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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Their Chief End is to become Rich

John Angell JamesJohn Angell James:

The great object of life to many professing Christians, seems to be to become rich. Their chief end does not appear to be so much to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever–as to obtain and enjoy the present world! Wealth is the center of their wishes–the invariable tendency of their desires. Jehovah is the God of their creed–but Mammon is the God of their hearts! They are devout adorers of the God of wealth.

 

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Idols

John Angell JamesThe heart may be turned away from God in many ways. How subtle are the workings of evil; how hidden are it motives; and therefore its influence is extensive. According to John Angell James:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21 ESV)

The apostle John closes his first epistle with the following tender and solemn admonition —”Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” Those to whom he thus addressed himself had been converted from Paganism, and needed to be cautioned against relapsing into their former idolatry, and against every practice, which would in the smallest degree seem to countenance it. There is no need that I should warn you against this sin in its literal import. You have never bowed the knee to a graven or molten image, and never will — but is there no such thing as 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 all this, as well as prayer and praise, is the worship that God requires.

The bended knee, whether this be done to God or an idol, is of no value—but as the expression of the state of the mind and heart at the time. The affections are a much more sincere and expressive homage than bodily attitudes and outward forms of devotion. Hence, it is obvious that — whatever we love most, and are most anxious to retain and please — whatever it be we depend most upon for happiness and help — whatever has most of our hearts — that is, in effect, is our God! — whether it be Jehovah or Jupiter, or whether it be friends, possessions, or our own desires, or our own selves! Is it not, therefore, to be feared that the hearts of many professors are going too much after other objects of worship than God, and need the admonition, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” (“Spiritual Idolatry)

The Road To God’s Kingdom

John Angell James

From the writings of John Angell James:

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 pardons 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!

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.

The Importance Of Time

From the sermons of John Angell James:

“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as fools 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 is 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.

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 rightly employing it, if the soul be forgotten, salvation neglected, and eternity left out of consideration! (“Redeeming Time” 1825)

Substituting Zeal For Piety

John Angell James

Quoting John Angell James:

Amidst much that is cheering, there is, on the other hand, much that is discouraging and distressing to the more pious observer. We behold a strange combination of zeal and world-mindedness; great activity for the extension of religion in the earth, united with lamentable indifference to the state of religion in the soul; in short, apparent vigor in the extremities, with a growing torpor at the heart. Multitudes are substituting zeal for piety, liberality for mortification, and a social for a personal religion. No careful reader of the New Testament, and observer of the present state of the church, can fail to be convinced, one should think, that what is now lacking is a high spirituality.

The Christian profession is sinking in its tone of piety; the line of separation between the church and the world becomes less and less perceptible; and the character of genuine Christianity, as expounded from pulpits and delineated in books, has too rare a counterpart in the lives and spirit of its professors.

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