Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
The last subject is discussed in
1. James--an apostle of the circumcision, with Peter and John,
James in Jerusalem, Palestine, and Syria; Peter in Babylon and the
East; John in Ephesus and Asia Minor. Peter addresses the dispersed
Jews of Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia; James, the
Israelites of the twelve tribes scattered abroad.
servant of God--not that he was not an apostle; for Paul,
an apostle, also calls himself so; but as addressing the Israelites
generally, including even indirectly the unbelieving, he in humility
omits the title "apostle"; so Paul in writing to the Hebrews; similarly
Jude, an apostle, in his General Epistle.
Jesus Christ--not mentioned again save in
not at all in his speeches
(Ac 15:14, 15; 21:20, 21),
lest his introducing the name of Jesus oftener should seem to arise
from vanity, as being "the Lord's brother"
[BENGEL]. His teaching being practical, rather
than doctrinal, required less frequent mention of Christ's name.
scattered abroad--literally "which are in the dispersion." The
dispersion of the Israelites, and their connection with Jerusalem as a
center of religion, was a divinely ordered means of propagating
Christianity. The pilgrim troops of the law became caravans of the
greeting--found in no other Christian letter, but in James and
the Jerusalem Synod's Epistle to the Gentile churches; an undesigned
coincidence and mark or genuineness. In the original Greek
(chairein) for "greeting," there is a connection with the "joy"
to which they are exhorted amidst their existing distresses from
poverty and consequent oppression. Compare
which alludes to their poverty.
2. My brethren--a phrase often found in James, marking community
of nation and of faith.
all joy--cause for the highest joy
[GROTIUS]. Nothing but joy
[PISCATOR]. Count all "divers temptations"
to be each matter of joy [BENGEL].
fall into--unexpectedly, so as to be encompassed by them
(so the original Greek).
temptations--not in the limited sense of allurements to sin, but
trials or distresses of any kind which test and purify the
Christian character. Compare "tempt," that is, try,
Some of those to whom James writes were "sick," or otherwise
Every possible trial to the child of God is a masterpiece of strategy
of the Captain of his salvation for his good.
3. the trying--the testing or proving of your
faith, namely, by "divers temptations." Compare
tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience (in
the original dokime, akin to dokimion, "trying," here;
there it is experience: here the "trying" or testing,
whence experience flows).
patience--The original implies more; persevering
endurance and continuance (compare
4. Let endurance have a perfect work (taken out of the
previous "worketh patience" or endurance), that is, have its
full effect, by showing the most perfect degree of endurance,
namely, "joy in bearing the cross" [MENOCHIUS],
and enduring to the end
ye may be perfect--fully developed in all the attributes of a
Christian character. For this there is required "joy"
[BENGEL], as part of the "perfect work" of
probation. The work of God in a man is the man. If God's teachings by
patience have had a perfect work in you, you are perfect
entire--that which has all its parts complete, wanting no
"your whole (literally, 'entire') spirit, soul, and body"; as "perfect"
implies without a blemish in its parts.
5. English Version omits "But," which the Greek
has, and which is important. "But (as this perfect entireness
wanting nothing is no easy attainment) if any," &c.
lack--rather, as the Greek word is repeated after James's
"wanting nothing," translate, "If any of you want
wisdom," namely, the wisdom whereby ye may "count it all joy when ye
fall into divers temptations," and "let patience have her perfect
work." This "wisdom" is shown in its effects in detail,
The highest wisdom, which governs patience alike in poverty and riches,
is described in
Jas 1:9, 10.
liberally--So the Greek is rendered by English
Version. It is rendered with simplicity,
God gives without adding aught which may take off from the graciousness
of the gift [ALFORD]. God requires the same
"simplicity" in His children ("eye . . . single,"
upbraideth not--an illustration of God's giving simply.
