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THE GENERAL EPISTLE TO ST. JAMES;
THIS is supposed to have been written by James the son of Alphens, the brother (or kinsman) of our Lord. It is called a general epistle, because written, not to a particular person or church, but to all the converted Israelites. Herein the apostle reproves that antinomian spirit, which had even then infected many, who had perverted the glorious doctrine of justification by faith, into an occasion of licentiousness. He likewise comforts the true believers under their sufferings, and reminds them of the judgments that were approaching.
IT HAS THREE PART8:
I. The Inscription, C. i. 1.
1. To Patience, enduring outward, conquering inward Temp-
1, Proposed, 19—a 1.
2. Treated of at large.
a. Let Hearing be joined with Practice, 33—36.
Particularly with bridling the Tongue, 26.
And so Faith universally with Works, 14—26.
h. Let the Speech be modest, C. iii. 1—12.
c. Let Anger, with all the other Passions, be restrained,
13—G. iv. 1—17
3. To Patience again:
a. Confirmed by the Coming of the Judge,
The Calamity of the Wicked, C. v. 1—6.
The Deliverance of the Righteous, 7—13.
b. Nourished by Prayer, 13—18. III. The Conclusion, 19, 30.
CHAP. I. 1. JAMES, a servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
2 My brethren, count it all joy, when ye fall into divers
3 temptations, Knowing that the trying of your faith
4 worketh patience. But let patience have its perfect work,
5 that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be
6 given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like a wave of the sea, driven with
7 the wind, and tossed. For let not that man think that he S shall receive any thing from the Lord. A double-minded 9 man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low
CHAP. I. Ver. l. A servant of Jesus Christ—Whose name the apostla mentions but once more in the whole epistle, chap, ii, 1; and not at all in his whole discourse, Acts xv, 14, &c. or chap. xxi. 30—25. It might have seemed, if he mentioned him often, that he did it out of vanity, as being the brother of the Lord; to the twelve tribes—Of Israel; that is, to those of them that believe: which are scattered abroad—In various countries: ten of the tribes were scattered ever since the reign of Hoshea; and great part of the rest were now dispersed through the Roman empire, as was foretold, Dcut. xxviii. 25, &c. xxx. 4. Greeting—That is, all blessings, temporal and eternal.
V. 2. My brethren, count it all joy—Which is the highest degree of patience, and contains all the rest: when ye fall into divers temptations—That is, trials.
V. 4. Let patience have its perfect work—Give it full scope, under whatever trials befal you: that ye may be perfect and entire—Adorned with every Christian grace: and wanting nothing—Which God requires in you.
V. 5. If any want—The Connexion between the first and following verses, both here and in the fourth chapter, will be easily discerned by him who reads them, while he is suffering wrongfully. He will then readily perceive, why the apostle mentions all those various affections of the mind. Wisdom— To understand, whence and why temptations come, and how they are to be improved. Patience is in every pious man already. Let him exercise this, and ask for wisdom. The sum of wisdom, both in the temptation of poverty and of riches, is described in the gth and loth verses: who giveth to all-—That ask aright: and upbraideth not—Either with their past wickedness, or present unworthiness.
V. 6. But let him ask in faith—A firm confidence in God. St. James also both begins and ends with faith, chap. v. 15; the hindrances of which he removes in the middle part of his epistle. He that doubteth is like a wave of the sea—Yea, such are all who have not asked and obtained wisdom: driven with the wind—From without, and tossed—From within, by his own unstablencss.
V. 8. A double-minded man—Who has, as it were, two souls, whose heart is not simply given up to God; is unstable—Being without the true wisdom, perpetually disagrees both with himself and others, chap^jk, 16.
V. 9. Let the brother—St. James does not give this apptjbtion to the rich
10 degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low; because as the flower of the grass he
11 shall pass away. For the sun arose with a scorching heat, and withered the grass, and the flower fell off, and the beauty of its form perished: so also shall the rich
12 man fade away in his ways. Happy is the man that endureth temptation: for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath
13 promised to them that love him. Let no man who is tempted, say, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be
14 tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his
15 own desire, and enticed. Then desire having conceived, bringeth forth sin; and sin being perfected, bringeth forth death.
16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift
17 and every perfect gift is from above, descending from the
of low degree—Poor and tempted: rejoice—The most effectual remedy against doublc-mindedness: in that he is exalted—To be a child of God, and an heir of glory.
V. 10. But the rich, in that he is made low—Is humbled by a deep sense of his true condition: because as the flower—Beautiful but transient, he shall pass away—into eternity.
V. 11. For the sun arose and withered the grass—There is an unspeakable beauty and elegance, both in the comparison itself, and in the very manner of expressing it, intimating both the certainty and the suddenness of the event. So shall the rich fade away in his ways—In the midst of his various pleasures and employments.
V. 12. Happy is the man that endureth temptation—Trials of various kinds: he shall receive the crown—That fadeth not away: which the Lord hath promised to them that love him—And his enduring proves his love: for it is love only that endureth all things.
V. 13. But let no man who is tempted—To sin, say, I am tempted of God— God thus tempteth no man.
, V. 14. Every man is tempted, when—In the beginning of the temptation, he is drawn away—Drawn out of God, his strong refuge, by his own desire—We are, therefore, to look for the cause of every sin, in (not out of) ourselves. Even the injections of the devil cannot hurt, before we make them our own. And every one has desires arising from his own constitution, tempers, habits, and way of life: and enticed—In the progress of the temptation, catching at the bait : so the original word signifies.
V. 15. Then desire having conceived—By our own will joining therewith, bringeth forth actual sin—It does not follow, that the desire itself is not sin. He that begets a man, is himself a man: and sin being perfected—Grown up to maturity, which rt quickly does, bringeth forth death—Sin is born big with death.
V. 16. Do not err—It is a grievous error, to ascribe the evil, and not the good which we receive, to God.
V. 17. No evil, but every good gift—Whatever tends to holiness, and every perfect gift—Whatever tends to glory, descendeth from the Father of lights— The appellation of Father, is here used with peculiar propriety. It follows, He begat us. He is the Father of all light, material or spiritual, in the kingdom of grace and of glory: with whom is no variableness—No change in Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither
18 shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.
19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be
20 swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
21 Therefore laying aside all the filthiness and superfluity of wickedness, receive with meekness the ingrafted word,
22 which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the
23 word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he
24 is like a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went away, and immediately
25 forgot what manner of man he was. But he that looketb.
his understanding, or shadow of turning—In his will. He infallibly discern* all good and evil, and invariably loves one and hates the other. There is in both the Greek words, a metaphor taken from the stars, particularly proper where the Father of lights is mentioned. Both are applicable to any celestial body, which has a daily vicissitnde of day and night, and sometimes longer days, sometimes longer nights. In God is nothing of this kind. He is mere light. If there is any such vicissitnde, it is in ourselves, not in him.
V. 18. Of his own will—Most loving, most free, most pure, just opposite to our evil desire, ver. 15, begat he us—Who believe, by the word of truth—The true word, emphatically so termed: the gospel: that we might be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures—Christians are the chief and most excellent of his visible creatures; and sanctify the rest. Yet he says, a kind of, for Christ alone is absolutely the first-fruits.
V.'19. Let every man be swift to hear—This is treated of, from ver. 21, to the end of the next chapter: slow to speak—Which is treated of in the third chapter: slow to wrath—Neither murmuring at God, nor angry at his neighbour. This is treated of in the third, and throughout the fourth and fifth chapters.
V. 20. The righteousness of God, here includes all duties prescribed by him, and pleasing to him.
V. 21. Therefore laying aside—As a dirty garment, all the filthiness and superfluity of wickedness—Tor however specious and necessary it may appear to worldly wisdom, all wickedness is both vile, hateful, contemptible, and really superfluous. Every reasonable end may be effectually answered, without any kind or degree of it. Lay this, every known sin, aside, or all your hearing is vain: with meekness—Constant eveuness and serenity of mind, receive—Into your ears, your heart, your life; the word—Of the gospel; ingrafted— In believers, by regeneration, ver. 18, and by habit, Heb. v. 14; which is able to save your souls—The hope of salvation nourishes meekness.
V. 23. Beholding his face in the glass—How exactly does the Scripture-glass shew a man the face of his soul!
V. 24. He beheld himself and went away—To other business; and forgot— But such forgetting does not excuse.
V. 25. But he that looketh diligently—Not with a transient glance, but bending down, fixing his eyes, and searching all to the bottom, into the perfect law—W love, as established by faith. St. James here guards us against misunderstanding what St. Paul says, concerning the yoke and bondage of the law. He who keeps the law of love is free, John viii. 31, &c.: he that does not, is not free, but a slave to sin, and a criminal before God, chap. ii. 10: diligently into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and continueth therein, this man being not a forgetful hearer* but a doer of the work, this man shall be happy in his
26 doing. If any one be ever so religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion
27 is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God, even the Father, is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
CHAP. II. I. My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of
2 persons. For if there come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there come in also
3 a poor man in dirty raiment, And ye look upon him that weareth the fine apparel, and say to him, Sit thou here, in a good place, and say to the poor man, Stand thou
4 there, or, Sit thou here under my footstool, Ye distinguish not in yourselves, but are become evil-reasoning judges.
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom
and continueth therein—Not like him who forgot it and went away. This man —There is a peculiar force in the repetition of the word, shall be happy—Not barely a hearing, but doing the will of God.
V. 26. If any one be ever so religious—Exact in the outward offices of religion: and bridleth not his tongue—From backbiting, talebearing, evilspeaking, he only deceiveth his own heart, if he fancies he has any true religion at all.
V. 27. The only true religion, in the sight of God, il this, to visit—With counsel, comfort, and relief, the fatherless and widows—Those who need it most, in their affliction—In their most helpless and hopeless state; and to keep himself unspotted from the world—From the maxims, tempers, and customs of it. But this cannot be done, till we have given our hearts to God, and love our neighbour as ourselves.
CHAP. II. Ver. 1. My brethren—The equality of Christians, intimated by this name, is the ground of the admonition: hold not the faith of our common Lord, the Lord of glory—Of which glory all who believe in him partake: with respect of persons—That is, honour none, merely for being rich; despise none, merely for being poor.
V. 2. With gold rings—which were not then so common as now.
V. 3. Ye look upon him—With respect.
V. 4. Ye distinguish not—To which the most respect is due, to the poor or to the rich: but are become evil-reasoning jndges—Ye reason ill, and so judge wrong. For fine apparel is no proof of worth in him that wears it.
V. 5. Hearken—As if he had said, Stay, consider, ye that judge thus. Does not the presumption lie rather in favour of thetpoor man! Hath not God chosen the poor—That is, are not they whom God hath chosen, generally speaking, poor in this world; who yet are rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom —Consequently the most honourable of men? And those whom God so highly honours, ought not ye to honour likewise?