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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

James 5:13

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray - The Jews taught that the meaning of the ordinance, Leviticus 13:45, which required the leper to cry, Unclean! unclean! was, "that thus making known his calamity, the people might be led to offer up prayers to God in his behalf," Sota, page 685, ed. Wagens. They taught also, that when any sickness or affliction entered a family, they should go to the wise men, and implore their prayers. Bava bathra, fol. 116, 1.

In Nedarim, fol. 40, 1, we have this relation: "Rabba, as often as he fell sick, forbade his domestics to mention it for the first day; if he did not then begin to get well, he told his family to go and publish it in the highways, that they who hated him might rejoice, and they that loved him might intercede with God for him."

Is any merry? let him sing psalms - These are all general but very useful directions. It is natural for a man to sing when he is cheerful and happy. Now no subject can be more noble than that which is Divine: and as God alone is the author of all that good which makes a man happy, then his praise should be the subject of the song of him who is merry. But where persons rejoice in iniquity, and not in the truth, God and sacred things can never be the subject of their song.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on James 5:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/james-5.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Is any among you afflicted? - By sickness, bereavement, disappointment, persecutions, loss of health or property. The word used here refers to suffering evil of any kind, ( κακοπαθεῖ kakopatheiLet him pray - That is, prayer is appropriate to trial. The mind naturally resorts to it, and in every way it is proper. God only can remove the source of sorrow; he can grant unto us “a happy issue out of all our afflictions;” he can make them the means of sanctifying the soul. Compare 2 Chronicles 33:12; Psalm 34:4; Psalm 107:6, Psalm 107:13, Psalm 107:28. It matters not what is the form of the trial, it is a privilege which all have to go to God in prayer. And it is an inestimable privilege. Health fails, friends die, property is lost, disappointments come upon us, danger threatens, death approaches - and to whom shall we go but to God? He ever lives. He never fails us or disappoints us if we trust in him, and his ear is ever open to our cries. This would be a sad world indeed, if it were not for the privilege of prayer. The last resource of millions who suffer - for millions suffer every day - would be taken away, if men were denied the access to the throne of grace. As it is, there is no one so poor that he may not pray; no one so disconsolate and forsaken that he may not find in God a friend; no one so broken-hearted that he is not able to bind up his spirit. One of the designs of affliction is to lead us to the throne of grace; and it is a happy result of trials if we are led by our trials to seek God in prayer.

Is any merry? - The word merry now conveys an idea which is not properly found in the original word here. It refers now, in common usage, to light and noisy pleasure; to that which is jovial; to that which is attended with laughter, or which causes laughter, as a merry jest. In the Scriptures, however, the word properly denotes “cheerful, pleasant, agreeable,” and is applied to a state of mind free from trouble - the opposite of affliction - happy, Proverbs 15:13, Proverbs 15:15; Proverbs 17:22; Isaiah 24:7; Luke 15:23-24, Luke 15:29, Luke 15:32. The Greek word used here ( εὐθυμεῖ euthumei) means, literally, “to have the mind well” ( εῦ euand θυμὸς ;) that is, to have it happy, or free from trouble; to be cheerful.

Let him sing psalms - That is, if anyone is happy; if he is in health, and is prospered; if he has his friends around him, and there is nothing to produce anxiety; if he has the free exercise of conscience and enjoys religion, it is proper to express that in notes of praise. Compare Ephesians 5:19-20. On the meaning of the word here rendered “sing psalms,” see the notes at Ephesians 5:19, where it is rendered “making melody.” It does not mean to sing psalms in contradistinction from singing hymns, but the reference is to any songs of praise. Praise is appropriate to such a state of mind. The heart naturally gives utterance to its emotions in songs of thanksgiving. The sentiment in this verse is well expressed in the beautiful stanza:

In every joy that crowns my days,

In every pain I bear,

My heart shall find delight in praise,

Or seek relief in prayer.

- Mrs. Williams.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/james-5.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

James 5:13

Is any among you afflicted?
let him pray

Aflliction’s resource

The apostle here suggests the grand resource for affliction--it is God. We would render the word “pray,” not in its narrower import of mere petitioning, but in its more enlarged construction, of converse, of fellowship, with God.

I. GOD, THE EXCHANGE, THE COMPENSATION, FOR FORFEITED JOYS. If the poor child of adversity would be persuaded to lift himself from that scene of his sore travail to the fountain of supreme blessedness, to soar from that shipwreck of his creature joys to the uncreated centre of joy, then would he solve the grand moral of affliction. There is nothing but mockery in those spurious expedients of relief to which the worldling resorts. But there is ineffable beatitude in God. What a transition! From “broken cisterns, which can hold no water,” to “the fountain of living waters”; from fallacious and treacherous joys to the fountain of perennial joy; from the very wreck and demolition of earthly hopes to Him who is the sun and consummation of all hope. Even believers are slow to make God their prime solace. They are prone to transfer themselves to some new idol when one has been taken away; to dear with a morbid tenacity on visions of the past; to feed on the dust and ashes of their own profuse lamentations--the morose wakings of excessive grief. To all such the watchword prescribes itself--Betake you to God.

II. GOD, THE CENTRE OF THE SOUL’S FELLOWSHIP. It is very marked, in the history of affliction, what a charm communion of mind with mind exerts. If there be any unison of sentiment at all, the reciprocity which occurs is most congenial; in point of fact it is one of the expedients to which affliction betakes itself to arrest the converse of kindred minds. There is probably no more potent creature resource. And we have only to estimate what a transcendent charm must lie in fellowship with God, in communion with Him who is consummate wisdom and excellence, and truth and benignity.

III. GOD, THE FOUNTAIN OF EXHAUSTLESS SYMPATHIES. There is nothing which exerts such a charm in the hour of adversity as tender, sensitive fellow-feeling. And hence the downcast and sorrowful seek some sympathetic bosom into which they may pour their griefs. But for a sympathy surpassing all other sympathies, we point you to Christ. Repair to that bosom, all fraught with fellow-feeling; throw thyself into the embrace of that yearning tenderness.

IV. GOD, A PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE. There are two aspects in which this holds good. On the one hand, God is specially ready to ]end His ear in the day of His people’s affliction; and, next, the succour which He supplies is specially adapted to their emergency. (Adam Forman.)

Prayer in affliction

The family of the afflicted is a large one, and a wide-spread one. It forms a great nation on the earth; and its members are to be found in every country, and in every rank and condition of life. It is an old nation. The first human beings were the first members of it; and an unbroken succession has kept it up ever since. This is the one nation in the world that shows no symptom of decline or fall. It is an honourable nation. There was One belonged to it whose name hallows it: our Blessed Redeemer was a Man of sorrows. The wisest of men found that in much wisdom is much grief. Great forms of majesty: the just whose memory is blessed, the kind whose memory is loved, the ancient seer, the inspired apostle, the crowned martyr rise before the mind as it recalls the past, and reads the long roll of afflicted men. It is our own nation. Affliction is the birthright of all. Some of you feel it is so at this moment. Many have found it so, in the experience of departed days. All will find it so, sooner or later. “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” This is not the prescription of mere worldly wisdom, for the cure of great grief. There is no difficulty in this world in finding people who will give you advice as to what you ought to do, when great sorrow comes your way; Try change of scene, they will say; Go to places that suggest no sad associations and call up no bitter thoughts: Open your heart to the tide of cheerfulness that is flowing all around you. Or perhaps they may say, Go into society. Mix with your fellow-men. Or they will bid you trust to time--time the never-failing comforter. Or, if nothing else will do--if your affliction be one that clings to your life, and makes the condition of your being--then the worldly counsel would be to bear your grief like a man. Now I do not mean to say, nor did the apostle mean to say, but what there is some wisdom and some good in all these things. Still, the good man did not think that any of these ways of meeting affliction was the best. His way is very shortly named. “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray!” No matter what be the cause of your affliction: no matter what be the particular pang with which it rends your heart: no matter what be the constitution of your body, or the complexion of your mind: here is a remedy which the apostle prescribes, without explanation or restriction, for all sorts and conditions of men. Surely then, if the apostle be right, there must be something very strange about prayer. The diseases of the body are many; but then the remedies which physicians prescribe for their cure are very various. But it seems that St. James was of opinion that no afflicted man could ever do wrong when he turned to prayer. And probably we may find the reason why the apostle attached such a mighty efficacy to prayer, when we consider two things about it.

1. First, the afflicted person should pray, because prayer is the best way to bring about the removal of his affliction. In speaking to Christian people, it is needless to say that prayer does not consist of words vaguely cast adrift with no clear end: prayer is a real speaking to a God who hears: a real asking Him for something, about which He will consider whether or not it be good for us: and then our asking, if it be good for us, will truly induce Him to give it us. And yet, I fear that all of us are often very far from properly feeling what a great reality there is in the power of prayer. When a friend you loved lay sick of some dangerous malady, tossing restlessly on a sleepless pillow; and when you had mixed the composing draught and given it to his feverish lips, and then lifted up your heart to God on his behalf, did you feel that that prayer might be just as real a cause of repose or of convalescence as anything that medical skill could suggest, or careful love supply? When you were involved in some perplexing entanglement, were you sure that the silent moments you spent in prayer to your Maker, were just as useful towards clearing up the way before you, as all the address and prudence you were master of? Or, when sickness came your way, and you counted weary days of unrest and suffering, were you then sure that the morning and evening supplication might stand you in better steal than all your physician’s skill? Do you, in short, remember every day of your life, that prayer is the best step towards any end you are aiming at; and that, of all the means that tend to bring about the purpose you are seeking to accomplish, prayer is the very last that you can in prudence omit? If you fail to do all this, you are showing by your practice that you do not truly feel the power of the agency which by prayer you can set in motion.

2. But I dare not say that prayer will certainly take away the affliction for the removal of which you ask. It will do so only if it be God’s will it should; and He knows best whether your prayer should be directly granted. It cannot be, then, that St. James would have the afflicted pray, merely because by prayer they might reasonably expect to get quit of their affliction: there must be something about prayer even more salutary than its virtue to change the natural course of events: and apart altogether from the hope that thus he may find escape from the cause of his sorrow, there must be good reason in the nature of things why the afflicted man should pray. And such reason there is. Prayer has been the talisman that has made years of constant pain to be remembered as the happiest period of life; prayer is that which has made many a poor sufferer tell that it was good for him or her to be afflicted, for affliction had been the sharp spur to turn those feet into the narrow way, which otherwise might have trodden the broad road to perdition. Prayer, earnest prayer offered in the Saviour’s name, never yet went for nothing. If it did not bring the thing it asked for, it brought the grace to do without it: but it never went to the winds. These sufferers found it so. Day by day, gentle resignation kept stealing into their soul, till not a thought ever disturbed their quiet, of what they might have been and were not: and till, from the bottom of their heart, they could pity the worldling that pitied them. For their affliction had been the severe discipline by which God had schooled them for a better country, and weaned their affections from the things of time and sense. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Christian varieties

I. CHRISTIANS ARE SUBJECT TO A VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE. “Afflicted.” “Merry.” Suffering. Enjoyment.

1. They imply the existence of two opposite principles: good and evil.

2. The susceptibility of the human heart to the influences of circumstances. Like -AEolian harp swept by wind. Emotions rise and fall with events.

3. The unsettledness of human life.

(a) Both are found at the same time in different persons.

(b) Both are found at different times in the same persons.

(a) The change from the one to the other is sometimes sudden.

(b) the change from one to the other is sometimes extreme.

(a) To prevent evil. Pride on the one hand; despair on the other.

(b) To promote good. Complete development of character.

II. CHRISTIANS HAVE A CORRESPONDING “VARIETY OF RELIGIOUS DUTY TO DISCHARGE. “Pray.” “Sing psalms.” This teaches--

1. The naturalness of religion. Instinctively men pray in troubles and sing in joy. Nothing arbitrary in piety.

2. The permanence of religion. Whether God “gives” or “takes away,” the response is, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

3. The value of religion.

(a) Acknowledgment of the Author of it.

(b) Satisfaction with the measure of it.

(c) Enjoyment of the possession of it. Happiness is a religious duty; recommends religion; most resembles heaven.

Conclusion:

1. Misery is possible in prosperity. Belshazzar, &c.

2. Joy is possible in adversity. “Rejoice in tribulation.”

3. Uniformity of experience and duty in heaven. No prayer; no affliction. All prosperous; all sing. (B. D. Johns.)

Discipline of affliction

When one considers the amount of affliction which exists in the world, we may well wonder that the simple remedy in the text is as yet an untasted medicine to so many. Can it be that it is too simple? Can it be that, as there are so many who rate the efficacy of drugs by their loathsomeness to the taste, so men would rather seek some painful process or mighty labour than the simple means which God’s Word provides? Such, indeed, was the temper of Naaman (2 Kings 5:11-12). And it is no uncommon temper; for men do not like to be treated like children, and they forget that unless they are so treated they lose the children’s blessing, the children’s kingdom! He who struggles with affliction without prayer struggles in his own strength alone, and rejects every other. And what is this but struggling against God; wrestling with Him, but not as Jacob did; and, therefore, coming off from the contest crippled indeed, but without the blessing which the patriarch won? Thus, indeed, a heart may be in some measure and in a few cases (for in the great number nature will rebel and revenge herself) hardened, rather than strengthened, under suffering. But a miserable comfort it would be, even though one did achieve a heart of stone! God grant that such an one may yet be smitten of God until the waters of healing gush forth! And in what spirit can affliction be received by persons who must believe, whether they will or no, that it comes from the hand of God? If not in the spirit of prayer, in what spirit besides? Must it not be even in the spirit of cursing? And cursing is a kind of miserable prayer; a prayer for evil, and not for good; a prayer, in fact, to the evil one instead of God. Those who have earnestly and perseveringly tried will not be at a loss to know the advantage of obeying the precept. But it will not be without use and interest even for them to recall the times of their trial--how they prayed, and how they were heard, in those extremities which brought them, as it were, immediately before the footstool and the mercy-seat of the Lord. It may be that they have never so prayed again--so passionately, so faithfully, so importunately! And it may be that this will explain many a failure in faith and duty, many a relapse into sin, which seemed impossible--ay, and was impossible--in the fervour of their devotion then I But there are many besides who have never tried. And these may ask the question, half-wondering, half-scoffing, “What will the afflicted man gain by praying? will he obtain the removal of his affliction?” In some cases he may obtain even this, but for the most part he will not. He must not expect it. Why should he expect it? How can he expect it, when he has once understood that his affliction comes from God? For what purpose but for good does God afflict those who pray to Him? And if for good, then, what good would it be to have the tribulation removed before it has had its perfect work?

1. The first answer to our prayers is patience under the trial. This is but little, indeed, in itself; but it is much when compared with anything that any other comforter can give. It makes a Christian look into his own heart; and it tells him--yea, makes him tell himself--how far less than his sins have deserved are all the chastisements which are laid upon him--how well, how mercifully he is dealt with by the God against whom he has sinned. And he has the conviction borne in upon his soul that he will not be tried above that he is able to bear, but that with every trial there will be given either the grace to withstand or a way to escape,

2. From patience, such patience as the mourner receives in answer to his prayer, there is a short, a scarcely perceptible step to comfort; and yet, short as the step is, this is a new gift, a most precious additional blessing. It dwells and reflects on the visitation which has called it forth; it realises His presence in the cloud; and, behold, the cloud becomes a pillar of fire giving light in the darkness! It sees the particular points in which mercy has tempered His judgments, and it feels; even if it cannot see, His lovingkindness interfused throughout the whole. And those who are thus comforted have a further and most precious privilege--to comfort others as none else can (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). It is the privilege of those who have been themselves cast into the furnace to give assurance of the Son of God walking with them in the midst of the fire. But comfort is not all we want; and God therefore gives us more.

3. More guidance we need, because our duties become by every trial new and multiplied. More strength we feel that we need, because our affliction has taught us our own weakness. But He has said that “His strength is sufficient for us; for in our weakness is His strength made perfect.” He has taught His apostle, and us through him, to say, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me”; as surely as Christ Himself taught us that “apart from Him we can do nothing.”

4. And thus we are led on to look to the future: and that further blessing is revealed to us which our affliction is to work--the blessing of faith in God. By this we become no more servants, but friends, not only believing, but knowing what God doeth; not only obeying, but working with Him, through Christ, in His work.

5. And this brings hope with it; a hope unlike the earthly hopes which we have seen mocking us and coming to nought; or, if fulfilled, mocking us still more, till we loathed their fulfilment, and despised ourselves for indulging in them; but this, a hope that maketh not ashamed; for its root is in the love of God and the Holy Spirit which He has given us; its blossom is in the multiplying graces with which the Saviour rewards every step in our sanctification; and its fruit is found in the certainty of that heavenly region where hope itself can no longer find a place, but dies into fruition, as the night dies into the morning. And can more still be said? Yes! there is one blessing further vouchsafed even in this world to those who are sanctified and purified by suffering, so much beyond all comfort and all hope, that the Christian who recognises it in the saints who are with Christ trembles and shrinks from appropriating it to himself, lest the very chastisements of God should minister to unchristian presumption. Yet it is written--written for our comfort and our glory--written, too, for our warning, lest we fall from such privilege and grace--that the children whom God chastises are thereby even conformed to the likeness of that only begotten Son who is the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person. And if these are the earthly fruits of God’s chastisements when sanctified by prayer, what are the heavenly? If these are even the earthly fruits--as most truly, most assuredly they are--who that has once tasted their power would pray for the withdrawal of his affliction, for the removal of the earthly trial which is working the eternal blessing? As we could not, as no Christian could pray--even though it were possible--to do away with the redeeming sufferings of His Saviour; so we may not, cannot wish deliverance from the sufferings whereby we are made unto Him. But as He prayed more earnestly in His agony, so must we in ours--not that the cup be removed, unless it be God’s will, but that all His visitations may have their perfect work in us; that we may be indeed conformed to His likeness here; and that, with those who as joint-heirs with Him have entered into their inheritance, we may have our final consummation and bliss in His glory hereafter. (Dean Scott.)

Piety in unequal temporal conditions

1. Our temporal condition is various and diverse; now afflicted, and then merry. Our prosperity is like glass, brittle when shining. The complaint of the Church may be the motto of all the children of God (Psalms 102:10).

2. This is the perfection of Christianity, to carry an equal pious mind in unequal conditions (Philippians 4:12). Most men are fit but for one condition. Some cannot carry a full cup without spilling. Others cannot carry a full load without breaking. Sudden alterations perplex both body and mind. It is the mighty power of grace to keep the soul in an equal temper.

3. Several conditions require several duties. The Christian conversation is like a wheel--every spoke taketh its turn. God hath planted in a man affections for every condition, grace for every affection, and a duty for the exercise of every grace, and a season for every duty. The children of the Lord are “like trees planted by the rivers of water, that bring forth their fruit in due season” (Psalms 1:3). There is no time wherein God doth not invite us to Himself. It is wisdom to perform what is most seasonable.

4. It is of excellent advantage in religion to make use of the present affection; of sadness, to put us upon prayer; of mirth, to put us upon thanksgiving. The soul never worketh more sweetly than when it worketh in the force of some eminent affection. With what advantage may we strike when the iron is hot! When the affections are stirred up on a carnal occasion, convert them to a religious use (Jeremiah 22:10). When the affections are once raised, give them a right object, otherwise they are apt to degenerate and to offend in their measure, though their first occasion was lawful.

5. Prayer is the best remedy for sorrows. Griefs are eased by groans and utterance. We have great cause in afflictions to use the help of prayer.

6. Thanksgiving, or singing to God’s praise, is the proper duty in the time of mercies or comforts. It is God’s bargain and our promise, that if He would “deliver us,” we would “glorify Him” (Psalms 50:15). Mercies work one way or another; they either become the fuel of our lusts or our praises; either they make us thankful or wanton. Your condition is either a help or a hindrance in religion. Awaken yourselves to this service; every new mercy calleth for a new song.

7. Singing of psalms is a duty of the gospel. (T. Manton.)

Prosper in affliction

Who doubteth but God did mitigate the heaviness of Joseph, although He sent not hasty deliverance in his long imprisonment; and that as He gave him favour in the sight of the jailer, so inwardly also He gave him consolation in spirit? (John Knox.)

Prayer and praise voaths

(James 5:12)

Prayer and praise, or (in one word) worship, according to St. James, is the Christian remedy for “allaying or carrying off the fever of the mind.” (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Use of sickness

During Dr. Payson’s last illness, a friend coming into his room said, “Well, I am sorry to see you lying there on your back.” “Do you not know what God puts us on our backs for?” said Dr. Payson, smiling. “No,” was the answer. “In order that we may look upward.”

Is any merry? let him sing psalms

Religious worship a remedy for excitements

Indisposition of body shows itself in a pain somewhere or other--a distress which draws our thoughts to it, impedes our ordinary way of going on, and throws the mind off its balance. Such, too, is indisposition of the soul, of whatever sort, be it passion or affection, hope or fear, joy or grief. It takes us off from the clear contemplation of the next world, ruffles us, and makes us restless. In a word, it is what we call an excitement of mind. Excitements are the indisposition of the mind; and of these excitements in different ways the services of Divine worship are the proper antidotes. How they are so shall now be considered.

1. Excitements are of two kinds--secular and religious. First, let us consider secular excitements. Such is the pursuit of gain, or of power, or of distinction. Amusements are excitements; the applause of a crowd, emulations, hopes, risks, quarrels, contests, disappointments, successes. In such eases the object pursued naturally absorbs the mind, and excludes all thoughts but those relating to itself. Thus a man is sold over into bondage to this world. He has one idea, and one only before him, which becomes his idol. The most ordinary of these excitements, at least in this country, is the pursuit of gain. A man may live from week to week in the fever of a decent covetousness, to which he gives some more specious name (for instance, desire of doing his duty by his family), till the heart of religion is eaten out of him. Now, then, observe what is the remedy. “Is any afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” Here we see one very momentous use of prayer and praise to all of us; it breaks the current of worldly thoughts. And this is the singular benefit of stated worship, that it statedly interferes with the urgency of worldly excitements. Our daily prayer, morning and evening, suspends our occupations of time and sense. And especially the daily prayers of the Church do this. It is impossible (under God’s blessing) for any one to attend the daily service of the Church “with reverence and godly fear,” and a wish and effort to give his thoughts to it, and not find himself thereby sobered and brought to recollection. What kinder office is there, when a man is agitated, than for a friend to put his hand upon him by way of warning, to startle and recall him? It often has the effect of saving us from angry words, or extravagant talking, or inconsiderate jesting, or rash resolves. And such is the blessed effect of the sacred services on Christians busied about many things, reminding them of the one thing needful, and keeping them from being drawn into the great whirlpool of time and sense.

2. Next, let us consider how religious excitements are set right by the same Divine medicine. If we had always continued in the way of light and truth, obeying God from childhood, doubtless we should know little of those swellings and tumults of the soul which are so common among us. Men who have grown up in the faith and fear of God have a calm and equable piety; so much so, that they are often charged on that very account with being dull, cold, formal, insensible, dead to the next world. Now, it stands to reason that a man who has always lived in the contemplation and improvement of his gospel privileges, will not feel that agitating surprise and vehemence of joy which he would feel, and ought to feel, if he had never known anything of them before. The jailer, who for the first time heard the news of salvation through Christ, gave evident signs of transport. This certainly is natural and right; still, it is a state of excitement, and, if I might say it, all states of excitement have dangerous tendencies. Now, this advice is often given: “Indulge the excitement; when you flag, seek for another; live upon the thought of God; go about doing good; let your light shine before men; tell them what God has done for your soul.” By all which is meant, when we go into particulars, that they ought to fancy that they have something above all other men; ought to neglect their worldly calling, or at best only bear it as a cross; to join themselves to some particular set of religionists; to take part in this or that religious society; go to hear strange preachers, and obtrude their new feelings and new opinions upon others, at times proper and improper. If there was a time when those particular irregularities, which now are so common, were likely to abound, it was in the primitive Church. Men who had lived all their lives in the pollutions of sin unspeakable, who had been involved in the darkness of heathenism, were suddenly brought to the light of Christian truth. Their sins were all freely forgiven them, clean washed away in the waters of baptism. A new world of ideas was opened upon them, and the most astonishing objects presented to their faith. What a state of transport must have been theirs! And what an excited and critical state was theirs! Critical and dangerous in proportion to its real blessedness; for in proportion to the privileges we enjoy, ever will be our risk of misusing them. How, then, did they escape that enthusiasm which now prevails, that irreverence, immodesty, and rudeness? If at any time the outward framework of Christianity was in jeopardy, surely it was then. How was it the ungovernable elements within it did not burst forth and shiver to pieces the vessel which contained them? How was it that for fifteen hundred years the Church was preserved from those peculiar affections of mind and irregularities of feeling and conduct which now torment it like an ague? Now, certainly, looking at external and second causes, the miracles had much to do in securing this blessed sobriety in the early Christians. These kept them from wilfulness and extravagance, and tempered them to the spirit of godly fear. But the more ordinary means was one which we may enjoy at this day if we choose--the course of religious services, the round of prayer and praise, which, indeed, was also part of St. Paul’s discipline, as we have seen, and which has a most gracious effect upon the restless and excited mind, giving it an outlet, yet withal calming, soothing, directing, purifying it. Let restless persons attend upon the worship of the Church, which will attune their minds in harmony with Christ’s law, while it unburdens them. Did not St. Paul “pray” during his three days of blindness? Afterwards he was praying in the temple, when Christ appeared to him. Let this be well considered. Is any one desirous of gaining comfort to his soul, of bringing Christ’s presence home to his very heart, and of doing the highest and most glorious things for the whole world? I have told him how to proceed. Let him praise God; let holy David’s psalter be as familiar words in his mouth, his daily service, ever repeated, yet ever new and ever sacred. Let him pray; especially let him intercede. Doubt not the power of faith and prayer to effect all things with God. However you try, you cannot do works to compare with those which faith and prayer accomplish in the name of Christ. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

A spirit religiously cheerful

When the poet Carpani inquired of his friend Haydn how it happened that his church music was always so cheerful, the great composer made a most beautiful reply. “I cannot,” he said, “make it otherwise. I write according to the thoughts I feel; when I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, it will be pardoned me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit.”

A poor voice for psalm singing

Old Thomas Fuller, who was as noted for his quaintness as for the wisdom of his remarks, had a defective voice; but he did not refuse to praise on this account. “Lord,” he said, “my voice by nature is harsh and untunable, and it is vain to lavish any art to better it. Can my singing of psalms be pleasing to Thine ears, which is unpleasant to my own? Yet, though I cannot chant with the nightingale, or chirp with the blackbird, I had rather chatter with the swallow than be altogether silent. Now what my music wants in sweetness, let it have in sense. Yea, Lord, create in me a new heart, therein to make melody, and I will be contented with my old voice, until in due time, being admitted into the choir of heaven, I shall have another voice more harmonious bestowed upon me.” So let it be with us. Let us ever sing in the same spirit and in the same joy and hope.

True merriment

Greek. εὐθυμεῖ--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. (J. Trapp.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "James 5:13". The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/james-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

James 5:13

Is any among you afflicted?
let him pray

Aflliction’s resource

The apostle here suggests the grand resource for affliction--it is God. We would render the word “pray,” not in its narrower import of mere petitioning, but in its more enlarged construction, of converse, of fellowship, with God.

I. GOD, THE EXCHANGE, THE COMPENSATION, FOR FORFEITED JOYS. If the poor child of adversity would be persuaded to lift himself from that scene of his sore travail to the fountain of supreme blessedness, to soar from that shipwreck of his creature joys to the uncreated centre of joy, then would he solve the grand moral of affliction. There is nothing but mockery in those spurious expedients of relief to which the worldling resorts. But there is ineffable beatitude in God. What a transition! From “broken cisterns, which can hold no water,” to “the fountain of living waters”; from fallacious and treacherous joys to the fountain of perennial joy; from the very wreck and demolition of earthly hopes to Him who is the sun and consummation of all hope. Even believers are slow to make God their prime solace. They are prone to transfer themselves to some new idol when one has been taken away; to dear with a morbid tenacity on visions of the past; to feed on the dust and ashes of their own profuse lamentations--the morose wakings of excessive grief. To all such the watchword prescribes itself--Betake you to God.

II. GOD, THE CENTRE OF THE SOUL’S FELLOWSHIP. It is very marked, in the history of affliction, what a charm communion of mind with mind exerts. If there be any unison of sentiment at all, the reciprocity which occurs is most congenial; in point of fact it is one of the expedients to which affliction betakes itself to arrest the converse of kindred minds. There is probably no more potent creature resource. And we have only to estimate what a transcendent charm must lie in fellowship with God, in communion with Him who is consummate wisdom and excellence, and truth and benignity.

III. GOD, THE FOUNTAIN OF EXHAUSTLESS SYMPATHIES. There is nothing which exerts such a charm in the hour of adversity as tender, sensitive fellow-feeling. And hence the downcast and sorrowful seek some sympathetic bosom into which they may pour their griefs. But for a sympathy surpassing all other sympathies, we point you to Christ. Repair to that bosom, all fraught with fellow-feeling; throw thyself into the embrace of that yearning tenderness.

IV. GOD, A PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE. There are two aspects in which this holds good. On the one hand, God is specially ready to ]end His ear in the day of His people’s affliction; and, next, the succour which He supplies is specially adapted to their emergency. (Adam Forman.)

Prayer in affliction

The family of the afflicted is a large one, and a wide-spread one. It forms a great nation on the earth; and its members are to be found in every country, and in every rank and condition of life. It is an old nation. The first human beings were the first members of it; and an unbroken succession has kept it up ever since. This is the one nation in the world that shows no symptom of decline or fall. It is an honourable nation. There was One belonged to it whose name hallows it: our Blessed Redeemer was a Man of sorrows. The wisest of men found that in much wisdom is much grief. Great forms of majesty: the just whose memory is blessed, the kind whose memory is loved, the ancient seer, the inspired apostle, the crowned martyr rise before the mind as it recalls the past, and reads the long roll of afflicted men. It is our own nation. Affliction is the birthright of all. Some of you feel it is so at this moment. Many have found it so, in the experience of departed days. All will find it so, sooner or later. “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” This is not the prescription of mere worldly wisdom, for the cure of great grief. There is no difficulty in this world in finding people who will give you advice as to what you ought to do, when great sorrow comes your way; Try change of scene, they will say; Go to places that suggest no sad associations and call up no bitter thoughts: Open your heart to the tide of cheerfulness that is flowing all around you. Or perhaps they may say, Go into society. Mix with your fellow-men. Or they will bid you trust to time--time the never-failing comforter. Or, if nothing else will do--if your affliction be one that clings to your life, and makes the condition of your being--then the worldly counsel would be to bear your grief like a man. Now I do not mean to say, nor did the apostle mean to say, but what there is some wisdom and some good in all these things. Still, the good man did not think that any of these ways of meeting affliction was the best. His way is very shortly named. “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray!” No matter what be the cause of your affliction: no matter what be the particular pang with which it rends your heart: no matter what be the constitution of your body, or the complexion of your mind: here is a remedy which the apostle prescribes, without explanation or restriction, for all sorts and conditions of men. Surely then, if the apostle be right, there must be something very strange about prayer. The diseases of the body are many; but then the remedies which physicians prescribe for their cure are very various. But it seems that St. James was of opinion that no afflicted man could ever do wrong when he turned to prayer. And probably we may find the reason why the apostle attached such a mighty efficacy to prayer, when we consider two things about it.

