James 1:19
The Word of truth being within our reach, as the means of conveying to us the great gift of regeneration, it is most important that we cultivate those dispositions which are most favorable to the realization of its saving power. These three verses accordingly contain four counsels, each of which touches a deeper part of our nature than the one preceding. If we would rightly "receive" the Word, we must have -

I. A QUICK EAR. "Swift to hear." This precept refers to the acquisition of religious knowledge, whether in connection with reading or hearing. We should be careful as to the entire matter of our reading, making the staple of it not fugitive literature, far less frivolous books, but such as are solid and improving. For directly spiritual instruction we should go seldomer to books about the Bible, and oftener straight to the Word of God itself, that we may hear him speaking in it. We should also be "swift to hear" the oral proclamation of the gospel. "Belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). His word appeals to the heart more powerfully when spoken by a living earnest man, than when it is read even from the written page of Scripture. We should, therefore, embrace every opportunity of hearing in the sanctuary, and be attentive and teachable, and follow up our hearing with reflection and obedience.

II. A CAUTIOUS TONGUE. "Slow to speak." This exhortation naturally follows the preceding, for the man who is exceedingly fond of hearing himself speak will never be a ready listener. The precept is good for common use in the conduct of our life; but its specific reference in this passage is to caution in the declaration of "the Word of truth." While we are under a sacred obligation to "exhort one another day by day" (Hebrews 3:13), and to "speak often one to another" (Malachi 3:16), we are to be "slow to speak" in the sense of weighing well our words, and of realizing the responsibility which attaches to them. Ministers should preach only what they have carefully thought out; and they should beware of publishing crude speculations on theological subjects. It is right, too, that candidates for the ministry should be required to undergo a lengthened curriculum of training before they are entrusted with the continuous instruction of a congregation (James 3:1, 2; 1 Timothy 3:6).

III. A CALM TEMPER. "Slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (vers. 19, 20). Much speaking tempts to passionate speaking; every one knows what is meant by "the heat of debate." At all times we ought to be "slow to wrath:" to cultivate such a spirit is an important part of the imitation of God. But we should particularly guard against irritation of temper at Church-meetings, and in conversation or conference upon religious subjects. The clergyman must labor to avoid the odium theologicum. The preacher must threaten and warn only in love and tenderness. The hearer must not listen in a captious spirit, or quarrel with the truth when it comes to him in practical form. For an angry heart will destroy edification (ver. 20). Scolding from the pulpit will not "work the righteousness of God" in the hearts of the hearers; and, on the other hand, resentful feelings against the preacher can only hinder regeneration and sanctification.

IV. A PURE HEART. (Ver. 21.) If "the Word of truth" is to sanctify and save, it must be received in a docile, humble, tractable spirit; and this involves the "putting away" of all malice and impurity. Hasty and passionate speech is just a foul overflow from the deep depravity of the heart; and, if we would prevent the overflow, we must cleanse out the dark pool of corruption itself. If we put away the "filthiness" of the heart by a gracious process of earnest renunciation, that filthiness will no longer soil the tongue or spoil the temper. Those who cultivate the quick ear and the cautious tongue and the calm temper, in connection with the purifying of the heart, prepare themselves as good soil for "the implanted Word" (Luke 8:15). The grandest joy of life is to have the scion of the Word so "implanted" that it shall prove itself to be the power of God to the soul's salvation, by working out visibly in the life "the righteousness of God." And the teaching of this passage, is that if a man would attain that blessing, his own will must co-operate with the grace of God and the power of "the Word of truth." - C.J.







Swift to hear, slow to speak.
I. LEGISLATION FOR THE EAR. "Be swift to hear."

1. The duty here enjoined is a readiness to listen to the pure, the generous, the true.

2. Teachableness is the state of mind required. This includes —

(1)Freedom from prejudice.

(2)Eagerness to learn.

II. LEGISLATION FOR THE TONGUE. "Slow to speak."

1. Evidently he does not mean —

(1)Unsocial taciturnity.

(2)A drawling utterance.

2. The slowness of speech he enjoins is that of cautiousness. Because we are in danger of speaking —

(1)The wrong thing.

(2)At the wrong time. Jesus often manifested a Divine reserve.

III. LEGISLATION FOR THE TEMPER. "Slow to wrath."

1. Men in this world of evil are in danger of being provoked to wrath.

2. Wrath in no case tends to excellence of character.

IV. LEGISLATION FOR THE LIFE. "Lay apart all filthiness," &c. The summing up of all. It insists upon —

1. Renunciation of all evil.

2. Appropriation of good.

(1)The thing received. "Ingrafted word." (a) Essential vitality of gospel. (b) Its fitness to human nature.

(2)The manner of receiving it.

(3)The reason for receiving it.

(U. R. Thomas.)

