James 2:1
My brothers, as you hold out your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, do not show favoritism.
Sermons
Dr. Beardsley's AddressVariousJames 2:1
A Comprehensive AdmonitionW. Jay.James 2:1-7
A Gold-Ringed ManDean Pumptre.James 2:1-7
A Rogue in the HeartM. Luther.James 2:1-7
A Threefold SinJ. Trapp.James 2:1-7
Bowing to an Old CoatH. O. Mackey.James 2:1-7
Degrees of Honour in the ChurchR. Turnbull.James 2:1-7
Despising the PoorAnon.James 2:1-7
Dishonouring Whom God HonoursA. Plummer, D. D.James 2:1-7
Evil ThoughtsJames 2:1-7
God Honouring, Men DespisingDean Plumptre.James 2:1-7
Grateful for PovertyK. Arvine.James 2:1-7
Little Happiness with Rich MenH. W. Beecher.James 2:1-7
Men Who Despise the PoorE. West.James 2:1-7
OppressionJ. Trapp.James 2:1-7
Our Judgments of OthersA. L. Moore, M. A.James 2:1-7
Penury not the Deepest PovertyJ. O. Dykes, D. D.James 2:1-7
Poor Yet GoodJ. Trapp.James 2:1-7
Poverty Gives Opportunity for Manifold VirtuesJeremy Taylor, D. D.James 2:1-7
Professors, Yet PersecutorsDean Plumptre.James 2:1-7
Respect of PersonsJohn Adam.James 2:1-7
Respect of PersonsR. Turnbull.James 2:1-7
Respect of PersonsC. Jerdan James 2:1-7
Respect of Persons in ChurchAutobiography of Bp. Gobat.James 2:1-7
Respect of Persons in Religious MattersT. Manton.James 2:1-7
Showing Off Dress in ChurchC. F. Deems, D. D.James 2:1-7
Sins of the Rich Against the PoorR. Turnbull.James 2:1-7
Taking Undue Advantage of PovertyJ. Trapp.James 2:1-7
The Poor Chosen by GodT. Manton.James 2:1-7
The Poor to be Treated EquitablyJeremy Taylor, D. D.James 2:1-7
The Rich and the PoorA. Plummer, D. D.James 2:1-7
The Sin of Neglecting the PoorW. Cadman, M. A.James 2:1-7
To the PoorG. Brooks.James 2:1-7
Tyranny of MoneyJ. Ruskin.James 2:1-7
Virtue the Way to HonourT. Watson.James 2:1-7
Without Respect of PersonsJames 2:1-7
Wrong Social DistinctionsB. Jacobi.James 2:1-7
Your SynagogueF. T. Bassett, M. A.James 2:1-7
Respect of PersonsT.F. Lockyer James 2:1-13
In the closing sentences of the preceding chapter James has been speaking of the true cultus or ritual of the Church; and here he warns his readers against a violation of it which they were in danger of committing, and of which indeed they had been already guilty, even when assembled for public worship.

I. THE EVIL HERE CONDEMNED. (Ver. 1.) It is that of Pharisaic contempt of the poor. The apostle does not, of course, mean that social distinctions are nowhere to be recognized by God's people. The Scriptures teach no such doctrine. Bather they enjoin Christians to "render honor to whom honor is due" (Romans 13:7). In ordinary society we are to act with manly deference towards our superiors, whether they be such in age, rank, office, knowledge, wealth, or influence. The apostle refers in this exhortation to the spiritual sphere. He urges that within the sacred circle of our Church life resin, oct is to be paid to religious character, and not to material wealth. A true pure faith in "the Lord of glory" is incompatible with the entire spirit of snobbery, and especially with the maintenance of unchristian distinctions of caste within the Church. The British Churches of the nineteenth century unhappily need the warning of this passage almost as much as the congregations of the Dispersion in the apostolic age (see Kitto's 'Daily Bible Illustrations,' vol. 1. twelfth week, first day).

II. A PRACTICAL ILLUSTRATION OF THE EVIL. (Vers. 2, 3.) The case supposed is in all respects an extreme one; yet how correctly it depicts human nature! It presents the thought of "the influences of clothes," or that "society is founded upon cloth" (Carlyle). The deference paid to the gold-ringed man in presence of the congregation is described with dramatic realism. A cordial welcome greets him when he caters, and he is conducted fussily to a principal seat; while the poor man in the squalid clothing is coldly pointed to a place where he may stand, or at most is permitted to sit in an uncomfortable comer. The apostle's graphic picture suggests to the thoughtful reader other examples of the same sin. We shall mention only one or two. The arrangements for seating a congregation amongst ourselves sometimes show "respect of persons," as in the case of an elevated and luxurious pew for the lord of the manor. Ministers in the pulpit are tempted to avoid enforcing practical duties too pointedly, lest their exhortations and reproofs should be unpalatable to influential families. (Yet how many examples of ministerial fidelity may be readily recalled] Numerous cases are historical: Elijah, Micaiah, John the Baptist, Knox, Howe, Massillon, etc.) Church courts are sometimes prone to mete out different measures to different classes of offenders. Congregations have been known to elect men of substance to spiritual office, rather than those who possessed the requisite qualifications of mind and character; and, on the other hand, members of Churches are sometimes actuated by mean jealousy of a wealthy fellow-worshipper, even to such an extent that they would fain, were it possible, abridge his liberty in the exercise of his ordinary rights as a member of the congregation. In these and many other ways Christian people have often shown themselves to be "evil-thinking judges," and have thereby entailed upon the Church much mischief and damage.

