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1: A servant of Jesus Christ - Whose name the apostle mentions
but once more in the whole epistle, (Jam 2:1). And not at all
in his whole discourse, (Ac 15:14), &c.; or (Ac 21:20-25).
It might have seemed, if he mentioned him often, that he did it
out of vanity, as being the brother of the Lord. To the twelve
tribes - Of Israel; that is, those of them that believe.
Which are scattered abroad - In various countries. Ten of the
tribes were scattered ever since the reign of Hosea; and great
part of the rest were now dispersed through the Roman empire:
as was foretold, (De 28:25-68,30:4).
Greeting - That is, all blessings, temporal and eternal.
2: My brethren, count it all joy - Which is the highest
degree of patience, and contains all the rest. When ye fall
into divers temptations - That is, trials.
4: Let patience have its perfect work - Give it full scope,
under whatever trials befal you. That ye may be perfect and
entire - Adorned with every Christian grace. And wanting
nothing - Which God requires in you.
5: If any want - The connexion between the first and
following verses, both here and in the fourth chapter, will be
easily discerned by him who reads them, while he is suffering
wrongfully. He will then readily perceive, why the apostle
mentions all those various affections of the mind. Wisdom - To
understand, whence and why temptations come, and how they are
to be improved. Patience is in every pious man already. Let
him exercise this, and ask for wisdom. The sum of wisdom, both
in the temptation of poverty and of riches, is described in the
ninth and tenth verses. Who giveth to all - That ask aright.
And upbraideth not - Either with their past wickedness, or
6: But let him ask in faith - A firm confidence in God.
St. James also both begins and ends with faith, (Jam 5:15);
the hinderances of which he removes in the middle part of his
epistle. He that doubteth is like a wave of the sea - Yea,
such are all who have not asked and obtained wisdom. Driven
with the wind - From without. And tossed - From within, by his
8: A doubleminded man - Who has, as it were, two souls;
whose heart is not simply given up to God. Is unstable - Being
without the true wisdom; perpetually disagrees both with
himself and others, (Jam 3:16).
9: Let the brother - St James does not give this
appellation to the rich. Of low degree - Poor and tempted.
Rejoice - The most effectual remedy against doublemindedness. In
that he is exalted - To be a child of God, and an heir of glory.
10: But the rich, in that he is made low - Is humbled by a
deep sense of his true condition. Because as the flower
- Beautiful, but transient. He shall pass away - Into eternity.
11: For the sun arose and withered the grass - There is an
unspeakable beauty and elegance, both in the comparison itself,
and in the very manner of expressing it, intimating both the
certainty and the suddenness of the event. So shall the rich
fade away in his ways - In the midst of his various pleasures and
12: Happy is the man that endureth temptation - Trials of
various kinds. He shall receive the crown - That fadeth not away.
Which the Lord hath promised to them that love him - And his
enduring proves his love. For it is love only that "endureth
13: But let no man who is tempted - To sin. Say, I am
tempted of God - God thus tempteth no man.
14: Every man is tempted, when - In the beginning of the
temptation. He is drawn away - Drawn out of God, his strong
refuge. By his own desire - We are therefore to look for the
cause of every sin, in, not out of ourselves. Even the
injections of the devil cannot hurt before we make them our own.
And every one has desires arising from his own constitution,
tempers, habits, and way of life. And enticed - In the progress
of the temptation, catching at the bait: so the original word
15: Then desire having conceived - By our own will joining
therewith. Bringeth forth actual sin - It doth not follow that
the desire itself is not sin. He that begets a man is himself
a man. And sin being perfected - Grown up to maturity, which it
quickly does. Bringeth forth death - Sin is born big with death.
16: Do not err - It is a grievous error to ascribe the evil
and not the good which we receive to God.
17: No evil, but every good gift - Whatever tends to
holiness. And every perfect gift - Whatever tends to glory.
Descendeth from the Father of lights - The appellation of Father
is here used with peculiar propriety. It follows, "he begat
us." He is the Father of all light, material or spiritual,
in the kingdom of grace and of glory. With whom is no
variableness - No change in his understanding. Or shadow of
turning - in his will. He infallibly discerns all good and evil;
and invariably loves one, and hates the other. There is, in
both the Greek words, a metaphor taken from the stars,
particularly proper where the Father of lights is mentioned.
Both are applicable to any celestial body, which has a daily
vicissitude of day and night, and sometimes longer days,
sometimes longer nights. In God is nothing of this kind.
He is mere light. If there Is any such vicissitude, it is
in ourselves, not in him.
18: Of his own will - Most loving, most free, most pure,
just opposite to our evil desire, (Jas 1:15).
Begat he us - Who believe. By the word of truth - The true word,
emphatically so termed; the gospel. That we might be a kind of
first - fruits of his creatures - Christians are the chief and most
excellent of his visible creatures; and sanctify the rest. Yet
he says, A kind of - For Christ alone is absolutely the first -
19: Let every man be swift to hear - This is treated
of from (Jas 1:21) to the end of the next chapter.
Slow to speak - Which is treated of in he third chapter.
Slow to wrath - Neither murmuring at God, nor angry at his
neighbour. This is treated of in the third, and throughout
the fourth and fifth chapters.
20: The righteousness of God here includes all duties
prescribed by him, and pleasing to him.
21: Therefore laying aside - As a dirty garment. All the
filthiness and superfluity of wickedness - For however specious
or necessary it may appear to worldly wisdom, all wickedness
is both vile, hateful, contemptible, and really superfluous.
Every reasonable end may be effectually answered without any
kind or degree of it. Lay this, every known sin, aside, or all
your hearing is vain. With meekness - Constant evenness and
serenity of mind. Receive - Into your ears, your heart, your
life. The word - Of the gospel. Ingrafted - In believers, by
regeneration, (Jas 1:18) and by habit, (Heb 5:14).
Which is able to save your souls - The hope of salvation
23: Beholding his face in a glass - How exactly does the
scripture glass show a man the face of his soul!
24: He beheld himself, and went away - To other business.
And forgot - But such forgetting does not excuse.
25: But he that looketh diligently - Not with a transient
glance, but bending down, fixing his eyes, and searching all
to the bottom. Into the perfect law - Of love as established by
faith. St. James here guards us against misunderstanding what
St. Paul says concerning the "yoke and bondage of the law."
He who keeps the law of love is free, (Joh 8:31), &c.
He that does not, is not free, but a slave to sin, and a
criminal before God, (Jam 2:10).
And continueth therein - Not like him who forgot it, and went
away. This man - There is a peculiar force in the repetition
of the word. Shall be happy - Not barely in hearing, but doing
the will of God.
26: If any one be ever so religious - Exact in the outward
offices of religion. And bridleth not his tongue - From
backbiting, talebearing, evilspeaking, he only deceiveth
his own heart, if he fancies he has any true religion at all.
27: The only true religion in the sight of God, is this,
to visit - With counsel, comfort, and relief. The fatherless
and widows - Those who need it most. In their affliction - In
their most helpless and hopeless state. And to keep himself
unspotted from the world - From the maxims, tempers, and customs
of it. But this cannot be done, till we have given our hearts
to God, and love our neighbour as ourselves.