RPM, Volume 19, Number 3, January 15 to January 21, 2017

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical
Part 89

By Albert Barnes

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 1

Note: Due to limited space see the Introduction to the General Epistles at
See Barnes "Mal 3:1"
See the Introduction to James at
See Barnes "Mal 3:2"
See 2nd Part of Introduction to James at
See Barnes "Mal 3:3"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES

CHAPTER ONE

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

This chapter seems to comprise two general classes of subjects; the statement in regard to the first of which is complete, but the second is only commenced in this chapter, and is continued in the second. The first is the general subject of temptation and trial, (Jas 1:1-15;) the second is the nature of true religion:�"the statement that all true religion has its origin in God, the source of purity and truth, and that it requires us to be docile and meek; to be doers of the word; to bridle the tongue, and to be the friends of the fatherless and the widow, Jas 1:16-27.

I. The general subject of temptation or trial, Jas 1:1-15. It is evident that those to whom the epistle was directed were, at that time, suffering in some form, or that they were called to pass through temptations, and that they needed counsel and support. They were in danger of sinking in despondency; of murmuring and complaining, and of charging God as the author of temptation and of sin. This part of the chapter comprises the following topics:

(1.) The salutation, Jas 1:1.

(2.) The subject of temptations or trials. They were to regard it, not as a subject of sorrow, but of gladness and joy, that they were called to pass through trials; for, if borne in a proper manner, they would produce the grace of patience�"and this was to be regarded as an object worth being secured, even by much suffering, Jas 1:2-4.

(3.) If in their trials they felt that they had lacked the wisdom which they needed to enable them to bear them in a proper manner, they had the privilege of looking to God, and seeking it at his hand. This was a privilege conceded to all; and if it were asked in faith, without any wavering, it would certainly be granted, Jas 1:5-7.

(4.) The importance and value of stability, especially in trials; of being firm in principle, and of having one single great aim in life. A man who wavered in his faith would waver in everything, Jas 1:8.

(5.) An encouragement to those who, in the trials which they experienced, passed through rapid changes of circumstances. Whatever those changes were, they were to rejoice in them as ordered by the Lord. They were to remember the essential instability of all earthly things. The rich especially, who were most disposed to murmur and complain when their circumstances were changed, were to remember how the burning heat blasts the beauty of the flower, and that in like manner all worldly splendour must fade away, Jas 1:9-11.

(6.) Every man is blessed who endures trials in a proper manner, for such an endurance of trial will be connected with a rich reward �"the crown of life, Jas 1:12.

(7.) In their trials, however; in the allurements to sin which might be set before them; in the temptations to apostatize, or to do anything wrong, which might be connected with their suffering condition, they were to be careful never to charge temptation, as such, on God. They were never to allow their minds to feel for a moment that he allured them to sin, or placed an inducement of any kind before them to do wrong. Everything of that kind, every disposition to commit sin, originated in their own hearts, and they should never allow themselves to charge it on God, Jas 1:13-15.

II. The nature of true religion, Jas 1:16-27.

(1.) It has its origin in God, the source of every good gift, the Father of lights, who has of his own will begotten us again, that he might raise us to an exalted rank among his creatures. God, there- fore, should be regarded not as the author of sin, but as the source of all the good that is in us, Jas 1:16-18.

(2.) Religion requires us to be meek and docile; to lay aside all disposition to dictate or prescribe, all irritability against the truth, and all corruption of heart, and to receive meekly the ingrafted word, Jas 1:19-21.

(3.) Religion requires us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only, Jas 1:23-25.

(4.) Religion requires us to bridle the tongue, to set a special guard on our words, Jas 1:26.

(5.) Religion requires us to be the friends of the fatherless and the widow, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, Jas 1:27.

Verse 1. James, a servant of God. On the meaning of the word servant in this connexion, see Barnes on "Ro 1:1".

See Barnes on "Phm 1:16".

It is remarkable that James does not call himself an apostle; but this does not prove that the writer of the epistle was not an apostle, for the same omission occurs in the epistle of John, and in the epistle of Paul to the Philippians, to the Thessalonians, and to Philemon. It is remarkable, also, considering the relation which James is supposed to have borne to the Lord Jesus as his "brother," (Ga 1:19; Intro. & 1,) that he did not refer to that as constituting a ground of claim to his right to address others; but this is only one instance out of many, in the New Testament, in which it is regarded as a higher honour to be the "servant of God," and to belong to his family, than to sustain any relations of blood or kindred. Compare Mt 12:50. It may be observed also, (compare the Intro. 1,) that this term is one which was peculiarly appropriate to James, as a man eminent for his integrity. His claim to respect and deference was not primarily founded on any relationship which he sustained many honour of birth or blood, or even any external office�"but on the fact that he was a "servant of God."

And of the Lord Jesus Christ. The "servant of the Lord Jesus" is an appellation which is often given to Christians, and particularly to the ministers of religion. They are his servants, not in the sense that they are slaves, but in the sense that they voluntarily obey his will, and labour for him, and not for themselves.

To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad. Gr., "The twelve tribes which are in the dispersion," or of the dispersion, (en th diaspora) This word occurs only here and in 1 Pe 1:1, and Joh 7:35. It refers properly to those who lived out of Palestine, or who were scattered among the Gentiles. There were two great "dispersions" �"the eastern and the western. The first had its origin about the time when the ten tribes were carried away to Assyria, and in the time of the Babylonian captivity. In consequence of these events, and of the fact that large numbers of the Jews went to Babylon, and other eastern countries, for purposes of travel, commerce, etc., there were many Jews in the east in the times of the apostles. The other was the western "dispersion," which commenced about the time of Alexander the Great, and which was promoted by various causes, until there were large numbers of Jews in Egypt and along Northern Africa, in Asia Minor, in Greece Proper, and even in Rome. To which of these classes this epistle was directed is not known; but most probably the writer had particular reference to those in the east. See the Intro., % 2. The phrase "the twelve tribes," was the common term by which the Jewish people were designated, and was in use long after the ten tribes were carried away�"leaving, in fact, but two of the twelve in Palestine. See Barnes on "Ac 26:7".

Many have supposed that James here addressed them as Jews, and that the epistle was sent to them as such. But this opinion has no probability; for

(1) had this been the case, he would not have been likely to begin his epistle by saying that he was "a servant of Jesus Christ," a name so odious to the Jews; and

(2) if he had spoken of himself as a Christian, and had addressed his countrymen as himself a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, though regarding them as Jews, it is incredible that he did not make a more reference to the principles of the Christian religion; that he no arguments to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah; he did not attempt to convert them to the Christian faith. It should be added, that at first most converts were made from those who had been trained in the Jewish faith, and it is not improbable that one in Jerusalem, addressing those who were Christians out of Palestine would naturally think of them as of Jewish origin, and would be likely to address them as appertaining to the "twelve tribes." The phrase "the twelve tribes" became also a sort of technical expression to denote the people of God�"the church.

Greeting. A customary form of salutation, meaning, in Greek, to joy, to rejoice; and implying that he wished their welfare. Compare Ac 15:23.

{a} "a servant of God" Jude 1 {b} "twelve tribes" Ac 26:7 {c} "scattered abroad" Ac 8:1

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 2

Verse 2. My brethren. Not brethren as Jews, but as Christians. Compare Jas 2:1. Count it all joy. Regard it as a thing to rejoice in; a matter which should afford you happiness. You are not to consider it as a punishment, a curse, or a calamity, but as a fit subject of felicitation. See Barnes on "Mt 5:12".

When ye fall into divers temptations. On the meaning of the word temptations, see Barnes on "Mt 4:1".

It is now commonly used in the sense of placing allurements before others to induce them to sin, and in this sense the word seems to be used in Jas 1:13-14. Here, however, the word is used in the sense of trials, to wit, by persecution, poverty, calamity of any kind. These cannot be said to be direct inducements or allurements to sin, but they try the faith, and they show whether he who is tried is disposed to adhere to his faith in God, or whether he will apostatize. They so far coincide with temptations, properly so called, as to test the religion of men. They differ from temptations, properly so called, in that they are not brought before the mind for the express purpose of inducing men to sin. In this sense, it is true that God never tempts men, Jas 1:13-14. On the sentiment in the passage before us, see Barnes on "1 Pe 1:6-7".

The word divers here refers to the various kinds of trials which they might experience�"sickness, poverty, bereavement, persecution, etc. They were to count it a matter of joy that their religion was subjected to anything that tried it. It is well for us to have the reality of our religion tested, in whatever way it may be done.

{a} "count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations"

Mt 5:12; 1 Pe 4:13-16 {*} "temptations", or "various trials"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 3

Verse 3. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. Patience is one of the fruits of such a trial, and the grace of patience is worth the trial which it may cost to procure it. This is one of the passages which show that James was acquainted with the writings of Paul. See the Introduction to James chapter 5, Jas 5:1. The sentiment expressed here is found in Ro 5:3. See Barnes on "Ro 5:3".

Paul has carried the sentiment out farther, and shows that tribulation produces other effects than patience. James only asks that patience may have its perfect work, supposing that every Christian grace is implied in this.

{a} "worketh patience" Ro 5:3

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 4

Verse 4. But let patience have her perfect work. Let it be fairly developed. Let it produce its appropriate effects without being hindered. Let it not be obstructed in its fair influence on the soul, by murmurings, complaining, or rebellion. Patience under trials is fitted to produce important effects on the soul, and we are not to hinder them in any manner by a perverse spirit, or by opposition to the will of God. Every one who is afflicted should desire that the fair effects of affliction should be produced on his mind, or that there should be produced in his soul precisely the results which his trials are adapted to accomplish.

That ye may be perfect and entire. The meaning of this is explained in the following phrase�""wanting nothing;" that is, that there may be nothing lacking to complete your character. There may be the elements of a good character; there may be sound principles, but those principles may not be fully carried out so as to show what they are. Afflictions, perhaps, more than anything else, will do this; and we should therefore allow them to do all that they are adapted to do in developing what is good in us. The idea here is, that it is desirable not only to have the elements or principles of piety in the soul, but to have them fairly carried out, so as to show what is their real tendency and value. See Barnes on "1 Pe 1:7".

On the word perfect, as used in the Scriptures, see Barnes on "Job 1:1".

The word rendered entire, (oloklhroi,) means, whole in every part. See Barnes on "1 Th 5:23".

The word occurs only in these two places. The corresponding noun (oloklhrian) occurs in Ac 3:16, rendered perfect soundness.

Wanting nothing. "Being left in nothing;" that is, everything being complete, or fully carried out.

{a} "let patience have her perfect work" Lu 8:15; Lu 21:19

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 5

Verse 5. If any of you lack wisdom. Probably this refers particularly to the kind of wisdom which they would need in their trials, to enable them to bear them in a proper manner; for there is nothing in which Christians more feel the need of heavenly wisdom than in regard to the manner in which they should bear trials, and what they should do in the perplexities, and disappointments, and bereavements that come upon them: but the language employed is so general, that what is here said may be applied to the need of wisdom in all respects. The particular kind of wisdom which we need in trials is to enable us to understand their design and tendency; to perform our duty under them, or the new duties which may grow out of them; to learn the lessons which God designs to teach, for he always designs to teach us some valuable lessons by affliction; and to cultivate such views and feelings as are appropriate under the peculiar forms of trial which are brought upon us, to find out the sins for which we have been afflicted, and to learn how we may avoid them in time to come. We are in great danger of going wrong when we are afflicted; of complaining and murmuring; of evincing a spirit of insubmission, and of losing the benefits which we might have obtained if we had submitted to the trial in a proper manner. So in all things we "lack wisdom." We are shortsighted; we have hearts prone to sin; and there are great and important matters pertaining to duty and salvation on which we cannot but feel that we need heavenly guidance.

Let him ask of God. That is, for the specific wisdom which he needs; the very wisdom which is necessary for him in the particular case. It is proper to bear the very case before God; to make mention of the specific want; to ask of God to guide us in the very matter where we feel so much embarrassment. It is one of the privileges of Christians, that they may not only go to God and ask him for that general wisdom which is needful for them in life, but that whenever a particular emergency arises, a case of perplexity and difficulty in regard to duty, they may bring that particular thing before his throne, with the assurance that he will guide them. Compare Ps 25:9; Isa 37:14; Joe 2:17.

That giveth to all men liberally. The word men here is supplied by the translators, but not improperly, though the promise should be regarded as restricted to those who ask. The object of the writer was to encourage those who felt their need of wisdom, to go and ask it of God; and it would not contribute anything to furnish such a specific encouragement to say of God that he gives to all men liberally whether they ask or not. In the Scriptures, the promise of Divine aid is always limited to the desire. No blessing is promised to man that is not sought; no man can feel that he has a right to hope for the favour of God, who does not value it enough to pray for it; no one ought to obtain it, who does not prize it enough to ask for it. Compare Mt 7:7-8. The word rendered liberally, (aplwv,) simply; that is, in simplicity, sincerity, reality. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the corresponding noun occurs in Ro 12:8; 2 Co 1:12; 2 Co 11:3, rendered simplicity; in 2 Co 8:2; 2 Co 9:13, rendered liberality and liberal; 2 Co 9:11, rendered bountifulness; and Eph 6:5; Col 3:22, rendered singleness, scil., of the heart. The idea seems to be that of openness, frankness, generosity; the absence of all that is sordid and contracted; where there is the manifestation of generous feeling, and liberal conduct, In a higher sense than in the case of any man, all that is excellent in these things is to be found in God; and we may therefore come to him feeling that in his heart there is more that is noble and generous in bestowing favours than in any other being. There is nothing that is stinted and close; there is no partiality; there is no withholding of his favour because we are poor, and unlettered, and unknown.

And upbraideth not. Does not reproach, rebuke, or treat harshly. He does not coldly repel us, if we come and ask what we need, though we do it often and with importunity. Compare Lu 18:1-7. The proper meaning of the Greek word is to rail at, reproach, revile, chide; and the object here is probably to place the manner in which God bestows his favours in contrast with what sometimes occurs among men. He does not reproach or chide us for our past conduct; for our foolishness; for our importunity in asking. He permits us to come in the most free manner, and meets us with a spirit of entire kindness, and with promptness in granting our requests. We are not always sure, when we ask a favour of a man, that we shall not encounter something that will be repulsive, or that will mortify us; we are certain, however, when we ask a favour of God, that we shall never be reproached in an unfeeling manner, or meet with a harsh response.

And it shall be given him. Compare Jer 29:12-13, "Then shall ye call upon me, and go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with your whole heart." See also Mt 7:7-8; Mt 21:22; Mr 11:24; 1 Jo 3:22; 1 Jo 5:14.

This promise, in regard to the wisdom that may be necessary for us, is absolute; and we may be sure that if it be asked in a proper manner it will be granted us. There can be no doubt that it is one of the things which God is able to impart; which will be for our own good; and which, therefore, he is ever ready to bestow. About many things there might be doubt whether, if they were granted, they would be for our real welfare, and therefore there may be a doubt whether it would be consistent for God to bestow them; but there can be no such doubt about wisdom. That is always for our good; and we may be sure, therefore, that we shall obtain that, if the request be made with a right spirit. If it be asked in what may expect he will bestow it on us, it may be replied,

(1,) That it is through his word�"by enabling us to see clearly the meaning of the sacred volume, and to understand the directions which he has there given to guide us;

(2,) by the secret influences of his Spirit

(a) suggesting to us the way in which we should go, and

(b) inclining us to do that which is prudent and wise; and,

(3,) by the events of his Providence making plain to us the path of duty, and removing the obstructions which may be in our path. It is easy for God to guide his people; and they who "watch daily at the gates, and wait at the posts of the doors" of wisdom, (Pr 8:34,) will not be in danger of going astray, Ps 25:9.

{+} "lack", or "want" {a} "that giveth to all men liberally" Pr 2:3-6 {b} "and it shall be given him" Jer 29:12

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 6

Verse 6. But let him ask in faith. See the passages referred to in Jas 1:5. See Barnes on "Mt 7:7, and see Barnes on "Heb 11:6"

to obtain any favour from God if there is not faith; and where, as in regard to the wisdom necessary to guide us, we are sure that it is in accordance with his will to grant it to us, we may come to him with the utmost confidence, the most entire assurance, that it will be granted. In this case, we should come to God without a doubt that, if we ask with a proper spirit, the very thing that we ask will be bestowed on us. We cannot in all other cases be so sure that what we ask will be for our good, or that it will be in accordance with his will to bestow it; and hence we cannot in such cases come with the same kind of faith. We can then only come with unwavering confidence in God, that he will do what is right and best; and that if he sees that what we ask will be for our good, he will bestow it upon us. Here, however, nothing prevents our coming with the assurance that the very thing which we ask will be conferred on us. Nothing wavering. mhden diakrinomenov. "Doubting or hesitating as to nothing, or in no respect." See Ac 20:20; Ac 11:12.

In regard to the matter under consideration, there is to be no hesitancy, no doubting, no vacillation of the mind. We are to come to God with the utmost confidence and assurance.

For he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea, etc. The propriety and beauty of this comparison will be seen at once. The wave of the sea has no stability. It is at the mercy of every wind, and seems to be driven and tossed every way. So he that comes to God with unsettled convictions and hopes, is liable to be driven about by every new feeling that may spring up in the mind. At one moment, hope and faith impel him to come to God; then the mind is at once filled with uncertainty and doubt, and the soul is agitated and restless as the ocean. Compare Isa 57:20. Hope on the one hand, and the fear of not obtaining the favour which is desired on the other, keep the mind restless and discomposed.

{a} "But let him ask in faith" Mr 11:24 {*} "wavering", or "doubting" {+} "wavereth", or "doubteth"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 7

Verse 7. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. Compare Heb 11:6. A man can hope for favour from God only as he puts confidence in him. He sees the heart; and if he sees that there is no belief in his existence or his perfections�"no real trust in him�"no reliance on his promises, his wisdom, his grace�"it cannot be proper that he should grant an answer to our petitions. That will account sufficiently for the fact that there are so many prayers unanswered; that we so frequently go to the throne of grace, and are seat empty away. A man that goes to God in such a state of mind, should not expect to receive any favour.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 8

Verse 8. A double-minded man. The word here used (diqucov) occurs only here and in Jas 4:8. It means, properly, one who has two souls; then one who is wavering or inconstant. It is applicable to a man who has no settled principles; who is controlled by passion; who is influenced by popular feeling; who is now inclined to one opinion or course of conduct, and now to another.