III. THE GROUNDS OF THE CONDEMNATION. The apostle's reproof is faithful, but it is also affectionately tender (vers. 1, 5). He indicates from various points of view the wrongfulness of the partiality which he is denouncing.

1. Mere earthly distinctions should be indiscernible in the presence of "the Lord of glory. (Ver. 1.) There is an argument in the very use here of this great title. Worldly distinctions of wealth and rank should be dwarfed into nothingness before our minds when we realize that those who assemble in the house of God are the guests of the Lord of glory."

2. Respect of persons is inconsistent with sound Christian principle. (Ver. 4.) The believer "looks at the things which are not seen;" and he ought not to do so with a wavering mind or a vacillating will. Ecclesiastical servility towards the rich is a form of mammon-worship; while the one power which the Church should exalt is that of character.

3. "God is no respecter of persons. (Ver. 5.) The New Testament rings with declarations of this truth. The Lord of glory," when he lived on earth, was no sycophant of the rich. He was himself a poor man. He chose the poor rather than the rich to possess spiritual means in his kingdom. In "dishonoring the poor man," therefore, the Church was despising one for whom Christ died, and a possible heir of the heavenly glory.

4. The rich as a class had been the enemies both of Christ and his people. (Vers. 6, 7.) With a few noble exceptions, the upper classes persecuted the Christians in the days of the apostles. They harassed them with lawsuits. They slandered them before the judges. They cursed the blessed Name of Christ which it is the mission of the Church to exalt. It was, therefore, contrary to "the spirit of a sound mind" to court the rich. To do so showed a deficiency of common sense. It indicated a lack of self-respect. And, above all, it was disloyal to the blessed Name. - C.J.







With respect of persona
I. THE SIN AGAINST WHICH THE WARNING IS DIRECTED (vers. 1-4).

1. It is stated, ver. 1. "My brethren," he begins, addressing them in a conciliatory manner, well fitted to gain their compliance. He calls on them not to hold, in a certain way, "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is this which alike determines the state and forms the character of the really religious. It is only by believing with the whole mind and heart that we are united to the Saviour, and reap the benefits of His great redemption. "Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" — that is, hold it not — "with respect of persons." It is more exactly in than with respect of persons, in the practice of anything so obviously opposed to its very nature. And it is strictly "in respectings of persons," the plural being used to indicate the various ways of doing what is here forbidden. By it we are to understand partiality, favouritism, unduly preferring one before another, making a distinction among men, not on the ground of character or real worth, but of outward condition, of worldly position and possessions.

2. It is illustrated (vers. 2-4). "For" — this is what I mean, here is a specimen of the kind of thing I am warning you against — "if there come into your assembly" — that is, your congregation, or place of meeting for divine worship. It brings out the offensiveness of the proceeding, that it took place in the sanctuary, where, even more than in a court of justice, everything of the sort was most unseemly. "If there come in," he says, "a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel" — one who appeared by these marks to be a person of superior position. "With a gold ring," literally, gold-fingered, having his hands adorned probably with more than a single ring, it might be with several. "In goodly apparel" — having a splendid garment, as the word signifies, bright, shining, glittering, either from its colour or its ornaments. But another enters, and what a contrast! "And there come in also a poor man in vile raiment." Here is one of mean condition, as shown by his attire, the dirt and rags with which he is covered. "And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing," marking the deference paid to him by saying, "Sit thou here in a good place" — sit here, near the speaker, in the midst of the assembly, in a comfortable and honourable seat; while your language to the poor is, "Stand thou there" — stand, that is suitable and sufficient for you; and stand there, away at a distance, behind the others, it may be in some remote corner, some inconvenient position; or, "Sit thou here under my footstool"; if you sit at all among us let it be on the ground beneath, at my feet, in a mean, low situation of that kind. Supposing them to act in such a manner, he asks (ver. 4), "Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?" "Are ye not partial in yourselves?" do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, or are ye not at issue with yourselves? Is not this way of acting at variance with your principles as Christians? Is there not a wide difference between the faith you profess and the course you thus pursue? Now, what is it that he condemns? Is it showing any deference to those of larger means and higher station? Certainly not. What he condemns is honouring the rich at the expense of the poor — cringing to the one and trampling on the other, and doing this, besides, in the house of God, in the Church of Christ, where all should meet on the same footing, should be viewed as standing on a common level. Favour is still shown to the rich man, where it is neither his right nor his interest to have any, but to rank along with the poorest of his brethren. This is done at times by softening down or keeping back the truth from fear of offending certain influential classes or parties. We have a noble example of the opposite in the case of Howe when acting as one of Cromwell's chaplains. He found that a fanatical and dangerous notion regarding answers to prayer prevailed at court, and was held strongly by the Protector himself — a notion which some who knew better did their utmost to encourage. Regarding it with abhorrence, Howe thought himself bound, when next called to preach before Cromwell, to expose the fallacies on which it rested, and the pernicious consequences to which it led. "This accordingly he did, doubtless to the no small surprise and chagrin of his audience. During his discourse, Cromwell was observed to pay marked attention; but as his custom was, when displeased, frequently knit his brows, and manifested other symptoms of uneasiness. Even the terrors of Cromwell's eye, however, could not make Howe quail in the performance of an undoubted duty; and he proceeded in a strain of calm and cogent reasoning to fulfil his honourable but difficult task. When he had finished, a person of distinction came up and asked whether he knew what he had done? at the same time expressing his apprehension that he had irretrievably lost the Protector's favour. Howe coolly replied that he had discharged what he considered a duty, and could leave the issue with God. This was worthy of his sacred office, and his own noble character. The same thing is frequently done in the way of pursuing a subservient course of conduct toward the rich with the view of gaining their favour.