This is one of the wisest and most difficult sayings in Holy Scripture. In one line we are bidden to be both swift and slow. It concerns all, and affects the usefulness and happiness of each. We may be helped in our perception of its importance, and also in our power to observe it, if we bear in mind the words which come before. St. James there tells us that all good and perfect gifts come down from the Father of Lights. But, chief among those gifts, he would say, is that "new life," which he and his beloved brethren had received by means of the Word of truth. Thus he calls Christians the "first-fruits" of God's creatures. This is a very high title. The hearer is addressed as one not merely invested with great responsibility, but as holding a powerful post. The ground on which the apostle pleads with him is that he is in union with the Father of Spirits, the Most High God. Here we have not only an interesting historical notice, but a great encouragement to us in our present efforts to conduct ourselves aright. Some, indeed, might think that a man in close union with God is freed from much that ethers have to consider, that he is an exalted personage, above control, or at least has some of the supposed liberty of high place allowed to him. But it is not so. Because the Christian stands in the front rank of God's creatures, he is not, therefore, to carry himself confidently as if he were superior to the lessons which others need, and to be excused from showing that respectful reticence or caution which is idly assumed to become such as are in a lower position. As his spirit has been kindled from on high, the Christian, above all men, carries himself circumspectly. In so far as he is brought spiritually nearer to God, he is swift to hear. As he is closest to the throne, he is, above all, slow to speak. He, near of kin to the Spirit of Divine justice, is, above all, slow to wrath. He should know, better than any, that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. This teaching of St. James is grand; towards its better realisation let us look at two or three of the chief ways in which we are called to its observance. One is seen in the formation of opinions, especially in regard to religion and the spiritual condition of our neighbour. The other appears in the regulation or economy of our ordinary life. I suppose it may be admitted that a common fault of religious people is impatience of instruction, and a readiness to pass judgment upon others. We are tempted to reverse the order of the Divine precept, and to become slow to hear and swift to wrath. But, in truth, as we are near to God, so we realise our ignorance and His tolerance. Thus, instead of being eager to deliver our verdicts, and to define His will, we hold back, lest our meddling interference and shortsighted decisions should mar the working of the Divine will, if not in larger ways, yet at least in our small circle and surroundings. We check our indignation in the presence of the great tide or stream of justice which is ever fulfilling itself. Perhaps our course in this respect ought to be most obvious and easy as we contemplate the great matters which concern the conduct and state of the Church at large. These are furthest removed from our personal influence. We might be expected to leave them most readily in the hands of God, content with the discharge of those duties which lie immediately around us. In fact, however, the things of the kingdom of heaven are often the most gaily and hastily disposed of by some. We settle doctrines and define the unseen. We give sentence on eternity. We print and publish the mind of God. Take the most ignorant talker you know, and he is ready to tell you all. Go to the wisest, and he will teach you most just in so far as he induces you to share his sense of ignorance. But there is another side to this. The perception that we deal with large things may not lead us into rash conjectures. The greatness of God's procedure may not have the effect of making us gaily confident, and ready to give sentence. Being gifted with inquisitive if not inquiring minds, we may be provoked at the largeness of our field of vision, and so provoked as to profess our inability to apprehend it with petulance and contempt of religion. There is, however, too much made in these days of man's intellectual defects, as if they need make him despair, or as if a limited apprehension of God's will took away the charm and joy of faith. The Christian's God tells him but little at a time. If we are beset with perplexities we can often do nothing but put them into the hands of Him with whom we are at one through the Christ. We are content for God to rule His own kingdom, and take the helm of His own ship. We are quick to hear, but slow to speak and slow to wrath, believing that He will justify Himself. Thus may we take the advice of St. James in respect to the greater matters of the kingdom of heaven. There is, however, an application of it in small things about which I would say a few words. "The sundry and manifold changes of the world" appear to most of us, not in national or cosmopolitan disorder, not in the conflict of religious opinions, but in the little demands, crosses, and accidents of ordinary life. We are often disturbed and upset by what we call "trifles." But the grace of God is intended to be used in small things as well as great. So it is in what we call nature. The law of gravitation affects the apple which drops from the tree and the spheres which move on in their courses. The glory of God clothes the lily in the valley and the sun in the sky. Divine force is used equally in the construction of the mountain and the molehill. And so each of us has daily need and opportunity for the application of the great power which rules the world. We are ever called and enabled to exercise Divine grace in the smallest human round of life. Remember that St. James bases his precept upon the fact that we are the first-fruits of "God's" creatures. And as we use Divine communion so we are really helped to keep the apostle's rule in our discharge of the homeliest duties. So, indeed, we find it to be. There are few, tempted to irritability, who have not sometimes found themselves checked in it by the employment of the highest motives. Many a man is occasionally enabled to rule his spirit by prayer, and by a very sacred resolve to command his temper and his tongue. True Christianity, as it can be practically exercised by most of us, is seen not in spasms of exceptional piety, or vehement strivings after great ends, but in bearing and forbearing amongst those with whom we most intimately live; in being swift to hear when our sympathy is needed, and slow to wrath when the skin of our feelings is pricked. Sometimes provocations become impotent as they are simply and sturdily ignored. They do so most readily as we realise our high place in God's kingdom, and our union with the Father of lights from whom every good gift descends, including the power to overcome vexation. Our sense of this union, too, is the secret of much success in work. Here is the Divine economy of strength. Accept the Almighty powers. Ally yourselves with them. Be in league with time and growth. Thus, taking the Divine lines of progress, the work will be God's, not yours. And this reticence, this abiding, this committing of self to Him that judgeth righteously, all the while with a strenuous reserve of force under control, will raise us above the sundry and manifold changes of the world. We shall not be indifferent to them, as a man on the eve of leaving a mean house for a better one glances with an unconcerned eye at the narrowness which once vexed him; but we shall have a mastery over them, a power of looking down on them with a sense that we are in union with the source of change, growth, and power, all working together in orderly sequence.

(H. Jones, M. A.)

The ear, the tongue, and the heart have all much to do with the life or practical conduct of the man of God, whose life-business, according to the law of the text, consists in "working the righteousness of God." The ear for learning, or acquiring what is to be gathered instruction; the tongue for teaching, or giving forth what we have thus acquired in a testimony of our own; the heart for the ordering of the affections or passions which sway the man, and give their own tone to his character, and all for the advancement of the work of righteousness. In reference to that everything that concerns the man is viewed and weighed. In the light of that, as the consummation to be wished for and attained, is the whole character placed, and every element that enters into its composition assigned its due proportion.

I. Every child of the Father of lights, being "swift to hear," is to be one who feels that he is a learner or listener, rather than a teacher, who "has not yet attained, neither is already perfect" in the knowledge of the truth to which he is "begotten" — who has more to get than he has to give. This is the pith and point of the contrast and antithesis between "swift to hear" and "slow to speak."

1. They have a revengeful and fervent love of the truth where-ever it is to be found, and freedom from prejudice, prepossession, and narrow foreclosure of any kind. They are the children of light. The Father of lights is their Father, and, as His genuine children, they like and long above all things to come to His light, to walk in His light, to see more and more, and still more, of His light every day, as long as they live in His world. They have a taste for the truth, an appetite for the truth, whose cravings must be satisfied; a hunger and thirst after the truth which makes them long to see it, or with all saints comprehend it in its length and breadth, and depth and height, as men who are in darkness long for the morning light.

2. These children of the light are meek and lowly in heart, like so many babes; they are conscious of their own ignorance, and know that the truth is a well, or flows from a fountain, too deep for them to sound or fathom with their puny line. Its length and breadth and depth and height, who can tell but the Father of lights? From Him, therefore, they ask instruction. To Him, and the means which He has graciously appointed for the purpose, they come for illumination. What a discipline is required to form this babe-like spirit, and prepare the soil of the heart and understanding for the reception of the good seed that is to be sown, our Saviour explains in many parts of His discourses and parables, and the history of Israel testifies (Deuteronomy 8:2, 3).

