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This Chapter contains much wholesome Exhortation to the People of God, on the several Parts of Conduct. The close of it hath a beautiful Description of the Wisdom which is from above, in Opposition to that which is earthly.
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (2) For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (3) Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. (4) Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. (5) Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! (6) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. (7) For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: (8) But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (9) Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (10) Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. (11) Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (12) Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. (13) Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (14) But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
We shall enter into a more perfect apprehension of the several directions we meet with in the whole of this Chapter, and indeed, it might be added, the whole of this Epistle, if we consider the general scope of the Apostle's directions, in relation to those to whom he wrote. The Church then, as the Church now, had a nominal congregation, which mingled with the people of God. The Holy Ghost, therefore, by his servant the Apostle, instructs the true Church, from being led away by the practice of such men. Hence, we find in the two preceding chapters, expressions, of double-minded men; mere hearers of the word; men seeming to be religious. So again, of certain persons, who were partial observer, of the law: unconscious that one offence constituted a transgressor, as truly so, as a man guilty of all. And in this Chapter, he describes the bitter envying, and strife in the heart, and of lying against the truth The Reader will do well to consider these things. It is not the Church, to whom James is writing, that he chargeth with this inconsistency; for the Church is considered in a regenerate state. But it is the mere Professor, who mingled with God's people, though in reality, had no part, nor lot in the matter. By an attention to these different characters, what the Apostle here sets forth will be found under divine teaching, very instructive.
I would pause over the Apostle's words, of the wonderful circumstance which he takes notice of, and which, more or less, the people of God too fully know, and feel; that those members of ours, which under grace, are used for glorifying the Lord, in praising him, are also made the instruments of sin. With the tongue bless we God even the Father. And, though a truly regenerated child of God is restrained from using the tongue to curse; yet, too often; perhaps, the tongue is used in angry words. Hence, Reader! every child of God hath an evidence in himself, when regenerated by the Holy Ghost, of a double principle within him; grace, and corruption. Indeed, what higher proof can a child of God need, than his own heart? I have so largely considered this subject in this Poor Man's Commentary, upon several occasions before, and particularly in the Canticles, James 5:2 and Romans 7:7 , that I rather would refer to those scriptures, than enlarge. But, as the Apostle saith, and very blessedly saith it, the wise man, (that is, the truly regenerated believer, made wise unto salvation, through the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and who is endued with divine knowledge,) will skew out of a good conversation his works of grace with meekness and wisdom.
(15) This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. (16) For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (17) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (18) And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Let the Reader look into the circumstances of common life, and behold the multitude of instances which everywhere abound, in what may truly, and properly be called, worldly wisdom. See how the followers of it rise early, late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness. Destitute of the Spirit of God, there is but one object such characters are everlastingly in pursuit of, however diversified by the variety of their affections; namely, to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. On the other hand, behold the child of God! Awakened by the descent, of the Holy Ghost in regeneration, the heart becomes interested, to seek the glorious objects which are heavenly; and to be more intent on things which are not seen, than on those which are. And, where grace hath wrought this saving change upon the heart towards God; all the blessed fruits, and effects of it will follow, in the believer's conversation with men. For the wisdom which is from above? is first pure, the heart and conscience being purified by the blood of Christ. And where grace reigns, to lead the heart to God; there grace will then shew itself, in all the blessed consequences of peace on earth, and good will towards men. And all the graces of the Spirit will manifest themselves by their fruits, in the general tenor of the life and conversation. So certain and sure must be, in every instance, the blessed result of the renewed life, differing from the wisdom that is earthly, and sensual, and even devilish; because, an unawakened, unregenerate heart, is still in the Adam-nature of sin, and is in the snare of the devil, and led captive by him at his will.
Precious Lord Jesus! how sweetly doth this Chapter bring to my recollection thy tender, and endearing precept, to call no man master upon earth! for One is our Master, even Christ! Yes! truly, Lord, thou art, both by right and by purchase, by conquest, and by the voluntary surrender of my soul, in the day which made me willing, the day of thy power; thou art my lawful right, and highly honored Master, Sovereign, and Lord! And oh! for grace, everlastingly in willing homage, to bow my knee to the sceptre of thy grace. And as all creatures in nature have been, and are tamed and governed, let it never be said, that any of thy redeemed ones arose at any time in disobedience against thee!
And do thou, blessed and Wonderful Counselor! in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, grant me daily portions, from thyself, in that wisdom which is from above. Lord! be it my happiness to be distinguished, in all my dealings with men, from that worldly wisdom which begets envying, and strife, and every evil work; but out of a good conversation, by the in-dwelling power of God, the Holy Ghost, may I be enabled to show forth all the practical fruits of godliness, with meekness of wisdom.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on James 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11