by J. A. James, "Earnestness in Personal Religion" 1847
Our idea of the nature of earnest individual piety must be taken, not from the conventional customs of the age, but from the Word of God. Once give up the Bible as the only true standard of personal piety, and there is no rule left but custom, which is ever varying with the opinions and corruptions of the times.
Yet how prevalent is the disposition to conform ourselves to the prevailing religion of the day and of the church to which we belong, and to satisfy ourselves with the average measure of piety around us! "I am as good as my fellow members!" is the shield with which many a professor wards off the allegation of his living below his Scriptural duty.
This has been the fatal practical error of the church through every age of its existence, by which . . .
its beauty has been disfigured,
its power weakened, and
its usefulness impeded!
Professing Christians, instead of looking into the perfect standard of Scripture, and seeing themselves reflected from that faithful mirror, and adjusting their character and conduct by its infallible revelations, placed before themselves the standard of the Christian profession as it was found in the church of the day, and regulated their behavior by what they saw in the prevailing character of their fellow Christians!
Thus a constant multiplication of corrupted copies has ever been going on! And religion, as seen in the conduct of its professors, compared with that which is described in the pages of its own inspired rule, have been quite different things!
Let us turn away from the religion we see in the church to the religion we read in the Bible! Let us not go to the imperfect and blurred copy, but to the perfect and unspotted original! The Bible's representation of the nature of true piety is intended for us as our guide, and is obligatory upon us!
But the inspired, unalterable, and infallible standard of Scripture is . . .
for many professors.
This is still the stern, unbending demand of Christ: "If any of you wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me!"