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of Lights, that which is darkness does not come fron Him.
By the Word of truth He has begotten us to be the firs and most excellent witnesses of that power of good whic will shine forth hereafter in the new creation, of whic we are the first fruits. This is the opposite of being th source of corrupt desires. The Word of truth is th good seed of life ; self-will is the cradle of our lustsits energy can never produce the fruits of divine nature nor the wrath of man the righteousness of God. There fore we are called to be docile, to be ready to hear, slot to speak, slow to wrath, to lay aside all filthiness of th flesh, all energy of iniquity, and to receive the Wor with meekness—a Word which, while it is the Word God, identifies itself with the new nature that is in us ( is planted in us) while forming and developing it accordin to its own perfection; because this nature itself has it origin from God through the Word.
It is not as a law which is outside us, and which bein opposed to our sinful nature, condemns us. This Wor saves the soul ; it is living and quickening, and it work livingly in a nature that flows from it, and which it form and enlightens.
But it is necessary to be doers of the Word : no merely to hear it with the ear, but that it should produc the practical fruits which are the proof that it wor! really and vitally in the heart. Otherwise the Word only as a mirror in which we may perhaps see ourselvi for a moment, and then forget what we have seen. I who looks into the perfect law, which is that of libert and continues in it, doing the work which it present shall be blessed in the real and obedient activity dev loped in him.
This law is perfect ; for the Word of God, all that tl Spirit of Christ has expressed, is the expression of tl nature and the character of God, of that which He and of that which He wills. For He wills that whic He is; and this, necessarily.
This law is the law of liberty, because the same Wo which reveals what God is and what He wills, has ma us partakers by grace of the divine nature ; so that n
to walk according to that Word, would be not to walk according to our own [new] nature. Now, to walk according to our own nature, and that nature of God, and guided by His Word, is true liberty.
The law given on Sinai represses and condemns all the motions of the natural man, and cannot allow him to have a will, for he ought to do the will of God. But he has another will, and therefore the law is bondage to nim, a law of condemnation and death. Now, God having begotten us by the Word of truth, the nature that we have, as thus born of God, possesses tastes and desires according to that Word, it is of that very Word. The Word in its own perfection, develops this nature, forms it, enlightens it, as we have said ; but the nature itself has its liberty in following it. Thus it was with Christ: if His liberty could have been taken awaywhich spiritually was impossible—it would have been by preventing Him from doing the will of God His Father.
It is the same with the new man in us (which is Christ as life in us) which is created in us according to God in righteousness and true holiness, produced in us by the Word which is the perfect revelation of God, of the whole divine nature in man; of which Christ, the living Word, the image of the invisible God, is the manifestation and the pattern. The liberty of the new man is liberty to do the will of God, to imitate God in character, as being His dear child, according as that chaTacter was presented in Christ. The law of liberty is this character, as it is revealed in the Word, in which the dew nature finds its joy and satisfaction ; even as it drew its existence from the Word which reveals Him, and from the God who is therein revealed.
Such is the “law of liberty”-the character of God Himself in us formed by the operation of a nature begotten through the Word which reveals Him, moulding itself upon that Word.
The chief index of the inner man is the tongue. A man who appears to be in relationship with God and to honour Him, yet who cannot bridle his tongue, deceives himself, and his religion is vain.
Pure religion before God and the Father is to care for those who, reached in the tenderest relationships by the wages of sin, are deprived of their natural supports; and to keep onesself untainted by the world. Instead of striving to exalt oneself and gain reputation in a world of vanity, afar from God, our activities turn, as God does, to the sorrowful, who, in their affliction, need succour ; and he keeps himself from a world in which everything is defiling, and contrary to the new nature which is our life, and to the character of God as we know it by the Word.
II. The apostle now enters on the subject of those who professed to believe that Jesus was Christ the Lord. Before, in chap. i., He had spoken of the new nature in connection with God : here, the profession of faith in Christ is brought to the same touchstone--the reality of the fruits produced by it, in contrast with this world. All these principles—the value of the name of Jesus, the essence of the law as Christ presented it, the law of liberty—are brought forward to test the reality of the spiritual life, or to convince the professor that he did not possess it. Two things are reprobated : having respect to the outward appearance of persons, and the absence of good works as a proof of the sincerity of the profession.
First then, he blames respect for outward appearance of
persons. They profess faith in the Lord Jesus, and yet hold with the spirit of the world! He replies that God has chosen the poor, making them rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom. These professors had despised them ; these rich men blasphemed the name of Christ, and persecuted Christians.
In the second place, he appeals to the practical sum. mary of the law of which Jesus had spoken, the royal law. They broke the law itself in favouring the rich : now the law did not allow of any infraction whatsoever of its commands, because the authority of the legislator was concerned. In despising the poor, they were assuredly not loving their neighbour as themselves.
In the third place, they ought to walk as those whose responsibility was measured by the law of liberty, in which-possessing a nature that tasted and loved that which was of God-they were set free from all that was contrary to Him; so that they could not excuse themselves if they admitted principles which were not those of God Himself. This introduction of the divine nature leads the apostle on to speak of the mercy by which God glorifies Himself. The man who shows no mercy will find himself the object of the judgment which he has loved.
The second part of the chapter is connected with this: for he begins his discourse on works as proofs of faith, by speaking of this mercy which answers to the nature and character of God, of which, as born of Him, the true Christian is made a partaker. The profession of having faith, without this life—the existence of which is proved by works--can profit no one. This is plain enough. I say the profession of having faith, because the epistle says it: “ If a man say he hath faith.” This is the key to this part of the epistle. He says it—where is the proof of it? Works are the proof; and it is in this way that the apostle uses them. A man says he has faith. It is not a thing that we can see. I
say therefore, with reason, “show it me.” This is the evidence of faith which is required for man—it is only by its fruits that we make it evident to men; for the faith itself cannot be seen. But if I produce these fruits, then assuredly I have the root, without which there could not be the fruits. Thus, faith does not show itself to others, nor can I recognise it, without works; but the fruits of
prove the existence of faith. That which follows, shows that he is speaking of the profession of a doctrine, true perhaps in itself-that certain truths are confessed; for it is real faith which devils have in the unity of the Godhead. They do not doubt it: but there is no link at all between their heart and God by means of a new nature-far indeed from it.
But the apostle confirms this, by the case of men in whom the opposition to the divine nature is not so apparent. Faith, the recognition of the truth with respect to Christ, is dead without works: i.e. such a faith as prodlaces none, is dead.
We see, ver. 16, that the faith of which the apostle peaks is a profession devoid of reality; ver. 19, shows
that it may be an unfeigned certainty that the thing is true; but the life begotten by the word, so that a relationship is formed between the soul and God, is entirely wanting. Because this takes place through the word, it is faith ; being begotten of God, we have a new life. This life acts, that is to say, faith acts, according to the relationship with God, by works which flow naturally from it, and which bear testimony to the faith that produced them.
From ver. 20 to the end, he presents a fresh proof of his thesis, founded on the last principle that I have mentioned. Now these proofs have nothing at all to do with the fruits of a kindly nature (for there are such), appertaining to us as creatures, but not to that life which has for its source the word of God by which He begets
The fruits, of which the apostle speaks, bear testimony by their very character to the faith that produced them. Abraham offered up his son; Rahab received the messengers of Israel, associating herself with the people of God when every thing was against them, and separating herself from her own people, by faith. All sacrificed for God; all given up for His people before they had gained one victory, and while the world was in full power; such were the fruits of faith. Certainly the Scripture was fulfilled which said, that Abraham believed God. How could he have acted as he did, if he had not believed Him? Works put a seal on his faith: and faiti without works is but like the body without the soul, an outward form devoid of the life that animates it. Faith acts in the works (without it the works are a nullity they are not those of the new life), and the works plete the faith which acts in them; for in spite of trial and in the trial, faith is in activity. Works of law hay no part in it. The outward law which exacts, is not life which produces (apart from this divine nature) thes holy and loving dispositions which, having God and H people for their object, value nothing else.
James, remark, never says that works justify us befor God; for God can see the faith without its works, knows that life is there. It is in exercise with regard Him, towards Him, by trust in His Word, in Himse