James 2:13
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
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(13) For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy.—Better, For unmerciful judgment shall be to him that wrought not mercy. Here again are the clearest echoes of our Saviour’s words (Matthew 6:1-2, et seq.), and a reference, we can hardly doubt, to His well-known parable (Matthew 18:21-35); and we must remember, further, that “the unforgiving temper, apart from all outward wrong, constitutes the sin of the unmerciful servant;” opportunity only being lacking for its full effect. The pitiless are usually cowards, and may well be moved by fear, if they will not by love: “I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.—There can hardly be a fitter comment on this text than that which must be present in every reader’s mind—the speech of Portia in The Merchant of Venice,

“The quality of mercy is not strained;” &c.

—(Acts 4 scene 1.)

But let the words of the Greek, John the Golden Mouthed, be added, for their exceeding beauty also. “Mercy is dear to God, and intercedes for the sinner, and breaks his chains, and dissipates the darkness, and quenches the fire of hell, and destroys the worm, and rescues from the gnashing of teeth. To her the gates of Heaven are opened. She is the queen of virtues, and makes men like to God, for it is written, ‘Be ye merciful as your Father also is merciful’ (Luke 6:36). She has silver wings like the dove, and feathers of gold, and soars aloft, and is clothed with divine glory, and stands by the throne of God; when we are in danger of being condemned she rises up and pleads for us, and covers us with her defence, and enfolds us in her wings. God loves mercy more than sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13).

2:1-13 Those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory, must not respect persons on account of mere outward circumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing with their profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. St. James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civil respect must be paid; but never such as to influence the proceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of the church of Christ, or in passing the censures of the church, or in any matter of religion. Questioning ourselves is of great use in every part of the holy life. Let us be more frequent in this, and in every thing take occasion to discourse with our souls. As places of worship cannot be built or maintained without expense, it may be proper that those who contribute thereto should be accommodated accordingly; but were all persons more spiritually-minded, the poor would be treated with more attention that usually is the case in worshipping congregations. A lowly state is most favourable for inward peace and for growth in holiness. God would give to all believers riches and honours of this world, if these would do them good, seeing that he has chosen them to be rich in faith, and made them heirs of his kingdom, which he promised to bestow on all who love him. Consider how often riches lead to vice and mischief, and what great reproaches are thrown upon God and religion, by men of wealth, power, and worldly greatness; and it will make this sin appear very sinful and foolish. The Scripture gives as a law, to love our neighbour as ourselves. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly, they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts us upon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God's restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy - This is obviously an equitable principle, and is one which is everywhere found in the Bible. Proverbs 21:13. "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself but will not be heard." 2 Samuel 22:26-27, "with the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful, and with the froward thou wilt show thyself unsavory." Compare Psalm 18:25-26; Matthew 6:15; Matthew 7:1-2. The idea which the apostle seems to design to convey here is, that there will certainly be a judgment, and that we must expect that it will be conducted on equitable principles; that no mercy is to be shown when the character is not such that it will be proper that it should be; and that we should habitually feel in our conduct that God will be impartial, and should frame our lives accordingly.

And mercy rejoiceth against judgment - Margin, "glorieth." Greek Boasts, glories, or exults. The idea is that of glorying over, as where one is superior to another, or has gained a victory over another. The reference all along here is to the judgment, the trial of the great day; and the apostle is stating the principles on which the trial at that day will be conducted - on which one class shall be condemned, and the other acquitted and saved. In reference to one class, the wicked, he says that where there has been no mercy shown to others - referring to this as one evidence of piety - that is, where there is no true piety, there will be judgment without mercy; in the other case there will be, as it were, a triumph of mercy, or mercy will appear to have gained a victory over judgment. Strict justice would indeed plead for their condemnation, but the attribute of mercy will triumph, and they will be acquitted.

