Writings of James Emlen (1792-1866)

The memorial to James Emlen, my 4th great-grandfather, which was presented by the Birmingham Monthly Meeting at the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1867 consisted of twelve hand-written pages. Of these, many were only quotes from his writings. I have extracted to this page many of the passages that were included in the original memorial. If you wish to read the remaining narrative sections, they can be found in a later post.

In reference to an account of an individual which he had been perusing, he writes, “Quiet, peaceful, one of the hidden members of the body; and how important these are, may be inferred from the fact that the most vital and important parts or members are such as are out of sight; and I have often thought if we may only feel assured we are of the body, whether hidden members or not, it would not matter; but yet how important that these should be preserved in a sound and healthful condition; and as He who made that which is without, made that which is within also, to Him we must look for the healing virtue of Divine life, when anything is out of order or in an unsound condition. Therefore let none conclude, because they may thing themselves out of sight, that they are needless or useless members of the Church of Christ. I am confident, that such, keeping their places in humility, do often secretly minister grace to beholders.

O! for a succession of such as love the Truth, and who desire none of the novelties of the present day; very thankful indeed to be permitted to share in the inheritance left by our forefathers; to drink of the old wine”.

In reference to the ministry, he writes: “of one thing I have little doubt, that all who are rightly called into the ministry will first be instructed to see and to feel, that of themselves they can know and do thing. This weans from all dependence on ourselves, and prepares the humble mind to have faith in Christ, although with the poor Centurian we can adopt the language ‘I am not worthy thou shouldst come under, neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee, yet speak this word only and my servant shall be healed’. A very humble view of himself, but such confidence in Christ as to gain for him the encouraging language, ‘I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel’.”

“Indeed I can say from my heart, I have a very friendly feeling for a brief and lively ministry; and in this view of the subject, no one has any occasion to plead the lack of eloquence and the stammering tongue, for it is not so much the words, how good or how many, but how lively; feeding the hungry with the true bread and not with pictures and descriptions and dry doctrines; nay it is not true, that even a word fitly spoken is like ‘apples of gold in pictures of silver’. The rehearsal of a text with right authority, may have the effects to gather an assembly unto Christ the invisible Teacher, which is all any minister should desire.”

Again he writes, “It is no doubt a time of general shaking amongst us, and how needful to be based upon that which cannot be shaken nor removed; — here must be our fellowship and unity; members of the one spiritual body, many members, but having one Holy Head and Lawgiver”. “I crave above all things purity of heart, and an increase of those unseen heavenly graces which are more professed than possessed by some who bear the name of Christ.”

Again, “It has indeed felt to me very much like the time referred to, when there was nothing but a few barley leaves, and some small fishes remaining amongst us.”

“There is a great deal of noise and outward profession in the Christian world; but the anointed eye must see that if all the chaff except the solid wheat were sifted out, little would be left; and yet that little, with the Divine blessing may be sufficient; and therefore even faith must not be in the wisdom of man, nor in the multitudes of words, but with the innocency, simplicity and humility of the Truth itself, and the power of its operations.” I greatly desire to be preserved from all deceit and mixture, and yet I find the enemy is ever watching to take me in weak moments, and I find, as I suppose we all do, that I am never safe without keeping in a watchful, prayerful condition.”

“It feels to be very desirable that we constantly bear in mind, that ‘the day and the night are both alike to Him’; that in our times of stripping and desertion, and temptation, we are as much under his baptizing hand, as in seasons of strength and comfort.”

His views in regard to the Holy Scriptures are clearly expressed in a letter under date of Twelfth Month 6th 1862, as follows: “To be favored with the enlightening and enlivening influence of that Holy Spirit which inspired the writers of the sacred volume, is of all others, the most precious gift we can obtain, this enables us to understand and relish what we read; and as we are faithful to the impressions it conveys, it becomes a precious aid in the path of a devout life, and gives a true feeling of love and fellowship with Him, who inspired, and with those who wrote the Scriptures.”

“This precious Spirit of Christ is a light to our path, a weapon of power in the hand, a covering or garment that gives admittance into the Bridegroom’s chamber. And if in reading the Sacred volume we are favored with some lively view and feeling of a particular passage, I believe it has been found good to pause, and allow our Holy High Priest and Minister to expound the same and convey to us Himself the instructions it contains. If without this solemn introversion we continue reading or refer to the commentaries of men, we may lose the edification intended, and have our attention diverted from the Spirit to the letter, and thus suffer loss, without perhaps knowing the cause.”

“In the midst of all the peculiar trials that surround us, I feel a comfortable hope that the foundations of many are being laid with precious stones, with humility, with living faith, and living hope, and fervent charity; which though out of sight, are seen by Him who seeth not as man seeth, but looketh at the heart.”

In another letter he says, “I notice with much interest thy remarks about the ‘awfulness of delay in the great work of the preparation’. The care thou expresses in disclosing thy feelings on the subject, is an evidence to my mind that the concern is a right one, and from the right source. He who makes such solemn impressions on the mind would have us quietly to cherish thou, and not to scatter them and fritter them away in a light, or even a familiar manner to any one. Our strength depends on keeping to an inward retired state of mind, abiding in the vine, the root of life, and drawing all our supplies from thence”.

“If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his; and if we have this, we have the spirit of prayer and supplications whereunto we may continually resort. He, and He alone, thoroughly knows our condition and what is needed to heal us. Man’s prescriptions may not suit our case, and I would encourage them to observe care not to converse too familiarly on solemn subjects”.


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