James 1:18
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of His creation.
Sermons
An Address to the Regenerate, Founded on the Preceding DiscoursesPhilip Doddridge James 1:18
First-Fruits of His CreaturesA. Maclaren, D. D.James 1:18
Necessity of The. New BirthD. L. Moody.James 1:18
RegenerationT. Manton.James 1:18
Regeneration More than Self-ImprovementJ. F. B. Tinling, B. A.James 1:18
Regeneration the Gift of GodC. F. Deems, D. D.James 1:18
Spiritual Life: its Cause and its GrandeurW. Magill, D. D.James 1:18
The Chief Good is from GodC. Jerdan James 1:18
The Gospel the Word of TruthT. Manton.James 1:18
The New Birth: its Nature, Means, and ObjectJohn Budgen, M. A.James 1:18
The Regenerating WordR. Turnbull.James 1:18
The Second BirthA. Roberts, M. A.James 1:18
The Word the Instrument of RegenerationS. Charnock, B. D.James 1:18
The Work of GraceH. McNeile, D. D.James 1:18
Temptation and its HistoryT.F. Lockyer James 1:12-18
Again, Again, and Again!J. H. Hitchens, D. D.James 1:17-18
All Good Gifts are from GodR. Turnbull.James 1:17-18
All Good Gifts from AboveJohn Adam.James 1:17-18
Different Temperaments Given by GodW. R. Clark, M. A.James 1:17-18
Divine GiftsJ. R. Thomson, M. A.James 1:17-18
Divine Goodness in Human HistoryHomilistJames 1:17-18
Every Good and Perfect GiftJames Vaughan, M. A.James 1:17-18
Every Good Gift is from GodC. F. Deems, D. D.James 1:17-18
Gifts Front, AboveH. Macmillan, D. D.James 1:17-18
God Cannot Change to Become a TempterA. Plummer, D. D.James 1:17-18
God not the Author of Evil, But of GoodS. Cox, D. D.James 1:17-18
God the Source of GiftsJames 1:17-18
God UnchangeableJames 1:17-18
God's Gifts to ManW. H. Murray, D. D.James 1:17-18
God's Good GiftsW. L. Watkinson.James 1:17-18
God's InflexibilityJames 1:17-18
God's UnchangeablenessJames 1:17-18
Good Things from GodT. Manton.James 1:17-18
Natural and Spiritual GoodT. Townson, D. D.James 1:17-18
No Variableness in GodW. G. Humphry, B. D.James 1:17-18
Prayer for LightC. H. Spurgeon.James 1:17-18
The Best Things are from ShoreH. Macmillan, D. D.James 1:17-18
The Changeless FatherC. F. Deems, D. D.James 1:17-18
The Divine BountyJames Aspinall, M. A.James 1:17-18
The Father of LightsC. F. Deems, D. D.James 1:17-18
The Father of LightsChristian AgeJames 1:17-18
The Father of LightsH. W. Beecher.James 1:17-18
The Unchangeableness of GodJ. Jortin, D. D.James 1:17-18
The Unchangeableness of GodAbp. Tillotson.James 1:17-18
The Unchanging GodH. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.James 1:17-18
The Work of God's SpiritCanon Kingsley.James 1:17-18
In this verse the apostle singles out for special mention the highest and best of all God's gifts to his people - that of regeneration. His argument is, that if God voluntarily breathes a new life into those who are spiritually dead, it is inconceivable that he should ever seduce to that which "bringeth forth death."

I. THE BEST OF ALL GIFTS. Regeneration is the summum bonum, being a gift which at once supplies man's deepest want, and satisfies all that is highest in his nature. The new birth is a necessity; for man comes into the world destitute of the principle of spiritual life. It is sad that so much of the fashionable literature of the day should ignore this, and represent natural virtue and amiability as everything in character. But regeneration is a fact; as every Christian knows, both from observation and from his own experience. It does not consist in reformation; it is a new "birth" - the re-creation of the whole soul after the Divine image, through the infusion of a new spiritual principle. It involves a new heart, a new self, a new character, a new life.

II. THE SOURCE OF THE GIFT. Where resides the power that can renew the soul? Not in a man himself; one's birth is not one's own act. It is "the Father of the lights" who performs the miracle of regeneration. Such a change can only be effected by his almighty power. To bestow this gift is the special office of God the Holy Ghost; we are "born of the Spirit." And what induces God to confer this invaluable blessing? He gives it "of his own will." He is not constrained to give it by fate. He is not moved by fitful impulse. He is not incited by any deservings on our part, for we have none. He is not even prevailed upon to regenerate, as the result of the work of Christ. The ultimate cause is simply "the good pleasure of his will." It is his nature to love, and bless, and bestow gifts of grace upon the undeserving. Man's will in union with his lust generates sin and death (ver. 15); but the will of "the Father of the lights" imparts new life to dead souls.

III. THE INSTRUMENT OF THE GIFT. "By the Word of truth;" i.e. the gospel of Jesus Christ - the doctrines of grace contained in the Scriptures. The gospel is in our hands as a definite "word," and one which is absolutely and divinely true. While the Holy Spirit is the Agent in regeneration, he employs the Word as the instrument. Although the Scriptures are charged with moral power, man's understanding is so blind, and his affections are so corrupt, that they could never by themselves impart life to any soul; but in the hand of the Spirit the doctrines of grace become "living and powerful." Thousands have been regenerated in connection with the private reading of the Bible, and hundreds of thousands as the result of public preaching. The Word is needed in regeneration as the means of calling forth the new thoughts and feelings, the new desires and resolves, of the new life. Only in connection with the apprehension of revealed truth can a man begin to believe the gospel, or love the Savior, or in any way "exercise himself unto godliness."

