James 1:25
But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) But whoso looketh . . .—Translate, But he who looked into the perfect law of liberty and continued therein. The past tense is still kept to enforce the figure of the preceding verse. The earnest student of the Scriptures stoops down in humility of body and mind to learn what the will of their Author may be. He reads, as it were, upon his knees; and if he finds therein a law, it is one of liberty and not slavery, life and not death—although, as Dean Alford observes here, “not in contrast with a former law of bondage, but as viewed on the side of its being the law of the new life and birth, with all its spontaneous and free development of obedience.”

Not a forgetful hearer . . .—Literally, not a hearer of forgetfulness, but a doer of work. Thus rendered, the words of the sentence balance each other, and comment is needless.

This man shall be blessed in his deed.—Or, as in the margin, doing. A return perhaps in thought to the Beatitudes, and the close of that Sermon on the Mount, of which they were the opening words. The blessedness of this humbly active Christian is like that of the wise man there spoken of “which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

James

THE PERFECT LAW AND ITS DOERS

Jam 1:25.

AN old tradition tells us that James, who was probably the writer of this letter, continued in the practice of Jewish piety all his life. He was surnamed ‘the Just.’ He lived the life of a Nazarite. He was even admitted into the sanctuary of the Temple, and there spent so much of his time in praying for the forgiveness of the people that, in the vivid language of the old writer, his ‘knees were hard and worn like a camel’s.’ To such a man the Gospel would naturally present itself as ‘a law,’ which word expressed the highest form of revelation with which he was familiar; and to him the glory of Christ’s message would be that it was the perfecting of an earlier utterance, moving on the same plane as it did, but infinitely greater.

Now that, of course, is somewhat different from the point of view from which, for instance, Paul regards the relation of the Gospel and the Law. To him they are rather antitheses. He conceived mainly of the law as a system of outward observances, incapable of fulfilment, and valuable as impressing upon men the consciousness of sin.

But, though there is diversity, there is no contradiction, any more than there is between the two pictures in a stereoscope, which, united, represent one solid reality. The two men simply regard the subject from slightly different angles. Paul would have said that the gospel was the perfection of the law, as indeed he does say that by faith we do not make void, but establish, the law. And James would have said that the law, in Paul’s sense, was a yoke of bondage, as indeed he does say in my text, that the gospel, in contrast with the earlier revelation, is the law of liberty.

And so the two men complement and do not contradict each other. In like manner, the earnest urging of work and insisting upon conduct, which are the keynote of this letter, are no contradiction of Paul. The one writer begins at a later point than the other. Paul is a preacher of faith, but of faith which works by love. James is the preacher of works, but of works which are the fruit of faith.

There are three things here on which I touch now. First, the perfect law; second, the doers of the perfect law; and third, the blessedness of the doers of the perfect law.

I. First, then, the perfect law.

I need not dwell further upon James’s conception of the gospel as being a law; the authoritative standard and rule of human conduct. Let me remind you how, in every part of the revelation of divine truth contained in the gospel, there is a direct moral and practical bearing. No word of the New Testament is given to us only in order that we may know truth, but all in order that we may do it. Every part of it palpitates with life, and is meant to regulate conduct. There are plenty of truths of which it does not matter whether a man believes them or not, in so far as his conduct is concerned. Mathematical truth or scientific truth leaves conduct unaffected. But no man can believe the principles that are laid down in the New Testament, and the truths that are unveiled there, without their laying a masterful grip upon his life, and influencing all that he is.

And let me remind you, too, how in the very central fact of the gospel there lies the most stringent rule of life. Jesus Christ is the Pattern, and from those gentle lips which say, ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments,’ law sounds more imperatively than from all the thunder and trumpets of Sinai.

Let me remind you, too, how in the great act of redemption, which is the central fact of the New Testament revelation, there lies a law for conduct. God’s love redeeming us is the revelation of what we ought to be, and the Cross, to which we look as the refuge from sin and condemnation, is also the pattern for the life of every believer. ‘Be ye imitators of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us.’ A revelation, therefore, of which every truth, to the minutest fibre of the great web, has in it a directly practical bearing; a revelation which is all centred and focused in the life which is example because it is deliverance; a revelation, of which the vital heart is the redeeming act which sets before us the outlines of our conduct, and the model for our imitation - is a law just because it is a gospel.

Such thoughts as these are needful as a counterpoise to one-sided views which otherwise would be disastrous. God forbid that the thought of the gospel of Jesus Christ as primarily a message of reconciliation and pardon, and providing a means of escape from the frightful consequences of sin, even separation from God, should ever be put in the background! But the very ardour and intensity of man’s recognition of that as the first shape which Christianity assumes to sinful men, has sometimes led, and is always in possible danger of leading, to putting all other aspects of the gospel in the background. Some of you, for instance, when a preacher talks to you about plain duties, and insists upon conduct and practical righteousness, are ready to say, ‘He is not preaching the gospel.’ Neither is he, if he does not present these duties and this practical righteousness as the fruits of faith, or if he presents them as the means of winning salvation. But if your conception of Christianity has not grasped it as being a stringent rule of life, you need to go to school to James, the servant of God, and do not yet understand the message of his brother Paul The gospel is a Redemption. Yes I God be thanked; but because a Redemption, it is a Law.

Again, this thought gives the necessary counterpoise to the tendency to substitute the mere intellectual grasp of Christian truth for the practical doing of it. There will be plenty of orthodox Christians and theological professors and students who will find themselves, to their very great surprise, amongst the goats at last. Not what we believe, but what we do, is our Christianity: Only the doing must be rooted in belief. In like manner, take this vivid conception of the gospel as a law; as a counterpoise to the tendency to place religion in mere emotion and feeling. Fire is very good, but its best purpose is to get up steam which will drive the wheels of the engine. There is a vast deal of lazy selfishness masquerading under the guise of sweet and sacred devout emotion. Not what we feel, but what we do, is our Christianity.

Further, notice how this law is a perfect law. James’s idea, I suppose, in that epithet, is not so much the completeness of the code, or the loftiness and absoluteness of the ideal which is set forth in the gospel, as the relation between the law and its doer. He is stating the same thought of which the Psalmist of old time had caught a glimpse. ‘The law of the Lord is perfect; because it ‘converts the soul.’ That is to say, the weakness of all commandment - whether it be the law of a nation, or the law of moral textbooks, or the law of conscience, or of public opinion, or the like - the weakness of all positive statute is that it stands there, over against a man, and points a stony finger to the stony tables, ‘Thou shalt!’ ‘Thou shalt not!’ but stretches out no hand to help us in keeping the commandment. It simply enjoins, and so is weak; like the proclamations of some discrowned king who has no army at his back to enforce them, and which flutter as waste paper on the barn-doors, and do nothing to secure allegiance. But, says James, this law is perfect - because it is more than law, and transcends the simple function of command. It not only tells us what to do, but it gives us power to do it; and that is what men want. The world knows what it ought to do well enough. There is no need for heaven to be rent, and divine voices to come to tell men what is right and wrong; they carry an all but absolutely sufficient guide as to that within their own minds. But there is need to bring them something which shall be more than commandment, which shall be both law and power, both the exhibition of duty and the gift of capacity to discharge it.

The gospel brings power because it brings life. ‘If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness had been by the law.’ In the gospel that desideratum is supplied. Here is the law which vitalises and so gives power. The life which the gospel brings will unfold itself after its own nature, and so produce the obedience which the law of the gospel requires.

Therefore, says James further, this perfect law is freedom. Of course liberty is not exemption from commandment, but the harmony of will with commandment. Whosoever finds that what is his duty is his delight is enfranchised. We are set at liberty when we walk within the limits of that gospel; and they who delight to do the law are free in obedience; free from the tyranny of their own lusts, passions, inclinations; free from the domination of men and opinion and common customs and personal habits. All those bonds are burnt in the fiery furnace of love into which they pass; and where they walk transfigured and at liberty, because they keep that law. Freedom comes from the reception into the heart of the life whose motions coincide with the commandments of the gospel. Then the burden that I carry carries me, and the limits within which I am confined are the merciful fences put up on the edge of the cliff to keep the traveller from falling over and being dashed to pieces beneath.

II. Now notice, secondly, the doers of the perfect law.

James has a long prelude before he comes to the doing. Several things are required as preliminary. The first step is, ‘looketh into the law.’ The word employed here is a very picturesque and striking one. Its force may be seen if I quote to you the other instances of its occurrence in the

New Testament. It is employed in the accounts of the Resurrection to describe the attitude and action of Peter, John, and Mary as they ‘stooped down and looked into’ the empty sepulchre. In all these cases the Revised Version translates the word as I have just done, ‘stooping and looking,’ both acts being implied in it. It is also employed by Peter when he tells us that the ‘angels desire to look into’ the mysteries of Redemption, in which saying, perhaps, there may be some allusion to the silent, bending figures of the twin cherubim who, with folded wings and fixed eyes, curved themselves above the mercy-seat, and looked down upon that mystery of propitiating love. With such fixed and steadfast gaze we must contemplate the perfect law of liberty if we are ever to be doers of the same.

A second requirement is, ‘and continueth.’ The gaze must be, not only concentrated, but constant, if anything is to come of it. Old legends tell that the looker into a magic crystal saw nothing at first, but, as he gazed, there gradually formed themselves in the clear sphere filmy shapes, which grew firmer and more distinct until they stood plain. The raw hide dipped into the vat with tannin in it, and at once pulled out again, will never be turned into leather. Many of you do not give the motives and principles of the gospel, which you say you believe, a chance of influencing you, because so interruptedly, and spasmodically, and at such long intervals, and for so few moments, do you gaze upon them. Steadfast and continued attention is needful if we are to be ‘doers of the work.’

Let me venture on two or three simple practical exhortations. Cultivate the habit, then, of contemplating the central truths of the gospel, as the condition of receiving in vigour and fulness the life which obeys the commandment. There is no mystery about the way by which that new life is given to men. James tells us here, in the immediate context, how it is. He speaks of ‘God of His own will begetting us with the word of truth’; and of the ‘engrafted word, which,’ being engrafted, ‘is able to save your souls.’ Get that word - the principles of the gospel and the truths of revelation, which are all enshrined and incarnated in Jesus Christ - into your minds and hearts by continual, believing contemplation of it, and the new life, which is obedience, will surely spring. But if you look at the gospel of your salvation as seldom and as superficially and with as passing glances as so many of you expend upon it, no wonder that you are such weaklings as so many of you are, and that you find such a gulf between your uncircumcised inclinations and the commandment of the living God.

