What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?…
Believing that Jesus is the Son of God, yet not to imitate His character, not to follow His precepts, not to conform to His commands, is no more acceptable faith than to speak kind words to a neighbour, and not assist his wants is acceptable and satisfactory love. Suppose, therefore, a person to profess dependence on Christ Jesus — to profess, that is, that he knows the corruption of his heart, the infirmity of his faith, and consequently, that he trusts not to his own righteousness, but to the atonement made on the Cross for the unrighteous; supposing this, we say, these are excellent words, they represent the state of the Christian's mind; But still St. James is aware how prone a man's heart is to deceive him; and knowing this, he requires a proof of this dread of God's wrath, this hatred of sin, this love of Christ in delivering us from sin. "Thou hast faith"; thou professest to believe in Christ; I would not doubt your profession, or deny that your belief; but examine yourself, prove your own soul; let me witness a proof of your faith in your life and practice; how else can it be known?" Show me thy faith without thy worlds." Thou canst not; it is impossible. Thou canst not show it except by works, for faith is hidden in the heart; it cannot be seen of itself — it can be only judged of by its effects. It is like the life which animates the body; we cannot see it, we cannot tell what it depends on; but this we know, if the principle of life be sound and healthy, the man will breathe with freedom and move with ease. So, if there be sound and acceptable faith, though it lie deep in the recesses of the heart, its existence there will be evident; it will freely breathe in piety towards God — it will actively work in charity towards men. Here, then, is the reason why St. James requires us to show our faith by our works; because there can be no other proof of our having that faith at all, which will avail us in the sight of God. There may be a belief in Christ which the mind cannot resist, because the evidence of the Christian revelation is too strong to be set aside; there may be a belief in Christ which grows out of our birth and education, which we receive, like our language, from the country in which we are born; more than this, there may be a belief in Christ strong enough to disturb our conscience, and yet, it is to be feared, "a savour of death "rather than life, because it is a body without a spirit. It is not strong enough to quicken the soul with a new and vital principle — not powerful enough to "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts" — not powerful enough to raise the heart from things below to things above, so that it shall "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," and "have its treasure in heaven." And all this is done, and must be done, by that faith which does justify a man in the sight of God. Such faith rests, indeed, upon historical truth; but it is much more than the belief of an historical fact: such faith is much more than national, though it rejoices in knowing that God hath chosen the country to which we belong as one to which His saving truth should be made known; such faith is not intellectual only, though it approves itself to the judgment of the renewed mind; such faith is not dead or inactive, but lively and energetic; it inspires laborious exertion; it breathes in love to God and man; it breaks forth in spiritual desires; it refreshes itself by spiritual meditation; it dreads what God's Word condemns — it approves what God's Word approves; it contends against the indwelling principle of sin — it aspires after the perfection of holiness, complete participation of the Divine nature.
Parallel VersesKJV: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?