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THE BEST OF MEN BUT WEAK AND FRAIL
James 3:2. 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.
THAT persons instructed in divine truth should be anxious to instruct others is well: but to rush uncalled into the ostensible office of the ministry, is by no means expedient. By his life, as well as by his doctrine, must a minister instruct his people: and if, on the one hand, his reward will be glorious if he discharge his duties aright; his punishment will, on the other hand, be proportionably severe, if by word or deed he “cast a stumbling-block before others,” and “cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of.” Before a man therefore engage in this arduous calling, he should see his way clear: lest, by entering rashly upon it, he involve himself in the heavier condemnation. This is the hint given by St. James, in the verse before my text: and, to enforce it, he reminds us of our extreme frailty; since “in many things we all offend,” and have therefore abundant reason for caution in contracting, without necessity, such an augmented responsibility.
Let me, then, shew you,
What even good men have to mourn over, in their daily walk before God—
“There is no man that liveth, and sinneth not.” By reason of our extreme weakness, and the numberless obstacles which lie in our way, there is not any man who does not occasionally “make a trip,” and “offend,”
By a slip of his feet—
[No good man will, knowingly and deliberately, do that which is evil. “A man truly born of God cannot so commit bin.” He has a principle within him which will not suffer it. But, sometimes through ignorance and inadvertence, and sometimes through weakness and corruption, the very best of men may err: as it is said, “The righteous falleth seven times.” When James and John proposed to call fire from heaven, to consume a Samaritan village, it was doubtless from a mistaken idea, that the example of Elijah, who so vindicated the honour of Jehovah, was applicable to the occasion which then presented itself to them; and that such was a proper way of expressing their indignation against those who had refused to their Master the rights of hospitality. It was also from a mistaken love to his Divine Master that Peter dissuaded Jesus from subjecting himself to the sufferings which he had just predicted. But the principle, in both these instances, was really evil, though the Apostles themselves thought it to be good: and therefore they brought on themselves a just rebuke. In Peter’s requiring the Gentiles to submit to the Jewish law there was downright “dissimulation;” such as betrayed Bar nabas also into the very same fault. Here was weakness here was the sad effect of human corruption: and, accordingly it was reproved with a severity proportioned to the offence In Paul and Barnabas too, there was a blameworthy contention, issuing in their final separation. The error of Peter and Barnabas proceeded from an undue compliance; and that of Paul and Barnabas from an undue pertinacity, both in sentiment and determination. But, as such things have been in the Church, even amongst the Apostles themselves; so must they be expected to arise, whilst human nature is so weak, and so many difficulties beset our way — — —]
By a slip of his tongue—
[“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” The fact is, that every corruption of the heart finds its first and readiest gratification through the tongue. If pride or vanity inflate the mind, it will discover itself, not only in the look and gesture, but through some appropriate language of the lips. If levity have put a man off his guard, it will betray itself by some unadvised expressions, some “jestings” (facetious terms of double import), which may excite a smile at the moment, but are quite offensive to God. Need I say how anger will vent itself, or how uncharitableness will indulge its malignant propensities? But so it is with every unhallowed feeling of the soul: and he is the most perfect man who puts the most complete restraint upon his tongue, and suffers it not to utter any thing which God will not approve.]
Whilst good men have so much occasion to mourn, let us consider,
What they have more especially to attend to, in order to counteract the evil of their hearts—
Amongst the many things which might be mentioned, I will recommend,
[Who has not found, by sad experience, the truth of the Apostle’s assertion, that “in many things we all offend?” Who then has not reason to lie low both before God and man? If Paul complained of “the law in his members warring against the law of his mind,” much more may we; and with him cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” Methinks, if Job abhorred himself, and the Prophet Isaiah complained, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips,” a leper in the midst of a leprous population; no humiliation can be too deep for us. Let us walk softly then, every one of us, in the remembrance of our manifold infirmities; and abase ourselves before God, as “less than the least of all saints,” yea, “as the very chief of sinners.”]
