Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
Verses 1-6. - DENUNCIATION OF THE RICH FOR
(1) GRINDING DOWN THE POOR AND KEEPING BACK THEIR WAGES;
The whole section resembles nothing so much as an utterance of one of the old Jewish prophets. It might almost be a leaf torn out of the Old Testament. Verse 1. - Go to now (see on James 4:13). The Vulgate there has ecce; here, agite. Ye rich men (see on James 2:6). Weep and howl, etc.; cf. James 4:9, but note the difference of tone; there, more of exhortation; here, more of denunciation. Ὀλολύζοντες: only here in the New Testament, but several times in the LXX., in passages of which the one before us reminds us; e.g. Isaiah 10:10; Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 14:31; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 23:1, 6, 14. Miseries. Ταλαιπωρίαις: only again in Romans 3:16 (equivalent to Isaiah 59:7); frequent in the LXX.
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
Verse 2. - Description of the miseries that are coming upon them. The perfects (σέσηπε... γέγονεν) are probably to be explained as "prophetic," in accordance with a common Hebrew idiom (see Driver on the 'Tenses of the Hebrew Verb,' § 14; and cf. Winer, 'Grammar of New Testament Greek,' p. 342: "The perfect does not stand for a present or future, but the case indicated by the apostle in ταλαιπωρίαις ὑμῶν ταῖς εηπερχομέναις is viewed as already present, and consequently the σήπειν of the riches as already completed"). For an instance of the prophetic perfect, used as here after ὀλούζείν, see Isaiah 23:1, 14," Howl.... for your stronghold has been wasted." The miseries coming upon the rich are thus announced to be the destruction of everything in virtue of which they were styled rich. Their costly garments, in a great store of which the wealth of an Eastern largely consists, should become moth-eaten. Their gold and silver should be rusted. Bengel notes on this passage: "Scripta haec suut paucis annis ante obsidionem Hierosolymorum;" and certainly the best commentary upon it is to be found in the terrible account given by Josephus of the sufferings and miseries which came upon the Jews during the war and siege of Jerusalem. The Jewish historian has become the unconscious witness to the fulfillment of the prophecies of our Lord and his apostle. Σέσηπεν: only here in the New Testament; in the LXX., Job 16:7. Σητόβρωτα is also an ἄπαξ λεγόμενον in the New Testament; in LXX. used also of garments in Job 13:28.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
Verse 3. - With this and the preceding verse contrast our Lord's words of treasure laid up in heaven, "where moth and rust do not corrupt" (Matthew 6:19). Cankered (κατίωται); better, rusted. Only here in the New Testament; never in the LXX. except Ecclus. 12:11. The rust of them. Ἰός: used here for "rust" as in the LXX. in Ezekiel's parable of the boiling pot (Ezekiel 24:6, etc.) - a passage which (according to one interpretation) may have suggested the following clause, "and shall eat your flesh," etc. (see vers. 9-12). Shall he a witness against you (εἰς μαρτύριον ὑμῖν). The rendering of the A.V. is quite defensible (see Winer, p. 265), but it is equally possible to take the words as the R.V. margin," for a testimony unto you." "The rust of them," says Alford, "is a token of what shall happen to yourselves; in the consuming of your wealth you see depicted your own." Two interpretations of the latter part of the verse are possible, depending on the punctuation adopted.
(1) As the A.V. and R.V., putting the stop after πῦρ: "Their rust... shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye have laid up your treasure in the last days." The "fire," if this rendering be adopted, may be explained from Ezekiel 24:9, etc.
(2) Putting the stop after ὑμῶν and before ὡς πῦρ: "Their rust... shall eat your flesh. Ye have heaped up as it were fire in the last days." This has the support of the Syriac ("Ye have gathered fire for you for the last days"), and is adopted by Drs. Westcott and Herr. The "fire" will, of course, be the fire of judgment; and the expression, ὡς πῦρ ἐθησαυρίσατε, may easily have been suggested by Proverbs 16:27, Ἀνὴρ ἄφρων ὀρύσσει ἑαυτῷ κακά ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν ἑαυτοῦ χειλέων θησαυρίζει πῦρ. The whole form of expression also reminds us of St. Paul's "treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath" (Romans 2:5), to which it is exactly parallel, the "wrath in the day of wrath" there answering to the "fire in the last days" here. (The rendering of the Vulgate is evidently influenced by this parallel, as it has thesaurizastis tram.) For the last days; rather, in the last days (ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις); cf. 2 Timothy 3:1. If the words are connected with πῦρ as suggested above, there is no difficulty in them. If the punctuation of the A.V. be retained, we must suppose that the writer is speaking from the point of view of the last day of all. "When the end came it found them heaping up treasures which they could never use" (Dean Scott). But the other view, though not so generally adopted, seems fat' preferable.
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
Verse 4 accounts for the miseries that are coming upon them. Their sins are the cause. The language is modeled upon the Old Testament, and the special sin denounced is one that is expressly forbidden in the Law (see Deuteronomy 24:14, 15, "Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy. At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it: for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee;" cf. Malachi 3:5, "I will be a swift witness... against those that oppress the hireling in his wages (LXX., ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀποστεροῦντας μισθὸν μισθωτοῦ)" Later allusions to the same sin are found in Tobit 4:14; Ecclus. 34:22. Which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth. For ἀπεστερημένος of the Received Text, read ἀφυστερημένος (א, B). It is possible to join the words ἀφ ὑμῶν with κράζει, but it is more natural to take them as the A.V. with ἀφυστερημένος. Reaped... reaped (ἀμησάντων... θερισάντων); R.V., "mowed... reaped." But it would seem that the words should have been reversed, as, judging by Old Testament usage, ἀμάω is always used of corn (Leviticus 25:11; Deuteronomy 24:19; Isaiah 17:5; Isaiah 37:30; Micah 6:15); while θερίζειν is the wider word, including all "harvesting," and used of χόρτος in Psalm 128. (127.) 7; Jeremiah 9:22. Into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. These words are adopted from Isaiah 5:9, Κύριος Σαβαώθ, a Grecized form of the Hebrew יהוה צבאות, frequent in the LXX. Found in the New Testament only here and Romans 9:29 (in a quotation); elsewhere, e.g. in the Apocalypse, it is represented by παντοκράτωρ (Revelation 1:8, etc.); so also in 2 Corinthians 6:18 (equivalent to 2 Samuel 7:8).
Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
Verse 5. - Further description of their sin. Ye have lived in pleasure (ἐτρυφήσατε, here only) on the earth, and been wanton (ἐσπαλατήσατε, only here and 1 Timothy 5:6); ye have nourished your hearts in a day of slaughter. The ὡς of the Received Text ("as in a day," etc., A.V.) is quite wrong; it is wanting in א, A, B, Latt., Memphitic. The clause seems to imply that they were like brute beasts, feeding securely on the very day of their slaughter. Vulgate (Clem.), in die occisionis; but Codex Amiat., in diem occisionis. The actual expression, ἐν ἡμέρᾳ σφαγῆς, may have been suggested by Jeremiah 12:3, "Prepare them for the day of slaughter (LXX., εἰς ἡμέραν σφαγῆς αὐτῶν)."
Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
Verse 6. - The climax of their sin. Ye have condemned, ye have killed the righteous one. Does this allude to the death of our Lord? At first sight it may well seem so. Compare St. Peter's words in Acts 3:14, "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just (δίκαιον);" St. Stephen's in Acts 7:52, "the coming of the Just One (τοῦ δικαίου);" and St. Paul's in Acts 22:14, "to see the Just One (τὸν δίκαιον)." But this view is dispelled when we remember how throughout this whole passage the ideas and expressions are borrowed from the Old Testament, and when we find that in Isaiah 3:10 (LXX.) the wicked are represented as saying, Δήσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστί ( α passage which lies at the root of the remarkable section in Wisd. 2, "Let us oppress the poor righteous man .... Let us condemn him with a shameful death." It is probable, then, that passages such as these were in St. James's mind, and suggested the words, and thus that there is no direct allusion to the Crucifixion (which, indeed, could scarcely be laid to the charge of his readers), but that the singular τὸν δίκαιον is used to denote the class collectively (cf. Amos 2:6; Amos 5:12). It is a remarkable coincidence, pointed out by most commentators, that he who wrote these verses, himself styled ὁ Δίκαιος by the Jews, suffered death at their hands a very few years afterwards. He doth not resist you. According to the view commonly adopted, St. James simply means to say that the righteous man suffered this evil at their hands without resistance. Another interpretation seems more possible, taking the clause as interrogative, "Does he not resist you?" the subject, implied but not expressed, being God; as if he would say, "Is not God against you? " - that God of whom it has already been said that he resists (ἀντιτάσσεται) the proud (comp. Hosea 1:6, "I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away (LXX., ἀλλ η} ἀντιτασσόμενος ἀντιτάξομαι αὐτοῖς)")
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
Verses 7-20. - CONCLUDING EXHORTATIONS
(1) TO PATIENCE (vers. 7-11);
(2) AGAINST SWEARING (ver. 12);
(3) TO PRACTICAL CONDUCT IN HEALTH AND IN SICKNESS (ver. 13, etc.). Verses 7-11. - Exhortation to patience. Verse 7. - Be patient therefore. In his concluding remarks St. James reverts to the point from which he started (comp. James 1:3, 4). Μακροθυμεῖν is here given a wider meaning than that which generally attaches to it. As was pointed out in the notes on James 1:3, it ordinarily refers to patience in respect of persons. Here, however, it certainly includes endurance in respect of things, so that the husbandman is said μακροθυμεῖν where we should rather have expected ὑπομενεῖν (cf. Lightfoot on Colossians 1:11). Unto the coming of the Lord (ἕως τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ Κυρίου); Vulgate, usque ad adventure Domiai. The word παρουσία ηαδ been used by our Lord himself of his return to judge, in Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39. It is also found in St. Paul's writings, only, however (in this sense), in Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8) and 1 Corinthians 15:23. St. Peter uses it in his Second Epistle (2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12), as does St. John (1 John 2:28). Behold, the husbandman, etc. Consideration, exciting to patience, drawn from an example before the eyes of all. Until he receive; better, taking γή as the subject of the verb, until it receive. The early and the latter rain. Υετόν of the Received Text has the authority of A, K, L, and the Syriac Versions; א (with which agree the Coptic and Old Latin, if), καρπόν. B and the Vulgate omit the substantive altogether. In this they are followed by most critical editors (e.g. Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort), but not by the Revisers; and as the expression, πρώιμον καὶ ὄψιμον, without the substantive, is never found in the LXX., it is safer to follow A and the Syriac in retaining ὑετόν here. (For "the early and the latter rain," comp. Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23; Zechariah 10:1.) "The first showers of autumn which revived the parched and thirsty soil and prepared it for the seed; and the later showers of spring which continued to refresh and forward both the ripening crops and the vernal products of the field" (Robinson, quoted in 'Dictionary of the Bible,' 2:994).
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Verse 8. - Application of illustration, repeating the exhortation of ver. 7, and supporting it by the assurance that "the coming of the Lord," till which they are to endure, "is at hand." Stablish your hearts (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:13, "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints"). The coming of the Lord draweth nigh. So Isaiah had announced (Isaiah 13:6), "The day of the Lord is near (ἐγγὺς ἡμέρα Κυρίου)."
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
Verse 9. - Grudge not, brethren; better, with R.V., murmur not - a meaning which "grudge" had in the seventeenth century; cf. Psalm 59:15 (Prayer-book version), "They will run here and there for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied." What is the connection of this verse with the preceding? "Murmuring" implies sitting in judgment upon others, which has been expressly forbidden by the Lord himself. It is also the opposite to that μακροθυμία to which St. James has been exhorting his readers. Lest ye be condemned; rather, that ye be not judged. Ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε, as in Matthew 7:1. Κατακριθῆτε of the Received Text has absolutely no authority, nor has the omission of the article before κριτής in the following clause. Behold, the Judge, etc. The nearness of the judgment is expressed by saying that the Judge is actually standing "before the doors (πρὸ τῶν θυρῶν)." So also our Lord, in his great discourse on the judgment, says (Matthew 24:33), "When ye see all these things, know that he is nigh, even at the doors (ἐγγύς ἐστιν ἐπὶ θύραις);" and comp. Revelation 3:20, where he says, "Behold, I stand at the door (ἕστηκα ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν), and knock."
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
Verse 10. - The injunction is further strengthened by an appeal to the example of the prophets of the old covenant, an "example of suffering and of patience." Read ἐν τῶ ὀνόματι, with א, B, and observe the anarthrous Κυρίου (cf. on James 4:10). Suffering affliction. Τῆς κακοπαθείας.: here only in the LXX., Malachi 1:13; 2 Macc. 2:26.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Verse 11. - Behold, we count them happy. Μακαρίζειν: only here and Luke 1:48 (comp. James 1:12, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation;" Daniel 12:12, "Blessed is he that waiteth"). Which endure; rather, which endured, reading ὑπομείναντας, with א, A, B, Syriac, Latt. (quisustinuerunt). Ye have heard of the patience of Job. A book very rarely referred to in the New Testament; only here and in 1 Corinthians 3:19, where Job 5:13 is quoted. And have seen the end of the Lord. Ἴδετε ("see") is found in A, B, L, but εἴδετε of the Received Text has the support of א, B, K, Vulgate (ridistis), and is now generally adopted. The "end of the Lord (τὸ τέλος Κυρίου)" cannot possibly be interpreted of the death and resurrection of our Savior. The whole context is against this, and Κυρίου would certainly require the article. The Syriac Version rightly interprets the clause, "the end which the Lord wrought for him." It dearly refers to the end which God brought about in the case of Job, whose "latter end the Lord blessed more than his beginning" (Job 42:12; cf. Winer, 'Grammar of New Testament Greek,' p. 309). That the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy, Πολύσπλαχνος: here only; never in the LXX, but equivalent to Hebrew רַב חֶסֶד; cf. Psalm 103. (102.), 8; 111. (110.), 4, which may have suggested the phrase to St. James. Οἰκτίρμων: only here and Luke 6:36; several times in the LXX. Ὁ Κύριος is omitted entirely in K, L, and some manuscripts of the Vulgate; the article is also wanting in B.
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
Verse 12. - Exhortation against swearing, founded on our Lord's teaching in the sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:33-37 - a passage which was evidently present to St. James's thoughts. He, like his Master, "lays down rules and maxims and principles without specifying the limitations and exceptions." The sermon on the mount, as interpreted by our Lord's own actions, is a clear witness that this formed Ms method of teaching. If, then, his words do not touch the case of oaths solemnly tendered to men in a court of justice (and his own acceptance of an adjuration on his trial shows that they do not), no more do St. James's. Both our Lord and his apostle had probably in view "only those profane adjurations with which men who have no deep-seated fear of God garnish their common talk" (see Sadler's 'Commentary on St. Matthew,' p. 66). The special oaths mentioned were those in vogue among the Jews, and just the very ones which our Lord himself had specified (comp. Lightfoot's 'Horae Hebraicae,' vol. 2. p. 127, edit. Gandell). On the need of such teaching as this, see Thomson's 'Land and the Book,' p. 190: "This people are fearfully profane. Everybody curses and swears when in a passion. No people that I have ever known can compare with these Orientals for profaneness in the use of the names and attributes of God. The evil habit seems inveterate and universal. When Peter, therefore, 'began to curse and to swear' on that dismal night of temptation, we are not to suppose that it was something foreign to his former habits. He merely relapsed, under high excitement, into what, as a sailor and a fisherman, he had been accustomed to all his life. The people now use the very same sort of oaths that are mentioned and condemned by our Lord. They swear by the head, by their life, by heaven, by the temple, or what is in its place, the church. The forms of cursing and swearing, however, are almost infinite, and fall on the pained ear all day long." So, too, Aben Ezra speaks of the practice of swearing as almost universal in his day, so that he says, "men swear daily countless times, and then swear that they have not sworn!" With regard to the translation of the verse, two renderings are possible:
(1) that of the A.V. and of the R.V. (text), "Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay."
(2) That of the R.V. margin, "Let yours be the yea, yea, and the nay, nay;" viz. those enjoined by our Lord (Matthew 5:37), "Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." On behalf of this latter rendering, may be pleaded
(a) the clearness of the reference to our Lord's teaching; and
(b) the fact that this is the interpretation given to the clause in the two leading versions of antiquity, the Syriac and the Vulgate, both of which have exactly the same words here and in St. Matthew. Vulgate, Sit autem sermo vester est est, non non. Lest ye fall into condemnation. Happily the A.V. here follows the text of the Elzevirs, ὑπὸ κρίσιν (א, A, B, Latt., Syriac, Coptic), and so avoids the erroneous reading of Stephens, εἰς ὑπόκρισιν (K, L).
Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
Verses 13-20. - Exhortations with respect to practical conduct in health and sickness. Verse 13. -
(1) Is any among you suffering? let him pray.
(2) Is any cheerful? let him sing praise.
Prayer in the narrower sense of petition is rather for sufferers, who need to have their wants supplied and their sorrows removed. Praise, the highest form of prayer, is to spring up from the grateful heart of the cheerful. Ψάλλειν (cf. Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19).
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
Verses 14, 15. - Directions in ease of sickness. Let him call for the elders of the Church. Of the original creation of the presbyterate no account is given, but elders appear as already existing in Judaea in Acts 11:30; and from Acts 14:23 we find that St. Paul and St. Barnabas "appointed elders in every Church" which they had founded on their first missionary journey. Nothing, therefore, can be concluded with regard to the date of the Epistle from this notice of elders. The elders were to be summoned for a twofold purpose:
(1) that they might pray over the sick person (on the accusative ἐπ αὐτόν, see Winer, p. 508); and
(2) that they might anoint him with oil in the Name of the Lord, The result anticipated is also twofold:
(1) "the prayer of faith shall save the sick" ("save," σώζειν, here as in other passages, e.g. Matthew 9:21, 22, etc., refers to bodily healing); and
(2) "if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him." (From the manner in which this last clause is introduced, it may fairly be inferred that the sins in question are presumed to have had some connection with the sickness, and to have been its cause. Vulgate, Et si in peccatis sit dimittentur cf.) Anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. By the omission of the last words, τοῦ Κυρίου, B has the striking reading, "anointing him with oil in THE NAME" (compare the use of τὸ ὄνομα absolutely in Acts 5:41 3John 7). A similar use is also found in the Epistles of Ignatius. The Vatican Manuscript, however, appears to stand quite alone in this reading here. If the words, τοῦ Κυρίου, be admitted, they must be taken as referring to the Lord Jesus (contrast ver. 10, ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Κυρίου). So also in ver. 15 the Lord (ὁ Κύριος) who shall raise him up is clearly the Lord Jesus. Had God the Father been alluded to we should probably have had the anarthrous Κύριος after the manner of the LXX. (see note on James 4:10). Unction is mentioned in connection with the sick also in Mark 6:13. The apostles "anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them;" and compare the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:34), "pouring in wine and oil." "Josephus mentions that among the remedies employed in the case of Herod, he was put into a sort of oil bath.... The medicinal use of oil is also mentioned in the Mishna, which thus exhibits the Jewish practice of that day" ('Dictionary of the Bible,' vol. it. p. 595; see Mishna, 'Shabbath,' 13:4; and compare Lightfoot, 'Horae Hebraicae,' vol. it. p. 415). According to Tertullian, "the Christian Proculus, surnamed Torpacion, the steward of Euhodus," cured with oil Severus, the father of Antonino (i.e. Caracalla), who "in gratitude kept him in his palace till the day of his death." Tertullian, 'Ad Scapulam,' c. 4. (see Oehler's notes on the passage). But in the case before us if, as in these other instances, the oil was used as an actual remedy,
(1) why was it to be administered by the elders? and
(2) why is the healing immediately afterwards attributed to "the prayer of faith"? These questions would seem to suggest that oil was enjoined by St. James rather as an outward symbol than as an actual remedy. A further question remains to which a few lines must be devoted. Is the apostle prescribing a rite for all times? On the one hand, we are told that the use of oil was connected with the miraculous powers of healing, and therefore ceased "when those powers ceased" (cf. Bishop Browne on the Articles, p. 589). On the other hand, the passage is appealed to as warranting the Roman Catholic sacrament of extreme unction. With regard to the practice of the early Church, there is a constant stream of testimony to the use of oil for purposes of healing; e.g. the case in Tertullian already quoted, and many others in the fourth and fifth centuries (see 'Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,' pp. 1455, 2004, 2053). But
(1) as originally practiced it was administered by laymen and even by women.
(2) After the blessing of the oil was restricted to bishops it was still regarded as immaterial by whom the unction was performed. So Psalm-Innocent, 'Ep. ad Decent.,' § 8, "Being made by the bishop, it is lawful not for priests only, but for all Christians, to use it in anointing in their own need or in that of their friends."
(3) Not till the middle of the ninth century do we meet with any express injunction to the priest to perform the unction himself.
(4) "The restraint of the unction to the priest had momentous consequences. The original intention of it in relation to healing of the body was practically forgotten, and the rite came to be regarded as part of a Christian's immediate preparation for death. Hence in the twelfth century it acquired the name of 'the last unction,' unctio extrema (Peter Lombard, ' Sent.,' 4:23), i.e. as the Catechism of Trent asserts ('De Extr. Unct.,' 3), the last of those which a man received from the Church. In the thirteenth it was placed by the schoolmen among the seven rites to which they limited the application of the term sacrament" ('Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,' p. 2004). In the sixteenth century it was definitely laid down at the Council of Trent,
(1) that it is a sacrament instituted by our Lord;
(2) that by it grace is conferred, sin remitted, and the sick comforted, "sometimes also" the recovery of health is obtained;
(3) that it should be given to those in danger of death, but if they recover they may receive it again (Session 14. c. 9.). Further, the Catechism of the Council condemns as a grievous error the practice of waiting to anoint the sick "until all hope of recovery being now lost, life begins to ebb, and the sick person to sink into lifeless insensibility." In spite of this, however, the common practice in the Roman Catholic Church at the present day appears to be to administer the rite only to persons in extremis. Turning now to the Eastern Church, we notice that a rite of unction has been continued there up till the present time. The service, which is a somewhat lengthy one, may be seen in Daniel's 'Codex Liturgicus,' bk. 4. c.v.; and cf. Neale's 'Holy Eastern Church,' Introd., vol. it. p. 1035, where it is noted that it differs from the Western use in three points:
(1) the oil is not previously consecrated by the bishop, but at the time by seven priests;
(2) the unction is not conferred only in extremis, but in slighter illness, and if possible in the church;
(3) it is not usually considered valid unless at least three priests are present to officiate. It has been thought well to give this slight historical sketch, as affording the best answer to the claims of Romanists by showing how they have gradually departed from the primitive custom and changed the character of the rite. But the sketch will also have shown that it is scarcely accurate to imply that unction ceased when the miraculous powers ceased. At the Reformation, when the English Church wisely rejected the mediaeval service for extreme unction, she yet retained in the first English Prayer-book a simple form of unction, to be used "if the sick person desire it," consisting of
(1) anointing, "upon the forehead or breast only," with the sign of the cross; and
(2) prayer for the inward anointing of the soul with the Holy Ghost, and for restoration of bodily health and strength. Thus the service was entirely primitive in character, and it is hard to see what valid objection could be raised to it. It was, however, omitted from the second English Prayer-book of 1552, and has never been restored. The justification, I suppose, of this disuse of unction must be sought in the entire absence of evidence that the primitive Church understood the passage before us as instituting a religious rite to be permanently continued. All the earliest notices of unction refer simply to its use for healing purposes.
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Verse 16. - Confess therefore your sins, etc. The authority for the insertion of οῦν (omitted in the Received Text) is overwhelming (א, A, B, K, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic), as is also that for the substitution of τὰς ἁμαρτίας for τὰ παραπτώματα, which includes the three oldest manuscripts, א, A, B, the two latter of which also read προσεύχεσθε for εὔχεσθε. It is difficult to know exactly what to make of this injunction to confess "one to another," which is stated in the form of an inference from the preceding. The form of the expression, "one to another," and the perfectly general term, "a righteous man," forbid us to see in it a direct injunction to confess to the clergy, and to the clergy only. But on the other hand, it is unfair to lose sight of the fact that it is directly connected with the charge to send for the elders of the Church. Marshall, in his' Penitential Discipline,' is perfectly justified in saying that St. James "hath plainly supposed the presence of the elders of the Church, and their intercession to God for the sick penitent, and then recommended the confession of his faults in that presence, where two or three assembled together in the Name of Christ might constitute a Church for that purpose" ('Penit. Discipline,' p. 80). We may, perhaps, be content with saying, with Bishop Jeremy Taylor, "When St. James exhorts all Christians to confess their sins one to another, certainly it is more agreeable to all spiritual ends that this be done rather to the curate of souls than to the ordinary brethren" ('Dissuasive from Popery,' II. 1:11; cf. Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' 6. 4:5, 7). The effectual fervent prayer, etc.; rather, the petition of a righteous man availeth much in its working. On the distinction between δέησις the narrower, and προσευχή the wider word, see Trench on ' Synonyms,' p. 179.
Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
Verses 17, 18. - Illustration of the last statement of ver. 16, from the case of Elijah, "a righteous man" under the old covenant, but one "of like passions with us," and therefore one from whose case it is lawful to argue to our own. Subject to like passions as we are. Ὁμοιοπαθὴς ἡμῖν: simply "of like passions with us;" cf. Acts 14:15, where it is used in just the same way. In the LXX. only in Wisd. 7:3. He prayed earnestly. Προσευχῇ προσηύξατο: a Hebraism, not infrequent in the New Testament (see Luke 22:15; John 3:29; Acts 4:17; Acts 5:28; Acts 23:14), in imitation of the Hebrew dissolute infinitive (cf. Winer, p. 584). For the incident alluded to by St. James, see 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1; but note
(1) that we are never told that the famine was in consequence of Elijah's prayer; and
(2) nothing is said of the duration of time (three years and a half) during which it rained not upon the earth. All we read is that "after many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year;" but there is no clear indication from what period this "third year" is dated. With regard to
(1), it may have been St. James's own inference from the narrative, or may have been due to tradition. With regard to
(2), the very same time is mentioned by our Lord in his allusion to the same incident (Luke 4:25), "the heaven was shut up three years and six months." And as the same period is said to be given in the Yalkut Shimeoni on 1 Kings 16, it was probably the time handed down by tradition, being taken by the Jews as a symbol of times of tribulation (cf. Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7; Revelation 11:2).
And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
Verse 19. - Final exhortation; introduced, as was the opening one (James 1:2), by the emphatic "my brethren." The Received Text omits μου, but it is found in א, A, B, K, Vulgate.
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Verse 20. - Let him know. So א, A, K, L, Latt., Syriac, B has γινώσκετε, "know ye." After ψυχὴν, א, A, and Vulgate add αὐτοῦ. B has it after θανάτου. And shall cover a multitude of sins (καλύψει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν). The same expression occurs in 1 Peter 4:8, "Charity covereth a multitude of sins." It is founded on Proverbs 10:12, תְּכַסֶּה אַהֲבָה וְעַל כָּל־פְשָׁעִים, "Love covereth all sins," where the LXX. goes entirely astray: Πάντας δὲ τοὺς μὴ φιλονεικοῦντας καλύπτει φιλία: but cf. Psalm 31:1; Psalm 84:3, in the LXX. It is difficult to believe that St. Peter and St. James independently hit upon the rendering πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν for the Hebrew כָּל־פְּשָׂעִים, as there was nothing to suggest it, the LXX. never rendering כֹּל by πλῆθος. Probably the one was consciously or unconsciously influenced by the other. The striking position which the words occupy here, as those with which the Epistle closes, would make them linger in the memory; and there is nothing to militate against the conclusion, which appeared probable on the occasion of previous coincidences between the two writers, that St. James is the earlier of the two (comp. on James 4:6). The expression used by the apostle leaves it undetermined whose sins are thus "covered," whether
(1) those of the man who is "converted from the error of his way," or
(2) those of the man who wins him back, and through this good action obtains, by the grace of God, pardon for his own "multitude of sins." It has been well noticed that "there is a studied generality in the form of the teaching which seems to emphasize the wide blessedness of love. In the very act of seeking to convert one for whom we care we must turn to God ourselves, and in covering the past sins of another our own also are covered. In such an act love reaches its highest point, and that love includes the faith in God which is the condition of forgiveness" (Plumptre). The Epistle ends abruptly, with no salutation and no doxology. In this it stands almost by itself in the New Testament; the First Epistle of St. John alone approaching it in the abruptness of its conclusion.