II. THE REASONS BY WHICH THE WARNING IS ENFORCED.

1. The poor are the special objects of the Divine regard (ver. 5). "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith?" He has chosen them in His eternal decree; and in pursuance of this, chosen them by separating them to Himself, through the effectual operation of the Holy Ghost. And whom has He thus chosen? "The poor of this world" — the poor in respect of it, in the things of it, the poor temporally. They constitute the class to which the man in vile raiment belonged. "Rich in faith" — that is, God has chosen them to be this — He has destined them to it, and made them it by His election. "And heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him." The Christian is rich at present. He has large possessions, and these belong to the domain of faith. Bat be has also glorious prospects. Already he is a son, but he is also an heir. His inheritance is a kingdom, than which there is nothing greater, nobler, more coveted here below.

2. The rich had shown themselves the great enemies of Christ's people and person. He appeals to his readers, "Do not rich men oppress you?" lord it over you, exercise their power against you — "and draw you," drag you; for it implies force, violence — "before the judgment-seats." They did so by vexatious law-suits, by false charges, by persecuting measures. Not only so, be asks, "Do they not blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?" The reference is not to the lives of inconsistent Christians, but to the foul-mouthed charges and curses of avowed enemies of the gospel. The worthy or honourable name intended is that of Christ. What title, then, had this class to such a preference? Did their relation to the Church, either in its members or its Head, call for any special favour at the hands of believers? Quite the reverse.

(John Adam.)

I. Observe — A RELATIONSHIP. The apostle addresses them as his "brethren."

1. So they were, nationally; they were Jews as well as himself.

2. They were his "brethren" naturally partaking of the same humanity with him.

3. They were his "brethren" graciously. Here a nobler relation is gendered, and this comprehends all that "worship God in the Spirit, who rejoice in Christ Jesus, and who have no confidence in the flesh."

4. They were His "brethren" impartially, without any distraction; that is, He was regardless of everything that might seem to render them unworthy the privilege as to conditions, or gifts, or office.

II. Here is A CHARACTER. "The Lord of glory." You well know to whom this belongs; and this is not the only place where this title is given; for Paul, streaking of the princes of this world, said, "None of them knew, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." Isaiah (Isaiah 33:21) makes use of a similar term as applied to the blessed God Himself. The radical idea of glory is brilliancy; the second idea is excellency displayed; and there are three ways in which this character will apply to our Lord and Saviour.

1. He is "the Lord of glory" because of His personal excellencies. "He is fairer than the children of men; He is the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." All the glory of creatures, whether in earth or in heaven, in their aggregate, is nothing more to His glory than a drop to the ocean, or a beam to the sun.

2. He is called "the Lord of glory," because He produces and confers all the excellencies possessed by creatures. "By Him kings reign, and princes decree justice." "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men."

3. There is a world made up entirely of excellencies and glory, when nothing else is to be found, and of that world He is the only Sovereign, the only Disposer.

III. A PECULIAR ENDOWMENT. "The faith of our Lord Jesus Christ." Not that we have this faith in equal possession and exercise with Him. No, in all things He had the pre-eminence. He received the Spirit without measure, and in every one of its graces He excelled.

1. But the apostle does not speak here of the faith He possessed and exercised, but of that faith, first, of which He was the Author. He is called, "The Author and the Finisher of faith," and this is as true of the graces of faith as of the doctrine of faith.

2. When the apostle speaks of the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, he means, secondly, that of which He is the Object. Therefore, they that believe are said to believe in Him.

IV. A PROHIBITION "Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect to persons." This regards, not its character, but its perversion; its abuse, and not its nature. "Have it not," says James; that is, let it never be so seen in you, let it never be so exercised in you. Here, however, it will be necessary to observe that there is a lawful respect of persons, and there is an unlawful one. The thing, therefore, is not forbidden in every instance, and in every measure and degree. For, in the first place, it is impossible to respect some persons. You will never feel towards a Nero as you would towards a Howard. And if it were possible, it would be improper. The Scripture justifies the distinctions and inequalities of life, and rank and office are to be regarded. But the meaning here is that other things being equal, you should not show more regard to one person than to another, because of some things belonging to him which have no relation to cases of duty or conscience. Let us exemplify the thing four ways.

1. The first is judicially. In a case of this kind pending, how very improper it would be to be lenient to the rich and severe to the poor!

2. The second class we call ministerial. If God blesses the labours of a minister to your soul, you will esteem such; but you are not to make an idol of straw. You should regard all the servants of God as equal; you are to view them in reference to their Master — in reference to their commission — in reference to their place and office — as all respectable, and equally regarded by God.

3. The third class we call ecclesiastical. Here we might refer to the terms of admission into the Church of God, and to the table of the Lord. These ought not to be rigid and severe, but whatever they may be, they ought to be equally applied to the high and the low, to the rich and to the poor.

4. The last class we call denominational. All should belong to some Christian community; but you should never suppose that the party you have joined have all the truth, and that nothing is to be done without them. Let us never forbid others because they walk not with us. To conclude, let us learn then to judge of men regardless of adventitious circumstances. Let our inquiry be, What are they morally? what are they spiritually? Thus may we resemble the citizens of Zion, of whom it is said, in their view a vile person is contemned, while those who fear the Lord are honoured.

(W. Jay.)

We may be guilty of this —

1. By making external things, not religion, the ground of our respect and affection. "Knowing after the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16) is to esteem any one out of secular and outward advantages. Says : "We must not judge of faith by persons, but of persons by faith."

2. When we do not carry out the measure and proportion of affection according to the measures and proportions of grace, and pitch our respects there where we find the ground of love most eminent (Psalm 16:3).

3. When we can easily make greatness a cover for baseness, and excuse sin by honour, whereas that is the aggravation; the advantage of greatness makes sin the more notable.

4. When we yield religious respects, give testimonies to men for advantage, and, under pretence of religion, servilely addict ourselves to men for base ends (Jude 1:16).

5. When Church administrations are not carried on with an indifferent and even hand to rich and poor, either by way of exhortation or censure.

6. When we despise the truths of God because of the persons that bring them to us. Matheo Langi, Archbishop of Saltzburg, told every one that the reformation of the. mass was needful, the liberty of meats convenient, and to be disburthened of so many commands of men just; but that a poor monk (meaning Luther) should reform all was not to be endured. So in Christ's time the question was common, "Do any of the rulers believe in Him?" Thus you see we are apt to despise excellent things, because of the despicableness of the instrument. The same words have a different acceptation, because of the different esteem and value of the persons engaged in them. Erasmus observed that what was accounted orthodox in the fathers, was condemned as heretical in Luther.

(T. Manton.)

I. The persons whom St. James admonished here are THE BRETHREN to whom he giveth this attribute, which thing he doth very conveniently, inasmuch as in the discourse he is to admonish them of a duty of love, whereunto they ought to be the more prompt. The saints of God may well here be called brethren —

1. Because they have one spiritual and Heavenly Father, which is God, who is Father of us all, of whom are all things, and we in Him.

2. As because we have one spiritual Father we are brethren, so because we have one spiritual mother, we are brethren also. Now, as God is our spiritual Father, so is the Church our mystical mother, which hath brought us forth by a new birth, in whose sweet bosom we are nursed, into whose happy lap we are gathered, and bringeth us up under the most wholesome discipline of Jesus Christ, that we might be holy and blameless before Him through love.

3. Neither that only, but they are also begotten with one seed of their new birth and regeneration, which is the immortal seed of the Word.

4. If Christ vouchsafe us the name of brethren, and so we have Him as a common brother, then are we therefore also brethren by right among ourselves.

5. Finally, inasmuch as the saints divide the same inheritance among them, therefore are they called brethren; for brethren they are as Aristotle writeth, among whom the same inheritance is divided; yea, they which divide the same lands, living, patrimony, possession. The sons and saints of God communicate the same inheritance, divide the same kingdom of their Heavenly Father among them, participate the same good things which are above as co-heirs and joint-heirs of the heavenly patrimony, eternal life; therefore are they brethren.

II. The saints whom He calleth brethren, being the persons whom He admonisheth, in the next place cometh THE THING ITSELF, WHEREOF THEY ARE ADMONISHED to be considered that they have not the faith of Christ in respect of persons, wherewith true love, true charity, true religion, cannot stand or consist.

1. What is here meant by faith? Christian religion, the true service of Christ, the profession of the gospel, whereunto respect of persons is contrary, for if pure religion and undefiled before God be this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their adversities, and to regard the poor in their miseries, as before was taught us, then contrary hereunto is the contempt of the poor and preferring of the rich, which respect of persons is here condemned.

2. Christ is called the glorious Lord in this place, sometimes to like purpose is He called the Lord of glory (Psalm 24:7; Acts 7:2; 1 Corinthians 2:8). Christ may be called the Lord of glory —

(1)Because He is full of majesty, power, and glory, at the right hand of God.

(2)Christ is the Lord of glory because howsoever He first came in baseness and great humility, yet at His second appearing and coming He shall come in unspeakable glory.

(3)Christ is a glorious Lord because He bringeth and advanceth His servants to immortal glory after His appearing in glory.

3. To have this faith of Christ our glorious Lord in respect of persons is to esteem the faith, religion, and profession of Christ by the outward appearance of men.

1. What is respect of persons? It is to respect anything besides the matter and cause itself, which only ought of us to be considered, whereby we decline from the matter to the man, from the thing to the person, and swerve from righteous judgment and true estimation of things.

2. Which sin, as pernicious and perilous in all causes, in all persons, at all times, and in all places, the sacred Scripture condemneth as a thing most repugnant to equity and charity. This evil cannot stand with Christian profession, the gospel teacheth that with God is no respect of persons, but that they all which fear God and work righteousness are accepted through the joyful tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ, in whom there is neither male nor female, bond nor free, neither rich nor poor, but they are all alike unto Him.

(R. Turnbull.)

God Himself has made a distinction among men. That one should be rich and have abundance, and another should be poor and needy, is an arrangement of the Almighty, just as it is His arrangement and appointment, that all the ears of corn should not contain the same number of grains, and that all flowers should not be arrayed in the same gay colours, and that all the stars should not shine with the same brilliancy, but one star differ from another star in glory. But we make an evil distinction when we carry that which is of value only in earthly relations, in civil and social intercourse, into a sphere where, according to the appointment of God, poverty and riches are both of the same value, or rather of no value. For let us only ask ourselves for what purpose do we assemble in the house of God on appointed days? Is it not that we may feel the importance, and attend to the concerns of another life, far different from our earthly and every-day one? Is it not that we may know and enjoy the life eternal, that we may taste the powers of the invisible world? But all the pre-eminence which riches can procure for us is as transitory as riches themselves; the rich man fades away amidst all his affluence, as completely as the poor man perishes in his state of destitution. How iniquitous is it, then, to distinguish the rich as such, and to slight the poor as such, in a place where all are on the same level before God, where all assemble with an equal need of heavenly grace and gifts, and all have a right to rejoice in the same riches, even the fulness of the Divine love in Christ.

(B. Jacobi.)

It was my custom occasionally to attend St. Mary's, and the sermons of the vicar always delighted me. But as the church was always very full, I was often obliged, though not strong in health, to stand during the whole service. Now, having observed that the persons who were best dressed were always the first to be conducted to seats, although not seat-holders, I yielded to the temptation of resorting to an artifice. I happened to possess a large and beautiful ring. One Sunday morning I put it on and repaired to church as usual. I stood for a minute or two with other people of divers classes near the door. Then, taking off my glove, I raised my hand with apparent carelessness to my ear, and immediately I was led to a comfortable seat.

(Autobiography of Bp. Gobat.)

Until the last few years of his life Friend Hopper usually walked to and from his office twice a day. When the weather was very unpleasant he availed himself of the Haarlem cars. Upon one of these occasions it chanced that the long, ponderous vehicle was nearly empty. They had not proceeded far when a very respectable looking young woman beckoned for the car to stop. It did so; but when she set her foot on the step the conductor somewhat rudely pushed her back, and she turned away, evidently much mortified. Friend Hopper started up, and inquired, "Why didst thou push that woman away?" "She's coloured," was the laconic reply. "Art thou instructed by the managers of the railroad to proceed in this manner on such occasions?" inquired Friend Hopper. The man answered, "Yes." "Then let me get out," rejoined the genuine republican; "it disturbs my cow, science to ride in a public conveyance where any decently behaved person is refused admittance." And though it was raining very fast, and his horse was a mile off, the old veteran of seventy-five years marched through mud and wet at a pace somewhat brisker than his usual energetic step; for indignation warmed his honest and kindly heart and set the blood in motion.

The Jewish Christians at Jerusalem still frequented the temple, and those among the dispersion the synagogues; hence there is no cause for surprise in finding Christians mixed with unconverted Jews at this period in a common place of worship. The people sat in the synagogue according to their social rank or trade, and St. James fastens on this exhibition of pride on the part of the higher classes as a ground of convincing them of sin and of violation of the law which enjoined "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." A further argument that the Jewish synagogue is spoken of is that we learn from the context that strangers came in who were provided with seats that happened to be vacant. This would occur constantly in the synagogue, but in the upper chamber of the Christians it would be most unlikely that persons of wealth and eminence, as here described, should thus freely enter the congregation of the despised Nazarenes. A graphic delineation follows of the casual worshippers, for casual they must have been, as the regular comers Would have their seats allotted them. The one is wealthy and proud, the other poor and lowly. The force of this contrast will appear the more when we remember that the Christian portion of the Jewish community was chiefly gathered out of the lower ranks in the social scale. The rich man is described as having a gold ring or rings on his fingers, for it was a common custom to wear a number of these ornaments; he is clad also in handsome attire, literally" shining," most likely with reference to the gloss of the texture of his raiment; and the poor man is represented as clothed in shabby attire, most probably with reference to the soil contracted in labour:

(F. T. Bassett, M. A.)

A man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel.
This place taketh not away degrees of honour from men, neither denieth it honour or worship to be given to men of honour or worship, albeit wicked and unworthy. St. James only teacheth not to judge of the faith and religion of Christ in men by their outward appearance, neither in the public meetings of Christians to reverence or prefer the rich men of the world, being wicked, with the disdaining of the poor which are religious, as the words themselves import when to the rich man we say, "Sit here in a good and worshipful place," and to the poor, "Sit there," or "Sit under my footstool," which argueth contempt of the poor brethren; for if in spectacles and theatrical sights, in election of officers, in parliaments, in assizes and sessions, and in all well-ordered assemblies of men, there is difference of men and comeliness of persons observed, how much more in ecclesiastical meetings ought there an order to be observed whereof the primitive Church was careful, appointing their place for the ministers, theirs for the laity, theirs for them which were to be catechised, theirs for them which were to do penance and to make open acknowledgment of their offences. The same was ratified by councils, confirmed by fathers; and for the business of the churches or the reproving of men's vices and correcting of them which fell both and St. writeth that there were several places for certain persons assigned. So, then, all difference and degrees of men are not here forbidden, but in Christian assemblies to respect the rich, with the contempt and disdain of the poor, is condemned.

(R. Turnbull.)

Perhaps, in the modern church worship, the greatest discouragement which the poor feel is in the dress which their rich brethren and sisters are accustomed to exhibit in the house of God. It is a shame to their poor apparel. It ought to be a shame to any well-to-do Christian woman when she wears her gayest and newest costly clothing to public worship, and appears with diamonds and other very valuable and conspicuous ornaments before the altar of her God. Cannot the Christian women of this age at length have the courage to refuse to continue to be Sunday advertisements of modistes and milliners? A lady in New York, whose pew was on one of the wall sides of the church, and who consequently had the congregation all on one side of her, suggested to her milliner that she put a certain bow on the "congregation side" of her bonnet! What a revelation was that! And was it solitary? Is not the preparation of many a worshipper made "on the congregation side"? And is not the house of the Lord thus turned into a show-room, in which those who have no special dry-goods to exhibit are neither welcome nor at home?

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

The custom was one of the fashions of the empire, and had spread from Rome to Judaea. So Juvenal, in a portrait which unites the two forms of ostentations luxury noted by St. James, describes one who, though born as an Egyptian slave, appears with Tyrian robes upon his shoulders and golden rings, light or heavy, according to the season ("Sat." 1:28, 30). So in "Martial" (xi. 60) we read of one who wears six rings on every finger day and night, and even when he bathes.

(Dean Pumptre.)

The tutor of Cyrus instructed him, when in a controversy, where a great boy would have taken a large coat from a little boy because his own was too little for him and the other's was too big, he adjudged the great coat to the great boy. His tutor answered, "Sir, if you were made a judge of decency or fitness, you had judged well in giving the biggest to the biggest; but when you were appointed judge, not whom the coat did fit, but whose it was, you should have considered the title and the possession, who did the violence, and who made it, or who bought it." And so it must be in judgments between the rich and the poor: it is not to be considered what the poor man needs, but what is his own.

(Jeremy Taylor, D. D.)

The rich man is like him who, walking in the market with the cast-off coat of a nobleman to which the tinsel star was still sewn, felt elated and proud — a great man truly, because all bowed and raised their hats. Reaching home, he strutted before the glass with a lord-like air, and caught sight of the star. "Aha!" cried he, blushing red with shame, "what a fool the world is to bow to an old coat!"

(H. O. Mackey.)

Judges of evil thoughts.
I. OURS IS A CRITICAL AGE, and we, most of us, have learned how to criticise. It has been raised to a science. We can distinguish the false from the true, the impostor from the honest man. We can put the motive to everything that is done. We can estimate character, we can measure the degrees of virtue and of vice; nay, so clever have we grown in this accomplishment, that we discover things that never existed, see unkindness where none was meant, deceit and hypocrisy in the honest and the true, selfishness in some act of generosity which we cannot otherwise account for.

II. JUDGE NOT.

1. Because we cannot judge aright. Even when there is no beam in our own eye to obscure our vision, and no want of charity to bias our judgment, we cannot truly judge of the motives which are at work in another. The French have a motto, that "To know everything is to forgive everything"; and if this is not literally true, at least it embodies a truth, which we are slow enough to admit, that we often judge by the outside fact and give no credit for the hidden motive. "Men who see into their neighbours," says an acute observer of human nature, "are very apt to be contemptuous; but men who see through them find something lying behind every human soul which they cannot judge and dare not sneer at."

2. It is the very worst policy possible. The man who judges harshly will be harshly judged. But he who has always a good word to say of another will find but few critics and many friends. I was much struck by a chance remark made to me by a friend not long ago. Speaking of a neighbour, he said: "He seems a good sort of man. I never heard him speak against any one; and that is the kind of man I like."

3. If you are honest with yourself, you dare not judge. To judge, you must yourself be at least free from the sin which you profess to judge (Matthew 7:5; John 8:7). It is God's prerogative (Romans 14:4). What if the Master should judge us as we are so ready to judge our fellow men? What if God should take us at our word, and forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us?

(A. L. Moore, M. A.)

Evil thoughts, if cherished, blight virtue, destroy purity, and undermine the stablest foundations of character. They are very much like rot in timber, like rust in iron. They eat into the man. And when the process has gone on for awhile, and there comes the stress of an outward temptation, down they go into a mass of ruins.

Hath not God chosen the poor?
Let us not misunderstand St. James. He does not say or imply that the poor man is promised salvation on account of his poverty, or that his poverty is in any way meritorious. That is not the case, any more than that the wealth of the rich is a sin. But so far as God has declared any preference, it is for the poor rather than for the rich. The poor man has fewer temptations, and he is more likely to live according to God's will, and to win the blessings that are in store for those who love Him. His dependence upon God for the means of life is perpetually brought home to him, and he is spared the peril of trusting in riches, which is so terrible a snare to the wealthy. He has greater opportunities of the virtues which make man Christlike, and fewer occasions of falling into those sins which separate him most fatally from Christ. But opportunities are not virtues, and poverty is not salvation, Nevertheless, to a Christian a poor man is an object of reverence rather than of contempt. But the error of the worldly Christians whom St. James is here rebuking does not end with dishonouring the poor whom God has honoured; they also pay special respect to the rich. Have the rich, as a class, shown that they deserve anything of the kind? Very much the reverse, as experience is constantly proving. "Do not the rich oppress you?" &c. St. James is thinking of the rich Sadducees, who at this period ( A.D. 35-65) were among the worst oppressors of the poorer Jews, and of course were specially bitter against those who had become adherents of "the Way," and who seemed to them to be renegades from the faith of their forefathers. It was precisely to this kind of oppression that St. Paul devoted himself with fanatical zeal previous to his conversion (Acts 9:1, 2; 1 Timothy 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Philippians 3:6). "The judgment-seats" before which these wealthy Jews drag their poorer brethren may be either heathen or Jewish courts (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:2, 4), but are probably the Jewish courts frequently held in the synagogues. The Roman Government allowed the Jews very considerable powers of jurisdiction over their own people, not only in purely ecclesiastical matters, but in civil matters as well. The Mosaic law penetrated into almost all the relations of life, and where it was concerned it was intolerable to a Jew to be tried by heathen law. Consequently the Romans found that their control over the Jews was more secure and less provocative of rebellion when the Jews were permitted to retain a large measure of self-government. These were the times when women bedight the priesthood for their husbands from Herod Agrippa II., and went to see them officiate, over carpets spread from their own door to the temple; when wealthy priests were too fastidious to kill the victims for sacrifice without first putting on silk gloves; when their kitchens were furnished with every appliance for luxurious living, and their tables with every delicacy; and when, supported by the Romans, to whom they truckled, they made war upon the poor priests, who were supported by the people. Like Hophni and Phinehas, they sent out their servants to collect what they claimed as offerings, and if payment was refused the servants took what they claimed by force. Facts like these help us to understand the strong language used here by St. James, and the still sterner words at the beginning of the fifth chapter. In such a state of society the mere possession of wealth certainly established no claims upon the reverence of a Christian congregation; and the fawning upon rich people, degrading and unchristian at all times, would seem to St. James to be specially perilous and distressing then. "Do not they blaspheme the honourable name by which ye are called?" The last clause literally means "which was called upon you"; and we need not doubt that the reference is to the name of Christ, which was invoked upon them at their baptism. That the blasphemers are not Christians is shown by the clause "which was called upon you." Had Christians been intended, St. James would have written, "Do not they blaspheme the honourable name which was called upon them?" That they blasphemed the name in which they were baptized would have been such an aggravation of their offence that he would not have failed to indicate it. These blasphemers were, no doubt, Jews; and St. James has in his mind the anathemas against Jesus Christ which were frequent utterances among the Jews, both in the synagogues and in conversation. His argument, therefore, amounts to this, that the practice of honouring the rich for their riches is (quite independently of any dishonour done to the poor) doubly reprehensible. It involves the meanness of flattering their own oppressors and the wickedness of reverencing those who blaspheme Christ. It is a servile surrender of their own rights, and base disloyalty to their Lord. But perhaps (the argument continues) some will defend this respect paid to the rich as being no disloyalty to Christ, but, on the contrary, simple fulfilment of the royal law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Be it so, that the rich as a class are unworthy of respect and honour, yet nevertheless they are our neighbours, and no misconduct on their side can cancel the obligation on our side to treat them as we should wish to be treated ourselves. We ourselves like to be respected and honoured, and therefore we pay respect and honour to them. To those who argue thus the reply is easy. Certainly, if that is your motive, ye do well. But why do you love your neighbour as yourselves if he chances to be rich, and treat him like a dog if he chances to be poor? The law of loving one's neighbour as one's self is a "royal law," as being sovereign over other laws, inasmuch as it is one of those two on which "hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:40). Indeed, either of the two may be interpreted so as to cover the whole duty of man. Thus St. Paul says of this royal law, "The whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Galatians 5:14); and St. John teaches the same truth in a different way when he declares that he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen cannot love God whom he hath not seen (1 John 4:20). "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in-one point, he is become guilty of all." The law is the expression of one and the same principle — love; and of one and the same will — the will of God. Therefore he who deliberately offends against any one of its enactments, however diligently he may keep all the rest, is guilty of offending against the whole. His guiding principle is not love, but selfishness — not God's will, but his own. He keeps nine-tenths of the law because he likes to do so, and he breaks one-tenth because he likes to do so.

(A. Plummer, D. D.)

1. God often chooses the poor of this world. The lion and the eagle are passed by, and the lamb and the dove chosen for sacrifice (Matthew 11:25). This God does —(1) Partly to show the glory of His power in preserving them, and truth amongst them, that were not upheld by worldly props.(2) Partly to show the riches of His goodness.(3) Partly to discover His wisdom by making up their outward defects by this inward glory.(4) Partly that the members may be conformed to the Head, the saints to Christ, in meanness and suffering.(5) Partly because poverty is a means to keep them upright: riches are a great snare.

2. There are poor in this world, and poor in the world to come. Though here you swim and wallow in a sea of pleasures, yet there you may want a drop to cool your tongue.

3. The poor of this world may be spiritually rich (2 Corinthians 6:10).

4. Faith makes us truly rich; it is the open hand of the soul, to receive all the bounteous supplies of God. If we be empty and poor, it is not because God's hand is straitened, but ours is not opened.

5. The Lord loves only the godly poor (Matthew 5:3).

6. All God's people are heirs (Romans 8:17).

7. The faithful are heirs to a kingdom (Revelation 1:6).

8. Heaven is a kingdom engaged by promise. It is not only good to tempt your desires, but sure to support your hopes.

9. The promise of the kingdom is made to those that love God. Love is the effect of faith, and the ground of all duty, and so the best discovery of a spiritual estate.

(T. Manton.)

I. THE IMPORT OF THE STATEMENT.

1. Not that only the poor are chosen.

2. Not that all the poor are chosen.

3. More of the poor are chosen than of the rich.

II. THE REASONS OF THE FACT.

1. It illustrates the sovereignty of God.

2. It furnishes a powerful argument for the truth of Christianity.

3. It occasions a magnificent display of the character and genius of the gospel.

4. It shows the estimate that is formed by God of the value of wealth.

5. It teaches Christians to raise their thoughts to heaven.

(G. Brooks.)

A wise man is placed in the variety of chances, like the nave or centre of a wheel in the midst of all the circumvolutions and changes of posture, without violence or change, save that it turns gently in compliance with its changed parts, and is indifferent which part is up, and which is down; for there is some virtue or other to be exercised whatever happens, either patience or thanksgiving, love or fear, moderation or humility, charity or contentedness, and they are every one of them equally in order to his great end and immortal felicity; and beauty is not made by white or red, by black eyes, and a round face, by a straight body and a smooth skin; but by a proportion to the fancy. No rules can make amiability, our minds and apprehensions make that; and so is our felicity: and we may be reconciled to poverty and a low fortune, if we suffer contentedness and the grace of God to make the proportion. For no man is poor that doth not think himself so. But if in a full fortune with impatience he desires more, he proclaims his wants and his beggarly condition.

