July 25th On St James
Consider first, that St. James, the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of St. John the apostle, was one of those disciples to whom our Lord was pleased to show a more particular favour and love. He was one of the three that were chosen to be witnesses of the glory of his Transfiguration; one of the three that were admitted to be present when he raised to life the daughter of Jairus; and one of the three whom he took along with him to stay and watch with him in his prayer and agony in the garden. O how great must the faith and love of St. James have been that he should be such a favourite of Jesus? How happy are they that, like St. James, keep close to Jesus in his sorrows and sufferings no less than in his joys and glory! The zeal and fervour of St. James and his brother St. John in the cause of Christ obtained for them from our Lord the surname of Boanerges, or sons of thunder. This glorious name they made good in their preaching and in their labours – and St. James with this advantage, that he was the first of all the apostles that laid down his life for the love of his master, and sealed his doctrine with his blood. O glorious death! to die for love, nor of any mortal beauty or worldly honour, of friends or country, but for the love of our Lord, the true and everlasting life. O how happy are all those sufferings that are endured for the love of Christ!
Consider 2ndly, from the epistle of this day, (1 Cor. iv.,) what kind of sufferings St. James and his fellow apostles endured daily for the love of Christ, and with what patience and charity they supported them. ‘I think,’ says St. Paul, ‘that God hath set forth us apostles, the last, as it were men appointed to death; because we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake – we are weak – we are without honour. Even unto this hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no fixed abode; and we labour, working with our own hands; we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and suffer it; we are ill spoken of, and we entreat; we are made as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all even until now.’ See. Christians, in what manner the greatest favourites of heaven were treated by the children of the world. But no wonder, for their master himself was treated no better, and all that will reign with him must be content to suffer with him. O happy those crosses that bring the soul to the eternal enjoyment of her God!
Consider 3rdly, from the gospel of this festival, that St. James and St. John, though they had been now trained up for three years in the school of Christ,, yet before his passion and death, and their receiving the Holy Ghost, had not yet perfectly put off the old man, or purged away the old leaven of ambition or self-seeking; and therefore they induced their mother to petition for them that they might sit, the one on the right hand of Christ, and the other on the left, in his kingdom. Christians, beware of ambition, beware of desiring to be honoured, to be praised, to be exalted or preferred before others; beware of all the subtilties of pride and self-love: if it found its way even into the school of Christ, (as it had done before into the earthly paradise, and even into heaven itself,) it is recorded as a warning for us; that so dangerous and subtile an evil may not make its way with far greater ease into our unguarded souls. But hearken to the words of our Lord upon this occasion. ‘You know not,’ says he, ‘what you ask. Can you drink of the chalice that I shall drink?’ &c. O how true it is that we know not what we ask, when we ask for honours, preferments, riches, pleasures, &c., which, instead of bringing us nearer to our God, are too apt to carry us far away from him! ‘Tis drinking with Christ of the chalice of his passion, ‘tis taking up our cross and following him, is the true means of divine appointment, which is to bring us to Christ, and to entitle us to sit down with him on his throne, and to reign eternally with him.
Conclude to let it be thy great ambition to keep as close as thou canst to thy Lord, with thy cross upon thy shoulders, by diligently working, suffering, and loving, and instead of pretending to high things, sit thee down, by humility, in the lowest place, and the highest shall be given thee.