By John Angell James, 1846
INCREASED HOLINESS OF THE CHURCH
My Dear Brethren—Grace, mercy, and peace, be with you,
from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
You cannot have forgotten, that, on the first sabbath
morning of January, when discoursing to you from 1 John 5:14, 15, and
showing you from this scripture, the rule and encouragement of prayer, I
proposed to you a subject, with much solicitation and earnestness, as an
appropriate matter of supplication for the present year—that subject was,
the increased holiness of the church. Through the sovereign mercy of
God, and the outpouring of his Spirit upon the preaching of the gospel, and
the administration of religious ordinances among us, we have now become a
large community of believers, amounting nearly to eight hundred members—a
fearful as well as joyful number for me to consider, when I recollect that
for the spiritual care of each one of these immortal souls, I am
to give account in the day of final judgment! How much do I need, and
how urgently do I solicit, your prayers, that I may obtain grace to be
faithful, and the supply of the Spirit through our Lord Jesus Christ.
You have heard me declare, that, although it is not my
intention to relax in any efforts for the conviction and conversion of the
impenitent and unbelieving, yet is my purpose, as God shall assist me by his
grace, to labor more carefully for the edification, consolation, and
spiritual improvement, of those who through grace have believed.
The magnitude of the church, instead of
diminishing—greatly augments my concern for its internal spiritual state;
since the greater in bulk a body becomes, whether it be a natural or moral
one, the greater is the necessity of looking well to its healthy and
prosperous condition. God is my witness, that I am desirous, not only of a
large church, but of a holy one. He who follows us all into
the closet of private prayer, and sees in secret, knows how devoutly,
fervently, and constantly I say, "Lord give me a holy church!" What is the
addition of numbers, without the increase of piety? It is only like the
influx to a nation of a multitude of inhabitants, without any loyalty or
patriotism in their hearts; or like the swelling of a body with diseased
This, then, is the subject of prayer, which I have
already from the pulpit, and now from the press, propose as the peculiar
matter of your solicitations for the present year, so far as they regard the
church—its increased holiness. In submitting such a subject for your
consideration and adoption, I do not intend to insinuate that you are, in
this respect, below the standard of other churches of your own
denomination, or the average of other denominations; or even below
your own former state—no, but I do intend to say, that neither you
nor they are as holy as you should be, and might be. You have been much
occupied of late in rejoicing over accessions to our numbers, forgetting,
perhaps, that each new member, seemed to bring this message from God to you,
"Be holy, for I am holy, and I require you to be holy, for the sake of those
who are come to have fellowship with you, in the privileges and duties of
Holiness is a very comprehensive word, and expresses
a state of mind and conduct that includes many things. Holiness is the work
of the Spirit in our sanctification. Holiness is the fruit of faith in our
Lord Jesus Christ. Holiness is the operation of the new nature, which we
receive in regeneration. Holiness may be viewed in various aspects,
according to the different objects to which it relates. Toward God,
holiness is supreme love; delight in his moral character; submission to his
will; obedience to his commands; zeal for his cause; observance of his
institutes; and seeking his glory. Toward Christ, holiness is a
conformity to his example, and imbibing his spirit. Toward man,
holiness is charity, integrity, truth, mercy. Toward sin, holiness is
a hatred of all iniquity, a tender conscience easily wounded by little sins,
and scrupulously avoiding them; together with a laborious, painful,
self-denying, progressive mortification of all the known corruptions of our
heart and a diligent seeking for such as are unknown. Toward self,
holiness is the control of our fleshly appetites; the eradication of our
pride; the mortification of our selfishness. Toward divine things in
general, holiness is spirituality of mind, or the habitual current of
godly thought, and devout affections flowing through the soul. And,
toward the objects of the unseen world, holiness is heavenly-mindedness,
a turning away from things seen and temporal, to things unseen and eternal.
Oh, what a word is holiness! How much does it comprehend!
How little is it understood, and how much less is it practiced! Who can read
the above description of it, and not admit that we need much, very much more
of it than we possess, and that we may well make it the subject-matter of
our prayers for another year. Study holiness as a whole, and in all its
How important is that view of it, which brings your
conduct under the notice of men, and by whom, not only your own
religion may be suspected, but all religion will be reviled, if they see any
lack of consistency between your actions and your profession. And how
important also is that view of holiness, which considers your conduct in
reference to God and Christ. To which duty, brethren, shall I most
earnestly direct your attention, to a deeper spirituality, or a stricter
morality? To a more elevated heavenly-mindedness, or a more uniform
exhibition of the graces that shed their fragrance, and exhibit their beauty
upon earth? I exhort you to seek both—I want to see the devotion of the
church, incorporated with, and vitalizing and animating the morality of the
house and of the shop. I want to see the spirit of prayer shedding a luster,
and diffusing the beauties of holiness over the whole character. I want to
see the saint blended with and sustaining the husband, the father, the
master, and the tradesman. To adopt apostolic and inspired language, I covet
to see you exemplary in holiness. "You ought to live holy and godly lives."
2 Peter 3:11.
This, then, is what I press upon you as the object to be
sought by us this year, and indeed, through every future year of our lives—more
holiness. And for whom should we seek it? For the PASTOR—that his mind
may be more filled with holy light, his heart with holy love, and his life
with holy actions. Do not leave him out of your prayers. Much, under
God, even in reference to yourselves, will depend upon him; upon his
preaching; the tone of his piety—and the wisdom, sanctity, and blamelessness
of his conduct. Appointed to be an example to the flock, as well as its
teacher and ruler, it is for your own advantage that you should seek for him
an abundant supply of the Spirit of Christ Jesus. If apostles asked the
prayers of the righteous, with how much greater propriety and correctness
may we say, "Brethren, pray for us!"
Pray for the DEACONS that they may be all men of eminent
and consistent piety; men to whom the church may look up with esteem and
confidence, on account of the measure of their holy gifts, and heavenly
graces; men who shall feel their responsibility in being raised to office in
Christ's kingdom, and who shall give themselves, not only to the temporal,
but also to the spiritual interests of the church, and be always ready, in
conjunction with the pastor, to lay themselves out for promoting the growth
of piety among the members.
Pray for the whole CHURCH, in its collective capacity,
and in all its wide extent, and variety of circumstances, people, and
station; that it may be full of the Holy Spirit, replenished with his divine
benediction, as a Spirit of holiness, and made to abound in all the fruits
of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory of God.
Let each individual consider HIMSELF as the
representative of the whole church; and as the piety of the whole body is
made up of the piety of the separate members, it is his duty to begin the
increase with himself. Let each seriously consider into how much higher
degrees of holiness he would have the church advance, and let him
immediately seek grace to advance into that state himself. Let each
grow in grace—then all will grow in grace. Let each seek a revival of
religion in his own soul, then the whole church will be revived. Let each,
therefore, say, "I solemnly purpose and resolve, as God shall assist me, to
be more holy this year than ever. I will seek to increase with all the
increase of God, and to be filled with all his fullness. My aim and
direction shall be more holiness."
But, perhaps, you would wish me to specify some points to
which, above others, I would have you direct your attention, in order to an
increase of holiness. Holiness consists of two general branches. The
mortification of sin—and the vivification of Christian graces.
mortification of sin, carry on this year a more determined
crucifixion of all heart-sins, all evil thoughts, and evil feelings.
"Crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof." "Blessed are the
pure in heart," said Christ, "for they shall see God." A real Christian
should "keep the heart with all diligence," a duty too much
neglected. We are too apt to be satisfied if the life is free from
visible sins, forgetting that God sees and searches the heart! Direct
your attention more fixedly, and your aim more constantly, to the
destruction of besetting sins. "Lay aside every weight," said the
apostle, "and the sin which most easily besets you." You know what they are,
whether lusts of the flesh, or lusts of the mind; whether bad tempers toward
man, or sinful dispositions toward God; whether violations of piety, or of
Let this year, then, be distinguished by a great
mortification of besetting sins. May we all go afresh to this work in the
exercise of faith and prayer. What a year will it be, if all of us would
come to the close of it, in a state of blessed freedom from sins that had
distressed us, disgraced us, and hindered us in our progress heavenward,
more than anything else. No sins require such severe mortification, such
incessant labor, such earnest prayer, such strong faith for their
destruction as these—but all this is necessary, for if they are not
destroyed, they will probably destroy us.
Connected with this, must also be the
cultivation of a tender conscience—a
conscience tender as the pupil of the eye; and that shrinks from little, as
well as from greater injuries. The Christian's soul is severely injured, the
credit of religion is greatly lessened, and the minds of sinners much
hardened—by the little sins of professors.
But there must also be the
vivification of our graces.
I propose two things, greater
spirituality of mind, that is, a greater delight to think,
to talk, to meditate, on spiritual subjects—a keener relish for what is
divine; a more ardent and habitual delight in God; a more intense
apprehension of the love of Christ; a hungering and thirsting after
righteousness; a pleasure in prayer, reading the Scriptures, and attending
the means of grace.
And with this a
heavenly-mindedness, by which I mean, a sense of our
pilgrimage-state on earth—a proneness to think of heaven, to long and
prepare for it. In short, I intend the disposition expressed in such
passages as these, "Set your affections on things above, not on things on
the earth."—"Looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearance of our
great God and Savior, Jesus Christ."—"I have a desire to depart, and be with
Christ."—"For we are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be
present with the Lord." This is what I am anxious to see, a religion of
the affections; a spiritual and heavenly religion; a religion that makes
you spiritual amid worldly things—and heavenly amid earthly ones.
Such are the things I propose to you, as the object of
pursuit this year. Do you not need them? Are you holy enough,
spiritual enough, heavenly enough? Can you so far impose upon yourselves,
any of you, as to imagine you may be satisfied with your present
attainments? God preserve you from the Laodicean mistake, of supposing you
have "need of nothing."
Would you not be more happy, if you were
more holy? Would you not thus have clearer evidence of your personal
interest in the blessing of salvation, and be less troubled with doubts and
fears; and at the same time experience a more blessed degree of spiritual
liberty? Would you not bear your cares and troubles with greater ease and
Would you not be more useful by your
example, your influence, your prayers, if you were more holy? And surely you
cannot be indifferent to usefulness.
Would you not be thus fitting for heaven,
and more rapidly training up for glory? Grace is glory begun, glory is grace
completed; and according to your degrees of grace on earth, will be your
degrees of glory in heaven.
Is not holiness the design of all God's dispensations
of grace and providence toward you? For what were you chosen in
Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world? To be holy. Ephes. 1:4; 5.
What was Christ's purpose in dying for you upon the cross? That you
might be holy. Ephes. 5:26, 27. Titus 2:11-13. For what is the Spirit
poured out from on high? To make you holy. Gal. 5:16-26. Ephes. 5:22-32.
John 3:4-8. What is the nature of your effectual calling? A holy one.
"For we are called to holiness." 1 Thess. 4:7. What is the design of the
Bible? To make us holy. John 17:17. Why are we afflicted? "To be
made partakers of his holiness." Heb. 12:10-14. What is heaven? The
perfection of holiness. Ephes. 5:27. 1 John 3:2. Rev. 21:27; 22:11. See,
dear brethren, how everything concurs in your being made holy!
Let me then entreat you, as your friend, your pastor, the
watchman of your souls, and overseer of your spiritual interests, to strive
after holiness. Take up the subject in real earnest. Enter into the idea,
and let it take full possession of your souls, that you must be a more
holy people. Oh, if this year should be devoted to such an object, what,
what, might we not expect! In order to this,
Let it be a matter of constant, earnest, believing
prayer in your closets, at your family altars, and in your social
meetings; for it is "the Spirit of Holiness" from heaven who must make you
holy. Depend upon him, and express your dependence by believing
Expect it—look out for it—believe that your prayers
will be heard. James 1:6.
Diligently use the means of grace; not only on
sabbath-days, but on weekdays. Take pains to attain this state of mind. Give
yourselves to it as something of importance you must attain to.
Bend everything to it; seek that your mercies may be
sanctified, and your afflictions sanctified. Go to hear sermons in order to
be more holy. Go to prayer-meetings to be made holy. Go to the Lord's Supper
to be made holy. Read the Bible to be made holy.
Keep up a spirit of faith in Christ Jesus. All
fullness is in him; and all supplies must be had from and through him.
Such are my wishes, my prayers, and my pursuits,
concerning you. By God's grace I mean to take more pains with you, and to be
more in earnest for you than ever. But this will be of no avail, unless you
take pains for and with yourselves. You can no more grow in holiness, by
merely wishing for it, than a child can increase in stature and strength, by
desiring it, while, at the same time, he neglects all the means of growth.
Do not abuse the doctrine of the Spirit's influence, to live in indolence.
The promised aid of the Spirit is to stimulate, and not to paralyze your
energies. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God
who works in you, to will and to do according to his good pleasure." In this
instructive passage, we are encouraged to work, because God works.
Do not reconcile yourselves to imperfection, by the idea
that there is no perfection in this world. "Having these promises, dearly
beloved," says the Apostle, "let us purify ourselves from all filthiness of
flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2 Cor. 7:1. It is
obviously our duty to aim at perfection, though we shall never attain it in
You are already aware that I have suggested one or two
new measures for promoting your increased holiness. I have recommended the
purchase and daily perusal by everyone of the members of the church, of that
eminently simple and spiritual little manual of piety, "Bogatzky's Golden
Treasury;" and I trust that each of you will possess the book, and as each
day comes round, will read the portion allotted to it; and make it the
subject of devout meditation, during the intermissions of domestic care, and
secular business. It will produce a sweet and blessed fellowship of
sentiment and feeling, between the members of the church, necessarily
separated from each other.
I pray to God, and entreat your prayers, that I may be
assisted to write these addresses in a plain and scriptural manner—and that
you may read them much to your edification. I recommend the frequent perusal
of them, and that they be read the first time on the sacrament sabbath,
alone in your closet of private prayer; with great solemnity, and with
earnest desire to profit by them. I recommend also the perusal of the
Scriptures during the month, which I shall mention; as well as the reading,
at the time of the perusal of the tract, the texts referred to, but for the
sake of brevity not quoted. The chapters suited to this address are, Matthew
5, 6, 7. Romans 6, 7, 8, 12. Galatians 5, 6. Ephesians 4, 5, 6. James 2, 3.
1 Peter 1, 2. 2 Peter 1, 3. 1 John 1, 2, 3, 5.
May God render this plan a means of your spiritual
edification and growth in holiness. Commending you to God and the word of