[Never can we tell what an hour may bring forth; or what temptations may arise, to cause us to offend either in word or deed. We should therefore “make a covenant with our eyes,” as holy Job did; and “set a watch before the door of our lips,” as did the man after God’s own heart. We should mark the first risings of inclination, that they may not operate with undue force, and betray us into actual sin. We should mark with jealous care the motives and principles by which we are actuated; remembering, that by them will the quality of our actions be determined, and that by them we shall be judged in the last day. In a word, we must “keep our hearts with all diligence, knowing that out of them are the issues of life.”]
Dependence upon God—
[Here is our only security. If we trust in our own hearts, our folly will very soon appear. Satan can “assume the form of an angel of light,” and deceive us by specious appearances: and, if we would be preserved from his wiles, our prayer should continually be to God; “Hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not:” “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” Then, notwithstanding our weakness and frailty, we may hope to be “preserved blameless till the day of Christ.”
“Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, for ever and ever! Amen.”
THE EVILS OF THE TONGUE
James 3:6. 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.
AMONGST the most important of all subjects must be reckoned the government of the tongue. The consideration of it is well calculated to convince the profane, to pluck off the mask from hypocrites, to humble the sincere, and to edify every description of persons. St. James, who intended his epistle as a corrective to the abuses that prevailed in the Christian Church, insisted strongly upon this subject: and, in the words before us, has given us such a description of the tongue, as, if it had proceeded from any other than an inspired writer, would have been deemed a libel upon human nature. In order that the text may be fully understood, we shall shew,
The true character of the human tongue—
The Apostle tells us “it is a fire”—
[Fire, in its original formation, was intended for the good of man; and, when subordinated to his wishes, is highly beneficial: but its tendency is to consume and to destroy. Thus the tongue was at first made for the Creator’s praise; but through the introduction of sin, that member, which was, and, if well used, yet is, the glory of man [Note: Psalms 57:8.], is become “an instrument of unrighteousness” and all iniquity.
Fire also, even the smallest spark, is capable of producing incalculable mischief; such mischief as it may not be in the power of man to repair. Thus also will one single motion of the tongue [Note: ver. 3, 4.]. It may so irritate and inflame a man, as to change him instantly into a savage beast, or an incarnate devil: and, if the whole world should labour to remedy the evil, it would mock their endeavours.]
He further adds that it is “a world of iniquity”—
[There is not any sin whatever, which does not stand in the nearest connexion with the tongue, and employ it in its service. Search the long catalogue of sins against God; then inspect those against our neighbour; and, lastly, those against ourselves; and there will not be found one, no, not one, that has not the tongue as its principal ally [Note: See Romans 3:13-45.3.14.] — — — All iniquities whatsoever centre in it, and are fulfilled by it: so justly is it called, “A world of iniquity.”]
Its character will yet further appear by considering,
These are defiling—
[Sin, as soon as ever it is conceived in the heart, defiles the soul: but when it is uttered by the lips, “it defileth the whole body.” Utterance gives solidity and permanency to that which before existed in idea, and might have passed away: and, inasmuch as the tongue has every other member at its command to execute, according to their several powers, the things it has divulged, the whole man is become a partaker of its guilt and defilement [Note: Ecclesiastes 5:6. Mark 7:20-41.7.23.]. And, though all its communications are not equally polluting, yet is there a stain left by means of them, a stain which nothing but the Redeemer’s blood can ever wash away.]
[To such an astonishing degree has this fire gained the ascendant, that it has “inflamed the whole course of nature.” Look at individuals; what malignant passions has it kindled in them! Visit families; what animosities, and inextinguishable feuds has it produced! Survey churches; and you will find the unhallowed fire burning even in the sanctuary of God [Note: By means of heretics, cavillers, and proud disputers, and others who cause divisions and dissensions.]; and sometimes too, even in the very censers of his ministers [Note: Alluding to Leviticus 10:1.]. Cast your eyes round upon whole nations; and you will perceive that, times without number, it has kindled the flames of war, and spread desolation through the globe [Note: What has not been perpetrated during the French Revolution under the influence of those two words, liberty and equality!].]
To prove that this account is not exaggerated, we shall point out,
The reason of its producing these effects—
The tongue “itself is set on fire of hell”—
[Satan is the source and author of all the evils that proceed from the tongue. Does it falsify? behold it does so at the instigation of that wicked fiend, “the father of lies [Note: 3 John 1:8; 3 John 1:83 John 1:8:44.].” Does it discourage men from the prosecution of their duty? It does so as the devil’s agent [Note: Matthew 16:23.]. Does it accuse and scandalize the people of God? Who but Satan is the author of such calumnies [Note: Revelation 12:10.]? Does it disseminate error? the propagator of that error is Satan’s minister, however he be transformed into an angel of light [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:13-47.11.15.]. Does it encourage any bad design? It is the devil himself who speaks by it [Note: 1 Kings 22:21-11.22.22.]. In every sin that it commits, it is actuated by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in all the children of disobedience [Note: Ephesians 2:2.].” Its whole “wisdom is earthly, sensual, devilish [Note: ver. 15.].” It comes from hell, and leads to hell: and, if God were to withdraw his restraints here, as he does in hell, it would speedily produce a very hell upon earth.]
This alone can account for the effects that proceed from it—
[Doubtless the wickedness of the heart may account for much: but, if the flames were not fanned by satanic agency, we can scarcely conceive that they should rage with such an irresistible force, and to such a boundless extent.]
How great must be the evil of the human heart!
[The heart is the fountain, in which “the evil treasure is [Note: Matthew 12:35.];” the tongue is only the channel in which it flows. If the channel then be so vile, what must the fountain be? Yet every one of us has this tongue in his mouth, and this heart in his bosom: and, if God should leave us without restraint, there is not one of us but would proclaim all the evil of his heart, as much as the most lothesome sensualist, or most daring blasphemer.]
How much do we need the influences of the Holy Spirit!
[It is absolutely impossible for man to tame this unruly member [Note: ver. 7, 8.]. Yet restrained it must be, if ever we would be saved [Note: James 1:26.]. What then shall we do? Shall we sit down in despair? God forbid. The Holy Spirit will help our infirmities [Note: Romans 8:26.], and Christ will give us his Spirit if we call upon him. Let us then look to Christ; and we shall prove by sweet experience, that his “grace is sufficient for us [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.],” and that through him, strengthening us, we can do all things [Note: Philippians 4:13.].”]
How careful should we be of every word we utter!
[Immense injury may we do by one unguarded word. We may take away a character which we can never restore, or inflict a wound which we can never heal. On this account we should “set a watch before the door of our lips [Note: Psalms 141:3.].” Nor is this a matter of expediency merely, but of necessity; for God has warned us that we shall give account of every idle word, and that by our words we shall be justified, and by our words we shall be condemned [Note: Matthew 12:36-40.12.37; Matthew 5:22. last clause.]. Let us then be utterly purposed that our mouth shall not offend [Note: Psalms 17:3.]. Let our tongue be as choice silver, or a tree of life, to enrich and comfort the Lord’s people [Note: Proverbs 10:20; Proverbs 15:4.]. Let our “speech be always with grace seasoned with salt,” for the honour of God, and the good of our fellow-creatures [Note: Colossians 4:6. Ephesians 4:29.].]
INFLUENCE OF WISDOM UPON THE CONDUCT
James 3:13. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
THE government of the tongue is of all things the most difficult; because every evil that is in the heart seeks for vent through that organ. A man who should be able so to controul it that no unadvised word should ever escape from his lips, would be a perfect man. Yet, if a man profess to be religious, and have not so much self-government as to impose an habitual restraint upon his tongue, he deceives his own soul, and his religion is vain [Note: James 1:26.]. The gift of speech is to be improved for God by holy and heavenly communications, and the man who suffers it to be a vehicle of sin, discovers himself to be a hypocrite before God. The inconsistency of such conduct is obvious. “A fountain cannot send forth both fresh water and bitter; nor can a tree bear both olives and figs:” so neither can a renewed heart bear such different and discordant fruits [Note: ver. 9–12.]. Whoever therefore professes godliness, should take care that no such inconsistency be found in him. “Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”
In these words we see,
The proper character of Christians—
When we say that the Christian is “a wise man, and endued with knowledge,” we seem to be guilty of great arrogance; since it is a notorious fact, that the great majority of religious persons, as St. Paul himself acknowledges, are of the lower orders of society, whose talents and attainments are extremely limited [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26-46.1.28.]. And even where the disadvantages of education are not so great, it is often found that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” How then can we presume to designate the godly by such inappropriate and high-sounding names? I answer, That the wisdom of this world is in God’s estimation, folly; and that his people alone deserve the titles that are here assigned them. They are wise and intelligent,
As fearing God—
[They all without exception fear God. This is the lowest attainment that will justify any pretensions to true piety. And what is said of it by holy Job? “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding [Note: Job 28:28.].” Here then at once is their character fixed by the testimony of God himself. And to them does it belong exclusively: for of all others the Prophet Jeremiah says, “They have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them [Note: Jeremiah 8:9.]?” They may possess much which passes under that name: they may be skilled in arts and sciences, even as Solomon himself: yet they shew that they are fools and idiots, as it respects the things of God. They shew that they know not the true end of their being: they know not wherein real happiness consists: they know not the value of an immortal soul: they know not the judgment that awaits them, or the importance of preparing for it. Their views are circumscribed by the things of time and sense; and of heaven and heavenly things they have no knowledge. “Their wisdom and knowledge, such as it is, only perverts them [Note: Isaiah 47:10.].” Hence of them it is said, that “madness is in their hearts while they live [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:3.].” But of the Lord’s people, how ignorant soever they may be of other matters, it may be said, as on this very ground it was said of the Jews of old, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people [Note: Deuteronomy 4:6.].”]
As instructed by God himself—
[This also is peculiar to them, and abundantly vindicates their title to the character given them in the text. To them universally, and to them exclusively, does that promise belong, “They shall all be taught of God [Note: John 6:45.].” They are taught of God, who by his Spirit has “opened the eyes of their understanding [Note: Ephesians 1:17-49.1.18.],” and “brought them out of darkness into the marvellous light of his Gospel [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.].” To them he has given a spiritual discernment, whereby they are enabled to discern the things of the Spirit [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:9-46.2.12.]. He has given to them such views of Christ as “flesh and blood could never have revealed to them [Note: Matthew 16:16-40.16.17.].” “Wonderful things are they enabled to behold in God’s law [Note: Psalms 119:18.].” They see—what others have no conception of—the spirituality of that law, extending to every thought and desire of the heart. They see in that glass the unsearchable wickedness of their own hearts [Note: 1 Kings 8:38.]; their just desert of God’s wrath and indignation; their utter need of a Saviour; the suitableness of Christ to their extreme necessities, and his sufficiency for all their wants. “They have an understanding given them to know Him that is true; and, in consequence of that, they are in Him that is true, even in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true God and eternal life [Note: 1 John 5:20.].” To them are made known things which from all eternity were hid in God; and things which the natural man, whatever be his endowments, cannot receive or know [Note: 1Co 2:7-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14.]: yea, though they be in every other respect mere “babes, to them God has revealed what he has hid from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25.]:” so that, whilst the man of learning, that is wise in his own conceit, looks down upon them with contempt as weak and foolish, they see the vanity of all his boasted wisdom, and they pity the blindness of his deluded mind. See how strongly all this is asserted by the Apostle Paul: “He that is spiritual (however destitute he may be of human learning) judgeth all things: yet he himself is judged of no man: (he estimates rightly the state of others, whilst they can form no just estimate of his:) for who (what carnal man) hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we (we who are taught of God) have the mind of Christ;” and consequently can form a correct judgment both of our own state and theirs [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:15-46.2.16.]. Thus, whilst all others are “perishing for lack of knowledge [Note: Hosea 4:6.],” they have “that unction of the Holy One whereby they know all things [Note: 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27.],” and are become truly wise, being made “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ [Note: 2 Timothy 3:15.].”]
Such being their high character, they are concerned to know, and to consider well,
The conduct that befits them—
Doubtless their deportment should be such as is suited to the distinguished rank which they bear amongst their fellows: and their superiority to others should be marked,
In their works—
[Their whole “conversation should be such as becometh the Gospel of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:27.].” A tree must be known by its fruits; and their faith be judged of by their works [Note: James 1:18.]. The whole tenour of these must be good: and, though they are not to be done with a view to man’s applause, they must be such as to evince to all around them the excellence of the principles which they profess: “they must make their light so to shine before men, that all who behold their good works may glorify their Father that is in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:16.].” They must “shew out of a good conversation their works.”
But in relation to these (their works) the godly will find no difficulty, if they attend to that which is principally adverted to in our text, namely, to walk worthy of their profession.]
In their spirit—
[The Christian is renewed, not in knowledge or in the outward conduct only, but “in the spirit of his mind [Note: Ephesians 4:23.].” He is poured into a new mould, the mould of the Gospel [Note: Romans 6:17. the Greek.]. He is assimilated to the Lord Jesus Christ himself, especially in the meekness and gentleness of his spirit under the heaviest trials, and the bitterest provocations. Of him we are told, that “he was led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth [Note: Isaiah 53:7.]:” and in that particular he is more especially commended to us as an example: for “he suffered, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously [Note: 1 Peter 2:21-60.2.23.].” This is the state which God approves. The outward act is comparatively of little value in his sight; since that may abound even where the inward principle is most corrupt: but when he sees “the hidden man of the heart” thus habited, he views it with delight: “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in his sight of great prices. [Note: 1 Peter 3:4.].” This is what the Apostle so beautifully inculcates in our text: “Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” Meekness and wisdom are intimately and indissolubly connected: as it is said, “He that is hasty of spirit, exalteth folly; whereas he who is slow to wrath, is of great understanding [Note: Proverbs 14:29.].” In this then must every true Christian excel: and it will be in vain for him to pretend that he has been taught of God, if he have not learned, and practically too, this important lesson. Do you ask how the true Christian must be distinguished? St. Paul shall tell you: “Put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye [Note: Colossians 3:12-51.3.13.].” This is the proper test of your principles. If you have knowledge, it is well: if you have faith, it is well: if you have works, it is well: but you may “have the knowledge of men and angels, and a faith that can remove mountains; and such zeal, both of an active and passive kind, as may lead you to give all your goods to feed the poor, and your bodies to be burned, and yet, after all, want that internal principle of love, which is necessary to your acceptance with God [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:1-46.13.3.].” Your proper character is, that you are “the meek of the earth: seek righteousness therefore, and seek meekness [Note: Zephaniah 2:3.].” “I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:1.]” that you cultivate this spirit to the uttermost: for, if you have not in this respect “the mind that was in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 2:5.],” you are not, you cannot be, his [Note: 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:17.].]
For the more extensive improvement of this subject,
I would add two solemn admonitions—
Rest not in attainments, whilst destitute of knowledge—
[There is a great diversity in the natural dispositions of men: some are from their very birth more meek and gentle than others: and certainly they whom nature has formed in this better mould, have much to be thankful for. But let not any one mistake this natural gentleness for grace. The meekness of which my text speaks, is “a fruit of the Spirit [Note: Galatians 5:22-48.5.23.],” and is always associated with true wisdom. It springs from a sense of our own unworthiness, and of the obligations which we owe to Christ for all the wonders of redeeming love. It is a humble submission to Almighty God, whose hand is viewed in all events, and whose love is tasted in the bitterest dispensations. It is a resignation of the soul to him, that he may perfect it in his own way, and glorify himself upon it, as seemeth him good. Before you draw inferences then from your comparative proficiency in gentle habits, inquire how they have been obtained? Examine whether they are associated with this heavenly wisdom; and whether they are the result of deep humiliation, and of ardent love to God? If you have not been taught of God to know yourselves and the Lord Jesus Christ, you are in darkness even until now: and though you appear to be in the fold of Christ, you have never entered it at the strait gate, and therefore are not regarded by him as his sheep indeed. O! may God instruct you, and by his Holy Spirit guide you into all truth!]
