James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.James 1:1. James, a servant of Jesus Christ — Whose name the apostle mentions but once more in the whole epistle, namely, James 2:1, and not at all in his whole discourse, Acts 15:14, &c., or Acts 21:20-25. It might have seemed, if he had mentioned him often, that he did it out of vanity, as being the brother, or near kinsman, of the Lord; to the twelve tribes — Of Israel; that is, to those of them that were converted to Christianity, and with an evident reference, in some parts of the epistle, to that part of them which was not converted; which are scattered abroad — In various countries; ten of the tribes were scattered ever since the reign of Hoshea, and a great part of the rest were now dispersed through the Roman empire, as was foretold Deuteronomy 28:25; Deuteronomy 30:4. That the twelve tribes were actually in existence when James wrote his epistle, will appear from the following facts. 1st, Notwithstanding Cyrus allowed all the Jews in his dominions to return to their own land, many of them did not return, but continued to live among the Gentiles, as appears from this, that in the days of Ahasuerus, one of the successors of Cyrus, who reigned from India to Ethiopia, over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, (Esther 3:8,) the Jews were dispersed among the people in all the provinces of his kingdom, and their laws were diverse from the laws of all other people; so that, by adhering to their own usages, they kept themselves distinct from all the nations among whom they lived. 2d, Josephus considered the twelve tribes as being in existence when the Old Testament Scriptures were translated into Greek, (namely, in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, about two hundred and fifty or two hundred and sixty years before Christ,) as he says that six persons were sent out of every tribe to assist in that work. 3d, On the day of pentecost, as mentioned Acts 2:5; Acts 2:9, there were dwelling at Jerusalem devout men out of every nation under heaven, Parthians, Medes, &c: so numerous were the Jews, and so widely dispersed through all the countries of the world. 4th, When Paul travelled through Asia and Europe, he found the Jews so numerous, that in all the noted cities of the Gentiles they had synagogues, in which they were assembled for the worship of God, and were joined by multitudes of proselytes from among the heathens. 5th, The same apostle, in his speech to Agrippa, affirmed that the twelve tribes were then existing, and that they served God day and night, in expectation of the promise made to the fathers, Acts 26:6. 6th, Josephus (Antiq., 50. 14. c. 12) tells us, that in his time one region could not contain the Jews, but they dwelt in most of the flourishing cities of Asia and Europe, in the islands and continent, not much less in number than the heathen inhabitants. From all which it is evident that the Jews of the dispersion were more numerous than even the Jews in Judea; and that James very properly inscribed his letter to the twelve tribes which were in the dispersion, seeing the twelve tribes really existed then, and do still exist, although not distinguished by separate habitations, as they were anciently in their own land. Greeting — That is, wishing you all blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;James 1:2-4. Count it all joy — That is, matter of the greatest joy; when ye fall into divers temptations — Πειρασμοις, trials; for though rendered temptations, it does not signify here what is commonly meant by temptations, for these we are directed to pray against, but it denotes trials by affliction and persecution. To these God, by whose providence they come, exposes men, not to lead them into sin, but to afford them an opportunity of exercising and improving their graces and virtues. Hence our Lord declared those to be blessed who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake, Matthew 5:10; and exhorted such, (Matthew 5:42,) to rejoice and be exceeding glad; sentiments which doubtless the Apostle James had in his eye when he spoke to the Jewish Christians in this manner. Knowing that the trying, or proving, of your faith — By persecution and affliction; worketh patience — Exercises and thereby increases your patience, through the divine blessing, and your resignation to God’s will, from which many other virtues will flow. But let patience have her perfect work — Let it be duly and fully exercised, that it may rise to the highest degree of perfection: 1st, By composing your minds to a sweet and humble frame under your sufferings. 2d, By acknowledging God’s hand in them, and blessing him for them. 3d, By resisting all inclinations to impatience, fretfulness, and murmuring. 4th, By quietly waiting for deliverance, in the way God hath appointed, till he shall see fit to grant James 2:5 th, By enduring to the end of the time of your trial; that ye may be perfect and entire — Adorned with every Christian grace and virtue; wanting nothing — No kind or degree of grace which God requires to be in you; but may be complete in all the parts of holiness.