He gives to the humble suppliant without upbraiding him with his past
sin and ingratitude, or his future abuse of God's goodness. The Jews
pray, "Let me not have need of the gifts of men, whose gifts are few,
but their upbraidings manifold; but give me out of Thy large and full
hand." Compare Solomon's prayer for "wisdom," and God's gift above what
he asked, though God foresaw his future abuse of His goodness would
deserve very differently. James has before his eye the Sermon on the
Mount (see my
God hears every true prayer and grants either the thing asked, or else
something better than it; as a good physician consults for his
patient's good better by denying something which the latter asks not
for his good, than by conceding a temporary gratification to his
6. ask in faith--that is, the persuasion that God can and will
give. James begins and ends with faith. In the middle of the
Epistle he removes the hindrances to faith and shows its true character
wavering--between belief and unbelief. Compare the case of the
Israelites, who seemed to partly believe in God's power, but leaned
more to unbelief by "limiting" it. On the other hand, compare
("staggered not . . . through unbelief," literally, as
here, "wavered not");
like a wave of the sea--
where the same Greek word occurs for "tossed to and fro," as is
here translated, "driven with the wind."
driven with the wind--from without.
tossed--from within, by its own instability
[BENGEL]. At one time cast on the shore of faith
and hope, at another rolled back into the abyss of unbelief; at one
time raised to the height of worldly pride, at another tossed in the
sands of despair and affliction [WIESINGER].
7. For--resumed from "For" in
that man--such a wavering self-deceiver.
think--Real faith is something more than a mere
thinking or surmise.
anything--namely, of the things that he prays for: he does
receive many things from God, food, raiment, &c., but these are the
general gifts of His providence: of the things specially granted in
answer to prayer, the waverer shall not receive "anything," much less
8. double-minded--literally, "double-souled," the one soul
directed towards God, the other to something else. The Greek
favors ALFORD'S translation, "He (the waverer,
is a man double-minded, unstable," &c.; or better,
BEZA'S. The words in this
are in apposition with "that man,"
thus the "us," which is not in the original, will not need to be
supplied, "A man double-minded, unstable in all his ways!" The word for
"double-minded" is found here and in
for the first time in Greek literature. It is not a hypocrite
that is meant, but a fickle, "wavering" man, as the context
shows. It is opposed to the single eye
9, 10. Translate, "But let the brother," &c. that is, the
best remedy against double-mindedness is that Christian
simplicity of spirit whereby the "brother," low in outward
circumstances, may "rejoice" (answering to
"in that he is exalted," namely, by being accounted a son and heir of
God, his very sufferings being a pledge of his coming glory and crown
and the rich may rejoice "in that he is made low," by being stripped of
his goods for Christ's sake [MENOCHIUS]; or in
that he is made, by sanctified trials, lowly in spirit, which is true
matter for rejoicing [GOMARUS]. The design of the
Epistle is to reduce all things to an equable footing
(Jas 2:1; 5:13).
The "low," rather than the "rich," is here called "the brother"
10. So far as one is merely "rich" in worldly goods, "he shall
pass away"; in so far as his predominant character is that of a
"brother," he "abideth for ever"
This view meets all ALFORD'S objections to
regarding "the rich" here as a "brother" at all. To avoid making the
rich a brother, he translates, "But the rich glories in his
humiliation," namely, in that which is really his debasement (his rich
just as the low is told to rejoice in what is really his exaltation
(his lowly state).
11. Taken from
heat--rather, "the hot wind" from the (east or) south, which
The "burning heat" of the sun is not at its rising, but rather
at noon; whereas the scorching Kadim wind is often at sunrise
[MIDDLETON, The Doctrine of the Greek
uses the Greek word for "heat."
"bloweth upon it," seems to answer to "the hot wind"
grace of the fashion--that is of the external appearance.
in his ways--referring to the burdensome extent of the rich
man's devices [BENGEL]. Compare "his ways," that
is, his course of life,
12. Blessed--Compare the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount
(Mt 5:4, 10, 11).
endureth temptation--not the "falling into divers temptations"
is the matter for "joy," but the enduring of temptation "unto
the end." Compare
when he is tried--literally, "when he has become tested" or
"approved," when he has passed through the "trying"
his "faith" having finally gained the victory.
the crown--not in allusion to the crown or garland given to
winners in the games; for this, though a natural allusion for Paul in
writing to the heathen, among whom such games existed, would be less
appropriate for James in addressing the Jewish Christians, who regarded
Gentile usages with aversion.
of life--"life" constitutes the crown, literally, the
life, the only true life, the highest and eternal life. The crown
implies a kingdom
the Lord--not found in the best manuscripts and versions. The
believer's heart fills up the omission, without the name needing to be
mentioned. The "faithful One who promised"
to them that love him--In
"the crown of righteousness to them that love His appearing." Love
produces patient endurance: none attest their love more than
they who suffer for Him.