3. In this babe-like spirit, thirsting after the truth, the children of light are so teachable, so credulous, if you will, and full of holy curiosity, that they have an open ear, "an ear to hear," as our Saviour so often expresses it, wherever there is anything to be heard, an eye to see if there be a ray of light visible in the horizon revealing God the Father of lights. - A great man, and a great teacher of the truth, once said that the difference between himself and others to whom he was preferred was but this, that he was willing to learn from every one, and that there was no one from whom he did not learn something. He was indeed, a great man, if this was his character; for there is nothing in which one man is more distinguished from another. A man who knows himself, and is not proud and hard, but "swift to hear," makes himself a scholar, a learner, a listener, wherever he goes. Men and things have to him a meaning beyond what they have to others. Poverty and riches, health and sickness, life and death, prosperity and adversity, all come to him charged with a special message. In all, and in each, he hears his Father's voice (Psalm 107:43). Each in its way, and after its kind, is God's minister for good, for "all work together for good."

4. For the truth itself contained in the Word of God they have a special longing and liking, because it is the word and wisdom of God, by which they have been begotten, or made God's children, and by which they are supported in their spirits, as by their daily bread, and carried forward from the feebleness of babes to the strength and stature of the new Man, the Son of God, who is their Model and the spiritual Sun of their firmament.

II. Every child of the Father of lights who acts in character, as one begotten with the Word of truth and by the will of God to newness of life, is one who does not run to seed, or exhaust himself, by talking all he knows, or has, of religion, or allowing his life and light to expire and spend itself in words. We should have this day far more religion in our land, and a far higher style and standard of religion in the Church, as God's witness to the truth —

1. If every man were, as here commanded, slow to speak dogmatically and controversially about knotty or disputed points of doctrine or discipline.

2. We should not have less religion, nor a lower form of Christianity, and less perfect testimony for God, if Christians were slow to speak critically, in a way of judgment on others, or slow to speak of evil, and things that do not concern themselves, in any way.

3. Every man should be slow to speak boastfully of himself, or of himself at all, directly or indirectly, who wishes to be a child and witness of the Father of lights.

III. Slowness to wrath is another seal of the children of light begotten of the Father's own will by the Word of truth to be His witnesses in the new creation.

1. Proneness to wrath is a great and heinous sin, and fertile root of innumerable sins. In itself, in all its varieties of form, it is nothing less than murder, the spirit of murder, if it takes the shape of hatred or ill-will to the party who provokes it, or proceeds, as it most frequently does. from offended self-love, i part it is of that carnal mind which is enmity against both God and man, and is not, and refuses to be, subject to the law of God. Its emblem in the Word of God is some wild and furious beast, such as the bear, the wolf, the dog, the lion, the serpent.

2. This proneness to wrath is a besetting sin against which the man of God must be on his guard at every moment, and throughout his entire life. In the family, in the Church, in social and political life, in the transactions of business, and in hours of leisure and pleasure, slowness to wrath is the highest law of eternal life. None is so often forgotten. Of none is the breach followed by surer, or swifter, or more fearful penalties even in the present life, to say nothing of that beyond the grave.

3. It is by ceasing from wrath because it is sin against God, and being slow to wrath because this is the righteousness of God, that we become new-born babes or living men. Every victory that we obtain over the temptations or provocations to wrath is a victory over the devil, who is thus removed from us to a greater distance, and leaves our spirits, from which he is thus dispossessed, more open for Christ to come in and take lull possession. And He does come in whenever by slowness to wrath, and ceasing from wrath, and striving against wrath, in every form of bad temper, and ill humour, peevishness, fretfulness, rage, uncharitableness, we cease to keep Him out.

IV. Every living child of the Father of lights is one whose whole aim in life is to work the righteousness of God, and to promote it in others by every means in his power, as well as to beware of everything to its prejudice.

1. It is not an imputed righteousness, in the sense of the righteousness of another, but real, and actual, and personal righteousness, that is called here "the righteousness of God."

2. This righteousness is righteousness not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

3. This righteousness of God is the work of God's Spirit.

4. This righteousness is the righteousness of faith working by love, and of faith and love united in a life of God.

(R. Paisley.)

1. From that" wherefore." It is a great encouragement to wait upon the ordinances, when we consider the benefits God doth dispense by them.

2. Again, from the illative particle "wherefore." Experience of the success of ordinances engageth us to a further attendance upon them. He hath begotten you by the Word of truth, "wherefore, be swift to hear." Who would baulk a way in which he hath found good, and discontinue duty when he hath found the benefit of it?

3. From that "let every one." This is a duty that is universal, and bindeth all men. None are exempt from hearing and patient learning. These that know most may learn more. Junius was converted by discourse with a ploughman.

4. From that "be swift," that is, ready. The commendation of duties is the ready discharge of them. Swiftness noteth two things —(1) Freeness of spirit; do it without reluctancy when you do it.(2) Swiftness noteth diligence in taking the next occasion; they will not decline an opportunity, and say, Another day. Delay is a sign of unwillingness.

5. From that "be swift to hear"; that is, the Word of God, for otherwise it were good to be slow in hearing. Divers things are implied in this precept. I shall endeavour to draw out the sense of it in these particulars.(1) It showeth how we should value hearing: be glad of an opportunity; the ear is the sense of learning, and so it is of grace; it is that sense that is consecrated to receive the most spiritual dispensations (Romans 10:14). Reading doth good in its place; but to slight hearing, out of a pretence that you can read better sermons at home, is a sin. Duties mistimed lose their nature; the blood is the continent of life when it is in the proper vessels; but when it is out, it is hurtful, and breedeth diseases.(2) It showeth how ready we should be to take all occasions to hear the Word. If ministers must preach "in season and out of season," a people are bound go hear. Heretofore lectures were frequented when they were more scarce. The wheat of heaven was despised when it fell every day (Amos 8:12).(3) It noteth readiness to hear the sense and mind of others upon the Word. We should not be so puffed up with our own knowledge, but we should be swift to hear what others can say. You do not know what may be revealed to another; no man is above a condition of being instructed. Divide self from thy opinion, and love things not because they suit with thy prejudices, but truth. "Be swift to hear," that is, to consider what may be urged against you.(4) It noteth what we should do in Christian meetings. If we were as patient and swift to hear as we are ready to speak, there would be less of wrath and more of profit in our meetings. I remember when a Manichee contested with , and with importunate clamour cried, "Hear me, hear me," the father modestly answered, "Neither hear me, nor I thee, but let us both hear the apostle."

6. That there are many cases wherein we must be slow to speak. This clause must also be treated of according to the restriction of the context; slow in speaking of the Word of God, and that in several cases.(1) It teacheth men not to adventure upon the preaching of the Word till they have a good spiritual furniture, or are stored with a sufficiency of gifts. John was thirty years old when he preached first (Luke 3:1). So was our Lord. Hasty births do not fill the house, but the grave.(2) It showeth that we should not precipitate our judgments concerning doctrines and points of divinity. The sudden conceptions of the mind are not always the best. There should be a due pause ere we receive things, and a serious deliberation ere we defend and profess them.(3) That we be not more forward to teach others, than to learn ourselves. Many are hasty to speak, but backward to do.(4) That we do not vainly and emptily talk of things of God, and put forth ourselves above what is meet: it is good to take every occasion, but many times indiscreet speaking doth more hurt than silence.(5) It teacheth us not to be over-ready to frame objections against the Word. It is good to be dumb at a reproof, though not deaf.

7. Renewed men should be slow to wrath. You must understand this with the same reference that you do the other clauses; and so it implieth that the Word must not be received or delivered with a wrathful heart: it concerneth both hearers and teachers.(1) The teachers. They must be slow to wrath in delivering the Word.(a) Let not the Word lacquey upon private anger: spiritual weapons must not be used in your own cause. The Word is not committed to you for the advancing of your esteem and interests, but Christ's.(b) Do not easily deliver yourselves up to the sway of your own passions and anger: people will easily distinguish between this mock thunder and Divine threatenings.(2) The people. It teacheth them patience under the Word.

8. It is some cure of passion to delay it. "Be slow to wrath." Anger groweth not by degrees, like other passions, but at her birth she is in her full growth; the heat and fury of it is at first, and therefore the best cure is deliberation (Proverbs 19:11). It is a description of God that He is "slow to wrath"; certainly a hasty spirit is most unlike God.

(T. Manton.)

The well-known wisdom of swiftness to hear and slowness to speak has been inculcated by teachers in all ages. On his disciples enjoined five years of preliminary silence. It was supposed that such a long probation in which there should be total abstinence from speech would give the disciples the advantage of hearing much and hearing it attentively; because the mind was not preoccupied with preparing and uttering an answer. There was supposed to be also the other advantage of pondering what was heard; so that it should be well marked and thoroughly digested. Some one has called attention to the fact that a man has two ears and but one tongue, and inferred therefrom that a man ought to hear at least twice as much as he speaks. As touching the matter of which James had been writing to his brethren, namely, their troubles, the temptations likely to arise there from, this admonition was most timely. They should be swift to hear. God, who had spoken to Elijah in the still small voice, was now speaking to them in their great trials. God is talking. He may speak slowly. We must "wait God's leisure." We must be attentive to the voice in the darkness, as little Samuel was to the night-voice in the temple. "God is His own interpreter"; but He never hurries; with Him a thousand years are as a day. And so we must be slow to speak; very slow to make cur own interpretation; and slower in making charges against God. If we speak incontinently, we shall not only be indiscreet, but we shall excite ourselves to anger. The tongue kindles. See what folly it is to be angry against God for His providences. Do we know what God is doing? Does not God know all things? Can He not relieve? And will He not relieve at the proper time and in the proper manner? See what a sin it is: that great, black sin of ingratitude. Has not every good gift enjoyed by us come from Him? What led Him to the bestowment of those gifts? Was not the motive wholly in Him? Does He ever change? Is He not the same? Whatsoever, therefore, comes from Him must be good. It is well to regulate our lives by the great precept, "Swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath," because of the injurious effect upon others of a failure to be guided thereby. Our circle of relatives and friends know how quick to advance opinions are those who are either ignorant or half-taught. If they discover that we are impatient of the speech of others, are unwilling to hear what may be said upon the other side, they will perceive in us an unchristian lack of charity for others as well as the absence of that modesty which always accompanies wisdom. If they find that we have an offhand opinion upon all the gravest questions which concern God and man, upon the most mysterious problems of the universe, they will lose respect for our utterances, and our influence over them for good will depart. If we are not slow to anger, it will exhibit such a want of self-control as will deprive us of the power of governing others.

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

The Rev. Mr. Burridge being visited by a very loquacious young lady, who engrossed all the conversation of the interview with small-talk concerning herself, when she arose to retire, he said, "Madam, before you withdraw, I have one piece of advice to give you; and that is, when you go into company again, after you have talked half an hour without intermission, I recommend it to you to stop a while, and see if any other of the company has anything to say."

1. "Be swift to hear" — "swift," that is, ready, eager. "To hear" — what? Not everything, assuredly. There is much that is profane, impure, erroneous, frivolous, unprofitable. We cannot be too slow to hear, speaking of this description. The reference here is evidently to "the Word of truth," mentioned immediately before as that by which God had begotten the believers, who are addressed as a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. That James had it in view throughout is clear from the latter part of the 21st verse. All who would know What is required of them as God's children, and would be fitted for the doing of their Heavenly Father's will, must come into close contact with the sacred Scriptures. The secret of getting good from the study of the Word is this swift hearing. But there is a special reference in the expression to the preaching of the gospel by the lips of those entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. We are to be "swift to hear." That implies very obviously that we are to seize all opportunities of hearing. We are to rejoice when it is said unto us, "Let us go into the house of the Lord." Not less does it imply fixed attention in hearing. We may be where the gospel is preached, there frequently, systematically, and yet have our ears closed against the entrance of truth, so as to profit no more than if we were absent.

2. "Slow to speak." The one is intimately connected with the other. What stands most in the way of many being ready to hear? What but their being so ready to speak. They have little time or taste for receiving instruction — they think themselves so well qualified for giving it. We are not forbidden to speak altogether; indeed, the very opposite is here implied, for what is enjoined is to be slow to do it, not to abstain from doing it entirely. To open our lips is often an imperative duty. We are to reprove evil-doers at fitting seasons, and in a right spirit. We are to instruct the ignorant and the erring as God gives us the opportunity. But even when we are in the path of duty we are to be "slow to speak." We are to weigh the matter well, and proceed calmly, thoughtfully, deliberately. We are to guard against all rash, reckless judgments, and to be very sure of our ground before we pronounce on the characters or the conduct of others. When constrained to break silence we should do it, not under some sudden impulse, or in a random way, but from conviction and with deliberation.

3. "Slow to wrath." While being "swift to hear" is a powerful means of sustaining the Christian life, being "swift to speak" is fitted to inflame corruption and stir up unholy passions. There is a place for wrath, and that is here intimated, for you observe it is not wholly forbidden. We are only to be slow to it, not speedy, not hasty. This last injunction is enforced by a weighty consideration (ver. 20), "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." "The wrath of man" — literally wrath of man, any such wrath, whatever the extent to which it goes, or whatever the circumstances in which it appears. By "the righteousness of God" we are to understand that which belongs to and is distinctive of His kingdom, that which He requires in all the subjects of it, and calls them to strive after, both in themselves and others. Such a passionate, angry spirit does not further His cause, it promotes not, it works not out, those holy ends for which the Church exists and souls are brought into its fellowship. It kindler the flame of controversy, and divides the friends of truth instead of subduing its enemies. It thus puts obstacles in the way of God's cause and glory.

(J. Adam.)

The synagogue, not the temple, of the Jews was the model on which the primitive Churches were constructed. And in the synagogue the function of teaching was not confined to any one order or caste. Any intelligent and devout man might be called upon, by the ruler of the synagogue, to address an exhortation to the people. And in the primitive Churches any member who had "a gift" might exercise his gift, whether it were native to him or "miraculous," for the benefit of the congregation. St. James wrote to the Jews of the Dispersion, to men who, though they were Christians, were also Jews; to men, therefore, in whom the habits formed in the synagogue would be familiar and dear. Probably many of them were too eager to hear their own voices, and too reluctant to listen to others. Nor are we so docile, so meek, that we can afford to put aside the exhortation as though it had no warning for us. But the exhortation is introduced by the word "wherefore" — a word which refers us to the previous clause of the letter, or to some phrase in it, for an answer to the question, "What is it that every man is to be swift to hear?" It is "the Word of truth." If we owe, as we do, every access of spiritual energy to a clearer and larger perception of God's will as revealed in His Word, should we not gladly take some pains to enlarge our knowledge of that Word, to lay hold with a firmer grasp of the truths we already know? But if we would be "swift to hear," we must be "slow to speak." Those whose tongues run fast have but dull ears, and are apt to lose the benefit of eves the little to which they listen. Of this general fact, that he who would be quick to hear must be in no hurry to speak, St. James makes a particular application which may not at once commend itself to our judgment. For as it is the Word of truth that he would have us eager to hear, so also, I suppose, it is the same Word that he would have us slow to utter. "But is it not our duty to speak the truth by which we ourselves have been renewed?" Well, yes, if we are strong enough and wise enough to speak it wisely, and without injury to ourselves and others. But a man may speak, and yet not be swift or eager to speak. And a wise man will be very sure that he knows before be speaks, and so knows his theme as to be able to teach others. Nor does it follow that, because you utter no audible words in church, that you therefore say nothing. You may sit composed in an attitude of decent or devout attention while the minister of the Church tries to open up some word of truth, and yet all the while you may be saying in your hearts, "How am I to meet that bill?" or "For whom shall I vote? and how will the election go?" or, "I wonder whether I shall meet So-and-so after service?" or, "I wonder how the servants, or the baby, are getting on at home?" So far it is easy to trace the meaning and connection of St. James's words. But when he goes on to add, ,' slow to wrath," we naturally ask if quick speech is in any way connected with quick anger. And we have hardly asked the question before we see the answer to it. Hasty speech is a sign of a hasty spirit. And surely he is speaking plain good sense when he warns us that "man's wrath worketh not God's righteousness," that our anger can in no way contribute to the formation or the cultivation of a righteous character, whether in ourselves or in our neighbours. While contending for the righteousness of God, we may become unrighteous by giving way to wrath, and cause our brother to lose his righteousness by provoking him to wrath. We do become unloving, and therefore unrighteous, when we contend with one another, even for a good cause, in these evil heats of passion. Such heats of passion in no way contribute to the culture of the soul. They are bad husbandry. They breed only a foul and rank growth which quickly overruns and impoverishes the soil, and amid which no "herb of grace," no plant of righteousness, will thrive. If we are wise husbandmen, if we aim at that perfection of character which the apostle holds to be our chief good, we shall clear the soil of these evil growths; we shall cut them down and burn them up, and so make room for the implantation of that Word of truth which brings forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

The talking man makes himself artificially deaf, being like a man in the steeple when the bells ring.

(J. Taylor, D. D.)

A very talkative youth came to Socrates to study oratory. The philosopher charged him double price, stating as a reason that he must teach the youth two sciences; how to hold his tongue, and how to speak.

Swift accords high praise to Stella (Mrs. Johnson) for the fact that "she never interrupted any person who spoke." "She listened to all that was said, and had never the least absence or distraction of thought."

(On the Death of Mrs. Johnson.)

One of Dean Swift's most appreciative correspondents, Lady Betty Brownlowe, begging leave to be present at his proposed meeting at Cashel with the Archbishop, expresses her certainty "that you would allow me to be a good listener," "for I assure you I have too great a desire to be informed and improved to occasion any interruption in your conversation, except when I find you purposely let yourself down to such capacities as mine, with an intention, as I suppose, to give us the pleasure of babbling."

(Letters, May 19, 1735.)

