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The Epistle opens with a general, Salutation. Various Directions are given to the Church. God's Grace and Love to the Church are very blessedly set forth.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
I detain the Reader, at the entrance, on this blessed portion of the word of God, to observe to him, how different; from others, the Apostle enters on, this service, to which the Lord the Holy Ghost called him. He salutes the Church with greeting, but not as the other Apostles, in the sweet words of grace, mercy, and peace. And it is further remarkable, that James neither begins nor ends his Epistle in the usual terms of benediction. But it should be noticed at the same time, that greeting is a comprehensive word, to the same amount; and fully expressive, in whose holy and blessed Name, all the greetings of the Lord's people are made. And I beg the Reader not to overlook, that it is to the Church, and not to the world, the Epistle is sent. The twelve tribes can mean no other, than the Church, though scattered. Christ's people, are in all nations, Jeremiah 32:37-41 . And hence, Christ is the desire of all nations; that is, the desire of his people in all nations, Haggai 2:7 . And I beg the Reader to observe with me, from this diversity of writing in James, from that of the other Apostles, what a beautiful variety, is given thereby, in setting forth the word of God. All the inspired Penmen, set forth one and the same truth; and all their labors are directed to one and the same object, in the divine glory; and all are under the guidance, and teaching, of one and the same Lord the Holy Ghost; but while different gifts and talents, mark the different servants of our God; all these are gifted by one and the self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will, 1 Corinthians 12:11 . If the Reader will indulge me, to offer a short observation more, upon this verse, it shall be to remark, that the salutation of James to the Church, scattered abroad with greeting; teacheth the Lord's people, how best to follow up Christ's precept, to the same amount, either in person, or when writing by letter. Ignorant at times, as we are, who are, or who are not of the household of faith, we salute in general terms with mercy, grace, and peace, the faithful, as Paul did, Aquila and Priscilla, with the Church that is in their house, 1 Corinthians 16:19 . And saith our dear Lord; if the son of peace be there, that is a child of God in Christ, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall turn to you again. Your salutation is in Christ; and this sanctifies it to you, though not to them, Luke 10:5-6 .
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (3) Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Observe, that it is the brethren to whom the Apostle speaks, That is, brethren in Christ, partakers of the heavenly calling. Carnal men can never rejoice in temptations, or trials; for the sorrow of the world, worketh death. But there is great cause for joy, when the faithful child of God, is called to the fellowship of God's dear Son. The Apostle Paul declares, that this is a testimony of God's faithfulness, 1 Corinthians 1:9 . See Romans 5:1-5 and Commentary; Romans 8:29-30 . So that when a child of God falls into temptations, observe, the Apostle doth not say, falls by the temptations, but falls into divers temptations, there is cause of joy. For it becomes an honor, to be conformed to Christ's image. It is a mark of sonship, And it is intended, for the believer's good, and the Lord's glory, Paul, called a messenger of Satan, a gift. There was given to me, (saith he,) a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me. And by the sequel it proved so. Paul's triumph over Satan in Christ; and the Lord's glory were the more manifested in Paul's creature-weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 . And the same must be the issue, in all the exercises of the faithful. For there is nothing doubtful in this war. God's promises in Covenant with Christ, the intercession of Jesus, as in the instance of Peter; and the ultimate ruin of Satan, are all in the appointment. Hence, these are sufficient motives for joy; since however painful to flesh and blood, grace is sure to triumph. See verse 12 (James 1:12 ) and Commentary.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. (8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (9) Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: (10) But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (11) For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
I humbly conceive, that the wisdom here spoken of means Christ, and his graces. For Christ is the wisdom of God, as well as the power of God, for salvation to everyone that believeth, 1 Corinthians 1:24 . And Christ is made of God to all his people, wisdom as well as righteousness; and sanctification as well as redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30 . And as this verse follows immediately after what the Apostle had said, of taking joy in the exercises of temptation, the direction here of asking God for Christ and his strength seems to be with an express eye, to those seasons of temptation, And in this sense, this precept, blended, as it is, with so sweet and sure a promise, is uncommonly beautiful and striking. Let him ask Christ, for Christ is God's gift, and God is both engaged by his Covenant promises, and Christ by his oneness and interest with his people, to be the strength of his people, and their portion forever. Reader! pause a moment over this view, for it is blessed; yea, very blessed. God's faithfulness, in his Covenant promises, is engaged to all this. We are commanded, to count it all joy, when we fall into divers temptations. A plain, and positive assurance therefore, that the end of all trials must be blessed. Well, then, it follows, that if a child of God is to rejoice in the trial, it must be from the love of God that he is brought into it. God manifests his love, in bringing his dear ones to the trial. God manifests his love, in carrying them through it, Christ, the wisdom of God, is sure to be with them, in every part of it. And God's glory and his child's happiness must be the final result to bring out of it. So that God is glorified; Christ is honored; Satan subdued; and the child of God brought into a conformity to Christ's image; and made more than conqueror through Him, whose strength is perfected, in his people's weakness. Reader! behold, where wisdom and strength is, and conscious of a daily need of Christ, as we need our daily bread; let us seek grace to seek Christ, and we shall then be able, with the Apostle, upon every occasion of trial, to sing the same song; Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ! 2 Corinthians 2:14 .
