Christian Progress

John Angell James, 1853


"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3:18

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us!" Hebrews 12:1

It is indeed a melancholy thing for the growth of grace to be stopped—and to see the spiritual child remaining a dwarf. But it need not be so, unless the child chooses it.

I. INDIFFERENCE to growth, is a powerful hindrance to spiritual progress. This has been in some measure anticipated where we have said that earnest concern and desire are among the means of progress. If so, then indifference must be an impediment to growth. It is not so in nature. A child in health will grow, and does grow, without a thought or a care about the matter. He may never have one idea about it; may be as indifferent as a lamb, or a young dove, a tree, or a flower; yet his indifference will not affect his growth. But it is not so with a young Christian! Indifference here is fatal to all progress. Look at this. Indifferent! What, about progress to heaven, and a fitness for it? Indifferent! What, about increasing knowledge of eternal truth? Indifferent! What, to increase in holiness, which is the image of God in the soul of man? Indifferent! What, about the development of that character which is formed by a divine hand, of heavenly materials, and for eternal ages? Young professor, can you endure the thought, does it not astound you, alarm you, distress you—to think of being hindered by indifference? Oh, cast it away at once, and kindle into solicitude and concern. Be indifferent to anything, or everything else, rather than to Christian progress!

II. The REMAINING CORRUPTION of human nature, and its imperfect sanctificationis a powerful hindrance to spiritual progress. And this must be viewed in connection with the temptations of Satan. This view of the case has come out incidentally, and may yet come out in other parts of the volume; but, on account of its importance, it must have a separate place assigned to it here. It is well for the young convert to have a very clear and vivid perception of his real condition—of what he really is, what he has to contend with, and what exertion therefore is necessary to overcome the resistance he meets with in his course. What then is the real condition, and what are the true circumstances, of the person whose case I am now meeting?

He is supposed to be truly regenerated—but at the same time only partially sanctified. Sin is dethroned—but not destroyed! His predominant taste and disposition are holy--but godly principles may not yet have struck their roots very deep into his soul. His holy purposes are somewhat vacillating, and his inclinations to evil sometimes strong, just because, to use a Scripture expression, "the flesh lusts against the spirit, and these are contrary the one to the other." Satan knows all this, and by methods which we cannot understand assaults the soul with his various machinations and subtle temptations. We need not, for it is useless, attempt to explain the mastery of Satanic influence. It is nowhere laid open to us. One thing, however, beyond the fact that he does so tempt us, is certain, that he always assails us through the medium of our own thoughts, imaginations, and feelings. Somehow or other he has the power of inciting these. So that our resistance of evil in ourselves is properly the resistance of the devil outside of ourselves. No perplexity, therefore, need trouble us about meeting the temptations of Satan, for to vanquish our own evil hearts is to vanquish him.

It is well to know, to consider, to ponder, the fact that there is still the danger of an evil heart of unbelief, aided by the power of Satan, hindering us on our way, and attempting to turn us out of it. We are not only like Bunyan's pilgrim, when we first become concerned about our soul, setting out with a burden of guilt upon our back; but when, like him, we have lost that at the cross, we have still another burden of imperfections and corruptions to carry, which without great labor and effort will sadly retard us. It must be understood well—that though all external circumstances of situation, and helps, and advantages, were as favorable as they could be, we still have a sad drawback within. We are like a traveler who is on a smooth road, has fine weather, is intimately acquainted with the way, has agreeable and helpful companions—but who at the same time is very lame, or has a load to carry. His lameness or his load will be a great delay to him. His attention must be directed to these things. He must cure the one or lighten the other, or he will make slow progress.

"The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh—and these are contrary the one to the other—so that you cannot do the things that you would." Galatians 5:17. "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing—for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not." Romans 7:18.

