For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.…
The justice, the necessity of what James here asserts, will appear from the following considerations:
1. Look at the law itself. It is characterised by essential, all-pervading unity. It has manifold relations. It deals with the heart and life, the thoughts, words, and actions; with men of all ages and conditions, as bound up with and owing duties to each other as members of families, of communities, of churches. But, in perfect harmony with this, it consists of one great, all-comprehensive principle. The whole obedience it demands can be expressed in a single monosyllable. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." The matter standing thus, to break it in one respect is to break it in every respect — in its entirety, its unity. You cannot trample on a single jot or tittle of it without thereby treading on the principle of which it is the expression.
2. Look at the subjects of the law. There must be a unity in them exactly corresponding to the unity in the law. Its great comprehensive demand is love, as we have seen, and by this affection or principle alone can it be fulfilled. There cannot be a failure in any respect but by a failure of this, the spring of all true submission and service. That within us, apart from which none of the Divine statutes can be honoured, is found so far lacking; and the deficiency is to be viewed, not simply in relation to the particular enactment disregarded, but to the entire code with which it is connected. The root of the tree is shown to be affected, and that tells on the stem and all the branches.
3. Look at the Author of the law. It has been given by God, and bears throughout His impress. His authority is stamped equally on every part of the statute-book. But does not this view of the matter lie open to grave objections? Does it not make all sin equal? By offending in one point we do not become guilty of all, but we may be so in varying degrees. Violations of human law, even when they are most complete, differ widely, and so there is a scale of punishments ranging from a trifling or a short imprisonment to death itself. It is not otherwise with the supreme rule of duty. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others. To trample on even the least commandment is, in effect, to trample on the whole law; but we may do that more or less wilfully, recklessly, impiously. Again, does it not involve men equally in sin they do and do not commit? If I am held as violating the entire law, then am I not held as violating equally the part I have broken and the part I have not broken? Acts of disobedience have this universal character; but it is one thing constructively, and another thing actually, to trample on all the commandments. Offences of every kind are deadly in their nature; but we are answerable only for those we commit, and the degree of our guilt and misery depends on their number and magnitude.
Parallel VersesKJV: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.