Rest not in knowledge, whilst destitute of these attainments—
[Many possess a very clear knowledge of Scripture truths, whilst yet they experience not their sanctifying and transforming efficacy. It is a melancholy fact, that many who profess religion are grievously under the dominion of evil tempers. It was evidently so among those to whom St. James addressed this epistle. But, beloved, “these things ought not so to be,” and must not so be: for, if they be, they will terminate in fearful disappointment at the last day. Think not to excuse yourselves by saying, That your temper is naturally hasty and violent. It may be so: but this is no reason why it is to have the mastery over you. If the struggles which you have to maintain be the greater, the strength of Christ shall be the more displayed in the victories which he will enable you to gain. Only go to him in fervent and continual prayer, and you shall find, that “his grace is sufficient for you:” it never failed yet; nor shall it ever fail, when sought in sincerity and truth. Only prostrate yourselves before him with shame, and sorrow, and contrition, and implore of him the assistance of his good Spirit; and then will he “beautify you with salvation [Note: Psalms 149:4.];” for “instead of the thorn shall grow up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall grow up the myrtle-tree: and you shall be to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off [Note: Isaiah 55:13.].”]
THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION
James 3:17. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy tube entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
RELIGION, like a tree, must be judged of by its fruits. That which savours of pride, earthliness, or sensuality, is not of God. Its character is justly drawn in the words before us. It is,
Holy in its nature—
Religion, above all other things, is entitled to the name of “wisdom”—
[It enlightens the mind, informs the judgment, regulates the life; and he who lives under its influence, is wise in the estimation of God himself.]
Being from above, it resembles its Divine Author—
[Religion is a beam issuing from God the fountain of light; and, as “in him is no darkness at all,” so neither is there any thing impure in that which flows from him. It may be mixed with sin, but in its own nature it is “pure;” and, in proportion as it prevails, it will dissipate the clouds of ignorance and sin. All “spiritual or fleshly filthiness” will surely vanish before it [Note: Matthew 5:8. Acts 15:9. 2 Corinthians 7:1.].]
In consequence of this it is,
Useful in its tendency—
It renders us,
Amiable in our spirit—
[Though men differ widely in their natural tempers, yet the unregenerate are, on many occasions, quarrelsome, fierce, implacable. But as soon as ever religion exerts its influence on our minds, we mortify these unhallowed tempers, and become “peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.” From thenceforth it is the delight of our souls to cultivate and promote peace, to maintain in ourselves a meek and quiet spirit, and to exercise, as occasion may require, forbearance and forgiveness to all around us.]
Benevolent in our conduct—
[Compassion and diligence are inseparable attributes of true religion. The real Christian is not, like the barren fig-tree, covered with the leaves of an outward profession, but destitute of fruit. He labours to abound in every good word and work, and to benefit to the utmost the bodies and souls of his fellow-creatures. His heart is “full” of love, and out of the abundance of his heart he both speaks and acts.]
It is within us a living principle, that is,
Uniform in its operations—
To duties without limitation—
[The grace of God will not admit of “partiality” in our obedience. It will stimulate us to difficult and self-denying duties, as well as to those which are more easy and pleasant; and will make us as solicitous to do what is right towards strangers or enemies, as towards our own friends or partisans [Note: 1 Timothy 5:21.].]
To desires without reserve—
[Religion penetrates to the inmost soul, and regulates all our motives and principles of action. The person whose outward conduct only is good, is in God’s sight no other than a “whited sepulchre.” The man whose heart is right with God, will watch against all selfish ends, and endeavour to act with a single eye to the glory of his God.]
How unjustly is religion condemned in the world!
[Many consider religion as destructive of all personal and social happiness; but what is there in this representation of religion that deserves such a character? Let the world call it folly if they will; but God accounts it “wisdom.”]
What reason have the most godly to blush and be ashamed!
[We must not estimate our religion by our opinion? so much as by our practice. Doubtless we must build on Christ as our only foundation; but we have no evidence of an union with him any further than we raise upon him this holy superstructure. Alas! what poor builders have the very best of us been; and how little progress have we made when we judge by this test!]
What need have we to wait continually upon our God in prayer!
[This wisdom is “from above,” and can be derived from God alone; and how can we obtain it of him, but in the exercise of prayer? Let us then ask it of him, who has promised to impart it “liberally, and without upbraiding [Note: James 1:5.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on James 3". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany