Quotes by John Angell James
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?
They who would grow in grace, must love the habitation of God’s house. It is those that are planted in the courts of the Lord who shall flourish, and not those that are occasionally there.
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! …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 bottom of all your conduct, and be interwoven with all your parental habits!
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.” 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!
Afflictions tend to wean us from the world – and to fix our affections on things above.
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!
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.
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.
Boasting is always suspicious, or superfluous. For real greatness no more needs a publisher, than the sun!
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! To reason – death is perplexing! To everything but saving faith – death is overwhelming!
Let us never forget that, to be profited, that is, to be spiritually improved in knowledge, faith, holiness, joy and love, is the end of hearing sermons, and not merely to have our taste gratified by genius, eloquence and oratory.
[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… Such is love – not a mere natural amiableness of temper—not a soft, weakly, disposition. No! but a fruit of the Spirit. It is a benevolence, which is the result of regeneration; cherished by a sense of God’s love to us in Christ Jesus; guided in its exercises by the Holy Scriptures; and directed, as its end, to the glory of God.
Selfishness is the cause of all sin – the opposite of all holiness and virtue… Selfishness is contrary to the habitual temper of our Lord Jesus Christ. “For even Christ did not please Himself” (Mk. 10:45).
Love is a grace which many professing Christians think far too little about; but it is of infinite value in the eyes of God. Love is the most characteristic feature of Christ’s image in a renewed man. Love is the most precious fruit of grace; and yet the fruit which too many of His professed followers seem to think themselves hardly under any obligation to cultivate.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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!
In books for spiritual edification, much depends upon the manner in which they are read. If taken up carelessly and read in a light mood, they are likely to do little good. The attention will not be fixed, nor the heart engaged, nor the conscience awakened. You must be somewhere alone with God – where you can have leisure and opportunity to commune with your own heart and with Him – where you can pause, reflect, and pray, unobserved by a single fellow-creature – where you can stop, examine, meditate, and it may be, weep. Before you read another chapter, put down the volume, fall upon your knees and agonize in prayer, that the perusal may be blessed to your soul. Take the book with you into your closet. Read it in your most serious hours, in your greatest privacy, and in the most solemn manner.
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 is naturally disposed to worship… "Love is not self-seeking" (1 Cor. 13:5).
True Christian mercy, that which will be accepted in the sight of God, and receive His smile; that which will ensure His gracious and unmerited reward, and which will have no slight connection with our celestial happiness, is exercised in designed obedience to God’s command, in express imitation of His conduct, and with an earnest desire to promote His glory.
As men are more proud of their understanding than of their disposition, it is very probable that religious opinions are more frequently the cause of conceit and self-importance, than anything else which could be mentioned.
“Luck!” There is no such thing in our world, none in nature, none in human affairs. 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!
Prayer is a means of assisting the minister which is within the reach of all. They who can do nothing more, can pray. The sick, who cannot encourage their minister by their presence in the sanctuary, can bear him upon their hearts in their lonely chamber: the poor who cannot add to his temporal comfort by monetary donations, can supplicate their God “to supply all [his] needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19): the timid, who cannot approach to offer him the tribute of their gratitude, can pour their praises into the ear of Jehovah, and entreat him still to encourage the soul of His servant: the ignorant, who cannot hope to add one idea to the stock of his knowledge, can place him before the fountain of celestial radiance: even the dying, who can no longer busy themselves as in former times for his interests, can gather up their remaining strength, and employ it in the way of prayer for their pastor.
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!
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 – 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!
I find afflictions to be good for me. I have always found them so. Afflictions are happy means in the hands of the Holy Spirit to subdue my corruptions, my pride, my evil passions, my inordinate love to the creature. Afflictions soften my hard heart, bring me to my knees, increase faith, increase love, increase humility, increase self-denial. Afflictions make me poor in spirit, and nothing in my own eyes.
The doctrines of Scripture are facts, which involve corresponding emotions and principles of action, and must, from their very nature, if believed, be operative upon the heart and the life. If the doctrines of Scripture exert no godly influence, carry with them no practical weight, exert no moral power, they are not truly believed.
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?
There is no one gift which offers so strong a temptation both to vanity and to pride – as that of public speaking. If the orator really excels, and is successful, he is the immediate spectator of his success, and has not even to wait until he has finished his discourse; for although the decorum of public worship will not allow of audible tokens of applause, it does of visible ones – the look of interest, the tear of penitence or of sympathy, the smile of joy, the deep impression on the mind, the death-like stillness, cannot be concealed – all seem like a tribute of admiration to the presiding spirit of the scene; and then the compliments which are conveyed to his ear, after all the silent plaudits which have reached his eye – are equally calculated to puff him up with pride. No men are more in danger of this sin than the ministers of the Gospel; none should watch more sleeplessly against it.
Why is it that so many professing Christians make no spiritual progress, and indeed make no efforts to grow in grace? Why? Because they care nothing about it! To take up a “mere profession” is all they desire; but to proceed from one degree of piety to another; to grow in grace – is no part of their desire… 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!