The wrath of man.
It is a common saying that every one has a temper but a fool. Certainly he who sees wrong done without feeling angry must be either a fool or a knave. The capability of anger is one of our most valuable endowments. Anger, to use Locke's words, "is an uneasiness or discomposure of the mind" which springs up when injury has been done to ourselves or to others; and its purpose is to stimulate us to a remedial course. The protective power of this passion is very great. "It is a moral power which tends to repair the inequality of physical power, and to approximate the strong and the weak towards the same level." But, however useful and necessary, the passion of anger becomes very dangerous when it is not criticised and controlled by reason. When we yield without reflection, anger degenerates into bad temper — into what our text calls "the wrath of man."

1. Reflection may show us that we have no right to be angry at all. Wrath is only righteous when applied to moral wrong. St. truly says, "Anger is a sort of sting implanted in us, that we might therewith attack the devil, and not one another." In this matter, as in all others, Christ should be our example. How often must He have been grieved, disappointed, and vexed at the unsympathetic conduct of His disciples. Yet He was never angry with them. His anger was exhibited only against the mischievous cant of the Pharisees and Scribes.

2. Reflection may show that, though we may have cause for anger, yet our anger is excessive. There are persons who are almost always out of temper, who will get in a rage at anything, or even at nothing. They are more enraged at the thwarting of their smallest whim, than at the most flagrant act of injustice inflicted upon any one else. All such excessive manifestations of anger may be cured by thought. For our anger spontaneously subsides, when we become convinced that there is no real ground for it.

3. Reflection may show that though the feeling of anger is unavoidable, and though its manifestation would be legitimate, it will be better for us, under the circumstances, not to show it. The finest illustration of this will be familiar, no doubt, to many of you. It occurs in Victor Hugo's most celebrated novel, and it deserves to be written in letters of gold. You remember how Jean Valjean, who had been known to himself and others for the last nineteen years as No. 5623, and who has at last been dismissed from the galleys on a ticket-of-leave — you remember bow he walks wearily along in the dust and heat, how he is turned out of the various inns, repulsed from every door, and even chased from an empty dog-kennel into which he has crawled for shelter. He wanders on again, saying despairingly to himself, "I am not even a dog." By and by he comes to the house of the good old Bishop Myriel. He knocks and enters, and tells his story. The bishop, to the great discomposure of his house. keeper and the utter bewilderment of Valjean, orders a bedroom to be prepared for him, and invites him in the meantime to take a seat at the supper-table. After supper, the bishop conducts him to his room, and the poor man lies down and falls asleep. In the middle of the night he wakes and begins to think; and the result of his thinking is, that he will get up and make elf with the silver dishes which he had seen on the table the previous evening. He does so, but is soon captured by the police and brought back. The bishop dismisses the gendarmes, pretending that he had made the man a present of the silver, and asking him why he had not taken the candlesticks as well. When they were left alone together, he says to the astonished thief, "Jean Valjean, my brother, never forget you have promised to employ this silver which I have given you in becoming an honest man. You belong no more to evil, but to good. I have bought your soul. I reclaim it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God." You know the result. From that day Valjean was a changed man. He became one of the noblest characters in the whole range of the world's fiction. Fiction? Yes; but fiction that is true to fact. Cases will sometimes arise when, by restraining an anger perfectly legitimate and withholding a punishment perfectly merited, we may save a soul from death.

4. Reflection may show us that though the feeling of anger was legitimate, and though it was right and desirable to manifest it, yet the feeling has lasted long enough and may now be dismissed. "Anger resteth," says the author of Ecclesiastes, "in the bosom of fools." It arises in the bosom of wise men, but it remains only in the bosom of fools. If we treat men according to the first promptings of anger, we shall almost always do them wrong. It is most important that we should pause and reflect, whenever we have it in our power to inflict punishment. Plato on one occasion, being highly incensed against a servant, asked a friend to chastise him, excusing himself from doing it on the ground that he was in anger. Carillus, a Lacedemonian, said to a slave who had been insolent to him, "If I were not in a great rage I would cause thee to be put to death." We may then lay it down as a general rule that the more eager we are to inflict immediate punishment, the more necessary it is for us, if we would avoid sin, to pause and reflect. So far I have been endeavouring to show that bad temper — i.e., the thoughtless yielding to the first promptings of anger — is wrong. Now let me point out that it is also impolitic. It is our interest, as a rule, apart altogether from moral considerations, to keep our anger under the control of our reason. An exhibition of bad temper is the very last thing in the world by which to get one's self better treated. Everybody is pleased to meet, and glad to serve, the good tempered man; but as for the bad-tempered man, people are perfectly satisfied if they can only manage to keep out of his way. The bad policy of ill temper was very neatly pointed out by Queen Elizabeth. There was a certain hot-tempered courtier on whom her Majesty had not yet bestowed the promotion which she had promised. Meeting him one day, she asked him, "What does a man think of when he thinks of nothing?" "He thinks, madam, of a woman's promise," was the reply. "Well," said the queen, walking away, "I must not confute you. Anger makes men witty, but it keeps them poor." But once more, bad temper is exceedingly unbecoming. In this respect it may be distinguished from anger. As I pointed out before, legitimate manifestations of anger are impressive and awe inspiring — so much so, that they frequently enable the weak to offer a successful resistance to the injuries with which they are threatened by the strong. But the person who is, as we say, "in a temper" — that is, in a bad temper — always appears ridiculous. Jeremy Taylor says — "It makes the voice horrid, the eyes cruel, the face pale or fiery, the gait fierce, the speech clamorous and loud, and the whole body monstrous, deformed, and contemptible." I am sure that those who are at all particular about their personal appearance, might be cured for ever of their bad temper, if only they could be induced, during some violent paroxysm, to gaze into a looking-glass. They would receive a shock that would make them changed characters for the rest of their lives. But permit me to add one warning. I have spoken strongly. I believe that there is nothing more contemptible, and few things more mischievous, than bad temper. But though I would have you very strict and inexorable in judging yourselves, I would have you very gentle and lenient in judging others. Take care lest you mistake for bad temper what is only the involuntary manifestation of physical pain. An invalid once told me that her nearest approach to comfort consisted in being only a little uncomfortable. Now this chronic presence of pain should cover a multitude of seeming sins. If, then, you are uncertain whether any one's hastiness of speech and manner be ill temper or not, whether it be the expression of a bad state of the heart or only a bad state of health, give them the benefit of the doubt — deal very gently with them, I beseech you, for Christ's sake.

