him deaf or mute?
 Who gives him sight or makes him blind?
 
Is it not I, the LORD?" Exodus 4:11

"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides Me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of My hand!" Deuteronomy 32:39

"The LORD brings death and makes alive;
 He brings down to the grave and raises up.
 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
 He humbles and He exalts." 1 Samuel 2:6-7

"This is what the LORD says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people . . ." Jeremiah 32:42

"When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?" Amos 3:6

"For He wounds, but He also binds up;
 He injures, but His hands also heal." Job 5:18

From these and many other passages, it is plain that temporal affliction is ascribed to God in the Holy Scriptures. No one who acknowledges God's Providence at all, can fail to believe that the numerous afflictions and calamities of human life are permitted, appointed, and overruled by the Supreme Governor of the world!

This is a consideration of great practical importance, and should be seriously weighed in the day of adversity.

It assures us that our afflictions are neither imposed by a fatal necessity, nor produced by the uncertain vicissitudes of chance—but come forth from the hand of One who is infinitely wise and just and good!

It also teaches us in many of our afflictions, and those which it is indeed most difficult to bear—to look beyond, and to rise above, the consideration of the mere human agency by which they have been inflicted. I refer to such afflictions as are brought on us through the malice of our fellow-men, in regard to which we are too apt to alone consider the secondary agency through which they fall upon us—instead of steadily contemplating God as addressing to us, through human agency, the warnings and lessons which we need to learn and improve.

Whereas, did we consider all afflictions, of whatever kind, as emanating from the unerring heart of our loving Father—we would find, that even those which the hand or the tongue of man inflicts—are a wholesome discipline, and means of spiritual improvement.

Let us remember, then, that every affliction, through whatever channel it may flow—comes to us ultimately from God's loving hand!

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Satan's baits!

(John Angell James, 1785-1859)

"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Luke 18:24-25

Bring up your children with low notions of the importance of riches and worldly show, and of the power which these things have either to give respectability to the character, or to procure happiness.

Do not let them hear you magnify the value of wealth by your words—nor see you do it by your actions. Avoid a servile attention to the rich and great—do not point to them as the individuals most to be admired and envied. Do not have an undue solicitude about grandeur of abode or furniture. From the time that they are capable of receiving an idea or an impression, teach them that it is godly character that constitutes true respectability.

Remind them of the danger of riches, and that they are Satan's baits to tempt men to love the world and lose their souls!

Not that you should produce a cynical disposition towards either riches or the rich; much less repress industry, and foster indolence. No, but encourage them to consider and seek wealth, rather as a means of usefulness, than a source of personal gratification.

"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:9-10

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A striking solution of Samson's riddle

(John Fawcett, "The Sick Man's Employment; or Views of Death and Eternity Realized" 1774)

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

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees." Psalm 119:71

"I know, O Lord, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

"This is the will of God, even our sanctification." And that afflictive dispensations are the appointed means for promoting that end, the divine Word abundantly testifies: "He chastens us for our profit, to make us partakers of His holiness." May we not, then, truly say, "Happy is the man whom God corrects." "Blessed is the man whom You chasten, and teach out of Your law."


1. By afflictions we gain much knowledge of ourselves.
When corrupt nature is vexed, it shows its real self. As in tempestuous weather, the chinks and openings in the roofs of our houses are most sensibly perceived—so in sharp afflictions we learn our own defects, weaknesses and sins.

2. Afflictions tend to wean us from the world. When in uninterrupted health and prosperity, we are apt to be too much pleased with our present condition, and to lose sight of the crown of glory and the everlasting mansions above—the loud alarm of affliction rouses us from the enchanting delusion! The violence of a tempest impels the mariner to long the more earnestly for the haven of rest.

3. Afflictions serve to quicken our affections to the Lord Jesus Christ. While in ease and tranquility, a spirit of lethargy too often pervades the mind in regard to Christ and the blessings of His salvation. But, when the tides of distress and sorrow come rolling in upon us, we are willing, we are glad to seek rest in Him who is our only hope and Savior in times of trouble.

On all these, and many other accounts, I hope I can say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted. Yes, thanks to my heavenly Father for the sharpest pains I have felt!"

In truly sanctified afflictions we have a striking solution of Samson's riddle. How often, and how remarkably is it explained and fulfilled in the experience of the saints in times of distress!
"Out of the eater, came something to eat.
 O
ut of the strong, came something sweet." Judges 14:14
 
How blessed is it that He who is infinitely wise and inconceivably kind, should choose our inheritance for us! And how does it befit us to acquiesce entirely in His appointment!

Good when He gives, supremely good,
Nor less when He denies;
Afflictions from His sovereign hand
Are blessings in disguise!

The Lord has just removed my dearly loved boy, perhaps to teach me that He has a sovereign right and supreme claim to my heart. Amen, even so Lord Jesus!

Take my poor heart, and let it be
Forever closed to all but Thee;
O seal my heart, and let me wear
That pledge of love forever there.

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The Lord reigns!

(Letters of John Newton)

"The Lord reigns! He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength!" Psalm 93:1

"The Lord reigns! Let the nations tremble!" Psalm 99:1

The Lord reigns! He who once bore our sins and carried our sorrows—is seated upon a throne of glory and exercises all power in heaven and on earth! Thrones, principalities and powers bow before Him. Every being and event are under His rule. His providence pervades and manages the whole, and is as minutely attentive to every part—as if there were only that single object in His view.

