Grace Gems Collection

Grace Gems Collection 2005

Grace Gems Collection 2005
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The text has been revised for contemporary readers.
2006 Sovereign Grace Treasures
http://www.lulu.com/gracetreasures
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Our purpose is to humble the pride of man, to exalt the grace of God in salvation, and to promote real holiness in heart in life.
Our objective is to set before the Christian pilgrim some reflections which may prove challenging, consolatory and encouraging—as he journeys up from this bleak, arid, wilderness world, leaning on his Beloved.
May God’s blessing attend a humble effort to minister comfort to the downcast, strength to the weak, and courage to those who have set their faces towards their glorious eternal home.
The editors
Please visit us at http://www.GraceGems.org. Join our free Grace Gems mailing list to receive a daily devotional quote!
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OH HEART, HEART, WHAT ARE YOU?
John Berridge
Oh heart, heart, what are you? A mass of fooleries and absurdities! The vainest, foolishest, craftiest, wickedest thing in the world!
And yet the Lord Jesus asks me for this heart, woos me for it, and died to win it! O incredible love! Adorable condescension! “O take it, Lord, and let it be forever closed to all but You!” d
AN ALMIGHTY PERSONAL FRIEND!
J. C. Ryle, “To Whom?” 1880
“At this, many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” John 6:66
Millions in every age have turned their back on Christ. The defection is continually going on. It is an old disease, and must not surprise us.
The heart is always deceitful and desperately wicked; the devil is always busy, and seeking whom he may
devour;
the world is always ensnaring;
the way of life is narrow,
the enemies many,
the friends few,
the difficulties great,
the cross heavy,
the doctrine of the gospel offensive to the natural man.
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What thoughtful person need wonder that multitudes in every age turn back from Christ, throw off all religion, and perish miserably!
It is only the ‘sifting process’ which God permits, in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, through which we must all pass. The world after all, with….
its pitfalls and snares for the soul, its competitions and struggles,
its failures and successes,
its disappointments,
its perplexities,
its perpetual crop of crude theories and extreme views, its mental conflicts and anxieties,
its extravagant ‘free thought,’
its equally extravagant superstition—
the world is a fiery furnace and ordeal, through which all believers must make up their minds to pass.
“Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life!” John 6:68
Where, indeed, could we turn…. for peace of heart,
for satisfaction of conscience, for hope in the world to come—
if we turn away from Jesus?
To whom, indeed, shall we go for help, strength, and
comfort—if we turn our backs on Christ?
We live in a world of troubles, whether we like it or not. Our bodies are liable to a thousand ailments, and our hearts to a thousand sorrows. No creature on earth is so vulnerable, and so capable of intense physical as well as mental suffering, as man.
Sickness, and death, and funerals,
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and partings,
and separations,
and losses,
and failures,
and disappointments,
and private family trials,
which no mortal eye sees, will break in upon us from time to time; and we desperately need help to meet them! Alas, where will our thirsty, wailing hearts find such help—if we leave Christ?
The plain truth is, that nothing but an almighty personal Friend will ever meet the legitimate needs of man’s soul—with His daily help, sympathy, and watchful care.
SICKNESS, DISEASE, DECAY, AND DEATH
J. C. Ryle, “Christ in the Sick Room” “Lord, the one You love is sick!” John 11:3
Sickness, disease, decay, and death are the common lot of all mankind without exception.
The human body is a most frail and complicated machine. From the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, there is not a part of us which is not liable to disease. When I think of the variety of ailments which may assail our bodies, I do not wonder so much that we die at last—as I do that we live so long.
But whence comes this liability to sickness, disease, and death?
The fall of man at the beginning has brought sin into the world, and sin has brought with it the curse of sickness, suffering, and pain. God sends sickness in order to do us good. It is a friendly letter from heaven. It is a knock at the door of conscience. Happy is he who
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opens the letter and reads it, who hears the knock and opens the door, who welcomes Christ to the sick room.
Regard your sickness as…. a blessing in disguise,
a good and not an evil,
a friend and not an enemy.
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ARE WE CHRISTIANS? OR ARE WE WORLDLINGS?
Horatius Bonar, “Self-Denial Christianity”
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!” Amos 6:1
What do we say to….
our self-indulgence,
our sloth,
our love of ease,
our avoidance of hardship, our luxury,
our pampering of the body, our costly feasts,
our silken couches,
our brilliant furniture,
our gay attire,
our braided hair,
our jeweled fingers,
our idle mirth,
our voluptuous music,
our jovial tables, loaded with every variety of rich
viands?
Are we Christians? Or are we worldlings?
Where is the self-denial of the New Testament days?
Where is the separation from a self-pleasing luxurious world? Where is the cross, the true badge of discipleship, to be seen—except in useless religious
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ornaments for the body, or worse than useless decorations for the sanctuary?
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!” Is not this the description of multitudes who name the name of Christ? They may not always be “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” But even where these are absent, there is ‘high living’—luxury of the table or the wardrobe—in conformity to ‘this present evil world.’
‘At ease in Zion!’ Yes! there is the shrinking…. from hard service;
from ‘spending and being spent;’
from toil and burden-bearing and conflict; from self-sacrifice and noble adventure,
for the Master’s sake.
There is conformity to the world—instead of conformity to Christ! There is a laying down—instead of a taking up—of the cross. Or there is a lining of the cross with velvet, lest it should gall our shoulders as we carry it! Or there is an adorning of the cross, that it may suite the taste and the manners of our refined and intellectual age.
Anything but the bare, rugged and simple cross!
We think that we can make the strait gate wider, and the narrow way broader, so as to be able to walk more comfortably to the heavenly kingdom. We try to prove that ‘modern enlightenment’ has so elevated the race, that there is no longer the battle or the burden or the discipline; or has so refined ‘the world and its pleasures,’ that we may safely drink the poisoned cup, and give ourselves up to the inebriation of the Siren song.
‘At ease in Zion!’ Even when the walls of our city are besieged, and the citadel is being stormed! Instead of grasping our weapons, we lie down upon our couches!
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Instead of the armor, we put on the silken robe! We are cowards, when we should be brave!
We are faint-hearted, when we should be bold! We are lukewarm, when we should be fervent! We are cold, when we should be full of zeal!
We compromise and shuffle and apologize, when we should lift up our voice like a trumpet! We pare down truth, or palliate error, or extenuate sin—in order to placate the world, or suit the spirit of the age, or ‘unify’ the Church.
Learn self-denying Christianity. Not the form or name, but the living thing. Let us renounce the lazy, luxurious, self- pleasing, fashionable religion of the present day!
A self-indulgent religion has nothing in common with the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; or with that cross of ours which He has commanded us to take up and carry after Him—renouncing ease and denying self.
Our time,
our gifts,
our money,
our strength,
are all to be laid upon the altar.
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!” Amos 6:1 d
A NATURAL RELIGIOSITY
J. C. Philpot, “Contemplations & Reflections”
There is in some people a natural religiosity—that is, a disposition to be religious. If they had been born in Turkey, they would have been devout Muslims; if in Italy, they would have become priests, monks, or nuns, and as ready to burn a heretic as their fathers; if born and bred in England, they would be devout churchmen, pious
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dissenters, and so forth—just as the various circumstances of birth and education, habits and associations, might dispose or determine.
Now to these naturally religious minds, when fully ripened and blended with a stern spirit of self-denial, which usually accompanies and grows up with it, no system so thoroughly adapts itself as that of Popery—for it just meets and gives full play to that habit of mind which yields, like clay, to every object of groveling, superstitious veneration.
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ALL THE DEVIL’S TRICKS!
J. C. Philpot, “Contemplations & Reflections”
“That no advantage may be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:11
Satan is so wily….
his agents so surround us,
their designs are so masked,
their language so plausible,
their manners so insinuating,
their appearance often so imposing,
their arguments so subtle,
their activity so unwearied,
their insight into our weaknesses so keen, their enmity against Christ and His gospel so
implacable,
their lack of all principle and all honesty so thorough,
that the net may be drawing around us, before we have the slightest suspicion of these infernal plots being directed against us!
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephes. 6:11
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GOD’S MOST STUBBORN ENEMY!
Jonathan Edwards, “Spiritual Pride”
“I hate pride and arrogance!” Proverbs 8:13
“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: They shall assuredly not be unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5
Pride is a person having too high an opinion of himself. Pride is the first sin that ever entered into the universe,
and the last sin that is rooted out.
Pride is the worst sin. It is the most secret of all sins. There is no other matter in which the heart is more deceitful and unsearchable. Alas, how much pride the best have in their hearts!
Pride is God’s most stubborn enemy! There is no sin so much like the devil as pride. It is a secret and subtle sin, and appears in a great many shapes which are undetected and unsuspected.
“I hate pride and arrogance!” Proverbs 8:13
“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: They shall assuredly not be unpunished.”
Prov. 16:5
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ME, THE VILEST OF THE VILE!
By Sarah Church, a blind and deaf girl, who was paralyzed in one arm and both legs. Sarah died at the age of 23.
The Lord has again visited me in a most wonderful manner; so much so that I am lost in wonder, love, and praise, that He should show me such a revelation—me, the vilest of the vile!
“Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11
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More joyful tidings cannot possibly reach our ears than what are contained in these words. Christ is indeed all and in all. He is all to me as….
the end of the law for righteousness, the substance of prophecy,
the sum of the Gospel,
the life of the promises.
His wisdom directs me.
His righteousness justifies me.
Jesus is….
the perfection of glory;
truth, without any defect or error;
holiness, without the least taint of pollution; the chief among ten thousand!
Whatever is desirable on earth, whatever is attractive in heaven, all the graces of time, all the glories of eternity, meet in Him their proper center, and flow from Him their first source.
His love—how vast!
His promises—how precious! His work—how perfect!
His mercy—how boundless! His truth—how immutable! His power—how omnipotent! His grace—how sovereign! His counsels—how profound! His people—how secure!
His presence—how blissful! His smiles—how transporting!
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His Gospel—how free!
His law—how holy!
His precepts—how pure!
Christ is all and in all.
Hunger cannot be satisfied without the bread of life— Jesus Christ.
Thirst cannot be truly quenched without that living water—Jesus Christ.
The captive cannot be delivered without the Redeemer—Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the way—without Him we are wanderers.
Jesus is the truth—without Him we live in error.
Jesus is the life—without Him we are dead in sins.
Jesus is the light—without Him we are in darkness.
Jesus is the vine—those who are not grafted in Him are withered branches, prepared for the fire.
Jesus is the rock—those who are not built upon Him will be carried away by the flood of Divine anger.
I am lost in wonder that the Lord should look down upon such a hell-deserving wretch as I am! But glory be to His name, He does not deal with us after our sins!
SPOILED CHILDREN!
J. C. Ryle, “The Duties of Parents”
Train your children to a habit of obedience. No habit, I suspect, has such an influence over our lives as this. Parents, determine to make your children obey you— though it may cost you much trouble—and cost them many tears! Let there be no questioning, and reasoning,
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and disputing, and delaying, and answering back. When you give them a command, let them see plainly that you will have it done.
It ought to be the mark of well-trained children, that they cheerfully do whatever their parents command them. Where, indeed, is the honor which the fifth commandment enjoins, if fathers and mothers are not obeyed cheerfully, willingly, and at once?
Parents, do you wish to see your children happy? Take care, then, that you train them to obey when they are spoken to—to do as they are told.
To my eyes, a parent always yielding—and a child always having its own way—are a most painful sight! Painful, because I feel sure the consequence to that child’s character in the end will be self-will, pride, and self-conceit!
Parents, if you love your children, let obedience be a motto and a watchword continually before their eyes!
Learn to say “No” to your children. Show them that you are able to refuse whatever you think is not fit for them. Show them that you are ready to punish disobedience, and that when you speak of punishment, you are not only ready to threaten, but also to perform. Do not merely threaten. Threatened folks, and threatened faults, live long. Punish seldom, but really and earnestly. Frequent and slight punishment is a wretched system indeed.
Beware of letting small faults pass unnoticed under the idea “it is a little one.” There are no little things in training children—all are important. Little weeds need plucking up as much as any. Leave them alone, and they will soon become giants!
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Parents, if there be any point which deserves your attention, believe me, it is this one. It is one that will give you trouble, I know. But if you do not take trouble with your children when they are young—they will give you trouble when they are old! Choose which you prefer.
Do not be afraid, above all, that such a plan of training will make your child unhappy. I warn you against this delusion. Depend on it, there is no surer road to unhappiness than always having our own way. To be indulged perpetually is the way to be made selfish—and selfish people and spoiled children, believe me, are seldom happy.
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SOME CREATURE STEALS AWAY YOUR HEART
Charles Spurgeon
Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus?
Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmind- ful of Him upon whom your affection ought to be set.
Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should have your eye steadily fixed upon the cross.
It is the incessant round of world, world, world; the constant din of earth, earth, earth—which takes away the soul from Christ.
Oh! my friends, is it not too sadly true that we can recollect anything but Christ, and forget nothing so easy as Him whom we ought to remember? While memory will preserve a ‘poisoned weed,’ it allows the ‘Rose of Sharon’ to wither.
Why do we forget Christ?
Because we have a worm in the heart, a pest-house, a charnel-house within. Lusts, vile imaginations, and
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strong evil passions, which, like wells of poisonous water, send out continually streams of impurity.
I have a heart, which God knows, I wish I could wring from my body and hurl to an infinite distance; a soul which is a cage of unclean birds, a den of loathsome creatures, where dragons haunt and owls congregate, where every evil beast of ill-omen dwells; a heart too vile to have a parallel—“deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.”
This is the reason why I am forgetful of Christ.
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THE ONLY OASIS AMID BARREN DESERTS
J. C. Ryle, “The Lord’s Garden”
“A locked up garden is My sister, My bride.” Song of Solomon 4:12
Jesus calls His people a garden, because they are altogether different from the men of the world. The world is a wilderness—it brings forth little but thorns and thistles—it is fruitful in nothing but sin. The children of this world are an untilled wilderness in God’s sight. With all their….
arts and sciences,
intellect and skill,
eloquence and statesmanship, poetry and refinement—
with all this they are a wilderness—barren of repentance, faith, holiness, and obedience to God.
Jesus’ believing people are the only green spot on the earth—the only oasis amid barren deserts. They are His garden.
He calls them His garden, because they are sweet and beautiful to His mind! Believers are vile in their own eyes,
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and feel themselves to be miserable sinners. Yet Jesus says, “You are all beautiful! Sweet is your voice! Your countenance is lovely!”
Oh, the depths! It sounds incomprehensible and almost incredible—but it is true!
THESE MODERN PLAYTHINGS
A. W. Tozer, 1897–1963
“After He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into the mountain apart to pray. When evening had come, He was there alone.” Matthew 14:23
Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions, and beats us down by destroying our solitude, where otherwise we might drink and renew our strength before going out to face the world again.
Where is the solitude to which we can retire today?
Science, which has provided men with certain material comforts, has robbed them of their souls by surrounding them with a world hostile to their existence. “Commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still” is a wise and healing counsel. But how can it be followed in this day of the newspaper, the telephone, the radio and the television? These modern playthings, like pet tiger-cubs, have grown so large and dangerous that they threaten to devour us all!
No spot is now safe from the world’s intrusion!
“After He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into the mountain apart to pray. When evening had come, He was there alone.” Matthew 14:23
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HOME TRIALS
J. C. Ryle, “Without Clouds”
What careful reader of the Bible can fail to see that Adam, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses, and Samuel—were all men of many sorrows—and that those sorrows chiefly arose out of their own homes!
The plain truth is, that home trials are one of the many means by which God sanctifies and purifies His believing people.
These trials are spiritual medicines, which poor fallen human nature absolutely needs.
By them He keeps us humble.
By them He draws us to Himself.
By them He sends us to our Bibles.
By them He teaches us to pray.
By them He shows us our need of Christ. By them He weans us from the world.
By them He prepares us for “a city which has foundations,” in which there will be no disappointments, no tears, and no sin.
The believer looks forward to the final gathering of a perfect family in which there shall be….
no unsound members, no defects,
no sin,
no sorrow,
no deaths, no tears!
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THEIR LITTLE HEARTS ARE SO FULL OF SIN!
J. C. Ryle, “The Duties of Parents”
It is painful to see how much corruption and evil there is in a young child’s heart—and how soon it begins to bear fruit!
Violent tempers, self-will,
pride,
envy,
sullenness,
passion,
idleness,
selfishness,
deceit,
cunning,
falsehood,
hypocrisy,
a terrible aptness to learn what is bad,
a painful slowness to learn what is good,
a readiness to pretend anything in order to gain their
own ends—
all these things, or some of them, you must be pre- pared to see, even in your own children! In little ways, they will creep out at a very early age! It is almost startling to observe how naturally they seem to spring up.
Children require no schooling to learn to sin.
You must not think it a strange and unusual thing, that their little hearts are so full of sin. It is the only portion which our father Adam left us; it is that fallen nature with which we come into the world; it is that inheritance which belongs to us all.
Never listen to those who tell you your children are good. Think rather that their hearts are always inflammable as tinder. At their very best, they only
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need a spark to set their corruptions on fire! Parents are seldom too cautious. Remember the natural depravity of your children, and take care.
OVERCOMING THE WORLD!
J. C. Ryle, “Victory!”
“Whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4
Our three great spiritual enemies are…. the world,
the flesh, and
the devil.
It is hard to say which does most harm to the soul. The last day alone will settle that point. But I venture boldly to say, that at no former period has “the world” been so dangerous, and so successful in injuring Christ’s Church, as it is just now. Every age is said to have its own peculiar epidemic disease. I suspect that “worldliness” is the peculiar plague of Christendom in our own era.
The subtle influence of the world, nowadays, seems to infect the very air we breathe! It creeps into families and leads myriads captive, who never know that they are slaves!
The enormous increase of English wealth, and consequent power of self-indulgence, and the immense growth of a passionate relish for recreations and amusements of all kinds—all these strange phenomena of our age give the world an amazing additional power, and make it doubly needful for Christ’s ministers to cry aloud, “Beware of the world!”
In the face of this aggravated danger, we must never forget that the Word of the living God does not change!
“Do not love the world!”
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“Do not be conformed to this world!” “Friendship with the world is enmity with God!”
These mighty sayings of God’s statute-book remain still unrepealed. The true Christian strives daily to obey them, and proves the vitality of his religion by his obedience.
It is as true now as it was eighteen hundred years ago, that the man “born of God” will be a man who, more or less, resists and overcomes the world. Though “in” the world, he is not “of” the world. He uses it, but does not abuse it. He is not wholly absorbed either in the business or the pleasures of life—as if they were the sum total of existence. Even in innocent things he keeps the rein on his tastes and inclinations, and does not let them run away with him. He does not live as if life was made up of recreation, or money-getting, or politics, or scientific pursuits—and as if there were no life to come! He can neither be bribed, nor frightened, nor allured into neglecting his soul.
To be at peace with the world is to be at enmity with God, and in the broad way that leads to destruction! We have no choice or option. We must fight or be lost. We must conquer or die eternally. “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4
I charge and entreat all who are inclined to make peace with the world, to awake to a sense of their danger! Awake and cast aside the chains which indolence, or love of popularity, are gradually weaving round you! Awake before it is too late—before repeated worldly acts have formed habits—and habits have crystallized into character—and you have become a helpless slave!
The “fetters of the world” are often invisible. We are dragged downward insensibly, and are like one who sleeps in a boat, and knows not that he is drifting,
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gently drifting, towards the falls. There is no slavery so bad as that which is unfelt. There are no chains so really heavy as those which are unseen.
If you love your souls, hold the world at arm’s length. “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4
THEY WILL COPY WHAT YOU ARE!
J. C. Ryle, “The Duties of Parents”
Parents, train your children remembering continually the influence of your own example!
Instruction, and advice, and commands will profit little—unless they are backed up by the pattern of your own life!
Your children will never believe you are in earnest, so long as your actions contradict your counsel.
Tillotson made a wise remark when he said, “To give children good instruction, and a bad example, is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven, while we take them by the hand and lead them in the way to hell!”
We little know the force and power of example.
No one of us can live to himself in this world. We are always influencing our children, in one way or another, either for good or for evil—either for God or for sin.
They see our ways.
They mark our conduct.
They observe our behavior.
And never does example show so powerfully as it does in the case of parents and children.
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Fathers and mothers, do not forget that children learn more by the eye than they do by the ear. No school will make such deep marks on ‘character’ as home. The best of school-teachers will not imprint on their minds as much as they will pick up at your fireside. Imitation is a far stronger principle with children than memory. What they see has a much stronger effect on their minds than what they are told.
Take care, then, what you do in front of your child. It is a true proverb, “He who sins before a child, sins double!”
Strive rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families can read, and that plainly too. Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, and reverence in prayer.
Be an example….
in words,
in temper,
in diligence,
in temperance, in faith,
in charity,
in kindness,
in humility.
Do not think your children will practice what they do not see you do. You are their model picture—and they will copy what you are! Your reasoning and your lecturing, your wise commands and your good advice—all this they may not understand. But they can understand your life!
Children are very quick observers—very quick in seeing through some kinds of hypocrisy, very quick in finding out what you really think and feel, very quick in adopting all your ways and opinions. You will often find as the father is, so is the son.
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Your children will seldom learn habits which they see you despise; or walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself.
The parent who tries to train without setting a good example is building with one hand, and pulling down
with the other!
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A LOUDER WITNESS
J. C. Philpot, “Contemplations & Reflections”
“Be an example to those who believe, in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
A godly life is a louder witness against the inconsistent conduct of loose professors, than scolding reproofs.
There should be….
a tenderness of spirit,
a holy prudence,
a godly awe of the word of truth, and a reverent walking before God;
all of which speak plainly against the light, easy, loose, slipshod profession of the day.
PRECIOUS AND GLORIOUS
J. C. Philpot, “Contemplations & Reflections”
All that Jesus is and has, all that He says and does is precious and glorious….
His miracles of mercy, while here below;
His words so full of grace, wisdom, and truth; His going about doing good;
His sweet example of patience, meekness and
submission;
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His sufferings and sorrows in the garden and on the cross;
His spotless holiness and purity;
His tender compassion to poor lost sinners; His atoning blood and justifying obedience; His dying love, so strong and firm;
His lowly, yet honorable burial;
His glorious resurrection;
His ascension and present reign and rule; His constant intercession for His people.
What beauty and glory shine forth in all these divine realities! A view of His glory and a foretaste of the bliss and blessedness it communicates has a transforming effect upon the soul.
We are naturally….
proud,
covetous,
worldly,
grievously entangled in various lusts and passions, prone to evil,
averse to good,
easily elated by prosperity,
soon dejected by adversity,
peevish under trials,
rebellious under heavy strokes,
unthankful for daily mercies of food and clothing,
and in other ways ever manifesting our base nature.
To be brought from under the power of these abounding evils, we need to be conformed to the image of Christ. Now, this can only be by beholding His glory by faith. “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory!” 2 Cor. 3:18
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It is this believing view of the glory of Christ which supports under heavy trials, producing meekness and resignation to the will of God.
ONE GREAT SECRET OF UNHAPPINESS
J. C. Ryle, “Without Clouds”
Let us learn not to be surprised or fret when trials come. It is a wise saying of Job, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward,” Job 5:7. Some, no doubt, have a larger cup of sorrows to drink than others. But few live long without troubles or cares of some kind. The greater our affections—the deeper are our afflictions. The more we love—the more we have to weep.
The only certain thing to be predicted about the babe lying in his cradle is this—if he grows up, he will have many troubles, and at last he will die.
Let us learn not to expect too much from anybody or anything in this fallen world. One great secret of unhappiness is the habit of indulging in exaggerated expectations.
From money,
from marriage,
from business,
from houses,
from children,
from worldly honors,
from political success,
people are constantly expecting what they never find— and the great majority die disappointed.
Selfish feeding on our own troubles, and continual poring over our sorrows—are one secret of the melancholy misery in which many spend their lives.
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Let us never give way to a fretting, murmuring, complaining spirit. Let us firmly believe at the worst of times—that every step in our lives is ordered by the Lord, with perfect wisdom and perfect love, and that we shall see it all at last.
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ONLY IN THE INFANT’S CLASS?
J. C. Ryle, “Our Profession”
Let us thank God that there are not a few to be found in every part of Christendom who really are what they profess to be—true, sincere, earnest-minded, hearty, converted, believing Christians. Some of them, no doubt, belong to churches in which their souls get little help. Some of them have very imperfect knowledge, and hold the truth in its vitals, with a mixture of many defective views.
But they all have certain common marks about them: They see the value of their souls—and really want to be
saved.
They feel the sinfulness of sin—and hate it, and fight with it, and long to be free from it.
They see that Jesus Christ alone can save them—and they trust only in Him.
They see that they ought to live holy and godly lives—and in their poor way they try to do it.
They love their Bibles, and they pray, though both their reading and their praying are very defective.
Some of them, in short, are in the highest grade of Christ’s school, and are strong in knowledge, faith, and love. Others are only in the infant’s class, and in everything are weak and poor.
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But in one point they are all one. Their hearts are right in the sight of God; they love Christ; their faces are set towards heaven, and they want to go there!
THE GREAT ROBBER OF OUR LOVES AND JOYS
Horatius Bonar, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”
“What man is he who shall live and not see death, who shall deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” Psalm 89:48
We cannot but hate DEATH, even when we have ceased to fear it, and know that for us its sting has been extracted. We hate it, and thrust it from us. We loath its advances, and wage daily war with it. We seek by every contrivance of skill to overcome it and ward off its stroke. We hate it because of its darkness, and its coldness, and its silence. We hate it as the great robber of our loves and joys—who gives nothing, but takes everything!
Death cuts so many ties. Death rends so many hearts. Death silences so many voices. Death thins so many firesides.
Death comes with its dark veil, its screen of ice…. between friend and friend,
between soul and soul,
between parent and child,
between husband and wife, between sister and brother.
Of human sympathies, death has none.
Death concerns not itself about our joys or sorrows. Death spares no dear one, and restores no lost one.
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Death is pitiless and silent.
Death is as powerful as it is inexorable.
Death strikes down the weak, and wrestles with the strong until they succumb and fall.
Death is, in God’s eyes, even more than in ours…. an enemy,
a destroyer,
a demon,
a criminal, a robber!
For six thousand years death has been….
the fulfiller of God’s purposes,
His rod for the chastisement of His saints,
His scourge for clearing earth of His enemies—
yet He hates it! And as soon as His ends with it are accomplished, He will show His displeasure against it by casting it into the lake of fire!
“And death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire!” Revelation 20:14
We look beyond the tomb and see the glory! Our eye rests not upon corruption, but upon incorruption! We shall arise! The reign of death is hastening to a close, the reign of life about to commence its eternal gladness! Our true life is coming! The conqueror is on His way! He will redeem His own people from the power of the grave, and swallow up death in victory!
“Behold, I am coming soon!” He cries.
We respond, “Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
“But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me.” Psalm 49:15
The eye shall not be dim, and the ear shall not be dull, and the brow shall not wrinkle, nor the hair be gray,
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nor the limbs totter, nor the memory fail. There shall be no more curse, nor death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain; for the former things have passed away! The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall lead us to the living fountains of waters, and God Himself shall wipe away all tears from our eyes!
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THESE VILE BODIES OF OURS!
Bonar, “Coming of the Perfect, Departure of the Imperfect”
“Who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of His glory.” Philippians 3:21
Our bodies shared the ruin into which sin brought our race. Mortality and corruption took possession of them. They became subject to weariness, and pain, and disease—in every organ and limb.
The one drop of poison coming from Adam’s sin has spread itself out and pervaded every part of us. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.
We begin with pain—and we end with it.
Our flesh, from the cradle to the tomb, is feeble, broken, ready to faint—the cause and the inlet of a thousand sorrows! It is truly a frail body, in which we groan, being burdened; a vile body, needing such perpetual care, and food, and medicine, and rest—yet, after all, incapable of being preserved—which, in spite of all our pamperings, is hastening on to the sickbed, and the separation from its guest, the soul.
But look beyond the tomb and see the glory!
This head shall ache no more! These hands and feet shall be weary no more! This flesh shall throb with anguish no more! God Himself shall wipe away all tears
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from these eyes—and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying!
“Who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of His glory.” Phil. 3:21
“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Cor. 15:53
THE WORLD’S HAUNTS OF VANITY
Horatius Bonar, “The Church Dwelling Alone” “Yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy
unspeakable and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1:8 Christian! You do not need to borrow joy from the world! O child of God, is not the joy of God enough for you?
Do you require….
the pleasures of sin,
the gaieties of the ballroom,
the excitement of the theater,
the music of the opera,
the frivolities of the world’s card-table, the stolen pleasures of the dance,
to make up for ‘deficiencies’ in what God has given you?
If He has not given enough joy, go tell Him, and He will give you more. But do not go to His enemies to borrow! Do not go to the world’s haunts of vanity, where the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are cherished!
Christian, be separate! Do not seek the joys of the world! Don’t you know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? If you have any sympathies with that world—if it contains attractions for you—if God, and the things of God, are not enough for you—there is something wrong!
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Do not love the world! Do not seek its friendship! Seek the things above! Beware of the fascinations of worldly company, and the spells of worldly gaiety. Do not be whirled away into the tossing current of mirthful society!
Be separate! That is your security, your strength, your influence. Let the world see that you are not of it—and that you do not need it!d
THAT WAS MORE THAN HIS HOLY SOUL
COULD BEAR!
J. C. Philpot, “The Love of Christ in Giving Himself for the Church”
Thousands have died in greater bodily agony than the Lord, for He only suffered in body for six hours. But of all the generations of men, none have ever felt what the Lord endured in his soul; for He had to suffer in His soul what the elect would have had to suffer in hell, if He had not suffered it for them.
What is the body? That is not the chief seat of suffering. Martyrs have rejoiced in the flames. It is the soul that feels. It was so with Jesus. His body, it is true, was racked and torn; but it was the racking of His soul in which lay His chief agonies. And the greatest of all was the final stroke God reserved to His last moments—the last drop of the cup in all its bitterness—which was hiding His face from His Son. Nothing else but this last bitter drop extorted the cry of suffering from His lips!
But when, to crown all the scene of suffering, the Father hid His face from Him—that was more than His holy soul could bear! That extorted from Him the dolorous cry— such a cry as earth never before or since heard—a cry which made the sun to hide its face as if in sackcloth;
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the solid earth to shake; and the very graves to open their mouths as if they could no longer hold their dead!
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mt. 27:46 d
ONE SAVING SIGHT OF THE CROSS!
Horatius Bonar, “The Cross of the Lord Jesus”
“But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14
The cross crucifies the world!
To the believer, the world is a crucified thing.
There is now enmity, not friendship; hatred, not love; between the woman’s seed and the serpent’s seed.
The cross has produced the enmity! It has slain the world, and made it altogether unlovable. One saving sight of the cross strips the world of its false beauty and attractiveness!
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HARD LESSONS TO LEARN!
Letters of William Tiptaft
“God knows best!” and “May Your will be done!” are
hard lessons to learn!
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LOAF, PUTTER, PLAY, DOZE AND RUN ABOUT
A. W. Tozer, 1897–1963
One trap into which the preacher is in danger of falling, is that he may do what comes naturally, and just take it easy. I know how sensitive this matter is and, while my
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writing this will not win me friends, I hope it may influence people in the right direction.
It is easy for the minister to be turned into a paid idler, a social parasite with an open palm and an expectant look.
He has no boss within sight; he is not often required to keep regular hours, so he can work out a comfortable pattern of life, that permits him to loaf, putter, play, doze and run about at his pleasure. And many do just that!
To avoid this danger the minister should voluntarily impose upon himself a life of labor as arduous as that of a farmer.
No pastor has any right to a way of life less rugged than that of the workers who support him.
“You therefore must endure hardship, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3
“Endure hardship. Devote yourself completely to your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5
JELLY-FISH CHRISTIANITY
J. C. Ryle, “One Blood”
One plague of our age is the widespread dislike to sound doctrine. In the place of it, the idol of the day is a kind of jelly-fish Christianity—a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew—without any distinct teaching about the atonement or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the way of peace with God—a vague, foggy, misty Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem to be, “You must be liberal and kind. You must condemn no man’s doctrinal views. You must think everybody is right, and nobody is wrong.”
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THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE SPIRIT!
J. C. Ryle, “The Lord’s Garden”
“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to
be saints.” Romans 1:7
Believers are separated from the world by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit calls them out from the world, and separates them as effectually as if a wall were built between them and it. He puts in them….
new hearts, new minds, new tastes, new desires, new sorrows, new joys,
new wishes, new pleasures, new longings.
He gives them…. new eyes,
new ears,
new affections, new opinions.
He makes them new creatures. They are born again— and with a new birth they begin a new existence. Mighty indeed is the transforming power of the Spirit!
WHAT A SIN-KILLING, SELF-ABASING SIGHT!
From the autobiography of Frances Wernham
One evening, when wrestling hard with God in prayer, my soul was silenced by these words being applied with power to my soul—“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!”
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I was instantly led by the blessed Spirit in the exercise of faith to look on Him whom my sins had pierced, and exclaimed, “This is my beloved Savior, I want no more! This is my Friend and my Brother, my Lord and my God!”
What a sin-killing, self-abasing sight! Every high thought and towering imagination fell down flat before Him like Dagon before the ark. When I saw, by the eye of faith, His pierced hands and feet, and that He shed His blood for me—so interesting did the sight appear that I was lost to every other thought—as if I were the only sinner in the world that had been the procuring cause of His sufferings. Now I could say—“Lord, I have heard of You many times by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!”
Then did the Lord bind up my wounded spirit by pouring in oil and wine as fast as I could receive it, one passage of Scripture after another being applied to my soul so fraught with comfort and divine consolation.
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RESOLVED!
Jonathan Edwards, “Resolutions”
Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but to improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
Resolved, never henceforward, until I die, to act as if I were any way my own; but entirely and altogether God’s.
Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I think I would do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and the torments of hell.
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A BOTTOMLESS, BOUNDLESS, ENDLESS OCEAN!
Anne Dutton’s Letters on Spiritual Subjects
God’s love is…. everlasting, free, sovereign, inseparable, great, and unchangeable!
The happy objects of His love can never, never be separated from it! Neither….
death nor life,
heights nor depths,
things present nor things to come,
shall ever be able to separate those upon whom it is fixed!
The love of God to His people is a bottomless, boundless, endless ocean, which swallows up their innumerable and mountainous sins in its infinite depths!
The love of God to His people overflows…. all their great provocations,
all their vilest ingratitude,
all their utmost unworthiness,
and ever flows in its triumphant strength, and according to its infinite riches, to the full supply of all their necessities—until it has….
loved its beloved objects into its own image; loved all sin out of them;
loved all grace into them;
freed them from all death and misery;
raised them into itself as the element of their life!
And then the love of God will be to these ‘vessels of mercy’ an infinite ocean of joy and glory, where they shall live, and bathe, and dive to the praise of the glory of
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infinite love, to the endless ages of a blessed eternity!
But oh, neither the tongues of men nor angels can express, much less the lispings of a babe set forth—the thousandth part of the infinite glories, and the ineffable and endless bliss, of God’s everlasting love!
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THE ORIGINAL HEBREW OR GREEK
J. C. Philpot
I cannot say that I am fond of alluding to the original Hebrew or Greek of the Bible—or of finding fault with the translation. Such ‘petty criticism’ is more often employed to display one’s own shallow knowledge, than to edify the people of God. This has often had the evil effect of unsettling the minds of Christ’s people, and of opening a door to the assaults of the enemy.
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I REMEMBER TWO THINGS
At age 82, John Newton, the author of the hymn, ‘Amazing Grace,’ said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things—that I am a great sinner—and that Christ is a great Savior!”
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NOT MADE OF FEATHERS, NOR LINED WITH VELVET
Charles Spurgeon
“Take up your cross, and follow Me.” Mark 10:21
You have not the making of your own cross, although ‘unbelief’ is a master carpenter at cross-making. Neither are you permitted to choose your own cross, although ‘self-will’ would gladly be Lord and master.
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Your cross is prepared and appointed for you by divine love,
and you are cheerfully to accept it. You are to take up the cross as your chosen badge and burden, and not to stand caviling at it. Jesus bids you submit your shoulder to His easy yoke. Do not….
kick at it in petulance,
or trample on it in pride, or fall under it in despair, or run away from it in fear;
but take it up like a true follower of Jesus!
Jesus was a cross-bearer. He leads the way in the path of sorrow. Surely you could not desire a better guide! And if He carried a cross, what nobler burden would you desire?
The ‘way of the cross’ is the way of safety. Do not fear to tread its thorny paths. Beloved, the cross is not made of feathers, nor lined with velvet. It is heavy and galling to disobedient shoulders; but it is not an iron cross, though your fears have painted it with iron colors. It is a wooden cross, and a man can carry it, for the Man of sorrows upheld the load.
Take up your cross, and by the power of the Spirit of God you will soon be so in love with it, that like Moses, you would not exchange the reproach of Christ for all the treasures of Egypt!
Remember that Jesus carried it, and it will smell sweetly!
Remember that your cross will soon be followed by the crown, and the thought of the coming weight of glory will greatly lighten the present heaviness of trouble. May the Lord help you to bow your spirit in submission to the divine will, that you may go forth to your cross with the holy and submissive spirit which becomes a follower of the Crucified!
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SAINTS!
Henry Law, “Meditations on Ephesians” “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of
God, to the saints in Ephesus.” Ephesians 1:1
The word ‘saints’ imports people who are set apart and consecrated to the service and glory of God. They were fore- ordained from all eternity in the counsels of heaven to this blessed state. As this call of God is by the Spirit of holiness, so it is unto a life of holiness.
They are no more of the world!
They reject its hollow and selfish principles! They scorn its debasing maxims!
They turn from its ungodly ways!
They despise its vain pursuits!
They rise high above its miscalled pleasures!
Oh! then, let us no more walk with downcast eyes fixed on the mire of this miserable world! Let us gaze on the pure and bright scenes to which we are hastening!
May the paltry trifles of this world be far beneath our
feet!
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THE INCREDIBLE GREATNESS OF HIS POWER
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on Ephesians” “The exceeding greatness of His power toward us
who believe.” Ephesians 1:19
The work of God on the soul, is a work of sovereign and omnipotent power! See what a mighty power was put forth in turning us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; and how it was the outstretched arm of Omnipotence alone, which could
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deliver us from the power of darkness and bring us into the eternal heavenly kingdom.
Consider the difficulties which grace has to overcome, in the “quickening” of a dead soul into spiritual life. View the depths of the fall. Contemplate….
the death of the soul in trespasses and sins, the thorough alienation from the life of God, the darkness, blindness, and ignorance of the
understanding,
the perverseness of the will,
the hardness of the conscience,
and the depravity of the affections!
View the soul’s obduracy, stubbornness and obstinacy; its pride, unbelief, infidelity and self-righteousness; its passionate love to, habitual practice of, and long imprisonment to sin. Consider its strong prejudices against everything godly and holy!
Contemplate the desperate, implacable enmity of the carnal mind against God Himself—its firm and deep- rooted love to the world, in all its varied shapes and forms—and remember also how all its hopes, happiness, and prospects are bound up in the things of time and sense!
O what a complicated mass of difficulties, do all these foes form in their firm combination, like a compact, well armed, thoroughly trained army—against any power which would seek to dislodge them from their position!
Add to this—all the power, malice, and deceitful arts of Satan, as the strong armed man—keeping the palace night and day, and yielding to none but the stronger than he!
Consider, too, the sacrifices which must often be made by one who is to live godly in Christ Jesus….
the tenderest ties, perhaps, to be broken;
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the lucrative prospects which have to be abandoned; old friends to be renounced;
family connections to be given up;
position in life to be lost;
shame and contempt to be entailed on oneself!
Viewing, then, a soul dead in sin, with all these difficulties and obstacles in their complicated array, must we not pronounce that to be a mighty act of power which, in spite of all these apparently invincible hindrances, lifts it up and out of them all, into a new and spiritual life? So fully and thoroughly is this fruit and effect of omnipotent power, and of omnipotent power alone, that it is spoken of in the word as….
a new and heavenly birth; a new creation;
a resurrection—
all which terms imply a putting forth of a divine power, as distinct from and independent of any creature effort.
Contemplate also, the mighty power of God in “main- taining” divine life in our soul. We have to see and feel….
what mountains of difficulty,
what seas of temptation,
what winds and storms of error,
what assaults and snares of Satan,
what floods of vileness and ungodliness within and
without,
what strong lusts and passions,
what secret slips and falls,
what backslidings and departures from the living God, what long seasons of darkness, barrenness, and death, what opposition of the flesh to the strait and narrow
way,
what crafty hypocrites, pretended friends, false
professors—
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all striving to throw down or entangle our steps!
Consider also, what helplessness, inability, and miserable impotency in ourselves to all that is good; and what headlong proneness to all that is evil.
We have also to ponder over what we have been and what we still are, since we professed to fear God—and how, when left to ourselves, we have done nothing but sin against and provoke God to His face!
And thus as read over article by article, this long dark catalogue, still to have a sweet persuasion that the life of God is in our soul—we realize, believe, and feel, and bless God for His surpassing, superabounding grace, in maintaining this divine life in our soul.
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!”
Rom. 5:20
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UNCONVERTED MEN WOULD KILL GOD!
J. C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Matthew” 1856
“Pilate said to them, ‘What then will I do to Jesus, who is called Christ?’ They all said to him, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ All the people answered, ‘May His blood be on us, and on our children!’” Matthew 27:22, 25
We see in these verses, the desperate wickedness of human nature.
What had our Lord done, that the Jews should hate Him so? He was no robber, or murderer. He was no blasphemer of their God, or reviler of their prophets.
He was one whose life was love.
He was one who went about doing good, and healing those who were oppressed by the devil.
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He was innocent of any transgression against the law of God or man.
And yet the Jews hated Him, and never rested until He was slain!
They hated Him, because He told them the truth.
They hated Him, because He testified that their works were evil.
They hated the light, because it made their own darkness visible.
In a word, they hated Christ, because He was righteous and they were wicked; because He was holy and they were unholy; because He testified against sin, and they were determined to keep their sins and not let them go.
Let us observe this.
There are few things so little believed and realized as the corruption of human nature. Men imagine that if they saw a perfect person, they would love and admire him. They forget that when a really perfect man was on earth, He was hated and put to death! That single fact goes far to prove that unconverted men would kill God, if they could get at Him!
Let us never be surprised at the wickedness there is in the world. Let us mourn over it, and labor to make it less, but let us never be surprised at its extent.
There is nothing which the heart of man is not capable of conceiving, or the hand of man of doing.
As long as we live, let us mistrust our own hearts. Even when renewed by the Spirit, they are still “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17:9
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HE MAKES US KINGS!
Horatius Bonar, “The Chief Among Ten Thousand”
“He has made us kings!” Revelation 1:6
Such is the height of dignity to which Jesus raises us! He gives us a kingdom; and in that kingdom He makes us kings, not subjects. It is the throne that is ours—not a home in it merely, or wealth in it, or a place of honor in it. It is nothing short of the throne and the crown!
“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne!” Revelation 3:21
A TINY INSECT AT THE DOOR OF MY ALL-SUFFICIENCY
Charles Spurgeon
“Don’t be afraid, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel; I will help you, says the Lord, and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 41:14
Let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: “I Myself will help you! It is but a small thing for Me, your God, to help you. Consider what I have done already. What! not help you? Why, I bought you with My blood! What! not help you? I have died for you! And if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? What! not help you? I have done more, and will do more. Before the world began I chose you. I laid aside My glory and became a man for you. I gave up My life for you! And if I did all this, I will surely help you now! In helping you, I am giving you what I have bought for you already. If you had need of a thousand times more help, I would give it to you. You require little compared with what I am ready to give. It is much for you to need, but it is nothing for Me to bestow. What! not
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help you? Don’t be afraid! If there were an ant at the door of your granary asking for help, it would not ruin you to give him a handful of your wheat; and you are nothing but a tiny insect at the door of My all-sufficiency. I Myself will help you!”
O my soul, is not this enough? Do you need more strength than the omnipotence of the united Trinity? Do you need more wisdom than exists in the Father; more love than displays itself in the Son; or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring here your empty pitcher! Surely this river will fill it. Hasten! gather up your needs, and bring them all here—your emptiness, your woes, your wants! Behold, this river of God is full for your supply! What can you desire besides? Go forth, my soul, in this your might—the Eternal God is your helper!
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THE MISERABLE DREGS OF SELF!
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on Ephesians”
“Accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6
We are ever looking for something in SELF to make ourselves acceptable to God. We are often sadly cast down and discouraged when we cannot find in ourselves….
that holiness,
that obedience,
that calm submission to the will of God, that serenity of soul,
that spirituality,
that heavenly-mindedness,
which we believe to be acceptable in His sight!
Our crooked tempers,
our fretful, peevish minds,
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our rebellious thoughts,
our coldness and barrenness,
our alienation from good,
our headlong proneness to evil,
with the daily feeling that we get no better, but rather worse—make us think that God views us just as we view ourselves!
And this brings on great darkness of mind and bondage of spirit, until we seem to lose sight of our acceptance in Christ, and get into the miserable dregs of self—almost ready to quarrel with God because we are so vile, and only get worse as we get older!
Now the more we get into these dregs of self, and the more we keep looking at the dreadful scenes of wreck and ruin which our heart presents to daily view—the farther do we get from the grace of the gospel—and the more do we lose sight of the only ground of our acceptance with God. It is “in the Beloved” that we are accepted—and not for any….
good words,
good works,
good thoughts,
good hearts, or
good intentions of our own!
If our acceptance with God depended on anything in ourselves, we would have to believe we might be children of God today and children of the devil tomorrow!
What, then, is to keep us from sinking altogether into despair, without hope or help? Why, a knowledge of our acceptance “in the Beloved,” independent of everything in us—good or bad!
“And you are complete in Him!” Colossians 2:10
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IT HAS SLAIN ITS THOUSANDS!
John Mason’s Spiritual Sayings
“Don’t love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him.” 1 John 2:15
If the world is our portion here, hell will be our portion hereafter.
Be not proud of riches but afraid of them, lest they be as silver bars to barricade the way to heaven!
As you love your souls, beware of the world! It has slain its thousands and tens of thousands!
What ruined Lot’s wife? The world!
What ruined Judas? The world!
What ruined Simon Magus? The world!
What ruined Demas? The world!
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THE CITY WAS FULL OF IDOLS!
J. C. Ryle, “Athens”
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw the city full of idols.” Acts 17:16
Man will have a religion of some kind, for human nature, corrupt as it is, must have a god. But it will be a religion without light, or peace, or hope.
The feelings with which we regard sin, heathenism, and false religion are a subject of vast importance. It is a sorrowful fact, that most professing Christians regard the semi-heathen districts of our country with apathy, coolness, and indifference. But Paul was deeply troubled when he saw that the city was full of idols!
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Paul was stirred with holy compassion. It troubled his heart to see so many myriads perishing for lack of knowledge—without God, without Christ, having no hope, traveling in the broad road which leads to destruction!
Paul was stirred with holy indignation against sin and the devil. He saw the god of this world blinding the eyes of multitudes of his fellow-men, and leading them captive at his will. He saw the natural corruption of man infecting the population of a vast city like one common disease, and an utter absence of any spiritual medicine, antidote, or remedy!
Paul was stirred with holy zeal for His Master’s glory. He saw his Divine Master unknown and unrecognized by His own creatures—and idols receiving the homage due to the King of kings!
Millions of immortal beings at this moment are sunk in ignorance, superstition, and idolatry! They live and die without God, without Christ, and without hope!
Ought not these things to stir our hearts? Ought not our hearts to be affected by the sight of false religion and heathenism?
We ought to feel compassion when we think of the wretched state of unconverted souls, and the misery of all who live and die without Christ!
No poverty like this poverty! No disease like this disease! No slavery like this slavery!
No death like this—death in idolatry, false religion, and
sin!
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WITHOUT HOLINESS
Stephen Charnock
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!” Isaiah 6:3
If every attribute of the Deity were a distinct member,
holiness would be the soul to animate them.
Without holiness….
His patience would be an indulgence to sin, His mercy a fondness,
His wrath a madness,
His power a tyranny,
His wisdom an unworthy subtlety.
Holiness gives decorum to them all.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty!” Rev. 4:8
I AM FULL OF CONFUSION!
J. C. Philpot, “Joy and Gladness for Mourning Souls”
“I am full of confusion!” Job 10:15
God is the great Ruler, Director, and Controller of all
things!
We must not look on the varied events that are ever taking place in this world, as a mere matter of ‘chance’—a confused medley—as though these multitudinous circumstances were all thrown like marbles into a bag, and thrown back out without any order or arrangement.
God is a God of order.
In the natural world, the world of creation—all is in order.
In the spiritual world, the world of grace—all is in order. –51–
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And in the providential world, the world of providence— all is order also.
To our mind, indeed, all often seems disorder. But this arises from our ignorance, and from not seeing the whole as one definitely arranged plan.
If you were to see a weaver working at a loom, and saw nothing but the threads and needles jumping up in continual motion, you would see nothing but confusion. Nor could you form the slightest conception of the pattern which was being worked. But when the whole was completed, and the silk taken off the roller— then you would see a pattern arranged in beautiful order—every thread concurring to form one harmonious design. But all this was known beforehand by the artist who designed the pattern, and every arrangement was made in strict subserviency to it.
But if this is the case as to God’s appointments in providence, how much more is it true of His glorious designs in grace. Every trial, temptation, affliction, sorrow, are but the result of a definite plan in His eternal mind!
Yet to us how often all seems confusion! This confusion is not so much in the things themselves—as in our mind. Job, when surrounded by trouble, cried out, “I am full of confusion!” Yet we can see in reading his history that all his trials were working toward an appointed end. So every trial, sorrow, temptation or affliction, which has ever lain, or ever will lie, in your path—has been marked out by infinite, unerring wisdom!
Is not the commonest road laid out according to a definite plan? And does not the surveyor, when he lays it out, put every mile-stone in its proper place?
So, does not the Lord lay out beforehand the road in which His people should walk? And does He not put a
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trial here and a sorrow there—an affliction at this turning and a cross at that corner? All is definitely planned in His infinite wisdom, to bring the traveler safely home to Zion!
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THE GREATEST BURDEN, SORROW AND TROUBLE
John Owen
“What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death?” Romans 7:24
I do not understand how a man can be a true believer, in whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow and trouble.
WHAT VAIN TOYS!
J. C. Philpot, “Daily Words for Zion’s Wayfarers”
“The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever.” John 2:17
Compared with spiritual and eternal blessings, we see
how vain and empty are all earthly things. What vain toys!
What idle dreams!
What passing shadows!
We wonder at the folly of men in hunting after such vain shows—and spending time, health, money, and life itself, in a pursuit of nothing but misery and destruction!
We care little for the opinion of men as to what is good or great—but much for what God has stamped His own approval upon, such as….
a tender conscience, a broken heart,
a contrite spirit,
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a humble mind,
a separation from the world,
a submission to His holy will,
a meek endurance of the cross,
a conformity to Christ’s suffering image, and a living to God’s glory.
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HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME
Newman Hall, “Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer”
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.” Matthew 6:9
This petition condemns much more than profane language. Whenever we introduce the Divine name in our speech uselessly and triflingly—when we employ it to turn a sentence, or give emphasis to a statement, or point to an anecdote—when we make the Divine Word the subject-matter of jokes, punning on solemn truths of Revelation, and quoting Scripture with ludicrous adaptations to provoke mirth. And even when we take this great name on our lips in worship without any endeavor to feel the homage it demands, we violate the spirit of this prayer.
“You shall not take the name of Jehovah your God in vain. For Jehovah will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7
DYING
J. C. Philpot, “Daily Portions”
“As dying, and behold, we live!” 2 Corinthians 6:9 Though we die, and die daily, yet, behold, we live. And
in a sense, the more we die, the more we live. –54–
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The more we die to self, the more we die to sin.
The more we die to pride and self-righteousness, the more we die to creature strength.
The more we die to sinful nature, the more we live to grace.
This runs all the way through the life and experience of a Christian. Nature must die—that grace may live.
The weeds must be plucked up, that the crop may grow.
The flesh be starved, that the spirit may be fed.
The old man put off, that the new man may be put on.
The deeds of the body be mortified, that the soul may live unto God.
As then we die—we live.
The more we die to our own strength, the more we live to Christ’s strength.
The more we die to creature hope, the more we live to a good hope through grace.
The more we die to our own righteousness, the more we live to Christ’s righteousness.
The more we die to the world, the more we live to and for heaven.
This is the grand mystery, that the Christian is always dying—yet always living. And the more he dies—the more he lives.
The death of the flesh, is the life of the spirit. The death of sin, is the life of righteousness.
The death of the creature, is the very life of God in the
soul.
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O WHAT CROWDS OF PITIABLE OBJECTS!
J. C. Philpot, “Daily Portions”
“Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for timely help.” Hebrews 4:16
What heart can conceive, or tongue recount—the daily, hourly triumphs of the Lord Jesus Christ’s all conquering grace?
We see scarcely a millionth part of what He, as a King on His throne, is daily doing. What a crowd of needy petitioners every moment surrounds His throne!
What urgent needs and woes to answer! What cutting griefs and sorrows to assuage! What broken hearts to bind up!
What wounded consciences to heal!
What countless prayers to hear!
What earnest petitions to grant!
What stubborn foes to subdue!
What guilty fears to quell!
What grace, what kindness, what patience, what compassion, what mercy, what love, what power, what authority, does this Almighty Sovereign display!
No circumstance is too trifling; no petitioner too insignificant; no case too hard; no difficulty too great; no seeker too importunate; no beggar too ragged; no bankrupt too penniless; no debtor too insolvent, for Him not to notice and not to relieve.
Sitting on His throne of grace…. His all seeing eye views all,
His almighty hand grasps all, and
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His loving heart embraces all whom the Father chose— whom He himself redeemed by His blood—and whom the blessed Spirit has quickened into life by His invincible power!
The hopeless; the helpless; the outcasts whom no man cares for; the tempest-tossed and not comforted; the ready to perish; the mourners in Zion; the bereaved widow; the wailing orphan; the sick in body; the still more sick in heart; the racked with hourly pain; the wrestler with death’s last struggle.
O what crowds of pitiable objects surround His throne— and all needing….
a look from His eye,
a word from His lips,
a smile from His face, a touch from His hand!
O could we but see what His grace is—what His grace has—what His grace does—and could we but feel more what it is doing in and for ourselves, we would have more exalted views of the reign of grace now exercised on high, by Zion’s enthroned King!
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PRIDE, WORLDLINESS, AND COVETOUSNESS
J. C. Philpot, “Contemplations & Reflections”
Pride, worldliness, and covetousness may reign rampant, where grosser sins are not committed, or kept hidden from observation.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, the Lord, search the mind, I try the heart.” Jeremiah 17:9-10
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LOOK TO THE CROSS!
Charles Spurgeon, “Negotiations for Peace”
Look to the cross, and hate your sin, for sin nailed your Well Beloved to the tree.
Look up to the cross, and you will kill sin, for the strength of Jesus’ love will make you strong to put down your
tendencies to sin.
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NOTHING BUT THIS CAN REALLY BREAK THE SINNER’S HEART!
J. C. Philpot
To view God’s mercy in its real character, we must go to Calvary! We must go by faith, under the secret teachings and leadings of the Holy Spirit, to see Immanuel, God with us, groveling in Gethsemane’s garden. We must view Him naked upon the cross, groaning, bleeding, agonizing, dying!
We must view that wondrous spectacle of love and suffering— and feel our eyes flowing down in streams of sorrow, humility, and contrition at the sight—in order to enter a little into the depths of the tender mercy of God.
Nothing but this can really break the sinner’s heart!
Law terrors, death and judgment, infinite purity, and eternal vengeance will not soften or break a sinner’s heart. But if he is led to view a suffering Immanuel, and a sweet testimony is raised up in his conscience that those sufferings were for him—this, and this alone will break his heart all to pieces!
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IF YOU ARE AT HOME IN THE WORLD
J. C. Philpot, “Daily Portions”
“For we are strangers before You, and sojourners, as all our fathers were: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding.” 1 Chronicles 29:15
If you possess the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and, Jacob, you, like them, confess that you are a stranger; and your confession springs out of a believing heart and a sincere experience.
You feel yourself a stranger in this ungodly world. It is not your element.
It is not your home.
You are in it during God’s appointed time, but you wander up and down this world….
a stranger to its company, a stranger to its maxims,
a stranger to its fashions, a stranger to its principles, a stranger to its motives,
a stranger to its lusts,
a stranger to its inclinations, and all in which this
world moves as in its native element.
Grace has separated you by God’s sovereign power, that
though you are in the world, you are not of it.
I can tell you plainly—if you are at home in the world; if the things of time and sense are your element; if you feel one with….
the company of the world, the maxims of the world,
the fashions of the world, and the principles of the world—
grace has not reached your heart, the faith of God’s elect does not dwell in your bosom.
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The first effect of grace is to separate.
It was so in the case of Abraham. He was called by grace to leave the land of his fathers, and go out into a land that God would show him. And so God’s own word to His people is now, “Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Separation, separation, separation from the world is the grand distinguishing mark of vital godliness.
There may be indeed separation of body where there is no separation of heart. But what I mean is….
separation of heart, separation of principle, separation of affection, separation of spirit.
And if grace has touched your heart, and you are a partaker of the faith of God’s elect, you are a stranger in the world, and will make it manifest by your life and conduct that you are such.
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THE FLESH
J. C. Philpot
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” John 3:6 There is no promise made that in this life, we shall be
set free from the indwelling and the in-working of sin.
Many think that their flesh is to become “progressively holier and holier”—that sin after sin is to be removed gradually out of the heart—until at last they are almost made perfect in the flesh. But this is an idle dream, and
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one which, sooner or later, will be crudely and roughly broken to pieces.
The flesh will ever remain the same—and we shall ever find that the flesh will lust against the Spirit. Our fleshly nature is corrupt to the very core. It cannot be mended. It cannot be sanctified. It is the same at the last, as it was at the first—inherently evil, and as such will never cease to be corrupt until we put off mortality—and with it the body of sin and death.
All we can hope for, long after, expect, and pray for—is that this evil fleshly nature may be subdued, kept down, mortified, crucified, and held in subjection under the power of grace. But as to any such change passing upon the flesh—or taking place in the flesh as to make it holy—it is but a pharisaic delusion, which, promising a holiness in the flesh, leaves us still under the power of sin.
The true sanctification of the new man of grace—which is wrought by a divine power—is utterly distinct from any imagined holiness in the flesh—or any vain dream of its progressive sanctification.
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ONLY ONE HAND CAN EASE THE TROUBLE
J. C. Philpot, “Refuge For The Oppressed”
“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble!” Psalm 9:9
Do you not see how the Scriptures always put together the malady and the remedy? How they unfold the promises as suitable to certain states and cases of soul? And how all the perfections of God are adapted to His people only so far as they are brought into peculiar circumstances? This vein runs through all the Scripture.
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So here the Lord is declared to be a refuge. But when? “In times of trouble!” We do not need Him to be a refuge when there is no trouble. Shall I use the expression without irreverence—‘We can do without Him then.’ We can….
love the world,
amuse ourselves with the things of time and sense, let our heads go astray after perishing, transitory
vanities,
set up an idol in our heart,
bow down before a ‘golden god,’
have our affections wholly fixed on those naturally
dear to us,
get up in the morning, pass through the day, and lie down at night—very well without God.
But when times of trouble come, when afflictions lie heavily upon us, when we are brought into those scenes of tribulation through which we must pass to arrive at the heavenly Canaan; then we need something more than flesh and blood; then we need something more than the perishing creature can unfold; then we need something more than this vain world can amuse us with!
We then need God! We need His everlasting arms to be underneath our souls; we need His consolations; we need something from the Lord’s own lips dropped with the Lord’s own power into our hearts!
These times of soul trouble make God’s people know that the Lord is their refuge. If I am in soul trouble; if my heart is surcharged with guilt; if my conscience is lacerated with the pangs of remorse—
Can the creature give me relief? Can friends dry the briny tear? Can they still the convulsive sigh? Can they calm the troubled breast?
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Can they pour oil and wine into the bleeding conscience?
No! They are utterly powerless in the matter!
They may increase our troubles, and they often, like Job’s friends, do so! But they cannot alleviate them!
Only one hand can ease the trouble—the same hand which laid it on! Only one hand can heal the wound; the same which mercifully inflicted it!
Now, in these times of soul trouble, if ever we have felt them—we shall make the Lord our refuge.
There is no other to go to! We may try every arm but His—we may look every way but the right way—and
we may lean upon every staff but the true one. But, sooner or later, we shall be brought to this spot—that none but the Lord God Almighty, who made heaven and earth, who brought our souls and bodies into being, who has kept and preserved us to the present hour, who is around our bed, and about our path, and spies out all our ways, and who has sent his dear Son to pay for our sin—that none but this eternal Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer, who made and upholds heaven and earth—can speak peace, pardon, and consolation to our hearts!
How sweet it is in these times of trouble to have a God to go to; to feel that there are everlasting arms to lean upon; that there is a gracious ear into which we may pour our afflictions; that there is a heart, a sympathizing heart, in the bosom of the Lord of life and glory, which feels for us; to know that there is a hand to relieve, and to experience, at times, relief from that Almighty and gracious hand!
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THE AFFLICTIONS THE LORD SENDS ON HIS PEOPLE
J. C. Philpot, “The Promise of God to His Afflicted Church”
“You have afflicted me with all Your waves.” Psalm 88:7
Jesus was a man of sufferings—a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And His people, in their measure, must have the same. The Lord has appointed it should be so. He has chosen His Zion in the furnace of affliction. There is no escape.
The afflictions the Lord sends on His people are of varied kinds. The Lord sees necessary to send afflictions suitable to the case, state and condition of each. What might be an affliction to one might not be so to another. Each must carry his own affliction. Each must bear his own load, and each endure his own appointed lot.
So a wise God sees exactly what affliction to lay on each and all—
when it shall come, where it shall come, why it shall come,
how it shall come,
how it shall work,
what it shall work,
how long it shall last, when it shall be put on, and when taken off.
In these matters the Lord acts as a sovereign.
We did not choose of what parents we would be born, nor our situation in life; neither had we any choice of our stature or skin color.
Likewise, the Lord appointed all our afflictions for us— and when He puts them on, no human arm can take them off!
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He knows our constitution and troubles—our characteristics and the minutest things relating to our situation in life. The Lord knows all our concerns. Therefore He lays on each individual the very affliction He sees that individual needs; no greater, no less— exactly the very affliction which shall bring about the very appointed purpose intended by God to be brought about, which shall be for the soul’s good and God’s own glory.
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WHO IS THIS COMING UP FROM THE WILDERNESS?
J. C. Philpot, “Coming up from the Wilderness” 1857
“Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?” Song of Solomon 8:5
A saved sinner is a spectacle for angels to contemplate!
That a sinful man who deserves nothing but the eternal wrath of God, should be lifted out of justly merited perdition, into salvation to which he can have no claim, must indeed ever be a holy wonder!
And that you or I should ever have been fixed on in the electing love of God; ever have been given to Jesus to redeem; ever quickened by the Spirit to feel our lost, ruined state; ever blessed with any discovery of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His saving grace—this is and ever must be a matter of holy astonishment here—and will be a theme for endless praise hereafter!
To see a man altogether so different from what he once was—once so careless, carnal, ignorant, unconcerned— to see that man now upon his knees begging for mercy, the tears streaming down his face, his bosom heaving with convulsive sighs, his eyes looking upward, that pardon may reach him in his desperate state—is not that a man to be looked at with wonder and admiration?
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To see another who might have pushed his way in the busy, bustling scenes of life—who might have had honors, riches, and everything the world had to bestow heaped upon his head—abandon all for Jesus’ sake, and with Moses, “esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” is not that man a wonder?
To live while here on earth in union and communion with an invisible God—to talk to Jesus, whom the eye of sense has never seen, and whose voice the ear of sense has never heard—and yet to see Him as sensibly by the eye of faith as though the natural eye rested upon His glorious Person, and to hear His voice speaking into the inmost heart, as plainly and clearly as though the sound of His lips met the natural ear—is not that a wonder also?
To see a man preferring one smile from the face of Jesus, and one word from His peace-speaking lips, above all the titles, honors, pleasures, and power that the world can bestow—why surely if there is a wonder upon earth, that man is one!
May we not, then, say with admiring as well as wondering eyes, “Who is this?”
“Why, this man I knew—worldly, proud, ambitious, self-seeking. That man I knew given up to vanity and pride. Another man I knew buried in politics, swallowed up in pleasure and gaiety, abandoned to everything vile and sensual. But he has now become prayerful, watchful, tender-hearted, choosing the company of God’s people, giving up everything that his carnal mind once approved of and delighted in; and manifesting in his walk, conversation, and whole deportment that he is altogether a new creature.”
Whenever we see any of those near and dear to us…. –66–

