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IN A SERIES OF
COUNSELS AND CAUTIONS
TO THE MEMBERS
BY JOHN ANGELL JAMES.
D. APPLETON & CO.,
THE substance of most of the chapters of this volume, was delivered in a course of sermons addressed to the church of The seasons which the Holy Ghost hath made me overseer. chosen for delivering them were those Sabbath mornings on which the Lord's Supper was administered; and this time was selected, because it may be supposed, that if ever the minds of Professing Christians are more than usually softened to receive the impression of practical truth, it is when the eucharistic emblems of which they are about to partake, stand uncovered before them, and as they silently point to the cross, say in the ear of faith, "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
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; and in my jealousy for the honour of the Christian Profession, have made this effort, perhaps a feeble one, certainly to remove its blemishes, to restore its impaired an anxious one, beauty, and thus raise its reputation.
What my opinion of the prevailing state of religion in the present day is, will appear still more clearly in the following pages, and especially in the chapter devoted to the consideration of this subject. That evangelical piety is advancing and spreading over a wider surface, I have not a doubt: but what it is gaining in breadth, it is losing, I am afraid, in depth. Politics,
and their sad accompaniments, party strife and animosity; trade carried on as it has been, with such rage of competition, and upon such a basis of credit, and to such an extent of speculation; together with that worldly spirit to which an age of growing refinement and luxury usually gives rise, are exceedingly adverse to a religion, of which the elements are faith, hope, love. The church of Christ, in all the sections of it, is sadly mixed up with the world as to its spirit, and many of its customs; and the great body of the faithful, are far less marked in their separation from the followers of pleasure, and the worshippers of Mammon, than they ought to be. "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God," is the description of a religion too rarely to be seen in this day. A few years ago, an attempt was made to call the attention of the churches, to the subject of a revival of piety, and some efforts not wholly ineffectual were made to rouse the slumbering people of God, and induce them to seek for a more copious effusion of the Holy Spirit. But the call to united and fervent prayer, soon subsided amidst the busy hum of commerce, the noise of party, and the strife of tongues. Still, however, I believe, notwithstanding, that the cause of the Lord is advancing upon the earth, and that the work of grace is begun in many persons, whose lot and whose grief it is, to be far more occupied with things seen and temporal than accords with their happiness.
Some of the great masters of painting have manifested their skill in taking portraits of themselves. Conceive of one of those noble pictures, fresh from the artist's pencil, presenting in the magic of drawing and colouring, an almost speaking representation of the great original. By some neglect, however, it is thrown aside, and in its unworthy banishment, amidst the lumber of an attic, soon becomes covered with dust and dirt, till its beauty is disfigured, and its transcendent excellence is disguised. Still, in despite of these defilements, there is the likeness and the work
manship of the immortal author, which, by a careful removal of the accidental adhesions, again shine forth upon enraptured spectators, as a glorious display of human genius. Is it a profane or unworthy simile, to say that a Christian in his present state of imperfection, is something like this? He is the image of God, as delineated by God himself, but O, how covered with the dust and impurities of his earthly condition; still, however, beneath that blemished exterior, there is the likeness and workmanship of the Great God, and which, when purified from every speck and disfigurement, He will present in its restored state to the admiring gaze of the universe.
I am anxious, that as much as possible of the imperfections of the Christian character should now be displaced in our earthly sojourn, and as much as may be, of its great excellence should now be seen. For if we profess as Christians, to have the mind of Christ, and to bear the image of God, how tremblingly anxious, how prayerfully cautious should we be, not by retaining any thing in our conduct, which is opposite to the Divine nature, to circulate a slander against God himself.
There is an ineffable beauty in the Christian character, as delineated by our Lord Jesus Christ in his personal ministry, and by his holy apostles, and there wants nothing but the tolerably fair copy of this in the conduct of all who bear the Christian name, to silence, if not convince, the spirit of infidelity. If the Christian church were composed only of persons whose characters were truly formed upon the model of the Sermon upon the Mount, or the Apostle's description of charity, there would be no need of such defences of Christianity as those of Lardner, ButLER, PALEY, and CHALMERS: men would see that Christianity came from heaven, because there was nothing like it upon earth. The gospel is its own witness, but then its testimony is so often contradicted by its professed believers, so far as their conduct