The Church In Earnestby John Angell James
Some men seem to be born with the bright promise of a smiling Providence beaming down on them from the very moment of their first infant cry. The family that surrounds the new child is an imposing council of the wise and godly. Their education is, though always tempered with love, strong and measured for success in whatever the Lord has planned. The mind, shaped by… See more details below
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Some men seem to be born with the bright promise of a smiling Providence beaming down on them from the very moment of their first infant cry. The family that surrounds the new child is an imposing council of the wise and godly. Their education is, though always tempered with love, strong and measured for success in whatever the Lord has planned. The mind, shaped by the kindness of God, is ready and quick to learn. The religion of the family is living and vibrant, but sober, anchored in the bedrock of ancient scriptural truth. The heart of the youngster is touched early and so preserved from growing into the iniquity that inevitably gains strength with most through each passing year. Family connections with eminent men and women make way for the best education, the most earnest spiritual influences and early prominence in whatever field the heart is turned toward. But such is the happy path of precious few.
The Divine smile was not so apparent in the life of John Angell James. The great favor and kindness afforded those born into godly, earnest and comfortable homes should not be diminished or despised, and we all wish it for our own children. But it does not necessarily afford the brightest hope to those favored differently of God. Thanks be to God that tax-collectors and Timothys make equally excellent disciples! James' parents were not all that one would hope, something he is very candid about in his autobiography. His father worshiped at the local Independent Chapel and was a nominal professor. It was unclear to James until near his father's death whether he was truly a believer. His mother, on the other hand, was an earnest Christian. Coming from a family associated with the General Baptists, she seems to have continued in those views, though dutifully worshiping with her husband so as to prevent any rift in the family. By all accounts, her vibrant faith was somewhat crippled by her decided lack of both education and natural intellect. With great simplicity, she loved both God and her children. Tears would stream down her face as she pleaded with God to save her dear ones. Holding them so tightly they could scarcely breathe, her cries would make their way out of the window and into the neighbor's homes. James noted that his mother's prayer life hardly qualified as entering the closet.
James was very keenly aware, possibly too much so, of how his rearing affected him. The home, while at least containing one example of true, if slightly awkward, piety, did nothing to cultivate anything other than mediocrity and ignorance in nearly all aspects of life. Teachers thought him a dullard and a brawler, but neither they nor his parents seemed interested or capable of testing their theories. At the age of thirteen his formal education came to a close when his father obtained an apprenticeship for him in Poole. It was hoped this would prepare him to take over his father's drapery and button store and provide a comfortable retirement for his parents. The spiritual situation in Poole was equally unsuited to James' needs. The gentleman under whom he worked was a nominal professor, as his father. His new employer's wife was a blasphemer and quite a wicked woman. At this point, James seems to have becoming increasingly aware that he lacked 'vital' religion. As if answering the unuttered cry of his heart, he was introduced to a godly cobbler who not only was able to demonstrate for him the great provision of the gospel of Christ, but also the life of love, devotion and service that should flow out of the hearts of those who had received the precious gift. Immediately he set to work in the local Sunday School and, with time, his conviction of a genuine call to shepherd the flock of God became more and more clear, both to others and himself. Out of sorts and out of pocket [James' father had to pay to acquire the apprenticeship and also to purchase him an early release], his father reluctantly agreed to buy his way out and enroll him in Dr. David Bogue's ministerial training school. He was able to afford the fees only with the aid of a scholarship from Robert Haldane.
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