Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man:…
In this passage we have held up before us the genesis of death. Now, the difficulty is to know whether the death spoken of refers to the spirit or the body. In a large number of cases in Scripture the word refers to spiritual death. But there are passages in which the word "death" seems to refer to that of the body. I am disposed to regard the passage before us in this way, and that for two reasons. First, St. James is a writer who deals chiefly with the outward and visible; and a second reason may be found in the fact that he is here speaking of a form of sin whose results are emphatically, though not exclusively, physical. Lust is the enemy of the body. There are senses, then, in which bodily death is the result of sin. Not in all senses. We must be careful to limit the statement that the death of the body is the result of sin. We are told that "the wicked do not live out half their days." If there bad been no wickedness men would have lived out all their days. In the midst of life there would not have been death, but only at the end of life-when its appointed term had been reached. There would have been no death from disease, but only from what we call the decay of nature. I do not speak positively on this matter. The evidence is not sufficient to do so. I only give this as my conception of the subject. It is significant, too, that our Lord, the only sinless one ever seen on our earth), did not, so far as we can judge from the record, suffer from any disease. Nor must we connect too closely bodily disease with personal sin. in many a case the life begins with a diseased or feeble frame inherited from others. But none the less it is true that the connection between disease and sin is both real and close. We think of consumption as the most fruitful cause of the premature mortality in our land. It does slay its thousands every year; but if it slays its thousands, sin slays its tens of thousands, whilst no small proportion even of what we call consumption is traceable either directly or indirectly to sin. Men of the world talk glibly of young men sowing their wild oats. They are silent as to the harvest which springs therefrom. Were such sins to cease out of our land a marvellous change would come over the health of the nation. A complete crusade against disease must include spiritual as well as sanitary weapons. Minds as well as bodies diseased must have their ministry. We must fight the lust within which leads to sin and, at last, to death. Now, how is this fruitful source of disease and death to be grappled with and overcome? The first essential is that we should feel that it must be dealt with. That was the first step taken in relation to other causes of disease. There was a time when men regarded epidemics like cholera as visitations of God — punishments for sin; and so long as this was the feeling nothing was done. All that men did was to pray for their removal. And when men realise that the most fruitful and constant cause of disease and mortality is sin, they will see that these can cease only as the sin producing them is overcome. There are those who say, "Teach all alike the facts of physiology — let men know all about their bodies, and they will then preserve them from defilement." I have not a particle of faith in such a remedy. Knowledge of the body is no preservation; if it were, the people whose chief business is to understand the body would not need the warning now before us: "Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death." Is it thus? Careful inquiry has satisfied me that the students of medicine in our great hospitals are not purer, even if they are as pure, as youths in other walks of life. There are others who say, "Trust to education. Increased knowledge will bring about purer ways. As schools and scholars multiply vice will decrease." Doubtless some forms of vice will decrease. In certain realms knowledge will accomplish much. But no one who knows much of life will say that this is one of those realms. It is not knowledge that is needed. It is the impulse which will prompt to the good, the constraint which will hold us from the evil. There is no force mighty enough that I have ever heard of to grapple with sin save the gospel. Christ alone raises a barrier strong enough to resist the onslaughts of this great enemy. And why is it thus?
1. Because the Christian faith makes us realise that there is a Divine Spirit within us which renders holy even the temple of the body in which it dwells.
2. The Christian faith alone holds up an ideal lofty enough to keep us from impurity.
3. By the constraint of His peerless love He constrains us to live not to ourselves, yielding not to our lower impulses and passions, but unto Him who died for us and rose again.
(W. G. Herder.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: