John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Verse 1. From whence come wars and fightings - Quarrels and wars among you, quite opposite to this peace? Is it not from your pleasures - Your desires of earthly pleasures. Which war - Against your souls. In your members - Here is the first seat of the war. Hence proceeds the war of man with man, king with king, nation with nation.
Verse 2. Ye kill - In your heart, for "he that hateth his brother is a murderer." Ye fight and war - That is, furiously strive and contend. Ye ask not - And no marvel; for a man full of evil desire, of envy or hatred, cannot pray.
Verse 3. But if ye do ask, ye receive not, because ye ask amiss - That is, from a wrong motive.
Verse 4. Ye adulterers and adulteresses - Who have broken your faith with God, your rightful spouse. Know ye not that the friendship or love of the world - The desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life, or courting the favour of worldly men, is enmity against God? Whosoever desireth to be a friend of the world - Whosoever seeks either the happiness or favour of it, does thereby constitute himself an enemy of God; and can he expect to obtain anything of him?
Verse 5. Do you think that the scripture saith in vain - Without good ground. St. James seems to refer to many, not any one particular scripture. The spirit of love that dwelleth in all believers lusteth against envy - Galatians 5:17; is directly opposite to all those unloving tempers which necessarily flow from the friendship of the world.
Verse 6. But he giveth greater grace - To all who shun those tempers. Therefore it - The scripture. Saith, God resisteth the proud - And pride is the great root of all unkind affections. Proverbs 3:34
Verse 7. Therefore by humbly submitting yourselves to God, resist the devil - The father of pride and envy.
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Verse 8. Then draw nigh to God in prayer, and he will draw nigh unto you, will hear you; which that nothing may hinder, cleanse your hands - Cease from doing evil. And purify your hearts - From all spiritual adultery. Be no more double minded, vainly endeavouring to serve both God and mammon.
Verse 9. Be afflicted - For your past unfaithfulness to God.
Verse 11. Speak not evil one of another - This is a grand hinderance of peace. O who is sufficiently aware of it! He that speaketh evil of another does in effect speak evil of the law, which so strongly prohibits it. Thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge - Of it; thou settest thyself above, and as it were condemnest, it.
Verse 12. There is one lawgiver that is able - To execute the sentence he denounces. But who art thou - A poor, weak, dying worm.
Verse 13. Come now, ye that say - As peremptorily as if your life were in your own hands.
Verse 15. Instead of your saying - That is, whereas ye ought to say.
Verse 17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not - That knows what is right, and does not practise it. To him it is sin - This knowledge does not prevent, but increase, his condemnation.