13. when . . . tempted--tried by solicitation to
evil. Heretofore the "temptation" meant was that of probation by
afflictions. Let no one fancy that God lays upon him an inevitable
necessity of sinning. God does not send trials on you in order to make
you worse, but to make you better
(Jas 1:16, 17).
Therefore do not sink under the pressure of evils
of God--by agency proceeding from God. The Greek
is not "tempted by," but, "from," implying indirect agency.
cannot be tempted with evil, &c.--"Neither do any of our sins
tempt God to entice us to worse things, nor does He tempt any of His
own accord" (literally, "of Himself"; compare the antithesis,
"Of His own will He begat us" to holiness, so far is He from
tempting us of His own will) [BENGEL]. God
is said in
to have "tempted Abraham"; but there the tempting meant is that
of trying or proving, not that of seducement.
ALFORD translates according to the ordinary sense
of the Greek, "God is unversed in evil." But as this
gives a less likely sense, English Version probably gives the
true sense; for ecclesiastical Greek often uses words in new
senses, as the exigencies of the new truths to be taught required.
14. Every man, when tempted, is so through being drawn away of
(again here, as in
the Greek for "of" expresses the actual source, rather
than the agent of temptation) his own lust. The cause of sin is in
ourselves. Even Satan's suggestions do not endanger us before they are
made our own. Each one has his own peculiar (so the
Greek) lust, arising from his own temperament and habit. Lust
flows from the original birth-sin in man, inherited from Adam.
drawn away--the beginning step in temptation: drawn away
from truth and virtue.
enticed--literally, "taken with a bait," as fish are. The
further progress: the man allowing himself (as the
Greek middle voice implies) to be enticed to evil
[BENGEL]. "Lust" is here personified as the harlot
that allures the man.
15. The guilty union is committed by the will embracing the
temptress. "Lust," the harlot, then, "brings forth sin," namely, of
that kind to which the temptation inclines. Then the particular
sin (so the Greek implies), "when it is completed, brings
forth death," with which it was all along pregnant
[ALFORD]. This "death" stands in striking contrast
to the "crown of life"
which "patience" or endurance ends in, when it has its "perfect
He who will fight Satan with Satan's own weapons, must not wonder if he
finds himself overmatched. Nip sin in the bud of lust.
16. Do not err in attributing to God temptation to evil; nay (as
he proceeds to show), "every good," all that is good on earth, comes
17. gift . . . gift--not the same words in
Greek: the first, the act of giving, or the gift in its
initiatory stage; the second, the thing given, the boon, when
perfected. As the "good gift" stands in contrast to "sin" in its
so the "perfect boon" is in contrast to "sin when it is finished,"
bringing forth death
Father of lights--Creator of the lights in heaven
Ge 4:20, 21;
This accords with the reference to the changes in the light of the
heavenly bodies alluded to in the end of the verse. Also, Father of the
spiritual lights in the kingdom of grace and glory
[BENGEL]. These were typified by the supernatural
lights on the breastplate of the high priest, the Urim. As "God is
light, and in Him is no darkness at all"
He cannot in any way be the Author of sin
which is darkness
no variableness . . . shadow of turning--
None of the alternations of light and shadow which the physical
"lights" undergo, and which even the spiritual lights are liable to, as
compared with God. "Shadow of turning," literally, the dark
"shadow-mark" cast from one of the heavenly bodies, arising from
its "turning" or revolution, for example, when the moon is eclipsed by
the shadow of the earth, and the sun by the body of the moon. BENGEL makes a climax, "no variation--not even the shadow
of a turning"; the former denoting a change in the
understanding; the latter, in the will.
The believer's regeneration is the highest example of nothing but good
proceeding from God.
Of his own will--Of his own good pleasure (which shows that it
is God's essential nature to do good, not evil), not induced by any
begat he us--spiritually: a once-for-all accomplished act
(1Pe 1:3, 23).
In contrast to "lust when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin,
and sin . . . death"
Life follows naturally in connection with light
word of truth--the Gospel. The objective mean, as faith
is the appropriating mean of regeneration by the Holy Spirit as the
a kind of first-fruits--Christ is, in respect to the
resurrection, "the first-fruits"
(1Co 15:20, 23):
believers, in respect to regeneration, are, as it were,
first-fruits (image from the consecration of the first-born of man,
cattle, and fruits to God; familiar to the Jews addressed), that is,
they are the first of God's regenerated creatures, and the pledge of
the ultimate regeneration of the creation,
Ro 8:19, 23,
where also the Spirit, the divine agent of the believer's regeneration,
is termed "the first-fruits," that is, the earnest that the
regeneration now begun in the soul, shall at last extend to the body
too, and to the lower parts of creation. Of all God's visible
creatures, believers are the noblest part, and like the legal
"first-fruits," sanctify the rest; for this reason they are much tried
19. Wherefore--as your evil is of yourselves, but your good from
God. However, the oldest manuscripts and versions read thus:
"YE KNOW IT (so
my beloved brethren; BUT (consequently) let every
man be swift to hear," that is, docile in receiving "the word of truth"
(Jas 1:18, 21).
The true method of hearing is treated in
and Jas 2:1-26.
slow to speak--
(Pr 10:19; 17:27, 28;
A good way of escaping one kind of temptation arising from ourselves
Slow to speak authoritatively as a master or teacher of others (compare
a common Jewish fault: slow also to speak such hasty things of God, as
Two ears are given to us, the rabbis observe, but only one tongue: the
ears are open and exposed, whereas the tongue is walled in behind the
slow to wrath--
(Jas 3:13, 14; 4:5).
Slow in becoming heated by debate: another Jewish fault
to which much speaking tends. TITTMANN
thinks not so much "wrath" is meant, as an indignant feeling of
fretfulness under the calamities to which the whole of human
life is exposed; this accords with the "divers temptations" in
Hastiness of temper hinders hearing God's word; so Naaman,
20. Man's angry zeal in debating, as if jealous for the honor of
God's righteousness, is far from working that which is really
righteousness in God's sight. True "righteousness is sown in peace,"
not in wrath
The oldest and best reading means "worketh," that is, practiceth
not: the received reading is "worketh," produceth not.
21. lay apart--"once for all" (so the Greek): as a filthy
garment. Compare Joshua's filthy garments,
Zec 3:3, 5;
"Filthiness" is cleansed away by hearing the word
superfluity of naughtiness--excess (for instance, the
intemperate spirit implied in "wrath,"
Jas 1:19, 20),
which arises from malice (our natural, evil disposition
towards one another).
has the very same words in the Greek. So "malice" is the
"Faulty excess" [BENGEL] is not strong
enough. Superfluous excess in speaking is also reprobated as
"coming of evil" (the Greek is akin to the word for
"naughtiness" here) in the Sermon on the Mount
with which James' Epistle is so connected.
with meekness--in mildness towards one another
[ALFORD], the opposite to "wrath"
answering to "as new-born babes"
Meekness, I think, includes also a childlike, docile,
humble, as well as an uncontentious, spirit
(Ps 25:9; 45:4;
Mt 5:5; 11:28-30; 18:3, 4;
On "receive," applied to ground receiving seed, compare
with 2Th 2:10.
engrafted word--the Gospel word, whose proper attribute
is to be engrafted by the Holy Spirit, so as to be livingly
incorporated with the believer, as the fruitful shoot is with the wild
natural stock on which it is engrafted. The law came to man only from
without, and admonished him of his duty. The Gospel is engrafted
inwardly, and so fulfils the ultimate design of the law
(De 6:6; 11:18;
ALFORD translates, "The implanted word,"
referring to the parable of the sower
I prefer English Version.
able to save--a strong incentive to correct our dulness in
hearing the word: that word which we hear so carelessly, is able
(instrumentally) to save us [CALVIN].
souls--your true selves, for the "body" is now liable to
sickness and death: but the soul being now saved, both soul and body at
last shall be so
(Jas 5:15, 20).
22. Qualification of the precept, "Be swift to hear": "Be
ye doers . . . not hearers only"; not merely "Do the
word," but "Be doers" systematically and continually, as if this
was your regular business. James here again refers to the Sermon on the
deceiving your own selves--by the logical fallacy (the
Greek implies this) that the mere hearing is all that is
23. For--the logical self-deceit
not a doer--more literally, "a notdoer"
[ALFORD]. The true disciple, say the rabbis,
learns in order that he may do, not in order that he may merely know or
his natural face--literally, "the countenance of his birth": the
face he was born with. As a man may behold his natural face in a
mirror, so the hearer may perceive his moral visage in God's
Word. This faithful portraiture of man's soul in Scripture, is the
strongest proof of the truth of the latter. In it, too, we see mirrored
God's glory, as well as our natural vileness.
24. beholdeth--more literally, "he contemplated himself
and hath gone his way," that is, no sooner has he contemplated
his image than he is gone his way
"Contemplate" answers to hearing the word: "goeth his way," to relaxing
the attention after hearing--letting the mind go elsewhere, and the
interest of the thing heard pass away: then forgetfulness
follows [ALFORD] (Compare
"Contemplate" here, and in
implies that, though cursory, yet some knowledge of one's self, at
least for the time, is imparted in hearing the word
and . . . and--The repetition expresses hastiness
joined with levity [BENGEL].
forgetteth what manner of man he was--in the mirror.
Forgetfulness is no excuse
25. looketh into--literally, "stoopeth down to take a close look
into." Peers into: stronger than "beholdeth," or "contemplated,"
A blessed curiosity if it be efficacious in bearing fruit
perfect law of liberty--the Gospel rule of life, perfect and
perfecting (as shown in the Sermon on the Mount,
and making us truly walk at liberty
Church of England Prayer Book Version). Christians are to aim at
a higher standard of holiness than was generally understood under the
law. The principle of love takes the place of the letter of the
law, so that by the Spirit they are free from the yoke of sin, and free
to obey by spontaneous instinct
(Jas 2:8, 10, 12;
Joh 8:31-36; 15:14, 15;
Ga 5:1, 13;
The law is thus not made void, but fulfilled.
continueth therein--contrasted with "goeth his way,"
continues both looking into the mirror of God's word, and doing
doer of the work--rather, "a doer of work"
[ALFORD], an actual worker.
blessed in his deed--rather, "in his doing"; in the very
doing there is blessedness
26, 27. An example of doing work.
religious . . . religion--The Greek expresses
the external service or exercise of religion, "godliness"
being the internal soul of it. "If any man think himself to be
(so the Greek) religious, that is, observant of the offices
of religion, let him know these consist not so much in outward
observances, as in such acts of mercy and humble piety
(Mic 6:7, 8)
as visiting the fatherless, &c., and keeping one's self
unspotted from the world"
James does not mean that these offices are the great essentials,
or sum total of religion; but that, whereas the law service was merely
ceremonial, the very services of the Gospel consist in acts of
mercy and holiness, and it has light for its garment, its very
robe being righteousness [TRENCH]. The
Greek word is only found in
"after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee."
"worshipping of angels."
bridleth not . . . tongue--Discretion in speech is
better than fluency of speech (compare
Jas 3:2, 3).
God alone can enable us to do so. James, in treating of the law,
naturally notices this sin. For they who are free from grosser sins,
and even bear the outward show of sanctity, will often exalt themselves
by detracting others under the pretense of zeal, while their real
motive is love of evil-speaking [CALVIN].
heart--It and the tongue act and react on one another.
27. Pure . . . and undefiled--"Pure" is that love
which has in it no foreign admixture, as self-deceit and
hypocrisy. "Undefiled" is the means of its being "pure"
[TITTMANN]. "Pure" expresses the positive,
"undefiled" the negative side of religious service; just as
visiting the fatherless and widow is the active, keeping
himself unspotted from the world, the passive side of religious
duty. This is the nobler shape that our religious exercises take,
instead of the ceremonial offices of the law.
before God and the Father--literally, "before Him who is (our)
God and Father." God is so called to imply that if we would be like our
Father, it is not by fasting, &c., for He does none of these things,
but in being "merciful as our Father is merciful"
visit--in sympathy and kind offices to alleviate their
the fatherless--whose "Father" is God
and--not in the Greek; so close is the connection between
active works of mercy to others, and the maintenance of personal
unworldliness of spirit, word, and deed; no copula therefore is needed.
Religion in its rise interests us about ourselves in its
progress, about our fellow creatures: in its highest stage,
about the honor of God.
keep himself--with jealous watchfulness, at the same time
praying and depending on God as alone able to keep us