My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;…
It is absolutely essential that a teacher of moral ethics should be —
(1) Of joyful disposition;
(2) Competent to lead men into the depths of Christian character.
I. THE POWER OF TRIAL TO OCCASION CHRISTIAN JOY.
1. The trials to which these Jewish Christians were exposed. Though Christian people are not; now called to endure persecution, yet they are not without their individual trials; though they hear not the shouts and clamour of an invading foe, they are subject to the ravages of death; though they are not exposed to the intrigue of the political marauder, yet they are liable to the crash of commercial panic; though they are not exposed to the invective of aa enraged countryman, yet they are liable to the calumny of the idle gossip.
2. There was in the trials of these Jewish Christians an element of temptation.
(1) These temptations were numerous — "divers." They were persecuted; their homes were plundered; their property was pillaged; they were exposed to poverty; they were liable to assassination.
(2) Variegated — "divers." There was a blending in them of hope and promise; there was the fortune of war, and the promise of their countrymen to lure them.
(3) Precipitous and all-surrounding — "when ye fall into." Grief comes unexpectedly.
3. These trials were to be made the occasion of joy. The Christian life is a grand paradox. In temptation it is in hope; in pain it is in gladness; in sorrow it is in joy; in old age it verges on immortal youth.
4. These Jewish Christians were addressed in the language of deep sympathy. St. James knew that they were in trial, and felt it his duty to write to console and guide them. Some men object to letter-writing; they cannot write even to sorrowing friends. Where are their brotherly instincts? We are near to Christ when trying to aid the sorrowful.
II. THE POWER OF TRAIL TO TEST CHRISTIAN FAITH.
1. Trial tests the reality of Christian faith. If under it we manifest the nobler moral qualities of the Christian character; if we are calm in thought, resigned in temper, prayerful in spirit, and patient in disposition, our faith must be genuine, as such graces are only the outcome of a veritable heart-trust in the Saviour.
2. A tried faith is a potential influence within the soul. No one can estimate the power of a faith that has survived the ordeal of temptation to give energy to a soul, beauty to a character, charm to a life, and influence with the world at large.
III. THE POWER OF TRIAL TO DEVELOP CHRISTIAN PATIENCE.
1. Patience consists in a calm waiting for the unfolding of the Divine will and providence.
2. Patience should be constant and progressive in its exercise — co-ordinate with every trial, superior to every distress, gathering new energy from its continued exercise.
IV. THE POWER OF TRIAL TO ENHANCE THE PERFECTION OF MORAL CHARACTER. St. James is not writing of the perfection of unrenewed human nature, but of the sublime possibility of Christian manhood. He is writing of a life that is animated by faith, that is cultured by deep sorrow, and that is capable of holy patience.
(Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;