IV. THE PURPOSE OF THE GIFT. "That we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." These words refer to God's gracious purpose towards his people themselves. They suggest the dignity and honor which belong to the regenerate. The image is derived from those provisions of the Hebrew ceremonial law by which the firstfruits of the harvest, and the firstborn of man and beast, were dedicated to God. The consecration of the firstfruits asserted their own intrinsic value as Divine gifts; and it also symbolized and foreshadowed the consecration of the harvest that was to follow. Now, these Hebrew Christians of the dispersion were the precious "firstfruits," in the first century, of the entire world of the redeemed. Similarly, we in this age are the "firstfruits" in relation to the Church that is still future. Not only so, but the entire company of believers of all ages and of both worlds is "the Church of the Firstborn." They are all of them elect, precious, devoted to God. Every regenerate man is a pledge of the ultimate regeneration of the multitude which no man could number; as well as of "the restoration of all things," when the new creation of the world shall be accomplished, and Paradise be restored. In conclusion, have we the assurance that this incomparable gift is ours? Can we say, individually, "He begat us"? What a joy to know, from the marks of grace upon us, that "we have passed out of death into life"! - C.J.







Of His own will begat He us.
Let us consider —

I.THE AUTHOR:

II.THE NATURE:

III.THE INSTRUMENT: and

IV.THE END OF THE GREAT CHANGE.

I. WE HAVE GAINED THE SUMMIT OF THE MOUNTAIN OF TRUTH WHEN WE REACH GOD. What wonders, majesties, mysteries, lovelinesses centre in that name! He is the blessed and only Potentate on whom eternity and creation and redemption repose. How God as a sovereign works the salvation of a soul from the slavery and death of sin, in conformity with the laws of free agency and responsibility, may be incomprehensible to us; but surely there is nothing unreasonable in affirming that infinite perfection works out everything in the highest scale of moral excellence, and in accordance with the designs of Divine wisdom, justice and love, amid a world full of sinful but accountable creatures

III. IN FREE, RICH, AND SOVEREIGN GRACE, THEREFORE, THE LORD BEGETS US. And the outcome means life — spiritual, heavenly, Divine. It is not a mere polishing of the human spirit, or the giving of a right direction to its faculties only. The grandeur of the change is implied in such phrases as, being born of God; passing of death to life; a new creature; quickened with Christ from the death of sin; the washing of regeneration; and the new heart, out of which proceed thoughts, affections, principles, desires, and hopes — all new. The day of its occurrence is called a day of power; a time of refreshing; a springtime of grace. God draws and renews the soul in mercy and truth, and re-traces on it the lines of His own likeness in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. It must not be forgotten that a moral life, however estimable in the sight of men, is not acceptable with God unless it be the offspring of the new birth, By no means can a dead soul please a living God. The tree must be made good by the omnipotent workmanship of God, or the fruit will be apples of Sodom. The necessity of life from God is proved by such varieties of evidence as bespeak the greatness of the gift; and show at the same time the criminal nature and heinous guilt of unbelief. The perfect law of liberty demands a pure heart that loves God with all its strength and mind and soul. From every throne and crown of glory and harp of gold in heaven there flashes the demonstration that a sinful man must be born again before he can enter the gate of the golden city.

III. "THE WORD OF TRUTH" IS THE INSTRUMENT OF CONVERSION. Truth is God at work on a human spirit, for its rectification and investiture with His own perfection and beatitude. The gospel derives its power from the image of God which it mirrors forth; from the knowledge of sin and wrath which it communicates; from its professed design to set forth the propitiation and grace of the Lord Jesus, to make men partakers of the Holy Ghost, of God's righteousness, and the sunshine of His favour. More glorious than the law, and revealing life and immortality, it moulds men into saints, and constrains them to love and obedience. The gospel is all grace. Invented by God to communicate this blessedness and glory, its excellency is infinite. It civilises, it moralises, it converts. It is the glory of Jehovah that He gave the gospel; of any people, that they possess it; of a soul, that its unsearchable riches are his own; of heaven, that it is the field where its wealth and its wonders shall be displayed; of eternity, that it alone can contain all its magnificence.

IV. THE DESIGN OF GOD IN REGENERATION IS TO MAKE US "A KIND OF FIRSTFRUITS OF HIS CREATURES." The incomparable excellence of the new life is seen in the formation of holy character in the sense of duty, which is power. Believers feel themselves to be the property of the great High Priest who bought them; in everything they are desirous to please Him. Under the imperishable principles of the living Word, they are shaped after the Divine likeness in bliss, purity, and moral greatness. It was a law in Israel that the "first fruits" should be offered to God; and preceded by an oblation for sin, they were accepted by God in worship as a grateful acknowledgment that the riches of the harvest and the beauties of spring and the products of the vegetable and animal kingdom are His. And so it is that ransomed souls in whom the Divine life is, are claimed by God; and, devoted to Him, are, through the expiatory sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, most acceptable in His sight. I have redeemed them, and "they are Mine": I have made a covenant with them, and they are Mine: and they shall be Mine "in the day when I make up My jewels." Furthermore, "the firstfruits," ripened by sun, earth, and air, have the beauty of maturity in their fulness and bloom, and were thus an appropriate offering to Infinite perfection. In the mode in which they were offered we are taught the duty and the privilege of all living souls to dedicate themselves to God in faith, fear and joy. For there is great dignity and excellence about the righteous man. He has better principles than others; a better heart; better affections; better dispositions; and better prospects. He is a son of God; one with Christ; righteous in the Just One; a peculiar treasure to the Majesty of Heaven; a king divinely born; and oh! wonderful, partaker of the Divine nature by grace, and destined to be filled with the fulness of God! The sons begotten of God are the firstfruits of His creatures. That is, the regenerated of the human family are the promise and the seal of the great and glorious change that awaits creation.

(W. Magill, D. D.)

1. That which engaged God to the work of regeneration was merely His own will and good pleasure (Romans 9:18). God's will is the reason of all His actions; you will find the highest cause to be will, love, and mercy. God can have no higher motive, nothing without Himself, no foresight of faith and works, He was merely inclined by His own pleasure (John 15:16). This is applicable divers ways.(1) To stir us up to admire the mercy of God, that nothing should dispose His heart but His own will; the same will that begat us, passed by others: whom He will He sayeth, and whom He will He hardeneth.(2) It informeth us the reason why, in the work of regeneration, God acteth with such liberty: God acteth according to His pleasure; the Holy One of Israel must not be limited and confined to our thoughts (John 3:8).

2. The calling of a soul to God is, as it were, a new begetting and regeneration. This is useful —(1) To show us the horrible depravity of our nature; repairing would not serve the turn, but God must new make and new create us, and beget us again.(2) To show us that we are merely passive in our conversion: it is a begetting, and we contribute nothing to our own forming (Psalm 100:4).(3) It showeth us two properties of conversion.(a) There will be life. A man cannot have interest in Christ, but he will receive life from Him.(b) There will be a change. At the first God bringeth in the holy frame, all the seeds of grace; and therefore there will be a change: of profane, carnal, careless hearts, they are made spiritual, heavenly, holy (Ephesians 5:8).

3. It is the proper work of God to begetus: "He begat." It is sometimes ascribed to God the Father, as here, and so, in other places, to God the Son: believers are "His seed." (Isaiah 53:10). Sometimes to the Spirit (John 3:6). God the Father's will: "Of His own will begat He us." God the Son's merit: through His obedience we have "the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:5). God. the Spirit's efficacy: by His overshadowing the soul is the new creature hatched and brought forth. It is ascribed to all the three Persons together in one place (Titus 3:5, 6). It is true, the ministers of the gospel are said to beget, but it is as they are instruments in God's hands. So Paul saith, "I begat you" (1 Corinthians 4:15); and of Onesimus he saith, "Whom I begat in my bonds" (Philemon 1:10). God loveth to put His own honour many times upon the instruments. Well, then —(1) Remove false causes. You cannot beget yourselves, that were monstrous; you must look up above self, and above means, to God, who must form you after His own image.(2) It showeth what an honourable relation we are invested with by the new birth. He begat us. God is our Father; that engageth His love, and care, and everything that can be dear and refreshing to the creature.

4. The ordinary means whereby God begetteth us is the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Peter 1:23). The influences of the heavens make fruitful seasons, but yet ploughing is necessary. It is one of the sophisms of this age to urge the Spirit's efficacy as a plea for the neglect of the means.

5. The gospel is a word of truth; so it is called, not only in this, but in divers other places (2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 1:12; Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15). You may constantly observe that in matters evangelical the Scriptures speak with the greatest certainty; the comfort of them is so rich, and the way of them is so wonderful, that there we are apt to doubt most, and therefore there do the Scriptures give us the more solemn assurance (1 Timothy 1:15).

(T. Manton.)

I. THE NEW CREATION. By necessity of birth the state of every infant is guilty, and, therefore, subject to con-detonation. Original sin rests on its head, and subjects it to the penalties of death; so that in law it stands as a criminal convicted, and, therefore, incapable of heavenly privileges. But by the laver of baptism made a recipient of heavenly prerogatives, and thus far innocent in the sight of God, it is capable of receiving those spiritual privileges, which are Divinely ordered to flow from this source. It becomes incorporated into the Church, and, consequently, a member of Christ; whence proceeds its adoption as a son, and its title to an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. And not only so, but a principle of new life is infused into him. His very nature is changed. In understanding, will, affections, and conscience, he is altogether different.

II. THE ORIGINAL CAUSE OF REGENERATION. Creation is a prerogative solely vested in God. No finite being possesses it. Man is incapable of changing his own state and nature; as incapable of effecting his own regeneration as of bringing himself originally into being. St. John speaks of the regenerated as "born of God"; St. Paul as "partakers of the Divine nature"; and again, as being "His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works."

III. THE IMPULSIVE OR MOVING CAUSE OF REGENERATION — the will of God The original expression signifies, not "will" merely, but "good will"; that is, a decree of the mind caused by His grace in behalf of fallen men. Man's regeneration could not proceed from any advantages accruing to God; for the salvation of a thousand worlds could not add to His happiness, nor their destruction detract from His felicity.

IV. THE INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE OF REGENERATION. AS God in His providence always works His pleasure by instruments, so it is in the kingdom of grace; and that which there effects His purposes is the gospel or "Word of truth." By a single expression of His will He might convert the millions that are on earth; but He prefers treating them as reasonable beings with a moral agency, and using means to make them workers together with Him in their own regeneration. And the means He adopts is "truth," Divine truth, as expressed in the gospel of His Son, and as set forth in the means of grace flowing through His Church. How these effect their purpose, the mode of their operation, is a mystery hidden in the secrets of God. He has drawn a veil as ranch over His mode of re-creation, as over the philosophy of His own essence, and the original principle of things animate or inanimate. But thus much we do know — that, though He can beget without the Word, the Word cannot beget without Him. It is as seed, which the dew and sun of heaven must act upon, or it will never yield a grain to the will of the sower.

V. THE FINAL CAUSE OF REGENERATION — dedication to God. Christians are "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures," the spiritual antitypes, whereof the law-type of the first-fruits was a figure.

1. For, first, they have been redeemed from a bondage worse than that of Egypt. They have been "bought with a price," and hence are no longer "their own, but His who redeemed them." They answer, then, the character of first-fruits in the object of the oblation, being God's by right of purchase and possession.

2. Hence, also, like the first-fruits, they are separated from the rest of their kind. They differ from the unchristian world in nature, in maxims and principles, in spirit and temper, in company and conduct.

(John Budgen, M. A.)

Here is a splendid specimen of God's good gifts, in that He has given us eternal life through His Son Jesus. This life is the climax of Divine goodness, as death, the child of sin, is the climax of human badness. It was free. It came by no law, it was produced by no necessity, it was the product of no natural evolution, it arose from His own goodness and lovingness. He emphasises "us" in addressing Hebrew Christians. They were originally chosen by His Divine goodness to be the repository of the oracles of God, the ark, so to speak, which should bear the truth of God down the stream of the centuries. When the fulness of time had come, and Jesus inaugurated the ripened plans for the world's salvation, those Israelites who earliest became Christians had the distinction of being a kind of first-fruits of all God's creatures. Christianity had completed to them the revelation that under God the highest beings are men, that humanity is to take the lead of the universe, that men are superior to angels, and men are to live for ever, and are to lead and govern and teach the intelligences of the universe, that those individuals of humanity who are to do this are those who receive eternal life through Jesus Christ, and that the first, as the first-fruits of an abundant harvest, are those Jews who were early in Christ, having been begotten by the Word of truth.

(C. F. Deems, D. D.)

Every real Christian upon earth has been twice begotten — twice born. First, he was born naturally, and he became a man; then he was born spiritually, and he became a new man. His first birth is to be calculated by his age — his second birth by the length of time that he has been living unto God. This second birth is, on various accounts, a far more excellent one than the first, and is attended with privileges of an infinitely higher order and degree.

I. First, our text points out the AUTHOR of this second birth. "He begat us," it says — and of whom does it speak thus? He, then, and He alone, is the Author of the second birth — the Father of the spiritual life of the regenerated soul.

II. His MOTIVE. None of those men to whom He hath given a new birth could be said to deserve to be new born. What, then, determined God to make them new creatures?" Of His own will begat He us." And so say a multitude of other texts (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 9:18; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).

III. THE MEANS WINCH HE EMPLOYED. We have seen why His people were begotten. Let us now see how — "How," at least, in reference to the outward instrument made use of. For who can tell how the process is carried on within? We do, however, know the outward instrument and means which it pleases God to make use of. It is "the Word of truth." And what is this "Word of truth"? The blessed gospel, either as it is written or preached. This, says St. James, is the instrument of man's conversion.

IV. THE END WHICH HE PROPOSED. "That we should be," says he, "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures."

(A. Roberts, M. A.)

Malan asked a joiner, who said he wished to render himself worthy of the grace of God, whether he had ever succeeded by careful polishing, in turning a piece of common wood into ebony.

(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

A man has bought a farm, and he finds on that farm an old pump. He goes to the pump and begins to pump. And a person comes to him and says, "Look here, my friend, you do not want to use that water. The man that lived here before, he used that water, and it poisoned him and his wife and his children — the water did." "Is that so?" says the man. "Well, I will soon make that right. I will find a remedy." And he goes and gets some paint, and he paints up the pump, putties up all the holes, and fills up the cracks in it, and has got a fine-looking pump. And he says, "Now I am sure it is all right." You would say, "What a Joel, to go and paint the pump when the water is bad!" But that is what sinners are up to. They are trying to paint up the old pump when the water is bad. It was a new well he wanted. When he dug a new well it was all right. Make the fountain good, and the stream will be good. Instead of painting the pump and making new resolutions, my friend, stop it, and ask God to give you a new heart.

(D. L. Moody.)

With the Word of truth.
Of His own will; by His mere molten, induced by no cause but the goodness in His own breast.

1. To distinguish it from the generation of the Son, which is natural, this voluntary.

2. Not by a necessity of nature, but by an arbitrariness of grace.

3. Not by any obligation from the creature; the will of God is opposed to the merit of man. "Begat us," or brought us forth; for the same word (ver. 15) is translated "brings forth." "By the Word of truth," a title given to the gospel both in the Old and New Testament.And it is called truth by way of excellency, as paramount to all other truth.

1. Either, by an Hebraism, the word of truth; that is, the true word.

2. Or rather, by way of eminency, as containing a higher truth, more excellent in itself, more advantageous for the creature, than any other Divine truth; wherein the highest glory of God, the sure and everlasting happiness of the creature, is set forth; a word which He hath "magnified above all His name" (Psalm 138:2).And called the Word of truth.

1. In regard of the Author, truth itself; and the Publisher, He who was "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

2. In opposition to all false doctrines, which can never be the instruments of conversion; for error to convert to truth is the same thing as for darkness to diffuse light, or water to kindle fire.

3. In opposition to the windy and fleshy conceits of men, which can no more be instrumental in the begetting a Christian than mere wind can beget a man.

4. In opposition to the legal shadows, the gospel declares the truth of these types. The law was the word of truth, but referred to the gospel as the great end of it. This contains the whole and ultimate purpose of God, for saving men by Jesus Christ, and in Him enriching them with all spiritual blessings, and not by the works of the law; and thus the Spirit, which enlightens and seals instruction upon our souls, is called "the Spirit of truth" 1 John 14:17.

I. FOR EXPLICATION, TAKE SOME PROPOSITIONS.

1. It is not the law that is this instrument. It is true, the law considered in itself is preparatory to cast men down; but the law without the gospel never brought any man to Christ.

2. The gospel is this instrument. It is an instrument to strike off the fetters, and draw out the soul to a glorious liberty.(1) It is not a natural instrument, to work by any natural efficacy, as food doth nourish, the sun shines, or the air and water cools, or as a sharp knife cuts if it be applied to fit matter. If it were thus natural, it would not be of grace.(2) It is the only instrument appointed by God to this end in an ordinary way.(3) It is, therefore, a necessary instrument. In regard of the reasonable creature there must be some declaration. God doth not ordinarily work but by means, and doth not produce anything without them which may be done with them. It is necessary the revelation of this gospel we have should be made. No man can see that which is not visible, or hear that which has no sound, or know that which is not declared. This necessity will further appear, if we consider that it always was so. Adam and Eve were the first after the Fall wherein God did constitute His Church, whose regeneration and conversion were wrought by that promise of the seed of the woman made to them in Paradise (Genesis 3:21). It seems to be the standing instrument of it to the end of the world (Psalm 68:18, compared with Ephesians 4:8, 9). It is necessary, by God's appointment, for all the degrees of the new birth, and all the appendixes to it. As God created the world by the Word of His power, and by the Word of His providence bid the creatures increase and multiply, so by the Word of the gospel He lays the foundation, and rears the building of His spiritual house. As it is not a natural instrument, but the only instrument appointed by God, and therefore, upon these and other accounts, a necessary instrument, so it is an instrument which makes mightily for God's glory. The meaner the appearance of the instrument, the more evident the power and skill of the workman. Consider, as it is an instrument, so but an instrument. God begets by the Word; the chief operation depends upon the Spirit of God. No sword can cut without a hand to manage it; no engine batter without a force to drive it.

II. How DOTH THE WORD WORK?

1. Objectively, as it is a declaration of God's will, as it doth propose to the understanding what it is to be known, in order to salvation. The Spirit gave us an eye to see, and the Word is the light which discovers the object to the eye. The two chief parts of the Word are —(1) The discovery of our misery by nature.(2) A second discovery is of the necessity and existence of another bottom. It discovers our misery by nature, and our remedy by Christ.

2. The Word seems to have an active force upon the will, though the manner of it be very hard to conceive. It is operative in the hand of God for sanctification.

III. THE USE.

1. How admirable, then, is the power of the gospel! It is a quickening Word, not a dead; a powerful Word, not a weak (Hebrews 4:12).(1) It is above the power of all moral philosophy. How excellent is that gospel which hath done that for the renewing of millions of souls, which all the wit and wisdom of the choicest philosophers could never effect upon one heart!(2) Above the power of the law. The natural law makes us serve God by reason, the Mosaical by fear, and the gospel by love.(3) Its power appears in the subjects it hath been instrumental to change. Souls bemired in the filthiest lusts have been made miraculously clean; it hath changed the hands of rapine into instruments of charity, hearts full of filth into vessels of purity; it hath brought down proud reason to the obedience of faith, and made active lusts to die at the foot of the Cross.(4) The power of it is seen in the suddenness of its operation. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, like the change at the last resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52).(5) And this hath been done many times by one part, one particle of the Word. One word of the gospel, a single sentence, hath erected a heavenly trophy in a soul, which all the volumes of the choicest mere reason could never erect; one plain Scripture hath turned a face to heaven that never looked that way before, and made a man fix his eye there against his carnal interest.(6) And this power appears in the simplicity of it. The gospel is, then, certainly of Divine authority. It shows us the reason why the gospel is so much opposed by Satan in the world. It begets those for heaven whom he had begotten for bell. We see, then, how injurious they are to God, who would obstruct the progress of the gospel in the world, that would hinder the reading and the preaching of the Word. It informs us that the gospel shall then endure in the world, as long as God hath any to beget. Men may puff at it, but they cannot extinguish it; it is a Word of truth, and truth is mighty, and will prevail. It is a sign, then, God hath some to beget, when He brings His gospel to any place. He hath a pleasure to accomplish, and it shall not return unto Him void. It informs us what an excellent thing is new birth! The end is more desirable than the means; this is the chief end of all the ordinances of God in the world. What a lamentable thing is it that so few should be now begotten by the Word of truth! Hereby you may examine whether you are new begotten. It instructs ministers how to preach. The opening the Word is the life of it, and the true means of regeneration. Highly glorify God for the Word of truth, which is so great an instrument. How thankful should we be for an invention, to secure our estates from consuming, houses from burning, bodies from dying! The gospel, the Word of truth, doth much more than this. Bless God in your hearts —

1. That ever you had the Word of truth made known to you.

2. Much more that it has been successful to any of you. Glorify God in your lives. As you feel the power of it in your hearts, let others see the brightness and efficacy of it in your actions. Prize the Word of truth, which works such great effects in the soul. Value that as long as you live, which is the cord whereby God hath drawn any of you out of the dungeon of death. Pray and endeavour for the preservation and success of the Word of truth. Were there a medicine that could preserve life, how chary should we be in preserving that? The gospel is the tree whose leaves cure the nations (Revelation 22:2). Wait upon God in the Word. Where there is a revelation on God's part, there must be a hearing on ours. Sit down, therefore, at the feet of God, and receive of His words (Deuteronomy 33:3).

(S. Charnock, B. D.)

I. Consider THE WORK OF GOD'S GRACE AMONG MEN IN ITS ORIGIN, This is ascribed to the absolute will of God. Has He not a right to do what He will with His own? and are not all things His own? Is He not absolute, uncontrolled, and sovereign, upholding all things at every moment, managing all creatures infallibly, from the hosts of angels that surround His throne down to the smallest particle of inanimate matter? Men talk of "the laws of nature," and if it be rightly understood, we need not object to that phrase. But let it be rightly understood. There can be no laws without a law-maker; there can be no administration of laws without a constant, living executive. Uniform, indeed, they are, but that arises from His perfection. The first time that God did anything He did it in the best way: He would not do it worse, and He could not do it better; therefore He always does it in the best way. These agencies are, then, to be depended on as regards uniformity. But they are not less the agencies of a living, present, acting Being. So it is also in the affairs of men. Men are as thoroughly under His power as matter, though not in the same way. It were to limit His power to say that He can only manage matter and must leave mind to itself. He manages mind in all its liberty as infallibly as He does matter in all its inertness. And so is it, too, in the smaller matters of private life. Health, sickness, wealth, poverty, happy homes or bitter afflictions, these are all under the sovereign arrangement of God, and according to "His own will." So, again, in the matter referred to in the text — the changing of the minds and hearts of fallen men — one is taken, and another left, according to God's will. "Many are called, and few are chosen": "of His own free Will." Is there danger in this high truth? Undoubtedly. There is danger to fallen man in every truth, arising not from the truth itself, but from the perverseness with which it is treated. Man, living to himself, either neglects or abuses truth, so that it becomes "a savour or death unto death." To say, then, that there is danger in truth, is to say nothing against the truth. Is there difficulty connected with the truth of which I have been speaking? Undoubtedly there is. Why should there not be? Does it reveal anything of God? Then it inevitably involves a difficulty. With a finite understanding either there must be absolute ignorance of God, or difficulty must be involved where the understanding fails. The slightest glimpse of God involves man in a horizon of knowledge. The extent of the horizon may vary a little between man and man; but to the highest created intellect there must still be a horizon, and in the horizon difficulty; and if that which presents the difficulty now were cleared away by some greater truth being exhibited at a greater distance, that new revelation would but occupy the place of the present one, and still leave a horizon to created intellect to all eternity. We do not pretend, then, to divest the truth of difficulty, in asking man to submit his intellect, as well as his will, to the majesty of God. Is there practical perplexity in the truth before us? Yes, there is, through the perverseness of man, who is ready to take advantage of any imaginary excuse for himself, and to throw the blame of his own sin upon God's sovereignty. But "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: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." There is the pedigree of everlasting death, which man is charged with bringing upon himself. But does it follow, that as man is the author of this evil, he may originate good? "Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of His own will begat He us." It is thus, then, that the apostle treats this subject. He declares, but explains not.

II. Consider THE NATURE OF IT. "Begat He us." The phrase is figurative, and the figure is very expressive. It describes a great moral change; a change as complete as that which takes place physically in the state of an infant between the period before and the period after its birth. All things have become new. The element in which it lives is new; the mode in which life is communicated is new. There is a direct exercise of God's power upon the man's spirit, an immediate agency of the Holy Ghost operating on his mind. Therefore it is that we say "you must be born again." "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." Man propagates his likeness, but man born again is brought into the likeness of God. It is not the effect of moral suasion or education, or of outward circumstances; it is not produced by the fear of consequences, or by the love of approbation amongst men, or by any of the thousand motives which actuate men in society, but it is wrought by the immediate agency of God upon the spirit of man, without which no man of the race of Adam can be pure or happy. We are all so thoroughly estranged from Him, so thoroughly taken up with creatures to the practical neglect of Him, and when we are compelled to think of Him we think of Him so unworthily and so selfishly, that without this change no man living can have worthy notions of God, or be happy even if admitted into His presence. Now how simply this accounts for the facts of the case as discovered when you look around you in the world i The unconverted men of this world are, as touching God and the things of God, like a man in a deep sleep as touching the things of the world around him. Imagine a man in a deep sleep; dreaming, possibly speaking in his dream; attentive to the visions of the mind on his bed, but quite unconscious of all that is going on around him. His house takes fire, but he knows nothing of it; he is asleep. The fire gains upon a part of the house which is distant from him; some of his children, perhaps, are burnt; but he knows nothing of it, he is still asleep. The fire approaches his own chamber; his wife, lying by his side, convulsed with terror, expires from suffocation; still he is asleep. The fire, however, at length reaches his own person. Now the spell is broken! he starts into sudden consciousness of what has been taking place. But it is too late: the house, the room, the bed, all are gone, and he sinks amid the ruin. Here is a history, in very few words, of the mass of mankind, as touching the things of God. They are dreaming busily of the affairs of this world; money, pleasure, ambition — these are the visions of their minds, and in the affairs of God they feel no more concern than the sleeping man in the state of his house. The hand of God is stretched out. Some of their enjoyments are cut off; some of their friends taken from them: their children are, it may be, snatched away and laid in an early grave, or a wife removed from their sight. Still the unconverted man dreams on, and he continues dreaming, until the Word of God touches himself. Then it is too late, and he sinks into a ruined eternity. Now this sounds very sad, but it is common, and in the course of the world there is nothing peculiar about it. It is, in a few words, I repeat, the history of the mass of mankind, the mass of the community around. I could not add truly the majority of yourselves; yet I cannot doubt that there are many in this congregation who are still in that position, and to whom God is saying, "Arise, ye that sleep; awake, and Christ shall give you light." You must be born again, or else be ruined. I know that it is of God's sovereign will that the new birth is brought about; but He constantly uses means, and I am now using the means which He has appointed for this end, namely, the Word of truth.

III. THE INSTRUMENT BY WHICH THIS GREAT CHANGE IS PRODUCED IN MAN. It is wrought, not by any charm, but by the secret power of God, using a suitable instrument for the purpose. "The Word of truth" is God's instrument. "Hear," says the prophet, "and your souls shall live." "Faith," says the apostle, "cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." The work, in virtue of which this change takes place — the work of Christ — is done. All that was necessary has been done; the Word of God proclaims it as done. And the Word of God further addresses itself to man as requiring this finished work. It addresses itself to him in the condition in which he is found as a fallen creature. It comes to him with light for his understanding, and with love for his affections. These are precisely what he requires; light in his understanding to rescue him from false estimates of things, love in his heart to deliver him from idolatry — the idolatry of creatures. Thus we discover the suitability of the instrument provided by God. Man's understanding is so darkened that he is constantly making false estimates. One grand item is constantly left out of his calculations; and you know that if any item be improperly left out of a calculation, the result must inevitably be erroneous. The grand item which is omitted in all the calculations of man is eternity. He makes calculations in which are included the things of this world only. I do not say that he takes into account only the brief space during which he himself will be in the world. Many worldly men have a posthumous ambition, and desire to benefit society, present and future. Still their views are confined to this world, and the things of this world, either in the present generation or in the persons of children and children's children. Improvement in political and social institutions, advances in civilisation, and the amelioration of the condition of the various classes of society, occupy man's attention; and his calculations, so far as these things are concerned, are often most accurate and valuable. Still the grand item is omitted. When society shall be reaping the benefit of such designs, in the persons of children and children's children, the fathers and the grandfathers, where are they? Eternity was not in their plans. They planned for the advantage of posterity, and posterity have obtained the benefit. But they planned nothing for their own salvation; and where are they? What did they value most? Let their history speak.

IV. After having stated the origin, nature and instrument of this work in the Church of God, the apostle adds a few words descriptive of THE PRESENT POSITION OF THE CHURCH RELATIVELY TO THE REST OF THE WORLD" "That we should be," he says, "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures." The creation is described in Scripture as in a groaning state. Man himself is described as "waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." It is for the resurrection of the Church that the world is waiting and must wait. No scheme of man can regenerate, because no scheme of man can get rid of sin; no superstructure can stand which has sin at the foundation. The present state of things was intended to take people out of mankind — "a kind of first-fruits." Why is it said, "a kind of first-fruits?" Because the parallel is not exact. Christ is the first-fruits of the Church. The Church, as the first objects of His care, are to be brought to see what He is. "We shall be like Him when we see Him as He is." As the harvest is like the first sheaf, so shall the Church be like Christ.

(H. McNeile, D. D.)

I. To come to THE EXCELLENCY OF THE WORD, WHICH IS THE MEANS OF OUR REGENERATION, the apostle setteth down the other causes thereof also, so that in ver. 18 there are three causes of our regeneration the most apparent testimony of the goodness of God towards man.

1. The efficient.

2. The instrument.

3. The final cause.

1. The good will of God, the gracious favour and free purpose of God, is the first and efficient cause of salvation and regeneration in men.

2. The instrumental cause and means whereby we are regenerate is the Word of God, which St. James expresseth in this place.(1) In respect of God, the Word and gospel is the Word of truth, because it is God's Word and gospel, who cannot lie, therefore His Word is, then, the Word of truth.(2) As in respect of God, the Author thereof, the gospel may rightly be called the Word of truth, so in respect of Christ, who is the Matter, the very Subject whereof the gospel entreateth, it is the Word of truth, for it entreateth of Christ, and Christ is Truth itself, therefore is the gospel the Word of truth.(3) Moreover, this Word is inspired from the Spirit.(4) In respect that every particular thing in the gospel contained is true, therefore it is also the Word of truth. Whatsoever is there mentioned is most true. This is the seed of the new birth, from hence our new birth and regeneration ariseth. Whereof St. Paul speaking, testifieth to the Corinthians that he had begotten them through the gospel. If the gospel of Christ be the Word of truth, why do we not believe it? If it be the instrument of our regeneration, why do we not honourably embrace it? If thereby God hath begotten us again, why are we in any wise so careless of it; we come not to the hearing of this Word of truth? But either we talk out at table, or walk out abroad, or sleep out at home, or play out with company, or spend out in vain exercise, or contrive out with dalliance, or pass out by evil means, that time which is appointed for the preaching and hearing of the Word.

3. The final cause of our regeneration is that we should be the first-fruits of His creatures; that is, that out of the whole mass of mankind and kindreds of the earth, we might be select, culled and chosen out, to be a peculiar people unto Him, whose portion and lot, whose inheritance and peculiar people the saints are.

II. The Word of God being then so excellent, THE APOSTLE REMOVETH SUCH THINGS AS HINDER THE ATTENDING THEREUNTO; and the things which greatly hinder the Word are two:

1. Babbling and talking when we should hear with attentive and deep silence

2. Anger, when we are taught and reformed by the Word. Thus by the affections and perturbations of our minds, we oftentimes make the Word of God fruitless in us, and so to lose, not only the blessed effect it would work in us, but also, in a manner, the credit which it should have among men whereunto (were we the servants and true disciples of Christ) we would yield all attentive audience.

(R. Turnbull.)

The glory of a religion lieth in three things — the excellency of rewards, the purity of precepts, and the sureness of principles of trust. Now examine the gospel by these things, and see if it can be matched elsewhere.

1. The excellency of rewards.

2. Purity of precepts. That God's children are His first-fruits.The Word hinteth two things.

1. It noteth the dignity of the people of God in two regards —(1) One is, they are "the Lord's portion," His "peculiar people" (Titus 2:14), the treasure people, the people God looked after. The world are His goods, but you His treasure.(2) That they are the considerable part of the world. The first-fruits were offered for the blessing of all the rest (Proverbs 3:10).

2. It hinteth duty; as —(1) Thankfulness in all their lives. First-fruits were dedicated to God in token of thankfulness. You, that are the first-fruits of God, should, in a sense of His mercy, live the life of love and praise.(2) It noteth holiness. The first-fruits were holy unto the Lord. God's portion must be holy. God can brook no unclean thing. Sins in you are far more irksome and grievous to His Spirit than in others.(3) It noteth consecration. You are dedicated things, and they must not be alienated; your time, parts, strength, and concernments, all is the Lord's; you cannot dispose of them as you please, but as it may make for the Lord's glory; you are not first-fruits when you "seek your own things."

(T. Manton.)

