John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Verse 1. Be not many teachers - Let no more of you take this upon you than God thrusts out; seeing it is so hard not to offend in speaking much. Knowing that we - That all who thrust themselves into the office. Shall receive greater condemnation - For more offences. St. James here, as in several of the following verses, by a common figure of speech, includes himself: we shall receive, -we offend,-we put bits,-we curse - None of which, as common sense shows, are to be interpreted either of him or of the other apostles.
Verse 2. The same is able to bridle the whole body - That is, the whole man. And doubtless some are able to do this, and so are in this sense perfect.
Verse 3. We - That is, men.
Verse 5. Boasteth great things - Hath great influence.
Verse 6. A world of iniquity - Containing an immense quantity of all manner of wickedness. It defileth - As fire by its smoke. The whole body - The whole man. And setteth on fire the course of nature - All the passions, every wheel of his soul.
Verse 7. Every kind - The expression perhaps is not to be taken strictly. Reptiles - That is, creeping things.
Verse 8. But no man can tame the tongue - Of another; no, nor his own, without peculiar help from God.
Verse 9. Men made after the likeness of God - Indeed we have now lost this likeness; yet there remains from thence an indelible nobleness, which we ought to reverence both in ourselves and others.
Verse 13. Let him show his wisdom as well as his faith by his works; not by words only.
Verse 14. If ye have bitter zeal - True Christian zeal is only the flame of love. Even in your hearts - Though it went no farther. Do not lie against the truth - As if such zeal could consist with heavenly wisdom.
Verse 15. This wisdom - Which is consistent with such zeal. Is earthly - Not heavenly; not from the Father of Lights. Animal - Not spiritual; not from the Spirit of God. Devilish - Not the gift of Christ, but such as Satan breathes into the soul.
Verse 17. But the wisdom from above is first pure - From all that is earthly, natural, devilish. Then peaceable - True peace attending purity, it is quiet, inoffensive. Gentle - Soft, mild, yielding, not rigid. Easy to he entreated - To be persuaded, or convinced; not stubborn, sour, or morose. Full of good fruits - Both in the heart and in the life, two of which are immediately specified. Without partiality - Loving all, without respect of persons; embracing all good things, rejecting all evil. And without dissimulation - Frank, open.
Verse 18. And the principle productive of this righteousness is sown, like good seed, in the peace of a believer's mind, and brings forth a plentiful harvest of happiness, (which is the proper fruit of righteousness,) for them that make peace - That labour to promote this pure and holy peace among all men.
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