III. Besetting sins are powerful hindrances to Christian progress. "Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets you," said the apostle. In the case of most people, there is some one sin to which, either from their situation, constitution, taste, or other circumstances—they are more powerfully tempted than to others. Satan knows very well what in every case this is, and skillfully adapts his temptations to it. He is an expert angler, and never chooses his bait, or throws his line, at random! Independently, however, of him, the very tendency of the heart is in that direction. That one sin, whatever it is, while indulged, will hold you back—you cannot make progress in holiness, until it is mortified. Even its partial indulgence, though it may be considerably weakened, will hinder you. Study then your situation, circumstances, and constitution. You cannot be so ignorant of your past history, your present situation, your constitutional tendencies, your experience, your failures, your resolutions, as not to know what it is which, in the way of temptation and sin, you are most exposed to. You must, you do know, in what you have most frequently wounded your conscience, and occasioned to yourself shame and sorrow. Is it an unsanctified temper? An impure imagination? A proud heart? A vain mind? A taste for worldly company? A proneness to envy and jealousy? A love of money? A tendency to exaggeration in speech? A fondness for pleasure? A disposition to censoriousness, detraction, and backbiting? Study yourselves. Examine your own heart. You must find out this matter, and it requires no great pains in order to know it. It floats upon the surface of the heart, and does not lie hidden in its depths. There, there, is your danger! As long as that sin, be it what it may, is indulged, you cannot advance in the Christian life! Other sins are like unnecessary clothing to the racer. Besetting sins are like a ball and chain round his ankle!

IV. There are some SITUATIONS in life very unfriendly to growth in grace. Plants, if they flourish, require adaptation of soil, atmosphere, and treatment. So do animals. So do young children. So do young Christians. In all these cases, however, except where the situation is so uncongenial as to be certain death, and certain destruction to the subject of care—much may be accomplished by extraordinary attention and culture. Corn, by great skill, labor, and expense, may be made to grow in unfavorable soils. Animals accustomed to a warm climate may, by very great care, be kept alive, and even in tolerable health, in colder regions. Children do grow in the absence of many things conducive to health. So it is with the plants of grace, the lambs of Christ's flock, the children of God.

True piety has to exist sometimes in situations most inauspicious to its growth, yes to its very existence. A servant girl, for instance, may be awakened to a serious concern about the salvation of her soul, while engaged in a large family, incessantly occupied, and associated with other servants, who are not only destitute of all true religion themselves, but who ridicule and oppose hers; while the heads of the family are also utterly ungodly, so that in all that house there is nothing to cherish—but everything to wither the blossom of piety in this poor girl's soul. Or a young man may be led in earnest to "Remember his Creator in the days of his youth," and at the time when this new solicitude is awakened in his soul, he is engaged as shopman in some large establishment, where he is surrounded by a number of scoffing, dissolute, and infidel associates, and the master is as ungodly as his servants. Or, a young lady may start in the divine life, in the midst of a gay, worldly, fashionable family. Or a wife may become seriously concerned about divine and eternal realities, whose husband is entirely a man of the world, and requires her to be of one taste with him, in all his amusements and pursuits.

Now can we conceive of anything more unfriendly to earnest, consistent, advancing true religion, than these and many other situations which may be easily imagined—and yet growth is required even here! "Growth!" exclaim some, "why life is scarcely possible here. You may as soon expect pineapples to grow in Antarctica, or roses to flourish amid the Polar ices, as think of true religion thriving in such situations as these!" This is to miscalculate the vital strength of true piety—and also the mighty power of God. I have known, and many more have known it to flourish in all these circumstances. I remember the case of a lady, who within the first month of her marriage with an ungodly husband, was brought under concern about true religion, to which, all that time, she had been a total stranger. And while engaged in all the round of those festive parties and amusements which are customary in fashionable circles on such occasions, had to struggle with this new concern recently awakened in her heart, and subsequently with the opposition of her husband, and of her nearest relatives. Yet, by the grace of God, her piety not only lived but flourished.

Still it shall be conceded that such situations are—for experience and observation prove it—uncongenial with the growth of grace. It is difficult to keep a standing there, much more to advance. But it is possible; and the very possibility is encouraging. Consider how much is at stake—the soul, salvation, heaven, eternity. Consider how much greater your condemnation will be, if having once been awakened, you relapse again into a deadly slumber. Be duly aware, then, of the difficulty of your situation, and even alarmed at it. Say to yourselves, "How can I stand firm?" If you can alter your situation, it may be well to do so—I advise it. You should not be self-confident, and say, "I can trust myself. My mountain stands strong, I shall never be moved. I fear nothing." Then I fear for you. Such a proud spirit is the precursor of a fall. "Be not high-minded—but fear!" "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." Flee, I say, flee if you can; that is, if your present situation be not one of obvious duty, which leaves you no choice.

Some of the cases I have mentioned answer to this description, and leave you no option. The daughter cannot in many instances leave her father's house; nor can the wife, the home of her husband. Where this occurs, let there be the most earnest prayer to God for divine grace, and full unwavering faith in the Divine promise. Let such people lay their case before the Lord, and remind him of their peculiar need of his most gracious assistance. Let them open the ear of faith, and hearken to his voice. "Fear not; for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God—I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." Isaiah 41:10.

