1:19-21 Instead of blaming God under our trials, let us open our ears and hearts to learn what he teaches by them. And if men would govern their tongues, they must govern their passions. The worst thing we can bring to any dispute, is anger. Here is an exhortation to lay apart, and to cast off as a filthy garment, all sinful practices. This must reach to sins of thought and affection, as well as of speech and practice; to every thing corrupt and sinful. We must yield ourselves to the word of God, with humble and teachable minds. Being willing to hear of our faults, taking it not only patiently, but thankfully. It is the design of the word of God to make us wise to salvation; and those who propose any mean or low ends in attending upon it, dishonour the gospel, and disappoint their own souls.
21. lay apart—"once for all" (so the Greek): as a filthy garment. Compare Joshua's filthy garments, Zec 3:3, 5; Re 7:14. "Filthiness" is cleansed away by hearing the word (Joh 15:3).
superfluity of naughtiness—excess (for instance, the intemperate spirit implied in "wrath," Jas 1:19, 20), which arises from malice (our natural, evil disposition towards one another). 1Pe 2:1 has the very same words in the Greek. So "malice" is the translation, Eph 4:31; Col 3:8. "Faulty excess" [Bengel] is not strong enough. Superfluous excess in speaking is also reprobated as "coming of evil" (the Greek is akin to the word for "naughtiness" here) in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:37), with which James' Epistle is so connected.
with meekness—in mildness towards one another [Alford], the opposite to "wrath" (Jas 1:20): answering to "as new-born babes" (1Pe 2:2). Meekness, I think, includes also a childlike, docile, humble, as well as an uncontentious, spirit (Ps 25:9; 45:4; Isa 66:2; Mt 5:5; 11:28-30; 18:3, 4; contrast Ro 2:8). On "receive," applied to ground receiving seed, compare Mr 4:20. Contrast Ac 17:11; 1Th 1:6 with 2Th 2:10.
engrafted word—the Gospel word, whose proper attribute is to be engrafted by the Holy Spirit, so as to be livingly incorporated with the believer, as the fruitful shoot is with the wild natural stock on which it is engrafted. The law came to man only from without, and admonished him of his duty. The Gospel is engrafted inwardly, and so fulfils the ultimate design of the law (De 6:6; 11:18; Ps 119:11). Alford translates, "The implanted word," referring to the parable of the sower (Mt 13:1-23). I prefer English Version.
able to save—a strong incentive to correct our dulness in hearing the word: that word which we hear so carelessly, is able (instrumentally) to save us [Calvin].
souls—your true selves, for the "body" is now liable to sickness and death: but the soul being now saved, both soul and body at last shall be so (Jas 5:15, 20).