The Christian Professor
John Angell James, 1837
THE YOUNG PROFESSOR
By the young professor, I
mean the person recently converted, and who has but recently assumed the
Christian name, whether in the morning or in the meridian of his days. I
cannot do better than submit to the consideration of such people, the
following judicious advice given by the justly celebrated Jonathan
Edwards, of America, to a young lady who had just commenced the life of
My dear young Friend,
As you desired me to send you in writing, some directions how to conduct
yourself in your Christian course, I would now answer your request. The
sweet remembrance of the great things I have lately seen at S—, inclines me
to do anything in my power, to contribute to the spiritual joy and
prosperity of God's people there.
1. I would advise you to keep up as
great a strife and earnestness in religion as if you knew yourself to be in
a state of nature, and were seeking conversion. We advise people under
conviction, to be earnest and violent for the kingdom of heaven; but when
they have attained to conversion, they ought not to be the less watchful,
laborious, and earnest in the whole work of religion; but the more so, for
they are under infinitely greater obligations. For lack of this, many
people, in a few months after their conversion, have begun to lose their
sweet and lively sense of spiritual things, and to grow cold and dark, and
have 'pierced themselves through with many sorrows,' whereas, if they had
done as the apostle did, (Philippians 3:12-14.) their path would have been
'as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day.'
2. Do not leave off seeking,
striving, and praying for the very same things that we exhort unconverted
people to strive for, and a degree of which you have had already in
conversion. Pray that your eyes may be opened, that you may receive sight,
that you may know yourself, and be brought to God's footstool; and that you
may see the glory of God and Christ, and may be raised from the dead, and
have the love of Christ shed abroad in your heart. Those who have most of
these things, have need still to pray for them; for there is so much
blindness and hardness, pride and death remaining, that they still need to
have that work of God wrought upon them, further to enlighten and enliven
them, that shall be bringing them out of darkness into God's marvelous
light, and be a kind of new conversion and resurrection from the dead. There
are very few requests that are proper for an impenitent man, that are not
also, in some sense, proper for the godly.
3. When you hear a sermon, hear for
yourself. Though what is spoken may be more especially directed to the
unconverted, or to those that, in other respects, are in different
circumstances from yourself; yet, let the chief intent of your mind be to
consider, 'In what respect is this applicable to me? and what improvement
ought I to make of this, for my own soul's good?'
4. Though God has forgiven and
forgotten your past sins, yet do not forget them yourself—often remember,
what a wretched slave you were in the land of Egypt. Often bring to mind
your particular acts of sin before conversion; as the blessed apostle, Paul,
is often mentioning his old blaspheming, persecuting spirit, and his
injuriousness to the Christians, humbling his heart, and acknowledging that
he was the least of the apostles, and not worthy 'to be called an apostle,'
and the 'least of all saints,' and the 'chief of sinners.' Be often
confessing your old sins to God, and let that text be often in your
mind—that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth any
more, because of your shame, when I am pacified toward you for all that you
have done, says the Lord God.'
5. Remember, that you have more
cause, on some accounts, a thousand times to lament and humble yourself for
sins that have been committed since conversion, than before, because of the
infinitely greater obligations that are upon you to live to God, and to look
upon the faithfulness of Christ, in unchangeably continuing his loving
kindness, not withstanding all your great unworthiness since your
6. Be always greatly abased for your
remaining sin, and never think that you lie low enough for it; but yet be
not discouraged or disheartened by it; for though we are exceedingly sinful,
yet we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous—the
preciousness of whose blood, the merit of whose righteousness, and the
greatness of whose love and faithfulness, infinitely overtop the highest
mountain of our sins!
7. When you engage in the duty of
prayer, or come to the Lord's supper, or attend any other duty of divine
worship, come to Christ as Mary Magdalene did—come and cast yourself at his
feet, and kiss them, and pour forth upon him the sweet perfumed ointment of
divine love, out of a pure and broken heart, as she poured the precious
ointment out of her pure broken alabaster box.
8. Remember that 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!
9. That you may pass a correct
judgment concerning yourself, always look upon those as the best
discoveries, and the best comforts, that have most of these two
effects—those that make you least and lowest, and most like a child; and
those that most engage and fix your heart in a full and firm disposition to
deny yourself for God, and to spend and be spent for him.
10. If at any time you fall into
doubts about the state of your soul, into dark and dull frames of mind, it
is proper to review your past experience; but do not consume too much time
and strength in this way—rather apply yourself with all your might, to an
earnest pursuit after renewed experience, new light, and new lively acts of
faith and love. One new discovery of the glory of Christ's face, will do
more toward scattering clouds of darkness in one minute, that examining old
experience, by the best marks that can be given, through a whole year.
11. When the exercise of grace is
low, and corruption prevails, and by that means fear prevails; do not desire
to have fear cast out any other way than by the reviving and prevailing of
love in the heart; by this, fear will be effectually expelled, as darkness
in a room vanishes away when the pleasant beams of the sun are let into it.
12. When you counsel and warn
others, do it earnestly, and affectionately, and thoroughly—and when you are
speaking to your equals, let your warnings be intermixed with expressions of
your sense of your own unworthiness, and of the sovereign grace that makes
you to differ.
13. If you would set up religious
meetings of young women by yourselves, to be attended once in a while,
besides the other meetings you attend, I should think it would be very
proper and profitable.