First-fruits of His creatures.
According to the Levitical ceremonial, the first sheaf of the new crop, accompanied with sacrifice, was presented in the temple on the day after the Passover Sabbath. No part of the harvest was permitted to be used for food until after this acknowledgment that all had come from God. A similar law applied to the first-born of men and of cattle. Both were regarded as in a special sense consecrated to and belonging to God. Now, in the New Testament, both these ideas of "the first-born" and "the first-fruits," are transferred to Jesus Christ. In His case the ideas attached to the expression are not only that of consecration, but that of being the first of a series, which owes its existence to Him. That which Jesus Christ is, primarily and originally, all those who love Him and trust Him are secondarily and by derivation from Himself.

I. GOD'S PURPOSE FOR CHRISTIANS IS THAT THEY SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO HIM. Man's natural tendency is to make himself his own centre, to live for self and by self. And the whole purpose of the gospel is to decentralise him and to give him a new centre, even God, for whom, and by whom, and with whom, and in whom the Christian man is destined, by his very calling, to live. Now, how can an inward devotion and consecration of myself be possible? Only by one way, and that is by the way of love that delights to give. Consecration means self-surrender; and the fortress of self is in the will, and the way of self-surrender is the flowery path of love. To take the metaphor of Scripture, the consecration which we owe to God, and which is His design in all His dealings with us in the gospel, will be like that of a priestly offering of sacrifice, and the sacrifice is ourselves. So much for the inward; what about the outward? All capacities, opportunities, possessions, are to be yielded up to Him as utterly as Christ has yielded Himself to us. We are to live for Him and work for Him; and set, as our prime object, conspicuously and constantly before us, and to be reached towards through all the trivialities of daily duty, and the common-places of recurring tasks, the one thing, to glorify God and to please Him. Now, remember, such consecration is salvation. For the opposite thing, the living to self, is damnation and hell and destruction. And whosoever is thus consecrated to God is in process of being saved. That consecration is blessedness. There is no joy of which a human spirit is capable that is as lofty, as rare and exquisite, as sweet and lasting, as the joy of giving itself away to Him that has given Himself for us. Such consecration, which is the root of all blessedness, and the true way of entering into the possession of all possessions, is only possible in the degree in which we subject ourselves to the influence of these mighty acts which God has done in order to secure it. "He gave Himself for us that He might purchase for Himself a people for His possession." My surrender is but the echo of the thunder of His; my surrender is but the flash on the polished mirror which gives back the sunbeam that smites it. We yield ourselves to God, when we realise that Christ has given Himself for us.

II. GOD'S PURPOSE FOR CHRISTIANS IS THAT THEY SHOULD BE SPECIMENS AND BEGINNINGS OF A GREAT HARVEST. The sheaf that was carried into the temple showed what sun and rain and the sweet skyey influences had been able to do on a foot or two of ground, and it prophesied of the acres of golden grain that would one day be garnered in the barns. And so, Christian men and women to-day, and even more eminently at that time when this letter was written, are meant to be the first small example of a great harvest that is to follow. If Christianity has been able to take one man, pick him out of the mud and the mire of sense and self, and turn him into a partially and increasingly consecrated servant of God, it can do that for anybody. "We have all of us one human heart." Whatever may be man's idiosyncrasies or diversities of culture, of character, of condition, of climate, of chronology, they have all the same deep primary wants, and the deepest of them all is concord and fellowship with God. And the path to that is by faith in His dear Son, who has given Himself for us. What a harvest is dimly hinted at in these words of my text; the "first-fruits of His creatures." That goes even wider than humanity, and stretches away out into the dim distances, concerning which we can speak with but bated breath; but at least it seems to suggest to us that, in accordance with other teaching of the New Testament, "the whole creation" which "groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now," will, somehow or other, be brought into the liberty and the glory of the children of God, and, as humble waiters and attenders upon the kings who are the priests of the Most High, will participate in the power of the redemption. At all events, there gleam dimly through such words as my text, the great prospects of a redeemed humanity, of a renewed earth, of a sinless universe, in which God in Christ shall be all in all.

III. GOD'S PURPOSE FOR CHRISTIANS IS THAT THEY SHOULD HELP THE HARVEST. That does not lie in the Levitical ceremonial of the sheaf of the first-fruits, of course. Though even there, I may remind you, that the thing presented on the altar carried in itself the possibilities of future growth, and that the wheaten ear has not only "bread for the eater, but seed for the sower," and is the parent of another harvest. But the idea that the first-fruits are not merely first in a series, but that they originate the series of which they are the first, lies in the transference of the terms and the ideas to Jesus Christ; for when He is called "the first-fruits of them that slept," it is implied that He, by His power, will wake the whole multitude of the sleepers; and when it speaks of Him as "the first-born among many brethren," it is implied that He, by the communication of His life, will give life, and a fraternal life, to the many brethren who will follow Him. And so, in like manner, God's purpose in making us "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures," is not merely our consecration and the exhibition of a specimen of His power, and the pledge and prophecy of the harvest, but it is that from us there shall come influences which shall realise the harvest of which our own Christianity is the pledge and prophecy. What do you get Christ for? To feed upon Him? Yes! But to carry the bread to all the hungry as well. Do not say you cannot. You can talk about anything that interests you. And are your lips to be always closed about Him who have given Himself for you? Do not say that you need special gifts for it. Any man and any woman that has Christ in his or her heart can go to another and say, "We have found the Messiah"; and that is the best thing to say. You ought to preach Him. To have anything in this world of needy men who are all knit together in the solidarity of one family — to have anything implies that you impart it. The corn laid up in storehouses gets gnawed by rats, and marred by weevils. If you want it to be healthy, and you own possession of it to increase, put it into your seed-basket; and "in the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand," and it will come back to thee, "seed for the sower and bread for the eater."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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