From the tallest archangel, to the most irritating ant or fly—all depend on Him for their being, their preservation and their powers! He directs the sparrows where to build their nests, and to find their food. He overrules the rise and fall of nations; and bends, with an invincible energy and unerring wisdom—all events! So that, while many intend otherwise—in the outcome their designs all concur and coincide in the accomplishment of His holy will. He restrains with a mighty hand the still more formidable efforts of the powers of darkness; and Satan with all his hosts cannot exert their malice a hair's breadth beyond the limits of His permission. Satan may rage—but he is a chained enemy!

This is He, who is the Redeemer and Husband of His believing people.
How happy are those whom it is His good pleasure to bless!
How safe are those whom He has engaged to protect!
How honored and privileged are those whom He enables and warrants to claim Him as their friend and their portion!
Having redeemed them by His own blood—He sets a high value upon them! He esteems them His treasure, His jewels! He guards them as the pupil of His eye. They shall not lack, and they need not fear!
His eye is upon them in every situation,
His ear is open to their prayers, and
His everlasting arms are under them for their sure support.

On earth, He guides their steps, controls their enemies, and directs all His dispensations for their good! While, in Heaven, He is pleading their cause, preparing a place for them, and communicating down to them reviving foretastes of the glory that shall shortly be theirs!

"The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!" Psalm 146:10

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That one majestic, inconceivable and expressive word!

(John Angell James, "The Death of Mrs. Sherman" May 28, 1848)

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"And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life." 1 John 2:25

In the infinite comprehensiveness of this one promise are included:
  all that the omniscient mind of the Father in the exercise of His love has contrived in eternity;
  all that the incarnate Son has obtained by His sacrifice upon the cross;
  all that the Divine Spirit has revealed upon the page of Scripture; and
  all which is contained in that one majestic, inconceivable and expressive word—HEAVEN!

I do not need flamboyant descriptions and eloquent representations of the celestial state, to raise my desires and hopes. It is enough to know that it is GLORY—first prepared, then promised, and ultimately bestowed by Jehovah as the concentration of His infinite beneficence and the full manifestation of His boundless benevolence!

Heaven is . . .
  the absence of all evil, natural and moral;
  the possession of all possible good;
  a glorified body united with a perfect soul;
and all this in the immediate presence of God!

  There we shall see God!

  We shall not only see Him, but love Him!

  We shall not only love Him, but serve Him!

  We shall not only serve Him, but enjoy Him!

  We shall not only enjoy Him, but hold such communion with Him as will assimilate us to the all-perfect source of our felicity!

The objects of . . .
  our contemplation,
  our situation,
  our companions,
  our personal constitution,
  our constant exercises of holy intellect, heart and volition
—will be so many distinct sources of bliss!

Perfect knowledge,
perfect holiness and
perfect love must of necessity
open the fountain of perfect joy!

No secondary concern will call off our unwearied attention from the service of God; no sin or pain will interrupt us in it; nor will death ever dismiss us from it. The business and the blessedness of that happy state are the same—our supreme delight will be our constant employment!
Every sense will be an inlet,
every faculty a capacity, and
every energy a pulsation
—of the purest bliss!

Heaven will be "life" . . .
  life in perfection,
  the life of the soul,
  the life of God,
  the life of eternity!

But to describe it, how vain and arrogant the attempt, when even to conceive of it is impossible! "In Your presence is fullness of joy! At Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore!" Neither language nor thought can go beyond this! Mind cannot conceive more. God Himself can tell us no more, than that Heaven consists in His presence and the enjoyment of His favor—forever and ever!

"No eye has seen,
 no ear has heard, and
 no mind has imagined
the things that God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9

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Something to ponder: "When God wants to judge a nation, He gives them wicked rulers!" (John Calvin)

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He is both depraved and condemned!

(John Angell James, "The Practical Believer Delineated" 1852)

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God created man in His own image, which consisted of true holiness.
No spot of guilt was upon his conscience, nor spot of depravity upon his heart.

The light of truth irradiated his understanding.

The glow of perfect love warmed his heart.

The choices of his will were all on the side of purity.

His conscience was the seat of perfect peace.

The beauties of holiness adorned his character.

His whole soul was in harmony with the untainted scenes of Paradise—in which bowers he walked in undisturbed friendship with God.

No sorrow wrung his heart.

No care wrinkled his brow.

No anxiety broke his rest.

He was happy—because he was holy.

When he sinned, his whole moral condition was altered! He fell under the condemnation of the law he had violated, and became the subject of inward corruption. An entire change passed over his nature. He not only became guilty—but depraved!

His understanding became darkened!

His affections became selfish and earthly!

His will became prone to choose what is wrong!

His conscience became benumbed!

If he would ever be recovered from this state of misery, he must be both pardoned and sanctified.

The covenant of God's love and mercy in Christ Jesus—the glorious scheme of redeeming grace, meets the whole case of fallen man by providing not only justification—but sanctification as well.

Wonderful gospel provision!

Pardon for the guilty!

Sanctification for the unholy!

The condition of the sinner may be likened to that of a condemned criminal shut up in prison and infected with a deadly plague! What he needs, is both the cure of his plague—and the reversal of his sentence. Neither alone, will meet his case. If he is only pardoned—he will die of the plague. If he is only cured of the plague—he will suffer the just sentence of the law.

So it is with fallen man—he is both depraved and condemned! If he is only pardoned, his depravity will be his misery. If he could by any means be reformed, he is still under sentence of death.

The glory and completeness of the gospel scheme is that it provides a cure for the diseases of the soul—in sanctification; as well as a pardon from the condemnation of the law—in justification!

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Over-indulgence of fond and foolish parents!

(John Angell James, "The Duties of Parents" 1838)

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"I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family. I have warned him continually that judgment is coming for his family, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn't disciplined them." 1 Samuel 3:12-13

There is, in some households,
  no family government,
  no order,
  no subordination,
  no discipline.
The children are kept under no restraint, but are allowed to do what they like. Their faults are intentionally unnoticed and unpunished, and their corruptions allowed to grow wild and headstrong; until, in fact, the whole family becomes utterly lawless, rebellious against parental authority—and grievous to all around them!