Cultivate this habit of reflective meditation upon the truths of the gospel as giving you the pattern of duty in a concentrated and available form. It is of no use to carry about a copy of the ‘Statutes at Large’ in twenty folio Volumes in order to refer to it when difficulties arise and crises come. We must have something a great deal more compendious and easy of reference than that. A man’s cabin-trunk must not be as big as a house, and his goods must be in a small compass for his sea voyage. We have in Jesus Christ the ‘Statutes at Large,’ codified and put into a form which the poorest and humblest and busiest amongst us can apply directly to the sudden emergencies and surprising contingencies of daily life, which are always sprung upon us when we do not expect them and demand instantaneous decision. We have in Christ the pattern of all conduct. But only those who have been accustomed to meditate upon Him, and on the truths that flow from His life and death, will find that the sword is ready when it is needed, and that the guide is at their side when they are in perplexity.

Cultivate the habit of meditating on the truths of the gospel, in order that the motives of conduct may be reinvigorated and strengthened. And remember that only by long and habitual abiding in the secret place of the Most High, and entertaining the thoughts of His infinite love to us, as the continual attitude of our daily life, shall we be able to respond to His love with the thankfulness which springs to obedience as a delight, and knows no joy like the joy of serving such a Friend.

These requirements being met, next comes the doing. There must precede all true doing of the law this gazing into it, steadfast and continued. We shall not obey the commandment except, first, we have received and welcomed the salvation. There must be, first, faith, and then obedience. Only he who has received the gospel in the love of it will find that the gospel is the law which regulates his conduct. ‘Faith without works is dead’; works without faith are rootless flowers, or bricks hastily and incompletely huddled together without the binding straw.

But, further, the text suggests that the natural crown of all contemplation and knowledge is practical obedience. Make of all your creed deed. Let everything you believe be a principle of action too; your crendenda translate into agenda. And, on the other hand, let every deed be informed by your creed, and no schism exist between what you are and what you believe.

III. Lastly, note the blessedness of the doers of the perfect law.

There is an echo in the words of my text, of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, the form in which the gospel was, perhaps, dearest to this Apostle. He uses the same word - ‘Blessed.’

Notice the in; not ‘after,’ not ‘as a reward for, ‘ but ‘blessed in his deed.’ It is the saying of the Psalmist over again, whose words we have already seen partly reproduced in the former portion of this text, who, in the same great psalm, says: ‘In keeping Thy commandments there is great reward.’ The rewards of this law are not arbitrarily Bestowed, separately from the act of obedience, by the will of the Judge, but the deeds of obedience automatically bring the blessedness. This world is not so constituted as that outward rewards certainly follow on inward goodness. Few of its prizes fall to the lot of the saints. But men are so constituted as that obedience is its own reward. There is no delight so deep and true as the delight of doing the will of Him whom we love. There is no blessedness like that of an increasing communion with God, and of the clearer perception of His will and mind which follow obedience as surely as the shadow does the sunshine. There is no blessedness like the glow of approving conscience, the reflection of the smile on Christ’s face.

To have the heart in close communion with the very Fountain of all good, and the will in harmony with the will of the best Beloved; to hear the Voice that is dearest of all, ever saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it’; to feel ‘a spirit in my feet’ impelling me upon that road; to know that all my petty deeds are made great, and my stained offerings hallowed by the altar on which they are honoured to lie; and to be conscious of fellowship with the Friend of my soul increased by obedience; this is to taste the keenest joy and good of life, and he who is thus ‘blessed in his deed’ need never fear that that blessedness shall be taken away, nor sorrow though other joys be few and griefs be many.

