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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
James 5

 

 

Verse 1

1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Ver. 1. Go to now, ye rich men] Those rich wretches mentioned James 2:6-7, that blasphemed God and oppressed men. Magna cognatio ut rei sic nominis, divitiis et vitiis.

Weep and howl] Better weep here, where there are wiping handkerchiefs in the hand of Christ, than to have your eyes whipped out in hell. Better howl with men than yell with devils.

That shall come upon you] Gr. επερχομεναις, that are even now stealing upon you.


Verse 2

2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.

Ver. 2. Your riches are corrupted] Being subject to vanity and violence, Matthew 6:19. See the note there. Provide yourselves therefore bags that wax not old; treasure that faileth not, &c., Luke 12:33.


Verse 3

3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

Ver. 3. And shall eat your flesh] i.e. With hell-fire, which shall consume your flesh, nay, your souls, with eternal torments. Some strong poison is made of the rust of metals; none worse than that of money.

For the last days] Wrath for the day of wrath; or store for old age, it being the old man’s care, as Plutarch observes, οτι ουκ εξει θαφοντας και θρεφοντας, that he shall not have what to keep him while alive, and what to bury him honestly when dead.


Verse 4

4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

Ver. 4. Kept back by fraud crieth] Bloodshed, Genesis 4:10, unnatural lust, Genesis 18:21, and oppression (whether by force or fraud), cry to God, and he will hear, for "he is gracious," Exodus 22:27. Oppression is a bony sin, Amos 5:12-13.

" Clamitat in caelum vex sanguinis, et Sodomorum,

Vex oppressorum, et merces detenta laborum."

Lord of Sabaoth] Who hath all power in his hand, and can easily reach you.


Verse 5

5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

Ver. 5. Ye have lived in pleasure] Ye have lain melting in sensual delights, which have drawn out your spirits, and dissolved them, τρυφη, of θρυπτω.

Upon earth] No place of pleasure to good men, but of purgatory, banishment, and bondage. A place of that nature, that (as it is reported of the Straits of Magellan) which way soever a man bend his course (if homeward) he is sure to have the wind against him. It was a heavy charge laid upon Dives, "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things," Luke 16:25.

And been wanton] Fulness breeds forgetfulness, Deuteronomy 32:15. The word εσπαταλησατε properly signifies, Ye have petulantly skipped up and down, like young kids; ye are so wanton that ye know not whether to go on your heads or on your feet. This was the guise of these rich roiters.

As in a day of slaughter] For sacrifice; when they used to have good cheer, Proverbs 7:14. And hereunto the wise man alludeth, Proverbs 17:1. The apostle here seemeth to intimate that these rich sensualists lived upon the cream of sinning, and had such plenty that they picked out none but the sweetest bits to nourish their hearts also.


Verse 6

6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

Ver. 6. Ye have condemned and killed] Take it either properly, or metaphorically of usurers and extortioners, that not only rob, but ravish the poor that are fallen into their nets, Psalms 10:9, that is, their bonds, debts, mortgages, as Chrysostom interpreteth it; there is neither equity nor mercy to be had at their hands; hence they are called meneaters, cannibals, &c. One saith there is more justice to be found in hell than here among men; for in hell no innocent person is oppressed.

And he doth not resist you] Meekness of spirit commonly draws on injuries and indignities from unreasonable men. A crow will stand upon a sheep’s back, pulling off wool from her side, she dare not do so to a wolf or a mastiff. {a} Veterem ferendo iniuriam invitas novam. Bearing old wrongs encourages new ones.

{a} A large, powerful dog with a large head, drooping ears and pendulous lips, valuable as a watch-dog. ŒD


Verse 7

7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

Ver. 7. Be patient therefore] q.d. You poor oppressed ones, hold out faith and patience. You shall shortly have help. As the mother’s breasts ache to be sucklings so doth God’s heart yearn to be helping.

Unto the coming of the Lord] sc. By particular deliverance; and not only by the general judgment. Let patience have line and rope.

Waiteth for the precious fruit] Being in novum annum semper dives, as the proverb is ever rich against the next year. Spes alit agricolas, Hope holds up the husbandman’s heart.

