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

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.