But, remember, first believe, then work. We must begin where Paul told the Philippian gaoler to begin ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’ - if we are to end where James leads us. Do not begin your building at the roof, but put in the foundations deep in penitence and faith. And then, let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon.James 1:25. But whoso looketh — Not with a transient glance, but, as παρακυψας signifies, bending down, as it were, with an intention to fix his eyes upon, examine with accuracy, and search all things to the bottom. The expression implies much thought and meditation, joined with self- examination: into the perfect law — Namely, that of the gospel, termed a law, as being a rule of faith and practice, obligatory upon all to whom it is made known, acquitting or condemning men, (for by it they will be judged at the last day,) and determining our state for ever: called a perfect law, 1st, Because it is clear, concise, full, having no deficiency, and yet containing nothing superfluous. 2d, Because of its superiority to the law of Moses, which made no man perfect, either in respect of justification or sanctification, Hebrews 7:10; whereas the gospel is calculated to make men perfect in both respects. And the apostle terms it the law of liberty, 1st, In opposition to the ceremonial law, which was a yoke of bondage the Jews could not bear, and from which it freed all that received it; Christ’s yoke being easy, his burden light, and his commandments not grievous. 2d, Because it delivers all true believers from the guilt of past sin, from the curse of the law, and from the wrath of God. 3d, Because it rescues them from the power of sin and Satan, of the world and the flesh, and from the slavery of their lusts and passions, restoring the dominion of reason and conscience in their minds, which is true liberty. 4th, Because it saves those, on whom it has its designed influence, from all slavish fear of God, all tormenting fear of death and hell, and the whole spirit of bondage. Observe, reader, he who receives the gospel in faith, love, and new obedience, is free; he that does not is not free, but a slave to sin, and a criminal before God. And continueth therein — Perseveres in the study, consideration, and belief of it, and in obedience to it; see John 8:31; being not a forgetful hearer — Like the person above described; but a doer of the work — Of the duty which the gospel requires; this man — There is a peculiar force in this repetition of the word; shall be blessed Μακαριος, happy; in his deed — Not only in hearing, but especially in doing the will of God.1:22-25 If we heard a sermon every day of the week, and an angel from heaven were the preacher, yet, if we rested in hearing only, it would never bring us to heaven. Mere hearers are self-deceivers; and self-deceit will be found the worst deceit at last. If we flatter ourselves, it is our own fault; the truth, as it is in Jesus, flatters no man. Let the word of truth be carefully attended to, and it will set before us the corruption of our nature, the disorders of our hearts and lives; and it will tell us plainly what we are. Our sins are the spots the law discovers: Christ's blood is the laver the gospel shows. But in vain do we hear God's word, and look into the gospel glass, if we go away, and forget our spots, instead of washing them off; and forget our remedy, instead of applying to it. This is the case with those who do not hear the word as they ought. In hearing the word, we look into it for counsel and direction, and when we study it, it turns to our spiritual life. Those who keep in the law and word of God, are, and shall be, blessed in all their ways. His gracious recompence hereafter, would be connected with his present peace and comfort. Every part of Divine revelation has its use, in bringing the sinner to Christ for salvation, and in directing and encouraging him to walk at liberty, by the Spirit of adoption, according to the holy commands of God. And mark the distinctness, it is not for his deeds, that any man is blessed, but in his deed. It is not talking, but walking, that will bring us to heaven. Christ will become more precious to the believer's soul, which by his grace will become more fitted for the inheritance of the saints in light.But whoso looketh - (παρακύψας parakupsas). This word means, to stoop down near by anything; to bend forward near, so as to look at anything more closely. See the word explained in the notes at 1 Peter 1:12. The idea here is that of a close and attentive observation. The object is not to contrast the manner of looking in the glass, and in the law of liberty, implying that the former was a "careless beholding," and the latter an attentive and careful looking, as Doddridge, Rosenmuller, Bloomfield, and others suppose; for the word used in the former case (κατενόησε katanoēse) implies intense or accurate observation, as really as the word used here; but the object is to show that if a man would attentively look into, and continue in the law of liberty, and not do as one who went away and forgot how he looked, he would be blessed. The emphasis is not in the manner of looking, it is on the duty of continuing or persevering in the observance of the law.

The perfect law of liberty - Referring to the law of God or his will, however made known, as the correct standard of conduct. It is called the perfect law, as being wholly free from all defects; being just such as a law ought to be. Compare Psalm 19:7. It is called the law of liberty, or freedom because it is a law producing freedom from the servitude of sinful passions and lusts. Compare Psalm 119:45; Notes, Romans 6:16-18.

And continueth therein - He must not merely look at the law, or see what he is by comparing himself with its requirements, but he must yield steady obedience to it. See the notes at John 14:21.

This man shall be blessed in his deed - Margin, doing. The meaning is, that he shall be blessed in the very act of keeping the law. It will produce peace of conscience; it will impart happiness of a high order to his mind; it will exert a good influence over his whole soul. Psalm 19:11. "In keeping of them there is great reward."

25. looketh into—literally, "stoopeth down to take a close look into." Peers into: stronger than "beholdeth," or "contemplated," Jas 1:24. A blessed curiosity if it be efficacious in bearing fruit [Bengel].

perfect law of liberty—the Gospel rule of life, perfect and perfecting (as shown in the Sermon on the Mount, Mt 5:48), and making us truly walk at liberty (Ps 119:32, 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; compare 1Co 7:22; Ga 5:1, 13; 1Pe 2:16). The law is thus not made void, but fulfilled.

continueth therein—contrasted with "goeth his way," Jas 1:24, continues both looking into the mirror of God's word, and doing its precepts.

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 (Ps 19:11).

But whose looketh into; viz. intently and earnestly, searching diligently into the mind of God. The word signifies a bowing down of the head to look into a thing; and is used of the disciples’ looking into Christ’s sepulchre, Luke 24:12 John 20:5; see 1 Peter 1:12; and seems to be opposed to looking into a glass, which is more slight, and without such prying and inquisitiveness.

The perfect law of liberty; the whole doctrine of the Scripture, or especially the gospel, called law, Romans 3:27, both as it is a rule, and by reason of the power it hath over the heart; and a law of liberty, because it shows the way to the best liberty, freedom from sin, the bondage of the ceremonial law, the rigour of the moral, and from the wrath of God; and likewise the way of serving God freely and ingenuously as children; and because, being received into the heart, it is accompanied with the Spirit of adoption who works this liberty, 2 Corinthians 3:17. It is called a perfect law, not only as being entire and without any defect, but as directing us to the greatest perfection, full conformity to God, and enjoyment of him, 2 Timothy 3:16,17.

And continueth therein; perseveres in the study, belief, and obedience of this doctrine, {Psalm 1:2} in all conditions, and under all temptations and afflictions. This seems to be opposed to him, who, when he hath looked in a glass, goes away, Jam 1:24. By which are set forth slight, superficial hearers, who do not continue in Christ’s word, John 8:31.

He being not a forgetful hearer; Greek, hearer of forgetfulness, by a Hebraism, for a forgetful hearer; it answers to him in the former verse, that forgetteth what manner of man he was; and implies, not only not remembering the truths we have heard, but a not practising them, as appears by the next clause.

But a doer of the work; viz. which the word directs him to do: the singular number is put for the plural; he means, he that reduceth what he hears into practice, Psalm 103:18.

This man shall be blessed in his deed; this is opposed to bare hearing, and the doer of the work is said to be blessed in or by his deed, as the evidence of his present begun blessedness, and the way to his future perfect happiness. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty,.... By which is meant, not the moral law, but the Gospel; for only of that is the apostle speaking in the context: this is no other than the word of truth, with which God begets men of his own will; and is the ingrafted word which is able to save, and of which men should be doers, as well as hearers, James 1:18, and this is compared to a glass by the Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and the word here used for looking into it is the same word the Apostle Peter uses of the angels, who desired to look into the mysteries of the Gospel, 1 Peter 1:12 all which serve to strengthen this sense; now the Gospel is called a law; not that it is a law, strictly speaking, consisting precepts, and established and enforced by sanctions penalties; for it is a declaration of righteousness and salvation by Christ; a publication of peace and pardon by him; and a free promise of eternal life, through him; but as it is an instruction, or doctrine: the law with the Jews is called because it is teaching and instructive; and everything that is so is by them called by this name: hence we find the doctrine of the Messiah, which is no other than the Gospel, is in the Old Testament called the law of the Lord, and his law, Isaiah 2:2 and in the New Testament it is called the law, or doctrine of faith, Romans 3:27 and this doctrine is perfect, as in Psalm 19:7, it being a perfect plan of truths, containing in it all truth, as it is in Jesus, even all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and because it is a revelation of things perfect; of the perfect righteousness of Christ, and of perfect justification by it, and of free and full pardon of sins through him, and of complete salvation by him; and because it directs to Christ, in whom perfection is: and it is a law or doctrine of liberty; , "that which is if liberty"; which has liberty for its subject, which treats of it, even of the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free: the Gospel proclaims this liberty to captive souls; and is the word of truth, which makes them free, or is the means of freeing them from the slavery of sin, from the captivity of Satan, and from the bondage of the law; and is what gives souls freedom and boldness at the throne of grace; and is that which leads them into the liberty of grace here, and gives them a view and hope of the glorious liberty of the children of God hereafter. This doctrine is as a glass to look into; in which is beheld the glory of Christ's person and office, and grace; and though by the law is the knowledge of sin, yet a man never so fully and clearly discovers the sin that dwells in him, and the swarms of corruption which are in his heart, as when the light of the glorious Gospel shines into him, and when in it he beholds the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ; see Isaiah 6:5 and looking into this glass, or into this doctrine, is by faith, and with the eyes of the understanding, opened and enlightened by the Spirit of God; and the word here used signifies a looking wistly and intently, with great care and thought, and not in a slight and superficial manner; and such a looking is designed, as is attended with effect; such an one as transforms into the same image that is beheld, from glory to glory; and happy is the man that so looks into it.

And continueth therein; is not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, nor carried about with divers and strange doctrines; but is established in the faith, stands fast in it, and abides by it; or continues looking into this glass, and to Christ, the author and finisher of faith, who is beheld in it; and keeps his eye upon it, and the object held forth in it; and constantly attends the ministration of it:

he being not a forgetful hearer; but takes heed to the things he hears and sees, lest he should let them slip; and being conscious of the weakness of his memory, implores the divine Spirit to be his remembrancer, and bring to his mind, with fresh power and light, what he has heard:

but a doer of the work; of the work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, and of every work and ordinance the Gospel ministry points unto; doing and being subject to all in faith, from a principle of love, and with a view to the glory of God and Christ.

This man shall be blessed in his deed; or "doing", and while he is doing; not that he is blessed for what he does, but "in" what he does; see Psalm 19:11 he having, in hearing the word, and looking into it, and in submitting to every ordinance of the Gospel, the presence of God, the discoveries of his love, communion with Christ, and communication of grace from him by the Spirit; so that Wisdom's ways become ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace; see Psalm 65:4, moreover, in all such a man does, he is prosperous and successful; in all he does he prospers: and so he is blessed in his deed, by God, whose blessing makes rich, both in spirituals and temporals: there seems to be an allusion to the blessed man in Psalm 1:1.

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his {x} deed.

(x) Behaviour: for works show faith.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Jam 1:25 does not give the simple application of the image, but rather describes, with reference to the foregoing image, the right hearer, and says of him that he is μακάριος ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ. In this description the three points named in Jam 1:24 are carefully observed: παρακύψας εἰς κ.τ.λ. answers to κατενόησεν (ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ), παραμείνας to ἀπελήλυθεν, and οὐκ ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς to ἐπελάθετο. The sentence consists of a simple combination of subject and predicate; γενόμενος is not to be resolved into the finite verb γίνεται (Pott). The predicate commences, after the subject is summed up, in οὗτος with μακάριος.

This is also the case with the textus receptus, where a οὗτος is put before οὐκ ἀκροατής; for, since with this reading the first οὗτος is simply resumed by the second οὗτος (before μακάριος), equivalent to hic, inquam, the words οὐκ ἀκροατὴςἔργου only serve to give a more exact designation of the subject, παρακύψαςκαὶ παραμείνας being thus more clearly defined. Thus these words begin not the apodosis or principal sentence, as if James would here, in contrast to Jam 1:24, show that the right hearing and appropriation leads to the doing, (and thereby) to the blessedness of doing (against Wiesinger). Were this his object, he would have been obliged to put the finite verb instead of the participle γενόμενος, and a καί after ἔργου. The subject is accordingly: but whosoever looks into the perfect law of liberty and continueth therein, being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man.

The aorist participles are explained from the close connection of this verse with the preceding, where the same tense was used. There is no copulative καί before the participial clause οὐκ ἀκροατὴς κ.τ.λ., because the doing of the law is the necessary consequence of the continued looking into it, and it would otherwise have the appearance as if παρακύπτειν and παραμένειν could take place without ποιεῖν following.[102] The verb ΠΑΡΑΚΎΠΤΕΙΝ (properly bending oneself near an object in order to view it more exactly, Luke 24:12; John 20:5; John 20:11; 1 Peter 1:12; Sir 14:23; Sir 21:23) refers back, indeed, to ΚΑΤΑΝΟΕῖΝ, but is a stronger idea. James has fittingly chosen this verb as verbum ad imaginem speculi humi aut mensae impositi adaptatum (Schneckenburger; see also Theile, Wiesinger). Luther inaccurately translates it: looketh through. As the accent is on παρα, the verb ΠΑΡΑΜΕΊΝΑς is used afterwards. By ΕἸς is expressed not only the direction to something, but the intensity of the look into the inner nature of the law. παραμείνας (not continueth therein, as Luther translates it, but thereat) is added to παρακύψας,—without the article, because the two points are to be considered as most closely connected,—indicating the continued consideration of the ΝΌΜΟς, from which action necessarily follows. Schneckenburger incorrectly gives to the verb ΠΑΡΑΜΈΝΕΙΝ here (appealing to Acts 14:22; Galatians 3:10; Hebrews 8:9) the meaning to “observe the law;” but the subject treated of here is not the observance, but “the appropriation which leads to action” (Wiesinger), or “the remaining in the yielding of oneself to the object by contemplating it” (Lange). By νόμος τέλειος ὁ τῆς ἐλευθερίας[103] is meant neither the O. T. law, nor lex naturalis (Schulthess), but λόγος ἀληθείας (Jam 1:18), thus the gospel, inasmuch as it places before the Christian—by reason of redemption—the rule of his life. This evangelical νόμος, indeed, resembles the O. T. νόμος in expressing no other will of God, but differs from it in that it only is the νόμος τῆς ἐλευθερίας, the νόμος τέλειος. It not only confronts man as enjoining, but, resting on the love of God, it creates the new life from which joyful obedience springs forth voluntarily and unconstrained; it gives ἐλευθερία, which the O. T. νόμος was not able to give, and thus proves itself as the perfect law in contrast to the imperfect law of the Old Covenant. It is true that even in the O. T. the sweetness of the law was subject of praise (Psalm 19:8-11), but the life-giving power belonged to the law only in an imperfect manner, because the covenant on which it rested was as yet only one of promise and not of fulfilment. It is accordingly incorrect to explain the additional attribute as if James considered the O. T. law, according to the Pauline manner, as a ζυγὸς δουλείας (Galatians 5:1), for of this there is no trace.[104] Many expositors understand by ΝΌΜΟς ΤΈΛΕΙΟς Κ.Τ.Λ. the gospel, as the joyful message of salvation, or the doctrina evangelii, or simply gratia evangelii, namely, in contrast to the O. T. economy, which, however, corresponds neither to the language of James nor to his mode of contemplation.

In the additional participial sentence, the ideas ἈΚΡΟΑΤῊς ἘΠΙΛΗΣΜΟΝῆς and ΠΟΙΗΤῊς ἜΡΓΟΥ are opposed to each other. ἈΚΡΟΑΤῊς ἘΠΙΛΗΣΜΟΝῆς (the word, foreign to classical Greek, is in the N. T. a ἍΠ. ΛΕΓ.; it is found in Sir 11:27; among classical writers: ἘΠΙΛΉΣΜΗ, ἘΠΙΛΗΣΜΟΣΎΝΗ) is = ἈΚΡ. ἘΠΙΛΉΣΜΩΝ, a hearer to whom forgetfulness belongs. To ΠΟΙΗΤΉς ἜΡΓΟΥ is attached in order to make still more prominent the idea of activity, which indeed is already contained in ΠΟΙΗΤΉς. The singular does not properly stand for the plural (Grotius: effector eorum operum, quae evangelica lex exigit), but “is designed to import that it here results in something, in the doing of work” (Wiesinger). Those ideas, which appear not to correspond, yet form a true antithesis, since the law is inoperative on the forgetful hearer, but incites him who is an attentive hearer to a corresponding activity of life. James says of him who is thus described: he (οὗτος) is blessed in his deed. ποίησις in N. T. ἍΠ. ΛΕΓ., in Sir 19:20 : ΠΟΊΗΣΙς ΝΌΜΟΥ. The preposition ἘΝ is not to be exchanged with ΔΙΆ, for by ἘΝ the internal connection of doing and blessedness is marked; Brückner: “the blessing innate in such doing is meant.” ἜΣΤΑΙ is therefore not to be referred to tire future life; but it is by it announced what is even here directly connected with the ΠΟΊΗΣΙς; James, however, certainly considered this ΜΑΚΑΡΙΌΤΗς as permanent. The thought here expressed refers to the last words of Jam 1:21, completing them, showing that the ΛΌΓΟς has the effect there stated (ΣῶΣΑΙ ΤᾺς ΨΥΧΆς) in him who so embraces it that it leads him to ΠΟΊΣΙς.[105]

[102] Lange agrees in essentials with this explanation, but he thinks that by it “the full energy of the idea is not preserved;” it should rather have been said that “the παρακύψας and παραμείνας, as such, ποιητὴς ἔργου γειόμενος;” but the looking in and continuing is evidently in themselves not identical with the doing of which James speaks, however necessarily the latter results from the former.

[103] Kern incorrectly maintains that this expression is formed according to the Pauline phraseology: νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς ἐν Χρ. Ἰησοῦ, Romans 8:2; νόμος τῆς πίστεως, Romans 3:27; νόμος Χριστοῦ, Galatians 6:2; as if James must have borrowed the designation of what was to him the cardinal point of Christian life from another, and could not himself originate it.

[104] It is to be observed that even in the so-called apostolic council at Jerusalem James did not, as Peter, call the law a ζυγός.

[105] Laurentius adds to the last words of the verse: sc. non ex merito ipsius operis, sed ex promissione gratuita; but this is a caution foreign to the context. Lange inappropriately intermingles ideas, when he reckons to this ποίησις particularly confession, and thinks that James above all things indicated that the Jews should confess Christ, and that the Jewish Christians should fully confess their Christian brethren from the Gentiles.Jam 1:25. παρακύψας: in Sir 14:20 ff. we read, Μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὂς ἐν σοφίᾳ τελευτήσειὁ παρακύπτων διὰ τῶν θυρίδων αὐτῆς. The word means literally to “peep into” with the idea of eagerness and concentration, see Genesis 26:8; Mayor says that the παρὰ “seems to imply the bending of the upper part of the body horizontally”; if this is so the word would be used very appropriately of a man poring over a roll of the Torah.—εἰς νόμον τέλειον …: see above Jam 1:22.—οὐκ ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς, etc.: Cf. with this what is quoted as a saying of our Lord in the Doctrina Addaei: “Thus did the Lord command us, that that which we preach before the people by word we should practise in deed in the sight of all” (Resch., op. cit., p. 285).—ἐπιλησμονῆς: does not occur elsewhere in the N.T., and only very rarely in the Septuagint; see Sir 11:27, κάκωσις ὥρας ἐπιλησμονὴν ποιεῖ τρυφῆς.—ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ: only here in the N.T., cf. Sir 19:18 (Sir 19:20 in Greek), πᾶσα σοφία φόβος Κυρίου, καὶ ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ ποίησις νόμου; and Sir 51:19, καὶ ἐν ποιήσει μου ([53]

[54] read λιμοῦ) διηκριβασάμην (this clause does not exist in the Hebrew, and is probably a doublet); cf. Sir 16:26.

[53] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[54] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.25. But whoso looketh …] The word involves primarily the idea of stooping down and bending over that on which we look, as with a fixed gaze. See for its literal use Mark 16:5; Luke 24:12, and for its spiritual application, “which things the angels desire to look into,” in 1 Peter 1:12. In Sir 14:23, it is used of the “prying in,” the eager gaze of the seeker after wisdom; in Sir 21:23 of the intrusive gaze of the fool. Here it implies, like our word “attend,” the fixing the whole mind on that which the mirror of the Divine Word discloses to us, but as the act itself might, like the “beholding” of the previous verse, be but transient, St James adds the further condition, “and continueth therein.”

the perfect law of liberty] The words appear at first to be wide and general, and to echo the language in which Psalmists and others had spoken of “the law of the Eternal” (Psalm 19:7; Psalm 111:7; Psalm 119:1). On the other hand, we have to remember that at the Council at which St James presided, the law of Moses, as such, was described as “a yoke” of bondage (Acts 15:10), even as St Paul spoke of it (Galatians 5:1), and that our Lord had spoken of the Truth as that by which alone men could be made “free indeed” (John 8:32). It follows from this, almost necessarily, that St James speaks of the new Law, the spiritual code of ethics, which had been proclaimed by Christ, and of which the Sermon on the Mount remains as the great pattern and example. That Law was characterised as giving to the soul freedom from the vices that enslave it. To look into that Law and to continue in it was to share the beatitudes with which it opened. That the writer was familiar with that Sermon we shall see at well nigh every turn of the Epistle.

being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work] Literally, becoming not a hearer of forgetfulness. The construction is the same as in the “steward of injustice” for the “unjust steward” (Luke 16:8; Luke 18:6), the genitive of the characteristic attribute being used instead of the adjective. As the one clause balances the other the words that follow probably meant an active worker or “doer.” In any case the article, as in the Greek, should be omitted, “a doer of work.”

this man shall be blessed in his deed] Once again, as if shewing on what his thoughts had been dwelling, as the law of liberty, St James returns to the formula of a beatitude, and brings together, in so doing, the beginning and the end of the Sermon on the Mount.Jam 1:25. Παρακύψας, whoso looketh into) This answers to Jam 1:24, he beholdeth himself. The word παρακύπτω gives the idea of such a search after an object which is concealed as does not confine itself to the surface of the mirror, but penetrates to that which is within. Sir 14:23, Ὁ παρακύπτων διὰ τῶν θυρίδων τῆς σοφίας, he that prieth in at the windows of wisdom. A blessed curiosity, if it is efficacious in bearing fruit.—εἰς νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας, into the perfect law of liberty) He applies this appellation to the law, inasmuch as [in so far as] it is established by faith: Romans 3:31. Comp. the notes on ch. Jam 2:12; Jam 2:8. St James takes care that no one should abuse the peculiar expressions employed by St Paul respecting the bondage and yoke of the law. He who keeps the law is free: John 8:31-32. Man ought to agree with the perfection of the law, in the perfection of his knowledge and obedience; otherwise he is not free, but guilty. Comp. Jam 2:10.—καὶ παραμείνας, and continueth) This is antithetical to goeth his way, Jam 1:24.—οὗτοςοὗτος) this manthis man, I say. The words here inserted express the reason of the assertion (of the predicate), and the repetition has weight.Verse 25. - Application of the illustration in the form of a contrast. Looketh into (παρακύψας). For the literal sense of the word, see John 20:5, 11; Luke 24:12. The figurative meaning occurs only here and in 1 Peter 1:12. Properly it signifies to "peep into." See its use in the LXX., Genesis 26:8; Proverbs 7:6; Ecclus. 21:23. When used figuratively, it conveys the idea of looking into, but scarcely with that intensive force which is often given to it and for which ἐγκύπτειν would be required (see Dr. Field's 'Otium Norvicense,' p. 147). Its use in St. Peter, loc. cit., is easy enough to explain. Angels desire even a glimpse of the mysteries. But what are we to say of its use hero? Is it that, though the man took a good look at himself in the glass (κατανοεῖν, consider, is a very strong word; cf. Romans 4:19), yet he forgot what he was like, while the man who only peeps into the law of liberty is led on to abide (παραμείνας) and so to act? The perfect law of liberty; rather, the perfect law, even the law of liberty; νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας. The substantive is anarthrous, yet the attributive has the article. This construction serves to give greater prominence to the attributive, and requires the rendering given above (see Winer, § 20:4). The conception of the gospel as a "law" is characteristic of St. James (cf. James 2:8, "the royal law," and James 4:11). A forgetful hearer (ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονής); i.e. a hearer characterized by forgetfulness, contrasted with ποιητὴς ἐργοῦ, a doer characterized by work. Whoso looketh (ὁ παρακύψας)

Rev., more strictly, he that looketh. See on 1 Peter 1:12. The verb is used of one who stoops sideways (παρά) to look attentively. The mirror is conceived as placed on a table or on the ground. Bengel quotes Wisdom of Sirach 14:23: "He that prieth in at her (Wisdom's) windows shall also hearken at her doors." Coleridge remarks: "A more happy or forcible word could not have been chosen to express the nature and ultimate object of reflection, and to enforce the necessity of it, in order to discover the living fountain and spring-head of the evidence of the Christian faith in the believer himself, and at the same time to point out the seat and region where alone it is to be found" ("Aphorisms").

Into (εἰς)

Denoting the penetration of the look into the very essence of the law.

The perfect law of liberty (νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας)

Lit., the perfect law, the law of liberty. So Rev. The law of liberty is added as defining the perfect law.

Continueth therein

Better, Rev., so continueth; i.e., continues looking.

Forgetful hearer (ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς)

The latter word only here in New Testament. Lit., a hearer of forgetfulness; whom forgetfulness characterizes. Rev., very happily, a hearer that forgetteth; a rendering which gives the proper sense of forgetfulness as a characteristic better than A. V., a forgetful hearer.

Doer of the work

Lit., of work, as the noun has no article. Rev., a doer that worketh.

In his deed (ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ)

More correctly, as Rev., in his doing. Only here in New Testament. The preposition ἐν (in) marks the inner connection between doing and blessedness. "The life of obedience is the element wherein the blessedness is found and consists" (Alford).

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