If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:…
In these verses James takes the high ground that "respect of persons" is a transgression of the law by which we are to be judged; anal one which, like every other, involves the guilt of breaking the whole law.
I. TO RESPECT PERSONS IS TO COMMIT SIN. (Vers. 8, 9.) It involves disobedience to "the royal law. This is a noticeable expression. Any Divine commandment may be described as royal," seeing that it emanates from the supreme Sovereign of the universe. Rather, however, may the moral law receive this epithet because it is regal in its own character. God's law is the law of love; and love is kingly. The Divine nature itself is the foundation of virtue; and "God is love." Hence the Divine law is the eternal rule and final standard of rectitude. It possesses supreme excellence and supreme authority. Every other system of legislation, and all other rules of duty, ought to be subordinate to "the royal law." This law, we know, cannot be unjust; for it is a transcript of the moral perfection of the Divine nature, and is therefore the Alpha and Omega of all laws. The royal law is to be fulfilled "according to the Scripture;" for, while its ultimate source is in the nature of God, the one authoritative record of it to which sinful men have access is to be found in the Bible. We must consult "the law and the testimony" if we would ascertain the edicts of the great King, and learn the "newness of the spirit" in which these are to be obeyed. God's Word lays bare before us our half-buried and forgotten moral convictions; it restores the weather-worn inscriptions upon the gravestones of our sin-dead hearts. The apostle cites, as the great precept which forbids respect of persons, the words of Leviticus 19:18, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself - the same precept which our Lord had employed as his summary of the principle underlying the last six commandments. We are to love our neighbor, i.e. any one to whom we have it within our power to become helpful, even although he may be a stranger and a Samaritan. Those who discharge this duty aright do well." But, enlightened love for ones neighbor is inconsistent with respect of persons. We may not limit the precept either to our wealthy neighbor or to our poor neighbor. Indeed, to show partiality is not so much to trait the precept as to discard it altogether. Favoritism is the outcome of selfishness, rather than of the love that "seeketh not its own." Those, therefore, who practice it are not guilty of a trifling impropriety, but of direct and palpable sin, both against the Old Testament law anti "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus."
II. TO TRANSGRESS IN ONE POINT IS TO TRANSGRESS THE WHOLE LAW. (Vers. 10, 11.) Let no one plead that respect of persons in the Church is so trivial a fault that it ought to be overlooked, especially in view of the social and pecuniary benefits which may be expected to result from it. The apostle assures us that partiality is a sin, and that he who indulges in it disobeys the whole moral law. To unthinking minds this latter assertion may sound very doubtful doctrine, leading them to ask - Is this statement of the nature of casuistry, or is it sober truth in the form of paradox? Does it not seem contrary to true moral perspective to affirm that a man who is noted for his blameless life "becomes guilty of all" when he "stumbles in one point"? Do not some sins, like some diseases, shut out the possibility of others which lie in an opposite direction? But a little consideration will reveal the deep moral truth of this saying. For:
1. The Lawgiver is one. (Ver. 11.) Every precept of the law possesses the same Divine authority. The sixth commandment is invested with the same solemn sanctions as the seventh. "God spake all these words." To disregard any one precept, therefore, is to violate the entire authority by which the whole Law has been ordained. It follows from this that:
2. The Law itself is one. How immeasurably "the royal law" is exalted, in its grand essential unity, above human systems of jurisprudence! The common law of England has to submit to have its defects supplied, and its rigors mitigated, by equity; but how very far yet are our common law and equity and statute law from coalescing into a unity! But the Divine legislation forms a perfect code; for it is a perfect reflection and expression of the mind or' God. The Bible jurisprudence knows no distinction between law and equity. It is independent of glosses and commentaries. It abhors legal fictions. Having for its Author the God of love, its vital unity is found in the principle of loving obedience. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10). So, to "stumble in one point" is to break the whole law. For, as has been said, the law is a seamless robe, which is torn although only a part be torn; or a musical harmony, which is marred if one voice be singing out of tune; or a necklace of pearls, from which a single pearl cannot be dropped without breaking the string upon which the others hang, and letting them fall to the ground.
3. The spirit of obedience is one. True reverence for the law is inspired by love to the Lawgiver; and therefore obedience is impartial, and strives to be perfect. Our first parents, in eating the forbidden fruit, fell from the spirit of obedience, and dishonored the whole law. In like manner, the man who habitually breaks one of the commandments shows that in principle he is disloyal, and that he would transgress any other precept were he exposed to similar temptation to do so.
CONCLUSION. We should not be able to contemplate this subject without being impressed with such considerations as these:
1. The obligation which rests upon us to render perfect obedience to the law of God.
2. The impossibility of our doing so in our own strength, or during the present life.
3. The necessity of clothing ourselves with the righteousness of Christ. - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: