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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
James 1

 

 

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Verse 1

1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

Ver. 1. To the twelve tribes] Once very devout, Acts 26:7; still the most nimble and mercurial wits in the world, but light, aerial, and fanatical, apt to work themselves into the fool’s paradise of a sublime dotage.

Which are scattered abroad] Banished from Rome by the Emperor Claudius, Acts 18:2; (Sueton. xxv.), and called by St Peter, "strangers of the dispersion," 1 Peter 1:1. The Jews at this day are a disjected and despised people, according to Deuteronomy 28:64, having neither country nor resting place; even in Jerusalem there be not to be found at this day a hundred households of them. (Breerwood’s Inq.)


Verse 2

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

Ver. 2. Count it all joy] The world wondereth (saith Mr Philpot the martyr) how we can be so merry in such extreme misery. But our God is omnipotent, who turneth misery into felicity. Believe me, there is no such joy in the world as the people of Christ have under the cross; I speak it by experience, &c. He counted it so upon mature deliberation, as the apostle here adviseth.

All joy] That is, full joy (by a Hebraism), complete and perfect; such as is the joy of merchants when they see their ships come laden in.

When ye fall into] Not go in step by step, but are precipitated, plunged. Or when ye fall among, as he that went down towards Jericho fell among thieves, Luke 10:30. When ye are so surrounded that there is no escaping them, being distressed, as David was, Psalms 116:3.

Into divers temptations] Crosses seldom come single ( Catenata piorum crux), as neither do mercies, but trooping and treading one upon the heels of another. {a} After rain cometh clouds, Ecclesiastes 12:2. As in April, no sooner is one shower unburdened, but another is brewed. And when the apostle calleth them temptations, he meaneth such afflictions as will put us hard to it, and show what metal we are made of; pressing and piercing crosses.

{a} Aliud ex alio malum. Teren.


Verse 3

3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

Ver. 3. The trial of your faith] Yea, such a well knit patience, as maketh a man suffer after he hath suffered, as David did from Shimei, but first from Absalom. Tile stones till baked are not useful; but well burnt and hardened they withstand all storms and ill-weather. See my Love Tokens, p. 170.

Knowing this] And therefore rejoicing, if not in the sense, yet in the use of your afflictions. {See Trapp on "Hebrews 12:10"} {See Trapp on "Hebrews 12:11"}


Verse 4

4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Ver. 4. Let patience have her perfect work] Patience must not be an inch shorter than the affliction. If the bridge reach but half-way over the brook, we shall have but ill-favoured passage. It is the devil’s desire to set us on a hurry; he knows his temptations will then work best.


Verse 5

5 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.

Ver. 5. If any of you lack wisdom] That is, patience to bear afflictions as he ought, cheerfully, thankfully, fruitfully, so as to be able to say, "Well for the present, and it will be better hereafter," which is the patient man’s motto, Qui placide sortem ferre scit, ille sapit. I thank thee, O Lord, for all my pain (said Francis of Assisi, in all his extremity), and I beseech thee, if thou think good, to add to it a hundred-fold more. Feri Domino, feri, said Luther; a peccatis enim absolutus sum: Smite, Lord, smite on, my sins are pardoned; all shall be for the best. Mr William Perkins, when he lay in his last and killing torment of the stone, hearing the bystanders pray for a mitigation of his pain, willed them not to pray for an ease of his complaint, but for an increase of his patience. (Dr Hall, Rein. of Profaneness.)

Let him ask it of God] It hath been questioned by some whether a man can have patience, sine auxilio gratice, without the help of God’s grace. (Aquinas.) But Christians know they cannot. It is not patience but pertinacy in godless men, that call not upon God; it is stupidity of sense, not a solidity of faith; a reckless desperation, not a confident resolution: such was that patience put forth by Mithridates of old, and by Baltasar Gerardus the Burgundian, that slew the Prince of Orange, 1584, and for the same endured very grievous torments. True patience is the fruit of prayer; this wisdom from above is one of those perfect gifts that cometh down from the "Father of lights," who is therefore called the "God of patience and consolation." God, as he is skilful in dirigendo, pitiful in corrigendo, so will he be bountiful in porrigendo.

That giveth to all men liberally] Not scantily, sparingly, or with an ill will. He is no penny father (as they say), but rich in mercy to all that call upon him. αξιωματικωτατος μεν εστιν ο βασιλευς ημων, saith Basil. (Consil. Mon. i.) Our king gives like himself, and according to his state; he is angry with those that ask him small matters. He doth not shift off his suitors as Antigonus did the philosopher; who first asked him a groat; he answered, that was too little for a king to give; he requested the king then to give him a talent; who replied, that that was too much for a beggar to crave. {a} God solicits suitors, John 4:23, and complains (as the Emperor Severus once did of his courtiers), "Hitherto ye have asked me nothing." He gives also according to his excellent greatness; as Alexander the Great gave a poor man a city; and when he modestly refused it as too great for him, Alexander answered, Non quaero quid te accipere deceat, sed quid me dare, The business is not what thou art fit to receive, but what it becometh me to give. (Sen. de Benef. ii. 16.)

And upbraideth not] Neither with present failings, nor former infirmities. Qui exprobrat, reposcit. (Tacit.) So doth not God; unless in case of unthankfulness. For then he will take his own, and be gone, Hosea 2:8-9.

{a} ου βασιλικον το δομα. ου κυνικον το λημμα.


Verse 6

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.

Ver. 6. But let him ask in faith] {See Trapp on "Hebrews 11:6"}

Nothing wavering] We are too ready in temptation to doubt, yea, to hold it a duty to doubt. This (saith one) is to light a candle before the devil, as we use to speak.


Verse 7

7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

Ver. 7. That he shall receive] Unless he strive against his doubting, and wade out of it, as the moon doth out of the cloud. Qui timide rogat, negare docet; He that prayeth doubtingly, shuts heaven’s gates against his own prayers.


Verse 8

8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Ver. 8. Unstable in all his ways] As he is that stands on one leg, or as a bowl on a smooth table. Contrariwise, a believer is as a square stone set into the building, 1 Peter 2:7; shaken he may be, but he is rooted as a tree; wag he may up and down as a ship at anchor, but yet he removes not.


Verse 9

9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:

Ver. 9. Rejoice in that he is exalted] Gr. εν τω υψει αυτου, in his sublimity, in that high honour of his, John 1:12. This should make him hold up his head, but not too high; be cheerful, but not withal scornful. Laeti simus, sed non securi, gaudentes in Domino, sed caventes a recidivo. (Bern.)


Verse 10

10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.

Ver. 10. In that he is made low] Drawn from that high esteem of outward excellencies. He is now made a greater man, because he seems too big for them; or low, that is, lowly.


Verse 11

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.

Ver. 11. Shall the rich man fade] Perish eternally, if he trust in uncertain riches, and not in the living God. See James 5:1. Thus that sapless fellow Nabal faded, when his heart died within him, nor could his riches any more relieve him than they did that rich and wretched cardinal, Henry Beaufort, Chancellor of England in the reign of Henry VI, who murmured at death, that his riches could not reprieve him till a further time. Fie (quoth he), will not death be hired? Will money do nothing? No; money here bears no mastery. (Acts and Mon.)


Verse 12

12 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.

Ver. 12. Blessed is the man] Provided that God teach him, as well as chastise him, Psalms 94:12, instruct him as well as correct him. See my Love Tokens, par. 2.

He shall receive the crown] A man can be content to have his head broken with a bag of gold, so he may have it, when it is done. Eternal life is called "a crown:" 1. For the perpetuity of it; for a crown hath neither beginning nor ending. 2. For the plenty; because as the crown compasseth on every side, so there is nothing wanting in this life. 3. The dignity; eternal life is a coronation day. (Bishop Lake.) Tertullian wrote his book De corona militis Concerning the crown of a soldier, upon occasion of a certain Christian soldier’s refusing to be crowned, and saying, Non decet Christianum in hac vita coronari; A Christian is to be crowned when he cometh to heaven.


Verse 13

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:

Ver. 13. I am tempted of God] The inclination of man’s heart to good, is of itself and properly of God, as light is of the sun. His inclination to evil is by accident only of God, like as darkness is of the sunset by accident, being properly not of the sun, but of the earth.


Verse 14

14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

Ver. 14. Drawn away of his lust] δελεαζομενος, Satan hath only a persuading sleight, not an enforcing might. Our own concupiscence carries the greatest stroke.

And enticed] As the silly fish is by the bait covering the hook, being first drawn aside into the clear water. {a} Or as the unwary younker, drawn to folly by some subtle she-sinner; who thereupon conceiveth, and bringeth forth a bastardly brood.

{a} δελεαρ, quasi δολεαρ, a δολος.


Verse 15

15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Ver. 15. When lust hath conceived] As the plot of all diseases lies in the humours of the body; so of all sin, in the lust of the soul. There is in it a πανσπερμια, a tacit consent, a seed plot of all sin. {a} The Papists say (but falsely) that it is the smallest of all sins, not deserving any more of God’s wrath than only a want of his beatific presence, and that too without any pain or sorrow of mind from the apprehension of so great a loss. There are also of ours that say, That it is not forbidden by the law; but sure we are, it is cursed and condemned (and therefore forbidden) by the law.

{a} Empedoclis vocabulum apud Aristot.


Verse 16

16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

Ver. 16. Do not err] Wander not, as wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever, 1:13, by seeking to father your faults upon God, as Adam did, Genesis 3:12.


Verse 17

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.

Ver. 17. Every good gift, &c.] A hexameter verse in the Greek; as little intended perhaps by the apostle as the first line in Tacitus, which yet may be scanned a long verse.

And perfect giving] Not temporals only (which are good gifts), but spirituals also, those perfect givings. The greatest excellencies in us do as much depend upon God as the effigies in the glass doth upon the face that causeth it; or as the light doth upon the sun, that father of all the light in the lower world.

With whom is no variableness] παραλλαγη, no parallax, as there is with the sun, when he declines and leaves us darkling. This word notes the sun’s motion from east to west, as the following word τροπη, turning, notes his motion every year from north to south. That which the apostle would here assert is, that God tempts no man to evil, because he is unchangeably good, and can be no other.


Verse 18

18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Ver. 18. Of his own will begat he us] Gr. απεκυησε, brought he us forth, as a special instance of his free grace and fatherly goodness, Ephesians 1:4-5. The word properly signifies, He did the office of a mother to us, the bringing us into the light of life. The Hebrew word ילד also signifieth genuit, peperit, parturiit; et est proprium feminarum: quamvis eleganter de viro etiam et aliis rebus dicatur, to bring forth. (Marenus in Arca Noae.)


Verse 19

19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

Ver. 19. Swift to hear] Reaching after that word of truth, the gospel, James 1:18, and drinking it in as the dry earth doth the dew of heaven. Life doth now enter into the soul at the ear, as at first death did, Genesis 3:19

Slow to speak] We read often, "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear;" but never, he that hath a tongue to speak, let him speak; for this we can do fast enough, without bidding. But hath not Nature taught us the same that the apostle here doth, by giving us two ears, and those open; and but one tongue, and that hedged in with teeth and lips? It is also tied and bound fast by the root, and hath for guides and counsellors the brain above and the heart beneath it. Hence your wisest men are most silent; for they know that as some gravel and mud passeth away with much water, so in many words there lacketh not sin.

Slow to wrath] Slow to snuff at those that reprove you. {See Trapp on "Hebrews 13:22"} Rage not when touched, though to the quick.


Verse 20

20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Ver. 20. For the wrath of man] Unless it be as Moses’ and Christ’s anger was, pure and free from guile and gall, prompting us to pity and pray for the party, Exodus 32:32; Mark 3:5.


Verse 21

21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Ver. 21. All filthiness] Gr. ρυπαριαν, the stinking filth of a pestilent ulcer. Sin is the devil’s vomit, the soul’s excrement, the superfluity or garbage of naughtiness, περισσειαν, as it is here called by an allusion to the garbage of the sacrifices cast into the brook Kedron, that is, into the town ditch. Retentio excrementorum est parens morborum. Out with it, therefore. Some say that the word rendered filthiness, properly signifies "the filth under the nails and armholes;" but translated to the mind, it signifies covetousness, as sordes in Latin; but here any kind of sin, especially inward, as superfluity may note outward evils, that do superfluere, float at top.

Receive with meekness] It is ill sowing in a storm: so a stormy spirit will not suffer the word to take place.

The engrafted word] εμφυτος, engrafted upon the heart, as the scion upon the stock, or sowed in the soul, and mingled with faith, that it may bring forth fruit to God.


Verse 22

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Ver. 22. And not hearers only] The Panotii in Scythia are said to have such large ears, as that therewith they cover their whole bodies. (Isidore.) Such are our hearers only.

Deceiving your own souls] Either as by false reckoning or false reasoning; Gr. παραλογιζομενοι, putting paralogisms and fallacies upon yourselves. For hypocrites may easily deceive not others only, but themselves too; as a drunken stage player, that in his drunkenness acting a king’s part, thinks himself a king indeed.


Verse 23

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:

Ver. 23. His natural face] Gr. the face of his nativity, that wherewith he was born into the world. Pythagoras wished his scholars often to view themselves in a glass, that if they were well-favoured, they might likewise be well-conditioned; as if otherwise, they might make it up in virtue.

" Si mihi difficilis formam natura negavit,

Ingenio formae damna rependo meae."

Ovid. Epist.

The law is a crystal glass, wherein a man may soon see his spiritual deformities, and be advertised of his duty. {See Trapp on "James 1:25"}


Verse 24

24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

Ver. 24. Straightway forgetteth] Naturalists make mention of a certain creature called cervarius, that though he be feeding never so hard and hungerly, if he cast but back his head, he forgets immediately the meat he was eating, and runs to look after new: the lynx is very sharp sighted, but also very forgetful; out of sight, out of mind straight.


Verse 25

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.

Ver. 25. Whoso looketh into, &c.] παρακυψας, as into a glass, wishly and intently with the body bowed down. Get thee God’s law as a glass to toot in, saith Mr Bradford (Ser. of Repent.); so shalt thou see thy face foul arrayed, and so shamefully saucy, mangy, pocky, and scabbed, that thou canst not but be sorry at the contemplation thereof. It is said of the basilisk, that if he look into a glass, he presently dieth: sin doth. Physicians in some kind of unseemly convulsions wish the patient to view himself in a glass, which will help him to strive the more when he shall see his own deformity; so reflect, &c.

The perfect law of liberty] The moral law, in opposition to the ceremonial, or so called because never is a man free indeed till out of a principle of love he keep God’s law.

Not a forgetful hearer] Some are as hourglasses, no sooner turned up but running out immediately. Their souls are like filthy ponds, wherein fish die soon and frogs live long; profane jests are remembered, pious passages forgotten.


Verse 26

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.

Ver. 26. Seem to be religious] There is a great deal of this seemingness now abroad: Aliud in titulo, aliud in pyxide. Verba tua Dei plane sunt, facta veto Diaboli, as one told Pope Innocent III: You speak like a God, but do like a devil; a fair professor, but a foul sinner. The form of religion is honos; the power onus. Many do but act it, play it: they do no more than assume it, as the angels did the dead bodies without a soul to animate them, or as Jeroboam’s wife put on her demure apparel when she was to go to the prophet. The mere seemer is a fraud, Job 13:16, imposturam facit et patitur: fumum vendidit, fumo peribit. He is like the painted grapes that deceived the living birds, saith one, or the golden apples with this motto, "No further than colour;" touch them and they vanish.

But deceiveth] The heart first deceiveth us with colours, and when we are once doting after sin, then we join and deceive our hearts by fallacious reasonings.


Verse 27

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.

Ver. 27. And widows] A vine whose root is uncovered thrives not; a widow whose covering of eyes is taken away, joys not.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on James 1:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/james-1.html. 1865-1868.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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