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26 February, 2013

Christian Progress - Part 5

John A. James, 1853

Now there is a proneness in some to neglect this, and endeavor to support their spiritual strength by something else. It is not the study of the Biblical history, or chronology, or historical facts, or beautiful poetry, or pathetic narratives, or sublime compositions of the Bible—that will best sustain our strength—and yet some are thus attempting it. They see many beauties in the Bible to which they were formerly blind. 

They are enamored with the sublimities, for instance, of the book of Job or Isaiah. They admire the wondrous wisdom of the book of Proverbs. They luxuriate amid the pathos of the history of Joseph, or the morality of the Sermon upon the Mount. Their attachment to those parts of revelation is rather growing than declining, and in proper measure all this is highly commendable. Such books as Gilfillan's "Bards of the Bible," and Kitto's "Daily Readings," should be read, and cannot be read without admiration, and exquisite delight, and valuable information. 

And many do read them with these feelings, and hence they imagine they are progressing in true religion, although they have little relish, perhaps, for the doctrines of the Gospel—the mediation of Christ—the salvation into which the prophets inquired diligently, and into which the angels desired to look. They do not feed on the flesh and blood of the great Sacrifice.

8. There may be a mistake made, by the mortification of some ONE SIN while others are left unsubdued. It is so far an advance if one enemy of our soul, from right motives and by right means, be destroyed. And in the work of spiritual improvement it is wise and well, instead of losing our time and wasting our energies in mere general and unsystematic mortification, to select occasionally some one sin to begin with in the way of more direct and concentrated attack—and no doubt the crucifixion of that corruption—the cutting off of that right hand, or the plucking out of that right eye, is a gain in sanctification—a step in advance and a means of gaining other victories.

But what I am anxious to guard you against is, the supposition that because some one evil to which you may be more strongly tempted is abandoned; or some practice which may militate against your health, or interest, or comfort, is given up—that you are progressing in godliness. Sin may be discontinued for various reasons. A drunkard may give up his inebriety, not because it is sinful—but hurtful. 

Another may discontinue some fraudulent practice, not because it is forbidden by God—but is disgraceful in the estimation of man. A young professor may give up some ensnaring worldly amusements, not because be is afraid of their influence upon his spiritual welfare—but because they make too great inroads upon his purse. It is not therefore the abstract abandonment of a sin—but the motive which leads to it, which is a proof of the work of grace. "How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" This sentiment must lie as the motive at the base of all mortification of sin. And then moreover, the destruction of any one sin must be viewed and carried on as a part of the purpose and the act for the destruction of all sin.

B. I now proceed to enumerate and to correct some mistakes of a contrary nature to those just considered. I mean such as are committed by those who are making progress, and yet are somewhat anxious and distressed under supposition that they are not; and even fearing that they are declining.
The cases are perhaps not numerous of people deeply concerned about salvation, really earnest in true religion, and yet harassed with the apprehension that they are at a standstill, or even going back. 

There is a sincere desire to advance in holiness, and to increase in spirituality; and they are even diligent in the use of means to accomplish that end. In reference to them, I do not hesitate to say that their very state of mind is itself an evidence of progression. This solicitude is itself advancement. The very desire of improvement, the will to go on, the longing after greater attainment, is progress. It is itself an impulse—a forgetting the things that are behind, and a reaching forward unto those things that are before. 

There cannot be a more convincing proof of halting or retrograding, than complacency in ourselves. While on the other hand, a growing disposition to find fault with ourselves, and humble ourselves, and really improve ourselves, is one of the brightest indications of our going forward, provided there is all diligence in the use of the means of self-improvement.