touched by the finger of this all-conquering Lord, subdued by His grace,
and wrought upon by His Spirit,
then not only do we look upon such with holy wonder, but with the tenderest affection, mingled with the tears of thankful praise to the God of all our mercies.
“Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?” Song of Solomon 8:5
THE SCALE!
J. C. Philpot, “A Longing Soul in a Thirsty Land”
“For what will it profit a man, if he will gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?” Matthew 16:26
Put your soul in one side of the scale—and put all that the world calls good and great in the other side. Think of everything that the heart of man can desire—riches, honor, pleasure, power. Heap it up well! Fill one side of the scale until there is no room for more. Put in….
all the gold of Australia,
all the diamonds of India,
all the delights of youthful love, all the pleasures….
of wife and home,
of children and friends, of health and strength, of name and fame.
Put in all that the natural mind of man deems the height of happiness, and everything that may weigh this side of the scale down.
Now, when you have filled this side of the scale, put your soul into the other side—the state of your soul for all eternity. Represent to yourself your deathbed—hold
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the scale with dying hands as lying just at the brink of eternity. See how the scale now hangs!
What if you had the whole world that you have put into the scale, and could call it all your own—but at that solemn hour felt that your soul was forever lost—that you were dying under the wrath of God—and there was nothing before you but an eternity of misery! At such a moment as this, what could you put in the scale equal to the weight of your immortal soul?
Take the scale again. Put into one side, every affliction, trial, sorrow, and distress that imagination can conceive, or tongue express. Let them all be yours….
distress of mind,
pain of body,
poverty of circumstances, contempt from man, assaults from Satan, Job’s afflictions,
Jacob’s bereavements, David’s persecutions, Jeremiah’s prison, Hezekiah’s sickness.
Put into this side of the scale everything that makes life naturally miserable—and then put into the other side, a saved soul.
Surely, as in the case of worldly honors, and riches, and happiness—a lost soul must weigh them all down!
So in the case of afflictions and sorrows and troubles— a saved soul must weigh them all down too!
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WE ARE NOT TO SET OUR AFFECTIONS ON THEM!
J. C. Philpot, “Spiritual Convictions & Heavenly Affections”
“Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2
Naturally we have no affection for anything else.
There is no such thing as a spiritual desire or a heavenly affection in our soul, when we are in a state of unregeneracy. So fallen are we that we love, and cannot but love the world, and the things of the world. We have no heart for anything but the things of time and sense. No, rather, as our carnal mind is enmity against God, we hate everything which is spiritual, heavenly, and holy.
One main part, therefore, of the work of God upon the soul, is to take off our affections from these earthly things—and to fix them upon Jesus where He sits enthroned above—that we may love and hate those same things which He loves and hates.
Our affections are not to be set upon things on the earth. Business, worldly cares, the interests of our family, the things of time and sense—in whatever form they come, whatever shape they may assume, must not so entwine themselves around our affections as to bind them down to the earth.
We may use them for the support and sustentation of our life—but we must not abuse them. We are not to set our affections on them!
Houses, gardens, land, property, friends, family—all these earthly things we are not to set our affections on—so that they become idols. Thus any lovely object may be foul—because turned to an idol.
It may be but a flower—and yet be an idol. –69–