And hath long patience] He looks not to sow and reap in a day, as the Hyperboreans are said to do, that sow shortly after the sunrising with them, and reap before the sun set; because the whole half year is one continual day with them. (Heresbach de re Rustic.)


Verse 8

8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Ver. 8. For the coming] See James 5:7. And he when he comes shall set all to rights. We shall see so much reason in his proceedings, which now we comprehend not, that we shall yield him the "only wise God."


Verse 9

9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

Ver. 9. Grudge not, &c.] μη στεναζετε, groan not, grumble not, grow not sour and sullen one to another.

Lest ye be condemned] As Sarah had been, if the Lord had come, as she desired him, to judge between her and her husband. The most guilty are commonly most querulous and complaining.

The judge standeth before the door] If the magistrate be present we may not offend another to defend ourselves. Ecce iudex pro foribus; therefore, Hold a blow, as we say.


Verse 10

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

Ver. 10. For an example of suffering] Examples very much affect us, as they did many of the martyrs. {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:12"}

" A bove maiori discit arare minor."


Verse 11

11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Ver. 11. We count them happy] If they suffer as they should do, not else. Mithridates showed long patience, such as it was, forced and feigned. He was in a kind of fever called epialis, wherein men be cold without, but hot as fire within. This fever he quenched with his vital blood, shed with his own hand.

Ye have heard of the patience of Job] His impatience is not once mentioned against him; but he is crowned and chronicled here for his patience. God passeth by infirmities, where the heart is upright.

And have seen the end of the Lord] That is, how well it was with Job at the last. Or (as others will have it) what a sweet end the Lord Christ made; whereunto you were some of you eyewitnesses, and should be herein his followers.

And of tender mercy] Having for his motto that of the Emperor Rupert, Miseria res digna misericordia, Misery calleth for mercy.


Verse 12

12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Ver. 12. But above all things] Swear not in jest, lest ye go to hell in earnest. {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:34"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:35"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 23:16"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 23:18"} Swear not in your passion (the apostle is here exhorting them to patience) as the Jews did ordinarily, and, so it were by the creature, held it no great sin, Matthew 5:33; Matthew 23:16. The swearer rends and tears God’s name as a draper rasheth out a piece of cloth to the buyer. He makes his tongue a grenado to shoot out oaths and blasphemies sgainst heaven. He shall one day smart for it in his tongue as Dives did, and be worse punished than the French were in the days of Louis XI, who punished swearing by searing the lips of the swearer with a hot iron.


Verse 13

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

Ver. 13. Is any among you afflicted?] Any one may, for grace is no target against affliction.

Let him pray] Not only because prayer is suitable to a sad disposition, but because it is the conduit of comfort, and hath virtutem pacativam, a settling efficacy. Besides there is no time for hearing of prayers like the time of affliction. Then the saints may have anything of God with reason, for then his heart is turned within him, his repentings are kindled together, Hosea 11:8. See Zechariah 13:9; Psalms 91:15. Then it was that Lot had Zoar given him; David, the lives of his enemies; Paul, all the souls in the ship, &c. See the promise, Psalms 50:15.

Is any man merry?] Gr. ευθυμει, is he right set, well hung on, as we say? All true mirth is from the rectitude of the mind, from a right frame of soul that sets and shows itself in a cheerful countenance.

Let him sing psalms] So that in all estates we must be doing somewhat for God. Tam Dei meminisse opus est, quam respirare. A Christian’s whole life is divided into praying and praising, as David’s Psalms are. If he begin with petition, he commonly concludes with thanksgiving. Thus, by a holy craft, he insinuates into God’s favour, driving a trade between earth and heaven, receiving and returning, importing one commodity and transporting another.


Verse 14

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

Ver. 14. Is any man sick?] "Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick," said Martha to our Saviour, John 11:3. Si amatur, quomodo infirmatur, saith Augustine. If Christ’s friend, how comes he to be sick? Well enough; it is no new thing for Christ’s best beloved to be much afflicted.

Let him send for the elders] This help God hath provided for such as are by sickness disabled to pray for themselves. Sick Abimelech was sent to Abraham (a prophet) for prayers.

