James 3
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Throughout this chapter the apostle sounds a loud note of warning against sins of the tongue. The opening exhortation directs our thoughts to the responsibilities and dangers of the religious teacher. No one is under more constant temptation to sin with his lips; for it is the daily work of his life to speak regarding the most solemn themes.

I. THE CAUTION. "Be not many teachers, my brethren" (ver. 1). It would appear that the Pharisaic Jews of the time of the apostles vied with one another for distinction as teachers. At Church meetings it often happened that the time for free conference was consumed by those who had least to say which was likely to be profitable. So James counsels the members of the Church to be "swift to hear" and "slow to speak" in the religious assembly. While the office of the spiritual teacher is highly honorable, it is difficult to sustain it with honor. To do so demands superior intellectual power, keen spiritual insight, intimate acquaintance with Scripture, accurate knowledge of human nature, and a variety of other aptitudes which few possess. This dissuasive is needed by the modern Church little less than by the congregations of "the Dispersion." Our young men who aspire to the pulpit should consider well whether they have received a heavenly call thither. They should ponder the wise advice of an experienced pastor to a young student: "Do not enter the ministry if you can help it;" i.e. unless you have a burning desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as a preacher. This dissuasive reminds us also of Paul's rule: "Not a novice" (1 Timothy 3:6). How often is the young convert, especially in times of feverish revivalism, encouraged to narrate his "experience," and to address large religious meetings, greatly to his own spiritual detriment, and to the damage of the cause of Christ! James's counsel has a relation also to the pew. In its spirit it enjoins those who "hear the Word" to cultivate a docile and teachable frame of mind. Nothing hinders edification more than habits of pert and paltry criticism of the accidents of preaching.

II. ITS GROUND. (Vers. 1, 2.) How weighty is the responsibility of the religious teacher! He undertakes to perform the most important of all kinds of work, and by the use of means which involve the most difficult of all attainments, even to a godly man. The minister of the gospel is especially tried as regards the government of the tongue; and, alas! the most experienced pastors, even James and his fellow-apostles, - often "stumble in word." Teachers who are habitually unfaithful are guilty of peculiarly heinous sin; they shall be indicted at the bar of God for blood-guiltiness. Since the pastor is like a city set on a hill, his errors work more mischief in society than those of an ordinary member of the Church. The lowest deep of perdition shall be occupied by unconverted preachers of the gospel.


1. To Christian teachers. Let us labor and pray, with heart and mind, and with books and pen, so that our pulpit utterances shall not be hasty or unguarded, and that we may be "pure from the blood of all men."

2. To the members of the Church. Give your minister your loving sympathy, and do not continually advertise and bewail his infirmities. Seeing that his work is so arduous, maintain the habit of constantly "helping him with your prayers. - C.J.

In these verses is dealt a rebuke against the craving for authority, which, as he reminds them, involves "heavier judgment." How? Partly as coming under judgment itself (see Matthew 23:8-10); partly as involving increased responsibility. And responsibility and judgment are very near akin. More especially, in these words of warning, he has in view that confused assembly of theirs, in which all vied together in attempts to speak. How great the danger of "stumbling" in such speech! A stirring up of impatience, rancor, strife. This leads to thoughts on the power of the tongue, for good and for harm; with practical conclusions as to the inconsistency of unbridled speech.


1. For good. (Vers. 2-5.) Speech? It is the quick, instinctive, volatile expression of the man. A subtle effluence, showing the inner life. And as the inner life is agitated and stirred, tossing first this way, then that, how readily may the words also be committed to the impulses of the heart! And as those impulses may so easily be, for the moment, wrong impulses, how easily may wrong words be spoken! And so the transient feeling has fixed itself in a word that bites, and is not forgotten. And the feeling itself is fixed by the word that has uttered it; the man is committed to what otherwise he might have been glad to forget. James's first meaning, then, in the statement that the man who stumbles not in words is "a perfect man," is perhaps this: that one who has attained to mastery over so subtle and delicate an activity of the nature as speech, is perforce a man who has mastered all the more tangible and more controllable activities. The "whole body," all conduct, is brought into subjection, if this element of life is rightly swayed. Is it not so? Your experience will tell you that this is the last, the most intractable of the activities which you are called on to subdue. But there is another meaning in the words than this. The man who schools himself to such restraint as absolute mastery over speech implies, has not merely learned perfection of self-control in the matter of other and more tangible activities, but is learning a better perfection than that - even the self-restraint of his whole interior nature. To restrain conduct is much; but to restrain thought, purpose, passion! to lay a firm, a mastering control on all the complex desires and impulses of our nature! Oh, surely that is a perfection of self-restraint indeed! And the bridling of the tongue means thus the bridling of the unruly passions of the heart. The restraint of expression is the restraint of the impulse that seeks to express itself (see for converse of this law the former exposition, where we have noticed how the exercise of a faculty perfects the faculty that is exercised: James 2:22). Do you not know this also from your experience? Let loose the word, and you have let loose the feeling; conquer the word, and you have conquered the feeling. So, then, the illustrations: the bridle, the helm. And the tongue, a little member, boasteth great things.

2. For harm. (Vers. 5-8.) The remarks under this head have been partly anticipated above. Let loose the word, and you have let loose the passions. An unbridled tongue is an unbridled nature. Unchecked speech is unchecked wickedness. Yes; the activities of the man and the interior impulses are alike let loose for harm if the tongue be uncontrolled. Illustrations: fire among wood. So the "world of iniquity," defiling the body, setting on fire the wheel of nature, and itself set on fire of hell! And then? Tame the tongue, and tame the nature, who may! Even ravenous and noxious creatures are not untamable as that is; a restless evil; full of deadly poison. So the psalmist (Psalms 140:3). And your experience? A subtle, insinuating poison, which works its way into your whole nature, and infects all social joy.

II. THE INCONSISTENCY OF UNBRIDLED SPEECH. Picture their quarrelsome assemblies again: their invectives against one another, their common virulence towards the Gentile Christian Churches. And withal hymns to God! That is, hate and love in the same heart together, and all essentially towards God himself (ver. 9)! The inconsistency (ver. 10). So illustrations: fountain, tree (vers. 11, 12). These contrarieties, impossible in nature, can exist in us! And yet in truth they cannot. For ours is one nature. Can salt water yield fresh (ver. 12)? Neither can a cursing nature bless, or a hating nature love. And so our very praise is vitiated, and our worship becomes blasphemy. Oh, what are our dangers daily in this matter of speech! And perhaps, to shun them, we say we will hold our peace, even from good (Psalm 39.). Nay, but we must rather learn of him who was meek and lowly in heart. And so our speech shall be pure as his was, and our turbulent nature shall find rest. - T.F.L.

Passing from the peculiar responsibility which attaches to teachers of religion, James proceeds to speak generally of the enormous influence of the faculty of speech, especially upon the speaker himself, and of the abuse to which it is liable.

I. A DIRECT STATEMENT OF THIS POWER. "If any stumbleth not in word, the same," etc. (ver. 2). In most cases, the capacity to control one's utterances indicates the measure of one's attainment as regards the keeping of his heart. Sins of the tongue form so large a portion of our multitudinous "stumblings" - they so frequently help to seduce us into other sins - and they afford such a searching test of character, that any one who has learned to avoid riffling into them may without exaggeration be described as "a perfect man." Of course, no person lives in this world of whom it can be affirmed that he never errs in word. James has just remarked that "in many things we all stumble." But he is now suggesting an ideal case - that of a man who is perfectly free from lip-sins; and he asserts that such a person would be found to be both blameless and morally strong over the whole area of his character. The power which can bridle the tongue can control the entire nature. So great is the influence of human speech!

II. SOME ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS POWER. (Vers. 3-6.) The apostle here compares the tongue first to two familiar mechanical appliances, and then to one of the mighty forces of nature. In all the three selected cases very insignificant-looking means suffice to accomplish great results. The illustrations are extremely graphic; each is more telling than the preceding. They together show that James, the apostle of practical Christianity, possessed the perceptions and the instincts of a poet.

1. The horse-bridle. (Ver. 3.) The first illustration only emphasizes the thought which underlies the word "bridle" in ver. 2, and in James 1:26. The wild horses that roam at will over the American prairies seem quite unsubduable. Yet how complete is the control which man acquires over the tame horse! By means of the bit - the part of the bridle, which the animal bites - he is kept completely under command. The horse is controlled literally by the tongue. Now, in like manner, a man may "turn about his whole body" by subjecting his speech to firm self-government. The spirited steed of this verse may be regarded as a symbol of the flesh, with its lusts and passions. But the man who uses his tongue aright will find its influence very powerful in helping him to subdue his depraved carnal nature.

2. The shifts rudder. (Ver. 4.) Both romance and poetry gather round the idea of a ship. Even the old "galley with oars" was a "gallant" spectacle; and in our time there is no sight more picturesque than that of a sailing-vessel.

"Behold! upon the murmuring waves
A glorious shape appearing!
A broad-winged vessel, through the shower
Of glimmering luster steering!

"She seems to hold her home in view,
And sails as if the path she knew;
So calm and stately in her motion
Across the unfathomed, trackless ocean."

(John Wilson.) The merchantmen of the ancients were of considerable size (Acts 27., 28.); but in our day naval architecture works on a colossal scale of which the ancients never dreamed. And what is it that directs the largest vessel so steadily on its course, and enables it to persevere even in spite of furious storms? It is simply that little tongue, or rudder, at the stern. The steering apparatus is "very small" in proportion to the bulk of the ship; but how wonderfully great its influence! It not only "turns about" the body of the vessel itself; its action is also powerful enough to counteract the driving force of "rough winds." Now, the faculty of speech is the rudder of human nature. The tongue "boasteth great things;" and well it may, for "death and life are in its power" (Proverbs 18:21). If the spirited horse is a symbol of the flesh, the "rough winds" which beat upon the ship are suggestive of the world. The rudder of speech, rightly directed, will help us to continue straight on our heavenward course, despite the fierce gusts and gales of external temptation.

3. The little fire. (Vers. 5, 6.) What a terrific power there is in fire! One tiny neglected spark may kindle a conflagration that will consume a city. The great fire of 1666 in London, which began in a little wooden shop near London Bridge, burned down every building between the Tower and the Temple. And how terrible are the seas of fire, kindled often by some casual spark, which roll along the prairies of North America! The power of a little tongue of flame is simply stupendous; and thus it is a most apposite illustration of the destructive energy of human speech. For "the tongue is a fire." Sometimes this tremendous power is exerted for good; indeed, the "tongue of fire" is the appropriate emblem of Christianity as the dispensation of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3). More usually, however, fire is contemplated as an instrument of evil. So "the tongue is a fire" as regards its intense energy. Unsanctified speech scorches and consumes. The liar scatters firebrands; the slanderer kindles lambent flames; the profane swearer spits the fire of hell into the face of God. "The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue;" i.e. a whole microcosm of evil resides within the sphere of its operation. It "defileth the whole body;" just as fire soils with its smoke, the tongue stirs up the heart's corruption, and uses it to stain one's own life and character. It "setteth on fire the wheel of nature;" - for the whole circle of an unsanctified life, from birth onwards, is kept burning by the evil tongue. And it "is set on fire by hell;" for the ultimate inspiration of this destructive agency is of internal origin. This fire is devil-lighted, hell-kindled. Satan loaded the human tongue at the Fall with dynamite; and every day he ignites the treacherous magazine from the unquenchable fire. Thus, as the spirited horse represents the flesh, and the fierce winds the world, the raging fire leads us to think of the devil - the power of "the evil one."

