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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

James 4

Verse 1


The same Subject of Exhortation is continued in this Chapter as in the former. Several striking Expressions are made use of, to enforce what the Apostle is recommending,

Verses 1-6

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (2) Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. (3) Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (4) Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (5) Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? (6) But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

I do riot interpret what the Apostle here saith of wars and fightings, as nationally considered, for it should all along be kept in remembrance, that the Apostle is writing to the Church. And as every believer knoweth well in his own experience, what an holy war, from the moment of regeneration to the day of death, is carried on between the flesh and the spirit, he is here taught from whence to trace the origin, and where alone, in the Lord, to seek strength, Nothing but grace, and the continual renewing of grace, can help the child of God, to subdue the flesh, with its affections and lusts, And hence that sweet promise of Jesus to his people. I will water it every moment, Isaiah 27:3 And sure enough I am, though in a thousand instances, I see not how it is done, neither can trace the footsteps, or comings of the Lord; yet sure I am, that did not the Lord Jesus by his Holy Spirit continually renew the soul, our spirit would soon languish, and wither, and die. Reader! cherish the thought! Paul knew it, and spake confidently of it. Though our outward man perish, (saith he;) yet our inward man is renewed day by day, 2 Corinthians 4:14 , But Jesus carrieth the matter higher than his servant, for he saith, that he will water his vineyard and his Church e very moment. Not day by day only. Not occasional visits now and then; but momently, that is, unceasingly: So that, even when the Church is at the lowest, and is tempted to exclaim, my strength and my hope is perished from the Lord; Lamentations 3:18 . it is not so: for Jesus's watering ceaseth not. Yea, when we are causing him to serve with our sins, and wearying him with our iniquities; even then the Lord is blotting our transgression for his own sake, and will not remember our sins, Isaiah 43:24-25 .

I beg the Reader to notice what is said of adulterers and adulteresses! Not naturally so only, but spiritually. All coldness and departures from the Lord are adulterous acts towards our lawful right husband. And, therefore, the reproof is given to shew that friendship with the mammon of this world, is as a wife's treacherously departing from her husband.

I do not think it necessary to swell these pages with a Comment on what is so very plain, in the several verses that follow. It will be enough to observe, how blessedly the several directions are accompanied with the assurance, that the Lord's strength shall be made perfect to his people in their weakness. And I admire the very blessed manner in which the Lord puts the question, and himself answers it. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, that the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? As if the Lord had said; Do ye think, that it was not needful in God the Holy Ghost to inform the Church, that though regenerated, yet, the unrenewed part of every believer, even their body of sin and death, they carry about with them; still hath the same carnal mind, or spirit, which is enmity against God? Ought ye not to know it, and to have it always in remembrance? Can you suppose, that such an awful account would be given in the scripture, unless it were necessary; that not only in a state of unrenewed nature, but in God's children when renewed by grace, there is still in that body of sin and death they carry about with them, the same evil imaginations described, Genesis 6:5 and Romans 8:7 . Reader! do you not know this, and in the dust confess it before God? I bless my God, I do! And, oh! what sad havoc would the enemy make with those lusts of mine, if God did not give more grace to keep them under, than Satan's fuel, and my corruptions, to make them burn? Oh! for grace, never to lose sight of this indwelling evil, and also this more grace of my God. And do thou, dearest Lord, as this scripture is not said in vain, grant, that it never may be in vain to my soul. But he giveth more grace. Yea, where grace is already given, and the child of God truly regenerated, the Lord will give more. And the Lord will give more of that very grace, which shall effectually oppose, and overcome my very lust, be it what it may, to evil, Oh! the sweetness, seasonableness, blessedness of this scripture, which rips open the knowledge of the wound, and gives an effectual balsam, in Christ's blood, to heal. He giveth more grace.

Verses 7-12

(7) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (9) Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. (10) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (11) Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. (12) There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

Though in the first Chapter of this Epistle, verses 2 and 12 (James 4:2 ; James 4:12 ), I dwelt somewhat long upon the subject of temptation; yet, in addition to what was there said; I know not how to resist the present occasion, of offering, if but a short remark, on the gracious precept, and gracious promise blended with it, of baffling the devil by resisting him; and drawing nigh to God, who is always drawing nigh to his people.

It is very certain, that Satan knoweth not who are, or who are not the Lord's people, while in their stage of unregeneracy. And, therefore, it is said, that he goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: not whom he will, for if he had the will, that would be all; but whom he may, 1 Peter 5:8 . Now, in his impudent attacks upon a child of God, it is very blessed, When through grace, we are enabled to resist him by faith. Those now in heaven, are said to have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, Revelation 12:11 . And certain it is, Satan will flee from nothing, but the blood of the cross.

Secondly. The very resisting the devil in the Lord's strengths cannot but ultimately succeed. For the devil always dreads that, Christ is at hand. When he finds in the child of God, the grace of resistance; if he still tempts, he tempts with fear. So that when the precept is, Submit yourselves, therefore to God: This calls in God's presence, and protection. And, when it is added, draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you: this secures victory. And Satan's devices are then, carried on, before his flight, in cowardly fear. He dreads Christ's presence, and he fears the consequence.

