View James 2 in the note window.
1: My brethren - The equality of Christians, intimated by
this name, is the ground of the admonition. Hold not the faith
of our common Lord, the Lord of glory - Of which glory all who
believe in him partake. With respect of persons - That is, honour
none merely for being rich; despise none merely for being poor.
2: With gold rings - Which were not then so common as now.
3: Ye look upon him - With respect.
4: Ye distinguish not - To which the most respect is due,
to the poor or to the rich. But are become evil - reasoning
judges - You reason ill, and so judge wrong: for fine apparel
is no proof of worth in him that wears it.
5: Hearken - As if he had said, Stay, consider, ye that
judge thus. Does not the presumption lie rather in favour of
the poor man? Hath not God chosen the poor - That is, are not
they whom God hath chosen, generally speaking, poor in this
world? who yet are rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom
- Consequently, the most honourable of men: and those whom God
so highly honours, ought not ye to honour likewise?
6: Do not the rich often oppress you - By open violence;
often drag you - Under colour of law.
7: Do not they blaspheme that worthy name - Of God and of
Christ. The apostle speaks chiefly of rich heathens: but are
Christians, so called, a whit behind them?
8: If ye fulfil the royal law - The supreme law of the
great King which is love; and that to every man, poor as well
as rich, ye do well.(Le 19:18).
9: Being convicted - By that very law.(Ex 23:3).
10: Whosoever keepeth the whole law, except in one point, he is
guilty of all - Is as liable to condemnation as if he had offended in every
11: For it is the same authority which establishes
12: So speak and act - In all things. As they that shall be
judged - Without respect of persons. By the law of liberty - The
gospel; the law of universal love, which alone is perfect freedom.
For their transgressions of this, both in word and deed, the
wicked shall be condemned; and according to their works, done in
obedience to this, the righteous will be rewarded.
13: Judgment without mercy shall be to him - In that day.
Who hath showed no mercy - To his poor brethren. But the mercy
of God to believers, answering to that which they have shown,
will then glory over judgment.
14: From (Jam 1:22), the apostle has been enforcing
Christian practice. He now applies to those who neglect this,
under the pretence of faith. St. Paul had taught that "a man
is justified by faith without the works of the law." This some
began already to wrest to their own destruction. Wherefore St.
James, purposely repeating ((Jas 2:21,23,25)) the same phrases,
testimonies, and examples, which St. Paul had used, (Ro 4:3),(Heb 11:17,31), refutes not the doctrine of St. Paul, but the
error of those who abused it. There is, therefore, no
contradiction between the apostles: they both delivered the
truth of God, but in a different manner, as having to do with
different kinds of men. On another occasion St. James himself
pleaded the cause of faith, (Ac 15:13-21); and St. Paul
himself strenuously pleads for works, particularly in his latter
epistles. This verse is a summary of what follows.
What profiteth it? is enlarged on,
though a man say,
can that faith save him?
It is not, though he have faith; but, though he say he have
faith. Here, therefore, true, living faith is meant: but
in other parts of the argument the apostle speaks of a dead,
imaginary faith. He does not, therefore, teach that true faith
can, but that it cannot, subsist without works: nor does he
oppose faith to works; but that empty name of faith, to real
faith working by love. Can that faith "which is without works"
save him? No more than it can profit his neighbour.
17: So likewise that faith which hath not works is a mere
dead, empty notion; of no more profit to him that hath it, than
the bidding the naked be clothed is to him.
18: But one - Who judges better. Will say - To such a vain
talker. Show me, if thou canst, thy faith without thy works.
19: Thou believest there is one God - I allow this: but
this proves only that thou hast the same faith with the devils.
Nay, they not only believe, but tremble - At the dreadful
expectation of eternal torments. So far is that faith from
either justifying or saving them that have it.
20: But art than willing to know - Indeed thou art not:
thou wouldest fain be ignorant of it. O empty man - Empty of
all goodness. That the faith which is without works is dead
- And so is not properly faith, as a dead carcase is not a man.
21: Was not Abraham justified by works - St. Paul says he
was justified by faith, (Ro 4:2), &c.: yet St. James does not
contradict him; for he does not speak of the same justification.
St. Paul speaks of that which Abraham received many years before
Isaac was born, (Ge 15:6). St. James, of that which he did not
receive till he had offered up Isaac on the altar. He was
justified, therefore, in St. Paul's sense, (that is, accounted
righteous,) by faith, antecedent to his works. He was justified
in St. James's sense, (that is, made righteous,) by works,
consequent to his faith. So that St. James's justification by
works is the fruit of St Paul's justification by faith.
22: Thou seest that faith - For by faith Abraham
offered him, (Heb 11:17).
Wrought together with his works - Therefore faith has one
energy and operation; works, another: and the energy and
operation of faith are before works, and together with them.
Works do not give life to faith, but faith begets works, and
then is perfected by them. And by works was faith made perfect
- Here St. James fixes the sense wherein he uses the word
justified; so that no shadow of contradiction remains between
his assertion and St. Paul's. Abraham returned from that
sacrifice perfected in faith, and far higher in the favour of
God. Faith hath not its being from works, (for it is before
them,) but its perfection. That vigour of faith which begets
works is then excited and increased thereby, as the natural
heat of the body begets motion, whereby itself is then excited
and increased. See (1Jo 3:22).
23: And the scripture - Which was afterwards written.
Was hereby eminently fulfilled, Abraham believed God, and it
was imputed to him for righteousness - This was twice fulfilled,
- when Abraham first believed, and when he offered up Isaac.
St. Paul speaks of the former fulfilling; St. James, of the
latter. And he was called the Friend of God - Both by his
posterity, (2Ch 20:7); and by God himself, (Isa 41:8) so
pleasing to God were the works be wrought in faith. (Ge 15:6)
24: Ye see then that a man is justified by works, and not
by faith only - St. Paul, on the other band, declares, "A man is
justified by faith," and not by works, (Ro 3:28). And yet
there is no contradiction between the apostles: because,
- They do not speak of the same faith: St. Paul speaking of
living faith; St. James here, of dead faith.
- They do not speak of the same works: St. Paul speaking of works
antecedent to faith; St. James, of works subsequent to it.
25: After Abraham, the father of the Jews, the apostle
cites Rahab, a woman, and a sinner of the gentiles; to show,
that in every nation and sex true faith produces works, and is
perfected by them; that is, by the grace of God working in the
believer, while he is showing his faith by his works.