CONCLUSION. Let us earnestly seek the grace of God, to deliver our tongue from the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Let us guard the portals of our lips, so that no uncharitable or slanderous words may issue from them. Let us welcome the Pentecostal "tongue of fire," that it may purify us from the evil tongue which is "set on fire by hell." - C.J.

At first the apostle had reminded his readers that speech may be made a great power for good (vers. 2-4). Then he went on to say that in actual fact it is employed by most men as an engine of evil (vers. 5, 6). He proceeds now to justify his strong language on this point.

I. THE UNTAMABLENESS OF THE TONGUE. (Vers. 7, 8.) We have here a fourfold classification of the inferior creatures. God gave man dominion over them at the creation, and intimated his supremacy anew after the Flood. There is no variety of brute nature that has not yielded in the past, and that does not continue to yield, to the lordship of human nature. The horse, the dog, the elephant, the lion, the leopard, the tiger, the hyena; the partridge, the falcon, the eagle; the asp, the cobra; the crocodile; - these names suggest ample evidence of man's power to tame the most diverse species of wild animals. But, says James, there is one little creature which human nature, in its own strength, finds it impossible to domesticate. The tongue of man is fiercer than the most ferocious beast, The rebellion of our race against good is far more inveterate than any insubordination of the brutes. Indeed, the revolt of the lower creatures against the authority of man is only the shadow and symbol of man's revolt against the authority of God. Year by year man is subduing the earth and extending his dominion over it; but his natural power to govern the tongue remains as feeble as it was in the days of Cain. This "little member" reveals the appalling depths of human corruption. "It is a restless evil;" unstable, fickle, versatile; ever stirring about from one form of unrighteousness to another; assuming Protean shapes and chameleon hues; its words sometimes filthy, sometimes slanderous, sometimes profane, sometimes angry, sometimes idle. And the untamed tongue "is full of deadly poison." It is a worse poison-bag than that of the most hurtful serpent. The words of a false tongue are fangs of moral venom, for which no human skill can supply an antidote. Is not calumny just a foul virus injected into the social body, which kills character, happiness, and sometimes even life? Its venom spreads far and wide, and man is powerless to destroy it.

II. THE INCONSISTENCY OF THE TONGUE. (Vers. 9-12.) The same person may just now put the faculty of speech to its highest use; and, almost immediately afterwards, wickedly abuse it. The tongue has been given us that therewith we may "bless the Lord and Father;" and to utter the Divine praise is the most ennobling exercise of human speech. The Christian calls him "Lord," and adores him for his eternal Godhead; he also calls him "Father," and blesses him for his adopting grace. Then, with melancholy inconsistency, the same mouth which has been praising God may be heard invoking evil upon men. How often do those who profess godliness speak passionate and spiteful words! Do not Christians who belong to the same congregation sometimes backbite one another? Do not believers of different communions often, out of mere sectarian rivalry, denounce one another's Churches? Even godly men sometimes cherish the spirit which would "forbid" others to work the work of the Lord, simply because these are not of their company. Now, such inconsistency is seen in all its aggravation when we consider the fact that truly to bless God forbids the cursing of any man. "The Lord" is the "Father" of all men, for men "are made after the likeness of God." In his princely intellect, and his hungering heart, and even in his uneasy conscience, man reflects the image of his Maker. God and he are so close of kin to each other - by nature, and through Christ's incarnation - that real reverence for God requires that we "honor all men." How inconsistent, then, for the same mouth to bless the Father and to curse the children! The inconsistency appears on the very face of the English word "curse." To curse means primarily "to invoke evil upon one, by the sign of the cross. The cross is the symbol of the highest blessing to the world; and yet those who enjoy the blessedness which it brings have used it as an instrument of cursing. We bless God for the cross; and then we curse men in the name of the cross. Such inconsistency, the apostle adds, is flagrantly unnatural (vers. 11, 12). None such is to be met with in the physical world. A spring of water cannot transgress the law of its nature. A fruit tree can only bear fruit according to its kind. How unnatural, then, that in the moral world the same fountain of speech should emit just now a rill of clear sweet praise, and soon afterwards a torrent of bitter slander, or a stream of brackish minced oaths! Where a true believer falls into this sinful inconsistency, it is because the fountain of the old nature within his heart has not yet been closed up. He needs to have the accursed tree on which Jesus died cast into the bitter stream within him, to sweeten it, and to make it a river of living water. In the case of a soul that has experienced the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, this unnatural inconsistency of speech not only ought not so to be," but does not need to be. - C.J.

The apostle suggests here that those who aspired too hastily to become Christian teachers (ver. 1) showed themselves to be sadly deficient in wisdom. They were unwise at once in their estimate of their own powers, and in their judgment as to the kind of public discussions, which would be profitable for the Church. The cause of gospel truth could never be advanced by dogmatic disputations or bitter personal wrangling. Attend, therefore, says James in ver. 13, to a description first of false wisdom (vers. 14 16), and then of true (vers. 17, 18). Many members of the Churches of "the Dispersion" desired to appear "wise" (ver. 13), but only some were really so. Many might even be "knowing," or "endued with knowledge," who were not wise.

"Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
Have ofttimes no connection."

(Cowper.) Knowledge is only a hewer of wood, while wisdom is the architect and builder. A man may possess a large library, or even amass vast stores of knowledge, and yet be "a motley fool." Indeed, no fool is so great as a knowing fool. The wise man is he who can use his knowledge for the largest moral and spiritual good. And the true wisdom is bound up with the life of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Job 28:28; 2 Timothy 3:15). It makes the will of God its rule, and his glory its end. So the man who lives without God should be thought of as the impersonation of stupidity, and Satan as the supreme fool of the universe. But, if a man be "wise unto salvation," how will his wisdom appear?

1. By "his good life. (Ver. 13.) The quiet even flow of one's daily occupation will furnish an ample sphere for it. Even the heathen philosopher, Seneca, has said, Wisdom does not show itself so much in precept as in life - in a firmness of mind and a mastery of appetite. It teaches us to do, as well as to talk; and to make our words and actions all of a color." The weighty 'Essays' of Lord Bacon "come home to men's business and bosoms;" yet their author cannot justly be called "the wisest," if he was in his own life "the meanest of mankind."

2. By "his works in meekness of wisdom. Character is perceived not only by its subtle aroma, but in connection with individual actions. Wisdom shows itself in acts of holiness. And these acts are done in meekness," which is one of wisdom's inseparable attributes. True wisdom is mild and calm, patient and self-restraining. And yet a meek spirit is not a mean spirit. The "poor in spirit" are not the poor-spirited. The "meekness of wisdom" consists with the greatest courage and the most ardent zeal. An old commentator says, "Moses was very meek in his own cause, but as hot as fire in the cause of God." And the Man Christ Jesus was mild, just because he was strong and brave. There was no fierceness, no fanaticism, no sourness, about him. He is our perfect Pattern of the "meekness of wisdom" (1 Peter 2:22, 23; Matthew 27:12-14). The spirit of strife and wrangling is not the spirit of Christ. James now proceeds to a statement of principles regarding false or earthly wisdom (vers. 14 16).

I. ITS NATURE. (Ver. 14.) The spurious wisdom of the "many teachers' carried in it not so much burning zeal as "bitter zeal." Its spirit was factious, arrogant, bigoted, Its roots lay in the angry passions of the heart. Its aim was personal victory rather than the triumph of the truth. While it may be sometimes dutiful to contend earnestly in defense of the gospel, the love of controversy for its own sake, and the cherishing of a contentious spirit towards brethren, is always sinful, much less a ground for "glorying." A professing Christian who lives to foster either doctrinal wranglings or social quarrels presents to the world a caricature of Christianity, and is himself a living lie "against the truth."

II. ITS ORIGIN. (Ver. 15.)

1. "Earthly. Every good gift is from above; but this so-called wisdom is of earthly origin, and busies itself about earthly things. Those cultivate it whose souls are wholly immersed in worldly pursuits.

2. Sensual;" i.e. psychical or natural, as opposed to spiritual. It originates in the lower sphere of man's intellectual nature; it is the wisdom of his unspiritual mind and his unsanctified heart. Until the human spirit becomes possessed by the Spirit of God, its works will be "the works of the flesh."

3. "Devilish." The false wisdom is demoniacal in source, as it is in character. The envious heart, like the evil tongue, "is set on fire by hell" (ver. 6). Implicitly followed, this wisdom will tend to make a man "half-beast, half-devil." These three adjectives correspond to our three great spiritual enemies. Earthly wisdom has its origin in the world; natural wisdom, in the flesh; demoniacal wisdom, in the devil. And, recognizing this, our prayer should be, "From all such deceits, good Lord, deliver us."

III. ITS RESULTS. (Ver. 16.) Where there are "bitter zeal and faction" in the heart, these may be expected to produce commotion and wretchedness in society. What misery has not the spirit of strife and self-seeking wrought in the midst of families, and in the bosom of Churches! It is a fruitful source of heart-burnings and of lifelong alienations. It sows tares among the wheat. And the harvest of "this wisdom" shall be "a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow."


1. Loathe the vile spirit of strife.

2. Covet earnestly the gift of holy wisdom.

3. Remember that the climax of the true wisdom consists in meekness. - C.J.

The temptation to be "teachers" (ver. 1) arose from the notion that they possessed wisdom. How shall they show this wisdom, how shall they even use it, if they may not teach? The life is to be at once the practice and the manifestation of a wisdom that is true (ver. 13). James here reverts to his earlier theme (James 1:5); and we have for our consideration - The false wisdom and the true, in their origin, nature, and fruits.


1. What was the nature of the false wisdom which prompted them to much speaking? It was nothing other than the spirit of faction and jealousy - competing with one another for precedence; envying one another. And this was a lying against the truth! What truth? Their brotherhood in Christ, and the love which such brotherhood required. Such false wisdom was:

(1) Earthly: it pertained altogether to the corrupt ways of this world.

(2) Sensual: it was prompted, not by the spirit which God had made his home, but by the passions (see critical notes).

(3) Devilish: they were as demoniacs, in their ungoverned rage and wild clamorings.

2. What were the fruits of such wisdom as this? "Confusion." Think of their assemblies, with the wrangling, cursing, and swearing! so also confusion in all the relations of social life. "And every vile deed;" for what would not men descend to, to further their base, party aims?

3. What was the origin of such wisdom? "Not from above:" no, indeed, but rather "set on fire of hell"!


1. Its nature. "First pure:" for at any cost, even at the cost of peaceableness, a Christian must be true. So Christ, even though it involved the "woes" of Matthew 23.; even though it involved the cross! And his followers likewise (Matthew 10:34). "Then peaceable," as against the jarrings and discords of the false wisdom; "gentle," as against faction and jealousy; "easy to be entreated," as against the sullen resentments shown by those who imagine themselves to be offended; "without variance," i.e. fickleness of purpose; and "without hypocrisy," to which double-mindedness so easily leads.

2. Its fruits. Peace, as opposed to confusion; and the good fruits of mercy, as opposed to vile deeds.

3. Its origin. "From above:" yes, from the Father of lights (James 1:17). So the tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). Who is a wise man? Alas, who! But let us ask of God, who giveth liberally; remembering that "he that winneth souls is wise," and that "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and... as the stars forever and ever" (Proverbs 11:30; Daniel 12:3). - T.F.L.

These two verses exhibit, with much terseness and beauty, the features of the true or heavenly wisdom, i.e. the characteristic qualities of the state of mind, which is produced by a sincere reception of saving truth. The picture here presented forms a direct contrast to the description of false or earthly wisdom given in vers. 14-16.

I. THE NATURE OF TRUE WISDOM. (Ver. 17.) In origin it is "from above." It is not the product of self-culture, but altogether supernatural and gracious. And, being a gift of God, it is "good" and "perfect" in all its characteristics (James 1:5, 17). James here represents the heavenly wisdom as possessed of seven great excellences. Seven was the perfect number among the Jews; and there are, so to speak, seven notes in the harmony of Christian character; or seven colors in the rainbow of the Christian life, which, when blended, form its pure white sunlight. Of these seven, the first is marked off from the others, because it refers to what a man is within his own heart; while the other six deal with the qualities shown by true wisdom in connection with one's deportment towards his fellow-men.

1. In respect of a man himself. Here true wisdom is "pure. This word means chaste, unsullied, holy. Purity is the fundamental characteristic of everything that is from above." Righteousness lies at the foundation of all that is beautiful in character. Christian wisdom leads a man "to keep himself unspotted from the world," and to "cleanse himself from all defilement of flesh and spirit." Every person, therefore, who lives a sensual, selfish, or openly sinful life, shows himself to be destitute of the heavenly wisdom. For its chief element is holiness - that purity which is obtained through the blood of Christ and by the indwelling of his Spirit.

2. In respect of his demeanor towards his fellow-men. The expressions, "first," and "then," do not imply that the wise man must be perfectly "pure" before he begins to be "peaceable." They indicate the logical order, and not merely the order of time. The phrase, "first pure, then peaceable," has often been sadly abused in the interests of the "bitter jealousy and faction" which belong to false wisdom. But surely, even in doctrinal matters, we are to be peaceable with a view to purity, as well as pure for the sake of peace. "Peaceable;" indisposed to conflict or dissension. "Jealousy and faction" are characteristics of earthly wisdom. The heavenly wisdom deprecates disputatious debate, and labors to quench animosities. "Gentle;" forbearing, courteous, considerate. Gentleness is just the outward aspect of the grace of peaceableness, the vesture in which the peaceable spirit should be clothed. "Easy to be entreated;" accessible, compliant, open to conviction, and willing to listen to remonstrance. The wise man thinks more about his duties than his rights. "Full of mercy and good fruits;" overflowing with feelings of kindness and compassion, and finding a healthy outlet for these in acts of practical beneficence. "Without variance;" steady, persistent, unmistakable, never "divided in its own mind" (James 2:4; James 1:6), and therefore never halting in the fulfillment of its mission. "Without hypocrisy;" perfectly sincere always really being what it seems and professes. Wisdom's ways are not tortuous. It knows that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.

II. THE RESULTS OF TRUE WISDOM. (Ver. 18.) The fruit of the earthly wisdom is "confusion and every vile deed" (ver. 16), but the fruit of the heavenly wisdom consists in "righteousness." "Peace" is the congenial soil in which this wisdom takes root and grows; the seed "sown" is the precious Word of God; they "that make peace" are the spiritual farmers who scatter it in hope; and "righteousness" is the blessed harvest which shall reward their toil. The eternal recompense of the righteous shall be their righteousness itself. The heavenly wisdom shall be its own reward in heaven.


1. The harmony between this doctrine and the teaching of our Lord in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), as well as that of Paul in his portraiture of love (1 Corinthians 13.).

2. The excellency and attractiveness of the true wisdom.

3. The rarity of its acquisition, especially as regards its choicest features, even on the part of professing Christians.

4. The necessity of asking this wisdom from God himself.

5. The character of Jesus Christ our Model in our endeavors after it. - C.J.

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