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1: Come now, ye rich - The apostle does not speak this so
much for the sake of the rich themselves, as of the poor
children of God, who were then groaning under their cruel
oppression. Weep and howl for your miseries which are coming
upon you - Quickly and unexpectedly. This was written not long
before the siege of Jerusalem; during which, as well as after
it, huge calamities came on the Jewish nation, not only in
Judea, but through distant countries. And as these were an
awful prelude of that wrath which was to fall upon them in
the world to come, so this may likewise refer to the final
vengeance which will then be executed on the impenitent.
2: The riches of the ancients consisted much in large
stores of corn, and of costly apparel.
3: The canker of them - Your perishing stores and motheaten
garments. Will be a testimony against you - Of your having buried
those talents in the earth, instead of improving them according
to your Lord's will. And will eat your flesh as fire - Will
occasion you as great torment as if fire were consuming your
flesh. Ye have laid up treasure in the last days - When it is
too late; when you have no time to enjoy them.
4: The hire of your labourers crieth - Those sins chiefly
cry to God concerning which human laws are silent. Such are
luxury, unchastity, and various kinds of injustice. The
labourers themselves also cry to God, who is just coming to
avenge their cause. Of sabaoth - Of hosts, or armies.
5: Ye have cherished your hearts - Have indulged yourselves
to the uttermost. As in a day of sacrifice - Which were solemn
feast - days among the Jews.
6: Ye have killed the just - Many just men; in particular,
"that Just One," (Ac 3:14). They afterwards killed James,
surnamed the Just, the writer of this epistle. He doth not
resist you - And therefore you are secure. But the Lord cometh
quickly, (Jas 5:8).
7: The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit - Which
will recompense his labour and patience. Till he receives the
former rain - Immediately after sowing. And the latter - Before
8: Stablish your hearts - In faith and patience.
For the coming of the Lord - To destroy Jerusalem.
Is nigh - And so is his last coming to the eye of a believer.
9: Murmur not one against another - Have patience also
with each other. The judge standeth before the door - Hearing
every word, marking every thought.
10: Take the prophets for an example - Once persecuted
like you, even for speaking in the name of the Lord. The
very men that gloried in having prophets yet could not bear
their message: nor did either their holiness or their high
commission screen them from suffering.
11: We count them happy that endured - That suffered
patiently. The more they once suffered, the greater is
their present happiness. Ye have seen the end of the Lord
- The end which the Lord gave him.
12: Swear not - However provoked. The Jews were notoriously
guilty of common swearing, though not so much by God himself as
by some of his creatures. The apostle here particularly forbids
these oaths, as well as all swearing in common conversation.
It is very observable, how solemnly the apostle introduces this
command: above all things, swear not - As if he had said, Whatever
you forget, do not forget this. This abundantly demonstrates
the horrible iniquity of the crime. But he does not forbid the
taking a solemn oath before a magistrate. Let your yea be
yea; and your nay, nay - Use no higher asseverations in common
discourse; and let your word stand firm. Whatever ye say, take
care to make it good.
14: Having anointed him with oil - This single conspicuous
gift, which Christ committed to his apostles, (Mk 6:13),
remained in the church long after the other miraculous gifts
were withdrawn. Indeed, it seems to have been designed to
remain always; and St. James directs the elders, who were the
most, if not the only, gifted men, to administer at. This was
the whole process of physic in the Christian church, till it was
lost through unbelief. That novel invention among the Romanists,
extreme unction, practised not for cure, but where life is
despaired of, bears no manner of resemblance to this.
15: And the prayer offered in faith shall save the
sick - From his sickness; and if any sin be the occasion
of his sickness, it shall be forgiven him.
16: Confess your faults - Whether ye are sick or in health.
To one another - He does not say, to the elders: this may, or may
not, be done; for it is nowhere commanded. We may confess them
to any who can pray in faith: he will then know how to pray for
us, and be more stirred up so to do. And pray one for another,
that ye may be healed - Of all your spiritual diseases.
17: Elijah was a man of like passions - Naturally as weak and
sinful as we are. And he prayed - When idolatry covered the land.
18: He prayed again - When idolatry was abolished.
19: As if he had said, I have now warned you of those
sins to which you are most liable; and, in all these respects,
watch not only over yourselves, but every one over his brother
also. Labour, in particular, to recover those that are fallen.
If any one err from the truth - Practically, by sin.
20: He shall save a soul - Of how much more value than
the body! (Jas 5:14).
And hide a multitude of sins - Which shall no more, how many
soever they are, be remembered to his condemnation.