The attributes of mercy and justice would seem to come in conflict, but mercy would prevail. This is a true statement of the plan of salvation, and of what actually occurs in the redemption of a sinner. Justice demands, as what is her due, that the sinner should be condemned; mercy pleads that he may be saved - and mercy prevails. It is not uncommon that there seems to be a conflict between the two. In the dispensations of justice before human tribunals, this often occurs. Strict justice demands the punishment of the offender; and yet there are cases when mercy pleads, and when every man feels that it would be desirable that pardon should be extended to the guilty, and when we always rejoice if mercy triumphs. In such a case, for example, as that of Major Andre, this is strikingly seen. On the one hand, there was the undoubted proof that he was guilty; that he had been taken as a spy; that by the laws of war he ought to be put to death; that as what he had done had tended to the ruin of the American cause, and as such an act, if unpunished, would always expose an army to surprise and destruction, he ought, in accordance with the law of nations, to die.

On the other hand, there were his youth, his high attainments, his honorable connections, his brilliant hopes, all pleading that he might live, and that he might be pardoned. In the bosom of Washington, the promptings of justice and mercy thus came into collision. Both could not be gratified, and there seemed to be but one course to be pursued. His sense of justice was shown in the act by which he signed the death-warrant; his feelings of compassion in the fact that when he did it his eyes poured forth a flood of tears. How every generous feeling of our nature would have been gratified if mercy could have triumphed, and the youthful and accomplished officer could have been spared! In the plan of salvation, this does occur. Respect is done to justice, but mercy triumphs. Justice indeed pleaded for the condemnation of the sinner, but mercy interposed, and he is saved. Justice is not disregarded, for the great Redeemer of mankind has done all that is needful to uphold it; but there is the most free and full exercise of mercy, and, while the justice of God is maintained, every benevolent feeling in the breasts of all holy beings can be gratified in the salvation of countless thousands.

13. The converse of, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt 5:7). Translate, "The judgment (which is coming on all of us) shall be without mercy to him who hath showed no mercy." It shall be such toward every one as every one shall have been [Bengel]. "Mercy" here corresponds to "love," Jas 2:8.

mercy rejoiceth against judgment—Mercy, so far from fearing judgment in the case of its followers, actually glorifieth against it, knowing that it cannot condemn them. Not that their mercy is the ground of their acquittal, but the mercy of God in Christ towards them, producing mercy on their part towards their fellow men, makes them to triumph over judgment, which all in themselves otherwise deserve.

For he shall have judgment without mercy; shall be judged according to the rigour of the law, by pure justice without any mixture of mercy.

That hath showed no mercy; that hath been cruel and unmerciful to his neighbour here.

And mercy rejoiceth against judgment; either,

1. The mercy of God rejoiceth and glorieth over judgment, being as it were superior and victorious in relation to those that show mercy, to whom the promise of obtaining. mercy is made, Matthew 5:7. Or rather:

2. The mercy of men, i.e. of those that deal mercifully with others; their mercy having the mercy and promise of God on its side, need not fear, but rather may rejoice, and as it were glory against judgment, as not being like to go against them.

Objection. Is not this to make some ground of glorying to be in men themselves, contrary to Psalm 143:2 Romans 4:2?

Answer. Mercy in believers is an evidence of their interest in God’s mercy, which prevails on their belief against his justice; and so its rejoicing against judgment, is not against it as overcome by itself, but by God’s mercy. Thus both senses are included.

For he shall have judgment without mercy,.... Strict justice, and no mercy shown him:

that hath showed no mercy; to the poor brethren, and distressed members of Christ, but has shown respect of persons to the hurt of the poor, and has despised and oppressed them, instead of relieving and comforting them; so the rich man, that neglected Lazarus at his gates, is refused a drop of water to cool his tongue; and the servant that cruelly insisted on his fellow servant's paying him all he owed, justly incurred the displeasure of his Lord, and was by him delivered to the tormentors; and that servant that beats his fellow servants will be cut asunder, and, have his portion with hypocrites; and such who have seen any of the brethren of Christ hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison, and have showed no regard for them, will hear, "Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire":

and mercy rejoiceth against judgment; that is merciful men, who have shown mercy to the poor saints, will not be afraid of the awful judgment, but rather rejoice or glory, as the word signifies, in the view of it, since they will obtain mercy at that day, and hear, Come, ye blessed of my Father, &c. Matthew 25:34 so the Ethiopic version renders it, he only shall glory in the day of judgment, who hath showed mercy; the Alexandrian copy reads in the imperative, "let mercy glory", &c. and the Syriac version, "be ye exalted by mercy over judgment".

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no {h} mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

(h) He that is harsh and short with his neighbour, or else does not help him, he shall find God a hard and rough judge to him.

Jam 2:13 refers back to chap. Jam 1:27, and concludes the section, appending to διὰ νὸμου ἐλ. κρίνεσθαι a closer definition: for the judgment is unmerciful against those who exercise no mercy; mercy rejoices against judgment.

That which in the judgment passes sentence on Christians, who shall be judged διὰ νόμου ἐλευθερίας, is thus mercy. Against the unmerciful the judgment will be unmerciful. On the form ἀνέλεος, see critical notes; in Romans 1:31 it is ἀνελεήμων; thus also in LXX. Proverbs 5:9; Proverbs 11:17. Luther incorrectly translates it: “it will pass an unmerciful judgment;” ἀνέλεος is not an attribute, but a predicate.

Many expositors incorrectly explain ἔλεος = ἀγάπη; the former is a species of the latter, although James puts the chief stress upon it; see chap. Jam 1:27.

The concluding sentence is subjoined ἀσυνδέτως; see chap. Jam 3:2, Jam 4:12. “Asyndeton dicti pondus auget.” In the verb κατακαυχᾶται (only here and in chap. Jam 3:14 and Romans 11:18), κατα, on which the genitive κρίσεως depends, expresses the opposite tendency. Κρίσις according to its nature threatens to condemn the sinner (thus the believing Christian does not cease to be a sinner), but mercy has the joyful confidence (καυχᾶται) that it will overcome the threatening power of judgment.[130]

By a conversion of the abstract idea ἜΛΕΟς into the concrete, “the merciful man,” the peculiar impress is taken from the expression, and a lax interpretation is introduced. On the sentiment, see Matthew 5:7; Proverbs 17:5; Tob 4:7-11. Several expositors (Calvin, Cappellus, Wolf, Laurentius, Baumgarten, Bengel) incorrectly supply the genitive ΘΕΟῦ to ἜΛΕΟς, by which a thought is introduced entirely foreign to the context.

[130] The explanation of Wiesinger, that James intends to say “that mercy has nothing to fear, rather that she confounds the terrors of the judgment by her confidence with which she is assured of grace beforehand, and glories in it,” is not entirely suitable, inasmuch as an objective idea (κρίσις) is thus converted into a subjective (the terrors of the judgment).

Jam 2:13. ἡ γὰρ κρίσις ἀνέλεος, etc.: Cf. Matthew 5:7; Matthew 7:1; Matthew 18:28 ff; Matthew 25:41 ff. For the form ἀνέλεος see Mayor, in loc. The teaching occurs often in Jewish writings, e.g., Sir 28:1-2, ὁ ἐκδικῶν παρὰ Κυρίου εὑρήσει ἐκδίκησιν, καὶ τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτοῦ διαστηριῶν διαστηρίσει. ἄφες ἀδίκημα τῷ πλησίον σου, καὶ τότε δεηθέντος σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι σου λυθήσονται. Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Zeb. viii. 1–3: “Have, therefore, yourselves also, my children, compassion towards every man with mercy, that the Lord also may have compassion and mercy upon you. Because also in the last days God will send His compassion on the earth, and wheresoever He findeth bowels of mercy He dwelleth in him. For in the degree in which a man hath compassion upon his neighbours, in the same degree hath the Lord also upon him” (Charles); cf. also vi. 4–6. Shabbath, 127b: “He who thus judges others will thus himself be judged”. Ibid., 151b: “He that hath mercy on his neighbours will receive mercy from heaven; and he that hath not mercy on his neighbours will not receive mercy from heaven”. Cf. also the following from Ephraem Syrus, Opp., 1. 30E (quoted by Resch. op. cit., p. 197): καὶ μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήσαντες, ὅτι ἐκεῖ ἐλεηθήσονται· καὶ οὐαὶ τοῖς μὴ ἐλεήσασιν, ὅτι οὐκ ἐλεηθήσονται.—ποιήσαντι: this use of ποιεῖν is common in the Septuagint and corresponds to the Hebrew עשׂה; it is often used with חסד (“kindness”).—κατακαυχᾶται: “triumphs over”.

13. For he shall have judgment] There is something more emphatic in the actual structure of the sentence. For the judgment shall be merciless to him that wrought not mercy. The axiom presents one aspect of the great law of divine retribution, and, like so much of St James’s teaching, is an obvious reproduction of that of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1). The reference to that discourse suggests the thought that the “law of liberty” of which St James speaks is not the law given by Moses, but the new Law, full of grace and truth, which was given by Christ. See note on James 2:8. On this assumption the supposed contrast with St Paul dwindles into nothing.

mercy rejoiceth against judgment] The verb is found in Romans 11:18. The abruptness of the original, where the maxim stands with no connecting particle, is singularly forcible, mercy glories over judgment. The law holds good universally. It is true of man’s judgment, but also of God’s, that mercy triumphs over severity, when it finds a willing object. The truth has seldom found a nobler utterance than in the familiar words which remind us that

“Earthly power doth then shew likest God’s,

When mercy seasons justice.”

Shakespeare. Merchant of Venice, iv. 1.

Jam 2:13. Ἡ γὰρ κρίσις, for the judgment) That judgment of God respecting us, which no one shall escape, will be such towards every one, as every one shall have been: without mercy to him who hath showed no mercy.—ἔλεος, mercy) This is synonymous with love, Jam 2:8; one common misery being presupposed.—κατακαυχᾶται, rejoiceth against) An important word, and a memorable sentence. Judgment itself willingly bears this rejoicing. The apostles frequently omit the connecting particles. A proof of this is the great variety of particles which the copyists supply; as in this passage, some prefix καί, while others append δέ. The shorter reading, which stands midway between the two as their common starting point, is the genuine one. See App. Crit., Editio II., on this passage.[20]—ἜΛΕΟς, mercy) Divine mercy, answering to that on the part of man.

[20] A, Vulg. and later Syr. read δέ. Rec. Text, without any very old authority, prefixes και. C omits both; and so Lachm. and Tisch. B reads either καταχαυχᾶτε, or καταχαυχᾶ τε, according as the Uncial letters, which flow on without divisions, are divided.—E.

Verse 13. - A clear reminiscence of our Lord's teaching in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:1, etc.; Matthew 5:7): Μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήμονες ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθήσονται. Ἀνέλεος is certainly the right form of the word (א, A, B, C, K), not ἀνιλέως (Receptus with L), and the καὶ of the Textus Receptus is entirely wanting in manuscript authority, and should be deleted. The subject is ended by the abrupt declaration, almost like a cry of triumph, "Mercy glorieth against judgment." James 2:13He shall have judgment without mercy that hath shewed no mercy (ἡ γὰρ κρίσις ἀνίλεως τῷ μὴ ποιήσαντι ἔλεος)

Lit., as Rev., judgment is without mercy to him that hath shewed no mercy. Both A. gr. and Rev. omit the article "the judgment," that, namely, which is coming. Hath shewed, or, lit., shewed (aorist tense). The writer puts himself at the stand-point of the judgment, and looks backward.

Rejoiceth (κατακαυχᾶται)

The simple verb καυχάομαι means to speak loud, to be loud-tongued; hence, to boast. Better, therefore, as Rev., glorieth. Judgment and mercy are personified. While judgment threatens condemnation, mercy interposes and prevails over judgment. "Mercy is clothed with the divine glory, and stands by the throne of God. When we are in danger of being condemned, she rises up and pleads for us, and covers us with her defence, and enfolds us with her wings" (Chrysostom, cited by Gloag).

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