How many have had to curse the over-indulgence of fond and foolish parents! How many, as they have ruminated amid the desolations of poverty, or the walls of a prison, have exclaimed, "O, my cruelly fond parents, had you exercised that authority with which God entrusted you, over your children, and had you checked my childish corruptions, and punished my boyish disobedience; had you subjected me to the beneficial restraint of wholesome discipline, I would not have brought you with a broken heart to your grave, nor myself with a ruined life to the jail!"

Overindulgence of children is awfully common, and continually making shocking ravages in human character. It is a system of great cruelty to the children, to the parents themselves, and to society. This practice proceeds from various causes; in some instances, from a perverted and intentional sentimentalism; in others, from absolute indolence, and a regard to present ease, which leads the silly mother to adopt any means of coaxing, and yielding, and bribing—to keep the "young rebels" quiet for the time!

It is not uncommon for parents to treat the first acts of infantile rebellion rather as accidents to be smiled at, than as sins to be disciplined. "O," says the mother, "it is only play, he will know better soon. He does not mean any harm. I cannot discipline him."

Lack of parental discipline, from whatever cause it proceeds, it is in the highest degree injurious to the character of the children!

"Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul."
Proverbs 29:17

"Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death." Proverbs 19:18
 
"Children are better whipt, than dam
ned!" Cotton Mather, Puritan

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Though we mourn, we must not murmur
 

(John Angell James, "Sorrow for the Death of Friends")

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"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will leave this life.
 The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord! Job 1:21

"See, I am the only God. There are no others. I kill, and I make alive.
 I wound, and I heal, and no one can rescue you from My power." Deuteronomy 32:39

When a holy and beloved object of our affection is removed by death, we ought to sorrow—humanity demands it, and Christianity, in the person of the weeping Jesus, allows it. The man without a tear, is a savage or a stoic—but not a Christian.

God intends when He bestows His gifts, that they should be received with smiles of gratitude; and when He recalls them, that they should be surrendered with "drops of sacred grief." Sorrow is an affection implanted by the Creator in the soul for wise and beneficent purposes; and it ought not to be ruthlessly torn up by the roots, but directed in its exercise by reason and piety.

The work of grace, though it is above nature—is not against it. The man who tells me not to weep at the grave—insults me, mocks me and wishes to degrade me! Tears are the silent, pure, sincere testimony of my heart to the excellence of the gift He gave in mercy; and in mercy, no doubt, as well as judgment, He has recalled.

But then, though we mourn, we must not murmur. We may sorrow, but not with the violent and uncontrolled grief of the heathen who have no hope. Our sorrow may flow as deep as we like—but noiseless and still in the channels of submission.

It must be a sorrow so quiet as to hear all the words of consolation which our Heavenly Father utters amidst the gentle strokes of His rod.

It must be a sorrow so reverential as to adore Him for the exercise of His prerogative in taking away what and whom He pleases.

It must be a sorrow so composed as to prepare us for doing His will, as well as bearing it.

It must be a sorrow so meek and gentle as to justify Him in all His dispensations.

It must be a sorrow so confiding as to be assured that there is as much love in taking the mercy away, as there was in bestowing it.

It must be a sorrow so grateful as to be thankful for the mercies left, as well as afflicted for the mercies lost.

It must be a sorrow so trustful as to look forward to the future with hope.

It must be a sorrow so patient as to bear all the aggravations that accompany or follow the bereavement, with unruffled acquiescence.

It must be a sorrow so holy as to lift the prayer of faith for divine grace to sanctify the stroke.

It must be a sorrow so lasting as to preserve through all the coming years of life, the benefit of that event, which, in one solemn moment, changed the whole aspect of our earthly existence.

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Is he a brute? Is he a maniac?

(John Angell James, "The Anxious Enquirer" 1834)

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"What will it benefit a man, if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul?
 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26 

Consider what the loss of the soul includes:

It is the loss of everything dear to man as an immortal creature. It is the loss of Heaven, with all its honors, felicities, and glories. It is the loss of everything that can contribute to our eternal happiness.

The loss of the soul includes in it all that is contained in that dreadful word, Hell. Hell is the eternal endurance of the wrath of God. It is the coming down of the curse of the Almighty upon the soul; or rather, it is the falling of the soul into that curse, as into a lake which burns with fire and brimstone.

All the tears that ever have been or ever will be shed on the face of the earth; all the groans that ever have been or ever will be uttered; all the anguish that ever has been or ever will be endured by all the inhabitants of the world, through all the ages of time—do not make up an equal amount of misery to that which is included in the loss of one human soul!

Consider that the eternal loss of the soul is not a rare, but a very common occurrence. The loss of the soul is so tremendous a catastrophe, that if it happened only once in a year, or once in a century, so as to render it barely possible that it should happen to you—it would be reckless carelessness not to feel some solicitude about the matter!

How much more, then, when, alas! it is an every-day calamity! So far from its being a rare thing for men to go to Hell—it is a much rarer thing for them to go to Heaven! Our Lord tells us, that the "road to destruction" is thronged, while the "way to life" is traveled by few. Hell opens its mouth wide and swallows up multitudes in perdition! How alarming is the idea, and how probable the fact—that you may be among this number! Some who read these pages will very likely spend their eternity in Hell.

Concern, then, deep concern about the salvation of your soul, is the most reasonable thing in the world! Can that man have a soul, or know that he has one—who is careless about its eternal happiness?
Is he a man—or is he a brute?
Is he a rational being—or is he a maniac?
Ever walking on the edge of the precipice that hangs over the bottomless pit—and not concerned about salvation! Oh, fatal, awful, destructive indifference!

Look into the bottomless pit—can you be too anxious to escape its torments?
Look into Heaven—can you be too anxious to obtain its glories?
Look into eternity—can you be too anxious to secure immortal life?

"
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

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Beware of the dog!

(John Angell James, "Christian Fellowship" 1822)

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"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 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?

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Colossians 3:12-14

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Ready or not!


(John Fawcett, "The Important Journey from this World to the Next" 1774)

This is a journey which may be near at hand. "I am this day going the way of all the earth." For anything we know, the journey may be just before us—there may be but a step between us and death!

We have perpetual admonitions respecting the shortness and uncertainty of life. The Word and the ministers of God unitedly call our attention to those subjects, and we ought earnestly to pray that the Lord would teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. "Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life." Psalm 39:4

Our days are but a span, a hand-breadth, an inch or two of time.

Life is but a vapor that appears for a little season, and then vanishes away.

Life is but like a flower of the field, which quickly fades, withers and dies away.

Our breath is in our nostrils, ever ready to depart, and any motion of our lungs may be the last.

While the man is vainly dreaming of years of felicity on earth, God says unto him, "You foolish mortal, this night shall your soul be required of you!" Thus the words of inspiration are verified: "In an hour when you think not, the Son of man will come." The living know that they must die. All men are sensible that they must go on this journey sooner or later, but the general part of mankind consider it as at a considerable distance.

What numbers do we hear of who are cut off by sudden death! Many are called to set out on this journey at a moment's warning. The darksome messenger comes, and they must go, whether they are prepared or not. Ready or not, the summons must be obeyed; whether they are busy or indolent, active or negligent—they must immediately set out on this important journey. The call is often given at an unexpected moment.

You must soon leave all the pleasures, endearments, and advantages of your present state—and launch forth into an unknown eternity! Oh that every one in this assembly may leave here under a deep conviction that his journey of death may be very near! Then he will begin to be seriously attentive to everlasting things, and will no longer trifle with God and with the eternal interests of his own soul.

If we are the children of God—then it is a journey to Heaven, to the regions of immortal light and felicity; to "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

But if we are the children of the wicked one—then it is a journey to Hell, to the abodes of darkness, horror, and black despair, "prepared for the devil, and his angels." The broad way of self-indulgence, folly and wickedness—most certainly leads to eternal damnation. Can we conceive anything more dreadful than the doom of a dying sinner? To be driven from the presence of Christ as accursed, and to be consigned to everlasting misery—who can for one moment bear the thought! If a man knows himself to be in danger of this, in danger every hour, every moment—should he not eagerly and earnestly cry out, "What must I do to be saved!"

Oh what a solemn journey is that which we have before us! A journey to eternity, a journey which will bring us where we must be, not for an age only, but for millions of ages, more millions of ages than there are sands on the sea shore; more millions of ages than there are blades of grass on the surface of the earth; more millions of ages than there are atoms in the universe!

May our hearts be dead to all earthly good. May our affections be set on things above, and our thoughts be in Heaven—that better country to which we are going, and where we will dwell forever.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The idol of our day!

(John Angell James, "The Young Man's Friend and Guide through Life to Immortality")

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One of the evils of our age is an excessive love of pleasure, which leads to self-indulgence, and indisposes the mind for sober thought and true piety.

Love of pleasure is one of the growing tendencies of the day in which we live, and threatens infinite damage to the present and eternal welfare of mankind, by bringing on an age of frivolity, sensuality and 'practical atheism'.

Find your pleasure, young men . . .
  in the improvement of your mind,
  in attention to duties,
  in true piety, and
  in active benevolence.
Is there not scope enough for enjoyment here?

Excessive worldliness is another of the dangers of this age. In our wealthy and materialistic country, there is most imminent peril of sinking into the mere worldling, and living only to get wealth. Never was there so great a danger of having . . .
  the conscience benumbed,
  moral principles prostrated,
  the heart rendered callous,
  the intellect emptied of its strength
—as in the age in which we live!

Wealth is the idol of our day! Without watchfulness and prayer, you are in danger of . . .
  bowing devoutly at its shrine,
  becoming its worshipers, and
  immolating your souls as a burnt-offering on its altars!

"
Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces!" Ezekiel 14:3

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Holiness

(John Angell James, "The True Christian" 1846)

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"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 . . .
  charity,
  integrity,
  truth,
  mercy.

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!

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Turn away from the lovely enchantress!

(John Angell James, "Faith's Victory over the World" 1852)

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"Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you—for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world." 1 John 2:15-16

Such is the world that assails the Christian, and which he must overcome—or perish eternally! He is aware of his danger from the strength, subtlety, and ever-present activity of this enemy of his soul. The whole current of Scripture commands runs against the love of the world. In every possible form, it is forbidden.

Worldliness is the most thronged road to everlasting ruin!

Worldliness does not merely consist in an intense love of money and an excessive eagerness to be rich, but in a supreme regard to that which is visible and temporal—whether these relate to the quiet scenes of domestic comfort, or to those elegancies, splendors, and accumulations of wealth, which lead a man to seek his highest bliss in these.

The world is a foe which attacks us in various places.
In the shop—by all the temptations incident to trade and wealth.
In the halls of politics and public business—by all the enticements to pride and ambition.
In the places of amusement—by all the soft blandishments of pleasure.
In the haunts of vice—by all the gratifications of the flesh.
In the walks of science and literature—by all the delights of intellectual gratification.
In the social circle—by all the enjoyments of friendship.
Oh, how many are the scenes where the world meets man and subdues him!

Sometimes the world approaches the believer with a smiling face, making promises and offering caresses, like the serpent to our first mother in the garden; or like Satan to our Lord when he said, "All these things will I give you—if you will fall down and worship me!" How difficult is it on such occasions to turn away from the lovely enchantress, to keep the eye steadily fixed on heavenly glories—and instead of greedily quaffing the cup of poisoned sweets, to dash it to the ground!

If immorality slays its thousands—the world slays its tens of thousands!
 

"Supreme love of the world" will as certainly lead its possessor to the bottomless pit—as the love of open vice!

Worldliness, I repeat, and repeat with emphasis, is . . .
  the smoothest,
  the most polished,
  the most fashionable,
  the most respectable
path to the bottomless pit!

Victory over the world
is subordination . . .
  of the creature to the Creator;
  of earth to heaven;
  of temporal blessings to spiritual ones;
  of time to eternity.

Victory over the world is the formation of an unearthly, spiritual, divine, and heavenly mind-set and character!

"It was the sight of Your dear cross,
 First weaned my soul from earthly things;
 And taught me to esteem as dross,
 The mirth of fools and pomp of kings!"

How all the splendor of earthly things pales before that infinitely more resplendent object—Jesus!

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These are the idols of the heart!

(John Angell James, "Spiritual Idolatry")

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The first commandment of the decalogue says, "You shall have no other gods before Me." The meaning of this precept, which is the foundation of all religion, is not merely that we shall not acknowledge any other God besides Jehovah—but also that we shall treat Him as God! That is, we . . .
  must love Him with all our hearts,
  serve Him with all our lives, and
  depend upon Him for our supreme felicity.

It is obvious that whatever we love most, and are most anxious to retain and please—whatever it is we depend most upon for happiness and help—whatever has most of our hearts—that is in effect, our God! It does not matter whether it is friends, possessions, desires—or our own selves!

These are the idols of the heart!

SELF is the great idol which is the rival of God, and which divides with Him the worship of the human race. It is surprising and affecting to think how much SELF enters into almost all we do. Besides the grosser form of self-righteousness, which leads many unconverted people actually to depend upon their own doings for acceptance with God; how much of . . .
  self-seeking,
  self-valuing,
  self-admiration,
  self-dependence,
there is in many converted ones!
How covertly do some seek their own praise in what they professedly do for God, and their fellow-creatures! How eager are they for the admiration and applause of their fellow-creatures! How much of self, yet how little suspected by themselves—is seen by One who knows them better than they know themselves, at the bottom of their most splendid services, donations, and most costly sacrifices!

In how many ways does self steal away the heart from God! How subtle are its workings, how concealed its movements, yet how extensive is its influence. How SELF . . .
  perverts our motives,
  lowers our aims,
  corrupts our affections, and
  taints our best actions!

How much incense is burned—and how many sacrifices are offered on the altar of this idol!

"Little children, keep yourselves from idols!" 1 John 5:21

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This city has so aroused My anger and wrath!

(John Angell James, "The Crisis—or, Hope and Fear Balanced, in Reference to the Present Situation of the Country" Sunday Morning, Nov. 28, 1819)

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"From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused My anger and wrath that I must remove it from My sight!" Jeremiah 32:31

Let us devoutly acknowledge both the source and the justice of our calamities.
The origin of the evils that afflict us is often to be found in the sins which disgrace us.

Sin is the only thing in all the universe which God hates, and this He abhors wherever He discovers it.

With our limited understanding and feeble powers of moral perception—it is impossible for us to form an adequate idea of the evil of sin, or the light in which it is contemplated by a God whose understanding is infinite, and whose purity is immaculate. That law which men are daily trampling upon, equally without consideration, without reason, and without penitence—is most sacred in His eyes as the emanation and the transcript of His own holiness.

He is also omnipresent and omniscient. There is not a nook or corner of the land from which He is excluded. Of every scene of iniquity, He is the constant though invisible witness. The whole mass of national guilt with the every minutest particular of it, is ever before His eye!

His justice, which consists in giving to all their due, must incline Him to punish iniquity—and His power enables Him to do it!

He is the moral governor of the nations, and concerned to render His providence subservient to the display of His attributes. And if a people so highly favored as we are, notwithstanding our manifold sins, escape without chastisement—will not some be ready to question the equity, if not the very exercise of His administration?

His threatenings against the wicked are to be found in almost every page of holy Scripture. Nor are the threatenings of the Bible to be viewed in the light of mere unreal terrors, as clouds and storms which the poet's pencil has introduced into the picture—the creatures of his own imagination, and only intended to excite the imagination of others.

No! They are solemn realities intended to operate by their denunciation as a check upon sin; or if not so regarded, to be endured in their execution as a punishment upon our sins! Scripture gives us many examples in which this has happened. It has preserved an account of the downfall of nearly all the chief empires, kingdoms and cities of antiquity; and that, not as a mere chronicle of the event, but as a great moral lesson to the world. Scripture carefully informs us that sin was the cause of their ruin!

Volcanoes terrify with their eruptions, and submerge towns or cities beneath their streams of lava!

Earthquake's convulsive throes bury a population beneath the ruins of their own abodes!

Hurricanes carry desolation through a country!

Famine whitens the valleys with the bones of the thousands who have perished beneath its reign!

Pestilence stalks through a land, hurrying multitudes to the tomb, and filling all that remain with unutterable terrors!

Wars have been agents in the unparalleled scenes of bloodshed and misery!

Scripture proclaims that these are to be regarded as a fearful exposition of the evil nature of sin, written by the finger of God upon the tablet of the earth's history!

Visit, in imagination, my countrymen, the spots where many of these cities once stood, and you shall see nothing but desolation stalking like a specter across the plain, lifting its eye to heaven, and exclaiming, amidst the silence that reigns around, "The kingdom and the nation that will not serve You, shall utterly perish!" As you stand amidst the moldering fragments of departed grandeur, does not every breeze, as it sighs through the ruins, seem to say, as a voice from the sepulcher, "See, therefore and know, that it is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against the Lord!"

Let us devoutly acknowledge both the source and the justice of our calamities. The origin of the evils that afflict us, is often to be found in the sins which disgrace us.

"From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused My anger and wrath that I must remove it from My sight!" Jeremiah 32:31

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So much time thrown away on these elegant trifles!

(John Angell James, "Female Piety; The Young Woman's Guide through Life to Immortality", Chapter 5. Christian Zeal)

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"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Eph. 5:16

There are three things which, if lost, can never be recovered: time, the soul, and an opportunity.

In order to be useful, it is necessary to cultivate habits of order, punctuality, and the right employment of time.

There is no doing good without the proper use of time.

Two things cannot be done at once. Benevolent service requires time. And how much time is wasted, which the miseries and needs of society require! "Redeem the time!" is a warning that should ever be sounding in our ears!

We need time for the improvement of our own souls—and we need it for the good of others. We can do much with a proper use of time—and nothing without it. There is scarcely anything to which the injunction of our Lord more strictly applies than to time: "Gather up the fragments that nothing be lost." Order redeems time, so does punctuality—therefore order and punctuality are ways of supplying the time necessary for the exercise of deeds of mercy.

Redeem time from useless reading, and other selfish entertainments—and also from that excessive addictedness to the worldly accomplishments of music, arts, and fancy craft-works, which are so characteristic of the present day. That some portion of time may be given to these things is admitted. I am not for parting with the exquisite polish which skill in these matters imparts to female elegance. I love to see the decorations of female mind and manners. Of this I may have to speak again in a future chapter, and therefore shall merely now inquire—when the cries of misery are entering into her ears, and the groans of creation are arising all around her; when countless millions abroad are living and dying without the light of the gospel and the hope of salvation; when at our own doors will be found so many passing in ignorance and wickedness to their eternal destinies—is it humane for a Christian woman to spend so much precious time each day over her knitting, crotchet, or embroidery work? As she sits plying those needles, and bringing out, it may be, the tasteful design, hour after hour—does she never hear the cry of human woe, "Come over and help us!" Does it never occur to her, how many souls have gone into eternity unprepared to meet their God, since she took her chair and commenced her daily entertainment?

Or, even leaving out of view the employment of her time for deeds of mercy to others; is it not an afflicting sight to behold so much time thrown away on these elegant trifles, which might be employed in cultivating one's own mind and heart, by reading useful Christian literature?

You cannot, systematically, do good either to yourself or others, without redeeming time for the purpose!

"So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90:12

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As he snuffs the gale of popular applause!

(John Angell James, "Ministerial Duties Stated and Enforced")

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"In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God." 2 Corinthians 6:4

This verse implies that ministers are to labor for God—surely not for the preacher's fame. SELF is an idol which has been worshiped by far greater multitudes than any other deity of either ancient or modern heathenism. A minister is the last man in the world who should be seen at the altar of this vile abomination—SELF. And yet without great care he is likely to be the first one there, to linger there the longest, to bow the lowest, and to express his devotion by the costliest sacrifices!

Many become ministers merely to acquire popular applause. 'Fame' is their motive and their aim. To commend themselves, is the secret but powerful spring of all they do. SELF is with them in the study directing their reading, selecting their texts, arranging their thoughts, forming their illustrations—and all with a view to 'shine in public'. Thus prepared, they ascend the pulpit with the same object which conducts the actor to the stage—to secure the applause of approving spectators. Every tone is modulated, every emphasis laid, every attitude regulated—to please the audience, rather than to profit their souls; to commend themselves, and not Jesus Christ.

The service ended, this bosom idol returns with them to their own abode, and renders them restless and uneasy to know how they have succeeded. If they are admired, they receive their reward; if not, the first prize is lost!

It is nothing in abatement of the sin, that all this while evangelical sentiments are uttered. Orthodoxy is the most direct road to popularity. Christ may be the text—when SELF is the sermon! And dreadful as it seems, it is to be feared that many have elevated the cross only to suspend upon the 'sacred tree' their own honors! and have employed all the glories of redemption—merely to emblazon their own name!

The ministry is not intended to be a platform, where the petty manufacturer of 'tinsel eloquence' and 'rhetorical flowers' shall display to a gaping crowd his gaudy wares!

When carried to this height, this is the direst, deepest tragedy that was ever performed by man, since it ends in the actual and eternal death of the performer, who forgets, as he snuffs the gale of popular applause, that it bears the vapors of damnation!

"The Spirit took me to the north gate of the temple's inner courtyard, where there was an idol that disgusted the Lord and made Him furious!" Ezekiel 8:3

"Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

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A decent, flowery, down-hill way to eternal destruction!

(John Angell James, "Christian Hope" 1859)

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Christ is . . .
  the supreme object of a true Christian's love,
  the chief source of his felicity,
  the highest end of his life.

The first object of a Christian's desire, pursuit and expectation—is the salvation of his soul.

Our great business on earth—is to fit for Heaven.

Our main concern in time—is to prepare for eternity.

The world is, indeed, a very dangerous foe to the believer. To very, very many, it is the most destructive one. They are not so likely to be subdued by 'open vice' as by worldly-mindedness.

Worldliness is the sin of the age, and has deeply infected the church of Christ!

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15

This verse ought to ring through all Christendom, and make the ears of millions tingle—and their hearts to palpitate with fear and alarm!

What is the world?

Not merely open sin and vice, profligacy, idolatry, infidelity or heresy. Oh no! The world contains many things besides the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life—things . . .
  more decent,
  more innocent,
  more rational,
  more commendable,
than these vile objects!

Everything on earth, however fair, laudable and excellent in itself—everything besides God, is the world.

Your business is the world,
your family is the world,
your comfortable home is the world,
the wife of your bosom is the world,
the children whom God has given you are the world.

"What! then," you exclaim, "are we not to love these?"

Yes, in proper degrees—but not more than God. You are not to seek your highest happiness from them. You are not to be more solicitous to secure them, than Heaven. It is of a 'supreme love' which the apostle speaks.

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." Matthew 10:37

Christian professors, there is need to have these solemn yet righteous demands, sent with a voice of thunder into your places of business and scenes of domestic comfort. You have need to be told that . . .
  all this engrossing solicitude about business;
  all this eager haste to be rich;
  all this ambition for larger houses;
  all this taste for elegance, show and fashion;
  all this competition for name and fame, which leads to a neglect of salvation, to departure from God, to indifference to Heaven—is the love of the world, which is incompatible with the love of the Father! And not less so . . .
  that supreme concern about domestic enjoyment,
  that taste for fashionable amusements, or even
  that more refined and simple love of home-bred delights,
which leaves out God, salvation, heaven and eternity!

Here, here, I repeat, is your peril.

Here is the enemy with which you have to do battle!

It is not vice.

It is not profligacy.

It is worldly-mindedness!

Do we not see mere professors throwing themselves wholly—body, soul, and spirit . . .
  into their trade,
  into the cherished objects of their ambition,
  into their entire devotedness to a worldly life.

In these things, and for them, they live! These things . . .
  bind around and overgrow their heart,
  stifle all serious thoughts,
  smother all heavenly desires.

The road that leads to destruction is broad enough to comprise many parallel paths.
And there is one path crowded with professors of religion, walking in company, with cheerful appearance, and elegant attire, and elastic step—but still walking to perdition! Oh, yes, there is a way 'through the church'—a decent, flowery, down-hill way to eternal destruction, and there are many who take that road!

  ~  ~  ~  ~

The domestic slave

(John Angell James, "Female Piety—The Young Woman's Guide Through Life to Immortality")

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There are various kinds of slavery in the world, and many classes of victims of this cruel bondage. There is among others, the domestic slave, whose tyrant is her husband—and the scene of her bondage is her home!

His stinginess allows her scanty supplies for bare necessities. His selfishness is so engrossing and exacting, that his demands for his own personal ease and indulgence are incessant, and leave her no time for the consideration of her own comfort. His disposition is so bad, that all her diligence to please are unavailing to give him satisfaction, or to avert the sallies of his irritability, discontent, and complaints.

When such a man protests against Negro-slavery, let him begin the work of emancipation at home, by raising the oppressed woman he holds in bondage there, from the condition of a drudge—into the station of a wife!

But there are also many sad cases in which the slavery is self-imposed! The bondage comes from the wife herself! The husband would gladly release her—but she will not let him!

Some are slaves to neatness—and make their fidgety anxiety about this matter a misery to themselves and all around them!

Others are slaves to fashion—and are always anxious and troubled about elegance and refinement!

Others are slaves to domestic display, parties and amusements—and are always full of anxiety about making a splendid appearance!

Others are slaves to frugality—and are ever vexing themselves to economize!

In these ways women will torment themselves and fill their minds with unnecessary cares and self-imposed troubles! To all such we say, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about so many things!"

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Flesh-pleasing pulpit opiates!

(John Angell James, "Dislike to Ministerial Faithfulness Stated and Explained")

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They are a rebellious people, deceptive children—children who do not obey the Lord's instruction. They say to the seers, "Do not see," and to the prophets, "Do not prophesy the truth to us. Tell us flattering things! Prophesy illusions! Get out of the way! Leave the pathway. Rid us of the Holy One of Israel." Isaiah 30:9-11

It is a striking fact, that He who was love incarnate; who was mercy's messenger to our lost world; who was named Jesus, because He was to be the Savior of His people; who was the manifestation of God's love to man—delivered, during the course of His personal ministry, more fearful descriptions of Divine justice and the punishment of the wicked, than are to be found in any other part of the Word of God! What can exceed the solemn scene of the parable of the rich man in torments? Hell and destruction are there set openly before us.

No man can fulfill his ministry, therefore, without frequently alluding to the justice of God in the punishment of sin. He must seek to alarm the fears of the unconverted by a representation of the consequences that will follow a state of final impenitence.

Such a subject frequently calls up all the enmity of the carnal mind. To be told, not only that they are sinners, which all will admit in general terms—but that their sins are such as to deserve the wrath of God, such as to expose them to the torments of Hell, and such as will infallibly bring them to the bottomless pit—unless they truly repent; to be told again and again that they are hastening to perdition; to have the rod of Divine vengeance shaken over their heads; to have all the dreadful curses of the violated law analyzed, ascertained and announced; to have this done in their hearing, and done frequently; to be made to sit and hear their future eternal doom, and thus to be tormented before their time—is what they cannot, and will not endure!

Unable to bear any longer his pointed addresses to the conscience, they will leave his ministry—for the flesh-pleasing pulpit opiates of some flatterer of men's souls, who is too cowardly to trouble the minds, or alarm the consciences of those who love smooth, flattering and delusive preaching.