(A. W. Momerie, M. A.)

1. From the context. The worst thing that we can bring to a religious controversy is anger. The context speaketh of anger occasioned by differences about the word. Usually no affections are so outrageous aa those which are engaged in the quarrel of religion, for then that which should bridle the passion is made the fuel of it, and that which should restrain undue heats and excesses engageth them. However, this should not be. Christianity, of all religions, is the meekest and most humble.

2. "Worketh not the righteousness." Anger is not to be trusted; it is not so just and righteous as it seems to be. Anger, like a cloud, blinds the mind, and then tyrannises over it. When you are under the power of a passion, you have just cause to suspect all your apprehensions; you are apt to mistake others, and to mistake your own spirits. Passion is blind, and cannot judge; it is furious, and hath no leisure to debate and consider.

3. From that "anger of man" and "righteousness of God." Note the opposition, for there is an emphasis in those two words "man" and "God." The point is, that a wrathful spirit is a spirit most unsuitable to God. God being the God of peace, requireth a quiet and composed spirit. Wrathful men are most unfit either to act grace or to receive grace.

4. The last note is more general, from the whole verse: that man's anger is usually evil and unrighteous. I shall therefore endeavour two things briefly —

1. Show you what anger is sinful.

2. How sinful, and how great an evil it is.First, to state the matter, that it-is necessary, for all anger is not sinful; one sort of it falleth under a concession, another under a command, another under the just reproofs of the Word.(1) There are some indeliberable motions, which calleth propassions, sudden and irresistible alterations, which are the infelicities of nature, not the sins; tolerable in themselves, if rightly stinted (Ephesians 4:26). He alloweth what is natural, forbiddeth what is sinful.(2) There is a necessary holy anger, which is the whetstone of fortitude and zeal (2 Peter 2:7; Mark 3:5; Exodus 11:8).(a) The principle must be right. God's interests and ours are often twisted, and many times self interposeth the more plausibly because it is varnished with a show of religion; and we are more apt to storm at indignities and affronts offered to ourselves rather than to God.(b) It must have a right object: the heat of indignation must be against the crime, rather than against the person: good anger is always accompanied with grief; it prompteth us to pity and pray for the party offending.(c) The manner must be right. See that you be not tempted to any indecency and unhandsomeness of expression.(3) There is a sinful anger when it is either —(a) Hasty and indeliberate. Rash and sudden motions are never without sin.(b) Immoderate, when it exceedeth the merits of the cause, as being too much, or kept too long.(c) Causeless, without a sufficient ground (Matthew 5:22).(d) Such as is without a good end. The end of all anger must be the correction of offences, not the execration of our own malice.Secondly, how sinful it is.

1. Nothing more makes room for Satan (Ephesians 4:26, 27).

2. It much wounds your own peace.

3. It disparages Christianity.

(T. Manton.)

It is said of the Rev. Mr. Clarke, of Chesham Bets, that when one observed to him "there was a good deal in a person's natural disposition," he made this answer: "Natural disposition! Why, I am naturally as irritable as any; but when I find anger, or passion, or any other evil temper arise in my mind, immediately I go to my Redeemer, and, confessing my sins, I give myself up to be managed by Him. This is the way that I have taken to get the mastery of my passions."

(K. Arvine.)

Let us see what alleviations and remedies go to the healing of this Satan's vice of anger. The masters in the spiritual life give us recommendations like these: First, do not listen to tale-bearers. Tale-bearers go about with a lighted torch, not to set our houses on fire, but our hearts. Our hearts are weak, and easily misled; and the story of a tale-bearer is like dropping a hot coal on it. Then he goes away to the next door, but he leaves us in gloom; and, if we are wise men, we will say to him the next time he comes, "You put me in a passion by your last visit. I have since sprung out at my friend, my minister, my church. I have been a fool, and I have repented of my folly all these days." It is better to throw a firebrand into a man's house than into his heart. If anything makes you angry, truth, and goodness, and love are lost. Another specific for the angry man is this: Have a low opinion of yourself. If you have a true opinion of yourself, you will not easily be made angry at what is said about you. Think how unworthy you are, how few talents you have; and so, when any one tells you, you have no talents, no ability, no wisdom, you will say to him, "Man, I have said that on my knees this morning; that is nothing new." It is the proud man, the self-conceited man, who is easily made angry; so cultivate a low opinion of yourself, if you would avoid this sin. Thirdly, have a picture before your mind's eye of a meek, and peaceful, and loving soul. Dante made Mary appear as the pattern of some sweet grace in every cornice on the sanctifying mount. Give Mary her place in your panorama of meekness, but have her Son always first. He it was who endured such contradiction of sinners, and it is contradiction that rouses us. Have these sweet, inspiring visions ever before you to raise your hearts. Drink in the sweet visions of peace and the Peacemaker. Lastly, use some means of mortifying your anger daily. So says Jeremy Taylor, from whom I have borrowed nearly all my sermon. If a man does not do this, his heart will every day be a misery, and his house a den of wild beasts.

(A. Whyte D. D.)

For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
It must be quite clear to any one who examines into the gospel of Christ as a cause or principle of action, that a meek and quiet spirit should be at once the distinguishing ornament and characteristic of believers. St. James lays down as principles that the unchanging God is the Giver of every good gift; and that it is by an exercise of His omnipotent will that He has begotten His spiritual children with the Word of truth. This appears to me, I say, an irrefutable argument I If we admit the premisses — that we are God's children, begotten again in Jesus Christ to a lively hope by the Word of His grace; and that, as children partake of the same nature with their parent, so we are made partakers of the Divine nature, which is holiness, then we are bound to admit the conclusion that it is our leading duty to seek to work out the righteousness of God! And, farther, that if the wrath of man worketh not that righteousness, we are bound to eschew it, and then to cultivate that meek and quiet spirit which is according to the mind of Christ. And now consider with me the great object of our vocation propounded in the text. That object is "to work out the righteousness of God." How holy a privilege is here held up for the exercise of Christians! How worthy an object for the greatest efforts of the greatest mind! I am desirous now to lead your minds to consider the reverse of the apostle's negative assertion, and to point out to you that if wrath does not work out the righteousness of God, what it is that does. Hear what St. John says upon this point, "Let no man deceive you: He that doth righteousness is righteous, even as He (i.e., God) is righteous"; "Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother"; this exactly accords with the doctrine of St. James, "Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only." Whence it appears that an identity of will between God and man produces an identity of effect. An identity, that is, not in the perfectness of the righteousness, nor of the amount of it, but in the general tone of mind and action, so that the converted man seeks no longer as his main object the fulfilment of selfishness and carnal desires, but rather the righteousness of God. If you have felt your spirits stirred within you, and yourselves deeply moved —

1. In the reception of God's revelation;

2. In feeling that revelation as a reality, not merely believing it as a theory; and —

3. In acting upon it as an unfailing rule of life; then I conceive that you may without presumption apply the comforting promises of the gospel to your own souls, and trust in humility that God's Spirit within you is working God's righteousness by you.