Anointing him with oil] As an extraordinary sign of an extraordinary cure. From mistake of this text, the Church instead of pastors had ointers and painters in times of Popery, who did not only ungere, to annoint, but emungere, to wipe, anneal {inflame} men, but beguile them of their monies, and of their souls. Neither want there at this day, that hold this anointing the sick as a standing ordinance for Church members among us; and they tell of strange cures too effected thereby. I hope they aim better than Ptiugius and Sidonius, authors of that wicked piece called the Interim, did; for they defended the Popish chrism and extreme unction, ut ipsi discederent unctiores (as one saith), that they might get fat bishoprics thereby. The Popish ointment differeth much from St James’s oil, used as an outward symbol and sign till miracles ceased. See Mark 16:17; Acts 3:16. Proculus, a Christian, healed Severus the emperor on this wise, as Tertullian testifieth. (Advers. Scapulam.)


Verse 15

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Ver. 15. And the prayer of faith] The Greek word for prayer hath its denomination from well pouring out the heart, or from well cleaving to God. {a} Afflictions (saith one) cause us to seek out God’s promise, the promise to seek faith, faith to seek prayer, and prayer to find God.

They shall be forgiven him] And so he shall be cured on both sides. He shall be sure to have his prayer out, either in money or money’s worth, his labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.

{a} ευχη παρα το ευ χεειν, vel or παρα το ευ εχεσθαι του θειου


Verse 16

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Ver. 16. Confess your faults] To any such godly friend, as can both keep counsel and give counsel. Oftentimes the very opening of men’s grievances easeth, the very opening of a vein cools the blood. Howbeit, it is neither wisdom nor mercy (saith a good divine) to put men upon the rack of confession, further than they can have no ease any way else. For by this means we raise a jealousy in them towards us, and often without cause; which weakeneth and tainteth that love that should unite hearts in one.

The effectual fervent prayer] Gr. ενεργουμενη, the working prayer, that sets the whole man to work to do it as it should be done, and so works wonders in heaven and earth, being after a sort omnipotent, as Luther said. The word rendered "effectual fervent," is by one rendered a thoroughly wrought prayer. An allusion he maketh it to cloth, or such like, which we use to say is thoroughly well wrought, or but slightly wrought.

Availeth much] Jamblicus, a profane writer, hath such a commendation of prayer as might well beseem a better man. He calleth it clavem qua Dei penetralia aperiuntur, rerum divinarum ducem et lucem. (Lib. v. c. 27.) The key of God’s treasury the guide to God. In the island called Taprobane; they sail not by any observation of the stars, they cannot see the north pole, but they carry birds along with them which they often let go, and so bend their course the same way, for the birds will make toward land. Let us often send up prayers to heaven, and let our hearts go along with them, and they will certainly speed. God will come, but he will have his people’s prayers lead him; Daniel 10:12, I came for thy word. He will help, but then we must work in prayer; and as a cart is stuck in a quagmire, if the horses feel it coming, they will pull the harder, so must we, when we find deliverance is coming, and that God is upon his way. Fervent prayer may fitly be resembled to the precious stone Pyrites, which if rubbed grows hot, and burneth the fingers; as, on the other side, dull prayers do little good, but are as the precious stone Diacletes, which having many virtues in it, loseth them all if put into a dead man’s mouth, as naturalists tell us.


Verse 17

17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

Ver. 17. Subject to like passions] For he fled at the threats of Jezebel, Factus seipso imbecillior, saith one; and he would have died, when under the juniper, discontented.


Verse 18

18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Ver. 18. And the earth brought forth] When the roots and fruits seemed all dried up, and the land past recovery. But prayer never comes too late, because God never doth.


Verse 19

19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;

Ver. 19. If any do err from, &c.] Err about fundamentals, fall into deadly heresy, damnable, Peter calleth it, 2 Peter 2:1.


Verse 20

20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Ver. 20. Shall save a soul] A high honour to have any hand in such a work.

Cover a multitude] i.e. He shall be a means that God shall cover them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on James 5:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/james-5.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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