Once more. It is the disgrace of Satan to be overcome, in the triumph of a child of God over every single temptation. He feels ashamed, and skulks away. Not as much from our victory, and his disgrace, that the worm Jacob should thresh the mountains; but froth: the ultimate victory, which every successful skirmish on our part, puts him in mind of. And the punishment that may be inflicted upon him for his attempt, even before, his final ruin, no doubt works upon him now, as it did in the days of Christ's flesh. Hence that question: What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time? Matthew 8:29 . And may we not conclude, that often now, though we know it not, the Lord doth punish him, and rebuke him; as the Holy Ghost hath given us a beautiful example of in that precious scripture: Zechariah 3:2 . From all these considerations, I think, we may, through grace, derive sweet instruction and comfort, that where the Lord's precepts are blended, as in this instance, with the Lord's promise, boldly the child of God may go forth, in the name of the Lord, and in the Lord's strength resist the devil's policy. For, as the armies in heaven, overcame by the blood of the LAMB, so the same precious blood is the sure sign of victory now upon earth. They that are with Jesus, both here and there, are called, and chosen, and faithful. Revelation 17:14 .

Verses 13-17

(13) Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: (14) Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (15) For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (16) But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. (17) Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

What a beautiful transition the Apostle makes from the subject of the foregoing verses, to what is contained in the opening of this? From the frail tenure of human life, which, in numberless cases, is sometimes crushed, even before the moth, and, in its highest strength, is but as the vapor exhaled from the earth, or the bubble on the water, which are scarce formed before they both dissolve into air, and are instantly lost; the Apostle shews the Church the inconsiderateness and folly of all plans, but such as are founded in divine wisdom, and are looking for divine strength to carry them on. How can any man, who is not the sure proprietor of the present hour, calculate on a day or a year. Reader! bring home the reasoning to your own heart. Know you that there will be a morrow for you? Is it certain your life will be prolonged to that morrow? Nay, if it should, is it certain health wilt come with it? Will strength also, intellect, ability, purpose, yea, all things concur, in such a way and manner, that the schemes of this day shall be realized on the morrow?

But those words of the Holy Ghost, by his servant, to a child of God, may be spiritually considered, I conceive, with great sweetness. There is a day, a year fast approaching, when the redeemed will enter into that blessed city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. They are now the citizens of that country; and it is their proper home. There they will indeed continue a year, even an eternal year, for they will go out no more, Revelation 7:15 , and in the truest sense of the words, buy and sell, and get gain, Proverbs 23:23 . Even now, then, they are supposed, by virtue of their union with Christ and interest in Christ, to be on the daily look out for that morrow which shall call them home. They are God's property, and consequently God's care. And, as in this life, the Lord raiseth for them waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to his people, his chosen; Isaiah 43:20 . so in that blessed climate, where none of the inhabitants shall any longer say I am sick, there the Lord will give them living waters, and all tears will be wiped away from all eyes, Isaiah 33:24 ; Revelation 7:17 . Reader, pause over the subject. God's sovereignty in the choice is the bottom and everlasting foundation of all these mercies, Ephesians 1:4-6 . The Son of God's betrothing his Church before all worlds, and the redemption of his Church in the time-state of her being, brings up the vast blessing, and places it on its own proper basis, Ephesians 1:7 . And God the Holy Ghost, by regenerating life, and grace, and unction, makes the redeemed suited subjects for glory in the inheritance, among, all them that are sanctified. See Commentary, Ephesians 1:3-10 . Oh! the blessedness of that morrow, when the whole Church shall enter into the gates of the holy city

They are God's chosen, the first fruits of his increase and holiness to the Lord, Jeremiah 2:3 . They are consecrated to his service, to be kings end priests to God and the Father: and all their holy employment in this city will be the gain of durable riches and righteousness, Revelation 1:6 ; Proverbs 8:18 . And , as the culminating crown of all, to sum up their unspeakable felicity, the nearness and union into which the whole Church, and every individual of it, as the spouse of Christ, will then be brought, is that of an everlasting communion with God and the Lamb. This people have I formed for myself! Isaiah 43:21 . Reader! is it your language.? My soul! is it thine? When will that morrow come, when I shall go to this blessed city! Haste, haste, my beloved, and until the day break and the shadows flee away, be thou like a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of division, Song of Solomon 2:17 .

Verse 17


My soul! while reading this Chapter, and hearing God the Spirit putting that Solemn question to thee, from whence come wars and fightings in thy two-fold nature; a spirit regenerated; and a body of flesh virtually all sin: oh! bless that gracious, that sovereign, that bountiful God, who, by his quickening and illuminating power, hath opened thine eyes to the view of the awful state in which thou wert born in nature, and the distinguishing mercy manifested to thee in grace; and though still groaning under a body of sin and corruption, bless the Lord for thy redemption in Christ, by which thou hast gotten the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And, my soul, see! that amidst all the wounds from sin, which, in the present warfare thou art daily sustaining, bless thy God and Savior, the issue of the conflict is not doubtful. Thy God will give thee grace to resist the devil, and he will flee from thee. Thy God will enable thee to draw nigh to him, and he will draw nigh to thee. Satan knoweth that he hath but a short time. Let nothing keep thee from the throne of grace. Here all thy strength is found. Look to Jesus, who is both thy wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, as well as redemption. In Him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. And, do thou look forward with holy joy to the morrow, the day, even the great day of God, when Jesus will come to take thee home to his eternal kingdom. Let men of the world, from the world, seek their supreme joy. Yea, let them go from city to city, to traffic in the concerns of this world's good. Be it thy happiness to eye Jesus, even in the necessary things the body is occupied with here below. Soon thou shalt have done with all earthly employments, and the everlasting enjoyment of God in Christ will be thy portion forevermore.

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Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on James 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.