Our great concern!
(John Angell James, "Christian Hope" 1859)
"There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and
love—and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinth. 13:13
Real Christianity consists of these three apostolic graces.
All else is but her earthly attire, which may vary in fashion
and color, without affecting her substance and life, or
destroying her symmetry. Had this been understood,
believed, remembered, and practiced from the beginning . . .
what monstrous systems of error;
what iron yokes of spiritual tyranny;
what bloody persecutions;
what ecclesiastic arrogance and presumption;
what disfigurements of the simple and spiritual religion
of the meek and lowly Jesus, by pagan rites and external
ceremonies; what foul blots upon the fair form of
Christianity—would the world have been spared!
Amid the controversies and decrees of church councils,
how has the still small voice of the apostle been stifled,
which says, "There are three things that will endure—
faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love."
How forward have men been to admire this sacred trio,
but how slow to imitate them!
Poets have sung their charms!
Painters have delineated their beauty!
Music has chanted their praises!
Eloquence has emblazoned their worth!
What remains but for preachers to make them the
prevailing themes of their ministry—and for professing
Christians to exhibit them in the practice of their lives!
When this shall everywhere be done, and they shall
universally come in place of a heartless orthodoxy and
an external ritualism—then the world will see Christianity
as she is, and will covet to be like her. But, until then,
multitudes will look upon Christianity with suspicion,
and not a few turn from her with disgust!
Our great concern should be to promote a healthful,
spiritual, robust, and godly piety in our churches; for
which no external improvements in our architecture,
our music, or our services, can be a substitute!
What we should seek to maintain in our churches, is
the more powerful dominion of faith, hope, and love,
compared with which, many of those matters which are
now rife among us, are but of very small importance.
Faith, hope, and love are the great themes of the
Christian ministry, are something more than matters
of theory—something more than mere theses for the
theologian to discuss before an audience. They are
matters of eternal life or death—and should be preached
as if the preachers believed them to be so.