(Jeremy Taylor, D. D.)

Life has deeper poverties than penury, because it has treasures costlier than gold.

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

Better go to heaven in rags, than to hell in embroidery. Many whom the world regards as dirt, the Lord esteems as jewels. Judge a Christian not by his coat, but by his character. Poor yet rich: — A poor seal may be a rich Christian, and a rich man may have a poor soul.

(J. Trapp.)

In the last will and testament of Martin Luther occurs the following remarkable passage: — "Lord God, I thank Thee that Thou hast been pleased to make me a poor and indigent man upon earth. I have neither house, nor land, nor money to leave behind me. Thou hast given me wife and children, whom I now restore to Thee. Lord, nourish, teach, and preserve them, as Thou hast me."

(K. Arvine.)

Big bells are very apt to be poorly cast. I never heard of a bell which weighed a great many thousand pounds which, first or last, did not break. And what a sound a big bell that is broken gives! If you take these overgrown rich men and ring them, how little happiness you find in them!

(H. W. Beecher.)

At Athens there were two temples, a temple of virtue and a temple of honour; and there was no going into the temple of honour but through the temple of virtue; so the kingdoms of grace and glory are so joined together that we cannot go into the kingdom of glory but through the kingdom of grace.

(T. Watson.)

Ye have despised the poor.
I. The first evil for which the profane rich men are to be held as execrable is their TYRANNY; they oppress the poor by tyranny. Men are oppressed by tyranny divers ways.

1. When they are imprisoned, afflicted, persecuted by the rich and mighty men of the world.

2. When in the trades of this life they deal hardly, deceitfully.

3. When they wring them by usury, forfeitures, exactions, impositions, and all manner of extortion.

4. When they weary and waste the bodies of the poor with toilsome labour unrewarded.

II. Another and second evil for which they ought to be held accursed is their CRUELTY AND UNMERCIFULNESS; for they draw the poor before judgment seats for their profession and religion.

III. The third sin in the rich men of the world wherefore they are to be held accursed IS THEIR BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE RELIGION OF CHRIST, they blaspheme the worthy name whereby ye are named.

1. When they deride, jest, scorn, and scoff at Christian religion, speaking maliciously and disdainfully against Christ and His profession.

2. As by their speech, so by their lives, men blaspheme and dishonour the gospel when they which profess religion walk not, neither live thereafter, by which means the gospel is slandered, dishonoured, and blasphemed.

(R. Turnbull.)

I. GOD HAS NOT OVERLOOKED THE POOR.

1. His sovereignty has been exercised in their favour.(1) Our Lord, when He undertook man's nature, was born amongst the poor, brought up in poverty, and made acquainted with all its sufferings and privations.(2) During the personal ministry of our Lord, while the chief priests rejected Him and members of the higher classes among the Jews treated Him with scorn, "the common people heard Him gladly."(3) See 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.

2. The poor are interested in God's promises.

3. They are interested in His kingdom (Luke 12:32). As the result of all this mercy and grace, many amongst the poor are being prepared for their future inheritance. There are amongst them some who are distinguished by their faith and by their love, as well as by their position and hopes.

II. THE INFLUENCE WHICH THIS TRUTH OUGHT TO HAVE UPON OUR CONDUCT, as those who wish to serve the Lord Christ.

1. The poor should have the gospel preached unto them.

2. Civility and kindness should be shown towards them.

3. Active benevolence.

(W. Cadman, M. A.)

These men harden themselves in their sternness; they stand fixed in their own determination, even as on a rock. It is useless for me to place before such men that tender object of sympathy, a helpless infant, without one rag to shelter it from the blast; they will use their ample cloak to hide their faces from the very misery which that cloak would cover. It is needless to tell them that the fire in the widow's cottage never burns when they can make themselves joyful and happy in their cold stern-heartedness. For such men I can but feel unmitigated and unbounded sorrow. How truly pitiable is he who at the end of a life, perhaps of fourscore years, falls asleep without being able to call to mind one act of benevolence

(E. West.)

He that's down, down with him.

(Anon.)

Men go over the hedge where it is lowest.

(J. Trapp.)

This is a sin against race, grace, and place.

(J. Trapp.)

The pronoun is emphatic, "God chose the poor, ye put them to shame."

(Dean Plumptre.)

With Haman — like impiety ye would disgrace "the man whom the King delights to honour."

(A. Plummer, D. D.)

There seems, at first, a want of logical coherence. The rich man first appears as gaining undue pre-eminence in the assembly of Christians, and then as one of a class of persecutors and blasphemers. This, however, is just the point on which St. James lays stress. Men honoured the rich Christian, not because he was a Christian, but because he was rich, i.e., because he was connected with a class, which, as such, had shown itself bitterly hostile to them.

(Dean Plumptre.)

Many a man has a paternoster round his neck and a rogue in his heart.

(M. Luther.)

Money is now exactly what mountain promontories over public roads were in old times. The barons fought for them fairly; the strongest and cunningest got them, then fortified them and made every one who passed below pay toll. Well, capital now is exactly what crags were then. Men fight fairly (we will at least grant so much, though it is more than we ought) for their money; but once having got it, the fortified millionaire can make everybody who passes below pay toll to his million, and build another tower of his money castle. And I can tell you the poor vagrants by the roadside suffer now quite as much from the bag-baron as ever they did from the crag-baron. Bags and crags have just the same result on rags.

(J. Ruskin.)

"Oppress you"; yea, devour you, as the greater fish do the lesser.

(J. Trapp.)

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