V. Among the hindrances to progress in true religion must be mentioned, is BAD COMPANIONS. "He who walks with wise men shall be wise," says Solomon, "but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Prov. 13:20. We take the tinge of our character from our companions, and in return give back in brighter hue the color of our own to them. We are all the 'contributors' and 'recipients' of unconscious influence with those to whom we associate; just as healthy or diseased subjects keep the atmosphere around them healthful or infectious. As, therefore, we would preserve our spiritual health and promote our increase of strength, let us avoid the society of those whose company and conversation are unfriendly to piety. The strength of our convictions, the fixedness of our habits, the clearness and settledness of our principles, and the firmness of our resolutions, must in a great measure depend upon our associates. David said, "I am a companion of all those who fear God and keep his statutes."

As to the choice of good and suitable companions as a means of progress, I have already written in a former chapter—but now I speak of the avoidance of unsuitable friendships, of such as would be a hindrance to it. And I would, with all the emphasis it is possible to give to written language, implore the young professor to be most anxiously and tremblingly concerned about this matter. It may happen that now when first brought under concern about salvation, you may have companions congenial with your former ungodly tastes; and some to whom you were much attached—but who are still as regardless of true religion as you once were. This is indeed a painful and perplexing situation, and will expose you to considerable danger. You will find it difficult either to dissolve the ties of friendship, or to maintain them without peril to your infantine religion. To withdraw from those in whose society you have spent so many cheerful hours, will be like cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. Well, and are not these the terms of Christian discipleship? Why, in the times of persecution, the saints were often called to surrender husbands or wives, parents or children, for Christ's sake; and can you not give up a friend? Will you risk your piety, and jeopardize your soul—at the shrine of friendship? Do you not know that your godly character must be distasteful to your former friends—and that their pursuits and conversation are now distasteful, and actually injurious to you? Do you not come from their society with your pious ardor damped, the spiritual taste lowered, the devotional spirit impaired, and the conscience offended and wounded by your sinking too deeply into the current of their conversation? Is it not felt by you that there is one subject, and that the most momentous of all, in reference to which you can have no sympathies and no conversation in common? You must withdraw. It is come to this, that you must sacrifice your friends—or your souls! Which shall it be?

We do not say that this should be abruptly, much less rudely or sanctimoniously done. There must be nothing at all approaching to the "Stand aside—I am holier than you." It might be well, first of all, by letter or personal communion, to endeavor to influence your friends to adopt similar views to your own; to use all the gentle and unassuming arts of affectionate persuasion, to induce them to go with you in the ways of wisdom and the paths of peace. If you do not prevail, then, after a full and fair trial to engage them in the bonds of a sacred fellowship, with tenderness, and frankly stating your reasons—you must withdraw from them. It may be a costly sacrifice—but it is a necessary one!

How much more forcibly does this apply to that one friend, who, above all others, is dearest to your heart, and likely on that account to be more influential over your character. Where this tender engagement has been formed before conversion, it should be only a very hostile attitude against true religion, which should induce you to dissolve the bond. In such a case there is sometimes little trouble—for 'enmity against God' goes far to extinguish 'love towards man', and the godly party is released by the ungodly party. But where no close friendship of this nature has been formed, and the young professor is free to choose or to receive—surely, surely, a due regard to the happiness of both parties, the safety of the soul, the pursuit of salvation, the commands of Scripture, and the glory of God—should lead to a determination never to form a companionship, which is hostile to the interests of personal religion.

It is impossible to conceive of anything more likely to exert a deleterious and destructive influence over incipient piety, than a cherished regard for, and an avowed engagement to, a person who is a stranger to vital godliness. Even they who have long been in the bands of matrimony and who after they have entered them are brought under the power of godliness, find it difficult to maintain it, in its vigor and consistency, against the hostile or even neutral influence of a husband or a wife that has no sympathy with them in this most momentous of all concerns. How much more unlikely is it that they who are in all the solicitudes, the emotions, and the agitations of courtship, and that in connection with an individual who has no godly sensibilities, can hold on their way and wax stronger and stronger. It is by no means favorable to the cultivation of true godliness, in its earliest stages, to have the mind occupied by a subject so engrossing to the hearts of the people concerned, as courtship—even where it is between people both of whom are partakers of true religion. How much more, then, where this does not enter into the character and pursuits of one of the parties concerned.

VI. The inconsistencies, shortcomings, or stationary condition of those who already make, and perhaps have long made a profession of religion, are a great impediment to the advance of those who are just beginning the Christian life. There is a proneness, in judging of religion—to look at the conduct of those who profess it—rather than to its own inspired records. Infidels do this, and also those who wish to be freed from its obligation, and who for that end bring against it the inconsistencies of its professors. Something like this operates also on the minds of those who are beginning the Christian course. Instead of studying their obligations in the Word of God, and taking all their ideas from thence, and finding there the proper models of character; they look around upon those Christians with whom they are acquainted, with a kind of tacit idea that if they themselves are as holy, and earnest, and spiritual as these—this is all that can be expected from they themselves. Yes, they imagine that they who are so young in piety can hardly be supposed to be as holy, spiritual, and earnest—as they who have been long in the way. And what do they see in these older Christians, in whom at one time perhaps, they looked for an almost perfect exhibition of spiritual excellence as the natural result of long experience and rich advantages? Ah, what indeed? Oftentimes low attainments, prevailing worldly-mindedness, unsanctified tempers, and general unloveliness of character!

Instead of resembling trees in the meridian of their age, lofty in stature, spreading out their branches, rich in foliage, and laden with fruit—they see stunted, almost branchless, leafless, and fruitless stocks, calling for the gardener's interdict, "Cut them down! Why allow them to cumber the ground?" Others perhaps are not in so bad a condition as this—but still far from what our Lord describes as "bearing much fruit, and so glorifying God." Here and there they discover some one Christian, in an eminent degree growing like a cedar in Lebanon, or flourishing like the palm-tree. But these are the exceptions, rather than the rule. The young inquirer, therefore, instead of looking at the exceptions, too often turns to the general rule, and secretly thinks that he can hardly expect to be among the rarer instances of godliness, and contents himself with possessing the average amount of it. There may be no actual, formal, deliberate, making up his mind in this way, after general observation—but an unconscious and unintentional influence of this kind comes over his mind.

It was only the day before this was written, a friend informed me of a case he knew of a young female servant who was brought under the power of true religion, and wishing to be in a situation favorable to the growth of her piety, she went into a family professing godliness, where she hoped to find everything to foster her early impressions. Perhaps, as is commonly the case, she expected too much—all but perfection. But she saw so little like true religion in either husband or wife—so much worldliness, and such an absence of everything to encourage her in her recent impressions, that she found herself in almost as much danger there, as in the place she left! It had nearly proved too much for her weak faith, and she had well near returned again to her former state of careless unconcern. However, by God's grace, she was preserved from falling, and afterwards recovered her standing and progress, though certainly not by any help she gained from this worldly-minded couple whom she served.

Against the pernicious influence of bad example from professors—we must earnestly caution the young disciples. They must not allow themselves to be rendered slow in their pace, because others before them are so; nor to be checked in their speed, either by a false modesty which would lead them to conclude it would be presumption to progress beyond their seniors; nor by an indolence which would but too easily lead them to be satisfied with keeping a little behind them. No doubt it has sometimes happened that Satan has puffed up the mind of some young ardent minds, when in all the fervor of their first love, with vanity and conceit, so that they have become somewhat proud of their own ardor, and unjustly censorious upon the lukewarmness of others. There cannot be either a more unlovely or a more injurious disposition than for a person just brought under the power of true religion, setting up himself as a public censor, and dealing out with unsparing hand his judgements and reproaches upon the characters and conduct of his neighbors. It is sufficiently offensive in ordinary life to hear one who is little beyond a beardless youth becoming "Sir Oracle," and presuming to judge and censure men old enough to be his father; but it is still more disgusting to see this in reference to true religion; and we would most seriously warn all young disciples against such a temper, and admonish them to cultivate among other virtues, the love that "does not behave rudely."

VII. There is another hindrance to progress, which in some periods of history, and some external states of the Church of Christ, has been found fatally successful in the case of thousands—I mean PERSECUTION.