1. First, the afflicted person should pray, because prayer is the best way to bring about the removal of his affliction. In speaking to Christian people, it is needless to say that prayer does not consist of words vaguely cast adrift with no clear end: prayer is a real speaking to a God who hears: a real asking Him for something, about which He will consider whether or not it be good for us: and then our asking, if it be good for us, will truly induce Him to give it us. And yet, I fear that all of us are often very far from properly feeling what a great reality there is in the power of prayer. When a friend you loved lay sick of some dangerous malady, tossing restlessly on a sleepless pillow; and when you had mixed the composing draught and given it to his feverish lips, and then lifted up your heart to God on his behalf, did you feel that that prayer might be just as real a cause of repose or of convalescence as anything that medical skill could suggest, or careful love supply? When you were involved in some perplexing entanglement, were you sure that the silent moments you spent in prayer to your Maker, were just as useful towards clearing up the way before you, as all the address and prudence you were master of? Or, when sickness came your way, and you counted weary days of unrest and suffering, were you then sure that the morning and evening supplication might stand you in better steal than all your physician’s skill? Do you, in short, remember every day of your life, that prayer is the best step towards any end you are aiming at; and that, of all the means that tend to bring about the purpose you are seeking to accomplish, prayer is the very last that you can in prudence omit? If you fail to do all this, you are showing by your practice that you do not truly feel the power of the agency which by prayer you can set in motion.

2. But I dare not say that prayer will certainly take away the affliction for the removal of which you ask. It will do so only if it be God’s will it should; and He knows best whether your prayer should be directly granted. It cannot be, then, that St. James would have the afflicted pray, merely because by prayer they might reasonably expect to get quit of their affliction: there must be something about prayer even more salutary than its virtue to change the natural course of events: and apart altogether from the hope that thus he may find escape from the cause of his sorrow, there must be good reason in the nature of things why the afflicted man should pray. And such reason there is. Prayer has been the talisman that has made years of constant pain to be remembered as the happiest period of life; prayer is that which has made many a poor sufferer tell that it was good for him or her to be afflicted, for affliction had been the sharp spur to turn those feet into the narrow way, which otherwise might have trodden the broad road to perdition. Prayer, earnest prayer offered in the Saviour’s name, never yet went for nothing. If it did not bring the thing it asked for, it brought the grace to do without it: but it never went to the winds. These sufferers found it so. Day by day, gentle resignation kept stealing into their soul, till not a thought ever disturbed their quiet, of what they might have been and were not: and till, from the bottom of their heart, they could pity the worldling that pitied them. For their affliction had been the severe discipline by which God had schooled them for a better country, and weaned their affections from the things of time and sense. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

Christian varieties

I. CHRISTIANS ARE SUBJECT TO A VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE. “Afflicted.” “Merry.” Suffering. Enjoyment.

1. They imply the existence of two opposite principles: good and evil.

2. The susceptibility of the human heart to the influences of circumstances. Like -AEolian harp swept by wind. Emotions rise and fall with events.

3. The unsettledness of human life.

(a) Both are found at the same time in different persons.

(b) Both are found at different times in the same persons.

(a) The change from the one to the other is sometimes sudden.

(b) the change from one to the other is sometimes extreme.

(a) To prevent evil. Pride on the one hand; despair on the other.

(b) To promote good. Complete development of character.

II. CHRISTIANS HAVE A CORRESPONDING “VARIETY OF RELIGIOUS DUTY TO DISCHARGE. “Pray.” “Sing psalms.” This teaches--

1. The naturalness of religion. Instinctively men pray in troubles and sing in joy. Nothing arbitrary in piety.

2. The permanence of religion. Whether God “gives” or “takes away,” the response is, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

3. The value of religion.

(a) Acknowledgment of the Author of it.

(b) Satisfaction with the measure of it.

(c) Enjoyment of the possession of it. Happiness is a religious duty; recommends religion; most resembles heaven.

Conclusion:

1. Misery is possible in prosperity. Belshazzar, &c.

2. Joy is possible in adversity. “Rejoice in tribulation.”

3. Uniformity of experience and duty in heaven. No prayer; no affliction. All prosperous; all sing. (B. D. Johns.)

Discipline of affliction

When one considers the amount of affliction which exists in the world, we may well wonder that the simple remedy in the text is as yet an untasted medicine to so many. Can it be that it is too simple? Can it be that, as there are so many who rate the efficacy of drugs by their loathsomeness to the taste, so men would rather seek some painful process or mighty labour than the simple means which God’s Word provides? Such, indeed, was the temper of Naaman (2 Kings 5:11-12). And it is no uncommon temper; for men do not like to be treated like children, and they forget that unless they are so treated they lose the children’s blessing, the children’s kingdom! He who struggles with affliction without prayer struggles in his own strength alone, and rejects every other. And what is this but struggling against God; wrestling with Him, but not as Jacob did; and, therefore, coming off from the contest crippled indeed, but without the blessing which the patriarch won? Thus, indeed, a heart may be in some measure and in a few cases (for in the great number nature will rebel and revenge herself) hardened, rather than strengthened, under suffering. But a miserable comfort it would be, even though one did achieve a heart of stone! God grant that such an one may yet be smitten of God until the waters of healing gush forth! And in what spirit can affliction be received by persons who must believe, whether they will or no, that it comes from the hand of God? If not in the spirit of prayer, in what spirit besides? Must it not be even in the spirit of cursing? And cursing is a kind of miserable prayer; a prayer for evil, and not for good; a prayer, in fact, to the evil one instead of God. Those who have earnestly and perseveringly tried will not be at a loss to know the advantage of obeying the precept. But it will not be without use and interest even for them to recall the times of their trial--how they prayed, and how they were heard, in those extremities which brought them, as it were, immediately before the footstool and the mercy-seat of the Lord. It may be that they have never so prayed again--so passionately, so faithfully, so importunately! And it may be that this will explain many a failure in faith and duty, many a relapse into sin, which seemed impossible--ay, and was impossible--in the fervour of their devotion then I But there are many besides who have never tried. And these may ask the question, half-wondering, half-scoffing, “What will the afflicted man gain by praying? will he obtain the removal of his affliction?” In some cases he may obtain even this, but for the most part he will not. He must not expect it. Why should he expect it? How can he expect it, when he has once understood that his affliction comes from God? For what purpose but for good does God afflict those who pray to Him? And if for good, then, what good would it be to have the tribulation removed before it has had its perfect work?

1. The first answer to our prayers is patience under the trial. This is but little, indeed, in itself; but it is much when compared with anything that any other comforter can give. It makes a Christian look into his own heart; and it tells him--yea, makes him tell himself--how far less than his sins have deserved are all the chastisements which are laid upon him--how well, how mercifully he is dealt with by the God against whom he has sinned. And he has the conviction borne in upon his soul that he will not be tried above that he is able to bear, but that with every trial there will be given either the grace to withstand or a way to escape,

2. From patience, such patience as the mourner receives in answer to his prayer, there is a short, a scarcely perceptible step to comfort; and yet, short as the step is, this is a new gift, a most precious additional blessing. It dwells and reflects on the visitation which has called it forth; it realises His presence in the cloud; and, behold, the cloud becomes a pillar of fire giving light in the darkness! It sees the particular points in which mercy has tempered His judgments, and it feels; even if it cannot see, His lovingkindness interfused throughout the whole. And those who are thus comforted have a further and most precious privilege--to comfort others as none else can (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). It is the privilege of those who have been themselves cast into the furnace to give assurance of the Son of God walking with them in the midst of the fire. But comfort is not all we want; and God therefore gives us more.

3. More guidance we need, because our duties become by every trial new and multiplied. More strength we feel that we need, because our affliction has taught us our own weakness. But He has said that “His strength is sufficient for us; for in our weakness is His strength made perfect.” He has taught His apostle, and us through him, to say, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me”; as surely as Christ Himself taught us that “apart from Him we can do nothing.”

4. And thus we are led on to look to the future: and that further blessing is revealed to us which our affliction is to work--the blessing of faith in God. By this we become no more servants, but friends, not only believing, but knowing what God doeth; not only obeying, but working with Him, through Christ, in His work.

5. And this brings hope with it; a hope unlike the earthly hopes which we have seen mocking us and coming to nought; or, if fulfilled, mocking us still more, till we loathed their fulfilment, and despised ourselves for indulging in them; but this, a hope that maketh not ashamed; for its root is in the love of God and the Holy Spirit which He has given us; its blossom is in the multiplying graces with which the Saviour rewards every step in our sanctification; and its fruit is found in the certainty of that heavenly region where hope itself can no longer find a place, but dies into fruition, as the night dies into the morning. And can more still be said? Yes! there is one blessing further vouchsafed even in this world to those who are sanctified and purified by suffering, so much beyond all comfort and all hope, that the Christian who recognises it in the saints who are with Christ trembles and shrinks from appropriating it to himself, lest the very chastisements of God should minister to unchristian presumption. Yet it is written--written for our comfort and our glory--written, too, for our warning, lest we fall from such privilege and grace--that the children whom God chastises are thereby even conformed to the likeness of that only begotten Son who is the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person. And if these are the earthly fruits of God’s chastisements when sanctified by prayer, what are the heavenly? If these are even the earthly fruits--as most truly, most assuredly they are--who that has once tasted their power would pray for the withdrawal of his affliction, for the removal of the earthly trial which is working the eternal blessing? As we could not, as no Christian could pray--even though it were possible--to do away with the redeeming sufferings of His Saviour; so we may not, cannot wish deliverance from the sufferings whereby we are made unto Him. But as He prayed more earnestly in His agony, so must we in ours--not that the cup be removed, unless it be God’s will, but that all His visitations may have their perfect work in us; that we may be indeed conformed to His likeness here; and that, with those who as joint-heirs with Him have entered into their inheritance, we may have our final consummation and bliss in His glory hereafter. (Dean Scott.)

Piety in unequal temporal conditions

1. Our temporal condition is various and diverse; now afflicted, and then merry. Our prosperity is like glass, brittle when shining. The complaint of the Church may be the motto of all the children of God (Psalms 102:10).

2. This is the perfection of Christianity, to carry an equal pious mind in unequal conditions (Philippians 4:12). Most men are fit but for one condition. Some cannot carry a full cup without spilling. Others cannot carry a full load without breaking. Sudden alterations perplex both body and mind. It is the mighty power of grace to keep the soul in an equal temper.

3. Several conditions require several duties. The Christian conversation is like a wheel--every spoke taketh its turn. God hath planted in a man affections for every condition, grace for every affection, and a duty for the exercise of every grace, and a season for every duty. The children of the Lord are “like trees planted by the rivers of water, that bring forth their fruit in due season” (Psalms 1:3). There is no time wherein God doth not invite us to Himself. It is wisdom to perform what is most seasonable.

4. It is of excellent advantage in religion to make use of the present affection; of sadness, to put us upon prayer; of mirth, to put us upon thanksgiving. The soul never worketh more sweetly than when it worketh in the force of some eminent affection. With what advantage may we strike when the iron is hot! When the affections are stirred up on a carnal occasion, convert them to a religious use (Jeremiah 22:10). When the affections are once raised, give them a right object, otherwise they are apt to degenerate and to offend in their measure, though their first occasion was lawful.

5. Prayer is the best remedy for sorrows. Griefs are eased by groans and utterance. We have great cause in afflictions to use the help of prayer.

6. Thanksgiving, or singing to God’s praise, is the proper duty in the time of mercies or comforts. It is God’s bargain and our promise, that if He would “deliver us,” we would “glorify Him” (Psalms 50:15). Mercies work one way or another; they either become the fuel of our lusts or our praises; either they make us thankful or wanton. Your condition is either a help or a hindrance in religion. Awaken yourselves to this service; every new mercy calleth for a new song.

7. Singing of psalms is a duty of the gospel. (T. Manton.)

Prosper in affliction

Who doubteth but God did mitigate the heaviness of Joseph, although He sent not hasty deliverance in his long imprisonment; and that as He gave him favour in the sight of the jailer, so inwardly also He gave him consolation in spirit? (John Knox.)

Prayer and praise voaths

(James 5:12)

Prayer and praise, or (in one word) worship, according to St. James, is the Christian remedy for “allaying or carrying off the fever of the mind.” (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Use of sickness

During Dr. Payson’s last illness, a friend coming into his room said, “Well, I am sorry to see you lying there on your back.” “Do you not know what God puts us on our backs for?” said Dr. Payson, smiling. “No,” was the answer. “In order that we may look upward.”

Is any merry? let him sing psalms

Religious worship a remedy for excitements

Indisposition of body shows itself in a pain somewhere or other--a distress which draws our thoughts to it, impedes our ordinary way of going on, and throws the mind off its balance. Such, too, is indisposition of the soul, of whatever sort, be it passion or affection, hope or fear, joy or grief. It takes us off from the clear contemplation of the next world, ruffles us, and makes us restless. In a word, it is what we call an excitement of mind. Excitements are the indisposition of the mind; and of these excitements in different ways the services of Divine worship are the proper antidotes. How they are so shall now be considered.

1. Excitements are of two kinds--secular and religious. First, let us consider secular excitements. Such is the pursuit of gain, or of power, or of distinction. Amusements are excitements; the applause of a crowd, emulations, hopes, risks, quarrels, contests, disappointments, successes. In such eases the object pursued naturally absorbs the mind, and excludes all thoughts but those relating to itself. Thus a man is sold over into bondage to this world. He has one idea, and one only before him, which becomes his idol. The most ordinary of these excitements, at least in this country, is the pursuit of gain. A man may live from week to week in the fever of a decent covetousness, to which he gives some more specious name (for instance, desire of doing his duty by his family), till the heart of religion is eaten out of him. Now, then, observe what is the remedy. “Is any afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” Here we see one very momentous use of prayer and praise to all of us; it breaks the current of worldly thoughts. And this is the singular benefit of stated worship, that it statedly interferes with the urgency of worldly excitements. Our daily prayer, morning and evening, suspends our occupations of time and sense. And especially the daily prayers of the Church do this. It is impossible (under God’s blessing) for any one to attend the daily service of the Church “with reverence and godly fear,” and a wish and effort to give his thoughts to it, and not find himself thereby sobered and brought to recollection. What kinder office is there, when a man is agitated, than for a friend to put his hand upon him by way of warning, to startle and recall him? It often has the effect of saving us from angry words, or extravagant talking, or inconsiderate jesting, or rash resolves. And such is the blessed effect of the sacred services on Christians busied about many things, reminding them of the one thing needful, and keeping them from being drawn into the great whirlpool of time and sense.

2. Next, let us consider how religious excitements are set right by the same Divine medicine. If we had always continued in the way of light and truth, obeying God from childhood, doubtless we should know little of those swellings and tumults of the soul which are so common among us. Men who have grown up in the faith and fear of God have a calm and equable piety; so much so, that they are often charged on that very account with being dull, cold, formal, insensible, dead to the next world. Now, it stands to reason that a man who has always lived in the contemplation and improvement of his gospel privileges, will not feel that agitating surprise and vehemence of joy which he would feel, and ought to feel, if he had never known anything of them before. The jailer, who for the first time heard the news of salvation through Christ, gave evident signs of transport. This certainly is natural and right; still, it is a state of excitement, and, if I might say it, all states of excitement have dangerous tendencies. Now, this advice is often given: “Indulge the excitement; when you flag, seek for another; live upon the thought of God; go about doing good; let your light shine before men; tell them what God has done for your soul.” By all which is meant, when we go into particulars, that they ought to fancy that they have something above all other men; ought to neglect their worldly calling, or at best only bear it as a cross; to join themselves to some particular set of religionists; to take part in this or that religious society; go to hear strange preachers, and obtrude their new feelings and new opinions upon others, at times proper and improper. If there was a time when those particular irregularities, which now are so common, were likely to abound, it was in the primitive Church. Men who had lived all their lives in the pollutions of sin unspeakable, who had been involved in the darkness of heathenism, were suddenly brought to the light of Christian truth. Their sins were all freely forgiven them, clean washed away in the waters of baptism. A new world of ideas was opened upon them, and the most astonishing objects presented to their faith. What a state of transport must have been theirs! And what an excited and critical state was theirs! Critical and dangerous in proportion to its real blessedness; for in proportion to the privileges we enjoy, ever will be our risk of misusing them. How, then, did they escape that enthusiasm which now prevails, that irreverence, immodesty, and rudeness? If at any time the outward framework of Christianity was in jeopardy, surely it was then. How was it the ungovernable elements within it did not burst forth and shiver to pieces the vessel which contained them? How was it that for fifteen hundred years the Church was preserved from those peculiar affections of mind and irregularities of feeling and conduct which now torment it like an ague? Now, certainly, looking at external and second causes, the miracles had much to do in securing this blessed sobriety in the early Christians. These kept them from wilfulness and extravagance, and tempered them to the spirit of godly fear. But the more ordinary means was one which we may enjoy at this day if we choose--the course of religious services, the round of prayer and praise, which, indeed, was also part of St. Paul’s discipline, as we have seen, and which has a most gracious effect upon the restless and excited mind, giving it an outlet, yet withal calming, soothing, directing, purifying it. Let restless persons attend upon the worship of the Church, which will attune their minds in harmony with Christ’s law, while it unburdens them. Did not St. Paul “pray” during his three days of blindness? Afterwards he was praying in the temple, when Christ appeared to him. Let this be well considered. Is any one desirous of gaining comfort to his soul, of bringing Christ’s presence home to his very heart, and of doing the highest and most glorious things for the whole world? I have told him how to proceed. Let him praise God; let holy David’s psalter be as familiar words in his mouth, his daily service, ever repeated, yet ever new and ever sacred. Let him pray; especially let him intercede. Doubt not the power of faith and prayer to effect all things with God. However you try, you cannot do works to compare with those which faith and prayer accomplish in the name of Christ. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

A spirit religiously cheerful

When the poet Carpani inquired of his friend Haydn how it happened that his church music was always so cheerful, the great composer made a most beautiful reply. “I cannot,” he said, “make it otherwise. I write according to the thoughts I feel; when I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, it will be pardoned me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit.”

A poor voice for psalm singing

Old Thomas Fuller, who was as noted for his quaintness as for the wisdom of his remarks, had a defective voice; but he did not refuse to praise on this account. “Lord,” he said, “my voice by nature is harsh and untunable, and it is vain to lavish any art to better it. Can my singing of psalms be pleasing to Thine ears, which is unpleasant to my own? Yet, though I cannot chant with the nightingale, or chirp with the blackbird, I had rather chatter with the swallow than be altogether silent. Now what my music wants in sweetness, let it have in sense. Yea, Lord, create in me a new heart, therein to make melody, and I will be contented with my old voice, until in due time, being admitted into the choir of heaven, I shall have another voice more harmonious bestowed upon me.” So let it be with us. Let us ever sing in the same spirit and in the same joy and hope.

True merriment

Greek. εὐθυμεῖ--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. (J. Trapp.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "James 5:13". The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/james-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Is any among you suffering? let him pray. Is any cheerful? let him sing praise.

Here begins a series of separate admonitions making up the final section of the epistle.

Any suffering? ... let him pray ... This was, and is, the general rule for suffering of all kinds; and it included even the special cases alluded to in James 5:14 a moment later. In a sense, all healing is divine. Over the main portal of the great Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan, N.Y., there are engraved the words: "All healing is of God; physicians only bind up the wounds."

Any cheerful? ... let him sing praise ... Singing, from the earliest New Testament times, was used by the church for the purpose of sanctifying times of emotion, whether joyful or sorrowful. As Harper pointed out, "Christian singing is supposed to be the medium of the light and joyful as well as more serious sentiments."[39]

It is regrettable that commentators, for example, Tasker, and others drag into the interpretation of this verse an attempted justification of instrumental music in Christian worship, thus:

[@Psallo] originally meant to play by touching a stringed instrument ... it describes the stirring of the soul ... it refers to every sounding of God's praises, whether in the company of others or alone, whether vocally with or without musical accompaniment, or silently.[40]SIZE>

It is a fact eloquently stated by F. F. Bruce that (concerning the Greek words [@psallo] and [@psalmos] as used in this place) "Both are irrelevant to the question of instrumental accompaniment, one way or the other."[41] For those interested in pursuing the subject further, the scholarly work of J. W. Roberts settles the question completely. "Nothing in the context indicates a meaning other than that of vocal music."[42] No matter what the "original meaning" of [@psallo] might have been, the instrument to be "plucked" is given in the sacred text; and it is not a mechanical instrument, but the human voice.

God's church is a singing church. As early as 111 A.D., when Pliny wrote the Emperor Trajan that the Christians assembled very "early on a fixed day and sang by turns a hymn to Christ as God,"[43] until the present day, the churches of Christ ring with the songs of praise and adoration. What a contrast this is with every other religion ever known!

In the orthodox Jewish synagogue, since the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, there has been no music, for, when they worship, they remember a tragedy; but, in the Christian church, from the beginning until now, there has been the music of praise.[44]SIZE>

The Moslem shouts from his minaret at morning, noon and night, "To prayer! To prayer!" The pagan temples for centuries resounded to the brassy cacophony of trumpets and horns. The primitives of the African interior beat their tom-toms. Only the Christian sings!

[39] A. F. Harper, op. cit., p. 245.

[40] R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 128.

[41] F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 107.

[42] J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 163.

[43] Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1947), p. 6.

[44] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 129.


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/james-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Is any among you afflicted?.... As the people of God generally are; they are commonly a poor, and an afflicted people; at least there are many among them that are so, and many are their afflictions: those whom Christ loves, as he did Lazarus, are not free from sicknesses and diseases; and these are rather signs of love than arguments against it; and when this is the case of any of the saints, what is to be done?

let him pray; to God that can save him; in the name of Christ; under the influence of the Spirit; believing in the word of promise. Times of afflictions are proper times for prayer; there is then more especially need of it; and God sometimes lays his afflicting hand upon his people, when they have been negligent of their duty, and he has not heard of them for some time, in order to bring them near to him, to seek his face, pay him a visit, and pour out a prayer before him; see Psalm 50:15.

Is any merry? in good heart and spirit, in a good frame of mind, as well as in prosperous circumstances, in soul, body and estate:

let him sing psalms; let him not only be inwardly joyful, as he should be in prosperity, and be thankful to God for his many mercies, temporal and spiritual, he enjoys; but let him express it vocally, and melodiously, by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs: not that these are the only persons that are to sing psalms, or this the only time, any more than that afflicted persons are the only ones that are to pray, or the time of affliction the only time of prayer; but as affliction more especially calls for prayer, so spiritual joy, and rejoicing in prosperous seasons, for singing of psalms: weeping, and singing of psalms, were thought, by the Jews, inconsistent. Kimchi, on the title of the third psalm, observes, that their Rabbins say, that when David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, he wept; and if he wept, why is this called a psalm? and if a psalm, למה בכה, "why did he weep?"


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on James 5:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/james-5.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(8) He shows the best remedy against all afflictions, that is, prayers which have their place both in sorrow and joy.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on James 5:13". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/james-5.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

afflicted — referring to the “suffering affliction” (James 5:10).

let him pray — not “swear” in rash impatience.

merry — joyous in mind.

sing psalms — of praise. Paul and Silas sang psalms even in affliction.


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/james-5.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Is any suffering? (κακοπατει τισkakopathei tis̱). See James 5:10 for κακοπατιαkakopathia The verb in N.T. occurs only here and in 2 Timothy 2:3, 2 Timothy 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:5. The lively interrogative is common in the diatribe and suits the style of James.

Among you (εν υμινen humin). As in James 3:13.

Let him pray (προσευχεστωproseuchesthō). Present middle imperative, “let him keep on praying” (instead of cursing as in James 5:12).

Is any cheerful (ευτυμειeuthumei̱). Present active indicative of ευτυμεωeuthumeō old verb from ευτυμοςeuthumos (Acts 27:36), in N.T. only here and Acts 27:22, Acts 27:25.

Let him sing praise (πσαλλετωpsalletō). Present active imperative of πσαλλωpsallō originally to twang a chord as on a harp, to sing praise to God whether with instrument or without, in N.T. only here, 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9; Ephesians 5:19. “Let him keep on making melody.”


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/james-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Is afflicted ( κακοπαθεῖ )

See on the kindred word κακοπάθεια ,suffering, James 5:10. Only here and 2 Timothy 2:3, 2 Timothy 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:5.

Let him sing psalms ( ψαλλέτω )

The word means, primarily, to pluck or twitch. Hence of the sharp twang on a bowstring or harp-string, and so to play upon a stringed instrument. Our word psalm, derived from this, is, properly, a tune played upon a stringed instrument. The verb, however, is used in the New Testament of singing praise generally. See 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9.


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/james-5.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

13.] The connexion seems to be, Let not this light and frivolous spirit at any time appear among you; if suffering, or if rejoicing, express your feelings not by random and unjustifiable exclamations, but in a Christian and sober manner, as here prescribed. Is any among you in trouble (the classical usages are κακοπαθοῦντες τοῦ χωρίου τῇ ἀπορίᾳ, Thuc. iv. 29, of the Athenian soldiers besieging the Lacedæmonians in Sphacteria,—ib. i. 122, πόλεις τοσάσδε ὑπὸ μιᾶς κακοπαθεῖν, &c. The suffering inflicted, not the state of him who suffers, is called κακοπάθεια; see on James 5:10)? let him pray. Is any in joy (light of heart)? let him sing praise (lit. play on an instrument: but used in reff. Rom. and 1 Cor. and elsewhere of singing praise generally. The word ‘Psalm’ is an evidence of this latter sense).


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on James 5:13". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/james-5.html. 1863-1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

13Is any among you afflicted? he means that there is no time in which God does not invite us to himself. For afflictions ought to stimulate us to pray; prosperity supplies us with an occasion to praise God. But such is the perverseness of men, that they cannot rejoice without forgetting God, and that when afflicted they are disheartened and driven to despair. We ought, then, to keep within due bounds, so that the joy, which usually makes us to forget God, may induce us to set forth the goodness of God, and that our sorrow may teach us to pray. For he has set the singing of psalms in opposition to profane and unbridled joy; and thus they express their joy who are led, as they ought to be, by prosperity to God.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/james-5.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on James 5:13". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/james-5.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

James 5:13

Religious Worship a Remedy for Excitements.

St. James seems to imply in these words that there is that in religious worship which supplies all our spiritual need, which suits every mood of mind and every variety of circumstances, over and above the heavenly and supernatural assistance which we are allowed to expect from it. Prayer and praise seem in his view to be a universal remedy, a panacea, as it is called, which ought to be used at once, whatever it be that affects us. Excitements are the indisposition of the mind; and of these excitements in different ways the services 'of Divine worship are the proper antidotes. How they are so shall now be considered.

I. Excitements are of two kinds: secular and religious. First, let us consider secular excitements. Such is the pursuit of gain, or of power, or of distinction. A man may live from week to week in the fever of a decent covetousness, to which he gives some more specious names, till the heart of religion is eaten out of him. One very momentous use of prayer and praise with all of us is that it breaks the current of worldly thoughts. Our daily prayer morning and evening suspends our occupations of time and sense, and especially the prayers of the Church do this. The weekly services of prayer and praise come to us as a gracious relief, a pause from the world, a glimpse of the third heaven, lest the world should rob us of our hope and enslave us to that hard master who is plotting our eternal destruction.

II. Next, let us consider how religious excitements are set right by the same Divine medicine. Is any one desirous of gaining comfort to his soul, of bringing Christ's presence home to his very heart, and of doing the highest and most glorious thing for the whole world? Let him praise God; let David's holy Psalter be as familiar words in his mouth, his daily service, ever repeated, yet ever new and ever sacred; let him pray: especially let him intercede. Few are rich; few can suffer for Christ; all may pray. Other men will not pray for themselves; you may pray for them and for the general Church; and while you pray, you will find enough in the defects of your praying to remind you of your own nothingness and to keep you from pride while you aim at perfection.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iii., p. 336.



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Bibliography
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/james-5.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

James 5:13. Is any among you afflicted? &c.— These two directions concerning prayer when they were afflicted, and praise when they were easy and cheerful, seem to refer to private devotion, and not to their public worship: for if one person was afflicted, and another quite easy, what might suit one, would, according to this rule of the apostle, have been unfit for the other: accordingly it is put in the singular number.


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on James 5:13". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/james-5.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Here observe, 1. That affliction is a praying season. Prayer is a duty never out of season, but never more in season than in and under affliction.

Observe, 2. That though the time of affliction be a special time when a saint prayeth, yet it is not the only time, he prays at all times, because he loves to pray; he prays then, because he especially stands then in need of prayer. A carnal heart has no mind to the duty: he visits not God unless God visits him; but a good man prays continually, prays without ceasing, in health and sickness, in poverty and want; when the candle of the Lord shines about his tabernacles, as well as when he walketh through darkness.

He that prays, makes music in the ears of God: he that sings psalms, performs a duty suitable to his condition. Several conditions require several duties, and all duties are to be performed suitably to our several conditions. Singing is proper to a prosperous state; both to sing God's praises, and to sing to his praise; prayer is proper to an afflicted condition; it is our best remedy, because it leads us to God our best refuge: therefore if any be afflicted, let him pray to God to alleviate and sanctify his affliction. Is any merry? let him sing psalms of praise to that God who hath given him this cheerfulness of spirit.


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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on James 5:13". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/james-5.html. 1700-1703.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

James 5:13. If one among you suffers, let him pray; if one is of good courage, let him sing psalms. This exhortation stands in no assignable connection with what goes before. The sufferings to which James 5:7 ff. refer are those of persecution; but κακοπαθεῖν has here an entirely general meaning. On account of the following εὐθυμεῖ, many expositors (Beza, Semler, Rosenmüller, Hottinger) incorrectly explain κακοπαθεῖν = “to be dejected” (Vulgate: tristatur quis). It rather means to be unfortunate, to suffer, in which aegritudo animo is certainly to be considered as included. Pott incorrectly takes it as equivalent to the following ἀσθενεῖν, which is only a particular, kind of κακοπαθεῖν.

προσεύχεσθαι] denotes prayer generally; there is no reason to limit it here to petition.

ψάλλειν] literally, to touch, used particularly of stringed instruments; in the LXX. the translation of נִנֵּן and זִטֵּר = to sing psalms; comp. particularly 1 Corinthians 14:15. Both joy and sorrow should be the occasion of prayer to the Christian. The form of the sentence is the same as in 1 Corinthians 7:18; 1 Corinthians 7:27. Meyer: “The protases do not convey a question, being in the rhetorically emphatic form of the hypothetical indicative;” see Winer, p. 152 [E. T. 213], p. 255 [E. T. 355], p. 478 [E. T. 678].(239)


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on James 5:13". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/james-5.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

James 5:13. προσευχέσθω· ψαλλέτω, let him pray; let him sing psalms) It is allowable also to sing psalms in adversity, and to pray in prosperity: but in adversity the mind in general is less able to endure the singing of psalms; and that which the mind endures ought rather to be done. They were especially accustomed to do this in public in the assembly of the faithful; as the antithesis shows, let him call for, as applied to the sick: James 5:14.


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Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on James 5:13". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/james-5.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Is any among you afflicted? either troubled or afflicted in mind, as appears by the opposite being

merry, or more generally afflicted any way. Not that we need not pray at other times, but when under afflictions God calls us more especially to it, and our own necessities put us upon it.

Let him pray; for support, patience, sanctification of afflictions, &c.

Is any merry? let him sing psalms; express his mirth in a holy manner, by praising God with psalms or spiritual songs for mercies received from him, 1 Corinthians 14:15 Ephesians 5:19; and so keep up his spiritual mirth by a spiritual exercise, lest his cheerfulness degenerate into vanity and frothiness.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on James 5:13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/james-5.html. 1685.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

13. κακοπαθεῖ. See above, James 5:10.

ψαλλέτω. The word implies the accompaniment of a musical instrument. For psalmody among the Jews see Bp Lightfoot’s note on Colossians 3:16. He shews by quotation from Philo that it had reached a high development at this epoch: ποιοῦσιν ᾄσματα καὶ ὕμνους εἰς θεὸν διὰ παντοίων μέτρων καὶ μελῶν ἃ ῥυθμοῖς σεμνοτέροις ἀναγκαίως χαράττουσι, Philo, de Vita Cont. § 3 (II. p. 476); πάννυχοι δὲ διατελέσαντες ἐν ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς, Philo in Flacc. 14 (II. p. 535). For the hymnody of the first Christians see Acts 4:24; Acts 16:25, 1 Corinthians 14:15; 1 Corinthians 14:26. It is probable that fragments of Christian hymns are to be found in the epistles, as in Ephesians 5:14 and 1 Timothy 3:16.


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Bibliography
"Commentary on James 5:13". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/james-5.html. 1896.

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Chapter 26

WORSHIP THE BEST OUTLET AND REMEDY FOR EXCITEMENT-THE CONNECTION BETWEEN WORSHIP AND CONDUCT.

James 5:13

THE subject of this verse was probably suggested by that of the preceding one. Oaths are not a right way of expressing one’s feelings, however strong they may be, and of whatever kind they may be. There is, however, no need to stifle such feelings, or to pretend to the world that we have no emotions. In this respect, as in many others, Christianity has no sympathy with the precepts of Stoicism or Cynicism. It is not only innocent, but prudent, to seek an outlet for excited feelings; the right and wrong of the matter lie in the kind of outlet which we allow ourselves. Language of some kind, and in most cases articulate language, is the natural instrument for expressing and giving vent to our feelings. But we need some strong safeguard, or the consequences of freely giving expression to our emotions in speech will be calamitous. This safeguard is clearly indicated by the rules here laid down by St. James. Let the expression of strongly excited feelings be an act of worship; then we shall have an outlet for them which is not likely to involve us in harmful results. By the very act in which we exhibit our emotions we protect ourselves from the evil which they might produce. The very mode of expressing them moderates them, and serves as an antidote to their capacity for evil. Prayer and praise, or (in one word) worship, according to St. James, is the Christian remedy for "allaying or carrying off the fever of the mind." In all cases in which the mind is greatly agitated, whether painfully or pleasantly, whether by sorrow, anger, regret, or by joy, pleasure, hope, -the wise thing to do is to take refuge in an act of worship.

Mental excitement is neither right nor wrong, any more than physical hunger or thirst. Everything depends on the method of expressing the one or gratifying the other. It will be easy in both cases to indulge a legitimate craving in such a way as to turn a natural and healthy symptom into a disease. Neither a heated mind nor a heated body can without danger be kept heated, or treated as if it was at its normal temperature. The advice of St. James is that in all cases in which our minds are agitated by strong emotion we should turn to Him who gave us minds capable of feeling such emotion; we should cease to make ourselves our own center, and turn our thoughts from the causes of our excitement to Him who is the unmoved Cause of all movement and rest.

We need not tie ourselves to the distribution of prayer and praise expressed in the text. It is the most natural and most generally useful distribution; but it is not the only one, and perhaps it is not the highest. The precept will hold good with equal truth if we transpose the two conclusions: "Is any among you suffering? let him sing praise. Is any cheerful? let him pray." "In everything give thanks," says St. Paul; which involves our frequently giving thanks in suffering. This was what Job, to whom St. James has just directed his readers, did in his trouble. He "fell upon the ground and worshipped: and he said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" [Job 1:20-21}. And the Psalmist teaches much the same lesson as St. Paul: "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth". {Psalms 34:1] But if praise is as suitable as prayer for suffering, prayer is as suitable as praise for cheerfulness. He who is cheerful has indeed great reason to bless and praise God. He has a priceless gift, which is a blessing to himself and to all around him, a gift which makes life brighter to the whole circle in which he moves. We most of us take far too little pains to cultivate it, to retain it when it has been granted to us, to regain it when we have lost it or thrown it away. Yet cheerfulness has its dangers. The light-hearted are apt to be light-headed, and to be free from care leads to being free from carefulness. The cheerful may easily lose sobriety, and be found off their guard. The remedy is prayer. Prayer steadies without dimming the bright flame of cheerfulness; and just as thanksgiving sweetens sorrow, so supplication sanctifies joy. "Is any suffering? let him sing praise. Is any cheerful? let him pray."

But there is another advantage in making religious worship, whether public or private, the outlet for our emotions. It secures a real connection between worship and life. Missionaries tell us that this is a frequent difficulty in their work. It is a hard enough thing to win converts from heathenism; but it is perhaps still harder to teach the newly converted that the worship of God has any bearing whatever upon their conduct. This idea is quite strange to them, and utterly alien to their whole mode of thought. They have never been taught anything of the kind before. They have been accustomed to regard the worship of the gods as a series of acts which must be religiously performed in order to win the favor of the deities, or at least to avert their Wrath. But it has never occurred to them, nor have their priests impressed upon them, that their lives must be in accordance with their worship, or that the one has any connection with the other, any more than the color of their clothes with the amount that they eat and drink. From this it follows that when the idolater has been induced to substitute the worship of God for the worship of idols, there still remains an immense amount to be done. The convert has still to be taught that there can no longer be this divorce of religion from conduct, but that prayer and praise must go hand in hand with work and life.

Converts from heathenism are by no means the only persons who are in need of this lesson. We all of us require to be reminded of it. All of us are apt to draw far too strong a line of distinction between Church and home, between Sunday and week-day, between the time that we spend on our knees and that which we spend in work and recreation. Not, alas! that we are too scrupulous about allowing worldly thoughts to invade sacred times and places, but that we are very jealous about allowing thoughts of God and of His service to mingle with our business and our pleasures, or at least take no pains to bring about and keep up any such mingling. Our worship is often profaned by being shared with the world; our work is rarely consecrated by being shared with God.

What St. James recommends here is a remedy for this. There can be no wall of partition between conduct and religion if our feelings of joy and sorrow, of elation and despondency, of hope and fear, of love and dislike, are daily and hourly finding expression in praise and prayer. Our emotions will thus become instruments for moving us towards God. So much of life is filled with either vexation or pleasure, that one who has learned to carry out the directions here given of turning suffering into prayer, and cheerfulness into praise, will have gone a long way towards realizing the Apostolic command, "Pray without ceasing." As Calvin well observes, St. James "means that there is no time in which God does not invite us to Himself. For afflictions ought to stimulate us to pray; prosperity supplies us with an occasion to praise God. But such is the perverseness of men that they cannot rejoice without forgetting God, and when afflicted they are disheartened and driven to despair. We ought, then, to keep within due bounds, so that the joy which usually makes us forget God may induce us to set forth the goodness of God, and that our sorrow may teach us to pray."

The word used by St. James for "to sing praise" ( ψαλλειν) is worthy of notice. It is the source of the word "psalm." Originally it meant simply to touch, especially to make to vibrate by touching: whence it came to be used of playing on stringed instruments. Next it came to mean to sing to the harp; and finally to sing., whether with or without a stringed accompaniment. This is its signification in the New Testament; to Romans [1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19] sing praise to God. St. James, therefore, regards music as a natural and reasonable mode of expressing joyous feelings; and few will care to dispute that it is so; and it is evident that he is thinking chiefly, if not exclusively, of the joyous Christian singing by himself, rather than of his joining in psalms and hymns in the public worship of the congregation. A portion of Hooker’s noble vindication of music as a part of religious worship may here with advantage be quoted.

"Touching musical harmony, whether by instrument or by voice, it being but of high and low in sounds a due proportional disposition, such, notwithstanding, is the force thereof, and so pleasing effects it hath in that very part of man which is most divine, that some have been thereby induced to think that the soul itself, by nature, is or hath in it harmony. A thing which delighteth all ages and beseemeth all states; a thing as seasonable in grief as in joy; as decent being added unto actions of greatest weight and solemnity, as being used when men most sequester themselves from action. The reason hereof is an admirable facility which music hath to express and represent to the mind, more inwardly than any other sensible mean, the very standing, rising, and falling, the very steps and inflections every way, the turns and varieties of all passions whereunto the mind is subject; yea, so to imitate them that whether it resemble unto us the same state wherein our minds already are, or a clean contrary, we are not more contentedly by the one confirmed, than changed and led away by the other… So that although we lay altogether aside the consideration of ditty or matter, the very harmony of sounds being framed in due sort, and carried from the ear to the spiritual faculties of our souls, is by a native puissance and efficacy greatly available to bring to a perfect temper whatsoever is there troubled, apt as well to quicken the spirits as to allay that which is too eager, sovereign against melancholy and despair, forcible to draw forth tears Of devotion if the mind be such as can yield them, able both to move and to moderate all affections."

"The Prophet David having therefore singular knowledge, not in poetry alone, but in music also, judged them both to be things most necessary for the house of God, left behind him to that purpose a number of Divinely indited poems, and was farther the author of adding unto poetry melody both vocal and instrumental, for the raising up of men’s hearts, and the sweetening of their affections towards God. In which considerations the Church of Christ doth likewise at this present day retain it as an ornament to God’s service, and a help to our own devotion. They which, under pretence of the Law ceremonial abrogated, require the abrogation of instrumental music, approving nevertheless the use of vocal melody to remain, must show some reason wherefore the one should be thought a legal ceremony, and not the other" ("Ecclesiastes Pol.," 5. 38. 1, 2).

It hardly needs to be stated that it is not necessary to be able to sing in order to observe this precept of St. James. The "singing and making melody with our hearts to the Lord" of which St. Paul writes to the Ephesians [Ephesians 5:19] is all that is necessary; "giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." The lifting up of the heart is enough, without the lifting up of the voice; and if the voice be lifted up also, it is of little account, either to the soul or to God, whether its tones be musical, always provided that he who thus offers praise is alone, and not in the congregation. Those who have no music in their voices, and yet persist in joining aloud in the singing of public service, are wanting in charity. In order to gratify themselves, they disturb the devotions of others. And that principle applies to many other things in public worship, especially to details of ritual other than those which are generally observed. There would be much less difficulty about such things if each member of the congregation were to ask, "By doing this, or by refusing to do it, am I likely to distract my neighbors in their worship?" Ought not the answer to that question to be conclusive as regards turning or not turning to the East at the creed, bowing or not bowing the head at the Gloria Patri, and the like? We come to church to be calmed, sobered, soothed, not to be fretted and vexed. Let us take care that our own behavior is such as not to irritate others. By our self-will we may be creating or augmenting mental excitement, which, as St. James tells us, worship, whether public or private, ought to cure.


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Bibliography
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/james-5.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

CONCLUSIONS—

1. Consolations for the sad, the merry, the sick; the prayer of faith, James 5:13-18.

13. Our apostle now shows better methods than swearing to give vent to our moods.

Afflicted—Suffers one any evil? Let him not swear, but pray! Merry—Cheery, in good spirits? Let him not blaspheme, but sing psalms. These are the richest methods of letting forth our abounding nature within the sphere of the blessed and divine. No need of oaths, or bacchanalian riot, in order to the most joyous and happy activities of our souls and voices.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/james-5.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise.’