It may be a darling child whom everybody admires for its beauty and attractiveness—yet it may be a defiling idol.
A cherished project may be an idol.
A crop of wheat, a flock of sheep, a good farm, a thriving business, the respect of the world, may all be defiling idols—for all these things, when eagerly pursued and loved, draw the soul away from God, and by drawing it insensibly from Him, bring pollution and guilt into the conscience.
Now we are, or by grace in due time shall be, weaned and divorced from earth with all its charms and pleasures and all its polluting idols.
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols!” 1 John 5:21
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SNARES, TRAPS, BAITS!
J. C. Philpot, “The Savior of Israel” 1847
The Lord’s people are, from time to time, deeply exercised with the power of sin. They find such ungodly lusts—they feel such horrid evils—the corruptions of their hearts are laid so naked and bare—and they find in themselves such a reckless propensity to all wickedness. They feel sin so strong—and themselves so weak!
O how many of the Lord’s people are tempted with sin morning, noon, and night! How many evils, horrid evils, are opening, as it were, their jaws to wholly swallow them up! Wherever they go, wherever they turn, snares, traps, baits seem lying on every side— strewed thickly in their path!
They feel so helpless—and so inwardly sensible that nothing but the almighty power of God can uphold them as they walk in this dangerous path—a path
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strewed with snares on every hand—that they are made to cry to the Lord, “Hold me up, and I shall be safe!” Psalm 119:117
Nothing short of God’s salvation…. in its freeness,
in its fullness,
in its divine manifestation,
in its sin-subduing, lust-killing influence, can save them from the power of sin!
“Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle on you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!” Isaiah 43:1-3
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HAVE WE NOT LEANED UPON A THOUSAND THINGS?
J. C. Philpot, “Daily Words for Zion’s Wayfarers”
“Behold, you trust on the staff of this bruised reed, even on Egypt, whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust on him.” Isaiah 36:6
Have we not leaned upon a thousand things? And what have they proved? Splintered reeds that have run into our hands, and pierced us!
Our own strength and resolutions, the world and the church, sinners and saints, friends and enemies, have they not all proved, more or less, splintered reeds?
The more we have leaned upon them, like a man leaning upon a sword, the more have they pierced our souls!
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The Lord Himself has to wean us…. from the world,
from friends,
from enemies,
from self,
in order to bring us to lean upon Himself. And every prop He will sooner or later remove—that we may lean wholly and solely upon His Person, love, death, and righteousness!
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THE WILDERNESS
J. C. Philpot, “The Valley of Achor” 1861
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14
The children of God would not voluntarily go into the wilderness—it is a place too barren for them to enter, except as allured in a special manner by the grace of God, and led by the power of God.
Nor do they for the most part know where the Lord is taking them. They follow His drawings; they are led by His allurings; they listen to His persuading voice, trusting to Him as to an unerring Guide.
But they do not know the ‘place of barrenness’ into which He is bringing them—this the Lord usually conceals from their eyes. He allures and they follow, but He does not tell them what He is going to do with them, or where He intends to take them. He hides His gracious purposes, that He may afterwards bring them more clearly to light.
Look at the place where He brings His people—the wilderness. This is a type and figure much used by the Holy Spirit, and conveys to us much deep and profitable instruction.
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The wilderness is an isolated, solitary spot, far, far away from cities, and towns, and other busy haunts of men— a remote and often dreary abode, where there is no intruding eye to mark the wanderer’s steps, where there is no listening ear to hear his sighs and cries. The Lord, when He puts forth His sacred power upon the heart, to allure His people into the wilderness, brings them into a spot where in solitude and silence they may be separated from everyone but Himself.
The ‘wilderness,’ we take as an emblem of being alone with God—coming out of the world, away from sin and worldly company, out of everything carnal, sensual, and earthly, and being brought into that solemn spot where there are secret, sacred, and solitary dealings with God.
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FALL DOWN IN REVERENT ASTONISHMENT
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on Ephesians”
“His great love with which He loved us.” Ephesians 2:4 “You love them even as You loved Me.” John 17:23
The love of God to His dear Son must be so infinite as to exceed all conception of men or angels. Now, that He should love the people of His choice with the same love—the same in nature, the same in degree as that with which He loves His dear Son—is one of the most overwhelming thoughts which can move and stir a human bosom! Indeed, so overwhelming is it in its sublime mystery and unapproachable depth, that it can only be received by faith! Faith itself can only fall down in reverent astonishment and admiration before it, and cry out, “O the depth! O the blessedness of this love!”
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SOVEREIGN, SUPREME DISPOSAL
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on Ephesians”
“He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the assembly.” Ephesians 1:22
God has put all things, events, and circumstances under the authority of Christ! How vast, how numerous, how complicated are the various events and circumstances which attend the children of God here below, as they travel onward to their heavenly home! What an intricate maze they often seem, and how much they appear opposed to us, as if we never could get through them, or scarcely live under them!
Yet, there cannot be a single circumstance over which Jesus has not supreme control. Everything in providence and everything in grace are alike subject to His disposal. There is not….
a trial,
a temptation,
an affliction of body or soul, a loss,
a cross,
a painful bereavement,
a vexation,
a grief,
a disappointment,
a case, state, or condition,
which is not put under Jesus’ authority!
He has sovereign, supreme disposal over all events and circumstances! As possessed of infinite knowledge, He sees them. As possessed of infinite wisdom, He can manage them. As possessed of infinite power, He can dispose and direct them for our good and His own glory! How much trouble and anxiety we would save ourselves, could we firmly believe, realize, and act on this!
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If we could see by the eye of faith that….
every foe and every fear,
every difficulty and perplexity,
every trying or painful circumstance,
every looked-for or unlooked-for event,
every source of anxiety, whether at present or in
prospect,
are all under His dominion, and at His sovereign disposal—what a load of anxiety and care would be taken off our shoulders!
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to
Me.” Matthew 28:18
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ALL OF US USED TO LIVE THAT WAY
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on Ephesians”
“You were made alive when you were dead through trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” Ephesians 2:1-3
Paul reminds us of the state and condition in which we used to live, that he may thereby magnify the riches of God’s grace, and bring before us what should be a matter of the deepest humiliation and self-abhorrence. How clearly does he show that there is no difference between the saved and the lost—except what grace makes between them; that all, elect and non-elect, are equally dead in sin; that all equally live according to the ways of this world in their unregenerate condition; and that all are equally led and acted upon by Satan, that foul and accursed spirit which we see now working everywhere around us in the children of disobedience.
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If we view the children of God only as they are by nature, there is no difference between them and the lost. Their sins are as great, if not greater; their nature as corrupt; their hearts as evil; the whole bent and course of their thoughts, words, and works, were as saturated with sin and crime. And all these things deserve wrath, and would draw down wrath as their everlasting portion—but for the sovereign grace of God! The very sweetness of grace lies in this—that it has put away deserved wrath!
Paul’s object is to remind us of our obligations to distinguishing, sovereign grace, by showing us that we deserve nothing at God’s hands but wrath; and that had we our just due, wrath would be poured out upon us to the uttermost! Surely every one who has felt anything of the wrath of God as his just due, on account of his personal sins, will freely acknowledge that he is by nature a child of wrath, and that there are thousands in hell who have not sinned as great as he has!
“But God, being rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved.)” Ephesians 2:4-5
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DON’T YOU REALIZE!
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on Ephesians”
“Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
Alas! how little is this truth contemplated and acted upon!
Were we more deeply and powerfully impressed with the solemn truth that God Himself dwells in us through
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the Spirit, how much more careful we would be to maintain….
truth and reality,
life and power in experience, godliness and holiness in life!
What a reverential fear would possess our minds, that we might not defile the Lord’s temple, or sin against and before, so holy and all-seeing a Guest!
If we realized this, and lived under its solemn weight and influence, how careful we would be not to defile that body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How desirous and anxious we would be not to pollute….
our eyes by wandering lusts;
our ears by listening to worldly and carnal conversation; our lips by speaking deceit, or light and frothy talk; our hands by putting them to anything that is evil; our feet by running on errands of vanity and folly.
We are to view our body as God’s temple, and therefore sanctified to His service and to His glory!
“For you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
1 Corinthians 6:20
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THE CHIEF BURDEN OF THE LORD’S CHILDREN
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on the Adorable Redeemer”
The chief burden of the Lord’s children is sin. This is the main cause of all their sighs and groans, from the first quickening breath of the Spirit of God in their hearts until they lay down their bodies in dust.
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STRANGERS!
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on 1 Peter”
“To the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” 1 Peter 1:1
“I am a stranger with you, a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” Psalm 39:12
“I am a stranger on the earth.” Psalm 119:19 “Having confessed that they were strangers and
pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13
The main character of a child of God is that he is a stranger upon earth. One of the first effects of the grace of God upon our soul was to separate us from the world, and make us feel ourselves strangers in it.
The world was once our home—the active, busy center of all our thoughts, desires, and affections. But when grace planted imperishable principles of life in our bosom, it at once separated us from the world in heart and spirit, if not in actual life and walk. We are strangers inwardly and experimentally, by the power of divine grace making this world a wilderness to us.
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AMUSEMENTS, PLEASURES & GAIETIES OF THE WORLD
John Abbott, “The Christian Mother”
It is not necessary for us to search for happiness in dangerous and forbidden paths. The young, inexperienced in the dangers of the world, often wonder why their pious parents are so unwilling that they should acquire a fondness for worldly amusements— which appear so innocent and pleasing to their youthful hearts.
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Parents! Cultivate in your children a taste for pure and noble pleasures—instead of a love of worldly gaiety. Pure and noble pleasures last. They wear well. They leave no sting behind. The pleasures of worldliness and gaiety do not wear well. They exhaust the powers of body and mind, and all the capacities of enjoyment, prematurely—and leave a sting behind. That is the reason why the Word of God condemns them—and why Christians abstain from them.
He who acquires a taste for the amusements, pleasures and gaieties of the world—will find his earthly happiness greatly impaired, and will be exposed to temptations which will greatly endanger his eternal well-being.
These worldly amusements are all of the same general character—leading to peculiar temptations. They all tend to destroy the taste for those quiet, domestic enjoyments, which, when cultivated, grow brighter and brighter every year—and which confer increasing solace and joy when youth has fled, and old age, and sickness, and misfortune come. Christian parents endeavor to guard their children against acquiring a taste for these worldly pleasures, because they foresee that these amusements will, in the end, disappoint them—and they can lead them in a safer path—and one infinitely more promotive of their happiness!
The true Christian has experienced the folly of a life of worldly pleasure. There are thousands who were once the devotees of worldly gaiety—and they will tell you, that, since they have abandoned their former pursuits, and sought happiness in different objects, and cultivated a taste for different pleasures, they have found peace and satisfaction, which they never knew before—and they have no more disposition to turn back to these gaieties, than they have to resume the rattles of babyhood!
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FASHIONABLE SINS
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on 1 Peter”
“As children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance.” 1 Peter 1:14
Peter warns us against yielding ourselves to the power and practice of any of those lusts which had dominion over us in the days of our ignorance—such as the base and sensual lusts of the flesh—or the more refined lusts of money, power, pleasure, fashion, pride, worldliness, fleshly ease—those more fashionable sins in which a man may live and walk, and yet preserve his character and good name.
Let the children of disobedience follow after and be conformed to all these worldly lusts; but let the children of obedience shun and abhor them as….
hateful to God,
deceitful and dangerous to themselves, and contrary to a holy, godly profession.
“But just as He who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior.” 1 Peter 1:15
A GRACIOUS INFLUENCE
J. C. Philpot, “Jesus, the Great High Priest”
The love of Jesus has a gracious influence on the life, conduct, and conversation of a true believer. The tree is known by its fruit; and those branches alone which bring forth fruit unto God, are in manifest union with the only true Vine.
Love to Jesus is the constraining principle of all holy obedience.
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dying injunction to His disciples. As, then, His bleeding love is experimentally known, there will be….
a conformity to His image, an obedience to His will,
a walking in His footsteps.
ALL THE RAVISHMENTS OF HIS PRESENCE AND LOVE!
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on 1 Peter”
“Receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:9
What is to be compared with the salvation of the soul? What are riches, honors, health, long life? What are all the pleasures which the world can offer, sin promise, or the flesh enjoy? What is all that men call good or great? What is everything which the outward eye has seen, or natural ear heard, or has entered into the carnal heart of man—put side by side with being saved by Jesus with an everlasting salvation?
Consider what we are saved from—as well as what we are saved unto.
From a burning hell—to a blissful heaven! From endless wrath—to eternal glory!
From the dreadful company of devils and damned spirits, mutually tormenting and tormented—to the blessed companionship of the glorified saints, all perfectly conformed in body and soul to the image of Christ, with thousands and tens of thousands of holy angels!
And, above all, to seeing the glorious Son of God as He is, in all the perfection of His beauty, and all the ravishments of His presence and love!
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To be done forever with….
all the sorrows, troubles, and afflictions of this life; all the pains and aches of this poor clay tabernacle; all the darkness, bondage, and misery of the body of
sin and death;
to be perfectly holy in body and soul, being in both without spot, or blemish—and ever to enjoy uninterrupted union and communion with God! O what a heaven lies before the children of God!
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AUTHORITY, GLORY AND SOVEREIGN POWER!
J. C. Philpot, “Jesus, the Enthroned King”
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!” Revelation 19:6
The unlimited dominion of King Jesus extends over…. all things,
all events,
all circumstances,
all people!
All are subjected to the sovereign control of the King of kings and Lord of lords!
Everywhere on this earthly globe—as far as waves roll, winds blow, sun shines, or stars hold on their nightly courses—does the scepter of Jesus sway the destinies, and control the designs and actions of men.
“There was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14
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AT THE CROSS ALONE
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on the Blessed Redeemer”
“Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30
“But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14
An experimental knowledge of crucifixion with his crucified Lord, made Paul preach the cross—not only in its power to save, but in its power to sanctify.
The cross is not only the meritorious cause of all salvation—but is the instrumental cause of all sanctification. As there is no other way of salvation than by the blood of the cross—so there is no other way of holiness than by the power of the cross.
Through the cross, that is, through union and communion with Him who suffered upon it, not only is there a fountain opened for all sin—but for all uncleanness!
All our….
pardon and peace,
acceptance and justification,
happiness and holiness,
wisdom and strength,
victory over the world,
mortification of the body of sin and death, hope and confidence,
prayer and praise,
gracious feelings,
spiritual desires,
warm supplications,
honest confessions,
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godly sorrows for sin,
spring from the cross!
At the cross alone can we….
be made wise unto salvation,
become righteous by a free justification,
receive of His Spirit to make us holy, and
be redeemed and delivered from sin, Satan, death and
hell.
To the cross we are to bring…. our sorrows,
our trials,
our temptations,
our sufferings,
to get life from His death, pardon and peace from His atoning blood, justification from His divine obedience, and resignation to the will of God from His holy example.
At the cross alone is the world crucified to us, and we to the world; sin mortified, and its reigning power dethroned; the old man crucified and put off, and the new man put on.
For the most part, it is only through a long series of afflictions, bereavements, disappointments, vexations, illnesses, pains of body and mind, hot furnaces, and deep waters, as sanctified to his soul’s profit by the Holy Spirit, that the child of God comes to the cross.
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THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on the Blessed Redeemer”
“King of kings and Lord of lords!” Revelation 19:16
The kingship of Christ is full of sweet consolation to the tried family of God. As Zion’s enthroned King, He supplies His people out of His own inexhaustible fullness!
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To Him, as our enthroned King, we give the allegiance of our hearts. Before His feet, as our rightful Sovereign, we humbly lie. And we beg of Him, as possessed of all power, to subdue our iniquities and rebellious lusts, and sway His peaceful scepter over every faculty of our soul.
The kingship of Christ is a blessed subject of meditation, when we consider its bearing upon our helpless, defenseless condition. We stand surrounded by foes— internal, external, infernal—all armed against us with deadly enmity!
Every child of God is surrounded by a multitude of enemies without and within, who, unless they are overcome—will most certainly overcome him. And to be overcome is to be lost, forever lost, and to perish under the wrath of God!
What hope or help can we have, but in that all-seeing eye, which sees our condition; that all-sympathizing heart, which feels for us; that all-powerful hand, which delivers the objects of His love from all the snares and traps—and defeats all the plans and projects of these mighty, implacable foes?
We daily and hourly feel the workings of our…. mighty sins,
raging lusts,
powerful temptations,
besetting evils,
against the least and feeblest of which, we have no strength!
But as the eye of faith views our enthroned King, we are led by the power of His grace to….
look unto Him, hang upon Him, and seek help from Him.
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Trials in providence,
afflictions in the family,
sickness and infirmities in the body,
opposition and persecution from the world,
a vile, unbelieving heart, which we can neither sanctify
nor subdue,
a rough and rugged path,
increasing in difficulty as we journey onward, doubts, fears, and misgivings in our own bosom, inward slips and falls,
wanderings,
startings aside,
hourly backslidings from the strait and narrow path, jealous enemies ever watching for our halting,
with no eye to pity, nor arm to help—but the Lord’s!
How all these foes and fears make us feel our need of an enthroned King, Head and Husband whose tender heart is soft to pity, whose mighty arm is strong to relieve!
We should be ever looking up to our enthroned King, not only that He might sway His scepter over our hearts, controlling our rebellious wills, and subduing us to His gentle might; but as King over all our enemies—of which our internal foes are much more numerous and mighty than any external enemies!
When we feel the power of sin, the tyranny of our vile lusts and passions, and what our nature is capable of if left to its own will and way—how sweet and suitable is the promise, “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot; and You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea!” Micah 7:19
“The Lord your God is with you, a mighty one who will save!” Zephaniah 3:17 d
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THE WRATH OF GOD DUE TO THEM FELL UPON HIM!
J. C. Philpot, “Jesus, the Great High Priest”
“For Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
“Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18
If we would we see, feel, and realize the exceeding sinfulness of sin, it is not by viewing the lightnings and hearing the thunders of Sinai’s fiery top—but in seeing the agony and bloody sweat, and hearing the groans and cries of the suffering Son of God, as made sin for us—in the garden and upon the cross.
To look upon Him whom we have pierced will fill heart and eyes with godly sorrow for sin, and a holy mourn- ing for and over a martyred, injured Lord. Zech. 13:10
To see, by the eye of faith, as revealed to the soul by the power of God—the darling Son of God bound, scourged, buffeted, spit upon, mocked—and then, as the climax of cruel scorn and infernal cruelty, crucified between two thieves—this believing sight of the sufferings of Christ, will melt the hardest heart into contrition and repentance.
But when we see, by the eye of faith, that this was the smallest part of His sufferings—that there were depths of soul trouble and of intolerable distress and agony from the hand of God as a consuming fire, as the inflexible justice and righteous indignation against sin, and that our blessed Lord had to endure the wrath of God until He was poured out like water, and His soft, tender heart in the flames of indignation became like wax, and melted within Him—then we can in some measure conceive what He undertook in becoming a sin offering.
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For as all the sins of His people were put upon Him—
the wrath of God due to them fell upon Him!
No less real, and far more severe, were the agonies of His soul—for the wrath of God in the Redeemer’s heart was as real as the nails that pierced His hands and feet!
When the sins of the elect were found on Christ, justice viewed Him and treated Him as the guilty criminal. Separation from God, under a sense of His terrible displeasure on account of sin—that abominable thing which His holy soul hates—is not this hell? This, then, was the hell experienced by the suffering Redeemer when the Lord laid on Him the iniquities of us all.
What heart can conceive or tongue express what must have been the feelings of the Redeemer’s soul when He, the beloved Son of God, who had lain in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, was by imputation, made a sinner—the deep wounds of suffering love felt by the Son of God when His Father, His own Father, hid His face from Him?
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AT THE CROSS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
J. C. Philpot
By the death Jesus, all our horrible filth and defilement, however black, monstrous, aggravated and abominable, however deep and dreadful, was thoroughly and forever….
put away,
cast behind God’s back,
blotted out as a thick cloud, and drowned in the depths of the sea!
In the pierced hands, and feet and side of Immanuel, a fountain was opened for all sin and uncleanness!
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At the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ….
justice and mercy met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other, mercy rejoiced over judgment,
grace abounded over sin!
Justice, with all its inflexible requisitions, was thoroughly satisfied; the law, with all its holy, unbending demands fully magnified; every perfection of God eternally glorified; every apparently barring attribute entirely harmonized; so that Jehovah, in all the blaze of ineffable purity, majesty, power, and holiness—can now be just, infinitely just—and yet the justifier of those who believe in Jesus.
Here, then, at the foot of the cross, is pardon and peace for guilty criminals! Here is thorough justification for the self-condemned and self-abhorred! Here is salvation, complete and everlasting, for all the redeemed family of God! Here is a fountain, ever open, full and free! Here is a robe, in which the spouse of Jesus stands without blemish and without spot before the throne of God! Here mercy is magnified forever! Here dying love displays itself in all its breadth, and length, and depth, and height! Here grace, all-glorious, all-triumphant grace, reigns unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord!
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THE EXCELLENCY OF PRAYER
By William Huntington, in a letter to a friend. This quote is longer—but it is choice.
Prayer is the blessed means which God has appointed to bring every grace from Christ to the believer. The believer is to let his requests be made known unto God, and for his encouragement God says that the prayer of the upright is His delight. Yes, He says that He loves to hear it. “Let Me hear your voice, let Me see your face!
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For your voice is pleasant, and you are lovely!”
Prayer is the casting of our cares and burdens on the Lord. It is the pouring out of the soul before Him, the presenting of our troubles to Him. Prayer is communing and corresponding with Christ—and receiving grace from His fullness to help in every time of need. It is keeping open the communion between the Lord and His people. Prayer is their way of paying morning and evening visits to the King of kings and Lord of lords! It is their means of cultivating and keeping up perfect friendship with a Friend who loves at all times—and therefore it should never be neglected.
Prayer is pouring out the soul unto God and placing before Him our troubles. It is “casting all our cares upon Him who cares for us,”—and our burdens upon Him in whom we have “righteousness and strength.” Prayer is opening the heart, the mind, and the mouth to Him who has said, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble! I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” It is besieging the everlasting kingdom, moving the throne of grace and knocking importunately at the door of mercy—encouraged by the promise, “Knock and it shall be opened unto you.”
In prayer we must take no denial. If we have but a feeling sense of our needs, and a Scripture warrant of a promise to plead, we must argue, reason, plead, supplicate, intercede, confess, acknowledge, thank, bless, praise, adore, repeat, importune, watch, and take hold of whatever may be of use to the soul. Sinners, sensible of their lost estate by nature, who feel their need and poverty, have many invitations, encourage- ments, precedents and promises. They have, under the teachings of the Holy Spirit, to plead and rely upon the covenant of Jehovah, the oath of God; the merits of Christ and all His covenant engagements, undertakings
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and performances; the covenant characters He sustains; His near relationship to them—together with all the glorious train of Divine perfections found in the proclamation of the Name of God to Moses Ex. 34:6-7— for these all sweetly harmonize and brightly shine in Christ crucified—who has never once yet disappointed the hope of a penitent sinner, but has graciously said, “Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” His promises, like Himself, are unchangeable, and this is one of them—“The one who comes unto Me, I will never cast out.”
Private prayer is the Christian’s court-visit to his God— the life and breath of his soul. It is the ascent of the heart to the Almighty—and its returns are the descent of Christ to be the soul’s help!
Prayer is the assuagement of grief, the easement of a burdened heart, and the vent of a joyful heart. It is the rich aroma of mystical incense, the overflowing of a living fountain, an all-prevailing sacrifice, and the delight of the Almighty! Moreover, prayer is the greatest, most blessed and most glorious privilege, with which perishing sinners ever were favored!
Prayer is a defense against the spirit of this world, a bar to the inroads of vanity, a maul upon the head of the ‘old man,’ and a lash of scorpions for the devil. It is a bridle in the jaws of a persecutor, a triumph over a voracious enemy, a dagger to the heart of a heretic, a key to parables and difficult Scriptures, and a battering- ram on the walls of salvation—for “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
Prayer uncloses the bountiful hand of God, opens the door of mercy, retains Christ on the throne of the affections, and covers every rival and usurper with
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shame and confusion of face! It is the believer’s Royal Exchange, where he may take his cares, burdens, snares and troubles; his vexations, temptations, doubts and fears; his misgivings of heart, sorrows of mind, hardness of heart and ingratitude; together with his faintness, unbelief, and rebellion; also all his spiritual disorders—the leprosy of sin, the evil within, the plague of his heart, the plague of his head, his deaf ears, blind eyes, feeble knees, languid hands, halting feet and stiff neck! He may take all his sins there, get rid of—and leave them all!
In return for their troubles, believers receive from their heavenly Banker numberless deliverances, blessings and mercies; many spiritual refreshings, renewings, revivals and restorations; large returns of comfort, peace, love and joy; together with fresh discoveries, love tokens, wholesome truths, profound mysteries, glorious glimpses, bright prospects, celestial views, undoubted evidences, heavenly lessons; conspicuous deliverances, pledges and foretastes; reviving cordials; valuable bank- notes in “exceeding great and precious promises,” payable this very day, and every day—and even to millions of ages afterwards—signed, sealed, and delivered by Jehovah Himself—the “God who cannot lie!”
Prayer has often scattered the confederate enemies of the soul, marred the schemes of opponents, frustrated the tales of liars, and made false teachers mad. Prayer counteracts the designs of Satan and his emissaries. It has made the believer to be an enemy to the world, the successful rival of deceivers, the envy of hypocrites, an eye-sore to the devil, the admiration of perishing sinners, a spectacle to the world—and a wonder to himself! He prays to his Father in secret, and his Father who sees in secret has engaged to reward him openly.
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and the beggar up from the ash-heap—to sit among the princes of God’s people, and inherit the throne of glory!
Prayer in faith has brought in countless providential mercies, as well as spiritual blessings. God could have granted them all without asking, but has condescended to honor the exercise of prayer by saying, “For all these things I will be inquired of by the house of Israel—that I may do it for them.”
Prayer engages the Almighty on the side of the suppliant, and establishes an alliance with God. “All things are possible to him who believes.” “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Prayer has brought health to the sick, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute, eyes to the blind, life to the dead, salvation to the lost; and has even driven the devil himself from the hearts of many—and brought the God of heaven to dwell in his place.
Prayer is God’s appointment, the Spirit’s gift, the believer’s privilege, and the scourge of Satan! Therefore, prize it and use it!
God is well-pleased, and receives with pleasure, approbation, and delight—all who approach His throne of grace, sensible of their needs—in the name of Christ crucified. Hence faith in Christ becomes the only way of access to God—all other avenues are stopped up! The sword of justice is brandished to keep every other way to the tree of life closed. In Christ, we may come with boldness to the throne of grace; there is no obstacle, no hindrance, in this way. The sword of justice is sheathed, the law magnified, the ransom price paid, the devil dethroned, sin expiated, wrath endured, God well-pleased, sinners redeemed, enemies reconciled—that the Lord God might dwell among them!
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THE GREAT GODDESS DIANA
Edward Payson, 1783-1827
“The great goddess Diana.” Acts 19:27
“All with one voice about the space of two hours cried
out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Acts 19:34
So long as they remain in their natural state, the world is, in some form or other, the great goddess Diana—the grand idol of all its inhabitants.
They bow down to it.
They worship it.
They spend and are spent for it.
They educate their children in its service.
Their hearts, their minds, their memories, their imaginations, are full of it.
Their tongues speak of it. Their hands grasp it.
Their feet pursue it. In a word, it is all in all to them; while they give scarcely a word, a look, or a thought to Him who made and preserves them—and who really is all in all.
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THE INFLUENCE OF EXAMPLE
John Abbott, “The Christian Mother”
“Be an example…. in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
The mother must strive to be herself, just what she wishes her child to be. She must cherish in her own spirit those virtues and those graces, which she desires to see as the embellishments of the character of her
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child. Our children have more right to expect that we shall be model parents—than we have to require that they shall be model children.
Words alone are air. They fall upon the ear, and are forgotten. But who ever forgets abiding, consistent, unvarying example? What child ever ceases to remember the life—the daily life, of its father and mother?
The ornaments and graces of the natural character can best be inculcated upon children through the influence of example. Would you have your daughter learn to control her passions, and cultivate a subdued, gentle, and submissive spirit? Would you have her speak soothingly to her little brother, when he is irritated, and bear her own little troubles without fretfulness or complaining? Show her how to do it by your example!
In the same manner, all other right moral sentiments of heart, can be best cultivated through the influence of parental example.
The great work of the formation of the character of children, should be done in the heart of the mother herself. I am to teach my child to avoid vanity, and pride, and selfishness—by cultivating within myself, with never-tiring industry, the spirit of meekness, of humility, of self-sacrifice. It is thus, more effectually than in any other way, that I am to reach and influence his heart.
So I am to curb the impetuous passions of my child, mainly by gaining the victory over myself, and bringing all my own passions under perfect control. It is thus within myself—it is in my own heart, that I can work most effectually in molding the character of my children; for in promoting their moral progress I must go before them and lead the way.
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What fearful questions, then, arise in the mind of every parent! Am I what I wish my child to be? Am I grateful, submissive, cheerful? Have I conquered my passions— obtained weanedness from the world—and am I daily, in my life, presenting an example such as my child may safely imitate?
Here lies the great work of parental faithfulness. Here is to be laid the deep foundations of all salutary family discipline. Thus did our Savior plead. Such was the influence He wielded. Persuasive as were His words— infinitely more persuasive was the power of His example!
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THIS WORLD IS FADING AWAY!
Charles Spurgeon
“Don’t love the world, neither the things that are in the world.” 1 John 2:15
Hate the world, value its treasure at a cheap price, estimate its gems as nothing but fakes, and its strength as nothing but dreams.
Do not think that you will lose any pleasure, but rather remember the saying of that early Church leader Chrysostom….
“Despise riches, and you will be rich;
despise glory, and you will be glorious; despise injuries, and you will be a conqueror; despise rest, and you will gain rest;
despise the earth, and you will gain heaven!”
“The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever.” 1 John 2:17
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WRITTEN IN ILLEGIBLE LETTERS
Andrew Gray, 1634–1656, “Christ Precious to Believers”
Love is written in illegible letters upon the cross—and only faith can read them.
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ADAM’S RIB
Matthew Henry
“He made the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man, into a woman, and brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:22
Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him; but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.
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AH! WHAT IS TO HOLD THEM BACK FROM EVIL!
David Magie, “Advice to Youth” 1855
Young people, you are in danger! In danger from inward corruption and outward temptation! In danger from your own native bias to evil, and from the traps which are set for your feet!
It is proper for me to raise the voice of alarm.
It is enough to make one’s heart bleed to see multitudes of ardent, aspiring youth cast upon the world, with its ten thousand allurements and snares! Ah! what is to hold them back from evil! How are they to be kept from the paths of the destroyer? If God does not interpose, it would seem as if they must inevitably perish!
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I WONDER WHY MY CHILDREN DO NOT OBEY ME BETTER?
John Abbott, “The Christian Mother” 1833
Obedience is absolutely essential to proper family government. Without this, all other efforts will be in vain. You may pray with, and for your children; you may strive to instruct them in religious truth; you may be unwearied in your efforts to make them happy, and to gain their affection. But if they are in habits of disobedience, your instructions will be lost, and your toil in vain. And by obedience, I do not mean languid and dilatory yielding to repeated threats—but prompt and cheerful acquiescence to parental commands. Neither is it enough that a child should yield to your arguments and persuasions. It is essential that he should submit to your authority.
The first thing therefore to be aimed at, is to bring your child under total subjection. Teach him that he must obey you. Sometimes give him your reasons; withhold them at other times. But let him perfectly understand that he is to do as he is told. Accustom him to immediate and cheerful acquiescence to your will. This is obedience. And this is absolutely essential to good family government. Without this, your family will present one continued scene of noise and confusion—the toil of rearing up your children will be almost intolerable— and, in all probability, your heart will be broken by their future licentiousness or ingratitude.
Never give a command which you do not intend shall be obeyed! There is no more effectual way of teaching a child disobedience, than by giving commands which you have no intention of enforcing. A child is thus habituated to disregard its mother; and in a short time the habit becomes so strong, and the child’s contempt
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for the mother so confirmed, that entreaties and threats are alike unheeded.
“Mary, let that book alone,” says a mother to her little daughter, who is trying to pull the book from the table.
Mary stops for a moment, and then takes hold of the book again.
Pretty soon the mother looks up and sees that Mary is still playing with the book. “Did not you hear me tell you to let that book alone?” she exclaims: “Why don’t you obey?”
Mary takes away her hand for a moment, but is soon again at her forbidden amusement. By and by, down comes the book upon the floor. Up jumps the mother, and hastily giving the child a passionate blow, exclaims, “There then, obey me next time!” The child screams, and the mother picks up the book, saying, “I wonder why my children do not obey me better?”
This is not a very interesting family scene, but every one of my readers will admit that it is not an uncommon one. And is it strange that a child, thus managed, should be disobedient? No! She is actually led on by her mother to insubordination—she is actually trained to pay no heed to her directions. Even the improper punishment which sometimes follows transgression, is not inflicted on account of her disobedience, but for the accidental consequences. In the case above described, had the book not fallen, the disobedience of the child would have passed unpunished. Let it be an immutable principle in family government—that your word is law!
The principle of government is simple and plain. It is to begin with enforcing obedience to every command. It is to establish the principle that a mother’s word is never to be disregarded. Every judicious mother will, indeed, try
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to gratify her children in their reasonable wishes. She will study to make them happy; but she will never allow them to gratify themselves in contradiction to her wishes.
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SHEEP OR SWINE?
John Ensor
“The swine that has been washed returns to wallow in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:22
Sheep and swine can both end up in the mire. Yet the essential difference in their two natures is quite visible from the reaction each has to its fallen condition. While sheep do stray and stumble into the mire, they quickly loathe the situation and struggle to get free. They may be dirty, but they desire to be clean. They may be stuck, but they bleat for their shepherd to come and save them out of the muck. But swine, in keeping with their nature, wallow in the muck, content to stay there all day.
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WHEN MEN HAVE RIDDEN THE HIGH HORSE
Charles Spurgeon
“I hate pride and arrogance!” Proverbs 8:13 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit
before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
The wise man teaches us that a haughty heart is the prophetic prelude of a downfall. When men have ridden the high horse, destruction has always overtaken them.
See Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty builder of Babylon, creeping on the ground, devouring grass like oxen, until his nails had grown like bird’s claws, and his hair
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like eagle’s feathers. Pride made the boaster a beast; as once before it made an angel a devil.
God hates proud looks, and never fails to bring them down!
All the arrows of God are aimed at proud hearts!
O Christian, is your heart haughty? Are you glorying in your graces or your abilities? Are you proud of yourself, that you have had holy frames and sweet experiences? Mark it, there is a destruction coming to you also! Your ‘flaunting poppies of self-conceit’ will be pulled up by the roots! Your ‘mushroom graces’ will wither in the burning heat! Your self-sufficiency shall become as straw for the ash-heap!
If you forget to live at the foot of the cross in deepest lowliness of spirit, God will chasten you with His rod. A destruction will come to you, O exalted believer—the destruction of your joys and of your comforts, though there can be no destruction of your soul.
“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: They shall assuredly not be unpunished.”
Proverbs 16:5
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SHARPER SCOURGES TEAR HIS HEART!
Charles Spurgeon
“Pilate…delivered Jesus, when he had flogged Him, to be crucified.” Mark 15:15
Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. Sharp bones were intertwisted in the whip, so that every time the lash came down, these pieces of bone inflicted fearful lacerations, and tore off the flesh! The Savior was, no doubt, bound to the column, and
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thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this scourging by the Roman lictors was probably the most severe of His flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over His poor stricken body!
Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon Him without tears, as He stands before you—the picture of agonizing love?
He is at once fair as the lily for innocence—and red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which His stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our bosoms!
“See how the patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in His lowest case.
Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands, And spit in their Creator’s face!
With thorns His temples gored and gashed, Send streams of blood from every part.
His back’s with knotted scourges lashed, But sharper scourges tear His heart!”
We would readily go to our chambers and weep and pray our Beloved to imprint the image of His bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts—and sorrow that our sin should have cost Him so dear!
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SACRED PICKLOCKS!
Charles Spurgeon
Whenever you cannot understand a text, open your Bible, bend your knee, and pray over that text; and if it does not split into atoms and open itself, try again.
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If prayer does not explain it, it is one of the things God did not intend for you to know, and you may be content to be ignorant of it.
Prayer is the key that opens the cabinets of mystery!
Prayer and faith are sacred picklocks that can open secrets, and obtain great treasures! There is no college for holy education like that of the blessed Spirit, for He is an ever-present tutor, to whom we have only to bend the knee, and He is at our side, the great expositor of truth!
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THE HEART OF AN UNBELIEVER
Jonathan Edwards, “Men Naturally God’s Enemies”
“They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores. They didn’t repent of their works.” Revelation 16:11
The heart of an unbeliever is like a viper, hissing and spitting poison at God!
When unbelievers come to be cast into hell, then their malice against God will fully appear. Then their hearts will appear as full of malice, as hell is full of fire. When they come to be in hell, there will be no new corruptions put into their heart; but only that their old ones will then break forth without restraint.
That is all the difference between an unbeliever on earth—and an unbeliever in hell. In hell there will be more to stir up the exercise of corruption, and less to restrain it, than on earth. But there will be no new corruption put in. An unbelieving man will have no principle of corruption in hell, but that which he carried to hell with him. Men now have the seeds of all the malice against God, that they will exercise in hell.
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The malice of damned spirits is but a branch of the root that is in the hearts of unbelievers now.
A unbeliever has a heart like the heart of a devil. Only the corruption is presently more under restraint in
man, than in devils.
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GOD’S JEWELS
Robert Leighton
“They shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels.” Malachi 3:17
God has many sharp cutting instruments for polishing His jewels. Those who need the most polishing, He has most often to use His tools.
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and
silver.” Malachi 3:3
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PILGRIMS AND STRANGERS ON THIS EARTHLY BALL
J. C. Philpot
“Pass the time of your living as strangers here in reverent fear.” 1 Peter 1:17
Our life on earth is but a vapor! We are but pilgrims and strangers on this earthly ball, mere sojourners, without fixed or settled habitation, and passing through this world as not our home or resting-place. The Apostle, therefore, bids us pass this time, whether long or short, of our earthly sojourn under the influence, and in the exercise, of reverent fear.
We are surrounded with enemies, all seeking, as it were, our life; and therefore we are called upon to move with
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great caution, knowing how soon we may slip and fall, and thus wound our own consciences, grieve our friends, gratify our enemies, and bring upon ourselves a cloud of darkness which may long hover over our souls.
Our life here below is not one of ease and quiet—but a warfare, a conflict, a race, a wrestling not with flesh and blood alone, but with principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. We have to dread ourselves more than anything or anybody else, and to view our flesh as our greatest enemy!
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lust, which war against the soul.” 1 Pet. 2:11
IN THIS SCENE OF CONFUSION AND DISTRACTION
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on the Holy Spirit”
“The Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered.” Romans 8:26
“We do not know what we ought to pray for.” How often do we find and feel this to be our case. Darkness covers our mind;
ignorance pervades our soul;
unbelief vexes our spirit;
guilt troubles our conscience;
a crowd of evil imaginations, or foolish or worse than foolish wanderings distract our thoughts;
Satan hurls in his fiery darts thick and fast;
a dense cloud is spread over the mercy seat;
infidelity whispers its vile suggestions, until, amid all this chaos, such confusion and bondage prevail that words seem idle breath, and prayer to the God of heaven but empty mockery.
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In this scene of confusion and distraction, when all seems going to the wreck, how kind, how gracious is it for the blessed Spirit to come, as it were, to the rescue of the poor bewildered saint, and to teach him how to pray and what to pray for.
He is therefore said “to help us in our infirmities,” for these evils of which we have been speaking are not willful, deliberate sins, but wretched infirmities of the flesh. He helps, then, our infirmities….
by subduing the power and prevalence of unbelief; by commanding in the mind a solemn calm;
by rebuking and chasing away Satan and his fiery
darts;
by awing the soul with a reverential sense of the
power and presence of God;
by presenting Jesus before our eyes and drawing forth
faith upon His Person and work;
and, above all, by Himself interceding for us and in us
“with groans that words cannot express.”
When the soul is favored thus to pray, its petitions are a spiritual sacrifice, and its cries enter the ears of the Lord Almighty, for “He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because He makes inter- cession for the saints according to God.” Romans 8:27
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THAT IS WHAT SOME OF YOU WERE!
J. C. Philpot
The Holy Spirit undertakes to sanctify the objects of the Father’s eternal choice, and of the Son’s redeeming death.
Sanctification is as needful, as indispensable for the Church’s salvation, as redemption!
For O! how low was the Church sunk in the Adam fall! The image of God, in which she was created—how
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defaced and as if blotted out! Death spreading itself with fatal effect over her every mental and bodily faculty! Sin, like a hideous leprosy, infecting her to the very heart’s core! A thousand base lusts plunging her deeper and deeper into a sea of guilt and crime! Enmity against God boiling up in waves of ceaseless rebellion! Satan tyrannizing over her with cruel sway, sometimes drawing and sometimes driving, but by one or the other dragging her without hope or help towards the brink of the bottomless pit!
Hear that bold blasphemer!
See that drunken, raving prostitute!
Look at that murderer with his blood-red hand stealing off from his mangled victim!
Or, if you shrink from such sounds and such sights, picture to your imagination the vilest wretch who ever disgraced human nature—and you see in that portrait the features of the Church as implicated in the Adam fall—and sunk into original and actual transgression!
What a work, then, was undertaken by that most gracious and condescending Spirit, who solemnly pledged Himself, in the eternal covenant, to sanctify such wretches, and to fit and frame them to be partakers of holiness, and live forever in God’s spotless presence!
It were easier for the wolf to dwell with the lamb, and the leopard to lie down with the sheep—than for ungodly sinners, unwashed, unregenerated, unsanctified, to dwell forever before the throne of God and of the Lamb!
But O, the wonders of wisdom, grace, and love!
Sinners, the vilest sinners, the worst of wretches, the basest of mortals—can and will enter through the gates into the holy city!
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Paul, having enumerated some of the vilest crimes which stain human nature and sink it below the beasts that perish, says, “Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11
To be washed and sanctified is as needful, as indispensable as to be justified.
THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST
J. C. Philpot, “Jesus, the Enthroned King”
“The kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21
A true experimental knowledge of Christ as Lord and King, has a holy sanctifying influence over a believer’s heart and life!
That Christ may reign and rule in the heart, there must be a previous breaking to pieces of all other authority and power….
the reign of sin must give way to the reign of grace; idols must be dethroned;
rivals banished;
lusts subdued;
the flesh mortified and crucified;
the old man put off, the new man put on.
Pride and self-righteousness,
unbelief and infidelity,
hypocrisy and vain confidence,
carnality and worldly mindedness,
sin and self in all their various shapes and forms, must be smitten as with a deadly blow,
and scattered to the winds of heaven!
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This fall and ruin of self, makes way for the setting up of the kingdom of Christ in the heart. Jesus reveals Himself to the soul, thus broken and humbled, as its Lord and King.
But who is sufficient for these things? Who will pluck out his own right eye, or cut off his own right hand? Who will drive the nails of crucifixion into his own quivering flesh? No one! The Lord, then, must do it all for and in us by His Spirit and grace.
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 4:6
YOUR TREASURE!
J. C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34
Let us see whether we have treasure in heaven, or whether all our good things are here upon earth.
Would we know what our treasure is?
Let us ask ourselves what we love most.
This is the true test of character. It matters little…. what we say, or
what we profess, or
what preaching we admire, or
what place of worship we attend.
What do we love? On what are our affections set? This
is the great question.
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Luke 12:34
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IT HAS AN INFLUENCE OVER THE LIFE
J. C. Philpot, “The Precepts of the Word of God”
“When you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13
Where God’s word effectually works in the heart, it has an influence over the life. It….
separates from the world and the spirit of it;
keeps the conscience alive and tender in the fear of
God;
produces uprightness and integrity of conduct; extends its influence to the various relationships of
life;
subdues pride, covetousness, and selfishness; softens and meekens the spirit;
gives tender feelings and gracious affections; fosters prayer, meditation, and spirituality of mind; and makes itself manifest in the life, walk, and
conversation.
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HIDDEN TREASURE!
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on the Holy Spirit”
“Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day.” Psalm 119:97
“Therefore, I love Your commands more than gold, yes, more than pure gold.” Psalm 119:127
“I have taken Your testimonies as a heritage forever, For they are the joy of my heart.” Psalm 119:111
To a spiritual mind, sweet and soul-rewarding is the searching of the Word as for hidden treasure.
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No sweeter, no better employment can engage heart and hands than, in the spirit….
of prayer and meditation,
of separation from the world,
of holy fear,
of a desire to know the will of God and do it, of humility, simplicity, and godly sincerity,
to seek to enter into those heavenly mysteries which are stored up in the Scriptures; and this, not to furnish the head with notions, but to feed the soul with the bread of life!
Truth, received in the love and power of it…. informs and establishes the judgment,
softens and melts the heart,
warms and draws upward the affections,
makes and keeps the conscience alive and tender, is the food of faith,
is the strength of hope, is the mainspring of love.
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THE BELIEVER’S RULE OF LIFE
J. C. Philpot, “The Precepts of the Word of God”
Were there no precepts in the New Testament, we would be without an inspired rule of life, without an authoritative guide for our walk and conduct before the Church and the world. We rightly discard and reject the ‘law of Moses’ as the believer’s rule of life.
What, then, is our rule? Are we a set of lawless wretches who may live as we desire, according to the libelous charge of the enemies of truth? God forbid! We have a divine, authoritative rule of life, a code of directions of the amplest, fullest, minutest character, intended and sufficient to regulate and control every thought, word, and action of our lives; and all flowing
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from the eternal wisdom and will of the Father, sealed and ratified by the blood of the Son, and inspired and revealed by the Holy Spirit.
When, then, it is thrown in our teeth that, by discarding the ‘law of Moses’ as our rule of life, we prove ourselves licentious, lawless Antinomians; this is our answer, and let God and His word decide whether it be not a sufficient one. We have a rule of life as far exceeding the ‘law of Moses’ as the new covenant of grace and truth exceeds and outshines the old covenant of works; and as much as the ministration of the Spirit, of life, and of righteousness excels in glory the ministration of the letter, of death, and of condemnation. (2 Corinthians 3:6-11)
The gospel, not the Mosaic law, is the believer’s rule of life.
In a word, the precepts of the New Testament, in all their fullness, minuteness, and comprehensiveness, are the believer’s
rule of life.
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IS ANY SPOT TOO LOW FOR ME TO CREEP INTO AND LIE IN?
J. C. Philpot, “The Precepts of the Word of God”
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.” 1 Peter 5:6
I am here directed and enjoined to humble myself under the mighty hand of God. But can I do so? No, I cannot! I may make the attempt. I may fall on my knees, confess my sins, put my mouth in the dust—at least do all this in words. But can I produce in my soul….
that solemn humbling of my whole spirit before God, that self-loathing,
that self-abhorrence,
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that brokenness and contrition of heart,
that lying at His feet with weeping and supplications, that giving up of myself into His hands, without
which all my humbling of myself is but lip service?
No! I can do none of these things! I am so thoroughly destitute and helpless that I cannot produce one grain of real humility in my own soul.
But let the Holy Spirit graciously work upon my heart; let Him fill me with a deep sense of the mighty hand of God over me and under me; let Him humble me in my inmost soul as the very chief of sinners; let my heart be broken and my spirit made contrite under a sight of my sins; and a sight, too, of the life and sufferings and death of my dear Redeemer—how then, can I not humble myself under the mighty hand of God?
Is any spot too low for me to creep into and lie in? Where are my pride and self-righteousness now? Does not sweet humility fill and possess my soul?
ALL DOCTRINE, ALL EXPERIENCE, ALL PRECEPT
J. C. Philpot, “The Precepts of the Word of God”
All doctrine, all experience, all precept center, as one grand harmonious whole, in the glorious Person of the Son of God. From Him they all come; to Him they all flow. Severed from Him….
doctrine is seen to be but a withered branch; experience but a delusive dream;
precept but a legal service.
But His light enlightening, His life quickening, His power attending the word of His grace—doctrine is seen to be no longer doctrine dry and dead, but glorious truth; experience to be not a mere matter of fluctuating feeling, but a blessed reality, as the very kingdom of
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God set up with a divine power in the heart; and obedience not a legal duty, but a high, holy, and
acceptable service.
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OVER-INDULGENCE OF FOND AND FOOLISH PARENTS!
J. A. James, “The Duties of Parents” 1838
“In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from the beginning even to the end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons did bring a curse on themselves, and he didn’t restrain 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
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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!
FOR WIVES ONLY!
J. A. James, “The Christian Wife” 1828
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22
In every society, there must be authority vested somewhere, and some ultimate authority, some last and highest tribunal established, from the decision of which there lies no appeal. In the family constitution this authority rests in the husband—he is the head, the law-giver, the ruler. In all matters concerning the ‘little world in the house,’ he is to direct, not indeed without taking counsel with his wife. But in all differences of
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view, he is to decide—unless he chooses to waive his right; and to his decision the wife should yield, and yield with grace and cheerfulness.
Usurpation of authority is always hateful, and it is one of the most offensive exhibitions of it, where the husband is degraded into a slave of the queen mother.
I admit it is difficult for a sensible woman to submit to imbecility, but she should have considered this before she united herself to it. Having committed one error, let her not fall into a second, but give the strongest proof of her good sense which circumstances will allow her to offer, by making that concession to the God- given authority of her husband. She may reason, she may persuade, she may solicit—but if ignorance cannot be convinced, nor obstinacy turned, nor kindness conciliated, she has no resource left but to submit.
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FOR HUSBANDS ONLY!
J. A. James, “A Help to Domestic Happiness” 1828 This quote is longer, but it is a choice summary of the husband’s role.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it.” Ephesians 5:25-26
Christ’s love is SINCERE.
He did not love in word only, but in deed, and in truth. In Him there was no deceitfulness; no epithets of endearment going forth out of untruthful lips; no actions varnished over with a mere covering of love. We must be like Him, and endeavor to maintain a principle of true love in the heart, as well as a manifestation of it in the conduct.
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without feeling it. Hypocrisy is base in everything; but next to religion, is most base in affection. Besides, how difficult is it to act the part well, to keep on the mask, and to pretend the character so as to escape detection! Oh, the misery of that woman’s heart, who at length finds out to her cost, that what she had been accustomed to receive and value as the attentions of a lover—are but the tricks of a cunning deceiver!
The love of the Redeemer is ARDENT.
Let us, if we would form a correct idea of what should be the state of our hearts towards the woman of our choice, think of that affection which glowed in the bosom of a Savior, when He lived and died for His people. We can possess, it is true, neither the same kind, nor the same degree of love—but surely when we are referred to such an instance, if not altogether as a model, yet as a motive, it does teach us, that no weak affection is due, or should be offered to the wife of our bosom. We are told by the Savior Himself, that if He laid down his life for us, it is our duty to lay down ours for the brethren; how much more for the “friend that sticks closer than a brother.” And if it be our duty to lay down our life, how much more to employ it while it lasts, in all the offices of an affection—strong, steady, and inventive!
She who for our sake has forsaken the comfortable home, and the watchful care, and the warm embrace of her parents—has a right to expect in our love, that which shall make her “forget her father’s house,” and cause her to feel that with respect to happiness, she is no loser by the exchange. Happy the woman, and such should every husband strive to make his wife, who can look back without a sigh upon the moment, when she left forever, the guardians, the companions, and the scenes of her childhood.
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The love of Christ to His church is SUPREME.
He gives to the world His benevolence—but to the church His love! “The Lord your God in the midst of you,” said the prophet, “is mighty; He will save you, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love— He will rejoice over you with singing.”
So must the husband love his wife, above all else—he must “rest in his love.” He should love her not only above all outside his house—but above all within it. She must take precedence both in his heart and conduct, not only of all strangers, but of all relatives, and also of all his children. He ought to love his children for her sake, rather than her for their sake.
Is this always the case? On the contrary have we not often seen men, who appear to be far more interested in their children than in their wives; and who have paid far less attention to the latter than to grown-up daughters? How especially unseemly is it, for a man to be seen fonder of the society of any other woman, than that of his wife, even where nothing more may be intended than the pleasure of her company. Nor ought he to forsake her, in his leisure hours, for any companions of his own sex, however pleasant might be their demeanor or their conversation.
The love of Christ is UNIFORM.
Like Himself, it is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Marital affection should have the same character; it should be at all times, and in all places alike; the same at home as abroad; in the houses of other people as in our own. Has not many a wife to sigh and exclaim—“Oh! that I were treated in my own house, with the same tenderness and attention as I receive in company!” With what almost loathing and disgust must such a woman turn from endearments, which under such circumstances she can consider as
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nothing but hypocrisy! Home is the chief place for fond and minute attention; and she who has not to complain of a lack of it there, will seldom feel the need or the inclination to complain of a lack of it abroad—except it be those silly women, who would degrade their husbands, by exacting not merely what is really kind, but what is actually ridiculous.
The love of Jesus is PRACTICAL and LABORIOUS.
He provided everything for the welfare and comfort of the church, and at a cost and by exertions of which we can form no idea.
The business of providing for the family belongs chiefly to the husband. It is yours my brethren to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of carefulness, and to drink if necessary, the waters of affliction, that you may earn by the sweat of your brow, a comfortable support for the family circle. This is probably what the apostle meant, when he enjoined us to give honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel—the honor of providing for her, which she in consequence of the weakness of her frame, and the frequent infirmities which the maternal relation brings upon her, is not so well able to procure for herself.
In most barbarous countries, and in some half-civilized ones, the burden of manual labor falls upon the woman, while her tyrant husband lives in indolence, feeding upon the industry of the hapless being whom he calls a wife—but treats as a slave! And are there no such idle tyrants in our age and country, who so long as they can live in indolence, and gratify their appetites, care not how they oppress their wives—wretches who do little or nothing for the support of the family? How utterly lost to every noble and generous sentiment must that man be, whose heart cannot be moved by the entreaties or tears of his own wife, and who can hear in
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vain her pleadings for his child at her bosom, and his child by her side, and who by such appeals cannot be induced to give up his daily visits to the tavern, or his habits of sauntering idleness, to attend to his neglected business, and hold off the approaching tide of poverty and ruin.
Such a creature is worse than a brute—he is a monster! And it seems a pity that there is no law and no prison- ship to take him away to a land where, if he will not work, so neither could he eat!
A practical affection to a wife extends to everything! It should manifest itself in the most delicate attention to her comfort, and her feelings; in consulting her tastes; in concealing her failings; in never doing anything to degrade her, but everything to exalt her before her children and others; in acknowledging her excellencies, and commending her efforts to please him; in meeting, and even in anticipating all her reasonable requests; in short, in doing all that ingenuity can invent for her substantial happiness and general comfort.
Christ’s love to His church is DURABLE and UNCHANGEABLE.
“Having loved His own, He loved them to the end”— without abatement or alteration. So ought men to love their wives, not only at the beginning; but to the end of their union; when the charms of beauty have fled before the withering influence of disease; when the vigorous and sprightly frame has lost its elasticity, and the step has become slow and faltering—when the wrinkles of old age have followed the bloom of youth, and the whole person seems rather the monument, than the resemblance of what it once was. Has she not gained in mind, what she has lost in exterior fascinations? Have not her mental graces flourished amid the ruins of personal charms? If the ‘rose’ and the
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‘lily’ have faded on the cheek—have not the ‘fruits of righteousness’ grown in the soul? If those blossoms have departed, on which the eye of youthful passion gazed with so much ardor, has it not been to give way to the ripe fruit of Christian excellence? The woman is not what she once was—but the wife, the mother, the Christian—are better than they were!
For an example of marital love in all its power and excellence, point me not to the bride and bridegroom displaying during the first month of their union, all the watchfulness and tenderness of affection—but let me look upon the husband and wife of fifty, whose love has been tried by the lapse and the changes of a quarter of a century, and who through this period and by these vicissitudes, have grown in attachment and esteem; and whose affection, if not glowing with all the fervid heat of a midsummer’s day, is still like the sunshine of an October noon—warm and beautiful, as reflected amid autumnal tints!
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies—he who loves his wife loves himself.” A man’s children are parts of himself; his wife is himself—“for the two shall be one flesh.” This is his duty and the measure of it too; which is so plain, that, if he understands how he treats himself, there needs nothing be added concerning his demeanor towards her. For what tender care does he take of his body, and uses it with a delicate tenderness, and cares for it in all contingencies, and watches to keep it from all evils, and studies to make for it fair provisions. So let a man love his wife as his own body.
Husbands! It is in your power to do more for your wife’s happiness, or misery, than any other being in the universe! An unkind husband is a tormentor of the first class. His victim can never elude his grasp, nor go
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beyond the reach of his cruelty, until she is kindly released by the ‘king of terrors,’ who, in this instance, becomes to her an angel of light, and conducts her to the grave as to a shelter from her oppressor!
For such a woman there is no rest on earth—the destroyer of her peace has her always in his power, for she is always in his presence, or in the fear of it. The circumstances of every place, and every day, furnish him with the occasions of cruel neglect or unkindness, and it might be fairly questioned, whether there is to be found on earth a case of greater misery, than a woman whose heart daily withers under the cold looks, the chilling words, and repulsive actions of a husband who loves her not. Such a man is a murderer, though in this world he escapes the murderer’s doom; and by a refinement of cruelty, he employs years in conducting his victim to her end, by the slow process of a lingering death.
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ALL OUR LITTLE CARES
Newman Hall, “Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer” 1889
“Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart, You will cause Your ear to hear.” Psalm 10:17
We may draw near to God in our chamber, and amidst the varied toils, sorrows and joys of daily life. Not only may we bring to Him our greatest necessities and bitterest griefs; but all our little cares, purposes, hopes and fears, and know He loves to listen.
“Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7
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GOSPEL FRUIT
J. C. Philpot, “Meditations on 1 Peter”
“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit.” Matthew 12:33
Gospel fruit can only grow upon a gospel tree, and thus the fruits of a holy and godly life must spring out of the divine operations of the Holy Spirit upon the heart.
PRIDE SHRINKS BEFORE THE APPALLING SPECTACLE!
Thomas Reade, “Christian Meditations”
“When He has come, He will convict the world in respect to sin, and righteousness, and judgment.” John 16:8
The teaching of the Holy Spirit is enlightening, convincing, purifying, and consoling. The first operation of the Spirit is light. This light, darting into the conscience, produces conviction of sin, by discovering, in all its hideousness, the monster that dwells within!
Sin becomes truly odious when viewed by the light of the Eternal Spirit. Its nature and effects are then known, and felt, and deplored.
This sight of ourselves is truly humbling. ‘Self-abhorrence’ is the fruit of deep conviction.
Nothing can lay the sinner in the dust of humiliation but the searching light of the Spirit. This candle of the Lord, shining into the inward parts, into the chambers of imagery, discovers the secret abominations which are practiced there.
Oh what hidden evils are made manifest by the light; evils of every name, the progeny of hell.
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‘Self-love’ sickens at the view.
Pride shrinks before the appalling spectacle!
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9
OH, WHAT A LOVING, GENTLE, SKILLFUL HEALER IS JESUS!
Octavius Winslow, “Daily Need Divinely Supplied” 1870
“He heals all your diseases.” Psalm 103:3
Jesus is the Great Healer of all our spiritual diseases. He loves to undertake the care of the sin sick soul, and never lost one who betook itself to His cross. Come with your spiritual disease, O my soul. It may have baffled every physician and evaded every remedy. Jesus can cure it! He….
binds up the broken heart,
heals our backslidings,
restores our wanderings,
revives our declensions;
and when faith droops through trial, and the spirit faints in adversity, and love chills through temptation,
Jesus the Healer comes, and by the fresh application of His blood, and by the renewed communication of His grace, and by the quickening energy of His Word, He heals us!
Beware, O my soul, of any healing but Christ’s, and of any remedy but His blood. Watch against a false healing of your wound. Go….
to no minister, to no church, to no rite,
to no duty,
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but go at once to Jesus and His blood, and cry, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed!”
Oh, what a loving, gentle, skillful healer is Jesus!
With not a frown of displeasure, with not a look of coldness, with not a word of upbraiding, He will cure you!
He heals sin’s worst malady, cures man’s incurables, and never loses a patient who seeks His saving touch.
Take your case, as it is, to Him!
“Lord, have mercy on me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.” Psalm 41:4
THE PURPOSE OF ALL OUR SORROW AND TROUBLE
William Bridge
The purpose of all our sorrow and trouble is….
to embitter our sin to us,
to make us prize Jesus Christ,
to wean us from the delights and pleasures of the
creature,
to reveal the deceitfulness and wickedness of our own
hearts.
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A BALL, A CONCERT, A FESTIVITY, A PARTY!
J. A. James, “Female Piety—The Young Woman’s Guide Through Life to Immortality”
Some of you are bent upon present worldly enjoyment. The apostle has described your taste and your pursuits where he says, “Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” Ponder that description. Does it not startle and horrify you? Lovers of parties, of the dance and the song, of the gay scene and frivolous chat—more than God!
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Just look at this thought in all its naked deformity. A ball, a concert, a festivity, a party—loved more than God! Not to love God at all for higher objects than these—for science, literature, fame, rank, wealth—is a dreadful state of mind! But to neglect and despise God for scenes of frivolity, mirth, and pleasure—is it not shocking?
Did you ever yet seriously reflect thus—“What a dreadful heart I must have—which can love pleasure, but cannot love God!”
Consider what this desire for pleasure will do for you…. in the hour of sickness,
in the scenes of poverty,
in the season of calamity,
in the agonies of death,
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WOMAN’S MISSION
J. A. James, “Woman’s Mission”
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” Gen. 2:18
Woman’s mission is to be the suitable help-mate of that man, to whom she has given herself as the companion of his pilgrimage upon earth.
She is, in wedded life, to be his constant companion, in whose companionship he is to find one, who meets him hand to hand, eye to eye, lip to lip, and heart to heart— to whom he can unburden the secrets of a heart pressed down with care, or wrung with anguish; whose presence shall be to him above all other friendship; whose voice shall be his sweetest music; whose smiles his brightest sunshine; from whom he shall go forth with regret; and to whose company he shall return with willing feet, when the toils of the day are over; who
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shall walk near his loving heart, and feel the throbbing of affection as her arm leans on his, and presses on his side.
In his hours of private companionship, he shall tell her all the secrets of his heart; find in her all the capabilities, and all the promptings, of the most tender and endeared fellowship; and in her gentle smiles, and unrestrained speech, enjoy all to be expected in one who was given by God to be his companion and friend.
That companionship which woman was designed to afford to man, must of course be included the sympathetic offices of the comforter. It is hers, in their hours of retirement, to console and cheer him; when he is injured or insulted, to heal the wounds of his troubled spirit; when burdened by care, to lighten his load by sharing it; when groaning with anguish, to calm by her peace-speaking words the tumult of his heart; and act, in all his sorrows, the part of a ministering angel.
The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis 2:18
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GOD’S HAND—GOD’S HEART
Charles Spurgeon
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil.” Jeremiah 29:11
We cannot always trace God’s hand, but we can always
trust God’s heart.
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DREADFUL AND MURDEROUS CRUELTY!
J. A. James, “A Help to Domestic Happiness”
What genuine believer can for a moment question whether his children’s eternal salvation ought to be the supreme solicitude of his heart?
If we look to the great bulk of mankind it is perfectly evident that true religion hardly enters into their view. They are very willing that their children should go to church; but as to any concern for the religious character, and the formation of pious habits—they are as destitute of everything of this kind, as if religion were a mere fable, or were nothing more than a mere form. Their chief object is either elegant and fashionable accomplishments, or learning and science— and provided their children excel in these, they never make any enquiry or feel any concern whether they fear God. They would be not only surprised, but would either laugh you to scorn, or scowl upon you with indignation, for proposing such fanatical questions in reference to their children! Yes, this is the way of the greater part of parents, even in this religious country. To train them up to shine and make a figure in society, is all they seek.
Amazing folly!
Dreadful and murderous cruelty! Degrading and groveling ambition!
To lose sight of the soul, and neglect salvation, and forget immortality! To train them in every kind of knowledge but the knowledge of religion! To instruct them in an acquaintance with every kind of subject, but to leave them in ignorance of God their Creator, their Preserver and Benefactor! To fit them to act their part well on earth, and to leave them unprepared for heaven! To qualify them to go with advantage through
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the scenes of time, and then to leave them unfit for the glorious and enduring scenes of eternity!
O strange fondness of irreligious parents!
O miserable destiny of their hapless offspring!
In direct opposition to this, the chief end of every Christian parent must be the spiritual interests, the religious character, the eternal salvation of his children. His highest ambition, his most earnest prayer, his most vigorous pursuit, his eye, his heart, and his hope should be engaged for their eternal welfare!
This should be the nature and exercise of his concern— “I am desirous, if it pleases God, that my children should be blessed with the enjoyment of reason, of health, of such a moderate portion of worldly wealth, and worldly respectability as is compatible with their station in life; and with a view to this I will give them all the advantages of a suitable education. But above and beyond this, I far more intensely desire, and far more earnestly pray, and far more anxiously seek, that they may have the fear of God in their hearts, may be made partakers of true religion, and be everlastingly saved. And provided God grants me the latter, by bestowing upon them His grace, I shall feel that my chief object is accomplished, and be quite reconciled to any circumstances which may otherwise befall them. For rather would I see them in the humble valley of poverty, if at the same time they were true Christians— than on the very pinnacle of worldly grandeur, but destitute of true piety.”
Such should be the views and feelings and desires of all true Christian parents. Religion should be at the very center of all their schemes and pursuits for their offspring. This should be the guiding principle, the
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directing object, the great landmark by which all their course should be steered.
THE RIB
J. A. James, “Female Piety—The Young Woman’s Guide Through Life to Immortality”
“He made the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man, into a woman, and brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:22
Woman was the finishing grace of the creation. Woman was the completeness of man’s bliss in Paradise. Woman is the mother of the human race.
Woman was the cause of sin and death to our world. The world was redeemed by the seed of the woman.
Woman is our companion, counselor, and comforter in the pilgrimage of life—or our tempter, scourge, and destroyer.
Our sweetest cup of earthly happiness—or our bitterest draught of sorrow, is mixed and administered by her hand.
She not only renders smooth or rough our path to the grave—but helps or hinders our progress to immortality.
In heaven we shall bless God for her aid in assisting us to reach that blissful state—or amid the torments of unutterable woe in another region, we shall deplore the fatality of her influence!
I look beyond the painted and gaudy scene of earth’s fading vanities, to the everlasting ages through which you must exist in torment or bliss; and, God helping me, it shall
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not be my fault if you do not live in comfort, die in peace, and inherit salvation!
THE FIRST BOOK THEY READ
J. A. James, “A Help to Domestic Happiness”
“Train up a child in the way he should go.” Proverbs 22:6
Education in modern parlance, means nothing more than instruction, or the communication of knowledge to the mind; and a good education means, the opportunity of acquiring all kinds of learning, science, and what are called achievements.
But properly speaking, education in the true and higher import of the term, means….
the implanting of right dispositions, the cultivation of the heart,
the guidance of the temper,
the formation of the character.
The most important part of education is that which relates to the communication of godly principles, and the formation of moral habits.
You educate your children by…. your example,
your conversations,
your likings and dislikings, your home life,
your daily behavior—
these, these will educate them!
You began educating your children the moment they were capable of forming an idea. This unconscious education is of more constant and powerful effect, and of far more consequence than that which is direct and apparent. This education goes on at every instant of
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time. It goes on like time—you can neither stop it nor turn its course.
Your children may read many books, but the first book they read, and that which they continue to read, and by far the most influential—is that of their parents’ example and daily deportment.
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IT IS ONLY BY THE SPIRIT’S TEACHING
William Tiptaft
As a child of God, you are not of the world, but are chosen out of it. You are only a stranger and a pilgrim here.
You will meet with many professing to love the true doctrines of the gospel; but, alas! they at the same time love their sins, and too evidently show themselves to be boasters, proud, covetous, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
The gospel conforms God’s people to the image of His dear Son.
It is only by the Spirit’s teaching that we learn to be humble, meek, and lowly of heart; we see our helpless and lost state by nature, and are surprised to find our hearts so unclean and sinful.
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GIVE NO GLORY TO THIS RUBBISH!
Charles Spurgeon, “Christ the Glory of His People”
Alas! alas! It makes a Christian’s blood boil to see glory given to a pack of scamps who call themselves priests!
Does it not make a man feel, when you see pictures of ‘his holiness’ and the cardinals, and so on, scattering their benedictions at the Vatican, or at St. Peter’s, while
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admiring crowds fall down and worship them, that it were infinitely better to bow to the devil himself?
We give glory unto God, but not a particle of glory to anything in the shape of a man, or an angel either.
Have I not stood and seen the crowds by hundreds fall down and worship images and dressed up dolls? I have seen them worship bones and old teeth; I have seen them worship a skeleton, dressed out in modern costume said to be the skeleton of a saint.
I have marveled to see people so infatuated as to think that such idolatry was pleasing to the most high God.
We, brethren, the people of God, who know Christ, can give no glory to this rubbish, but turn away from it with horror!
Our glory must be given to Christ, and to Christ alone!
Christ and Christ only must be the grand object of the Christian; the promotion of His glory must be that for which he is willing to live, and for which, if needs be, he would be prepared to die.
Oh! down, down, down, with everything else—but up, up, up, with the cross of Christ!
Down with your baptism, and your masses, and your sacraments! Down with your priest-craft, and your rituals, and your liturgies! Down with your fine music, and your pomp, and your robes, and your garments, and all your ceremonials!
But up, up, up, with the doctrine of the naked cross, and the expiring Saviord!
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ALL THE FICKLENESS, SINFULNESS, AND
UNWORTHINESS
Octavius Winslow, “The Divine Attributes Entwining Around the Tempted and Trembling Believer”
“For I, the Lord, do not change. Therefore you, sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6
The believer may change, but his covenant God never alters. The believer’s feelings may vary, but his Father’s love never veers. God loved him from all eternity, and that love extends to all eternity.
As God never loved His child for anything He saw, or would see, in that child—so His love never changes for all the fickleness, sinfulness, and unworthiness, He daily and hourly discovers.
O where would the soul fly but for this truth?
When it takes into account the sins, the follies, the departures, the flaws of but one week; yes, when it reviews the history of but one day, and sees enough sin in a thought to sink it to eternal and just perdition! But for an unchangeable God, to what consolation would it resort?
“I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3
POINTING OR LEADING?
John Angell James, 1785–1859
Children have their eyes always upon their parents, and are quick to discern any violations of consistency. If they see us as worldly-minded, as grasping and anxious after riches, as solicitous to be surrounded by splendid furniture, luxurious gratifications, and fashionable habits, as the people of the world—if they see us
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deceitful, implacable, or malicious—what can they conclude but that our religion is mere sham?
In such a case, of how little service is our attempt to impress upon their minds, those claims which we ourselves ‘practically’ deny? It were far better for some parents to say nothing to their children about religion, for until they alter their own conduct, their admonitions can produce no other effect than to excite disgust!
It is enough to make every parent tremble—to think what a parent should be! Without a godly example, everything else that we do is most lamentably deficient! As has been often said, it is only pointing them the way to heaven—but leading them in the way to hell!
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HAMMER, ANVIL, FILE & FIRE!
Charles Spurgeon, “A Song Concerning Lovingkindnesses”
“Lord, I know that Your judgments are righteous, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Psalm 119:75
O, my brethren, how much we owe to the hammer and the anvil and the file and the fire! Thanks be to God for the little crosses of every day; yes, and for the heavy crosses which He sends us at certain seasons.
He does not gather the twigs of His rod on the ‘mountains of wrath,’ but He plucks them in the ‘garden of love,’ and though He sometimes makes blue marks upon us as He smites us heavily, yet His strokes are fewer than our crimes—and lighter than our guilt.
Love bathes all the wounds which it makes, and kisses away the smart. Blessed be a chastening God! Set down your chastenings among your choicest mercies!
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“For whom the Lord loves, He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” Hebrews 12:6
A FEW FEET OF EARTH WILL SUFFICE
J. C. Ryle, “Our Souls!”
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37
Nothing in the present life can make up for the loss of the soul. You may have all the riches of the world—all the gold of Australia and of California—all the honors which your country can bestow upon you. You may be the owner of half a continent. You may be one whom kings delight to honor, and nations gaze upon with admiration. But all this time, if you are losing your soul, you are a poor man in the sight of God! Your honors are but for a few years. Your riches must be left at last. Naked you came into the world, and naked you must go out. Of all your money or broad acres, you will carry nothing with you when you die! A few feet of earth will suffice to cover that body of yours when life is over! And then, if your soul is lost, you will find yourself a pauper to all eternity! Truly it shall profit a man nothing to gain the whole world, if he loses his own soul.
The value of all things will change greatly one day. The hour comes when money shall be worth no more than waste paper; and gold and diamonds shall be as the dust of the streets—when the palace of the noble, and the cottage of the peasant shall both alike fall to the ground. In that hour you will find out, in a way you never found out before—the value of your immortal soul. Soul-loss will then be seen to be the greatest of losses, and soul-gain the greatest of gains!
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TRUE CONVERSION
Arthur Pink, “Profiting from the Word”
“For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9
True conversion is….
a tearing down of every idol,
a renouncing of the empty vanities of a cheating world, taking God for our portion, our ruler, our all in all.
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THEY SLAY THEIR OWN CHILDREN!
J. A. James, “To Young Mothers”
A mother should never forget that those little engaging creatures which play about the room so gaily and so innocently, with all the unconsciousness of childhood, are young immortals—beings destined to eternity— creatures placed on earth on probation for heaven—and that much will depend upon her, whether the everlasting ages shall be spent by them in torment—or in bliss!
This is an overwhelming thought!
All should realize the sublime idea that…. their houses are the schools for eternity; their children the scholars;
themselves the teachers; and
evangelical religion the lesson.
Those parents who neglect the religious education of their children, whatever else they may impart, are more guilty than Herod! He slew the children of others, they slay their own children! He slew only the body, they slay the soul! He slew them by hired assassins, they slay their children themselves!
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We shudder at the cruelties of those who sacrificed their babes to Moloch. But how much more dreadful an immolation do they practice, who offer up their sons and daughters to Satan, by neglecting the education of their souls, and leaving them to grow up in ignorance of God and their eternal destiny!
Mothers! Your religion, if it is genuine, will teach you at once the greatness of the work, and your own insufficiency to perform it aright in your own strength. Your business is to train immortal beings for God, heaven, and eternity!
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ONE OF THE LOVELIEST SCENES
J. A. James, “Female Piety—The Young Woman’s Guide Through Life to Immortality”
A married couple without mutual love, is one of the most pitiable spectacles on earth! They remain united only to be a torment to each other!
A loving, united, harmonious family, where the children all promote the comfort of their parents and of one another; where each is studious to please and to perform all fond kindnesses for the rest, and all seek the happiness of each other, is one of the loveliest scenes to be found in our selfish and discordant world!
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THE DOMESTIC SLAVE
J. A. James, “Female Piety—The Young Woman’s Guide Through Life to Immortality”
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, her home!
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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!”
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ALL TAKEN UP WITH FASHION,
AMUSEMENT, AND FOLLY!
J. A. James, “Female Piety—The Young Woman’s Guide Through Life to Immortality”
“That they may adorn the doctrine of God, our Savior, in all things.” Titus 2:10
It is a solemn thing to profess to be a disciple of Christ.
It supposes you to be a new creature, that old things have passed away, and that all things have become new with you.
It supposes that you have…. new principles,
new motives,
new ends of life,
new tastes and new pleasures.
Now, your profession is to be maintained with a due
regard to this. Your conduct must correspond with it.
You must be dissimilar in these things, to those who make no such profession. They must see the difference as well as hear of it. You must compel them to say, “Well, we do not like her religion, but it is quite in harmony with her profession.”
Study your profession, and thoroughly understand what it implies and enjoins. Consider well….
what holiness of conduct;
what spirituality of mind;
what separation from the world in spirit and taste; what devotional feelings;
what faith, hope, love and humility;
what amiableness and kindness of disposition,
are included in that declaration you have actually made—“I am a Christian!”
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She who is bent upon eternity, cannot sink down into the levity of those who are all taken up with fashion, amusement, and folly!
The possessor of true religion is satisfied with her own sources of enjoyment, without running to the amusements of the world for pleasure and excitement.
SO MUCH TIME THROWN AWAY ON THESE ELEGANT TRIFLES!
J. A. James, “Christian Zeal”
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 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 addiction
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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 enquire—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!
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A HIDEOUS SKELETON! A COLLECTION OF BONES!
A HEAP OF DUST!
J. A. James, “Female Piety—The Young Woman’s Guide Through Life to Immortality”
“Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of
braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing; but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
How exquisitely is this put! How impressive the ideas which are conveyed! It is the decoration of the soul rather than of the body, about which Christian women should be chiefly solicitous and concerned.
The soul is indestructible and immortal—so should its ornaments be. What can jewels of silver or jewels of gold do for the soul?
Can the diamond sparkle upon the intellect? Or the ruby blaze upon the heart?
Or the pearl be set in the conscience?
Or the gorgeous robe clothe the character? Or the flower wave over the holy nature?
No! The appropriate ornaments of the soul are truth, holiness, knowledge, faith, hope, love, joy, humility; and all the other gifts and graces of the Spirit—wisdom, prudence, fortitude and gentleness. These are the jewels with which the inner heart should be adorned. The outer body is corruptible. Dust it is, and unto dust it shall return.
That beautiful woman glittering in all the profusion of diamonds—the admiration and envy of the party or the ballroom—must before long be a mass of putrefaction
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too ghastly to be looked upon—and then a hideous skeleton, a collection of bones, a heap of dust!
And where will be the immortal spirit? Will it wear the cast-off jewels of the body? O no! These remain, rescued from the grasp of the ‘king of terrors,’ but only to ornament other bodies!
But turn now to that other female, the woman who, regardless of the decoration of the body, was all intent upon the beauty of the soul. Look at her, who was clothed with the robe of righteousness and the garment of salvation, and decorated with the ornaments of a gentle and quiet spirit.
She too dies; but her indestructible and immortal soul over which death has no dominion, goes not unadorned into the presence of the Eternal; for the jewels with which it decorated itself on earth are as indestructible as its own nature, and go with it to shine in the presence of God!
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TRUE RELIGION
J. A. James, “The Young Man Leaving Home” 1844
True religion is personal, experimental, and practical. It is a thing of the heart—and not merely external
religious forms.
True religion is a living principle in the soul…. influencing the mind,
alluring the affections,
guiding the will, directing and
enlightening the conscience.
True religion is a supreme—not a subordinate matter. It demands and obtains the throne of the soul. It guides
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the whole character—and requires the whole man and all his conduct to be in subordination.
True religion is not an occasional thing—but habitual. It takes up its abode in the heart—and not merely visits it at certain times and at particular seasons.
True religion is not a partial thing—but universal. It does not confine itself to certain times, places, and occasions—but forms an integral part of the character—and blends with everything we do.
True religion is noble and lofty—not an abject, servile, and groveling thing. It communes with God, with truth, with holiness, with heaven, with eternity, with infinity!
True religion is a happy—and not a melancholy thing. It gives peace that passes understanding, and joy that is unspeakable, and full of glory!
True religion is a durable—and not a transient thing. It passes with us through life, lies down with us on the pillow of death, rises with us at the last day, and dwells in our souls in heaven as the very element of eternal life!
Such is true religion—the most sublime thing in the world— sent down to be our comforter on earth—and our guide to everlasting life through all this gloomy valley!
LITERATURE, SCIENCE, POLITICS, COMMERCE, AND THE ARTS
J. A. James, “The Young Man Leaving Home” 1844
Literature, science, politics, commerce, and the arts, are all important in their place and measure; and men give proof that they duly, or rather unduly estimate their importance—by the devoted manner in which they attend to them. To multitudes, these thing are everything.
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Yet man is an immortal creature, and there is an eternity before him—and what direct relation have these things to immortality? Or what influence do they exert on our everlasting destiny in the eternal world? More—do they make us either virtuous or happy in this world? Is there any necessary connection between any, or all of these things—with human felicity? They call out and employ the noble faculties of the mind; they raise man from savage to civilized society; they refine the taste; they embellish life; they decorate the stage on which the great drama of existence is carried on—and give interest to the performance!
But do any of these things reach the seat of man’s chief pleasures or pains—the heart? Do they….
cure its disorders,
correct its tastes,
mitigate its sorrows, or soften its weightiest cares?
Do any of these things comfort man amid…. the wreck of his fortunes,
the disappointment of his hopes,
the loss of his friends,
the malignity of his enemies,
the pains of a sick chamber,
the struggles of a dying bed,
the prospect of a coming judgment?
No! True religion is that, and that alone, which can do this! And this it can do, and is continually doing!
THE SUREST GUIDE TO SUCCESS IN THIS WORLD
John Angell James
What is your life, but a voyage to eternity!
A life altogether unprepared for, must be a life of
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perpetual mistakes, faults, and miseries.
The chief preparation for life is the formation of a moral and spiritual character. Genuine piety, the parent of sound morality, is the surest guide to success in this world. And as true religion is the best guide to happiness in this world, likewise it is the only way to happiness in the world to come.
True piety will preserve you from all the habits which tend to poverty and misery—and aid the formation of all habits which tend to usefulness and happiness.
THE IDOL OF OUR DAY!
J. A. James, “The Young Man’s Friend and Guide through Life to Immortality”
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….
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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!
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“WHO CAN SHOW US ANY GOOD?”
J. A. James, “The Young Man’s Friend and Guide through Life to Immortality”
“Many say, ‘Who will show us any good?’” Psalm 4:6
Man is made for happiness, and is capable of it. But what is happiness—and how is it to be obtained? To possess and enjoy it, man must be furnished with some good—suited to his nature, adapted to his condition, and adequate to his capacity and desires.
The nature of the chief good has been, in every age, the interesting subject of most earnest philosophic inquiry. But how various and opposed, have been the conclusions at which the inquirers have arrived on this important subject. Varro, a learned Latin writer, who lived before Christ, reckoned up more than two hundred different opinions on this subject—thus plainly evincing man’s ignorance of his own nature, circumstances, and needs.
Not perceiving what it is that has made him miserable—man cannot know what will make him happy! Unacquainted with, or rather overlooking, the disease—he cannot know the remedy!
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He feels an aching void within, an unsatisfied craving after something—but knows neither the nature, nor the source, of the food adapted to meet and satisfy his hungry appetite.
The vagrant spirit of man is seen wandering from God—the fountain of bliss—roaming through this “dry and thirsty land, where there is no water;” anxiously looking for happiness, but never finding it; coming often to springs that are dry, and to cisterns that are broken; until weary of the pursuit and disappointed in its hopes, it is ready to give up all in despair, and reconcile itself to misery, under the notion that happiness is but a fiction!
In this sad and hopeless mood, the victim of grief and despondency is met by the Bible, which takes him by the hand, and leads him to the fountain of living waters. Such is the design of Scripture—to show first of all what will not make man happy, and then what will.
Upon all the most coveted possessions of this world, it pronounces the solemn and impressive sentence, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” It interrogates singly every coveted object of human desire, and asks, “What are you?” only to receive the melancholy answer, “Vanity!”
Nothing ‘on earth’ can satisfy the soul of man, as its supreme good. Science has multiplied its discoveries, art its inventions, and literature its productions. Civilization has opened new sources of luxury, and ingenuity has added innumerable gratifications of appetite and of taste. Every domain of nature has been explored; every conceivable experiment been made, to find new means of enjoyment, and new secrets of happiness. But still the heart of man confirms, and the experience of the human race prolongs the echo—“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”
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What is the nature and the source of happiness?
What is to terminate the weary pursuits, to revive the languid hopes, to gratify the anxious desires of destitute and sorrowing people, hungering and thirsting after bliss?
What human reason is thus proved to be too ignorant and too weak to decide, the Bible undertakes to settle; and explicitly, imperatively, and infallibly, determines for all and forever. Only Biblical Christianity
suits the nature,
meets the needs,
alleviates the sorrows,
satisfies the desires of the human soul—
and is its portion forever.
Only Christianity finds man depraved—and makes him holy; finds him little—and makes him great; finds him earthly—and raises him to heaven!
“You are my portion, O my God. Your favor is life, and your love is better than life. You are the center, the rest, the home of my heart!”
“Everyone who drinks this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. But the water I will give him will become in him a well of water welling up to eternal life!” John 4:13-14
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A BAD WORD!
J. A. James, “The Young Man’s Friend and Guide Through Life to Immortality”
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:33
“Luck!” There is no such thing in our world, none in nature, none in human affairs.
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Luck means that an event has no cause at all. It is a bad word—a heathen term. Drop it from your vocabulary! Trust nothing to luck, and expect nothing from it. Avoid all practical dependence upon it or its kindred words….
fate, chance, fortune.
Never forget your dependence upon God. He can exalt you to prosperity—or sink you into the lowest depth of adversity. He can make everything to which you set your hand to prosper—or to fail. Devoutly acknowledge this. Abhor the atheism that shuts God out of His own world!
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THE SIN OF KILLING TIME
J. A. James, “The Young Man’s Friend and Guide Through Life to Immortality”
“He who chases fantasies is void of understanding.” Proverbs 12:11
Idleness is a complicated vice. Yes, I say VICE!
First it is a most wasteful vice. It wastes time, which is more precious than rubies; it wastes a man’s mental faculties; it wastes property.
Idleness is a disgraceful vice. How reproachful is it in a being made to be active, to spend life in doing nothing, and to throw away his mental powers in sloth.
Idleness is a criminal vice. God has commanded us to be active, and will call us to account for the sin of killing time.
Idleness is a dangerous vice. Doing nothing is next to doing evil—and is sure to lead to it. From its very inaction it ultimately becomes the active cause of all
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evil. “The Devil tempts all men; but the idle man tempts the Devil.”
Idleness is a wretched vice. An idle man is the most miserable of all God’s creatures. Woe be to the man who is doomed to bear the pain and penalties of a slothful disposition.
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FORTIFIED BY TRUE PIETY
J. A. James, “The Character of Joseph”
“You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
Parents! How momentous a duty is it to give sound Christian instruction to your children at the earliest period in which they can receive it; and endeavor, by the most judicious, affectionate, and persevering methods, to form their character by true religion!
Train them up in the fear of God—that they may leave home fortified by true piety, to encounter the temptations of the world, and to endure the trials of life.
Next to God Himself, a pious child is a parent’s best companion amid the infirmities of old age, and in the chamber of sickness and death.
BY ITS OWN POWERFUL AND HOLY INSTINCT
J. A. James, “The Young Man from Home”
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
The new nature, by its own powerful and holy instinct, will turn away your feet from every forbidden place, and
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every unhallowed scene. Panting after God, and thirsting for the living God, taking pleasure in His ways, you will shudder at the idea of being found in the haunts of vice, or in the society of the vicious. It will be unnecessary to forbid your going to the tavern, the theater, the house of ill fame, the gambling-table, or horse-race. Your own renewed and sanctified nature will be a law against these things.
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THE SHRINE OF MAMMON
J. A. James, “The Young Man’s Friend and Guide Through Life to Immortality”
“‘One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me, taking up the cross.’ But his face fell at that saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions.” Mark 10:21-22
You see what was the defect in this young man. He did not possess the faith which overcomes the world. He wished to unite two things utterly irreconcilable—the love of God and the love of the world. He wanted to serve two masters, God and Mammon. It was not open vice and profligacy that kept him from true religion here, and from heaven hereafter.
It was the more decent and reputable sin of supreme attachment to worldly things. He could give up many sins, but he could not give up his besetting sin— supreme regard to wealth. He could do many things, but he could not give up all to follow Christ. He could give up open vice, but he could not deny himself and take up his cross. He had many good qualities, but he lacked one thing.
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If open vice has slain its thousands, worldliness has slain its tens of thousands!
Of all the false gods, the shrine of Mammon is most resorted to—it is from that idolatrous temple, the broadest and most beaten path to the bottomless pit will be found. In the crowd which press along that path, are included, not only the knaves, the cheats, and men of dishonorable character; but men who follow things which are just, and honest, and true, and reputable; who yet rise no higher than to be the worshipers of this sordid deity. Yes, even Mammon can boast of devotees who scorn all that is vile, dishonorable and unjust.
In the broad road which leads to destruction, there is a path for the lovers of the world—as well as for the
lovers of vice!
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OTHER BAALS!
J. A. James, “The Young Man’s Friend and Guide Through Life to Immortality”
“How long go you limping between the two sides? if the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21
There are other Baals in this age, in all the various forms under which they are objects of human idolatry.
It is true you are not called, invited or disposed, to bow the knee to idols of wood, stone, or metal.
These, however, are not the only way in which idolatry may be practiced. Everyone has a god, and if man does not love and worship Jehovah, he will make a deity of his own image. Survey, young men, the idols which you are called upon to worship!
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Among them, sustaining a high place, is the idol of SENSUALITY. This goddess is decked out with all that can pollute the imagination, inflame the passions, or excite the evil propensities of a youthful heart. Before this image, multitudes of devotees of both sexes bow the knee and offer the most costly sacrifices of property, health, principle, and reputation!
Near her is the bewitching and smiling image of WORLDLY PLEASURE, with the sound of music, the song, and the dance—alluring the giddy and thoughtless to its orgies; and throwing the spell of its fascinations over the imagination of multitudes who go merrily to their ruin!
MAMMON, the despicable deity of wealth, is there, glittering with gold, and offering riches to his eager followers as the reward of their diligent and faithful adherence. His liturgy is the cry of “Money! Money! Money!” His sacrifices are the time, the bodies, the comfort, and the souls of his worshipers!
Near this is the shrine of HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. This idol is only evil, when raised above the place of faith, piety, and virtue. When thus exalted above Scripture, it is a deceiving, corrupting idol—the false goddess of a Pantheon of Vices.
Nor must we leave out the idols of FALSE RELIGION, the chief of which is Popery—the anti-Christ of the Apocalypse, “the Man of Sin sitting in the temple of God, exalting itself above all that is called God.” This idol, taking the name of Christ as its designation, assuming the cross as its symbol, and boasting of an apostle as its first pope; enriched by wealth; venerable for antiquity; dignified by learning; decorated by sculpture, architecture, and painting; and adding the abysmal policies, and most serpentine craft to all these other dangerous qualities, has fascinated countless
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millions! And, notwithstanding the monstrous absurdity of its doctrines, the blood-stained page of its history, and its hostility to the liberties of mankind—is now putting forth the most arrogant claims, and making the most audacious attempts for the conquest of our country!
These idolaters have chosen their god, and are the determined and devoted worshipers of their Baals!
They have hardened their hearts, and seared their consciences, except it be an occasional qualm in the season of death or sickness.
They congratulate themselves upon their having thrown off all the weaknesses and fears of Christianity, and upon their being now enabled to pursue their downward course unchecked by the restraint of conscience. Unhappy men, blind, and glorying in their blindness; benumbed in all their moral faculties, and exulting in their stupidity! With every tie cut, which held them to piety and truth, they account it a privilege that they are drifting unobstructed to destruction— determined to be lost, and rejoicing that nothing bars their path to the bottomless pit!
“These men have set up idols in their hearts!” Eze. 14:3 “Their heart went after their idols!” Eze. 20:16
SELF-SEEKING, MEN-PLEASING MINISTERS
J. C. Philpot, “The Precepts of the Word of God”
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? For if I were still pleasing men, I wouldn’t be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
A fearless disregard of…. smiles or frowns, character or consequences,
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opposition or approbation,
pay or popularity,
will always distinguish the true servant of Christ from self-seeking, men-pleasing ministers.
“But even as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who tests our hearts.” 1 Thess. 2:4
SAVING FAITH
J. A. James, “The Young Man’s Friend and Guide Through Life to Immortality”
Saving faith expresses itself not only in worship, in religious zeal, in charity to the poor—but in a systematic and strong restraint upon the passions, imagination, temper, and appetites.
Saving faith will ensure you the protection of omnipo- tence; the guidance of omniscience; the companionship of omnipresence; the supplies of all-sufficiency.
Saving faith will fill your intellect with the thoughts of God’s own mind, and your soul with the joy of God’s own heart—and thus furnish you at once with the supreme truth, and the chief good.
Saving faith will mingle its own heavenly pleasures with the pure delights of earth.
Saving faith will preserve you equally from the snares of prosperity, and the withering blasts of adversity.
Saving faith will be your nurse in sickness, your companion in solitude, and your preserver amid the corruptions of society.
Saving faith will be your shield against temptations to sin, and the insidious attacks of infidelity and false philosophy.
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Saving faith will be the guide of your youth, the protec- tor of your matured life, and the prop of your old age.
Saving faith will prepare you for early death, or for living until old age. It will smooth the pillow of death, by giving you immortal hopes amid the dissolution of nature. It will rise with you from the grave in that day when death shall be swallowed up in victory, and will put you in possession of glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life!
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THESE ARE THE FOOLS OF WHOM
SOLOMON SPEAKS!
J. A. James, “The Young Man’s Friend and Guide Through Life to Immortality”
“One who walks with wise men grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20
Young men! There are evil companions to be avoided!
The workhouse, the lunatic asylum, the prison, the gallows, the bottomless pit, all, all, attest the truth of this, by the millions they have swallowed up in their jaws of destruction!
Evil companionship has ruined…. more characters,
more fortunes,
more bodies, and
more souls,
than almost anything else that could be named.
Young men! Evil companionship is one of your first and most pressing dangers. Character assimilates to that which surrounds it. You must take your character, to a certain extent, from your companions.
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who scoff at Christianity,
who ridicule the godly,
who make light of sin and laugh at conscience,
who are lewd in their actions, or obscene in their talk, who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, who are extravagant in their habits,
who are loose in their moral principles,
these are the fools of whom Solomon speaks,—who will bring their own destruction upon you, if you do not avoid them!
With much the same emphasis do I warn you against bad BOOKS. There are books that inflame the imagination and corrupt the taste—that by their excitement unfit the mind for the sober realities of life—or by continuous light entertainment, indispose the mind for what is serious and holy. These are all to be avoided.
In some respects bad books are more mischievous than bad companions, since they are more accessible, and more constantly with us. They can be more secretly consulted, and lodge their poison more abidingly in the imagination, the intellect, and the heart!
A bad book is a bad companion of the worst kind, and prepares for bad companions of all other kinds!
OUR LIFE IS A BUBBLE!
J. A. James, “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children”
“What is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.” James 4:14
Our world is a valley of tears. Our life is a bubble, raised from those tears, inflated by sighs; which, after floating a little while, decked with a few gaudy colors—is touched by the hand of death, and dissolves!
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Poverty, disease, misfortune, unkindness, instability, death, all assail the travelers as they journey onward to eternity through this gloomy valley.
“We don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:18d
THIS TROUBLE FROM WHICH YOU ARE NOW SUFFERING
John MacDuff, “A Book for the Bereaved”
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” Revelation 3:19
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14
“All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous.” Hebrews 12:11
This trouble from which you are now suffering may be utterly incomprehensible. Jehovah’s name to you, as it often has been to His tried and afflicted children, may be that which He gave to Manoah—“Wonderful,” “Secret,” “Mysterious.” But, be assured, that your present place and season of suffering, is the figurative “wilderness,” where He “allures” His people—rousing them….
from the dream of earthly happiness, from the sordid and the secular,
from busy care and debasing concerns,
to the divine and the heavenly—leading them to exchange the earthly pottage for the bread of life; perishable substance for the fine gold of heavenly gain and durable riches!
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Suffering Christian! you may well trust Him who gave the mightiest pledge of love He could give by giving His own life—that there is some all-wise “needs be” in the trial He has laid upon you. It is designed to bring you nearer Himself. It is one of His own appointed gateways, opening up and admitting to great spiritual blessings!
He rebukes and chastens just because He loves; and, contradictory as the remark may seem, we believe never is His love more tender than when the rod is in His hand, and the rebuke on His lips!
The rebukes of other earthly friends are often mistimed; the result, it may be, of passion or caprice— “but He disciplines us for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10
No nobler result of trial surely than this—to lead the mourner to grope his tearful way more meekly and trustfully in search of a Savior’s hand, seeking only to hear His guiding voice saying, “This is the way—walk in it.”
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NOVELS
J. A. James, “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children”
As to novels, I join with every other moral and religious writer in condemning, as the vilest trash, the greater part of these productions, which have carried a turbid stream of vice over the morals of mankind.
Novels….
corrupt the taste, pollute the heart, debase the mind, demoralize the conduct.
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Novels throw prostrate the understanding; sensualize the affections; enervate the will; and bring all the high faculties of the soul into subjection to a wild imagination.
Novels generate a morbid, sickly sentimentalism, instead of a just and lovely realism.
A wise man should despise novels, and a godly man
should abhor them!
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WHEN THE HONEY IS ALL SUCKED!
J. A. James, “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children”
Love of worldly pleasure is a great impediment to true piety. It has been most wickedly said, “Youth is the time for pleasure, manhood is the time for business, old age is the time for religion.” It is painful to observe, that if the two latter parts of human life are neglected, the first is not.
Young people too often answer the description given by the apostle, “Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”
In youth, there are many temptations to this wicked propensity….
the senses are vigorous,
the spirits lively,
the imagination ardent,
the passions warm, and
the concerns of life but few and feeble.
Hence many give themselves up to the impulses of their corrupt nature, and are held in alienation from a life of piety—by a love of pleasure. Some are carried away by a vain and frivolous love of dress and show; others by a delight in mirth and parties; others by games,
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balls, and theatrical performances; others by the sports of the field; others by intemperance and debauchery.
It is admitted that all these gratifications are not equally degrading in themselves—nor equally destructive of reputation and health. But if indulged in as the chief good, they may all prevent the mind from attending to the concerns of true religion.
A predominant love of worldly pleasure, of any kind—is destructive in every point of view. It often leads on from gratifications which, in the opinion of the world, are decent and moral—to those which are wicked and immoral. It is incompatible with the duties and comforts of domestic life. It hinders the improvement of the understanding, and keeps the mind barren and empty. It prevents from becoming the benefactors of society. But its greatest mischief is, that it totally indisposes the mind for true religion, and thus extends its mischief to eternity! In short, if a predominant love of worldly pleasure is cherished and persisted in, it ruins and damns the soul forever!
My children, beware of this most dangerous propensity for worldly pleasure! Consider where it leads—resist it to the uttermost—and ask grace from God to acquire a better taste.
Yes, if you live for worldly pleasure, and neglect true religion, you are giving up an exceedingly great and eternal weight of glory—for light and frivolous gratifications, which are but for a moment! You are, for the sake of a few years’ empty mirth, entailing everlasting ages of unmitigated torments!
Besides, though worldly pleasure may temporarily gratify—it does not really satisfy! When the honey is all sucked—it leaves a sting behind!
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And what are the pleasures of the world, compared with those of true piety?
But the shadow to the substance;
the stagnant pool to the fresh and running fountain; the smoking candle to the midday sun!
Shall worldly pleasure cheat you of eternal salvation?
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THE THEATER!
John Angell James, “On Theatrical Amusements” 1825
I do not hesitate for a moment to pronounce the theater to be one of the broadest avenues which lead to destruction!
Fascinating, no doubt it is—but on that account the more delusive and the more dangerous! Let a young man once acquire a taste for this species of entertainment, and yield himself up to its gratification, and he is in imminent danger of becoming a lost character—rushing upon his ruin!
All the evils that can…. waste his property, corrupt his morals, blast his reputation, impair his health, embitter his life,
and destroy his soul,
lurk in the confines of the theater! Vice, in every form, lives, and moves, and has its being there!
Myriads have cursed the hour when they first exposed themselves to the contamination of the theater. From that fatal evening, they date their destruction!
Take warning then, and have nothing to do with the theater. Avoid it as one of the avenues to the broad road
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that leads to destruction. The danger is greater than I describe. The doors of the theater are as the jaws of the devouring lion!
“You shall not follow a crowd to do evil.” Exodus 23:2
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TASTE & DISTASTE
J. A. James, “The Young Man Leaving Home” 1844
True religion changes the moral nature, producing a dislike and dread of sin, and a love of holiness and virtue.
Piety is a spiritual taste; and, like every other taste, it is accompanied with a distaste for the opposites of those things or qualities which are the subjects of its delight. Sin is that bitter thing which the soul of a true Christian hates. It is the object of his antipathy—and therefore of his dread. He turns from it with aversion and loathing, as that which is offensive and disgusting. It is not merely that he is commanded by authority to abstain from sin—but he is led away from it by the expulsive power of a new attraction. He may have sinful propensities of his carnal nature—but he resists the indulgence of them, for it is sin against God.
When you have once tasted the sweetness of true religion—how insipid, how nauseous, will be those draughts of ‘wicked pleasure’ with which the sinner intoxicates and poisons his soul!
When you have acquired a relish for the pure, calm, satisfying joys of faith and holiness—how entirely will you disrelish the polluting, boisterous, and unsatisfying pleasures of sin!
When you have once drunk of the waters of the river of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God
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and of the Lamb—how loathsome will be the filthy turbid streams of licentious gratification!
HE CERTAINLY ACTS AS AN ATHEIST!
J. A. James, “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children”
Fathers! Your children are immortal beings! The stamp of eternity is upon them! Everlasting ages are before them! They are like the rest of the human race—depraved, guilty, and condemned creatures; and consequently in danger of eternal misery! Yet they are, through the mercy of God, creatures capable of attaining to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life. Looking upon them in this light, what should be your chief concern for them—and what should be your conduct towards them?
Fathers! Your children are hastening to either eternal happiness—or eternal torment!
The man who does not make the eternal welfare of his children, the supreme end of all his conduct towards them, may profess to believe as a Christian—but he certainly acts as an Atheist!
Once more let it be stated, and stated with all possible emphasis—that the chief design of this work is to form the pious character of its readers, and to implant those virtues which shall live, and flourish, and dignify, and delight—infinite ages after every object that is dear….
to avarice or pride,
to learning or science, to taste or ambition,
shall have perished in the conflagration of the universe!
It is in the highest degree inconsistent, absurd, cruel, and wicked—for a Christian parent not to be supremely desirous of the everlasting welfare of his children! Let a supreme concern for their immortal interests be at the
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bottom of all your conduct, and be interwoven with all
your parental habits!
THE PURSUITS OF BUTTERFLIES AND
GRASSHOPPERS, AND CANARY BIRDS!
J. A. James, “The Great End of Life” 1825
Pleasure is the supreme good, and chief object of pursuit of many. To pleasure, they have devoted their lives. Some are living for sports, others for the gratification of the appetites, and others for the enjoyment of the round of fashionable amusements. Pleasure, in one form or other, is the chief object of pursuit with myriads.
As to the gratification of our animal appetites, it should not be difficult to persuade us, that to sink to the level of the brute creation, and hold communion with swine, and goats and rats, cannot be the chief end of a rational being.
To many, fashionable amusements seem to be the purpose of life. Multitudes live for pleasures of this kind. Ball succeeds to concert; the private party to the public assembly; the card party to the dinner party. In this busy round of fashionable follies, many pass their lives away!
Can it be, that the chief object of existence is to sing, and play, and dress and dance? Do not these things, when we reflect upon them, look more like the pursuits of butterflies and grasshoppers, and canary birds—than of rational creatures? Is it not melancholy to see beings with never-dying souls, sinking to the amusements of children; and employing time as if it were given them for nothing but mirth; and using the world as if it were created by God only to be a sort of playground for its inhabitants?
Does this kind of life really satisfy those who pursue it? –167–
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Far, very far, from it! Can any person, in reality, be farther from happiness than those who live for pleasure?
“Deliver my soul…from men of the world, whose portion is in this life!” Psalm 17:13, 14
A MOST DANGEROUS PROPENSITY!
J. A. James, “The Young Man Leaving Home” 1844
“Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” 2 Timothy 3:4
A pleasure-loving youth will become a pleasure-loving man.
A love of pleasure, a taste for amusement, is a most
dangerous propensity!
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A BUBBLE THAT RISES, AND SHINES, AND BURSTS!
John Angell James, “Redeeming Time” 1825
“Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Paul implies that a man can give no greater proof of folly, nor more effectually act the part of a fool, than to waste his time. While on the other hand, a just appreciation and right improvement of time are among the brightest displays of true wisdom.
We must value time correctly, and improve it diligently.
Time is the most precious thing in the world. God distributes time miserly—by the moment—and He never promises us another moment! We are to highly value, and diligently to improve the present moment, by the consideration that for anything we know, it may be our last.
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Time, when once gone, never returns. Where is yesterday? A moment once lost, is lost forever!
We should never forget that our time is among the talents for which we must give account at the judgment of God. We must be tried not only for what we have done—but for what we neglected to do. Not only for the hours spent in sin—but for those wasted in idleness. Let us beware of wasting time.
It might stir us up to diligence in the improvement of our time, to think how much of it has been already misspent. What days, and weeks, and months, and years, have already been utterly wasted, or exhausted upon trifles totally unworthy of them. They are gone, and nothing remains of them but the guilt of having wasted them. We cannot call them back if we would. Let us learn to value more highly, and to use more kindly, those days which remain.
How much of our time is already gone—and how little may be yet to come? The sands of our hour-glass may be almost out! Death may be at the door!
When you begin a day, you don’t know that you shall end it! When you lie down, you don’t know that you shall rise up! When you leave your house, you don’t know that you shall ever return!
For what is your life? It is even as a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes! Life is a bubble that rises, and shines, and bursts! We know not in any one period of our existence—but that it may be the last. Surely, surely, we should then improve our time, when we may be holding, for anything we know, the last portion of it in our hands!
You are immortal creatures, and must live forever in torment or in bliss! And certainly you cannot be forming a right estimate of the value of time, nor be
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rightly employing it, if the soul be forgotten, salvation neglected, and eternity left out of consideration!
OUR GREAT CONCERN!
John Angell James, “Christian Hope” 1859
“But now remain faith, hope, and love: these three. The greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
Real Christianity consists of these three apostolic graces.
All else is but her earthly attire, which may vary in fashion and color, without affecting her substance and life, or destroying her symmetry. Had this been understood, believed, remembered, and practiced from the beginning—what monstrous systems of error; what iron yokes of spiritual tyranny; what bloody persecutions; what ecclesiastic arrogance and presumption; what disfigurements of the simple and spiritual religion of the meek and lowly Jesus, by pagan rites and external ceremonies; what foul blots upon the fair form of Christianity—would the world have been spared!
Amid the controversies and decrees of church councils, how has the still small voice of the apostle been stifled, which says, “There are three things that will endure— faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
How forward have men been to admire this sacred trio, but how slow to imitate them!
Poets have sung their charms!
Painters have delineated their beauty! Music has chanted their praises! Eloquence has emblazoned their worth!
What remains but for preachers to make them the prevailing themes of their ministry—and for professing Christians to exhibit them in the practice of their lives!
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When this shall everywhere be done, and they shall universally come in place of a heartless orthodoxy and an external ritualism—then the world will see Christianity as she is, and will covet to be like her. But, until then, multitudes will look upon Christianity with suspicion, and not a few turn from her with disgust!
Our great concern should be to promote a healthful, spiritual, robust, and godly piety in our churches; for which no external improvements in our architecture, our music, or our services, can be a substitute!
What we should seek to maintain in our churches, is the more powerful dominion of faith, hope, and love, compared with which, many of those matters which are now rife among us, are but of very small importance.
Faith, hope, and love are the great themes of the Christian ministry, are something more than matters of theory—something more than mere theses for the theologian to discuss before an audience. They are matters of eternal life or death—and should be preached as if the preachers believed them to be so.
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HE WHO COUNTS THE STARS
Charles Spurgeon
“He heals the broken in heart, And binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars. He calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power. His understanding is infinite.” Psalm 147:3-5
He who counts the stars and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting His own children! He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature He ever made, or the only saint He ever loved!
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THE GREAT IDOL!
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
“For men will be lovers of self.” 2 Timothy 3:2 Selfishness is the cause of all sin—the opposite of all
holiness and virtue.
The essence of man’s sin, the sum of his moral depravity, is to love himself supremely; to seek himself finally and exclusively; to make self, in one shape or another, the center to which all his busy thoughts, anxious cares and diligent pursuits, constantly tend.
Self-love is the most active and reigning principle in fallen nature! SELF is the great idol which mankind are naturally disposed to worship; and selfishness the grand interest to which they are devotedly attached!
Selfishness is contrary to the habitual temper of our Lord Jesus Christ. “For even Christ did not please Himself.”
The perfection of all virtue lies in unselfish love. The nearer we approach to this state of mind, the nearer we come to sinless moral excellence. “Love is not self- seeking.”
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
Phil. 2:3
“Love doesn’t brag, is not proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4
Pride has a high and overweening conceit of its own possessions and acquirements, and ostentatiously boasts of what it is, has done, can do, or intends to do.
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THE LOATHSOME MORAL LEPROSY!
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
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Pride signifies such an exalted idea of ourselves, as leads to self-esteem—and to contempt of others.
Pride is self-admiration—self-doting.
Pride is the sin which laid the moral universe in ruins.
Pride is the original sin, the inherent corruption of our nature.
Pride spreads over humanity with contagious violence.
Pride is the loathsome moral leprosy, raging alike through the palace and the cottage, and infecting equally the prince and the peasant.
Love is no less opposed to VANITY than it is to pride!
Pride differs from vanity thus—
pride causes us to value ourselves; vanity makes us anxious for applause.
Pride renders a man odious; vanity makes him ridiculous.
Love does not boast of, or ostentatiously display, its possessions, abilities, or good deeds.
“Love doesn’t brag, is not proud.” 1 Cor. 13:4
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ALTHOUGH THEY SHOULD SPEND EVERY PENNY!
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
“If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3
This representation of the indispensable necessity of Christian love, is most striking. It supposes it possible that a man may distribute all his substance in acts of apparent beneficence—and yet after all be without true religion!
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Actions derive their moral character from the motives under the influence of which they are performed.
Therefore, many actions which are beneficial to man, may still be sinful in the sight of God, because they are not done from a right motives!
The most diffusive generosity—if prompted by pride, vanity or self-righteousness—is of no value in the eyes of the omniscient Jehovah! On the contrary, it is very sinful!
It is too evident to be questioned, that many of the charities of which we are the witnesses, are done from any motives but the right ones. We readily see that multitudes are lavish in their monetary contributions, who are at the same time totally destitute of love to God. They are, as it respects real religion, less than nothing, although they should spend every penny of their property in relieving the needs of the poor!
If our munificence, however great or self-denying, be the operation of mere selfish regard to ourselves, to our own reputation, or to our own safety—and not of pure love—it may do good to others, but will do none to ourselves!
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SERAPH OR DEMON?
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
Many conclude that they are true Christians, because of the intensity of their religious feelings. Possessed of much excitability and warmth of temperament, they are, of course, susceptible of deep and powerful impressions from true religion. They are not without joy—and they are not without their religious sorrows. Their tears are plentiful—and their smiles in proportion.
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See them in the house of God, and none appear to feel more under the preaching of the Word than they do. The sermon exerts an influential power over their affections, and the preacher seems to have their hearts at command. They talk loudly of “happy frames and precious seasons.”
But follow them from the house of God to their own homes—and, O, how changed the scene! The least offense, perhaps an unintentional one—raises a storm of angry passion, and the man who looked like a seraph in the sanctuary—seems more like a demon at home!
Follow them from the Sabbath into the other days of the week, and you will see the man who appeared all for heaven on the Sunday—all for earth on the Monday! Follow them from the assembly of the saints to the places of business—and you will see the man who looked so devout; now….
irritated and quarrelsome, selfish and unfair,
crude and insulting, envious and malicious!
Yes! And perhaps in the evening of the same day, you will see him at a prayer meeting, enjoying, as he supposes, the holy season!
Such is the delusion under which many are living! Their religion is, in great part, is a mere selfish religious voluptuousness!
THE NECESSARY FRUITS OF OUR DOCTRINES
John Angell James, “Christian Love,” 1828
Let us remember that HUMILITY and LOVE are the necessary fruits of our doctrines, and the highest beauty of our character!
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True Christian love must be…. blended with all our habits, diffused through all our conduct, forming our character,
breathing in our desires, speaking in our words, beaming in our eyes.
This is true religion—practical religion.
“He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is
love.” 1 John 4:8
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I CAN CONCEIVE OF NO HIGHER HEAVEN
John Angell James, “Christian Hope” 1859
In the sublime visions of the Apocalypse, where heaven is opened to our view, it is Christ who is represented as the glory of that place—lighting up all countenances with joy, filling all hearts with gladness, and making all tongues vocal with praise.
Jesus is the sun of that blessed world—the orb of that nightless, cloudless, and eternal day!
“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!” This was the heaven Paul longed for. That one idea of ‘being with Christ’ filled his soul. To be absent from the body, and present with the Lord—was the prevailing wish of his truly Christian heart.
Jesus is the object of the Christian’s supreme regard. Are there not moments when he has….
such views of Christ’s glory,
such conceptions of His amazing mercy, such a sense of His love,
such feelings of gratitude and affection,
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that he is ready to say, “If I feel all this now, when I only believe, what must be the felicity….
of beholding His full-orbed glory, of gazing upon His face,
and hearing His loving voice!
I can conceive of no higher heaven, no more perfect paradise, than to be in the presence of Him who died for me upon the cross!”
There is something wonderfully impressive and delight- ful, in thus resolving the bliss of heaven into one state of mind, consisting of an adoring and grateful love, for a being to whom we are indebted for redemption from an infinitude and eternity of torment, and to an infinitude and eternity of bliss; and who adds to all these claims upon our gratitude, additional claims upon our homage and admiration—for His own infinity and eternal glories!
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ELEGANCE, ENTERTAINMENT, AND LUXURIOUS GRATIFICATION
John Angell James, “Christian Hope” 1859
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s.” 1 John 2:16
The ‘spirit of the world’ has come into the church! Elegance, entertainment, and luxurious gratification are occupying far more than they ought to do, the minds of professing Christians!
“Therefore, ‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you.’” 2 Corinthians 6:17
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A DECENT, FLOWERY, DOWN-HILL WAY TO ETERNAL DESTRUCTION!
John Angell James, “Christian Hope” 1859
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.
“Don’t love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t 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,
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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.
“He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me isn’t 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,
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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 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 round 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!
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THE PASTOR
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
“But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherishes her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7
Oh! what churches we would have, if Christian love had its full scope!
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The pastor would labor with the most earnest, indefatigable, and unselfish zeal for the eternal welfare of the flock; and make it evident that compassion for souls, and not filthy lucre—was the impulse of all his conduct. Affection would beam in his eyes, and breathe in his spirit, while “the law of kindness” would dwell on his lips.
He would preside over the people in the meekness of wisdom; and, instead of proudly lording it over God’s heritage, he would rule them in love.
Over all his talents, however brilliant, he would put the ‘garment of humility.’ And, with respect to all his success, however great, he would speak in the language of modesty. He would neither envy his more gifted or successful brethren, nor proudly vaunt over his inferiors.
To all under his pastoral care, even the most illiterate and poor, he would conduct himself with the humility and love of true benevolence. He would labor to correct their errors, whether doctrinal or practical; and have no greater joy than to see them walking in the truth!
“Be an example to those who believe, in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.”
1 Timothy 4:12
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THE SWEETEST INGREDIENTS IN THE CUP OF LIFE
John Angell James, “The Widow Directed to the Widow’s God” 1841
The purest happiness of an earthly nature, is that which springs up in a comfortable home, where there is a loving union of hearts between man and wife.
The tender sympathies, the delicate affections,
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the minute attentions,
the watchful solicitudes,
the ceaseless kindnesses of marital love—
are the sweetest ingredients in the cup of life, and contribute a thousand times more to earthly enjoyment, than all the possessions of wealth, and all the blandishments of rank, station, and fashion.
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YOU ARE THE ONE WHO HAS DONE THIS!
J. A. James, “The Widow Directed to the Widow’s God” 1841
“Who doesn’t know that in all these, the hand of the
Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, the breath of all mankind?” Job 12:9-10
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Such is the admonition which comes to you—and which comes from heaven. It is God Himself who has bereaved you— through whatever second causes He has inflicted the blow. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge—much less a rational and immortal creature. He has the keys of death, and never for a moment entrusts them out of His hand—the door of the sepulcher is never unlocked, but by Himself!
Though men may drop and die as unheeded by many, as the fall of the autumnal leaf in the pathless desert— they die not by chance! Every incident which has reduced you to your present sorrowful condition, is an individual decision of infinite wisdom. Whether there- fore, the death of your husband was slow or sudden; at home or abroad; by accident or disease—it was appointed, and all its circumstances arranged, by God. Be still, therefore, and know that He is God, who does His will among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of earth, and allows no one to question His proceedings.
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Bow down before Him with unqualified submission— and find relief in acquiescence to His wise and sovereign will.
Submission forbids all passionate invective; all rebellious language; all bitter reflections on second causes; and all questionings about the wisdom, goodness, or equity of the God of Providence. You should not only suppress all murmuring and complaining language—but all thoughts and feelings of this kind. Submission is that state of the soul under afflictive dispensations of Providence, which produces an acquiescence in the will of God—as just, and wise, and good. It expresses itself in some such manner as the following. “I deeply feel the heavy loss I have sustained, and my nature mourns and weeps. But as I am persuaded it is the Lord’s doing, who has a right to do as He pleases, and who is at the same time too wise to mistake, and too benevolent to put me to unnecessary pain—I endeavor to bow down to His holy will.”
Did we really believe in the doctrine of Providence, and that He who superintends its administration, unites to an arm of omnipotence—a mind of infinite knowledge, and a heart of boundless love—submission would be easy!
Christian mourner, consider God as the author of all your trials—as well as of all your comforts! View Him as your Father! Be assured that He loves you too well to do you any harm! Be confident that He is making all things work together for your good!
“I was mute, I didn’t open my mouth, because You did
it.” Psalm 39:9
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CONTINUALLY CHURNING UP MIRE AND DIRT!
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
“The wicked are like the troubled sea; for it can’t rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt.” Isaiah 57:20
Until the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, is regenerated and brought to love God supremely, there can be no true happiness or peace. As long as the heart is under the dominion of selfishness, and all those lusts and passions to which it gives rise, it must be miserable!
In the absence of Christian love, the human bosom must be the seat of uneasiness and distress.
Happiness does not arise from possessions, so much as from dispositions. Happiness is not what a man has, or where he dwells—but what he IS. The great source and springs of felicity, are rooted in our nature. There are certain dispositions, the absence of which would render heaven a place of torment to us; and others, which would raise for us an Eden in the midst of the dreariest wilderness on earth.
It is true that many, in the absence of Christian love, pretend to some kind of enjoyment, and have it too; for there are ‘pleasures of sin,’ such as they are. But as to solid happiness—that which befits and satisfies a rational, moral, and immortal creature—it may with the greatest truth be affirmed, that the wicked are like the troubled sea which cannot rest—but is continually churning up mire and dirt!
As well may we expect quietude and comfort in a den of wild beasts, or in a field of battle—as in a heart where the vile passions of anger, wrath, malice, envy, pride, and revenge—have taken up their abode and predominate. How demon-like is the feeling when
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these turbulent evil passions gain the ascendancy! What agitation and what torment are the result!
“The works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunk- enness, orgies, and things like these.” Gal. 5:19-21
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THE MEEK AND GENTLE AND PASSIVE VIRTUES
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
The meek and gentle and passive virtues of the gospel, are generally looked upon with disesteem, and treated with contempt by the world. Is….
poverty of spirit,
humility,
self-abasement,
the forgiveness of insults, patience under provocation—
admired, applauded, imitated? Quite the contrary!
The men who would practice these Christian graces, must make up their minds to endure the world’s scorn, and to be treated as poor weak-spirited creatures. And yet this is the spirit of true piety—for this is the disposition of Jesus!
When Jesus Christ came into the world, He found it full of the notion that human glory consisted in ambition, pride, and revenge. Hence He took particular pains to correct this notion, giving, in His sermon on the mount, a delineation the very opposite of this. Indeed, the design of that sermon was to rectify the mistakes then universally prevalent on the subject of true piety and of happiness; and to teach the world that His disciples were to be pre-eminently distinguished by….
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humility,
penitence,
meekness,
purity,
peaceableness,
forgiveness,
thirsting after righteousness.
These are the qualities of a true Christian, and everyone who bears the character, must sedulously cultivate its appropriate dispositions, and be willing to bear the ridicule to which they will expose him. Bearing their scorn, he will wait with patience for that world where humility and meekness will be honored and rewarded— and love, their parent disposition, be crowned with glory!
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A VERY COMMON SUPPOSITION
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
It is a very common supposition that it is an easy thing to be a Christian. And if to be a Christian were nothing more than going to a place of worship, indulging in pious emotions, subscribing to religious institutions, and professing certain religious opinions, the supposition would be correct—for nothing is more easy than all this! But if the spirit of true piety is….
poverty of spirit,
humility,
self-abasement,
forgiveness of insults, patience under provocation, penitence,
meekness,
purity,
peaceableness,
thirsting after righteousness—
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then must it be obvious to everyone who knows his own heart, that to be a true Christian is the most difficult thing in the world!
THE POWER OF DIVINE TEACHING
J. C. Philpot “Meditations on Ephesians”
“Our gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5
The main reason why men boggle to understanding the Scriptures, is from lack of an experience of the truths set forth in them. They lack the right key which fits this intricate lock, and therefore uselessly poke at it with false keys, which, though they cannot spoil the lock, plainly show the ignorance of the workmen.
Unless, by the power of divine teaching, we can enter in some good measure spiritually and experimentally into the grand and glorious truths of the everlasting gospel, we can neither see their peculiar beauty, nor feel their peculiar sweetness and blessedness.
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ONE GRACIOUS PURPOSE OF MERCY!
John Angell James, “Christian Love” 1828
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Providence is God’s government of the universe.
Providence is that mighty scheme….
which commenced before time was born;
which embraces the annals of other worlds besides ours; which includes the history of angels, men, and devils.
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Providence comprises the whole range of events which have taken place from the formation of the first creature, to the last moment of time—with all the tendencies, reasons, connections, and results of things.
Providence encompasses the separate existence of each individual, with the continuation and influence of the whole, in one harmonious scheme.
We are puzzled at almost every step, at the deep, unfathomable mysteries of Providence!
How often is Jehovah, in His dealings with us, a God who hides Himself! How often does He wrap Himself in clouds, and pursue His path upon the waters, where we can neither see His goings, nor trace His footsteps! How many of His dispensations are inexplicable, and of His judgments how many are unfathomable by the short line of our reason!
But whatever we don’t know now, we shall know hereafter. The crooked will be made straight, the clouds of darkness will be scattered, and all His conduct towards us placed in the broad daylight of eternity.
We shall see how all the varying, and numerous, and seemingly opposite events of our history, were combined into one gracious purpose of mercy, which was most perfectly wise in all its combinations.
Delightful, most delightful, will it be to retrace our winding and often gloomy course, and discern at each change and turning, the reason of the occurrence and the wisdom of God. Delightful will it be to discern the influence which all our temporal circumstances—all our disappointments, losses, and perplexities—had upon our permanent and celestial happiness. How much of divine wisdom, power, goodness, and faithfulness, will our short and simple history present, and what rapturous fervor will the discovery give to the
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song of praise which we shall utter before the throne of
God and the Lamb!
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HE WILL SLAY HIS IDOLS
Letters of William Tiptaft
Real religion will find its way to the heart, and its effect will be manifest in the life.
The Spirit’s work is so little understood in the present day. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convince of sin, to break the heart, and to plough up the fallow ground.
When the Lord has taken a poor sinner in hand He will never leave him, but will surely purge away his dross and tin. He will slay his idols, and tear him from those things he so much loves. He will not be aware how many idols he has, until God shows him in a measure the deceitfulness of his heart.
The more God’s children are taught spiritually, the greater fools do they become in their own eyes; and the more they know of their own wicked and vile state by nature, the more are they astonished that God should show mercy to such poor worms of the earth.
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THE SERPENT’S POISON TAINTS INFANT VEINS
Henry Law, “Numbers” 1858
Alas! what broods of vileness nestle in man’s heart! As wave succeeds to wave, sin presses on the heels of sin. If a brief calm seems to give peace, a fiercer storm soon rises. The seeds of evil, for a while concealed, revive as weeds in spring. All human history proves this.
We are pilgrims journeying through a wild wilderness. It is infested with the old serpent and his brood. At every step, at
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every turn, we meet some forked attack. Each day the mischief taints our veins. Satan’s least touch is fatal venom. In Eden he began his murderous work. And still his fiery darts fly round.
No mother’s son escapes.
The serpent’s poison taints infant veins.
All earth is perishing, but earth brings no relief. SELF has no help.
The LAW is no physician. Its glance detects disease. Its voice proclaims the hopeless state. But it holds no cordial remedy in its stores. It denounces the leprous spots. It sternly sentences, and leaves the wounded to expire.
MAN cannot help himself; or save his brother.
No rites, no forms, no services, can suck out sin’s poison.
All are surely lost, unless God had decreed to heal. So all the ‘serpent-wounded’ upon earth must surely have sunk down to hell, unless free mercy had most freely pitied. But He who said, ‘Raise up a serpent on the pole,’ said also, ‘Lift up My Son upon the accursed tree.’
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:14-15
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HE HAS RESCUED US!
Charles Spurgeon
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
There is nothing in man by nature apart from God, which is not vile and deceitful.
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If there is anything good in me,
if I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind, if I am regenerate,
if I have passed from death unto life,
if I have been taken out of the family of Satan,
if I am adopted into the family of God’s dear Son,
if I am now no longer an heir of wrath,
if I am a now a child of heaven—
then all these things are of God, and in no sense, and in no degree whatever, are they of myself!
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THE WHOLE BIBLE, CONDENSED INTO A SINGLE TERM!
John Angell James, “Christian Hope” 1859
“I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God.’” Revelation 19:1
Salvation! What a word! And what a blessing! One word—but containing millions of ideas! It is the whole Bible, condensed into a single term!
God’s eternal councils;
Christ’s redeeming work;
the Spirit’s sanctifying power;
all the riches of divine grace;
all the blessings of eternal glory—
are in substance comprehended in those few syllables!
That one word is a boundless, fathomless ocean of blessedness—it passes knowledge!
All that preachers have ever said;
all that authors have ever written;
all that Christians have ever felt, imagined, hoped for, leave its full meaning yet to be explained.
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It can be comprehended only in heaven! It can be developed only in eternity!
“I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God.’” Revelation 19:1
SATAN’S VICAR
John Angell James, “Christian Hope” 1859
The three great works of the devil are…. Idolatry,
Mohammedanism,
and Popery.
The Mohammedan power, symbolized in the book of the Apocalypse by the “false Prophet,” is, with the Papal Beast, to be cast into the lake which burns with brimstone and fire.
We are aware of the dreadful nature of Popery. We regard Popery as the masterpiece of Satanic deceit and malice—his richest trophy, and his proudest triumph. The Pope is more Satan’s Vicar, than that of Christ, upon earth. And the Vatican his chosen seat of dominion among men.
Idolatry was a prominent Satanic invention. Mohammedanism was a mighty stretch of diabolical craft. But Popery transcends both! The other two were devices outside the pale of Christianity—Popery is within it. They opposed Christianity—Popery corrupts it. They try to destroy it—Popery goes far to make it destroy itself!
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THE FAULTS OF GREAT MEN
J. C. Philpot, “Pastoral Sketches”
Luther did not come forth as a theologian fully furnished with a scheme of doctrines, or as a warrior armed at all points—but advanced slowly, as himself a learner, from one position to another, gradually feeling his way onward; taking up no ground on which he had not been clearly set down, and which he could not firmly maintain from the express testimony of God.
It is true that this gradual progress of his mind involved him at times in contradictions and inconsistencies, not to say mistakes and errors—which his enemies have availed themselves of, to sully and tarnish one of the noblest characters, both naturally and spiritually, that the world has ever seen.
Admiration, or what a popular writer of the present day calls “hero-worship,” should not indeed blind us to the faults of great men. But a discerning eye, while it admits Luther’s inconsistencies, sees displayed more manifestly thereby, the mercy and wisdom of God.
The Lord, indeed, was no more the author of Luther’s errors than He was of Luther’s sins! But as He mercifully pardoned the one, so He graciously passed by the other, and over-ruled both to His own glory!
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DISTRESS IN HEAVEN?
J. A. James, “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children” 1825
Will it cause distress in heaven, to know that our unsaved beloved friends and relatives are forever lost?
The only way of solving this difficulty, is to realize that a perfect knowledge of God, and of the wisdom and
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justice of all His designs and operations, will constitute a chief part of the happiness of heaven. We shall be so convinced of the equity of His dealings towards the wicked, so divested of all the weakness of ‘human sentimentalism,’ so absorbed in the love of what is right and just, that the absence of our loved ones from the world of glory, will cause no interruption of our heavenly bliss!
This, I acknowledge, is now hard to conceive. The day shall reveal it. “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with.” 1 Cor. 13:9-10
“After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God: for true and righteous are His judgments. For He has judged the great prostitute, her who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His servants at her hand.’ A second time they said, ‘Hallelujah! Her smoke goes up forever and ever.’” Revelation 19:1-3
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THE ROTTEN PLANK!
John Angell James, “Christian Hope” 1859
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will tell Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy by Your name, by Your name cast out demons, and by Your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who work iniquity.’” Matthew 7:21-23
These dreadful words should sound through the whole church with the solemnity and impressiveness of an
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alarm bell. What a salutary fear and trembling they should awaken! To what a close and anxious examination they should lead!
Mistaken professors are going by myriads to the bottomless pit! Myriads and myriads are walking to eternity over the rotten plank of a ‘formal and insincere profession,’ which will break beneath their feet and let them fall into the burning gulf below!
I will never cease to sound the note of warning to these deluded professors. For not only is it a dreadful thing to go down to the pit with a lying profession, but a possible thing! Not only is it a possible case, but a common one! “MANY will say to Me on that day!”
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LIKE A BALL AND CHAIN AROUND HIS ANKLE!
John Angell James, “Christian Progress” 1853
“Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us.” 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 angler, 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!
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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!
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IS THIS YOUR RELIGION?
John Angell James, “Christian Love”
“If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have 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
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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—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.
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“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
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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,
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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? d
THEY SHALL NOT SWOON, NOR HALT, NOR TURN BACK
John Angell James
How full of encouragement is the language of the prophet Isaiah, “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not 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
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them. God shall pour into their souls, fresh energy for every fresh effort.
“They shall walk and not 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!
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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 desire is present with me, but I don’t find it doing that which is good.” 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
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cure the one or lighten the other, or he will make slow
progress.
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A POOR, WEAK, AND TREMBLING CREATURE
John Angell James, “Christian Progress” 1853
“He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom.” 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
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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!”
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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,
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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 are 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
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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 say, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lord, let the light of Your face shine on us. You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and their new wine are increased.” 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
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appetite which acknowledges no authority—and submits to no restraintd!
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
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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 grace.
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 heart 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 hatred?
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 knowledge.
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WE WALK BY FAITH
J. A. James, “The True Christian” 1846
“We walk 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 walk 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
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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 self-denial, 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.
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TO LIVE AND WALK BY FAITH
J. A. James, “The True Christian” 1846
“That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 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.
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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.
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A LITTLE MORE COMFORT, LUXURY, OR ELEGANCE
J. A. James, “The True Christian” 1846
“As He sat at the table, there came a woman having an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard—very costly. She broke the jar, and poured it over His head.” Mark 14:3
“She has done 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.”
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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!”
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OUR RECREATIONS AND ENTERTAINMENTS
J. A. James, “The True Christian” 1846
“Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Our piety should appear in our recreations and entertainments, 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 ballroom, and the public concert; but should prevent us from turning our own homes into the ‘resorts of
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fashion,’ and the scenes of light and dissipating
entertainments.
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A SUBLIME FICTION?
J. A. James, “The True Christian” 1846
“Whose end is destruction….who mind earthly things.” Philippians 3:19
This is the description given by the apostle, of the predominant taste and pursuits of the men of the world.
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.
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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? d
HOLINESS
J. A. James, “The True Christian” 1846
“What manner of persons ought you to be in holy living and godliness.” 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.
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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!
AFFLICTIONS
Joseph Williams
“It is good for me that I have been 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,
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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 observe Your word.” Psalm 119:67
HONOR, WEALTH, AND PLEASURE LOSE
THEIR CHARMS
J. A. James, “The Widow Directed to the Widow’s God” 1841
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I observe Your word. It is good for me that I have been 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.
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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!
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THE DIVINE CRAFTSMAN
J. A. James, “The Widow Directed to the Widow’s God” 1841
“For they indeed, for a few days, punished us as seemed good to them; but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of 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
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that form and beauty which it is the intention of the divine Craftsman that we should bear. How much….
pride,
vanity,
carnality, worldly-mindedness, self-sufficiency, independence, creature-love, earthly dependence;
must be removed by each blow of the mallet, and each cut of the chisel, before the beauties of….
holiness,
humility,
meekness, heavenly-mindedness,
and all the graceful proportions and features of His own image, can be exhibited in us.
THE DESIGN OF THE DIVINE ARTIST
J. A. James, “The Widow Directed to the Widow’s God” 1841
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are 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
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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!
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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, meekness, gentleness,
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!
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us!” Ephesians 4:32-5:2
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“BEWARE OF THE DOG!”
John Angell James, “Christian Fellowship” 1822
“…with all lowliness and humility, with longsuffering, 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
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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?
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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 perfection.
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
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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.
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A SWEET POWER
Cudworth, 1647
“Speaking truth in love.” Ephesians 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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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,
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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?
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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;
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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.
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Humility is the crowning grace, the finishing stroke of beauty, and the brightest ray of glory, in the Christian
character.
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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.
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DEAD THINGS NEVER GROW!
John Angell James, “Christian Progress” 1853
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the farmer. Every branch in Me that doesn’t bear fruit, He takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2
Why is it that so many professing Christians make no spiritual progress, and indeed make no efforts to grow
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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
“Every writing inspired by God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction which is in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, 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.
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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.
“Our gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance.” 1 Thess. 1:5
“Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” John 17:17 d
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
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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
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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.
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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!
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I FOLLOW LIKE A LITTLE BLIND CHILD
J. A. James, “The Practical Believer Delineated”
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Strong faith has a firm persuasion of God’s over-ruling Providence—so comprehensive as to include the destinies of empires and worlds; and so minute as to extend to individuals. Strong faith believes that God’s Providence is….
ever active,
ever directing,
ever controlling, and ever subordinating
all things to His own purposes and plans.
Strong faith is a conviction of this great truth—so deep, so satisfying, and so tranquilizing—as not at all to be shaken by the chaotic aspect of human affairs, or the prevalence of gigantic evils.
A weak faith must give way before…. the deep mysteries,
the confounding events,
the defeats of what is good, and
the triumphs of what is evil,
which are perpetually going on in our world’s history.
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The stream of Providence is so twisting, so dark, apparently so murky, and occasionally so devastating, that it requires strong faith to believe that it is the work of God and not of chance; and that if it is the work of God—it must be just, and wise, and good.
In the darkest dispensations of Providence affecting ourselves, strong faith realizes that it is all from God; and must therefore be wise, and just, and good. To be able to really say, “It is well. I am sure it is right. I cannot tell how it is right. I do not understand why this deep afflictive Providence came. I can find no key to unlock the mystery. But I am as confident that it is right, as if God’s whole purpose were transparent to my reason, and I could see the event in all its connections, bearings, and results. I cannot see how or why—but I believe that my deep affliction is for God’s glory and my ultimate benefit. I know that God causes everything to work together for good.”
Faith assures us that the darker, the more confounding, the more disappointing events—are all right and just, and good.
Strong faith walks on amid shadows and darkness, grasping the arm of God, believing that He is leading us, and will lead us right. Strong faith gives up all into His hands, saying, “I cannot even see a glimmering of light! I cannot see where to place my next step! But I can most implicitly trust in the wisdom, power, and truth of God! I follow like a little blind child, grasping the hand of his father!”
Times of great troubles and difficulties, are seasons and opportunities for the exercise of faith. God is always the Christian’s best refuge—and often his only one! He is sometimes reduced to extremity, and is compelled to say, “He alone is my rock and my salvation! My help
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comes only from the Lord! No one else will help me— no one else can!”
Sense and reason both fail. No door of escape presents itself—nor any way of relief. There is nothing left for him to do, but to take up the promise and carry it in the hand of faith, knock by prayer at the door of mercy, and as he stands there to say, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone! My hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation! He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Yes, Lord, You have bid me come, when I could go nowhere else. And here according to your command and promise I will remain—waiting, trembling, yet believing and hoping. I am sure You will come and help me. My heavenly Father knows the necessities of His poor helpless child, and He will come in His own time, and in His own way, and I will wait for him. My bread will be given me, and my water will be sure.”
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A COLD CHILL FELL UPON THEIR HEARTS!
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor” 1837
It has frequently occurred, that young converts in the ardor of their first love, and while much unacquainted as yet, with what is called the ‘religious world,’ have looked upon the church as a ‘sacred enclosure,’ within which dwelt a kind of heavenly inhabitants, who could think or speak of little else than the glory which awaited them. In the church, these novices expected to find….
the sweetest and holiest fellowship,
an almost unearthly spirituality, and
an uninterrupted strain of pious conversation.
But alas! What a woeful disappointment did the reality produce! In the ‘sacred enclosure’ they found worldly minded professors—almost as intent upon seen and
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temporal things, as those they had left out in the world!
In the ‘vestibule of heaven,’ they beheld professors…. covered with the ‘earthly dust,’
disordered with worldly concerns, and
given up to worldly amusements!
In the church members, they saw little but worldly conduct, and heard little else but worldly conversation!
A cold chill fell upon their hearts, which checked the ardor of their pious affections; and even they, lately so fervent, soon sunk and settled down into the lukewarmness of those among whom they had come to dwell.
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VACATIONING AT RESORTS?
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor” 1837
The line of distinction between the world and the church is fast disappearing.
What shall be said of the conduct of some professing Christians vacationing at resorts? It has become almost one of the necessaries of life to Englishmen, to pay an annual visit to the coast, or to one of our inland places of resort. To say that this is wrong to those who can afford to pay for it, is certainly not my intention. But some professing Christians have ruined themselves, and plunged their families into poverty and distress, by habits of expense and idleness, acquired by this annual excursion to the sea. The taste of the age is for luxurious gratification, and it is certainly one of these luxuries to while away a week or two amidst the beauties of the coast, or the mirthful throng of a fashionable lounging place.
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I will suppose, however, that the professor can afford the gratification; still, are not his spendings for this enjoyment, out of all due proportion with his donations to the cause of Christ? When did he ever give, in one amount, to any Christian cause, what he gives, in one amount, for his treat to his family to a resort? No, put together all that he gives to the cause of the Lord for a whole year, and does it equal what he spends upon one vacation, lavishing hundreds—or thousands, in riding into the country, or sailing on the sea, and luxuriating in other ways on the shore?
When a world is perishing, and immortal souls are sinking daily in crowds to perdition, a Christian should look, with grudging eye, on almost every dollar he spends in luxury!
Are there no ‘perils for piety’ in a vacation resort? Temptations abound everywhere, entering like a poisoned atmosphere into every place—but surely no one will deny, that they are found in greater number and force in those places, which fashion has set apart for relaxation and amusement.
The mixed society to be found in such haunts of pleasure; the amusements which are resorted to; and the general air of wastefulness which pervades the whole scene—are all uncongenial with the spirit of piety, which flourishes best in silence and solitude.
Those who frequent vacation resorts, seem as though the object of their existence is to spend it in pleasure. Is this proper behavior for the self-denying, humble followers of a crucified Savior?
It is indeed to be feared that some professing Christians, when they set out on their summer’s vacation, leave their religion at home, in order that nothing may interrupt their pursuit and enjoyment of
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pleasure. Many have gone to places of fashionable resort to have their piety lastingly injured; and some to lose it altogether. They started a retrograde course in piety from that day when they went joyfully and thoughtlessly to the coast in search of recreation. Surely, surely, then, it cannot be thought unseasonable or unnecessary to raise a warning voice, and to make it loud and strong when it is becoming increasingly prevalent among professing Christians to seek in this species of gratification, a temporary release from the “dull cares of home, and the plodding pursuits of business.”
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A CHAMELEON KIND OF RELIGION
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor” 1837
“That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you are seen as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:15
Saving religion is not merely an occasional act—but a permanent habit, resulting from an internal principle.
Saving religion is a principle so fixed as to constitute a new moral nature; and so steadily operative, as to form an unchanging character.
A real Christian is a Christian always, everywhere, and in all companies. He carries his piety with him wherever he goes, as an integral part of himself. It is not like his clothes which may be continually altered, or varied to suit his situation, occupation, and company. He needs his piety everywhere, he loves it everywhere, and is commanded to let it be seen everywhere.
But among most professors of Christianity, there is too much of a chameleon kind of religion, which takes its hue from surrounding objects. This is seen most
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conspicuously in the conduct of those who have a flexible, yielding, easy-going kind of piety—which accommodates itself to changing circumstances, by little sacrifices of principle and consistency.
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A GOLDEN IMAGE IN THE HOUSE!
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor” 1837
It is quite evident that covetousness is indeed the sin of the church. In this wealthy age and country, there is imminent peril of professing Christians forgetting their high calling, and living only to get riches. We see them toiling and panting in pursuit of the golden object of ambition.
It is not the possession of wealth that we should dread; but the inordinate desire, the dishonest means, the undue love, and the covetous hoarding of it! Wealth justly obtained, and piously spent, is a blessing—not a curse.
I am quite aware, that it is difficult to have money and not love it. It is hard indeed to have a golden image in the house, and not worship it!
Wealth often produces the pride of life—so opposite to the humility and poverty of spirit, which is essential to the nature of true religion.
Wealth often generates a worldly-mindedness, which makes its possessor contented with seen and temporal things, and disposes him to mind only earthly things.
Wealth often leads to a prevalent feeling of independence, so unlike that habitual trust and reliance on God, which the Scriptures require.
Wealth often originates, and keeps up, both the care and perplexity of getting, and the anxiety of disposing;
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and thus exhausts the vigor as well as time, upon worldly objects—leaving the soul neglected, impoverished, and defrauded.
Wealth is the green and flowery mount from which many have slid down into the bottomless pit! Yes, wealth has a tendency to do all this, in consequence of the depravity of our hearts, and thus to cast stumbling blocks in the path of salvation.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:6-11
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ONE HOUR IN HELL
John Bunyan, “Run for Heaven!”
Worldling! One hour in hell will burn out all the enjoyment you have had in worldly things; and then you shall suffer untold pains forever and ever and ever!
“He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.” Rev. 14:10-11
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THE SILENT INFLUENCE IN PARENTAL CONDUCT
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor” 1837
Parents have a great power of influence over the minds and hearts of their children. Their children are almost continually with them—they are seen by them in nearly all they do, in their habitual conduct, and character at home. They are….
heard in what they say;
seen in what they do; studied in all their behavior;
by little ears, and eyes, and minds, which are scarcely ever closed!
The child’s heart is soft and pliable to a father’s or a mother’s influence. Their constant influence has been molding him from the dawn of reason. What, then, ought to be the parents’ behavior at home? The whole cultivation, and direction, and management of a child’s mind, from the very dawn of reason, should be carried on with special reference to the formation of Christian character. This should be the one thing, to which all other things should be subordination.
The silent influence in parental conduct is far greater, either for good or for evil, than most parents are aware of. They teach by what they say, they influence by what they do; and also by what they do not say, and do not perform.
The pious parents, who embody a meek, benevolent, ardent, and consistent godliness in their character, exert a tremendous influence over the minds of their children!
But oh! the dreadful contrast in the case of those parents who are characterized by….
ungodly dispositions, worldly associations,
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mirthful and extravagant living, trifling conversation, and
lack of all seriousness and spirituality.
Oh! what can be expected from such parents—but children who regard their religion with disgust?
Every man is best known at home. Parents are ever doing something to prejudice their children in favor of true religion—or to prejudice them against it; doing something to draw them into the church—or to drive them into the world; lending a helping hand to lead then to heaven—or taking them by the hand and leading them to hell.
Parents! Must you employ your influence in ruining the souls of your children—and sending them to perdition? Oh! tremble at the interview you must have with them at the day of judgment, and the dialog you must hold with them forever in the bottomless pit!!
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THE EVIDENCE OF GENUINE PIETY
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor”
The evidence of genuine piety is to be found in…. real humility,
self-distrust,
hungering and thirsting after righteousness, sorrow for sin, and
a continual effort to regulate your thoughts, feelings, and conduct by the Word of God.
Genuine piety will not thrive and increase without effort—but is of so tender and delicate a nature as to require great, constant, and persevering concern, watchfulness, and care.d
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ENCROACHING, ABSORBING, AND DESTRUCTIVE!
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor” 1837
“Who think about earthly things.” Philippians 3:19
This is a concise, emphatic, and accurate description of a worldly man. His supreme, yes, exclusive desire, aim, and purpose, is to get as much, and enjoy as much, of the world as he can. He thinks of nothing else, and wishes for nothing else. His hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, desires and dread—are all of the earth, earthly.
The worldly mind has an exclusive regard to, and wish for, earthly possessions and enjoyment. It makes the world the highest object of pursuit, and the chief source of enjoyment. This shows itself in various ways—
a love of pleasure in one;
avarice in another;
ambition in a third;
exclusive delight in home in another.
If a professing Christian partakes of this spirit, he is worldly-minded. If he appears like one whose supreme aim is to be rich and happy on earth; if he appears to be continually intent on increasing his wealth and multiplying his comforts; if he looks like a man who is entirely occupied in enjoying himself here on earth—he is a worldly-minded man.
You must resist the encroaching, absorbing, and destructive influence of the world in all its many fascinating forms!
Consider that you have…. a soul to be saved,
a hell to avoid,
a heaven to obtain!
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EMINENT PIETY
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor”
Eminence in piety signifies our having all the parts of the Christian character in considerable strength, and in attractive proportions.
Eminent piety is always accompanied by….
a large measure of spiritual affections;
a struggle for universal holiness;
a desire and endeavor for purity of heart;
a prevailing taste for divine and heavenly things; a walking with God;
a living by faith;
a setting our affections on things above;
a being dead to the world;
a mortification of sin in the heart;
a proneness to devout meditation;
a delight to hold communion with God;
a fondness for the Scriptures;
a large portion of love to the brethren;
an inflexible integrity;
a liberality for the cause of Christ;
an ardent love of biblical ordinances;
an enjoyment of the peace that passes understanding; a frequent experience of spiritual joy;
an exquisite tenderness of conscience;
a mind which trembles at sin;
a constant penitential frame for our many
imperfections;
a holy watchfulness against sins of the life, of the
tongue, of the imagination and of the heart!
Piety is not an abstract system of doctrine and ethics. It is a constant movement of the heart, to the splendor and attraction of the cross of Christ!
Love to Christ is the spring of all Christian piety! –244–

This is eminent piety—to be always in sight of the cross, having fellowship with Christ; so that we shall truly comprehend the meaning and feel the force of the Apostle’s words, “for me to live is Christ!”
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THE WORST VIPER IN THE HUMAN HEART!
Jonathan Edwards
Pride is the worst viper in the human heart!
Pride is the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace, and
of sweet communion with Christ.
Pride is with the greatest difficulty rooted out.
Pride is the most hidden, secret, and deceitful of all lusts!
Pride often creeps insensibly into the midst of religion, even, sometimes, under the disguise of humility itself!
THAT MAN WILL NEVER BE A PROUD MAN!
J. C. Ryle, “The Gospel of Luke” 1858
Humility may well be called the ‘queen of the Christian graces.’ To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ, is the very beginning of saving religion.
Humility is a grace which has always been the distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham, and Moses, and Job, and David, and Daniel, and Paul—were all eminently humble men.
Humility is a grace within the reach of every true Christian.
Would we know the root and spring of humility? One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge.
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The man who really knows….
himself—and his own heart;
God—and His infinite majesty and holiness; Christ—and the price at which he was redeemed;
that man will never be a proud man!
He will count himself, like Jacob, “unworthy of the least
of all God’s mercies!”
He will say of himself, like Job, “I am vile!” He will cry, like Paul, “I am chief of sinners!”
Ignorance! nothing but sheer ignorance! Ignorance of self, of God, of Christ, is the real secret of pride! From that miserable self-ignorance may we daily pray to be delivered!
He is the wise man who knows himself! And he who knows himself, will find nothing within to make him
proud.
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A SHOWY AND EXPENSIVE STYLE OF LIVING
John Angell James, “Christian Fellowship” 1822
“Charge those who are rich in this present world, that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches,…that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18
It is the incumbent duty of rich Christians, to consecrate a large portion of their affluence, to upholding the cause of truth. Let them, in order to abound more and more in such efforts, as well as to exhibit a bright example of pure and undefiled religion, avoid all unnecessary worldly conformity, and all expensive modes of living.
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There is, in the present age, a disposition, even in professing Christians, to a showy and expensive style of living, which cannot be more effectually repressed, than by the plain and simple habits of those who are known to have an easy access to all the elegancies and splendors of life.
Rich Christians ought to be far more anxious to give— than to hoard their fortunes. When we enter their mansions and see magnificence in every room, luxury on every table; when we see their extravagant dress and decor, we cannot help saying, “How much ought a disciple of Jesus, who lives in this manner, to give away to the cause of Christ, before he is justified in such an expenditure!”
In short, the VICES to which rich Christians are more particularly exposed, and against which they should vigilantly guard, are….
pride,
haughtiness,
love of money, idleness, self-indulgence, luxury, extravagance, worldly conformity.
The VIRTUES to which they are called to exercise are….
gratitude to God;
humility and meekness to men;
frugality and temperance towards themselves; liberality, together with tender sympathy to their
poorer brethren;
and a generous regard to the support of the cause of
pure religion and general benevolence.
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NOT MARKEDLY DIFFERENT
J. A. James, “The Christian Professor” 1837
When I look into the New Testament, and read what a Christian should be, and then look into the church of God, and see what Christians are—I am painfully affected by observing the dissimilarity!
That worldly spirit to which our age of growing selfishness and luxury gives rise, is exceedingly adverse to Christianity, whose elements are faith, hope, love.
The church of Christ at present, is sadly mixed up with both the spirit of the world, and many of its customs. The great bulk of professing Christians are not markedly different from the ‘followers of pleasure’ and the ‘worshipers of Mammon.’
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I AM IN AGONY IN THIS FIRE!
J. A. James, “The Practical Believer Delineated” 1852
“He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in like manner, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish.’” Luke 16:24-25
It is a grievous fact that many an ungodly sinner walks in a flowery path to perdition—and goes merrily to his eternal ruin. It is, on the contrary, as certain that many a godly Christian travels by a rough and toilsome road to heaven—and ascends to glory amid many tears. Our Divine Lord has set forth this in the most solemn of his parables—the rich man and Lazarus. If we looked only at the outward and earthly condition of these two men,
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we would say one is the type of all that is felicitous; while the other is the type of all that is miserable.
But who that looks upon their eternal abode, would not a thousand times rather be Lazarus with his poverty, sores, and beggary, feeding at the rich man’s gate upon the crumbs which fell from his table—than the wealthy possessor of the mansion, with his purple and fine linen and daily luxurious living! Look up at the one who has dropped all his poverty, borne by angels to Abraham’s bosom! And then look down upon the other, stripped of his splendid garments, deprived of his luxurious living, and from the midst of his torment begging for a drop of water to cool his parched tongue—and there see the end and outcome of ‘sanctified poverty’ and of ‘unsanctified wealth.’
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IF THERE ARE BUT TWO REAL CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD
John Angell James
There appears to me to be, at the present moment, a most criminal neglect, on the part of Christian parents, of the pious education of their children.
That Christian who would carry on a system of pious education with success, should enforce it with all the commanding influence of a holy example. Let your children see all the “beauties of holiness” reflected from your character, and the grand outline of godly virtue filled up with all the delicate touches and varied coloring of the Christian graces.
Let your children have this conviction in their hearts, “If there are but two real Christians in the world, my father is one, and my mother is the other.”
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It is dreadful—but not uncommon for children to employ themselves in contrasting the appearance which their parents make….
at the Lord’s table—and at their own table; in the house of God—and at home!
THE PANACEA FOR THE WORLD’S EVILS
John Angell James, “Christian Missions” 1828
The secret of the world’s moral renovation, and the panacea for the world’s evils, lies compressed in that one expression of the apostle Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!”
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WHAT A HEAVEN!
J. A. James, “The Practical Believer Delineated”
Heaven will consist of….
the moral perfection of the soul,
perfect knowledge,
perfect holiness,
perfect love,
perfect likeness to Christ,
perfection of the body in incorruptibility, immortality,
glory, and spirituality;
the presence of God in the full manifestation of His
glory,
the beatific vision of Christ,
the fellowship of angels and all the redeemed, the joint worship of the heavenly multitudes, the perfect service of Christ, without interruption,
imperfection, or cessation,
complete freedom from pain, toil, hunger, thirst,
anxiety, fear, sorrow, and death! –250–
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Such is the substance of heavenly felicity. Take any one of them by itself—and each is a heaven! Add them altogether—and what a heaven! How pure! How elevated! How felicitous!
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AFFLICTIONS
J. A. James, “The Practical Believer Delineated”
Glance at the good which afflictions are calculated to effect, and do effect in all cases where they are sanctified. As the bee sucks honey from many a bitter herb—so faith extracts good from bitter sorrows!
How sorrows crucify him to the world—and the world to him; sometimes gently drawing him away from the world—at others forcing him out as by a violent wrench!
How trials mortify his pride and cure his vanity!
How afflictions restore him from his backslidings and bring him again to God from whom he has departed. How they revive his lukewarm religion and quicken him in prayer. How they make him feel that religion is after all his great concern.
Yes, there is more learned sometimes in one great affliction, than from a thousand sermons, or a library of
books!
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HE HAS SOME SECRET SOURCE OF HAPPINESS
John Angell James, “Christian Fellowship” 1822
It is highly incumbent upon Christians, to take care against a worldly spirit. They are in extreme peril of losing the power of godliness from their hearts, and joining the number of those, of whom it is said, in the
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expressive language of Paul, that “they mind earthly things!”
Such earthlings look upon the possession of wealth as “the one thing needful.” Wealth is their chief object of pursuit, the chief source of happiness. Nothing modifies or mitigates their desire for riches. They are of the earth, earthly!
Now certainly a Christian is, or ought to be, of another spirit than this! He should be industrious, frugal, and persevering in his attention to the concerns of this world. But still there should be in his mind, an ultimate and supreme regard for the possession of everlasting life. He ought not to be slothful in business; but then he must be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. He should be seen to unite the ‘diligent worker’ and ‘sincere Christian’—and to be busy for both worlds.
The men of this world should be constrained to say of him, “This man is as attentive to business, and as diligent in it as we are; but we can perceive in all he does, an inflexible regard to morality, and an invariable reference to piety. We can discover no lack of diligence or prudence; but it is perfectly evident, that his heart and highest hope are in heaven. He is neither so elated in prosperity, nor so depressed in adversity, as we are. He has some secret source of happiness, of which we are not possessed! His eye is upon some driving force, which we do not recognize.”
What a testimony!
Who can obtain a higher one? Who should seek less?d
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THE LAST PANG, AND GROAN, AND TEAR!
J. A. James, “Afflictions”
The Christian also looks to the end of afflictions! The end may sometimes come in this world. In reference to this, the utmost that the believer can be sure of is—that they will end in God’s time. They may last for his whole life. The sickness which afflicts his body may be unto death! The loss which he has sustained in his property may be irreparable, and poverty may go down with him to the grave! The trial which beclouds and distresses his spirits may be his lot for life! But on the other hand, they may not! God may be bringing him “through fire and through water to bring him out into a wealthy place.” But the Christian leaves this in the hand of God, and endeavors to maintain a hope which shall save him from despondency—checked at the same time by a reverence that guards him from unwarranted presumption.
But if the end of the trial should not come in this world—it will come in the next world—when they will not only forever cease, but leave an eternal blessing behind! “I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!” “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!” Four things are set forth in these passages.

  1. Our afflictions will have a termination! This is sweet. They are to end—they are not to last forever! The last pang, and groan, and tear are at hand—and how near the Christian never knows!
  2. Our afflictions are not to end like those of the brute creation—in the grave merely—but in heaven! The last pang, and groan, and tear are to usher in that blessed
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state of which it is so beautifully said, “The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters—and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!” Heaven shall terminate the afflictions of the righteous!

  1. Heaven is so glorious, that the first view of its scenes, and the first moment of its enjoyment, shall make amends for the longest life of the most protracted and intense sufferings!
  2. The sufferings of our earthly pilgrimage will enhance and increase the felicities of heaven! Their submissive endurance; the graces which they call into exercise; the sanctification which they promote; the heavenly temper which they cultivate, will be the means of ripening the spirit, and making it fit for its eternal inheritance!
    Every tear that is shed;
    every groan that is heaved;
    every loss that is sustained;
    every moment of suffering that is endured;
    every disappointment that is experienced,
    which is borne with patience, with resignation, with unwearied holiness—will not only be followed with millions of ages of ineffable felicity—but will prepare the soul for its enjoyment, and add something to its weight and its luster! d
    HE WHO TRIFLES WITH IT IS A FOOL!
    J. A. James, “The Practical Believer Delineated”
    If the man who trembles at death is a coward; he who trifles with it is a fool! There is a thousand times more rationality in the trembler—than in the trifler!
    There is a phenomenon in the rational world well worthy of consideration, inquiry, and solution—the strange and
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fatal insensibility of men to the grand fact that they are mortal! Since it is infallibly certain that they must and will die—and since death is so solemn an event—how does it happen that so few ever seriously think of it, or really prepare for it?
One would think that so grand and solemn a fact as death, especially viewed in connection with the events which are to immediately follow it—heaven, hell and eternity—along with the uncertainty how soon it may be realized—might operate with an unlimited and altogether overpowering influence upon men’s minds and hearts!
But men wish to forget death!
They try to forget it—and alas, too often succeed in accomplishing this fatal oblivion! Yet we can scarcely wonder at this, when we consider what is their spiritual condition—and what death is!
It is the commonness of death, which deprives it of its extreme dreadfulness. If death happened in our world only once in a century, it would be felt like the shock of an earthquake; and would hush the inhabitants of earth into a breathless silence, while the echoes of the knell of the departed soul were reverberating around the globe!
Death is….
the moment of destiny;
the seal of eternity;
the cessation of probation;
the commencement of retribution and judgment!
The antecedents of death are dreadful—so are the accompaniments—so are the consequences!
To every sense—death is revolting!
To every social affection—death is crucifying!
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To reason—death is perplexing!
To everything but saving faith—death is overwhelming!
TRAVELING TO GLORY, HONOR, IMMORTALITY AND ETERNAL LIFE!
J. A. James, “Faith and the Blessings of This Life”
Earth is to its inhabitants, neither a paradise nor a desert. If it has not all the beautiful scenes and productions of a paradise—so neither has it all the dreariness and desolation of a desert. This world is called “a valley of tears,” but it is not less true that it is sometimes a valley without the tears. It often wears a smiling aspect, and reflects the light of God’s graciousness and bounty.
We know very well that man’s chief portion lies in the blessings of salvation, and the hope of eternal glory. These are so vast as almost to reduce all else to nothing. Full pardon of sin, and the hope of an eternity of pure and perfect felicity, are such amazing expectations, as might seem to render us absolutely indifferent alike to….
poverty and riches; pain and ease; obscurity and renown.
How little would it signify to him who was going to take possession of a kingdom and a throne, whether he traveled through a desert or a garden; or whether he dined meagerly or sumptuously; or whether he had all best accommodations and conveniences along the way. His thoughts would be so engrossed with the permanent scenes of greatness, grandeur, power, and wealth before him—as to be almost insensible to the privations or comforts along the way. So it is, with a Christian traveling to glory, honor, immortality and eternal life!
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It is incumbent upon Christians to let their spirit and conduct be consistent with the hope of eternal glory, in that eminent spirituality and heavenliness of mind, which are manifested in a supreme, constant, and practical regard to divine and eternal things.
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A CHRISTIAN’S HABITS
John Angell James, “Christian Fellowship” 1822
Christian parents should resist the entrance of worldly conformity into their families.
Expensive entertainments, mirthful parties,
vain and frivolous amusements, showy modes of dress,
should be most cautiously avoided!
True religion will not dwell amid such scenes; her refined and spiritual taste is soon offended, and she retires.
A Christian’s habits should be simple and spiritual.
If it is his aim to approach as nearly as possible to the manners of the world without actually being numbered with its votaries, his children will be restrained with difficulty, on the godly side of the line of demarcation, and be perpetually longing and trying to push onward towards worldliness.
The miserable efforts, made by some professing Christians, to be thought people of taste and fashion, show how badly they bear the Christian yoke, and how nearly they are resolved to cast it away as an encumbrance. We would despise these things wherever we see them, if they did not demand claims upon our pity, still stronger than those upon our scorn.
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When a worldly temper has crept into the circle of a Christian family, piety retires before it, and the spirit of error soon enters to take possession of the desolate home.
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CHRIST’S SEEMINGLY INEXPLICABLE CONDUCT
J. A. James, “The Practical Believer Delineated” 1852
Behold the Canaanite woman appealing to Incarnate Mercy for her demon-possessed daughter, beseeching for a cure from Him who alone could effect it, and whom she believed could, if He would. What a plea! “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession!” One would think that such an appeal of course will be instantly heard and granted. “But Jesus gave her no reply—not even a word!” What! the ‘ear of pity’ deaf to such a petition! “What!” one would have imagined she would say, “is this the mercy, the fame of which has reached even my afflicted home? Will He not hear me, look on me, answer me? Must I return, and tell all who come to inquire about my plight—that He would not bestow a word or even a look, upon me?”
To increase her distress and discouragement, the disciples urged Jesus to send her away. “Tell her to leave,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Is this all the mercy that could be found in the hearts of all the twelve apostles? Poor woman, we pity you. There is very little hope for you!
Jesus at length breaks silence, and says, “I was sent only to help the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep— not the Gentiles.” His harsh words are more distressing than His silence!
Still her faith holds on, and her prayer continues, for –258–

“she came and worshiped Him and pleaded again— Lord, help me!” To this He makes a reply that seems to add insult to neglect. “It isn’t right to take food from the children—and throw it to the dogs!”
Mysterious answer! O Savior, how apparently unlike Yourself!
What must have been the poor widow’s reflections— “My heart is now almost broken—am I not a Gentile woman? and must I be called a dog? Is it thus He will deny His own character, and break the bruised reed? Must I go home and look upon my poor child with the sting of this insult and its venom rankling in my tortured bosom?”
Surely she will now give up her suit—stop her plea— and renounce her faith. Yes, she would have done so— had her faith been less strong. “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even dogs are permitted to eat crumbs that fall beneath their master’s table!” Marvelous reply, one of the finest responses which language ever formed, and the most ingenious reasonings ever drawn.
Jesus could hold out no longer. He could protract the trial no farther. Like Joseph under the influence of his feelings, when his heart was moved by the discourse of his brothers; Jesus drops the innocent disguise which His bursting compassion could not sustain another moment, and with delighted surprise He exclaims, “Woman, your faith is great! Your request is granted!”
What was the meaning of all this? What was the secret of Christ’s seemingly inexplicable conduct? What? He saw He had a subject which would enable Him to exhibit to the world an extraordinary instance of faith in prayer, and He determined to draw it forth in all its power and beauty. His heart was moved towards her from the
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beginning. He knew what He would do—and though He beat her off with one hand, He held her fast by the other.
Here then we have an instance of prayer continued under delays, apparent neglect, and repulse—and continued through the power of faith. The woman still believed that there was mercy in that heart, to which she for a long time appealed in vain, and that she should ultimately succeed—and she did. “And her daughter was instantly healed!”
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ALL THIS LOVELINESS OF CHARACTER
J. A. James, “The Practical Believer Delineated” 1852
“Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
An unholy person cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
There is a vast difference between sanctification—and the common morality of life. There are many people who are….
very amiable in their dispositions,
very just in their transactions,
very excellent in all their relationships, very lovely in their general character;
but who at the same time, whatever esteem and affection they may have—are not in a state of sanctification. They….
have never been convinced of sin, have never exercised faith in Christ, have never been born of the Spirit, have never been brought to love God.
All this loveliness of character is but the beautiful wildflower in the wilderness of unrenewed humanity.
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There can be no true holiness apart from the principle of supreme love to God. Until this is implanted in the soul, we are under the dominion of supreme selfishness—and all these excellences may be traced up to self! God’s law is not obeyed; God’s glory is not sought, because God Himself is not loved.
It is a melancholy spectacle, to see so much ‘general excellence of character’ as we sometimes witness, all fruitless to its possessor, as regards the eternal world, for lack of that Divine principle which transmutes all this apparently beautiful morality, into true godliness.
Without holiness, whatever amiable and lovely qualities of a general kind we may possess, we are still….
the children of wrath,
the enemies of God,
the subjects of unrenewed corruption, the heirs of perdition; and
going on to everlasting destruction!
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TURN AWAY FROM THE LOVELY ENCHANTRESS!
J. A. James, “Faith’s Victory over the World” 1852
“Don’t love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s.” 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.
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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 appetite. In the scenes of nature—by all the delights of taste and imagination. In the walks of science and literature—by all the delights of intellectual gratification. In the social circle—by all the enjoyments of friendship. In the domestic retreat—by all the sweets of marital bliss. 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 on the ground!
If immorality slays its thousands—the world slays its ten thousands! ‘Supreme love of the world’ will as certainly lead its possessor to the bottomless pit, as the love of open vice!
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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!
HE IS BOTH DEPRAVED AND CONDEMNED!
J. A. James, “The Practical Believer Delineated” 1852
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.
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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
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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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A SYSTEM OF RELIGIOUS PAUPERISM?
John Angell James
“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” 2 Thessalonaians 3:10-12
The poor should be conspicuous for their industry, and should not eat the bread of idleness. The poor have no right, therefore, to expect, that in consequence of their association with a Christian church, they are in any measure released from the obligation of the most unwearied industry. They are not to be supported in idleness, nor ought they to look for any financial allowance, while they are able to provide for themselves and their family.
The religion of Jesus Christ was never intended to establish a system of religious pauperism. It is to be feared, that many have entered into Christian fellowship on purpose to obtain its funds! This is a dreadful case,
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wherever it occurs, and should make all the poor members of our churches tremble at the most distant approximation to such a crime!
The only times in which Christians should feel that they have claims upon the funds of the church, are when sickness or old age has incapacitated them for labor; or when the produce of their industry is too scanty to procure the necessities of life.
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THE GUARDIAN ANGELS OF OUR CHURCHES!
John Angell James, “Christian Fellowship” 1822
“If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2
We must come back to the first principles of practical piety, and cultivate the passive virtues of the Christian character. We must remember that Christianity is being like Christ, and that unless we partake of that love which is patient and kind, which does not envy, nor boast, nor is proud, nor rude, nor self-seeking, nor easily angered, which keeps no record of wrongs—we are nothing!
Strange indeed it is, that men, who by their own confession are lost, vile, ruined, helpless sinners, should lack HUMILITY; and that they who believe themselves to be saved from hell by unmerited mercy, should be destitute of LOVE!
We must crucify that selfishness, which fixes upon its own gratification, and cherish that expansive benevolence which looks upon the good of others. We must contend to be lowest—not to be highest! We must seek to please, and not merely to be pleased.
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Let us remember that HUMILITY and LOVE are…. the necessary fruits of our doctrines,
the highest beauty of our character, and
the guardian angels of our churches!
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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
“For this city has been to me a provocation of My anger and of My wrath from the day that they built it even to this day; that I should remove it from before My face.” Jeremiah 32:31
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 every the 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!
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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!
Earthquakes’ 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!
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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.
“The Lord your God pronounced this evil on this place; and the Lord has brought it, and done according as He spoke: because you have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed His voice, therefore this thing is come on you.” Jeremiah 40:2-3
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O BLESSED HURRICANE!
Charles Spurgeon
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I observe Your word. It was good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” Psalm 119:67, 71
In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust to, and is therefore compelled to
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cast himself on God alone. When no human deliverance can avail, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God—and God alone!
When a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn—he flies into his Father’s arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! When he is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then, than at any other time.
Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives you to your Father!
I KILL
“The Death of Eminent Ministers, a Public Loss” A funeral sermon by J. A. James, Nov. 6, 1825
‘Chance’ has nothing to do with death! Not the outcast infant of a day old, exposed by its unnatural mother to perish by the tiger or the vulture; nor even the sparrow that dies of hunger in its nest—passes out of life without the knowledge of God.
“Don’t be afraid!” said Christ, “I am the first and the last, the living one. I was dead, but now I am alive forever! I have the keys of the unseen world and of death!” What consolation is there in this sublime declaration! The key of death is never for a moment entrusted out of His hands—and never can be wrested from them! Every time a human being dies, it is by an act of His power, in turning the key which unlocks the gates of death! Our life is under the constant and strict observation of His omniscient eye! He determines the
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moment when to take the key from His belt, and throw the portals of immortality back on their mighty hinges!
O, what comfort does this impart to us, in reference to our own lives—to know that exposed as we are to all the accidents and diseases of this ‘world of changes,’ and enveloped as we are in darkness as to the consequences of the next step, and the events of the next hour—that we cannot die by a random stroke, or by a blind chance! The key of death must be turned by Him who is infinitely wise, and powerful, and good!
“See now that I, even I, am He, There is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; There is none who can deliver out of My hand.” Deut. 32:39
THAT ONE MAJESTIC, INCONCEIVABLE, AND EXPRESSIVE WORD
J. A. James, “The Death of Mrs. Sherman” May 28, 1848
“And this is the promise which He promised 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; and 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
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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!
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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 for evermore!” 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!
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
THE BASE CARES AND THE PETTY ENJOYMENTS OF THE PRESENT WORLD
John Angell James
Sin is raging all around us!
Satan is busy in the work of destruction!
Men are dying!
Souls are every moment departing into eternity!
Hell is enlarging her mouth, and multitudes are continually descending to torments which knows no mitigation and no end!
How astounding is it sometimes to ourselves, that, the base cares and the petty enjoyments of the present world should have so much power over us, as to retard us in our heavenward course, and make us negligent and indolent, heedless and forgetful.
Time is short! Life is uncertain! Death is at hand!
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Immortality is about to swallow up our existence in eternal life—or eternal death!
Heaven expanding above us!
Hell is yawning beneath us!
Eternity is opening before us! d
IT IS BY FAITH
J. A. James, “The Death of Mrs. Sherman” May 28, 1848
It is by faith, as an operative principle of universal obedience to the gospel of Christ, that the believer “purifies his heart” and adorns his character with “the beauties of holiness,” through the power of the Divine Spirit.
It is by faith that he overcomes the world…. the dread of its frown,
the desire of its smile,
its evil maxims,
its corrupt principles.
It is by faith that he….
quenches the fiery darts of the wicked one, is delivered from the wiles of the devil, and bruises the serpent’s head.
It is by faith, as a pilgrim and stranger upon earth, he nourishes the desire for, and indulges the expectation of, that country which God has promised to those who love Him.
It is by faith that he rises superior to the love of life, vanquishes the fear of death, and while this monster puts his most horrid form of mischief on—he smiles at his terrors, and, swelling into rapture, exclaims, “O death, where is your sting!”
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ESSENTIAL TO EMINENT USEFULNESS
John Angell James
A revived church is the best hope of a lost world.
A revived ministry the best hope of a dormant church.
Under ‘a great show of outward profession,’ there is a lamentable deficiency of vital godliness in our churches. Much of the prevailing benevolence and activity of the church, are a mere substitute for spiritual religion—rather than the expression of vital godliness.
In our churches, it is easy to perceive….
how much more welcome is the ‘humorous’—than
the serious;
how much more anxious the audience is to be
‘entertained’—than to be edified;
how much greater homage is paid to the ‘talent’ of the
preacher—than to his piety!
In fact, our public meetings sometimes assume rather the character of ‘religious amusements’—than pious worship!
It ought never to be forgotten that a church meeting, if rightly understood, is a company of people brought together to carry out the design for which the Son of God expired upon the cross! Surely the frame of our minds, and the tone of the sermons, and the spirit and tendency of the whole worship service, ought to be in strict harmony with such a purpose. Yet many of our church meetings have rather lowered, than elevated the tone of our piety, and thus enfeebled our real strength for carrying on this great work.
Eminent piety is essential to eminent usefulness!
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It is eminent piety alone, which will enable us to take a clear and impressive view of the object to be sought, and supply the energies necessary for obtaining it.
It is eminent piety alone, which will purify our motives, and produce that spirit of profound humility, self- denial, dependence, and entire consecration—which are necessary to qualify us for the work.
It is eminent piety alone, which will keep up the spirit of faith and prayer, to which the divine promises are made. We must become more devout, more prayerful, more holy, more heavenly, more spiritual.
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HE SECRETLY WISHES THERE WAS NO
SUPREME BEING
J. A. James, “Dislike to Ministerial Faithfulness Stated and Explained”
“The fool says in his heart, There is no God!” Psalm 14:1
His sinful disposition is at deadly enmity with the perfection of the Divine character. The holiness of God is the object of his abhorrence—as long as this exists he cannot be at perfect peace. The rays of Divine purity, as often as they fall upon his disordered mind, must disturb and exasperate it. He secretly wishes there was no Supreme Being—or that He was not holy. If his powers were equal to his desires, he would….
wrest the sword of justice from the hand of Deity, strip the character of Jehovah of the beauties of holiness, dash in pieces the tables of His law,
overturn the throne of judgment, and
establish the reign of anarchy,
in order that he might sin in peace, and escape the punishment of his wickedness!
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The very existence of a holy God is, and ever must be, an annoyance to him, in whose mind there are combined the love of sin, a dread of its consequences, and a wish to be unmolested in his course of iniquity.
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FLESH-PLEASING PULPIT OPIATES!
J. A. James, “Dislike to Ministerial Faithfulness Stated and Explained”
“For it is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who tell the seers, ‘Don’t see;’ and to the prophets, ‘Don’t prophesy to us right things, speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits, get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.’” 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
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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 fancied 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 dislike 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!
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SLAVES OF THE WORLD
J. C. Philpot, “The Master’s Bounty”
In our natural state, we are all the slaves of the world. What the world presents—we love.
What the world offers—we delight in.
To please the world;
to get as large a portion as we can of its goods;
to provide amply for ourselves and our children;
to obtain and maintain a respectable station in it— this is the grand bent of man’s carnal heart.
“Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age.” Gal. 1:4
“You died with Christ from the elements of the world.” Col. 2:20
“You were bought with a price. Don’t become bondservants of men.” 1 Cor. 7:23
“Don’t be fashioned according to this world.” Rom.
12:2
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SLAVES OF SELF
J. C. Philpot, “The Master’s Bounty”
In our natural state, we are all the slaves of SELF. Self in its various forms—
proud self, lustful self, covetous self, righteous self—
self in some shape or other, is the idol before whom all carnal knees bow, the master whom all carnal hearts
serve.
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DO YOU REMEMBER LITTLE ELIZABETH?
J. A. James, “The Sunday School Teacher’s Guide”
“He who wins souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30
My ‘imagination’ has sometimes presented me with this picture of a faithful teacher’s entrance to the state of her everlasting rest. The agony of death finished, the triumph of faith completed—and the conquering spirit hastening to her crown! Upon the confines of the heavenly world, a divinely lovely form awaits her arrival. Enrapt in astonishment at the dazzling glory of this celestial inhabitant, she inquires, “Is this Gabriel, chief of all the heavenly multitudes—and am I honored with his aid to guide me to the throne of God?”
With a smile of ineffable delight, such as gives fresh beauty to an angel’s countenance, the mystic form replies, “Do you remember little Elizabeth, who was in yonder world—a pupil in your Sunday school class? Do you recollect the child who wept as you talked to her of sin—and directed her to the cross of the dying Redeemer? God smiled with approbation upon your effort, and by His own Spirit sealed the impression upon her heart in characters never to be effaced. Providence removed her from beneath your care, before the fruit of your labor was visible. The gospel seed, however, had taken root, and it was the privilege of another to water—what you had sown. Nourished by the influence of heaven, the ‘plant of piety’ flourished in her heart, and shed its fragrance upon her character. Piety, after guarding her from the snares of youth, cheered her amidst the accumulated trials of an afflicted life, supported her amidst the agonies of death, and elevated her to the mansions of immortality! And now behold before you—the glorified spirit of that poor child, who, under God, owes the eternal life on which
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she has entered—to your faithful labors in the Sunday School; and who is now sent by our Redeemer to introduce you to the world of glory, as your first and least reward for guiding the once thoughtless, ignorant, wicked Elizabeth to the world of grace! Hail, happy spirit! Hail, favored of the Lord! Hail, deliverer of my soul! Hail, to the world of eternal glory!”
I can trace the scene no further! I cannot paint the raptures produced in the honored teacher’s bosom by this unexpected encounter. I cannot depict the mutual gratitude and love of two such spirits meeting on the confines of heaven—much less can I follow them to their everlasting mansion, and disclose the bliss which they shall enjoy before the throne of God! All this, and a thousand times more, is attendant upon the salvation of one single soul! Teachers, what a motive to diligence!
Amidst surrounding millions, the faithful teacher shall stand to receive the public plaudits of his Judge and Savior—“In as much as you have done it unto the least of these My brethren—you have done it unto Me! Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!”
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THIS MOST HATEFUL DISPOSITION!
J. A. James, “The Sunday School Teacher’s Guide”
Temptations vary with our circumstances, but there is no scene from which they are entirely excluded. There is no situation, however obscured by solitude, or elevated by piety—from which all temptations can be effectually shut out. The fact is, that our chief danger arises from our own evil heart. Until we can be separated from our vile selves, we shall look in vain for a spot sequestered from the attack of temptation.
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One temptation to which Sunday School teachers are exposed, is a spirit of PRIDE.
To be a teacher of others;
to be invested with authority;
to be regarded as an oracle;
to be listened to with deference;
is a situation which has its temptations, and which some weak minds have found quite too powerful for the growth of humility.
You mistake, if you suppose that merely being a teacher of children, is too small to induce pride. Pride is a vice that does not dwell exclusively in king’s houses, wear only elegant clothing, and feed sumptuously every day upon lofty titles, fame or affluence. Pride is generated in the depravity of our nature, accommodates itself to our circumstances, and adapts itself to our taste!
Pride is found as often in the poor cottage, as in the elegant mansion. Consciousness of superiority—what- ever be the object of comparison—is the basis of this most hateful disposition of pride; and this may be supplied even from the office of a Sunday School teacher!
Be watchful therefore, over your own heart—for the loss of humility is a destruction in the Christian character, which cannot be repaired by the most splendid talents, or the most active zeal.
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THE DESIRE OF OUR SOUL
J. C. Philpot
“The desire of our soul is to Your Name, and to the remembrance of You.” Isaiah 26:8
How sweet and expressive is the phrase, “The desire of our soul!” How it seems to carry our feelings with it!
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How it seems to describe the longings and utterings of a soul into which God has breathed the spirit of grace and mercy!
The breathing of our heart, the cry, the sigh, the panting of our new nature, the longing of our inmost being, the heavings, gaspings, lookings, longings, pantings, hungerings, thirstings, and ventings forth of the new man of grace; all are expressed in those sweet and blessed words, “The desire of our soul.”
And what a mercy it is, that there should ever be in us “the desire” of a living soul; that though the righteous dealings of God are painful and severe, running contrary to everything nature loves; yet that with all these, there should be dropped into the heart that mercy, love, and grace, which draw forth the desire of the soul toward the Name of God.
“With my soul have I desired You in the night; yes, with my spirit within me will I seek You earnestly.” Isa. 26:9
Is your soul longing after the Lord Jesus Christ?
Is it ever, in the night season, panting after the manifestation of His presence? hungering and thirsting after the dropping of some word from His lips, some sweet whisper of His love to your soul?
These are marks of saving grace. The carnal, the unregenerate, the ungodly, have no such desires and
feelings as these.
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EVERY CHILD IS TOTALLY DEPRAVED
J. A. James, “The Sunday School Teacher’s Guide” 1816
It is important for you, in all your exertions, to bear in mind the total and universal depravity of the human race. By total depravity, I do not mean that people are as
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bad as they can be; for in general they lie under strong restraints—and most do not sin with reckless abandonment. I do not mean that they are all equally wicked; for some are less sinful than others. I do not mean that they are destitute of everything useful, and lovely in society; for their social affections are often strong and praiseworthy. I do not mean that their actions are always wrong; the contrary is manifestly true.
What I mean by total depravity, is an entire destitution in the human heart by nature—of all spiritual affection, and holy propensities. In this view, every child is totally depraved.
To change this state of the mind, and produce a holy bias; to create a new disposition; to turn all the affections into a new channel, and cause them to flow towards God and heaven, is the work of the omnipotent and eternal Spirit!
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FLY TO JESUS!
Octavius Winslow, “My Times in God’s Hand”
Oh! the unutterable blessings that flow from a vital union with the Lord Jesus!
All of your cares are His cares. All of your sorrows are His sorrows. All of your needs are His supply. All of your sicknesses are His cure.
Believer, nothing can….
separate you from the love of Jesus,
nor sever you from His care,
nor exclude you from His sympathy,
nor banish you from His heaven of eternal
blessedness!
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Fly to Jesus in the confidence of a loving Friend. Reveal to Him your secret sorrow.
Confess to Him your hidden sin.
Acknowledge your backsliding to Him.
Tell Him your needs, your sufferings, your fears. Tell Him how chilled your affections to Him are. Tell Him how reserved is your obedience.
Tell Him how imperfect is your service.
Tell Him how you long to…. love Him more ardently; follow Him more closely; serve Him more devotedly; and to be more wholly His.
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GENTLY RUBBED OFF BY THE HAND OF LOVE
John Angell James, “The Sin of Scoffing at Religion” 1824
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. “Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for My sake. “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” Matthew 5:10-12
Consider it your honor to be persecuted for righteousness sake.
The richest laurel that can adorn your brow is the scorn of fools!
The praise of the wicked is censure—and their satire is praise.
Every feeble mind can scoff, but only the wise man can bear it well.
The scorner is below a man; but the man who bears scorn patiently is like an angel.
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Instead of indulging in revenge, exercise forgiveness!
You have reason rather to be grateful to the scoffer, than to be angry with him. His foul breath, though it seems to tarnish your reputation for awhile, yet being gently rubbed off by the hand of love, shall only prepare it for a brighter luster.
And it shall be proved hereafter that the scorner was the occasion of adding one more gem to the crown of glory which shall adorn your brow with unfading honor!
Pity him, for he is indeed more an object of your pity than of your contempt. Thus prove to the scoffer that the religion which he ridicules, subdues the turbulent and angry passions, teaches its possessor to forgive iniquities against himself, and implants the godlike disposition of returning good for evil.
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THE SUM TOTAL OF WORLDLY ENJOYMENT IN THOSE TWO CIPHERS!
John Angell James, “Youth Warned!” 1824
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14
The design of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes seems to be this—after detailing the good things of life to the widest extent, setting them in the strongest light, and granting to them every possible advantage which their most passionate admirers contend for—to demonstrate, that as they are attended with so many inseparable evils, are so short-lived in their continuance, so unprofitable in the hour of death, and so utterly useless in the eternal world beyond the
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grave—that they are insufficient for the needs of the soul, and inadequate to the eternal happiness of man.
No one was more capable of forming a correct opinion on this subject than Solomon; since no man ever commanded more resources of earthly delight than he did, or ever more eagerly availed himself of the opportunities which he possessed. And yet he grew disgusted and dissatisfied with sensual pleasures, and at length gives us the sum total of worldly enjoyment in those two ciphers—vanity and vexation of spirit!
His testimony, therefore, is to be considered as that of a man who had drunk the cup of earthly pleasures to its dregs—and who found those dregs to be wormwood, gall, and poison!
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THE WORST ENEMY OF MANKIND!
J. A. James, “Character & Reward of the Faithful Minister”
“Making yourselves examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:3
“Who will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every assembly.” 1 Corinthians 4:17
They expect to see our descriptions of piety copied into our own conduct; and happy the man who having set forth true godliness in his discourses, in all its beautiful proportions and all its glowing colors, shall constrain the audience to exclaim, “The painter has delineated his own likeness!” Happy the man who, when the people shall ask, “What is true religion?” shall be not only able to reply in reference to his pulpit, “Come and hear,” but in reference to his life, “Come and see!”
He alone is an honor to his pastoral office, who lives the gospel which he preaches, and adorns by his conduct the doctrines which he believes. But the unholy
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minister is a disgrace to Christianity, and the worst enemy of mankind! He is the most powerful abettor of infidelity, and does more to wither the eternal interests of mankind than the most malignant and pestiferous treatises that ever issued from the press. If he perished alone in his sins, our feelings might be those of unmingled pity. But when we view him ruining the souls of others by his example, we unite abhorrence with our compassion, just as we would at the conduct of the shepherd who first drove his flock over a preci- pice, and then dashed himself upon the rocks below!
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HE CANNOT FORGET
J. A. James, “Christian Mercy Explained and Enforced”
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who disobeys the Son won’t see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36
The Christian realizes that the whole human race is in a state of sin and ruin; suffering all the consequences of sin in this world—and exposed to the bitter pains of eternal death in the world to come. He is convinced that without a fitness for the pure and spiritual joys of heaven, not one individual of all the millions who are continually passing into eternity, can ascend to the realms of glory and felicity. They appear, in his eyes, to be actually perishing, and hence he is filled with the tenderest concern, and affected with the deepest sorrow. In his estimation….
the most agonizing diseases, the most pinching poverty, the greatest deprivation, and the heaviest cares,
are as nothing, compared with those miseries which sin has brought upon the deathless soul.
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He cannot forget that the soul, if not saved, will become immortal in its suffering and wretchedness.
AN INSATIABLE THIRST AFTER LARGER ATTAINMENTS
John Angell James, “Small Beginnings Not to Be Despised”
The man who thinks he has enough godliness—gives a decisive proof that he has none at all. There is in true piety, an insatiable thirst after larger attainments in knowledge, in faith, in hope, in love, in purity.
Therefore let every real Christian adopt the language of Paul, and act up to the assertion, “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having laid hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
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DELUSIVE SIGNS!
John Angell James
There are delusive signs of spiritual health and vigor. Increased ability and disposition to ‘talk of religion’ in the way of explaining and defending its doctrines, may be mistaken for an increased influence of it in the
heart. Yet this may be nothing but the working of pride, or an effusion of vanity.
To have a knowledge of the truths of Scripture, without an experience of their influence upon the heart, is only
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walking to the bottomless pit with the torch of truth in our right hand!
Zeal for some peculiar notions or forms, may be thought to be pure concern for God’s glory. Yet all the while it may only be the most rancorous party spirit.
Liberality in giving may be merely self-righteousness or ostentation.
Undeviating formality may be erroneously thought to be ardent devotion.
Enthusiastic attachment to some novel opinion, may be erroneously supposed to be spirituality of mind.
These are but a few specimens of the errors into which people fall, in judging spiritual health and vigor. And they tend to show the vast importance of our having a scriptural knowledge of the correct tests of personal godliness.
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AS HE SNUFFS THE GALE OF POPULAR APPLAUSE!
J. A. James, “Ministerial Duties Stated and Enforced”
“In everything commending ourselves, as servants 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!
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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!
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THIS HEAVENLY MAGNET!
J. A. James, “The Attraction of the Cross” 1819
“But God commends His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
It magnifies the love of God, to consider the guilt, sinfulness and unworthiness of its objects.
As an exhibition of unparalleled love, the cross melts and captivates the heart! Think of the attraction of the cross— when the love which it exhibits, is seen and felt by a mind under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
What was it, my readers, which melted your hard and frozen hearts into penitence, and gratitude and love? What was it that drew you away from your sins? What was it that brought you as willing captives to the feet of Jesus? It was the love of God beseeching you upon the summit of Calvary, and with open arms bidding you welcome to the heart of Deity!
Everything else united to repel you. The terrors of justice petrified you with horror, and despair was binding you more closely than ever to your sins—until divine mercy appeared and told you there was hope for the guilty—in this heavenly magnet—the cross of Christ!
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GATHERING AROUND THE VERY
CRADLE OF HIS INFANT!
J. A. James, “Parental Desire, Duty, & Encouragement”
The godly parent reflects on the destiny of that being which with rapture, he calls his child. He penetrates the disguise which the ‘helplessness and unconsciousness of infancy’ seem to have thrown around that child, and discovers the grandeur and the dignity of an immortal
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being! He sees in his countenance, that face which is to shine like the sun in the skies with the glory of God— OR to be clouded with the infamy and horror of the divine curse! He hears a voice which is to be forever hymning the praises of its Creator—OR to be forever venting blasphemies against its Judge!
In short, he contemplates a being born for eternity; one who will be forever towering from height to height of glory in heaven—OR sinking from gulf to gulf of despair in hell!
He reflects that his child is born with the latent seeds of sinful corruption in his nature, which await only the advancing ‘spring of life’ to vegetate, to strike root, to spring up under the fatal warmth of temptation, and bear the bitter fruits of rebellion against God.
He sees, in imagination, the world, the flesh and the devil, gathering around the very cradle of his infant, fixing their murderous eyes upon his immortal soul and going out to prepare for his ruin!
He realizes that his child possesses an immortal soul, which is in danger of being forever undone! To desire anything for him less than the salvation of his child’s immortal soul, is cruelty of the blackest kind!
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AN ICE HOUSE, INSTEAD OF A HOT HOUSE!
J. A. James, “Earnestness in Personal Piety” 1847
It appears quite clear then, that great numbers of Christian professors are but 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
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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 laborious 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, 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.
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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!
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THE DEVIL’S SIN
John Angell James, “The Olive Branch and the Cross”
Pride is the parent sin. Pride is the original sin, both in heaven and on earth. Pride is the devil’s sin, and that by which our first parents fell. We have all more of this hateful disposition than we either know or suspect.
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THE HAND OF FAITH
John Angell James, “The Christian Professor”
When the hand of faith opens to lay hold of Christ, it drops the sin it had grasped before. You must part with
your sin—or Christ.
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CONSTANT MULTIPLICATION OF CORRUPTED COPIES
J. A. James, “Earnestness in Personal Religion” 1847
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 profes- sor wards off the allegation of his being below his 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, 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— –296–

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!
The inspired, unalterable, and infallible standard of Scripture is too spiritual, too devout, too unearthly, too humbling, too self-denying, for many.
“Deny yourself, and take up your cross, and follow Me!” is still the stern, unbending demand of Christ.
EVERY ONE OF THOSE LITTLE CREATURES WILL BE EITHER IN HEAVEN—OR IN HELL
John Angell James, “Parental Earnestness” 1847
“Nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
Fond mother, look at that babe hanging on your bosom, and those other children sporting around your knee. And you, the father of the family, watching them indulge in joyous emotions and playful expressions—pause, ponder, reflect—millions of ages from that moment of domestic ecstasy, every one of those little creatures will be either in heaven—or in hell; will be a seraph—or a fiend; will be enduring inconceivable torment—or enjoying ineffable felicity; will be an associate with the devil and his demons in everlasting fire—or a companion with the innumerable company of angels in everlasting glory!
Overwhelming thought!
How tremendous is the responsibility of a parent! The immortal destiny of your children should be your one great, commanding, controlling, absorbing object!
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SATAN’S WORKSHOP!
J. A. James, speaking of the power of the press in 1848
“That no advantage may be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” 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 pernicious and pestiferous 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!
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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!]
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BUT YOU ARE DEAD!
John Angell James, “Earnestness in Religion”
“I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead!” Revelation 3:1
One most impressive lessons which is taught here, is that churches may have a reputation for being in a flourishing condition—and yet be all the while in a state of progressive decay!
How many churches are flattering themselves that they are in a flourishing condition!
The place of worship may be commodious, elegant, and free from debt. The minister may be popular, and approved by his flock. The congregation may be large, respectable, and influential. The finances may be good, and even prosperous. In short, there may be every mark of external prosperity—until the church flatters itself
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into the idea of its being in a high state of spiritual health.
But examine its internal state! Inquire into its condition as viewed by God! Inspect the private conduct of its members—and what a different aspect of things is seen then!
How prevalent is the spirit of the world in their social fellowship! Games and parties, scarcely differing from the fashionable circles of the worldly and the mirthful, are kept up at much expense, and with every accompaniment of frivolity and levity! Let a godly person of devotional taste, spiritual affections, and tenderness of conscience, enter into the parties of such a congregation—and what a destitution of vital piety, and what prevailing worldliness would he find!
Let us look beneath the illusive covering of external prosperity—and examine whether disease and decay are lurking underneath!
There is often a strange contrast between the ‘heavenliness’ which a church professes—and the ‘worldliness’ of her conduct.
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17
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PIETY AND MORALITY
John Angell James
True religion consists of two parts—piety and morality.
By piety, I mean a right state of heart towards God, that is, the existence of supreme love, arising out of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, manifested by delight in God’s
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nature, reverence for His character, obedience to His commands, gratitude for His services, and all those acts of worship which He has enjoined in His word. True piety is the real, intelligent and cordial submission of the whole man, to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.
By morality, I mean all those moral duties which we owe to our fellow-creatures and to ourselves.
True religion is a right state of the soul, not only towards God, but also towards man. It must follow us everywhere, and influence us in all things, and at all times.
True religion gives an elevation and dignity to the whole character, and exalts even the commonest duties of life into acts of piety.d
HAMMER, ANVIL, FILE AND FIRE!
C. H. Spurgeon, “A Song Concerning Lovingkindnesses”
“Lord, I know that Your judgments are righteous, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Ps. 119:75
O, my brethren, how much we owe to the hammer and the anvil and the file and the fire! Thanks be to God for the little crosses of every day; yes, and for the heavy crosses which He sends us at certain seasons. He does not gather the twigs of His rod, on the ‘mountains of wrath’—but He plucks them in the ‘garden of love’! Though He sometimes makes blue marks upon us as He smites us heavily—yet His strokes are fewer than our crimes, and lighter than our guilt.
Love bathes all the wounds which it makes—and kisses away the hurt. Blessed be a chastening God! Set down your chastenings among your choicest mercies!
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“For whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Hebrews 12:6
OBSERVE THE HOLY VIRTUES
John Angell James, “Elizabeth Bales—a Pattern for Sunday School Teachers & Tract Distributors”
“In all things showing yourself an example of good works; in your teaching showing integrity, seriousness, incorruptibility.” Titus 2:7
Never was there a more pure and sincere creature; a more dutiful daughter; a more harmless and inoffensive being, than she was! And yet how did she confess and bewail her sinfulness in the sight of God; how entirely did she renounce all dependence upon her own good doings, and how exclusively did she rely upon the righteousness of Christ!
Observe the holy virtues which clustered in her character….
how profound was her humility, how gentle her demeanor,
how striking her meekness,
how uncomplaining her submission, how exemplary her patience,
how exquisite her benevolence, how ardent her zeal,
how tender her attachments, how intense her piety!
And, to crown all, how unmixed was all this with any spiritual pride, or any sense of superiority, or any sanctimonious airs. How much is there for all of us to learn and to copy! Be stimulated, encouraged and guided by the example of Elizabeth Bales!
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WHO CAN WONDER?
J. A. James, “Religious Education of Children” 1846
“Be an example to those who believe, in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and 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 to the world or to 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 spiritu- ality, 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.
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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
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TAKE THE FOLLOWING MAXIMS FOR YOUR GUIDE:
John Angell James, “An Address to the Children” 1855

  1. True piety will be your best friend—for both worlds!
  2. The eye of God is always upon you, and He is present when no one else is near!
  3. Godliness is the best of all things, for it makes bitter things sweet—and sweet things sweeter!
  4. What a boy would be as a man, let him seek to be that while a boy. The boy is the father of the man!
  5. Sin is deceitful as well as wicked, leading you to commit great sins by first tempting you to little ones; and leading you into habits of sin by asking for only one sin at a time. “Only this once!” is Satan’s way of beguiling you into a course of sin. What ought not to be done at all—should not be done once!
  6. Avoid the first wrong step!
  7. There are three things, which if lost, can never be recovered—time, opportunity, and the soul!
  8. A holy and useful life is more to be desired than a long or a prosperous one!
  9. To live wholly for ourselves is a poor, base, contemptible life!
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  10. “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
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    THE DAMNATION OF ONE SOUL
    John Angell James, “Queries for Self Examination”
    “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26
    One soul is of more value than the whole world!
    The salvation of one soul is a greater blessing than the temporal deliverance of an empire!
    The damnation of one soul is a greater calamity than the misery of a kingdom for a thousand ages!
    “He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.” Revelation 14:10-11
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    THERE IS WONDROUS POWER IN IT!
    John Angell James, “Happiness”
    Saving faith has a great influence on all one’s feelings, actions, and character. Though there is no merit in faith—there is wondrous power in it! Faith is the inlet both of happiness and holiness to the soul. To believe that the eternal God….
    is reconciled to us, pardons all our sins,
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receives us to His special favor,
gives us a title to eternal life,
must from necessity be a source of ineffable delight, and the cause of an entire change in all our tastes, pursuits, and character!
True faith in Christ is….
the foundation of the believer’s happiness, the means of his holiness,
the spring of all his actions,
the true basis of his character.
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BEAUTIFUL BUBBLES!
John Angell James, “Happiness”
“Many say, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lord, let the light of Your face shine on us. You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and their new wine are increased.” Psalm 4:6-7
There is certainly some pleasure in the gratification of the appetites—in the enjoyment of health, friends, property, and fame. Even sinful objects have their pleasures. There could be no power in temptation, if sin yielded no enjoyment. But viewing man as a rational, moral, and immortal creature; as a sinner subject to the stings of a reproachful conscience, and under the displeasure of the God he has offended; as liable to all the vicissitudes of a tearful existence, and ever exposed to the fear and stroke of death—he needs something more for his happiness, than can be found in the objects of this world. He has….
needs which they cannot supply; cravings which they cannot satisfy; woes which they cannot alleviate; anxieties which they cannot dispel.
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For each one that is even tolerably successful in gaining felicity from visible objects, there are many who utterly fail. Their schemes are frustrated; their hopes perish; their air castles vanish as they journey on in life. And each ends a course of worldly-mindedness, by adding another to the millions of examples which have proved this present world to be vanity.
In some cases, abundance and unobstructed enjoyment produce revulsion. Tired of old pleasures, they look about for new ones, and plead the oft-repeated inquiry, “Who will show us anything good?” Novelty perhaps comes to the relief of their discontented, restless, and dissatisfied minds; but novelty itself soon grows old, and still something new is wanted. There remains an aching void within, a craving, hungry appetite for bliss—unsatisfied, unfed. They hunt for enjoyment….
in endless parties of pleasure,
in every place of amusement,
in every scene of diversion;
in the dance, and in the game;
in the theater, and in the concert; amidst the scenes of nature, and in the changes of foreign travel.
But happiness, like a shadow ever flitting before them, and ever eluding their grasp, tantalizes them with its form, without yielding them its substance; and excites their hopes—only to disappoint them!
What are all the pleasures of time and sense, all the objects of this visible world—but as the dropping of pebbles into a deep chasm, which, instead of filling it up, only tell them how deep it is—by awakening the dismal echoes of emptiness and desolation.
Look at the worldling. Does he succeed in his quest for happiness? Is he satisfied? Let him possess all he seeks, all he wishes, all that earth can furnish; let rank be
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added to wealth, and fame to both; let a constant round of fashionable amusements, festive scenes, and elegant parties, follow in endless succession, until his cup is full to overflowing. What does it all amount to? “All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure. When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind! There was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2)
Have not multitudes since Solomon’s time, made the same melancholy confession? Is it not a general admission, that the pleasure of worldly objects arises more from hope and anticipation—rather than possession? They are like beautiful bubbles, which, as they float, reflect the colors of the rainbow—but dissolve and vanish when grasped! Tell me, votaries of earthly good, have you realized what you expected? Are not the scenes of festivity and amusement resorted to, by many with aching hearts? Does not the smiling countenance often conceal a troubled spirit; and is not the laugh resorted to in order to suppress the sigh?
Even if it were granted, that the possession of wealth, the gratifications of taste, and the indulgence of appetite, could give happiness in seasons of health and prosperity—they must inevitably fail in the day of sickness and adversity. If they were satisfying for a season—they are all fragile and uncertain! All the enjoyments of this life are like gathered flowers, which are no sooner plucked, than they begin to lose their beauty and their fragrance while we look at them and smell them; and which, however mirthful and beautiful they appeared while they were growing—begin to wither as soon as they are in our hands!
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FIENDLIKE, BEASTLIKE, MANLIKE, GODLIKE
John Angell James, “The Man Who Killed His Bad Neighbors by Kindness”
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who insult you.” Luke 6:27-28
To return evil for good, is fiendlike. To return evil for evil, is beastlike. To return good for good, is manlike. But to return good for evil, is Godlike. This is true practical Christianity.
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THE RELIGION OF THIS POOR HOTTENTOT WOMAN
John Angell James, “The Path to the Bush”
It is the practice of some of the Christian Hottentots, in order to enjoy the privilege of secret prayer with greater privacy and freedom than they could do in their own confined and incommodious dwellings—to retire among the trees and bushes, that they may carry on their devotions without being intruded on by others, and also derive all that tranquilizing influence which would be produced by a spot, with which no other occupations, thoughts, and feelings are associated, than such as are holy. Each individual selects for his own use a particular bush, behind which, and concealed by it, he may commune with his heavenly Father in secret. By the others, this bush is considered as sacred to the one by whom it had been appropriated; and which, therefore, is never to be violated by the foot, or even by the gaze of another, during the season it is occupied by its proprietor. The constant tread of the worshipers, in their repeated visits to these hallowed spots, would, of
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necessity, wear a path in the grass which lay between their huts, and the sylvan scene of their communion with God.
On one occasion, a Christian Hottentot woman said to another member of their little community, “Sister, I am afraid you are somewhat declining in piety.” The words were accompanied with a look of affection, and were uttered with a tone that savored nothing of accusation, nor of reproachful severity—but was expressive of tender concern, and the meekness of wisdom. The individual thus addressed, asked her friend for the reason of her fears. “Because,” replied this good and gentle spirit, “the grass has grown over your path to your bush.” Nature carrying on its usual progress, had disclosed the secret. The backslider could not deny the fact. There, in the growing grass, was the indisputable evidence that the feet which had once trodden it down had ceased to frequent the spot. She did not attempt to excuse it, but fell under the sweet influence of this sisterly reproof, and confessed, with ingenuous shame and sorrow, that her heart had turned away from the Lord. The admonition had its desired effect—the sinner was converted from the error of her ways, and her watchful and faithful reprover had the satisfaction and reward of seeing the wanderer restored—not only to the path to the bush, but to the renewed favor of that God with whom she there again communed in secret.
Note the value of private prayer, and the connection between its regular and spiritual performance, and a healthy state of the soul. When the bush was neglected, and the path to it forsaken—then did the religion of this poor Hottentot woman begin to spiritually decline. And how could it be otherwise? Who ever kept up a vigorous piety—when secret prayer was neglected?
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It is in the closet of private devotion, that…. our cares are lightened,
our sorrows mitigated,
our corruptions mortified,
our graces strengthened, and
we shake off the dust of the earth!
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MEN MAY SEE SOMETHING OF GOD IN ME!
John Angell James, “Forgiveness of Injuries”
“For I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15
It has long been my conviction, that there is a great deficiency in evangelical churches—of the practical enforcement of Christian duties in detail; especially of what may be emphatically called the Christian virtues— the passive graces of the Christian character, the exercise of brotherly kindness and love.
It is not so acceptable to have all the special and difficult duties of the Christian’s life, or man’s conduct to his fellows, set clearly before the understanding and enforced upon the conscience. Men do not like to be followed through all the labyrinths of the heart’s deceitfulness, beaten out of every refuge of lies, and made to feel the obligation to love where they are inclined to hate; and to forgive where they desire to revenge.
And we ministers pander too much to this taste. The pulpit has not done its duty. We have preached to the intellect, to the imagination, and to the taste—but not enough to the heart and to the conscience. In our endeavor to please, we have not been sufficiently intent upon the greater object—to profit. We have not preached justification too much—but sanctification too
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little. We have urged faith—but not love. We have descanted upon the evil of licentiousness, and falsehood, and dishonesty, and covetousness—but have said far, far too little about malice and bitterness. We have urged men to zeal and liberality—but not enough to humility, forbearance, and forgiveness. We have rightly led men to view the cross of Christ—but we have not sufficiently urged them to take up their own cross. We have properly entreated them to view Jesus as their Righteousness—but not sufficiently as their Example.
O, Christians….
study that wondrous character, contemplate that illustrious pattern, dwell upon that beautiful model,
until the frosty incrustations of your cold, hard heart have all melted, like icicles before the sun!
How wonderful and how ennobling is the conception, and what an ambition should it raise in the mind of the Christian, to consider and say, “Men may see something of God in me!” Yes, we can teach them what God is, as to His moral character, and let them see in ‘our merciful disposition’ a ray of the infinite sun of His own glory. These sweet relentings of our nature, these soft and genial currents of our soul, these effusions of love— these, we can remind them, are but the overflowings of His goodness, His own love, into our hearts, and the reflection of His infinite mercy to us.
“He who says he remains in Him ought himself also to walk just like He walked.” 1 John 2:6
“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21
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DO YOU INDEED ACT AS YOU PRAY?
John Angell James, “Prayer and Practice”
I need not prove to you that prayer, as a duty, is essential to Christian conduct; and, as a privilege, is equally indispensable to Christian enjoyment. All Christians give themselves to this devout exercise. Their petitions are copious, comprehensive, and seemingly earnest.
What solemn professions they make to God! What ardent desires they express!
What numerous blessings they seek!
What strong resolutions they form! If we so pray—how ought we to live? What kind of people must we be—to live up to the standard of our prayers? And ought we not, in some measure at least, to reach this standard? Should there not be a harmony, a consistency, a proportion—between our practice and our prayers?
Do you indeed ACT as you pray? Do you understand the import, and feel the obligation of your own petitions? Do you rise from your knees where you have asked and knocked—to seek? Do you really want, wish for, and endeavor to obtain an answer to your prayers? Are you really intent upon doing, and being—what you ask for in prayer?
Our prayers are to act upon ourselves; they have, or ought to have, great power in the formation of character and the regulation of conduct.
It is plain, therefore, that much of prayer is mere words. We either do not understand, or do not consider, or do not mean—what we say.
Do we go from praying—to acting, and to live for salvation, for heaven, for eternity?
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How common is it for professors to pray for victory over the world; to be delivered from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; to be enabled to set their affections on things above, and not on things of the earth; and to be dead to seen and temporal things. And yet all the while they are as obviously eager to amass wealth, to multiply the attractions of earth, and to enjoy as much luxurious gratification as possible!
‘Spirituality of mind’ is the subject of innumerable prayers from some who never take a step to promote it!—but, on the contrary, are doing all they can to make themselves carnally minded! How many repeat that petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” who, instead of most carefully keeping at the utmost possible distance from all inducements to sin, place themselves in the very path of sin!
How often do we pray to have the mind of Christ, and to imitate the example of Jesus. But where is the assiduous endeavor, the laboring effort, to copy this high model, in….
its self-denying condescension,
its profound humility,
its beautiful meekness,
its indifference to worldly comforts, its forgiving mercy,
its devotedness to God?
How often do we pray to be delivered from evil tempers and irascible feelings. And yet we indulge them on every slight provocation, and take no pains to subdue them!
It is unnecessary to multiply the illustrations of the inconsistency between our prayers and our practice.
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CASTING ALL OUR SINS INTO OBLIVION!
John Angell James, “Forgiveness of Injuries”
“Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of His heritage? He doesn’t retain His anger forever, because He delights in lovingkindness. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19
Wonderful language! This is one of the finest images to represent the completeness of God’s pardoning mercy to be found in all the Bible. He casts our sins not into a brook nor a river where they might be found again; no, nor into the sea near the shore where the tide might wash them up again—but like a stone cast into the depths of the sea, where they can never be fished up again, but lie forever buried and forgotten at the bottom of the ocean! This is divine forgiveness—casting all our sins into oblivion! d
SO HIDEOUS AND SO DREADFUL IS THE OFFSPRING!
John Angell James, “Sorrow for the Death of Friends”
How dreadful is the nature of sin! Sin is the parent of death. Death the firstborn of sin. What must be the parent—when so hideous and so dreadful is the offspring! Who can have watched the harbingers of death—the groans, the pains, the dying strife—without being struck with the fearful nature of man’s revolt from God?
Death in itself, and by itself—is horrid and revolting! To see all this inflicted upon a Christian, a child of God, an heir of glory; to see no way even to the kingdom of God, to the realms of immortality—but this dark valley of corruption, earth, and worms—this gives us a most
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impressive idea of the dreadful nature of sin! How such scenes should enlarge our views of the malignity of sin, and embitter our hearts against it!
O sin, sin—what have you done!
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LIKE WATER TO THE FLAME OF JOY
John Angell James, “Spiritual Joy”
“I have spoken these things to you, so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
One of the reasons why so little spiritual joy is experienced by the majority of Christian professors, is because of SIN. Sin weakens spiritual joy—and ought to do so! I do not now mean immorality—for that extinguishes joy! I mean….
the lesser workings of our corruption, the sins of the heart,
the sins of the tongue,
the sins of the character,
sins known only to God and conscience, sins of omission,
sins of defect.
I mean sins that do not unchristianize us, any more than they excommunicate us from the church. Such sins unopposed, unmortified—do, and must, prevent or diminish our joy. They may not put out the light of our piety altogether—but they surround it with an impure atmosphere, a thick fog—which prevents its light from shining upon the heart!
The religion of many is altogether too feeble. They are too worldly, too lukewarm, live too far from God—to derive much joy and peace from their piety. Spiritual joy, is joy in God, in Christ, in holiness, in heaven! And when, therefore, the professor lives so little in the
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closet, communes so little with his Bible, and lives so far from God—it can be no wonder that his religion does not make him happy!
My dear friends, let me now entreat you to avoid these hindrances, and to seek after more of that heavenly, holy, happy frame of mind. Pray for it, for it is a fruit of the Spirit. Be much in converse with your Bibles, for it comes in the way of understanding, believing, and experiencing the truth. Find time for private, silent meditation, for the truth will not be seen, so as to affect the heart, by a hasty glance at Scripture. Seek to have your faith strengthened, for your joy must ever be in proportion to your faith.
Watch against sin, for sin is like water to the flame of joy. Cultivate all the branches of holiness; for holiness is happiness. You must have eminent piety, if you would have spiritual joy. Spiritual joy is the oil to the wheels of obedience. It is this which braces up the soul for action, and carries it forward through difficult and self- denying duties.
How can we best vanquish the world—that ever-present, and everywhere present foe, which comes in so many forms—and with such golden pleas? How, but by a heart already well pleased with its own happiness in Christ. Spiritual joy is the world’s vanquisher! The heart by holy joy rises above the world—sees it below, covered with smoke and dust, and finds itself in a brighter, purer, happier region, with the cloudless sun above, and all around filled with glory. What has the world to offer comparable to that which a rejoicing faith has found in Christ? What has ‘worldly ambition’ to offer, which can vie with this? He may spurn the favor of the crowned prince, and put his crown aside as a bauble—who is rejoicing in hope of an incorruptible crown of life and glory!d
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THE MOST INHUMAN PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
The following remark is by an infidel
“Christians, if they are not the most inhuman people in the world, cannot believe what they profess—that men without repentance and faith must perish eternally—or they would be more earnest in endeavoring to save them. If I believed what they profess to believe—I would scarcely cease day or night to warn others of the wrath to come.”
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THOUGH WE MOURN—WE MUST NOT MURMUR
John Angell James, “Sorrow for the Death of Friends”
“Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
“See now that I, even I, am He, There is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; There is none who can deliver out of My hand.” 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
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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 must flow, 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 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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BUT FOR THE SPECIAL AND UNCEASING GRACE OF GOD
Letters of J. C. Philpot
It is a most rich and unspeakable mercy, that those whom Jesus loves, He loves to the end, and that His sheep shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of His hand.
This is the grand security of the saints of God; for…. their inherent sinfulness and weakness are so great, Satan is so crafty and so strong,
sin so powerful and deceptive, and
the world so entangling and alluring,
that but for the special and unceasing grace of God, they must perish, and concerning faith make sure and awful shipwreck.
“I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:28
THESE ARE THE IDOLS OF THE HEART!
John Angell James, “Spiritual Idolatry”
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
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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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THE PREVAILING SIN OF CHRISTIANS
J. A. James, “Evidences & Results of Sanctified Affliction”
Increasing deadness to the world, and growing spirituality of mind, are sure results of ‘sanctified affliction.’
The love of the world is the great snare of the church in every age! Worldly-mindedness is now the prevailing sin of Christians. We see them on all hands too eager to make themselves happy on earth, and seeking their enjoyments, if not in the sinful amusements of the world—yet in its ‘innocent and home-bred comforts.’ They look not at unseen and eternal things, but at seen and temporal things. Theirs is too much a life of ‘sense,’ refined it is true from its gross sinfulness—but still a life of sense, rather than a life of faith.
Hence there is “a needs be” for severe trials, if not to separate them and keep them separate from open and gross sins—yet to lift up their affections to things above, and to lead them to seek their happiness from God, the fountain of life; from Christ, the Redeemer of their souls; and from heaven, the object of their expectations.
When the world has been crucified to us, and we have been crucified to the world; when we have been taught its vanity and emptiness as a satisfying portion for the soul; when we have lost much of our anxiety to obtain its possessions, and of our dread of losing them; when we have turned from the folly of hewing out broken cisterns which can hold no water, and led more to the fountain of living waters; when we have lost our dependence on our comforts and possessions for happiness, and feel and rejoice in a glorious independence from ‘created good’ for bliss—when there is really and truly a conscious elevation of soul
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towards God and divine things—there is the evidence that we are sanctified by our trials.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I observe Your word. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. Lord, I know that Your judgments are righteous, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Psalm 119:67, 71, 75
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PAINTED PAGEANTRY TO GO TO HELL IN!
Charles Spurgeon, “Secret Sins” February 8, 1857
If I must be a wicked man—give me the life of a reveling sinner, who sins before the face of day. If I must sin—let me not act as a hypocrite and a coward. Let me not profess to be God’s—and spend my life for the devil!
That way of cheating the devil is a thing which every honest sinner will be ashamed of. He will say, “Now, if I do serve my master Satan, I will serve him out and out—I will have no sham about it. If I live in sin, I am not going to gloss it over by cant and hypocrisy.”
One thing which has hamstrung the church, and cut her very sinews in twain, has been this most damnable hypocrisy! Oh! in how many places have we men whom you might praise to the very skies, if you could believe their words; but whom you might cast into the nethermost pit if you could see their secret actions. God forgive any of you who are so acting! I can forgive the man who riots openly, and makes no profession of being godly. But the man who fawns, and cants, and pretends, and prays—and then lives in sin, that man I cannot bear. If he will turn from his ways, I will love him. But in his hypocrisy, he is to me, the most loathsome of all creatures!
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A ‘mere profession’ is but painted pageantry to go to hell in! Take heed of a ‘waxed profession’ that will not stand
the sun!
Take heed of a life that needs to have ‘two faces’ to carry it out!
Be one thing—or else the other!
If you make up your mind to serve Satan—do not pretend to serve God!
And if you serve God, serve Him with all your heart! “No man can serve two masters!” Do not try it, do not
endeavor to do it!
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THE MOST SUBTLE, STUBBORN, AND TENACIOUS FOE
John Angell James, “Self-Renunciation”
“Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Recollect that the renunciation of SELF, as well as of SIN, was one of the solemn transactions of that scene, and that time—when you bowed by faith at the foot of the cross, received mercy through Jesus Christ, and yielded yourselves to God. You then abjured, not only self-righteousness, but self-seeking, self-pleasing, and self- living. Self, as a supreme object, was renounced.
Self, until then, had been your loftiest aim; self-love your highest affection—but then you transferred your aim and your affection to another object. The Christian has no right to ask what he will do with himself; or to
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what he will give himself; or how he will employ himself. He is no longer at liberty to inquire how he shall spend his energies, his time, his property, his labor, and his influence; for he is not his own—he is bought with a price.
He is not to live for fame—and please himself with the applause of his fellow creatures.
Nor is he to live for riches—and please himself with increasing wealth.
Nor is he to live for health—and please himself with the glowing energies of a sound body.
Nor is he to live for taste—and please himself with the pursuit of literature, science, or the arts.
Nor is he to live for social enjoyment—and please himself with an agreeable circle of friends.
Nor is he to live for ease—and please himself with unmolested quiet.
In short, he is not to consider himself as his own master—to please himself supremely in any way; nor his own property—to employ himself on his own account, and for his own benefit. He is not to imagine that personal gratification is to be his end and aim—for the accomplishment of which he may lay down his own schemes, select his own course, and pursue his own methods—as if he had an independent and sovereign right over himself. Self is….
“the old man” to be crucified with Christ; the body of sin to be destroyed;
the corrupt nature to be put away;
the law in our members to be resisted; the lusts of the mind to be subdued.
Self is the enemy of God—to be fought against; the rival interest with Christ in our soul—to be subdued;
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the means by which the devil would hold us in alienation from holiness—to be opposed.
Self is the most subtle, the most stubborn, the most tenacious foe with which grace has to contend, in the soul of the believer. SELF lives, and works, and fights—when many other corruptions are mortified. Self is the last stronghold—the very citadel of Satan in the heart— which is reduced to the obedience of faith.
Why do believers murmur at the painful dispensations of Providence, and find submission so hard an achievement? Because self is disturbed in its enjoyment!
Why are they so easily offended, and experience such difficulty in showing forgiveness? Because self-esteem has been wounded!
Why are they covetous? Because self is gratified by its increasing stores.
What is vanity—but the indulgence of self-love? What is ambition—but the exultation of self? What is pride—but the worship of self?
Why are they so reluctant to give their time and labor for the good of others, and the glory of God? Because they want it for ease, and the enjoyment of self!
Why are they peevish, quarrelsome, and discontented with the little annoyances of life, which are everywhere and continually occurring? Because they want to settle down in unmolested ease, and undisturbed quiet, to enjoy themselves!
But is this right? Is not this living as if we were our own? Is not this living for ourselves? Is not this forgetting that we are purchased property, belonging to another?
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My dear friends, do consider this subject. Weigh well the import of the condition of Christian discipleship, as laid down by our Lord: “If any man will come after Me, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF.” Self-denial, not self- pleasing, is your business! And the evidence of our being disciples is in exact proportion to our disposition thus to take up our cross.
If we are coveting ease, quiet, soft indulgence, luxurious gratification—and are dissatisfied, and discontented, and contentious, and peevish, because we cannot please ourselves, nor get others to please us, as the supreme end of life—how can we dream that we are the disciples of Him, of whom it is declared, “He pleased not Himself,” especially since it is said, “Let the same mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus?”
For whom then are we to live, and whom are we to please, if not ourselves? Who is to come in the place of self? GOD! And for this obvious reason—we are God’s! God’s servants! God’s property!
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HOW CAN I FLAUNT MYSELF PROUDLY?
A Puritan Prayer
Merciful Father,
Do not let pride swell my heart. My body is made from the mire beneath my feet, the dust to which I shall return. In body I am no better than the vilest reptile. Whatever difference of form and intellect is mine, is a free grant of Your goodness.
Base as I am as a creature, I am lower as a sinner. Sin’s deformity….
is stamped upon me, darkens my brow,
touches me with corruption.
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How can I flaunt myself proudly?
Lowest abasement is my due place, for I am less than nothing before You. Help me to see myself in Your sight, then pride must wither, decay, die, perish!
Humble my heart before You, and replenish it with Your choicest gifts. Keep me humble, meek, lowly.
WHO HAS MADE YOU TO DIFFER?
J. C. Ryle, “Our Hope!” 1877
If you are truly saved—be thankful for it, and give God daily praise. Who has made you to differ from the perishing world around you? Why have you been taught to feel your sins and nothingness—while others are ignorant and self-righteous? Why have you been taught to look to Jesus—while others are looking to their own goodness, or resting on some mere form of religion? Why are you longing and striving to be holy— while others are caring for nothing but this world?
Why are these things so?
There is but one answer—Grace, grace, free grace, has done it all! For that grace praise God. For that grace be thankful.
Go on, then, to your journey’s end, rejoicing in the thought that though you are a poor sinner—Jesus is a most gracious Savior; and that though you have trials here for a little season—heaven shall soon make amends for all!
Go on! A few more tossings to and fro on the waves of this troublesome world—a few more battles and conflicts with our spiritual enemy—a few more years of tears and partings, of working and suffering, of crosses and cares, of disappointments and vexations, and
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then—then we shall be at home! There we shall find all that we have hoped for, and find that it was a million times better than our hopes! There we shall find no sin, no cares of this world, no money, no sickness, no death, no devil.
There, above all, we shall find Jesus, and be forever
with the Lord!
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ALL OTHERS ARE WALKING TO PERDITION!
J. A. James, “The Character and Translation of Enoch”
“Enoch walked with God.” Genesis 5:24
Walking with God! Is this our religion? Does this aptly set forth our life? It makes no difference to which church we belong, nor what creed we adopt, nor what ceremonies we profess, nor what zeal for religious things we have—if we are not walking with God!
Reconciliation with Him through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; a habitual acting as in His sight and with a view to His approbation, and a life of devotional communion with Him—is true religion—in whomever or wherever found.
Walking with God! Is this religion ours?
Do we intelligently, experimentally, know the meaning of that phrase—walking with God? Let us set it down before us, look at it, ponder it, and never cease to study it, until we know its meaning, and feel its force!
None are walking to heaven, but those who are walking with God! All others are walking to perdition! We hear a great deal about other things that are connected with religion—its doctrines, its forms, its creeds—but walking with God is true religion. If we know nothing of this, we know nothing of true piety!
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It is walking with God—and not any external matter, that distinguishes the real from the nominal Christian!
And it is ‘close walking with God’ which distinguishes the earnest Christian from the comparatively lukewarm one. The earnest Christian walks closely with God, presses, so to speak, to His very side; while the other, like Peter, during his season of cowardice, follows afar off.
“Walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
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HE SEES, BUT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND
J. C. Ryle, “Inspiration” 1877
The Bible alone explains the state of things that we see in the world around us. There are many things on earth which a natural man cannot explain….
the amazing inequality of conditions, the poverty and distress,
the oppression and persecution,
the shakings and tumults,
the constant existence of uncured evils and abuses— all these things are often puzzling to him. He sees, but does not understand. But the Bible makes it all clear. The Bible can tell him that the whole world lies in wickedness—that the prince of the world, the devil, is everywhere—and that it is vain to look for perfection in the present order of things. The Bible will tell him that neither laws nor education can ever change men’s hearts, and that no man will do much good in the world, unless he always remembers that human nature is fallen, and that the world he lives in, is full of sin.
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ARE ONLY A FEW PEOPLE GOING TO BE SAVED?
J. C. Ryle, “Few Saved!” 1877
“One said to Him, ‘Lord, are they few who are saved?’ He said to them, ‘Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter in, and will not be able.’” Luke 13:23-24
There is a wide-spread delusion abroad about the number who shall be saved, and this very delusion is one of the greatest dangers to which our souls are exposed.
What do people generally think about the spiritual state of their relatives, and friends, and neighbors, and acquaintances? They know that all around them are going to die, and to be judged. They know that they have souls to be lost or saved. And what do they consider their end is likely to be?
Do they think those around them are in danger of hell? There is nothing whatever to show they think so. They eat and drink together; they laugh, and talk, and walk, and work together. They seldom or never speak to one another of God and eternity—of heaven and of hell.
Will they allow that any of their friends are wicked or ungodly? Never!—whatever may be his way of life. He may be a neglecter of the Bible; he may be utterly without evidence of true religion. Yet his friends will often tell you, “It does not matter! He has a good heart at the bottom, and is not a wicked man.”
And what do people generally think about the spiritual state of others—after they are dead?
I say that there is an unhappily common fashion of speaking well of the condition of all who have departed this life. It matters little, apparently, how a man has behaved while he lived. He may have given no signs of
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repentance, or faith in Christ; he may have shown no evidence whatever of conversion or sanctification; he may have lived and died like a creature without a soul. And yet, as soon as this man is dead, people will dare to say that he is “happier than ever he was in his life.” They will tell you complacently, that “he has gone to a better world.” They will follow him to the grave without fear and trembling, and speak of his death afterwards as “a blessed change for him.” They may have disliked him, and thought him a bad man while he was alive; but the moment he is dead, they turn around in their opinions, and say that he is gone to heaven!
And what does all this prove? It proves that people flatter themselves that there is no great difficulty in getting to heaven. It proves plainly that people are of the opinion that most people will be saved.
Now what solid reason can people show us for these common opinions? Upon what Scripture do they build this notion—that salvation is an easy business, and that most people will be saved?
They have none—literally none at all. They have not a text of Scripture which supports their views. They have not a reason which will bear examination. They speak smooth things about one another’s spiritual state, just because they do not like to admit that there is danger. They build up one another into an easy, self-satisfied state of soul, in order to soothe their consciences and make things pleasant. They cry “Peace, peace,” over one another’s graves, because they want it to be so, and would gladly persuade themselves that so it is. Surely against such hollow, foundationless opinions as these, a Christian may well protest.
Whether we like to believe it or not, hell is filling fast. Many are in the broad way that leads to destruction!
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Few are in the narrow way that leads to life! Many, many will be lost. Few, few will be saved.
IS THE BIBLE THE WORD OF GOD?
J. C. Ryle, “Inspiration” 1877
Is the Bible the Word of God? Then mind that you do not neglect it. Read it! Begin to read it this very day. What greater insult to God can a man be guilty of than to refuse to read the letter God sends him from heaven? Oh, be sure, if you will not read your Bible, you are in fearful danger of losing your soul!
Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you always read it with deep reverence. Say to your soul, whenever you open the Bible, “O my soul, you are going to read a message from God!”
Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you never read it without fervent prayer for the help and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Humble prayer will throw more light on your Bible than any commentary that ever was written. You will not understand it unless your heart is right. You will find it a sealed book without the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Its contents are often “hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed to babes.”
Is the Bible the Word of God? Then let us all resolve from this day forward to prize the Bible more. God has given us the Bible to be a light to guide us to everlasting life. Let us not neglect this precious gift. Let us read it diligently, and walk in its light.
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ROTTEN AT THE HEART!
J. C. Ryle, “Our Hope!” 1877
“Everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3
The man who has a good hope will show it in all his ways. It will influence his life, his character, and his daily conduct. It will make him strive to be a holy, godly, conscientious, spiritual man. He will feel under a constant obligation to serve and please Him from whom his hope comes.
If there is light in a house it will shine through the windows—if there is any real hope in a man’s soul it will be seen in his ways. Show me your hope in your life and daily behavior. Where is it? How does it appear? If you cannot show it, you may be sure it is nothing better than a delusion and a snare.
The hope that does not make a man…. honest,
honorable,
truthful,
sober,
diligent,
unselfish,
loving,
meek,
kind,
faithful in all the relations of life—
is not from God.
Let us beware of any hope that does not exercise a sanctifying influence over our hearts, lives, tastes, conduct, and conversation. It is a hope that never came down from above. It is mere base metal, and counterfeit coin. It lacks the mint-stamp of the Holy Spirit, and will never pass current in heaven. The hope
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that does not make a man holy—is no hope at all. The person who can allow himself in any willful and habitual breach of God’s law, is rotten at the heart! He may talk of his hope as much as he pleases—but he has none in reality. His religion is….
a joy to the devil,
a stumbling block to the world, a sorrow to true Christians, and an offense to God!
Oh, that people would consider these things!
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A MINISTER’S CONFESSION
A Puritan Prayer
O God,
I know that I often do Your work without Your power, and sin by….
my dead, heartless, blind service,
my lack of inward light, love, delight,
my mind, heart, tongue moving without Your help.
I see my sinful heart in seeking the praise of others. This is my vileness—to seek my own glory. It is my deceit to preach and pray—in order to generate admiration; whereas I should consider myself more vile than any man in my own eyes.
Help me to rejoice in my infirmities and to acknowledge my deficiencies before others.
Keep me from high thoughts of myself or my work, for I am nothing but sin and weakness. In me no good dwells, and my best works are tainted with sin. Humble me to the dust before You. Root and tear out the poisonous weed of pride, and show me my utter nothingness. Keep me sensible of my sinnership. Sink me deeper into penitence and self-abhorrence.
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Break the ‘Dagon’ of pride in pieces before the ark of Your presence!
Demolish the ‘Babel’ of self-importance and scatter it to the wind!
Level to the ground my ‘Jericho walls’ of a haughty, rebel heart!
Then grace, free grace, will be my experience and message. This is my ministry, my life, my prayer, my end. Grant me grace that I shall not fail.
WHEN THE BURDEN CRUSHES
Octavius Winslow, “Evening Thoughts”
Prayer is a precious privilege to be enjoyed.
What! Is it no privilege to have a door of access ever open to God? Is it no privilege when the burden crushes, to cast it upon One who has promised to sustain?
When the corruptions of an unsanctified nature are strong, and temptations thicken—is prayer no privilege then?
And when perplexed to know the path of duty, and longing to walk complete in all the will of God, and, as a child, fearing to offend a loving Father—is it then no privilege to have a throne of grace, an open door of hope?
When the world is slowly stealing upon the heart; or when that heart is wounded through the unkindness of friends; or is bleeding under severe bereavement—is it then no privilege to go and tell Jesus?
Say, you poor, you needy, you tried, you tempted souls! Say, if prayer is not the most precious and splendid privilege this side heaven!
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Cease to pray, and…. your grace withers, your vigor decays, your comfort dies.
“Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for timely help.” Heb. 4:16
TO CONSTITUTE A MAN A CHRISTIAN
John Angell James
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
Jesus Christ is the only Teacher who ever made a ‘similarity of disposition to Himself’—a test and badge of discipleship. He is not only the teacher, but the pattern of His own religion. His example is an essential part of His system.
To constitute a man a Christian, he must not only receive the doctrines of our Lord—but must imbibe His very spirit. He must not only believe all He taught—but he must live as He lived, think as He thought, and feel as He felt. Christ’s mind must be in his mind, as far as he can contain it, and Christ’s heart must be in his heart.
To be a Christian, it is not only necessary we should adopt Christ’s doctrines,
observe His ordinances,
associate with His church,
espouse His cause,
conform outwardly to His conduct;
but we must have His very mind in us! The prevailing spirit and disposition of His mind, must be ours also. Unless the eye of man sees the image of Christ upon our character, and the eye of God sees the mind of
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Christ in our soul—we are not acknowledged as true Christians.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
And what was the mind of Christ?
How holy was his mind! Not the shadow of sin, nor the least taint of moral evil ever passed over it, to becloud or pollute its immaculate purity. His mind was the seat of the most ineffable benevolence.
His heart was the very temple of love—nothing malevolent, vindictive, or cruel, ever found a place there.
All His actions, words, and feelings were the workings of incomparable love.
His humility was equal to His purity and benevolence.
Where and in whom, is to be seen the union of holiness, benevolence, and condescension, which formed the character of the Savior?
Is His holiness to be found in those professors who, though they are free from external vice and immorality—allow the corruptions of their heart to go unmortified; and who indulge, instead of crucifying— the passions and lusts of the flesh?
Is His benevolence to be found in those who are so fond of the world, so grasping, and so hoarding, that little or nothing can be extorted from their reluctant hands for the salvation of sinners, and the glory of God?
And then where is His humility to be seen in His followers? Is it to be found in those who will have their rights, and all their rights, at whatever cost of principle or peace; who will not tolerate the least offense,
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without all the boilings of wounded pride, and mortified vanity?
Oh, is this the mind that was in Christ?
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FRESH COMMUNICATIONS
John Angell James
The Holy Spirit is not only the efficient cause and author of our spiritual life; but He is also the sustainer of it.
We need fresh communications of His grace every step of our course, to keep before us….
the glory of God as our center, rest, and end;
the loveliness, beauty, and preciousness of Christ;
the evil of sin;
the transcendent excellence of holiness;
the sublimity and importance of heaven, and eternal life.
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LIKE A CONCEALED WORM AT THE ROOT OF A FLOWER
John Angell James
It may be that your hindrances to a more rapid growth in grace, arise from some specific cause, some sin indulged, some corruption cherished. Is there not some sacrifice which you are unwilling to make, or something which you are unwilling to surrender? You must give up the forbidden thing, or your growth in grace is impossible! That one sin will, like a concealed worm at the root of a flower—eat out the very life of your piety, and cause it to droop, wither, and decay.
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VILE THIEVES!
John Angell James, “Redeeming Time” 1825
“Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Unprofitable reading is another consumer of time which must be avoided. Worldly amusements, and parties of pleasure, are also injurious. I do not by this mean to condemn the occasional communion of friends in the social circle, where the civilities of life are given and received, the ties of friendship strengthened, and the mind recreated, without any injury being done to the spiritual or moral interests.
But the theater, the card-table, the billiard-room, are all to be avoided as vile thieves, which steal our time and hurt
our souls!
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A BALM FOR EVERY WOUND, A CORDIAL FOR EVERY CARE
John Angell James
Some of the benefits of affliction, are that it…. crucifies the world,
mortifies sin,
quickens prayer,
extracts the balmy sweets of the promises, endears the Savior.
And to crown all, affliction directs the mind to that glorious state where the days of our mourning shall be ended—that happy country where God shall wipe every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no more sorrow or crying.
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Nothing so composes the mind, and helps it to bear the load of trouble which God may lay upon it—as the near prospect of its termination.
In that one word, HEAVEN, genuine piety provides a balm for every wound, a cordial for every care.
WHO ARE THEY, AND FROM WHERE DID THEY COME?
John Angell James, “The Anxious Enquirer” 1834
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude,
which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. They cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation be to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7
Who are they that send forth such strains? Who are they, and from where did they come? “These are those who came out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes, and made them white in the Lamb’s blood. Therefore they are before the throne of God, they serve Him day and night in His temple. He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. They will never be hungry, neither thirsty any more; neither will the sun beat on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shepherds them, and leads them to springs of waters of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
They were once upon earth; once men of like passions with yourself. There is not a burden that oppresses your heart, but oppressed theirs. There is not a fear that agitates your mind, but agitated theirs. There is not a temptation that assails you, but assailed them. There is
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not an obstacle that terrifies you, but terrified them. They were once as ignorant, as weak, as sinful, as timid, as discouraged, as you are now. There is not a sorrow, a perplexity, or a danger with which you are painfully familiar—but they passed through before you.
But there they are in heaven, more than conquerors over all these things, through Him who loved them. He who saved them has engaged to save you; nor is His ear heavy, nor His arm shortened. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
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WHAT WILL HE DO WITH THE LAMBS?
John Angell James, “The Anxious Enquirer” 1834
“He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom.” Isaiah 40:11
It is said of our Divine Redeemer, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd.” And in His flock there are lambs which can neither travel fast nor far. And what will He do with the lambs? “He will gather the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom.” He will not carry them on His shoulder—the emblem of strength; but in His bosom—the image of tender love.
Weak grace is real grace, and is in connection with the infinite source in Christ’s fullness.
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IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST
John Angell James, “The Anxious Enquirer” 1834
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
There must be a Divine alteration of disposition. Our….
views and tastes, pains and pleasures, hopes and fears, desires and pursuits,
must be changed!
We must be brought to love God supremely, for His holiness and justice—as well as for His mercy and love; to delight in Him for his transcendent glory—as well as for His rich grace.
We must have a perception of the beauties of holiness,— and love Divine things for their own excellence.
We must mourn for sin, and hate it for its own evil nature—as well as its dreadful punishment.
We must feel delight in the salvation of Christ, not only because it delivers us from hell—but makes us like God, and all this in a way which honors and glorifies Jehovah.
We must be made partakers of true humility and universal love, and feel ourselves brought to be of one mind with God, in willing and delighting in the happiness of others.
We must be brought to feel an identity of heart with God’s cause, and to regard it as our honor and happiness to do anything to promote the glory of Christ in the salvation of sinners.
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We must feel a longing desire, a hungering and thirsting after holiness—as well as come to a determination to put away all sins, however gainful or pleasant.
We must have a tender conscience, that shrinks from and watches against little sins, secret faults, and sins of neglect and omission—as well as great and scandalous offences.
We must love the people of God, for God’s sake, because they belong to Him and are like Him.
We must practice the self-denying duty of mortification of sin—as well as engage in the pleasing exercises of religion.
Nothing less than such a view of Christ in His glorious mediatorial character, and such a dependence by faith upon His blood and righteousness for salvation—as changes the whole heart, and temper, and conduct, and throws the world as it were into the background, and makes glory hereafter, and holiness now, the supreme concern—is saving religion.
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THE GREAT STOREHOUSE OF INIQUITY!
John Angell James, “The Anxious Enquirer” 1834
“For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies. These are the things which defile the man.” Matthew 15:19-20
The heart is the polluted fountain from whence all the muddy streams of evil conduct flow! The heart is the great storehouse of iniquity! Men sometimes make excuse for their evil deeds by saying that they have good hearts at the bottom. This, however, is an awful mistake, for every man’s heart, not excepting the most wicked, is
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really worse than his conduct!
Men think little of sin—but does God?
What turned Adam and Eve out of paradise? Sin!
What drowned the old world in the flood? Sin!
What brought disease, accidents, toil, care, war, pestilence, and famine into the world? Sin!
What has converted the world into one great burying- place of its inhabitants? Sin!
What lights the flames of hell? Sin!
What crucified the Lord of life and glory? Sin!
What then must sin be? Who but God, and what but His infinite mind—can conceive of its evil nature?
IS HE A BRUTE? IS HE A MANIAC?
John Angell James, “The Anxious Enquirer” 1834
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall 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.
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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?
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THE DESIGN OF CHRIST’S WORK
John Angell James
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
The design of Christ’s work is not merely to deliver from hell, but also from sin. The salvation of Christ is designed to make you a new creature, and to restore the image of God to your soul.
All true Christians love God, hate sin, feel Christ precious, give themselves to prayer, and live holily.
A MISSPENT LIFE
John Angell James, “The Chief End of Life”
A New Year’s Address to the Young Men’s Christian Association, 1850
Time, with ceaseless flow rolls onward, and is ever bearing you on its resistless stream—to the boundless ocean of eternity. Yes, to eternity!
A misspent life can never be spent over again! A fault committed in reference to the ‘chief end of existence’ can never be rectified. It is a mistake on which death sets the seal of eternity—a mistake which will require everlasting ages to understand and deplore it!
The chief object of life must be something important. A rational creature could not be justified in setting up a mere trifle as the end and purpose of existence. It marks a base and abject state of mind, or at any rate, great childishness of taste—to allow one’s thoughts, feelings and aspirations, to be attracted, as to their center—to a mere triviality.
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God has given to man noble faculties—and to see them all devoted to some mere petty trifle, as their supreme aim—is a sad and a humiliating spectacle.
CONTINUALLY DROPPING INTO
ETERNAL BURNINGS!
John Angell James, “Introduction to Sprague’s Letters on Revivals of Piety” 1832
What deep pity has been felt, and properly felt, for the population of those towns in which the ravages of the pestilence, or natural disaster, have been unusually extensive!
But oh, Christians! think of the more awful ravages of the plague of sin—which is sweeping crowds of immortal souls from your own neighborhood into everlasting misery! There are thousands of immortal creatures perishing in sin at your very doors! Souls are continually going down to the bottomless pit, from the houses on your right hand and your left! Men and women and their families are continually dropping into eternal burnings, almost before your eyes! And will you not go to their houses, and entreat them to think of their soul’s eternal welfare?
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them.” Matthew 9:36
“And when He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it.” Luke 19:41
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God is for Israel, that they may be saved.” Romans 10:1
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I AM ASTONISHED
A Puritan Prayer
O bottomless Fountain of all good, I am astonished at the difference between….
my receivings—and my deservings,
the state I am now in—and my past gracelessness, the heaven I am bound for—and the hell I merit.
Who made me to differ, but You? I could not have begun to love You, had You not first loved me.
O Lord, I am astonished that….
such a crown should fit the head of such a sinner, such high advancement for one so worthless, such joys for so vile a rebel!
Let ‘wrath deserved’ be written on the door of hell; but the ‘free gift of grace’ on the gate of heaven!
Let Your love draw me nearer to Yourself. Wean me from sin, mortify me to this world, and make me ready for my departure hence. Secure me by Your grace as I sail across this stormy sea.
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A POWERFUL, OPERATIVE, ABIDING PRINCIPLE
“The Duty of Seeking the Things which are Jesus Christ’s” by David Black, 1762–1806
“If any man doesn’t love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” 1 Corinthians 16:22
And many, alas! in every age, who are called by the name of Christ, and with their mouths show much love, plainly discover by their conduct that the world has the chief place in their heart!
No temper or disposition of mind is more frequently spoken of in scripture, as characteristic of a real
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Christian, than love to Christ. It is of the very nature and essence of true religion. Love to Christ, proceeding from faith in Him, is something more than a transient glow of affection. It is something more than saying to Christ, ‘Lord, Lord,’ which many do, who in works deny him. Genuine love to Christ is a powerful, operative, abiding principle. It is the spring of all acceptable obedience, the grand incentive to the practice of everything that is true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report. For the love of Christ constrains us—it impels us forward, and bears us on in its own course, like a mighty current which carries all before it.
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WHAT A BAUBLE!
“The Duty of Seeking the Things which are Jesus Christ’s” by David Black, 1762–1806
“The unsearchable riches of Christ!” Ephesians 3:8
How poor and trifling are all those objects which so much engross the time and attention of the great bulk of mankind!
What a bauble is wealth, compared with the unsearchable riches of Christ!
How insignificant is the honor which comes from man, compared with the honor which comes from God!
And how contemptible the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season—those short-lived enjoyments for which men barter their souls and eternal salvation!
“The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever.” 1 John 2:17
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HIS BEAUTY COVERS MY DEFORMITIES!
A Puritan Prayer
Eternal God,
O, how I mourn my sin, ingratitude, vileness.
All things in heaven, earth, around, within, without, condemn me—
the sun which sees my misdeeds,
the darkness which is light to You,
the cruel accuser within who justly charges me, Your countenance which scans my secret sins.
Your righteous law, Your holy Word, my sin-soiled conscience, my private and public life, myself—all write dark things against me. I deny them not. I frame no excuse, but confess, ‘Father, I have sinned!’
Yet still I live, and fly repenting to Your outstretched arms!
You will not cast me off—for Jesus brings me near!
You will not condemn me—for He died in my stead!
You will not mark my mountains of sin—for He leveled them all, and His beauty covers my deformities!
I bid farewell to sin by clinging to His cross, hiding in His wounds, sheltering in His side.
THE RAGE OF THE PRESENT DAY
John Angell James, “Revival in Piety” 1828
If we would be revived in piety, we must resist by faith the encroaching influence of the WORLD, and the engrossing power of seen and temporal things. The address to the church of Laodicea would lead one to suppose that it was a place of trade—and that trade had produced riches—and riches had produced….
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pride,
worldly-mindedness,
love of ease,
indifference to divine things, and spiritual poverty.
Most people in our country appear inordinately intent upon gaining the world. To be rich, or at least to be comfortable, to be reputable, to be stylish, to be fashionable, to live in larger houses, and to have finer furniture and more earthly things than others—seems to be the supreme concern of most! They must, whether they can afford it or not, vie with their neighbors in all their habits. This seems to be the rage of the present day—and the church of God is, in a measure, carried away by the delusion.
Many seem almost without knowing it, to be possessed by a grasping at things beyond their reach, and an ambitious aspiring at some indefinable point of worldly elevation. All their time, all their attention, is absorbed— and all the vigor of their spirits is exhausted—in this panting race after the world’s possessions and comforts!
It is evident that….
until this disposition be more subdued than it is, until our moderation be more known to all men, until we have lowered our estimate of the importance
of wealth,
until we have ceased thus to mind earthly things, until we have gained a greater victory over the world, or are anxious to gain it—
our piety cannot be revived. It is like seed growing amidst thorns—and though a fertile shower and a warmer sun should cause it to spring afresh during a more than ordinarily genial season—yet it is still among thorns, which will be sure to choke the grain!
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I am afraid that we have not that simplicity of taste, that contentment, that moral courage to be indifferent to the world’s opinions, that sobriety of mind, that comparative unconcern about finery and splendor— which are necessary to prepare us for a high state of piety.
Let us, then, consider this matter. Let us attend to the apostolic admonition, “Be not conformed to this world—but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The spirit of the world, and the spirit of piety, cannot dwell together in the same bosom. “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “Are you seeking great things for yourself? Seek them not!” “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” so much as treasures in heaven. Remember that “one thing is needful!” “Take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he has.”
But if we will be rich, if we will be anxious about many things, if we will be full of worldly ambition, and earthly mindedness and covetousness—then we cannot experience much revival in piety—and need not add hypocrisy to lukewarmness! For very little better than a hypocrite, is the man who prays for the effusions of the Holy Spirit—and yet will not moderate his extreme concern after worldly wealth.
We must also put away our worldly-mindedness, our ambition, our excessive concern to be conformed, as far as possible, to the showy, expensive, and luxurious habits of the people of this world. We must restrain our taste for voluptuous ease, extravagance and self- indulgence. We must give up our concern to be accounted fashionable.d
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AN INUNDATION OF WORLDLINESS
John Angell James, “The Spiritual State of our Churches”
“Don’t love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s. The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
What an unearthly spirit, what an impress of eternity, what a temper of heaven should there be in us! Professing to believe all this, to hope for all this, to love all this, to yield up ourselves to all this—ought we not to be a people really, practically differing from the people of the world—seen, known and acknowledged to be different….
in our prevailing spirit,
in our pleasures,
in our tastes,
in our feelings and conduct in regard to wealth, in the maxims which govern us?
Ought we not to appear to be the conquerors, and not the captives, of the world? But is it so? Is not the very opposite to all this, the present characteristic of many professors? Has not an inundation of worldliness flowed in upon the church?
In the habits of some professing Christians, there is a too prevailing taste for an expensive, showy style of living; an undue ambition to be in vogue; an excessive sensitiveness about fashion, refinement, needless show, extravagance, luxury and appearance. This is seen in their feverish concern to live in large houses, and possess elegant furniture.
Fashion is the goddess to whose shrine too many bow with ardent devotion. Just look at the conduct of many
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professors of religion. Are they not almost as completely swallowed up in the eagerness to be rich, as the openly ungodly?
Christians must be upon their guard, lest they become too eager for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle.
BE HOLY IN EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE
John Angell James, “The Church in Earnest”
“Just as He who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy; for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15-16
Let him turn away from all the ‘conventional piety’ of the day, and study with devout attention what the Scriptures teach of the true nature of genuine piety.
Let him, in a season of closet devotion, examine his own piety, and compare it with the Scriptural standard.
Let him, upon discovering his great and numerous shortcomings, humble and abase himself before God, in a spirit of true contrition.
Let him reject all excuses which his own deceitful heart, and lukewarm, worldly-minded Christians will be ever ready to suggest. He must be thoroughly convinced that nothing can, or will, be admitted by God as an apology for a low state of personal piety.
Let him intensely desire to be raised from his low state into a more exalted state of spirituality, devoted zeal and heavenly-mindedness. Let him set himself most vigorously to the work of mortifying sin, and crucifying the flesh.
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Let him redouble his diligence in attending the means of grace, and especially let him give himself to reading the Scriptures, meditation and prayer.
Let him add a season of humiliation and supplication, to obtain a new and copious effusion of the Holy Spirit. Without the influence of the Spirit, we are only building a Babel to proclaim our folly, or a mausoleum to entomb our fleshly endeavors.
Let him cultivate a new and more delicate sensibility of conscience, in reference to all matters of offense, both towards God and man.
Let him give himself to Christian vigilance, watching always against sin.
Let him, in short, intelligently, resolutely, and unalterably, make up his mind to enter upon a new course of personal godliness; so new that his past attainments shall seem as if they were nothing. There is such a thing as starting afresh, as forgetting the things that are behind—and so must it be with him who would be really in earnest. He will wake up from his slumbering, dreamy profession, saying, “I have slept too long and too much! I must now throw off the spirit of sloth, and give all diligence to make my calling and election sure.”
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A CONSISTENT CHRISTIAN!
John Angell James
The following duties are common to all Christians:
unreserved, cheerful, perpetual devotedness to Christ, entire and constant dependence on the Holy Spirit,
a life of faith,
spirituality of mind,
separation from the world, heavenly mindedness,
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supreme regard to eternity,
universal and high-toned morality,
eminent social excellence in all the relative duties of life, all the gentle and passive virtues.
O, what a character is that of a consistent Christian!
How holy, how heavenly, how humble, how gentle, how benevolent, how just, how devout, how useful, how
happy!!
J. A. James, “Hindrances to Earnestness in Piety” 1847
A great hindrance to earnest piety, is the taste for amusement, which characterizes the present day.
Every age has had its sources of pleasure, and its means and methods of diversion—to relieve the mind from the fatigue and oppression of the more serious occupations of life. The human mind cannot be kept always upon the stretch, nor can the heart sustain, without occasional relief, its burden of care. I would not rob the believer of his few brief holidays, nor condemn as irrational or unchristian, his occasional oblivion of worldly vexations amidst the beauties of nature, or the pleasures of the social circle. There is a time to laugh—as well as to weep.
Still, it may be seriously questioned, whether among professing Christians, the propensity for amusements and entertainments has not been growing too fast, and ripened into something like a passion for worldly pleasures.
The very craving after diversion and amusement, which there is in some people, shows a morbid state of the
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PROPENSITY FOR AMUSEMENTS AND ENTERTAINMENTS
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soul. It might be supposed, judging from the representa- tions of true religion which we find in the word of God, and from the general principles contained in it—that a Christian has rendered unnecessary, all such sources of enjoyment, which worldly people resort to.
To hear all this talk, then, about the necessity of entertainment; and the impossibility of relieving the exhaustion of labor, and the monotony of life, without parties, games, and diversions—sounds very like a growing weariness of the yoke of Christ!
This growing desire after amusement marks a low state of piety. The godly Christian is very well content to forego many things in which the people of the world see no harm.
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THE PATH OF THE SCISSORS!
Lewis Bayly, “The Practice of Piety” 1611
“For who makes you to differ from another? And what do you have, that you did not receive?” 1 Corinthians 4:7
We are all….
fashioned from the same mold, hewed out of the same rock,
made as it were, of the same cloth—
the path of the scissors making the only difference between one person an another. It is therefore only the free love and grace of God, which makes all the difference between us.
No believer should ever insolently demean the unsaved, who, like miserable drudges, allow their corrupt nature to carry them to any villainy, lust, or lewd course; and who damn themselves in the devil’s slavery!
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many around us imbruing their cruel hands in the blood of their own souls—by their ignorance, worldliness, drunkenness, lust, unbelief and scoffing at true religion.
What heart, except it be hewed out of the hardest rock, or has sucked the breasts of merciless tigers; but would yearn and weep to see a man made of the same mold with himself, willfully, as it were, against a thousand warnings, and God’s many compassionate invitations— cast himself, body and soul, into the endless, easeless, and remediless miseries of hell? We should the rather pity and pray for such a one who follows the bent of his own evil heart—to his own everlasting perdition!
It is only the free mercy, goodness, and grace of God which has made the difference between them and us. If God should give us over to the unbridled current of our corrupt nature—we might be worse than them, and run riot in this world of wickedness. If the same God visits them in mercy—they may become every way as godly, or better than us.
“By the grace of God I am what I am.” 1 Cor. 15:10
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HAPPINESS HUNTERS!
Cornelius Tyree, “The Moral Power of a Pious Life”
A higher degree of personal piety, will promote a higher degree of personal happiness.
“Sin and sorrow are bound together by adamantine chains.”
Hence man increases in misery—as he increases in sin. It is upon this principle that the devil is the most miserable being in the universe—because he is the most depraved.
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connection between holiness and happiness. God is the most happy being in the universe—because He is the most holy. And the happiness of His people is just in proportion as they resemble Him in righteousness and true holiness.
Heaven is a world of supreme happiness, because it is a world of supreme holiness.
Hell is a world of supreme misery, because sin is there fully developed.
God has so ordered it, that our comfort and happiness in this world can only be found in a pious life. For the last six thousand years mankind have been happiness hunters. In all ages and lands the eager query has been, “Who will show us any good?” But every device has been a failure! The recorded and unrecorded experience of all has been, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit!” We can no more expect to find happiness in the pursuits and objects of this world—than we may expect to find luscious grapes growing at the icy North Pole.
But in the likeness and service of Christ, is found a happiness which is pure, elevating, perennial, inexhaustible—a happiness that will go with us in all conditions, all lands, and all worlds!
The great cause of all the sadness and depression in the followers of Christ, is the small degree of their piety. The only reason why they are disconsolate, is because they “follow the Lord afar off.” One single uncrucified, unbemoaned sin—will not only destroy all pious enjoyment—but open the soul to the devil, with his whole black train of guilt and misery. It matters not what this sin is. Any one sin habitually indulged in, whether it is pride, malice, backbiting, covetousness, filling the mind with unholy images, or murmuring
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under adverse providences—will exclude from the soul all pious enjoyment.
After all, the great secret of being happy, is to be holy. He who grows in practical piety has opened a thousand sources of true bliss.
The “golden fruit of happiness” grows only on the “tree of holiness.” If happiness is sought in any other way than by being holy—it is sought in vain.
I AM NOT WHAT I ONCE USED TO BE!
J. C. Ryle, “Are You Regenerate?”
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
The regenerate man is a holy man. He endeavors…. to live according to God’s will,
to do the things that please God,
to avoid the things that God hates.
His aim and desire is to love God with heart and soul, and mind and strength—and to love his neighbor as himself. His wish is to be continually looking to Christ as his Example as well as his Savior; and to show himself Christ’s friend, by obeying whatever He commands.
No doubt he is not perfect. None will tell you that sooner than himself. He groans under the burden of indwelling corruption cleaving to him. He finds an evil principle within him constantly warring against grace, and trying to draw him away from God. Yet, in spite of all short-comings, the average bent and bias of….
his ways are holy; his doings holy;
his tastes holy
and his habits holy.
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In spite of all his swerving and turning aside, like a ship going against a contrary wind, the general course of his life is in one direction—toward God and for God. He will generally be able to say, with old John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world. But still, I am not what I once used to be! By the grace of God, I am what I am!”
“Let none conclude that they have no grace, because they have many imperfections in their obedience. Your grace may be very weak and imperfect, and yet you may be truly born again, and be a genuine son of God and heir of heaven.” (Hopkins, 1670)
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THE MOST INCONGRUOUS OF ALL THINGS
Cornelius Tyree, “The Moral Power of a Pious Life” 1859
“The humility and gentleness of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:1
How strikingly was this grace of humility displayed in our Model and Redeemer. Though no other being ever had the same reasons to entertain high opinions of Himself, yet no one was ever equally humble. He voluntarily chose….
the humblest life,
the humblest associates,
the humblest food,
the humblest dress,
the humblest demeanor,
and died the most humiliating death.
“Take My yoke on you, and learn from Me, for I am humble and lowly in heart.” Matthew 11:29
Humility is indispensable to Scriptural piety. The most incongruous of all things is a proud Christian.
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BETTER THAN A TON OF GOLD!
John Angell James
A grain of saving faith is better than a ton of gold, for it secures an inheritance in all the unsearchable riches of Christ, of grace, and of glory! It justifies, sanctifies, and eternally saves!
Learn to think less and less of the wealth of this world, and more and more of the unsearchable riches of Christ!
Lower the estimate which pride and vanity form of the importance of worldly distinctions. How dim, how worthless, does everything earthly appear when seen in the sunlight of the cross!
It is by losing sight of Jesus, by living so far from Him, by forgetting Him—that we let the world get so much the upper hand of us.
We must meditate more upon the cross.
We must dwell more upon Calvary.
We must be more familiar with the crucified One.
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YOU WILL DIE THIS YEAR!
John Angell James, “A New Year’s Solemn Warning”
“Therefore thus says the Lord, Behold, I will send you away from off the surface of the earth: this year you shall die.” Jeremiah 28:16
This may be the case with any one of the readers of the present address, and therefore every one of them should seriously reflect upon such a possibility.
This year you may die—for you must die some time— and that time may as likely come this year as any other.
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This year you may die—because you have no revelation from God that you shall not.
This year you may die—because you are ever and everywhere exposed to the causes that take away life.
This year you may die—because life is the most uncertain thing in the world, and you have not the assurance of a single moment beyond the present.
This year you may die—for it is all but certain that many of the readers of this address will die this year— and why not you?
This year you may die, although there is now no indication of approaching death; for many during the past year have been cut off, and many during the present year will die, who may now seem very likely to live—and why not you?
How many, then, are the probabilities that before next new year’s day, your place will be vacant in the family, at the scene of your daily occupation, and in the house of God! Ought not this to induce a habit of solemn, pensive, devout, practical, profitable, reflection? Bring home the thought. Take up the supposition, and say, “Yes, it is possible, by no means improbable, that I may die—this year!”
Are you really prepared for your latter end, by being a partaker of genuine faith, the new birth, a holy life, and a heavenly mind? Or are you a mere nominal professor, having a name to live, while you are dead? Do you recognize in yourselves, and do others see in you, the marks of a state of grace? Put the question to your own hearts, ask yourselves, “What am I? Am I a spiritual, heavenly, humble servant of God? Am I really crucified with Christ, dead to the world, ripening for glory? Is there anything heavenly about me? Is my temper sanctified, my walk consistent?”
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Is your soul in that state in which you would desire it to be found when death strikes? Are you, in your devotional habits, your temper, your general behavior, as you should be—with eternity so near? Would you desire to die—just as you are now?
How many false professors will be unmasked this year, and appear with astonishment and horror, as self- deceivers, formalists, and hypocrites! How many in reply to the plea, “Lord, Lord, I ate and drank in your presence”—will hear the dreadful response, “Depart from me, I never knew you!” and thus find there is a way to the bottomless pit—from the fellowship of the church! In whatever state you die this year—that you will be forever! The seal of eternal destiny will be put upon you! Your last words in time, and your first in eternity, might be, “I must be what I am—forever!”
The grand secret is about to be revealed, whether you are a child of God—or a child of the devil! That next moment after death—which imagination in vain attempts to paint, is to arrive—and, waking up in eternity, you will shout with rapture, “I am in heaven!”—or utter with a shriek of despair, and surprise, the dreadful question, “What! Am I in hell forever?”
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THE DIVINE ILLUMINATOR
James W. Alexander, “Consolation” 1852
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your memory all that I said to you.” John 14:26
Divine Truth is an instrument in the hand of the Spirit, for the accomplishment of His work of consolation. If we would be comforted, we must seek it by the truth. The Comforter is the Spirit of truth. The consoling
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process is carried on by the application of Scriptural truth. Therefore, the Word of God is beyond all other volumes—the Book of Consolation. The precious doctrines concerning God, Christ, salvation, and heaven—are the principal means which the Holy Spirit uses for the support of the soul under heavy afflictions.
Thus we are enabled to perceive more clearly and fully, how the adorable Spirit comes in Christ’s name. He teaches what Christ taught. He takes of the things of Christ, and reveals them unto us. From the infinite fund of Scriptural wisdom and knowledge—He draws and dispenses, according to the diversified necessities of His people. It is scarcely a change of teacher. The Spirit gives the same lessons as Jesus. He repeats and revives them. He brings out afresh in the chambers of memory, the truths which had faded. He touches the sluggish heart to awaken it to new impressions of Scriptural truth. All this is by a direct influence on the soul by the Spirit—opening the mind and pouring in light. It is this which accounts for the difference between believers; and between different states of the same individual. In order that truth be effectual, especially to consolation, something more is necessary than that it should be revealed in the Bible; something more than that it should be understood by the intellect. It must be powerfully brought home to the mind and heart. And to do this is the especial work of the Holy Spirit. No effect will be produced in reading Scripture, except so far as the Holy Spirit takes, shows, and impresses them to the heart. And this He graciously does to many a broken-hearted Christian.
The experienced and godly Christian, long tried in the ‘school of sorrows’—is made to know that the soul may be comforted amidst the deepest afflictions. In some unexpected moment, the divine Illuminator reveals to
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him the great abiding truths of Scripture; truths which are as precious and as satisfying—in adverse as in prosperous days. By a process of holy attraction, his thoughts are drawn away from self and all its sorrows and losses—to be fixed and absorbed….
by the character of God,
by His mighty works,
by the person of the adorable Redeemer, by the work of redemption,
by the glory yet to be revealed.
Filled and animated and tranquilized by these blessed truths, he is led to forget his private griefs; and thus the Comforter performs His office by means of the truth. “The things of Christ,” applied to the heart by the Spirit, direct the mind from its earthly pangs, and to a certain extent afford a foretaste of the celestial joy.
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FEARFULLY SECULARIZED
J. A. James, “Earnestness in Personal Religion” 1847
If asked to point out the specific and prevailing sin of the church in the present day, I cannot hesitate to reply—a prevailing worldliness of mind, heart, and conduct. The church is fearfully secularized in the spirit and temper of her members. The love of the world has become the master-passion, before which other and holier affections have grown dim and weak.
The determination, as well as the concern, to be rich, has crept into the church! Those who profess to have overcome the world by faith, appear almost as eager as others, in all schemes for getting wealth, and by almost any means.
This worldly spirit is also seen in the general habits and tastes of professing Christians!
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Their style of living,
their entertainments,
their associations,
their amusements,
their conversation—
evince a conformity to the world, a minding of earthly things, a disposition to adapt themselves to the world around, a desire to seek their happiness from objects of sense, rather than from those of faith—which prove the extent to which a secular worldly spirit is dominating the spirit of piety in the church.
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HOW IS AFFLICTION A BLESSING?
James W. Alexander, “Consolation” 1852
“Blessed is the man whom You discipline, O Lord.” Psalm 94:12
We are all familiar with suffering. We are either now enduring, or shall at some future time endure severe afflictions. There are few of us therefore to whom the inquiry may not be interesting—how is affliction a blessing? The question may be thus answered.
The chastisements which God inflicts upon His children are profitable to them—as they tend under the Divine blessing to promote piety in the heart. Chastisement forms a necessary part of that paternal discipline, by which our heavenly Father fits His children for their eternal rest in glory.