(Bp. Mackenzie.)

I. You ARE ALL AWARE OF THERE BEING MUCH WRATHFUL CONTROVERSY ON THE PART OF MEN RELATIVE TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, wherein the righteousness of God is said by the apostle to be revealed from faith to faith. Is there no danger, we ask, amid the acerbities of such a thickening warfare, that men should lose sight of the mildness and the mercy that lay in that embassy of peace by which it had been stirred? Surely the noise that arises from the wars and the wranglings of earth, falls differently upon the hearing to that sweetest music which descended from the canopy that is over our heads, and which accompanied the declaration of good-will to us in heaven. And so, altogether, that theology which shines immediate from his Bible on the heart of the unlettered peasant, may come with altered expression and effect on the mind of the scholastic, after it has been transmuted into the theology of the portly and polemic folio. The Sun of Righteousness may shed a mild and beauteous lustre upon the one, which to the eye of the other is obscured in the turbulence of rolling vapours, in the lurid clouds of an angry and unsettled sky. When God beseeches us to be reconciled to Him in Christ Jesus, there is placed before the mind one object of contemplation. When man steps forward, and, in the pride or intolerance of orthodoxy, denounces the fury of an incensed God on all who put not faith in the merits and the mediation of His Son, there is placed before the mind another and a distinct object of contemplation. And just in proportion to the varieties of dogmatism or debate will the mind shift and fluctuate from one contemplation to another. It is thus that the native character of Heaven's embassy may at length be shrouded in subtle but most effectual disguise from the souls of men; and the whole spirit and design of its munificent Sovereign be wholly misconceived by His sinful yet much-loved children. We interpret the Deity by the hard and imperious scowl which sits on the countenance of angry theologians; and in the strife and clamour of their fierce animosities, we forget the aspect of Him who is upon the throne, the bland and benignant aspect of that God who waiteth to be gracious. And, though not strictly under our present head of discourse, there is one observation more which we feel it of importance to make ere we pass on to the next division of our subject. Apart from the transforming effect of human wrath to give another hue as it were to the complexion of the Godhead, and another expression than that of its own native kindness to the message which has proceeded from Him, there is a distinct operation in the mind of an inquirer after religious truth which is altogether worthy of being adverted to. When the controversialist makes an angry demand upon us for our belief in some one of his positions, why, that position may be the offered and the gratuitous mercy of God in heaven, and yet the whole charm of such a proposal may be dissipated, just through that tone and temper of intolerance in which it is expounded to us upon earth. We are aware, all the time, that the truth, as it is in Jesus, must be sustained by argument — that this is one of the offices of the Church militant upon earth, whose part it is to silence gainsayers; and not only to contend, but to contend earnestly, for the faith which was delivered unto the saints. Yet it is not in the clangour of arms, or in the shouts of victory, or in the heat and hurry even of most successful gladiatorship — it is not thus that this overture of peace and pardon from heaven falls with efficacy upon the sinner's ear. It is not so much in the act of intellectually proving the truth of the doctrine, as in the act of proceeding upon its truth, when we affectionately urge the sinner to make it the stepping-stone of his return unto God — it is then most generally that it becomes manifest unto his conscience, and that he receives in love that which in the spirit of love and kindness has been offered to him.

II. I shall now consider THE EFFECT OF MAN'S WRATH, WHEN INTERPOSED BETWEEN A RIGHT AND A WRONG DENOMINATION OF CHRISTIANITY. It can require no very deep insight into our nature to perceive, that when there is proud or angry intolerance on the side of truth, it must call forth the reaction of a sullen and determined obstinacy on the side of error. Men will submit to be reasoned out of an opinion, and more especially when treated with respect and kindness. But they will not submit to be cavalierly driven out of it. There is a revolt in the human spirit against contempt and contumely, insomuch that the soundest cause is sure to suffer from the help of such auxiliaries. Nevertheless, it is the part of man, both to adopt and to advocate the truth, lifting his zealous testimony in its favour. Yet there is surely a way of doing this in the spirit of charity; and while strenuous, while even uncompromising in the argument, it is possible surely to observe all the amenities of gentleness and good-will in these battles of the faith. For example, it is not wrong to feel either the strength or the importance of our cause, when we plead the Godhead of the Saviour. Yet with all these reasons for holding ourselves to be intellectually right upon this question, there is not one reason why the wrath of man should be permitted to mingle in the controversy. This, whenever it is admitted, operates not as an ingredient of strength, but as an ingredient of weakness. Let Truth be shrined in argument — for this is its appropriate glory. And it is a sore disparagement inflicted upon it by the hand of vindictive theologians, when, instead of this, it is shrined in anathema, or brandished as a weapon of dread and of destruction over the heads of all who are compelled to do it homage. Truth will be indebted for her best victories, not to the overthrow of Heresy discomfited on the field of argument, but to the surrender of Heresy disarmed of that in which her strength and her stability lie — of her passionate, because provoked, wilfulness. Charity will do what reason cannot do. It will take that which letteth out of the way — even that wrath of man, which worketh neither the truth nor the righteousness of God.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.
Let not external circumstances regulate your demeanour. But let them be governed by your strong will acting under a sense of what is right. Your temper will then be equable as it should be. Just look at the plants. One of their most mysterious properties is that of regulating their temperature. The twigs of the tree are not frozen through in winter, neither does their temperature mount up in summer in proportion to the external heat. Their vitality protects them equally from both extremes. And when you are yielding too much to mere external influences just think of this.

(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)

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