The second injunction concerns those who are not at present undergoing trials, and who are not burdened down by failure. They are ‘cheerful’. Life is going well for them. What must they do? They must sing praises (compare Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16; Romans 15:9). They must worship their God and express their gratitude in song.


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Bibliography
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/james-5.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

1. The way of release5:13

Prayer to God, not profanity, is the proper outlet for feelings of sadness caused by suffering as we patiently endure.

"James"s emphasis on prayer in this section is especially noteworthy since few things undergird perseverance more effectively than prayer. In the final analysis, a persevering life is also a prayerful life." [Note: Hodges, The Epistle . . ., p113.]

The right way to express joy is by praising God, not swearing.


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/james-5.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

James 5:13. Is any afflicted? The word rendered ‘afflicted’ is a general term, denoting all kinds of affliction—sickness, pain, bereavement, disappointment, persecution. Here perhaps it specially refers to inward affliction—low spirits, in contrast to merry.

let him pray, prayer being the natural resort of the afflicted.

is any merry? that is, cheerful, in good spirits. It is the same word which St. Paul employs when he exhorts his fellow-voyagers to ‘be of good cheer’ (Acts 27:36). It literally signifies to be of good mind; hence free from care.

let him sing psalms: literally, ‘let him praise.’ The primary meaning of the word is to touch, then to touch the strings of the harp, to praise. We are not to express our cheerfulness in riotous mirth, but in praise and gratitude to God. Nor ought prayer and praise to be separated; they should be combined; our prayers should often express themselves in praise, and our praise should be a prayer. Thus Paul and Silas in prison prayed and sang praises to God (Acts 16:25); literally, ‘praying, they sang hymns to God;’ their singing of hymns was their prayer.


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Bibliography
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/james-5.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

James 5:13. κακοπαθεῖ: See note on James 5:10; it refers perhaps rather to mental worry or distress, while ἀσθενεῖ refers to some specific bodily ailment.— εὐθυμεῖ: only found elsewhere in Acts 27:22; Acts 27:25 in the N.T.— ψαλλέτω: refers both to playing on a stringed instrument (Sirach 9:4) and to singing (Ephesians 5:19), and is also used of singing with the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on James 5:13". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/james-5.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

James 5:13. Is any among you afflicted? let him pray — That he may be supported under his affliction, so as to be enabled to bear it with patience and resignation to the divine will, and find it to be sanctified to him, and made the means, as of exercising, so also of increasing his grace, and of purifying him as gold and silver are purified in the furnace. Is any merry? — Is any in health, and in a prosperous condition, and under no peculiar trial; let him sing psalms — Let him give thanks to God, and express his thankfulness by singing psalms or hymns of praise. The purport of the verse is, that, as believers in Christ, we ought to employ ourselves in such private religious exercises as are suitable to our present circumstances and frame of mind. “When rendered cheerful by contemplating the manifestations which God hath made of his perfections in the works of creation, providence, and redemption, or by any blessing bestowed on ourselves, we are to express our joy, not by drinking, and singing profane, lewd songs, but by hymns of praise and thanksgivings offered to God for all his mercies, Ephesians 5:18-19. On the other hand, when afflicted, we are to pray; that being the best means of producing in ourselves patience and resignation. But as the precept concerning our singing psalms, when cheerful, does not imply that we are not to pray then; so the precept concerning prayer in affliction, does not imply that we are not to express our joy in suffering according to the will of God, by singing psalms or hymns, as Paul and Silas did in the jail at Philippi.” — Macknight.


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on James 5:13". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/james-5.html. 1857.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises."

"Let him pray"-"one should not frivolously swear in times of adversity, but he should rather pray….It is not suggested that the only kind of praying is to request deliverance. It is also appropriate to pray for strength to endure. Prayer in its highest sense of communion with God and adoration of Him must recognize His hand in all aspects of life" (Kent pp. 186-187). Present middle imperative, "let him keep on praying"-instead of cursing or calling down a curse on his persecutors. In the context there is incentive to pray, for God hears the prayers of righteous people who are being oppressed (). And in the end, God is really the only one who can do anything about the situation. In addition, when we pray, we are reminded that the person making our life miserable---also has a soul. It is hard to keep on hating an enemy when you are praying for him (Matthew 5:44).

"Is anyone cheerful"-"We have a tendency to remember God when things are not going well and a tendency to forget him when they are going well. Don"t do that" (Draper p. 157). "James, then wants God remembered in all situations, good as well as bad. Turning to God in need is half the truth; turning to him in praise either in the church or alone when one is cheerful (whatever the situation) is the other half. God is not just an errand boy to help human need, but one who deserves worship and praise at all times (Philippians 4:4; Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)" (Davids p. 192). Be impressed that there is nothing wrong in being cheerful, Christianity wasn"t designed to be a gloomy lifestyle.

"Let him sing praises"-"Let him keep on singing" (Robertson p. 64).

Point To Note:

Some have tried to argue that the Greek word rendered "sing praises" means or can mean to sing to the accompaniment of instruments. But in New Testament usage all the experts note that the word meant "to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song" (Thayer p. 675); "to sing a hymn, sing praise" (Vine p. 58); "sing praise" (Arndt p. 891). Compare with Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; James 5:13.


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Bibliography
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/james-5.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

afflicted. Greek. kakopatheo. See 2 Timothy 2:3 and Compare James 5:10, above.

pray. App-134.

merry. See Acts 27:22.

sing psalms. Greek. psallo. See Romans 15:9.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on James 5:13". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/james-5.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

Afflicted , [ kakopathei (Greek #2553)] - 'evil treated:' "suffering affliction" (James 5:10).

Let him pray - not "swear" in rash impatience.

Merry - in mind.

Sing psalms - of praise, as Paul and Silas did in prison.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/james-5.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(13) We now pass on to advice of different kinds—to the heavy-laden or light-hearted, to the suffering and afflicted. Prayer is to be the refuge of one, praise the safeguard of another; the whole life is to revolve, as it were, around the throne of God, whether in the night of grief or day of joy.

Let him pray.—No worthier comment can be found than Montgomery’s hymn—

“Prayer is the burden of a sigh,

The falling of a tear,

The upward glancing of an eye,

When none but God is near.”

Long petitions, or many, cannot be always made; mind and body may be too weak and ill; but ejaculations—“Arrows of the Lord’s deliverance,” as Augustine called them, “shot out with a sudden quickness”—these are ever in the power of the beleaguered Christian. And—

“More things are wrought by prayer

Than this world dreams of.”

Let him sing.—The word originally applied to instrumental music, the Eastern accompaniment of “psalms.” Praise, like prayer, ought to be individual as well as congregational. Hymns might be used by all in their devotions, and could not fail to be a blessing; while for those who have God’s great gift of music, it were surely better to sing—as the Apostle urges—than to say. There is a sadness latent in the most jubilant of earthly tunes, but not so with the heavenly; and quiring angels do not scorn to catch our humblest notes, and weave them in their endless song, if they be raised in thankfulness to Him Whom they and all creation praise.


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/james-5.html. 1905.

The Bible Study New Testament

In trouble? "Are you suffering because you are a Christian? Then don't try to escape it by swearing an oath falsely." He should pray. "When in trouble, ask God for strength! Ask him for wisdom (James 1:5)! He will help you in the right way (Romans 8:28)!" Happy? "Christians show their happiness by singing praise to God!" Compare Acts 16:25; Ephesians 5:18-19.


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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on James 5:13". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/james-5.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
any among
2 Chronicles 33:12,13; Job 33:26; Psalms 18:6; 50:15; 91:15; 116:3-5; 118:5; Psalms 142:1-3; Lamentations 3:55,56; Hosea 6:1; Jonah 2:2,7; Luke 22:44; 23:42; Acts 16:24,25; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Hebrews 5:7
any merry
Judges 16:23-25; Daniel 5:4
let him sing
1 Chronicles 16:9; Psalms 95:2; 105:2; Micah 4:5; Matthew 26:30; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16,17; Revelation 5:9-14; 7:10; 14:3; 19:1-6

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on James 5:13". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/james-5.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Afilicted is from KAKOPATHEO, and Thayer defines it, "To suffer evils; hardship, troubles." It does not refer to physical diseases which will come in the next verse. When a disciple is beset with these trials he should be in the frame of mind that would lead him to go to God in prayer for strength and encouragement. Merry does not mean to be gay or frivolous, for the original is defined to denote "Be of good cheer." The phrase let him sing psalms is from the noted Greek word PSALLO, and Thayer defines it as follows: "In the New Testament to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song." There are times when a person is not in the "mood" for singing and James recognizes that truth in this verse. David also recognizes it in Psalm 137:2-4. Solomon likewise had the thought in mind when he spoke of the inappropriateness of the man "that singeth songs to an heavy heart" ( Proverbs 25:20).


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Bibliography
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on James 5:13". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/james-5.html. 1952.

Mr. D"s Notes on James

James 5:13-20

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

Two sets of people and two sets of actions. Afflicted, then pray - merry, then sing. An appropriate action for each group. The action is probably mostly natural. When trouble comes people always turn to God no matter if they know Him or not - at the point of trouble they assume He is there for them, not that He is necessarily. Likewise, when we are happy, we often break into joyful singing.

Many believers have not found the "afflicted" side of life. They are so self sufficient that they have not seen want, they are so self centered, they have not known rejection and they are so self absorbed that they have not seen reason to help the afflicted and find that they have empathy. They often skip along merrily singing their cheerful song not knowing what the other side of the coin might be.

On the other hand, some have been so afflicted; they don"t remember the merry side of things. Some have lost friends, homes, families and have nothing but trouble. These need to pray, but those around them need to act. Prayer is the only course for those that are down and out. It is their only hope of things turning around, of things getting better, of things starting to go their way.

In the church situation, both are going on at the same time usually. The merry should be sensitive to the afflicted, but the afflicted should also be sensitive to the merry. The merry are to enjoy their good tidings, as the afflicted are to endure their affliction. This is not to say that the two should ignore each other, just don"t rain on the merry because you are in a storm. Allow them to cheer you in your troubles, and the merry should allow the afflicted to speak of their hard times.

Just voicing the frustration of hard times is good for the afflicted, just as singing is good for the merry. Giving voice to our situation and feelings will assist us in getting though them.

It may be that listening to the afflicted will help the merry to better realize how blessed they are and help them to appreciate their blessings more.

The word "merry" does not carry the idea we give it today, but as Barnes observes, "the word properly denotes cheerful, pleasant, agreeable, and is applied to a state of mind free from trouble--the opposite of affliction-happy"

This is a contrasting of situations and words both. On the one hand we have the afflicted and on the other hand we have the non-afflicted. Both ends of the spectrum trials wise.


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Bibliography
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on James 5:13". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sdn/james-5.html.


Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 21st, 2018
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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