To be publicly denounced as deserving Divine wrath; to be told that they are sinners to such a degree as to merit the eternal punishment of a holy God; to be reminded that, instead of their imagined good heart, pure nature, and blameless life—they are, in the sight of God, depraved in every faculty and polluted in every part; to be represented as unfit for communion with God here, and for His presence hereafter—all this is so opposed to all their notions, so mortifying to their vain pride, so degrading to their dignity, that they cannot but hate it. To such a debasement they would not willingly descend; and hence their demand for the teaching of deceit, and the smooth speech of falsehood. What they want is to be flattered into a good opinion of themselves. They hate the doctrine which disturbs their self-delight, and revile the man who attempts to tell them the solemn reality of how vile they are!

"This is what the Lord Almighty says: Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.
 They keep saying to those who despise Me, 'The Lord says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.'" Jeremiah 23:16-17

  ~  ~  ~  ~

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 heavenly-mindedness,
  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 . . .
  the lukewarmness,
  the irregularities,
  the worldliness,
  the inconsistencies,
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


  ~  ~  ~  ~

Is this your religion?

(John Angell James, "Christian Love")

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"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 cultivate.

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—or 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 religion?

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?

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Who can wonder?

(John Angell James, "Religious Education of Children" 1846)

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"You should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Look into some families of professors—follow them through the history of only one week, and see . . .
  their worldly-mindedness,
  their gaiety,
  their frivolity,
  their unsanctified tempers,
  their worldly reading,
  their amusements,
  their homage to talent,
  their low esteem of holiness,
  their negligence of family prayer,
  their neglect of godly instruction to their children
—and who can wonder that young people brought up amidst such scenes, do not become pious—but go off into the world or into sin?

Too often the children are like their parents, and bring into the church no higher or better kind of religion than what they have learned at home! And thus a low tone of piety, a lukewarm Laodicean spirit—is extended and perpetuated.

There must be a revival of piety in the parents! It is vain to expect that a worldly-minded father, whose spirituality, if he ever had any, has been utterly evaporated by the exclusiveness of concern about business and politics. Or a frivolous, pleasure-loving mother, who thinks far more about adorning the bodies of her children, than about saving their souls—should be at all concerned about the pious education of their children.

Recollect what a solemn thing it is to be a parent! What a weighty responsibility attaches to those who have the immortal souls of their children committed to their care!

"You fathers, don't provoke your children to wrath, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Satan's workshop!

(J.A. James, speaking of the power of the press in 1848)

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"I don't want Satan to outwit us; after all, we are not ignorant about Satan's scheming." 2 Corinthians 2:11

The press has a great power for evil. Infidel and immoral writers are pouring forth a deluge of skepticism and vice, which are depositing a poisonous and toxic slime over the minds of the people.

Let it be imagined, if imagined it can be, what must be the state of multitudes in this country, when millions of pestiferous publications are annually going out among the masses of our population. Let the minds of all Christian people dwell upon . . .
  the insult offered to God,
  the ruin brought upon souls,
  the injury done to morals, and
  the mischief perpetrated in the nation,
by such a state of things!

These ungodly publications originate from Satan's workshop, and reflect the scenes of that dreadful laboratory of mental poison! These authors, printers, publishers, booksellers, vendors, by myriads, are all busy and indefatigable—to do what?
To destroy the Bible,
to corrupt the mind,
to pull down the cross,
to dethrone God,
to subvert true religion,
to turn man into a speaking brute,
to overturn all morality,
to poison the springs of domestic happiness,
to dissolve the ties of social order,
to involve our country in ruin!

Satan, and all his emissaries upon earth, are in earnest in ruining men's souls!

We have an evil to contend with . . .
  so gigantic in its strength,
  so diffused in its influence all around us,
  so infectious and malignant in its effects!

The enemy is coming in like a flood!

Infidelity and immorality are invading us!

The alarm bell must be rung!

(Editor's note. In 1848 when J.A. James wrote this  article, the press was the only media available. What would he say today, with the deluge of ungodly media from
Satan's workshop pouring into Christian homes and minds!)

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Constant multiplication of corrupted copies!

(J.A. James, "Earnestness in Personal Religion" 1847)

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Our idea of the nature of earnest individual piety must be taken, not from the conventional customs of the age—but from the Word of God. Once give up the Bible as the only true standard of personal piety, and there is no rule left but custom, which is ever varying with the opinions and corruptions of the times.

Yet how prevalent is the disposition to conform ourselves to the prevailing religion of the day and of the church to which we belong, and to satisfy ourselves with the average measure of piety around us! "I am as good as my fellow members!" is the shield with which many a professor wards off the allegation of his living below his Scriptural duty.

This has been the fatal practical error of the church through every age of its existence, by which . . .
  its beauty has been disfigured,
  its power weakened, and
  its usefulness impeded!

Professing Christians, instead of looking into the perfect standard of Scripture, and seeing themselves reflected from that faithful mirror, and adjusting their character and conduct by its infallible revelations—placed before themselves the standard of the Christian profession as it was found in the church of the day, and regulated their behavior by what they saw in the prevailing character of their fellow Christians!

Thus a constant multiplication of corrupted copies has ever been going on! And religion, as seen in the conduct of its professors, compared with that which is described in the pages of its own inspired rule—have been quite different things!

Let us turn away from the religion we see in the church—to the religion we read in the Bible! Let us not go to the imperfect and blurred copy—but to the perfect and unspotted original! The Bible's representation of the nature of true piety is intended for us as our guide, and is obligatory upon us!

But the inspired, unalterable, and infallible standard of Scripture is . . .
  too spiritual,
  too devout,
  too unearthly,
  too humbling,
  too self-denying,
for many professors.

"Deny yourself, and take up your cross daily and follow Me" is still the stern, unbending demand of Christ.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

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

(J.A. James, "HINDRANCES to Christian Progress")

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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 eternity.

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 poor 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!" Psalm 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!