14. Under special difficulties, or
when in great need of, or great longings after, any particular mercy for
yourself or others; set apart a day for secret prayer and fasting by
yourself alone; and let the day be spent, not only in petitions for the
mercies you desire—but in searching your heart, and in looking over your
past life, and confessing your sins before God, not as is done in public
prayer—but by a very particular rehearsal before God of the sins of your
past life, from your childhood hitherto, before and after conversion, with
the circumstances and aggravations attending them, and spreading all the
abominations of your heart very particularly, and as fully as possible,
15. Do not let the adversaries of
the cross have occasion to reproach religion on your account. How holily
should the children of God, the redeemed and the beloved of the Son of God,
behave themselves. Therefore, 'walk as children of the light, and of the
day,' and 'adorn the doctrine of God your Savior;' and especially, abound in
what are called the Christian virtues, and which make you like the Lamb of
God—be meek and lowly of heart, and full of pure, heavenly, and humble love
to all; abound in deeds of love to others, and self-denial for others; and
let there be in you a disposition to account others better than yourself.
16. In all your path, walk with God,
and follow Christ, as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of
Christ's hand, keeping your eye on the marks of the wounds in his hands and
side, whence came the blood that cleanses you from sin, and hiding your
nakedness under the skirt of the white shining robes of his righteousness.
17. Pray much for the ministers and
the church of God; especially that he would carry on his glorious work which
he has now begun, until the world shall be full of his glory.
If it be necessary to add anything
to the contents of this excellent letter, I would deliver it in the
Set out in your profession with
clear and impressive ideas of what it implies, and for what purpose it is to
be made; and for this end, read with great attention the previous chapters
which treat on these subjects.
Seek to possess and to retain a
comfortable sense of your interest in the blessings of salvation, even the
witness of the Spirit that you are a child of God; and remember that
evidence of piety is not so much to be sought in strong and high emotions of
any kind, as 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.
Do not expect to find in your own
case, everything you have heard or read of, in the experience of others. In
the work of grace there is substantial uniformity, and circumstantial
variety. Especially, remember that religion is not a principle of such
self-preserving energy, as that when once planted in the soul, it will
continue to thrive and increase without effort—but, on the contrary, is of
so tender and delicate a nature as to require great, constant, and
persevering anxiety, watchfulness, and care.
Do not expect to be made happy by
religion unless you become eminent Christians. They who would enjoy their
profession must drink deep of the wells of salvation. A lukewarm,
half-hearted Christian, enjoys neither the world nor religion.
Do not make the average piety of
professors the model or standard of your own; but look to the standard set
up in the word of God. Consider not what professors are—but what they
should be. Many are deceiving themselves, and if you copy them in
their delusion, you will follow them in their ruin. This being satisfied to
be as others are, has had a more disastrous influence on the church and the
world, than all other causes put together.
Remember that your evidence of
religion ceases when anything else has the first place in your thoughts and
Never allow any day to pass, without
reading a portion of Holy Scripture. Be jealous of every book that becomes a
rival with the Bible.
Acquire and maintain great
tenderness of conscience, and recollect that there are no little sins
for a Christian.
Begin your Christian course with
habits of usefulness. A constant desire and aim to do good as instruments of
saving sinners, and raising the standard of piety and benevolent activity in
our fellow Christians, is one of the ends of our conversion—and a
convincing proof of its reality.
Do not neglect religious duty,
because you suppose your feelings are not right at the time. Action begets
emotion—and the right feeling comes with the right doing.
In the great work of mortification,
do not despond and give up the work, although often defeated in the attempt
to conquer and eradicate a corruption. It must be conquered; it
may be by divine grace assisting your endeavors; and it will be,
if you are resolute, and persevering.
Recollect, you as much need
supporting and preserving grace, as you did converting
grace. Regeneration supplies no stock of grace, which makes you independent
of God. "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the
Spirit." Gal. 5:25. "We must know what is the exceeding greatness of God's
power to us who believe." Our every action as believers, must be performed
in the dependence and confidence of faith.
Do you need ENCOURAGEMENT? Are you
alarmed at the difficulties and dangers of the wilderness way? Does your
heart faint to think how many have made shipwreck of faith and a good
conscience? Consider that you enjoy the sympathies and prayers of the whole
church—the watchfulness and care of the pastor—and what is of far more value
and consolation, the notice, the love, intercession, and the support of the
Great and Good Shepherd, who gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them
in his bosom. He will not forget the lambs—their feeble bleat
attracts his notice, their helplessness draws his attention, and for them
he puts forth all his pastoral kindness and skill.
Consider also, that when Jesus
Christ begins a good work he will carry it on to perfection. You have all
the infinite resources of the Holy Spirit to depend upon, and to draw from.
Exceeding great and precious promises, which are all yes and amen in Christ
Jesus, are continually speaking encouragement to you from God. And behold in
the church around you, professors gray in the service of the Lord, who were
once young and trembling as you now are—but who have been kept through all
the duties, the difficulties, and the temptations of perhaps forty or fifty
years—and if you look into the unseen world, there are millions
around the throne, who have been kept by the power of God through faith unto
salvation. The faithful love, and all-sufficient grace which have kept
them can, and will keep you. With these considerations "go on your way
rejoicing." ( Many of the particulars summarily expressed in this chapter
will be amplified in the subsequent parts of the book.)