  1. Chastisement is useful, because it tends to convince the believer of his misery, and shows him that without Christ he cannot be happy. One great end of your affliction is answered, when you are led to commence and persevere in a faithful and earnest application to Christ, as the great Physician.
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  2. Chastisement is useful, as it leads the believer to see and feel his exceeding sinfulness.
  3. Chastisement is useful, as a trial of faith. Adversity is compared to the fire, the furnace, the refining-pot or crucible, because it not only purifies—but tries; it not only consumes the dross—but ascertains the gold.
  4. Chastisement is useful, as it strengthens faith, by leading the believer to the promises—and especially to the Lord Jesus Christ.
  5. Chastisement is useful, because it leads the believer to exercise entire submission to the Divine will.
  6. Chastisement is useful, because it leads the believer to look for complete happiness in heaven alone. Let the worst, most lingering, and most aggravated instance of suffering be presented—and the hope of heaven is still sufficient to mitigate its ills! It is well to learn to look beyond all secondary, earthly, imperfect comforts—to God, the source of good, and to that world where all tears are wiped away!
    In pain, and despondency, and grief, we go to Jesus as to a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We pour our sorrows into His friendly ear, and ask His aid, and then, when He reveals to us His love, and speaks His promises, and unveils His face, even though He gives no assurance that we shall be set free, He does more— He gives us Himself, and faith is refreshed and nourished by receiving Him. And shall we not regard as a mercy— that illness, or that bereavement, or that severe trial— which so embitters the world’s cup, as to lead us to Christ, that we may see His beauty, and be filled with His love?
    “It is good for me that I have been afflicted!” Psalm
    119:71
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THESE CAGED WILD BEASTS
James W. Alexander, “Consolation” 1852
Spiritual rest is promoted by the mortification of sin.
Sin is the sole cause of all the discord, perturbation, and misery that there is in the universe. It was sin that produced the disorderly commotion; it was sin that tore the heart; it was sin that let loose all the fierce winds of passion to howl tempestuously over the mind.
If you catalogue the causes of your discontent, your restlessness, your unhappiness, your feverish fretfulness, you will find their names to be such as these—pride, hatred, envy, revenge, anger, lust, covetousness, fear, worldliness.
Until these caged wild beasts are driven out of the soul, there can be no quietness.
“Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Col. 3:5
IF GOD WOULD FORSAKE US
James W. Alexander, “Consolation” 1852
“Your adversary the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
God does not forsake His people in their extremities. If God would forsake us but an instant—we would be torn to pieces by the fiery talons of a thousand hellish destroyers!
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
Indwelling corruption may rear its head, and sometimes threaten to prevail—but the presence of the
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Holy Spirit, working repentance and faith in the soul, will crush the monster!
“The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation.” 2 Peter 2:9d
ANALOGOUS TO THE BEASTS
James W. Alexander, “Consolation” 1852
“Deliver my soul from the wicked…whose portion is in this life.” Psalm 17:13-14
The men of the world go through their lives in a poor ignoble manner, analogous to the beasts which do not lift their heads above the pasture in which they browse.
The true Christian no longer has his heart knit to worldly pleasures and idols. His soul flies far away, above and beyond these surrounding earthly trifles, and fixes itself on the spiritual glories of Christ and His eternal kingdom.
Faith in these glorious realities, casts a shadow over the present earthy toys. “This is the victory that overcomes the world—even our faith.”
TAKE OFF THE SHOES FROM YOUR FEET!
James W. Alexander, “Consolation” 1852
The perfections and attributes of God afford a refuge—and in time of trouble, faith resorts to this refuge.
If God were ignorant or unwise, we might suffer without His knowledge, or sink in waters which He could not explore. We might be lost in mazes where His eye could not follow us, or be carried away in whirlwinds which He knew not how to quell.
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If God were limited in power, we might groan under the very burden which He could not lift off.
If God were afar off, in some pavilion beyond our solar system, He could not be reached by our cry of anguish when the deep waters went over our soul. And were He not here this moment, it would be mockery to pray.
If God were not good, our happiness would be nothing to Him, and we might have hellish pain forever and ever.
If God were not merciful, He would not care how wretched we are.
If God were not gracious, we would sink in despair, being sinners.
But because God is….
almighty,
all-wise,
all-seeing,
everywhere present,
boundless,
everlasting, and
unchangeable in goodness, mercy and compassion—
we have in Him a refuge and stronghold, to which we may continually resort. Raise your eyes towards the loftiness of our stronghold. But take off the shoes from your feet—for the place is holy ground!
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THE GREAT END
James W. Alexander, “Consolation” 1852
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:36
The great end of Creation and Providence and Grace—
is God’s own glory!
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IT IS VERY HARD TO LEARN
Letters of J. C. Philpot
Where we err is, that we want to be something, when we are nothing. We want in some way to recommend ourselves to God, and do or be something that we can be pleased with, and which we think will therefore please Him.
It is very hard to learn….
the depth of our spiritual poverty,
the greatness of our sin, and
our thoroughly lost, ruined, and helpless condition.
It is a great lesson, and yet a painful one, to be made nothing; to feel one’s self weaker than the weakest, and viler than the vilest; to be a pauper living upon daily alms, and to be made often to beg, and yet sensibly to get nothing.
“Me, the very least of all saints.” Ephesians 3:8 “I am nothing.” 2 Corinthians 12:11
DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN
Lewis Bayly, “The Practice of Piety” 1611
Death to the Christian is nothing else but to rest from his labor in this world—to go home to his Father’s house!
Oh, what joy will it be to your soul, which was accustomed to see nothing but misery and sinners on earth—now to behold the face of the God of glory! Yes, to see Christ welcoming you, as soon as you are presented before Him by the holy angels, with a “Well done! Welcome good and faithful servant! Enter into your Master’s joy!”
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And what joy will this be—to behold all the souls of your friends, parents, husbands, wives, children, and the rest of God’s saints, who departed before you in the true faith of Christ—standing before God’s throne in bliss and glory!
O what thanks and praise will you have, that, by God’s grace, you have escaped….
all the miseries of the world, all the snares of the devil,
all the pains of hell,
and received eternal rest and happiness!
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“I learn the malignity of sin at the cross of Christ.”— Thomas Reade
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YOU FOOL!
Lewis Bayly, “The Practice of Piety” 1611
“But God said to him, ‘You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared—whose will they be?” Luke 12:20
And so all trembling, the lost soul comes forth from the body, and instantly is seized upon by infernal fiends, who carry it with violence to the bottomless lake which burns with fire and brimstone; where it is kept as a prisoner in torments until the general judgment of the great day!
The loathsome carcass is afterwards laid in the grave. And thus the godless and unregenerated worldling, who made….
earth his paradise, his belly his god, his lust his law;
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as in his life he sowed vanity—so he is now dead, and reaps misery!
In his prosperity he neglected to serve God—in his adversity God refuses to save him! And the devil, whom he long served—now at length pays him his wages!
Detestable was his life—damnable is his death!
The devil has his soul, and the grave has his carcass—in which pit of corruption, den of death, and dungeon of sorrow—let us leave the miserable sinner, rotting with….
his mouth full of earth, his belly full of worms, his carcass full of stench;
expecting a fearful resurrection, when the body shall be reunited with the soul; that as they sinned together, so they may be eternally tormented together!
“Christ crucified is the blessed magnet, which draws perishing souls to happiness and heaven.”—Thomas
Reade
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WHO CAN ENUMERATE?
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Lewis Bayly, “The Practice of Piety—Directing a Christian How to Live, that He may Please God” 1611
Oh, with what a body of sin are you compassed about, in this world of wickedness!
What are your eyes—but windows to behold vanities? What are your ears—but floodgates to let in the streams
of iniquity?
What are your senses—but matches to give fire to your lusts?
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What is your heart—but the anvil whereon Satan has forged the ugly shape of all lewd affections?
You see in daily experience, that….
he who was rich yesterday, is today a beggar;
he who yesterday was in health, today is sick;
he who yesterday was merry and laughing, has cause
today to mourn and weep;
he who yesterday was in favor, today is in disgrace; and he who yesterday was alive, today is dead!
And you know not how soon, nor in what manner you shall die yourself!
Who can enumerate the losses, the crosses, the griefs, the disgraces, the sicknesses, the calamities, which are incident to sinful man?d
HANGING OVER THE BRINK OF THE BOTTOMLESS PIT!
J. C. Ryle
“They told the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of His wrath has come; and who is able to stand?’” Revelation 6:16-17
Life is uncertain!
Time is short!
Eternity is near!
Judgment is sure!
Sudden death to the converted sinner, is sudden glory. Sudden death to the unconverted sinner, is sudden hell.
Unconverted reader! Your danger is far greater than I can describe!
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There is but a step between you and the worm which never dies, and the fire which is never quenched! You are literally hanging over the brink of the bottomless pit!
Escape for your life!
Flee from the wrath to come!
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MORE FIT TO BE CALLED A DEVIL
THAN A PARENT!
Richard Baxter, “Motives for a Holy and Careful Education of Children”
“Nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
Parents! Your example and life are a continual and powerful sermon, which is always seen by your children!
Parents! Your children have an everlasting inheritance of happiness to attain—and it is that which you must bring them up for. They have an endless misery to escape—and it is that which you must diligently teach them. If you don’t teach them to know God, and how to serve Him, and be saved, and to escape the flames of hell—you teach them nothing, or worse than nothing.
It is in your hands to do them the greatest kindness or cruelty in all the world! Help them to know God and to be saved, and you do more for them than if you helped them to be kings or princes. If you neglect their souls, and bring them up them in ignorance, worldliness, ungodliness, and sin—you betray them to the devil, the enemy of souls, even as truly as if you sold them to him! You sell them to be slaves to Satan! You betray them to him who will deceive them and abuse them in this life—and torment them in eternity!
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flames of hell—would you not think that man or woman more fit to be called a devil than a parent, who could find in their hearts to cast their child into it? What monsters then of inhumanity are you, who read in Scripture which is the way to hell, and who they are that God will deliver up to Satan, to be tormented by him—and yet will bring up your children in that very way, and will not take pains to save them from it!
If you love them, show it in those things on which their everlasting welfare depends. Do not say you love them— and yet lead them unto hell! If you do not love them, yet do not be so unmerciful to them as to damn them! You cannot possibly do more to damn them, than to bring them up in….
ignorance, carelessness, worldliness, sensuality and ungodliness!
There is no other way to hell. And yet, will you bring them up in such a life—and say that you do not desire to damn them?
But if you train up your children in ungodliness, you may as well say that you intend to have them damned! And is not the devil more excusable, for dealing thus cruelly to your children—than you who are their parents, who are bound by nature to love them, and prevent their misery?
Let me seriously speak to the hearts of those careless and ungodly parents, who neglect the holy education of their children. Oh, do not be so unmerciful to those whom you have brought into the world! Oh, pity and help the souls that you have defiled and undone! Have mercy on the souls that must perish in hell, if they are not saved! Oh help them that have so many enemies to
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assault them! Help them that have so many temptations to pass through; and so many difficulties to overcome; and so severe a judgment to undergo! Help them that are so weak, and so easily deceived and overthrown! Help them speedily; before sin hardens them, and Satan makes a stronger fortress in their hearts!
Oh be not cruel to their souls! Do not sell them to Satan, and that for nothing! Do not betray them by your ungodly negligence to hell! If any of them will perish, let it not be because of you—who are so much bound to do them good. The undoing of your children’s souls is a work much fitter for Satan, than for their parents!
Consider how odious soul-betraying parents are—who betray their children to be the slaves of Satan here, and the firebrands of hell forever! O do not join with the devil in this unnatural, horrid wickedness!
“Don’t withhold correction from a child. If you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod, and save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:13-14
THEY SPRING UP FROM THEMSELVES!
J. C. Ryle, “Repentance”
“The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Genesis 8:21
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity. In sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5
We are all born in sin.
We naturally love sin.
We take to sin, as soon as we can act and think—just as the bird takes to flying, and the fish takes to swimming. There never was a child who required schooling or education in order to learn….
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deceitfulness, selfishness, passion, self-will, gluttony, pride, and foolishness.
These things are not picked up from bad companions, or gradually learned by a long course of tedious instruction. They spring up from themselves! The seeds of them are evidently the natural product of the heart. The aptitude of all children to these evil things is an unanswerable proof of the corruption and fall of man.
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AN ACTUAL, LIVING, PERSONAL FRIEND
J. C. Ryle, “Faith!”
A man who knows nothing of an inward, spiritual, experimental religion—is not a true believer!
“Unto you who believe, He is precious.” 1 Pet. 2:7
This text does not say “Christianity” is precious, or the “Gospel” is precious, or “salvation” is precious—but Christ Himself is precious! A true believer’s religion does not consist in mere intellectual assent to a certain set of propositions and doctrines. It is not a mere cold belief of a certain set of truths and facts concerning Christ. It consists in union, communion, and fellowship with an actual living Person—even Jesus the Son of God. It is a life of….
faith in Jesus,
confidence in Jesus,
leaning on Jesus,
drawing out of the fullness of Jesus, speaking to Jesus,
working for Jesus,
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loving Jesus, and
waiting for Jesus to come again.
Such life may sound like enthusiasm to many. But where there is true faith, Christ will always be known and realized, as an actual, living, personal Friend. He who knows nothing of Christ as his own Priest, Physician, Redeemer, Advocate, Friend, Teacher, Shepherd— knows nothing of saving faith! He is yet dead in trespasses and sins!
The person who loves Jesus may be poor and needy in this world—but he is rich in the sight of God. He may be despised and sneered at by man—but he is honorable in the sight of the King of kings. He is traveling towards heaven! He has a mansion ready for him in the Father’s house! He is cared for by Christ, while on earth! He will be owned by Christ before assembled worlds, in the life which is to come!
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ARE YOU A DISTRESSED BELIEVER?
J. C. Ryle, “The Cross of Christ”
Are you a distressed believer? Is your heart…. pressed down with sickness,
tried with disappointments, overburdened with cares?
To you I say, “Behold the cross of Christ!” Think whose hand it is that chastens you!
Think whose hand is measuring to you the cup of bitterness which you are now drinking!
It is the hand of Him who was crucified!
It is the same hand which in love to your soul was nailed to the accursed tree! Surely that thought should comfort and hearten you. Surely you should say to
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yourself, “A crucified Savior will never lay upon me anything that is not for my good. There is a needs be. It
must be well.”
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SOMETHING PECULIAR, DISTINCT, AND DIFFERENT
J. C. Ryle, “Conversion”
The effects of the Spirit’s work in conversion will always be seen. Those effects may be weak and feeble at first. But there where there is true conversion, some fruit will always be seen.
Where no effect can be seen—there you may be sure is no grace. Where no visible fruit can be found—there you may be sure is no true conversion.
Does anyone ask me what we may expect to see in a true conversion? I reply, There will always be something seen in a converted man’s….
character, and feelings, and conduct, and opinions, and daily life.
You will not see perfection in him—but you will see in him something peculiar, distinct, and different from other people. You will see him….
hating sin,
loving Christ,
following after holiness, taking pleasure in his Bible, persevering in prayer.
You will see him…. penitent,
humble, believing,
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temperate, charitable, truthful, good-tempered, patient, upright, honorable, kind.
These, at any rate, will be his aims—these are the things which he will follow after, however short he may come of perfection. In some converted people you will see these things more distinctly, in others less. This only I say, wherever there is conversion, something of this kind will be seen. True conversion is a thing that can always be seen.
Never, never, will I allow that the blessed Spirit can be in a man’s heart—when no fruit of the Spirit can be seen in his life! A conversion which allows a man to live in sin, to lie, and drink, and swear—is not the conversion of the Bible. It is a counterfeit conversion, which can only please the devil, and will lead the man who is satisfied with it—not to heaven, but to hell!
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HE PUTS US IN OUR RIGHT PLACE!
J. C. Ryle, “Having the Spirit”
“When He has come, He will convict the world in respect to sin, and righteousness, and judgment.” John 16:8
All who have the Spirit are convinced by Him of sin.
He alone can open a man’s eyes to the real extent of his guilt and corruption before God. He always does this when He comes into the soul. He puts us in our right place! He shows us the vileness of our own hearts, and makes us cry with the publican, “God be merciful to me
–383–

a sinner!” He pulls down those proud, self-righteous, self-justifying notions with which we are all born—and makes us feel as we ought to feel—“I am a sinful man, and I deserve to be in hell!”
Sin is no longer pleasant to those who are taught by the Spirit. It is their sorrow when tempted by it. It is their shame when they are overtaken by it. Their desire is to be free from it altogether. Their happiest times are when they are enabled to walk most closely with God. Their saddest times are when they are furthest off from Him.
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MORNING DEVOTION
James Alexander, “My Brother’s Keeper” 1838
The habit of early rising is surely a friend to the soul. If it is the best time for study, it is also the best time for devotion. When prayer and praise are neglected in the morning, they are commonly neglected all day. If you let the world get the start of your soul in the morning, you will seldom overtake it all day.
Morning devotion….
sweetens every succeeding hour,
pours a balm on the conscience,
gives a pleasant savor to business,
locks the door against wicked thoughts, furnishes matter for pious reflection all the day.
It is better to go from prayer to business—than from business to prayer. Fellowship with God prepares for fellowship with our fellow creatures—and for every event, whether pleasing or painful.
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–384–

BEWARE OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS!
J. C. Ryle
“For we are all become as one who is unclean, and all our righteousness are as a polluted garment: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6
Beware of self-righteousness in every possible shape and form. Some people get as much harm from their ‘virtues’ as others do from their sins.
Oh, let us beware of self-righteousness! Open sin kills its thousands of souls. Self-righteousness kills its tens of thousands!
“There is none righteous, no, not one.” Romans 3:10
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DOUBLY SEVERE!
J. W. Alexander, “Letters to Young Ministers on The Cultivation of Personal Piety”
Every preacher of the gospel should earnestly strive to attain the experience of the truths which he communicates, and to have every doctrine which he utters turned into vital exercises of his heart; so that when he stands up to speak in the name of God, there may be that indescribable freshness and penetrativeness.
That a man is a minister is no guarantee that he shall not be cast into hell-fire! The hell of apostate ministers must be doubly severe! d
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THE FRUITS AND EFFECTS HE PRODUCES
J. C. Ryle, “The Holy Spirit”
“When He has come, He will convict the world in respect to sin, and righteousness, and judgment.” John 16:8
Where the Holy Spirit is, there will always be deep conviction of sin—and true repentance for it. It is His special office to convince of sin.
He shows the exceeding holiness of God.
He teaches the exceeding corruption and infirmity of our nature.
He strips us of our blind self-righteousness.
He opens our eyes to our awful guilt, folly and danger.
He fills the heart with sorrow, contrition, and abhorrence for sin—as the abominable thing which God hates.
He who knows nothing of all this, and saunters carelessly through life, thoughtless about sin, and indifferent and unconcerned about his soul, is a dead man before God! He has not the Holy Spirit.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in a man’s heart can only be known by the fruits and effects He produces. Mysterious and invisible to mortal eye as His operations are, they always lead to certain visible and tangible results.
Just as you know there is life in a tree by its sap, buds, leaves and fruits—just so you may know the Spirit to be in a man’s heart by the influence He exercises over his thoughts, affections, opinions, habits, and life. I lay this down broadly and unhesitatingly. I see it clearly marked out in our Lord Jesus Christ’s words, “Every tree is known by his own fruit.” Luke 6:44
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–386–

HE LOVES THE THINGS THAT ONCE HE HATED
J. C. Ryle, “Alive or Dead?”
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, they have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Whatever part of the globe we live in, our eyes need to be opened—naturally we never see our sinfulness, guilt, and danger.
Whatever nation we belong to, our understandings need to be enlightened—naturally we know little or nothing of the plan of salvation. Like the Babel-builders, we think to get to heaven our own way.
Whatever church we may belong to, our wills need to be bent in the right direction—naturally we would never choose the things which are for our peace; we would never come to Christ.
Whatever be our rank in life, our affections need to be turned to things above—naturally we only set them on things below, earthly, sensual, short-lived and vain.
Pride must give place to humility; self-righteousness to self-abasement; carelessness to seriousness; worldliness to holiness; unbelief to faith.
Satan’s dominion must be put down within us—and the kingdom of God set up. Self must be crucified—and Christ must reign. Until these things come to pass, we are as dead as stones. When these things begin to take place, and not until then, we are spiritually alive.
The true Christian knows all this by experience. He loves the things that once he hated, and hates the things that once he loved. He has….
new habits,
new companions,
–387–

new ways, new tastes, new feelings, new opinions, new sorrows, new joys,
new concerns, new pleasures, new hopes, new fears.
In short, the whole bias and current of his being is changed. Ask his nearest relatives and friends, and they would bear witness to it. Whether they liked it or not, they would be obliged to confess he was no longer the same person.
Once he could see no beauty and excellence in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now he would tell you that He is….
the Pearl above all price,
the Chief among ten thousand, his Redeemer,
his Advocate,
his Priest,
his King,
his Physician,
his Shepherd,
his Friend,
his All.
Once he thought lightly about sin. He could not see the necessity of being so particular about it. He could not think a man’s words, and thoughts, and actions, were of such importance, and required such watchfulness. Now he would tell you sin is the abominable thing which he hates—the sorrow and burden of his life. He longs to be more holy.
–388–

Once he cared only for this world— its pleasures,
its business,
its occupations,
its rewards.
Now he looks upon it as an empty, unsatisfying place. His treasure is in heaven. His home is beyond the grave.
IDOLS ARE AT ONCE CAST AWAY
Archibald Alexander, “Obedience to Christ Gives Assurance of the Truth of His Doctrines”
When the mind is freed from the blindness of nature, and the eyes of the understanding opened, the light of the glorious gospel will shine into such a regenerated mind, revealing to it the beauties of holiness, and causing it to rejoice in the glory of God. To such a one Christ appears lovely—the chief among ten thousand, and He becomes the jewel of their hearts. Idols are at once cast away, and He as their rightful King is enthroned in their affections. Believers do not and cannot doubt of Christ’s excellency and suitableness. His doctrines they humbly receive, and found their hopes of salvation on His faithful word alone.
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