But let him ask in faith. Yes! it is a blessed thing, when from the grace of faith from the Lord, we are enabled to go boldly to the Lord. And surely, every regenerated child, of God may find confidence in that grace, to seek grace. Could we always keep in remembrance past mercies, they would never fail to beget the desire for new ones. Even among men, old friends, and long proved friends, furnish confidence. And shall a child of God go to Jesus in bondage-frames, doubting, fearing, and questioning, whether he shall succeed? A double minded man! what a foolish character, to say no worse of it. Not so, the Patriarchs, and holy men of old, They staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but were strong in faith, giving glory to God. And there have been champions of faith in later times, in this our own nation. One of them used to say, that "God's A men, and Christ's verily, with God the Spirit's seal; were more sure, than all the oaths of all the great men of the earth. Reader! do not forget; however, faith is God's gift, not man's merit, Philippians 1:29 .
I do not think it necessary to dwell on these verses, concerning the brother, either of high, or low degree. The doctrine is too plain to need a comment. Whether considered in a temporal, or spiritual sense, the Lord's appointments to the Lord's people, both in providence, and grace, are all blessed, when the renewed heart is enabled to discern things spiritually. The humble circumstances of the poor, gracious man, in the common wants of nature, are all sweetened, when the Lord's hand is seen in the appointment. The Lord cannot err, cannot be mistaken, in his ordinations. And there are numberless promises in the word of God, which would have no scope for exercise, if the Lord's people were not. Sometimes shut up, and straitened, in poverty of pocket, as well as mind. See a few: Job 5:19 ; Psalms 107:19 ; Isaiah 33:16 ; Romans 8:28 . And, in relation to spiritual concerns; if there were no dark and cloudy days, but a perpetual sunshine, all those rich clusters of promises, in which thee Lord engageth to be with his people in darkness, would be done away; neither would the child of God be able to gather them, if seasons peculiarly suited to time of gathering never came. Yea, a child of God hath found, to his great joy, when the afflicting dispensation hath passed, the blessedness even of the Lord's withdrawing, in the after returns of increased manifestations, that, as the Lord hath said himself: For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. Let the Reader turn to the sweet portion, and read it himself, Isaiah 54:4 to the end.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (13) Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
The case of a single person is here stated, but all are included, of such as endure temptation; that is, so endure all the fiery darts of Satan and his emissaries, that, like a Target shot at, he doth not give way; but his bow remaineth in full strength, and the arms of his hands are made strong, by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob, Genesis 49:24 . And we shall see the blessedness of this enduring, and rising above all Satan's devices, through Christ, if we: consider a few particulars of this holy war, and the interest all the faithful in Christ have in it. The Apostle, a few verses before; called upon the brethren, to count it all joy, when they fail into divers temptations. And here he declares the blessedness of enduring temptation, and the sure crown of victory, in spiritual, and eternal life in Christ. Reader! let you and I attend to the subject a little. There can be no crown of victory without a battle. And the very enduring of temptation, which is this battle, is declared to be blessed.
And first, It is so, because Satan makes this furious attack upon the child of God, because he is the child of God. His bitterness is against Christ and his seed, Christ and his Church. Hence, blessed is the man that endureth temptation on this account. The Lord said at first to the serpent, I will put enmity between thee and the woman: and between thy seed, and her seed, Genesis 3:15 . And here it is seen to our joy; in the Devil's malice to Christ's seed, and on Christ's account.
Secondly. The issue of these temptations, is never doubtful, as to the final termination of the contest; For though Satan may, and sometimes doth indeed, get a point upon the Child of God, yea, to the extent of deep wounds, as in the instances of David, and of Peter, and multitudes of God's dear children beside; yet it is the end, which crowns the action. Soldiers in battle, may be hardly put to it at times, and sometimes taken prisoners, and sometimes receive dreadful wounds; yet, if victory at length is obtained by them, they lose sight of former skirmishes, prisons, or wounds, in the joy of a complete conquest at last. Such is the sure termination of all conflicts to the faithful. During the hour of temptation by the powers of darkness, it is deeply distressing: as our Lord found it, so do we, Luke 22:53 . Some of the Lord's best soldiers may be thrown into prison, some in tribulation ten days; Revelation 2:10 . but the time is limited, and neither his prison, or his devilish malice, Shall go further. The God of peace will bruise Satan under our feet shortly, Romans 16:20 . Hence, the sweet scripture still holds good: Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.
Thirdly. The consciousness that victory is sure, and that every temptation, when sanctified of the Lord, leads to good, and not to evil, makes this enduring of it, be it what it may, blessed. The foe of God and man is dreadfully angry, and ashamed to be baffled, and put to flight, by poor human nature, and especially in its present humbled state, to which, by his cursed wiles in the fall, it is brought. To be conquered by Christ, to be subdued by legions of angels, as we read Michael and his angels did vanquish Satan; this is nothing so humiliating as when the Worm Jacob is made to thresh the mountains; and a sinner saved by grace, is enabled through grace, to resist the devil, and to bruise his head, who in the members of Christ, may be said to bruise his heel. That temptation ministers to make a child of God blessed, when such ends are induced by it.
Fourthly. One of the sweet offices of Christ, the believer finds the blessedness of in seasons of temptation, while enabled by grace, to look up to Jesus, under them. Like the Prophet's servant in the mount, when the Lord opens the eyes to see, we discover more to be with us, than all that are against us. 2 Kings 6:16 . To behold Jesus, our Almighty High Priest, looking on, watching the enemy, keeping the feet of his Saints, and causing the wicked to be silent in darkness before him, watering his tried ones every moment, to quench the fiery darts of the enemy; and, while Satan accuseth, Christ becomes our Advocate, and Propitiation: Oh! it is blessed to endure, such temptations, when by such temptations, we see Christ more immediately coming forth for us; and while Satan storms, Jesus sooths, while the Tempter fawns, the Lord rebukes him, surely all temptations cannot but be blessed which are productive of such gracious effects; and seeing Jesus for us, with us, and putting the foe to flight, we disregard the whole, conscious that the Lord's strength is made perfect in our weakness; and even in the hottest part of the battle, we cry out with the Prophet: rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me, Micah 7:8 .
Lastly. To mention no more. The blessedness which ariseth out of the enduring temptation, and even in those instances, where for a time, the enemy gains advantage; yet, if thereby, the child of God learns more to discover his own nothingness, and the Lord's all sufficiency; the trial is very blessed, and very profitable. So that every recovery induceth less confidence in self, and more in Christ. And very sure I am, that when the Lord raiseth up his fallen ones, as in the case of David and Peter, and every renewed wound, induceth more wariness and caution, and makes Christ more precious and endeared; so nothing tends to confound the Devil more than when the Lord pulls the lamb out of this Lion's mouth; makes him drop his prey, and skulk away as an enemy defeated. Reader! do you know anything of such transactions? If so, you will know also, how to join in the Apostle's words, of the blessedness of that man, that endureth temptations.
But while the Apostle pronounceth a blessedness to the man that endureth temptation; (and very blessed, beyond a doubt, all such must be, where the child of God endureth, that is, sustaineth the attack of Satan, through grace, and ultimately is the better for it;) the temptations to evil, and which terminate in shame and disgrace, have a very different beginning and end; and, of consequence, are without blessedness, Let no man among the carnal, dare to charge this upon God. God is not the Author of such; neither can be. But the whole begins in the corrupt affections of a man's own fallen sinful nature. And the Apostle represents the progress of those affections by a climax, which riseth one upon the other, from the first seed of sin, until ripened into death. This is nature unrenewed. The other is grace contending with it. The Apostle bids the Church to notice this, and not err. And where these different causes and effects are considered, under divine teaching, no error in the apprehension will follow. See Chapter 4:7 (James 4:7 ), and Commentary.
Do not err, my beloved brethren. (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (18) Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (19) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
That Christ is the good and perfect gift here spoken of that cometh from above, and from the Father of lights, is evident; because He is himself, all that is good and perfect, and Comprehends in his Person as God-Man, every other. Having Christ, we have with him, his gifts and graces. Nevertheless, it is not the gifts and graces, but Christ, which is the one good and perfect gift; yea, everyone included in Him, which cometh from above. And how sweet and precious is the thought, that He is in himself, without variableness or shadow of turning. Both the Giver, and the Gift, and He who gives the people grace, richly to enjoy all. Reader! pause at this place. I ask the question, but do not decide. Is not Christ, as Christ the Father's gift? John 3:16 . And hath he not given this gift to the Church, to have, and to hold forever? Isaiah 54:10 . Is not Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever? Hebrews 13:8 . And who is it, that by His own will, begat the Church to be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures, but God the Holy Ghost, when by regeneration the Lord first brings the child of God, by the new birth, to the knowledge of his high privilege of this good and perfect gift, Christ? 2 Peter 1:3-4 ; Ephesians 1:9 . What can more blessedly manifest, the love and grace, of the Holy Three in One, towards the highly favoured objects of the chosen in Christ, than such demonstrations, of the personal and distinct acts towards them? If it be the Spirit's own will, in begetting the Church from the Adam-nature of the fall; is not the Lord the Spirit, the first predisposing cause, in bringing from death to life, the chosen, and the redeemed of the Lord, to the knowledge and enjoyment of their privileges? Surely He is the efficient cause, and his will his good pleasure. And the very object intended from it, namely, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures; the sweet and blessed design, of the new birth in regeneration.
I see no reason to dwell in the use of arguments, to enforce the blessed consequences, which the Apostle hath so persuasively added; as the immediate result of having been so begotten. Where the Spirit dwells, and the work of regeneration is wrought; divine teaching, and divine influences, will be sure to accompany that teaching. Swiftness to hear the Lord's words; slowness to speak our own; receiving with meekness the engrafted word, with all the gracious accompaniments, will follow. It may be said of the Lord's redeemed ones now, as it was taught the Baptist of old, the way by which he should know Christ; in humble comparison to the same standard, upon whom the Spirit descends and remains; the same is he that is born of God, John 1:33 . God's work is a sure work. And God, in the new birth, forms the new creature, after the image of him that created him, Colossians 3:10 .
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (25) But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (26) If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. (27) Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Nothing can be more evident, from the whole scope of James's Epistle, taken in one mass of particulars, than that he is admonishing the real Church of God, made up of true, regenerated believers, against the nominal Church of Professors, in whose hearts, no saving change had been wrought. There were in this Apostle's days, as there have been in all ages of the Church, as well as in our days, vain talkers, whose religion consisted only in name. Such we read of, Hebrews 6:4-6 ; Tit 1-3. And James, through the whole of this Epistle, is continually speaking of these nominal Christians, by way of instructing the Lord's people. I beg the Reader, to pause over the Apostle's expression, of the perfect law of liberty. What can be meant by it, but the Person and work of Christ? The engrafted word, and the uncreated word, are those mirrors here referred to, into which by looking, we behold the Lord's perfections for his people. Paul hath a similar figure, But we all (saith the Apostle) with open face, beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 3:18 . Here, as in James, the Church of true children regenerated, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus, are considered, as looking wholly to Jesus. And thus looking under the Spirit's influence, (for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty,) to Jesus, they imbibe his graces, are made to imitate his example, and delight in all that belongs to Jesus, and the holy principles of his Gospel. This is the life of God's children, a doer of the word, and not a hearer only. Whereas the nominal professor, knoweth these things only by name. And although he may observe the greatest punctuality, in attending ordinances; yet; where the heart is not regenerated, head-knowledge is but vain. The love of Christ is only known, and felt, and enjoyed in the renewed man. Where this is wanting, all is wanting. Where God the Spirit hath wrought the saving change, all acts of grace, more or less, wilt follow; and not only the purity of those principles, begotten by regeneration, will shew themselves in the life and conversation, in visiting the fatherless and widows, in their affliction, but through the Spirit, the child of God will be enabled to mortify the deeds of the body; and be kept from mingling with the heathen, and learning their works, Psalms 106:35 ; Romans 8:13 .
Reader! observe the Apostle's salutation, addressed to the brethren, and see whether you have a personal interest in it. Can you count it all joy, when you fall into divers temptations? Yet! If so be, by regeneration you know the Lord, and therefrom can discover God's love and favor, in the appointment of exercises. To every child of God, renewed by grace trials, whose issue can never be finally doubtful, will always bring joy, when patience hath her perfect work, in the perfection of Jesus. In Him, and Him only, can the Church find themselves perfect and entire, and lacking nothing. And when taught these precious things, every child of God, will daily find his lack of wisdom, and as daily be led, to seek his supplies from Him, and in Him; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Yea, and in faith, and without doubt and wavering, will the child of God seek it in Jesus, and from Jesus. And oh! how truly blessed is that child of God, who when tried, takes all his confidence in Christ.
Great Father of light! blessed forever be thy glorious Name, for that good and perfect gift, which comprehends every other, thy dear Son! And blessed be thou, O Lord, that thy gifts and callings are without repentance. Thy will, and not our purpose; thy grace, and not our deservings, are the alone standards of thy love and favor. Oh! the blessedness of that one scripture, which hath more in it of value, than a million worlds; Of his own will, begat he us with the word of truth! Lord! write it in the living tablet of my heart, for daily use, and every moment's joy.
Precious Jesus! be thou the perfect law of liberty to my poor soul, to look into, as in a glass, from day to day. Oh! for a blessed conformity to my Lord's image; in all things! May God the Holy Ghost, so take of the things of Jesus, and shew to me, that now by faith, I may daily behold thy face in righteousness; and ere long be satisfied in full sight, when I awake with thy likeness.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on James 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany