ice house, instead of a hot house!
(J. A. James, "Earnestness
in Personal Piety" 1847)
It appears quite clear then, that great numbers of
Christian professors are but very imperfectly acquainted
with the requirements of "pure and undefiled religion,"
and need to be led to re-study it in the pages of Holy
Scripture. We have lost sight of the 'divine Original', and
have confined our attention to the 'imperfect transcripts'
which we find on every hand in our churches. We have
by tacit consent reduced the standard, and fixed our eye
and our aim upon an inferior object. We are a law to each
other, instead of making the Word of God the law to us all.
We tolerate a worldly-minded, diluted, and weakened
piety in others--because we expect a similar toleration
for ourselves. We make excuses for them--because we
expect the like excuses for our own conduct in return.
We have abused, shamefully abused, the fact that
'there is no perfection upon earth,' and converted it
into a license for any measure and any number of
Our highest notion of religion requires only abstinence
from open immorality and the more polluting worldly
amusements; an attendance upon an evangelical
ministry; and an approval of orthodox doctrine. This,
this, is the religion of multitudes! There may be . . .
no habitual spirituality;
no life of faith;
no communion with God;
no struggling against sin, Satan, and the world;
no concern to grow in grace;
no supreme regard to eternity;
no studied and advancing fitness for the eternal world;
no tenderness of conscience;
no careful discipline of our disposition;
no cultivation of love;
no making piety our chief business and highest pleasure;
no separation in spirit from the world.
In short, no impress upon the whole mind, and heart,
and conscience and life--of the character of the
Christian, as delineated upon the page of Scripture.
We all need to be taken out of 'the religious world',
as it is called, and collected again around the Bible
to study what it is to be a Christian! Let us endeavor
to forget what the bulk of professors are, and begin
afresh to learn what they ought to be.
It is to be feared that we are corrupting each other,
leading each other to be satisfied with a 'conventional
piety'. Many have been actually the worse for attending
church. They were more intensely concerned and earnest
before they came into church fellowship. Their piety
seemed to come into an ice house, instead of
house! They grew better outside the church--than in the
church. At first they were surprised and shocked to see . . .
of many older professors, and exclaimed, with grief
and disappointment, "Is this the church of Christ!"
But after a while, the fatal influence came over them,
and their piety sank to the temperature around them!