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.James 1:5-7. If any of you — In whole or in part; lack wisdom — To understand whence and why temptations come, and how they are to be improved, or for any other purpose. Wisdom, in the common acceptation of the word, denotes a sound practical judgment concerning things to be done or avoided: but here the expression seems to mean wisdom to know how to conduct ourselves under afflictions, or how to make a right use of them. Patience is in every pious man already; let him exercise this, and ask for wisdom. The sum of wisdom, how to conduct ourselves in the trial of poverty, on the one hand, and riches, on the other, is described in the 9th and 10th verses. The connection between the second and following verses of this chapter will be easily discerned by him who reads them while he is suffering wrongfully. He will then readily perceive why the apostle mentions all these various affections of the mind. Let him ask of God — The eternal fountain of wisdom, as well as of grace; that giveth to all — That ask aright; liberally — Freely and richly; and upbraideth not —
Either with their past sinfulness or present unworthiness. But let him ask in faith — With a firm confidence in the power, love, and faithfulness of God. St. James also both begins and ends with faith, James 5:15; the hinderances of which he removes in the middle part of his epistle; nothing wavering — Or doubting, as διακρινομενος frequently and properly signifies; or not divided in his mind, between the desires of obtaining and the fears of not obtaining the grace he asks; or not questioning God’s willingness to bestow it. For he that wavereth — Or doubteth, and therefore is divided in his mind, as just observed, and who does not firmly confide in the goodness and faithfulness of God, can have no other solid and substantial support, but is like a wave of the sea — Restless and inconstant; driven with the wind to and fro, and tossed about at its mercy; is unsettled and irresolute. Let not that man — Who thus yields to diffidence and distrust; think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord — While he continues in such an unstable and wavering state of mind, and dares not rely on God for those supplies of grace which he professes to seek. Such unreasonable doubts and suspicions, as they wrong the divine goodness, so they may, in many instances, prevent the communication of those favours which might otherwise be obtained.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.James 1:8. A double-minded man — Ανηρ διψυχος, a man who has, as it were, two souls; whose heart is divided between God and the world, and is not simply given up to him, nor entirely confides in him for the direction, aid, and support which he stands in need of; is unstable in all his ways — Being without the true wisdom, he perpetually disagrees both with himself and others; and will be perpetually running into inconsistencies of conduct, while those imperfect impressions of religion which he feels will serve rather to perplex and torment than to guide and confirm him in the right way.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:James 1:9-11. Let the brother — St. James does not give this appellation to the rich; of low degree — Poor and tempted, or brought low by his sufferings for Christ, and humbled in spirit thereby; rejoice that he is exalted — To be a child of God, and an heir of eternal glory; let him think of his dignity as a Christian, and entirely acquiesce in his low station in life, which will continue only for a short season, and which God has wisely appointed for his eternal good. Or, let him rejoice that he is thought worthy to be called to suffer for Christ, Acts 5:41; Php 1:29. But the rich — Let the rich rejoice in that he is made low — Is humbled by a deep sense of his true condition, and brought to have low thoughts of all worldly excellences, and to be prepared for sufferings. The Greek is, εν τη ταπεινωσει αυτου, in his humiliation, as the word is rendered Acts 8:33; where it is used to express the humiliation of Christ by his various sufferings. And as it is here opposed to υψει, exaltation, in the preceding verse, it may signify the humiliation of the rich man, by his being stripped of his riches and possessions, of his liberty, and his being made liable to lose his life on account of the gospel. Here, therefore, the apostle advises the rich to glory when they lose the uncertain riches of this life, and are exposed to other sufferings, for the sake of truth and a good conscience, with the favour and approbation of God. For the sun, &c. — Literally, For the sun arose with a burning heat, and withered the grass, and the flower fell off, and the beauty of its form perished. There is an unspeakable beauty and elegance, both in the comparison itself and the very manner of expressing it; intimating both the certainly and the suddenness of the event. So shall the rich man fade away in his ways — In the midst of his various pleasures and enjoyments.
But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.James 1:12. Blessed — Μακαριος, happy, is the man that endureth temptation — Trials of various kinds, patiently and perseveringly; for when he is tried — Δοκιμος γενομενος, being approved on trial, he shall receive the crown of eternal life, which the Lord Christ hath promised to them that love him — And express their love by such fidelity and zeal.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:James 1:13. Let no man say, when he is tempted — To commit sin, in whatever way it may be; I am tempted of God — God has laid this temptation in my way; for God cannot be tempted with evil — It cannot appear desirable, or otherwise than detestable, in God’s eyes; nor can he be inclined to it in any degree, through any external object, or any internal motion; neither tempteth he any man — He does not persuade or incline, much less constrain any one to sin by any means whatever. The word πειραζειν, to tempt, as we have seen, often signifies “to try, in order to discover the disposition of a person, or to improve his virtue, James 1:12. In this sense God is said to have tempted or tried Abraham and the Israelites. Not that he was ignorant of the dispositions of either of them. In the same sense the Israelites are said to have tempted or proved God. They put his power and goodness to the trial, by entertaining doubts concerning them. Here, to tempt, signifies to solicit one to sin, and actually to seduce him into sin, which is the effect of temptation or solicitation. See James 1:14. In this sense the devil tempts men. And because he is continually employed in that malicious work, he is called, by way of eminence, Ο πειραζων, the tempter. It is in this sense we are to understand the saying in the end of the verse, that God is incapable of being tempted, that is, seduced to sin by evil things, and that he seduces no one to sin. God having nothing either to hope or fear, no evil beings, whether man or angel, can either entice or seduce him. Further, his infinitely perfect nature admitting no evil thought or inclination, he is absolutely (απειραστος) incapable of being tempted.” — Macknight.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.James 1:14-15. But every man is tempted when — In the beginning of the temptation; he is drawn away of his own lust — Greek, υπο της ιδιας επιθυμιας εξελκομενος; literally, he is drawn out of God, his strong refuge, by his own desire; excited by some external object presenting itself; and enticed — Δελεαζομενος, caught with a bait. It is generally supposed that the allusion here is to the drawing of fish out of a river with a baited hook: a metaphor used by Plato, as quoted by Cicero, (De Senect., cap. 13,) “Divine enim Plato, escam malorum appellat voluptatem; quod ea videlicet homines capiantur ut hamo pisces.” Plato divinely calls pleasure a bait of evil things; namely, because by it men are taken as fishes by a hook. With regard to most temptations that draw men into sin, the case seems to be thus: 1st, An outward object presents itself, which appears to be desirable, either on account of the profit or pleasure it seems calculated to afford; 2d, Through an inordinate love of ease, honour, wealth, or pleasure, a desire of that object arises in a man’s corrupt heart; 3d, That desire is yielded to, instead of being resisted, and thereby he is drawn from that line of duty in which he before walked, and from that state of union and communion with God which he enjoyed, and is entangled in the guilt and misery of sin. We are therefore to look for the causes of every sin chiefly in ourselves; in our appetites, passions, and corrupt inclinations. Even the injections of the devil cannot hurt us, till we make them our own, by entertaining and yielding to them. Then, when lust, desire, hath conceived — By obtaining the consent of our will, that is, when it is yielded to; it bringeth forth actual sin — By a speedy birth, where, perhaps, the full indulgence of the desire was not at first intended. It does not follow from this, that the desire itself is not sin. He that begets a man is himself a man; and sin, when it is finished — Actually committed; bringeth forth death — Tends, in its consequences, to the final ruin of both soul and body, as naturally as the conception of an animal does to its birth. Indeed, sin is born big with death. Thus St. James “represents men’s lust as a harlot, which entices their understanding and will into its impure embraces, and from that conjunction conceives sin. And sin, being brought forth and nourished by frequent repetitions, in its turn begets death, which destroys the sinner. This is the true genealogy of sin and death. Lust is the mother of sin, and sin the mother of death; and the sinner the parent of both. James 1:18, the apostle gives the genealogy of righteousness. All the righteous deeds which men perform, and the holy designs and desires, intentions and affections, which are found in them, proceed from their renewed nature; and their nature is renewed by the power of truth and grace; and God is the prime mover in the whole.” — Macknight.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Do not err, my beloved brethren.James 1:16-17. Do not err, &c. — By supposing that God is the author of sin, or that any thing which is sinful in the heart or conduct of man can, with truth, be ascribed to him: as well might darkness and coldness be attributed to the sun. It is indeed a grievous error to ascribe the evil, and not the good, which we receive, to God. No evil, but every good gift — Of every kind: whatever is beautiful, excellent, and good in any creature in the universe; all the members and senses of our bodies, and all our temporal blessings; and every perfect gift — Every gift of truth and grace, whatever tends to holiness and happiness here or hereafter; is from above — From heaven, not from earth, much less from hell; and cometh down from the Father of lights — Whether material or spiritual, in the kingdom of grace and glory; the author of all truth, knowledge, wisdom, holiness, and happiness. The appellation of Father is here used with peculiar propriety. It follows in the next verse, he begat us. With whom is no variableness — In his understanding; or shadow of turning — In his will; but he is immutably wise and good, holy and happy. He infallibly discerns all good and evil, and invariably loves the one and hates the other. There is in both the Greek words here used a metaphor taken from the heavenly bodies, particularly proper, where the Father of lights is mentioned; both words are applicable to any celestial body which has a daily vicissitude of day and night, and sometimes longer days, sometimes longer nights. In God is nothing of this kind. He is mere light. If there be any such vicissitude in us, it is from ourselves, not from him. “Will he give us holy desires at one time, and evil inclinations at another? No: he always gives us what is good, and nothing but good. It is blasphemous, therefore, as well as absurd, to suppose that God either tempts or constrains men to sin, on purpose that he may have a pretence for making them miserable. Some are of opinion that in the word παραλλαγη, translated variableness, there is an allusion to the parallaxes of the heavenly bodies. But as these were not known to the common people, the apostle, in a letter addressed to them, would hardly introduce a reference to such things.” — Macknight.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.James 1:18. Of his own will — Without any necessity on his part, or merit on ours; from a will most loving, most free, most pure, just opposite to our evil desire, James 1:15; begat he us — He converted, regenerated us, who believe; by the word of truth — The true word, emphatically so termed, the gospel; that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures — The most excellent of his visible creatures, and consecrated to, and set apart for him in an especial manner. The first-fruits being the best of their kind, by calling the regenerated the first-fruits of God’s creatures, the apostle has shown how acceptable such are to God, and how excellent in themselves through the renovation of their nature; and as the first-fruits, being offered to God, were supposed to sanctify the rest of the harvest, true Christians, who are in a peculiar manner dedicated to God, in some respects may be said to sanctify the rest. The apostle says, a kind of first-fruits, for Christ alone is absolutely the first-fruits.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:James 1:19-20. Wherefore — As if he had said, Since you are regenerated, and that by the word of God, therefore let every man be swift to hear — That word; let him be willing and desirous to receive instruction from it, and therefore diligent in embracing all opportunities of hearing it; slow to speak — To deliver his opinion in matters of faith, that he does not yet well understand. Persons half instructed frequently have a high opinion of their own knowledge in religious matters, are very fond of teaching others, and zealous to bring them over to their opinions. That the converted Jews were fond of being teachers, we learn from James 3:1; 1 Timothy 1:7. Slow to wrath — Against those that differ from him. Intemperate religious zeal is often accompanied by a train of bad passions, and particularly with anger against those who differ from us in opinion. The Jews, even the Jewish Christians to whom this letter was chiefly written, were very faulty in this respect. The apostle, however, may be understood as cautioning his readers against easily yielding to provocation in any respect whatever, and especially when injuriously treated by their persecutors. For the wrath of man — Even when it appears in the garb of religious zeal, worketh not — But, on the contrary, greatly obstructs, the righteousness of God — Instead of promoting the cause of true religion in the world, it is a reproach to it, and a means of exciting the prejudices of mankind against it. Persecution, in particular, the effect of the wrath of man, if violent, may make men hypocrites, by forcing them to profess what they do not believe; but it has no influence to produce that genuine faith which God accounts to men for righteousness. Nothing but rational arguments, with the illumination of the Spirit of God, can do this.
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.James 1:21. Wherefore — Because wrath is such a hinderance to true religion, and you are regenerated; lay apart — As you would a dirty garment; all filthiness — Every kind of sin which is of a defiling nature. The word ρυπαρια, here used, signifies filthiness adhering to the body. When, as here, applied to the mind, it denotes those lusts and appetites, and other sins which defile the soul, particularly those which are gratified by gluttony, drunkenness, and uncleanness; vices to which many Jews, pretending to be teachers, were addicted; and superfluity of naughtiness — Κακιας, maliciousness, or wickedness of any sort; for however specious and necessary it may appear to worldly wisdom, it is vile, hateful, contemptible, and really superfluous: every reasonable end may be effectually answered without any kind or degree of it. Lay this, every known sin, aside by the grace of God, or all your hearing is vain; and receive — Into your ears, your heart, your life; with meekness — Constant evenness and serenity of mind, or with an humble, submissive frame of spirit; the ingrafted word — The word of the gospel, ingrafted in penitent, believing souls by regeneration, (James 1:18,) and by habit, (Hebrews 5:14,) through the influence of God’s Spirit attending the ministry of your teachers, 1 Corinthians 3:5-6. Which is able to save your souls — As a means appointed by God for that end, and when received by faith, Hebrews 4:2.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.James 1:22. But be ye doers of the word — See on Matthew 7:21; Matthew 7:24. We are then doers of the word, when, being enlightened by its doctrines, awed by its threatenings, and encouraged by its promises, we, through the aid of divine grace, love and obey its precepts, both those which enjoin repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, as terms necessary to be complied with in order to our justification and regeneration, and those subsequent commands which show how those, who are already justified and born from above, ought to walk that they may please God, and save their souls; and not hearers only — Not contenting yourselves with mere hearing, or even with understanding and believing what you hear, without reducing it to practice; deceiving your own selves — As if it was sufficient to know your Master’s will without doing it. Some suppose that in these words the apostle refers primarily to the Jews, whose doctrine it was, 1st, That to be Abraham’s seed was sufficient to obtain for them God’s favour, and secure them against his judgments; 2d, That circumcision procured them acceptance with God; 3d, That all Israelites had a portion in the world to come; and especially, 4th, That to be employed in hearing and studying the law was of itself sufficient. But it seems more likely that he gives this caution with a reference to those Gnostics and other Antinomians that were creeping fast into the church; and were hearers only, not even considering the word they heard, and therefore not understanding it; and especially not experiencing its power to regenerate and save them from the guilt and power of their sins, and restore them to the divine image. The words, παραλογιζομενοι εαυτους, rendered, deceiving your own selves, properly signify, imposing upon yourselves by sophistical reasonings; an expression here used with great propriety, and very applicable to all those professors of Christianity who abuse the doctrines of grace to Antinomian purposes, and make void the moral law through a pretence of faith.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:James 1:23-24. If any be a hearer of the word merely, and not a doer — If he do not comply with its design, do not so consider and believe it as to lay it to heart, and be influenced by its doctrines, obey its precepts, embrace and rely on its promises, revere and stand in awe of its threatenings, guarding against what would expose him to them; he is like a man beholding — From custom or by accident; his natural face in a glass — Without any intention to discover, and wash or wipe off, the spots that may be on it. For he beholdeth himself — Without taking particular notice of what renders his visage disagreeable; and goeth his way — To other business; and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was — What renders his countenance uncomely, and requires to be removed. Here the word of God is represented as a mirror, in which, if a man will look with attention and care, he will see the face of his soul, and discover in what state he is, and what character he bears in the sight of God. It will manifest to him those principles and practices, those thoughts and imaginations, those affections, intentions, dispositions, words, and actions, which are contrary to truth and grace, to wisdom, piety, and virtue. But frequently those who discover all this through the word heard or read, go away, and so occupy themselves in secular affairs, as immediately to forget what manner of persons they were, and continue the same in their temper and conduct as before. Reader, is this thy case?
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
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 deed.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.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.James 1:26-27. If &c. — Here the apostle shows more particularly who are the doers of the word; 1st, Negatively, in this verse: 2d, Positively, in the next verse. If any man among you — Who are professors of Christianity; seem to be religious — Θρησκος, pious, devout, or a worshipper of God: and if his conduct in other respects be irreprehensible, and he be exact in all the outward offices of religion, yet if he bridleth not his tongue — From tale-bearing, backbiting, evil-speaking, slandering; or from vain, foolish, ostentatious talking and jesting; or rash, bitter, passionate, malicious, revengeful expressions: this man only deceiveth his own heart — If he fancy he has any true religion at all; for his religion is vain — Is a mere empty profession, and neither is nor will be of any service to him. Pure religion — The word θρησκεια, here used, properly signifies worship, which branch of religion is put for the whole. In the epithets here given to it, pure and undefiled, Archbishop Tillotson thinks there is an allusion to the excellence of a precious stone, which consists much in its being καθαρα και αμιαντος, clear, and without flaw, or cloud. And surely, says Doddridge, no gem is so precious or ornamental as the lovely temper here described. Here then the apostle describes the religion which Isaiah , 1 st, True and genuine, in opposition to that which is false and mistaken: 2d, Sincere and solid, in opposition to that which is feigned and pretended: 3d, Pure and holy, in opposition to that which is mixed with the inventions and superstitions of men, and defiled by erroneous principles and vicious practices. But what is this religion? In what does it consist? The apostle informs us: it consists not in speculations or notions, however just and orthodox. Not in forms or modes of worship, however Scriptural and necessary to be observed. Not in the warmth of affection, or ardour of zeal, &c., during worship. But, in consequence of repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, of justification by faith, and regeneration by the influence of the Divine Spirit, it consists in the possession and exercise of that love to God and all mankind, which is the source of the various branches of practical religion, of mercy as well as justice toward men, and of holiness toward God. True religion before God — Before his penetrating eyes; even the Father — Whose intelligent and immortal offspring we all are; is this, to visit — With counsel, comfort, and relief; the fatherless and widows — Those who need it most; in their affliction — In their most helpless and hopeless state; and to keep himself unspotted from the world — From the maxims, tempers, habits, and customs of it. But this cannot be done till we have given our hearts to God, and love our neighbour as ourselves. That this is true or pure religion, or the proper effect and evidence thereof, the reader will not question, if he recollects, 1st, That religion consists principally in faith working by love to God and man, Galatians 5:6; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Corinthians 13:1, &c.; John 4:8. 2d, That the most eminent and important fruit of faith, and of the love of our neighbour, is not saying, Be thou warmed, (James 2:14; 1 John 4:17,) but visiting, comforting, and relieving the needy and distressed. 3d, That the most important fruit of faith in, and love to, God, is purity of intention and affection, or the being dead to, and unspotted by, the world.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
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