Is unstable in all his ways. That is, not merely in regard to prayer, the point particularly under discussion, but in respect to everything. From the instability which the wavering must evince in regard to prayer, the apostle takes occasion to make the general remark concerning such a man, that stability and firmness could be expected on no subject. The hesitancy which he manifested on that one subject would extend to all; and we might expect to find such a man irresolute and undetermined in all things. This is always true. If we find a man who takes hold of the promises of God with firmness; who feels the deepest assurance when he prays that God will hear prayer; who always goes to him without hesitation in his perplexities and trials, never wavering, we shall find one who is firm in his principles, steady in his integrity, settled in his determinations, and steadfast in his plans of life�"a man whose character we shall feel that we understand, and in whom we can confide. Such a man eminently was Luther; and the spirit which is thus evinced by taking firmly hold of the promises of God is the best kind of religion.

{+} "unstable" or, "unsteady"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 9

Verse 9. Let the brother of low degree. This verse seems to introduce a new topic, which has no other connexion with what precedes than that the apostle is discussing the general subject of trials. Compare Jas 1:2. Turning from the consideration of trials in general, he passes to the consideration of a particular kind of trials, that which results from a change of circumstances in life, from poverty to affluence, and from affluence to poverty. The idea which seems to have been in the mind of the apostle is, that there is a great and important trial of faith in any reverse of circumstances; a trial in being elevated from poverty to riches, or in being depressed from a state of affluence to want. Wherever change occurs in the external circumstances of life, there a man's religion is put to the test, and there he should feel that God is trying the reality, of his faith. The phrase "of low degree" (tapeinov) means one in humble circumstances; one of lowly rank or employment; one in a condition of dependence or poverty. It stands here particularly opposed to one who is rich; and the apostle doubtless had his eye, in the use of this word, on those who had been poor.

Rejoice. Margin, glory. Not because, being made rich, he has the means of sensual gratification and indulgence; not because he will now be regarded as a rich man, and will feel that he is above want; not even because he will have the means of doing good to others. Neither of these was the idea in the mind of the apostle; but it was, that the poor man that is made rich should rejoice because his faith and the reality of his religion are now tried; because a test is furnished which will show, in the new circumstances in which he is placed, whether his piety is genuine. In fact, there is almost no trial of religion which is more certain and decisive than that furnished by a sudden transition from poverty to affluence, from adversity to prosperity, from sickness to health. There is much religion in the world that will bear the ills of poverty, sickness, and persecution, or that will bear the temptations arising from prosperity, and even affluence, which will not bear the transition from one to the other; as there is many a human frame that could become accustomed to bear either the steady heat of the equator, or the intense cold of the north, that could not bear a rapid transition from the one to the other. See Barnes on "Php 4:12".

In that he is exalted. A good man might rejoice in such a transition, because it would furnish him the means of being more extensively useful; most persons would rejoice because such a condition is that for which men commonly aim, and because it would furnish them the means of display, of sensual gratification, or of ease; but neither of these is the idea of the apostle. The thing in which we are to rejoice in the transitions of life is, that a test is furnished of our piety; that a trial is applied to it which enables us to determine whether it is genuine. The most important thing conceivable for us is to know whether we are true Christians, and we should rejoice in everything that will enable us to settle this point.

{1} "rejoice" or, "glory"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 10

Verse 10. But the rich, in that he is made low. That is, because his property is taken away, and he is made poor. Such a transition is often the source of the deepest sorrow; but the apostle says that even in that a Christian may find occasion for thanksgiving. The reasons for rejoicing in this manner, which the apostle seems to have had in view, were these:

(1.) Because it furnished a test of the reality of religion, by showing that it is adapted to sustain the soul in this great trial; that it cannot only bear prosperity, but that it can bear the rapid transition from that state to one of poverty; and,

(2,) because it would furnish to the mind an impressive and salutary illustration of the fact that all earthly glory is soon to fade away. I may remark here, that the transition from affluence to poverty is often borne by Christians with the manifestation of a most lovely spirit, and with an entire freedom from murmuring and complaining. Indeed, there are more Christians who could safely bear a transition from affluence to poverty, from prosperity to adversity, than there are who could bear a sudden transition from poverty to affluence. Some of the loveliest exhibitions of piety which I have ever witnessed have been in such transitions; nor have I seen occasion anywhere to love religion more than in the ease, and grace, and cheerfulness, with which it has enabled those accustomed long to more elevated walks, to descend to the comparatively humble lot where God places them. New grace is imparted for this new form of trial, and new traits of Christian character are developed in these rapid transitions, as some of the most beautiful exhibitions of the laws of matter are brought out in the rapid transitions in the laboratory of the chemist.

Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. That is, since it is a fact that he will thus pass away, he should rejoice that he is reminded of it. He should, therefore, esteem it a favour that this lesson is brought impressively before his mind. To learn this effectually, though by the loss of property, is of more value to him than all his wealth would be if he were forgetful of it. The comparison of worldly splendour with the fading flower of the field, is one that is common in Scripture. It is probable that James had his eye on the passage in Isa 40:6-8. See Barnes on "Isa 40:6-8".

See Barnes on "1 Pe 1:24-25".
See also Ps 103:15; Mt 6:28-30.

{a} "as the flower of the grass" Isa 40:6 {*} "grass" or, "herb"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 11

Verse 11. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat. Isaiah (Isa 40:7) employs the word wind, referring to a burning wind that dries up the flowers. It is probable that the apostle also refers not so much to the sun itself, as to the hot and fiery wind called the simoom, which often rises with the sun, and which consumes the green herbage of the fields. So Rosenmuller and Bloomfield interpret it.

It withereth the grass. Isa 40:7. It withereth the stalk, or that which, when dried, produces hay or fodder�"the word here used being commonly employed in the latter sense. The meaning is, that the effect of the hot wind is to wither the stalk or spire which supports the flower, and when that is dried up, the flower itself falls. This idea will give increased beauty and appropriateness to the figure �"that man himself is blasted and withered, and then that all the external splendour which encircled him falls to the ground, like a flower whose support is gone.

And the grace of the fashion of it perisheth. Its beauty disappears.

So shall the rich man fade away an his ways. That is, his splendour, and all on which he prided himself, shall vanish. The phrase "in his ways," according to Rosenmuller, refers to his counsels, his plans, his purposes; and the meaning is, that the rich man, with all by which he is known, shall vanish. A man's "ways," that is, his mode of life, or those things by which he appears before the world, may have somewhat the same relation to him which the flower has to the stalk on which it grows, and by which it is sustained. The idea of James seems to be, that as it was indisputable that the rich man must soon disappear, with all that he had of pomp and splendour in the view of the world, it was well for him to be reminded of it by every change of condition; and that he should therefore rejoice in the providential dispensation by which his property would be taken away, and by which the reality of his religion would be tested. We should rejoice in anything by which it can be shown whether we are prepared for heaven or not.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 12

Verse 12. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation. The apostle seems here to use the word temptation in the most general sense, as denoting anything that will try the reality of religion, whether affliction, or persecution, or a direct inducement to sin placed before the mind. The word temptation appears in this chapter to be used in two senses; and the question may arise, why the apostle so employs it. Compare Jas 1:2,13. But, in fact, the word temptation is in itself of so general a character as to cover the whole usage, and to justify the manner in which it is employed. It denotes anything that will try or test the reality of our religion; and it may be applied, therefore, either to afflictions or to direct solicitations to sin�"the latter being the sense in which it is now commonly employed. In another respect, also, essentially the same idea enters into both the ways in which the word is employed. Affliction, persecution, sickness, etc., may be regarded as, in a certain sense, temptations to sin; that is, the question comes before us whether we will adhere to the religion on account of which we are persecuted, or apostatize from it, and escape these sufferings; whether in sickness and losses we will be patient and submissive to that God who lays his hand upon us, or revolt and murmur. In each and every case, whether by affliction, or by direct allurements to do wrong, the question comes before the mind whether we have religion enough to keep us, or whether we will yield to murmuring, to rebellion, and to sin. In these respects, in a general sense, all forms of trial may be regarded as temptation. Yet in the following verse (Jas 1:13) the apostle would guard this from abuse. So far as the form of trial involved an allurement or inducement to sin, he says that no man should regard it as from God. That cannot be his design. The trial is what he aims at, not the sin. In the verse before us he says, that whatever may be the form of the trial, a Christian should rejoice in it, for it will furnish an evidence that he is a child of God.

For when he is tried. In any way�"if he bears the trial.

He shall receive the crown of life. See Barnes on "2 Ti 4:8".

It is possible that James had that passage in his eye. Compare the Introduction to James 5 (See Barnes on "Jas 5:1") .

Which the Lord hath promised. The sacred writers often speak of such a crown as promised, or as in reserve for the children of God, 2 Ti 4:8; 1 Pe 5:4; Re 2:10; Re 3:11; 4:4.

Them that love him. A common expression to denote those who are truly pious, or who are his friends. It is sufficiently distinctive to characterize them, for the great mass of men do not love God. Compare Ro 1:30.

{+} "temptation" or, "trial" {++} "tried" or, "proved" {a} "crown of life" 2 Ti 4:8; Re 2:10 {b} "which the Lord hath promised" Isa 64:4

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 13

Verse 13. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God. See Barnes on "Jas 1:12".

The apostle here seems to have had his eye on whatever there was in trial of any kind to induce us to commit sin�"whether by complaining, by murmuring, by apostasy, or by yielding to sin. So far as that was concerned, he said that no one should charge it on God. He did nothing in any way with a view to induce men to do evil. That was only an incidental thing in the trial, and was no part of the Divine purpose or design. The apostle felt evidently that there was great danger, from the general manner in which the word temptation was used, and from the perverse tendency of the heart, that it would be charged on God that he so arranged these trials, and so influenced the mind, as to present inducements to sin. Against this, it was proper that an inspired apostle should bear his solemn testimony; so to guard the whole subject as to show that whatever there was in any form of trial that could be regarded as an inducement or allurement to sin, is not the thing which he contemplated in the arrangement, and does not proceed from him. It has its origin in other causes; and if there was nothing in the corrupt human mind itself leading to sin, there would be nothing in the Divine arrangement that would produce it.

For God cannot be tempted with evil. Marg., evils. The sense is the same. The object seems to be to show that, in regard to the whole matter of temptation, it does not pertain to God. Nothing can be presented to his mind as an inducement to do wrong, and as little can he present anything to the mind of man to induce him to sin. Temptation is a subject which does not pertain to him. He stands aloof from it altogether. In regard to the particular statement here, that "God cannot be tempted with evil," or to do evil, there can be no doubt of its truth, and it furnishes the highest security for the welfare of the universe. There is nothing in him that has a tendency to wrong; there can be nothing presented from without to induce him to do wrong.

(1.) There is no evil passion to be gratified, as there is in men.

(2.) There is no want of power, so that an allurement could be presented to seek what he has not.

(3.) There is no want of wealth, for he has infinite resources, and all that there is or can be is his, Ps 50:10-11.

(4.) There is no want of happiness, that he should seek happiness in sources which are not now in his possession. Nothing, therefore, could be presented to the Divine Mind as an inducement to do evil.

Neither tempteth he any man. That is, he places nothing before any human being with a view to induce him to do wrong. This is one of the most positive and unambiguous of all the declarations in the Bible, and one of the most important. It may be added, that it is one which stands in opposition to as many feelings of the human heart as perhaps any other one. We are perpetually thinking�"the heart suggests it constantly �"that God does place before us inducements to evil, with a view to lead us to sin. This is done in many ways.

(a) Men take such views of his decrees as if the doctrine implied that he meant that we should sin, and that it could not be otherwise than that we should sin.

(b) It is felt that all things are under his control, and that he has made his arrangements with a design that men should do as they actually do.

(c) It is said that he has created us with just such dispositions as we actually have, and knowing that we would sin.

(d) It is said that, by the arrangements of his Providence, he actually places inducements before us to sin, knowing that the effect will be that we will fall into sin, when he might easily have prevented it.

(e) It is said that he suffers some to tempt others, when he might easily prevent it if he chose, and that this is the same as tempting them himself. Now, in regard to these things, there may be much which we cannot explain, and much which often troubles the heart even of the good; yet the passage before us is explicit on one point, and all these things must be held in consistency with that �"that God does not place inducements before us with a view that we should sin, or in order to lead us into sin. None of his decrees, or his arrangements, or his desires, are based on that, but all have some other purpose and end. The real force of temptation is to be traced to some other source�"to ourselves, and not to God. See Jas 1:14.

{1} "evil" or, "evils"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 15

Verse 15. Then when lust hath conceived. Compare Job 15:35. The allusion here is obvious. The meaning is, when the desire which we have naturally is quickened, or made to act, the result is that sin is produced. As our desires of good lie in the mind by nature, as our propensities exist as they were created, they cannot be regarded as sin, or treated as such; but when they are indulged, when plans of gratification are formed, when they are developed in actual life, the effect is sin. In the mere desire of good, of happiness, of food, of raiment, there is no sin; it becomes sin when indulged in an improper manner, and when it leads us to seek that which is forbidden�" to invade the rights of others, or in any way to violate the laws of God. The Rabbins have a metaphor which strongly expresses the general sense of this passage: "Evil concupiscence is at the beginning like the thread of a spider's web; afterwards it is like a cart rope."�"Sanhedrin, fol. 99,

It bringeth forth sin. The result is sin�"open, actual sin. When that which is conceived in the heart is matured, it is seen to be sin. The design of all this is to show that sin is not to be traced to God, but to man himself; and in order to this, the apostle says that there is enough in the heart of man to account for all actual sin, without supposing that it is caused by God. The solution which he gives is, that there are certain propensities in man which, when they are suffered to get themselves out, will account for all the sin in the world. In regard to those native propensities themselves, he does not say whether he regards them as sinful and blameworthy or not; and the probability is, that he did not design to enter into a formal examination, or to make a formal statement, of the nature of these propensities themselves. He looked at man as he is�"as a creature of God�"as endowed with certain animal propensities�"as seen, in fact, to have strong passions by nature; and he showed that there was enough in him to account for the existence of sin, without bringing in the agency of God, or charging it on him. In reference to those propensities, it may be observed that there are two kinds, either of which may account for the existence of sin, but which are frequently both combined. There are, first, our natural propensities; those which we have as men, as endowed with an animal nature, as having constitutional desires to be gratified, and wants to be supplied. Such Adam had in innocence; such the Saviour had; and such are to be regarded as in no respect in themselves sinful and wrong. Yet they may, in our case, as they did in Adam, lead us to sin, because, under their strong influence, we may be led to desire that which is forbidden, or which belongs to another. But there are, secondly, the propensities and inclinations which we have as the result of the fall, and which are evil in their nature and tendency; which as a matter of course, and especially when combined with the former, lead to open transgression. It is not always easy to separate these, and in fact they are often combined in producing the actual guilt of the world. It often requires a close analysis of a man's own mind to detect these different ingredients in his conduct, and the one often gets the credit of the other. The apostle James seems to have looked at it as a simple matter of fact, with a common sense view, by saying that there were desires (epiyumiav) in a man's own mind which would account for all the actual sin in the world, without charging it on God. Of the truth of this, no one can entertain a doubt.

And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. The result of sin, when it is fully carried out, is death�"death in all forms. The idea is, that death, in whatever form it exists, is to be traced to sin, and that sin will naturally and regularly produce it. There is a strong similarity between this declaration and that of the apostle Paul, (Ro 6:21-23;) and it is probable that James had this passage in his eye. See Barnes on "Ro 6:21-23"

and see Barnes on "Ro 5:12".

Any one who indulges in a sinful thought or corrupt desire, should reflect that it may end in death�"death temporal and eternal. Its natural tendency will be to produce such a death. This reflection should induce us to check an evil thought or desire at the beginning. Not for one moment should we indulge in it, for soon it may secure the mastery, and be beyond our control; and the end may be seen in the grave, and the awful world of woe.

{+} "lust" or, "desire" {a} "hath conceived" Job 15:35 {b} "bringeth forth death" Ro 6:21-23

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 16

Verse 16. Do not err, my beloved brethren. This is said as if there were great danger of error in the point under consideration. The point on which he would guard them, seems to have been in respect to the opinion that God was the author of sin, and that the evils in the world are to be traced to him. There was great danger that they would embrace that opinion, for experience has shown that it is a danger into which men are always prone to fall. Some of the sources of this danger have been already alluded to. See Barnes on "Jas 1:13".

To meet the danger, he says that, so far is it from being true that God is the source of evil, he is in fact the author of all that is good: every good gift, and every perfect gift, (Jas 1:17,) is from him, Jas 1:18.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 17

Verse 17. Every good gift and every perfect gift. The difference between good and perfect here, it is not easy to mark accurately. It may be that the former means that which is benevolent in its character and tendency; the latter that which is entire, where there is nothing even apparently wanting to complete it; where it can be regarded as good as a whole and in all its parts. The general sense is, that God is the author of all good. Everything that is good on the earth we are to trace to him; evil has another origin. Compare Mt 13:28. Is from above. From God, who is often represented as dwelling above�"in heaven.

And cometh down from the Father of lights. From God, the source and fountain of all light. Light, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of knowledge, purity, happiness; and God is often represented as light. Compare 1 Jo 1:5; See Barnes on "1 Ti 6:16".

There is, doubtless, an allusion here to the heavenly bodies, among which the sun is the most brilliant. It appears to us to be the great original fountain of light, diffusing its radiance over all worlds. No cloud, no darkness seems to come from the sun, but it pours its rich effulgence on the farthest part of the universe. So it is with God. There is no darkness in him, (1 Jo 1:5;) and all the moral light and purity which there is in the universe is to be traced to him. The word Father here is used in a sense which is common in Hebrew, (see Barnes on "Mt 1:1,) as denoting that which is the source of anything, or that from which anything proceeds. See Barnes on "Isa 9:6".

With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. The design here is clearly to contrast God with the sun in a certain respect. As the source of light, there is a strong resemblance. But in the sun there are certain changes. It does not shine on all parts of the earth at the same time, nor in the same manner all the year. It rises and sets; it crosses the line, and seems to go far to the south, and sends its rays obliquely on the earth; then it ascends to the north, recrosses the line, and sends its rays obliquely on southern regions. By its revolutions it produces the changes of the seasons, and makes a constant variety on the earth in the productions of different climes. In this respect God is not indeed like the sun. With him there is no variableness, not even the appearance of turning. He is always the same, at all seasons of the year, and in all ages; there is no change in his character, his mode of being, his purposes and plans. What he was millions of ages before the worlds were made, he is now; what he is now, he will be countless millions of ages hence. We may be sure that whatever changes there may be in human affairs; whatever reverses we may undergo; whatever oceans we may cross, or whatever mountains we may climb, or in whatever worlds we may hereafter take up our abode, God is the same. The word which is here rendered variableness (parallagh) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means change, alteration, vicissitude, and would properly be applied to the changes observed in astronomy. See the examples quoted in Wetstein. The phrase rendered shadow of turning would properly refer to the different shade or shadow cast by the sun from an object, in its various revolutions, in rising and setting, and in its changes at the different seasons of the year. God, on the other hand, is as if the sun stood in the meridian at noon-day, and never cast any shadow.

{a} "every good gift" Joh 3:27 {b} "with whom is no variableness" 1 Sa 15:29; Mal 3:6 {+} "gift" or, "benefit"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 18

Verse 18. Of his own will. Gr., willing, boulhyeiv. The idea is, that the fact that we are "begotten" to be his children is to be traced solely to his will. He purposed it, and it was done. The antecedent in the case on which all depended was the sovereign will of God. See Barnes on "Joh 1:13".

See Barnes on "Eph 1:5".

When it is said, however, that he has done this by his mere will, it is not to be inferred that there was no reason why it should be done, or that the exercise of his will was arbitrary, but only that his will determined the matter, and that is the cause of our conversion. It is not to be inferred that there are not in all cases good reasons why God wills as he does, though those reasons are not often stated to us, and perhaps we could not comprehend them if they were. The object of the statement here seems to be to direct the mind up to God as the source of good and not evil; and among the most eminent illustrations of his goodness is this, that by his mere will, without any external power to control him, and where there could be nothing but benevolence, he has adopted us into his family, and given us a most exalted condition, as renovated beings, among his creatures. Begat he us. The Greek word here is the same which in Jas 1:15 is rendered "bringeth forth"�"" sin bringeth forth death." The word is perhaps designedly used here in contrast with that, and the object is to refer to a different kind of production, or bringing forth, under the agency of sin, and the agency of God. The meaning here is, that we owe the beginning of our spiritual life to God.

With the word of truth. By the instrumentality of truth. It was not a mere creative act, but it was by truth as the seed or germ. There is no effect produced in our minds in regeneration which the truth is not fitted to produce, and the agency of God in the case is to secure its fair and full influence on the soul.

That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. Compare Eph 1:12. For the meaning of the word rendered first-fruits, see Barnes on "Ro 8:23".

Compare Ro 11:6; Ro 16:5; 1 Co 15:20,23; 1 Co 16:15; Re 14:4.

It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It denotes, properly, that which is first taken from anything; the portion which was usually offered to God. The phrase here does not primarily denote eminence in honour or degree, but refers rather to time�"the first in time; and in a secondary sense it is then used to denote the honour attached to that circumstance. The meaning here is, either

(1) that, under the gospel, those who were addressed by the apostles had the honour of being first called into his kingdom as a part of that glorious harvest which it was designed to gather in this world, and that the goodness of God was manifested in thus furnishing the first-fruits of a most glorious harvest; or

(2) the reference may be to the rank and dignity which all who are born again would have among the creatures of God in virtue of the new birth.

{a} "Of his own will" Joh 1:13 {b} "firstfruits of his creatures" Jer 2:3; Eph 1:12; Re 14:4

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 19

Verse 19. Wherefore, my beloved brethren. The connexion is this: "Since God is the only source of good; since he tempts no man; and since by his mere sovereign goodness, without any claim on our part, we have had the high honour conferred on us of being made the first-fruits of his creatures, we ought to be ready to hear his voice, to subdue all our evil passions, and to bring our souls to entire practical obedience." The necessity of obedience, or the doctrine that the gospel is not only to be learned but practised, is pursued at length in this and the following chapter. The particular statement here (Jas 1:19-21) is, that religion requires us to be meek and docile; to lay aside all irritability against the truth, and all pride of opinion, and all corruption of heart, and to receive meekly the engrafted word. See the analysis of the chapter.

Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak. That is, primarily, to hear God; to listen to the instructions of that truth by which we have been begotten, and brought into so near relation to him. At the same time, though this is the primary sense of the phrase here, it may be regarded as inculcating the general doctrine that we are to be more ready to hear than to speak; or that we are to be disposed to learn always, and from any source. Our appropriate condition is rather that of learners than instructors; and the attitude of mind which we should cultivate is that of a readiness to receive information from any quarter. The ancients have some sayings on this subject which are well worthy of our attention. "Men have two ears, and but one tongue, that they should hear more than they speak." "The ears are always open, ever ready to receive instruction; but the tongue is surrounded with a double row of teeth, to hedge it in, and to keep it within proper bounds." See Benson. So Valerius Maximus, vii. 2: "How noble was the response of Xenocrates! When he met the reproaches of others with a profound silence, some one asked him why he alone was silent? Because, says he, I have sometimes had occasion to regret that I have spoken, never that I was silent." See Wetstein. So the son of Sirach, "Be swift to hear, and with deep consideration (en makroyumia) give answer," chap. v. 11. So the Rabbins have some similar sentiments. "Talk little, and work much," Pirkey Aboth. c. i. 15. "The righteous speak little, and do much; the wicked speak much, and do nothing," Bava Metsia, fol. 87. A sentiment similar to that before us is found in Ec 5:2, "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God." So Pr 10:19, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin;" Pr 13:3, "He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life;" Pr 15:2, "The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright, but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness."

Slow to wrath. That is, we are to govern and restrain our temper; we are not to give indulgence to excited and angry passions. Compare Pr 16:32, "He that is slow to anger is greater than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." See also on this subject, Job 5:2; Pr 11:17; Pr 13:10; 14:16; 15:18; 19:19; 22:24; 25:28; Ec 7:9; Ro 12:17;

1 Th 5:14; 1 Pe 3:8. The particular point here is, however, not that we should be slow to wrath as a general habit of mind, which is indeed most true, but in reference particularly to the reception of the truth. We should lay aside all anger and wrath, and should come to the a calm in a investigation of truth with mind, and an imperturbed spirit. A state of wrath or anger is always unfavourable to the investigation of truth. Such an investigation demands a calm spirit, and he whose mind is excited and enraged is not condition to see the value of truth, or to weigh the evidence for it.

{a} "slow to speak" Ec 5:2 {b} "slow to wrath" Pr 16:32

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 21

Verse 21. Wherefore. In view of the fact that God has begotten us for his own service; in view of the fact that excited feeling tends only to wrong, let us lay aside all that is evil, and submit ourselves wholly to the influence of truth.

Lay apart all filthiness. The word here rendered filthiness, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly filth; and then is applied to evil conduct considered as disgusting or offensive. Sin may be contemplated as a wrong thing; as a violation of law; as evil in its nature and tendency, and therefore to be avoided; or it may be contemplated as disgusting, offensive, loathsome. To a pure mind, this is one of its most odious characteristics; for, to such a mind, sin in any form is more loathsome than the most offensive object can be to any of the senses.

And superfluity of naughtiness. Literally, "abounding of evil." It is rendered by Doddridge, "overflowing of malignity;" by Tindal, "superfluity of maliciousness;" by Benson, "superfluity of malice;" by Bloomfield, "petulance." The phrase "superfluity of naughtiness": or of evil, does not exactly express the sense, as if we were only to lay aside that which abounded, or which is superfluous, though we might retain that which does not come under this description; but the object of the apostle is to express his deep abhorrence of the thing referred to by strong and emphatic language. He had just spoken of sin in one aspect, as filthy, loathsome, detestable; here he designs to express his abhorrence of it by a still more emphatic description, and he speaks of it not merely as an evil, but as an evil abounding, overflowing; an evil in the highest degree. The thing referred to had the essence of evil in it, (kakia;) but it was not merely evil, it was evil that was aggravated, that was overflowing, that was eminent in degree, (perisseia.) The particular reference in these passages is to the reception of the truth; and the doctrine taught is, that a corrupt mind, a mind full of sensuality and wickedness, is not favourable to the reception of the truth. It is not fitted to see its beauty, to appreciate its value, to understand its just claims, or to welcome it to the soul. Purity of heart is the best preparation always for seeing the force of truth. And receive with meekness. That is, open the mind and heart to instruction, and to the fair influence of truth. Meekness, gentleness, docility, are everywhere required in receiving the instructions of religion, as they are in obtaining knowledge of any kind. See Barnes on "Mt 18:2-3".

The engrafted word. The gospel is here represented under the image of that which is implanted or engrafted from another source; by a figure that would be readily understood, for the art of engrafting is everywhere known. Sometimes the gospel is represented under the image of seed sown, (compare Mr 6:14, seq.;) but here it is under the figure of a shoot implanted or engrafted, that produces fruit of its own, whatever may be the original character of the tree into which it is engrafted. See Barnes on "Ro 11:17".

The meaning here is, that we should allow the principles of the gospel to be thus engrafted on our nature; that however crabbed or perverse our nature may be, or however bitter and vile the fruits which it might bring forth of its own accord, it might, through the engrafted word, produce the fruits of righteousness.

Which is able to save your souls. It is not, therefore, a weak and powerless thing, merely designed to show its own feebleness, and to give occasion for God to work a miracle; but it has power, and is adapted to save.

See Barnes on "Ro 1:16" See Barnes on "1 Co 1:18; See Barnes on "2 Ti 3:15.

{a} "lay apart all filthiness" Col 3:5-8; Heb 12:1; 1 Pe 2:1-2

{*} "filthiness" or, "defilement" {+} "naughtiness" or, "abounding wickedness"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 22

Verse 22. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only. Obey the gospel, and do not merely listen to it. Compare Mt 7:21.

Deceiving your own selves. It is implied here, that by merely hearing the word but not doing it, they would deceive their own souls. The nature of this deception was this, that they would imagine that that was all which was required, whereas the main thing was that they should be obedient. If a man supposes that by a mere punctual attendance on preaching, or a respectful attention to it, he has done all that is required of him, he is labouring under a most gross self- deception. And yet there are multitudes who seem to imagine that they have done all that is demanded of them when they have heard attentively the word preached. Of its influence on their lives, and its claims to obedience, they are utterly regardless.

{a} "doers of the word" Mt 7:21

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 23

Verse 23. For if any be, etc. The ground of the comparison in these verses is obvious. The apostle refers to what all persons experience, the fact that we do not retain a distinct impression of ourselves after we have looked in a mirror. While actually looking in the mirror, we see all our features, and can trace them distinctly; when we turn away, the image and the impression both vanish. When looking in the mirror, we can see all the defects and blemishes of our person; if there is a scar, a deformity, a feature of ugliness, it is distinctly before the mind; but when we turn away, that is "out of sight, and out of mind." When unseen it gives no uneasiness, and, even if capable of correction, we take no pains to remove it. So when we hear the word of God. It is like a mirror held up before us. In the perfect precepts of the law, and the perfect requirements of the gospel, we see our own short-comings and defects, and perhaps think that we will correct them. But we turn away immediately, and forget it all. If, however, we were "doers of the word," we should endeavour to remove all those defects and blemishes in our moral character, and to bring our whole souls into conformity with what the law and the gospel require. The phrase "natural face," (Gr., face of birth,) means, the face or appearance which we have in virtue of our natural birth. The word glass here means mirror. Glass was not commonly used for mirrors among the ancients, but they were made of polished plates of metal. See Barnes on "Isa 3:24, and See Barnes on "Job 37:18".

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 24

Verse 24. For he beholdeth himself. While he looks in the mirror he sees his true appearance.

And goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth. As soon as he goes away, he forgets it. The apostle does not refer to any intention on his part, but to what is known to occur as a matter of fact.

What manner of man he was. How he looked; and especially if there was anything in his appearance that required correction.

{+} "straightway" or, "immediately"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 25

Verse 25. But whoso looketh. parakuqav. This word means, to stoop down near by anything; to bend forward near, so as to look at anything more closely. See Barnes on "1 Pe 1:12".

The idea here is that of a close and attentive observation. The object is not to contrast the manner of looking in the glass, and in the law of liberty, implying that the former was a "careless beholding," and the latter an attentive and careful looking, as Doddridge, Rosenmuller, Bloomfield, and others suppose; for the word used in the former case (katenohse) implies intense or accurate observation, as really as the word used here; but the object is to show that if a man would attentively look into, and continue in the law of liberty, and not do as one who went away and forgot how he looked, he would be blessed. The emphasis is not in the manner of looking, it is on the duty of continuing or persevering in the observance of the law.

The perfect law of liberty. Referring to the law of God, or his will, however made known, as the correct standard of conduct. It is called the perfect law, as being wholly free from all defects; being just such as a law ought to be. Compare Ps 19:7. It is called the law of liberty, or freedom, because it is a law producing freedom from the servitude of sinful passions and lusts. Compare Ps 119:45; see Barnes on "Ro 6:16, seq.

And continueth therein. He must not merely look at the law, or see what he is by comparing himself with its requirements, but he must yield steady obedience to it. See Barnes on "Joh 14:21".

This man shall be blessed in his deed. Marg., doing. The meaning is, that he shall be blessed in the very act of keeping the law. It will produce peace of conscience; it will impart happiness of a high order to his mind; it will exert a good influence over his whole soul. Ps 19:11, "In keeping of them there is great reward."

{a} "looketh into the perfect law of liberty" 2 Co 3:18 {b} "of liberty" Ps 119:45 {c} "this man shall be blessed in his deed" Lu 6:47

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 26

Verse 26. If any man among you seem to be religious. Pious, or devout. That is, if he does not restrain his tongue, his other evidences of religion are worthless. A man may undoubtedly have many things in his character which seem to be evidences of the existence of religion in his heart, and yet there may be some one thing that shall show that all those evidences are false. Religion is designed to produce an effect on our whole conduct; and if there is any one thing in reference to which it does not bring us under its control, that one thing may show that all other appearances of piety are worthless.

And bridleth not his tongue. Restrains or curbs it not, as a horse is restrained with a bridle. There may have been some reason why the apostle referred to this particular sin which is now unknown to us; or he may perhaps have intended to select this as a specimen to illustrate this idea, that if there is any one evil propensity which religion does not control, or if there is any one thing in respect to which its influence is not felt, whatever other evidences of piety there may be, this will demonstrate that all those appearances of religion are vain. For religion is designed to bring the whole man under control, and to subdue every faculty of the body and mind to its demands. If the tongue is not restrained, or if there is any unsubdued propensity to sin whatever, it proves that there is no true religion.

But deceiveth his own heart. Implying that he does deceive his heart by supposing that any evidence can prove that he is under the influence of religion if his tongue is unrestrained. Whatever love, or zeal, or orthodoxy, or gift in preaching or in prayer he may have, this one evil propensity will neutralize it all, and show that there is no true religion at heart.

This man's religion is vain. As all religion must be which does not control all the faculties of the body and the mind. The truths, then, which are taught in this verse are,

(1,) that there may be evidences of piety which seem to be very plausible or clear, but which in themselves do not prove that there is any true religion. There may be much zeal, as in the case of the Pharisees; there may be much apparent love of Christians, or much outward benevolence; there may be an uncommon gift in prayer; there may be much self-denial, as among those who withdraw from the world in monasteries or nunneries; or there may have been deep conviction for sin, and much joy at the time of the supposed conversion, and still there be no true religion. Each and all of these things may exist in the heart where there is no true religion.

(2.) A single unsubdued sinful propensity neutralizes all these things, and shows that there is no true religion. If the tongue is not subdued; if any sin is indulged, it will show that the seat of the evil has not been reached, and that the soul, as such, has never been brought into subjection to the law of God. For the very essence of all the sin that there was in the soul may have been concentrated on that one propensity. Everything else which may be manifested may be accounted for on the supposition that there is no religion; this cannot be accounted for on the supposition that there is any.

{a} "bridleth not his tongue" Ps 34:13

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 1 - Verse 27

Verse 27. Pure religion. On the word here rendered religion, (yrhskeia,) see Barnes on "Col 2:18".

It is used here evidently in the sense of piety, or as we commonly employ the word religion. The object of the apostle is to describe what enters essentially into religion; what it will do when it is properly and fairly developed. The phrase "pure religion," means that which is genuine and sincere, or which is free from any improper mixture.

And undefiled before God and the Father. That which God sees to be pure and undefiled, Rosenmuller supposes that there is a metaphor here taken from pearls or gems, which should be pure, or without stain.

Is this. That is, this enters into it; or this is religion such as God approves. The apostle does not say that this is the whole of religion, or that there is nothing else essential to it; but his general design clearly is, to show that religion will lead to a holy life, and he mentions this as a specimen, or an instance of what it will lead us to do. The things which he specifies here are in fact two:

(1.) That pure religion will lead to a life of practical benevolence; and (2) that it will keep us unspotted from the world. If these things are found, they show that there is true piety. If they are not, there is none.

To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. To go to see, to look after, to be ready to aid them. This is an instance or specimen of what true religion will do, showing that it will lead to a life of practical benevolence. It may be remarked in respect to this,

(1,) that this has always been regarded as an essential thing in true religion; for

(a) it is thus an imitation of God, who is "a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows in his holy habitation," Ps 68:6; and who has always revealed himself as their friend, De 10:18; De 14:29; Ps 10:14; Ps 82:3; Isa 1:17; Jer 7:7; Jer 49:11; Ho 14:3;

(b) religion is represented as leading its friends to do this, or this is required everywhere of those who claim to be religious, Isa 1:17; De 24:17; De 14:29; Ex 22:22; Job 29:11-13.

(2.) Where this disposition to be the real friend of the widow and the orphan exists, there will also exist other corresponding things which go to make up the religious character. This will not stand alone. It will show what the heart is, and prove that it will ever be ready to do good. If a man, from proper motives, is the real friend of the widow and the fatherless, he will be the friend of every good word and work, and we may rely on him in any and every way in doing good.

And to keep himself unspotted from the world. See Barnes on "Ro 12:2"
see Barnes on "Jas 4:4;
see Barnes on "1 Jo 2:15-17".

That is, religion will keep us from the maxims, vices, and corruptions which prevail in the world, and make us holy. These two things may, in fact, be said to constitute religion. If a man is truly benevolent, he bears the image of that God who is the fountain of benevolence; if he is pure and uncontaminated in his walk and deportment, he also resembles his Maker, for he is holy. If he has not these things, he cannot have any well-founded evidence that he is a Christian; for it is always the nature and tendency of religion to produce these things. It is, therefore, an easy matter for a man to determine whether he has any religion; and equally easy to see that religion is eminently desirable. Who can doubt that that is good which leads to compassion for the poor and the helpless, and which makes the heart and the life pure?

{a} "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction" Isa 1:16-17; Isa 58:6-7

{b} "unspotted from the world" Ro 12:2

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 1

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

This chapter is evidently made up of three parts, or three subjects are discussed:�"

I. The duty of impartiality in the treatment of others, verses 1-9. There was to be no favouritism on account of rank, birth, wealth, or apparel. The case to which the apostle refers for an illustration of this, is that where two persons should come into an assembly of Christian worshippers, one elegantly dressed, and the other meanly clad, and they should show special favour to the former, and should assign to the latter a more humble place. The reasons which the apostle assigns why they should not do this are,

(a) that God has chosen the poor for his own people, having selected his friends mainly from them;

(b) because rich men in fact oppressed them, and showed that they were worthy of no special regard;

(c) because they were often found among revilers, and in fact despised their religion; and

(d) because the law required that they should love their neighbours as themselves, and if they did this, it was all that was demanded; that is, that the love of the man was not to be set aside by the love of splendid apparel.

II. The duty of yielding obedience to the whole law in order to have evidence of true religion, verses 10-13. This subject seems to have been introduced in accordance with the general principles and aims of James, (see Barnes on "Jas 1:1, the Introduction) that religion consists in obeying the law of God, and that there can be none when this is not done. It is not improbable that, among those to whom he wrote, there were some who denied this, or who had embraced some views of religion which led them to doubt it. He therefore enforces the duty by the following considerations:

(1.) That if a man should obey every part of the law, and yet be guilty of offending in one point, he was in fact guilty of all; for he showed that he had no genuine principle of obedience, and was guilty of violating the law as a whole, Jas 2:10.

(2.) Every part of the law rests on the same authority, and one part, therefore, is as binding as another. The same God that has forbidden murder, has also forbidden adultery; and he who does the one as really violates the law as he who does the other, Jas 2:11.

(3.) The judgment is before us, and we shall be tried on impartial principles, not with reference to obeying one part of the law, but with reference to its whole claim; and we should so act as becomes those who expect to be judged by the whole law, or on the question whether we have conformed to every part of it, Jas 2:12-13.

III. The subject of justification, showing that works are necessary in order that a man may be justified, or esteemed righteous before God, Jas 2:14-26. For a general view of the design of this part of the epistle, see Barnes on "Jas 5:1, Introduction to Chapter 5. The object here is to show that in fact no one can be regarded as truly righteous before God who does not lead an upright life; and that if a man professes to have faith, and has not works, he cannot be justified; or that if he have real faith, it will be shown by his works. If it is not shown by works corresponding to its nature, it will be certain that there is no true religion, or that his professed faith is worth nothing. The "stand point" from which James views the subject, is not that faith is unnecessary or worthless, or that a man is not justified by faith rather than by his own works, in the sense of its being the ground of acceptance with God; or, in other words, the place where the apostle takes his position, and which is the point from which he views the subject, is not before a man is justified, to inquire in what way he may be accepted of God, but it is after the act of justification by faith, to show that if faith does not lead to good works it is "dead," or is of no value; and that in fact, therefore, the evidence of justification is to be found in good living, and that when this is not manifest, all a man's professed religion is worth nothing. In doing this, he

(a) makes the general statement, by a pointed interrogatory, that faith cannot profit, that is, cannot save a man, unless there be also works, Jas 2:14. He then

(b) appeals, for an illustration, to the case of one who is hungry or naked, and asks what mere faith could do in his case, if it were not accompanied with proper acts of benevolence, Jas 2:15-17. He then,

(c) by a strong supposable case, says that real faith will be evinced by works, or that works are the proper evidence of its existence, Jas 2:18. He then

(d) shows that there is a kind of faith which even the devils have on one of the most important doctrines of religion, and which can be of no value; showing that it cannot be by mere faith, irrespective of the question of what sort the faith is, that a man is to be saved, Jas 2:19. He then

(e) appeals to the case of Abraham, showing that in fact works performed an important part in his acceptance with God; or that if it had not been for his works�"that is, if there no evidence that he was justified, or that his works were the proper carrying out or fulfilment of his faith, Jas 2:20-24. He then

(f) shows that the same thing was true of another case recorded in the Old Testament�"that of Rahab, (Jas 2:25;) and then observes, (Jas 2:26,) that faith without works would have no more claim to being true religion than a dead body, without a soul, would be regarded as a living man.

Verse 1. My brethren. Perhaps meaning brethren in two respects�"as Jews, and as Christians. In both respects the form of address would be proper.

Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is the distinguishing thing in the Christian religion, for it is this by which man is justified, and hence it comes to be put for religion itself. See Barnes on "1 Ti 3:9".

The meaning here is, "Do not hold such views of the religion of Christ, as to lead you to manifest partiality to others on account of their difference of rank or outward circumstances."

The Lord of glory. The glorious Lord; he who is glorious himself, and who is encompassed with glory. See Barnes on "1 Co 2:8".

The design here seems to be to show that the religion of such a Lord should be in no way dishonoured.

With respect of persons. That is, you are not to show respect of persons, or to evince partiality to others on account of their rank, wealth, apparel, etc. Compare Pr 24:23; Pr 28:21; Le 19:15; De 1:17; De 10:17; 2 Ch 19:7; Ps 40:4.

See Barnes on "Ac 10:34; and see Barnes on "Ro 2:11 to see the subject explained. {a} "respect of persons" Pr 28:21; Jude 16

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 2

Verse 2.A man with, a gold ring. Indicative of rank or property. Rings were common ornaments of the rich; and probably then, as now, of those who desired to be esteemed to be rich. For proof that they were commonly worn, see the quotations in Wetstein, in loc.

In goodly apparel. Rich and splendid dress. Compare Lu 16:19.

A poor man in vile raiment. The Greek here is, filthy, foul; the meaning of the passage is, in sordid, shabby clothes. The reference here seems to be, not to those who commonly attended on public worship, or who were members of the church, but to those who might accidentally drop in to witness the services of Christians. See 1 Co 14:24.

{+} "assembly" or, "synagogue" {*} "goodly" or, "gorgeous"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 3

Verse 3. And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing. If you show him superior attention on account of his rich and gay apparel, giving him a seat by himself, and treating others with neglect or contempt. Religion does not forbid proper respect to rank, to office, to age, or to distinguished talents and services, though even in such cages it does not require that we should feel that such persons have any peculiar claims to salvation, or that they are not on a level with all others, as sinners before God; it does not forbid that a man who has the means of procuring for himself an eligible pew in a church should be permitted to do so; but it requires that men shall be regarded and treated according to their moral worth, and not according to their external adorning; that all shall be considered as in fact on a level before God, and entitled to the privileges which grow out of the worship of the Creator. A stranger coming into any place of worship, no matter what his rank, dress, or complexion, should be treated with respect, and everything should be done that can be to win his heart to the service of God.

And say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place. Marg., as in Gr., well, or seemly; that is, in an honourable place near the pulpit; or in some elevated place where he would be conspicuous. The meaning is, you treat him with distinguished marks of respect on the first appearance, merely from the indications that he is a rich man, without knowing anything about his character.

And say to the poor, Stand thou there. Without even the civility of offering him a seat at all. This may be presumed not often to occur in a Christian church; yet it practically does sometimes, when no disposition is evinced to furnish a stranger with a seat.

Or sit here under my footstool. Perhaps some seats in the places of worship were raised, so that even the footstool would be elevated above a lower seat. The meaning is, that he would be treated as if he were not worth the least attention.

{+} "in a good place" or, "well" or, "seemly"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 4

Verse 4. Are ye not then partial in yourselves? Among yourselves. Do you not show that you are partial?

And are become judges of evil thoughts. There has been considerable difference of opinion respecting this passage, yet the sense seems not to be difficult. There are two ideas in it: one is, that they showed by this conduct that they took it upon themselves to be judges, to pronounce on the character of men who were strangers, and on their claims to respect, (compare Mt 7:1;) the other is, that in doing this, they were not guided by just rules, but that they did it under the influence of improper "thoughts." They did it not from benevolence; not from a desire to do justice to all according to their moral character; but from that improper feeling which leads us to show honour to men on account of their external appearance, rather than their real worth. The wrong in the case was in their presuming to "judge" these strangers at all, as they practically did by making this distinction, and then by doing it under the influence of such an unjust rule of judgment. The sense is, that we have no right to form a decisive judgment of men on their first appearance, as we do when we treat one with respect and the other not; and that when we make up our opinion in regard to them, it should be by some other means of judging than the question whether they can wear gold rings, and dress well, or not. Beza and Doddridge render this, "ye become judges who reason ill."

{+} "judges of evil thoughts" or, "judges who reason ill"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 5

Verse 5. Hearken, my beloved brethren. The apostle now proceeds to show that the rich, as such, had no special claim on their favor, and that the poor in fact might be made more entitled to esteem than they were. For a view of the arguments by which he does this, compare the analysis of the chapter. (See Barnes on "Jas 2:1")

Hath not God chosen the poor of this world? Those who are poor so far as this world is concerned, or those who have not wealth. This is the first argument the apostle suggests why the poor should not be treated with neglect. It is, that God has had special reference to them in choosing those who should be his children. The meaning is not that he is not as willing to save the rich as the poor, for he has no partiality; but that there are circumstances in the condition of the poor which make it more likely that they will embrace the offers of the gospel than the rich; and that in fact the great mass of believers is taken from those who are in comparatively humble life. See Barnes on "1 Co 1:26-28".

The fact that God has chosen one to be an "heir of the kingdom" is as good a reason now why he should not be treated with neglect, as it was in the times of the apostles.

Rich in faith. Though poor in this world's goods, they are rich in a higher and more important sense. They have faith in God their Saviour; and in this world of trial and of sin, that is a more valuable possession than piles of hoarded silver or gold. A man who has that is sure that he will have all that is truly needful for him in this world and the next; a man who has it not, though he may have the wealth of Croesus, will be utterly without resources in respect to the great wants of his existence.

"Give what thou wilt, without thee we are poor;
And with thee rich, take what thou wilt away."

Faith in God the Saviour will answer more purposes, and accomplish more valuable ends for man, than the wealth of the Indies could: and this the poor may have as well as the rich. Compare Re 2:9.

And heirs of the kingdom, etc. Marg., that. See Barnes on "Mt 5:3".

{a} "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world" 1 Co 1:26-28 {b} "rich in faith" Re 2:9 {+} "the kingdom" or, "that kingdom" {c} "the kingdom which he hath promised" Mt 5:3; Lu 12:32; Lu 22:29

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 6

Verse 6. But ye have despised the poor. Koppe reads this as an interrogation: "Do ye despise the poor?" Perhaps it might be understood somewhat ironically: "You despise the poor, do you, and are disposed to honour the rich! Look then, and see how the rich treat you, and see whether you have so much occasion to regard them with any peculiar respect." The object of the apostle is to fix the attention on the impropriety of that partiality which many were disposed to show to the rich, by reminding them that the rich had never evinced towards them any such treatment as to lay the foundation of a claim to the honour which they were disposed to render them.

Do not rich men oppress you? Referring probably to something in their conduct which existed particularly then. The meaning is not that they oppressed the poor as such, but that they oppressed those whom James addressed. It is probable that then, as since, a considerable portion of those who were Christians were in fact poor, and that this would have all the force of a personal appeal; but still the particular thought is, that it was a characteristic of the rich and the great, whom they were disposed peculiarly to honour, to oppress and crush the poor. The Greek here is very expressive: "Do they not imperiously lord it over you?" The statement here will apply with too much force to the rich in every age.

And draw you before the judgment-seats. That is, they are your persecutors rather than your friends. It was undoubtedly the case that many of the rich were engaged in persecuting Christians, and that on various pretenses they dragged them before the judicial tribunals.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 7

Verse 7. Do they not blaspheme that worthy name. This is another argument to show that the rich had no special claim to the honour which they were disposed to show them. The "worthy name" here referred to is, doubtless, the name of the Saviour. The thing here affirmed would, of course, accompany persecution. They who persecuted Christians, would revile the name which they bore. This has always occurred. But besides this, it is no improbable supposition that many of those who were not disposed to engage in open persecution, would revile the name of Christ, by speaking contemptuously of him and his religion. This has been sufficiently common in every age of the world, to make the description here not improper. And yet nothing has been more remarkable than the very thing adverted to here by James, that notwithstanding this, many who profess to be Christians have been more disposed to treat even such persons with respect and attention than they have their own brethren, if they were poor; that they have cultivated the favour, sought the friendship, desired the smiles, aped the manners, and coveted the society of such persons, rather than the friendship and the favour of their poorer Christian brethren. Even though they are known to despise religion in their hearts, and not to be sparing of their words of reproach and scorn towards Christianity; though they are known to be blasphemers, and to have the most thorough contempt for serious, spiritual religion, yet there is many a professing Christian who would prefer to be at a party given by such persons than at a prayer-meeting where their poorer brethren are assembled; who would rather be known by the world to be the associates and friends of such persons, than of those humble believers who can make no boast of rank or wealth, and who are looked down upon with contempt by the great and the gay.

{a} "that worthy name" Ps 111:9

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 8

Verse 8. If ye fulfil the royal law. That is, the law which he immediately mentions requiring us to love our neighbour as ourselves. It is called a "royal law," or kingly law, on account of its excellence or nobleness; not because it is ordained by God as a king, but because it has some such prominence and importance among other laws as a king has among other men; that is, it is majestic, noble, worthy of veneration. It is a law which ought to govern and direct us in all our intercourse with men�"as a king rules his subjects.

According to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Le 19:18. Compare Mt 19:19. See it explained by the Saviour, in the parable of the good Samaritan, Lu 10:25-37. In regard to its meaning, see Barnes on "Mt 19:19".

Ye do well. That is, "if you fairly comply with the spirit of this law, you do all that is required of you in regulating your intercourse with others. You are to regard all persons as your neighbours, and are to treat them according to their real worth; you are not to be influenced in judging of them, or in your treatment of them, by their apparel, or their complexion, or the circumstances of their birth, but by the fact that they are fellow-beings." This is another reason why they should not show partiality in their treatment of others, for if, in the true sense, they regarded all others as "neighbours," they would treat no one with neglect or contempt.

{a} "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" Le 19:18

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 9

Verse 9. But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin. You transgress the plain law of God, and do wrong. See the references on Jas 2:1.

And are convinced of the law as transgressors. Gr., "By the law." The word convinced is now used in a somewhat different sense from what it was formerly. It now commonly refers to the impression made on a man's mind by showing him the truth of a thing which before was doubted, or in respect to which the evidence was not clear. A man who doubted the truth of a report or a proposition may be convinced or satisfied of its truth; a man who has done wrong, though he supposed he was doing what was proper, may be convinced of his error. So a man may be convinced that he is a sinner, though before he had no belief of it, and no concern about it; and this may produce in his mind the feeling which is technically known as conviction, producing deep distress and anguish. See Barnes on "Joh 16:8".

Here, however, the word does not refer so much to the effect produced on the mind itself, as to the fact that the law would hold such an one to be guilty; that is, the law pronounces what is done to be wrong. Whether they would be personally convinced of it, and troubled about it as convicted sinners, would be a different question, and one to which the apostle does not refer; for his object is not to show that they would be troubled about it, but to show that the law of God condemned this course, and would hold them to be guilty. The argument here is not from the personal distress which this course would produce in their own minds, but from the fact that the law of God condemned it.

{a} "respect to persons" Jas 2:1

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 10

Verse 10. For whosoever shall keep the whole law. All except the single point referred to. The apostle does not say that this in fact ever did occur, but he says that if it should, and yet a man should have failed in only one particular, he must be judged to be guilty. The case supposed seems to be that of one who claimed that he had kept the whole law. The apostle says that even if this should be admitted for the time to be true in all other respects, yet, if he had failed in any one particular�"in showing respect to persons, or in anything else�"he could not but be held to be a transgressor. The design of this is to show the importance of yielding universal obedience, and to impress upon the mind a sense of the enormity of sin from the fact that the violation of any one precept is in fact an offence against the whole law of God. The whole law here means all the law of God; all that he has required; all that he has given to regulate us in our lives.

And yet offend in one point. In one respect; or shall violate any one of the commands included in the general word law. The word offend here means, properly, to stumble, to fall; then to err or fail in duty. See Barnes on "Mt 5:29" see Barnes on "Mt 26:31".

He is guilty of all. He is guilty of violating the law as a whole, or of violating the law of God as such; he has rendered it impossible that he should be justified and saved by the law. This does not affirm that he is as guilty as if he had violated every law of God; or that all sinners are of equal grade because all have violated some one or more of the laws of God; but the meaning is, that he is guilty of violating the law of God as such; he shows that he has not the true spirit of obedience; he has exposed himself to the penalty of the law, and made it impossible now to be saved by it. His acts of obedience in other respects, no matter how many, will not screen him from the charge of being a violator of the law, or from its penalty. He must be held and treated as a transgressor for that offence, however upright he may be in other respects, and must meet the penalty of the law as certainly as though he had violated every commandment. One portion of the law is as much binding as another, and if a man violates any one plain commandment, he sets at nought the authority of God. This is a simple principle which is everywhere recognised, and the apostle means no more by it than occurs every day. A man who has stolen a horse is held to be a violator of the law, no matter in how many other respects he has kept it, and the law condemns him for it. He cannot plead his obedience to the law in other things as a reason why he should not be punished for this sin; but however upright he may have been in general, even though it may have been through a long life, the law holds him to be a transgressor, and condemns him. He is as really condemned, and as much thrown from the protection of law, as though he had violated every command. So of murder, arson, treason, or ally other crime. The law judges a man for what he has done in this specific case, and he cannot plead in justification of it that he has been obedient in other things. It follows, therefore, that if a man has been guilty of violating the law of God in any one instance, or is not perfectly holy, he cannot be justified and saved by it, though he should have obeyed it in every other respect, any more than a man who has been guilty of murder can be saved from the gallows because he has, in other respects, been a good citizen, a kind father, an honest neighbour, or has been compassionate to the poor and the needy. He cannot plead his act of truth in one case as an offset to the sin of falsehood in another; he cannot defend himself from the charge of dishonesty in one instance by the plea that he has been honest in another; he cannot urge the fact that he has done a good thing as a reason why he should not be punished for a bad one. He must answer for the specific charge against him, and none of these other things can be an offset against this one act of wrong. Let it be remarked, also, in respect to our being justified by obedience to the law, that no man can plead before God that he has kept all his law except in one point. Who is there that has not, in spirit at least, broken each one of the ten commandments? The sentiment here expressed by James was not new with him. It was often expressed by the Jewish writers, and seems to have been an admitted principle among the Jews. See Wetstein, in loc, for examples.

{a} "he is guilty of all" De 27:26

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 11

Verse 11. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. That is, these are parts of the same law of God, and one is as obligatory as the other. If, therefore, you violate either of these precepts, you transgress the law of God as such, and must be held to be guilty of violating it as a whole. The penalty of the law will be incurred, whatever precept you violate.

{+} "For he that said" or, "that law which said" {a} "Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill" Ex 20:13-14

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 12

Verse 12. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. On the phrase, "the law of liberty," see Barnes on "Jas 1:26" and See Barnes on "Jas 4:11".

The meaning is, that in all our conduct we are to act under the constant impression of the truth that we are soon to be brought into judgment, and that the law by which we are to be judged is that by which it is contemplated that we shall be set free from the dominion of sin. In the rule which God has laid down in his word, called "the law of liberty," or the rule by which true freedom is to be secured, a system of religion is revealed by which it is designed that man shall be emancipated not only from one sin, but from all. Now, it is with reference to such a law that we are to be judged; that is, we shall not be able to plead on our trial that we were under a necessity of sinning, but we shall be judged under that law by which the arrangement was made that we might be free from sin. If we might be free from sin; if an arrangement was made by which we could have led holy lives, then it will be proper that we shall be judged and condemned if we are not righteous. The sense is, "In all your conduct, whatever you do or say, remember that you are to be judged, or that you are to give an impartial account; and remember also that the rule by which you are to be judged is that by which provision is made for being delivered from the dominion of sin, and brought into the freedom of the gospel." The argument here seems to be, that he who habitually feels that he is soon to be judged by a law under which it was contemplated that he might be, and should be, free from the bondage of sin, has one of the strongest of all inducements to lead a holy life.

{a} "law of liberty" Jas 1:25

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 13

Verse 13. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy. This is obviously an equitable principle, and is one which is everywhere found in the Bible. Pr 21:13, "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but will not be heard." 2 Sa 22:26-27, "With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful, and with the froward thou wilt show thyself unsavoury". Compare Ps 18:25-26; Mt 6:15; Mt 7:1-2.

The idea which the apostle seems to design to convey here is, that there will certainly be a judgment, and that we must expect that it will be conducted on equitable principles; that no mercy is to be shown when the character is not such that it will be proper that it should be; and that we should habitually feel in our conduct that God will be impartial, and should frame our lives accordingly.

And mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Marg., glorieth. Gr., Boasts, glories, or exults. The idea is that of glorying over, as where one is superior to another, or has gained a victory over another. The reference all along here is to the judgment, the trial of the great day; and the apostle is stating the principles on which the trial at that day will be conducted�"on which one class shall be condemned and the other acquitted and saved. In reference to one class, the wicked, he says that where there has been no mercy shown to others�"referring to this as one evidence of piety�"that is, where there is no true piety, there will be judgment without mercy; in the other case there will be, as it were, a triumph of mercy, or mercy will appear to have gained a victory over judgment. Strict justice would indeed plead for their condemnation, but the attribute of mercy will triumph, and they will be acquitted. The attributes of mercy and justice would seem to come in conflict, but mercy would prevail. This is a true statement of the plan of salvation, and of what actually occurs in the redemption of a sinner. Justice demands, as what is her due, that the sinner should be condemned; mercy pleads that he may be saved�" and mercy prevails. It is not uncommon that there seems to be a conflict between the two. In the dispensations of justice before human tribunals, this often occurs. Strict justice demands the punishment of the offender; and yet there are cases when mercy pleads, and when every man feels that it would be desirable that pardon should be extended to the guilty, and when we always rejoice if mercy triumphs. In such a case, for example, as that of Major Andre, this is strikingly seen. On the one hand, there was the undoubted proof that he was guilty; that he had been taken as a spy; that by the laws of war he ought to be put to death; that as what he had done had tended to the ruin of the American cause, and as such an act, if unpunished, would always expose an army to surprise and destruction, he ought, in accordance with the law of nations, to die. On the other hand, there were his youth, his high attainments, his honourable connexions, his brilliant hopes, all pleading that he might live, and that he might be pardoned. In the bosom of Washington, the promptings of justice and mercy thus came into collision. Both could not be gratified, and there seemed to be but one course to be pursued. His sense of justice was shown in the act by which he signed the death-warrant; his feelings of compassion in the fact that when he did it his eyes poured forth a flood of tears. How every generous feeling of our nature would have been gratified if mercy could have triumphed, and the youthful and accomplished officer could have been spared! In the plan of salvation, this does occur. Respect is done to justice, but mercy triumphs. Justice indeed pleaded for the condemnation of the sinner, but mercy interposed, and he is saved. Justice is not disregarded, for the great Redeemer of mankind has done all that is needful to uphold it; but there is the most free and full exercise of mercy, and, while the justice of God is maintained, every benevolent feeling in the breast of all holy beings can be gratified in the salvation of countless thousands.

{a} "he shall have judgement without mercy" Pr 21:13; Mt 6:15; Mt 7:1-2

{b} "Rejoiceth against judgement" Ps 85:10 {+} "rejoiceth" or, "glorieth" {++} "rejoiceth against" or, "exults over"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 14

Verse 14. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith? The apostle here returns to the subject adverted to in Jas 1:22-27, the importance of a practical attention to the duties of religion, and the assurance that men cannot be saved by a mere opinion, speculative or merely by holding correct sentiments. He doubtless had in his eye those who abused the doctrine of justification by faith, by holding that good works are unnecessary to salvation, provided they maintain an orthodox belief. As this abuse probably existed in the time of the apostles, and as the Holy Ghost saw that there would be danger that in later times the great and glorious doctrine of justification by faith would be thus abused, it was important that the error should be rebuked, and that the doctrine should be distinctly laid down that good works are necessary to salvation. The apostle, therefore, in the question before us, implicitly asserts that faith would not "profit" at all unless accompanied with a holy life, and this doctrine he proceeds to illustrate in the following verses. See Barnes on "Jas 2:1, the analysis of this chapter; and See Barnes on "Jas 5:1, the Introduction to chapter 5, (2.). In order to a proper interpretation of this passage, it should be observed that the stand-point from which the apostle views this subject is not before a man is converted, inquiring in what way he may be justified before God, or on what ground his sins may be forgiven; but it is after a man is converted, showing that that faith can have no value which is not followed by good works; that is, that it is not real faith, and that good works are necessary if a man would have evidence that he is justified. Thus understood, all that James says is in entire accordance with what is taught elsewhere in the New Testament. Can faith save him? It is implied in this question that faith cannot save him, for very often the most emphatic way of making an affirmation is by asking a question. The meaning here is, that that faith which does not produce good works, or which would not produce holy living if fairly acted out, will save no man, for it is not genuine faith.

{a} "What doth it profit" Mt 7:26 {*} "faith" or, "this faith"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 15

Verses 15-17. If a brother or sister be naked, etc. The comparison in these verses is very obvious and striking. The sense is, that faith in itself, without the acts that correspond to it, and to which it would prompt, is as cold, and heartless, and unmeaning, and useless, as it would be to say to one who was destitute of the necessaries of life, "depart in peace." In itself considered, it might seem to have something that was good; but it would answer none of the purposes of faith unless it should prompt to action. In the case of one who was hungry or naked, what he wanted was not good wishes or kind words merely, but the acts to which good wishes and kind words prompt. And so in religion, what is wanted is not merely the abstract state of mind which would be indicated by faith, but the life of goodness to which it ought to lead. Good wishes and kind words, in order to make them what they should be for the welfare of the world, should be accompanied with corresponding action. So it is with faith. It is not enough for salvation without the benevolent and holy acts to which it would prompt, any more than the good wishes and kind words of the benevolent are enough to satisfy the wants of the hungry, and to clothe the naked, without correspondent action. Faith is not and cannot be shown to be genuine, unless it is accompanied with corresponding acts; as our good wishes for the poor and needy can be shown to be genuine, when we have the means of aiding them, only by actually ministering to their necessities. In the one case, our wishes would be shown to he unmeaning and heartless; in the other, our faith would be equally so. In regard to this passage, therefore, it may be observed,

(1,) that in fact faith is of no more value, and has no more evidence of genuineness when it is unaccompanied with good works, than such empty wishes for the welfare of the poor would be when unaccompanied with the means of relieving their wants. Faith is designed to lead to good works. It is intended to produce a holy life; a life of activity in the service of the Saviour. This is its very essence; it is what it always produces when it is genuine. Religion is not designed to be a cold abstraction; it is to be a living and vivifying principle.

(2.) There is a great deal of that kindness and charity in the world which is expressed by mere good wishes. If we really have not the means of relieving the poor and the needy, then the expression of a kind wish may be in itself an alleviation to their Sorrows, for even sympathy in such a case is of value, and it is much to us to know that others feel for us; but if we have the means, and the object is a worthy one, then such expressions are mere mockery, and aggravate rather than soothe the feelings of the sufferer. Such wishes will neither clothe nor feed them; and they will only make deeper the sorrows which we ought to heal. But how much of this is there in the world, when the sufferer cannot but feel that all these wishes, however kindly expressed, are hollow and false, and when he cannot but feel that relief would be easy!

(3.) In like manner there is much of this same kind of worthless faith in the world�"faith that is dead; faith that produces no good works; faith that exerts no practical influence whatever on the life. The individual professes indeed to believe the truths of the gospel; he may be in the church of Christ; he would esteem it a gross calumny to be spoken of as an infidel; but as to any influence which his faith exerts over him, his life would be the same if he had never heard of the gospel. There is not one of the truths of religion which is bodied forth in his life; not a deed to which he is prompted by religion; not an act which could not be accounted for on the supposition that he has no true piety. In such a case, faith may with propriety be said to be dead.

Being alone. Marg., by itself. The sense is, "being by itself;" that is, destitute of any accompanying fruits or results, it shows that it is dead. That which is alive bodies itself forth, produces effects, makes itself visible; that which is dead produces no effect, and is as if it were not.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 16

See Barnes on "Jas 2:15".

{a} "what doth it profit" 1 Jo 3:18

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 17

See Barnes on "Jas 2:15". {+} "alone" or, "by itself"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 18

Verse 18. Yea, a man may say, etc. The word which is rendered "yea," (alla) would be better rendered by but. The apostle designs to introduce an objection, not to make an affirmation. The sense is, "someone might say," or, "to this it might be urged in reply." That is, it might perhaps be said that religion is not always manifested in the same way, or we should not suppose that, because it is not always exhibited in the same form, it does not exist. One man may manifest it in one way, and another in another, and still both have true piety. One may be distinguished for his faith, and another for his works, and both may have real religion. This objection would certainly have some plausibility, and it was important to meet it. It would seem that all religion was not to be manifested in the same way, as all virtue is not; and that it might occur that one man might be particularly eminent for one form of religion, and another for another; as one man may be distinguished for zeal, and another for meekness, and another for integrity, and another for truth, and another for his gifts in prayer, and another for his large-hearted benevolence. To this the apostle replies, that the two things referred to, faith and works, were not independent things, which could exist separately, without the one materially influencing another�"as, for example, charity and chastity, zeal and meekness; but that the one was the germ or source of the other, and that the existence of the one was to be known only by its developing itself in the form of the other. A man could not show that he possessed the one unless it developed itself in the form of the other. In proof of this, he could boldly appeal to any one to show a case where faith existed without works. He was himself willing to submit to this just trial in regard to this point, and to demonstrate the existence of his own faith by his works.

Thou hast faith, and I have works. You have one form or manifestation of religion in an eminent or prominent degree, and I have another. You are characterized particularly for one of the virtues of religion, and I am for another; as one man may be particularly eminent for meekness, and another for zeal, and another for benevolence, and each be a virtuous man. The expression here is equivalent to saying, "One may have faith, and another works."

Shew me thy faith without thy works. That is, you who maintain that faith is enough to prove the existence of religion; that a man may be justified and saved by that alone, or where it does not develope itself in holy living; or that all that is necessary in order to be saved is merely to believe. Let the reality of any such faith as that be shown, if it can be; let any real faith be shown to exist without a life of good works, and the point will be settled. I, says the apostle, will undertake to exhibit the evidence of my faith in a different way�" in a way about which there can be no doubt, and which is the appropriate method. It is clear, if the common reading here is correct, that the apostle meant to deny that true faith could be evinced without appropriate works. It should be said, however, that there is a difference of reading here of considerable importance. Many manuscripts and printed editions of the New Testament, instead of without [works�"cwriv], read from or by, (ek,) as in the other part of the verse, "show me thy faith by thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." This reading is found in Walton, Wetstein, Mill, and in the received text generally; the other [without] is found in many Mss., and in the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, English, and Armenian versions; and is adopted by Beza, Castalio, Grotius, Bengel, Hammond, Whitby, Drusius, Griesbach, Tittman, and Hahn, and is now commonly received as the correct reading. It may be added that this reading seems to be demanded by the similar teaching in Jas 2:20, "But wilt thou know that faith without works (cwriv twn ergwn) is dead," evidently implying that something had been said before about "faith without works." This reading also is so natural, and makes so good sense in the connexion, that it would seem to be demanded. Doddridge felt the difficulty in the other reading, and has given a version of the passage which showed his great perplexity, and which is one of the most unhappy that he ever made.

And I will show thee my faith by my works. I will furnish in this way the best and most certain proof of the existence of faith. It is implied here that true faith is adapted to lead to a holy life, and that such a life would be the appropriate evidence of the existence of faith. By their fruits the principles held by men are known. See Barnes on "Mt 7:16".

{+} "without" or, "by" {a} "I will shew thee my faith" Jas 3:13

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 19

Verse 19. Thou believest that there is one God. One of the great and cardinal doctrines of religion is here selected as an illustration of all. The design of the apostle seems to have been to select one of the doctrines of religion, the belief of which would�"if mere belief in any doctrine could�"save the soul; and to show that even this might be held as an article of faith by those who could be supposed by no s one to have any claim to the name of Christian. He selects therefore, the great fundamental doctrine of all religion�"the doctrine of the existence of one Supreme Being�"and shows that if even this were held in such a way as it might be, and as it was held by devils, it could not save men. The apostle here is not to be supposed to be addressing such an one as Paul, who held to the doctrine that we are justified by faith; nor is he to be supposed to be combating the doctrine of Paul, as some have maintained, (See Barnes on "Jas 2:1, the Introduction;) but he is to be regarded as addressing one who held, in the broadest and most unqualified sense, that provided there was faith, a man would be saved. To this he replies, that even the devils might have faith of a certain sort, and faith that would produce sensible effects on them of a certain kind, and still it could not be supposed that they had true religion, or that they would be saved. Why might not the same thing occur in regard to man?

Thou doest well. So far as this is concerned, or so far as it goes. It is a doctrine which ought to be held, for it is one of the great fundamental truths of religion.

The devils. The demons, (ta daimonia.) There is, properly, but one being spoken of in the New Testament as the devil�"o diabolov, and o satan�"though demons are frequently spoken of in the plural number. They are represented as evil spirits, subject to Satan, or under his control, and engaged with him in carrying out his plans of wickedness. These spirits or demons were supposed to wander in desert and desolate places, (Mt 12:43,) or to dwell in the atmosphere, (see Barnes on "Eph 2:2") they were thought to have the power of working miracles, but not for good, (Re 16:14; compare Joh 10:21;) to be hostile to mankind, (Joh 8:44;) to utter the heathen oracles, (Ac 16:17;) to lurk in the idols of the heathen, (1 Co 10:20;) and to take up their abodes in the bodies of men, afflicting them with various kinds of diseases, Mt 7:22; Mt 9:34; Mt 10:8; Mt 17:18; Mr 7:29-30; Lu 4:33; Lu 8:27,30, et sape. It is of these evil spirits that the apostle speaks when he says this they believe.

Also, believe. That is, particularly, they believe in the existence of the one God. How far their knowledge may extend respecting God, we cannot know; but they are never represented in the Scriptures as denying his existence, or as doubting the great truths of religion. They are never described as atheists. That is a sin of this world only. They are not represented as skeptics. That, too, is a peculiar sin of the earth; and probably, in all the universe besides, there are no beings but those who dwell on this globe, who doubt or deny the existence of God, or the other great truths of religion.

And tremble. The word here used (frissw) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, to be rough, uneven, jaggy, sc., with bristling hair; to bristle, to stand on end, as the hair does in a fright; and then to shudder or quake with fear, etc. Here the meaning is, that there was much more in the case referred to than mere speculative faith. There was a faith that produced some effect, and an effect of a very decided character. It did not, indeed, produce good works, or a holy life, but it made it manifest that there was faith; and, consequently, it followed that the existence of mere faith was not all that was necessary to save men, or to make it certain that they would be secure, unless it were held that the devils would be justified and saved by it. If they might hold such faith, and still remain in perdition, men might hold it, and go to perdition. A man should not infer, therefore, because he has faith, even that faith in God which will fill him with alarm, that therefore he is safe. He must have a faith which will produce another effect altogether�"that which will lead to a holy life.

{a} "the devils also believe" Mr 1:24; Mr 5:7

{+} "devils" or, "demons"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 20

Verse 20. But wilt thou know. Will you have a full demonstration of it; will you have the clearest proof in the case. The apostle evidently felt that the instances to which he was about to refer, those of Abraham and Rahab, were decisive.

O vain man. The reference by this language is to a man who held an opinion that could not be defended. The word vain here used, (kenov,) means properly empty, as opposed to full�"as empty hands, having nothing in them; then fruitless, or without utility or success; then false, fallacious. The meaning here, properly, would be "empty," in the sense of being void of understanding; and this would be a mild and gentle way of saying of one that he was foolish, or that he to maintained an argument that was without sense. James means, doubtless, represent it as a perfectly plain matter, a matter about which no man of sense could have any reasonable doubt. If we must call a man foolish, as is sometimes necessary, let us use as mild and inoffensive a term as possible�"a term which, while it will convey our meaning, will not unnecessarily wound and irritate. That faith without works is dead. That the faith which does not produce good works is useless in the matter of salvation, he does not mean to say that it would produce no effect, for in the case of the demons it did produce trembling and alarm; but that it would be valueless in the matter of salvation. The faith of Abraham and of Rahab was entirely different from this.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 21

Verse 21. Was not Abraham our father. Our progenitor, our ancestor; using the word father, as frequently occurs in the Bible, to denote a remote ancestor. See Barnes on "Mt 1:1".

A reference to his and probably most of those to whom this epistle was addressed were of this character. See Barnes on "Jas 2:1, the Introduction.

Justified by works. That is, in the sense in which James is maintaining that a man professing religion is to be justified by his works. He does not affirm that the ground of acceptance with God is that we keep the law, or are perfect; or that our good works make an atonement for our sins, and that it is on their account that we are pardoned; nor does he deny that it is necessary that a man should believe in order to be saved. In this sense he does not deny that men are justified by faith; and thus he does not contradict the doctrine of the apostle Paul. But he does teach that where there are no good works, or where there is not a holy life, there is no true religion; that that faith which is not productive of good works is of no value; that if a man has that faith only, it would be impossible that he could be regarded as justified, or could be saved; and that consequently, in that large sense, a man is justified by his works; that is, they are the evidence that he is a justified man, or is regarded and treated as righteous by his Maker. The point on which the apostle has his eye is the nature of saving faith; and his design is to show that a mere faith which would produce no more effect than that of the demons did, could not save. In this he states no doctrine which contradicts that of Paul. The evidence to which he appeals in regard to faith, is good works and a holy life; and where that exists it shows that the faith is genuine. The case of Abraham is one directly in point. He showed that he had that kind of faith which was not dead. he gave the most affecting evidence that his faith was of such a kind as to lead him to implicit obedience, and to painful sacrifices. Such an act as that referred to�"the act of offering up his son�"demonstrated, if anything could, that his faith was genuine, and that his religion was deep and pure. In the sight of heaven and earth it would justify him as a righteous man, or would prove that he was a righteous man. In regard to the strength of his faith, and the nature of his obedience in this sacrifice, see Barnes on "Heb 11:19".

That the apostle here cannot refer to the act of justification as the term is commonly understood, referring by that to the moment when he was accepted of God as a righteous man, is clear from the fact that in a passage of the Scriptures which he himself quotes, that is declared to be consequent on his believing: "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." The act here referred to occurred long subsequent to that, and was thus a fulfilment or Confirmation of the declaration of Scripture, which says that "he believed God." It showed that his faith was not merely speculative, but was an active principle, leading to holy living. See Barnes on "Jas 2:23".

This demonstrates that what the apostle refers to here is the evidence by which it is shown that a man's faith is genuine, and that he does not refer to the question whether the act of justification, where a sinner is converted, is solely in consequence of believing. Thus the case proves what James purposes to prove, that the faith which justifies is only that which leads to good works.

When he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar. This was long after he believed, and was an act which, if any could, would show that his faith was genuine and sincere. On the meaning of this passage, see Barnes on "Heb 11:17".

{a} "when he had offered Isaac his son" Ge 22:9,12

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 22

Verse 22. Seest thou. Marg., Thou seest. Either rendering is correct, and the sense is the same. The apostle means to say that this was so plain that they could not but see it.

How faith wrought with his works. sunhrgei. Co-operated with. The meaning of the word is, to work together with any one; to co-operate, (1 Co 16:16; 2 Co 6:1;) then to aid, or help, (Mr 16:20;) to contribute to the production of any result, where two or more persons or agents are united. Compare Ro 8:28. The idea here is, that the result in the case of Abraham, that is, his salvation, or his religion, was secured, not by one of these things alone, but that both with contributed to it. The result which was reached, to wit, his acceptance God, could not have been obtained by either one of them separately, but both, in some sense, entered into it. The apostle does not say that, in regard to the merit which justifies, they came in for an equal share, for he makes no affirmation on that point; he does not deny that in the sight of God, who foresees and knows all things, he was regarded as a justified man the moment he believed, but he looks at the result as it was, at Abraham as he appeared under the trial of his faith, and says that in that result there was to be seen the co-operation of faith and good works. Both contributed to the end, as they do now in all cases where there is true religion.

And by works was faith made perfect. Made complete, finished, or entire. It was so carried out as to show its legitimate and fair results. This does not mean that the faith in itself was defective before this, and that the defect was remedied by good works; or that there is any deficiency in what the right kind of faith can do in the matter of justification, which is to be helped out by good works; but that there was that kind of completion which a thing has when it is fully developed, or is fairly carried out.

{+} "Seest thou" or, "Thou seest" {a} "faith wrought with his works" Heb 11:17

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 23

Verse 23. And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith. That is, the fair and full meaning of the language of Scripture was expressed by this act, showing in the highest sense that his faith was genuine; or the declaration that he truly believed, was confirmed or established by this act. His faith was shown to be genuine; and the fair meaning of the declaration that he believed God was carried out in the subsequent act. The passage here referred to occurs in Ge 15:6. That which it is said Abraham believed, or in which he believed God, was this: "This shall not be thine heir, (viz., Eliezer of Damascus,) but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels, shall be thine heir." And again, "Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said unto him, So shall thy seed be," Ge 15:3-5. The act of confiding in these promises, was that act of which it is said that "he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." The act of offering his son on the altar, by which James says the Scripture was fulfilled, occurred some twenty years afterwards. That act confirmed or fulfilled the declaration. It showed that his faith was genuine, and that the declaration that he believed in God was true; for what could do more to confirm that, than a readiness to offer his own son at the command of God? It cannot be supposed that James meant to say that Abraham was justified by works without respect to faith, or to deny that the primary ground of his justification in the sight of God was faith, for the very passage which he quotes shows that faith was the primary consideration: "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed," etc. The meaning, therefore, can only be, that this declaration received its fair and full expression when Abraham, by an act of obedience of the most striking character, long after he first exercised that faith by which he was accepted of God, showed that his faith was genuine. If he had not thus obeyed, his faith would have been inoperative and of no value. As it was, his act showed that the declaration of the Scripture that, he "believed," was well founded.

Abraham believed God, and it was imputed, etc. See Barnes on "Ro 4:3" for a full explanation of this passage.

And he was called the Friend of God. In virtue of his strong faith and obedience. See 2 Ch 20:7: "Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?" Isa 41:8, "But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend." This was a most honourable appellation; but it is one which, in all eases, will result from true faith and obedience.

{a} "Abraham believed God" Ge 15:6

{+} "imputed" or, "counted" {b} "called the Friend of God" 2 Ch 15:7; Isa 41:8

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 24

Verse 24. Ye see then. From the course of reasoning pursued, and the example referred to.

How that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Not by a cold, abstract, inoperative faith. It must be by a faith that shall produce good works, and whose existence will be shown to men by good works. As justification takes place in the sight of God, it is by faith, for he sees that the faith is genuine, and that it will produce good works if the individual who exercises faith shall live; and he justifies men in view of that faith, and of no other. If he sees that the faith is merely speculative; that it is cold and dead, and would not produce good works, the man is not justified in his sight. As a matter of fact, therefore, it is only the faith that produces good works that justifies; and good works, therefore, as the proper expression of the nature of faith, foreseen by God as the certain result of faith, and actually as seen by performed men, are necessary in order to justification. In other words, no man will be justified who has not a faith which will produce good works, and which is of an operative and practical character. The ground of justification in the case is faith, and that only; the evidence of it, the carrying it out, the proof of the existence of the faith, is good works; and thus men are justified and saved not by mere abstract and cold faith, but by a faith necessarily connected with good works, and where good works perform an important part. James, therefore, does not contradict Paul, but he contradicts a false explanation of Paul's doctrine, he does not deny that a man is justified in the sight of God by faith, for the very passage which he quotes shows that he believes that; but he does deny that a man is justified by a faith which would not produce good works, and which is not expressed by good works; and thus he maintains, as Paul always did, that nothing else than a holy life can show that a man is a true Christian, and is accepted of God.

{a} "by works a man is justified" Re 20:12 {+} "faith only" or, "Faith which is alone."

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 25

Verse 25. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works? In the same sense in which Abraham was, as explained above�"showing by her act that her faith was genuine, and that it was not a mere cold and speculative assent to the truths of religion. Her act showed that she truly believed God. If that act had not been performed, the fact would have shown that her faith was not genuine, and she could not have been justified. God saw her faith as it was; he saw that it would produce acts of obedience, and he accepted her as righteous. The act which she performed was the public manifestation of her faith, the evidence that she was justified. See Barnes on "Heb 11:31"

for a full explanation of the case of Rahab. It may be observed here, that we are not to suppose that everything in the life and character of this woman is commended. She is commended for her faith, and for the fair expression of it; a faith which, as it induced her to receive the messengers of the true God, and to send them forth in peace, and as it led her to identify herself with the people of God, was also influential, we have every reason to suppose, in inducing her to abandon her former course of life. When we commend the faith of a man who has been a profane swearer, or an adulterer, or a robber, or a drunkard, we do not commend his former life, or give a sanction to it. We commend that which has induced him to abandon his evil course, and to turn to the ways of righteousness. The more evil his former course has been, the more wonderful, and the more worthy of commendation, is that faith by which he is reformed and saved.

{a} "Rahab the harlot justified by works" Jos 2:1

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 26

Verse 26. For as the body without the spirit is dead. Marg., breath. The Greek word pneuma is commonly used to denote spirit or soul, as referring to the intelligent nature. The meaning here is the obvious one, that the body is animated or kept alive by the presence of the soul, and that when that is withdrawn, hope departs. The body has no life independent of the presence of the soul.

So faith without works is dead also. There is as much necessity that faith and works should be united to constitute true religion, as there is that the body and soul should be united to constitute a living man. If good works do not follow, it is clear that there is no true and proper faith; none that justifies and saves. If faith produces no fruit of good living, that fact proves that it is dead, that it has no power, and that it is of no value. This shows that James was not arguing against real and genuine faith, nor against its importance in justification, but against the supposition that mere faith was all that was necessary to save a man, whether it was accompanied by good works or not. He maintains that if there is genuine faith it will always be accompanied by good works, and that it is only that faith which can justify and save. If it leads to no practical holiness of life, it is like the body without the soul, and is of no value whatever. James and Paul both agree in the necessity of true faith in order to salvation; they both agree that the tendency of true faith is to produce a holy life; they both agree that where there is not a holy life there is no true religion, and that a man cannot be saved. We may learn, then, from the whole doctrine of the New Testament on the subject, that unless we believe in the Lord Jesus we cannot be justified before God; and that unless our faith is of that kind which will produce holy living, it has no more of the characteristics of true religion than a dead body has of a living man.

{+} "the spirit" or, "breath"

RECONCILIATION OF PAUL AND JAMES.

At the close of the exposition of this chapter, it may be proper to make a few additional remarks on the question in what way the statements of James can be reconciled with those of Paul, on the subject of justification. A difficulty has always been felt to exist on the subject; and there are, perhaps, no readers of the New Testament who are not perplexed with it. Infidels, and particularly Voltaire, have seized the occasion which they supposed they found here to sneer against the Scriptures, and to pronounce them to be contradictory. Luther felt the difficulty to be so great that, in the early part of his career, he regarded it as insuperable, and denied the inspiration of James, though he afterwards changed his opinion, and believed that his epistle was a part of the inspired canon; and one of Luther's followers was so displeased with the statements of James, as to charge him with wilful falsehood.�"Dr. Dwight's Theology, Serra. lxviii. The question is, whether their statements can be so reconciled, or can be shown to be so consistent with each other, that it is proper to regard them both as inspired men? Or, are their statements so opposite and contradictory, that it cannot be believed that both were under the influences of an infallible Spirit? In order to answer these questions, there are two points to be considered: first, what the real difficulty is; and, secondly, how the statements of the two writers can be reconciled, or whether there is any way of explanation which will remove the difficulty.

I. What the difficulty is. This relates to two points�"that James Seems to contradict Paul in express terms, and that both writers make use of the same case to illustrate their opposite sentiments.

(1.) That James seems to contradict Paul in express terms. The doctrine of Paul on the subject of justification is stated in such language as the following: "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight," Ro 3:20. "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," Ro 3:28. "Being justified by faith," Ro 5:1. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ," Ga 2:16. Compare Ro 3:24-26; Ga 3:11; Tit 3:5,6.

On the other hand, the statement of James seems to be equally explicit that a man is not justified by faith only, but that good works come in for an important share in the matter. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works?" Jas 2:21. "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works?" Jas 2:22. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only," Jas 2:24.

(2.) Both writers refer to the same case to illustrate their views�" the case of Abraham. Thus Paul (Ro 4:1-3) refers to it to prove that justification is wholly by faith. "For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." And thus James (Jas 2:21-22) refers to it to prove that justification is by works: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?"

The difficulty of reconciling these statements would be more clearly seen if they occurred in the writings of the same author; by supposing, for example, that the statements of James were appended to the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, and were to be read in connexion with that chapter. Who, the infidel would ask, would not be struck with the contradiction? Who would undertake to harmonize statements so contradictory? Yet the statements are equally contradictory, though they occur in different writers, and especially when it is claimed for both that they wrote under the influence of inspiration.

II. The inquiry then is, how these apparently contradictory statements may be reconciled, or whether there is any way of explanation that will remove the difficulty. This inquiry resolves itself into two �"whether there is any theory that can be proposed that would relieve the difficulty, and whether that theory can be shown to be well founded.

(1.) Is there any theory which would remove the difficulty�"any explanation which can be given on this point which, if true, would show that the two statements may be in accordance with each other and with truth?

Before suggesting such an explanation, it may be further observed, that, as all history has shown, the statements of Paul on the subject of justification are liable to great abuse. All the forms of Antinomianism have grown out of such abuse, and are only perverted statements of his doctrine. It has been said, that if Christ has freed us from the necessity of obeying the law in order to justification; if he has fulfilled it in our stead, and borne its penalty, then the law is no longer binding on those who are justified, and they are at liberty to live as they please. It has been further said, that if we are saved by faith alone, a man is safe the moment he believes, and good works are therefore not necessary. It is possible that such views as these began to prevail as early as the time of James, and, if so, it was proper that there should be an authoritative apostolic statement to correct them, and to cheek these growing abuses. If, therefore, James had, as it has been supposed he had, any reference to the sentiments of Paul, it was not to correct his sentiments, or to controvert them, but it was to correct the abuses which began already to flow from his doctrines, and to show that the alleged inferences did not properly follow from the opinions which he held; or, in other words, to show that the Christian religion required men to lead holy lives, and that the faith by which it was acknowledged that the sinner must be justified, was a faith which was productive of good works.

Now, all that is necessary to reconcile the statements of Paul sad James, is to suppose that they contemplate the subject of justification from different points of view, and with reference to different inquiries. Paul looks at it before a man is converted, with reference to the question how a sinner may be justified before God; James after a man is converted, with reference to the question how he may show that he has the genuine faith which justifies. Paul affirms that the sinner is justified before God only by faith in the Lord Jesus, and not by his own works; James affirms that it is not a mere speculative or dead faith which justifies, but only a faith that is productive of good works, and that its genuineness is seen only by good works. Paul affirms that whatever else a man has, if he have not faith in the Lord Jesus, he cannot be justified; James affirms that no matter what pretended faith a man has, if it is not a faith which is adapted to produce good works, it is of no value in the matter of justification. Supposing this to be the true explanation, and that these are the "stand-points" from which they view the subject, the reconciliation of these two writers is easy: for it was and is still true, that if the question is asked how a sinner is to be justified before God, the answer is to be that of Paul, that it is by faith alone, "without the works of the law;" if the question be asked, how it can be shown what is the kind of faith that justifies, the answer is that of James, that it is only that which is productive of holy living and practical obedience.

(2.) Is this a true theory? Can it be shown to be in accordance with the statements of the two writers? Would it be a proper explanation if the same statements had been made by the same writer? That it is a correct theory, or that it is an explanation founded in truth, will be apparent, if

(a) the language used by the two writers will warrant it;

(b) if it accords with a fair interpretation of the declarations of both writers; and

(c) if, in fact, each of the two writers held respectively the same doctrine on the subject.

(a) Will the language bear this explanation? That is, will the word justify, as used by the two writers, admit of this explanation? That it will, there need be no reasonable doubt; for both are speaking of the way in which man, who is a sinner, may be regarded and treated by God as if he were righteous�"the true notion of justification. It is not of justification in the sight of men that they speak, but of justification in the sight of God. Both use the word justify in this sense�"-Paul as affirming that it is only by faith that it can be done; James as affirming, in addition, not in contradiction, that it is by a faith that produces holiness, and no other.

(b) Does this view accord with the fair interpretation of the declarations of both writers?

In regard to Paul, there can be no doubt that this is the point from which he contemplates the subject, to wit, with reference to the question how a sinner may be justified. Thus, in the epistle to the Romans, where his principal statements on the subject occur, he shows, first, that the Gentiles cannot be justified by the works of the Law, (Ro 1) and then that the same thing is true in regard to the Jews, (Ro 2; 3) by demonstrating that both had violated the law given them, and were transgressors, and then (Ro 3:20) draws his conclusion "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight"�"the whole argument showing conclusively that he is contemplating the subject before a man is justified, and with reference to the question how he may be.

In regard to James, there can be as little doubt that the point of view from which he contemplates the subject, is after a man professes to have been justified by faith, with reference to the question what kind of faith justifies, or how it may be shown that faith is genuine. This is clear,

(a) because the whole question is introduced by him with almost express reference to that inquiry: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? " Ro 2:14. That is, can such faith�" can this faith (h pistiv) save him? In other words, he must have a different kind of faith in order to save him. The point of James' denial is not that faith, if genuine, would save; but it is, that such a faith, or a faith without works, would save.

(b) That this is the very point which he discusses, is further shown by his illustrations, Jas 2:15-16,19. He shows (Jas 2:15-16) that mere faith in religion would be of no more value in regard to salvation, than if one were naked and destitute of food, it would meet his wants to say, "Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled;" and then, (Jas 2:19,) that even the demons had a certain kind of faith in one of the cardinal doctrines of religion, but that it was a faith which was valueless�"thus showing that his mind was on the question what is true and genuine faith.

(c) Then he shows by the case to which he refers, (Jas 2:21-23,) the case of Abraham, that this was the question before his mind. He refers not to the act when Abraham first believed �"the act by which as a sinner he was justified before God; but to an act that occurred twenty years after�"the offering up of his son Isaac. See Barnes on "Jas 2:21" and through verse 23. He affirms that the faith of Abraham was of such a kind that it led him to obey the will of God; that is, to good works. Though, as is implied in the objection referred to above, he does not refer to the same case to which Paul referred�" the case of Abraham�"yet it is not to the same act in Abraham. Paul (Ro 4:1-3) refers to him when he first believed, affirming that he was then justified by faith; James refers indeed to an act of the same man, but occurring twenty years after, showing that the faith by which he had been justified was genuine. Abraham was, in fact, according to Paul, justified when he believed, and, had he died then, he would have been saved; but according to James, the faith which justified him was not a dead faith, but was living and operative, as was shown by his readiness to offer his son on the altar.

(d) Did each of these two writers in reality hold the same doctrine on the subject? This will be seen, if it can be shown that James held to the doctrine of justification by faith, as really as Paul did; and that Paul held that good works were necessary to show the genuineness of faith, as really as James did.

(1.) They both agreed in holding the doctrine of justification by faith. Of Paul's belief there can be no doubt. That James held the doctrine is apparent from the fact that he quotes the very passage in Genesis, (Ge 15:6,) and the one on which Paul relies, (Ro 4:1-3,) as expressing his own views�""Abraham believed God, and it was imputed auto him for righteousness." The truth of this James does not deny, but affirms that the Scripture which made this declaration was fulfilled or confirmed by the act to which he refers.

(2.) They both agreed in holding that good works are necessary to show the genuineness of faith. Of James' views on that point there can be no doubt. That Paul held the same opinion is clear

(a) from his own life, no man ever having been more solicitous to keep the whole law of God than he was.

(b) From his constant exhortations and declarations, such as these: "Created in Christ Jesus unto good works," Eph 2:10; "Charge them that are rich that they be rich in good works," 1 Ti 6:17-18; "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works," Tit 2:7; "Who gave himself for us, that he might purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," Tit 2:14; "These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works," Tit 3:8.

(c) It appears from the fact that Paul believed that the rewards of heaven are to be apportioned according to our good works, or according to our character and our attainments in the divine life. The title indeed to eternal life is, according to him, in consequence of faith; the measure of the reward is to be our holiness, or what we do. Thus he says, (2 Co 5:10,) "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body." Thus also he says, (2 Co 9:6,) "He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully." And thus also he says, (Ro 2:6,) that God "will render to every man according to his deeds." See also the influence which faith had on Paul personally, as described in the third chapter of his epistle to the Philippians. If these things are so, then these two writers have not contradicted each other, but, viewing the subject from different points, they have together stated important truths which might have been made by any one writer without contradiction; first, that it is only by faith that a sinner can be justified�"and second, that the faith which justifies is that only which leads to a holy life, and that no other is of value in saving the soul. Thus, on the one hand, men would be guarded from depending on their own righteousness for eternal life; and, on the other, from all the evils of Antinomianism. The great object of religion would be secured�"the sinner would be justified, and would become personally holy.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

The evil which the apostle seems to have referred to in this chapter, was a desire, which appears to have prevailed among those to whom he wrote, to be public teachers, (didaskaloi, Jas 3:1,) and to be such even where there was no proper qualification. It is not easy to see any connexion between what is said in this chapter, and what is found in other parts of the epistle; and indeed the plan of the epistle seems to have been to notice such things as the apostle supposed claimed their attention, without particular regard to a logical connexion. Some of the errors and improprieties which existed among them had been noticed in the previous chapters, and others are referred to in chapters 4 and 5. Those which are noticed in this chapter grew out of the desire of being public teachers of religion. It seems probable that he had this subject in his eye in the whole of this chapter, and this will give a clue to the course of thought which he pursues. Let it be supposed that there was a prevailing desire among those to whom he wrote to become public teachers, without much regard for the proper qualifications for that office, and the interpretation of the chapter will become easy. Its design and drift then may be thus expressed:

I. The general subject of the chapter, a caution against the desire prevailing among many to be ranked among public teachers, Jas 3:1, first clause.

II. Considerations to check and modify that desire, Jas 3:1, (last clause,) Jas 3:18. These considerations are the following:

(1.) The fact that public teachers must give a more solemn account than other men, and that they expose themselves to the danger of a deeper condemnation, Jas 3:1, last clause.

(2.) The evils which grow out of an improper use of the tongue; evils to which those are particularly liable whose business is speaking, Jas 3:2-12. This leads the apostle into a general statement of the importance of the tongue as a member of the human body; of the fact that we are peculiarly liable to offend in that, (Jas 3:2;) of the fact that if that is regulated aright, the whole mall is�"as a horse is managed by the bit, and a ship is steered by the rudder, (Jas 3:2-4;) of the fact that the tongue, though a little member, is capable of accomplishing great things, and is peculiarly liable, when not under proper regulations, to do mischief, (Jas 3:5-6;) of the fact that, while everything else has been tamed, it has been found impossible to bring the tongue under proper restraints, and that it performs the most discordant and opposite functions, (Jas 3:7-9;) and of the impropriety and absurdity of this, as if the same fountain should bring forth sweet water and bitter, Jas 3:10-12. By these considerations, the apostle seems to have designed to repress the prevailing desire of leaving other employments, and of becoming public instructors without suitable qualifications.

(3.) The apostle adverts to the importance of wisdom, with reference to the same end; that is, of suitable qualifications to give public instruction, Jas 3:13-18. He shows (Jas 3:13) that if there was a truly wise man among them, he should show this by his works, with "meekness," and not by obtruding himself upon the attention of others; that if there was a want of it evinced in a spirit of rivalry and contention, there would be confusion and every evil work, (Jas 3:14-16;) and that where there was true wisdom, it was unambitious and unostentatious; it was modest, retiring, and pure. It would lead to a peaceful life of virtue, and its existence would be seen in the "fruits of righteousness sown in peace," Jas 3:17-18. It might be inferred that they who had this spirit would not be ambitious of becoming public teachers; they would not place themselves at the head of parties; they would show the true spirit of religion in an unobtrusive and humble life. We are not to suppose, in the interpretation of this chapter, that the apostle argued against a desire to enter the ministry, in itself considered, and where there are proper qualifications; but he endeavoured to suppress a spirit which has not been uncommon in the world, to become public teachers as a means of more influence and power, and without any suitable regard to the proper endowments for such an office.

Verse 1. My brethren, be not many masters. "Be not many of you teachers." The evil referred to is that where many desired to be teachers, though but few could be qualified for the office, and though, in fact, comparatively few were required. A small number, well qualified, would better discharge the duties of the office, and do more good, than many would; and there would be great evil in having many crowding themselves unqualified into the office. The word here rendered masters (didaskaloi) should have been rendered teachers. It is so rendered in Joh 3:2; Ac 13:1; Ro 2:20; 1 Co 12:28-29; Eph 4:11; 1 Ti 2:11; 1 Ti 4:3; Heb 5:12; though it is elsewhere frequently rendered master. It has, however, in it primarily the notion of teaching, (didaskw,) even when rendered master; and the word master is often used in the New Testament, as it is with us, to denote an instructor�"as the "schoolmaster". Compare Mt 10:24-25; Mt 22:16; Mr 10:17; Mr 12:19, et al. The word is not properly used in the sense of master, as distinguished from a servant, but as distinguished from a disciple or learner. Such a position, indeed, implies authority, but it is authority based not on power, but on superior qualifications. The connexion implies that the word is used in that sense in this place; and the evil reprehended is that of seeking the office of public instructor, especially the sacred office. It would seem that this was a prevailing fault among those to whom the apostle wrote. This desire was common among the Jewish people, who coveted the name and the office of Rabbi, equivalent to that here used, (compare Mt 23:7,) and who were ambitious to be doctors and teachers. See Ro 2:19; 1 Ti 1:7. This fondness for the office of teachers they naturally carried with them into the Christian church when they were converted, and it is this which the apostle here rebukes. (A proof of some importance that this prevailed in the early Christian church, among those who had been Jews, is furnished by a passage in the Apocryphal work called "The Ascension of Isaiah the Prophet;" a work which Dr. Lawrence. the editor, supposes was written not far from the apostolic age. "in those days (the days of the Messiah) shall many be attached to office, destitute of wisdom; multitudes of iniquitous elders and pastors, injurious to their flocks, and addicted to rapine, nor shall the holy pastors themselves diligently discharge their duty" chap. iii. 23-24). The same spirit the passage before us would rebuke now, and for the same reasons; for although a man should be willing to become a public instructor in religion when called to it by the Spirit and Providence of God, and should esteem it a privilege when so called, yet there would be scarcely anything more injurious to the cause of true religion, or that would tend more to produce disorder and confusion, than a prevailing desire of the prominence and importance which a man has in virtue of being a public instructor. If there is anything which ought to be managed with extreme prudence and caution, it is that of introducing men into the Christian ministry. Compare 1 Ti 5:22; Ac 1:15-26; Ac 13:2-3.

Knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation, (meizon krima) Or rather, a severer judgment; that is, we shall have a severer trial, and give a stricter account. The word here used does not necessarily mean condemnation, but judgment, trial, account; and the consideration which the apostle suggests is not that those who were public teachers would be condemned, but that there would be a much more solemn account to be rendered by them than by other men, and that they ought duly to reflect on this in seeking the office of the ministry. He would carry them in anticipation before the judgment-seat, and have them determine the question of entering the ministry there. No better "stand-point" can be taken in making up the mind in regard to this work; and if that had been the position assumed in order to estimate the work, and to make up the mind in regard to the choice of this profession, many a one who has sought the office would have been deterred from it; and it may be added, also, that many a pious and educated youth would have sought the office, who has devoted his life to other pursuits. A young man, when about to make choice of a calling in life, should place himself by anticipation at the judgment-bar of Christ, and ask himself how human pursuits and plans will appear there. If that were the point of view taken, how many would have been deterred from the ministry who have sought it with a view to honour or emolument! How many, too, who have devoted themselves to the profession of the law, to the army or navy, or to the pursuits of elegant literature, would have felt that it was their duty to serve God in the ministry of reconciliation? How many at the close of life, in the ministry and out of it, feel, when too late to make a change, that they have wholly mistaken the purpose for which they should have lived!

{a} "be not many masters" Mt 18:8,14; 1 Pe 5:3

{+} "condemnation" or, "judgement"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 2

Verse 2. For in many things we offend all. We all offend. The word here rendered offend, means to stumble, to fall; then to err, to fail in duty; and the meaning here is, that all were liable to commit error, and that this consideration should induce men to be cautious in seeking an office where an error would be likely to do so much injury. The particular thing, doubtless, which the apostle had in his eye, was the peculiar liability to commit error, or to do wrong with the tongue. Of course, this liability is very great in an office where the very business is public speaking. If anywhere the improper use of the tongue will do mischief, it is in the office of a religious teacher; and to show the danger of this, and the importance of caution in seeking that office, the apostle proceeds to show what mischief the tongue is capable of effecting.

If any man offend not in word. In his speech; in the use of his tongue. The same is a perfect man. Perfect in the sense in which the apostle immediately explains himself; that he is able to keep every other member of his body in subjection. His object is not to represent the man as absolutely spotless in every sense, and as wholly free from sin, for he had himself just said that "all offend in many things;" but the design is to show that if a man can control his tongue, he has complete dominion over himself, as much as a man has over a horse by the bit, or as a steersman has over a ship if he has hold of the rudder. He is perfect in that sense, that he has complete control over himself, and will not be liable to error in anything. The design is to show the important position which the tongue occupies, as governing the whole man. On the meaning of the word perfect, see Barnes on "Job 1:1".

And able also to bridle the whole body. To control his whole body, that is, every other part of himself, as a man does a horse by the bridle. The word rendered "to bridle," means to lead or guide with a bit; then to rein in, to check, to moderate, to restrain. A man always has complete government over himself if he has the entire control of his tongue. It is that by which he gives expression to his thoughts and passions; and if that is kept under proper restraint, all the rest of his members are as easily controlled as the horse is by having the control of the bit.

{a} "For in many things we offend all" 1 Ki 8:46; Pr 20:9; 1 Jo 1:8

{b} "offend not in word" Pr 8:3

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 3

Verse 3. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, etc. The meaning of this simple illustration is, that as we control a horse by the bit�" though the bit is a small thing�"so the body is controlled by the tongue. He who has a proper control over his tongue can govern his whole body, as he who holds a bridle governs and turns about the horse.

{a} "we put bits in the horses' mouths" Ps 32:9

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 4

Verse 4. behold also the ships. This illustration is equally striking and obvious. A ship is a large object. It seems to be unmanageable by its vastness, and it is also impelled by driving storms. Yet it is easily managed by a small rudder; and he that has control of that, has control of the ship itself. So with the tongue. It is a small member as compared with the body; in its size not unlike the rudder as compared with the ship. Yet the proper control of the tongue in respect to its influence on the whole man, is not unlike the control of the rudder in its power over the ship.

Which though they be so great. So great in themselves, and in comparison with the rudder. Even such. bulky and unwieldy objects are controlled by a very small thing.

And are driven of fierce winds. By winds that would seem to leave the ship beyond control. It is probable that by the "fierce winds" here as impelling the ship, the apostle meant to illustrate the power of the passions in impelling man. Even a man under impetuous passion would be restrained, if the tongue is properly controlled, as the ship driven by the winds is by the helm.

Yet are they turned about with a very small helm.The ancient rudder or helm was made in the shape of an oar. This was very small when compared with the size of the vessels about as small as the tongue is as compared with the body.

Whithersoever the governor listeth. As the helmsman pleases. It is entirely under his control.

{+} "governor listeth" or, "Pilot chooseth"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 5

Verse 5. Even so, the tongue is a little member. Little compared with the body�"as the bit or the rudder is, compared with the horse or the ship;

And boasteth great things. The design of the apostle is to illustrate the power and influence of the tongue. This may be done in a great many respects: and the apostle does it by referring to its boasting; to the effects which it produces, resembling that of fire, (Jas 3:6;) to its untameableness, (Jas 3:8-9;) and to its giving utterance to the most inconsistent and incongruous thoughts, Jas 3:9-10. The particular idea here is, that the tongue seems to be conscious of its influence and power, and boasts largely of what it can do. The apostle means doubtless to convey the idea that it boasts not unjustly of its importance. It has all the influence in the world, for good or for evil, which it claims.

Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! Marg., wood. The Greek word (ulh) means a wood, forest, grove; and then fire-wood, fuel. This is the meaning here. The sense is, that a very little fire is sufficient to ignite a large quantity of combustible materials, and that the tongue produces effects similar to that. A spark will kindle a lofty pile; and a word spoken by the tongue may set a neighbourhood or a village "in a flame."

{a} "the tongue is a little member" Pr 12:18 {b} "boasteth great things" Ps 12:3 {+} "a matter" or, "wood" {++} "a matter" or, "How much combustible matter"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 6

Verse 6. And the tongue is a fire. In this sense, that it produces a "blaze," or a great conflagration. It produces a disturbance and an agitation that may be compared with the conflagration often produced by a spark.

A world of iniquity. A little world of evil in itself. This is a very expressive phrase, and is similar to one which we often employ, as when we speak of a town as being a world in miniature. We mean by it that it is an epitome of the world; that all that there is in the work is represented there on a small scale. So when the tongue is spoken of as being "a world of iniquity," it is meant that all kinds of evil that are in the world are exhibited there in miniature; it seems to concentrate all sorts of iniquity that exist on the earth. And what evil is there which may not be originated or fomented by the tongue? What else is there that might with so much propriety be represented as a little world of iniquity? With all the good which it does, who can estimate the amount of evil which it causes. Who can measure the evils which arise from scandal, and slander, and profaneness, and perjury, and falsehood, and blasphemy, and obscenity, and the inculcation of error, by the tongue? Who can gauge the amount of broils, and contentions, and strifes, and wars, and suspicions, and enmities, and alienations among friends and neighbours, which it produces? Who can number the evils produced by the "honeyed" words of the seducer; or by the tongue of the eloquent in the maintenance of error, and the defence of wrong? If all men were dumb, what a portion of the crimes of the world would soon cease! If all men would speak only that which ought to be spoken, what a change would come over the face of human affairs!

So is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body. It stains or pollutes the whole body. It occupies a position and relation so no portion which is not affected by it. Of the truth of this, no one can have any doubt. There is nothing else pertaining to us as moral and intellectual beings, which exerts such an influence over ourselves as the tongue. A man of pure conversation is understood and felt to be pure in every respect; but who has any confidence in the virtue of the blasphemer, or the man of obscene lips, or the calumniator and slanderer? We always regard such a man as corrupt to the core.

And setteth on fire the course of nature. The margin is, "the wheel of nature." The Greek word also (trocov) means a wheel, or anything made far revolving and running. Then it means the course run by a wheel; a circular course or circuit. The word rendered nature, (genesiv,) means, procreation, birth, nativity; and therefore the phrase means, literally, the wheel of birth�"that is, the wheel which is set in motion at birth, and which runs on through life.�"Rob. Lex. sub voce genesiv. It may be a matter of doubt whether this refers to successive generations, or to the course of individual life. The more literal sense would be that which refers to an individual; but perhaps the apostle meant to speak in a popular sense, and thought of the affairs of the world as they roll on from age to age, as all enkindled by the tongue, keeping the world in a constant blaze of excitement. Whether applied to an individual life, or to the world at large, every one can see the justice of the comparison. One naturally thinks, when this expression is used, of a chariot driven on with so much speed that its wheels by their rapid motion become self-ignited, and the chariot moves on amidst flames.

And it is set on fire of hell. Hell, or Gehenna, is represented as a place where the fires continually burn: See Barnes on "Mt 5:22". The idea here is, that that which causes the tongue to do so much evil derives its origin from hell. Nothing could better characterize much of that which the tongue does, than to say that it has its origin in hell, and has the spirit which reigns there. The very spirit of that world of fire and wickedness�"a spirit of falsehood, and slander, and blasphemy, and pollution�"seems to inspire the tongue. The image which seems to have been before the mind of the apostle was that of a torch which enkindles and burns everything as it goes along�"a torch itself lighted at the fires of hell. One of the most striking descriptions of the woes and curses which there may be in hell, would be to portray the sorrows caused on the earth by the tongue.

{a} "a fire" Pr 16:27 {b} "it defileth the whole body" Mt 15:11-20 {+} "course" or, "wheel"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 7

Verse 7. For every kind of beasts. The apostle proceeds to state another thing showing the power of the tongue, the fact that it is ungovernable, and that there is no power of man to keep it under control. Everything else but this has been tamed. It is unnecessary to refine on the expressions used here, by attempting to prove that it is literally true that every species of beasts, and birds, and fishes has been tamed. The apostle is to be understood as speaking in a general and popular sense, showing the remarkable power of man over those things which are by nature savage and wild. The power of man in taming wild beasts is wonderful. Indeed, it is to be remembered that nearly all those beasts which we now speak of as "domestic" animals, and which we are accustomed to see only when they are tame, were once fierce and savage races. This is the ease with the horse, the ox, the ass, (see Barnes on "Job 11:12" and see Barnes on "Job 39:5,) the swine, the dog, the cat, etc. The editor of the Pictorial Bible well remarks, "There is perhaps no kind of creature, to which man has access, which might not be tamed by him with proper perseverance. The ancients seem to have made more exertions to this end, and with much better success, than ourselves. The examples given by Pliny, of creatures tamed by men, relate to elephants, lions, and tigers, among beasts; to the eagle, among birds; to asps, and others serpents; and to crocodiles, and various fishes, among the inhabitants of the water. Nat. Hist. viii. 9, 16, 17; x. 5, 44. The lion was very commonly tamed by the ancient Egyptians, and trained to assist both in hunting and in war." Notes in loc. The only animal which it has been supposed has defied the power of man to tame it, is the hyena, and even this, it is said, has been subdued, in modern times. There is a passage in Euripides which has a strong resemblance to this of James:�"

bracu toi syenov anerov,
alla poikiliav prapidwn

dama fula pontou,
cyoniwn t aeriwn te paideumata

"Small is the power which nature has given to man ; but, by various acts of his superior understanding, he has subdued the tribes of the sea, the earth, and the air." Compare on this subject, the passages quoted by Pricaeus in the Critici Sacri, in loc.

And of birds. It is a common thing to tame birds, and even the most wild are susceptible of being tamed. A portion of the feathered race, as the hen, the goose, the duck, is thoroughly domesticated. The pigeon, the martin, the hawk, the eagle, maybe; and perhaps there are none of that race which might not be made subject to the will of man.

And of serpents. The ancients showed great skill in this art, in reference to asps and other venomous serpents, and it is common now in India. In many instances, indeed, it is known that the fangs of the serpents are extracted; but even when this is not done, they who practise the art learn to handle them with impunity.

And of things, in the sea. As the crocodile, mentioned by Pliny. It may be affirmed with confidence that there is no animal which might not, by proper skill and perseverance, be rendered tame, or made obedient to the will of man. It is not necessary, however, to understand the apostle as affirming that literally every animal has been tamed, or ever can be. He evidently speaks in a popular sense of the great power which man undeniably has over all kinds of wild animals�"over the creation beneath him.

{+} "kind" or, "nature" {++} "sea" or, "Sea monsters" {+++} "tamed" or, "subdued" {++++} "mankind" or, "nature or man"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 8

Verse 8. But the tongue can no man tame. This does not mean that it is never brought under control, but that it is impossible effectually and certainly to subdue it. It would be possible to subdue and domesticate any kind of beasts, but this could not be done with the tongue,

It is an unruly evil. An evil without restraint, to which no certain effectual check can be applied. Of the truth of this no one can have any doubt, who looks at the condition of the world.

Full of deadly poison. That is, it acts on the happiness of man, and on the peace of society, as poison does on the human frame. The allusion here seems to be to the bite of a venomous reptile. Compare Ps 140:3, "They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips." Ro 3:13, "With their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips." Nothing would better describe the mischief that may be done by the tongue. There is no sting of a serpent that does so much evil in the world; there is no poison more deadly to the frame than the poison of the tongue is to the happiness of man. Who, for example, can stand before the power of the slanderer? What mischief can be done in society that can be compared with that which he, may do?

'Tis slander;'
Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath
Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie
All corners of the world: kings, queens, and states,
Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters.

Shakspere, in Cymbeline

{+} "tame" or, "subdue" {a} "full of deadly poison" Ps 140:3; Ro 3:13

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 9

Verse 9. Therewith bless we God. We men do this; that is, all this is done by the tongue. The apostle goes not mean that the same man does this, but that all this is done by the same organ�"the tongue.

Even the Father. Who sustains to us the relation of a Father. The point in the remark of the apostle is, the absurdity of employing the tongue in such contradictory uses as to bless one who has to us the relation of a Father and to curse any being, especially those who are made in his image. The word bless here is used in the sense of praise, thank, worship.

Which are made after the similitude of God. After his image, Ge 1:26-27. As we bless God, we ought with the same organ to bless those who are like him. There is an absurdity in cursing men who are thus made, like what there would be in both blessing and cursing the Creator himself.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 10

Verse 10. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. The meaning here may be, either that out of the mouth of man two such opposite things proceed, not referring to the same individual, but to different persons; or, out of the mouth of the same individual. Both of these are true; and both are equally incongruous and wrong. No organ should be devoted to uses so unlike, and the mouth should be employed in giving utterance only to that which is just, benevolent, and good. It is true, however, that the mouth is devoted to these opposite employments; and that while one part of the race employ it purposes of praise, the other employ it in uttering maledictions. It is also true of many individuals that at one time they praise their Maker, and then, with the sane organ, calumniate, and slander, and revile their fellow-men. After an act of solemn devotion in the house of God, the professed worshipper goes forth with the feelings of malice in his heart, and the language of slander, detraction, or even blasphemy on his lips.

My brethren, these things ought not so to be. They are as incongruous as it would be for the same fountain to send forth both salt water and fresh; or for the same tree to bear different kinds of fruit.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 11

Verse 11. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place. Marg., hole. The greek word means opening, fissure, such as there is in the earth, or in rocks from which a fountain gushes.

Sweet water and bitter. Fresh water and salt, Jas 3:12. Such things do not occur in the works of nature, and they should not be found in man.

{+} "place" or, "hole"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 12

Verse 12. Can the fig-tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Such a thing is impossible in nature, and equally absurd in morals. A fig-tree bears only figs; and so the tongue ought to give utterance only to one class of sentiments and emotions. These illustrations are very striking, and show the absurdity of that which the apostle reproves. At the same time, they accomplish the main purpose which he had in view, to repress the desire of becoming public teachers without suitable qualifications. They show the power of the tongue; they show what a dangerous power it is for a man to wield who has not the proper qualifications; they show that no one should put himself in the position where he may wield this power without such a degree of tried prudence, wisdom, discretion, and piety, that there shall be a moral certainty that he will use it aright.

{a} "Can the fig-tree...bear olive berries" Mt 7:16

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 13

Verse 13. Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? This is spoken with reference to the work of public teaching; and the meaning of the apostle is, that if there were such persons among them, they should be selected for that office. The characteristics here stated as necessary qualifications, are wisdom and knowledge. Those, it would seem, on which reliance had been placed, were chiefly those which were connected with a ready elocution, or the mere faculty of speaking. The apostle had stated the dangers which would follow if reliance were placed on that alone, and he now says that something more is necessary, that the main qualifications for the office are wisdom and knowledge. No mere power of speaking, however eloquent it might be, was a sufficient qualification. The primary things to be sought in reference to that office were wisdom and knowledge, and they who were endowed with these things should be selected for public instructors.

Let him shew out of a good conversation. From a correct and consistent life and deportment. On the meaning of the word conversation, see Barnes on "Php 1:27".

The meaning here is, that there should be an upright life, and that this should be the basis in forming the judgment in appointing persons to fill stations of importance, and especially in the office of teaching in the church.

His works. His acts of uprightness and piety. He should be a man of a holy life.

With meekness of wisdom. With a wise and prudent gentleness of life; not in a noisy, arrogant, and boastful manner. True wisdom is always meek, mild, gentle; and that is the wisdom which is needful, if men would become public teachers. It is remarkable that the truly wise man is always characterized by a calm spirit, a mild and placid demeanour, and by a gentle, though firm, enunciation of his sentiments. A noisy, boisterous, and stormy declaimer we never select as a safe counsellor. He may accomplish much in his way by his bold eloquence of manner, but we do not put him in places where we need far-reaching thought, or where we expect the exercise of profound philosophical views. In an eminent degree, the ministry of the gospel should be characterized by a calm, gentle, and thoughtful wisdom�"a wisdom which shines in all the actions of the life.

{a} "who is a wise man" Ps 107:43 {b} "good conversation" Php 1:27 {+} "conversation" or, "By a good behaviour"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 14

Verse 14. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts. If that is your characteristic. There is reference here to a fierce and unholy zeal against each other; a spirit of ambition and contention.

Glory not. Do not boast, in such a case, of your qualifications to be public teachers. Nothing would render you more unfit for such an office than such a spirit.

And lie not against the truth. You would lie against what is true by setting up a claim to the requisite qualifications for such an office, if this is your spirit. Men should seek no office or station which they could not properly seek if the whole truth about them were known.

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 15

Verse 15. This wisdom descendeth not from above. See Barnes on "1 Co 3:3".

The wisdom here referred to is that carnal or worldly wisdom which produces strife and contention; that kind of knowledge which leads to self-conceit, and which prompts a man to defend his opinions with overheated zeal. In the contentions which are in the world, in church and state, in neighbourhoods and families, at the bar, in political life, and in theological disputes, even where there is the manifestation of enraged and irascible feeling, there is often much of a certain kind of wisdom. There is learning, shrewdness, tact, logical skill, subtle and skilful argumentation�""making the worse appear the better reason;" but all this is often connected with a spirit so narrow, bigoted, and contentious, as to show clearly that it has not its origin in heaven. The spirit which is originated there is always connected with gentleness, calmness, and a love of truth.

But is earthly. Has its origin in this world, and partakes of its spirit. It is such as men exhibit who are governed only by worldly maxims and principles.

Sensual. Marg., natural. The meaning is, that it has its origin in our sensual rather than in our intellectual and moral nature. It is that which takes counsel of our natural appetites and propensities, and not of high and spiritual influences.

Devilish. Demoniacal, (daimoniwdhv) Such as the demons exhibit. See Barnes on "Jas 2:19".

There may be indeed talent in it, but there is the intermingling of malignant passions, and "it leads to contentions, strifes, divisions, and "every evil work."

{a} "This wisdom descendeth not from above" 1 Co 3:3 {+} "sensual" or, "natural"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 16

Verse 16. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion. Marg.: tumult, or unquietness. Everything is unsettled and agitated. There is no mutual confidence; there is no union of plan and effort; there is no co-operation in promoting a common object; there is no stability in any plan; for a purpose, though for good, formed by one portion, is defeated by another.

And every evil work. The truth of this no one can have any doubt who has observed the effects in a family or neighbourhood where a spirit of strife prevails. Love and harmony of course are banished; all happiness disappears; all prosperity is at an end. In place of the peaceful virtues which ought to prevail, there springs up every evil passion that tends to mar the peace of a community. Where this spirit prevails in a church, it is of course impossible to expect any progress in Divine things; and in such a church any effort to do good is vain.

"The Spirit, like a peaceful dove,
Flies from the realms of noise and strife
."

{+} "confusion" or, "tumult, or unquietness"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 17

Verse 17. But the wisdom that is from above. See Barnes on "1 Co 2:6".

The wisdom which has a heavenly origin, or which is from God. The man who is characterized by that wisdom will be pure, peaceable, etc. This does not refer to the doctrines of religion, but to its spirit.

Is first pure. That is, the first effect of it on the mind is to make it pure. The influence on the man is to make him upright, sincere, candid, holy. The word here used (agnov) is that which would be applied to one who is innocent, or free from crime or blame. Compare Php 4:8; 1 Ti 5:22; 1 Jo 3:3, where the word is rendered, as here, pure; 2 Co 7:11, where it is rendered clear, [in this matter;] 2 Co 11:2; Tit 2:5; 1 Pe 3:2, where it is rendered chaste. The meaning here is, that the first and immediate effect of religion is not on the intellect, to make it more enlightened; or on the imagination, to make it more discursive and brilliant; or on the memory and judgment, to make them clearer and stronger; but it is to purify the heart, to make the man upright, inoffensive, and good. This passage should not be applied, as it often is, to the doctrines of religion, as if it were the first duty of a church to keep itself free from errors in doctrine, and that this ought to be sought even in preference to the maintenance of peace�"as if it meant that in doctrine a church should be "first pure, then peaceable;" but it should be applied to the individual consciences of men, as showing the effect of religion on the heart and life. The first thing which it produces is to make the man himself pure and good; then follows the train of blessings which the apostle enumerates as flowing from that. It is true that a church should be pure in doctrinal belief, but that is not the truth taught here. It is not true that the Scripture teaches, here or elsewhere, that purity of doctrine is to be preferred to a peaceful spirit; or that it always leads to peaceful spirit; or that it is proper for professed Christians and Christian ministers to sacrifice, as is often done, a peaceful spirit, in an attempt to preserve purity of doctrine. Most of the persecutions in the church have grown out of this maxim. This led to the establishment of the Inquisition; this kindled the fires of Smithfield; this inspirited Laud and his friends; this has been the origin of no small part of the schisms in the church. A pure spirit is the best promoter of peace, and will do more than anything else to secure the prevalence of truth.

Then peaceable. The effect of true religion �"the wisdom which is from above�"will be to dispose a man to live in peace with all others. See Barnes on "Ro 14:19; Heb 12:14.

Gentle. Mild, inoffensive, clement. The word here used (epieikhv) is rendered moderation in Php 4:6; patient in 1 Ti 3:3; and gentle in Tit 3:2; Jas 3:17; 1 Pe 2:18.

It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. Every one has a clear idea of the virtue of gentleness�"gentleness of spirit, of deportment, and of manners; and every one can see that that is the appropriate spirit of religion. See Barnes on "2 Co 10:1".

It is from this word that we have derived the word gentleman; and the effect of true religion is to make every one, in the proper and best sense of the term, a gentleman. How can a man have evidence that he is a true Christian, who is not such? The highest title which can be given to a man is that he is a Christian gentleman.

And easy to be entreated. The word here used does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means easily persuaded, compliant. Of course, this refers only to cases where it is right and proper to be easily persuaded and complying. It cannot refer to things which are in themselves wrong. The sense is, that he who is under the influence of the wisdom which is from above, is not a stiff, stern, obstinate, unyielding man. He does not take a position, and then hold it whether right or wrong; he is not a man on whom no arguments or persuasions can have any influence. He is not one who cannot be affected by any appeals which may be made to him on the grounds of patriotism, justice, or benevolence; but is one who is ready to yield when truth requires him to do it, and who is willing to sacrifice his own convenience for the good of others. See this illustrated in the ease of the apostle Paul, in 1 Co 9:20-22. See Barnes on "1 Co 9:20-22".

Full of mercy. Merciful; disposed to show compassion to others. This is one of the results of the wisdom that is from above, for it makes us like God, the "Father of mercies." See Barnes on "Mt 5:7".

And good fruits. The fruits of good living; just, benevolent, and kind actions.
See Barnes on "Php 1:11" see Barnes on "2 Co 9:10". Compare Jas 2:14-26.

Without partiality. Marg., "or wrangling." The word here used (adiakritov) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, not to be distinguished. Here it may mean either of the following things:

(a) not open to distinction or doubt; that is, unambiguous, so that there shall be no doubt about its origin or nature;

(b) making no distinction, that is, in the treatment of others, or impartial towards them; or

(c) without strife, from diakrinw, to contend. The second meaning here suggested seems best to accord with the sense of the passage; and according to this the idea is, that the wisdom which is from above, or true religion, makes us impartial in our treatment of others: that is, we are not influenced by a regard to dress, rank, or station, but we are disposed to do equal justice to all, according to their moral worth, and to show kindness to all, according to their wants. See Jas 2:1-4.

And without hypocrisy. What it professes to be; sincere. There is no disguise or mask assumed. What the man pretends to be, he is. This is everywhere the nature of true religion. It has nothing of its own of which to be ashamed, and which needs to be concealed; its office is not to hide or conceal anything that is wrong. It neither is a mask, nor does it need a mask. If such is the nature of the "wisdom which is from above," who is there that should be ashamed of it? Who is there that should not desire that its blessed influence should spread around the world?

{a} "the wisdom that is from above" 1 Co 2:6-7 {b} "pure" Php 4:8 {c} "peaceable" Heb 12:14 {d} "gentle" Ga 5:22 {+} "partiality" or, "wrangling"

THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 3 - Verse 18

Verse 18. And the fruit of righteousness. That which the righteousness here referred to produces, or that which is the effect of true religion. The meaning is, that righteousness or true religion produces certain results on the life, like the effects of seed sown in good ground. Righteousness or true religion as certainly produces such effects, as seed that is sown produces a harvest.

Is sown in peace. Is scattered over the world in a peaceful manner. That is, it is not done amidst contentions, and brawls, and strifes. The farmer sows his seed in peace. The fields are not sown amidst the tumults of a mob, or the excitements of a battle or a camp. Nothing is more calm, peaceful, quiet, and composed, than the farmer, as he walks with measured tread over his fields, scattering his seed. So it is in sowing the "seed of the kingdom," in preparing for the great harvest of righteousness in the world. It is done by men of peace; it is done in peaceful scenes, and with a peaceful spirit; it is not in the tumult of war, or amidst the hoarse brawling of a mob. In a pure and holy life; in the peaceful scenes of the sanctuary and the Sabbath; by noiseless and unobtrusive labourers, the seed is scattered over the world, and the result is seen in an abundant harvest in producing peace and order.

Of them that make peace. By those who desire to produce peace, or who are of a peaceful temper and disposition. They are engaged everywhere in scattering these blessed seeds of peace, contentment, and order; and the result shall be a glorious harvest for themselves and for mankind�"a harvest rich and abundant on earth and in heaven. The whole effect, therefore, of religion, is to produce peace. It is all peace�"peace in its origin and in its results; in the heart of the individual, and in society; on earth, and in heaven. The idea with which the apostle commenced this chapter seems to have been that such persons only should be admitted to the office of public teachers. From that, the mind naturally turned to the effect of religion in general; and he states that in the ministry and out of it; in the heart of the individual and on society at large; here and hereafter, the effect of religion is to produce peace. Its nature is peaceful as it exists in the heart, and as it is developed in the world; and wherever and however it is manifested, it is like seed sown, not amid the storms of war and the contentions of battle, but in the fields of quiet husbandry, producing in rich abundance a harvest of peace. In its origin, and in all its results, it is productive only of contentment, sincerity, goodness, and peace. Happy he who has this religion in his heart; happy he who with liberal hand scatters its blessings broadcast over the world!

{a} "the fruit of righteousness" Heb 12:11

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