Persecution has not ceased, and never will—as long as society is composed of both the righteous and the wicked. The Apostle's words will be found to be quite true, "All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Tim. 3:12. The essence of persecution lies in subjecting a person to injury, pain of body or mind, or some inconvenience—on account of his religious opinions or conduct, whether this be done by public unjust laws, or by private ill-treatment. If a person be made the butt of ridicule or scorn by his companions or others for his religion, he is persecuted, and is called to endure cruel mockings and reproaches. Perhaps there is nothing more hard to bear than this—no test of steadfastness more severe. A young man who becomes godly, if in a large establishment, is sure to be the object of all kinds of unhallowed mirth and sport, and if amid all he remains firm, inflexible, and constant—he is as truly persecuted, as he who goes to prison. It is scarcely possible to conceive of a harder trial of constancy than this. Many have given way. They could not stand it; and have escaped the pitiless 'storm of ridicule' by taking shelter in apostasy. And where they have not altogether abandoned their religion, have "put the candle under a bushel," and have so concealed their opinions and feelings—that to others, they appeared to have given them up. This is as truly denying Christ as open apostasy; and is the very case to which he alludes when he says, "Whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels." Mark 8:38. Christ will have no secret disciples. He who has faith must confess it before men. Rom. 10:9-11. In many cases it may be well, where the opposition is too hard to be borne, to quit the situation—though it is a noble instance of moral heroism to endure it bravely, "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might."

But there are other cases, in some respects more trying than even this, I mean where a young person, especially a female, becomes decided in spiritual religion in the midst of an ungodly family; where not one is found to encourage her—and all oppose her! She cannot do many things she once did without scruple or hesitation. Some of their amusements offend her conscience, and she declines them. She is now considered by her strictness—as condemning all the rest—and is reproached by all in the family—as an accuser and reprover of the family. She is charged with being a divider of the household, and as having introduced discord and strife. It is a most trying situation for the object of persecution to endure the anger, and meet the frowns of father and mother, brothers and sisters; to be considered and reproached as the disturber of the peace of a once happy and united family—what firmness of principle, what inflexibility of purpose, what martyr-like constancy, what a power of divine grace does this require!

And even where the opposition is not so fierce as in either of these cases, it may be so considerable as to be a great trial of constancy and a powerful hindrance to progress. There may be the threatened withdrawment of patronage, favor, friendship, or custom; and the mild admonition and the gentle entreaty—which are a 'persecution of love'. How difficult to put aside all this and go on. Instead of this, many are themselves turned aside and go back. Their courage fails, their 'love of ease' gains the ascendancy, and they surrender their convictions, their hopes, their prospects—in short, their religion.

Let those who are thus tempted consider the consequences of giving up their profession. Let them read with solemn awe the passages of Scripture already quoted. For their encouragement let them take up their Bibles, and read our Lord's words in his sermon on the mount, Matt. 5:10-18. Let them also peruse the beautiful language of the apostle, 1 Pet. 2:19-24; 4:12-19; 2 Tim. 2:11-13; Heb. 12:1-13. Let them wrestle with God for his grace to assist them, and cast themselves upon his promised aid, expecting that he will uphold them. It should be accounted by them an honor and a glory to suffer for Christ. They should bear all with patience, meekness, and forgiveness. A quiet and gentle sufferer will in most cases subdue even the hard-hearted oppressor. There is a wondrous power in consistent and unvarying meekness. Let not opposition then hinder you. Let your courage rise with your circumstances—and your self-denial keep pace with both—and your humility and sense of dependence upon God, deepen with the pressure of opposition upon your strength.

VII. A taste for WORLDLY AMUSEMENTS will inevitably prove, wherever it is indulged, a powerful obstacle to growth in grace. Man is unquestionably made for enjoyment. He has a capacity for bliss, an instinctive appetite for gratification, and for this God has made ample provision of a healthful and lawful kind. "A taste for worldly pleasure" means that this God-given capacity is directed to wrong sources, or carried to an excess. Now there are some amusements which in their very nature are so utterly incompatible with true godliness, that a liking for them, and a hankering after them, and especially an indulgence in them, cannot exist with real, earnest, and serious piety. The dissolute parties of the glutton and the drunkard; the fervency for the gambling-table; the pleasures of the race-course, and the performances of the theater, are all of this kind. A taste for them is utterly uncongenial with a spirit of godliness. So is a love for the gay and fashionable entertainments of the ball-room, and the wanton parties of the upper classes.

These are all unfriendly to true religion, and are usually renounced by people intent upon the momentous concerns of eternity. A love for them dies out from the soul agitated and made anxious by the great question, "What shall I do to be saved?" We would not doom to perdition all who are at any time found in this round of worldly pleasure—but we unhesitatingly say, that a taste for them is entirely opposed to the whole spirit of Christianity. They are all included in that "world" which is overcome by faith and the new birth. True religion is, though a happy, a very serious thing, and can no more live and flourish in the heated atmosphere of those parties, than could a plant brought from the frigid or temperate zone under the burning rays of a tropical sun. But in this pleasure-loving, pleasure-seeking, and pleasure-inventing age, there is a great variety of amusements perpetually rising up, which it would be impossible to say are sinful, and therefore unlawful. Yet the supposition of their lawfulness viewed in connection with their abundance, variety, and constant repetition, is the very thing that makes them dangerous to the spirit of true religion.

A taste for even lawful worldly amusements, which leads its possessor to be fond of them, seeking them, and longing for them, shows a mind that is in a very doubtful state as to vital piety. It looks as if he had not yet entered into the Savior's words to the woman of Samaria, "Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again—but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst—but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." John 4:13, 14. Now this thirsting after worldly pleasure of any kind would seem as if the subject of it had not yet drank of the living water from the well of salvation. This great concern after even innocent worldly gratification seems to indicate that the peace which passes all understanding had not yet taken possession of the soul; and this inquiry, "Who will show us any good?" hardly comports with a mind that had said to God, "Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased." Psalm 4:6-7.

I do not like to be asked, as I sometimes am, the question, "whether such and such amusements are compatible with true religion?" That is, I do not like it, when it evidently proceeds from a prevailing wish to enjoy them, and a desire to get ministerial sanction for indulging in them. It ought not to be necessary to prove that many of these are unlawful, they should be found unnecessary. I am aware that it is sometimes pleaded on behalf of worldly amusements by young people, that abstinence from them represents piety as clothed with austerity—and that religious people should go as far as they could in these things to disprove the calumny. There is something perhaps in this; but it requires to be very narrowly watched. For, without caution, see how far it would carry us. Those who indulge in sinful pleasures which no religious person could ever engage in, may say that all people must have a very melancholy religion who debar themselves of their pleasures. So that an excessive repugnance to all amusements, and the repugnance may, I concede, be excessive and almost ridiculous, should not be so beaten down as to make way for a latitude which would be dangerous to personal godliness.

A Christian is not to partake of the pleasures of the world, merely to prove that his religion does not debar him from enjoyment; but he is to let it be seen by his "peace which passes understanding," and his "joy unspeakable and full of glory," that his godliness gives far more enjoyment than it takes away—that, in fact, it gives him the truest happiness. The way to win a worldly person to true religion is not to go and partake of his amusements—but to prove to him that we are happier with our pleasures—than he is with his; that we bask in full sunshine while he has only a smoking candle; that we have found the "river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb," while he is drinking of the muddy streams which issue from the earth!

After all, it is freely admitted—

1. That true religion is not hostile to anything which is not hostile to it.

2. That many things which are not strictly pious, though not opposed to piety, may be lawfully enjoyed by the Christian.

3. That what he has to do in this matter is not to practice total abstinence—but "moderation".

4. Yet the Christian should remember how elastic a term "moderation" is, and to be vigilant lest his moderation should continually increase its latitude, until it has swelled into the imperial tyranny of an appetite which acknowledges no authority—and submits to no restraint!


If in an important mission, journey, or undertaking of any kind, you were impeded in reference to the object contemplated, you would inquisitively and anxiously search for the cause of delay, and never rest satisfied until you had found and removed it. I am now supposing there is a hindrance of one or more kinds to your progress towards heaven, to your increase of faith and holiness. There are stones in the way, which must be removed, if you are to make progress in your Christian pilgrimage. It is fearful to think of hindrances to heaven, and impediments to holiness. If there were anything that hindered your health, or prosperity in business, or the success of any earthly scheme—how earnestly you would ask the question, "What is it? What is it?" How thankful you would be to the friend who pointed it out, and how diligently you would set to work to remove the impediment out of the way. Well, there are obstacles in your way to Zion. You are hindered. You do not perhaps make progress. How is this?—I say to you what the apostle did to the Galatians, "Who hindered you?" "What hindered you?" Look back through this chapter; take up every particular; say of each, Is it this, or that, which stops my progress? I ask you, and I implore you to ask yourself—

Is it indifference to the spiritual growth?

Is it the unsubdued corruption of your nature, left to itself, unresisted, unmortified?

Is it a besetting sin?

Is it the peculiarity of your situation being unfriendly to a life of piety?

Is it unsuitable companionship?

Is it the inconsistencies of professing Christians?

Is it a taste for worldly amusements.

Is it persecution?

Examine, I beseech you, examine, what it is that arrests you in your course—and take it away! Again I say, "Remove the stones!" "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us!" Hebrews 12:1