James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
The Perfect Work of Patience.
I. We can all attain to a certain amount of proficiency at most things we attempt; but there are few who have patience to go on to perfection. In the lives of almost every one there has been at some time an attempt at welldoing. It may have been as the morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth early away, but there was at least a desire to do right, and good resolutions were formed. What was wanted? Staying power. "The gift of continuance," that is what so many of us want. If genius may be described as long patience or the art of taking pains, even so those who have done for a time the will of God have need of patience that they may receive the blessings promised to them who know how to wait. Saints are those who let patience have its perfect work, who by patient continuance in welldoing seek eternal life.
II. As a rule, the time required for the production of an effect measures the value of that effect. The things that can be developed quickly are of less value than those which require longer time. You can weed a garden or build a house in a much shorter time than you can educate a mind or build up a soul. The training of our reasoning faculties requires a much longer time than the training of our hands. And moral qualities, being higher than intellectual, make an even greater demand upon the patience of their cultivator.
III. Let us remember where it is that we are to get patience in the presence of temptations and sorrows. We must go in prayer, as our Master did in the garden of Gethsemane, to the source of all strength. If He would not go to His trial unprepared, it certainly is not safe for us to do so. By a stroke from the sword the warrior was knighted, small matter if the monarch's hand was heavy. Even so God gives His servants blows of trial when He desires to advance them to a higher stage of spiritual life. Jacobs become prevailing princes, but not until they have wrestled with temptations and prevailed.
E. J. Hardy, Faint yet Pursuing, p. 47.
I. Her perfect work patience ever has. Have you ever thought how this is exemplified both in the Divine guidance of the world and in the Divine care under which we all pass in the earliest years of our life? Our young life was hid with God. Our earliest years were Divinely guided. The Lord's protecting care encircled us. He watched over the throbbings of that new life which were the commencement of an immortality of existence. He in every way encircles the young life with Divine care, with a care which is inexpressibly loving and inexpressibly patient. And when the years of infancy have passed by, it may be said of the prattling, observant, eager-eyed, quick-eared little one that patience has done her perfect work.
II. All through the Christian centuries has patience been slowly doing her perfect work. Humanity has been slowly advancing under Divine guidance. Our attitude towards the past should be one of deepest reverence. We should look upon the whole field of past history as the sacred ground of humanity. God's dealings with our forefathers ought to have an undying interest for us. In our inquiries into past history, we should be animated by a desire to discern the traces of God's patience doing her perfect work. We find in reading the life of St. Bernard that he, though ofttimes passing through the midst of the grandest scenery of Europe, though he often passed by the side of that glorious water the lake of Geneva, has left no record of being at all influenced by what strikes the traveller now as being a succession of scenes of marvellous beauty. The Divine Inspirer of humanity with all that is good and noble was revealing to His servant Bernard truths upon which his thought-laden mind pondered as he moved through the heavenly beauty with which the earth is radiant to us. This beauty is discerned by us because God has opened our eyes to see it. This surely is an exemplification in the Divine education of the world of patience having her perfect work.
H. N. Grimley, Tremadoc Sermons, p. 254.
References: Jam 1:5.—J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 321; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 735; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 92. Jam 1:5-7.—T. Stephenson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 81. Jam 1:6.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 219. Jam 1:6, Jam 1:7.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 41. Jam 1:9, Jam 1:10.—Homilist, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 150.
Jam 1:12Temptation Treated as Opportunity.
I. The Bible teaches us, and as Christians we believe, that there is a regular course of temptations for us in this life; that there are a number of objects and wishes constantly presenting themselves to us in the natural course of things here that we should not give way to, but resist, although they do present themselves. We see a vast number in the world who seem practically to believe that there are no such things as temptations in the world at all. Scripture is sharp and mistrustful about everything which the world offers. Distrust everything, it would seem to say, till it is proved to be safe. Think everything dangerous and deceitful. The world within you and the world without are evil, and they are placed in you and near you in order that you may have nothing to do with them, in order that by having nothing to do with them, though they are so near, you may gain a more entire and remote distance from them.
II. On the whole it depends entirely on the principle we have in our minds to begin with whether we regard a number of impulses and incitements which surround us every day as calls to induce us or as temptations to try us. In one way of looking at our state here the world is full of temptations; in another it has none. Whether the temptation be to pleasure, or to money-getting, or to hasty speech, or to presumption, there are many who will never see it in any of these cases; that is to say, they see it, but they do not see it as a temptation, but as an opportunity. It never occurs to them to take the contradictory side in the course of things here. If there is anything certain in Scripture it is that we are here in a state of warfare, and we must act as if we were. We must take the severer view of the invitations which we meet with in our course. We must look hostilely upon them, and take them at once for what they are—our foes and opponents—and then we shall have that succour which God has promised.
J. B. Mozley, Parochial and Occasional Sermons, p. 14.
References: Jam 1:12.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 95; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1834; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. viii., p. 209. Jam 1:13, Jam 1:14.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 102; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 94; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 19. Jam 1:13-15.—Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 339; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 156. Jam 1:15.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 104; J. G. Horder, Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 141. Jam 1:16, Jam 1:17.—C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 25. Jam 1:16-19.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 375.
Jam 1:17The Uniformity of Nature.
I. The uniformity of nature rebukes man's faint-heartedness. When we are crushed with many a bereavement, ought it to be a matter of complaint to us that nature, which has, perhaps, caused our transient anguish, should appear to treat us with total disregard? It is a salutary reminder that we make too much of our individual sorrows; that we are but parts of a vast whole; that our days on earth are but a setting forth and a beginning, not a finishing.
II. Uniformity rewards man's efforts. If we could not absolutely rely on the steady unvarying laws of nature, no knowledge could be attained, no triumphs won. The world would have been not a cosmos, but a chaos. It would have been to mankind an intolerable source of terror to live under the reign of the exceptional. But as it is, nature seems to welcome those triumphs over her which are won by obedience to her laws. If man, to his own comfort and advantage, has gained from the universe an almost illimitable power, is not that power due simply and solely to the uniformity of law?
III. This steady uniformity is our pledge of the impartial fidelity of God. So far as the management of the material universe is concerned, God has declared unmistakably that He has no favourites. He has given to material forces a law which cannot be broken. We trust Him more because there is no devilish element in nature, no wild impulse rushing with eruptions of curse and blessing into space. We begin to see that nature is but a word, is but a figure of speech, is but a fiction of imagination, is nothing in the world but a reverent synonym for the sum total of the laws which God has impressed upon His universe.
F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 337.
Collect for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity.
God is pronounced in the collect to be the Author and Giver of all good things. Whether this was intended or not, the phrase is a most exact echo of the words of St. James in the text. There is a splendid movement in the preamble of the collect, where God is described not only as the Author and Giver of all good things, but the "Lord of all power and might." It is impossible not to feel how much we owe to Cranmer and his associates for this preamble. It is true that for this magnificent language there is a small Latin basis, but the change which has been made in it amounts to transformation.
I. What distinction can we properly draw between power and might? The terms are not really identical in meaning, and the distinction to be drawn between them is properly this, that power is the more abstract term, might or strength the more concrete. There may be power that is not excited. A man may have the power to speak, and yet may be silent. In the collect we attribute to God the perfection of power, in that He is almighty, and the perfection of might, because that omnipotence is ready to be used on our behalf without the risk of failure.
II. The name of God is His character as revealed to us. His name describes to us what He is. We have reason to pray that our nature may be so corrected that the revelation of the Deity above us may be welcome and dear. But implanting is not enough, whether it be of a seed or a graft. There must be growth. The word "increase" is familiar to us elsewhere in Scripture, as denoting an essential feature in the Christian life. Fostering care also is required, and provision for safety. We ask that we may be nourished with all goodness, and kept in the same. In reflecting on this part of the collect, the devout mind inevitably reverts to familiar passages of the Old Testament, and finds there abundant material for wholesome thought. When the Lord planted His vineyard with the choicest vine, He likewise fenced it. No one who has travelled in Palestine can have failed to observe the vast importance of the fence to the vineyard.
J. S. Howson, The Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, p. 98.
References: Jam 1:17.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 235; Homilist, vol. vii., p. 179; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 356; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 532; Ibid., vol. vii., p. 215; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 273.
Jam 1:18The First-fruits of God's Creatures.
I. "Of His own will," or because He willed it, is given as the reason why God bestowed on us a new life. We are to receive this assurance with the effort to profit by it, and to derive practical good from it, not with vain speculation as to the nature of God's decrees, still less with any profane and worldly thought that He distributes His blessings, like a self-willed human ruler, in an arbitrary and capricious spirit, but with a devout acknowledgment that our baptism, our knowledge of Christianity, our education, our opportunities, any progress or improvement which we have made in holiness, are not the results of our own merit, but of God's goodness. Our feeling should be one of humble gratitude, leading to more earnest efforts to deserve God's favour and to fulfil the responsibilities which He has put upon us.
II. "Begat He us." Here again St. James, no less clearly than St. Paul or St. John or than He who was the common Teacher of them all, speaks to us of that radical change of heart and principle, that conversion to God, that resurrection to righteousness, which may well be called a new birth. And this great change is here declared to be the gift of God.
III. We were begotten by the word of truth, that is, by the Gospel. We learn from this that it is only through Christianity that we can escape from sin. In Christ, and Christ alone, we shall find the new life after which we were striving.
IV. "That we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." Here St. James tells his readers of God's purpose in thus calling them to a new life through the Gospel of His Son, that they might be the first-born of the great Christian household, consecrated to God. They were the beginning of the great spiritual harvest soon to be gathered in from the whitening fields, the elder brethren who were to be examples and patterns to those who were still to be born into God's family.
G. E. L. Cotton, Expository Sermons on the Epistles, vol. ii., p. 15.
Reference: Jam 1:18.—J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 224.
Jam 1:19The Judicial Temper.
This is one of the wisest and most difficult sayings in Holy Scripture. It commends itself to our good sense, and yet it is one of the hardest to be observed, for in one line we are bidden to be both swift and slow. Some Christian precepts can be obeyed deliberately. The propriety of obedience to them is not only felt beforehand, but can be realised at leisure, as when we resolve to help a friend, or enter some course of procedure the entry into which is made without agitation. But in the command before us the call is likely to arrive when we are least in the mood to listen to it. Thus, however plain the precept is, it is one of the hardest to be kept. And yet it concerns all, and intimately affects the happiness and usefulness of each. Note two or three of the chief ways in which we are called to the observance of St. James's command.
I. One is seen in the formation of opinions, specially in regard to religion and the spiritual condition of our neighbour. A common fault of religious people is impatience of instruction and a readiness to pass judgment upon others. When we think that we have got hold of great truths, we are tempted to assert ourselves confidently, to behave as if there were only insignificant details left for us to learn. We are apt to show indignation at what we believe to be human blindness or ignorance. We are tempted to reverse the order of Divine precept and to become slow to hear and swift to wrath. But in truth, as we are near God, so we realise our ignorance and His tolerance. Thus, instead of being eager to deliver our verdicts and to define His will, we hold back, lest our meddling interference and shortsighted decisions should mar the working of the Divine will, if not in larger ways, yet at least in our small circle and surroundings. We check our indignation in the presence of the great tide or stream of justice which is ever fulfilling itself.
II. St James's words should be applied also in small things. We are often disturbed and upset by what we call "trifles." We equip ourselves carefully for the ascent of a mountain, and then slip upon the common stairs. We take off our heavy armour, and thinking to repose after the din of battle, are stung by a fly. But the grace of God is intended to be used in small things as well as great. So it is in what we call nature. The law of gravitation affects the apple which drops from the tree and the spheres which move on in their courses. The glory of God clothes the lily in the valley and the sun in the sky. Divine force is used equally in the construction of the mountain and that of the molehill. And so each of us has daily need for the application of the great power which rules the world.
H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 359.
References: Jam 1:21.—J. Keble, Sermons from Easter to Ascension, p. 386. Jam 1:21, Jam 1:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1847. Jam 1:21-27.—H. Allon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 103. Jam 1:22.—H. Goodwin, Ibid., vol. xxxiii., p. 373; F. W. Farrar, Ibid., p. 289; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 294; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 81.
Jam 1:22-24The Danger of mistaking Knowledge for Obedience.
I. Knowledge without obedience ends in nothing. It is, as St. James says, like a man who looks at his own face in a glass. For a time he has the clearest perception of his own countenance; every line and feature, even the lightest expression, is visible, and by the mysteriously retentive power of the mind he holds it for a while in what we call the mind's eye; but when he has gone his way, the whole image fades, and the vividness of other objects overpowers it, so that he becomes habitually more familiar with the aspect of all other things than with his own natural face. Nothing can better express the shallowness and fleetingness of knowledge without obedience. For the time it is vivid and exact, but it passes off in nothing—no resolution recorded in the conscience, or if recorded, none maintained; no change of life, nothing done or left undone, for the sake of truth which is shadowed upon the understanding.
II. Knowing without obeying is worse than vain. It inflicts a deep and lasting injury upon the powers of our spiritual nature. Long familiarity with truth makes it all the harder to recognise, as the faces of those we most intimately know are often less distinct in our memory than those we have seen but seldom, and therefore noted all the more exactly.
III. But there is a yet further danger still; for knowledge without obedience is an arch-deceiver of mankind. The heart is a busy deceiver of the conscience; it borrows of the understanding and of the imagination visions and shadows of eternal truth, and it flatters the conscience into a pleasant belief that such are its own spontaneous dictates and intents: it cheats it into appropriating, as its own moral character, the mere shadows that lie on the surface of the intellect.
IV. This knowing and disobeying it is that make so heavy and awful the responsibilities of Christians. Steadily resolve, therefore, to live up to the light you possess. There is a unity, a sameness, and a strength about a consistent mind. The light you already have is great, and great therefore must be your obedience; and remember that to linger behind or to follow afar off is as if you should suffer your guide to outstrip you in the night season.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 117.
References: Jam 1:22-24.—R. Duckworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvi., p. 177. Jam 1:22-25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1467; vol. xxxi., No. 1848. Jam 1:24.—J. Exell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 365; R. S. Storrs, Ibid., vol. vii., p. 39.
Jam 1:25The Perfect Law and its Doers.
I. The Perfect Law. Let me remind you how, in every revelation of Divine truth contained in the Gospel, there is a direct moral and practical bearing. No word of the New Testament is given us in order that we may know truth, but all in order that we may do it. Every part of it palpitates with life, and is meant to regulate conduct. There are plenty of truths of which it does not matter whether a man believes them or not in so far as his conduct is concerned. Mathematical truth or scientific truth leaves conduct unaffected. But no man can believe the principles that are laid down in the New Testament and the truths that are unveiled there without these laying a masterful grip upon his life and influencing all that he is. And let me remind you, too, how in the very central fact of the Gospel there lies the most stringent rule of life. Jesus Christ is the Pattern, and from those gentle lips which say, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments," law sounds more imperatively than from all the thunder and trumpets of Sinai. (1) This thought gives the necessary counterpoise to the tendency to substitute the mere intellectual grasp of Christian truth for the practical doing of it. There will be plenty of orthodox Christians and theological professors and students who will find themselves, to their very great surprise, among the goats at last. Not what we believe, but what we do, is our Christianity; only the doing must be. rooted in belief. (2) Take this vivid conception of the Gospel as a law, as a counterpoise to the tendency to place religion in mere emotion and feeling. Fire is very good, but its best purpose is to get up steam which will drive the wheels of the engine. Not what we feel, but what we do, is our Christianity. (3) Notice how this law is a perfect law. It is perfect because it is more than law, and transcends the simple function of command. It not only tells us what to do, but gives us the power to do it; and that is what men want.
II. Notice the doers of the perfect law. Several things are required as preliminary. (1) The first step is "looketh into the law." With fixed and steadfast gaze we must contemplate the perfect law of liberty, if we are ever to be doers of the same. (2) "And continueth." The gaze must be, not only concentrated, but constant, if anything is to come of it. Let me venture on three simple, practical exhortations: (a) Cultivate the habit of contemplating the central truths of the Gospel as the condition of receiving in vigour and fulness the life which obeys the commandment. (b) Cultivate the habit of reflective meditation upon the truths of the Gospel as giving you the pattern of duty in a concentrated and available form. (c) Cultivate the habit of meditating on the truths of the Gospel in order that the motives of conduct may be reinvigorated and strengthened.
III. Note the blessedness of the doers of the perfect law. There is no delight so deep and true as the delight of doing the will of Him whom we love. There is no blessedness like that of an increasing communion with God and of the clearer perception of His will and mind which follows obedience as surely as the shadow does the sunshine.
A. Maclaren, The God of the Amen, p. 237.
I. What is the Meaning of a Law of Liberty?
Men commonly look upon a law as something that restricts and confines their liberty. And they commonly think that to be at liberty signifies to be free from law and to do as they like. God trains us very much as we do our children. We begin by putting them under a rule; we send them to school; we require them to keep hours; we make them do exactly what we bid them; we do not allow them to loiter or be lazy over their work; we get them into the habit of work; we try, by putting them under a law of work, to get them to like work, to like to be busy, to feel idleness a burden, to wonder how people can like to be idle, to feel a real pleasure in having things to do and in doing them well and at proper times. See how we who are parents do naturally try to turn law into liberty, and, so far as we can, get our children to do freely and for choice what at first they do for duty and because they must.
II. Do we wish to find freedom, liberty, delight, in religion and the service of God? There is only one way to do so, and that way is by obeying the law of God, with our own hearty choice and firm and constant endeavour, until that which begins by being law ends in being perfect liberty. "Whose service is perfect freedom." Men are apt to think that these things are opposite to one another; that where there is service there cannot be freedom, and where there is freedom there is, of course, an end to service. But no; in the true service of God is the only real, perfect, happy freedom, just as in the obedience of the law of God is the only real and perfect liberty. The Prayer-book does but echo the words of St. James. It is all one whether the words be "God's service is perfect freedom," or "God's law is perfect liberty." Either way it is the same: no freedom without service; no liberty without law.
G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 111.
References: Jam 1:25.—Homilist, vol. iv., p. 37. Jam 1:25-27.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 275.
Jam 1:26The Bridling of the Tongue.
Consider the large class of sins to which an unbridled tongue renders us liable.
I. One of the commonest employments of the human tongue is that of lying, and liars are among those to whom is specially reserved the blackness of darkness for ever; in fact, it is the devil's own primeval sin. "He is a liar," said the Lord, "and the father of it." With certain qualifications, deceit is thought little of, and may therefore be easily indulged in without giving much cause of alarm to a man who seems to be religious, and who is yet, perhaps, deceiving his own heart. The tongues of all professing Christians are not so bridled as to guide them in the narrow path of sincerity; and though lying in its gross forms may be scouted from respectable society, yet pure, unadulterated truthfulness is not always left behind.
II. So in the case of blasphemy and profane swearing. These are also sins of the tongue, which in their coarser and most revolting forms are driven out of decent company; and yet there may be milder forms of the same kind of sin, which may be much more easily committed, and with respect to which the proper management of the tongue may be a matter well worthy of the consideration of many who might fancy that no such caution is needed by them. Slander is another sin which may be avoided by the bridling of the tongue. The management of the tongue is not, of course, the only Christian virtue, but it is a plain, manifest, practical duty, omission to perform which at once puts the stamp of spuriousness upon a man's religion. An unruly tongue, an envious tongue, a lying tongue, are all indications of something being rotten in the heart of a man's religious system; and until he has put a bridle upon his tongue and brought it into subjection to the law of Christ there can be no hope of that man's religion being such as God can approve.
Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, vol. iii., p. 319.
Reference: Jam 1:26.—J. Keble, Sermons from Easter to Ascension, p. 416.
Jam 1:27The Christian Service of God.
I. The general meaning and intention of this passage is obvious. No doubt some of these early converts from Judaism, to whom the Epistle of St. James is addressed, found it very hard, trained as they had been in mere outward formalism, with no deep sense of personal responsibility, to form an adequate conception of the lofty moral purity involved in that perfect law of liberty which they had professed to accept as the law of their lives. It had not penetrated the will and become its ruling principle. They had not succeeded in freeing themselves from the bondage of the evil habits in which they had been trained; they had not learned that God as revealed to them in Christ must be worshipped with the service of a blameless life. St. James mentions a very obvious fault, that of an unbridled tongue, as an example of the habits which are inconsistent with this service. "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
II. This, however, is a mere negative view of the subject; in this St. James only gives us an instance (one out of many) of a habit by which the religious service of God is violated. He goes on further to tell us in what that service consists. And he teaches us that its most obvious and indispensable features are two: (1) active benevolence, and (2) unworldliness.
III. The religion here spoken of is the outward service of God only, and must flow from a heart changed and purified by a living faith in Jesus Christ. It is from His Spirit that we must seek the power of rendering this religious service; and to obtain the aid and teaching of that Spirit is the first duty of our Christian calling.
G. E. L. Cotton, Expository Sermons on the Epistles, vol. ii., p. 28.
Christian Service of God.
I. It is clearly wrong so to interpret St. James as to make him say literally that the whole of religion consists in acts of charity and temperance. It is manifest that every idea of religion contains in it the idea of serving God. And it is equally clear that there can be no serving God without intending to serve Him—that is, without thinking Him to have a claim on our service. When, then, St. James calls the works of charity and temperance "pure and undefiled religion," or the service of God, it is plain, by the very force of the words, that he must mean such works of charity and temperance as are done in order to serve God—that is, such as are done in faith. For if they be done without any notion of God they cannot be called a pure service to God, for they are not a service to Him at all, except accidentally; they are no service so far as regards our intention.
II. What St. James means, then, is no more than this: The Christian who would truly serve God in Christ must serve Him not in word, but in deed; and he selects especially two classes of good deeds which form, as it were, the very essence of that service: those of charity and purity. And here the lesson of the text is one peculiarly applicable. It points out what are, and ever have been, the peculiar virtues of Christianity, what all parts of the New Testament alike insist on. And they are so insisted on, not only for their importance, but also for their difficulty, because they are at variance with some of our strongest inclinations and must be practised against the greatest temptations to the contrary, because, although we may find one of the two agreeable to us, it hardly ever happens that we find both to be so; but, on the contrary, men have endeavoured to make up for neglecting the one by their great attention to the other, as if benevolent persons might be excused for their worldly-mindedness or persons of strict and pure and quiet lives might be excused for their want of active charity.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 261.
Pure Religion and Undefiled.
What is the ground of the difference of tone observable in the inspired writers (and especially in St. Paul and St. James) on the subject of true religion, one giving the most emphatic prominence to faith, the other a prominence equally emphatic to works? The ground is to be sought—
I. Partly in the truth which they set forth. There are many analogies between objects contemplated by the eye and truths contemplated by the mind. We walk abroad, and some work of art—say a house—meets our eye. We place ourselves before it to survey its architecture. The front presents certain features: columns, doors, windows, balconies, verandahs. We move round it to another point of view. The picture is then changed. On this side possibly are trellis-work and creepers; no entrance is observable, and the outlook from the windows is upon wood instead of landscape. But we have yet two more sides to survey, which may very possibly present different features still, and after that we may mount a neighbouring eminence which commands the house, and obtain a view different entirely from all the preceding, the gables and chimneys seeming to emerge from a tuft of trees. Now, as it is with real objects, so it is with real truths. If they be indeed truths, they too are solid, and have more than one aspect.
II. In the difference of their own minds. If there be many aspects of Christ, there are several inspired minds which contemplate and set forth those aspects. True religion has a body, or substantial, and a spirit, or animating, part. The body of it is faith; the spirit of it is works. And because one definition of it may contemplate its body, and another may contemplate its spirit, both definitions may be equally true, and yet both utterly different. St. James is contemplating the vitality of religion, not its mere personal appearance. He says, "Rest not content with the outward framework." The production of the framework will not satisfy the great Judge at the last day. He will push His researches beyond that. He will inquire whether the framework has shown itself alive, whether it has breathed, and moved, and walked, and wrought, and given the other symptoms of life.
E. M. Goulburn, Occasional Sermons, p. 36.
References: Jam 1:27.—C. H. Gough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 317; B. Wilberforce, Ibid., vol. xvi, p. 97; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 242. Jam 2:1-9.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 460. Jam 2:8.—D. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 157. Jam 2:10.—J. H. Thorn, Laws of Life, 2nd series, p. 167. Jam 2:10, Jam 2:11.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 107. Jam 2:10-26.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 39.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
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.
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.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
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.
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:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Do not err, my beloved brethren.
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.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
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.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
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:
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.
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.
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.
William Robertson Nicoll's Sermon Bible
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